HL Deb 23 July 1968 vol 295 cc855-79

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Stonham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 123 [Amendment of provisions as to parking places]:

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 289A: Page 164, line 15, after ("vehicles") insert ("or vehicles").

The noble Lord said: I should first point out that the word in the Amendment should be "vehicle" and not "vehicles". I suggest to your Lordships that we take also Amendment 289B at the same time. This is quite a small point. Clause 123(1) enables an order designating parking places to confine their use to particular persons or vehicles of any class specified, and goes on to say: and that authority may, in the case of any particular parking place and any particular vehicle, or any vehicle of a particular class, instead of making a charge as mentioned in the said subsection (1) or (5), issue a permit for that vehicle to be left in that parking place and so on. It may well be that a family coming up from the country, for example, may have more than one vehicle and they may not always bring the same vehicle. As the permit is in favour of a person, that person should be allowed some latitude as to the vehicle with which he fills the parking place allocated to him. The point is a simple one. I beg to move.


Clause 123(1) gives local authorities new powers to introduce parking controls with much more discrimination than they have at present. It enables them both to set up parking areas where parking would be permitted only for those to whom special permits had been issued, and to make charges for the facility. An example is the residents' parking scheme at present in existence under the powers which the G.L.C. have from their Act of 1967. For these schemes there is a system of permits for particular cars, but there is nothing in the wording of the Bill as now drafted which would insist on an arrangement of one permit per vehicle, and there is no reason why the local authorities could not change, if they so wished, the way in which they administer the schemes they already have in operation, or which would necessarily tie future schemes to the way the present ones are being administered.

I am encouraged to make the next point because the Amendment has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and I know he will appreciate this sort of thing from his knowledge of procedure and drafting in past legislation. I am informed that according to the Interpretation Act the singular includes the plural unless the context implies otherwise. Our advice is that this is not a case where the opposite is implied, and therefore the wording of the subsection in referring to a vehicle in the singular would not prevent a permit from being issued to cover more than one vehicle.

We think this is a system in which the maximum latitude may be allowed to the local authority. The point made by the noble Lord is a perfectly reasonable one and I see no reason why the local authorities should not be in a position to give effect to it. Certainly there is nothing in the Bill as it stands to prevent them from so doing. In those circumstances, and knowing the noble Lord's inclination against waste, I would suggest that the Amendment is unnecessary.


Is the noble Lord quite certain that he has been correctly informed? I should have said that the plural contained the singular.


There seems to be a great deal of interchangeability between plural and singular, but I want to draw attention to what, in another place, would be a point of order. The Marshalled List of Amendments tells us that after the word "vehicles" in line 15 we should insert something else, yet on referring to the Bill I do not see the word "vehicles" in the plural used at all, but the word "vehicle" occurs in two separate places in that line. It may well be that the noble Lord put the wrong word down in the Amendment or it may be what we call a "printer's error".


I was in no doubt that there was a printer's error. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, pointed out that the word should be "vehicle" but I did not think it was worth while troubling your Lordships because I had no reason to believe that the noble Lord would wish to persist in his Amendment after the very reasonable answer which I have given him. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, I have no reason not to believe the information I have been given, that the singular includes the plural, singular though that may seem to the noble Lord.


I will not pursue the issue, although there was some slight doubt in my mind whether in this case the singular included the plural, because if that was so one might say that the concept referred to "person" as well, and that there the singular included the plural. However, in view of the assurance given by the noble Lord and his obvious desire that this power should be used flexibly, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

EARL HOWE moved Amendment No. 290: Page 165, line 30, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Earl said: With the permission of the Committee I should also like to refer to Amendments 291 and 292, since these Amendments on the Mar- shalled List all cover the same ground on parking facilities.


Is the noble Earl not in error in saying Amendments 290, 291 and 292? Does he not in fact mean Amendments 290, 292 and 293?


May I endeavour to help the Committee? I think Amendments 290, 291 and 292—and, indeed, 294—are all directed to the same point; and although they are making different approaches to it, I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if we were to discuss them together and they can then be moved separately.


With your Lordships' permission, and with my grateful thanks to my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, I will proceed to move my Amendment. The object of this Amendment, No. 290, is to delete the proposed power under subsection (6) to permit local authorities to use surplus income from parking meters for purposes other than off-street parking accommodation. This subsection obviously very much affects the interests of the private motorist in seeking to extend the powers of the local authorities regarding the use of the parking meter scheme. When Parliament in 1956 first approved the granting of powers to permit charges to be made for parking on the highway, the Government gave assurances indicating that private motorists need not fear that this was another way to impose additional motoring taxes on a section of the community which was already taxed to the hilt. Parking meters were there to help in street parking, and any surplus income would be used by local authorities for the benefit of the private motorist in connection with off-street parking.

In actual fact I understand that a very limited contribution has been made from this source towards the cost of providing off-street car parks, and a large proportion of the income has been spent on administration—which is quite natural—and the enforcement of the parking meter scheme. Where is this off-street parking accommodation which the motorist so badly needs? I am sure noble Lords will agree with me when I say that in some areas of London, and elsewhere, it is almost impossible to find a parking space, and much time is wasted in going round in circles looking for a space in which to manœuvre one's motorcar alongside a parking meter. In this respect, I submit the motorist has been badly let down. Of course, the Government can break faith with the motorists if they want to, but they must not be surprised if the motorist makes an attempt at retaliation.

Some interesting facts were published on July 10 of this year by the Royal Automobile Club, revealing that more than £8½ million has been put into parking meters by motorists since the first scheme was introduced in 1958. Of this, £6 million has been spent on overheads and administrative costs. Personally, I think the motoring public have a right to know what is happening to their money. I have heard it suggested, even, that it might help if a national balance sheet were published annually, showing in detail what had happened to the parking meter income: the expenditure on administration, the surplus from the meters, the proportion devoted to the provision of off-street parking and garage accommodation and also the amount involved in the proposed extension of local authorities' powers to permit the use of surplus profits in subsidising the public passenger transport services—and this at a time when recent developments in public transport industries have shown that the public's mobility is greatly dependent on the use of private transport.

I contend that parking meter revenues should be used for the purpose for which they were originally intended—in other words, for the provision and maintenance of proper parking accommodation—and should not be used in the carrying out of such highway improvements until the former object has been achieved. I am fully alive to the fact that the Amendment refers in the main to the interests of the private motorist, but there is very little reference to him in this Bill. He does, after all, represent a very large section of the community. When I consider that the motoring public accepted the principle that parking meter charges were to be made, and that unequivocable assurances were given, I repeat, by the Government at the time that this was not another way of taking money from the motorist's pocket, I find the provisions of subsection (6) most objectionable. I could use a stronger word, but I would not offend your Lordships by so doing.

I could quote from the proceedings in another place in 1955–56, during the passage of the Road Traffic Bill at that time. The provisions of that Bill were as clear and emphatic as possible. The first parking meter Order was presented before your Lordships' House for approval in 1960, and I understand that both sides of this House were firmly of the opinion then that all surplus revenue should be used as provided by Statute. Private motorists have been treated like this once before, I am reminded, in respect of motoring taxes, and they are not going to forget in a hurry that they are now the most heavily taxed section of the community, with little to show for their taxes. I hope that the noble Lord will accept my Amendment in the interests of the motorists who took to the parking meter scheme in good faith. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.


Before the Minister replies I hope he will be able to say something to alleviate the fears which many of us have with regard to this being another example of politics and politicians being brought further and further into disrepute. Parking meters were started not with the idea of being a permanency, but with the idea of ultimately releasing the highway to be absolutely free for traffic. The idea was that the revenues could be used towards off-street parking, and one assumed that when the time arrived when off-street parking was proficient, street parking would be prohibited. That is the object we have in mind: to keep the streets free for traffic to move.

This clause is another example which will indicate the absolute permanency of parking meters—it does not indicate anything else. It indicates that the revenue will be used for all sorts of purposes which bear no relationship to street parking or anything of that kind but which will permit local authorities to spend this money in any direction in which they wish provided it is connected with transport; and as local authorities are being brought more and more into the transport field—and they will be brought more and more into deficit in the transport field—one can easily see there will never be any surplus revenues to use towards off-street parking. So I hope the Government will look very carefully at what is proposed here. We ought to get to the stage when we propose to do something with a particular objective in mind and we do something. We ought not to depart, because of some expediency, from the objective which we had in mind. The object of parking meters was in order ultimately to provide revenue, first of all to co-ordinate and get an orderly system of street parking, and, secondly, to provide for off-street parking that would be sufficient for the purposes of cars which required to come particularly into city centres. Little has been done in this direction up to now.

I hope that this will be the first objective. I would accept the spirit of the other Amendment, if, after we have achieved that objective, we want to keep parking meters, and so on, to provide for other revenue purposes connected with transport. I would regard that as being a satisfactory answer. I would not regard it as being desirable, but I would regard it, in the general wash of ups and downs that we get in the provision of revenue, as being something that might be done to which the motorist could not reasonably object. But we ought to put first things first. If the object of parking meters was, first of all, to establish ordinary street parking and then to abolish it in favour of off-street parking, we ought to keep that as the main objective.


May I support what the noble Lord who has just spoken has said? I believe that the proposal for parking meters, by some curious chance, was first introduced in this House, and I think I was responsible for doing it. I must, in fairness to your Lordships, say that it was defeated by a large and enthusiastic majority on the first occasion on which it was proposed, but on the second occasion, largely due to the "bribe" which was perfectly clearly made, that this money would be provided for additional facilities for motorists, it was accepted in this House. Now we are going back on that bribe, and it is a matter which affects the image of politics to the great body of the public, not in regard particularly to one politician but to the approach which politics makes to the problems which come to them and the use which politicians make of the money they draw from the public. I hope the noble Lord will consider these points very carefully.


I should like to support the noble Lord, Earl Howe, in his Amendment, because, as has previously been said, it was specifically understood by Parliament that after meeting the ordinary arrangements for parking, all the surplus money would be used for extra parking facilities. The interesting figures which my noble friend, Lord Howe, has given the House since the scheme was started are that the public have put £8½ million into parking meters and it has cost £6 million to administer the scheme. Administration takes a pretty high proportion of the total amount put in. It leaves the small amount of £1½ million for extra off-street parking facilities. Very little has been done. Something has been done, but we were hoping for a great deal more. I think the whole matter needs looking into. The administration seems to me to be very expensive. It is not easy, I know, and the authorities do their best; they must have a large number of parking meter attendants, et cetera. To take powers, which in this Bill the Minister wants to do, to extend the use of this money to carry out street improvements, seems to me to be entirely wrong and out of the spirit with what Parliament was told when it passed the original Act.


May I raise one more point apropos of this? Your Lordships should remember that until the streets are cleared of parked vehicles by means of off-street parking the provision of extra public transport will do nothing but add to the congestion that is already there, because public transport vehicles, owing to their large size and constant stopping, are the worst factors in holding up the traffic. I learned that myself not many years ago when there was a bus strike lasting a few days. Driving through London was absolutely like being in Paradise.


There was a long debate on this point in another place, in the course of which the Government spokesman put forward completely conflicting points of view. If I may say a word on the Amendment in the name of my noble friend and myself, it proposes a compromise which seems reasonable and which I would hope the Government would accept. In the Commons the Opposition pointed out, as my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, have said, that public faith is involved here. When these provisions were introduced in 1955 the Government gave explicit assurances that all profits from parking meters must be used for increasing off-street parking facilities or cheapening off-street parking accommodation. It is important, obviously, that public faith should be maintained, even although one Parliament cannot bind its successor. It follows, I think, that only if and to the extent that the surplus exceeds the needs for the provision of off-street parking places would Parliament be justified in going back on that pledge. The Government then replied (and I am referring to column 3191) that while they were most anxious to stimulate in any way they could these authorities to prepare parking places as part of the general transport and traffic problem, they had to ensure, as was stated in the White Paper, that the total amount of parking space in a city centre was not raised to a level which leads to severe congestion.

That we accept, although of course the whole purpose of providing off-street parking is precisely to avoid severe congestion by removing as many vehicles as possible now parked on the roads to off-street parking places. We consider that this is and should remain the first purpose for which the surplus funds in the parking meter account should be used, and only when adequate provision has been made for this purpose should the surpluses be diverted to other purposes. We fully recognise that in some cases the surpluses are considerable. Figures were quoted to show that in Westminster, for example, expenditure for the year ending March 31, 1967, amounted to only about half the gross income, and the surplus was some £437,000. This appeared to be an extreme example quoted. It can hardly be denied, though, that more could be done in Westminster to provide off-street parking. It would be a pity, I suggest to your Lordships, if in our main cities we fell behind other countries in the provision made for off-street parking. Mention was made in the Commons that New York is proposing to spend 200 million dollars—that is over £80 million—on off-street parking. The surpluses in this country would not go far to match that, and it seems odd that such surpluses as are available should be diverted to other purposes. I would also say that unless priority in the use of surplus funds is given to the task of providing off-street parking the probability is that local authorities will tend to divert funds to other purposes, and this we think would be wrong, both from the point of view of traffic policy and also from the point of view of public faith.


Although the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said many things with which I am sure many of us agree, may I support the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in suggesting that Amendment No. 291 goes to the heart of the matter in a reasonable way, in posing the question: should parking facilities be a first charge on parking meter revenue? The difficulty, it seems to me, is that there is very little written evidence on the subject. A British Road Federation parking survey has shown that 64 per cent. of local authorities have made some study of parking needs, but this still leaves more than one in three local authorities who have not yet any real conception of how traffic in their town centres will develop. I believe, from reading the papers, that the Government know the percentage of the car-owning population to-day, but I wonder whether there are figures to show how long, on average, in each 24 hours a car remains parked. None the less the evidence of our eyes does show that parking is an increasing problem.

I think it is correct to say that as a result of the present Budget the total revenue from motor vehicle owners will be about £1,500 million per annum, but the total expenditure on the roads is going to be between £500 million and £550 million per annum. In paying for parking meters in the past motorists have at least known that their money was destined, or was supposed to be destined, for off-street parking. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has made the point that a pledge was given; and of course one Government can undo what another has done, though that will not go unnoticed. If this pledge is to be altered, the suspicion of the motoring organisations way back in 1955–56, that parking meter money is just going to be an extra tax on the motorist, may well be realised. I wonder whether the noble Lord, in replying—he will have a very much better knowledge of the clause as amended than I have—could say what the reference to "some other person" in paragraph (d) means. Does it mean that under this particular subsection parking meter money might go to the P.T.A. facilities?

May I put up two brief points which I do not think have been referred to so far? Your Lordships may recall that as a result of an Amendment to Clause 69 in another place, which received pretty general support from everybody, convictions for parking offences, if sufficiently numerous, could lead to removal of a transport manager's or operator's licence, and during the debate on that Amendment Mr. Stephen Swingler, the Minister of State, said that he felt that three bodies were responsible for parking—the people who operate, the local authorities and the police. On a new council housing estate near where I live there is not a single garage of any kind. This policy disfigures the neighbourhood, and it is a constant danger to pedestrians, particularly to children playing in the streets. Many of us believe, and I am one, whether or not we agree politically with the right honourable lady the previous Minister, that she did look ahead very considerably. I ask the Government, should not their advice, their help and their pressure be needed to oppose such a short-sighted housing policy, which is not confined to where I happen to live?

The other point is this. Any of your Lordships who travel by rail, and particularly noble Lords who travel in the London area, would surely agree there is a need for more parking facilities at railway stations, and that local authorities' parking revenues could well combine with British Railways to solve a problem, which is part of this Amendment, and which affects not really British Railways at all but the locality of the station and, therefore, the local authority itself. Is there less need for off-street parking facilities to-day than there was in 1956? Are the surpluses from parking meters so great that they can now be diverted to other uses? Unless the answer to those two questions is, Yes, then surely Amendment No. 291, at any rate, should be accepted as seeking to help the Government and local authorities to continue to deal with a problem which exists to-day and is going to get worse in the future.

3.30 p.m.


It might be extremely difficult for my noble friend to make any changes in this subsection, in view of the discussion which took place in the other place on this particular type of Amendment. But it does highlight the difficulty that has developed with certain forms of taxation so far as transport is concerned.

One remembers that in the early stages of taxation of motor transport, it was suggested that the income raised would go towards the development of a better roads system or highways for motor car travel. One knows well that the road associations for a long time, even if not at this moment, were pressing the point that the vast amount of taxation that comes from motor transport should be devoted to providing better roads. This is an old argument that has gone on; and here we are faced with the same type of argument.

As my noble friend Lord Pargiter rightly remarked, when legislation was enacted to authorise parking meters, some form of understanding was arrived at, even in the legislation, that any surplus revenue would be devoted towards increasing parking accommodation. The terms of this Clause 123(6) of this Bill mean that any surplus that can be, or is, derived from these parking meters can be devoted to whatever purposes the local authority may determine, provided that it deals with certain transport measures. The surplus from parking meters can be used towards the developing of additional highways, additional streets, or whatever the local authority decide. This gets away from the objective which I think the nation faces.

The use of parking meters, with motor cars parked on streets, simply cannot be tolerated indefinitely, with the passage of time. By the turn of the century it is expected that there will be at least twice as many motor vehicles on the roads as there are to-day. If that be so, how can these be catered for unless they are stopped from coming into the centres of conurbations and into towns, or unless some steps are taken with a view to easing the burden of local authorities by providing short-term multi-stormy car parks within shopping or business areas? If money derived from the present parking meters can be utilised by the local authority in the way indicated in the Bill it certainly destroys the objective which many of us had in mind when we supported this measure originally; namely, that this additional revenue to a local authority would go a long way towards providing additional multi-storey or underground car parks in the centres of our towns.

Somehow or other, this idea seems to be not progressing quite so quickly as it might. One realises that there is the difficulty of heavy capital expenditure in purchasing the land in the centre of our towns in order to build these multi-storey car parks. One can appreciate that. But one would have thought that revenue coming from parking meters might have been earmarked for this purpose instead of the local authorities being given freedom to use any surplus for whatever purpose they like, the cost of which would otherwise have to be met from additional rates plus the grant from the central authority.

Therefore, I shall certainly support my noble friend in whatever stand he may take. I feel there is a case to answer, and I should have thought this Government could be a little more progressive and would do everything to encourage multi-storey car parks with the object of taking motor cars entirely off the ordinary streets and allowing them to be utilised for the purpose for which they were built; namely, to allow easy movement of traffic, and not as parking places for motor vehicles.


I wish to detain your Lordships for only a moment. It so happens that I was leading the House at the time when the former Bill to which reference has been made came before your Lordships, and I have a quite distinct recollection of the suspicion with which the whole idea of parking meters was viewed. I am sure that only the assurance of the Government that the money derived from them would be used for off-street parking made it possible for Parliament to agree to them at all. I think it would be most un- fortunate if, through Parliament, that assurance were now to be completely nullified, and if Parliament now said something entirely different, that the revenue could be used for other purposes.

I think I am right in saying that the revenues from parking meters go into the pockets of the local authorities. There was great suspicion on the earlier occasion that a local authority would take this revenue into general revenue and that it might be deployed for another purpose for which the local authority desired to use it. We gave great assurances at that time that these revenues would actually be used for the provision of off-street parking. The Government of which I was a member gave that assurance. That is why I have taken the opportunity of addressing your Lordships today, in making an appeal to the Minister that the decision which was reached then should be regarded not as a Party matter but as an assurance which was given to the British people.


A Minister dealing with a Bill is always most grateful when, quite unexpectedly, he is invited by the Opposition to take five Amendments together. And far be it from me to decline to do such a thing! But when I interrupted the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and suggested that these Amendments were on different points, it was for no technical or academic reason. It is true that all the Amendments deal with off-street parking and expenditure from meter revenues, but they are all quite different in their intent.

The first Amendment of the noble Earl would remove subsection (6) entirely. If indeed that Amendment were carried, it would pre-empt Amendment No. 292, the noble Earl's second Amendment, which asks only for the deletion of three or four lines from that subsection; and it would certainly prevent Lord Drumalbyn's Amendment from being moved—an Amendment, by the way, with which I have considerable sympathy, a sympathy which I cannot extend to the noble Earl, Lord Howe. Although I am glad to have one discussion on this subject I hope that we shall bear in mind that the three Amendments would have a quite different effect.

I think this is the third time during the passage of this Bill through both Houses that an attempt has been made to remove subsection (6) or part of it, and I think it would be right if I explained the importance which the Government attach to this matter. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said that he had a distinct recollection of the suspicion with which the introduction of meters was viewed at the time when he was Leader of your Lordships' House, and he thought it would be quite wrong if Parliament now suggested something entirely different. This subsection does not suggest something entirely different, and I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will confirm this, because all his first Amendment does is to say, "Wait until we are sure that from the revenues there is sufficient off-street parking, and then by all means give local authorities authority to spend any surplus revenue for the benefit of transport generally." So there is very little there.

This was done in 1956, when I was not a member of that Government, or even a Member of your Lordships' House. It was a year or two before I came in. I cannot say whether or not it was a bribe, but I certainly think that the whole idea of these Amendments springs from the extraordinary view which motorists, or some motorists, have: that the steering wheel in their hands, mounted on four wheels, provides them with a sort of divine right to go into any city and "plonk" down anywhere in all kinds of numbers and in all places so as to cause such extraordinary congestion that the whole place becomes topsy-turvy.


May I interrupt my noble friend to say, as a motorist, that I have not held that view at all?


I did say "some motorists", and I was very glad to hear my noble friend Lord Pargiter remind your Lordships that meters were originally introduced to try to keep the streets free.

The purpose of the subsection which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, now proposes to remove is to give local authorities more flexibility in the use of parking meter revenues. At present these revenues can be used only for the provision or maintenance of off-street parking, and to repay any sums borrowed from the general rate fund of the authority for parking purposes. Surely it is obvious that, for reasons of traffic and parking control, off-street parking facilities in an area should not be expanded to the extent that, if they were fully used, the result would only be severe congestion on roads in that area. That is the serious possibility we face. In fact, we face it already under the law as it stands; and it is what the noble Earl's Amendment would create or perpetuate. The existing profits statutorily must be used for off-street parking, and that could lead to over-provision of parking space. If I had time I could give many examples of that in many places. Quite a fight was fought from the Benches opposite about off-street parking in Finsbury Square. In fact, there were two Acts of Parliament about those facilities. They are not even half used now; and they never have been. In many cities to-day there is the risk that over-provision of parking spaces will attract more traffic than the road system is capable of handling.

It may be that there is a case to limit off-street parking places in the very places where the revenue from parking meters is highest. Furthermore, the use of surplus meter revenue for car parking can easily mean subsidising the charges which should be made in the car parks. If meter surpluses are used to help to pay for operating the car parks, then there is a direct subsidy. If they are used to help pay the capital cost, which is then reflected in lower interest charges, that is again a subsidy. I put it to your Lordships seriously that in some places, certainly in the heart of the busiest cities, it is just as foolish to over-encourage the car community by artificially low parking charges as it is to over-provide parking space. It is a hindrance, not a help, to motorists and traffic generally.

The Government agree that any surplus revenue from parking meters should be used for the benefit of travellers. What we do not agree is that the provision of more parking space is necessarily in the traveller's best interest. We believe that there will be many cases where a wider view needs to be taken of how the traveller can be helped, and that is why we are proposing, in subsection (6), to broaden the purpose for which surplus parking meter revenue can be used and to allow any such money to be put towards the financing of other measures which will provide better travel facilities in that area. In other words, we aim to provide for measures which give better value for the money available than would the excessive provision of parking spaces.

The noble Earl, Lord Howe, said first of all that the Government of the day gave unequivocal assurances that any surplus would be used by local authorities for the benefit of private motorists. I too have looked at the debates. My understanding is that Parliament in 1956, in regard to London, said that surpluses should go to off-street parking. But does that constitute a reason why, in 1968, after the great increases in car-ownership, after changes in parking control in cities, and in recognition of the need for planning urban passenger travel as a whole, Parliament should not decide that a less tight straitjacket is needed? Do we then have to call it a betrayal? Is it a bribe on which we have gone back in order to look at the changed situation 12 years later?

Then the noble Earl said: "Where is the off-street parking? The motorists have been badly let down." There are vastly more off-street parking places now than there were 12 years ago; and, as I have indicated, many of them not used. The noble Earl seemed to think that the motorists have been badly treated in this way, and he quoted some figures. Perhaps I may quote the figures for the cities of London and Westminster, where there are some 17,000 parking meters—about 25 per cent. of all the parking meters in the entire country—and where in the last 10 years the total surplus income from the parking meters has been £1,800,000 but the capital expenditure during that period has been £9 million—five times as much. So where is the argument that the money has not been spent for the motorist when actually those two cities alone, London and Westminster, have spent five times as much capital expenditure on off-street parking as the net surplus revenue from the parking meters?


May I interrupt? If the noble Lord's surmise that there are plenty of off-street parking facilities is correct, how is it that the roads of our towns to-day are constantly jam-packed tight with motor cars unable to find anywhere to park?


If the roads are jam-packed, obviously it is because the cars are not parked.


This is the view of many motoring personalities who possibly know a great deal more about the subject than I do.


I know that very often it is a general view, and it is always a particular view when one wishes to park oneself and cannot immediately find a place. I too am a motorist, but I am now looking at the picture as a whole, and I have, I hope, given a complete and absolute refutation of what the noble Earl said about the use of surplus revenues from parking meters and the capital expenditure.


The noble Lord has put up a very good argument for saying that a good many of the meters have been put in the wrong place. Undoubtedly there may be places in Finsbury Square where they ought not to have had parking meters, but there are many areas in London where motorists cannot find places to to park, and there should be off-street parking. I do not know whether the noble Lord has had the same experience, but I have had the experience that if there is nowhere else to go and one puts a car in a place where it ought not to be it is towed away and one has to go to the other end of London to get it back. If there had been off-street parking, that would not have occurred.


It has also been my experience to go to the Hyde Park parking place, where there are no meters, and I have never found it more than a third to a half full. Yet 300 yards away, where the meter charge is 4s. for a short period, the places are full. This is true, and in response to the noble Marquess I say to him I do not know any off-street unmetered parking place in the West End which I have ever been to in the last two years that has been full and where there has not been plenty of room at all times. We are talking about off-street parking, and what I say is the case; and I am quite sure this is the experience of all noble Lords.


The noble Lords claims that the underground car park at Hyde Park is frequently empty. Does he know how long it takes to walk from the underground car park in Hyde Park to any reasonable Underground station or bus stop nearby?


Of course, off-street parking is not as convenient as leaving a car on one's own doorstep. I am refuting the case that not much has been provided, because it is quite untrue. It is no use the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, saying, "Yes, but that off-street parking is not where I want it. I would sooner leave my car right outside the Hilton or the Dorchester or somewhere like that."

I should like to deal with the arguments as they were put to me. I have dealt with the point about where the off-street parking is to be found; I have given a good indication of the position on that. Perhaps the main reason why more off-street car parks, multi-storey or other, which have been needed have not been built, has been lack of realisation of the need by the local authorities concerned. The transport and traffic plans which the Minister has asked the major authorities to prepare should put that right. The Bill will help by giving local authorities, for the first time, an absolute duty, under Clause 126, to see that adequate parking is provided; it will introduce infrastructure grants for specified purposes, which will include some car parks; and it will give local authorities fuller and more independent powers in the closely related field of traffic management.

On the point about parking meter surpluses gained from motorists being used to help parking, in the slightly wider form that a surplus from the travelling public should be used to help the travelling public, the Bill in fact adopts this principle. The wider form makes more sense in 1968, when almost everybody uses a car at times and a bus or train at other times—when at times a citizen is "the motorist" and at other times "the bus passenger" or "the rail passenger" or "the pedestrian". By no means am I criticising what the noble Earl and the noble Marquess introduced in 1956. That made sense in 1956 in the heart of London when there was both a crying need for on-street parking control through meters and an appalling shortage of off-street parking space. The 1956 Act was certainly sensible for that time, not because of some theoretical principle but because of the practical rightness of trying to meet two great and related needs at once. But a great deal has happened since then. In the Cities of London and Westminster 4,400 off-street parking spaces have been provided in recent years at a cost of £9 million. In these areas any shortage of off-street parking space is no longer "appalling"; in fact, even at the busiest times of the busiest days there is some such space to be found, both in the City and in the West End. So the needs of the situation are different now. I think that I have answered those points.

I should now like to come to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, on the same point, which, I submit, clearly recognises the validity of the Government's policy that there are circumstances when surplus parking meter revenue could and should be used for highway improvements and for better public transport. The Government welcome the more constructive approach of the noble Lord's Amendment, certainly compared with the other ones; but there are difficulties about the Amendment as such. First of all, what is "adequate provision" for off-street parking facilities? Adequate for what? For all motorists? Is it something which every noble Lord would regard as adequate? Adequate for the capacity of the street system? And who is to decide? There is obviously scope for a great deal of misunderstanding, and, with the Amendment worded as it is, the question might even have to be referred to the courts. Presumably, however, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, would agree that the local authority ought to be able to decide. But what is adequate now may not be adequate at some future date. If the local authority have some surplus revenue now but think that they have provided all the off-street parking they need for the present, presumably the noble Lord would agree that they would be free to spend the money on other transport improvements.

Certainly the Amendment, as drafted, is not acceptable; and it would need modifying to cater for the "in the opinion of the local authority" and the "adequate for the present" points. But if we interpret the noble Lord's intentions in the way I have outlined, then it would make little or no practical difference to the Bill, because the effect of the Bill at present is to place firmly on local authorities the reponsibility for deciding whether it is right to use any surplus parking meter revenue for carparking or for one of the new purposes to be authorised in the Bill. Moreover, if it is objected that under the Bill as it stands a local authority may not use their parking meter revenue, the answer is that in subsection (3) of Clause 126 a new duty is imposed on all the local authorities concerned to secure the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities on and off the highway.

I do not think that it is the sense of the Committee, and certainly not on the two main planks put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that the deletion of the whole of this subsection is necessary or right. I hope that I have indicated to the satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that there is nothing between the Government's and his view as to what should be done. His Amendment, if I have understood its intentions correctly, is not viable, but at the same time it is not necessary.


May I go back to something said by the noble Lord earlier? He said that off-street car parking which is provided at the moment is never full. Would he think that this is possibly because there is no visible indication as to where it is? I have never discovered such a park, except the one underneath Hyde Park.


I understand that an important Statement is about to be made. This might be a convenient moment.



May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for answering the debate? Of course we wish to deal with all these Amendments together. As he rightly says, they are different methods of approaching the same problem, but it could be that my noble friend Lord Howe might be willing to support the Amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and myself. Therefore, we were very glad to hear that the noble Lord found it at any rate acceptable in principle.

I think that we shall have to ask him to go a little further than he went in his speech. I welcome the distance which he and his colleagues in Government have moved since the position was taken up by the Government in another place. I hope that the gap may be bridged. I accept what the noble Lord said about there being difficulty over the drafting—there always is when the Opposition draft. I also accept that "adequate" is not a suitable word to have in a Government Bill. The point on which we must stick is the matter of priority. My noble friends, and particularly my noble friend Lord Salisbury, have explained the atmosphere, and indeed the sense of both Houses of Parliament, in which this particular measure was originally introduced. Indeed, later on it fell to me to introduce the first parking meter scheme. Therefore, I have a lively sense of just how sensitive opinion was, not only among motorists outside but also among Members of Parliament, in both Houses, and on all sides.

People generally did not like these parking meters, but were prepared to accept them if they could be seen as the means to an end of getting more off-street parking. This is clearly in the mind of every motorist in the country today. It would not be right, in our judgment, to put this Bill on the Statute Book, leaving it open for local authorities to please themselves which of these things they did. I agree that improving the highway or public transport facilities will benefit the general travelling public, in the same way as they will benefit by building an off-street car park—all these factors are related—but this is a point on which we feel we should stick.

We are really trying to help the Government here, because they are gratuitously setting out to offend millions of motorists. This matter is so marginal that it would be absurd to go ahead in this way. In practice, most local authorities would probably be more sensitive to the importance of the pledge than, perhaps, noble Lords opposite, and they would not go ahead and spend parking meter surpluses on other purposes, knowing full well just how strongly all the motorists in their neighbourhood would feel about it. But, even so, we are here legislating for the country and we feel that on the Statute Book should go a clause and a subsection which make quite definite that the first priority is to use these surplus parking meter funds for assistance in the building of off-street car parks. Then, if there are some surpluses over after that, by all means let them be used for other purposes as well.

If the noble Lord does not like this drafting as it is, we shall be very willing to discuss it with him, but we feel that the sense of priority is paramount and we must ask him to accept that before we can consider withdrawing the Amendment.


I take it that we are considering only Amendment No. 291, because the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, would be quite unacceptable.


May I say that I appreciate very much what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said. He is a man for whom I have the greatest respect, but I am afraid I do not agree with everything he has said. I understand his difficulties, and I feel that he is batting on a very sticky wicket after what has been said by noble Lords in support of these Amendments. I believe there is justification for moving my Amendment, but the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, is a better one and, I should have thought, would appeal far more to your Lordships' House. Therefore I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment and heartily to support that of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.3 p.m.


I beg to move Amendment No. 291.

Amendment moved—,

Page 165, line 35, leave out ("paragraphs") and insert ("paragraph— (d) provided that adequate provision for off-street parking facilities in each local authority area has been made then such surplus may be applied to—").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)


I have two problems. One is the drafting. The difficulty of finding satisfactory words and explanations for the two phrases that I quoted earlier is considerable, as noble Lords will appreciate; but that is not the main problem, because that could be overcome. But the main difficulty is that I cannot

agree to anything which might well, in the end, result in obliging local authorities to subsidise off-street parking, thereby acting as a magnet for more cars and increased congestion. If means could be found of getting over that problem, there would be no difficulty. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, seemed to agree that local authorities should have great discretion in this matter and would always act sensibly. But they must act in the interests of their community as a whole with regard to traffic as a whole, with regard to travelling as a whole, and not only in the narrow interests of visiting motorists, and I still think it would be better to leave these powers flexible.

Of course, I shall deal with the noble Lord with complete honesty. If I say that I will look at the drafting and look at this second problem, of course I will do so. But I cannot guarantee success. On the other hand, if he does not feel that his purpose can be achieved, and if this principle is so important to him, he may prefer to have a decision on it now. I must leave it to him.


I thank the noble Lord for his attempt to meet us. But this is not just a drafting problem. As I understand him, he feels that it is impossible for the Government to accept the principle of the priority which we feel is basic to this situation. We have put down the Amendment in this form to do our best to make it acceptable to noble Lords opposite, and, indeed, to noble Lords generally, and we hoped that we might succeed; but we feel that this is the absolute minimum on which we should insist because of the history of this matter and because there is a pledge here which everyone expects to be fulfilled. In that spirit I must press the Amendment.

4.11 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 291) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 92; Not-Contents, 53.

Aberdare, L. Allerton, L. Atholl, D.
Abinger, L. Amherst, E. Auckland, L.
Ailwyn, L. Amulree, L. Audley, Bs.
Airedale, L. Ashbourne, L. Balerno, L.
Albemarle, E. Asquith of Yarnbury, Bs. Bannerman of Kildonan, L
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Gridley, L. Rowallan, L.
Belstead, L. Hawke, L. Sackville, L.
Berkeley, Bs. Henley, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Bessborough, E. Horsbrugh, Bs. St. Just, L.
Blackford, L. Howe, E. St. Oswald, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Ilford, L. Salisbury, M.
Buckton, L. Inglewood, L. Sandford, L.
Carrington, L. Jessel, L. Sandys, L.
Clwyd, L. Kilmany, L. Selkirk, E.
Conesford, L. Kinnoull, E. Sempill, Ly.
Cork and Orrery, E. Lambert, V. Sinclair of Cleeve, L.
Craigavon, V. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Somers, L.
Cromartie, E. Long, V. Stamp, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lothian, M. Stonehaven, V.
Drumalbyn, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Strange, L.
Dundee, E. MacAndrew, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Eccles, V. Macpherson of Drumochter, L. Strathclyde, L.
Effingham, E. Margadale, L. Swinton, E.
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Merrivale, L. Teviot, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Middleton, L. Trefgarne, L.
Essex, E. Mills, V. Vivian, L.
Falkland, V. Milverton, L. Wade, L.
Ferrier, L. Molson, L. Windlesham, L.
Fortescue, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Wolverton, L.
Goschen, V. [Teller.] Nugent of Guildford, L. Younger of Leckie, V.
Grenfell, L. Nunburnholme, L.
Addison, V. Gaitskell, Bs. Plummer, Bs.
Arwyn, L. Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Raglan, L.
Beswick, L. Gifford, L. Rhodes, L.
Blyton, L. Granville of Eye, L. Rusholme, L.
Bowles, L. Hall, V. Samuel, V.
Brockway, L. Hill of Wivenhoe, L. Serota, Bs. [Teller.]
Buckinghamshire, E. Hilton of Upton, L. Shackleton, L.
Burden, L. Hughes, L. Snow, L.
Burton of Coventry, Bs. Iddesleigh, E. Sorensen, L.
Chalfont, L. Kilbracken, L. Stocks, Bs.
Champion, L. Latham, L. Stonham, L.
Chorley, L. Leatherland, L. Strabolgi, L.
Citrine, L. Lindgren, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. McLeavy, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Delacourt-Smith, L. Mitchison, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Moyle, L. Walston, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Noel-Buxton, L. Willis, L.
Faringdon, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.


I beg to move that the House do now resume.

House resumed.

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