HL Deb 19 June 1998 vol 590 cc1804-18

12.7 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Elis-Thomas.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Meaning of "road traffic"]:

[Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 not moved.]

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 6, after ("excluding") insert ("vehicles used solely for the transport of freight and").

The noble Lord said: Before I begin, I should point out to the Committee that my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who is not able to be present today, has, I believe, one of the best excuses that I have heard in a very long time for not being here; namely, that he is getting married. I am sure that Members of the Committee will join me in congratulating him. However, he will be back on Wednesday for what I gather will be the Report stage of the Bill.

I am pleased that we are able to have a Committee stage for the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will perhaps recall that the last road traffic reduction Bill, which went through this place during the final stages of the last Parliament, was so rushed that noble Lords were discouraged from even tabling amendments for this stage so that there would not have to be a Committee stage. Indeed, the Bill would otherwise have been lost. Therefore, I am very glad that we can have a Committee stage today to enable us to air some of the issues which were raised on Second Reading. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, does not have a large "Resist" typed at the top of his notes for all the amendments but that he will be able to consider them most carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said at Second Reading, Therefore this Bill will encourage the use of forms of transport other than the private car".—[Official Report, 5/6/98; col. 596] Clause 1 therefore excludes, vehicles constructed or adapted to carry more than eight passengers in addition to the driver". I shall call those vehicles buses or minibuses for simplicity.

At Second Reading I mentioned freight. I believe that there is a good case for adding vehicles carrying freight to the exemption in the Bill. The freight industry has done much to improve efficiency over recent years. Indeed in the past 10 years the number of lorries on Britain's roads has fallen by 15 per cent. while the volume of freight carried has increased. The movement of freight by rail has increased dramatically since privatisation. The rail freight industry has set ambitious targets for further increases. However, this move to rail, while most welcome of course, must be achieved by the rail freight sector continuing to make progress in offering industry a competitive, reliable and efficient service attracting new business on merit and price. Legislation such as proposed in this Bill, which would potentially seek to force freight from road to rail or to other modes of transport by the imposition of arbitrary, legal targets in respect of road freight traffic growth, would be seriously damaging to the competitiveness of British industry.

As I said at Second Reading, freight is not carried around the country for fun. It is an essential part of a modern and prosperous economy. I therefore believe that there is just as good a case for excluding freight from these targets as there is for excluding buses. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said at Second Reading that he did not feel he could accept this amendment. I look forward to hearing his reasons, and those of the Minister, presumably, for that attitude. I shall, of course, listen carefully to his comments. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The impact of the Bill would be seriously weakened if this amendment were to be accepted. Goods vehicles not only represent a significant proportion of all road traffic but also have a larger impact on the environment than cars. If Amendment No. 3 was accepted, the Bill would relate only to passenger vehicles. We do not think that this is acceptable and therefore resist this amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, for moving his amendment. I am pleased that we have an opportunity in this Committee stage to air these issues. I hope I can reassure the Committee on this point. I certainly do not share the view of the noble Lord that the targets are arbitrary, legal targets. I think those were his words. The targets are very much related to the reports. This Bill seeks to ensure that there is a balanced appraisal of interests.

If we are agreed that there is to be a reduction in road traffic for all the reasons that we set out at Second Reading, I feel that the inclusion of freight transport vehicles, as a form of transport for which reduction is sought, is an essential part of the Bill. That is why I indicated at Second Reading that I would find it difficult to accept this amendment. Since that stage I have considered the noble Lord's arguments. I believe what the noble Lord wishes to do—I support him in that—is to protect the interests of business, whether that is the road freight business or commercial businesses that opt to use road freight rather than other forms of transport.

I recognise the improvements that have been made by the freight industry. I am particularly excited—although I did not think I would be prior to the event—by the results of rail freight privatisation. EWS has expanded its freight business substantially. That has had beneficial effects for the economy of south Wales and other parts of the UK. We are moving in the right direction in terms of freight.

The intention of the Bill is to set targets and to produce reports which will encourage the public sector, the private sector, government and business to move towards those targets in a voluntary and progressive way. There is plenty of evidence on mainland Europe of road traffic reduction policies which benefit business. They reduce the running costs of companies and increase the amount of work that can be carried out by each vehicle and driver combination. A policy to reduce road freight can, in that sense, be beneficial to industry. For all those reasons I ask the noble Lord to reconsider his amendment.

12.15 p.m.

Earl Attlee

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Brabazon for moving his amendment. I declare an interest as president of the Heavy Transport Association. How does the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, view the effect of the M.4 motorway in south Wales as regards generating business? One sees businesses and factories springing up all around the motorway. How does the noble Lord view the effect of the A.55 in north Wales? Does he accept that the construction of roads and the development of good communications generate industry?

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I am not sure that I want to answer the question posed by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, but I wish to make a couple of comments on the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. It is a mistake to think that the only way you can reduce transport—that includes freight transport—is by transferring it to some other mode. You can also reduce the need to move goods around. That is part of a long-term planning strategy. It is because we need to encourage these long-term strategies, either on the part of private business—as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, has said—or on the part of local authorities, that we need these long-term targets to encourage a gradual shift from a less desirable to a more desirable way of moving goods around.

Lord Swinfen

Vehicles can be loaded more efficiently and goods can be packaged more efficiently too. I believe that anything between 30 and 40 per cent. of the space in a cereal packet can be void. If that space is filled, far more cereal packets can be put on the same lorry. One would therefore need fewer lorries to transport the cereal. The same can be said as regards packaging for many other goods. I believe the Minister said that heavy lorries are environmentally less friendly than cars. However, up to four or five cars will occupy the same road space as one large lorry. All those cars will spew out fumes. As regards the space taken up by a lorry with a large trailer, far more cars would occupy that same space, all spewing out environmentally unfriendly gases.

Earl Attlee

I accept entirely the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. It was a good point. However, what concerns me is how central government can affect the decisions of industry.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I think we all know that decisions of central government affect decisions taken by private industry and indeed by other public authorities. We have only to consider the differentials in taxation between leaded and unleaded petrol to appreciate how that affects private decisions. You have only to note the requirement that all aircraft should undergo a noise certification process to appreciate how that has reduced the noise made by aircraft. It is that sort of pressure from central government which, over time, alters people's decisions, both in business and as private individuals, and also the decisions of people operating in other public authorities.

Lord Avebury

Perhaps I may point out one other example to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee; namely, the Government's planning policy on out-of-town shopping centres. If there are more such centres, obviously it encourages a great many more car journeys instead of people shopping in their own locality. Therefore, if the Government allow appeals by the big supermarkets to build shopping centres in rural areas, they are, ipso facto, generating a lot of additional traffic.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. This amendment has attracted more attention than one might have expected on a Friday morning—especially on the first fine day that we have had for a very long time. I certainly do not intend to press this amendment to a Division. However, I reserve the right to read what has been said and possibly return with a similar provision on Report.

My noble friend Lord Swinfen mentioned the Minister's remarks about freight vehicles having more environmental impact than motor cars. I would point out that this Bill exempts buses. The purpose of my amendment is to exempt freight vehicles as well. I remind the Committee and the noble Baroness the Minister that the most heavily polluted street in London is Oxford Street, where cars are banned. All the pollution is caused by buses and taxis. So there is an argument both ways.

The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, rightly praised EWS for the moves it has made towards rail freight. As I said, that is very much to be encouraged. However, there is a limit to what is possible. I believe that the majority of freight journeys in this country are under 50 miles. It is simply not practical to attempt to move most of that freight onto rail. Even if we are successful in moving freight onto rail, that almost always involves a road journey, probably at both ends—though ideally at neither end.

I completely take the point about planning strategy. However, the fact is that out-of-town shopping centres are here. Even if no more are built, the ones that we have are popular with the public.

My noble friend Lord Swinfen mentioned that packaging could be done more efficiently in lorries. He may well be right. I regard that as a matter for the industry itself. It is not in the industry's interests to package inefficiently. It means that more lorry miles need to be travelled. Lorry miles are expensive, especially given the present price of diesel, which so dramatically increased in the recent Budget. As I said, people do not move freight around for fun; they move it around as part of the economic life of this country.

I shall read most carefully what has been said in the debate, as I am sure will my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Road traffic reduction targets]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 19, leave out ("adverse").

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to my Amendment No. 7.

At Second Reading I described my concerns regarding the tenor of the Bill. My amendment seeks to remedy that by deleting the word "adverse", so that Clause 2(3) would read: the Secretary of State shall have regard to the impacts of road traffic, including". The Bill then goes on to list the matters to which he must have regard.

Apart from overcoming the difficulty of making a semi-political statement, if I may put it that way, the amendment allows the Secretary of State to have regard to the positive social impacts provided for in subsection (3)(g). Without my amendment, he could only consider the adverse social impacts. However, I accept that other matters referred to in subsection (3) are obviously adverse impacts.

Amendment No. 5, tabled by my noble friend Lord Brabazon achieves similar objectives but by different means. Amendment No. 4 is not affected by Amendment No. 5. However, if Amendment No. 5 were agreed to, my Amendment No. 7. to which I shall speak, would be superfluous.

Amendment No. 7 requires the Secretary of State to have regard to, "the needs of business, commerce and industry". Without my amendment, the Bill as drafted would allow the Secretary of State to set targets without regard to the needs of business, commerce and industry. That is particularly so because of the very existence of subsection (4), which provides that the Secretary of State will have regard to persons with disabilities and to the need for adequate provision of taxis.

The Committee will note that "business", "commerce" and "industry" are slightly different terms. However, it is important that they all appear on the face of the Bill, as they are, together, all important for the strength of the economy. That point has already been covered.

As I implied at Second Reading, road traffic is a barometer of economic activity. One of the first sectors to feel the pinch in a recession is the road haulage sector. Similarly, if road transport is restricted, the economy will suffer.

I hope that the Committee will accept my amendments. They are designed to make the Bill more efficient and effective. I beg to move.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Amendment No. 5 is grouped with this amendment. It may therefore be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to it now. I support the amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Attlee.

Clause (2)(3) of the Bill lists all the things that are supposed to be wrong with road traffic. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas said (col. 610) that the Bill is not anti-car. I therefore feel that one should counter some of the disadvantages spelt out in Clause 2(3) by adding some of the advantages, so that the Secretary of State can, in the words of the Bill, have regard to those as well when setting targets.

The four items I have proposed in Amendment No. 5 are largely self-explanatory. I have referred to the economy in the context of freight traffic, as has my noble friend Lord Attlee. The same arguments hold for the private car, including the effect on the motor manufacturing industry, which has been one of the great success stories of the past 15 years or so. Indeed, it has been particularly successful in South Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will recognise the investment that has taken place there.

For many people, particularly rural dwellers and those who are less well off the car is often the only means of transport available to them. Visits to friends and family cannot always be arranged around the availability of buses and trains. The car has therefore become a major force in reducing social exclusion. The Committee will note sub-paragraph (b) in my amendment.

As regards shopping centres, whether one likes it or not many major retail outlets are out of town. Desirable though it may now be to change planning laws to discourage that kind of development, the fact is that they are there, and, as I said, are very popular with the public. That, coupled with the changing pattern of life—for example, the weekly major shop—the car is, in reality, the only way to get one's shopping home.

The last item in the amendment covers access to public transport. It is unrealistic to suppose that people can always walk or take a bus to the railway station. If people are to be encouraged to travel by train it is essential that good parking facilities are available at all stations. The same goes for park-and-ride facilities out of town to encourage people to travel into town centres by bus. Of course, we are all waiting for the much heralded and delayed White Paper on an integrated transport policy. Therefore, I do not expect that the Minister will have a lot to say today on those items. But I hope that when it comes it will not be all stick and no carrot.

Hypothecation—a word which no doubt the Minister dreads hearing—will be essential if public attitudes to the private car are to be changed. Surveys have shown that people are willing to accept measures to tackle congestion, but the same surveys show that if those measures are fiscal ones, the overwhelming majority want to see that money put back into improving transport generally and not just syphoned off to the Treasury. I hope that when the Bill is enacted it will encourage the Government along that line.

I give the Minister a brief. She may well be aware of what happened in Oslo not long ago when congestion-charging in the centre of the city was introduced. It was done in such a way that people started work on the improvements, with a list of improvements that would be made, before they started charging people. So people could see what they were going to get for their money. It was therefore largely accepted by the public in Oslo. That is an important point. I look forward to hearing the response to the amendments.

12.30 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

Perhaps I may briefly speak not to the amendments but to apologise for not being here to move my earlier amendment. It was because I was attending a memorial service to my late boss, Lord Mellish, a Member of this House until recently. I hope that the Committee will accept that apology. I shall try to return to the matter at a later time.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Perhaps I may alter the order in which we spoke last time. I wish to add my comments before anything else to those of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. We all expect a great deal from the White Paper and many of the points he looks for I also seek in the White Paper.

I turn to the amendments. Amendment No. 4 might have a rather bizarre effect in that it might require the Secretary of State to restrict traffic, whether or not it has an adverse impact. That may not be entirely what was intended. I would be happy to be corrected on that, but it is my impression that that would be the effect of the Bill.

Moving to Amendment No. 5 on the same part of Clause 2 put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, again it is a curious amendment. It suggests that traffic is in itself beneficial. I do not think that anyone would deny that transport can be beneficial. The whole argument is based upon an assumption that there are ways of moving goods and people around which can be made less damaging than our present considerable use of motorised transport on roads to get ourselves and our goods around. It is a curious amendment, asking us to consider the beneficial effects of traffic. Most people would be hard put to judge any effects of traffic per se as beneficial. Traffic is vehicles moving along a road, which has no beneficial effect. But it has a large number of dis-benefits. I shall not go into them because we discussed them at some length in the course of the Second Reading of the Bill.

For those reasons, both the first two amendments which we are considering in this group are odd, to say the least, and do not quite express what the mover wished them to express.

Lord Elton

Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she explain how there could be traffic without transport or transport without traffic?

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I am happy to respond to that. Transport causes traffic. The question that we all face, not just in this country and not just at government level but all across Europe, at both government and local level, is how we reduce the adverse impact of traffic, which is caused by the need to transport ourselves and our goods, on the locality and the environment. That is what we are discussing. To do as the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, suggests in asking us to consider the beneficial effects of traffic does not make sense, even if I desired to accept the amendment—which I do not. But it is not the right way of expressing the point that the noble Lord is trying to get across.

Lord Swinfen

Pedestrian traffic does not require any transport at all. I wish to support Amendment No. 4. The word "adverse" in line 19 is otiose as in line nine the Secretary of State has to have the aim of reducing the adverse environmental, social and economic impacts.

I also wish to support my noble friend Lord Brabazon, in particular on paragraph (b) of Amendment No. 5 which concerns: effects in reducing social exclusion". I am thinking of where I live, which is in the country, one-and-a-half miles from any public transport, and the difficulties that families near me would have if they were not allowed to use their own private cars on various occasions. Coming back from the shops with a load of shopping and two small children, walking one-and-a-half-miles along busy roads, would for some women be absolutely intolerable and highly dangerous.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The purpose of the list in Clause 2(3) is to explain what is meant by the adverse impacts of traffic. So it is difficult to see the need for Amendment No. 4 which would delete the word "adverse".

Amendment No. 5 would require the Secretary of State to consider the beneficial impact of road traffic as well as the adverse impacts listed in Clause 2(3).

Amendment No. 7 would add the needs of business, commerce and industry to the list of needs to which the Secretary of State would have to have regard in Clause 2(4). We fully accept that in preparing our report we will need to take into account all the factors listed in Amendments Nos. 5 and 7 in one way or another. I can assure the Committee that the Government will consider all the relevant impacts of road traffic, including the impacts on industry and commerce, in considering how to comply with the requirements of the Bill.

However, we do not think it sensible to specify all those factors on the face of the Bill. The list of factors that we may need to take into account is very large and it is neither sensible nor practicable to specify them all. In the light of this reply the Government therefore wish to resist the group of amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, was absolutely right when he indicated that he did not expect me to pre-empt the White Paper.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, for her contribution to the debate on the difference between traffic and transport. If all the people in buses on Oxford Street were to transfer to private cars, there would be even more in the way of traffic and environmental effects.

The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, referred to people living in the country. Of course, he is right. He brought back some of my memories of walking with small children and carrier bags in the country.

Lord Rowallan

I join in support of both amendments by my noble friend Lord Attlee. I feel that leaving out the word "adverse" would be beneficial, despite what my noble friend Lord Swinfen said about it being mentioned earlier in the Bill.

I feel that we must not be too restrictive. Some of the impact—especially when we begin to produce yet more cleaner fuels such as diesel for freight lorries—will be beneficial. Of course, all emissions are more likely to be dirty rather than clean, but we can make them cleaner. I therefore support my noble friend Lord Attlee in the removal of the word "adverse". There is a chance that some of the matters listed will actually be less than adverse and may even be slightly beneficial. Let us therefore remove the restriction.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

Purely as a matter of drafting, the word "adverse" is required. As the Minister pointed out, it refers back to subsection (1) and merely explains the word "adverse" as it appears there. At line 19, it does not have any of the adverse effects feared by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and his supporters.

Lord Elis-Thomas

As always, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale for coming to my rescue. I agree entirely with his definition of "adverse" and its use in the Bill.

Perhaps I can add to the assurances clearly given by the Minister and try to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, that there is no suggestion in the Bill that people should not be allowed to use private cars in the circumstances he described. I too live in a relatively rural area; I occasionally shop at Tesco and use a car which I share. The impact of the Bill relates to the framework of public transport. It is not about forcing individual choices; it is about enabling people to have a better choice. Through the procedures in the Bill clear targets are available for the private and public sectors and government in developing public transport movements.

My noble friend Lady Thomas described the amendments as "rather odd". I do not say that they are odd, but their effect may be adverse to what is intended. For that reason, I do not feel able to accept them.

Amendment No. 7 relates to the needs of business, commerce and industry. As Members of the Committee will recollect, I spent part of my time this week trying to persuade the Government of the importance of the needs of business, commerce and industry in relation to the Government of Wales Bill presently passing through this Chamber.

The Bill before us, in common with government legislation, will take account of the needs of business, commerce and industry. We had a clear assurance from the Minister on those lines. It may be argued that because the provision is in this Bill and not in the Road Traffic Act 1997, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, referred, local authorities will have no need to consider the factors affecting business, commerce and industry if we are looking at the two pieces of legislation in parallel. That is not what we wish to achieve. The assurance we received from the Minister of the inclusion of the positive aspects set out in the report is certainly one that I can accept.

I agree entirely with one aspect raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, in relation to Amendment No. 5. I refer to the issue of, not hypothecation, but of the intention to spend green taxes positively so that those who are paying those taxes feel that they are receiving back benefit. A great deal of interest has been shown throughout Europe in the success of the landfill tax in the UK. Part of that is because it is clear that the revenue generated is used for environmental purposes.

I look forward this weekend, along with other Members of this Chamber and of the other place of all parties, to attending the environmental conference in Denmark, which precurses the conference of environmental Ministers. I shall be pleased to tell them that in this Chamber, on this day, we have been progressing a piece of voluntary environmental legislation which may have a positive impact on the reduction of environmental problems caused by the expansion of road traffic. However, we are seeking to do it voluntarily, in a way that encourages the motorist to use other forms of transport and, in particular, in a way that encourages—I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said in relation to the carrot and the stick—motorists, as taxpayers paying green taxes, to do so with a willing heart. They will see the improvement taking place in other modes of transport and the general environmental improvement that arises as part of that.

For all those convoluted reasons, without saying anything further that may be regarded as adverse to Members of the Committee opposite, I ask the noble Earl to consider withdrawing the amendment.

12.45 p.m.

Earl Attlee

I am grateful for the comments regarding our addition to subsection (4) in Amendment No. 7. If provision for the mobility needs of persons with disabilities and adequate taxi services is necessary in subsection (4), why is the provision for the needs of business and so forth not necessary? However, we can return to that point.

I listened carefully to what Members of the Committee had to say in response to my amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, described a possibly unintended effect and I shall take expert advice in that regard. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Swinfen for his support but feel that the inclusion of the word "adverse" in line 9 is necessary.

As to the comments of the Minister, surely it is obvious that most of the impacts are adverse. However, the time is not right to pursue those points further today. We may return to them at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Baroness Denton of Wakefield moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 3, after ("disabilities.") insert— ("( ) the needs of parents with young children travelling on public transport.").

The noble Baroness said: I propose this amendment because I feel that once again, rather like the reform of your Lordships' Chamber, the cart has got before the horse. The Bill asks for a reduction in road traffic without taking into account the provision of suitable alternatives. It does not co-ordinate with the policies of other departments and, in particular, I am concerned with the extra difficulties it will provide for parents—mainly women in this instance—moving about with children. I am also concerned to sustain the rural economy, to which many Members of the Committee referred.

The Government are aiming to get single parents back to work, yet there is no way, even in the public sector, that most childcare will take place in the workplace. I doubt that many Members of the Committee have recently tried taking three small, often reluctant, children on public transport in the middle of the rush hour. I believe that there are brilliant drivers and conductors who are extremely helpful, but it would also seem that there are other drivers who are on commission from osteopaths. Everything I say in relation to parents and children applies equally to the elderly.

That brings me to the main reason for tabling the amendment. Is it not highly dangerous to remove children from the security of seat belts and often well-constructed car seats in cars before the provision is in place to ensure that seat belts are available for them in other modes of transport? I ask, by putting the amendment where it is, that the Government should put that issue as one of their priorities because there is nothing more precious than a child's life.

On Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: The Bill is about trying to ensure that there is a clear approach to road transport in relation to an integrated transport strategy".—[Official Report, 5/6/98; col. 593.] May I suggest that again this is putting the cart before the horse. Should it not refer to the "integrated people strategy"? Traffic and transport are for the people who use them. I have tried to make this simply a pragmatic amendment where people consider people and I hope it will be acceptable. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

This is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, raised in speaking to a previous amendment. This amendment would add the needs of parents with young children travelling on public transport to the list of needs which the Secretary of State shall have regard to in Clause 2 (4).

Of course, I understand the difficulties, having myself travelled on public transport with three boys under the age of five. As they grew older, at least one of them would be capable, on two-door buses, of attempting to get off at one door as I was getting off at the other with the youngest. I fully appreciate the problems and I do understand that this is a group of passengers with special needs. We share the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Denton. I would therefore like to take this opportunity of assuring the Committee that the Government will consider the impact on parents with young children travelling on public transport when considering how to comply with the requirements of the Bill. However, as I said on the previous group of amendments, we do not think it sensible to specify on the face of the Bill every factor that we may need to take into account. The list is extensive and it is neither sensible nor practicable to specify all factors. I hope that with my assurance that the Government will consider this group of passengers along with others and our reasons for not producing a long list, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Swinfen

I wish to make a very brief point that the Government may not have considered. It is, I understand, a legal requirement that, for their own safety, a baby or young child travelling in a private car must be in a properly constructed seat which is properly fastened into the vehicle. However, as far as I am aware, there is no such provision for public transport. Public transport can move just as violently as private transport. It is also likely to be involved in accidents. I do not expect the Minister to produce an off-the-cuff answer today, but it is a point that should be thought about not only by the Government but by the companies providing public transport.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I am not in a position to comment in detail. In responding to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, I would merely comment that neither is there a requirement for adults travelling on public transport, with the exception of aircraft, to have safety harnesses provided.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I rise very briefly to support the amendment that my noble friend Lady Denton has made for all the reasons which she expressed so well. The problem with a Bill like this is that once a list is made, as in subsection (4), the temptation is to want to add to that list. I cannot for the life of me see why the two requirements listed in Clause 4 are any more or less important than the proposition put forward by my noble friend Lady Denton; or, indeed, for that matter, the proposition put forward by my noble friend Lord Attlee in Amendment No. 7 which refers to the needs of business, commerce and industry. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, when replying, could give some thought to that.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Perhaps I could make a couple of comments based on practical experience. Having been involved in the work of a local authority which was committed to reducing road traffic and which made that commitment about seven years ago, perhaps I can explain that nowadays, when local transport planners are talking about who has particular problems, those with some sort of handicap or disability are obviously on the list; but equally obvious are those elderly persons who cannot, for example, lift their legs as high as other people, or as the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, put forward, parents with small children. I think there is a general group which you could call "mobility restricted" in some way (without meaning to be derogatory in any sense to any of the various people who make up that group) and whose needs are invariably considered when people are planning alternative transport.

The second point I would like to make is that there is an increasing number of buses, even on the streets of London—particularly in the suburbs—which are very accessible both for people with physical disabilities and for parents pushing children in buggies or prams.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps I could point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, that the problems of many parents with young children, including mine, were not difficulty with mobility. They were all three far too mobile.

Viscount Simon

I can understand why the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, tabled this amendment. A lot of fulsome words go into the care of young children. However, the Japanese have it the other way round: they look after the elderly. Should we not consider the needs of the elderly on public transport being looked after by the very young, or, conversely, those of the middle-aged being looked after by the middle-aged? These are in fact examples of the wording in subsection (4)(a): the mobility needs of persons with disabilities".

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am grateful for all the contributions made to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, asked why there are specific categories referred to in Clause 4(2)(a) and (b). The reason is precisely to deal with one of the sub themes throughout this debate, certainly in Subsection (4)(b)—the need for adequate provision in rural areas; and, indeed, in non-rural districts where there are concerns about the possibility of replacement services in specific areas. We feel that that should be specified.

Perhaps better wording would be "The needs of persons with mobility difficulties", or "over-mobility difficulties". Different forms of either "over" or "under" mobility are also specified because clearly they are a particular category of person. We are talking about particular places and particular persons in subsection (4)(a) and (b)—that is why those are there—whereas what we have had in other amendments from noble Lords, particularly the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, were more general and specific aspects which, of course, will be featured in the report to be produced by the Secretary of State as a result of this Bill. We have again had very specific assurances on this issue as regards Amendment No. 6.

I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, for drawing attention to the needs of parents with young children generally, and particularly with regard to the school run. I find myself in complete agreement with her integrated people strategy. I wish all parties had one. I also agree with her that we are, regrettably, debating this Bill—and I must not sound too critical of the Government because they have been rather kind to this little Bill—almost in reverse order because we were hoping that the Transport White Paper would have been with us by now. I hope it is not available for the best of all possible reasons, as the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, hinted; in other words, that it may contain more consideration of the precise issues that will appear in the report as set out in this Bill.

The needs of parents and children when using public transport will be taken into account when the duties are carried out under Clause 2(1) and (2). I am grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, for drawing attention to the safety issues. Again, I am not able to respond in specific detail but we shall certainly make sure that we find out the detail and that we respond to that point. The whole question of the safety of young persons and children on transport is a matter for transport undertakers as well as for government.

For all those reasons, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

1 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I am grateful for the interest that has been shown in this amendment. I wish to express sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in having to work so much in the dark at this stage in the strategy. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, that if one moves about London in the traffic for any length of time one becomes very cynical about the relationship between planners and normal people's lives. In response to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, perhaps I may add that I did mention the elderly, but I was particularly worried about moving children around.

I have been reassured that this matter has now been highlighted. Unfortunately, my memory is good enough to recall that when I was sitting on the government side of the House I used the listing argument too. We understand that, but it is very important that this matter should be considered. Having heard the replies, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.