HL Deb 14 July 1982 vol 433 cc419-50

House again in Committee on Clause 51.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 99: Page 59, line 23, after ("section") insert (""disabled person's badge" means any badge issued, or having effect as if issued, under any regulations for the time being in force under section 21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (badges for display on motor vehicles used by disabled persons); and").

The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 100: Page 59, line 23, leave out ("anything") and insert ("a device of a type approved in regulations made by the Secretary of State,").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move amendment No. 100 and for the convenience of the Committee I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 101 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Indeed, your Lordships will notice that both he and I have our names down to Amendment No. 100.

Subsection (10) of this clause reads: In this section 'immobilisation device' means anything designed or adapted to be fixed to a vehicle". In our view that is far too wide. "Anything" can mean what it says—anything. It could mean a variety of implements or devices which could be designed or adapted for the purpose of preventing the vehicle being driven or put in motion. It may be that there could be found in use some highly undesirable or unsuitable devices. I think that it may be argued that this will be a matter for the separate chief constables. But the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that only those devices which have been specifically approved for the purpose by the Secretary of State, may be used anywhere to immobilise a vehicle under this clause. This would seem to be a most desirable amendment and I hope that the Government will accept it. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I support the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in Amendment No. 100, which is so very similar to Amendment No. 101. The noble Lord has, of course, put the point quite clearly. We want to ensure that we do not get a number of mechanical devices which are patently unsuitable and which, in fact, might be copied. One can think of chains, for example, with a padlock on the end. That is a very simple, rather nonsensical way of looking at the situation. So any device that may ultimately be used in this rather objectionable system would have to be a device that is not going to cause damage; is not going to impede a passer-by or a passing cyclist or somebody of that nature; and is, therefore, going to be subject to some specification approved by the Minister. I can see no reason why my noble friend cannot accept an amendment as simple as this one.

Lord Gisborough

I should like briefly to support the amendment and to say that having the right type of device might save a great deal of money in damages in the long run.

Lord Airedale

I rise to give support from these Benches. I entirely agree with the amendment. When we consider breathalysers, we remember that Parliament was very careful to decide that any old breathalyser that a police force chose to use, would not do; it had to be a very special device, properly approved centrally. With the Bill as it stands, a policeman could use his ingenuity—as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has suggested—by chaining a car to a lamp post, for instance, which might be very enterprising of him, but it would hardly be the type of conduct which Parliament had intended.

The Earl of Avon

I accept that there may be ingenious devices which are less safe. However, I should like to make one point. I understand that the police have demonstrated a device of the type they are considering to the Joint Committee on the Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted People, who were concerned about the possibility that it might project beyond the car over the pavement. I am sure that the Committee will welcome the fact that these discussions have taken place, and I believe they indicate the responsible approach which can be expected from the police in matters of public safety.

I note the support of the Committee for the amendment. What I should like to propose is that both noble Lords withdraw their amendments and the Government will put down something on Report which will be slightly more on the lines of the second amendment rather than the first. Will the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, agree to that?

Lord Underhill

Speaking for myself, I welcome the offer of the noble Earl and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 102: Page 59, line 28, leave out subsection (12) and insert— ("(12) This section shall extend only to the City of Westminster but may be extended to such other areas as the Secretary of State may by order specify.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 102. This is a short amendment, but it is important. When introducing the new clause relating to mobilisation devices during the Report stage in the other place, the Secretary of State said: The clause will enable me to authorise the police to use clamps experimentally in certain areas". He went on to say: The intention is to designate only limited areas in the Metropolitan Police district where there is widespread and persistent illegal parking". However, that is not evident from the clause as drafted.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and I—in whose names this amendment is put forward—believe that the area in which the experiment is conducted must be clearly defined in the Bill. The London Borough of Westminster, in our view, satisfies the Secretary of State's criteria and is a suitable area for the experiment. Naturally, if the noble Earl thought that there was another area in London that ought to be designated, we would readily withdraw the wording, of the amendment.

The purpose of the amendment, therefore, is to provide specifically that immobilisation devices may only be used within—we say—the London Borough of Westminster during the experimental period. Any extension of the area to other places would be, by order, made by statutory instrument and a subsequent amendment, which we shall come to later, provides that any such order shall be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

As I said earlier, on another amendment, when we come to deal with the question, Whether the clause shall stand part, it will be seen that I am one of those in favour of the clause in general, but I take the view that it should be made absolutely clear that it is an experimental area for an experimental period. Unless there is something defined on the lines of this amendment, the Secretary of State would be free, if he so desired, to have this experiment over a large number of areas which we think will be undesirable. I beg to move.

8.20 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation because I must confess that I was not quite sure of the reason why this amendment had been tabled. The clause, as introduced, is so drafted that the power of the police to use immobilisation devices shall not have effect in any area, unless an order has been made under subsection (12). My right honourable friend has indicated that for the first designated areas he has in mind an experiment, in limited areas of the Metropolitan Police District, and for a limited period. Whether any further designations follow would depend very much on the outcome of that experiment. No decision has yet been taken on the areas to be used for the experiment and this is a matter which will be discussed between the Department of Transport, the Home Office, the police, the GLC and the boroughs concerned.

The police have identified three areas where persistent illegal parking is a particular problem, and where they think an experimental scheme may go ahead. But no decision has yet been taken. It may well be that the first designated area will include part of the Borough of Westminster—and I emphasise the word "part". I understand that the borough is keen that it should. But it may also include parts of other boroughs.

I cannot see an advantage at the moment in taking the decisions in advance of the discussions which have to take place, and writing them into the Bill. I am advised that the amendment may have the effect of making this part of the Bill hybrid.

I can assure the Committee that the case for including all or part of Westminster in the initial designation order will be carefully and sympathetically considered. Indeed Westminster's encouraging initial response to my right honourable friend's inquiries about opportunities for increasing short-term parking supply has made designation all the more likely.

I take the noble Lord's point. Perhaps I can study it and see whether we can come some way to meet him. Equally, I hope he will realise that we are not trying to do anything, as it were, behind the scenes, and that what he has put down might not be the convenient way to go.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My noble friend the Minister unhappily, again, used the phrase "persistent offender". He said that the police had identified three areas where there are persistent offences, which, of course, implies persistent offenders. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and I are seeking to determine here and now where the experiment shall take place. Although my noble friend said: "and a number of other areas"—and these orders will, of course, have to come before Parliament—it would certainly be very much more helpful if we knew exactly where it would happen. Then we would know the authority, which would remove a great number of doubts.

That the City of Westminster appears to be an area where many offences are committed is perhaps not surprising. That this may prove, quite quickly—say, in two years' time—whether or not this system is effective, is again a good thing. So if one proceeds with this matter, the sooner one gets it into a tight-knit area which can be quickly and easily monitored, the better it will be.

Lord Gisborough

This also worries me, because I think that it is the thin end of a wedge which could well be tried elsewhere by other towns. Most other towns have no traffic problems resembling those of London, but they consider that their traffic situation is very bad. If this was successful in Westminster—which it could well be—the next thing to happen would be that on a Friday morning in this House we would have an affirmative resolution which would pop through, and before long we would find every police constable in every large country town trying to introduce it in his area.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I think that the phrase "City of Westminster" may be slightly too limiting, although I, personally, know that the City of West- minster would welcome clamps being available to them and think that it would do a great deal to solve the problems there. But this may be an inner London problem. I understand that the only areas in which meters are financially viable are Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Camden, which means a very small part of inner London. These are the areas with the very great amount of illegal parking.

Although I, personally, would be delighted to see this scheme passed for Westminster, it may well be that there are areas of Kensington and Chelsea which suffer just as badly, and it may simply be that there is not one here to speak up on their behalf.

Baroness Denington

I suggest that we would be wise at this stage not to press this, but that we should wait for the Report stage to see what the Government come back with as slightly amended wording.

The Earl of Avon

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I was about to suggest the same thing. Now I know exactly what the two noble Lords want in this amendment, I shall see whether we can progress towards something in that direction.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the noble Earl. I believe he said that any areas would be involved by affirmative resolution procedure. I think that that is what I heard. We are providing for that in our subsequent amendments, which we have not reached. But subsection (12) says: This section shall extend only to such areas as the Secretary of State may by order specify". In the later Clause 58 I cannot see that Clause 51(12) is listed as one of those for the affirmative procedure. We are very anxious that Parliament will be able to take this decision either by writing something into the actual clause or by affirmative resolution. However, as the noble Earl has said that he will take this back and look at it, I am satisfied and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 103: Page 59, line 29, at end insert ("; but the Secretary of State may not extend this section to an area unless requested to do so by the authority responsible for traffic regulation in that area. (13) For the purposes of subsection (12) above, the authority responsible for traffic regulation in any area is—

  1. (a) in relation to any area in Greater London, the Greater London Council;
  2. (b) in relation to any area in England and Wales other than an area in Greater London, the council of the county; and
  3. (c) in relation to any area in Scotland, the regional or islands council.
(14) The operation of an order extending this section to any area to which it did not extend immediately before the order comes into force may be limited to a period specified in the order; and any order extending this section to an area for a limited period may be continued in force by another order under this section either for a further limited period or without limit of time. (15) Subsection (14) above is without prejudice to the power exercisable by virtue of section 14 of the Interpretation Act 1978 to revoke, amend or re-enact any order made under this section.").

The noble Earl said: In speaking to this amendment I shall obviously be trespassing on Amendments Nos. 105, 106 and 107, which we said earlier would be acceptable to the Committee. I shall also be talking to Amendment No. 121. These amendments provide answers to the same questions: in what circumstances will the immobilisation powers be extended to any area? Will the first use of the powers in an area be decided solely by the Secretary of State? Will it be time limited? What provision should be made for extending the powers, or making them permanent if the initial experiment is a success? What follows if the initial experiment is a failure? I shall now try to cover some of these points. The Government answer is, we think, at Amendment No. 103. This fulfils commitments given by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in response to the debate in another place.

First, the immobilisation powers will not be extended to any area unless the traffic regulation authority for that area so requests. The traffic regulation authority has been defined consistently with the allocation of powers to make traffic regulation orders in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, as amended by the Local Government Act 1972. Secondly, the amendment would allow the order introducing them to any area for the first time to incorporate a time limit. The Secretary of State has in mind a 12 months time-limit for the initial order, which will designate limited areas of the Metropolitan Police District. I may add that the GLC and the London boroughs have already indicated their support for the proposed experiment. This has also been supported by many groups representing road users, including London Transport and the London Region Roads and Transportation Committee of the CBI.

I hope these amendments will meet much of the concern expressed about these proposals. In particular they ensure that immobilisation will not be introduced in areas where the traffic regulation authority sees no case for them, and they make clear on the face of the Bill the intention that the first use of the powers will be experimental and limited.

I submit that these amendments are a fair response to the questions that have been raised. They will, through the negative resolution procedure, give the House the opportunity to debate orders made at the various stages of operation of the power. If a debate is needed and requested, it can be held. This will apply when the first orders are laid before the House. It will apply if they are renewed; it will apply if in future years the powers are requested in other areas; and it will apply if designations are revoked.

I believe it would be unnecessary, and potentially a waste of parliamentary time, to require the affirmative resolution procedure for these orders. Imagine, for example, a situation where the powers had been operating successfully in an area, but because of a very localised problem a need arose to extend the boundary of the designated area, perhaps by only a few streets.

Given that the extension would have to be requested by the traffic regulation authority, it hardly seems necessary, as the proposed new subsection (19)(a) would require, to make the steps subject to affirmative resolution. If the initial experiment with wheel clamps is adjudged a failure, the House is unlikely to be troubled with further orders. I shall listen with interest to what noble Lords have to say, but I suggest that 103 would provide all, or more than all, of the opportunities that the Committee may require for further debate on this issue. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

I am very pleased that the noble Earl has emphasised the experimental nature of the proposals. When introducing the new clause in the other place the Secretary of State said: I am happy to make it clear that there will be a period of about 12 months during which the experiment will run, after which it would be in order for the House to debate whether the order to designate their use in the Metropolitan Police district should be revoked". We consider it desirable that that should be made clearer in whatever final clause the Committee determines upon.

The clause as drafted does not make it clear that the use of the devices will be for a limited period only. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and I believe that the period during which the experiment is to continue should be clearly defined in the new clause, and any extension of the period should be by order made by statutory instrument. That is why we moved 102, but as the noble Earl has said that he will take this back, that position may be clarified at Report stage. If the wording of 103 is to be accepted, that the Secretary of State will not extend the section to an area unless requested by the authority responsible for traffic regulation, I wonder whether the words should not be added "and unless satisfied to do so". In other words, he does not just act upon a request from the traffic regulating authority. The Secretary of State himself must be satisfied that it is desirable that this area should be extended for the experiment.

There should be more control than a request by a traffic regulation authority. Amendment No. 107 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is complementary to our Amendment No. 106 which makes those provisions. Amendment No. 107 provides that any extension of the period, or area of use, will be by order made by statutory instrument subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. This will ensure that the experiment is not extended without the express approval of both Houses of Parliament after full debate has taken place. We would hope on presentation of a report which would review the experiment. I hope that the report will be successful, but any decision to continue must be based on a review.

The new subsection (14) in the Government Amendment 103 which provides for the extension of the section to additional areas and for an additional period seems to me to be somewhat complicated wording. It may be my own lack of reading it correctly, but it seems rather involved draftsmanship. If we are going to stick to this amendment, 103, I wonder whether that could be improved. Amendments 106 and 107 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and myself, would be more precise and more immediately understandable.

Then we have Amendment 105 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Paragraph (a), I suggest, would appear to be unnecessary as subsection (12) of the clause provides that the first area will be specified by order. Paragraph (b) in Amendment 105 would seem to be covered more effectively by the amendments in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—this gets involved—106 and 107. I hope that the Government will accept that the affirmative resolution is required for an extension. It is, in the Secretary of State's own words, "intended to be an experiment".

The new clause was introduced in the other place only at Report, so this has been the first opportunity for either House to consider amendments. There was no opportunity in the other place. Instead of asking the Committee to determine on all these amendments tonight, I wonder whether, in the light of the discussion, the noble Earl would think it better if the Government amendment and all the other amendments, after we have considered them, were all taken back for a complete review, because it would appear to me that there are some good points in most of the amendments, which would be subject to a good review for a firm amendment to come forward on Report.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

I must apologise that I was not here at the beginning of the discussion on this particular clause. The word "experiment" is being used many times, but I cannot find it anywhere in the Bill. Reference has been made to the relationships between the police and the public, and it would help them if it were quite clear that this is an experiment and stated as such in the Bill. I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister could do that.

8.36 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

In this collection—if that is the right word—of amendments, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for explaining clearly not only his point of view but also mine, because I do not dissent from him in his enjoining my name with the process of argument. There are two points I want to emphasise. First, the Secretary of State must be satisfied, and a full and proper argument must be put forward, before any authority is given the power to conduct either an experiment or introduce these measures.

Amendment No. 105 really sets down an insurance that details of the proposed experiment must go before Parliament for approval before implementation. It seems to me from our earlier arguments that this is vital. There are so many loose and untidy areas that Parliament in total has to have a look at this. Then I think, as did the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that we have to monitor it. Therefore, it has to be a fairly contained experiment, and a report to come before Parliament.

I have said before that traffic experiments tend to be the forerunners of regulations in perpetuity. This is likely to happen also, unless we have such a provision as is suggested in Amendment No. 105. Taken together, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, suggests, it would seem to me that my noble friend, together with the Government, can pick the bones of it, put the best hits together, and come up with a composite which quite easily might meet almost everybody's requirements in this matter.

The Earl of Avon

I am grateful for the suggestions from both noble Lords and from the noble Baroness. May I take up one or two points from the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about being satisfied. The Secretary of State does not have to act on a request, so to that extent the noble Lords would be much happier. I shall try to see whether we can work in some other term along the lines noble Lords have suggested. Obviously, we are going to have to change it a bit, and I take to heart Lord Underhill's point on drafting, and we shall see what we can do.

I also noted my noble friend Lady Platt's remarks about "experiment" not being in the Bill. Again, I shall find out why it is not in the Bill, and if we can put it in the Bill, we shall certainly try to do so. I know we have different periods of terms here for experimental purposes; some have one year and some have two years. I have at the back of my mind a suggestion which I hope might be practical for the noble Lords. Basically, we should look for the affirmative resolution to take place when the experimental period is ended rather than to have to keep it for all the bits after that. If we can get that drafted, I shall try to get it done by Report. I think I have covered most of the points but, if not, I will see what I can do about them when I read Hansard.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

It might help my noble friend when he is considering the experimental point if I remind him that when the Minister moved the clause on 24th May, reported at column 675, he used the word "experimentally" because he said that he had been persuaded to introduce it experimentally.

Lord Mishcon

I intervene only for the benefit of noble Lords who are completely unhappy with the powers in Clause 51, anyway. I wish to make it clear that those of us who feel that way obviously reserve our right, when it comes to the clause stand part, to take the view of the Committee, if that is a sensible course, on the whole question of Clause 51. I should not like the Minister to feel that those who accede to the question of his considering the various amendments and coming forward with a composite, means that those of us who feel very strongly about the clause will be debarred from a discussion on the clause stand part and expressing our views on the clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8.41 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 104:

Page 59, line 29, at end insert— ("(16) If any vehicle suffers damage whilst immobilised by a device fixed in accordance with this section, the Police Authority shall compensate the owner should there he no opportunity for him to obtain compensation elsewhere.").

The noble Lord said: We here follow to some extent a point made earlier by my noble friend Lord Gisborough. We are really asking who is going to pay, for any damage sustained, to the owner—technically we should call him the keeper—of the vehicle, or any third party, as a result of a vehicle being immobilised by a device fixed in accordance with the regulations. This matter is not as simple as it looks. It seems evident that because a device is being fixed to a car, the owner or keeper—at any rate, the driver—should not suffer any greater penalty than the penalties which the law provides; a fine, court costs and so on. That he should then suffer a further penalty because damage was done to the motor car, perhaps by moving it—about which the insurance company may say: "This damage was caused in furtherance of an offence and therefore you are not covered"—leads one to ask who will be responsible for any compensation.

Whatever the device looks like, and to whichever side of the motor car it is fixed, suppose a pedal cyclist, pedestrian or blind person hits himself against it. If it were, say, a mirror, the owner could say: "It is my responsibility. I am covered by insurance under my public immunity policy". But suppose it is a device fitted by somebody else which causes the injury. Who, then, is likely to pay? It has been suggested to me during the dinner adjournment that we should ask what will happen if a vehicle is immoblised and is illegally parked outside a property which catches fire. What happens if nobody is able to get to the fire—perhaps the fire engines cannot get near enough—and helpers cannot get to the scene? Suppose some tragedy occurs and somebody takes an action against the owner of the motor car, whose vehicle was illegally parked, but who has now had an immobilising device fixed to it, so nobody can push it out of the way. Who will be responsible for that kind of damage? I do not intend proceeding further with the amendment, but I should like to know the answer.

Lord Underhill

I wish to express general approval with the line the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is taking, although the wording of the amendment may need some adjustment. For instance, I am a little concerned with the words: should there be no opportunity for him to obtain compensation elsewhere". I am advised that that could possibly mean that it would limit the motorist's opportunity and right to get compensation elsewhere. On the other hand, if damage occurs as the result of a wheel clamp being fixed—"wheel clamp" is a simpler term to use than "immobilisation device"—by a police authority, it seems only right and proper that the police authority should be liable for compensation for damage that might occur as a result of that device being fixed. Most motorists will be covered by an insurance policy, but in my view that should not cut out compensation which should rightly be paid by the police authority. Therefore, while the wording may require some adjustment, I suggest that the amendment is on the right lines and I hope that the Government will either accept it or themselves consider bringing forward a provision to deal with the matter on Report.

The Earl of Avon

Again, I am grateful to both noble Lords for explaining exactly what they had in mind. In considering the amendment, I think it would be helpful, first, to say that negligent action by the police which leads to damage, either to an immobilised vehicle or to a third party, would be a proper subject for civil action for damages against the police. Indeed, I understand that, when on occasion a vehicle has been damaged in the course of the exercise of vehicle removal powers, the police have been prepared to settle reasonable claims outside the courts.

I cannot of course guarantee the outcome of any civil action arising out of the application of the powers in the present clause. Much would depend upon circumstances. But we have deliberately avoided any provision which would give the police specific protection from action for damages. A clause tabled in another place included a subsection which would have given the police specific indemnity from any liability in respect of the loss of, or damage to, any vehicle immobilised. We do not think it appropriate to give such sweeping indemnity.

The intention of the present amendment is to require the police authority to compensate the vehicle owner in certain specified circumstances. It would, for example, require the police to pay for any damages caused by a third party to an immobilised vehicle, the only qualification being that there should be no opportunity for the vehicle owner to obtain compensation elsewhere. This would presumably oblige the police to compensate in any case where the cause of the damage could not be identified, or had not been witnessed, or in cases where the person had been identified but, for one reason or another, could not be obliged to pay compensation. The amendment, we believe, makes the police responsible whether or not they had been at fault, whether or not they had been negligent in the exercise of the power and whether or not they had used the power in such a way as to lead to damage which could reasonably have been foreseen and avoided. I appreciate that perhaps my noble friend had not intended to go that far, or maybe he had. In any event, I can see the way in which his mind is working.

I believe that these considerations would be relevant in any claim for damages, and it is for this reason that we feel the issue of damages should be left, should it arise, to the courts, rather than dealt with in a predetermined fashion prescribed in the Bill. I have noted what both noble Lords said. I will read their speeches in the Official Report to see whether we can go any further towards my noble friend on the point.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am obliged to my noble friend for that offer to have a farther look to see whether the matter can be clarified. He did not in fact read my mind quite as accurately as he thought, for I had no intention of going as far as I obviously have. I simply wanted to find out the Government's thinking on the matter. The Committee will know that I have some reservations about the kind of insurance most people have. With my noble friend's assurance, I too would like to look at the matter again, and perhaps have a chat with him about it at a later stage, but I do but not wish to pursue the matter further tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 105 to 107 not moved.]

8.50 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 51 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

We now come to the end of a fairly long debate on Clause 51, a new clause introducing new measures to punish parking offenders. From Second Reading onwards I have made no secret of my total objection to and abhorrence of the clause and its proposals. I have made it abundantly clear that I believe that the Government and the department have for some years failed miserably to tackle the problems of non-compliance with parking regulations in Central London.

I have also made it abundantly clear that I find the clause objectionable in that it does not meet the objective of punishing the persistent offender who fails to meet his obligations under a parking ticket. The number of traffic wardens has been reduced in Central London over the last few years. Indeed, people cannot be found to do the job; it is too difficult. Due to the time factor involved, it is not possible to catch up with persistent offenders. So it is resolved to shame people by the method proposed in the clause. This is compounding the follies of the past, pouring more and more into an old, leaking bucket—and that does nothing towards finding a solution.

I do not want to take a long time in pursuing this part of the debate, and I must say that almost irrespective of what might be said to me in reply, I propose to ask your Lordships' Committee to decide whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill. There are four basic reasons for my action. The clause first appeared in the proceedings in another place at the Committee stage. It was withdrawn, following a very brief discussion, and was reintroduced at Report stage. There have been very few discussions and consultations on the matter. Indeed, there are many gaps in what is proposed, as has been evidenced by contributions from noble Lords on all sides of the Committee. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to what I regard as the very notable contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, who has had so much experience in the Home Office in matters concerned with relations between the police and the public.

My noble friend Lord Avon said that he was amazed at the imagination displayed by your Lordships' Committee. I would say that that is only part of the kind of imagination that is running through motoring circles, including the motoring press, and the motoring organisations, with regard to this matter. My noble friend has been generous enough—perhaps even obliged—on a number of occasions to say that he has listened to the argument and will consider it. I do not say this in any bitter spirit at all, but from that it is quite evident that the clause has not been thought out.

Let us consider the reason for introducing the clause—the enforcement failure, the non-compliance. In this regard two very good papers have been published quite recently. One appeared in the Traffic Engineering and Control magazine of June of this year, written by Mr. J. R. Elliot, the principal engineer of traffic planning with Westminster City Council, and Mr. C. C. Wright, the head of school and reader in civil engineering at the Middlesex Polytechnic. The other paper was written by Professor A. D. May, professor of transport engineering at the University of Leeds. Each of those authors said that it pays one to take the risk. The chances of being caught parking illegally are about one in 10. Having been caught, the average cost is about £16. It might go up to £51, if the car is towed away. Nevertheless, one is still quids in. If one considers the parking time, the walking time, the convenience time, and the penalty time, and convert them all into money, it is cheap to take the risk. The risk is taken because of the basic failure of local authorities to provide adequate parking spaces.

A car park in, I think, Spring Gardens, near Trafalgar Square, and run, I believe, by Avis, charges £4.40 for five hours', parking. My goodness! that car park is near enough to Trafalgar Square and the lower end of Piccadilly. There should be more such car parks. For example, there is no reason why alongside the Thames there should not be a number of car parks similar to that constructed in the House of Commons a few years ago. This is what should happen; more parking spaces should be provided. I do not want to hear arguments to the effect that it would cost too much, because the cost of non-compliance, the cost of the entire city grinding to a halt in 20 years' time, would be so enormous that today's expenditure would be so relatively small.

Those are my basic objections to the clause. We should find better ways to deal with the problem. There are better ways to deal with it. If the department wants to know some of them, I should be happy to tell it. Of course, it is perfectly true that I do not have the responsibility of enforcing the measures. The bankruptcy of ideas worries me enormously. The reluctance to surge forward, to recognise the era of the car, worries me—and it is the car, not the lorry, that causes this kind of problem.

I do not think that we should accept the clause until other enforcement ideas which are part of the Bill—the new penalty scheme and so on—and other avenues have been more fully explored. The answers that we have had this afternoon do not encourage me to go forward with this experiment in its present form, and I would not wish the clause to stand part of the Bill.

Lord Tanlaw

I should like very much to support what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has said, for the same reasons as he advanced. The noble Earl will recall that on Second Reading of the Bill I was not happy with the present clause for technical reasons, and I am still not happy with it, since I have heard nothing to convince me that the clause can work. I also believe, in regard to the experimental aspect, that a period of even up to two years will not provide the information that is required, for the reason that I am about to give.

The noble Earl may recall that I previously mentioned the question of the electronic lock, and since the Second Reading I have had discussions with the police engineering section. The situation is exactly the same as it was two years ago. The police have no method of entering a vehicle that is fitted with an electronic or electro-magnetic lock system.

In answering the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on his Amendment No. 94, the noble Earl said that the police must have the means and the time to move the vehicle from one place to another. Some Continental manufacturers are advertising a type of lock, about which I am concerned, which has 59,000 combinations. I contend that in two years' time many vehicles will be fitted with such locks. The police have been so keen on using the "Chicago boot" and the "Boston shoe", as I believe they are called among policemen, and I cannot understand why there has been no consultation or liaison between the technical department of the police—that department has been worried for two years about this particular aspect—and those who want to introduce the system that we are now considering of putting a vehicle in stocks.

I believe that the clause is altogether unsound. I do not think that the technical side of it has been worked out. The situation already is that the police cannot enter and move expensive vehicles, to put it crudely. They cannot move the Rolls-Royces of this world; they cannot gain entry to them because even the mechanical lock system is too complicated. They cannot move certain large Continental vehicles. If they are going to move cars, are they going to be only the ones belonging to those in the lower income bracket? At the moment that is the position, that the vehicle removal officers cannot move large cars without damaging them. They certainly cannot work the steering locks of the more expensive vehicles.

I do not believe the police have thought this out. I do not believe that, as this clause stands, it is at all fair, because it is the small man in the small car who is going to get these clamps put on his car. The large car, or the car with electronic locks—these locks are already available today, and they will be multifarious in the years to come—will be safe, for the simple reason that the police method of entry into a vehicle is exactly the same as that of criminal entry into a vehicle for theft. They use the same tools and the same method. So if you protect a vehicle against theft you also successfully, as I believe an electronic lock does, protect that vehicle against entry by the police. I have heard nothing this afternoon or this evening which convinces me that the police can enter the vehicles and drive them away in order to make this clause workable.

Lord Underhill

We have had such an airing of this that I need be only very brief. I can understand all the problems. That is why it is that, among other noble Lords, I have been so insistent that we should treat this as of an experimental nature—and that should remain quite clear right through the piece. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that there has been a bankruptcy of ideas, but I know (and the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, will be able to confirm what I am saying) that the GLC, through its transportation department, has been considering (this is completely non-political; there are no politics in this) the problem of London's congestion. Over a period of years it has been considering all sorts of ways to tackle it. I have been told that 70,000 cars were towed away in one year.

The police have four options, or they will have: removal, the fixed penalty ticket, prosecution or immobilisation. This will be an additional option for them. The GLC, through its detailed investigations, reviews and policy documents, has come down in favour of an experiment of this kind with an immobilisation device. The Metropolitan Police are really keen about it. They believe this is essential to assist in the solution of the traffic problem in London. London Transport are heartily in favour of it as a way to help clear clearways; and lots of responsible bodies in London believe we ought to have this experiment. I think it must be an experiment; that is why I want it to be so carefully made out to be an experiment. But it is one which has been really thought out; and for all the reasons that my noble friend Lady Denington put forward in her earlier speech, which I hope she will amplify, I hope your Lordships will support this clause.

Lord Mishcon

I rise as an indication of the fact that there is no question of politics in this at all. Therefore, my appeal is to all sections of the Committee. Indeed, I am even trying by this speech to convert (such an optimist am I) my noble friend Lord Underhill to take a different view from the one he has just taken. If I may summarise my reasons for saying that, and the reasons given by other people in the course of the debates on the various amendments, I will do it as follows.

First, this clause does not even provide that where there is a danger found as a result of the parking of a vehicle there should be given to the police the rather special power to fasten this piece of mechanism to a vehicle so that it is clamped and cannot be moved, with it being an offence for anybody to try to move it other than an authorised person, or to interfere with the clamp—that applies to the owner of the vehicle and to the driver of the vehicle—with a fine of up to £200 if he tries to do it. Therefore, one has to wait for the police to arrive—one may think a great waste of police time and energy, and so on—in order that the vehicle can he unclamped.

It is not a question, under this clause, of the vehicle having to be in a dangerous situation. The clause reads as follows: Where a constable finds a vehicle on a road which has been permitted to remain at rest there"— if I may pause there, "at rest there includes, as we know from other discussions, even if it is parked on a meter but is over its time on a meter— in contravention of any prohibition or restriction imposed by or under any enactment", he may do all the things that we have been learning about by way of immobilisation.

Not only is this unjust, and can be seen to be unjust; not only does it impose a discretion on the police which I think is far too wide: as has been said on previous debates, even as an experiment it will create such hostility between the public and the police force as to make this provison in this section an absolute menace to that relationship. That is what worries me more than anything.

If, as has been said so properly, this had been considered very carefully in another place, if it had been properly debated and as a result of it all had come forward in a way which had regarded all the mechanical points which have just been made and all the points made in the various amendments which the noble Lord the Minister said he would very kindly consider, we might have said to ourselves, "Maybe our judgment is wrong". We are the judges of this clause, because it has not been properly considered anywhere else and the amendments that we have been discussing today have not been properly considered. So your Lordships may think that this one of the many cases where the value of this Chamber is exhibited, and where that value ought to be utilised in a constructive way.

There is no way of properly amending this clause. This clause should not stand part of this Bill; and I personally hope (because this is purely a personal view, as has been made obvious by all the speakers) that the Committee will say that this is an intrusion upon rights; this is an example of too much discretion being given to police constables, who are but human; and this is an invitation to so many hardship cases, as your Lordships heard—doctors who suddenly find themselves in this position; people who have been called to an invalid, to a bedside; priests who have been called to people who are dying; then finding their cars immobilised in this way because of some minor contravention of a traffic or parking regulation. I ask the Committee to throw this clause out.

9.8 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

Before the noble Lord sits down might I ask a question, because I regret that some of us were not in the Committee during the earlier part of the debate. If a car has been clamped, the driver has to go to find someone to take the clamp off. If the car had been taken away, surely a space would have been left for another car to come. If the clamp is on, then that immobilises the car in the space for another car. Is that correct?

Lord Mishcon

I should love to claim originality for my reply to the noble Baroness. But this was a point raised from the Cross-Benches on one of the amendments and the answer has to be that it is absolutely right. Although this is supposed to relieve the parking problem, and especially the overstay on the parking meters, the vehicle, immobilised, must occupy that space until the police arrive with an authorised person to unclamp.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

May I say a few words on safety? We live in an era, unfortunately, of terrorist bombs. What could be worse for the police, for the fire services and for the ambulances if a bomb were to go off demolishing a building and clamped cars obstruct those services which come in to help people who may be in dire need? I should like to ask the Government whether they have considered this fact.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

May I intervene briefly? I am aware that the hour is getting late. But I have not declared, as I was unable to be here at the Second Reading, my deep-rooted objection to the whole of this clause. I will not be long, but it is important. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, directed us (as did the noble Lord, Lord Lucas) to make your Lordships aware that the other place did not consider this point at all. In fact, this discussion this evening would have been an eye-opener to the other place as to the ways in which it is very likely that this clause, if it is implemented, will not work. The AA and the RAC, as many noble Lords will be aware, are deeply against the implementation of Clause 51.

My principal reasons are that I do not think it is practicable. If one is causing a nuisance, somebody has to come along and remove the car. If we follow the route that my noble friend has suggested, and Westminster is the first place where an experimental area will be sited for the implementation of this clause, then I suggest that if you try to take a vehicle—and it may be a lorry or a small or a large car—from a place where it is thought to be a danger or to be in the wrong place, and try to put it somewhere else within the Royal Borough of Westminster, I doubt whether anybody will in fact be able to find anywhere else to put it. Then one comes to where it should be put. Should it he taken to a pound or to somewhere outside the Borough of Westminster?—where the owner of the car would have a great deal of trouble in finding it.

I must lay the blame for this clause fairly and squarely on the Greater London Council. If it were not for the fact that they have not provided parking spaces, parking areas and garaging, however high they might be, for the traffic that they know is coming into this great city of ours, this clause would not be necessary. I feel very strongly about the citizens who in good faith bring a car into the City of London (I do not live here but in Buckinghamshire but I travel here every day) and are then fined and clamped. I think that this is taking away the rights not only of the citizen but of the motorist as well.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I make no apology for speaking at some length on this. I have listened, absolutely dumbfounded, to the most amazing emotional outbursts on the subject. I loved the golden words flowing from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. He almost converts me until I stop and listen to what he is saying. He is really saying no more sense than anyone else is saying on this topic. I must take up a number of issues. Such a number of inaccurate statements have been made and alarmist issues raised. Let me take the bomb scare and the terrible fires—

Lord Brougham and Vaux

Will the noble Baroness support what we are all saying: that this is not a Government clause but a Greater London Council clause? The noble Baroness knows more about it than the Government.

A noble Lord

A member of the GLC!

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I would not claim that but I claim to know as much about it as those who have been speaking at length. I know a little about the fire brigade system, for I have, until a short time ago, served on the Fire Brigade Committee for this capital. In the event of all these fires and bomb scares, the fire brigade are well equipped with keys to either special fire gates or other types of entry. I have no doubt that they would be equipped in the same way with a key to unlock this type of device if it was a problem.

I also know that where there is no other answer, the fire brigade manhandle vehicles out of any obstructing position. They could easily do so whether or not there was a clamp on the vehicle. They could simply lift the car up if the situation was that desperate. This is the kind of approach that is being made, sometimes it is dealt with by manhandling; sometimes it is by a mechanical device. The whole element of the bomb scare and the fire is a red herring.

To take the point made by the noble Lord from the Liberal Benches, he cannot have understood that clause at all. It was a clause about immobilising the vehicle where it stood or moving it. His total argument was directed to the matter of electronic locks and whether or not the police could move a vehicle. We are not talking about moving vehicles except in a very small proportion of cases. In such cases they would be in a dangerously obstructive position and would otherwise be liable to be removed to the car pound.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

If you are not going to move a vehicle when it is in a place that might be dangerous or might be an obstruction, what on earth is the point of clamping it down in that place?

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Apparently people have not followed this debate from the previous discussion that we had on it, because I explained all this on that occasion. I shall do so again if people have missed the point. The reason why I feel it essential to have the double part of the clause in—one which enabled you to immobilise the vehicle in the position that it was in; another to move it—is that there may be circumstances where it is wished to move it. At the present time, if a car has to be moved for any reason those same electronic lock problems occur whether the car has to be moved to the car pound or anywhere else. That situation is no different in either case. Indeed, you would be more pleased to find that your car had only been moved just around the corner rather than to a remote car pound. I have no doubt of that.

Lord Tanlaw

I am well aware that you can move the car to the car pound; but the police will be unable to move cars fitted with electronic locks. This is not the point I was making. The point that I was making was that there has been an apparent lack of liaison between the Metropolitan Police engineering division, the Metropolitan Police and the GLC on this technical matter which has not been raised by the Government.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I am sorry but we seem to be at cross purposes. The cars now moved to the pound are not opened in order to move them; they are simply hoisted and taken on a large vehicle to the pound. They are not opened and driven there except in a very small number of cases where the police would happen to have a key. The vast majority of cars now are mechanically hoisted and taken away. But parked cars in certain positions are great offenders. It takes time and a lot of expense to bring the vehicle to take a car away.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

Will the noble Baroness—

Several Noble Lords


Baroness Macleod of Borve

—say how many cars are taken each year in Greater London?

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

No, I am afraid that I cannot give those figures. I can tell the Committee from my experience sitting in court that the only people who are at all concerned about parking offences are those who have had the personal inconvenience of having had their vehicle removed or immobilised; and the immobilisation would work in the same way to great personal inconvenience.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made the point that it has become such a game not to pay the fine at all and only something like one quarter of the people ever pay at all; it has become a great sport to escape the £10 parking fine. But for even those who have to pay £10 today it is not much inconvenience. But the personal inconvenience of finding your car immobilised or gone is great, and you think twice before you park illegally again.

It is also clear from the debates, and the great emotions that have been aroused, that everyone is talking as if these people were honest, respectable people parking where they should be parking. I was pleased to hear the noble Earl say he would take back the matter of the parking meters. I think it would be wrong if on a parking meter you found your car immobilised. These other people that we are speaking about are illegal parkers. They are the people who are completely fouling up the traffic in London today—particularly in Central London. This is one solution that may solve the problem. I do not say that it will, and that is why it is to be an experiment.

Why is everyone so frightened of it? As someone said to me at dinner, "I am frightened of it because it might happen to my car". There are too many of us here tonight who are seeing the problem purely from that point of view: that you might happen to get your car caught. That just is not good enough.

The point was also made that the City of Westminster does not provide adequate off-street car parking. Again, nothing could be less accurate. There are ample off-street car parking spaces. They are disliked by people; people do not want to use them. Earlier in the afternoon the point was brought out: why could not the parking meter revenue go to pay to reduce London Transport costs? But by law it cannot be applied to anything except other parking matters, and it is for that reason that the multi-millions of pounds from parking meters have been poured into building multi-million-pound off-street car parks which, frankly, people do not like.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, mentioned the doctors; these tragic doctors. If he makes inquiries, I think he will find that at present a doctor displaying a BMA badge or a "doctor visiting" sign, rarely gets a parking ticket. If they come up in the magistrates' court, they are usually let off. It is an extraordinary thing to get a ticket and if they do it is usually because they have changed their hospital and did not receive the notice, but eventually it has come. The BMA have an arrangement with the police and the wardens that certain badges may be displayed—for example, by visiting district nurses, health visitors and other people. There is also the question of car parking for an unexpected, sudden emergency, or there might be something as simple as somebody having to make a visit to a public convenience or perhaps in connection with the death that was talked about. People display a little notice on the windscreen, and on the whole the wardens and the police accept that.

I believe that a whole lot of completely false emotional issues have been brought up on this matter and that no real thought has been given to the fact that this would be an experiment which might prove to be the answer to parking problems in Central London. I agree that it may not solve everything and that it could prove to be a failure, but why are we frightened to try it? Why are we not willing, along with the Greater London Council and the City of Westminster, to try this for a trial period? The Minister has said that it would be for a limited period and cover a limited area. Why are we frightened to try it? We should definitely agree that this clause remains in the Bill.

Viscount Cross

A number of your Lordships have spoken on the question of fire in London and, I should like to say a word or two on that subject. As your Lordships know, many London streets are narrow and they are certainly all congested. I think it would be very tragic if a fire engine was delayed or obstructed in reaching a fire. When a fire breaks out speed, of course, is absolutely essential, and if the fire engine has to stop to unclamp cars, its journey is delayed. No one can tell in which house, building or factory a fire may break out, and when the fire engine has reached the site of the fire it still might not be able to rescue the people in the building because there may be clamped cars that would have to be removed. A similar case can occur when people are trapped in a building with locked and bolted doors, so that they cannot get out. In such a case, the fire engine might be prevented from rescuing the people in the building because of locked and clamped cars. I think that Clause 51 should not stand part of the Bill.

Lord Mishcon

The noble Baroness spoke, if I may say so, with great sincerity, and in spite of the fact that part of her speech was directed at me, I assure her that I accepted it with great relish. She mentioned fire engines and said that she was a member of the Fire Brigade Committee of the Metropolis. I am sure, therefore, that she will not mind my telling her that I was chairman of that committee for just over five years and thus can claim, as she does, to know a little about the Fire Brigade, for which, I am sure, both of us have a great admiration. I can only tell her that, as chairman of that committee for over five years, any question of having to waste even one minute—and it would be longer than that—in trying to unlock a car that had been clamped in this way, from the point of view of the fire brigade would be a great disadvantage. Unlike the noble Baroness, I have used moderate language in saying, "a great disadvantage".

9.25 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

I do not like Clause 51 and started with the firm view that I would oppose it. I feel that it is designed to clobber the foreigners, who have no intention of paying their parking fines. They collect parking tickets by the thousand, but never pay them. But in order to clobber the foreigners, we end up by clobbering all the "Brits" instead. I believe that the point about the fire engine is misjudged. It makes no difference whether vehicles are clamped, unclamped or locked up. They can be easily moved out of the way in an emergency. If there is this clamping system, there will probably be so much discouragement of had parking that it may be better for the proverbial fire engine. Finally, if this is to be an experiment, then, in principle, it is a good thing. There are so many laws introduced for the whole country and we all have to experiment with a new law. But if we can establish the principle of experimenting with a new law, in a small area to start with, and see how it works, then I am all for it.

Lord Mottistone

I should just like to add, briefly, that there is much too much that has been claimed for the clamp in clearing the streets, and much too much has been claimed for its disadvantages. I see it as not being something that we should have in this clause, because it is clear to me from the earlier debates that the Government have not had time to think it out and, therefore, the clause itself is being accelerated too fast. It is something which the Government should think about and introduce in later legislation. We have had a Transport Bill pretty well once a year for the last three years, so there will be one coming along and the Government can catch up.

But, above all, I am desperately concerned about the relationship between the public and the police. I did not like the seat belt legislation, because the law cannot be applied fairly. You will find yourself in a street with a clamp on your motor car. I shall have a car in the same street, but will get away with it because the police have only one clamp to spare, which they will put on your car and not on mine. That is not fair, because we shall both be on yellow lines. The answer is that it will not do enough to clear the streets, because it will leave cars lying about where they otherwise would not have been, but it will create increased "aggro" between the ordinary people and the police. We have far too many of these things happening now, and I implore the Government to recognise that their clause is not perfect, to wait for it and to try it out in a provincial city. But I ask them not to make relationships worse between the Metropolitan Police and the citizens of London. I ask them not to try to do something just for the sake of it, without thinking about the human relationships which will be destroyed by this and other similar practices.

Baroness Denington

The Government have had plenty of time to think about it. To my knowledge, it has been pressed on the Government for the last 10 years and, at last, they have screwed up their courage to bring it forward, because they know that some measures, however unpopular, have to be taken to try to deal with the London situation. My noble friend Lord Mishcon, for whom I have great respect—I have known him for many years—says "Do not vote for it. It is an intrusion into people's rights". Whose rights? I am glad if it is an intrusion into the rights of those who defy the traffic regulations, leave their cars in the wrong places and do not care how long they are left or what obstruction they cause. They are not citizens whom we in this House should be supporting. We should not be telling them that we are not concerned about their conduct, and giving them a green light to go on doing it. That is not our responsibility in this House. Our responsibility here is to face up to a serious situation. We are talking now about London. We are not talking about other cities in this country. For one year we want to try this experiment in a few limited areas in our capital city. To take the case of Soho, its little, narrow streets are jammed up. It is no good talking about fire brigades, doctors, nurses and everybody else because they just cannot get down those little, narrow streets. Something has got to be done to allow the fire brigades, the doctors, the nurses and the other essential services to get down those streets. Those are the problems we are really talking about.

There was some feeling against the authority, the GLC, for not having done something to cure the traffic problems of London. Wardens were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. The Government have never allowed enough money to be spent on wardens. The authorities cannot recruit wardens because the pay is so appalling. If noble Lords, or the country, or anybody else want more wardens, let us see that more wardens can be recruited because they are properly remunerated.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, talked also about undergound car parks. I agree with him. I wish we had many more underground car parks. As he has told me only this evening, there are plenty of places where they could be provided. But who is to provide them? The local authorities cannot provide them because of the cost. We in this Chamber all know that local authority monies are very closely controlled by the Government. It costs millions to build one underground car park which houses a few hundred cars. What is really wanted are underground car parks all over the place to house thousands and thousands of cars. Then we should be in a very different situation.

I have said repeatedly to your Lordships that this is an old city with an old pattern of streets which we cannot and do not wish to destroy and that we have modern traffic flows trying to get through them. I pay tribute to those who devise traffic management schemes and to the police who keep London's traffic moving—but only just. It is a very narrow margin. All we are doing is asking for a one year experiment, with the Secretary of State agreeing which areas it is to be in. It is a very limited, small effort to try to cure an enormous problem that we have not managed to cure in any other way up to the present time.

I would end by saying that the decision which we take here will be a very important one for this capital city of ours. We are taking a small step to try to improve the commercial health of this city of ours. As your Lordships know, the on-cost on commerce and industry of delays—by badly parked cars, very often—is simply enormous. I beg your Lordships not to be swayed by emotion. I beg your Lordships to take this vote. I wish there were so many more of us here to take a very important decision for this capital city of our country.

Lord Airedale

Everybody is having their say in this debate. I shall try to be not more than 45 seconds. If you said to an intelligent, small child, "If you came across a car which was parked where it was not allowed to be parked, what would be the right thing to do?" the child would say, "Move it away If the police are going to come and fix it in its illegal position and go away, and if, five minutes later, the owner is going to return and attempt to remove his car from this illegal spot and is unable to do so, the intelligent child will tell you that you have now achieved a situation which is the exact opposite of that which you were trying to achieve, and Parliament really ought to be able to do better than that.

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps it would be a good moment for me to say my piece. I hope the Committee will allow me to speak a little longer than I might otherwise have done because I have during the debate on this clause stuck to the amendments and have not actually taken a broader brush. My noble friend started by listing what he feels to be the disadvantages of this clause. What I should like to do, supported by the two noble Baronesses, is to list what I see as the potential advantages. These have yet to be proved by the experimental and limited trial which the clause will allow, but we believe that the case is substantial. I know the whole Committee will agree with me that the problem of illegal parking in London is real and urgent. To underline that, we have had debates in this House on London congestion specifically, and during those debates one of the solutions put forward was the wheel clamp. This was a solution which we realised would not make the problem go away but would be another step forward in solving the problems of London parking. It is certainly regarded as such by the traffic regulation authorities and the GLC. In fact the case for wheel clamps was supported quite as urgently by the Conservative GLC Administration as it has been by their successors. I suspect it is the only transport issue on which there is a real bipartisan approach at County Hall.

The primary reason why this clause is being put to the Committee is that the case for it has been strongly and persistently put to the Government by the Metropolitan Police. The immobilisation clause will give the police new powers for use in areas where they are most under pressure. It provides a cost-effective means of enforcement which is very much less labour intensive than vehicle removal. That is one reason why this clause has the enthusiastic support of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. It makes sense in terms of the hard-pressed police force, which has many other things to do than pursue the hundreds of thousands of parking offences which are committed daily in Central London.

One indication of the extent to which police time is wasted by illegal parking is the fact that only one fixed penalty in ten is paid on time. This failure of the motorist to co-operate imposes extra work on the police. It is not surprising that in these circumstances the police are pressing for an additional means of enforcement which would take direct effect on the person who is the driver of the illegally-parked car.

The police believe that wheel clamps will prove an acceptable and effective addition to their enforcement options. The police do not believe that wheel clamps will damage their relations with the motoring public; much has been made of this today, backed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, in an earlier amendment. I believe that any bad feeling must be more than counter-balanced by the deterrent effect of seeing that the police are doing something. I understand that, when the consultation papers went out, a lot more letters said what a good thing it was that parking was being treated in this way, and there were very few letters against the wheel clamps. Having consulted widely, they have found great concern about illegal parking and support for a new remedy. It is also right that for a period these devices should be on trial, so that the claims which are made both for and against them should be fully assessed in practice before there is any question of making them permanent or extending them to other areas where they may be needed and requested.

The second leg of the case for wheel clamps is that they are likely to be effective in a number of respects in which the fixed penalty system is inherently weak. The improvements to the fixed penalty system in this Bill will substantially strengthen the enforcement of unpaid fixed penalties; but it will not be effective for vehicles registered abroad or driven by diplomats, and the effectiveness of the fixed penalty system as a deterrent will always be limited where many offences are committed by drivers who simply absorb the cost as a business expense. The wheel clamp promises to be an effective enforcement aid in areas where there is a persistent problem of illegal parking by foreign visitors. Fixed penalties cannot be enforced against people resident abroad or using a foreign-registered vehicle.

Looking beyond the initial experiment in the Metropolitan Police district, I suspect that, if these powers are requested elsewhere, it will probably be in areas where illegal parking by foreigners has proved uncontrollable. The problem of persistent illegal parking by diplomats is largely confined to central London. These offences are also immune to fixed penalties. It will be open to the police to clamp vehicles with diplomatic registrations. Depending on the circumstances, a diplomat may be able to claim immunity from the charge for removing clamps. But, as with towing away, he will have been seriously inconvenienced and this is the deterrent.

Finally, there is the problem of the business motorist. Some people feel that illegal parking is an unavoidable part of their job. One does not envy those who have to use their cars on business in Central London, but they may themselves under-estimate the extent to which they are, or should be, helped by parking regulations. It cannot help those who need to make calls at different premises during the course of the day when parking meters and single yellow lines are widely abused. Improved enforcement would itself improve conditions for the business motorist, and my right honourable friend has also asked the GLC and the boroughs to see what additional meters and short-term parking spaces can be provided.

But the business cannot expect to benefit from the advantages of better enforcement unless they recognise that they too must take some trouble to abide by the rules; to pay for parking off-street rather than try to park freely on-street, to be content to park legally a little distance from the premises to be visited, to load and unload only as the regulations permit. Because wheel clamps will cost offenders time and inconvenience as well as money, they deprive illegal parkers of exactly those gains which they seek to achieve at the expense of law abiding road users.

Other noble Lords have spoken of the need to deter illegal parking, particularly in London. The Committee will be aware of the problems of bus services, which on some routes are so seriously affected that 15 per cent. of scheduled milage cannot be run, costs are increased, and the service is disrupted and diverted to the inconvenience and delay of passengers. Illegal parking can inconvience and disturb pedestrians; it can impede cyclists. It slows down traffic at a resource cost possibly of hundreds of millions of pounds.

There were one or two specific comments on which I should like to make some observations. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, mentioned the emergency services, as did my noble friend Lord Cross. An answer was given by my noble friend Lady Gardner and a counter-riposte from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. There is already a threat to the access of services because of illegal parking which is on such an enormous scale. The police will always take care not to immobilise vehicles so that street or fire access is disrupted. People who park illegally do not always take such care, and deaths have been caused by illegal parking delaying fire engines.

I think I should remind your Lordships that the clause gives exactly the same discretion as the removal powers do at the moment. Any illegally parked vehicle may be removed. Finally, on vehicle removal, I should like to confirm that some cars are hoisted, some towed and some driven, and some cannot be removed. For those which cannot be removed, wheel clamps will provide one of the many ways of dealing with this offence. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, suggested that in some way a Rolls-Royce might be exempt. Personally, I do not see why they should not put a wheel clamp on a Rolls-Royce parked outside one of those big hotels; I would rather like to do so.

We are not offering wheel clamps as a panacea. They are not magic, and other measures, such as the towing away of vehicles causing serious obstruction, will still have to be used. In appraising their results, we shall have to be realistic about the difficulties of measuring their effect and reaching a balanced view of the public response to them. But if the clause is rejected, their effectiveness will never be assessed, and we shall be forgoing a chance of improving traffic conditions; we should be backing away from the problem. I undertake between now and Report to look carefully at all the comments made today on the details of the scheme, but I hope sincerely that the Committee will pass the clause so that we can undertake this imaginative idea. I commend the clause.

9.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 51, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 53, Not-Contents, 22.

Alport, L. Glanusk, L.
Auckland, L. Glenarthur, L.
Avon, E. Harvington, L.
Bellwin, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Bishopston, L. Kilmany, L.
Blease, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Long, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Lyell, L.
Coleraine, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Margadale, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Moyne, L.
Craigmyle, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
David, B. Peart, L.
Davidson, V. Platt of Writtle, B.
De Freyne, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Rochdale, V.
Denington, B. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Donegall, M. Segal, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Sharples, B.
Elles, B. Simon, V.
Elton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Trumpington, B.
Faithfull, B. Underhill, L.
Ferrers, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Gainford, L. Windlesham, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Wynford, L.
Gisborough, L.
Airedale, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Macleod of Borve, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. [Teller.] Masham of Ilton, B.
Mishcon, L.
Colwyn, L. Mottistone, L.
Cross, V. Seear, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Strathcarron, L.
Fortescue, E. Tanlaw, L.
Greenway, L. Tordoff, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. White, B.
Kinnaird, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. [Teller.]

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 51, as amended, agreed to accordingly.

9.52 p.m.

Lord Tanlaw moved Amendment No. 108: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause:


.—(1) The Secretary of State may by construction or by regulations create permanent or temporary bikeways designated for use only by the following categories of vehicles—

  1. (a) mopeds (up to 49 cc) and bicycles; and
  2. (b) powered invalid carriages and electrically-powered and pedal-operated tricycles.

(2) All vehicles in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) shall conform to the regulations contained in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, the Transport Act 1968 and the Road Traffic Act 1979.

(3) The following speed limits will apply to vehicles designated in subsection (1) making use of any road or part of a road designated by the Secretary of State as a bikeway—

  1. (a) vehicles covered by paragraph (a) of subsection (1) may not exceed 30 miles per hour; and
  2. (b) vehicles covered by paragraph (b) of subsection (1) may not exceed 10 miles per hour.").

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee and with the agreement of the noble Earl, I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 122, which is obviously connected. If the noble Lord agrees that I can speak on Amendment No. 122 at the same time—which is the descriptive amendment on what is a "bikeway "—it may be helpful if I speak to that first.

It may seem rather odd that I use the term "bikeway" rather than "cycleway" or "cycle path" for this particular amendment, but I did so with some reason: perhaps partly with my tongue in my cheek, because the noble Earl will recall that the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Employment told us to get on our bikes, and not on our cycles. I think that it may be in response to his exhortation for the bike that this amendment has come forward.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mr. Reginald Eyre, on 1st July attended London's first bicycle crossing at the Albert Gate, when he said that: Cyclists are particularly vulnerable to traffic and this has been particularly evident this week"— this week being the week of 28th June— when many people have been taking to bicycles in an effort to beat the rail and tube strikes. Motorists should always give cyclists space to manoeuvre and this applies as much in heavily congested conditions as when they are overtaken on the open road".

On 28th June—the day in question—600,000 to 750,000 vehicles came into London. How many of those vehicles would have remained in the garage if there were safe and adequate bikeways on which to cycle into London and into work anything up to 20 miles? When I bicycled into the City that day I was amazed at the distances that fellow cyclists had come. Some had come 20 miles and some even further.

Everything was done to encourage the vehicle—the car—to come to London. Hyde Park was open and the double yellow lines and parking meters were suspended. Everything was done to encourage the car. I think that there should be some method to encourage people to use the bike more often.

In the transport policy consultation document 1976 the Government of the day accepted that pedal cycles are cheap personal transport. Unlike motor-bikes they do not cause pollution, and so on. I feel that there are not the adequate facilities to use a bicycle safely in our cities. This is what is so depressing. Urban cycling is no longer a healthy activity. It can seriously damage your health, indeed shorten your life. The present statistics produced by the BMA say that the Government should stop their delaying tactics and provide cycle paths because accidents to cyclists were up 6 per cent. in the third quarter of last year compared with the year before, and deaths up 10 per cent.

What is sad is that it is the 10 to l4-year-olds who experience seven times as many cyclist casualties as those over 30. It is this factor perhaps more than any other which has induced me to put the amendment before the Committee. It is perhaps not in the best form of drafting but it emphasises things that are missing in the law and in a Bill of this kind today. The highest number of accidents are among cyclists and the younger age groups. I have not got the statistics but I suspect that they are the same kind of statistics for the small mopeds which are often the first vehicle a young boy or girl is given, or some elderly people use, in what I believe is the mistaken belief that they are safer than a more powerful machine.

I have also taken care that powered invalid carriages and electrically operated pedal cycles are included. These are the vulnerable areas of traffic. As in these days when traffic increases to incredible proportions, so the cities burst at the seams with the kind of transport disruption which we have at this time. Where is the protection for the most vulnerable of all travellers? It is not apparent at the moment. I have brought it up in this Bill because this is a Government matter in terms of definition; in definition of the type of vehicle and type of bikeway, cycle path, carriageway, call it what you like. It is not clearly defined in the statute book at this moment.

I would refer the noble Earl to the Local Government Act 1888 which states: bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes and other similar machines are hereby declared to be carriages within the meaning of the Highway Acts". This may not sound important, but it means that since 1888 the bicycle is treated as a carriage in law, and it has to adhere to all the laws for all other types of vehicles. These laws for vehicles place strict controls on their use in an attempt to make an efficient use of road space. I should like the noble Earl to look at this and see whether or not there are better legal procedures available to make improved provisions for the bicyclist and for better definitions of a bicycle and tricycle in terms of the law, because it is clearly wrong to classify a bicycle or a tricycle as a motor vehicle, or to give it the same rights.

Could the noble Earl also look at the difference between footpaths and footways? In urban areas there are many footpaths dedicated by the highway authority which in doing so takes on certain responsibilities for the care of the footpath. Bicycles are allowed to run along footpaths, but the difference is that they are not allowed to run along footways. Under the Highway Act 1835 it is an offence to ride or drive a bicycle along a footway which does not run alongside a road. However, local authorities have the power to make by-laws or local traffic orders to make it an offence in particular places for vehicles to go, except bicycles. Alternatively, "No cycling" signs would be put up to conform to these ancient laws.

What I am asking the Government to do—and this is the Bill in which to do it—is to bring the bicyclist up to date. I have quoted two laws from the last century which are clearly "anti-cyclist", in the sense that they are no longer to their benefit. Whether it is called a bikeway, a cycleway or whatever, I am asking the Government to give the cyclist a better chance in an urban situation in an overcrowded city. I also think the Secretary of State should have an opportunity to create, if he so wishes, temporary bikeways in the middle of a great city like London.

In the last debate there were many references to narrow, winding, historic streets, or words to that effect, which were jam-packed with cars. Many of these streets are not suitable for the motor vehicle, coach or heavy lorry. Why cannot they, in times of transport difficulty like we are experiencing now, be made into temporary bikeways for use by mopeds up to 49 cc, powered invalid carriages and bicyclists, so there would be one route going across London from east to west and one from north to south? That would at least allow people to go unmolested and unterrified along those routes and possibly get near their places of work. In other words, let us encourage people to take their bicycles out and leave their cars in the garage.

What I propose is not an earth-shattering amendment. I want to know why the Government have ignored the bicyclist and cycleway in all their efforts to improve car parking, to hammer the motorist and worry about the congestion in our great cities. Why do they not do something positive to encourage cycling, by people of all ages, by providing facilities which are suitable for the purpose? I beg to move.

Lord Gisborough

I must first declare an interest by saying that I never go anywhere in London other than on my bicycle, and I only hope it has not been "nicked" so I can go home on it tonight. The bicycle is an enormous space-saver and is extremely quick on which to get around; one can get to the City in 10 minutes and not face a parking problem, and so on. There is, however, the problem of such places as Hyde Park Corner, which is difficult to get round although it is an extremely sporting exercise trying to get round it. I would ask one question of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, in relation to his excellent amendment. I am not quite clear how he intends to check bicyclists' speeds. Does he intend to have policeman mounted on bicycles with blue flashing beacons checking them at 10 pph!

Lord Airedale

I am thankful that my noble friend had his tongue in his cheek in seeking to put on to the statute book the hideous slang term "bike". A bike has to be a bicycle, and whether or not the Ancient Greeks had bicycles, a bicycle must be a two-wheeled vehicle. My noble friend says in subsection (1)(b) that it would include tricycles, but there is no way that tricycles could be included in a provision to create bikeways.

Lord Underhill

I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has tabled this amendment. It may be that the criticism of the word "bikeways" is valid, but I can see what the noble Lord is trying to achieve; he is trying to go beyond what we used to call cycle paths. I can no longer declare an interest; I could have done many years ago, when I was a cycle club captain. In those days, I cycled 10 miles each way to West-minister. Frankly, I would think twice about doing it today, not because of my age but because there are now 13 to 14 million cars on the roads compared with about ¾ million when I used to cycle. Unless there is some provision of special bikeways, it is dangerous for people to journey by cycle.

Towns like Peterborough have conducted some excellent experiments, about which we have read, and if the amendment results in the Government giving more encouragement to such schemes, that would be most useful.

In addition, there is the problem of providing proper cycle paths, bikeways (call them what you will), in the country. Noble Lords who have been to Holland will have seen the cycle paths which cut across the country, and, in the towns, run alongside the roads. That is the way to handle the matter. Whenever there are new road developments or road repairs in this country, thought should be given to providing a cycle path or bikeway alongside. But a problem would arise, because the noble Lord wants to cater for not only bicycles and tricycles, but also invalid carriages. The problem of using an invalid carriage on an ordinary main road must be fairly frightening, and unless a bikeway were sufficiently wide, there would be difficulty in accommodating at the same time an invalid carriage and two or three cycles.

The other problem to be considered concerns the varying speed limits. The limits could be only a guide. I cannot see any possibility of enforcing them. However, I consider that the noble Lord has done the Committee a service in bringing forward the amendment. It might not finish up in this form, but I hope that the Government have some practical ideas to bring forward.

10.6 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

It is obvious from the appearance of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and my noble friend Lord Gisborough that cycling keeps one trim. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, for bringing forward the amendment and for drawing attention to the recently-opened cycle route near the Albert Gate. The Government fully recognise the dangers faced by vulnerable vehicles, such as bicycles or mopeds, and invalid carriages, in mixed traffic. There is a case for segregation when it can be achieved, and highway authorities have powers to introduce segregated facilities for cyclists. There is nothing to prevent these being shared by the other categories of vehicle mentioned in the amendment, though that would usually be a matter for local decision.

The powers under which highway authorities, including the Secretary of State, may construct cycle tracks, both within the boundaries of existing highways, or as highways in their own right, are in Sections 24 and 65 of the Highways Act 1980. They may use traffic regulation orders to exclude motor vehicles from such highways.

The Department of Transport has consulted on a proposal to make it an offence to drive a motor vehicle on a cycle track. It would avoid the need for separate traffic regulation orders in every case. It is not always desirable to mix cycles and mopeds, and decisions on this would be left as far as possible to local discretion.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, mentioned the 1888 Act. It is open to local authorities to treat bicycles differently from motor vehicles in their traffic orders. The department is committed to improving its advice to local authorities, including better information on the law. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, and in fact your Lordships' Committee, might like to know that my right honourable friend is very much aware of the growing interest in cycling, and he is keen to encourage local authorities to respond by providing improved facilities. He has invited them to include proposals in their transport policies and programmes, and he has announced an expanded programme of experimental and innovatory projects to demonstrate what can be achieved. He has also appointed a senior engineer to look after the interests of cyclists in each of the department's regional offices.

I hope that in view of what I have said, the noble Lord will accept that we very much have at heart the interests of cyclists. I hope he will also accept that his amendment would at the moment add very little to the powers already available to provide segregated facilities. I trust that, judging from what I have said, he will agree that we are going on the right track.

Lord Tanlaw

I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response to the amendment, and I was pleased to hear about the activity that is taking place in looking at how bikeways, cycle paths, cycle tracks, can be created by local authorities. I hope that while there is enthusiasm towards the creation of bikeways (as I like to call them) information will be given to local authorities to enable them to make decisions. There are worrying factors about the category of vehicle and the category of path, on which the local authorities might like help from the Department of Transport, and I hope that that will be forthcoming.

The noble Lord opposite asked about bike speeds. I can tell him that a friend of mine has been taken to court for speeding at over 30 miles an hour on a bicycle in a built-up area. So obviously the police have methods of catching people cycling at such speeds. The other reason why I mentioned speed limits was that this is a part of the transport department's regulations that I look forward to seeing about electrically-powered tricycles and invalid carriages. The position is still not clear on these. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his interest, and I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Alteration of procedure governing the Highway Code]:

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 109: Page 63, line 7, leave out from first ("on") to ("he") in line 9 and insert ("the passing, amendment or repeal of any statutory provision").

The noble Lord said: The intention in putting down this amendment is to ensure that Clause 53 is not open to misinterpretation. The purpose of this power is partly to provide a more efficient means of reviewing the Highway Code—we still allow changes to be fully debated—and partly to ensure that changes in statute law can be reflected in the Code at an early opportunity, rather than, as at present, waiting until it is practicable to undertake a full-scale revision. I am sure your Lordships will agree that where Parliament has recently enacted, having naturally debated, a piece of road safety legislation, the Code should be amended to reflect it as soon as possible. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 110: Page 64, line 5, at end insert ("(and the reference to the passing or repeal of any such provision accordingly includes the making or revocation of any such provision)").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 53, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Denham

After consultation through the usual channels, I think it is generally agreed that it would be the wish of the Committee not to go much further tonight, after the long sitting last night. For the information of the Committee perhaps I may say that it is intended to put down the remainder of this Committee stage tomorrow afternoon, and we will finish it then.

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.