HL Deb 14 December 1981 vol 426 cc6-8

2.51 p.m.

Lord Morris

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whom they propose to consult before coming to a decision on the use by the police of wheel clamps on illegally parked cars.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has invited views on this proposal from the public generally; from local authority associations and others with an interest in the enforcement of traffic regulations; and from a wide range of representative organisations of road users, including motorists and freight and public transport operators.

Lord Morris

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Are Her Majesty's Government considering consulting the Parisian authorities, who have had a great deal of experience in the use of these particular wheel braces before they actually abandoned their use? Furthermore, is my noble friend aware that the attachment of what most normal people regard as their second most valuable asset would be seen as a repugnant erosion of the freedom of the individual?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, as I said in my original response, we shall be consulting widely and I shall take note of what my noble friend has said.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that at the present time the major traffic arteries in central London are so badly choked by illegally parked cars on yellow lines and double-yellow lines that they are becoming a serious handicap for movement of traffic? Is he aware that some additional measure is now urgently needed in order to check this very high degree of illegal parking?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am, indeed, aware of what my noble friend says, and I am sure that this is one of the considerations which will be taken into account.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, does the noble Earl recall the debate on this matter during the Committee stage of the Transport Bill only this year, when his noble friend Lord Bellwin said he believed that the Metropolitan Police consider that this would be a very useful means of dealing with illegal parking? Is there any possibility of this matter being dealt with in time for inclusion in the forthcoming Transport Bill?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, indeed I recall the debate on 11th June last during which I think the noble Lord's noble friend Lady Denington raised this question. This is one of the matters which has stimulated the review which is now taking place. As regards whether we can get this in time for the next Bill, that will depend on whether or not it is acceptable to the various parties.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, can my noble friend advise the House whether it is true that the number of traffic wardens in central London has diminished? At the moment it is practically impossible to find even a double yellow line on which to park, let alone a parking space. Is my noble friend also aware that the vast majority of people who illegally park do not get tickets, and that unless they get tickets people will continue to park illegally? I am afraid to say that sometimes I have even been known to be guilty myself.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am very sorry to hear of my noble friend's confession in this matter. Of course, I never do so myself. The Metropolitan Police are trying to recruit more wardens, but I am afraid that far too many motorists simply ignore parking tickets. If the police were allowed to use wheel clamps, they would try them out first in areas where most of the illegal parking is by persistent offenders.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, do you not have both through traffic, where a city is used as a through road, which requires no parking, and internal traffic which requires parking? The traffic regulations are not for absolute obedience; they would be an intolerable nuisance if they were. We have zigzag marks which mean no parking. We have yellow lines which mean, park, but it may cost you something. Is the noble Earl aware that, if he included me among those who were consulted, I should immediately go into business to provide a "cutter-off" as a useful accessory to the car, and would use it?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am most grateful for the noble Lord's comments. I am sure that they will be borne much in mind.

Baroness Denington

My Lords, will the noble Earl agree that there is the utmost resistance to road-widening in London? I think that this is perhaps a matter to which every noble Lord in this House would subscribe, because this is an ancient city of great character and we do not want it destroyed, nor do we want houses pulled down. But the traffic problem in London is very serious and some people just do not—perhaps they are not London residents—seem to care for the communal weal. Something must be done about it, even if it means putting a harmless clamp on their wheels.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I think that everything would be greatly eased if everyone actually obeyed the laws.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, would it not be much simpler and more effective if the police had powers just to let the air out of the tyres of these cars? It is the best immobilisation that I know of.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, again, I shall bear the noble Lord's comments in mind.