HL Deb 20 April 1988 vol 495 cc1510-65

3.5 p.m.

Lord Underhill rose to call attention to the state of public transport and the problems of traffic congestion; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to stress first of all that the provision of public transport and the problem of congestion are to a very great extent complementary. One-third of the households in this country are still without a car and a substantial number of women are without driving licences. In any event, the car is not readily accessible to them and they, the young, elderly, disabled and others on low income are dependent upon public transport for journeys for various purposes.

No large town can function effectively without public transport, but for those living in rural areas without a car and with little or no public transport the position is one of some misery. Despite its importance, transport in the United Kingdom functions with less financial support than that in most other European countries. We regard this as a public service which deserves public support.

Recently the Department of Transport issued a consultation paper purporting to be, A review of deregulated bus services under the Transport Act 1985". This in no way seeks to analyse how deregulation is working but it deals only with procedures which the department considers should be changed or modified. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Passenger Transport Executive Group considered it highly desirable that the impact of the 1985 Act should be independently assessed. The Oxford University Transport Studies Unit has been commissioned to undertake a three-year study on the effects of the legislation.

The first report was published in September and Ministers have commented that it was well balanced. In addition, other reports were commissioned from a well-respected and independent consultant transport economist who is well known to the department, Mr. W. G. Tyson. His second report was received as recently as 7th April this year. All this work concerns the metropolitan areas. It appears that there is very little detailed information on the assessment in the shire counties.

The 1985 Act made illegal general revenue support for bus services. However, the relevant authorities have the power to subsidise services where, in their view, there is a transport need which is not met commercially. Soon after deregulation bus operators did not register about 20 per cent, of bus mileages which was considered unprofitable because of low passenger use on early morning, evening and weekend services. Other reasons were that they operated in sparsely populated areas or they were mainly used by children at reduced fares.

The PTAs brought back these socially necessary services, but since deregulation operators have withdrawn yet more services. The demand for PTA-funded services is increasing. This has imposed significant financial and administrative burdens upon the PTAs and without adequate funding other services inevitably must go. Another concern is the continued change in the pattern of services. Commercial services are potentially unstable as they can and do change at 42 days' notice. In metropolitan areas more than half of the services have changed at least once since deregulation. West Yorks has had over 1,000 changes.

Strathclyde had some 2,000 changes over nine months in 1987. This is continuing at an average of 15 changes each working day. Not all PTAs arranged concessionary travel schemes for children immediately following deregulation. Some left it to operators to offer what was regarded as a standard half-charge concession. This did not occur, but now all the PTAs in conjunction with their districts have been obliged to arrange such concessionary charges for children, pensioners and the disabled. Most schemes are time-based to ensure better use of vehicles in off-peak periods. This reduces costs and at the same time protects those with the greatest needs.

In the large conurbations of our country covered by the PTAs, bus patronage has fallen since deregulation. The best estimate is between 7.5 per cent. and 10 per cent. overall, with much higher losses in some areas. This is due to enforced increased fares, reductions in off-peak services and uncertainty of services. With only one exception the areas covered by this study have all suffered substantially increased fares in real terms. Travel cards have also been affected either by an increase in price or by the scope of the facilities offered.

The average age of conventional vehicles has increased. Very few new buses were purchased in 1986 and 1987. The general appearance and quality of destination displays has deteriorated in many of the services. Furthermore, in these areas the passenger transport executive is the source for information about services. Both marketing and the provision of information have been made difficult because of the high level of service changes taking place. Yet the study shows that there is considerable public demand for a reliable information service which only the PTE can give in these areas.

There have been some reductions in operating costs and some increases in efficiency. Part of the cost reduction is due to lower wages and also lower pay for minibus operation rather than to any real increase in efficiency. Large-scale redundancies took place in the PTEs which were only partly offset by job gains with new operators. The cost to the PTEs of these redundancies is estimated at £80 million and it may take several years for these costs to be recovered. There is very little scope for further reductions in costs. If the level of external finance continues to fall, it is less and less likely that the bus industry will be able to maintain present fares and services. For instance, there is the unpredictability of the cost of consequential costs. It must be kept in mind that there is no control whatever over the level of fares of commercial services.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene on an important point?

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the noble Lord may, if he wishes, but I have a limited time to speak.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, the noble Lord said that wages had been reduced. Did he mean that the overall wage payment by companies had gone down or that the individual wages of the operators had gone down? I find the latter hard to believe.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I hope that this time will be added to my allocation. In my own area, where London Regional Transport put out to tender some new services, country rates are being paid instead of town rates. A whole garage has been put off because of that. There have been cuts in wages through tendering out and particularly through minibus operations.

It is clear that the market does not provide everything. Intervention has been required by the various authorities to provide concessionary fares, socially necessary services, publicity and information, provision of inter-operator tickets and arrangements for Section 20 grants with British Rail. Of course regard must be paid to cost benefit, but social benefit is also of essential importance. This was stressed time and again during discussion on various transport Bills over recent years but those views were rejected by Ministers.

Public transport must be linked to planning policies. Prior to abolition, metropolitan counties were doing this, because transport was not dealt with in isolation but was considered by the county council along with other policy matters. Much of the major development in the public transport network has come with the establishment of the structure of PTAs and PTEs. I refer to the provision of cross-country services, bus/rail integration, across-border concessionary schemes and various enterprising innovative developments. Time does not permit me to go into those.

Matters were made more difficult under the 1983 Act when the Government took power to determine the expenditure levels of the new PTAs. Then, under the 1985 Act, the Government set the precept level for the new PTA structure for a period of three years ending with the current year 1988–89, but financial constraints on local authorities will continue. Now after less than two years' considerable upheaval of the 1985 Act the Government are proposing further fundamental change in the financing of public transport authorities.

On 22nd January the Department of Transport issued a short consultation paper entitled Proposed Changes in the Financing of Passenger Transport Authorities. It is proposed to change the present procedure of a PTA issuing a precept on its districts to one of billing those authorities. In a Written Answer on 30th March, Mr. David Mitchell, Minister for Public Transport, admitted that most respondents to that paper disliked the proposed change but he said that appropriate amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill would be introduced on Report, after the Committee stage in another place. These amendments are being considered in the other place this evening. I feel free to comment as the consultation paper has been widely issued but I shall reserve detailed observations in case these amendments should come forward in the final Bill presented to your Lordships' House.

Many questions need to be asked. I shall content myself with only four with which I hope the Minister will be able to deal in his reply. Why is transport being singled out for this change while the joint police and fire authorities in these same areas are to be unaffected? Why was the wording of the consultation paper designed to encourage district councils to secede from their PTAs? How do the Government justify the divorce of responsibility from the body responsible for public transport spending decisions and the bodies responsible for financing them? Will the Minister give an assurance that a statement by Mrs. Lynda Chalker, the then Minister of State for Transport, during the abolition legislation debates on the importance of co-ordination through the PTAs that, in the lady's words, "None is under threat" remains government policy? These are important questions in the light of the amendments being discussed today in the other place.

There is widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of services provided by British Rail. There is overcrowding on long-distance Intercity services and considerable discontent with commuter services. British Rail has to operate with one of the lowest levels of government support of any EC country. The public service obligation grant has been steadily reduced from £950 million in 1982. In 1990–91 it will be down as low as £539 million. British Rail has to operate within an expenditure financing level for investment fixed by the Government.

Although there have been a number of welcome investment decisions by the Government, there clearly has to be an urgent review of the Government's financial approach to British Rail. The unions have pressed the Government to restore the level of grant, but to no avail. However, they decided that there is an urgent need for a better deal for rail passengers and they have launched the "Better Rail" campaign. That proposes better facilities at little or no cost. Those costs were explained at a detailed presentation which I was pleased to be able to attend. Will the Government encourage British Rail, with those helpful proposals, to give an improved image of rail services?

Consideration of rail leads me to the second part of the Motion—the problem of congestion. As is well known, there is congestion on many of our trunk roads as well as in many towns. As much as I want to see an increase in rail freight—I believe that that will be achieved when the through freight services of the Channel Tunnel take place—it will relieve road congestion only to a small extent. However, there is scope for further rail passenger use. There has already been some encouraging increase in Intercity services and Sprinter services in the provinces.

The problem of car usage in towns continues to increase; more off-street parking in town centres only increases the problem. My noble friend Lord Jay will deal with London's transport, but I am sure that he will agree with me on two points in particular. London Regional Transport is tightly constrained on finance, which limits the amount of development that can be undertaken. There must be adequate parking at surburban underground and rail stations to encourage the completion of a journey by public transport, but that requires adequate services with satisfactory conditions.

Congestion is added to by the condition of trunk and local roads. The 1987 National Road Condition Survey shows that until 1980 the condition of all classes of road was improving but that since then conditions have deteriorated. We must remember that a vast amount of traffic is carried on local roads—two-thirds of all traffic, and 93 per cent. of urban traffic. The Secretary of State strongly criticised highway authorities for their underspend on the maintenance of local roads. That that now has to be paid from the authority's revenue is overlooked. With the repeated cut in rate support grant, expenditure on roads has now to compete with what would be unacceptable cuts in other essential local services. As with the issue of public transport, there needs to be a change in the sad relationship between central and local government with an improvement in financing.

The White Paper on Roads in England 1987 set out three objectives for the road programme—to assist economic growth by reducing transport costs; the improvement of the environment by removing through traffic; and the enhancement of road safety. I suggest that a fourth objective is missing; that is, to enhance the accessibility of public transport. The accessibility of public transport is vital if we believe that there should be a development of public transport, for the various reasons I have given.

To save saying many more words, I believe that the issue is nicely summed up in two paragraphs from an excellent document The Way Ahead issued by the British Roads Federation which states: There is no simple solution to the problems of urban traffic congestion. There must be a broader approach providing better roads, improved public transport, modern traffic management systems, more effective enforcement of laws and regulations, and greater parking provision. These, in turn, should be part of a comprehensive programme of urban regeneration and should recognise that since cities differ in many ways, so too will solutions to their problems. Finally, it needs to be understood that negative and suppressive measures which take no account of the interdependence of people and movement will only serve to accelerate urban degeneration and encourage spread into the green belt and rural areas". I believe that that neatly sums up the problems of congestion, which are linked to the development of public transport. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.25 p.m.

Lord Teviot

My Lords, we must all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for introducing this important debate. It is too long since the House has taken time to look at the perennial problem of traffic congestion. It is one of the problems of the century. It even existed in the last century. It dates back to the era of the horse. We read reports and see pictures from before the First World War showing the overcrowded streets of London and other cities, and yet as we progress with the technology of transport we get only deeper into the mire of congestion.

What is significant about the debate is that in pointing to a problem it couples with it a solution which we have neglected. Good public transport could do so much to overcome traffic congestion, and yet we have seldom fully appreciated that fact. Rather, we find fault with our buses instead of seeing to what extent they serve us all, even the motorist.

It is probable that that is because those of us who have the opportunity to do something about the problem are ourselves car users and see those large big red, blue, orange or green buses as getting in our way. Do we not say, "If only that bus were not there"? It would be replaced by up to 40 cars, and how much worse that would be.

It is not just bus passengers who benefit from buses. If car owners could be attracted back to buses the benefits to all who live or work in towns or cities would be significant. The sheer number of cars, moving and stationary, in a limited area can impede the traffic flow so much that the car ceases to be an efficient method of transport in towns and cities.

Congestion also makes bus services less competitive and more costly. Some years ago, London Transport estimated that if Monday to Friday services could run as quickly as they did on Saturday mornings the 15 per cent. speed-up would save £38 million a year and generate an additional £12 million of passenger revenue by attracting 50 million extra passengers. The figure must be much higher now.

Despite that, people like private cars. They must be given reasonable facilities and opportunities to use them. No government can fail to recognise the fact that it would be undesirable to try to restrict personal mobility by failing to provide for the private car. At the same time, buses are a necessity because, first, everyone is a potential bus user; secondly, not everyone has access to a car—most car-owning households have one car and one driver only. It is curious to note that only one woman in three has a driving licence. Thirdly, the congestion caused by large numbers of vehicles concentrated in urban areas destroys the very mobility that the private car is designed to provide. Fourthly, the environmental damage caused by large numbers of cars lowers the quality of life and costs large amounts of money.

People need buses to take them to work, to enable them to see their friends and relations, to go shopping, to visit places of entertainment and so forth. Buses are vital for people who are looking for work to enable them to go to prospective employers. On that point I shall digress. Some years ago I was in Vancouver where there was a three-month strike. Even in that what we may consider to be affluent city there was no alternative transport. People were severely impeded because there was no way that they could visit prospective employers. Those who live in some of the larger urban areas have alternatives: tube, metro or train. But in the majority of towns the bus is the only form of public transport apart from the taxi, of course.

Some would suggest that the solution to urban transport problems lies in constructing more urban roads and car parks. In this context it is important to realise that if just half the people who now commute by bus went by car instead, Birmingham and Manchester would need at least another 80 acres of car parks and London another 190 acres. Even without including the need for substantial new road development, that would mean in London the loss of an area twice the size of St. James's Park, or about half the size of Regent's Park or Hyde Park, or in Birmingham an area the size of Cannon Hill Park and in Manchester that of Heaton Park. The alternatives would be an increased urban sprawl or destroying buildings and other facilities.

In view of the importance of the bus relieving urban congestion and providing mobility for all, I am somewhat concerned to learn that since the deregulation which we hoped would improve bus services and make them more attractive for passengers, the number of people using local buses outside London has fallen by 10 to 15 per cent. The noble Lord mentioned 7 to 10 per cent., but I think that outside London it is 10 to 15 per cent. More people must be using their cars and this is a source of great concern and disappointment.

We have all been told that there are more buses on the roads doing more miles. But if there are fewer passengers using them then their effectiveness in reducing congestion must be diminished. If they are not being used effectively and efficiently, ultimately they will disappear, leading to even more congestion.

What can be done? We have freed buses to compete with each other but we have done little to help them compete with the private car which, on congested roads, is enjoying an unfair advantage because its users are not paying for the congestion it causes. We have an obvious example on our doorstep: bus priorities. Buses coming over Westminster Bridge can turn right into Parliament Street and Whitehall and do not have to go all the way round Parliament Square. This often saves them and their passengers four or five minutes, it reduces costs and helps keep fares down. All in all, this is a sensible policy. But we do not have enough of these opportunities.

It is also absolutely vital that the traffic regulations and parking restrictions be enforced. Failure to do that can entirely negate the beneficial effects of bus priorities and lead to the lack of punctuality and reliability which will encourage people to prefer their cars to public transport. Traffic warden forces must be kept up to strength and penalties must reflect the real cost in congestion and accidents, of parking and traffic offences. If they did so, it would benefit all road users, as the improved reliability of bus services would attract more passengers back to the bus, with corresponding further improvements in traffic conditions for the ordinary motorist.

These considerations demonstrate the need both for a balance in policies between public and private transport and the most accurate possible appreciation of the true costs of different policy options. Social cost benefit analysis is a well established process and is used by the Department of Transport when making decisions about road projects. It is important that the public transport option is given full weight when deciding between expensive new urban highways and the more efficient use of existing roads.

I am somewhat concerned that the effort everyone had to put into making bus deregulation happen may have diverted attention away from the wider policy issues of the relationship between public and private transport. Many of the changes which we have seen in the past few years, for example, the reform of metropolitan area local government, have reduced the ability of those at local level to take a broad view of transport.

The 1985 Transport Act reduced considerably the ability of public authorities to use public transport policy as an instrument to fight congestion. Putting on additional services on a road where there is already an adequate service may attract people from their cars. But it may be difficult to achieve without inhibiting competition. We should review all options available to improve public transport's competitivness with the car and ensure that it is still up to the job of helping to reduce urban traffic congestion.

Before finishing with buses, I think we should remember that buses can cause congestion, especially where there is intense competition. There have been several examples of this. I think we should review the powers local authorities have to deal with this problem now that we have 18 months' experience of deregulation. We have in many towns and cities under-utilised bus stations and we should see that steps are taken to make sure that they are better used.

I am not confining myself entirely to buses. Railways make a major contribution to the relief of congestion. Here I think I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I may agree with him about road passenger transport, but I feel that this Government have done a great deal to improve the lot of British Rail. I would even go so far as to say that British Rail has been the Government's favourite transport child. More than any other government, as far as I can see, they have attracted investment into improving their services. Also, as a result of that investment, the amount of subsidy has been reduced and will continue to be reduced.

Turning to congestion, as the noble Lord pointed out, we are not only concerned with streets. Anyone who travels on a motorway, especially the M.1 on a Friday evening, must be a masochist to wish to undertake that journey unless his destination is in some deep rural situation. Even going on the M.25 is totally intolerable. Last Friday, on leaving the Heathrow area to go home to mid-Sussex, I took one look at the M.25 and saw that it was totally impassable. I went by various means to the A.3; I had another look at the M.25 and thought that it was even worse. Even in that appalling rain I had a most pleasant journey across country. The motorways, especially the M.1 and the M.25, and I am sure there are many others, are the roads to which much attention should be paid.

I think I have said all that I wish to say about railways except for Intercity. The marketing policy of British Rail has, I am sure, encouraged many people to use the Intercity services. Again, I look forward to being a senior citizen, especially in the month of November. I am sure I shall take full advantage of roaming round everywhere for £5—perhaps by then it will be a mere £6 or £7.

I applaud British Rail's policy for investment in the London and South-East Networks. We have had the railways for a long time, but even more encouraging is the recently announced go-ahead for the light rapid transit in Manchester. I understand that several other schemes are being developed which will all contribute to relieving urban congestion. It is one of the best pieces of innovation in public transport and it should be encouraged. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to these new schemes. On that optimistic note I shall end.

3.39 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I should like to express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for giving us the opportunity of looking yet again at the problem of traffic congestion and public transport. What makes it all the more important that we should be considering these problems today is that the evidence suggests that the difficulties could progressively get worse unless urgent action is taken.

I should like to concentrate on London because I am most familiar with the traffic scene there. It is perfectly true to argue that traffic congestion is not a new phenomenon in London. Many of your Lordships will no doubt have seen pictures of, although I think few would have witnessed, the congestion caused by horse-drawn traffic in various important parts of London such as Oxford Street, Liverpool Street and other such areas.

It was as long ago as 1902 that there was set up a Royal Commission to improve road traffic speeds. I do not know what success was gained in 1902 but all one can say is that in 1988 road traffic speeds in London cannot be very much more than they were then. The average speed is about 12 miles an hour, so we are told, and in central London it is down to eight miles an hour. On all forecasts both these speeds, which are moving towards walking speed, will progressively diminish according to the information provided by those who have studied this subject.

The fact is that we shall get an increasing car population. All the evidence suggests again that although the human population in Greater London may have diminished in recent times, the car-owning capacity of those living in the city will increase and that by the year 2001, just at the start of the next century, 52 per cent. of those employed and living in London will be using cars compared with about 35 per cent. in 1981. That is a massive increase.

So car ownership in households will rise substantially. We have seen from the statistics of car sales in the first quarter of this year that they have gone up by no less than 11 per cent. That would be a highly desirable development if there were the road space and the facilities in which to use those extra cars.

The cost of road congestion is very considerable. This is an element which is sometimes forgotten. The British Road Federation, which has already been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has estimated that that cost is running at about £3 billion a year. That is the cost of congestion throughout the country. That represents roughly 1 per cent. of GDP. One could argue that we could think of better ways of spending £3 billion than merely in sitting around and not moving in traffic.

Another figure which has been produced and which I think is very striking is that British roads appear to be more congested than those elsewhere in the EC. In the United Kingdom over 6,000 cars move per kilometre on the motorway. In other Community countries it varies between 2,000 and 4,000. So we are apparently more congested than they are.

We have a situation in which on all the evidence the vehicle population is rising but the capacity for meeting it is not. There are greater delays, slower speeds and increased costs of congestion. I do not think therefore that anybody could argue that we do not have a problem here which requires pretty urgent attention. What it needs above all is a concerted and co-ordinated approach. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, was quite right to emphasise the quotation from the recent report of the British Road Federation.

What is needed is for this solution to be found by combined action between central and local government, transport operators public and private, and the police; and not least let us mobilise the public in trying to find a solution to this problem. I have looked at a number of reports which have been prepared on this issue, as other noble Lords must have done in preparing for this debate. I have looked at reports prepared by the RAC, the AA, the British Road Federation, the CBI, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, Transport 2000, the London Centre for Transport and a recent series of articles in The Times which was completed only a few days ago. It is becoming increasingly clear what kind of solution we should be going for.

It is perfectly true that initiatives are being taken. Westminster Council, for example, has launched a major review of its plans for the area for which it is responsible and transport will be included. The Secretary of State for Transport has launched a central London rail study in which British Rail and London Regional Transport will be participating. Tests are being carried out on the Autoguide, which is intended to provide guidance to road users in order to enable them to avoid congested areas. All those are desirable initiatives.

But the difficulty I find in all this is that the initiatives are disparate. They are separately undertaken by separate bodies. We need to bring all this together. I should like to suggest that thought be given to what might be described as a five-point plan for London traffic.

The five points are as follows. First, there should be effective enforcement of rules about parking. With this, one must associate providing sufficient parking. We might do well to study what is happening at the present time in central Paris where enormously increased underground parking areas have been made available. We should in connection with this part of the plan consider whether there should be some restraint on the movement of cars into central London. I know that we all object to restraints but nevertheless ideas have been worked out about supplementary licensing. That could be some discouragement and the proceeds from the supplementary licences could be used to improve public transport which could then move about more freely. I feel that these issues need to be very seriously considered.

The second part of the five-point plan would be improved management schemes. There have been quite a number of improved management schemes in London but there are still congested areas. Outside our front door there is a permanently congested area which could do with a bit of improved traffic management. Trafalgar Square is another such area. I do not believe that these problems just solve themselves. I think that they require very urgent detailed attention. Let us try to find a solution to them.

Thirdly, better roads are needed. Here both the British Road Federation and the CBI have pressed very hard for further road improvement. It is only a small proportion of the road tax that is devoted to road improvement in this country. The commitment which was given when the road tax was originally introduced has never effectively been observed. It is about time that we got back nearer to equilibrium and spent more of those resources on improving the roads, which is what the resources were originally intended for.

Fourthly, there should be better public transport. There have been improvements and there is the rail inquiry. Nonetheless, there is much more that needs to be done. Increased numbers of people are travelling by rail and by Tube and they must be catered for. The point has already been made that we have to get better facilities for public transport at main railway lines. When people arrive in the centre of the metropolis they need to get on to their destination, and if there are not adequate public transport facilities they will be frustrated.

Finally, I wish to mention a point which has not been mentioned by either of the previous speakers; that is, the question of coaches. This is a relatively new phenomenon in London and one which has been referred to many times before. I remind your Lordships that the late Lord Boothby never lost an opportunity of drawing attention to the problem of the coaches. I should like to do so once again in his memory and for the benefit of all those who are suffering from the plethora of unregulated coaches wandering around London.

Of course the tourist trade must be stimulated. No one is against having coaches that take people to view the historic parts of London. However, the way in which coaches occupy large parts of main thorough-fares, apparently without any system or control, is to be deplored. We need to know what the position is.

The other aspect of the coach problem is the coaches doing regular internal business. I refer to a subject which I have raised many times and which I have no hesitation in raising again: Victoria Coach Station. That is further evidence of the way in which we fail to take action on major traffic issues simply because there are so many bodies involved. As regards Victoria Coach Station, the Department of Transport, Westminster City Council and London Regional Transport are all involved. Discussions have gone on for a considerable time between the three bodies without any solution in view. What is urgently needed is to make sure that there are other coach terminals in London. It is ridiculous that north-hound traffic should have to start from the South and that traffic coming from the North should have to go all the way through to Victoria. We are all agreed that there is a problem to be resolved. The way in which we set about resolving such problems does not seem to get us anywhere.

We who live in the Victoria area were promised a public inquiry early this year. That has now been put off to the latter part of the year. The latest information I have from the Minister is that even that may not occur. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell me when he replies what is being done about that problem.

I conclude by suggesting that the proper way to tackle the very important issue to which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has drawn attention is to do it on a concerted basis. I support the proposal which has been made for a Minister in the Department of Transport to be specifically responsible for London traffic and who would have as his prime task initiating the strategy, bringing in all the participants who are involved and seeing that the co-ordinated scheme with its five parts was progressively introduced. I am conviced that if such an initiative were taken it would get very strong public support.

3.55 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I have to confess to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, that a comparatively short time ago I was in a large coach—I presume it was unregulated—which was struggling towards Westminster Abbey. We left Manchester this morning shortly after seven o'clock and had a comparatively smooth run down the M.6 and the M.1. Then the horrors of getting into the centre of London began. The reason was a special one. Together with my noble friends who sit on either side, I was attending the special service in Westminster Abbey marking the launching of the Church Urban Fund, which is a follow-up to Faith in die City.

On the coach were 40-plus people from inner city Manchester and Salford who had come up for that particular occasion. I therefore took the opportunity of talking to them, in preparation for this debate, about some of the problems they were experiencing in the field of public transport. The great majority of those who were on the coach, and possibly a majority of those who were coming for the service in Westminster Abbey, were people who could be described as coming within the one third of the population, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in introducing the debate, who do not have access to private transport. They travel on buses, trains and coaches.

Many people in the inner city areas are being deeply affected by the deteriorating state of public transport. That became clear in the discussions I had with them and from other evidence which is being accumulated on every side. When your Lordships' House discussed the proposed deregulation of public transport, we had those sorts of people principally in mind. We discussed whether they would benefit or whether the services would deteriorate. I shall return to that point in a moment.

I turn now to the spectacular growth in car ownership to which reference has been made. To a great extent, I think that that should be welcomed. However strongly we may believe in public transport, none of us who has had access to cars would wish to be separated from them on many occasions. The convenience of having a car is great. Many people who in past ages would not have had an opportunity to own a car now have one. That is a positive good. However, it is not an unlimited good.

The late Fred Hirsh, the economist, commented in his significant book, Social Limits to Growth, some 10 years ago that the trouble with what he termed "positional goods" such as cars is that it all depends on how many people have them and how they are used. It is rather like people in a crowd standing up on tip-toe. When the first one or two people do so, they get a better view. When large numbers begin to stand on tip-toe, nobody can get a better view. So it is with the enormous numbers of private cars which have been coming on the road.

I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, particularly interesting and encouraging. He has seen clearly the weakness of deregulation on bus services and how it has not succeeded in getting more private cars off the road. That seems to be the evidence, although it is early days to make a considered assessment. I also felt that his personal illustration—or ghastly nightmare, if one may call it that—of Heaton Park in Manchester being covered with cars comes close to home for me. I was walking my dog there yesterday. That is the last thing that I should wish to see.

The growth in car ownership has been damaging because it has not been sufficiently limited. One could make a rapid list of the problems which include traffic congestion, which at times comes near to what the Americans call "grid lock" when the whole of an urban area locks solid. The number of road accidents is, as we all know, absolutely horrifying. There is the nuisance of heavy lorries. People worry over the danger to both the old and the young from increased traffic. The environment in our cities is becoming more and more unpleasant for everyone and especially for pedestrians and cyclists. I leave the problems of rural transport for other noble Lords to deal with. However, they are clearly very acute.

Some restrictions on cars are necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, pointed particularly to what could be done in the London area. I think that the idea that people should be allowed to use their cars without limit is one which is coming to the end of its useful life. I hope that we shall give full attention in this debate to the problems of those without cars who have no access to private transport.

Since deregulation, in Greater Manchester many people have been coping with the difficult changes which have been brought about. I do not wish for one moment to give the impression that everything was lovely in the field of bus transport before deregulation. That is quite untrue. Also, we must admit that there have been some benefits. There has been the pruning of staff at all levels which has led to some cost savings. There has been more emphasis on efficiency and service quality. Discipline over drivers has been tightened up to combat poor attendance and lateness which has been a problem we have been cursed with over the years. Smaller buses which have been appearing on the streets of Greater Manchester have been welcomed. Those are the pluses.

However, as far as I can tell from the evidence now coming forward, which is partly anecdotal and obtained by speaking to people such as those on the coach whom I have described, the minuses are far greater. For example, the public is still very confused about what is happening over timetables and such matters. In spite of the efforts of the passenger transport authority—to which I shall make reference in a moment—it has been very difficult for them to get good information about the services available. They have been faced with constant change. We have been told that the situation would settle down, but so far it has not settled down.

One anecdote that may amuse your Lordships concerns a passenger who ran for a bus, boarded it and then discovered that the destination was quite different from that advertised on the back and suggested by the number on the back. When she complained to the driver he said, "I am only responsible for the front of this bus, luv; I am not responsible for what goes on at the back"! Needless to say she was not well pleased.

Some routes are discovered to be non-profitable and so are deregistered, while others are inserted either to fulfil possible needs or to compete with other bus companies on the really profitable routes. Then one gets the ludicrous situation that some main corridors are over-bussed, while small estates in the outer regions of the Greater Manchester conurbation are very poorly served by transport, and increasingly so.

To complete the picture, I must add that the people from inner city Manchester and Salford say that at peak times of the day they do extremely well for buses—of course, because those routes are being funnelled through into the centre of the city and so the competing bus companies can run large numbers of buses at those times. The problems begin after 6 o'clock in the evening or on Sundays—the off-peak period. It is in the outer regions—and remember that 20 per cent. of the route network in Greater Manchester was lost on deregulation—where the real problems arise. Some buses are timed to run approximately three minutes in front of another bus in order to cream off passengers. That is a threat which we foresaw would happen when deregulation was proposed. It seems to have happened. Quite frequent minibus services with good penetration into smaller estates were very welcome initially; but they then proved impossible to maintain. That is another problem that was foreseen: could they be maintained if they ceased to be really profitable?

The question of wages was raised by the noble Lord who is no longer present in the Chamber. The figures I was given show that Bee Line, which operates small minibuses, pays its drivers £2.80 per hour compared with £4.26 paid to double-decker drivers on Greater Manchester Buses. While one might say that there is an element of greater responsibility in driving a double-decker, that is a tremendous difference in wages. I think that it bears out the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that in certain areas of the bus services wages have been depressed as a result of deregulation.

The emphasis on high-use times and corridors means that women's needs are often ignored. They want services all through the day for part-time work, for shopping and for travel with children.

One of the most important points relates to the level of subsidies. That is a point which was discussed vigorously in your Lordships' House when we considered deregulation. The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority applied for £89 million for the year 1988–9 and were allowed only £80 million in subsidy. That is a very substantial drop—well over 10 per cent. It inevitably has an effect on the services which are run in our area.

I think that if one were trying to draw up a balance sheet of profit and loss from deregulation, the answer must be on the minus side at the moment. There are some very serious problems which need attention.

The other point which I wish to make this afternoon has already been referred to. That is the role of the passenger transport authorities, and particularly that of Greater Manchester. Some of the less desirable effects of deregulation have undoubtedly been ameliorated by the work and the efforts of the passenger transport authority. It has played a critical role in restoring stability and making deregulation work in the interests of the community to some extent. In Greater Manchester the authority has been working very hard to establish effective machinery for consulting on the development of transport policies with the conurbation's 10 constituent district councils and with the wider community. So we read with dismay in the consultation paper which has already been referred to that: It is proposed to abolish the power of the PTAs to set a local tax rate—a community charge in the new regime. Instead each PTA would finance its expenditure by billing its constituent councils". That would undoubtedly weaken the role of the PTAs. It is very significant that that change is not proposed for police and fire services. Why not? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. But no, apparently the PTAs are to be weakened and metropolitan councils encouraged to opt out, but not the police and fire services.

The fruits of the efforts of the passenger transport authority are clear for all to see: the very fact that we have the concept of a county-wide public transport network, the role which public transport plays in promoting economic and social regeneration, and the effort to maximise co-ordination and integration. The importance of all those is widely recognised in the Greater Manchester area. Of course it should be when one remembers that 67 per cent. of the routes which are run by the local buses cross the metropolitan district boundaries. It is absolutely essential to have some integration and proper overall planning in transport. I know that the argument is used that if responsibility reverted to the district councils in isolation it would bring it closer to the people. I cannot believe that that is really true or that that would be the result. What is likely to happen is that opting out would lead to a weakening of such planning as we do have which I believe has mitigated some of the more undesirable effects of deregulation.

In conclusion, I would say that public transport, road and rail, needs to be more vigorously supported in the years ahead. The concept of subsidy is also important. I would back the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, when he says that we need a concerted and co-ordinated approach.

4.7 p.m.

Lord Jay

My Lords, I fully agree with the right reverend Prelate that we are faced with a deterioration of public transport in many areas. Perhaps I may return for a moment from Manchester to London. It is my experience that London Transport's Underground services in the past few months have been more seriously disrupted by delays, congestion and breakdowns than at any time previously, even during the war years. Gaps between trains, prolonged waits—particularly on the Circle and Northern Lines—have made it impossible to predict journey times to an extent which was unknown before the Government took over London Transport from the GLC.

That description is not an invention by exasperated passengers. It is virtually admitted in the two London Regional Transport documents—the Annual Business Plan 1988–89 and Consultation Document 1988–1991—which have just been issued. The first of these says: Service reliability has not been as good as planned"— that is something of a euphemism. It also says: The peak period growth is creating serious congestion". The consultation document says: One effect of attracting new users has been the increase in over-crowding in ticket halls and lifts and on escalators, platforms and trains". I fully agree with that description.

Of course there has lately been a large and rather sudden growth in the number of passengers on London Transport. I think that it was ill advised of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, to say in answer to a question in this House on 11th January that that was proof that the Underground was now "providing a good service". The increase in the number of passengers has in fact been due to two causes. First, it is due to the very sensible issue of travel cards, Capital Cards and new forms of ticket in recent months. Secondly, it is due to the fact that car congestion in the streets of the city, of which we have heard so much this afternoon, has made the bus services very much less reliable than they used to be. That is why there is such an increase in the number of passengers on the Underground.

Surely the proper response to that increase in passengers should have been an increase in staff on the Underground to serve them. The refusal to allow that is, I believe, the main cause of the present difficulties. The simple truth is that both the Underground and bus services have been disrupted by a growing shortage of staff, which in turn has been caused by an attempt to save money enforced on London Regional Transport by the financial targets imposed on it by the Government. The main responsibility for these troubles lies with the Government and not with the management of London Regional Transport, which cannot be blamed for trying to meet targets which have been forced on it.

There is conclusive evidence of the fact that London Regional Transport, not alone among public services, is suffering from acute undermanning at the present time. Every day on Underground platforms one hears through an official loudspeaker—when it is audible—that the exceptional delays are due to staff shortages. Secondly, as a variation on that, the voice tells one that the causes of the gaps in train services and the exceptional delays are due to signalling failure or what is described as "an incident". Such incidents and signalling failures are presumably due to lack of maintenance staff and a backlog of maintenance work. Such incidents did not occur until the past year or so.

In addition, London Regional Transport has itself stated that delays on the Northern Line have been due to a shortage of drivers. In his Answer to a Question raised in this House on 11th January the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, also admitted that the total number of staff employed by London Regional Transport had been cut from 56,600 in December 1984 to 42,800 in December 1987. Naturally, if one cuts staff ruthlessly by 25 per cent. at a time when the number of passengers is rapidly increasing there is bound to be considerable disruption.

Moreover, any traveller can see for himself on London Underground that at many stations booking offices are not manned at all for many hours. Should noble Lords not believe me, let them go to Westminster Underground station after nine o'clock on any evening. The London Regional Transport Business Plan admits throughout that management has been struggling to comply with the government financial targets by reducing what it calls real unit costs, which in effect means largely by cutting staff. That document states: Objectives for London Regional Transport set in 1984 have been more than achieved … with revenue grant needs being about half the target level set by the Secretary of State and real unit costs also falling faster than target". Therefore I do not think that the Minister can say that the Government have no responsibilities for what is happening.

We are told that real costs per passenger mile have been reduced. But what does that mean in real life as distinct from economic jargon? It means that if there is a train every 10 minutes instead of a train every five minutes a fall in real unit costs is achieved because fewer drivers are needed; but every passenger has to wait twice as long and probably twice as many people have to stand in the train. The fall in real costs simply means in this case an increase in inconvenience suffered by the public, which in itself is an instructive piece of economics.

Thus in this case a direct conflict exists between service to the public and the profit or loss of the enterprise. Indeed, the same is true if there is only one official instead of two present in the booking office and the queue for tickets is lengthened as a result. It is typical of this Government that they seem to care far more for the profit and loss account of the organisation than for the needs of the public.

Even more serious is the effect of manpower cuts on safety in the Underground. I speak from my own experience when I say that twice since Christmas I have found that an Underground platform (in fact, the southbound Circle line platform at Notting Hill Gate) has been so crowded that further pressure might have risked people being pushed on to the line. In those cases the loudspeaker announced that shortage of staff was responsible for the fact that so few trains were running. On a third occasion we were packed so tightly in a Bakerloo train which kept stopping in the tunnel that passengers were becoming scared. Since noble Lords have been offered several anecdotes today, perhaps I may confess that I was so scared that I escaped into the fresh air and was very glad to go home on foot that night.

On the basis of that and other experiences in the past few months I have been driven to the firm conclusion that the Government's financial targets are not merely causing inconvenience but are endangering safety on the Underground, and that if the present excessive manpower cuts continue and the whole organisation is not restored to the level of efficiency that we knew in previous years there is a risk of a really serious accident.

Although London's Underground has been reduced to such a state, in other European capitals an attempt to cover all costs out of passenger revenue would be regarded as absurd. Paris boasts of its modern Metro, as we all know, but only 38 per cent. of its current costs are covered by passenger fares; most of the remaining costs are covered from the public rates. That is why the Paris Metro looks thoroughly modern, up to date and efficient.

In conclusion, the final irony of the de-manning policy—and that is London Regional Transport's own phrase—is that it appears doubtful whether even the profit and loss account, which is the whole object of the exercise, will in the end be improved. As a result of an absence of booking office staff or indeed inspectors on many occasions, it is now possible to travel for some hours on the London Underground system from anywhere to anywhere without buying a ticket at all. Of course in those circumstances fraud increases and is bound to do so. Several times I myself have had to leave a small pile of coins on an unattended shelf at a deserted station in order to pay my fare. At present British Rail admits that it is losing £34 million a year through fraud.

One hears rumours about the wonderful machines which have been invented which issue passengers with tickets and give the correct change. By all means let us have them on London Underground. But unless and until they are installed, surely it would be more sensible to make it possible for people to buy tickets at booking offices before they travel.

In fact, the energies of London Transport management in the past few years have been diverted from serving the public in order to meet a paper financial target. Certainly it is possible for an enterprise to be overmanned, as we have been told so often. But it is also possible for an enterprise to be undermanned, and I believe that that is the present state of London Transport and the cause of a great many of these difficulties.

4.20 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, we seem to have discussed transport fairly frequently, which is why I have tended to say frequently that I must declare an interest in that in a few years' time I shall be in receipt of a small pension from British Railways. I also have to declare that I am chairman of a company which has as one of its clients one of the largest container companies in the world.

I have listened with great interest to the debate. I loved the remark of the right reverend Prelate about a bus of bishops who were getting furious because they could not get to where they wanted. It is very easy to make fun of public transport. In this country we tend to denigrate British Rail and London Regional Transport and compare them badly with the systems of other countries in the Community.

I travel every day on British Rail. If my train is two minutes late in arriving at Fleet station I wonder what has happened, and normally we arrive at Waterloo within one minute of the scheduled time. I get off at Waterloo and go on the Underground. I go to one platform, the train comes and I get on it. I get off at the next stop and walk to the next platform, where I get on the train to Westminster. It is very seldom that there is anything wrong with that service. There may be occasional delays because of staff shortages or because of a previous incident, such as when someone has fallen or been pushed under a train. That is bound to disrupt the services.

There may also be signal failures, but I do not believe the noble Lord, Lord Jay, when he says that British Rail and London Regional Transport have been cutting costs by putting the passengers' lives at risk. I shall never believe that. I worked for British Rail for seven years. Even during the strike, when we had difficulties if a train driver reported something wrong on the track, if he thought there was a broken rail, we would investigate. That driver was always right. Train drivers do not put passengers at risk.

British Rail is always criticised. A few years ago there was a train service running from Brighton along the south coast. That was an uneconomic route and British Rail asked the people in the locality if they wanted the service to continue. They said that they did. They were asked: "Do you use it?" They said: "Well, not very often". "When do you use it?" "Oh, when my car is in for service". A transport service cannot be run in that way.

British Rail has new stock coming on line, new signalling and new track. We are a small country. France may be able to lay out a dead straight line, a brand new track to take trains from Paris to the Channel ports. We do not have the land to do that. We still run the most highly utilised railways system in the world—London South-East.

The noble Lord, Lord Jay, spoke of people being crammed into trains and onto platforms. London Regional Transport does not cram people into trains. People cram themselves into trains. On the London South-East section everybody wants to leave and travel into London at a certain time. There can only be a certain number of trains and trains can only be of a certain length. It is physically impossible to have more trains.

I realise that I have been inculcated with a belief in British Rail. I think there is a different situation where buses are concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, spoke almost exclusively of buses. I travel by train and Underground and very seldom by bus. Outside central London it is possible to wait for 40 minutes or more for a bus. If the buses do not come on time one may decide that it is quicker to walk or else one takes the car. That is sad. Integrated tickets have been mentioned. I buy a ticket in Fleet to go into London and can travel on the Underground and by bus with that ticket. That is wonderful.

My training is on land and sea and in the air. I have mentioned that I worked for British Rail. I also worked for an international airline. Before that, I was a merchant sailor on the high seas. Today our roads are getting cluttered and our skies are getting even more cluttered. The only place where there is a reduction in traffic, especially with British flag carriers, is on the sea.

Yesterday I came up to London by car, which was a terrible experience, and I went back by car. The journey took two hours. I was a passenger so I was all right. Outside your Lordships' House there is a bus lane, and while this bus lane is in operation private cars and vans use it. They do it with impunity. At box junctions cars do not stop where they should. They go ahead and block the traffic for everyone. They do it with impunity. How often are people stopped for travelling in a bus lane? How often are people "done" for stopping on a box junction?

I returned home last night on the A.3, which has three lanes. The centre one goes straight ahead, the nearside lane goes to the left and the right-hand lane goes to the right. I said to my driver—she was a woman—"Darling, what is the betting that all these cars in all three lanes go straight ahead?" They did so. It was disgraceful. While going down the M.3 we suddenly came to a near halt; three lanes of traffic crept and crept along. This was because one red double-decker London bus had broken down, which meant that three lanes went into two lanes. Once we passed that bus the traffic speeded up and went along normally.

Bearing that in mind, how is it possible that on the M.40, for a 12-mile stretch, the Government intend to build two lanes in each direction? If one vehicle breaks down there remains just one lane. That reminds me of when they were extending the A.1 motorway and it came to Rutland. Rutland was the smallest county in England, so the planners decided that they needed only two lanes instead of three since it was a small county. Two lanes went to Rutland and there were the most awful build-ups. They then had to expand and build another lane. I am reliably informed that if one has a two-lane highway and one decides to build a third lane, that third lane will cost as much as the first two put together.

Everyone mentions the M.25. I have travelled on it fairly frequently; it is appalling. The planners say, "We never thought that there would be this increase in traffic". They must be stupid. It is common knowledge that roughly 300,000 new drivers go on the roads every year, so of course there will be a build-up. However, it is not just that we do not have enough lanes on the M.25. The fact is that the nearside lane all too often is empty and one has cars travelling in the middle lane at a merry 40 miles per hour. They will not pull over into the nearside lane.

If a fourth lane is built they will travel in the next lane. In effect, all one is doing is spending millions of pounds to produce one extra lane that will not be used. I should like to know why the police do not apprehend people who use bus lanes, who cross blocked junctions, and who travel on motorways in the wrong lane.

I believe it is true to say that between £16,000 million and £20,000 million is taken by the Exchequer every year, in various forms of tax. This figure must be increasing. It therefore follows that more and more cars are being used. Yet the surfaces of some of our smaller suburban roads are becoming so bad that soon those roads will have to be closed.

We have to spend more money on roads. We also have to educate our drivers to obey the law, if not the speed limit. As I have said before in your Lordships' House, I think that the speed limit on motorways should be 80 miles an hour. However, until we have that our road system will become clogged, especially in London, where the situation is appalling. We are coming to a time of the year when there will be coaches nose to tail. One will not be able to move in this area. I do not know where one puts coaches, but as sure as hell they should not be parked where they are parked at the moment.

4.33 p.m.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for tabling this Motion for debate today. It is the first debate on transport for some time. We are most grateful to him.

The Motion is quite limited and deals only with public transport and road congestion. I should like to have seen a road safety element involved. However, quite a lot of congestion is caused by driver behaviour apart from that caused by roadworks. I shall return to that point.

On public transport, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has said, over the last few years British Rail has made quite remarkable improvement in nearly all its services with the introduction of new Intercity trains and the electrification of lines. It is true that British Rail has a long way to go before it can provide total satisfaction. But is that ever possible knowing how people complain if their schedule is interrupted even for two minutes? However, let us give encouragement.

The same is true of the Underground system. I use this form of transport in London. It is much easier than travelling by car. When working in the City a few years ago I remember, commuting to work, how unreliable, filthy and appalling the tube trains were. Considering that the system was not designed for the capacity under which it now operates, I believe that the service is better than it was a few years ago.

Both BR and LRT are to be congratulated on bringing the travelling public back to the public sector. However, there it still a long way to go to improve service and reliability.

Before coming to road congestion, I should like briefly to touch on one other area of public transport. That is river transport. I know that there are plans for a service from Greenwich up the river. Why has it taken so long for this to develop? I can only presume that the proposal has been blocked by some unions. We do not use our River Thames nearly as much as we should. What we have on our river is a disgrace compared with Paris. Even our tourist boats are third rate compared with those of the French.

I turn to the subject of congestion. This is partly caused by badly constructed roads due to the Department of Transport's inability to get its traffic forecasts correct over many years under successive governments. The department seems to forget that new motorways and trunk roads create traffic. The M.25 and parts of the M.6, to name two, are classic examples. Like the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, I hope that we do not make the same blunder on the M.40 extension. Congestion is caused by out-of-date public utilities that have to be replaced, and partly because of driver behaviour. I have in mind how drivers ignore the yellow "boxes" where they exist so that vehicles block major intersections and prevent other drivers from crossing. Traffic congestion is a disaster to our economy. It costs time and money. Successive governments have realised that a modern and efficient economy needs a modern and efficient road system.

The 1987 White Paper contains reference to the development of a computerised notice and register system for streetworks. This was recommended by Professor Horne in his report of November 1985. I presume that it would eliminate the situation where one week the gas board digs up the road followed a few weeks or months later by the water board digging up the same road, probably after it has been resurfaced. This form of control is long overdue.

Not long ago a road and pavement not many yards from your Lordships' House were relaid and repaired. Then the pavement and part of the road were dug up to lay a small pipe, as though overnight someone had said, "We need an extra pipe to that establishment." For weeks the road was in a bad way. A hole the size of a pinhead grew into a crater. One day it was mended, but the pavement will be a sad sight for some time yet. Who pays for the damage caused to vehicles or injuries sustained by pedestrians? A computerised notice and register of roadworks would alleviate this kind of problem. It would save a lot of money and inconvenience. I should like my noble friend to let me know when the legislation laid out in paragraph 229 of the White Paper will be coming forward.

The Minister responsible for roads and traffic has said that our motorways are the most heavily trafficked in the world. I would add our trunk roads also. The figures I have gave Britain 6,763 vehicles per kilometre of motorway compared with Italy which has 4,084, France with just under 4,000, West Germany with just under 3,500. On trunk roads we have 1,545 vehicles per kilometre compared with 872 in West Germany and 850 in France. Traffic forecasts, according to the Department of Transport, show a rise of 22 per cent. by 1995, and I suggest that it will be higher. Congestion is therefore likely to be much worse in the 1990s than at present. Do we want our roads to be as congested as the M.4 on Easter Monday with 120 miles of traffic moving at 15 miles per hour? The only good aspect about congestion is the very low accident rate, which results in a reduction of both casualties and deaths on the road.

I welcome the latest figures published recently. However, as the Minister said at the time, although the figures are very encouraging, no one can afford to be complacent. Far too many people continue to be killed and injured. Nevertheless, it is good news. The new motorway safety measures recently announced will also go a long way to make our roads safer.

In this context I wish to thank the Government and to congratulate Dr. North on his excellent report. Although I have not read it, much of what RoSPA wanted is contained in the report which makes many good recommendations. I look forward to hearing the Government's response later this year. RoSPA held a road safety council meeting today, which was addressed by Professor Allsop, the deputy chairman. However, as I had to leave to attend this debate, I was unable to hear all that he said.

To go back to traffic congestion, a good road network saves money for everyone as well as for industry. Our roads are one of our main arteries. Let us not sever them and bleed to death. Let us get it right. The greater the congestion the higher the cost to the nation and the more pollution there is in the air until such time as lead-free petrol is standard. We are told that local authorities do not spend all their road allocation on road projects. If that is so, could not all our roads be looked after by the Department of Transport?

In conclusion, I urge my noble friend to plead with his right honourable friends to spend a far greater slice of the £14 billion or £15 billion that the Treasury receives from road user taxation and in some way to force local authorities to spend their road budgets on roads, not other things. The better our roads, the safer they are.

4.42 p.m.

Lord Broadbridge

My Lords, first, I apologise to the House that, because of a longstanding commitment outside London, I may not be able to attend to the end of the debate. Secondly, I wish to acknowledge a debt to LATA (the London Amenity and Transport Association) as the inspiration for a few of the thoughts that follow.

In a thoughtful first leader last Saturday, to which I subscribe, The Times drew attention to the remarkably small amount of political passion that our increasingly congested roads have engendered in post-war Britain. Graphically, it described our roads as places of traffic jams and wardens, of clamp, crush and crash and of personal temper. On the whole, the road programmes of one government have been slavishly fulfilled by the next, and the regulation of traffic and driver as a corporate behaviour has attracted little electoral disagreement. Transport policy has been low in the list of public controversies. I emphasise that, by this—I mean corporate policy—none would be able to ignore the bonfires created by specific roads or motorway proposals.

The natural counter-balance to the congestion on the roads is the provision of public transport buses, tubes and trains, as we have already heard. Within London, commuting by car is estimated to rise by some 50 per cent. from 1980 to 2000. First, this projected growth needs to be curtailed so far as possible. Secondly, what remains needs to be alleviated by the better provision of effective public transport.

I take first the alleviation of present and projected levels of traffic congestion and the improvement of traffic flow, particularly buses. At a technical level it is quite possible to manage traffic better. Roadside controls such as phased traffic lights might be more widely used for coping with peak priority flow and to allow continuous movement at or near the legal speed limit along such long stretches as London's Euston Road. The prospective autoguide system, information technology applied to measurement of traffic flows minute by minute, and often minor civil engineering works, could well squeeze more out of the existing road system. At a deterrent level, limitation of parking availability coupled with stricter imposition of penalties, in future perhaps by local authorities, would discourage drivers from the centre of metropolitan areas, reduce numbers and congestion and improve traffic flow, especially that of public transport. Further extension of park and ride—as it is usually called—parking facilities at inner suburban stations—would help. This has already been mentioned.

At a strategic level, road priority should be given on those roads that are major bus routes to increasing the speed, frequency and reliability of buses as well as suitable commercial vehicles and to the simultaneous reduction in the number of cars, if necessary by the physical process of squeezing them out by reducing the number of car lanes to a level where it is self-evident to a majority that it is quicker and less arduous to catch the bus. This in turn begs the necessity of a transfer of resources from road building to public transport and road management. This is a long-term strategy requiring some political courage since, if the Englishman's home is his castle, his second priority seems to be using his car.

A major contributory factor to the increase in the use of cars—and, for that matter, to the remarkable recent increase in the use of the London Underground, of which I shall speak in a minute—is the deplorable decline in the number and frequency of our metropolitan bus services, particularly in London. If a car is certain but arrival of a bus within a reasonable period is problematical, who can blame people for choosing to use their cars? At least one is out of the wind and rain and sitting down even if one is not moving much, which one is not doing anyway if the bus does not come.

A recent experiment in Exeter involved the introduction of a large number of mini-buses. Passenger levels rose dramatically and car usage fell. The fairly recent introduction into London of the rather colourful Hoppers is a move in the right direction; but it seems to me that there are far too few of' them and that their times and routes are not sufficiently marketed to effect a better public awareness. The decline of bus transport must be halted. Indeed, before speaking to a similar motion in your Lordships' House four years ago, I had first examined published statistics of bus numbers in London over a valid span of years and arithmetically deduced that at their then rate of decline—this was in 1984—the last London bus would run in 1992.

In considering location of principal demand for transport, it is important to bear in mind that London has come down to us as a hugh metropolitan city predominantly laid out so that the main roads are radial from the centre rather than orbital. These corridors exist because, as London's population increased in the 19th century, the villages on the old coaching roads were joined in such a way as to allow people to travel from the centre, where they increasingly worked, to their then still rural villages where they and their antecedents had lived. Unless we adopt some mass destruction akin to Napoleon's rearrangement of central Paris, but on an enormously greater scale, we must accept London as we find it. That means that the main demand for transport is along radial corridors to and from the centre. This is not to ignore the use and usefulness of inner—the North and South Circulars—and outer—the M.25 orbital roads in drawing passing traffic, particularly lorries, away from the centre. I am certain however that these two main orbitals are enough. Therefore, if London is to become a public transport-orientated high-density city, it is vital for it to retain a basically radial transport pattern, first, because that is the way in which it is built and, secondly, because that is the way the vast majority of people wish to travel.

Lastly, as regards the subject of road congestion, there are the cyclists. Although they are normally a single-person unit, they take up far less room than the majority of cars, which are, by common observation, driver-only. They are unloved by many motorists, who say that they are a danger. Cyclists are growing in numbers and the bicycle is particularly efficacious on flat ground, such as in Fulham, where I live. I believe that they should be encouraged and that far more cycle lanes should be provided for them. That provision will not be popular with motorists, at first, but nor was the road tax, which came to be accepted. It works in apparent perfect harmony in cities such as Cambridge and Amsterdam, where people of all ages cycle, doubtless encouraged by the flatness of those cities.

I do not intend to speak about main line and suburban train services. Broadly speaking, they occupy the same position in alleviating congestion as buses and coaches. Having spoken about cars and buses, which are, as it were, above ground, I should like to dive underground to the Tube in London. The network is more extensive than any other in the world and it was the first. We are undoubtedly suffering from that fact in terms of the obsolescence of much of the network. I am grateful for it and use it extensively, making three or four journeys on most weekdays. However, my impression is that on three or four out of five occasions I am greeted with an announcement about delays usually due to staff shortage, points or signals failure, or train breakdown. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, has spoken about that problem in some detail.

The situation has plunged into what seems to be an ever-steepening spiral over the past few months. The Northern Line, which I use, receives the publicity but, from experience, I believe that the same comment applies equally to all lines. I am sure that the cause is a dramatic increase in the amount of traffic, which, being recent, has taken LRT by surprise. As the noble Lord, Lord Jay, also mentioned, that is perhaps to a significant degree due to the result of the success of the innovative travel card, coupled with the main line Capitalcard.

Presumably quality of service results from capital investment and the quality of management and staff. Unfortunately capital investment in rolling stock can in some measure be justified only by usage. The rapid rise in usage appears to have got out of step with the much longer lead times of rolling stock delivery. That begs the question of the quality and level of maintenance of existing stock. That in turn begs the question of the level of capital investment. In the case of the London Underground subsidy, it has historically been low compared with that received by systems in other European capitals. However, one must admit that they are of smaller geographical extent. As a believer in public transport versus the car, I believe that investment should be much higher. Other noble Lords have already spoken on this subject and more may do so, and I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about it.

As regards the quality of management, I believe that the subject is sub judice until the result of the King's Cross disaster inquiry is known. That will be a guideline and I believe that there is more to be judged than safety. Staff numbers and last month's rather astonishing announcement by LRT of a further reduction of 1,000 staff are seemingly a matter for public concern. That is so especially because they appear to fall mainly on the technical side. Staff shortages, points and signal and train failures are the usual reasons given for the increasingly frequent extended intervals which are occurring in the network.

I am a great believer in the Tube, partly because I have absolutely no bump of locality—I even get lost in big shops. Its use is the only way I can be sure that I know where I am going. More seriously, I believe that the knowledge of direction in a strange city applies particularly to the use of the Tube by the millions of overseas visitors from whom we earn so much towards our balance of payments. For that reason, coupled with the Tube's alleviation of road congestion, I believe that it would be a tragedy if the present self-evident troubles were not to be overcome, let alone allowed to become worse.

Improved public transport is the answer to traffic congestion, so that if one cannot or will not get on one's bike, one can at least get out of one's car. To obtain the necessary improvement in public transport, central government should take a lead in the greater unification of control of underground services (where they exist), suburban railways, partially deregulated buses and the roads. I believe that that is right and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has already spoken about it. Part of the problem from which we suffer is that at present the different bodies are in competition and perhaps are not interested in integrating their timetables with each other. They are separate profit centres and go their own way. I believe that a greater unification of control of those services would lead to a better result for the user who frequently hops from one to the other.

In conclusion, I heartily agree with an article published in The Times last Saturday, which stated: The Government has, sometimes inadvertently, shown an antipathy towards public transportation as if it were unaware of the mounting economic disadvantages of private car use in the capital. It is a simple inescapable fact that London will only be kept on the move, and London's businesses kept alive, by a functioning public transport system".

4.54 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Underhill for raising the matter today and in the terms in which he has done so. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Broadbridge, one will not solve the problem of congestion unless one deals with public transport. The two issues are inextricably bound together.

My involvement with public transport goes back a long way. I was appointed chairman of the transport committee by the Labour group in the Reading Borough Council. I was appointed not because I knew anything about transport but, I believe, as a punishment. I dared to speak out on a number of matters and they thought that to make me the chairman of the transport committee would be a sufficient punishment—which it was—and would shut me up on other matters. Being the chairman was a punishment but it did not shut me up. However, it taught me a great deal about public transport. From that moment I began to understand that in a modern society, where the growth of car ownership was bound to continue and increase, the public transport system must grow side by side with that ownership. Unfortunately it has not done so.

From then my involvement with public transport continued as a result of my election as Member for Swindon. That town was built on public transport and would not exist without it. Therefore I began to learn a great deal about the railways and the necessity for them. I came to understand even more that one of the great disasters for transportation in this country was the Beeching axe. It laid the foundations of our present problems because the Government of the day said, "We foresee that in future goods and passengers will be and should be carried by road". Therefore, they set about axing all the branch lines in this country. Of course, if one axes the branch lines one cannot transport the freight or the passengers on to the main lines. That is the reason that in this country 80 per cent. of long distance freight is carried by road whereas in France and in Germany it is only 50 per cent. That is why we have lorries thundering along our motorways in convoy, often at dangerous speeds and, I am afraid, sometimes driven by maniacs instead of carrying our heavy freight in the best possible way; namely, by rail.

One would have imagined that British Rail would understand the problem and would do something about it. Indeed—and I shall not be popular with my noble friends on the Front Bench—I should have imagined that the Labour Governments of 1964 onwards would recognise (indeed I think they did recognise) the problem, would realise the future problems and would have the guts to put back the Beeching cuts and to say that they believed that unless they put those cuts back, the problems of traffic congestion both at that time and in the future would be insoluble. Unfortunately, they did not have that commitment. Things were perhaps too much against them and the opportunities were not taken.

However, I turn to British Rail itself. I have a high regard for British Rail. I heard what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, had to say about it. However, I have had some nasty experiences with British Rail. I have made representations to it on many accounts, particularly when it incessantly puts people out of work in my constituency by reducing the amount of work in the British Rail workshops and finally closing them down. However, when I saw the British Rail board or chairman and put the necessity to carry more freight by rail, I was always told that it was impossible and that it could not be done. Over a period of time British Rail lost confidence in itself and lost confidence in the railways.

What is more, until quite recently British Rail believed that all it needed to do was to run a railway. It did not matter how that was done. It forgot that it had customers, and the treatment of British Rail customers over a long period of time has been nothing short of disgraceful. In recent years British Rail has understood that like any other business it will only thrive provided it treats its customers properly. I believe that British Rail is now "getting there" and will increasingly "get there" in the future.

However, the problem of rail freight remains. The Government together with British Rail should re-examine the whole transportation policy of conveying freight in this country. I believe that if they examine it and examine it thoroughly, they will reach the conclusion that one way in which the problem of congestion can be solved or helped to be solved and one way of releasing more space on motorways would to be open branch lines and to carry far more of our long distance freight by rail.

I am also concerned—as are all other noble Lords who have spoken—about congestion in our towns, particularly towns in the South-East because planning seems only to concern how many people can be brought to an area, as my noble friend Lord Underhill pointed out, and how many houses can be built in an area and not how those people will be transported about their business whether it be to work, to shop and so on. Indeed, in this House on 23rd March I raised the problem of the revised Berkshire structure plan and the fact that the Secretary of State intends to impose 7,000 additional dwellings over and above those proposed by the county council. In the revised structure plan there is nothing stated as to how the roads of Bracknell, Newbury and Reading will cope with these additional people. There are no plans to build additional roads or to improve public transport which, of course, is the solution to traffic congestion in our towns.

Indeed, when I was the chairman of the Reading transport undertaking I discovered that people wanted to use public transport and were in favour of public transport. However, what they needed and demanded was in this order of priority: frequency, regularity and price. If you can give that to the customers they will use the services, but all too often either that is not given or cannot be given because the resources are not made available.

I believe, as do other noble Lords, that we have to devise means—perhaps park-and-ride schemes and so on—to persuade people not to take their cars into town centres and either to leave them at home or to take them to a reasonable point and then take the bus. If that is done I believe that we shall not only help to solve road congestion but we shall also improve the quality of life within the towns themselves. It must be realised that roads usually have people living alongside them and whatever kind of road it is, whether a main road or a side road, additional traffic congestion brings additional noise, nuisance, dirt and pollution. Therefore, the more traffic of all kinds—especially heavy lorry traffic—that we can keep out of our town centres the better it will be.

Some of these schemes should be examined. Indeed, I did that recently in connection with a proposed road widening scheme in Reading which will cost £12 million. In fact the local authorities could provide a free park-and-ride scheme at a fraction of the cost of the annual loan charges of servicing that £12 million over a period of 30 years.

I am running up against my allotted time but I repeat that I welcome this debate. We now have 21 million vehicles on the roads in this country; how many more shall we have if sales of cars top 2 million every year between now and 1996? The population will become completely fed up and will be demanding action. Therefore, I think we shall not be having fewer debates about public transport and congestion; we shall in fact be having many more. Indeed, provided the Minister listens to what we have to say the more such debates we have—the contributions have been most sensible and to the point, if I may so so—the better it will be for the people of this country and for transport generally.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, in introducing his Motion, which I also sincerely welcome, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, reminded us that over 30 per cent. of households in this country do not have access to cars. I belong to one of those households—willingly, I should say, and not by reason of a decision of the justices—and I like my public transport to be practical. I like it to be economical in that I pay for the usage when I pay my fare, although I also pay for the facility through my rates and my taxes, and I want it to be attractive. I also want it to be accessible.

Looking at the state of public transport today, I feel that we have seen a considerable amount of change during the period of the last three governments. Some of that change has been for the better; some, as noble Lords have said, has been very much for the worse. In common with other noble Lords, I believe that British Rail is definitely changing for the better. One must congratulate the Government, the management of British Rail and the staff on that fact, especially when one considers that the record levels of investment currently requested by BR—generally with a sound case—and authorised by the Government have been, to a certain extent, a matter of force majeure in that the modernisation plan investment of the late 1950s is in some respects now coming to the end of its life.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mentioned the Better Rail Campaign based on the NERA study. I must admit that I found it somewhat selective in its highlighting of the problems. However, I welcome the fact that the unions seem increasingly to recognise the fact that targeted investment can be just as important as subsidy in achieving a better railway. I shall balance the selectivity I found in the report by drawing a little on my own experience as a judge of British Rail's national best kept station contest. That is one of the activities I give up my Recess to take part in. In September last year, when judging a shortlist of some 30 stations, I was given the opportunity to travel some 3,700 miles on British Rail over a period of about three weeks. That travel ranged from Penzance in the west, to Southend and Beverley in the east and to Dundee and Inverness in the north. It really was something of a snapshot of British Rail. I used all manner of trains: high speed, sleepers, provincial cross-country services and indeed commuter trains.

Contrary to the NERA report I found a standard of cleanliness perhaps somewhat higher than one might be led to believe. In fact I go as far as to say that the trains in which I travelled—some 53 of them—were generally fairly clean. I feel however that they could be cleaner still, especially in this day and age when a cup of British Rail tea with milk and sugar produces no less than six pieces of disposable plastic or paper—not to mention the kernel, the teabag itself. Cannot British Rail assist us all to help keep its trains tidy by providing at-seat wastepaper baskets? It is not a huge investment. It is not on the scale of electrification of the East coast route, but it does make an enormous impression on all of us. It seems a shame that this Continental practice is being overlooked even in the most modern British Rail stock.

I have mentioned the journeys I made. Having read the NERA study, I checked on how many occasions I had to stand. It turned out to be four times; three times arising out of tourism peaks and once out of a commuter peak. I do not honestly believe that the Government can be asked to approve investment to deal with peaks. If peak periods are to be alleviated they must be alleviated by British Rail's marketing activity and by its operational practice. By all means invest and give everybody, all travellers throughout the day, a better service. But we cannot and should not invest in peaks, be it on railways or motorways. Sometimes we even have to stand in your Lordships' House.

Another major fact that I looked up as a result of the NERA study was that of my 52 journeys, I arrived on time or early at my destination on 49 occasions. That is not a fact which is widely circulated in the national press. In fact, reading the media in general one would not believe that that was possible. However I feel that to have 94 per cent. of trains arrive on time is an achievement of which anyone can be proud.

I looked at revenue protection, which several noble Lords have mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, says that you can travel—it is a fact—not only on London Transport but also on British Rail without seeing anyone who will sell you a ticket, check it or collect it at the end of your journey. In that respect we seem to have the worst of all possible systems. However, my ticket was checked practically every time.

I also noted that staff courtesy, as has been mentioned, is very much on the increase. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, mentioned this: it is satisfying to the customer—an example of user friendliness. I was most impressed too by the amount of work put in by British Rail staff whenever they saw a disabled passenger.

I turn now to the stations. It is inevitable that in a best kept station contest one judges the cream. But while travelling we had a certain amount of time to experience the milk as well. The winning stations are an absolute tribute to British Rail and to the staff who run them. The other finalists, some 30 of them—indeed, many of the other stations we visited—reflect what is being done in terms of rebuilding, restoration and refurbishment either currently, recently or, so we are told, shortly to happen. Such improvements are a matter of funding. The other aspect I noticed a great deal which I have already mentioned was the enthusiasm and courtesy of the staff. That is a priceless asset and, in some respects, more valuable than any investment funding or subsidy.

Looking back on those 3,700 miles of British Rail travel I find that there is clearly still scope for improvement. However, I feel that investment, better management and enthusiasm are major steps forward. The Government should be congratulated on the level of funding they have provided. British Rail's management and staff should similarly by congratulated on the use that they are making of such funding.

I wish I could congratulate the Government and say the same about metropolitan transportation and especially the PTEs. However, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester said, that is, alas, a different story. I do not think any of us, with hindsight, can be proud of that.

I am sure it will not surprise your Lordships if I refer again to Tyne and Wear. I believe that before the 1985 Act, Tyne and Wear probably had an integrated system of world class. Now the picture is much different. As the right reverend Prelate said, outside the conurbations, outside the peak periods and the day time between, the service is fading away.

I know where I want to go and I generally know when I wish to travel. However, I cannot be certain that it will necessarily be at a time when my requirements will be met by a commercial operator and his profitability needs. In the old days, if those parameters could not be met the PTE picked up the tab. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has mentioned, the PTEs now find themselves being squeezed between falling financial resources and the burden of fixed charges laid upon them—in the case of Newcastle especially the interest charges arising out of the metro itself and to a lesser extent what one might call residuary costs, such as pensions.

Similarly, there is a concessionary fare scheme. If that is to remain at the level required to meet demand—after all, tailoring provision to meet demand is a plank of the deregulation legislation—continued provision at that level also becomes a fixed charge. At the end of the day it means that the ability to subsidise off-peak routes in low density population areas is being steadily eroded. At the same time the quality of service is falling in terms of the availability of through ticketing on a network which is disintegrating. Things no longer connect in the way they did. Where does that leave the practicality of public transport? I can certainly say that it does not leave it anywhere in Tyne and Wear. Economy is a matter of value for money but if services are no longer available one simply cannot form a judgment.

I should also like to mention attractiveness. One does not want to have to buy three tickets because through ticketing and travel cards have faded away. One wants it even less, particularly as a less-affluent member of the community, if the sudden switch from one ticket to three masks no less than three hidden fare rises.

Another consequence of deregulation which causes me a great deal of concern is that of information provision. It seems to me that accessible and accurate information is essential if the consumer is to make the most of the services provided. In a commercial environment the service pattern is constantly changing.

We were told about what I believe is the 48-day rule. That rule has not been terribly well honoured. The second largest operator in Poole closed down all its services at one day's notice. That is hardly a reliable service. In Portsmouth a potential buyer of the former municipal network has suddenly pulled out, again at about 24 hours' notice. That does not generate either a reliable service or public confidence; hence it does not generate usage.

In my part of the New Forest there are now about six operators; but how does one find out what five of them do? One stands by the wayside and jots down the number on the back of the bus. Then one rings that number and hopes that if he is not a one-man operator and a one-man company, there will be someone there to answer. There is no longer any central provision (except in the PTEs) of public transport information. If there is no public transport information—I am sure that many noble Lords will agree—usage will fall.

Sooner or later someone will come to write a history or make a study of public transport under recent Conservative governments. I hope that the author will not overlook two factors which have been scarcely touched upon today. I wish to refer to one particular factor of which the Government can be particularly proud. That is the creation of an environment where private investment in public transport has again become fashionable. This has occurred perhaps at a level not seen since the demise of the passenger shipping companies and of the privately-owned railways. I am thinking not only of the privatisation of buses, British Airways or the airports, but I am also thinking of investment in such projects as the Docklands airport and the Channel Tunnel.

In congratulating the Government on this public transport development, perhaps I may ask two questions. The first concerns implementation of the departmental study on surface access to Heathrow. I work in an office which is neatly situated between the Piccadilly Line on the one side and the Hammersmith flyover on the other. Looking out of the back window of my office I can see when the Underground is having a bad day; so that is not the way to go to Heathrow. Looking out of the front window I can see when the Hammersmith flyover is having a bad day, and equally that is not the way to go to Heathrow.

The department commissioned a study about two years ago. It has had the consultant's findings in its hands since last autumn. It has had a kind of mixed economy proposal for improving surface access. There has been the rail link proposal funded by BAA and BR. Is the Minister able to tell us of any progress after examining these findings? Or can he tell us when he hopes to be able to make an announcement as to the recommendations in the consultant's report?

Turning to the subject of the Channel Tunnel, the Minister will be aware of my concern about rail access between London, the rest of Britain, and the British terminal at Cheriton. A number of noble Lords who have spoken today supported me when I raised this topic earlier in the year. Given the framework of Sections 40 and 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act, can the Minister assure me that British Rail will have the resources, and have them in time, to take full advantage of the growth forecast in domestic as well as in the international traffic arising from the Channel Tunnel?

5.25 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I join previous speakers in expressing my appreciation to my colleague on the Front Bench, Lord Underhill, for introducing a debate on this subject. It is an extremely important one which concerns the present and future wellbeing of ourselves as a nation in terms of communications.

Perhaps I may begin by putting to the Minister something that I believe my noble friend Lord Underhill mentioned; namely, the proposals that are today going through another place as regards transport. The areas concerned are the conurbations. If I understand the proposals correctly, they could lead to a break-up of the effectiveness of some of the PTAs that have now started to operate mainly in the interests of the people living in those areas.

Under the provisions of the local government Bill as originally drafted, the six metropolitan passenger transport authorities will remain precepting authorities. Their precepts will be a direct charge on the collection fund adminstered by the district councils in each PTA area. It would appear that the Government's amendment would abolish the power of the PTA to set a community charge in this way and to replace it by an ability to impose a levy on the constituent districts. The effect of this change would be that the PTA levy would be included within each district council's overall spending, but the decision on the level of the expenditure would remain with the PTA. If I read the proposal correctly, it means that the local authorities will be levied for sums of money when they have had no say in determining the amounts.

In the Greater Manchester area there are 10 district authorities in one metropolitan county area, and one could produce 10 different sets of proposals as to how those authorities would behave. I can foresee a situation where there will be a complete contradiction because of the way in which local authorities within particular areas approach this subject. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester referred in his speech to the multiplicity of times that the services cross the 10 borders of Manchester. Surely, if what I am saying is correct, it is an exercise or a recipe for disaster to proceed in this way.

As a former local government man myself, one situation which I consider to be quite unfair is that a local authority may have to cut some of its priority services in order to meet this levy unless it is prepared to stand its ground and do what it wants. It may then end up being surcharged to raise a sum of money when it has had no part in making the policy decision. That is one of the points that I should like the Minister to take on board. If he cannot answer it today perhaps he will come back to it.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester referred to Manchester in some respects. I should like also to refer to my ex-home city where I was the leader of the council for quite a while. I wish to give some indication of what has happened since the present organisations were set up. There has been a deterioration in service. I do not live in Manchester but in Leeds, and I am an almost 100 per cent. public transport traveller. I have no grumbles because I live on a main road and there is easy access. However, I believe that in most areas there has been, sadly, a deterioration in some of the more inaccessible parts where it is not commercially viable to run a service.

That was a problem the Government were warned about and I believe they have ignored the situation. This will be at their peril. In some areas people are not getting the service that they ought to get. In 1985–86, the last full year before deregulation, it was calculated that 355 million passengers were carried on local bus services in Manchester. There had been a steady growth in passengers following a period in which the network was stable and fares had not been increased for approximately three years.

However, as your Lordships know, there were two major changes in 1986. First, the metropolitan counties were abolished and the new PTAs were formed by the constituent metropolitan district councils. In the case of Manchester, because of the need to keep spending within the expenditure limits for that year, fares had to be increased, for the first time for approximately three years, by 13 per cent.

The second major event was bus deregulation, which took effect on 26th October 1986. While we accept that the PTE perhaps misjudged the level of subsidised service that users required, there was still an immediate adverse effect on passengers on deregulation day. The acid test of success or lack of success in bus deregulation should surely be measured in terms of passengers. In Greater Manchester the latest figures show that for 1986–87 there was a 14 per cent. decrease in bus usage, a loss equivalent to 51 million passenger journeys.

The loss of passengers in all metropolitan areas, including Greater Manchester, is shown in the latest statistics published recently by the Department of Transport, in which it accepts that in 1986–87 the number of passenger journeys had fallen by about 12 per cent. While we accept that part of this loss may be due to other factors, such as increasing car ownership, surely a large element of the loss must be due to bus deregulation. This loss is of particular concern, for in Greater Manchester service provision in terms of both vehicle and seat mileage has increased.

The other feature of deregulation in Greater Manchester has been the dramatic increase in minibus services following the launch in certain parts of the county of the Beeline Buzz Company, which is part of United Transport International. While this has been a benefit to some passengers in the short term, what are the long-term prospects? I understand that UTI has already sold off its only other venture—Zippy in Preston. It is now a matter of conjecture how long Beeline in the Manchester area will survive. Will it mushroom and die like Sale Coaches, or struggle on like Yelloway? Surely this is not the proper way to organise public transport.

I also understand that in Greater Manchester the network is still very volatile. This is explained by the fact that 10 districts make up the area. There have been 60 changes a week compared with the stable network that preceded it. Bus services are now being operated for profit without concern for the interests of passengers. This point has been referred to by other noble Lords, today and previously.

One good side effect of deregulation has been the increased usage of rail services. This has improved the case for light rapid transit put forward by the passenger transport authority and executive. The PTE has now been given authority to go out to tender for the first phase of the LRT project. The light rapid transit system which is starting to emerge in Manchester is desirable, but I should like an assurance from the Minister that the system will retain a substantial input from the people who have to use it.

I do not want to see in Manchester what has occurred in the North-East, where a management team was trying to buy out the system which employed them. This led to certain officers being suspended for a while on full pay. The story was reported in the press. However, if it was to be even hinted at that the light rapid transit system was not to be used to its full extent on behalf of the people, it would be very dangerous indeed. I hope that the Minister will consider that point.

In the few minutes I have left I should like to deal with one or two national points as I see them. I use public transport almost 100 per cent. of the time but occasionally I use a car and travel on motorways. I realise that motorway repairs are a difficult operation. Early last evening I travelled from Leeds to Manchester on the M.62 and along three or four miles of motorway lined by multi-coloured daleks! That is what they are. They become more menacing the longer one drives along. Luckily it was light, but many noble Lords will have experienced driving along a stretch of motorway with an extended contraflow system. I know that some time ago the Minister himself expressed deep concern at some of the absolutely horrendous accidents that have taken place on contraflow systems.

I wonder whether the Government are keeping motorway repair under review to try to speed up necessary repairs in the interests of motorists. The ordinary motorist is a little fed up with the continual increase in road tax. He appears to get less for his money all the time. In most of our major cities the state of the roads leaves a great deal to be desired.

I should like to draw attention to the way the travelling public is treated by the national bus companies. I refer not to their services, which I understand are good and economical, but to some of the so-called termini in the major cities which people have to use. Some are beyond belief. Some are worse in certain respects than the most ancient of our railway stations. Some are not covered and people are exposed to all kinds of inclement weather. I would rather see a more substantial charge for some of these services, which in comparison with rail are cheaper, in order to provide decent conditions for people who regularly use this type of transport.

The question of the districts seceding from the present arrangements is very important. In the Greater Manchester area one could end up with 10 different forms of concessionary fares and with some areas without them. It would be a dangerous road for the Government to go down. If the Minister cannot reply to this point today perhaps he will think about it and come back to it in the future. I am sure that when the Bill comes before the House some of us will be better armed to deal with it.

I apologise again. I have an important meeting to attend but I hope to be back in time for the speeches of the Front Bench spokesmen. Once again, I express my appreciation to my noble friend Lord Underhill for introducing this debate.

5.40 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, I do not want to take up too much of my time talking about public passenger transport. However, I should like to make one or two remarks following references made by my noble friend Lord Underhill in his excellent speech introducing the debate. Research increasingly shows that women rely more on public transport than men do. That of course applies in households where there is no private car. Contrary to many people's impressions, as has been said this afternoon, some 38 per cent. of households have no access to a private car. Even in families where there is a car and both partners have a driving licence, the male member of the household usually has first claim on the car. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, reminded us that only one woman in three has a driving licence.

By and large, women have to rely on public transport for shopping, taking out the children, visiting relatives and so on. They need it to go to and from their places of work. We must not forget that two-thirds of married women are also workers.

Some as yet unpublished research done by WYCROW (the West Yorkshire Council for Research on Women) at Bradford University has looked again at the problems women have when using public transport. Many of their worries could be easily overcome if efforts were made to find out their problems. For example, there is concern not just over the accessibility of public transport routes—in outlying areas that is of importance—but also over the availability and reliability of timetables. In other words, women want to know when and where buses are available so that they can plan their day accordingly. They do not want to waste time waiting for buses which do not turn up in accordance with the timetable when the weather is inclement or during dark evenings and mornings.

Women with small children appear to have most difficulties. Elderly women also have problems. Although it may not apply here, there are more elderly women in the community as a whole than elderly men. Women with young children are concerned about one-man buses. They have difficulty getting on to a bus and coping with children and shopping. Equally, elderly women have problems getting on to buses and coping with shopping, luggage, sticks and so on when there is no one to help them. That is a real problem which needs looking into. I cannot develop that theme too far because of the time factor, but I hope WYCROW's research into this neglected area will help to inform those preparing future plans of our needs in the provision of public transport.

I wish to turn now to the wider aspects of transport as part of the infrastrucure of our economy. Some two years ago your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology studied innovation in transport. The impression that the committee received was that continental countries (our partners in Europe) place much more emphasis on and give greater priority to investment in transport than we do. My experience of transport problems since that report was published over a year ago underlines that point.

In the second half of this century, the development of the motorways is equivalent to the development of the rail network in the second half of the 19th century. Motorway development has been a tremendous public investment and yet there are gaps in the network. Those gaps mainly affect the industrial areas which developed at the same time as the 19th century rail and road networks. There are many examples of such gaps in, for instance, Yorkshire. I wish to refer to some of them.

Many of the gaps are east-west gaps. I live in a village where the question of a bypass was first raised 60 years ago. The juggernaut had not then been invented, but now such vehicles charge down from the moor into our main street unaware of and unprepared for the treacherous bends that await them; and that all because north of the M.62 there is no effective east-west route until one reaches the Glasgow-Edinburgh motorway links.

From living in a state of apprehension over one's safety whenever one approaches the village main street, the village now lives in a state of apprehension lest the work on the bypass which is scheduled to take place in March next year is postponed yet again.

Yorkshire—for the purpose of the debate I leave aside Humberside—has three main industrial areas. In the south, Sheffield and in West Yorkshire, Leeds and Bradford. All three have problems. Sheffield lacks a satisfactory link with Manchester across the Pennines. Leeds lacks a satisfactory network of linking roads, especially a link between the M.1 and the A.1. Bradford has different problems. It has good links with the M.1 and the M.62. However it has a rail problem to which I shall come later. It has a problem because there is no satisfactory route through the conurbation known as the Aire Valley.

The Aire Valley route now under construction was meant to solve the problem of accessibility within that conurbation. One hopes that it will also help to open up new land for industrial development in the whole area. It is, as I say, under construction, but that construction will stop at Cottingley Bar in Bingley about two-thirds of the way down the valley. In other words, the route will end in a car park in Bingley. There will then be a link missing between that car park and Bradford City Centre.

Granted that there are environmental problems in completing that route in that originally it was scheduled to go through the industrial heritage village of Saltaire, those problems must and could be overcome if sufficient resources were made available. It is vital that the Department of Transport resolves those problems. It is already some three years since the department decided that the project would go ahead but without the link that I have mentioned. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some indication that we can have speedy progress on this route. If he can not do so in today's debate I hope that he will write to me later. If this link is not built, then of course traffic queues will build up and will move down the road as more of the route is completed. It will bring serious problems for Bradford in attracting new investment. All the transport problems in Yorkshire have important consequences for the economy of the regions, but there are particular problems in Bradford. For example, Bradford's rate of unemployment is 12.3 per cent. compared with the regional average of 11.3 per cent. and a national average of 9 per cent.

So it is important that employment opportunities are seized in the Bradford area. Unlike many other metropolitan areas in the country, Bradford's population is increasing as regards the number of people who are approaching working age. Again, this underlines the need for a good road and rail network if the district's economic future is to be developed.

I said that there was also a rail problem. In the mid-1970s, Bradford had six return through rail services to and from London daily. From May this year, the service will be reduced to one. Naturally there are complaints from many business people travelling to and from Bradford that it takes two hours on the train to do the 180 miles to Wakefield and another hour for the rest of the 15 miles to Bradford.

The image and perception of a city is that it needs to be on the Intercity network and have a good, fast service to London, if it is to develop new industries in the high-tech area, as Bradford is attempting to do, and the new industries in tourism. It seems that the real answer to this problem is the electrification of the line between Leeds and Bradford. I am afraid that at the moment that does not appear to fit into the Government's stringent financial targets for British Rail. However it seems that it would make a very good investment in terms of the economic development of the Bradford district and the region as a whole.

5.52 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, it falls to my lot to start the wind-up below the line in this debate. Like everybody else, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for having given us an opportunity, which has been seized by a much larger number of people than we normally hear speaking in transport debates in this House. There are normally three on this side of the House and two on the other. It is very good to see that there are many other people joining in today.

We have had a very wide range of different interests. I thought at one stage that the House was going to divide itself into those people who were talking about London and its Underground and those who might be described as friends of Heaton Park, a place which is about a mile from where I was born and about three-quarters of a mile from where my grandaughter was born. It is an area which I should not like to see turned into a car park.

We are all agreed (are we not?) that the relationship between congestion and public transport is a very clear one and that it is only by developing our public transport system that we stand any chance at all of reducing or even containing the congestion both on our roads and on the other methods of transport. It would of course be nice to have fewer cars, that would be one way of solving it. But the truth is that that will not happen, for the very good and sufficient reason that the motor car is a great liberating force for those people who have one. As a number of people have pointed out, many do not have them. Even if families have one, as the noble Baroness has just said, it is very often the male member of the family who uses the motor car to go to work. His wife and children have to use public transport.

I remember when I was a child and we went to the seaside. Before we had a car, we always used to send our luggage in advance on the railway. How much easier it is to throw everything into the back seat of the car and drive off when one feels like it. For those reasons, among many others, cars will increase, and if we are not careful congestion will get worse and worse. The other way to reduce congestion is to have more and better, cleaner, more efficient and more attractive public transport. The third way is better traffic management, which falls into two categories: first, more roads, and, secondly, the advent of new technology, new systems to help manage better the traffic that we have.

A number of people have mentioned traffic forecasts. There is no question but that the national road traffic forecasts always appear to be seriously underestimated. The 1984 forecast, which I think is the most recent, assumed an increase of between 23 per cent. and 49 per cent. from 1982 to the year 2000. However, it now appears that an increase of something like 50 per cent. between this year and the end of the century is much more likely. Motorway traffic has risen enormously; 13 per cent. in 1984; 8 per cent. in 1985; 14 per cent. in 1986 and 13 per cent. last year.

The best way of discouraging cars from coming into uban areas, which is one of the major problems about which we have been talking today, is better parking. There is a lot of room for improvement in the park-and-ride systems, as has already been mentioned. Now that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, has rejoined us, I repeat that I hope he does not turn Heaton Park into a car park as it is where my granddaughter plays. I am sure that he will not. We are told that 60 per cent. of the parking in London is illegal. Again, a number of people, including the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, have said that regulations are simply not enforced either in terms of parking offences or moving into traffic boxes. People feel that they can get away with dropping their cars anywhere.

It will be interesting to hear from the Minister how far he feels that the use of wheel-clamps in London has had an effect on parking in Greater London. I detect that a number of people are being slightly deterred through both the cost and the disruption to their daily lives caused by being wheel-clamped. However, it would be interesting to have some idea of what the Government's view is. It has been suggested that only something like one in 2,000 people who are alleged to have committed offences are ever taken to court. There is surely something to be said, as the AMA suggests, for some decriminalisation of minor stationary car offences being considered and local authorities being given the ability to levy charges instead.

I do not see the possibility of extra taxation schemes being introduced. The Select Committee of your Lordships' House, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has referred, briefly considered taxation schemes. On the whole it was felt that it was unlikely that we would get around to introducing those for Greater London or other large conurbations. They have been tried in a number of parts of the world and they have had only a limited amount of success.

Therefore much the better way, as I think we have all concluded today, is to improve the standard of public transport. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, said, one of the most important factors—I think it is the most important factor—is increased frequency of public transport, followed by reliability. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester gave us a delightful introduction to life in Manchester today. He made a most useful and excellent contribution to our debate and I hope that he joins in transport debates more often.

As a result of deregulation people are uncertain about when their buses will run. I do not live in Manchester myself now but I see the Little Gems and Bee Line Buzzes as we have to call them. That is one of the worst puns in living memory, but it is understood better in Oldham than it would be here. On the face of it they seem to be producing more frequent services. But from what I read and hear, people in some housing areas where perhaps there is not the volume of traffic that commerce dictates are becoming increasingly worried that services are fluctuating and being taken off. Even in some cases there is one bus which runs fairly infrequently.

Unless people feel that they can go to their bus stop and get a bus within 20 minutes—that seems to be the crucial time—then frankly they will get the car out if they have one and add to the congestion on the roads.

Today we have heard a considerable amount of talk about integrated transport as we did during the discussion on the buses Bill. It is an awful temptation to say to the Government, "We told you so". I say that at this stage of the debate having heard the message come from all round the House. It has come from the Labour Party, from our Benches, from the Conservative Back Benches, from the Bishops and from the Cross-Benches. The story is the same everywhere; people are worried about the lack of integration, and good systems such as the one in Tyne and Wear, which we all hoped would set a pattern for the future, are slowly disintegrating before our eyes.

Where services are adequate and acceptable people will use them. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said about the Underground—and he is absolutely right to worry about the conditions on the Underground—some things have improved there. One such improvement is the way in which technology is coming into effect to provide more information to passengers. It is so much better if one can stand on the platform or go down on to the platform and see that there will not be a train for 20 minutes. At least one can get out a book and read it or go and catch a bus. But it is annoying to sit there for 20 minutes without knowing whether one will have to wait for another 20 minutes or whether the next train will come in two minutes. So in that respect technology is coming into use on the Underground.

The same kind of technology could very easily be brought into use on the buses. The technology is there and again your Lordships' Select Committee looked at a number of schemes with that purpose in mind. The technology is available but it will not be brought into operation while we have this disintegrated transport system. No single bus operator will go to the length of installing expensive equipment to allow his competitor to use the same equipment. That is one of the things we have lost by having a deregulated bus system.

It is still not too late to introduce this technology on the London buses but we fear that the Government will go further down the road of fragmenting the transport system in London. I hope that is not true and that they will take heed of the lessons learnt from deregulation in rural areas.

Much has been said about the deregulation of buses and I shall not go any further down that road except just to mention the question of through ticketing. Again in relation to London there was a Question in another place the other day to which the Minister Mr. David Mitchell replied in connection with the effect of the introduction of Travelcard and Capitalcard. The Minister said that no reliable estimates were available but Travelcard and Capitalcard were believed to have been significant in increasing the use of public transport in London and could be expected to have released capacity on the road network.

Why in that case is there not more effort on the part of the Government to see that these kind of schemes can be introduced in more and more places whereas the pressure is all in the other direction? These kind of through ticketing arrangements do make a tremendous difference to peoples' willingness to go on public transport rather than get the car out of the garage.

On the question of better traffic management, we must first have more roads. But there is a kind of Parkinsonian equation here. That is: cars expand to fill the roads available for them. Getting the balance right between having the kind of congestion that we have on some roads today particularly on motorways but also on trunk roads and going to the other extreme of actually helping to create more traffic on the roads by building more roads is very difficult. Nevertheless in spite of the 54 per cent. increase in motorway traffic between 1980 and 1986 funding has fallen far behind and we now have an expenditure of only 2 per cent. in cash terms for 1989–90 and 1990–91. That is a fall in real terms of 2 per cent. at current inflation rates.

In 1988 not a single mile of new motorway will be built. Traffic will be forced on to trunk roads where the situation is not much better. As has already been said, local authorities are so constrained by cash limits of one kind or another that they are allowing the roads for which they are responsible to fall apart and potholes are becoming much more a way of daily life than they were 10 years ago.

Better traffic management has not been helped by the break-up of the metropolitan counties. Those of us on the Select Committee who saw some of the things that were being done in West Yorkshire can only regret that while some of that may continue the chances of those kind of schemes being extended have certainly been restricted by the break-up of the metropolitan counties.

On the whole the remarks about British Rail have been favourable and rightly so. British Rail has pulled its socks up, certainly as regards Intercity trains. However it still has many, many problems with its commuter trains in shifting the kind of volume of traffic that occurs in and out of our major urban centres in a very short period of time in the morning and taking it home again during a very short period of time at night. That is a very difficult problem to contend with if the Government keep British Rail short of funds. Several noble Lords have said that we must recognise that transport cannot be simply a matter of moving people in a way that is commercially viable; there must be a social content. While the Government maintain their insistence on market forces controlling such things I believe that the outlook is extremely gloomy and that our quality of life is likely to suffer as a result.

Finally I wish to draw the attention of noble Lords to a comment that was made in the Select Committee's report Innovation in Surface Transport. On page 29 of that report it states: The Committee therefore recommend that the Secretary of State develop and publish, perhaps as a White Paper, a strategy for transport. They suggest that this statement might contain: a broad outline of all transport needs which the Government believe will have to be provided for at the start of the 21st century; priorities for innovation to meet these needs (including a reference to those areas where the Government do not see a need for innovation); and an indication of their views on the responsibilities of central and local government, and of industry, for carrying out the necessary research, development, and application of new technology". I believe that that recommendation goes to the very heart of the problem. I regret to say that so far I have seen no sign of the Government picking up that recommendation. I hope that as a result of this debate they will be encouraged to do so.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Underhill for initiating the debate, and all those taking part in it. We all bring our own experiences to these debates. Since most of us tend to disperse throughout the country at the weekend, I believe that we can collectively give a good overall impression of the state of public transport as we find in our own areas. By the very nature of being in this House, we also have a knowledge of what is happening in London transport.

There was a timely reminder by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, concerning the dependence of women and children on public transport. That is something which we tend to take for granted or do not think about at all. That ties in with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, concerning the different people who are taking part in the transport debate initiated by my noble friend. I do not remember that any noble Baroness took an active part in previous transport debates and I think that it is extremely good that we have had a contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. I hope that she will be involved in our transport debates in the future.

The debate seems to have included three basic topics, although there are no true borders between them. They are a bit like a map of the Balkans; they keep spilling over into one another. The first topic is public transport, which includes British Rail, buses and coaches. The second topic running through the Bill is roads. The third topic is London transport, because we all know a bit about it and because some of the solutions suggested for London would surely be transferable to Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and other conurbations.

As regards the problems with buses and coaches, although the Minister will undoubtedly say that deregulation has not yet settled in, there is grave dissatisfaction with the results that we have had so far. There has been instability of service and constant change. My noble friend Lord Underhill gave a figure for West Yorkshire of over 1,000 changes. In my own area of Strathclyde, there were over 2,000 changes and they are still coming in at a rate of 15 changes or alterations of service per day. That is no way to run a public transport service.

It is suggested that the important matters in public transport are frequency, regularity and price. I would say that regularity and reliability are absolutely important. They are even more important than frequency, which takes third place. As long as those matters are well looked after, people will pay the price for a decent service.

Because of deregulation, there has been cost cutting and in many areas we have seen the cutting of corners. We all know about low wages. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester gave some wage figures. Undoubtedly low wages lead to low morale among staff, which leads to staff changes and a higher turnover. Once again, those matters contribute to unreliability and instability in service. It has been pointed out that the reduction in bus services fluctuates between 7 per cent. and 27 per cent., depending on whether a rural or urban area is served. I agree with the right reverend Prelate when he says that integration is vital for any area planning and that it was lost with the deregulation Act.

I hope that too much harm has not been done and that we shall be able to see the solutions to some of our problems. I hope that one of the lessons we learn will be that even this Government must not decide to break up London as they have broken up the rest of the country. As regards British Rail, I think we all agree with my noble friend who has said that he does not believe that British Rail is actually getting there. He suggested that British Rail lost faith in itself during the Beeching era. I believe that there is a great deal of truth in that.

Perhaps because I had an involvement in it, I think that there was a genuine attempt to look at transport and particularly at public transport as a whole at the time of the 1968 Act. We have moved on since then. However, the basic idea of looking at the whole of transport was worthwhile. I do not think that any serious attempt has been made to do that since then. Despite all the excellent reports we get from our own Select Committees, from those of another place and from private investigations, it is only when we come to put the recommendations into an Act of Parliament for which the Government will have some responsibility that we begin to see the difficulties and the problems which have to be overcome. There were many problems which were not properly overcome by the 1968 Act. However, it was a very good shot at trying to get a reasonable transport system for this country.

I am slightly annoyed when there is too much criticism of British Rail. Of course I have my own criticisms. However, when people go abroad and come back and say, "Aren't the Swiss railways wonderful? Aren't the German railways wonderful?", they never mention the fact that the subsidies to those railways are quite gigantic compared to ours. Perhaps I sound like a broken record. However, I always think of the comparison between the French high-speed train and the APT.

I believe that in purely engineering and technical terms the APT was an incredibly advanced piece of work. However, the attitude of all the governments which we have had in this country towards technology has needed adjustment. We put £45 million into the APT. The French high-speed train—I have been on it and I have sat in the driver's cabin; it is very nice—cost over £850 million. It is therefore not fair to draw such comparisons, and I get annoyed with much of the criticism of British Rail. We must also remember that much of our railway system was built at such an early date that some of our track will not allow the speeds which can be achieved by the new equipment.

Turning to the question of roads, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester spoke about his journey to London. I seldom come to London by road. However, I came down just before Easter, partly because I occasionally use the long motorways and go into the service areas to see what is happening. To get from London to just the other side of Birmingham—a journey of 125 miles—on the Friday before Easter took five hours. I normally expect to be near Lancaster by that time, yet there I was, struggling along. There were no repairs to the road; it was due to sheer traffic. I agree that one cannot build roads just for the high peak periods because the traffic is not normally anything like as bad as that.

The lesson I think that we should learn from that—and which I think has been well put to the Government by others and by the press generally—is that we should look carefully at the idea of two-lane motorways. That was three-lane motorway all the way yet the journey took five hours. Had the Luton stretch still been two-lane motorway I should probably still be working my way towards Glasgow. So I hope that the Government will look very seriously at not having any more two-lane motorways.

I wonder what the saving is between two and three-lane motorways. Although this is not a good comparison—and it may be ridiculous in terms of motorways—I remember that many years ago I put a series of questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland about the Highland single-track roads. I was staggered to discover that the difference between a single-track road of 11 ft., allowing for passing places, and an 18 or 20 ft. double-track road was about 15 per cent. I wonder whether there is any similar comparison. Believe it or not, we were still building single-track roads in the Highlands in the 1960s. I should like to know the saving between a two-lane and three-lane motorway.

Everyone has said that we love our cars. I think that that is quite true of those of us who have them. My car is one of the last things that I should want to get rid of. But it has been pointed out that everyone does not have a car or can drive one. Therefore public transport is vital for very large numbers of people and always will be. At all times some people will need public transport and I think that all of us at some time will need public transport.

The last point to which I want to refer briefly concerns London. Perhaps if we can find a solution for London, we can find solutions for other parts of the country, although on a different scale. It is terrifying that car ownership will increase greatly and that the increase will probably be greater in London than in any other part of the country. Someone said that a co-ordinated approach to a solution for London was essential. To be really political, I say why do we not bring back the GLC? We may then have the possibility of a co-ordinated transport system in London.

I do not think that some of the solutions which have been suggested would be feasible. Road pricing was talked about a long time ago. It failed very badly because, first, I think that there would be a very great—and quite correct—moral objection to people being able to price their way into some parts of the city while others could not. One of the other obvious difficulties is that it would be quite ludicrous for everyone in Britain to have some kind of meter in their car when they used it only very infrequently, if ever, to visit London. If they did not use it and there was some dispensation, the number of people who would suddenly be using the car of an uncle who lived in a place where it was not necessary to have a meter would be quite high. I think also that any supplementary licence would come into the same category. I do not believe that is a solution to the problem.

Coaches cause great congestion. I have been to Victoria and seen the congestion around the coach station. However, we should consider that if we replace the coaches by cars carrying the same number of people the result would be horrendous.

Very little can be done, although I agree that something can be done in terms of minor civil engineering works to squeeze a little more out of the roads, as one noble Lord put it. That is a possibility. One could get a little more out of the roads. However, I think that whichever government are in power need the political courage to spend money on public transport. In London and other parts of the country there are plans awaiting under which little railway junctions could be used to set up railway networks for quite a number of conurbations at not too great a cost. I hope that some government would have the courage. The pressure could perhaps come from such debates as this and from motoring and railway organisations for the Government to spend a lot of money now, even though we are not likely to see a noticeable return for a number of years. Otherwise I believe that the prospects are appalling. We need to do something long before the end of the century.

I think that we have not dealt fully with the most important point in terms of the problems of London, which in many ways differ from those anywhere else. That is the question of congestion and growth in the South-East of England. I am not trying to jump on the bandwagon of the right honourable Member for Henley. I am merely reiterating something that many of us have been arguing for a long time. He said—and we said 20 years ago—that the build-up of the Civil Service, the Armed Forces and research, all in the South-East is inefficient in terms of the rest of the country.

I think that it would be interesting if the Government were to look again, for instance, at the pass marks in the Civil Service exam. It is all tied up with transport and the congestion in the South-East. If we go on like that the rest of the country will be denuded and all the civil servants will be down here. If you wanted a job in Glasgow, the pass mark in the Civil Service exam used to be about 67 per cent.; if you wanted a job in Newcastle it was 58 per cent.; and if you wanted a job in London it was 50 per cent. That is for clerical grades. In fact, for a period they were taking people with lower marks. That is a problem which all governments have shirked. If we continue to allow the build-up in the South-East, no amount of manoeuvring with public transport can solve the problem.

I thank everyone for taking part in the debate. I have certainly learnt a great deal; I am sure that all of us have.

6.27 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, like other noble Lords I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for providing the House with this opportunity for a debate which has touched on most aspects of this broad and important subject. A nation's prosperity depends on the efficiency and effectiveness of its transport system. Britain now leads Europe in its economic growth. This success is in no small part attributable to the revolution—yes it is indeed a revolution—in transport since 1979. I pay tribute to everyone in the transport field who over the last eight years has helped build a transport system for the United Kingdom which is more responsive to the needs of the transport users, more efficient in the use of resources, and is more conscious of its impact on the environment and the quality of all our lives.

I shall follow the order of the Motion and look at developments in public transport before looking at the road system.

I say unequivocally that public transport is one of this Government's successes. Public transport in the United Kingdom has improved, is improving and will continue to improve. This results from our policies of high investment, value for tax and ratepayers money, and increased competition.

As far as concerns British Rail, over £3 billion in today's prices has been invested since 1979 and Ministers have not turned down any project put to them. Twenty-three major investment projects have been approved by the Government since objectives were first set in 1983. BR itself has approved many smaller projects. These investments include several significant electrification projects and substantial amounts of new rolling stock. British Rail is embarked upon the largest programme of modernisation since the change from steam to diesel in the 1950s. It is planning to invest a further £3 billion (at today's prices) over the next five years.

At the same time as this massive programme of investment, improvement in efficiency has enabled BR to more than meet the financial targets that it was set and allowed taxpayer support for BR to be reduced by over a quarter in three years. This has happened at the same time as the massive investment programme—an impressive response, particularly since this has not been achieved by excessive fares. In terms of fares paid per mile, rail fares are no higher than they were in 1980.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, referred particularly to rail freight. Successive governments, both Labour and Conservative, have accepted that freight transport must be fully commercial. It does not pay British Rail and probably has never paid it to move small part wagonloads by train. It is better for British Rail to do the job that it can do best, which is moving bulk trainloads over long distances. I am sure that the opportunities which the opening of the Channel Tunnel will bring to British Rail will further increase the amount of freight that is carried by the system.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, other noble Lords, and the Government too, put equal stress on improving service to the rail user. That is why we have set challenging quality of service targets: for punctuality, overcrowding and cleanliness. It is simply not true, as some noble Lords suggest, that the quality of service on British Rail has worsened. In fact, I think that the majority of speakers in the debate this afternoon have been very complimentary of British Rail and the service that it gives.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report on Network South-East found that punctuality and reliability on the network had improved significantly during the 1980s. However we and British Rail management are the first to recognise that more remains to be done. Performance is being closely monitored against the tough standards agreed with British Rail last July.

The Government recognise that there is overcrowding on some passenger services, in particular on Network South East. British Rail has been a victim of its own success. Demand has increased by 15 per cent. in the past three years alone. Action is in hand to deal with overcrowding and we have approved a number of schemes to help relieve it. The problems will not disappear overnight but the action taken means that overcrowding is now no worse than last year despite a 5 per cent. increase in traffic. We are always ready to approve worthwhile investments, and indeed in the past few days two further projects have been approved: on Friday we approved the purchase of new rolling stock for Waterloo surburban services at a cost of £20 million; and only today we have given the go-ahead for electrifying the Portsmouth-Southampton and Portsmouth-Eastleigh lines at a cost of £16.4 million.

Reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and other noble Lords to NERA's Better Rail Campaign Report. The report does indeed contain much detail which will require careful study, and we shall want to hear British Rail's reaction to the realism of the NERA's proposals. We welcome all positive contributions to thinking on improvements to the rail system and Ministers attach particular importance to the quality of service and agreed new objectives with the chairman in July 1987.

On Intercity services, rolling stock which was to have been replaced will be retained in order to help meet increased passenger demand and timetables will be adjusted in May to match supply more closely to demand.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, referred in particular to the rail services in the Bradford area. I have to say that the provision for through services between London and Bradford is entirely a matter for British Rail's commercial judgment. It is also for British Rail and not the Government to decide whether electrification between Leeds and Bradford is worth bringing forward.

I turn now to London Regional Transport. High investment and value for money are also characteristics of the achievements of London Regional Transport since its establishment in 1984. Revenue support required was some £45 million in the last financial year compared with the target set LRT by the Government of £95 million and the £190 million planned by the GLC for 1984. This reduction in the need for revenue support has been largely due to increased efficiency and more passengers. It has not come from large fare increases or service cuts. Fares overall are still cheaper in real terms than in 1980 and service levels have been broadly maintained or indeed increased. A reduced need for revenue support has released funds for a massive increase in investment while the burden on the taxpayer and ratepayer has been reduced.

LRT's total investment this year will be some £365 million—£1 million a day. On the underground, investment, at a record level of £214 million, will be 50 per cent. higher this year in real terms than in 1984–85. Some £5 million is spent annually on specific safety measures over and above safety measures incorporated in major investment to renew infrastructure—signalling, track, lifts, escalators etc. Following the appalling disaster at King's Cross, the Government will consider as a matter of priority any recommendations for improving safety which may emerge from the formal investigation or indeed in the meantime.

As the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said in his speech, the Underground is having to cope with huge increases in patronage—up by 80 per cent. since 1982. Much of the investment is planned to modernise the system and make it more attractive to passengers.

£75 million of investment has been authorised in the past 18 months specifically to help relieve overcrowding, including 16 new trains, and more is in prospect. It is also intended to increase station capacity at various stations on the system. Major proposals are being prepared for re-equipment including new Tube trains which would provide increased capacity. But we recognise that congestion on the London rail network is severe in some places, and will worsen with the continued growth in demand predicted for the future. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State recently announced an urgent strategic review of the capacity of London's rail network, with special emphasis on the central area. Unless sufficient capacity can be provided there, higher traffic by rail on the radial routes into the capital will be constrained. The scope for improvements to London's radial routes remains very limited. The central London rail study involves representatives from British Rail, London Regional Transport, London Underground and the Department of Transport, and aims to produce its initial results in July.

I doubt that noble Lords will have had time to read the Government's response to the Transport Select Committee's report on the financing of rail services, which was published earlier today. The response sets out clearly our view on why and in what circumstances rail passenger services should be grant aided. In particular it points out that the relief of road congestion is a valid reason for the provision of rail subsidy. It accepts that rail investment should go ahead on that basis; for example, the successful Bedford-St. Pancras electrification. The Government believe that rail subsidy is appropriate where the benefits, in terms of specific measurable objectives, are sufficient to justify the costs. They do not believe in providing subsidy simply to provide immeasurable benefits to rail users which properly should be paid for in fares.

In Docklands last year we saw the opening of the entirely new light railway system, which is playing a major role in the development of the area. This railway is innovative not only in its technology but in its financing. £68 million of the £150 million cost of the extension to Bank station now being built is being met not by public funds but by the developers of Canary Wharf. The whole of the cost of the planned extension eastwards to Beckton, £140 million at 1986 prices, will be met from increases in land values resulting from the building of the railway. This is good news for the taxpayer and ratepayer, as well as the travelling public.

There are excellent prospects that the benefits of this or other forms of public/private sector co-operation can be reflected in a successful outcome to proposals for light rail systems in our provincial cities. Noble Lords have referred to the proposal in Manchester where the lines from the north and south of the city feed into separate stations. The proposed £50 million light rapid transit system will link the lines from Bury and Altrincham with new rail running on streets through the city centre. Bids will shortly be invited from the private sector to tender for our innovative combined build and operate contract for the system. The successful bidder will receive a public sector grant to cover part of the initial capital costs. A number of companies have already expressed an interest. The private sector will bring major benefits to the project: competitive prices, rapid construction and efficient operation. The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, asked me a specific question on the subject. I shall have to write to him on that point as I see he is not in his place at the moment. There are also other light rail proposals which are being actively developed in Sheffield, Bristol and the West Midlands.

I turn now to bus deregulation which has featured to a great extent in this afternoon's debate. In 1980 we deregulated long-distance coach services. Seven hundred new services were started, fares were reduced by up to 40 per cent. in real terms and the quality of service and passenger comfort increased dramatically. As a result, carryings have increased by 50 per cent. I was pleased to hear that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester took advantage of one of the deregulated long-distance coach services on his journey down this morning. I am disappointed that he does not yet see the advantages of the deregulation of local bus services; but I am sure that that will come before long. It is now nearly 18 months since we deregulated local bus services outside London following on the success of the deregulation of long-distance services. I am very pleased to report that the network of bus services has remained at about the same level as before with up to 85 per cent. of all services run on a commercial basis free from subsidy. Bus mileage has increased across the country as a whole, and many new operators have taken advantage of deregulation to enter the local bus market for the first time. Their share of the market has, as a consequence, increased from 8 per cent. to 13 per cent. Minibuses now operate in over 250 towns and cities providing fast and frequent services often to areas previously without buses, and there is competition in over 100 places. The sale of the National Bus Company's 70 subsidiaries, which was necessary to stimulate competition, has been achieved nine months before the statutory deadline of January 1989.

Across the country as a whole rural services have been broadly maintained and in some cases improved. Local authorities are able to provide tendered services in rural areas. If they decide not to do so that is their decision. It is not because of the lack of resources. An initial fall in patronage, mainly in the metropolitan areas, has taken place but there have been a number of factors at play other than deregulation, such as increases in fares from previously very low levels and restructuring of services. It will be some time before the full effects can be known.

In London, bus route restructuring and competitive tendering is producing improvements, including the high frequency minibus services. Many of the new routes have increased patronage. At the same time there is a net saving from tendering which LRT estimate at 15 per cent. London Buses Limited itself has introduced 30 new high frequency minibus routes, which are proving very popular with passengers. The Government have recently invited LRT to make early proposals for restructuring London Buses into smaller units better suited to competition. In the longer term we expect to see that Londoners in the 1990s have the benefits of deregulation.

How have we improved public transport? I believe we have increased investment, improved efficiency and increased competition. All of these work to the great benefit of the transport user. We believe these measures to improve public transport provide part of the solution to road congestion. I turn now to our policies specifically aimed at reducing road congestion.

We recognise the problems that road congestion can bring. It is a modern problem, but not a new one, as my noble friend Lord Teviot said. Congestion has increased partly as a result of more selfish attitudes to parking discipline and partly from the increase in vehicles resulting from sustained economic growth. The Government are determined to resolve these problems. There is a lot that we can and are doing to improve matters. It is essential to maintain a road network which enables people and goods to move about the country as economically and safely as possible.

We are giving top priority to improving our motorways and trunk roads. Our aim is to improve and extend the network so it can meet future traffic needs and flows. To help us achieve better value for money we have introduced new tendering procedures to produce faster road completion. We have also introduced new design standards. These will reduce the need for maintenance work and avoid the costly delays it causes.

The highest priority is also given to schemes to relieve congestion. To give two concrete examples from London, we have just completed the new A.406 South Woodford to Barking relief road and the Rochester Way relief road. Work has also begun on the most congested sector of the M.25 and today my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced a new study of the M.25. Indeed some 160—almost half—of 350 schemes in the national road programme are in fact bypasses.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, mentioned one particular bypass and various other road schemes in the Bradford area. I shall have to write to her with the details of the progress of those schemes, if I may.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, raised the subject of motorways. I am pleased to assure the noble Lord that motorway developments continue to form a key element of the national road programme. They are large, discrete projects and the progress of starts and completions is not necessarily a regular flow. However, 60 miles of motorway are currently under construction at a cost of around £300 million; and 170 miles further are in preparation at a cost of about £900 million. So it is certainly not a subject which we neglect.

The M.40 was refered to by my noble friend Lord Brougham and Vaux and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and in a roundabout way by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. The section of the M.40 between Waterstock and Wendlebury has always been planned as a dual two-lane motorway as it is predicted to carry much less traffic than adjoining sections. This was fuly discussed in the public inquiry on this section which has recently ended. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will fully consider the inspector's report when he receives it later this year. I regret that I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, a figure as to the difference in cost between two and three-lane motorways. It may be possible for me to produce such a figure and write to the noble Lord. I suspect that it would also vary as to where in the country the roads were.

As with British Rail and London Regional Transport, investment in roads has increased significantly since 1979. Capital spending is now over 30 per cent. higher in real terms than in 1978/79. This has enabled us to add some 750 miles to the national road network. The total works value of the present programme is about £5 billion.

However, we are not just concerned with public sector investment. We are keen to encourage cost-effective private sector initiatives to improve our national road infrastructure. The new Dartford Bridge project, which will relieve the congestion on the M.25 has shown one way to do this. Similar interest has been expressed in the proposed Second Severn Crossing, and some interesting proposals have been aired for major projects to relieve congestion around London. We have written to a number of prominent firms in the construction and finance sectors welcoming ideas of that kind and offering discussions.

Turning to maintenance, we all recognise that the road network must be maintained in top condition. We have expanded the road maintenance programme dramatically in order to overcome the backlog of work from the 1970s. This is the explanation of the contraflows that cause us all so much aggravation and which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick. They are in fact a manifestation of the Government's determination to maintain the network. Only last month we announced the largest ever highway maintenance programme costing £164 million in total. We are on course to meet the objective of eliminating the maintenance backlogs built up in the 1970s by 1992. It is unfortunate, as has been referred to by noble Lords, that local authorities are not spending what they should on the maintenance of their roads.

There are other methods for reducing congestion, particularly in cities; and in London computer-controlled traffic lights, which can reduce delays at I individual junctions by 30 per cent., have been installed in many of our towns and cities. One hundred and twenty sets have been installed in London, where we are accelerating their introduction to a rate of 60 more every four months.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, referred to Autoguide. The Government are equally keen to look at radical new solutions to relieve congestion. Only last week we announced the next stage of Autoguide which we believe will make a major contribution towards reducing traffic congestion and improving the quality of road travel.

Parking is an important subject, referred to by numerous speakers. Illegal parking is one of the main causes of congestion in urban areas. It is a major problem in London and in other towns and cities. Selfish motorists who put their own convenience before the needs of others and who park where they should not create safety hazards, congestion, delays and difficulties for the rest of us. They cause especial problems for buses which have to travel along defined routes and cannot vary their journeys to avoid congestion. LRT estimate that congestion costs them an additional £50 million a year, not to mention the fact that their customers receive a poorer service.

A number of measures have been introduced in recent years to combat illegal parking and relieve congestion, notably wheel clamping. I am pleased to assure the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that without doubt this is the most effective of the measures. It was introduced in 1983 and has since been extended. It reduced illegal parking on yellow lines by 40 per cent. when it was introduced. In its first year journey times were cut by between 8 per cent. and 14 per cent. The Metropolitan Police has now contracted out wheel clamping enabling an increase from 600 clampings a week to over 2,000. LRT has said recently—this should please my noble friend Lord Teviot—that its evidence suggests that wheel clamping, coupled with vehicle removal, has proved the most effective deterrent to illegal parking in central London.

Noble Lords have referred to enforcement; we are certainly not complacent about it. We are considering whether any further changes in enforcement are needed. A working party with government, local authority and police representatives is currently considering this, and hopes to report later this year.

I am conscious that I am running out of time. There are various important points that have been raised that I should like to cover briefly. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred to coaches in London and in particular coach stations. Coaches form a relatively small proportion of traffic in central London. Although they can contribute to congestion, serious problems arise only in a few places. We are encouraging operators and drivers to comply with the Bus and Coach Councils code of practice for operating and parking tourist coaches in London.

With regard to coach stations, the government proposal to transfer Victoria coach station from the National Bus Company to LRT is designed to ensure that no options for coach station provision in London are closed off by the dissolution of NBC. Future provision of coach terminal facilities in London is to be considered at a wide-ranging public inquiry into LRT's proposals for a new coach station at Paddington. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further before that inquiry.

A number of noble Lords—notably the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, and the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, asked about the Government's proposals on precept control and billing and the government amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill being debated today in another place. I was asked whether this would encourage districts to secede from PTAs. There is no reason to suppose that public transport provision will be threatened by the proposed new arrangements. The power for a district to secede from a PTA already exists under the 1985 Local Government Act. For an application to be approved, the Secretary of State will have to be satisfied that adequate arrangements have been made for the continuation of essential countrywide services. But the proposal is not a backdoor attempt to break up the PTAs. The purpose of the change is to increase accountability. It is not so necessary for the fire and police services which are subject to Home Office supervision.

I was asked to confirm that the assurance, given during the passage of the Local Government Act 1985 by my right honourable friend Mrs. Chalker, stood. My right honourable friend said: We accepted from the beginning the need to co-ordinate certain aspects of public transport especially support for rail, decisions about subsidy or unprofitable services in different areas and concessionary fares. None of that is under threat". None of that is under threat now.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, asked me in particular about Parliament Square and what progress was being made in this immediate area. We recognise the severe problems. We support Westminster City Council's plan for improvements in the next few years. Legislation will be needed because Crown land is involved. We wish to be sure of the feasibility of the compatible longer-term solution to follow on before considering legislation and further consultancies being let by Westminster council with support from the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, asked me about progress on the Heathrow surface access study. We hope to make an announcement next month on how improvements to surface access can be taken forward. Proposals have been made, including rail, light rail, Underground and people-mover systems. Our consultants are currently considering their economic and technical viability.

My noble friend Lord Brougham and Vaux asked me when we intended to legislate on the Horne Report. I am afraid that I cannot give my noble friend a firm answer. However, we are looking for an early opportunity to do so.

During the debate different speakers have emphasised different aspects of what needs to be done so that we can continue to develop a transport system which meets our social and economic needs. Some have laid stress on developing public transport; others on the need for better roads; and others on traffic management.

I hope that this brief review of the Government's policy will help to reassure noble Lords of the Government's commitment to sustained effort in each area. We have provided, and shall continue to provide, record levels of public investment and we shall continue to encourage innovative private sector investment in transport. Through the rigorous pursuit of value for money in the public sector and through competition, we shall seek to ensure that these resources progressively build a transport system that responds to the needs of the traveller and contributes to the country's continuing economic success.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he assure the House that he has listened to the very considerable volume of evidence and criticism of the way in which deregulation of buses has been working, or not working, especially as this affects some of the poorest members in our society? I detected a note of complacency about what had been said.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am afraid I am quite out of time to answer that question.

6.58 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the Minister states that he is out of time. I believe that the debate could have continued for five hours—not that I am asking him to speak for another hour! As noble Lords have observed, it is very encouraging that 15 noble Lords should take part in a debate on transport. We have had a very useful discussion and I am grateful to all those who have taken part. I am also grateful to the Minister for his replies. However, I hope that the Minister and his department will take note of the useful information given and the experiences cited. I hope that serious consideration will also be given to the constructive and impartial assessments being carried out by the AMA and the PTA group to which the Minister has not referred. Ministers have stated that these are important and well balanced documents. I believe that the Minister has shown a certain complacency in his replies on deregulation. Those assessments ought to be considered carefully.

I note what the Minister has said on the amendment to the Local Government Finance Bill being debated tonight in the other place. He has certainly not satisfied me on what might be the possible results. However, we shall consider carefully what he has said. If the other place is foolish enough to pass those amendments, I give notice to the Minister that he will not only have those four questions put to him again, but many others. We are very concerned about the future. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester has said, it is a very important matter to many people.

Once again I thank all Members who have taken part. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.