§ 2.52 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE, R.A.F. (LORD WINTERBOTTOM)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Transport (London) Bill be read a second time. I should mention at the outset that this is a hybrid Bill and still open to Petitions; any that may be received will be handled in the normal way. The Bill is an extremely important measure designed to tackle the very real transport problems of our large conurbation in a manner more comprehensive than anything else tried to date anywhere else in the world.
The basic problems are several. There are first of all the large numbers of people who come into the capital to work every day, many travelling long distances in the process. In an average working day this amounts to about seven million journeys in both directions, of which about two and a half million are to or from the central area. Despite measures which have been and will be taken to encourage firms to move their offices out of London, this problem is likely to remain with us for the foreseeable future and may indeed be accentuated by the forecast drift of population out of central London. On top of this, there will be an increase in the number of social and recreational journeys inside Greater London springing in the main from the growth in car ownership. These journeys could well double over the next 15 years. Finally, there is the balance to be struck between the convenience of the motor car to its users, and the effect to which this use when multiplied up has on pedestrians, local residents and the urban environment in general.
As noble Lords will appreciate, each of these problems has implications for different transport systems which are in turn interrelated. To take an example, although most commuters travel by rail or bus (providing a marked contrast with 531 the private car dominated social and recreational journeys), an increasing minority use their cars. Buses and cars are competing for the same, often very limited, road space. Should the former be given priority, and, if so, in what circumstances? My task this afternoon is not to try to answer these questions or to work out solutions to the problems themselves, but to outline the way in which the organisational changes proposed in the Transport (London) Bill establish a framework which will best enable this to be done.
The essence of the Bill is to co-ordinate all the interrelated transport elements in London—public transport, highways and traffic—to facilitate the production of the necessary comprehensive policies for planning, operations and finance. Overall powers of strategic control will be placed in the hands of the elected representatives of the people of Greater London—the Greater London Council. The Government consider that this approach, which looks at urban transport as an essentially local rather than national question, is the right one. The policy is consistent with that for the Passenger Transport Authorities which are being established under the Transport Act 1968, as I am certain many noble Lords will remember. The Bill before your Lordships to-day is the product of detailed discussion between my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and the right honourable Lady who preceded him and the G.L.C. Its basic aims are not controversial, although certain of its particular provisions, which I shall come on to later, have aroused strong feelings in another place. The basis for this legislation was of course set out in the White Paper, Transport in London, published in July last year.
Clause 1 of the Bill requires the G.L.C.:To develop policies, and to encourage, organise and, where appropriate, carry out measures which will promote the provision of integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services for Greater London.The remaining provisions, which fall into three main categories, are designed to enable the Council effectively to carry out this general duty. The first concerns the Council's strategic transport planning role. They will take the 532 lead in drawing up co-ordinated plans for transport in London in conjunction with the Minister, the new London Transport Executive, which I shall come on to shortly, the British Railways Board, local authorities and as appropriate other interested bodies like the National Bus Company and the trade unions. Subjects covered by these plans will probably include operations and investment in the highway and public transport fields, proposals for interchanges between different transport systems and parking policy viewed in the context of overall transport and traffic management. The important thing about these plans is that the bodies who will be responsible for implementing them will be the very people who had previously drawn them up, and the G.L.C. as the "co-ordinating architect" will under the provisions in the rest of the Bill have adequate powers to ensure that the proposals are carried through.
In all this, public transport, of course, plays a key role. Those of your Lordships who regularly travel by bus or Tube in London will not need to be reminded of that fact. Indeed, there is probably a great deal of expertise in this House on the operations of the London Transport Board and the sort of problems they have to face—more so certainly than at the time, many years ago, when the late Lord Curzon was, for the first and last time, persuaded to ride on a bus. The experience upset him very much indeed. "I gave the fellow a penny", he said, "and asked him to take me to Parliament Square—and he refused." I think there is now a general recognition, not only of the basic nature of bus travel, but of the vital importance of a strong and efficient system of public transport. And one of the most important sections of the Bill deals with the reorganisation of the London Transport undertaking, so as to import into this field the local control and responsibility that I mentioned earlier.
The Bill provides for the winding up of the present London Transport Board, with its central (red) buses and railway being taken over by a new London Transport Executive (L.T.E.) which will be responsible to the G.L.C. in roughly the same way as the present Board are 533 to the Minister. The Council will have overall policy control of the Executive, will appoint its members and approve its investment proposals and general level of fares, while the Executive will be responsible for day-to-day management. The London Transport Board's country bus and Green Line coaches, mainly operating outside Greater London, will be transferred to a subsidiary of the National Bus Company.
The G.L.C. have made it clear that their take-over of this public transport undertaking is dependent on its being financially viable at the time of transfer. "Viability" is defined as an ability on the part of the L.T.E. to pay its way, with sufficient margin to create a general reserve of £2 million in its first year of operation. This will be achieved by a 90 per cent. write-off of the present Board's capital debt to the Government, which will result in a relief on interest payments of the order of £11 million a year; coupled with the fares increases for the central buses and Tubes approved by the N.B.P.I. last month which should come into operation in the autumn of this year. Given that the G.L.C. were unwilling to enter into any commitment to use their powers under the Bill to subsidise fares from the rates, the Government accepted that in order to achieve the transfer this fares increase was unfortunately inevitable.
I should now like to deal with the operating powers proposed for the Executive. In placing no mileage or geographical limit on the Executive's operations, this Bill differs quite deliberately from the legislation concerned with the present London Transport Board and the arrangements for the P.T.E.s laid down in the Transport Act of last year. The reason for this is our belief that the geographical nature and extent of London and its position as the capital city mean that geographical limits, if laid down, could quickly be made unrealistic by future transport developments—for instance the Third London Airport. There is, however, no intention on the part of my right honourable friend, the G.L.C. or the L.T.B. that these necessarily wide powers should be used to operate services not essentially related to the needs of Greater 534 London—inter-city rail services or long distance coaches are obvious examples of services not intended to be included.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the bus operating powers of the L.T.E. These are basically intended to give the Executive the power to plan and shape the pattern of bus operations in Greater London within the framework of the overall plans which I have already mentioned. Unless this is to be a largely meaningless provision it must be associated with the control of the activities of other operators running services in Greater London, who would otherwise be able to adopt policies inconsistent with those adopted by the L.T.E. To be precise, the Bill provides that within Greater London "stage" and "express" bus services may be operated only by the L.T.E., its subsidiaries or by another operator under an agreement with the Executive. The position of independent operators at present running services in the area is protected in that the consents under which existing services are run will be continued, with a right of appeal against any refusal of the L.T.E. to renew them.
Fears have been expressed in another place that the L.T.E. could, with the advantage of its scale of operations and possible subsidy from the rates, deliberately set out to drive out private bus operators in areas outside Greater London. So far as stage and express services are concerned, these will outside Greater London be subject to the control of the independent traffic commissioners, who will have the job of judging the merits of any case put by the L.T.E. for extending its services. They would take account, among other things, of the way in which a particular route was already being served by other operators. Although this protection will not extend to contract carriages, the possibility of independent operators in this field facing severe competition from the L.T.E. seems remote. The Executive's main job will be to run London bus services and it is doubtful whether for some time, if at all, it will have the capacity to do much contract carriage work or, indeed, that it will see its role as involving widespread activity in this field of operation.
In view of the interest which they have aroused, I should now like to say something about the provisions in Clause 6 535 of the Bill which cover the L.T.E.'s manufacturing powers. The Executive will, subject to the directions of the G.L.C., be empowered to manufacture for itself, its subsidiaries, the G.L.C. or any of the nationalised transport authorities. These powers are considerably wider than those given to the somewhat analogous P.T.E.s, but more restrictive than those laid down in the Transport Act 1968 for the nationalised transport authorities, which placed no restrictions on whom the authorities could manufacture for. The provisions must be seen in perspective. There is no intention whatsoever that the L.T.E. should set itself up as a vast manufacturing concern engaging in cut-throat competition in the field of manufacture: its basic function is that laid down in Clause 5(1):to provide … such public passenger transport services as best meet the needs … of Greater London".What is proposed here is simply to give the Executive powers which will enable it fully to utilise its manufacturing capacity and manpower skills while at the same time reflecting its unique position as what could be termed a "municipalised transport authority". The Executive will also be able to repair motor vehicles and sell petrol or spare parts and accessories for them in its car parks.
Before leaving the new arrangements for London Transport, I should like to mention the financial duties which will be placed upon the Executive and the new procedures for controlling fares on its services. The major difficulty to date has been to reconcile the two statutory duties of the L.T.B.—on the one hand, that of paying its way and, on the other hand, of providing an "adequate" system of passenger transport. In this Bill it is made clear that the Executive's overriding duty is the financial one, to break even and meet financial objectives set for periods fixed by the G.L.C. and that its dutyto provide or secure the provision of such public passenger transport services as best meet the needs … of Greater Londonwill have to be formulated within the framework of its financial duties. The practical effect of this will be that Londoners, through their elected representatives on the G.L.C., will decide the pricing policies and levels of service for their public transport and will take financial responsibility for their decisions. 536 This would seem to be an eminently reasonable approach.
So far as fares are concerned, the Transport Tribunal's present control of London fares is something of an anomaly, in that nothing similar exists elsewhere in the country, and these special provisions will be inappropriate in the light of the G.L.C.'s direct role on fares questions. It is thus proposed under the Bill to abolish the Transport Tribunal's London fares functions, control of fares in the interim between that date and the establishment of the L.T.E. resting in the hands of my right honourable friend. Clearly, British Rail fares in the London area cannot be considered separately from those for the buses and Tubes, and the Bill proposes that these should be fixed with regard to financial objectives drawn up by the Minister after consulting the G.L.C.
Finally, I should like to move on to the highway and traffic provisions contained in Part V of the Bill. The intention is to strengthen the highway and traffic powers of the G.L.C. to enable them more effectively to carry out their responsibilities as the strategic transport authority for London. Their highway authority responsibilities will be extended by some 320 miles, so that all principal roads in Greater London become metropolitan ones, but, at the same time, the system of development control along metropolitan roads is to be altered so as to allow the London boroughs a greater role in future. The G.L.C. will also be given a greater say on borough roads about traffic signs and signals, pedestrian crossings and obstructions caused by road works.
But the new, most important and, in the Government's view, vital, provision in this Part of the Bill is concerned with the controls proposed for public off-street car parks, First, the background. It has become clear over the last few years that proper control of parking is essential to the management of the total transport situation in large towns and conurbations. If I may, I would quote from the 1963 Buchanan Report, Traffic in Towns.It appears absolutely essential that the public authority should retain complete control of:—In 1967, a further study recognised the need for better control in big towns over the location, amount and use of parking space—both off and on street. This was particularly needed to deal with long-term parking by commuters. The need for action was abvious and in the White Paper, Transport in London, it was made clear that measures to control the use of publicly available off-street car parks were to be introduced. These are now set out in Clause 36 and Schedule 5 to the Bill. Under them, the G.L.C. and London boroughs will jointly operate a licensing system. The G.L.C. will have the strategic role of defining the area to be controlled and the general conditions to apply to it. Within a controlled area, all car parks available to the general public for payment, whether publicly or privately owned, will be subject to these conditions. The boroughs will apply the system locally and issue the individual licences. Through this system, the local authorities will be able to influence by regulation or price—or a combination of the two—the volume and composition of traffic in the interests of more efficient movement over a wide area of Greater London.
and it should be prepared to use its control methodically as part of the implementation of the transportation plan".
- (i) the amount of parking space that is provided;
- (ii) its location and
- (iii) the charges that are levied,
There are several objectives of a licensing scheme. One example is controlling the volume of traffic on radial routes into Central London during peak hours so as to reduce congestion and consequent economic losses and so as to enable these routes to be used more efficiently by public transport; and another is encouraging the provision of car parking space which can be used by residents, thereby reducing the need for street parking. I might add at this juncture that I understand that the G.L.C. have it in mind initially to control an area of central London of about 10 square miles.
Next, the important checks and safeguards for protecting the legitimate interests of the private operators. The provisions are pretty comprehensive—hence the length of the Schedule. A lot of safeguards have been built in as a result of discussions with interested parties and the provisions before the House today give as fair a system as possible, although 538 admittedly only at the cost of some complexity. The basic safeguards are these: first, an operator who objects to any of the provisions in the G.L.C.'s regulations can make representations which have to come to the Minister who, if he thinks fit, will call in the Regulations, in whole or in part, and make any modifications which he considers appropriate. He can hold a local inquiry if he wishes. Secondly, when an operator conies to apply for a licence and objects to any of the conditions put in it by a borough or indeed by a refusal to grant a licence at all, the applicant will have a right of appeal to the Minister, who will again be able to insist on remedial action and has power to call for a hearing or local inquiry. If at the end of the day it is concluded that the wider interests of the general public must override those of the particular operator, then it will be open to the operator to put in a claim for compensation. Your Lordships will agree that these represent a very fair system of safeguards.
In conclusion, I should, with the indulgence of your Lordships, like to touch on something which I said at the beginning of this speech. The new organisation proposed in the Transport (London) Bill will not of itself solve the many varied and complex problems which we face in this City to-day. But what it should do is to provide a framework which will best enable those concerned to come to grips with them. It is on this note that I would commend this important Bill to the House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Winterbottom.)
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for moving the Second Reading of this Bill and for describing the contents of the Bill to us. May I say that for my part I welcome the broad intention of the Bill and believe that the general structure of it will fulfil the hopes of the Government. The main purpose, which he has described, of transferring the London Transport Board to the Greater London Council, together with the other powers that are being added of traffic and highway construction, gives the Greater London Council the full equipment needed to manage the life of a great 539 city. The fact is that to-day public transport, traffic management, highway construction and planning are all interrelated, and each one of them has a decisive influence on the life of the city. The fact is that in most cities of the world to-day these powers are fragmented, to the detriment, of course, of the dwellers in those cities. But by putting all these powers into the hands of the G.L.C. we shall be putting London in the lead and giving the G.L.C. the best chance of planning and managing the life of London decently in the age of the universal motor car.
It is the universal motor car, which brings so many blessings to our lives, that causes such terrible complexities in the life of cities. This lesson we can see being learned, not very well, in other cities in the world, and particularly, perhaps, in the United States of America. The United States has had about a generation longer to learn this lesson than we have had. They have had the universal motor car problem with them for, I should say, at least the last thirty years. One can see, when one looks there, that the problem of securing a decent life in their cities is very far from solved; they are still plagued by appalling traffic congestion and seriously decaying urban centres in their cities. It is a good deal worse than in this country. I think we can learn something from their experience.
The American policy which was being followed certainly thirty or forty years ago was to concentrate resources on building great urban highways right into the heart of their cities in order to give access to work by private car, and broadly to withhold investment from public transport systems. But experience has taught them over the years that even with their magnificent highways this policy is unworkable, and for the past ten or fifteen years city authorities in the United States have been working desperately to salvage the public transport systems which have, broadly speaking, declined into bankruptcy and dereliction. As noble Lords who visit America will know, most of these public transport systems are still in an astonishingly low condition and quality and very unattractive to use. As a matter of interest we can see the Americans, with their marvellous technological thoroughness, carrying the argument to 540 its logical conclusion in Los Angeles, because there they have built a system of urban motorways which must be without equal anywhere in the world, and is unlikely ever to be equalled. There is a complete growth of motorways over the whole city and what has happened is that the centre of the city has disappeared altogether. The life goes on now in the suburbs outside; but still at the peak hour times the traffic is slowed down to the pace of a buggy, and they are back in square one again, the same as everybody else.
The lesson there has been learned very expensively, that there just is not room in the streets of any city for all commuters and shoppers to come by private car. It may seem a simple lesson, but the Americans have spent many thousands of millions of pounds learning it. There may be some social justice in the fact that whereas in the 19th century we pioneered the railway system in this country and the rest of the world learnt by our mistakes, now in the 20th century the Americans have pioneered city life for the universal motor car and we, in our turn, can learn from their mistakes and perhaps benefit by them to some extent.
I think we have. For one thing, looking at London, we have not dismantled our public transport system. Neither have we torn the heart out of the city of London, which nobody wants to see done. Of course it is common form to criticise London Transport and the commuter services of British Rail, and indeed there is plenty to criticise in them; but it would be true to say—and all of us who travel round the world know this—that London's system of surface rail, underground rail and bus, is structurally and technically very good: one of the best, if not the best, in the world. The personnel management is not of the same standard and I shall have a word to say about that later.
London Transport and British Rail still carry to-day about 90 per cent. of all commuters to work, and it is interesting to note that despite the rising numbers who use motor cars for going to work, four-fifths of those who own motor cars and commute use public transport. But as car ownership continues to rise the pressure on the roads of the 10 per cent. of commuters who at present go to work by private car to rise will 541 be serious, and if it rose it would undoubtedly choke up the traffic routes to the detriment of everybody. That is the picture that the Government and the G.L.C. will soon be grappling with. The G.L.C. have to develop policies for London Transport, for the management of London traffic, which will make public transport attractive enough for the travelling public, and, secondly, restrain the use of the private car within the traffic capacity of London streets.
I should like to turn for a moment to discuss how the G.L.C. will achieve this under the Bill, and particularly that part of Clause 1 to which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, referred, to… promote the provision of integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services for Greater London.The noble Lord explained to us the financial basis of the transfer, which is to get London Transport out of deficit and, secondly, to make it financially viable plus creating a reserve of £2 million per annum. The noble Lord, I thought, had a hint of criticism in his reference to the fact that the G.L.C. were unwilling to contemplate an immediate rate burden in order to keep fares at their present level, but I do not think that that criticism is justified. I think the G.L.C. are perfectly right to protect the interests of London's ratepayers. Whatever problems they may have in the future, they should start on a financially viable basis.
But there is a point here which does deserve, I think, a little more comment than the noble Lord gave it, and that is the implication that this Bill writes off nine-tenths of London Transport's capital. The noble Lord presented it in its most innocuous form as £11 million per annum, but in fact it is a capital sum of £244 million which is being written off, and although this is of benefit to London's ratepayers it is a very heavy burden for the taxpayers of this country to have to face. This, added to all the capital that has been written off other nationalised industries, pushes up the total amount written off to over £2,000 million, a very substantial sum of money. The point I wish to make is that with this sombre record of loss-making by nationalised industries before us, it is astonishing to find the Government putting into Clause 6 of 542 this Bill wide manufacturing and trading powers which will enable the London Transport Executive directly or indirectly to manufacture or trade in anything they like. And the noble Lord's eloquent pleading that this was "a very little one" did not persuade me that it was other than really gross folly.
Look at the facts. The record shows the damaging series of losses in nationalised industries, mainly due to weakness in management. Secondly, the Prices and Incomes Board Report underlines that London Transport management is very weak. Thirdly, the management of the public transport services alone is beset with great extrinsic difficulties which the London Transport Executive will be fully stretched to cope with, without taking on any additional trading powers. And, fourthly, the G.L.C. have strongly urged the Minister of Transport that they do not want these powers. Despite all these cogent contrary indications, the Government are still determined to extend the scope of State trading. Really, I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, that this is not a brain reaction, it is a blood reaction—and if I were not polite I should make it into an adjective.
The future financial policy for London Transport will be strongly influenced by the fact that the deficit will fall on the ratepayers who elect the Greater London Council. This, I think, is a thoroughly sound constitution, and I commend both the Government and the G.L.C. in agreeing to it. But I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, that this is entirely consistent with the 1968 Transport Act which set up the Passenger Transport Authorities, because they, of course, are appointed bodies, their membership is appointed by the Minister. They are not elected by the local government bodies, and although they have power to precept on the ratepayers, the ratepayers have no say in who makes up the membership of those bodies. Noble Lords may remember that we urged the Government last year to amend the 1968 Act in this respect so as to make these bodies democratic and representative. The Government, unfortunately, did not take our good advice, but I am glad to see that the light has now dawned upon them and in this Bill at any rate they have got the constitution right. I hope further amending legislation will follow.
543 It is not going to be easy for the G.L.C. to keep London Transport solvent. The past trend of rising costs and falling traffic gives a warning of the sort of problem that they are going to have to face. It is true that stronger management and new techniques will help to check rising costs, but they may not be enough, and my advice to the G.L.C. is to shun like the plague a subsidy on current account. They have made a very good start in this respect. I believe that nothing is more demoralising and weakening to management than a subsidy on current account, and if the G.L.C. find that some financial help is needed they will be much wiser to limit it to subsidy on capital account where some major new capital development is made. The G.L.C. then have to pay for 25 per cent. and the Government give a grant of another 75 per cent. While it is perfectly true that increased fares, which of course increase the incentive for travellers to switch from public transport to private cars, are obviously to be avoided if possible, my judgment is that if and when the issue arises increased fares are preferable to a subsidy on current account.
The second major aspect of this picture is the Greater London Council's policy for traffic management and highway building, because the better the traffic flows, the better the buses keep their schedules, the more attractive the services to the travelling public, the more passengers there are and therefore the more solvent London Transport is. In this context I welcome Part V of the Bill. This gives the G.L.C. responsibility for construction of highways and traffic management on all main traffic arteries in Greater London. First, this will enable them to promote major highway improvements on all these roads, and secondly, it will enable the G.L.C. to link traffic management right through all these traffic arteries, particularly with regard to traffic lights. The best systems to-day link to a central control the traffic lights right through the whole of the traffic arteries out to the periphery, so that the whole system is phased to give the best traffic flow. I am delighted to hear that the G.L.C.'s highly qualified traffic department are already preparing schemes for a traffic control centre which will do just this.
Clause 36 of the Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, referred, 544 gives the Greater London Council control over parking—off-street as well as on-street—in Greater London, and I know that this has aroused some anxiety, which the noble Lord mentioned. But he also referred to the safeguards for both private and public interests, and I feel that these were substantial. I know that the British Airports Authority still has anxieties, and we may hear more about these.
To take this subject in two parts, in the case of on-street parking—that is, parking controlled by meters—experience in central London over the last ten years I think has persuaded most people that this is a beneficial system. It has improved traffic flow and it has given us, as short-term parkers, an improved chance of finding a place at the kerb. It is now being extended to the outer ring (which has earned the unpleasant name of the "gluepot ring"), where traffic has been so badly congested in recent years, and especially the public transport buses, which often lose half an hour to an hour on their schedules. So it will be of great benefit when the system is extended throughout. It is interesting to recall that ten or twelve years ago, when I myself had something to do with this subject, there was tremendous opposition to the meter system for on-street parking; but believe that to-day most people accept that this is a sensible measure. I would, however, make one point to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. I am most alarmed to hear of the great volume of evasions of prosecutions (I believe that it amounts to something like 20 per cent.), and I suggest to the Government that the time has come to look at the law in this respect, and possibly to bring it up to date on the same lines as the new Vehicle and Driving Licences Bill, under which the offence will be applied to the vehicle rather than to the driver.
Let me now turn to off-street parking control, which is new as a traffic control measure. I realise that this idea has caused anxiety, much as the on-street parking measures did ten or twelve years ago. But I would suggest that there are two justifications for it. First, it is essential to ensure that off-street parking is in the right place, both for entrances and exits, and that it does not cause congestion in the traffic flow. Secondly—and here is the major point to which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, 545 referred—it is essential in order to control the total number of vehicles on London streets at any time. This is done, as the noble Lord told us, both by controlling the number of places available and by the charge which is made for them in the different areas. This brings the argument right into the centre of the traffic authority's responsibility; namely, that they must see that traffic flows smoothly and safely, and is not swamped by an excessive number of vehicles. This is the direct responsibility of the traffic authority. Only they can do it, and they must do it in the interests of everybody.
There are certainly objectionable features about this kind of control, but we must accept the facts of living in a great city with the universal motor car; and parking control is the best known method of getting the total volume of traffic within workable limits. The alternatives which have been discussed, of road pricing—for example, the use of black boxes which record mileage in urban areas, to be charged for at higher mileage rates; or special higher cost road licences for entering Inner London—are at present known to us only in theory. I do not think they would be very popular in practice. Thus, my support is for the noble Lord and his Bill, for the traffic authority to have overall control over all parking places. There are certain points that I should like to discuss in Committee in regard to the safeguards, but in regard to the principle I feel that this is the best measure in the interests of Londoners.
Finally, I turn to the problem of London Transport management. The weakness of London Transport management has of course been well known to all of us; but when the one-man buses, the Red Arrow buses, which are now running so well, arrived they stood for nearly a year in the bus garages because the unions opposed them. This indicates just how weak the management is. We have two expert independent Reports to guide us in this matter. First of all, there is the Prices and Incomes Board Report of 1968. and then there is the Report of 1969. Both Reports comment in great detail on the management problems in the London Passenger Transport Board. The 1968 Report confirmed that the management problems were serious. The Report said that 546 "substantial annual savings in costs are feasible", and the general tone was strongly critical.
It has been interesting to me to see that the 1969 Report, which continues this discussion, takes a less critical tone; it seems that the critical tone of the 1968 Report has been somewhat tempered. I should like the noble Lord when he replies to the debate, to tell us whether it is the fact that in the interval the London Passenger. Transport Board has moved somewhat and thus has earned some relief from the pressure put upon it by the Prices and Incomes Board, because it has made some of the improvements suggested in the 1968 Report. It would be interesting to hear if that is so. Certainly the 1968 Report tells us that the unions have always refused to allow work measurement practices to be applied in the bus workshops—with absurd results, of course. But the 1969 Report tells us that consultants have been busy in the workshops, assessing and applying productivity schemes, and that already they are achieving a useful service. If my deduction is correct, that the Board has taken action to clean up this situation, it is good news, and I am glad to hear it. I think it is of great credit to the new Chairman, Mr. Maurice Holmes, and also, I think, to the Ministry of Transport, who have been trying to urge on these things for some time.
Similarly, the 1968 Report criticised the London Passenger Transport Board for planning to take fifteen years to introduce one-man bus operation. That, of course, is by far the biggest potential cost-saver of the lot. The Prices and Incomes Board suggested that the change-over could be done in half the time. But the 1969 Report says that the Board plan to complete the change in ten or eleven years, and the Prices and Incomes Board makes no more comment than to say that further speed-up would be possible. But, in any event, this is a substantial improvement. The period has come down from fifteen years to ten or eleven years.
There is one point of anxiety here, I think. In the 1969 Report from the Prices and Incomes Board we hear that the introduction of one-man operation of buses has to date given no financial advantage to the London Transport Board because the gains made have been 547 entirely spent in the higher bonuses paid and in retraining costs. This I regard as an alarming result. I should have thought it was basic to any industrial relations that when new labour-saving schemes are introduced the financial benefit should be shared by all three parties, the business and the consumers, as well as the workers. To allow the workers to swallow the lot is not fair, either to the public or to anybody else. I would urge on the G.L.C. and the London Transport Executive that in future they must ensure fair shares all round. But despite this unhappy record on the one-man buses, there seems now to be the beginnings of better personnel management. The Prices and Incomes Board have advised making a completely new productivity agreement covering all the points set out in the 1969 Report. I believe that this is good advice, and I hope that the G.L.C. will firmly back the new Transport Executive to negotiate this with the unions.
The 1969 Report also refers to one other point that I should like to mention; namely, the substantial losses due to fraud—in other words, ticket evasion. The best means of checking this is by the introduction of automatic fare collection. We have seen good examples of this on the one-man buses and on the new Victoria Line. Obviously, the right course to take is for the London Transport Executive of the future to introduce the system generally throughout both systems. I hope that the G.L.C. will require them to do this as fast as they can. There would be a big advantage there not only in reducing fraud, but also in substantial labour saving, which would overcome all staff shortages as well as make big financial gains.
Finally, the Prices and Incomes Board advise London Transport to set up a marketing department to study the consumer taste—the travelling public's wishes, and to try to fit the services better into what they require. This seems good advice. Something useful was done in getting later closing of the Oxford Street shops in order to relieve the peak travelling hours at the time when office workers were leaving for home. Such things as this can he done if you have experts on the job, a really positive effort can be made at marketing the services that Lon 548 don Transport have to offer. Certainly it seems to me that there is great scope for stronger, more imaginative management to bring substantial benefits to the travelling public, both in lower costs and in better services, and this is obviously an important part for the future.
When this Bill is on the Statute Book the Greater London Council will have taken on a major responsibility, of great difficulty and complexity. But they will have been given the full range of powers over all the functions concerned: planning, construction, traffic management and public transport; and I am sure that with courage, imagination and good judgment, the G.L.C. will succeed in getting the right balance of the many conflicting factors, to the benefit of the life of the people of London. My Lords, I support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, in his introduction of this Bill, made some passing reference to Clause 36, and what struck me as a distinctly lightweight case in favour of what is contained in that clause. I have just listened to my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford largely supporting the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, and apparently falling over himself, so far as I could see, to agree with Lord Winterbottom in what he had to say about Clause 36. Clearly, therefore, since neither of the noble Lords concerned seem to have apprised themselves of the true significance of the principle and the effect of this clause, it falls to my lot to explain to your Lordships what it is. Therefore, the remarks that I shall make on the Bill will be confined to that clause.
In my view, this is a clause which is both curious and spurious, and is so objectionable that if it formed the subject of a separate Bill I should do my best to persuade your Lordships not to give it a Second Reading at all. Because it forms part of a much wider Bill, much of which is not only not objectionable but indeed very desirable, I obviously cannot do that; but at least I can tell your Lordships what I think of it and assure you that I shall be returning at Committee stage with a fair packet of Amendments.
I am seeing Clause 36 from three points of view, and in the light of the Answer 549 given by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, Lord Shackleton, to the first Question of the afternoon, I think I had better be careful in explaining to your Lordships what those three points of view are. First, I am seeing it from the point of view of the detrimental effect on the private motorist in my capacity as an executive Vice-Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club. Secondly, I am seeing it from the point of view of the very serious difficulties imposed on private off-street car park operators, not only on account of the effect of those difficulties for their own sake but also for the way in which they too affect the interest of the private motorist and the car-owning public. Here I think I can speak with some authority because of my connection with the largest firm of car park operators, particularly in London—that is to say, National Car Parks—though I should also state that my connection is of a consultant nature and I hold no financial interest in that company. Thirdly, and because I think it is important, I see it from the point of view of the British Airports Authority, with whom I have no conection beyond whatever any other member of the public may claim to have with a statutory undertaking.
The British Airports Authority are Petitioners against the Bill in your Lordships' House, and I certainly give them full marks for trying, because the rest of us became rather discouraged during the proceedings in another place. It was, as the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom said, a hybrid Bill submitted to a Select Committee, and therefore there was an opportunity for private interests objecting to these and certain other provisions to petition against them. In fact, there were 17 Petitions containing objections to the clause, including those which came from motoring organisations, car parking interests, petrol companies, organisations with funds invested in car parking projects, property-owning bodies, the British Airports Authority, and many of the subsidiary local authorities in the Greater London area.
The promoters of the Bill challenged the locus standi of many of the Petitioners. As a result, following negotiations with the Ministry of Transport and the G.L.C., a number of the Petitioners—among them the motoring organizations 550 —anticipating that such objections would be upheld, decided to withdraw the Petitions and to continue to resist the proposals in other ways, one of which I am now taking. Six Petitions were considered by the Select Committee, but all of them were rejected without consideration of the actual objections to the proposals on the grounds that the Petitioners had no locus standi. As I say, even if this may have been strictly and technically within procedure, it was extremely discouraging to most of us because under the threat of such substantial damage to such a wide variety of private interests it scarcely seemed democratically credible that this should be the case. Indeed, probably the most powerfully objectionable aspect of Clause 36 is that it seems to cut deeply into the whole principle of democracy, and to demonstrate clearly that local authority is determined to take power to itself to tell the public what is good for it.
First, it is necessary to examine what lies behind the provisions of the Bill. In July, 1968, the Minister of Transport presented to Parliament a White Paper which dealt generally with the London Transport Board, British Rail, the Transport Holding Company, the London boroughs, and various other matters. In that White Paper a short reference was made to car parking, the intention being to give the Greater London Council more powers to initiate and introduce on-street parking schemes in conjunction with the London boroughs. In the White Paper there was a further mention that…arrangements will be made for more effective measures to rationalise the prevision and operation of off-street parking space: this may mean licensing publicly available off-street parking facilities (whether publicly or privately owned) so as more effectively to control their capacity and charging arrangements, and thus ensure proper balance between short—and long—term parking supply".It takes only a summary reading of Clause 36 and Schedule 5 to sec that the Bill goes much further than that. In fact, it gives full proof of the current trend towards using this means as a control measure to restrain private car traffic by what seems to me to be a very unfair procedure. This could be seen quite clearly in the Provisional Order which was presented to Parliament by the Glasgow Corporation in 1967, which sought similar powers, but which was 551 withdrawn on meeting very strong opposition, principally from the motoring organisations. Subsequently, Westminster City Council has also stated that it wishes to control the charges and conditions of entry to off-street parking accommodation in order to prevent or deter long-term non-essential parkers from using the facilities, whether in private car parks or those available for public use.
I do not think it is easy to imagine a more objectionable traffic dictator than the unfortunate official who has thrust upon him the duty to decide who are non-essential parkers. However, the right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Transport, during the passage of this Bill through another place. said on May 6 this year—and I have been most careful not to quote him out of context:There is no question of using this measure to try to force the motorist off the road.It seems a pity, therefore, that the right honourable gentleman had apparently not seen the report of the Greater London Council's Strategic Planning Committee, issued on March 7, which said, in exactly the same context:This will give the authorities a management tool to restrain the use of motorcars in favour of public transport.Somebody is fooling somebody here, and, if I have listened correctly to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, they have done a surprising amount to confirm before your Lordships this afternoon exactly what were the thoughts of the G.L.C.'s Committee on this subject.
It has for a long time been the view of the R.A.C. that substantial improvement is needed in public transport, and that it has a very important part to play in our urban traffic problems. But we have also frequently pointed out that imposing unreasonable and negative restrictions on private cars is not the way to secure that. What would be far more effective is the provision of more and better road improvements and off-street car parking, planned properly as part of those road improvements, particularly in proximity to public transport access points and railway stations on the fringes of the central area, to encourage the policy of "park and ride". I therefore hope to hear a good deal more from the noble Lord, 552 Lord Winterbottom, when he replies, about the plans of the Minister and the G.L.C. to improve facilities of this kind. I should like to hear from him something positive about progress with the motorway box and many other necessary London road improvements, and about urgent plans to provide off-street parking facilities. I would even remind him that the Transport Act 1968 enables financial assistance to be given to car parks at public transport stations.
If the noble Lord is not able to give the positive news that I seek, I shall be forced back on the view that the real object of the restrictive powers sought by this Bill is to cover up the failures to adopt and implement a proper parking policy, and even that the G.L.C. may also have been tempted to take a convenient opportunity to grind their financial axe at the same time by coercing people on to the public transport for which the Council are about to assume responsibility.
Apart from that, it seems a very great pity that the moment when repeated additions to fares are a disincentive to the use of public transport should also be chosen as the moment to raise the charges at car parks at British Rail stations used by commuters. I do not know whether British Rail consulted with anybody about this—certainly, they did not consult the R.A.C. But as local authorities are also proposing to raise their charges, to prevent the commuters from transferring to local authority car parks from British Rail car parks, I would suggest that the Ministry of Transport and the Greater London Council themselves have some fairly rapid consultation on this very obvious instance of working against the very use of public transport that they desire to encourage. It is small wonder that so many of the public prefer to make use of the flexible, reliable, convenient and even, at times, cheaper means of transport that is provided by their cars.
If local authorities are to be empowered to control the whole of the parking arrangements in the private sector, including charges. permitted hours of parking, permitted hours of opening. permitted categories of motorists who are allowed to park at all, amounts of space available for particular purposes—and, indeed, any other terms and conditions that they may think fit—I have said 553 enough, I think, to indicate that the car-owning public in London are going to consider themselves a harassed and hounded community. And that quite apart from the effect on the business user.
The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, prayed in aid what was said in the Buchanan Report. I would refer him to the preface to that Report, written by the Steering Group which was behind the whole Report, which made the categorical observation that a car-owning electorate will not stand for severe restriction as the remedy for the problems of urban traffic congestion. And no more they should. Yet that, my Lords, is just what they are being faced with in this Bill. What is more, they are faced with it without any previous consultations with the motoring organisations, speaking on their behalf, and without any provision in the Bill for such consultations. This is not unusual, because there is ample precedent for this in regard to traffic regulation Orders; but it is certainly something that will have to receive attention in Committee.
Something else to which we must also return is the proposed procedure to enable users of individual car parks to have notice of the intention to apply the new powers to a particular area. The information which they get will probably not indicate exactly how the powers will be exercised or specify the conditions to be observed in operating individual car parks. I think that private motorists, especially those who use certain car parks frequently or regularly, will undoubtedly resent the imposition of restrictive conditions adversely affecting their interests when they have had no opportunity to express their views to the authorities. Therefore it is desirable for a procedure to be written in which will enable the users of the car parks to be made aware, before decisions are made, of the effect of specific proposals affecting their interests. In the case of car parks operated by local authorities, there are already procedures for the public to object to alterations of conditions for their use, and I think it is reasonable that the same kind of arrangements should apply to private-enterprise car parks, if the local authorities are to be empowered to control the manner in which they are operated.
Another point that we shall have to watch is that the use of the proposed 554 powers does not nullify or frustrate existing contracts entered into for the use of car parks. Apart from direct business use, commitments may have been undertaken, such as the purchase or lease of property, on the understanding, which may be contractual or otherwise, that parking will be available in private enterprise car parks nearby without the restriction which may now arise from the new powers. Real hardship and loss could be caused in this way, and although the legal position may not now be entirely free from doubt, and may need some clarification, it seems reasonable to provide that the powers should not be exercised in a way that would interfere with contractual rights. Failing that, there should certainly be provision for compensation to those injuriously affected by such interference.
Much the same kind of consideration also affects the private car park operator, although from a larger variety of angles than the private motorist. In the case I have just mentioned, not only is the operator at the opposite end of a frustrated contract with an individual parker, he may also find himself out of order with the contractual arrangements under which he operates a given car park, and which have been made with a local authority or other form of what we may call head landlord. Operating leases are many and varied, both as to their conditions and as to their duration, which may be either short-term or long-term. Indeed, in this business it is not unusual to find even 99-year leases, and if such were to be made inoperable and/or unviable by the use of the powers under this Bill the operator would be in a very serious position indeed. There is no provision in the Bill for such a situation; and this is something else which I think must soon engage your Lordships' serious attention.
Furthermore, not only is it possible for an operator to be put in breach of his lease: it is equally possible, and for similar reasons, for him to be put in breach of his town and country planning consent, because some consents specify the conditions of operation of existing car parks. Here, therefore, is a second shot at the same target, and for this, again, no provision is made in the Bill.
Since there was no consultation prior to the drafting of Clause 36 with the car parking industry, any more than there was with the motoring organisations, it 555 is not possible to say whether any regard has been paid to the requirements of the tourist industry and to the effect on overseas tourist advertising promotion—in which, your Lordships may not fully realise, the availability of car parks plays a definite part. Nor is it known what the likely effect will be on temporary operation of a car park, such as at Christmas time or in connection with public ceremonies or events. Under the Bill, these would now become illegal without a licence, which would have to be negotiated, of course, complete with terms and conditions, quite possibly resulting in the provision of no car park at all. If that were so, it would result from the impact of something which is probably the biggest factor of all and the weight of which is exceedingly important. In relation to future car parks, unless an operator is able to know in advance the amount that he is able to charge, the hours of opening, what section of the public, if any, will be restricted from using it, and a lot of factors like that, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to assess the financial viability of any such project. If an operator cannot assess the financial viability of his projects, he will not—in fact, he cannot—take them on, and certainly he cannot interest any of the sources from which financial backing for private enterprise car parks comes. They, in turn, will no longer be prepared to put up the financial backing.
The result of this Bill would be that the utter uncertainty of the operations would bring the creation of private car parking in London to a standstill. In case your Lordships should think I am indulging in a bit of scaremongering, I may tell the House that the withdrawal of proposed financial support is actually happening now, in prospect of this Bill. In fact, I am not exaggerating when I say that this Bill, as put to your Lordships, will sound the death-knell of private enterprise car parking in London; and if your Lordships care to pause to consider the major contribution made and to be made by private enterprise car parking in London alone, you will see just how important that factor is.
Apart from that, the practical operation of a car park will be made virtually impossible in the kind of instance where 556 there is differentiation between long-term and short-term parkers and thus the necessity to refuse admission to someone who wanted to park for a longer period than is allowed under the terms of a licence. That would cause delays at car park entrances, possibly building up—and this is not unusual—into traffic congestion in the street. Thus, if the operator cannot function, the motorist cannot park, and the present difficult traffic problems become very considerably increased, instead of, as is the general idea, being decreased. Thus, again, we find ourselves with nothing but bad emanating from this Part of the Bill for the motorist, for the operator and for the local authority alike. Therefore, my Lords, it is no wonder that all three of these categories petitioned, however uselessly it may have been, against the Bill.
It will no doubt be argued—in fact, it has been argued—that all these powers are essential in the interests of the community and that car parking must be so rigorously controlled. If that is a fact, I should like to ask why car parks operated by local authorities themselves are excluded from the Bill and exempted from the conditions that it imposes. If such detailed control of "who parks where, for how long and for how much" is really arguable, surely municipal car parks must be equally capable of sin in breaching the success of that control, and it is only logical that they, too, should come within its limitations. The present exclusion could in fact be operated, in more extreme cases, to the active detriment of the private operator, who, in any case, despite the protestations of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, has only a very limited availability of appeal against the powerful sanctions that may be applied against him. The noble Lord described those powers of appeal almost with pride, or so it seemed to me, but in fact it is the most tenuous means of appeal, existing only in the right of the Minister to call in cases if he so decides. My Lords, I am bound to say that if this state of affairs, together with the total lack of compensation provided by the Bill, amounts to any recognisable form of British justice in the way that I am sure most of your Lordships understand the words, then our joint education on the subject has been sadly lacking.
557 If your Lordships would like a further example of the ludicrous possibilities, please consider the case of the British Airports Authority and London Airport. Some two-thirds of it is in the G.L.C. area, and the powers in the Bill can apply equally to the British Airports Authority's car parks within the confines of the Airport. They would appear to conflict head-on with the Airports Authority Act 1965, which specifically charges the British Airports Authority with being master in its own house. This Bill provides other powers, and so we have the ridiculous situation—one, surely, with very little precedent in the British Parliamentary system—whereby there are two Acts with conflicting meanings, with the Minister of Transport (God help him!) appointed as arbiter between them. I suggest that the very simple expedient of preserving intact the British Airports Authority's responsibility to Parliament lies in excluding their airport car parks from the scope of the Bill.
Your Lordships may ask what I am standing here making so much fuss about. The fuss, my Lords, is about this. The provision of adequate off-street parking facilities is something which in the light of modern requirements has been grossly and woefully neglected, instead of its being properly planned as part of the organised development of community areas. Central Government have played no part here, except by controlling the strings of loan sanction to local authorities, to whom has been hived off the responsibility but who have largely been denied the means. Private enterprise has responded to a considerable and important degree and is now apparently to be heavily penalised for having done so; and this will be to the detriment of all and to the benefit of none. Make no mistake, my Lords: if Clause 36 of the Bill goes through for London, it will soon become the pattern for the whole country, so your Lordships should take care to examine it well. I still think that I was thoroughly justified in calling Clause 36 curious and spurious as well as objectionable. I very much look forward to your Lordships' detailed examination of it at later stages in the passage of the Bill.