§ 5.12 p.m.
§ House again in Committee on Clause 6.
Baroness Stedman moved Amendment No. 56:
Page 3, line 38, at end insert—
( )The Secretary of State shall before the abolition date lay before Parliament a report on the steps he will take to secure the full adoption by metropolitan district councils and the London borough councils of those facilities, services, and responsibilities for the protection and enjoyment of the countryside which serve the continuing needs of the wider country areas and neighbouring populations.")
§ The noble Baroness said: We are now back again to the conservation of the countryside batch of amendments which are designed to safeguard the quality of life in the country and they also deal with the planning and environmental issues. I understand that we are also dealing with Amendment No. 58.
§ I should like to confine myself to Amendment No. 56. The Greater London Council and the metropolitan counties have been very active in conservation and in the promotion of the countryside. A great deal of work and investment has been put into making attractive countryside accessible to the public from these large conurbations. Under the Bill, all the work of this nature is to become the responsibility of the district councils with no county-wide body to guide and maintain the work over the whole area.
§ The effective development of the open land in the countryside for recreation needs an authority which can take an overall view and not be constrained by purely administrative boundaries. Despoiled landscapes and derelict sites have been made into pleasant and attractive areas as major projects undertaken by the county councils, often in partner 569 ship with other local authorities and with statutory undertakers and the voluntary organisations. The Countryside Commission, like the National Farmers' Union, believes that without special support the successor districts and the boroughs will not be able to continue the valuable work of the metropolitan counties and the GLC in improving and enhancing the countryside environment; in promoting and encouraging the environmental education (about which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, was speaking earlier); and in providing recreational facilities.
§ A recent MORI opinion poll showed that attractive countryside came second only to safety on the streets in contributing' towards the quality of people's lives. The Countryside Commission carried out its own survey in 1984, and that also showed that 60 per cent. of all visits to the countryside were to places within six miles of urban areas. The metropolitan counties at the moment are spending £10 million a year on land reclamation and another £2 million a year on other environmental schemes. That is exclusive of the revenue expenditure on management and maintenance. Many of the metropolitan county country parks receive up to a quarter of a million visitors a year. Surely those places are at least as important to the people of the counties as a whole as are certain arts and sports facilities for which special arrangements via the Arts and the Sports Councils have already been conceded. A great deal of good work now stands at risk unless similar arrangements are made for the countryside and for conservation.
§ The Countryside Commission has advised on grant-aided work by the metropolitan counties and the GLC, recognising its importance to their counties and indeed to their regions. These recreational sites serve a very wide catchment area and they often extend beyond the boundaries of any single district. The countryside management schemes for environmental improvement work protect the vulnerable and quite often farmed countryside on the urban edge between urban settlements. These schemes have brought great benefits to the population of the entire urban area and to those in adjoining shire counties. Encouragement and additional financial support must be given to ensure, as the metropolitan counties and the GLC have done, that the boroughs and the districts continue to take a wider than local view.
§ It is important to ensure that the public and private investment is not wasted and that major developments are located to give the maximum benefit to the whole of the area. It is important that we have an assurance now that the Government will underwrite the £3¼ million which the Countryside Commission estimates that it will need to continue its existing work until the boroughs have agreed to take on the responsibilities.
§ My noble friend Lord Hunt is not here this afternoon, but he has asked me to make one point on his behalf about the national parks with which he has been so closely associated over many years. He says that the area which this amendment covers would require Parliament to scrutinise and to approve. These parks have a most important national as well as local importance because they are enjoyed by people from a far wider area than the fringes of the GLC and the metropolitan areas.
§ My noble friend takes as a particularly good example the Peak National Park, parts of which lie in 570 the Greater Manchester, the West Yorkshire and the South Yorkshire metropolitan counties. Under the terms of Clause 6(b) the six county councillors who sit on the Peak Park board, two from each of the metropolitan county councils, will be replaced by the district councillors in whose district lie parts of the national park, and they may, indeed, number more than the present six because I understand that there are 19 districts in the three metropolitan counties involved.
§ My noble friend makes the point that the wider county-wide perspective is likely to be lost when the county councillors have to stand down and perhaps a narrower and a more parochial focus might take their place on the park board's deliberations. He thinks it extremely important that we try to get an assurance that, until agreement is reached by the boroughs, and until the boroughs have given the Government a firm agreement that they will take on these responsibilities, the Government will be underwriting the situation.
§ If we are not to have a county-wide body concerned with the protection and the enjoyment of the countryside, to provide the services and the facilities which are necessary for the continuing needs of the wider county areas and the neighbouring populations, then we have a right to know now how the Secretary of State will secure a full adoption of these schemes and their maintenance. If the boroughs and districts cannot cope financially with their additional responsibilities, what plans has the Secretary of State for ensuring, and assuring, that the Countryside Commission have the necessary increase in their finances to be able to encourage the specialist staff to be employed, and our natural countryside to be preserved for all to enjoy?
§ The Minister will no doubt tell us that the boroughs and the districts will receive a higher level of RSG and that their GREA will reflect their new responsibilities. But many of these councils are already hard pressed and there can be no assumption that they would be willing, or able, to divert scarce financial resources to this sort of countryside work. Therefore, what we are asking in this amendment is that the Secretary of State should consider, and should bring before Parliament, measures which will encourage, and will enable, the districts and the boroughs to cope with the heavier financial burden and the additional responsibilities which this Bill seeks to place upon them. I beg to move.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
This really is the other side of the coin to Amendment No. 34 moved by my noble friend Lord Molson. His amendment dealt with the long-term problems and this amendment deals with the short-term, immediate problem of what happens when the metropolitan counties get disbanded next April. It is politically minor, but to those of us involved in the countryside—the National Farmers' Union; the Countryside Commission; and indeed the National Trust (and I have an apology from the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, who has had to leave)—it is important and it is constructive, allowing us to plan forward, which is so essential in all country matters.
I hope that my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale will be able to accept this amendment. Before he sat where 571 he does he often chided me for being an avaricious farmer, caring not one jot for the needs of others, particularly those living in towns. I know that he still feels that way. Therefore, I just hope that he is not going to be forced to give your Lordships some contrary dogma, if I may call it that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, put the case, as I knew she would, so well that I am left to deal with only one aspect of this amendment. Needless to say, that is the agricultural one. My points have really been taken away by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in the last amendment. He explained many of the problems in dealing with agricultural land that I was going to explain.
The metropolitan counties and the GLC have managed their agricultural land quite exceptionally well—keeping the green sites green, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher—and it is a large acreage that they have. They have gone further than anyone to solve the problems of farming on the urban fringe, of rights of way, of access to farmland for recreation, and of relaxation in the country, which, I suggest, are so much better to relieve our stress than Valium or some of the drugs we were talking about a few moments ago.
Apart from the fact that the Bill concentrates in my opinion overmuch on the GLC—my noble friend Lord Sandford had a constructive amendment, Amendment No. 19, but it really only dealt with London and SERPLAN, whereas the other metropolitan counties matter just as much—so far as I can see, there is no provision or information to satisfy me that this countryside work, and the work mentioned by the noble Baroness, will be continued.
The amendment asks the Government to tell us what is going to happen, particularly to projects in hand, when the metropolitan counties and the GLC are disbanded in April. We ask them, are they going to let these schemes collapse? Nature does not stand still just because the politicians wish it to. We must know what is going to happen in the countryside now, because we have to plan ahead.
I therefore beg my noble friend on the Front Bench to accept this amendment, even if he feels that he may have to come back at Report and modify it. I believe that it is time the Committee did something positive rather than waiting all the time for jam—and the jam, it seems to me, that we are being promised has not got a lot of sugar in it anyhow.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
May I be permitted a brief word in opposition to this amendment, which seems to have within it a double-barrelled mandatory provision. The first provides that the Secretary of State shall lay a report, and the choke refers to,the steps he will take to secure the full adoption".This surely savours of an over-centralisation of power which, in view of the assurance given earlier today by my noble friend Lord Elton on Amendments No. 55 and 58, appears not to be necessary.
I take the point that Clause 86 will require substantial amendment to accommodate the assurances. As has been said by my noble friend Lord Stanley of 572 Alderley, this is the short-term obverse of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Molson. But, to refer to Amendment No. 19, as I understand the position, my noble friend the Minister has taken this back with a view to enlarging it to take in the other amendment, whose number I have now forgotten, which deals with the metropolitan district councils. Therefore for my part I should prefer to wait and see how those assurances are reflected in an amended Clause 86, and to stay my hand for the moment.
§ The Earl of Radnor
I put my name to this amendment because I felt that of this clutch of amendments dealing with the parks and the countryside, it was the best. I thought for a start that it did not put the Government to a great deal of trouble. It is merely asking them to tell your Lordships' House and another place what my noble friend Lord Stanley has just said; what precisely they mean to do. By implication that means that I at least am not too happy about what they say they are going to do in Clause 6 and Schedule 3, because two matters seem to be left hanging.
I put them in what I think is the order of importance. The first is money, and the second is the compatibility of these councils which succeed to power and through which boundaries of national parks, and those kind of things, can run. They then have to form boards and they have to agree what they are going to do. I do not believe that they will in fact form good, cohesive, progressive policies as have been formed in the past by the metropolitan counties and by the GLC.
Having said that, perhaps in fairness one ought to go into a little detail. The noble Baroness, who put the case so well, referred to the sum of£34¼ million as being mentioned by the Countryside Commission. I myself have said that I think there will be not perhaps a squabble but a difference in priorities in this body drawn from two other bodies when they come to consider these matters.
The suggestion that came to my mind is that one needs an independent vehicle to deal with this money from wherever it may come. I hope it will come from somewhere. My understanding is that that sort of money is needed to keep the national parks going as they are now; that is, not needing any initiative to make them better or to improve them. In my naïveté, perhaps, it appeared to me that the vehicle was there in the form of the Countryside Commission. This is a fair-minded, well-run and well-led body, with the interests of people, not just the country, at heart. It is people we are considering—the accessible areas where people who live in conurbations can get out to breathe. Many of us like myself are lucky enough to be born, bred and live in the country, and we can only imagine how much other people look forward to visiting the countryside.
What we need in the period before 1st April 1986 is to hear from the Government something a little more detailed and positive which we can discuss again. I do not in my mind muddle this amendment with Amendment No. 58; it seems to me to be a different amendment. I sincerely hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will find it acceptable.
§ Baroness Nicol
I wish briefly to support the amendment from these Benches. We give it our full support. I allow myself a little wry amusement at the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, who strains at the gnat of this tiny bit of intervention and has swallowed a hundred or so camels throughout the rest of the Bill.
§ Baroness Nicol
It is a biblical reference, which I am sure is familiar to your Lordships. We are concerned not with the powers of local authorities—we are all satisfied that they have the powers; it is the duty that we want to lay on them to take those powers. The only way to do that and to persuade them that they can allocate some of their money—many of them are hard pressed, as we know; they must be persuaded that some of that money must be allocated for this purpose—is to have an undertaking from the Minister that he means business. To ask for this report is entirely reasonable. It will be helpful not only to us and to those who care about conservation, but also to the authorities themselves, for it will give some idea of what is expected of them. We fully support the amendment.
§ Lord Molson
I hesitate to intervene, but shall do so briefly in order to raise two points. If this is not the right amendment on which to raise these matters, I do not apologise because this is a complicated Bill. All the amendments dealing with these matters tend to overlap. They are trying to deal with much the same subject, but they offer different alternatives. I open with what might more appropriately be my last sentence. I hope that if the Government are not prepared to accept these amendments at the present time, they will indicate that these are substantial problems which we are trying to raise and that we might have discussions between now and the Report stage with a view to the solution of these problems being reached with agreement.
The first point I want to make is that, though I may have misunderstood, I was under the impression that the High Peak National Park would not be broken up by this Bill. It would be tragic if it were broken up. The High Peak, which I represented for 22 years in another place, is one of the most successful of the national parks. One half of the inhabitants of England live within 60 miles of Buxton. It is of immense importance to the rural dwellers in the whole of the industrial Midlands of England that the High Peak should be preserved as a single unit. I had thought that that would be the effect because, as your Lordships may not be aware, although there are six or seven national parks, there is a joint board only in the case of the High Peak and the Peak District. It would be tragic if the effect of the Bill would be to break up what have been two planning authorities set up in 1947 or 1948 which have been extremely successful and which are considered by a large proportion of the urban inhabitants of this country as being involved with areas which should be preserved, planned and treated as a single whole.
I do not intend to develop my other point at any length, but it, too, raises a general issue. As I have 574 mentioned before, the Department of the Environment withdrew the first two circulars it issued, one dealing with housing and the other with green belts. They were replaced by two circulars which were almost entirely acceptable to the amenity societies with which I have been associated. There was an undertaking by the Government that the whole principle of the green belts should be preserved. I said previously that while I had not the slightest doubt that the Government would carry out in the spirit and the letter the undertakings implicitly given in those circulars, I was not clear whether the machinery provided under the Bill would enable them efficiently to carry out the policy to which they are committed.
It is possible that on some later amendment we may be able to discuss the whole question of the green belts more appropriately than on this amendment, but I should like guidance and advice from the Government as to whether this is the right time to raise that matter. I raise it only on the broad principles of whether the machinery is effective for giving effect to undertakings which Government have given in those two circulars to the country as a whole and whether they are satisfied that the present machinery will not result in the eating into of the green belts and, in the case of the High Peak, the fragmentation of an extremely successful national park.
§ Lord Melchett
I want to say a word on one aspect of this that concerns the GLC land holdings in the green belt. Noble Lords who have spoken so far have tended to underestimate the scale and the urgency of the problem. There was an article in Farmers' Weekly recently which made a number of points. The first was that the boroughs that will take over the land currently owned by the GLC and let to tenant farmers have no experience in managing agricultural holdings. They have no staff, no land agents and so on, whereas the GLC has an experienced and much respected team. It is unusual to hear tenant farmers praising the landlord in quite the terms in which tenant farmers praise the GLC. In considering the political complexion of the GLC and the likely politics of many of the tenant farmers it becomes all the more remarkable, but the tenant farmers have been unstinting in their praise of GLC management.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, said, those areas have been farmed very well and a great deal of effort, expertise and money—and money is important on the urban fringe—has been put into reconciling the conflicting demands of agriculture, access and recreation in areas all over the country and particularly around London where those pressures are greater than anywhere else; and it has been done very successfully.
The Farmers' Weekly reports that already farmers are suffering. Investment in buildings and repairs is declining because of the uncertainty caused by abolition, according to the tenant farmers actually involved. And there is a real fear—and I shall be interested to know what the noble Lord who is going to reply will say about this—among tenant farmers, which must be a sensible one, that when the land is transferred to London boroughs or to county councils they will find themselves, in the current climate, short of cash and they will sell the land. That seems to me to be a real threat for the future of a large tenanted sector.
575 As I understand it, on all sides of the Committee we are keen to see the tenanted sector in agriculture continue, but if this land is sold to other landlords or to the farmers themselves, then, in the long run, it seems to me inevitable that it will leave the tenanted sector of agriculture and that must be bad for the industry as a whole. What is even clearer and immediate is that the resources which have been put in by the metropolitan councils and the GLC to managing the land, to keeping it at a high standard, to keeping it farmed (which is very difficult on the urban fringe) will go as soon as the land is sold. We will then see the spread of what is called "horseyculture", the tin shacks, the dereliction which spreads out so easily around cities as real farming is pushed away into the countryside; and the blight that occurs around cities all too easily follows.
That seems to me as inevitably going to happen if this land is sold by local councils. I cannot see London boroughs which are rate capped or desperately trying to maintain services and which are picking up the tab for things which the GLC were paying for, not taking the opportunity of realising the cash by selling the land. So this is going to lead to immediate, serious problems not only for the farmers but for all the people of London who enjoy these areas for recreation. It seems to me that this amendment does not go nearly far enough in tackling what is a very urgent and serious issue for everyone concerned, for the countryside in general and for the farmers involved in particular.
§ The Earl of Onslow
I should like to underline some things that were said by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. I was about to call him "my noble friend Lord Melchett". He is so in some ways, but I do not always have to say that. He spoke of the terrible damage that can be done in the urban fringe. One has only to look around Staines, Slough and London Airport to see the most ghastly mixture of town and country which is neither town nor country. It is squalid, there is no character to anything and it has neither the benefit of the town nor the benefit of the countryside. Unless we are very careful, that particular form of urban fringe can spread.
I come up in the train quite frequently on what is genteelly called the New Guildford Line—it was built in 1876. It goes from Oxshott to Wimbledon and Surbiton. Right up to Surbiton there is some really pleasant farmed countryside with nice hedges and nice oakwoods. I do not know who it belongs to, but it is exactly how one wants the border of town and countryside to be. I would assume that they have the problems of access, the problems of plastic bags and the problems suffered by anybody who farms and lives near a built-up area. But the urban fringe has been avoided. If my noble friend's amendment can show what the Government intend to do about that in the transition stage, he will have achieved a very great deal. We must be careful on the problem of urban fringe.
§ Lord Davies of Leek
Very briefly, there is an angle on this which is omitted. It is this. What happens in the case of the continuity of a meandering stream, brooklet or rivulet in regard to the responsibility all along the line of that system of water flow, which is 576 important to the entire theory of land drainage. It should be stated somewhere that the policy and control would overlap district areas, borough areas and local council areas so as to get a continuous policy for meandering streams, rivulets or brooklets. Otherwise an intelligent system of land drainage cannot be worked out.
I have started the point. There is no need to develop it further, I think that what I have said is axiomatic that there needs to be a policy along the whole line of the flowing of water so that control is administered all along the line of any rivulets or water flow. Otherwise agriculture, land drainage, hedging, ditching—the whole lot—can be ruined from the point of view of a constructive drainage policy. I have said enough. I hope that note is taken of that point when we come to the end of this Bill.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
I support this amendment but I share the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that it does not go far enough, that it is almost too gentle in its phraseology. I hope that that may be overcome by the Minister when he replies; because when, as I hope he will, he accepts this amendment, I hope that he will spell out very clearly that he agrees with those who have already spoken on what is implied in this amendment as to the three criteria which must be observed in this body which is to be created to look after these rural spaces.
First of all, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, rightly said, they must be planned as a single whole and the body that is set up to look after them should have very wide parameters in which to operate; it should not be fragmented. Secondly, the body should consist of people who will look after the interests of those who are going to enjoy these open spaces as well as those who are actually cultivating them, as has been mentioned by more recent speakers. Those people may come from very great distances but their interests nonetheless are great that these open spaces should be properly looked after. They must not be looked after solely by representatives drawn from the areas themselves, the rural district councils, the local councils, in which the land happens to be situated.
Thirdly, and I suppose in some ways most importantly, this body should either have powers to raise adequate finance for its own purposes—and nobody but that body will know how much money it needs to do its job properly—or, if it cannot have those powers, then it should have powers to demand adequate finance either from the constituent local authorities or from central Government. Unless the money is there, unless it has the right to that money, then, however good it is, however good its intentions, it will fail in achieving the purpose.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I hope that your Lordships will not hold it against my noble friend Lord Onslow if I confess to your Lordships that my intervention in this debate is solely the result of his speech. My noble friend unwittingly, I think, touched on a rather curious aspect of this matter. He referred (in terms which the late Sir John Betjeman could hardly have bettered or worsened) to Slough, to Staines and to the Heathrow area. But your Lordships, while not necessarily being 577 enthused by the aesthetic and amenity aspects of those areas will, I think, have in mind that they are almost certainly the most economically efficient, employment productive and prosperous sections of our community today.
Heathrow Airport itself generates a very large proportion of our overseas earnings. It provides a great deal of extremely well paid employment for a great many thousands of people; and the same is true, although in lesser degree, of Slough (which in fact is an extremely well run town) and of Staines, with which I also happen to be familiar. Therefore, if these are to be held up as awful warnings which it is the object of this amendment to prevent, then that would dispose me, I think, to be very critical of this amendment.
§ Lord Melchett
If the noble Lord would not mind giving way, I do not think anybody was trying to plant trees in the middle of Heathrow Airport, desirable though some of the local residents may feel that is. It is where the countryside meets those developments that all ofus feel we want to keep it countryside, we want to keep it green. I cannot believe the noble Lord really thinks that a whole load of tin shacks and bedsteads and a few horses grazing in a field are particularly productive to this country or to anyone else.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
With his habitual adroitness, the noble Lord has neatly sidestepped my noble friend Lord Onslow's point and put it not on Heathrow, not on Slough nor Staines, but on the areas adjoining, where the case is quite different.
§ The Earl of Onslow
May I interrupt my noble friend? I am sorry, is this a private fight or can anyone join in? I really think that for once I should refer my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who has expressed my views 100 per cent. accurately. I am talking about the "rurban fringe" on the edges of Staines, on the edges of Slough and on the edges of Heathrow Airport. That is what I am complaining about and that is what nobody should take credit for. It is what I want to avoid in the future, to make sure it does not happen outside Oxshott.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I am much obliged to my noble friend for those observations, although if they had already been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, it would appear to be perhaps a trifle superfluous to repeat them. If he would consult Hansard, he will see that he named these three areas which happen to be economically among the most valuable aspects of this country and for those of us who care about the provision of employment, they are of very real significance. He referred to them and not to their adjoining areas.
But I will pass on from that to the terms of the amendment itself which I would have thought, even from the point of view of my noble friend Lord Onslow, go too far. They refer to the statement having to be made by the Secretary of State. This is an easy sort of amendment to put down, but of course it ignores the fact that, whether it is carried into law or not, it is perfectly possible for noble Lords or Members in another place to ask questions of the Secretary of State on these points.
578 I myself am always rather doubtful about multiplying the number of formal statements by Ministers who are, of course, anyhow, without any such amendment, answerable to each House of Parliament. Your Lordships' House has certainly not demonstrated, particularly in the last few weeks, any lack of determination or willingness to ask quest ions of Ministers.
The second point on the amendment is that it refers to the full adoption by the metropolitan councils and borough councils of these facilities, services and responsibilities. That, as I read it—and I am subject to correction by the authors of the amendment—means that we are being committed to the precise pattern of support of the activities to which the GLC and the metropolitan councils have committed themselves. I certainly would not be prepared to give a blank cheque and say that all the activities either of the GLC or of the metropolitan councils were such that they had to be backed by a parliamentary provision that their full adoption must be carried on by the successor authorities.
If the amendment had been framed in more general terms—and I can see the point of it—I think it would have been more acceptable. But to try to nail the Government to securing the carrying out of every activity of this kind which these authorities which are to be abolished have undertaken, would, I think, be a very rash, foolish and unjustifiable thing to do,
§ Baroness White
If I may spring to the defence of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I am afraid that Lord Boyd-Carpenter is not familiar with the jargon of those of us concerned with countryside protection. I think I correctly heard the noble Earl use the phrase "rurban fringe", it is jargon, it is not very elegant, but it is expressive. He used it, and therefore his version of what he said was correct and that of the noble Lod, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, was not, I am afraid.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I do not want to waste the time of the noble Baroness, although it is always a pleasure to address her. But the noble Lord quoted, as examples of the urban fringe which he deprecated, these three specific locations. If the noble Baroness will contain her impatience until Hansard is available, Hansard, I think, will confirm that.
§ Baroness White
Unfortunately, the noble Lord is still incorrect. The term "rurban"—inelegant though it may be—refers to the land surrounding the areas which he rightly described as of economic importance. It is not the areas themselves. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was entirely correct.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I would suggest to the noble Baroness that she should read Hansard, if she feels able to.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Onslow. I was about to suggest that I might be allowed to reply to the amendment. The provision of facilities for recreation in the countryside is primarily 579 the responsibility of local authorities. The Secretary of State has no direct role in these matters. Countryside management, as the Committee will appreciate, is generally best left in the hands of the owners and occupiers of the land.
However, to the extent to which public authorities must intervene, this too is a function of local planning authorities. The provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Countryside Act 1968, which confer these functions on local authorities, are couched in terms of what the local authorities may do, not what they must do.
Local authorities, therefore, have the freedom to provide whatever facilities they see fit. I should be very surprised if your Lordships wished to take away from them that discretion which is implicit in the amendment and in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, but the amendment does not do this.
The role of the Secretary of State in these matters is an enabling one. In Clause 6 we have already provided by Schedule 3 for the transfer of responsibility and the continuing operation of those matters concerning national parks, by-laws and public rights of way for which amendment to existing legislation is necessary.
While I am on this matter, perhaps I might respond to various points which have been made about national parks and even perhaps a little later on urban fringes. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, in moving this amendment, referred to the views of her, unfortunately absent, noble friend Lord Hunt and his concern about the county-wide discussion on membership of the national park boards.
In the case of the Peak Planning Board, the only national park whose membership is affected by abolition, it is the case that the metropolitan county seats which are six in number will be redistributed to the districts who will be able to bring detailed local knowledge.
The noble Baroness then no doubt will say, "But what about a national overview?" This can and will be expressed by the one-third of the members of the board who are ministerial appointees and are there for that reason. Over and above this, there are ten national parks.
As far as the Peak Park is concerned, abolition in no way breaks up the Peak Planning Board, which will remain totally. That is my answer to my noble friend Lord Molson. It will remain moreover as a unitary authority, though with the necessary changes in membership to which I have just referred.
We now come to the point which my noble friend Lord Molson made about the green belt. Yes, I certainly accept on behalf of the Government that the two circulars, namely, the one on the green belt and land for housing to which he made reference in his speech, were not as well received as the Government anticipated they would be. But the Committee well knows the story here: the two circulars were withdrawn and have been replaced. Since their replacement, I have not heard the sort of outcry on the original circulars to which my noble friend properly drew attention.
580 Further than this, obligations on successor authorities in regard to green belt and housing will remain exactly the same as under that replaced circular. Just as we are not imposing new duties, equally we are not taking away existing ones, nor are we taking away obligations. Belts will become no less green because of this Bill.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Before my noble friend leaves the subject, am I to understand that instead of green belts they become green chunks round the metropolitan counties?
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
Green belts are as currently defined in the circular. The process of abolition does not change them. My noble friend very properly asks: are they likely to be broken up because we have smaller conurbations? But we do not have smaller conurbations. What we do have are district councils rather than metropolitan county councils; but the areas will remain.
§ Lord Molson
May I interrupt my noble friend to ask for elucidation? It is difficult to take in precise words about these rather complicated matters. It is very difficult to see how the green belts can be efficiently administered if different planning authorities are going to be responsible for different parts of them. It has been the great advantage of the intermediate tier that they have, first, in the case of all the municipal county councils, exercised a general strategic control over the lower-tier planning authorities. That, I understand, was removed by the Act of 1981, I think. In the case of the Greater London Council, however, it was preserved. I ask the Government, if they are to give full effect to the policies they have themselves laid down in the two circulars to which my noble friend referred, to consider between now and Report stage whether it is not really essential to have some supervising authority. Perhaps my noble friend will tell me that the strategic guidance which we were discussing rather fully the other day, and which is in the hands of the Secretary of State, will be used for that purpose. Of course it will be difficult to do, but if I have an assurance that the Government really intend that it shall be effective, I have no doubt that they will see to it that it is effective.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
Rather than be drawn into the green belt question at this stage, I shall say that what I have already said—that the green belt will not become green chunks, in the sense that there will be white or black chunks in between—is absolutely correct. That was one of the points put to me by my noble friend Lord Onslow.
The green belt does not rely for its protection on the ownership of the land. It is planning controls which protect the green belt. The acquisition of the London and Home Counties green belt land under the 1938 Act pre-dated general legislation on the green belt. The new owners of the 1938 Act land will be subject to all the controls applied to that land by the Act. That of course includes the overriding view, to which my noble friend Lord Elton referred on, I think, the first day of our Committee stage, of the Secretary of State. To that extent my noble friend Lord Molson is absolutely correct.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
Will my noble friend forgive me for one moment? I am only trying to assist. Is this not a classic example of the need for coordination between the different authorities in charge of the green belt, to which my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross referred?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
; Yes; and that is yet another reason why the unitary development plans, which we have discussed at some length on previous days, have been drawn up in the way they have. Part I has to have the approval of my right honourable friend and, equally, any one district or borough council has to have consultations with a neighbouring one if its unitary development plan concerns its activities. But, with the greatest respect, I think that it is better to try to go forwards rather than backwards.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I absolutely agree with that; but in order to avoid any misinterpretation of what he has said, can my noble friend not give a categorical answer to my noble friend Lord Molson? I would have thought that we have given the reserve povvers to the Minister because, in the last resort, he is in a position to put right any perverse result that may flow from smaller authorities having taken different decisions. There has been so much criticism of the powers given to the Minister that I would have thought we should advertise and show some pride in one of the things that he could do, in order to overcome some of the feelings that have arisen on this subject.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
Yes; we have here two voices with but a single thought. My noble friend is absolutely correct. I am not sure whether this would be an appropriate moment to turn to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, about the water authorities. The Government are well seized of the unified river basin management, which has been the subject of discussion in so many debates in your Lordships' Chamber over the last two years. The Government have no present plans to change it, and of course that will be relevant when we come to discuss amendments, for example, on land drainage and the sorts of things which the Thames Water Authority may or may not get up to as a result of the passage of this Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, expressed fear that the inheriting boroughs will sell land and thus put off such tenant farmers as they have on that land at present. I am not sure that that is really viable as a proposition because the successor authority will inherit the land subject to existing tenancies, and the rights of those tenants against their new landowner will be exactly the same then as they are now against the GLC or the metropolitan county councils. The change of ownership will not affect a tenant's legal rights or obligations.
Perhaps I may now—
§ Lord Melchett
If the noble Lord is going to leave that point, may I just ask him two questions, because he did not deal with the matter of land which falls vacant, as tenanted farm land inevitably does over the passage of time? I wonder whether the categorical answer he gave to the noble Lord, Lord Harmar- 582 Nicholls, about the Secretary of State using his power would apply in this case, so that the Secretary of State would stop tenanted agricultural land being sold by a successor authority and insist on its being kept in the tenanted sector, which the Government are so keen to protect and, indeed, to expand. That is my first point.
Secondly, the noble Lord did not say anything in response to what I said about resources. Farming in this area is a very difficult business and it takes a lot of expertise and money to keep agricultural land in good heart, given the pressures which are inevitably there on such land, being on the fringe of very large urban areas. The GLC, for example, has a very good reputation for keeping agricultural land in good heart, because they have had the expertise and have been prepared to spend the money. Will that continue?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
I shall return to the noble Lord's point as regards tenanted land in a moment, but so far as resources are concerned, I was just about to deal with that very point, before he spoke. The question of how existing projects funded by the GLC and the metropolitan county councils will be handled after abolition is of course of vital importance. Under our abolition proposals, as I sought to reassure your Lordships' Committee on Thursday, the matters of finances are more or less as the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, described them. At present the cash for these and other functions of the GLC and the metropolitan councils comes from the ratepayers. It is taken from them by precepts which are levied via the boroughs and the districts. It goes without saying that those precepts will go now not from the GLC and the metropolitan counties and can be used, certainly in part, where they are not needed for other successor bodies (which we will come on to a little later) by the successor local authorities for their own purposes. The functions will now be transferred to the boroughs and districts, which can have recourse to exactly the same ratepayers direct. The GREAs, and consequently their grants, will be adjusted to take account of the transfer of those responsibilities—
§ Lord Skelmersdale
May I just finish the point? I see no financial reason, therefore, why the boroughs and districts should not co-operate in providing facilities which service a wider than local area. Now I give way.
§ Lord Melchett
I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I am sorry to prolong this discussion, but I understand that, for example, so far as the GLC's land in the green belt is concerned, most of it lies outside the GLC's own area and it will revert to neighbouring county councils. Surely the financial argument which the noble Lord has just used does not apply in those cases?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
If, for example, land which is owned by the GLC is situated in Buckinghamshire and it therefore goes to Buckinghamshire under the Bill's proposals, what I am saying is that the GREAs will be altered to take account of those responsibilities. Certainly, on the point about precepting the noble Lord is absolutely right. Yes, that would not involve a shire county.
583 However, the main point about this amendment, it seems to me, was in regard to the Countryside Commission and its attitude to all that is going on. As the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has said, the Countryside Commission contend that between £3¼ million and £4 million is currently spent by the GLC and the metropolitan counties on country parks, countryside management schemes and facilities for recreation, which would be at risk if transitional arrangements were not made. I have already described some of the transitional financial arrangements which are to be made under the existing scheme of things.
Incidentally, although I am trying to compress what I want to say because I seem to be making rather a long speech, let no one misunderstand me. The work that is being done in this connection is extremely good—not, though I should love to say it, in 100 per cent. of the cases, as I do not know 100 per cent. of the cases, but may we settle for somewhere in excess of 95 per cent. of the cases for the sake of argument? The commission's view is that the situation might be helped if its grant in aid were increased and if it then offered increased levels of grant-in-aid to local authorities.
The Countryside Commission is the Government's statutory adviser on matters pertaining to countryside conservation and of course we take its advice extremely seriously. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State will meet the chairman of the Countryside Commission, who is an ardent campaigner for the cause of countryside conservation and recreation, on 11 th June. This has already been arranged. They will discuss the commission's plans, including the question of a change in the level of funding for the commission in the light of abolition, as well as the commission's other proposal for future work.
Obviously, I cannot pre-empt the results of those discussions, but I would say to my noble friends Lord Campbell of Alloway and Lord Boyd-Carpenter that I agree with them that this is an excellent reason for waiting to discover what goes on in those discussions. Therefore, I do not think that it would be appropriate to take a final decision on this matter this evening.
Having said that, whatever the outcome of those discussions, I am convinced that it would be wrong to enforce by legislation the continuation of all GLC and metropolitan county council schemes. They might, for example, not be appropriate, in view of unitary development plans. Some of these schemes are, as we all know, temporary; and noble Lords will be able to think of their own examples where it just might not be appropriate for these schemes to continue.
Moveover, the amendment calls for a report and I really feel that that is not a matter for the Government. It would sit much more naturally with the successor authorities themselves. The Government's, the Countryside Commission's and the Nature Conservancy Council's role is to enable successor authorities to carry out such schemes and to ensure that they have the best possible advice. Furthermore, this amendment appears to rob the successor authorities of the freedom by which all local authorities, whether in metropolitan or other areas, exercise their priorities.
584 As I have said, I am extremely sensible of the points made by my noble friends Lord Molson, Lord Campbell of Alloway and, indeed, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on how to take the matter from here. But what I can assure the Committee is that the matter is being taken extremely seriously and that we are moving forward in a spirit of inquiry and wanting to get the job done. Unfortunately, I am in the cleft stick of not being able to report instant success to your Lordships this afternoon. On those grounds, I hope that the noble Baroness and my noble friend will feel that it would be reasonable not to pursue this amendment any further at this stage.
§ 6.15 p.m.
For two reasons I did not intervene before the Minister replied to this amendment: first, because I thought that the speeches I had made on earlier amendments would have made it crystal clear that I supported this amendment; and, secondly, because I thought that we would have a much more reassuring reply from the Government. But not having had that reply, I feel bound to say one or two words.
In essence, the noble Lord Lord Stanley of Alderley, at the end of his speech, was asking the Government to tell us what is to happen in regard to urban fringe countryside after abolition. In essence, the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has said in reply that we must wait and see what happens after abolition and then he will be able to tell us what will happen to urban fringe countryside after abolition. That is not good enough.
I also have to object on two other grounds. First, I think that in his reply the noble Lord dwelt rather too much on the financial provisions—I accept that they are important—and where the money is to come from. But we all know that money for urban fringe countryside comes from many sources. It comes on certain occasions from derelict land grant, which is sometimes used to restore land to beneficial use, perhaps as countryside; it comes as grants from the Countryside Commission, from Community Task Force and from all sorts of places. Never mind the money. As we said on an earlier amendment, what matters is the very important work which has been done hitherto by personnel in the county councils, the GLC and the other metropolitan councils and that work will, in the end, disappear.
The noble Lord the Minister said in his reply, quite rightly, that the statutory adviser to the Government on matters of the preservation of the countryside and access to the countryside for recreational purposes is the Countryside Commission. There is a difficulty there. The Countryside Commission's duties are enshrined in statute and it is made utterly clear that the one thing it is barred from doing is work in urban centres.
This is one of the reasons why the Countryside Commission has found it necessary now, in connection with the groundwork movement, to establish the Groundwork Foundation, because some of the work being done by the groundwork movement is dealing with greenways extending right into the centre of urban areas and it could be argued that to grant-aid some of this work might be regarded as ultra 585 vires if it were done by the Countryside Commission. That is perhaps in part, why the Countryside Commission has found it necessary to devise some alternative method where that is required.
The crucial point is that the work which has been done is of immense importance not just for recreational purposes, which is of great benefit to local residents, but for production as well. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who said so much about what is important in regard to certain land is making money and providing jobs, must remember that much of the work which has been done by the metropolitan counties in urban fringes has been to restore the countryside by the simple method of restoring productive agriculture in areas where, in a sense, it had disappeared under the pressures of trespass, litter and vandalism. The big problem has been to resolve the conflicts between urban fringe farmers and people who live in urban areas, and the metropolitan counties have done admirable work in that respect. The point is that by restoring productive farming to some of those areas, as has already been done, we are not only providing better countryside for the enjoyment of people, but actually making money and producing food which would not otherwise be there, and providing opportunities for employment.
I really do ask the noble Lord the Minister to give us a better reply, and to address himself in particular to the whole question of expertise. I shall not be long on this, but I am chairman of the Groundwork Trust, a partnership between the Countryside Commission, St. Helens and Knowsley Borough Councils and the Merseyside Metropolitan Council. The input of the Merseyside Metropolitan Council to the work we have done there is by no means only a question of money, although it has been money; much of it has been by way of highly skilled expert work from people who work for the metropolitan county. We want to hear clearly what is going to happen to them, what structure is going to be created to make sure that they continue doing that work, and that their expertise is not lost from these areas. Of course, the noble Lord can say that the district councils may take them on; they may indeed. But merely to say that this is enabling legislation, that districts will take over the same powers and have the right to continue to do the same things, and we must wait to see if they do, is not good enough. I hope we can have a better reply. If, not, I hope the noble Lord will press the amendment to a vote.
§ Lord Elton
Has the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, been entirely fair to my noble friend? The amendment we are discussing is fairly clear in what it proposes. It proposes that there shall be a report, and on that noble Lords have hung a great many interests. The noble Lord knows this is not a Bill to create new powers or duties. This is a Bill to transfer existing powers and duties.
My noble friend said quite properly that that is precisely what the Bill will do. It is not proper to expect him to create out of the air a new duty on local authorities to perform something which before has been done voluntarily. He said that resources would be voluntarily available from the same people who 586 provide them now. At present, the Greater London and metropolitan county councils' precept to do these things falls upon the ratepayers of the borough and district councils. The borough and district councils who inherit the opportunity but not the duty to perform those functions which the Greater London Council and the MCCs performed as an opportunity and not as a duty, will be able to go to the same ratepayers and ask for the resources therefor. They will have transferred to their GREAs—Grant Related Expenditure Assessment—the allowance for the functions that were performed as an option by the preceding authority. My noble friend adequately described that as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, wants a cast iron undertaking that every single person engaged in these functions and every single operation will be continued, but that is to remove from the Bill its essential feature of perpetuating what we already have. Noble Lords have spent a great deal of time saying how good is what we already have. It does not fit very well with their argument now to say we should change all that and apply compulsion where at present there is merely the opportunity. So I think my noble friend is absolutely right in that regard.
The only gloss I would add is that derelict land grant from the department will continue to be available to the districts and boroughs, which will be of great personal interest to the noble Lord. In sitting down, I would say how we appreciate—it will not alter what he will do or say—the work he has done.
§ The Earl of Onslow
I am sorry to intervene again, but there is something I do not quite understand. If we have a policy for the countryside all the way round the metropolitan areas, we do not want to go back to the situation before the war, when Middlesex County Council went full steam ahead and developed all of Middlesex and consequently it vanished. Surrey County County decided not to develop. I am talking of two contiguous counties here. Consequently the Surrey County Council bit goes much further into London and the old Middlesex County Council is much further out of London.
I would say this to my noble friend, that I do not think his amendment is a good one. I see the point very clearly behind what he is getting at (and I actually could vote for it) in wanting to get some answers from the Government. What several of us are worried about is: how is the actual policy for the whole round outside metropolitan areas going to be co-ordinated so that we do not get a Middlesex and Surrey situation, such as we had before the war?
§ Lord Elton
I do not wish to take on this debate, but if I can say so to my noble friend, Lord Onslow, we are back on the ground we were discussing on unitary planning. I sought to describe the system there as a patchwork quilt in which the patchwork was provided by the unitary plans of the unitary planning authorities, the local development plan authorities, and it was held together as a quilt by two things; one was my right honourable friend's strategic guidance—and he will not always be my right honourable friend, by which I mean the Secretary of State; he will not always have the strategic guidance of 587 the Secretary of State. The other thing is the power to call in any of these plans if they appear to the Secretary of State either not to be congruent with their neighbours, or if their neighbours think they are not congruent; so there is every means of producing a coherent national strategy, which is what my noble friend wanted to ask.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
This seems to be a move towards pushing this to a vote, but I wonder whether, from our point of view, if ought to be done. It is not for me to give advice to the sponsors of this amendment, but this is the sort of thing which ought to be brought up on Report. We have a large part of the Bill still to go. We can get many indications as to Government thinking in this particular line of country. If this is pushed to a vote now, we inhibit ourselves in the sort of thing we can put on the Order Paper on Report. My advice—if I can give advice to the sponsors of the amendment—would be: do not put it to a vote now but keep yourselves clear to do something about it later.
§ Baroness Stedman
The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, was my Member of Parliament for 25 years and I did not take much notice of him in all that time!
Noble Lords who have spoken today, including the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, have said we have every opportunity in this House to ask questions of the Minister as to what is happening. But it is not questions we want to ask. We want answers now, before the Bill becomes operative, so that we know exactly where we are going. We have been told that the amendment could be framed in more general terms and we have been told that it does not go far enough. Perhaps we have not gone far enough, but that is something we can put right at a later stage or, if the Government feel so inclined, they can stiffen it up at a later stage.
I am sorry if I misled the noble Lord, Lord Molson, into thinking that the Peak District National Park was going to be fragmented. What my noble friend Lord Hunt asked me to intimate was that the membership of the Peak planning board will be altered and instead of having the county people who take an overview of the area it will be broken down into representatives of the districts. There is a danger they may take a rather more parochial view. I am not completely convinced by the suggestion of the Minister that one-third of the nominees are the appointees of the Minister and therefore would have some guidance on it. There are six others who are not.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
If I may correct the noble Baroness in that impression, what I said was that one-third of the members of the Peak Park National Planning Board are ministerial appointments and one of their roles is to give an overview as to what is happening nationally; whereas the job of district council members obviously is to represent their own districts. So although the noble Baroness did not quite understand, I hope I have now made myself clear.
§ Baroness Stedman
The mistake is mine. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was quite clear and that it was I who lacked comprehension at that time.
The obvious queries we have had surrounding green belts underlines our concern about planning procedures which we expressed earlier and which no doubt we shall come back to. The noble Lord referred to reserve powers; but they are the last resort and do not help us to know what is happening on 1st April 1986. We want to know what is happening now and whether the money will be available to service the tenanted land so ably referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. The noble Lord has said that the precepts that were levied by the counties will still be available to the districts, but we still have no guarantee that they will use them for this purpose. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, chided me the other night because he did not want to get drawn into local government finance. But when we start talking about GREAs we have also to talk about targets. I come from a shire county whose target is less than its GREA and therefore GREA does not help us. We go into penalty.
I think that this Bill came to us with a good many unanswered questions. A good deal of time was spent on it in the other House. We have not really had answers to very many of our questions so far as the Bill has been going through this Chamber. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has been batting on a very sticky wicket. He has said that our views are going to be taken seriously and that we are moving forward. But quite frankly I do not think that is good enough, and I should like to test the feeling of the Committee.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 56) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 152; Not-Contents, 135.590
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Airedale, L.||Darling of Hillsborough, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||David, B.|
|Amherst, E.||Davies of Leek, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Davies of Penrhys, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Dean of Beswick, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.|
|Banks, L.||Denington, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Diamond, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Elwyn-Jones, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Ennals, L.|
|Birk, B.||Evans of Claughton, L.|
|Blease, L.||Ewart-Biggs, B.|
|Blyton, L.||Ezra, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Falkender, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Bottomley, L.||Fisher of Rednal, B.|
|Brockway, L.||Foot, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Gaitskell, B.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Gallacher, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Galpern, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Gifford, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Gladwyn, L.|
|Chandos, V.||Glenamara, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Glenconner, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Collison, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Croham, L.||Grey, E.|
|Grimond, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Oram, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Peart, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Phillips, B.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Heycock, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Rea, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Roberthall, L.|
|Ingleby, V.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Jacobson, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Scanlon, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Seear, B.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Serota, B.|
|Kaldor, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Kennet, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Simon, V.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Somers, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Stallard, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Kirkwood, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. [Teller.]|
|Lawrence, L.||Stedman, B. [Teller.]|
|Listowel, E.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Liverpool, Bp.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Stone, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Longford, E.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|MacLeod of Fuinary, L.||Terrington, L.|
|McNair, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Mar, C.||Tordoff, L.|
|Masham of Ilton, B.||Tryon, L.|
|Melchett, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Meston, L.||Walston, L.|
|Milford, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Mishcon, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Monk Bretton, L.||White, B.|
|Monkswell, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Monson, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Mountevans, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Nicol, B.||Winstanley, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Croft, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Arran, E.||Davidson, V.|
|Auckland, L.||De La Warr, E.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Denham, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Digby, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Dilhorne, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Dormer, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Drumalbyn, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Brookes, L.||Elton, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Enniskillen, E.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Faithfull, B.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Fanshawe of Richmond, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Ferrier, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Gibson-Watt, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Glanusk, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Glenarthur, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Gowrie, E.|
|Colwyn, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Haig, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Cox, B.||Halsbury, E.|
|Craigavon, V.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.|
|Hood, V.||Portland, D.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Ingrow, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Kaberry of Adel, L.||Rcigate, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Renton, L.|
|Kilmany, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Romney, E.|
|Layton, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Loch, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Long, V. [Teller.]||Sandford, L.|
|Lothian, M.||Shannon, E.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Lyell, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|McAlpine of West Green, L.||Southborough, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Stockton, E.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Margadale, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Marley, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Strathspey, L.|
|Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Minto, E.||Teynham, L.|
|Molson, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Mottistone, L.||Todd, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Munster, E.||Trenchard, V.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Newall, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Norfolk, D.||Vestey, L.|
|Norwich, Bp.||Vickers, B.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Orkney, E.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Peyton of Yeovil, L.||Young, B.|
|Polwarth, L.||Young of Graffham, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ [Amendments Nos. 57, 58 and 58ZA not moved.]
§ Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [National Parks and countryside functions]:
§ [Amendment No. 58A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 58B:
§ [Printed 30/4/85; col. 424.]
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this amendment, relating to Holland Park, about which I have spoken at great length in the past, was to persuade the Government, if I could, that Holland Park ought to be dealt with on the lines of a Royal Park, and therefore should be looked after by the Department of the Environment. At the last meeting of this Committee the noble Lord the Minister agreed to see me about the position of Holland Park. In these circumstances, and as I have already spoken partly to this amendment, I do not propose to detain the Committee any longer. I will raise this matter with the Minister when he is good enough to see me.
§ [Amendment No. 58B not moved.]
§ Schedule 3 agreed to.591
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 58C:
Before Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ (" Highway and Road Traffic functions.
§ . The Secretary of State shall by order taking effect on the abolition date make provision for the London Residuary Body to exercise the following functions relating to highways and road traffic in London to the extent and in the manner that such order shall provide—
- (a) that the Body shall have a duty to prepare, in consultation with the borough councils, plans relating to highways and traffic in Greater London and the Body and borough councils shall have regard to such plans when exercising their statutory functions;
- (b) that it shall be a duty of the Body to establish and maintain an organisation for the purpose of assembling, disseminating and keeping up to date, information on road traffic and other transport in Greater London and that the Body may commission such research and carry out such surveys as they think fit in fulfilment of this duty;
- (c) that the Body shall have the functions of the highway authority under the Highways Act 1980 in relation to metropolitan roads;
- (d) that not later than 1st April 1987 the Body shall, in consultation with the borough councils review the existing network of metropolitan roads and prepare and submit to the Secretary of State for his approval proposals for the revision of that network;
- (e) that, as respects metropolitan roads, the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 shall apply to the Body (for the purposes of traffic management and parking control) as they now apply to the Greater London Council;
- (f)that the Body shall be a local authority for the purposes of section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 (power of local authorities as to giving of road safety information and training);
- (g) that the Body shall be authorised, for the purpose of regulating traffic on metropolitan roads, to exercise the powers of a borough council under the said Act of 1984 as respects roads communicating with or adjacent to metropolitan roads in accordance with procedures to be prescribed by the Secretary of State;
- (h) that, for the purposes of ensuring that the exercise by the London borough council of their powers under the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 does not have any adverse effect on traffic on roads for which they are not the highway authority, the Body shall be given reserve powers similar to those given to the Secretary of State in Part 1 of Schedule 9 of the said Act;
- (i) that the Body may exercise the powers of a London borough council or the Common Council under sections 6 and 9 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purposes of prohibiting or restricting such use of heavy commercial vehicles as the Body considers expedient for preserving or improving the amenities of Greater London or some part of parts thereof;
- (j) that the Body shall have a duty to control, manage, maintain and, where appropriate, develop and extend the system of urban traffic control through traffic light signals established by the Greater London Council;
- (k) that the Body shall be a "London Authority" within the meaning of section 50 of the London Regional Transport Act 1984 (travel concessions on journeys in or around Greater London);
- (l) that the Body shall be able to assist, by way of grant or loan, the provision of transport services by a voluntary organisation for the benefit of the public or any class of persons.")
§ The noble Lord said: This is one of a very important group of amendments to which I hope the Committee will listen with the same amount of enthusiasm as that with which it listened to the previous group of amendments. It is clear from the Second Reading debate and the votes both here and in another place that the GLC and the six metropolitan counties are to be abolished. However, there remain a number of 592 unanswered questions relating to the effectiveness of the proposals in the Bill as far as highways and transport are concerned.
§ Travel is an essential part of our way of life, and in the metropolitan and London areas, in particular, journeys make up a very complex picture. The management and improvement of the increasingly sophisticated transport system is a multi-million pound industry. It is essential that the organisation of it is done effectively and efficiently. I believe that this requires a sensible organisational structure which can support the necessary specialist teams.
§ In April—just last month—your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology, in their interim report, stated that the case for uniting highway, traffic and transport functions is strong. By putting down this and the following amendment, the object is to retain the best features of the existing arrangements. We need to keep together the skilled teams and the technology which have been developed over the years.
§ In drafting this Bill, the Government have recognised that problems may arise in the provision of highway and transport services to a satisfactory standard. But not having found the solutions to the problems which are likely to arise, the Government have found it necessary to give the Secretary of State a whole series of very powerful reserve powers. These would be used as necessary to rectify deficiencies which arise from the proposed arrangements. I do not believe that anyone in this Committee would regard that as being the neatest or the most elegant arrangement to insert in an Act of Parliament.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ In moving Amendment No. 58C, I intend to speak mainly about the problems of the London area. The noble Lord, Lord Evans, will be speaking to Amendment No. 58D:
§ Amendment No. 58D: insert the following new clause:
§ ("Strategic Highway Functions in Metropolitan Counties.
§ The Secretary of State shall by order taking effect on the abolition date make provision for the authority established by section 27 of this Act for each metropolitan county to exercise the following functions relating to highways and road traffic in that county to the extent and in the manner that such order shall provide—
- (a) the functions of the highway authority under the Highways Act 1980 in relation to principal roads within the county;
- (b) the functions of a local authority for the purpose of section 1 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 in relation to the management of road traffic on principal roads within the county:
- (c) issuing guidance as to the manner in which in relation to non principal roads the councils of metropolitan districts should exercise their powers under the 1984 Act, for the purpose of ensuring that the exercise by such councils of those traffic powers in relation to non principal roads does not have an adverse effect on traffic or any class of traffic using principal roads within the county or any traffic or class of traffic in any area other than the area of the district council, as the case may be;
- (d) the functions relating to the construction and maintenance of bridges within the county which on that date are the responsibility of the highway authority;
- (e) the functions contained in the Road Traffic Acts 1972 and 1974 in so far as the same relate to road safety within the county; and
- (f) the collection, examination, analysis and dissemination of data required for the discharge of those functions.").
§ I assume that the noble Lord will concentrate on the six metropolitan counties. However, the principle in 593 both amendments is the same. In fact, there is a theme running through all the amendments which have been grouped under this heading.
§ The purpose of Amendment No. 58C is to enable the London residuary body to prepare highway and traffic plans for London, to carry out research, to be the executive authority for the strategic road network, and to have limited powers to ensure satisfactory arrangements are made with the boroughs. The Bill as it stands proposes to abolish the only strategic highway and traffic authority in London and to replace it with 33 separate planning authorities and 34 highway and traffic authorities. There are no proposals in the Bill for co-ordinating transport programmes and budgets.
§ In pursuance of its London-wide responsibilities, the GLC at present employs a number of specialist teams backed up by sophisticated computer and data collection systems. These teams were praised for their cost-effectiveness and efficiency in the recent Cranbrook Report. They include those working in highways, bridge design and maintenance, urban traffic signal control, data collection and research, freight planning, road safety, cycling, parking, and other aspects of traffic management. All these will be disbanded upon abolition, and they will not be replaced.
§ The Government have recognised, however—or seem to have recognised—that there is some need for London-wide co-ordination. The Bill proposes a massive transfer of power and responsibilities from the GLC to the Secretary of State. The trunk road network, for instance, is being extended without passing through the normal channels of consultation and inquiry, some 300 miles of main roads are to be named "designated roads", and the Secretary of State will issue mandatory guidance on all roads. The Secretary of State—or, much more likely, civil servants—will become the final arbiter on highway and traffic policies throughout London. I believe that this is a recipe for increased costs, bureaucracy, conflict, inaction and loss of local control or even local knowledge.
§ The London residuary body as allowed for in Clause 55 would retain the most important of the London-wide powers and responsibilities and the specialist teams to implement cost-effective policies and programmes, while allowing considerable devolution of traffic powers to the boroughs. The body would co-ordinate strategic highway and traffic policies and programmes. It would implement this programme on the main road network and issue guidelines for traffic management and parking controls as part of the plans to which the boroughs would have regard. The authority would sustain the existing cost-effective and efficient centralised teams of experts and associated resources in line with the Cranbrook Report. This amendment ensures that strategic policies for London can be implemented cost-effectively and efficiently by teams of established specialists.
§ There is no intention in this or in any of the other amendments in this group dealing with this theme to criticise either the London boroughs or the districts within the now existing metropolitan counties. It is merely a function of the subject we are discussing—that is, transport and highways—that 594 makes the smaller areas an inappropriate size properly to carry out the specialist tasks essential to the proper provision of the complicated transport needs of the public in large conurbations.
§ I am sure that many noble Lords have become aware of the quite deep disquiet of the very wide body of non-party groups and organisations which have indicated their concern over the Bill. There is a very long list. For brevity I shall mention only a few of them. The CBI, the British Road Federation, the Automobile Association, the Royal Automobile Club, the Institute of Highways, the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, the GLC Conservative Group, Air Freight Transport and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry are all very concerned that there is no overall planning for the highways and traffic of London.
§ I submit to the Committee that the amendments in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, are deemed the most appropriate to meet the concern of almost all informed professional and experienced opinion. Our amendment would transfer the necessary functions immediately on abolition. It would transfer them to the most appropriate body and it would avoid the break-up and the loss of specialist expertise; and I would urge the Committee to support both Amendment Nos. 58C and 58D.
§ Lord Evans of Claughton
It might be appropriate if I were to speak now, as the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, has suggested, on the amendment which deals with the same problem but in relation to the six metropolitan councils. The position is in a sense a little more straightforward than that of the metropolitan counties because our proposal is that the already recognised need for a passenger transport authority taken care of in Clause 27 makes a very good and neat vehicle for taking on the highways services function and avoids the necessity, which is obviously required in London, of a special residuary authority.
So it seems fairly obvious to anyone who has been engaged in local government, or, indeed, in the general running of county and district authorities since reorganistion outside the London area, that the kind of philosophical and practical reasons that the Government have for maintaning a passenger transport authority apply in very many ways in regard to the needs of an overall highways requirement. The highways and transport services are very closely integrated with each other. I have in mind, for instance, bus lanes and the necessity to co-ordinate traffic signals and so on involving buses and trains and ordinary passenger traffic. In other words, there is an almost unanswerable case—though after the last vote who knows what will happen—for doing the same with the overall specialist highways services at present run by the counties in the same way as the Government have conceded that it is necessary to deal with the transport services.
There is the question of urban traffic control. There is the question of accident investigation. There is transport data collection, analysis and planning. There are such matters as road condition surveys, bridge inspections, maintenance and design, major highways design, soils and materials and traffic management inquiries. Since 1973 all these have been co-ordinated 595 in the metropolitan counties and without exception, as the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, has said, this has been supported and confirmed as the ideal way of dealing with overall traffic problems by one authority; namely, a metropolitan county council. We on these Benches, and I believe many of your Lordships, would have liked still to have had this controlled by an elected authority. However, since the earlier narrow vote prevented that coming about, we are going for what we believe is a second best but still a very good remedy. We seek to treat highways services in the same way as the Government have accepted that the services of the transport requirements of metropolitan areas are being treated.
Perhaps I may spend a moment in referring to the particular problems of the area from which I come, though I shall try not to take up any points that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool takes up. The problems in our part of the world are particularly significant in terms of having to be treated in an overall way. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, has dealt very effectively and briefly with the Greater London Council's problems, but in Merseyside the boundaries between the metropolitan borough of Sefton and Knowsley are quite arbitrary. When one is travelling between the City of Liverpool and Knowsley, or the old Bootle which is now part of Sefton, one does not move through a cordon sanitaire, as it were, of a green belt or anything. One just moves from one set of terraced houses into a place with another set of terraced houses which are totally indistinguishable.
My briefing note says here—so I shall take courage to say it, though it is rather offensive to the metropolitan borough of Knowsley—that Knowsley is a sausage-shaped amalgamation of Liverpool east and outer suburbs without a single dominant centre. I would not say that myself. I would only quote someone else as having said it. Half the work journeys in Merseyside by car and 80 per cent. by rail cross district boundaries. More than half the work journeys to Liverpool city centre by car, bus and train originate from the other four districts that make up the metropolitan council, and the vast majority of the heaviest goods vehicles—and Merseyside is still a very important export port—cross district boundaries.
We can add to this the unique problems of the Mersey, which crosses through and divides Wirral from the rest of Merseyside. Perhaps some of your Lordships will be aware that the metropolitan borough of Wirral, of which I was a member for some years and where I lived, wants to declare UDI and thinks it should be an all-purpose authority. But in their wisdom this Government do not permit that as an alternative and so we must assume that the metropolitan borough of Wirral will be part of the county-wide organisation for transport and roads. One gets from The Wirral to Liverpool by car by paying an exorbitant toll of 40 pence, though in most of the rest of the country no such tolls are payable, as, for instance, in moving from one end of Manchester to the other. One must pay 40 pence every time one goes from Wirral to Liverpool or from Liverpool to Wirral and we should like to know what precise arrangements the Government have in mind for the Mersey Tunnel.
596 What we should like—and many Conservative Members in another place have proposed this to the Secretary of State for Transport as being a help to Merseyside—is to see the tunnel toll-free; but that is an aside.
There are these special problems in Merseyside. I submit, however, that these problems, though special to Merseyside, are in another sense general to all the metropolitan counties and only slightly different from those of Greater London. We have a natural opportunity for using the Clause 27 body as the highways body in addition to being the passenger transport body. Anyone who works or lives in London knows how integrated must be policies for passenger transport, roads, private cars, buses and trains.
I would have thought that on mature reflection Her Majesty's Government might like to give serious consideration to, and be willing to accept, the principle that we deal with overall highways problems in the same way as they have chosen to deal with passenger transport in the metropolitan counties. I beg to support very warmly the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, on the first amendment and I ask your Lordships to consider the amendment to which I have spoken and have a general debate about the problems of the GLC and the metropolitan counties together.
The Earl of Cranbrook
If it is agreeable to follow the suggestion that the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, has just made, I believe it would be appropriate if I were to discuss Amendment No. 59, which stands in the name of myself and three other Members of your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology, whose interim report has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove.
Amendment No. 59: Clause 7, page 3, line 40, at beginning insert ("Subject to the provisions of sections 38 and (London Highways and Traffic Authority) below").
Amendment No. 59 deals—
§ Lord Elton
Will my noble friend forgive me? Will he also speak to Amendment No. 129, which is the other side of the same problem?
§ 7 p.m.
The Earl of Cranbrook
Yes. My noble friend is impatient with me, but I was getting there slowly. I was about to say that Amendment No. 59 is, in a sense, a paving amendment. It anticipates Amendments Nos. 115 to 119 and also Amendments Nos. 128, 128A and 129:
- Amendment No. 115: Clause 27, page 18, line 18, leave out ("Passenger") and insert ("Strategic").
- Amendment No. 116: Page 18, line 20, leave out ("passenger") and insert ("strategic").
- Amendment No. 117: Page 18, line 21, leave out ("passenger") and insert ("strategic").
- Amendment No. 118: Page 18, line 23, leave out ("passenger") and insert ("strategic").
- Amendment No. 119: Page 18, line 27, leave out ("passenger") and insert ("strategic").
- Amendment No. 128: Clause 38, page 24, line 18, leave out ("passenger") and insert ("strategic").
- Amendment No. 128A: Page 24, line 20, at end insert—("(2) If it appears that functions relating to highways or road traffic to which Schedule 4 or 5 to this Act refers could with 597 advantage be discharged by two or more metropolitan district councils jointly, the Secretary of State may by order transfer to the authorities such functions as may be agreed by the district councils by which those functions are exercisable.(3) The Secretary of State may, after consulting the authority and the district councils concerned, by order revoke an order or any part of an order under subsection (2) above.(4) An order under this section may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities and provisions amending any enactment or any instrument made under any enactment.").Amendment No. 129: After Clause 38, insert the following new clause:
§ ("London Highways and Traffic Authority.
§ .—(1) If it appears that functions relating to highways or road traffic in Greater London to which Schedule 4 or 5 to this Act refers could with advantage be discharged by two or more constituent councils jointly, the Secretary of State may by order, on or after the appointed day, establish for Greater London a body corporate to be known as the London Highways and Traffic Authority.
§ (2) The authority shall consist of members of the constituent councils appointed by them to be members of the authority.
§ (3) The constituent councils in relation to the authority shall be the London borough councils and the Common Council.
§ (4) The Secretary of State may by order transfer to the authority such functions relating to highways and road traffic in Greater London as may be agreed by the constituent councils by which those functions are exercisable.
§ (5) The Secretary of State may, after consulting the authority and the constituent councils concerned, by order revoke an order or any part of an order under subsection (4) above.
§ (6) An order under this section may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities and provisions amending any enactment or any instrument made under any enactment.").
§ Together, these amendments cover the same subject as the two amendments which have just been introduced by the two noble Lords who have just spoken; that is to say, transport in London and in the metropolitan counties.
§ The effect of Amendments Nos. 115 to 119 and No. 128 would be to change the name of the proposed metropolitan county passenger authorities which are already in the Bill to strategic transport authorities. There is no particular value in the coin "strategic", but the Select Committee felt that that particular name, over which they would not press any issue whatever, indicated broadly the scope of those authorities that the Select Committee wished to propose.
§ Amendment No. 128A would permit the Secretary of State, if two or more metropolitan districts within a metropolitan county area wish him to do so, to make orders to set tip a joint facility through the strategic transport authority to operate their highways function. Similarly, Amendment No. 129 would permit the Secretary of State to establish a joint authority for London boroughs wishing to co-operate in certain highways functions.
§ There is a difference in approach in these amendments from those which were discussed by the two noble Lords in so far as the mechanism by which the strategic transport authorities would come into being is one in which the districts of metropolitan county areas and the London boroughs would voluntarily come together and make a proposal to the Secretary of State.
§ I want to stress that this set of amendments comes forward as a result of proposals which are published 598 and available to your Lordships in the Select Committee's report on the local government Bill and as specifically detailed in that report. In paragraph 77 of the report your Lordships' Select Committee emphasised its overriding concern to preserve the integrity of the specialist services which have been built up in the transport area in recent years by the metropolitan counties and the Greater London Council and to ensure that these remain available to the metropolitan districts and the London boroughs after abolition.
§ The Select Committee was also concerned to safeguard centres of excellence, to retain scarce professional skills and, most importantly, to create an administrative structure which would encourage innovation for the benefit of present and future generations of urban citizens. The services in the transport field which the committee singled out for special consideration in the light of these principles were bridge and highway design, major road schemes, urban traffic control, data gathering, travel-demand forecasting and highway maintenance. These would be gathered under a strategic transport authority in the metropolitan counties.
§ In comments which I have received since the report was published this list seems to be generally accepted in professional circles with the addition of other strategic traffic management matters when appropriate; for instance, parking policy, which is important, abnormal load routing, and other such details as traffic engineering, possibly with the exclusion of highways maintenance.
§ The point is that this amendment does not seek to specify precisely those facilities which should be placed with the strategic transport authorities; it seeks to provide a mechanism by which the districts in consultation with each other, and the boroughs in consultation with each other, together with the Minister of Transport will be able to preserve the scientific capacity that now exists and to develop it in the future.
§ Since our report was published the Department of Transport has issued two circulars; one a discussion document relating to the future arrangements in the London boroughs, and the second, which followed shortly thereafter, relating to future arrangements in the metropolitan districts. These circulars are, I believe, in the Library of your Lordships' House and I need not elaborate on them in detail.
§ As regards the Greater London Council, it appears that the circulars envisage that traffic management policy, guidance, principal road policy and some monitoring will go to the Department of Transport. Other data gathering and the maintenance and use of the Greater London transport service data bank and its models would probably transfer in the first instance to the residuary body. It also appears from this memorandum that urban traffic control would transfer to the residuary body as the agent of the Secretary of State. This would have the effect of separating the planning and the operation from each other and from borough road schemes.
§ I fear that this system risks the loss of capacity to choose between alternative solutions and to develop combined ones. In particular, the separation of the data bases and the models from their users could, in 599 fact, impede future development of sophisticated management techniques.
§ The Select Committee's report was mainly concerned with facilities, and I particularly emphasised that at Second Reading. In drafting amendments to the Bill we find it very difficult to separate facilities from functions because the Bill is about functions—therefore, the amendments refer to the transfer of functions—but this seems to me to be an inevitable factor when considering legislation. However, the underlying purpose of the amendments—and I stress this—is to offer to the Government a mechanism which in the view of the Select Committee will ensure the continued existence of bodies which are able to provide the staff and the facilities needed for transport matters in an efficient manner, in the long term, and not to separate these staff and facilities from the functions which they serve.
§ One omission in the department's memorandum is bridge engineering, for which, in neither case, do we see any provision made. Bridge engineering is an extremely scarce skill. At present within the metropolitan county councils there are small teams of specialists who service the very variable needs of their districts because it is at present the statutory duty of the counties. Some metropolitan districts may have large, modern bridges and others may have many small, brick bridges. Therefore, one anticipates that the future needs of districts will vary greatly and it is not sensible to consider splitting up the existing bridge engineering teams.
§ Some of these have been extremely innovative. For instance, I recommend to your Lordships that, if you have the opportunity, you should drop in on the West Yorkshire and ask the teams to exhibit to you the skills that they have developed in resisting bridges in a terrain which is constantly being undermined by the National Coal Board; and in which the ground is likely to, and does, subside. In fact, the West Yorkshire has devised a large concrete bridge which, I understand, is not only capable of dropping for a metre or more after it has been built, but at the same time can survive a torsion of 15 degrees. That is a remarkable engineering skill which has been developed because the need is there and the skills are there—but by a small team using highly sophisticated, specialised equipment based on its own skills and computer-aided designs.
§ Another aspect that has impressed your Lordships' Select Committee are the benefits of urban traffic control. This is extremely impressive. The saving, in journey time, for instance this time, in West Yorkshire, has been of something like 40 per cent. resident's time for any vehicle on the road when there are now 100 per cent. more vehicles on the road at any one time.
§ Traffic engineering can substitute for massive engineering works. It is a far cheaper option than enormous road building schemes. Traffic engineering can be used to open routes in the case of emergency to let through fire engines, ambulances or police. Traffic engineering can be adapted, very simply, to divert abnormal loads down the roads which are capable of carrying them. Examples like Strathclyde, where there is a sophisticated urban traffic control system in 600 operation, emphasisd the fact that this must begin far outside the purview of any one metropolitan district. Those members of the Committee who drive down the motorway from Edinburgh to Glasgow may like to know that one begins to be under surveillance, and under the control of the urban traffic control system, before one has left the motorway and some time before one reaches Glasgow. All this operation is conducted centrally from the control.
§ This is the kind of important centralised skill to safeguard which this Bill must make provision. This is the purpose of our amendments. I recognise that we may not have the amendments right. We do not have the drafting skills that are available to the Government. However, as I have said before, I speak as a scientist interested in politics rather than as a political scientist. I am deeply concerned that the professional capacities which now exist should continue to be available in the future.
§ I emphasise that our amendments will work through a voluntary system. The point is that our proposed joint authority under Amendment No. 128A would need to operate a wider range of services than only that of passenger transport. The Select Committee did not feel that it was sensible to consider a passenger transport authority which did not have under its own control all the mechanisms for other aspects of traffic engineering. For instance, it must have the capacity to control the road marks on the roads, whether making bus lanes or preventing roadside parking. It must control all traffic light signals.
§ Incidentally, this is a criticism of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Evans, in so far as I do not believe it is sensible to separate major roads from minor roads. The traffic light system of any urban traffic control inevitably involves all roads, and I do not believe that one can separate these two classes of roads under a strategic transport authority.
§ I should like to give the Committee a further example, and to discuss briefly the current plans to relieve congestion in Headingley on the A.660 corridor. These plans involve a combination of the following: some road building; urban traffic control; a park-and-ride bus service and a promotion of train services. Many of the commuters live in Bradford but the problems are in Leeds. Thus it is essential that any proposals which we consider should keep together under united control the various arms of this complicated system and the services. There is an overriding need for continuity in the specialist teams and for security in staffing. I believe that at some stage a message must go from this Chamber to the professionals who are at present providing this service, giving them the assurance that their jobs will be there after April 1986.
I turn briefly to paragraph 3(7)(ii) of the Guidance Note for Metropolitan District Councils, which list? certain services which are already envisaged by the Government as being centralised. It is already thought that the following will need to be centralised for all districts in a metropolitan county; that is to say: traffic counting, both for local monitoring and local needs and for national censuses; accident data and analyses; road network description files; and travel surveys and analyses. The memorandum continues:
To compile an inventory of existing MCC data sets which will
need to be preserved and preparing storage and retrieval facilities as necessary. Most MCC computer hardware and software will probably be transferred to the residuary body as a transitional measure".
§ Later on in this Committee stage I shall, on behalf of the Select Committee, be introducing amendments which deal with the problem of the residuary body, which, like the Government, the Select Committee see as a useful body for a holding operation. However, it is only a temporary holding operation. Thus the question must be asked as to what plans exist to ensure the continuity of these traffic facilities, these traffic services, these traffic skills, and the whole gamut of transportation functions that we are discussing. What will exist after the residuary bodies have done their job? I believe that the amendments 'which are proposed by us, your Lordships' Select Committee, provide an option which is acceptable in terms of the Governments strategy in the Bill and one which I believe ought to be there to give comfort to the professionals and to ensure, for the public al large, that the services to which they have become accustomed will continue to be maintained.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Renton)
It will assist the Chair and I think the Committee if the noble Earl will indicate whether Amendment No. 55 and the other amendments to which he has spoken are intended as alternatives to the new clauses in Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D, so that if those clauses were carried, his amendments would fall. Will he be so kind as to indicate?
The Earl of Cranbrook
I am subject to the ruling of the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman in such matters, but I suspect that it is true that, since we deal with the same matter, that might be so. However, I regret to say that the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman is a man with far greater experience and far greater skills in this matter than I.
§ Lord Elton
I think the answer to the question of the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman is that my noble friend's amendments are alternatives to those of the noble Lords opposite. I see them nodding their heads sagaciously in agreement.
§ Lord Kaberry of Adel
I wonder whether I may at this stage refer to a whole series of amendments which appear on the Marshalled List? If I speak now and we make a decision it will have the result of considerably shortening the Marshalled List. There are 19 in all. They are: Amendments Nos. 59A to 59E; 66; 69; 70; 71; 109A, B, C and D; 121A and 121B; 123; and 124A, B and C.
§ Amendment No. 59A: Clause 7, page 4, line 6, leave out ("metropolitan district councils") and insert ("police and traffic authorities or Northumbria Interim Police and Traffic Authority or Northumbria Police and Traffic Authority as the case may be").
§ Amendment No. 59B: Page 4, line 14, leave out ("metropolitan districts and").
§ Amendment No. 59C: Page 4, line 15, after ("London") insert ("and to the police and traffic authorities, and Northumbria Police and Traffic Authority").
§ Amendment No. 59D: Page 4, line 19, leave out ("metropolitan district councils") and insert ("police and traffic authority, Northumbria Police and Traffic Authority").602
§ Amendment No. 59E: Page 4, line 22, leave out ("metropolitan district council") and insert ("police and traffic authority, Northumbria Police and Traffic Authority").
§ Amendment No. 66: Schedule 5, page 120, line 10, leave out ("or a metropolitan county").
§ Amendment No. 69: Page 121, line 5, leave out ("or a metropolitan county").
§ Amendment No. 70: Page 121, line 14 at end insert—("Reserve powers of the Secretary of State as to highways and road traffic in metropolitan counties.
§ 10A.—(1) Where the Secretary of State is not satisfied in the case of a metropolitan county that all the local authorities in that area have made joint arrangements for the exercise of such of their functions under Part V of the 1984 Act as are necessary to secure the control, management, development and extension of any system of traffic control which relates to two or more of those authorties, or such other of their functions under the provisions referred to in Schedules 4 and 5 to this Act he may make an order under this paragraph.
§ (2) An order under this paragraph may transfer to the police authority for the relevant metropolitan county such functions of the local authorities in question under those Schedules as the Secretary of State considers necessary to enable the securing of the control, management, development and extension of that system or satisfactory arrangements for the discharge of any of those functions.
§ (3) Before making an order under this paragraph, the Secretary of State shall consult any local authority appearing to him to be likely to be affected.
§ (4) The Secretary of State shall revoke an order made under this paragraph in relation to a system of traffic control in operation in a metropolitan county or in relation to any other function if at any time he is satisfied that all the local authorities in that area have made joint arrangements for the exercise of such of their functions under Part V of the 1984 Act as are necessary to secure the control, management, development and extension of the system or for the exercise of any other function.
§ (5) An order under this paragraph may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities and provision amending any enactment or any instrument made under any enactment.").
§ Amendment No. 71: Page 121, line 19 leave out ("and 10") and insert (", 10 and 10A").
Amendment No. 109A: Clause 22, page 16, line 15, at end insert:—
(" ( ) A system for traffic control shall for the purposes of this Act include a system of traffic control comprising inter alia transport planning, modelling and data collection, accident investigation data collection and analysis traffic management, associated highway and civil engineering design and construction, computing materials and highway maintenance services.").
Amendment No. 109B: Clause 23, page 16, line 16, leave out subsections (1) to (4) and insert:
§ ("Metropolitan police and traffic authorities.
§ 23.—(1) On the appointed day there shall be established for each metropolitan county which is a police area a body corporate to be known by the name of that county with the addition of the words "Police and Traffic Authority".
§ (2) The authorities established by this section shall be known as metropolitan county police and traffic authorities.
§ (3) Each metropolitan county police and traffic authority shall consist of—
- (a) members of the constituent councils appointed by them to be members of the authority; and
- (b) magistrates for the county appointed by a joint committee of those magistrates ("the joint magistrates' committee").
§ (4) The constituent councils in relation to a metropolitan county police and traffic authority shall be the councils of the metropolitan districts comprised in the county.
§ (4A) The magistrates appointed under subsection (3)(b) above shall not take part in any proceedings coming before the authority in connection with the functions vested in the Authority by paragraph 2 of Schedule 11 to this Act.").
Amendment No. 109C: Page 17, line 2, at end insert—
(" ( ) The Police and Traffic Authority may enter into arrangements with any or all of the metropolitan district councils within its area for the discharge of any of the functions contained in Schedules 4 or 5 to this Act.").
§ Amendment No. 109D: Clause 24, page 17, line 3, leave out subsection (1) to (3) and insert:
§ ("Northumbria Police and Traffic Authority.
§ 24.—(1) On the appointed day there shall be established for the police area constituted by the Northumbria Police (Amalgamation) Order 1973 (which consists of the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear and the county of Northumberland) a body corporate which as from the abolition date shall be known as the Northumbria Police and Traffic Authority and before that date as the Northumbria Interim Police and Traffic Authority.
§ (2) The Authority shall consist of—
- (a) members of the constituent councils appointed by them to be members of the authority;
- (b) magistrates for the county of Tyne and Wear appointed by a joint committee of those magistrates ("the joint magistrates' committee"); and
- (c) magistrates for the county of Northumberland appointed by the magistrates' courts committee for that county.
§ (3) The constituent councils in relation to that authority shall be the councils of the metropolitan districts comprised in the county of Tyne and Wear and the Northumberland County Council.
§ (3A) The members of the Northumberland County Council appointed under subsection (2)(a) above and the magistrates appointed under subsection (2)(b) above shall not take part in any proceedings coming before the authority in connection with the functions vested in the Authority by paragraph 1A of Schedule 11 to this Act.").
Amendment No. 121A: Schedule 10, page 140, leave out line 13 and insert—
(" Rochdale 3 3 3 ").
§ Amendment No. 121B: Clause 36, page 22, line 28, after ("police") insert ("traffic authorities").
§ Amendment No. 123: Page 22, line 39, after ("fire") insert ("and trading standards")
§ Amendment No. 124A: Schedule 11, page 143, line 31, after ("police") insert ('and traffic").
§ Amendment No. 124B: Page 143, line 34, after ("Police") insert ("and Traffic").
§ Amendment No. 124C: Page 144, line 12, at end insert—
§ (" 1A. The highway and traffic functions referred to in Schedules 4 and 5 to this Act where there is reference to a police and traffic authority or Northumbria Police and Traffic Authority.").
§ These amendments appear to amount to a lot but all they seek to do is to preserve the urban traffic control system which at present is operated in the six metropolitan counties. I go further and say that it should not be put under the passenger transport authority but that the direction of the control authority should go to the police authority for the county. I shall explain very briefly why I think that is the natural consequence of events to follow.
§ The traffic control systems in the metropolitan counties, more or less, give and take, are about the same. West Midlands has two control centres, for the eastern and western areas of their area. However, broadly speaking, with various odd agency agreements, they are all the same and operate from one central point.
§ It is essential today that we should not dissipate the expertise that has been built up in those urban traffic control systems. I have therefore sought to define in one of my amendments what it is essential the urban traffic control authority should have; otherwise, it may be left in extreme doubt as to what is its real function. It should have transport planning, modelling and data collection, accident investigation statistics, traffic management, associated highway and civil engineering design and contribution, and the working of computers in connection with all that.604
§ We find throughout the country that in any conurbation traffic and highway measures have an impact over a wider area than the single district concerned. I am anxious that this should be preserved and managed, as I think it is presently being managed, extraordinarily well. I say that with some knowledge and experience. I have lived for some years in the city of Leeds, where we have always had a traffic problem. Over the years, traffic has continually snarled up at main intersections in the city. Every effort was made by council majorities of differing party complexion to try to solve the problem. However, we were always left with it.
§ The biggest problem was a place called City Square, so called because it is ovoid. Everything you can think of—gyratory traffic, single traffic, contra-flow traffic—was tried. It never worked until about five years ago, when we began to see the effect of centralised urban traffic control. It was not entirely new in this country; it was not new in the world. One had seen it operating in many countries throughout the world where, with the use of remote control television cameras and proper timing of pad-stalled traffic lights, traffic has flowed smoothly. That is our experience today in the city of Leeds. The skill and the science built up are now being used to deal with all highway development problems. One scheme for what could have been another spaghetti junction problem became very simple with the help of the urban traffic control authority, and many millions of pounds were, I believe, saved.
§ It so happens that just before I became an elected member of Leeds City Council, some 55 years ago this year, the first automated traffic signal system in the country had been inaugurated by the then chief constable of Leeds. There were fixed stops; there was no mat control; reflection was difficult. Everyone complained that traffic snarled up behind a red signal when it should have been green, and so on. That is, however, some 57 years ago. Since then, developments have gone extraordinarily well. I do not wish a system built up in that way to be lost in the West Yorkshire area by being divided into five parts among the five county districts that will take over highways control.
§ Local authorities will get back control, taken away from them in 1973, over their own highways, and I have no doubt that they will manage them extremely well. However, we shall not get back our police forces. Leeds and Bradford were amalgamated with others into the West Yorkshire police force controlled by a committee established under the Police Act. It is a committee of special composition that has worked extraordinarily well. I am not seeking to establish another committee to control this urban system of traffic control. I wish to put it with the very authority that has always been involved in traffic problems—problems that have to be dealt with manually should the automatic system break down. It is a proper link identifying the police with traffic control. Those who started it can carry it on and finish it well. I am therefore suggesting that the unified traffic control system should be the responsibility of the county police authority controlled by a newly-named committee, the police and traffic committee. If that is done, we shall see a continuity and development of the system that is now being so well carried out.605
§ I have probably been a very poor draftsman in preparing these many amendments. However, experience in another place over many years has taught me that if the Government have at heart what you have in mind their draftsmen will put right any bad draftsmanship. I am hoping to persuade the Minister to turn his one sympathetic eye towards me and my amendments and to undertake that between now and another stage of the Bill he will study the matter in the greatest detail and bring back a properly worded amendment.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
The noble Lord can also, I think, assist the Committee. It is my understanding that Amendment No. 59A, with other amendments to which the noble Lord has spoken, are also alternatives to Amendments No. 58C and 58D, and indeed alternatives also to the amendment moved by the noble Earl. Is that the noble Lord's understanding?
§ Lord Ardwick
I wish to support both the original amendment and particularly the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove. I do this for a special but very limited reason. It is a better and more radical solution to a problem created by the Bill than the remedy proposed in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and myself. That is Amendment No. 61. It applies also to Amendment No. 62, standing in the name of my noble friend, which says pretty much the same.
One thing which is wrong with the Bill is that it gives to the Department of Transport unimpeded power to trunk many miles of London roads—power to trunk them without first consulting local interests, local authorities and those people who live on or by the roads to be trunked. After the roads have been trunked, the Secretary of State will hold inquiries—
§ Lord Elton
Will the noble Lord forgive me? He is, I think, speaking to Amendment No. 62, which does not relate to this group. We already have a very large group. I believe that noble Lords would welcome it if he could stick to it.
§ Lord Ardwick
I am not speaking to Amendment No. 62; I am speaking to this amendment. I am saying that this is a better amendment than the amendment I have put down. It provides a more radical and better solution than the amendment that other noble Lords and myself have signed and also the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Carmichael.
After the roads have been trunked, the Secretary of State, under the Bill, may hold inquiries. But these inquiries are not into whether the deed is to be done but how it is to be done. The fact that a road is unsuitable for trunking will not come into the inquiry. I am concerned in particular with something called the South Circular Road. However, it is not a road at all; it is a winding route that goes from Kew to Woolwich. The fact is that it is already bearing too much traffic, but of course that will not be relevant to the department; the fact that it is unsuitable for trunking will not be a consideration. Under the amendment, the 606 new authority that is proposed—the residuary authority—will be required to work out the solutions with the local authorities. Surely that is exactly what should be done. God forbid that the environmental mess of the North Circular should ever be repeated with the South Circular.
§ 7.30 p.m.
Earl De La Warr
It sounds as though my noble friend the Minister is being pulled in a number of directions. Indeed, in one important way I think that he is being pulled in one direction because he has been told by every noble Lord who has spoken so far that the one thing that they do not want is for the highway and traffic power to be left with the districts. Indeed, three separate suggestions have been put forward. I therefore hope that when my noble friend comes to answer he will, at least at one stage, do his best to sweep all those suggestions together and to treat them as one—although they have a negative element—and tell us why he thinks that district authorities are adequate to deal with highways and traffic.
I would only add to what has been said so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook what appears to me to be the summing up of the case by his committee, which said at paragraph 73:the case for uniting highway, traffic and transport functions is strong. Since in each metropolitan county there is to be a passenger transport authority, the Committee propose that this should become a strategic transport authority, with two executive arms, one for passenger transport and the other for highways and traffic".That, perhaps, goes a little bit too far as regards my own suggestion. However, I hope that the first part will be taken on board and that we shall hear from the Minister why he likes his suggestion. Hopefully, we shall hear that he is prepared to take all these suggestions away with him and think about them again.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
I want to pose a question to the noble Lord and ask him whether he really understands the traffic functions of the metropolitan counties. If noble Lords look back to 1974 they will remember that one of the reasons for setting up the metropolitan counties was to overcome the lack of co-operation between the highway authorities of the smaller areas that were operating at that time. I do not know whether your Lordships remember those older authorities, but they were the large metropolitan authorities—Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, and the surrounding shire counties. Therefore, there was a clash of opinion. This Bill is reverting back to a clash of opinion, but it is not reverting back to what all the district authorities used to do before 1974. It was only the major local authorities that had these wide powers. It appears to me that perhaps the Government really need to look at their proposals in 1974 and what they are proposing now because they will see a complete contradiction, bearing in mind of course that the traffic problems are now 10 times worse than they were 10 years ago. Indeed, that is an important point that one ought to remember.
There is a difference—a grave difference—between the metropolitan authorities and the GLC. Both my noble friend on the Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Evans, have spelt out the two distinct differences. The relationships between a metropolitan county and 607 its districts and the GLC are very different. Apart from the trunk roads and motorways, for which the metropolitan counties are agents to the Secretary of State, the metropolitan counties are the sole highway authorities in their areas—they have complete control over the highways in their areas. That is extremely important when we are considering passenger transport.
As the noble Lord, Lord Evans, has said, in the West Midlands area and Merseyside and, I think it is true to say, also in Manchester, existing boundaries are not known unless one lives in those particular areas. One does not know whether one has moved from Birmingham into West Bromwich or vice versa, or from West Bromwich into Walsall. It is a continuous built-up area and it seems strange that the people in those areas who have enjoyed the benefits of public transport may, under the Bill, quite easily lose the benefits of those facilities. It is important for those of your Lordships who are not familiar with the metropolitan counties, especially the three which I have mentioned, to realise that they are conurbations with no borders, and no green belt dividing them.
In his observations the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, drew attention to specialist staff. I would be the last to underestimate all the capabilities of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. I followed what he said with great admiration. However, I would draw attention to one particular aspect of the specialist staff about whom he spoke. I am referring to traffic analysis. We all know that the toll of road accidents is extremely serious and much more serious perhaps in the large conurbations where the traffic is much heavier. We would all say that the toll on the roads through fatalities and through serious injuries is something about which we ought to do something; and the "something" that we ought to do something about is contained in the Road Traffic Act 1974, which is a statutory obligation.
We could truly say that accident analysis is cost-effective because all road traffic accidents are a charge upon the National Health Service. If we look at the matter in the round, if we prevent accidents or reduce the number of accidents, then quite obviously there is a saving as regards the National Health Service expenditure. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give very serious consideration to a commitment in respect of this very small group of specialist staff in all the metropolitan counties who deal with the traffic investigation and accident analysis. I do not think that this service can possibly be taken on in the future by the district councils.
I know that the time is getting late and so I shall draw my remarks to a conclusion. I admired the description given by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, of something that we are doing very well in the West Midlands and in all the areas which his committee visited. It is obvious that the committee were impressed. We must all ask the Minister to make quite sure that the findings of our own Select Committee are very seriously considered. Indeed, it was the noble Viscount the Leader of the House who told us that the arguments and the points of view that were expressed during our debates on this Bill would be seriously considered by the Government. I hope that this particular amendment, which is being moved both for 608 London and for the metropolitan counties, will be given that consideration.
Before I sit down may I say that it was just weeks before the Government published their abolition proposal that they announced their policy for roads in England, in which the Secretary of State for Transport said that the lack of road improvements in the conurbations around London has been due to there being too many highway authorities with uncoordinated goals. Is the Secretary of State, are the Government, trying to create that same situation throughout the metropolitan counties?
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
We have before us several amendments. If there is to be a Division I should be grateful for clear advice in order to know which one to support. On Saturday I spent four hours with a Conservative Member of Parliament and a Conservative councillor at the traffic control headquarters in Leeds seeing how efficient is the traffic flow and their high technology.
There is a highly dedicated and expert team which it has taken 10 years to build up. If this directorate of traffic highways and engineering should be dispersed it would be a retrograde step for such an important commercial city as Leeds. Even more important is that Leeds has two large teaching hospitals for a large area of Northern England. The efficient and quick movement of patients can be vital.
Furthermore, cross-boundary flow of traffic is important in the detection of crime and the movement of prisoners, and the police and the traffic control work closely together. I think it would be advisable if the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, visited this system in Leeds. It is admired throughout the world.
§ Lord Molson
It is at the same time the great advantage and the great disadvantage of your Lordships' House that it does not have the strict procedure which obtains in another place. It puts an almost intolerable burden upon the noble Lord who presides. We have some four amendments under discussion at the moment. I do not think that I am the only person who is not quite sure which of them is before us at the present moment.
I should like to follow what was said by my noble friend Lord De La Warr. There is one thing that emerges, and that is that every speaker, I think without exception, has expressed the view that it is not satisfactory that traffic should be handed over to the districts without there being adequate co-ordination.
The remedies which have been put forward are different. Perhaps the two most important are those put forward by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, who was in favour of the traffic regulation being handed over to the passenger transport authority, and the other view, I think put by my noble friend just behind me, who thinks that it would be better for it to be handed over to the police authority. The Government are agreed that it is necessary for there to be a joint board to administer those two services, because they recognise that it is impossible, without great disadvantage, to put into fragments the administration of those two services.
609 I think it is the unanimous view—and it certainly was the view of your Lordships' Select Committee—that the same arguments apply in the case of transport. Therefore, we are in the position that everybody is agreed that the proposals at present put forward by the Government are unsatisfactory. As to what should be put in their place we are not agreed. It is manifestly an extremely difficult and rather technical question.
I am personally a bit disposed to favour the suggestion by my noble friend that the passenger transport and, if necessary, goods transport should be regulated by the police. About 30 years ago I had experience in the Ministry of Transport when our Ministry was nominally the traffic authority for London. We had power to make regulations forbidding parking in certain roads. Frequently we were asked by the police to add other roads to those where parking was limited. Normally we refused to give permission for it to be extended for this perfectly simple reason: we pointed out to the police that they already had regulations applying over quite a large part of London and they were not enforcing the no-parking regulations. It was not their fault.
At that time the law was rather absurd. Before a charge could be brought for illegal parking it was necessary for a constable to approach the illegally parked car and wait for the return of the driver. Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that normally when a policeman was seen standing by an illegally parked car, the driver never returned, and so nothing could be done in that way. Because of that, which is such a clear memory in my mind, it seems to me that the responsibility for administering traffic control is so closely connected with the responsibilities of the police that I am rather disposed to favour the suggestion made in the amendment of my noble friend beside me.
I would ask the Government to look at this matter in a broad way. Perhaps after what happened earlier this afternoon they will be disposed to do so. Could they accept that every speaker, I think without exception this afternoon, has been opposed to the proposals contained in the Bill? If they would accept that, and undertake to consider the matter again before the Report stage and come forward with some proposal—whether that made by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House on Science and Technology, or some other practical and workable proposition—which would ensure that traffic was not dealt with simply within the area of a single district, but was dealt with in, I use the word again, a strategic way, covering a large and appropriate area, I feel that that would go a long way to meeting what appears to be the almost unanimous opinion of your Lordships.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
I rise to support Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D. In this Committee, as at Second Reading, the point has been well made that skilled teams have been brought together through the life of the metropolitan counties and the GLC, and that these centres of excellence should not be lost in the abolition. That point has been made with great authority by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, on 610 behalf of his committee. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the matter of transport.
§ Lord Elton
I do not want to be difficult, and I want to try to clean up the proceedings. The right reverend Prelate says that he is speaking in favour of Amendments Nos. 58 and 59, but the principle he has just endorsed is in fact embodied in my noble friend Lord Cranbrook's amendments. It was he who was talking about the non-dispersal. All I am asking is, is the right reverend Prelate speaking for Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D against Amendment No. 59, since they both, apparently, embody the principle of non-dispersal of expertise?
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
I hope I was not too inadequate when I was speaking, but one of my principal points was that the teams should be maintained.
§ Lord Elton
I do the noble Lord a great injustice. What was in my mind was my noble friend's great emphasis on the need to keep expertise together and the fact that he has other amendments later in the Marshalled List for this purpose which may be germane.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: May I try to make myself as clear as I can. I share with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, the idea that there are three alternatives before the Committee, all of which are saying that there needs to be some way of making an overall provision for highways and transportation. If I understood the noble Earl correctly, his was a voluntary way; that this was something that the districts asked for. It is a point I made earlier in the Committee, that I am afraid I have little confidence that districts would take those initiatives in many cases where there is a need for an overall look. That is why I favour Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D which are not, as I understand it, on a voluntary basis of some districts asking for that.
The subject of local government repeatedly poses the question, "How local is local?" It is a subtle question and there are different answers to all manner of different subjects. "Local" will surely mean something different for transport matters than it will for housing matters, and to function effectively a transportation authority should be large enough to contain most of the daily travel movements of its population and to provide a good road network for its commercial traffic. As we have seen, it needs to have sufficient resources to embrace the sophisticated technology and expertise which the complex management problems of a great conurbation demands. If I may use the illustration of Merseyside, it has brought specialist staff to examine and evaluate highway schemes. There is a systematic programme of inspection and maintenance on bridges. In the matter of safety there are specialist facilities and equipment to carry out the testing of materials, skid tests and site testing. There is a multi-discipline joint transportation unit using the latest technology and expertise applied to planning and travel data.
District highway authorities would find this level of expenditure impossible to attain without wasteful and 611 extravagant duplication of resources. I believe that road safety is one of the factors we are concerned with today. Perhaps the issue concerning highways and transportation we can most easily understand. Again, how local is local in matters of road safety? Often a district response has been to demands of local residents for a small engineering scheme. In a wider-ranging authority computerised techniques make it possible to determine priorities impartially in seeking to reduce accidents and to maintain highways. I would not want to argue that local residents should be unable to bring pressure to bear. In Merseyside there is good evidence that the county authority has responded quite well to local feelings. I am thinking particularly of the inner ring road in the Vauxhall area at the north end of Liverpool where changes were made to a major plan in response to local protests.
How local is local? Speaking of what I know best, the county of Merseyside, is the county or the district the more appropriate authority for highways and transportation? Merseyside is without question substantially one travel-to-work area. The noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, made the point about the number of work journeys which cross district boundaries.
Traffic problems do not fall evenly. I am sure that Merseyside is not exceptional in this. If traffic problems do not fall evenly money ought not to be spent evenly. The county authority has been able to evaluate needs impartially and to concentrate expenditure in areas of greatest need. For example, 76 per cent. of total highway investment in Merseyside has been in Liverpool compared with a 35 per cent. share of rateable value. That has been for the good of the whole because people are constantly moving across district boundaries. But how can district councils respond in a comparable way?
I make the point that I believe it will not be right to rely on voluntary choice of districts. Part of what this Bill is about is streamlining the cities, getting rid of waste and unnecessary bureaucracy. Let us take the matter of co-operation with public transport. Under the Government's proposals the passenger transport executive will have to establish working relationships with five district highway authorities in Merseyside, each with different policies and priorities, instead of one county-wide authority. It seems inevitable that the Bill's proposals will be time consuming, will increase bureaucratic delays and be difficult to operate smoothly.
I linger for a moment on road safety. The Bill devolves responsibility for accident prevention to the districts. The Government seem to have missed completely the point of the value in keeping together the specialist county units. This goes against much professional opinion which your Lordships will know about.
We are not engaging simply in academic arguments about organisational methods. We are talking about people; in the case of road safety about lives. In Merseyside road accidents have been reduced by 15 per cent. over the last 10 years compared with the national reduction of 9 per cent. Why dismantle something that is working well? The metropolitan counties and the GLC have built up small specialised 612 accident investigation and prevention teams which are widely acknowledged to be highly cost effective, particularly in their strategic application of engineering measures for accident reduction. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety says that to date debate in the Standing Committee in another place, correspondence and a meeting with the Minister have all failed to produce a satisfactory response concerning the arrangements for a strategic approach to this work after abolition. Taking into account the arguments that we have heard put forward in the Committee and those of the Select Committee on Science and Technology with respect to technical services, I press the Government to accept these amendments as a revision which will greatly improve this Bill.
§ Baroness Lockwood
The three sets of amendments which are before us seem to me in one way or another all to try to meet the objectives in the Select Committee's report: that is, to keep the teams of experts together and to retain the services on a strategic basis. The Select Committee's report, at paragraph 42, reads:the balancing of costs and benefits across a whole metropolitan area, regardless of district boundaries, is particularly important".In moving this series of amendments, the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, referred to the various technical services that the Select Committee wished to keep together.
My name is appended to the amendment which the noble Earl has moved. I added it as a member of the Select Committee, conscious of this overriding need to keep the teams together. But I am sure the noble Earl will understand if I say, having heard the discussion, that my first priority will go to Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D because I, too, have a reservation about the voluntary nature of the amendments tabled by the Select Committee succeeding in keeping the teams together. I wish that more of your Lordships could have accompanied the Select Committee on their visits to Greater Manchester, to West Yorkshire and to Strathclyde. I am not a scientist nor an engineer but it is quite clear from the demonstrations that we had that these are centres of excellence which should not be broken up at all.
This is a view not just of the Select Committee and Members of your Lordships' House. Since the publication of the report the Select Committee has received from Cornell University a letter from a person who describes himself as a civil engineer, an educator, a researcher and a consultant. In his letter he says:The engineering excellence in West Yorkshire is well known and respected on a worldwide basis. West Yorkshire engineers have made a lasting contribution in bridge design, earth reinforcement, mining engineering and waste disposal".Then he goes on to say that their techniques are being sought both in the United States and in Japan-based industries.
This is borne out by the experience of West Yorkshire. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, referred to her visit to Leeds over the past weekend, She may have noticed that West Yorkshire County Council have developed a profile detector which is 613 able electronically to identify different categories of vehicles. Again, this detector has attracted worldwide interest and is being manufactured and sold by a British firm. What I am saying here is that it is not just the local government services with which we need to be concerned; it is also the sale of British technology abroad. This is a very important consideration which should not be overlooked by the Committee in its consideration of these amendments.
Reference has been made to the Minister's guidance to the metropolitan districts and the GLC. I think that this guidance shows beyond all doubt that the individual metropolitan districts cannot hope to replace the metropolitan counties unless they co-operate in joint schemes. One of my hesitations about the metropolitan districts co-operating can be seen in the reference which the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, made to the development in Leeds. They are trying to develop their scheme covering road, rail and parking facilities in order to ease the transport problems in the Headingley area. I happen to live at the rural end of Bradford District Council and most of my movements are through and into Leeds. It is absolutely clear that to obtain co-operation between Leeds and Bradford on urban traffic control and on the whole area of public transport would be extremely difficult. If one of them opted out and decided to establish its own transport system, then we should be in great difficulty. For those reasons, I do not think we can afford to rely on voluntary co-operation between the districts and therefore I should prefer to see something written into the Bill which makes it absolutely imperative that the districts co-operate and that there is a strategic authority.
One other reference I would make in relation to the Minister's guidance is that the guidance is so detailed that, in itself, it seems to indicate that the Minister does not have confidence in the ability of the district councils to cope with this problem. But the other omission from the guidance is that there is virtually no reference at all to the need to identify conurbation-wide transport needs. Anyone reading the Minister's evidence to the Select Committee will understand what I am saying. I think that this was pretty clear in some of the questions that she gave to the Select Committee. The Department of Transport seem unaware of the strategic needs of the metropolitan counties and of how essential it is to keep these services and these teams as an integrated and strategic whole.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
All these amendments address the same or similar points. In essence, they cover two lines of argument. The first is whether certain traffic and highways functions require a London or countrywide body; whether it is a residuary body or the passenger transport or police joint authorities or even a so-called joint committee which could be a new joint authority by another name. The other is whether specialist groups of expertise need to be kept together. The two issues need to be kept separate; for, while I do not believe strategic London or metropolitan county councils are necessary for highways and traffic, I recognise that certain specialist expertise needs to be maintained. Let me take first the question of the need for strategic authorities. This is an 614 issue that we have already debated; and the first amendment is very similar to one which fell following the earlier debate.
Central to our policy to abolish the GLC and the MCCs is that as many as possible of the functions that they perform should be devolved to the boroughs and districts and that those services—police, fire and passenger transport in the metropolitan counties and fire and civil defence in London—which can be sensibly administered on abolition only on a London or county-wide basis we have provided for joint authorities. The vast majority of highway and traffic functions which the Bill devolves to boroughs and districts are however concerned with purely local issues. They are of concern to the inhabitants of one borough or district. Many are functions which the boroughs exercise already either under agency agreements or with concurrent powers. They are functions which it is neither necessary nor appropriate to transfer to area-wide authorities.
I freely acknowledge that there are some issues which cross boundaries or where action by one authority has direct repercussions beyond its own boundaries. But local government boundaries are not new and it would be sad and, I believe, an unjustified indictment of the boroughs and districts if the Committee were to suggest that they need a statutory basis on which to achieve co-operation in the discharge of their day-to-day business. I must emphasise that in the few cases where wider issues do arise, we have made provision in the Bill to ensure that they are properly considered; but they do not require a special strategic authority. The only result of such an authority would be that it meddled in many local matters in an attempt to find a role for itself. That is one of the current failings of the GLC. We want to free boroughs and districts from such unnecessary interference in local matters and I know that many councils welcome this prospect.
Turning to the particular proposals in these amendments, I should like to point out a few of the most obvious flaws. Amendment No. 58C, for example, provides for most of the GLC's highways and traffic functions to pass to the London residuary body. Our proposals will mean streamlined and efficient arrangements. Let us not forget that boroughs are already the highway authorities for nearly 7,000 miles, which is nearly 90 per cent. of London's roads. They are well capable of taking on a further 830 miles of metropolitan roads.
The present three-tier structure for highway and traffic functions is inefficient and unnecessary. This is a view which has been supported by a report from a Select Committee in another place. Three tiers mean administrative complexity, costly bureaucracy and confused responsibility. Even worse, some of the detailed proposals, particularly in the first amendment, No. 58C, would leave both boroughs in the London residuary authority with concurrent powers over certain roads. That is a sure recipe for chaos. Moreover, it is proposed that functions listed in the amendment should be given to the London residuary body. That is a wholly inappropriate organisation for such functions. We shall be discussing the residuary body when we come to Part VII of the Bill, but I should like to stress now that the residuary 615 body is not designed to have major long-term functions and traffic and highway responsibilities are not appropriate for it. We have already voted against a successor strategic authority: we should not be misled into thinking that this amendment is in any way less contrary to the principle of this Bill.
So far as the metropolitan counties are concerned, the amendments before us suggest a whole plethora of interesting bodies: joint highways and traffic authorities, joint highways, traffic and passenger transport authorities and joint police and traffic authorities. I do not wish to dwell for too long on these suggestions. I have tried to explain why a county-wide authority is not necessary for highways and traffic matters, which are of mainly local concern. I should, however, like to point out that I see no overriding argument for putting highways, traffic and public transport together under one roof.
In London, the GLC has no public transport function, nor do the boroughs. In shire counties, the county council is the highway and traffic authority, while the buses are run by a variety of district councils, private and public companies. Big cities like Leicester and Nottingham do not come to a halt because different bodies run the buses and provide the roads. Why should places like Leeds or Wolverhampton? There have been powerfully argued points made in support of the amendment, but the facts of the matter are otherwise.
As drafted, Amendment No. 58D would also have the unfortunate effect of splitting responsibility for traffic and parking matters on principal roads. For example, the joint authority would be responsible for laying down yellow lines, but the district council would be responsible for locating parking meters. This sort of division would prevent a sensible approach to traffic problems and could only lead to delay and confusion. The amendment would mean that the general duties of a traffic authority to ensure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of traffic under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 would in practice be very difficult to achieve. It would undermine the approach being taken through this Bill of giving powers to those local authorities best placed to discharge them.
I can see the apparent logic in the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Kaberry, to add traffic responsibilities to the duties of the police joint authority rather than, say, the fire joint authority. The police, after all, have some traffic responsibilities. It may seem convenient that the same district councillors who sit on the police authority should also take on traffic functions.
I cannot resist remarking in passing that there are few, if any, local authority responsibilities in which the police have no interest, and the same logic could therefore be applied equally to other functions. However, in the present instance the logic is in any case faulty. The police may have traffic responsibilities but the police authorities do not, or at least not to any significant or relevant extent.
The noble Lord's proposals would not, therefore, allow the police authority to deploy the knowledge and 616 expertise it requires for one purpose to a second purpose. It will need to acquire a whole new expertise. I very much doubt that it would be feasible, still less wise, to add to the considerable responsibilities of the members of the police joint authorities the equally considerable responsiblities which these amendments would confer.
I turn now to the issues raised by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook. Other noble Lords have today argued for strategic authorities to retain existing specialist teams and centres of highway and traffic expertise. I am, however, convinced that the boroughs and districts, as responsible authorities, are best placed to make arrangements for the services they need on a voluntary basis. There is a wide range of possible ways, including through private companies or a lead borough or district, in which the boroughs and the districts could share expert staff and facilities. We are, of course, exploring the possibility of one London borough taking the lead on a consultancy basis in providing specialist expertise on bridge maintenance and improvement, but we shall not be led to impose solutions.
Successor authorities must decide how to proceed in the knowledge that uncertainty should be dispelled as soon as possible. The proposed preparatory committees offer a suitable forum but the Government recognise the need to preserve professional expertise. The question is whether we need a full strategic body for that purpose. We will look at the methods of preserving expertise, but recall that functions fall to district or borough councils and those bodies have been invited to co-operate for that purpose. Some are already preparing and perhaps we may come back to review progress made when we come to the Report stage later on.
But it is too much to expect a cut-and-dried answer then. Detailed arrangements will take time to agree, through the preparatory committees we have provided for. I recognise the very great importance of giving staff some reasonable assurance about their future, but perhaps I may remind noble Lords about the assurances we have given, and which my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale repeated on the earlier amendments that we discussed this afternoon—that the residuary bodies can provide a means of keeping specialist teams together if permanent arrangements cannot be made by abolition day.
We also undertook to look further at the provisions in the Bill to see if they needed strengthening for this purpose and to report back. I can repeat that assurance. I recognise the particular concern about the future of the urban traffic control systems. I have not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has, visited the one in Leeds, but I have visited the one in Scotland Yard, and I am impressed by the work they do there. We accept that joint arrangements are needed when these cover the area of two or more boroughs or districts. Schedule 5 makes provision for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport, if necessary, to assume the responsibility for ensuring that functions are carried out in a sensible fashion.
I still hope the borough and district councils will come to satisfactory arrangements before abolition day to manage these important systems, but if they do not do so in time my right honourable friend's reserve 617 powers will ensure that the benefits of these important systems are not jeopardised. There might also be a role in the short term for the appropriate residuary body, in the case of the UDCs my right honourable friend's agent, in maintaining the systems if he exercised his reserve powers.
On data, the boroughs already collect a considerable range of transport information in their capacity as highway and planning authorities. The Bill provides new powers for them to make arrangements for London-wide research and data collection. If appropriate, the existing computer facilities and data of the GLC will be transferred on an interim basis to the residuary body. It will then be for the successor authorities to settle the most suitable permanent arrangements for integrated data collection and analysis. In addition, as part of its responsibilities, the Department of Transport will be collecting much London-wide data and will make this available to boroughs under arrangements being discussed with them.
I have not given these amendments a very friendly reception, but there are distinctions between them. The amendments in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove and Lord Evans of Claughton, ask for compulsion, which we cannot accept. I hope I have shown my noble friend Lord Kaberry that we do not regard his amendment as being a practical solution.
Turning to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, these contain a permissive element. In some respects—indeed, in many respects—they are similar to the amendments which we shall come to later on, on scientific and technical services. I wonder whether I may ask my noble friend, when it comes to his amendment, to reserve his amendments to a later stage.
§ Lord Tordoff
Nobody has yet spoken from these Benches on this series of amendments, deliberately, but two of us were members of the Select Committee. I must say I am appalled at the response of the Minister. I get the impression that he has not been listening to a word that has been said in this debate. I can understand that the Minister would not wish to accept the amendments from the Labour Party Front Bench, or even from my noble friend Lord Evans of Claughton. But there is no indication in his reply that he has done other than read out a brief that was prepared before this debate started. I feel that things that have been said from all round the Committee indicate the genuine feeling that all of us have, politicians and non-politicians alike, that there is a very serious matter of which we in this Committee have to take the greatest cognizance. We are not just talking about waiting to see what happens, which is what the Minister is virtually saying, and which is virtually the same thing as Mrs. Chalker said to the Select Committee before they wrote their report. If we in the Select Committee had been contented with that response we would have said so in our report. The Select Committee was not satisfied with that response. I, like the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, feel that 618 the amendments which have come from the Select Committee are perhaps not strong enough. But I do not even think that the Minister has answered his noble friend Lord Cranbrook, who was our chairman on this occasion, in anything like a proper manner.
The fact is that the members of the Select Committee left their political hats outside the door when they went into committee, and we came out with what I believe is a very important document, which has been read widely and has been widely received throughout the country as being an independent report. I think it is extremely sad that the Minister should come back with a Second Reading speech which seems to be totally unchanged as regards the Government's attitude. We are trying to preserve teams of expert people which have been built up over a number of years. Those people are making a great contribution to the way in which people live, move and have their being in our great conurbations: these are people who are saving money for those great conurbations. Moreover, they are producing software and ideas which can be sold abroad. It simply is not good enought to dismiss these matters in the way that the Government have done so far, and I really do hope that they can reconsider their position, even at this stage.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
That was perhaps a slightly emotional and unrealistic response to my noble friend's speech. I do not accept at all his interpretation of what was said and the grounds on which he based his words. Of course my noble friend will have a general idea as to what sort of criticisms would be made. If the noble Lord had served in Government he would know that Governments do try to anticipate debates, particularly when they are putting forward a Bill which they have to defend and explain. I doubt whether any of the contributions that were made very effectively by many noble Lords were very new in relation to what had been discussed when the whole of this Bill was being put together. It is not just drawn out of a hat; and I would have expected my noble friend to come with something like a prepared answer to the obvious questions.
As regards the debate being overborne by critical speeches, that is not unreasonable: indeed, that is what it ought to be. Most of the noble Lords who have spoken have their names down to amendments, and because of that they have the priority of call. That is right. And in proposing their amendments they put forward things which they believe and all of them want, as they see it, to improve the Bill. Therefore we can gain the impression that there are overwhelming voices against it, just because those who do believe that the general basis of the Bill is a good one remain silent in order to get it on the way.
The right reverend Prelate was, I think, the only one to put forward the decision that we have to make if we want to push this to a vote. The right reverend Prelate was perfectly clear. He said that he had not a lot of confidence in the acumen and ability of districts and boroughs to come to the right kinds of conclusions. I would much rather—
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
I do not think that the noble Lord should put words into my mouth. The 619 record will show that I never used the words "acumen" or "ability". The fact that I do not have confidence, for whatever reasons, that the districts and boroughs will co-operate as we all hope they will, is another matter.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I will withdraw the word "acumen" if the right reverend Prelate does not find that to be a fair reflection of what he has in mind; but he has just repeated the point—and it is a very proper point if that is what he believes. He believes that the local authorities are not so likely to be able to come to the kinds of conclusions that would be right or to give the guidance that he thinks ought to be given as would be this permanent authority. On that I venture to disagree with him, and I would hope that noble Lords who have themselves served on local authorities might perhaps be on my side. I have every confidence about the acumen—and I now use the word as I would wish to use it—and the far-sightedness and the desire of local authorities to do the right thing.
I also speak from experience, if the right reverend Prelate will allow me, in saying that local authorities are capable of getting together, and do get together, to arrive at a common denominator in meeting problems which face them. For years I sat as the chairman of a district health authority which comprised about 10 local authorities. That was simply because the areas of the 10 councils concerned made it more suitable to come to conclusions in one body than would have been the case if they had been taken separately. This was done quite voluntarily. If the decision we have taken is whether or not we ought to emasculate the Bill, which is designed to remove a tier of Government which slows up advancement and produces extra expense and which has no more recognised knowledge than have the local authorities that are represented now, I think that is the conclusion we ought to come to.
If my noble friend will allow me to say so, I thought that he established very clearly his case that if the amendment were accepted it would remove the real purpose of this Bill. There is no doubt about that. I think we ought not to do that if our only fear is, as the right reverend Prelate said, that there is not a lot of confidence in the local authorities taking on these functions. I should have liked—
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I should have liked my noble friend—and perhaps on these matters I talk with as much, if not more, authority than the noble Lord; he may be an expert economist, but I do not know how many local authorities he has served upon—to understand the inner workings and the way in which local authorities carry out their business. However, the criticism that I would put to my noble friend is this: I should have liked him to go a little bit further in explaining how the expertise might be preserved. I should have thought the one point that is generally accepted is that we do not want to disperse and lose the value of this expertise which is there. I gathered he said that he had been impressed with the need to preserve it and that he would come along with some sort of suggestion when we get to the Report stage.
620 At this stage, I should have thought that in order to satisfy many of his noble friends who would like to go into the Lobby with him, if it comes to that, he would like, in advance of the Report stage, to take some extra advice as to how we would preserve the expertise which those on all sides would desire. On the general proposition of not accepting the amendments, however fluently the arguments have been put forward, I believe it is the right one if we want to preserve the main function of the Bill, which is to remove an unnecessary and expensive tier of local government.
§ Lord Elton
As I have been trying to assist your Lordships to come to a conclusion on this, may I say that my noble friend has put his finger on a slight difficulty. My noble friend on the Front Bench has pointed out the shortcomings of various amendments. He has pointed out that those in the name of my noble friend Lord Cranbrook if taken in the light of his later amendments, Nos. 131, 132 and 137, offer the means of preserving expertise and that, though we cannot accept everything that my noble friend puts on the Marshalled List without commitment, we would be happy to look at those amendments. Therefore, I would ask my noble friends to resist Amendments Nos. 58C, 58D and 59A, and hope that my noble friend Lord Cranbrook would allow us to consider his amendments at a later stage.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
I shall be very brief. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his last remarks. However, I think that at this particular stage of the Bill probably the feeling of the Committee is too definite to accept his guidance at this point, with no disrespect to him.
Two or three important questions have been raised by noble Lords who felt that joint activity or voluntary activity may not be acceptable. I would say that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool is in good company in speaking about the difficulty of having a great deal of reliance on local authorities, because in the Cranbrook Report, Mrs. Chalker herself, in paragraph 62, is reported as saying:… past experience casts doubt on the appropriateness of either voluntary joint committees or lead authorities … A more practicable option is a joint authority.That is precisely why the amendment that I moved earlier is worded in the way that it is. I think it is important, as I tried to say in my opening remarks. I was not suggesting there was anything incompetent about local authorities. I have a great respect for them but they are just the wrong body; they are an inappropriate size for transport and for transport planning. Again, as the right reverend Prelate said, "local" in terms of transport is quite different from "local" in terms of housing. That is the main burden here.
Briefly, I think that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kaberry, was partly answered by the Minister. I do not think the police authority is the most appropriate to assume responsibility for the kind of highway improvement and traffic management proposed. There were the questions of the expert teams and of bridge design and many other specialisations. I think that in winding up the Minister was 621 less than fair when he said that one of the purposes of this Bill is to free the boroughs and districts. He did not mention the enormous powers that will be given to the Secretary of State under this Bill. It removes power from the locality and puts it right into Whitehall; and everyone will agree that Whitehall is more remote from Manchester of Birmingham city centres than the local authority or the passenger transport authority.
The authorities that we have suggested in Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D are appropriate for each of the functions—one for the London area and one for the metropolitan counties. "Compulsion" is the wrong word to use. This is a voluntary coming together with the guidance of the Bill, which is essential if we are to keep these experts together. I believe that we are now at the stage when we should test the feeling of the Committee on this matter.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 58C) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 117; Not-Contents, 103.622
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Airedale, L.||Hacking, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Hampton, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Attlee, E.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Hooson, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Birk, B.||Ingleby, V.|
|Blease, L.||Irving of Dartford, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kagan, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Kaldor, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Chandos, V.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Chitnis, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Kirkwood, L.|
|Collison, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|David, B.||Liverpool, Bp.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.||Lockwood, B.|
|Denington, B.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Diamond, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||McNair, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Mar, C.|
|Falkender, B.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Falkland, V.||Mayhew, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Melchett, L.|
|Foot, L.||Molson, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Monson, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Oram, L.|
|Grey, E.||Phillips, B.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]||Tavlor of Blackburn, L.|
|Tordoff, L. [Teller.]|
|Rea, L.||Walston, L.|
|Robson of Kiddington, B.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Rochester, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Ross of Marnock, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Scanlon, L.||White, B.|
|Seear, B.||Wigoder, L.|
|Seebohm, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Serota, B.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Simon, V.||Winstanley, L.|
|Stallard, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Inglewood, L.|
|Arran, E.||Ingrow, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Kaberry of Adel, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Kilmany, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Beloff, L.||Layton, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Bessborough, E.||Loch, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Long, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Lothian, M.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Brooks, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Massereene and Ferrand, V.|
|Caithness, E.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Mersey, V.|
|Cathcart, E.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Munster, E.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Onslow, E.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Cox, B.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Polwarth, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Portland, D.|
|Croft, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Davidson, V.||Redesdale, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Renton, L.|
|Digby, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Elton, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Enniskillen, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Stockton, E.|
|Fortescue, E.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Swinfen, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Glenarthur, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Haig, E.||Trenchard, V.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Vickers, B.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hood, V.||Windlesham, L.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Young of Graffham, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 8.40 p.m.623
§ Lord Evans of Claughton moved Amendment No. 58D:
§ [Printed earlier: col. 592.]
§ The noble Lord said: I did not hear the noble Lord because of the noise, but I gather that I am likely to be the next speaker. In the light of the decision taken, I move with great pleasure and confidence that this Committee support Amendment No. 58D. I wish to test the feeling of the Committee.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 8.42 until 9.30 P.m.]
§ Clause 7 [Highways and road traffic functions]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 59, 59A, 59B, 59C, 59D and 59E not moved.]
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 60:
Page 4, line 27, at end insert—
("(4) The Secretary of State shall prepare and publish in each year following the abolition date a report setting out—
§ The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 60 asks the Secretary of State to provide certain reports to Parliament if he takes over certain functions. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the Secretary of State makes public his programmes for expenditure and plans for traffic control on London's main roads. Individual local authorities are required to publish annual reports on their policy and programmes and therefore the Secretary of State particularly on designated roads, should also be required to follow a similar procedure.
§ At present the GLC is responsible for preparing and updating the statutory structure plan and associated transport plans. The council is responsible for setting highway policy on metropolitan roads—that is, main roads—and traffic policy on all roads in accordance with these plans. The council has a duty to publish an annual statement of transport policies and programmes which sets down its co-ordinating policies for highways, traffic management and freight policy. It reports on schemes to be implemented and on progress on schemes undertaken. Expenditure, including that on the borough schemes, is spelt out and the document is a public record on how the council wishes to spend money on the London-wide transport service areas that it controls, and is therefore an important part of the local democratic process. It is also a bid for transport supplementary grant.624
§ The residuary authorities will have to produce policies and plans for London and the metropolitan areas. The London residuary body will produce transport plans and budgets. The Bill places no duty on the Secretary of State to produce an annual statement on co-ordinated London-wide highway and traffic policies and related budgets in respect of trunk and designated roads only. This is despite the fact that through the provisions in the Bill the Secretary of State is to take—or was to take—substantial control of London traffic. This is to some extent a fall-back amendment, proposing that the Secretary of State should have to do the same as is at present done by the local authorities.
§ The Government have on a number of occasions admitted the need for London-wide co-ordination of highway and traffic functions. Acceptance of Amendment No. 58C follows the support for this in this Committee and therefore changes matters to some extent. I should like to have the Minister's view on what changes there will be in the present Bill as a result of Amendment No. 58C. I hope that the Minister will be able to help us in this respect.
§ The implication of Amendment No. 60 before Amendment No. 58C was put forward was that if the Secretary of State wishes to take over any strategic traffic or highway control, it is right that he should state what his policies are, how much control he wishes to assume, and what his expenditure will be. London has enjoyed open Government for some time. In the case of these matters in particular, Londoners have been able to go before local committees and speak to local councillors, and there argue about expenditure, at either a local or wider level, depending on their particular interest. This amendment seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State will have to give people the same opportunity of being informed as they have traditionally enjoyed.
§ Amendment No. 60 would ensure that the Secretary of State will prepare an annual statement setting out the programme of expenditure on trunk roads in London, a summary of his exercise of reserve traffic powers over the previous year, proposals for the exercise of his powers over designated roads, and the results of consultations held between the London boroughs and other organisations in relation to guidance. Without this amendment Londoners will be kept in the dark about London transport policies and changes in those policies.
§ This amendment may require some change because earlier amendments were carried. But until we know the changes which the Government wish to suggest to this amendment, which has a great deal of force behind it, and until we decide on that, I beg to move Amendment No. 60 as it appears on the Marshalled List.
§ Lord Tordoff
I wonder whether it would be helpful to the Committee if the Government could indicate to what extent they believe that Amendment No. 60 is affected by the amendment that has been passed, and, indeed, how subsequent amendments might be affected. This might not be the moment to discuss this matter, but those of us who are not necessarily directly in touch through the usual channels may find it helpful to know just how many of the subsequent 625 amendments are still valid in the light of the earlier amendment having been passed. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, suggested that Amendment No. 60 might have to be changed at a later stage. That is probably true, but I am not sure now many other amendments might be affected.
§ Lord Elton
As regards the amendments in the names of noble Lords other than myself, I understand that only Amendments Nos. 61 and 62 are out of court as a result of the amendments so far carried. It may be that I shall not have to bother your Lordships' Committee with one or two of my amendments later, but I have not come to a view on that yet.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to make an annual report about certain of his functions. I entirely agree that he should, like any other Minister, make statements about his policy and the performance of his functions; that is his duty to Parliament and the public. what I do not agree with is that there is any compelling need for him to be placed under a specific statutory obligation to report each year on some limited aspects of his functions and responsibilities. Not only would that give the selected function undue prominence; it is both unnecessary and inappropriate.
The specific duties are not necessary because the Secretary of State already makes regular statements about the exercise of his powers and functions. He regularly publishes White Papers on policies for roads and road reports which set out in some considerable detail his approach to policy and his performance of his national highway responsibilities. These documents include sections on action taken and planned in each region, with a specific section devoted to London.
In view of the decision taken by the Committee on Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D there is now some uncertainty as to how in practice the provisions of Schedule 4 and 5 will operate. We recognise the intention of this amendment but it may help the Committee now if I say that we are already considering how the coverage given in this existing series of 626 documents can best reflect the small number of further responsibilities the Bill proposes for the Secretary of State. I hope, however, the Committee will agree that wrenching from their context would give these responsibilities an artificial and potentially misleading prominence.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
I appreciate the Minister's reply. I am always slightly concerned about a Minister's Secretary of State saying, "I do that in any case and therefore there is no need to do that". I was in another place long enough to hear of a number of cases in which Ministers had not made a report, in one case on a Scottish university, since 1885, although it was in statute that he should make the report; and we had to have a rather amusing exemption for the Secretary of State so that he did not need to go to the hulks. But I accept that transport policy is something that is rather more in the public mind and the public limelight and therefore, as the Minister has given the assurance that the Secretary of State does in any case produce adequate reports, there are facilities for asking the Secretary of State and reminding him of the necessity to give a report.
§ Lord Elton
For the sake of the record, the latest news from the front is that I gave your Lordships an incomplete list. I ought to add Amendments Nos. 62C, 63B and 64A. I will read those numbers again. The first tranche was Amendment Nos. 61 and 62 only, but I understand that Amendments 62C, 63B and 64A are also hors de combat, as it were.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
Before that rather welcome interruption, I was just about to beg leave of the Committee to withdraw Amendment No. 60.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.627
§ Schedule 4 [Highways]:
Lord Fanshawe of Richmond moved Amendment No. 61:
Page 105, line 21, leave out from ("shall") to end of line and insert ("become a trunk road according to the provisions of the Highways Act 1980 subject always to the prior publication of the findings and recommendations of the relevant assessment study.")
§ The noble Lord said: I realise that my noble friend has told us that this matter may have been overtaken by the events earlier in the evening but I still would like the opportunity for my noble friend to be aware of the very real feeling which has caused the putting down of this amendment. I should also like to hear my noble friend's reply because it might have a slightly different effect on the main amendment which was moved earlier, Amendment No. 58C. My amendment empowers the Secretary of State to order any metropolitan road to become part of a national trunk network, and it is provided in the Highways Act 1980 that a draft order must be published, time for consideration must be given and a public inquiry held; and this Bill at the moment, prior to recent events earlier in the evening, removes the safeguard. I was endeavouring to incorporate it. I believe the incorporation of this safeguard is still needed, even if the appearance of a new body having the functions of a highway authority under the Highways Act 1980 in respect of metropolitan roads does take place. I should state at this moment that I am not in favour of such a body. I would like there to be an inquiry, and for the local authorities to take over these roads.
§ My interest is that for nearly 25 years I was Member of Parliament for Richmond, which includes an area where the A205, or South Circulr Road as it is more usually known, crosses the area of Richmond, Kew, Barnes, and South London. Over a quarter of a century I have seen a major increase in traffic of which noble Lords on all sides of the Committee who know that part of London will be aware. To describe the narrow lanes and suburban streets in Kew, the lower Mortlake Road, Clifford Avenue, Upper Richmond Road and the traffic that spills out into Barnes High Street would take a very long time, but it is important that noble Lords on both sides of the Committee should be aware of the problem.
§ The situation has been acknowledged by successive Ministers of all parties. There is nothing new about it. It is not a party political issue. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, sitting opposite, and I debated this matter in another place some years ago. It is acknowledged by Ministers from both parties that the situation is very grave and has to be dealt with, but so far no Government, and certainly not the GLC, have managed to cope with this major hazard in the streets of South London.
§ I wholeheartedly support the Bill. I gave evidence to the Marshall Inquiry in 1977 pressing for the abolition of the GLC. I think that the lack of interest by the GLC in the South Circular Road and, indeed, in the roads throughout London, over the years that the GLC has been in existence, is to be deplored. I always pressed in the other place for action to be taken to remove responsibility for these roads from the GLC 628 so I am in a slightly different position from other noble Lords in the Committee this evening. I should like to see responsibility for these roads, the South Circular in particular, to be passed to the local boroughs. In this case it would be the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which will be only too glad to take it over.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ In any case, whatever occurs there should first be an inquiry. Why do I say this? Your Lordships may not be aware that the fears and the feelings in the area of the South Circular Road are very intense. The emotion, which may not be justified but is there, is that action might be taken to widen the roads and destroy the environment along the route of the A205. As I said earlier, this includes narrow lanes and small suburban streets where the traffic flows at great speed. In many cases heavy juggernaut lorries are using roads which are not more than 14 feet wide. The fears of the residents have increased over the past few weeks. Householders, shopkeepers, old people, and mothers are worried. Some have been encouraged to agitate for political reasons. On many occasions fears have been raised quite unnecessarily, but the fears are there and should be recognised.
§ The locally elected people who are responsible for the area, both on the borough council and on the GLC, led by local Members of Parliament including, in particular, Jeremy Hanley, who led a determined and skilled campaign in Richmond, have made this clear to Ministers. If it has not been overtaken by events tonight I ask my noble friend to look very carefully at my proposals.
§ The Secretary of State initiated an assessment study and its findings will be given consideration. I hope that they will be put before any inquiry which might be set up under the 1980 Act, if the Minister agrees that such action should take place. Again, I stress that there is no reason why such an inquiry should not take place, even on transfer to a new body.
§ I should like to make one other point. Many of us complain, worry and grumble about the state of traffic on the South Circular Road, but one should ask: is there an alternative? I think that there is an alternative which this Government have looked at and previous Governments have considered but which the GLC has never put into action; that is, the possibility of a West London relief road—a road built on stilts, running over the railway between Olympia and Battersea. I understand that a study on this point by my noble friend's department is now under way. Perhaps my noble friend can give me an assurance that if this relief road was made, responsibility for the South Circular Road, as it is today, the A205, can be transferred to the local borough council. This is something on which I should welcome my noble friend's comment.
§ As the Committee will realise, I have this evening concentrated on one area and on one road. I think it brings an essential humanity to the issue, which perhaps is needed here tonight. As for some roads, the Secretary of State may have a case for ownership and 629 trunking but it surely must be incumbent on him to establish it by means of a public inquiry. I hope that there will be some support from the Committee tonight for this amendment. I should like to hear the Minister's reply. I should also like to know in detail how the voting and the result of the Division on Amendment No. 58C affects my Amendment No. 61. I beg to move.
§ Lord Ardwick
I said on my noble friend's amendment that I thought it gave a better and more radical solution to the problem raised by this Bill than the amendment to which I have put my name. It seems that this is true. If it proves to be the case that the Department of Transport is not to have this absolute power to trunk in London at will, then the residents along the South Circular Road will feel very much relieved. There have been many meetings and protests. There has been a great deal in the local press. There have been many letters. We have had lots of personal letters. People are frightened of what might happen.
The South Circular Road is a very peculiar road. In fact, there is no such thing as the South Circular Road. There are roads which are supposed to comprise it, which wind through the suburbs, through the shopping centres, past the schools and either fringe or divide the parks and commons. By following the signposts labelled "South Circular Road" it is possible to pick a way through South London with many twists and some loops and thus find one's way from Kew to Woolwich. Italy was once described as not so much a nation state as a geographical expression. I may say the South Circular is not so much a road as a topographical expression, the mere indication of a route.
I live on the edge of Putney Common. The South Circular Road is about 200 yards away. Over the years, we have been threatened with one motorway scheme or another. These threats have been beaten off by the vigorous action of the residents, always supported and very often led by their elected representatives. Here we thought the threat was really alive again because the Bill, as it now stands, though we are now trying to amend it, enables the Secretary of State to take over an additional 65 miles of roads in London and, by order, to make them into trunk roads irrespective of the wishes of those who live on or near such thoroughfares. We are horrified at what might be done to our suburb if the South Circular were to be trunked.
The danger was very well seen by 13 amenity societies which are watching this debate with great interest. They are 13 amenity societies which cover the districts from Kew, through Richmond, Wandsworth, Streatham, Norwood, etc. They have a very clear insight into the powers that would be vested in the Minister if this Bill were to pass with this part unamended. As they say in a letter to me:He would dispense with all the normal safeguards for the public, of public consultation, rights of objection and, if necessary, a public inquiry.In the weeks that have been leading up to this, we have been told in the representations that have been made that to designate a road as a trunk road is no more than a change of name and ownership. It implies 630 nothing, it is said, in the way of future development. The Ministers who gave this assurance are right. One is not challenging their good faith. But the department itself is more forthright. Last year, there was a public inquiry concerning changes that were to be desired on the North Circular Road. The department's representative described the policy in regard to trunk roads. He said:The Government's policy is that trunk roads in London serve an essential purpose in providing the connections between inner London and the national motorway network. Their adequacy is a matter of national concern".That is quite right. He said nothing about the fact that it is also a matter for local concern. He added that,the proposed addition to the London trunk network following abolition of the GLC will make this strategic network coherent and complete".The man from the Ministry went on to be even more specific:The Government is carrying out a programme of improvements to the existing trunk roads in London and is considering priorities for the new roads for which it intends to accept responsibilit,. These improvements should encourage"—note these words—more of the longer distance traffic to use these roads".That is exactly what we fear. Up with the juggernauts! Carry on, car commuters! Already, as the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, has said, there is an unacceptable heavy volume of traffic passing along the residential and shopping streets that comprise the so-called South Circular Roatl. And there is this danger looming up of increasing the traffic load. The people of south London are haunted by fears that they will meet the same fate as befell others in regard to the North Circular Road, which became a trunk road many years ago. The Department of Transport has upgraded that road step by step. As it has improved one stretch of road, that has attracted increased traffic so that further stretches of the road have proved inadequate Still further schemes have been necessary to meet the new volumes.
At present 30 per cent. of the North Circular Road is still single carriageway. When the department's schemes are completed, none of it will be. At present, 27 per cent. of the road is dual carriageway with junctions at different levels. When the schemes are completed, 86 per cent. of this road going through north London, often between suburban houses and sometimes between factories, will have the standard very nearly of a motorway.
I looked at the road only this weekend. I have often driven along it, but I looked at it then from the point of view of people living along it. It must be hell. Down the middle is erected a great iron fence, sometimes with greenery growing up it which alleviates matters slightly. However, I am not trying to exaggerate when I say that it reminded me a little of the Berlin Wall. Certainly, it divides one community from another. To cross the road, people have to go 300 or 400 yards to a bridge. Ministers insist that no plans exist to improve the South Circular Road as a through route. Good! No plans perhaps, but what of aspirations and intentions? Ministers come and Ministers go, while departments remain for ever with their inexorable long-term aims and aspirations.
631 The department was asked at another inquiry in January into a North Circular Road scheme to give an assurance that it would not be used as an argument for South Circular Road improvements to cope with the resulting flow. What was the witness's answer? The witness said that it was impossible to give an assurance that proposed North Circular developments would never be used as an argument for South Circular developments. He concluded:All I can say is that the Department of Transport is carrying out a study into the South Circular".10 p.m.
Nobody has really believed, I fear, the repeated claims that trunking could mean no more than change of ownership. Richmond Council and the local amenity group have asked a number of times about the terms of reference given to the distinguished consulting engineers who are carrying out a study into the South Circular. Their inquiries have drawn only polite and meaningless responses. They asked whether it was possible to rule out road widenings, restrictions on pedestrian crossings and new alignments. The answer was:With the best will in the world I am unable to comment on the specific questions you raise".The view which many of us hold is that when a road becomes a responsibility of the Department of Transport, then sooner or later it will be engineered to provide an unimpeded and speedy passage to vehicles of all weights and sizes. After all, the department's métier is to facilitate through traffic, although generally between cities rather than through them. So far as they are concerned, decent people though they may be, the environment must come second. The traffic is their priority—not people's lives and not people's amenities. That was why we were so insistent that the department should not, as this Bill sought to allow, have the right to trunk a road at will. That was why it was essential that the existing right to a public inquiry before trunking should be preserved.
A study of the North Circular inquiries will reveal that the type of inquiries which are held after it has been decided to trunk a road are appropriate to a given stretch; for example, whether this or that detour should be favoured, whether there should be a pedestrian tunnel under a road, or a footbridge above it. Whether or not the long distance traffic should be encouraged to be there at all would not be a matter within the inquiry's terms of reference.
Now it looks as though our fears are at rest. I took the view that it would be wrong for the people of this large part of London, who have been so anxious and so concerned for many months, to be deprived of a right of hearing as regards their grievances, even though it seems that their grievances are about to be rectified.
§ Lord Elton
Before we continue with this debate I ought to draw your Lordships' attention once more to what happened an hour or so ago. Your Lordships decided—against the advice of the Government—that the responsibility for GLC roads should not go to the 632 Secretary of State but should go to the residuary body. This amendment proposes to do things which are compatible only with the GLC roads going to the Secretary of State. Therefore, this amendment cannot be incorporated into the Bill because it would make a nonsense of the Bill as it now stands. While I sympathise with those noble Lords who wish to air matters—and it is entirely in your Lordships' hands as to what happens—we clearly could not accept the amendment, and by that I mean that the Committee could not accept it. It is not a question of the Government accepting it; the Committee could not accept it. Nor, indeed, could the Committee accept Amendment No. 62, for the same reason. It is addressed to something which no longer exists—it is addressed to a provision which is no longer there.
I have commented on the matter at some length because your Lordships need to take a decision as to whether, nonetheless, you wish to discuss the amendments as though they were sensible amendments which could be incorporated in the Bill. My view is that that is rather a waste of time, but if your Lordships wish to do so, it is not for me to impose upon you.
§ Lord Fanshawe of Richmond
In view of my noble friend's advice I shall, with my noble friend's agreement—
§ Lord Diamond
Before the noble Lord seeks to withdraw his amendment I must insist on my own behalf—and I hope that I am representing the view of many others2—that we need a good deal more guidance from the Government than we have received so far. Let me explain why. The noble Lord the Minister has said that this amendment is hors de combat—I think that those were his words—meaning that if the amendment were carried and incorporated in the Bill, there would be a certain inconsistency between the schedule and the clause to which the schedule refers, which incorporates the amendment we have already discussed and voted on. But the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, who moved this amendment, has made it clear that this is an arrangement that he is fact would prefer.
I am asking the Government, therefore, to be good enough to tell the Committee what their plans are. If their plans are to return to this topic during a later stage of the Bill—and there are many such—then of course they would be talking to an audience which was aware of everything that had been decided and discussed and the reasons for it. But if the noble Lord is telling us that it is no part of the Government's intention to do that; that the Government reserve their right to bring this matter up in another place where they have an assured majority and can do exactly what they wish to do—or what they advise the House to do, to be courteous to the House—then any amendment which is not within the Bill cannot be discussed by the other place, as the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, knows.
The other place will be totally unaware of the fact that the ex-Member of Parliament for Richmond has moved an amendment dealing with Richmond which he holds to be important and which he would have preferred to be carried by your Lordships. The other place would be totally unaware of that and unable, by 633 their rules of procedure, to discuss it. How then is this Committee to know how to deal with this amendment?
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said that we cannot incorporate it. I do not know what authority he produces for saying that the Committee cannot incorporate one amendment which is not wholly consistent with another. I accept the inconsistency; that is not open to argument. The question is, which amendments, being incorporated in the Bill, will be discussed by another place if the Government take a certain line, and which will be available for discussion in another place if the Government do not? We are totally unable to know which way to proceed until the Government tell us what are their considered plans.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has put our dilemma very well. If the Government were able to give us an assurance that they have no intention of trying to overturn the decision which the Committee took recently about Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D, we should then know exactly where we are, and I think would accept the idea that there was not much point in proceeding with these amendments. But I am not going to bother to ask the noble Lord whether he can give such an undertaking because I know perfectly well that he cannot. If I had any doubts about that, the expression on the Chief Whip's face would dispel them. Therefore, I think we must proceed on the basis that the decision that the Committee has recently taken could be reversed, and that therefore there is some importance in these amendments.
I should like to say a few words on the merits of the case because it has been represented to me how strong and how widespread is the feeling against the sections of the Bill which give the Secretary of State power to make a road into a trunk road without all the usual safeguards.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
Would the noble Lord give way? The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, know better than what they have just said as regards procedure. They know perfectly well that the other place can take pride in the fact that that is a talking shop. Their job is to talk and go all round a matter. That is not the function of this House. The function of this House is to revise a Bill in a responsible and proper manner. We have been told that in terms of this amendment the decision we came to a minute or two ago has ruled that out.
The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, knows very well that if in this House the Front Bench try on Report to remove the decision we made a minute or two ago, we in this House have the power—which they have not in the other House—to bring in an amendment at Third Reading, if need be. Therefore, they are not losing the opportunity.
They are merely using this place as a talking shop, and going over the top of the real procedures and conventions which are well understood. I believe that if we pay respect to the traditions and conventions as well as to the value of this House, we shall accept the guidance that to talk on this amendment, which can 634 have no effect, is not doing the job properly. We are reserving the right, right up to the end of Third Reading, to bring in any amendment.
As regards my noble friend being asked to say what another place will do, it is a presumption that this House or any Member of it should try to tell the elected Chamber what they will eventually do. If later they decide to turn over what we have done, that is their power, but to ask anyone on the Front Bench in this Committee is a ridiculous nonsense, as the noble Lord knows.
§ Lord Tordoff
With respect to the noble Lord, if I may intervene in his intervention, we were not asking what another place would do, but what the Government would do. That is a totally different matter.
§ Lord Denham
Noble Lords opposite have rather suggested that because the Committee have taken certain decisions—they have taken two decisions this afternoon—the Government should now say, "We capitulate totally". It is the function of this Chamber to refer back to another place matters that we do not, as a House as a whole, think are quite right. It is not up to the Government here, because the Committee has pronounced on something, to say that irrevocably another place will accept it. We cannot do that. We are discussing this Bill. We have passed two amendments to this Bill, against the advice of the Government. I do not hold that against anybody. Can we please proceed now to discuss the rest of the Bill—there are many more amendments to discuss—and not ask the Government to say that they will not reverse things in another place, because it is not up to the Committee to ask this and it is not up to this Front Bench to agree to it.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)
I should like to draw the Committee's attention to Standing Order No. 36, which reads:An amendment to a Bill must not be inconsistent with a previous decision given on the same stage of the Bill".
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
I think when the Chief Whip reflects he will realise he has said exactly what I prophesied he would say, that the Government cannot and will not give us an undertaking that a decision already taken by the Committee will not be reversed. I repeat, therefore, that we must proceed on the assumption that that decision might be reversed and there would then be some merit in these amendments.
§ Lord Denham
I wonder whether we should be discussing this amendment, because I am advised it is incompatible with something that went before. I think we should probably, therefore, proceed with the rest of the Bill.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
I have been trying to get on with this. As I have said, this is still my speech, although there have been five interventions. I rose only because it has been represented to me from several quarters that there is deep and widespread feeling against the powers that the Secretary of State is given in the Bill to declare roads trunk roads without any of the usual safeguards. I was interested in the matter because I am acquainted with both ends of the South Circular Road. When I was a small boy in south-east London, I attended a school which was bang on a road which is now part of the South Circular Road. It was considered, even in the days when I attended that school, to be a rather dangerous and busy road. The school is still there and is still used, and the idea of its becoming a trunk road is extremely undesirable. More recently in my life, I have become acquainted with west London. Although the South Circular did not run through what used to be my constituency, it runs very near it; and there is other provision in the Bill for what are called "designated" roads that will affect roads in almost any part of London. The point in every case is that the Secretary of State is given almost arbitrary powers about them.
When we were debating Amendments Nos. 58C and 58D the whole burden of the Government's argument was that we should trust and admire the borough councils. Now we are being told that their wishes can be completely overridden and orders declaring trunk roads can be made without any of the rights and safeguards they used to have.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
I do not think so. The noble Lord seems to make up his constitutional doctrines as he goes along. I am afraid that they do not carry very much conviction with us.
I did not want to say more about this matter, but I know that there is widespread feeling against it. The Bill as it stands gives quite arbitrary powers to the Secretary of State and the rights of the boroughs and the districts in these matters ought to be restored.
§ Lord Fanshawe of Richmond
In view of the advice of the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]
§ Lord Tordoff
I am sorry to intervene again. The fact is that we have been told which amendments on this side of the Committee have been ruled out of order. It 636 would be useful to know which amendments on the Government's side are also out of order in the same context. Perhaps the noble Lord could give us an indication of these.
Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 62A:
Page 106, line 42, after ("(2)") insert ("Subject to sub-paragraph (4) below")
§ The noble Lord said: I am assured that this amendment is still in order. I can say it is purely a technical amendment to close a gap in paragraph 56 of Schedule 4, which deals with the agency agreements between metropolitan county councils and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Under these agreements, the MCCs act as agents for my right honourable friend in carrying out maintenance, improvement or construction work on trunk roads and motorways. As drafted, paragraph 56 provides that these agreements may be transferred by order to a successor local authority and that any agreement not so transferred will cease to have effect on abolition.
It may be that on 1st April 1986 there will still be payments outstanding from the Secretary of State for work done by an MCC before abolition or other sums due under the agreement. Equally, as a result, for example, of over-requisitions which the MCC had already received in advance of work being done, sums may be due to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State under the agreement. It would clearly be unsatisfactory from the point of view of both the MCC's ratepayers and the Secretary of State either to transfer such rights and liabilities to the local authority which is to inherit the agency agreement or simply to allow them to terminate.
The amendments accordingly provide for the residuary bodies established under Clause 55 to step into the shoes of the MCCs with respect to such outstanding rights and liabilities. This will enable the MCC ratepayers to benefit fron the sums due and for the Secretary of State also to be able to receive outstanding payments. I hope your Lordships will support this amendment, which will ensure that both parties to the agreements are fairly treated. The need for the amendment is not removed by your Lordships' decision on Amendment 58D since the MCCs will cease to be the Secretary of State's agents upon their abolition.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 62B:
Page 107, line 14, at end insert—
(" (4) All rights of a metropolitan county council arising from or in connection with any such agreement as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) above to receive payments from the Secretary of State and all liabilities of such a council arising as aforesaid to make payments to him (being rights and liabilities attributable to anything done or omitted under or in respect of any such agreement before the abolition date) shall be transferred on that
date to the appropriate residuary body; and accordingly as from that date any such agreement shall have effect as respects such rights and liabilities as an agreement between the Secretary of State and the appropriate residuary body.")
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule 5 [Road traffic]:
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
In calling Amendment No. 62C, I should point out to the Committee that I cannot call No. 63 and that it is uncertain as to whether No. 62C can be called.
Lord Tordoff had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 62C:
Page 116, line 48, leave out sub-paragraph (1) and insert—
(" (1) For the purpose of securing the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicles and other traffic, including pedestrians, and having regard to—
§ The noble Lord said: Before saying "Not moved" in respect of this amendment, I want to say that should changes be made to this Bill at a later stage then, like the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe of Richmond, in connection with his amendment, I would wish to being this back at a much later stage.
§ [Amendment No. 62C not moved.]
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 63:
Page 117, line 3, leave out lines 3 to 8 and insert—
- (" (a) the London borough councils and the Common Council;
- (b) all bodies representative of those authorities, and
- (c) such other bodies as the Secretary of State considers to be representative of persons likely to be affected by that designation ").
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the Secretary of State carries out meaningful consultations before designating a road and that the majority of borough councils to whom the roads belong agree with him on the policies to be adopted for them. Without such approval, the Secretary of State would be able to impose his policies on borough roads without local people being able to say how the roads should be run.638
§ The Secretary of State can, by order, designate any borough road, not just ex-GLC metropolitan roads, for the purpose of facilitating the movement of traffic. He must consult with the boroughs in which the road is located, other boroughs he considers affected by the designation and any other body which he deems fit. But he, the Secretary of State, will have the final decision.
§ This category of designated route will be linked to London, and the Secretary of State has indicated that some 350 miles of borough roads will be categorised in this way. He does, however, have the power to extend the network at any time on these roads which form more than a third of the mileage of GLC roads which would be handed over. The boroughs will be unable to introduce any measures which prohibit, restrict or regulate traffic or parking without the approval of the Secretary of State. The same will apply to any other road if measures introduced on it affect traffic or parking on a designated route. If a borough undertakes any work on a designated road without the approval of the Secretary of State, then the Secretary of State can reverse or modify the work, as he sees fit, and charge the borough for the work he has done.
§ Borough councils will not be able to introduce any parking, bus priority measures, cycling facilities, pedestrian crossing facilities, lorry control or road safety measures on a designated or adjoining road if they do not meet the approval of the Secretary of State. He would then effectively be the traffic order-making authority for over half of London's main roads, 200 miles of trunk roads and 300 miles plus of designated roads. This is an unprecedented interference by central Government over local policies and individual schemes. It will lead to delays, bureaucracy and conflict, but always with the Secretary of State having the final word.
§ The Government claim that the proposals they are putting forward will increase local democracy. I believe this is quite wrong, and the Government must realise it. The proposals represent an enormous increase in central Government control. They reflect the fact that the Secretary of State clearly recognises the need for London-wide co-operation and co-ordination of traffic planning, yet he is getting rid of the one directly elected authority with the expert teams capable of co-ordination and replacing it by Whitehall centralisation. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has spoken out against disbanding these expert teams, and I thoroughly agree with it. I hope that the Committee will accept this amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
Before turning to the detail of this amendment I should like, if I may, to explain a little of the background to our proposals. London has some 8,000 miles of roads. After abolition, just under 7,800 miles will be the responsibility of the boroughs, and the responsibility of the remaining 210 miles will pass to the Secretary of State. While the remaining 210 miles of trunk roads known as key routes will form the most important routes for traffic distribution in London, providing links to the national network of trunk roads and motorways, there are about 300 further miles of roads of major importance for traffic movement within London.
639 Any traffic or parking measures proposed by borough councils that reduce the capacity of these roads could have serious repercussions over extensive areas. For this reason, a power is proposed to enable these roads to be designated, which will have the effect of requiring the Secretary of State's consent to traffic or on-street parking measures proposed by boroughs on or affecting traffic or parking on designated roads. The intention is to use this power to protect against measures unjustifiably restricting capacity on these roads.
The amendments changing the consultation requirements are unsuitable in two ways: first, they would require all London boroughs and their associations to be consulted over any change to a designated road. All borough councils have already been consulted about the proposals for the initial designation of 300 miles, and other organisations and local groups have had the opportunity to express their views too. Of course, subsequent adjustments to the network of designated roads will be necessary to reflect the changing circumstances such as completion of a road. For instance, once the South Woodford to Barking relief road is constructed it may be appropriate to undesignate some other roads in that area. It would be excessively bureaucratic and needlessly time-consuming to have to consult all London boroughs over such changes, which would be of mainly local significance.
Secondly, the requirement to consult bodies which are thought to be representative of persons likely to be affected would impose an impossible task upon my right honourable friend. Although he would of course invite all interested bodies to comment and anyone interested would thus have an opportunity to make their views known, there is such a multiplicity of often-changing local organisations that he cannot know all of them. The drafting of the amendment would mean that the Secretary of State would never be able to be sure that all relevant bodies had been consulted. That is likely to lead to complex and time-consuming legal challenges. I am confident that the consultation requirements in the paragraph are all that is needed.
I am not quite clear whether the noble Lord spoke to the second amendment, No. 63A, with Amendment No. 63, but they do run concurrently.Amendment No. 63A: Page 117, line 8, at end insert—("(1A) Any proposals or policies which the Secretary of State may wish to introduce in relation to designated roads in Greater London shall be issued either—
- (a) with the agreement of a majority of the councils of the London boroughs; or
- (b) by order in circumstances where no agreement can be reached within such reasonable period as the Secretary of State may determine.(1B) No order under sub-paragraph (1A) above shall be made unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(1C) The Secretary of State shall exercise his powers under this paragraph in accordance with any policies proposed by him with regard to designated roads which have been agreed by a majority of those councils.".)The amendment would require any policies and proposals introduced by the Secretary of State in relation to designated roads to be subject either to the agreement of the majority of London borough councils or else to be set out in an order subject to
640 positive resolution in Parliament. This amendment may reflect a misunderstanding about the scope of paragraph 5. Designation does not give the Secretary of State any powers to make proposals for traffic schemes. It only gives him the power to approve or withhold approval from traffic or parking schemes proposed by boroughs on or affecting designated roads.
The purpose of designation, as my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport explained at Committee stage in another place, is to ensure that the Secretary of State is in a position to consider whether a borough's traffic management proposals on or affecting a designated road will lead to serious and unjustified effects on the movement of traffic in the wider area. It recognises that the roads proposed for designation are the most important distributor roads in London. Thus, the policy to be adopted in operating this power has already been set out. The emphasis will now be on making the power work with the minimum of interference with borough councils. An elaborate statutory procedure to confirm simple policy is unnecessarily bureaucratic, and I therefore urge your Lordships to reject these amendments.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The Minister really ought to insist that the briefs he reads are not the briefs before yesterday. That speech could have been made had the Committee not made the decision it took earlier this evening and had it not been agreed by the Committee that there was to be a body responsible—the London residuary body—which would have the reponsibilities contained in the existing transport policies and programmes procedures. As it is, the brief he has read is almost entirely irrelevant to the amendment moved by my noble friend, and the noble Lord has really painted himself into a corner on this one.
What he has done is to show clearly that the Secretary of State is quite unable to make decisions which have to be taken and will now have to be taken by the London residuary body about traffic in London as a whole. He is quite unable to make any decisions about who is affected by traffic proposals in individual London boroughs. He is quite unable—because he has given only the most general assurances about the continuing responsibilities of the research, intelligence and scientific branch of the GLC—to make any decisions about who is actually affected by a road proposal on a designated road. He has denied himself all the weapons which he might have had if he had paid attention to the amendments which have now been carried.
On the basis of the Government's arguments earlier this evening, there is no answer whatsoever to the argument put forward by my noble friend. I really do think that the Minister ought in future to insist that his briefs are up to date and that they do respond to the situation as it faces the Committee.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
I listened with care to the Minister's reply and I think that what my noble friend Lord McIntosh said is perfectly true. If the Minister had been able to find an answer to the difficulty that we are now in because of what happened earlier today, his reply might have been more 641 convincing. On the other hand, he made out a perfect case when he spoke about the difficulty of the Secretary of State going round all the boroughs for the sake of a by-pass road in Blackheath. That is exactly what we were trying to avoid, by having an authority which would be representative of the general views of London. There would be no need to expend effort and energy on one part of London, without another part of London within that body knowing and without being able to communicate it to the relevant parts. However, I have heard the Minister's reply and I believe that at this stage my best course would be to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 63A and 63B not moved.]
§ 10.30 p.m.
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 64:
Page 118, line 19, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert—
("(2) Any such guidance shall be issued either—
(2A) No order under sub-paragraph (2) above shall be made unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(2B) Before preparing any such guidance the Secretary of State shall consult—
§ The noble Lord said: I shall move this amendment very briefly. The amendment modifies the powers of the Secretary of State to intervene in local problems relating to traffic. Under this amendment, before issuing guidance on the exercise of traffic powers which affect more than one district, the Secretary of State must first try to obtain the agreement of the majority of constituent district councils. The amendment seeks to ensure that the guidance given to the London body will be the guidance of the districts of London and not a decision dictated by some central Government order.
§ The mandatory guidance and traffic powers considerably increase Government control over traffic policy in London and while everyone recognises that all local authorities fully participate in the drawing up of this policy after wide consultation with interested bodies, the feeling is that, nevertheless, there should be more positive means of local bodies making their views known, and so I believe that a London-wide body is required.
§ We are in great difficulty, because of the earlier amendment, as to how to deal with these points. But the department has little experience in formulating flexible traffic management policies or designated 642 schemes in complex urban conditions. That has always been done by the boroughs, the districts, the metropolitan authorities or the county authorities, and the GLC certainly has these skills.
Criticisms of this aspect of the Bill were made by one Conservative Member in the Committee stage in the other place. He said:
Far from allocating responsibility from the London authority to boroughs, the Bill provides for a high degree of Government control. The Bill is a recipe not only for control by the Secretary of State. He is, of course, responsible to Parliament and he could not possibly involve himself in 895 miles of London's roads. Therefore the Bill is a recipe for control by officials in Marsham Street".
It is in order to try to mitigate that possibility that I move this amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
I am afraid that we need to consider, in the light of the amendments made earlier this evening, the appropriate course to be taken with this amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and I think it would be to the convenience of the Committee if I said no more about it at this stage.
§ Lord Diamond
May I say one word? As the noble Viscount the Leader of the House is here, he will be aware of the difficulties in which we are placed, because the Government insist on carrying on with the consideration of a Bill after it has been amended in a fundamental way. We have already had the extraordinary situation of an amendment being called, and then being declared to be out of order after it had been called and spoken to. We have had a Government Minister making a speech relevant to a situation which is no longer the case. Would it not have been better had the Government considered their situation somewhat more carefully rather than to have put the Committee into this difficulty?
§ Viscount Whitelaw
No is the answer to that, quite firmly. The answer is absolutely simple. I do not accept that what happened is a fundamental change in the Bill which was carried through in the Division.
§ Lord Tordoff
Would the noble Viscount the Leader of the House not accept that it is fundamental so far as this part of the Bill is concerned? Therefore we are in some difficulty, as the noble Lord the Minister has indicated, on this particular clause.
§ Lord Elton
There is a great deal of work still to be done on this Bill. A lot of the Bill is not touched by that amendment. It happens that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that my noble friend painted himself into a corner; so my noble friend resolutely put his brush into the pot and left it there, which is a very sensible thing to do. On this particular amendment, which does not go very wide, the intricacies of the effect of the amendment are fairly considerable. It is true that there will be borough roads and therefore the amendment is not otiose, but the noble Lord will understand that according to the extent of the borough roads and the extent to which the other powers of the boroughs have been interfered with, if I may so put it, by the earlier amendment, it really would be very unwise of us to give the noble Lord a robust and final answer to this amendment at this stage. But to say that 643 we should adjourn or give up the proceedings as a result of that goes beyond what any of your Lordships would wish.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
I do not think anyone was suggesting that we should give up. There is a great deal of worry, as the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Diamond, said, about this particular clause. We are certainly not suggesting that the entire Bill is in jeopardy because of this. This is in a particular clause. To be told that certain amendments are no longer applicable puts everyone in a difficult position in regard to Report or Third Reading if the Government should decide to return the Bill to how it was. It is a difficult situation. No one wants to adjourn. We are really in a great difficulty.
§ Lord Elton
I am not sure where the noble Lord has left us with this amendment. I am sure he will wish us to consider it, and that we shall do in the light of developments.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
Considering all that has happened, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 64A not moved.]
§ [Amendment No. 65 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
§ [Amendment No. 66 not moved.]
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 67:
Page 120, line 28, at end insert—
(" (2A) Before making an order under this paragraph the Secretary of State shall consult all local authorities in Greater London or, as the case may be, the metropolitan county concerned and shall notify the authority or authorities which will be affected by the order at least six months before the order is made.")
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the Secretary of State cannot take over by order the powerful area traffic control system without first consulting with all London boroughs and giving six months' prior notice of intention. This may seem to be a contradiction of what I said earlier about the Secretary of State needing to consult with all London boroughs about a road in Blackheath or some other part in the conurbation; but it is quite different. This is a powerful traffic control system on which practically all of London's traffic depends, and it is only right that proper notice and warning should be given to the London boroughs before there is any thought of the Secretary of State taking control over it. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult all the boroughs and district councils to seek their proposals for the continuing operation and development of 644 traffic control systems. If as a result he considers no satisfactory joint arrangements can be reached and put to him in good time before the abolition date, he must take steps to be in a position to exercise his reserve powers on 1st April 1986. My understanding is that now that Amendment No. 58C has been passed, and urban traffic control would therefore pass to the residuary body, this amendment is not applicable at this stage.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
This is the difficulty that we are in. But after the explanation of the noble Lord, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 68, 69, 70, 71 and 71A not moved.]
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
Is the purpose of the noble Lord in not moving Amendment No. 71 A because there is doubt about the logicality of the amendment?
§ [Amendment No. 72 not moved.]
§ Schedule 5 agreed to.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
There is an understanding as to the progress of the Bill and as to how far we should go beyond the point that we have now reached. There is an understanding as to the pace of the Bill, the amount of work we shall complete tonight and where we shall start on Thursday. If the Government Chief Whip were in his place, this would normally be the time when he would respond to a suggestion that proceedings on the Bill be adjourned. I think that the Minister will understand that I am trying to make it possible for the Chief Whip to make an appearance. Hey presto! I believe that the Government Chief Whip may be able to say something about the progress of the Bill. May I assist the Government Chief Whip by indicating that, as we have understood the arrangements that have been made, we were to reach a certain point in the progress of the Bill and then the Government Chief Whip would respond to the mood of the Committee, which is that we do not proceed beyond the point we have now reached.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
I apologise for not being present. I was in consultation with the Government Chief Whip. I understand that in our temporary absence we have reached Amendment No. 72 and other amendments have not been called. Therefore we have arrived at the time when we thought we would adjourn this evening.
§ Lord Denham
If we have reached the stage when we should adjourn I am very happy to do so. We have agreed through the usual channels outside what this time should be. Therefore I beg to move that the House do now resume.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.