HL Deb 21 July 1965 vol 268 cc722-4

2.56 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of worsening traffic delays, consideration is being given to restricting the number of coaches making sight-seeing tours in the centre of London and requiring such coaches to be parked off the public highway at St. Paul's and other centres of attraction.]


My Lords, the Greater London Council is the responsible traffic authority, and it is for them, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police, to consider the regulation of sight-seeing coaches as traffic, parked or moving. But, as things are, coaches in London are not permitted to park on the public highway in parking meter zones except where the police are satisfied that they will not interfere with moving traffic. Most of the centres of attraction they visit in Central London are, or shortly will be, within parking meter zones. Restriction of the number of such coaches could be considered only in the context of the general subject of traffic restraint, which the Government are already studying.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for that Answer? May I take it, too, that the Government will keep a particularly close eye on this matter of patrolling coaches (because, perhaps, there is nowhere for them to park at the time), which are often empty and which do seem to clutter up London traffic unnecessarily? Will the Government keep a particularly close eye on this matter, with the relevant local authorities?


Yes, my Lords; but a parked coach which is accompanied by its driver is much is much easier to control than a parked car with no driver.


My Lords, will the noble Lord bear in mind that these coaches which toured London last year carried nearly 2 million overseas passengers who brought £10 million worth of currency to this country? And will he be careful not to make any regulations, or agree to any regulations, which might prejudice that form of trade?


Yes, my Lords, that aspect will be taken into account. There are already discussions between the Ministry—that is, the Board of Trade—the British Travel Association and the Guild of Guide Lecturers (which, apparently, is the trade union for the people who take the coaches around) with a view to seeing that they co-operate fully with the police. We will do everything we can to facilitate these activities, so long as they do not impede moving traffic, which, as I have said, is the responsibility of the Greater London Council.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether, while the Government are considering this question of the parking of coaches, they will also bear in mind the fact that in future they may not be allowed to park in meter areas and also that it seems to be a practice for them to park in such areas in South Kensington as Cromwell Road, Exhibition Road and Queen's Gate? Could they not go further afield, or have special facilities provided for them?


Yes, my Lords; but, even then, a coach accompanied by its driver, who is normally a disciplined person, and carrying 30 people, is much more easily controlled from the point of view of the police than fifteen cars with no drivers in them.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, at the daily ceremony of the Changing of the Guard, it is almost impossible now to get up Constitution Hill as there is a solid line of coaches? Is there any restriction on these coaches in force at present; and, if not, ought there not to be more control?


My Lords, there are two sorts of coaches. One has the normal road service licence, and in that instance the traffic commissioner determines the conditions under which the coach operates, where it can park, the routes it can take, and the rest. The other kind is the contract coach, which takes organised parties and is not restricted in the same way. So far as Constitution Hill is concerned, that is a matter for the Ministry of Public Building and Works; but that Ministry and the Metropolitan Police co-operate in providing parking places. Constitution Hill is one such place. Hyde Park and the Royal Parks generally are others. The Embankment is yet another place used by coaches for parties going on river trips. It is largely a matter of cooperation; and I must say that, so far as the Ministry are concerned, the disciplined driver of the coach is a pretty co-operative sort of person.