HL Deb 12 October 1998 vol 593 cc696-8

2.57 p.m.

Lord Hacking asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether he can take steps, within the precincts of the House, to increase the provision of bicycle racks and reduce the provision of car parking space, in order to encourage Peers to cycle or use public transport and to discourage the use of cars when travelling to the House.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, it is not evident that there is a need for more bicycle racks. For example, last Tuesday, the day after the noble Lord tabled his Question, 15 of the 38 spaces were not in use. But if the situation changes the matter will, of course, be looked at again.

I am not convinced that other noble Lords will necessarily welcome the noble Lord's suggestion about travel to the House. For that reason, we cannot yet reduce the number of car parking spaces within the precincts. The car park is simply too crowded and so much in demand.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees for his Answer, although I find it somewhat disappointing. Has not the time come to give mild discouragement to drivers bringing cars to this House by, for example, limiting the number of occasions on which we can bring a car or introducing car parking charges? Of course that does not apply to those with disabilities. On the other hand, will the noble Lord consider giving mild encouragement to cyclists, particularly as not all the racks are used? Will he therefore consider encouraging the Government Whips to cycle, because, since the arrival of my noble friends Lord Hunt of King Heath and Lady Amos, they are a very lean and athletic group?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, as regards the noble Lord's first point, there would be practical difficulties about limiting the occasions on which noble Lords were able to use the car park. It would also place an extra burden upon police officers and security staff. I am sorry that the noble Lord finds the Answer disappointing, especially as he was kind enough to inform me of some of the points he proposed to raise in supplementary questions.

As regards encouraging Government Whips, many years ago I was a modest holder of such an office in another place. Having relinquished that post, I have since learnt never to become involved in advising Whips, whether in your Lordships' House or in another place.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, will the Chairman of Committees tell us what consultation takes place in relation to public transport? Many of us would wish to use public transport but the bus stops in Whitehall have been moved a long way from Parliament Square. I can tell the House that the bus stops for the 11 and 24 buses are near the Department of Health instead of being within reach of the House.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I understand and sympathise with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. However, strictly speaking, that is not a matter for me nor for your Lordships' committees. However, I have no doubt at all that what has already been said on this subject this afternoon in your Lordships' House will reach the right channels. If it does not, steps will be taken to see that it does.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, does the noble Lord not think that the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, is perhaps being a little unkind to the many Peers who are old and lame who really need their cars and already have a great deal of difficulty finding a parking space sometimes? Does the noble Lord not agree that if you are young enough and fit enough to use a bicycle you are young enough and fit enough to use public transport?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I cannot disagree with any of the points which the noble Lady has made. I am sure that her comments will find their target. As the noble Lady will know, steps have been taken, including additional ones quite recently, to improve those facilities, and I believe that that is quite right.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, will the Chairman of Committees accept that I am bitterly disappointed by his Answer to the Question today? Is the Chairman of Committees aware that, in the present day and age, there has been vigorous back-pedalling by politicians and extremely extensive free-wheeling between political parties? Will he not accept that, if that situation continues, we shall need four bicycle spaces for every car that is in your Lordships' car park?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I cannot possibly compete with the noble Lord's metaphors. I feared that the noble Lord was going to say that the recent increase in the bicycle allowance might have led to a rush of noble Lords wishing to use their bicycles. Forward pedalling instead of back-pedalling, your Lordships will recall that on 1st April last year the allowance was raised from 6.2p per mile to 6.4p per mile. I must reveal that at the time I advised one noble Lord, a renowned cyclist, not to spend it all at once.

Baroness Ludford

My Lords, will the Chairman of Committees say whether there has been any progress towards moving some of the cars into the car parking spaces at the NCP, which I believe was envisaged at one time? I accept that some noble Lords have to use a car, particularly those who are disabled. However, perhaps there could be an alteration in the number of spaces because there is not much space in the car park and it does not look very nice for pedestrians.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I am not sure that there is scope for that but I shall look further into it. One point that I should make in reply to the noble Baroness is that quite a number of the spaces allocated to your Lordships' House in the Abingdon Street underground car park, which is not quite as convenient as your Lordships' own car park in Old Palace Yard, have not been taken up. Since we are talking partly about more agile members, there may be some who are better able to use those facilities than others who really need to be here.

Baroness David

My Lords, could the Chairman of Committees please tell me if there are any spaces allocated for visitors' bicycles? A number of my visitors are never quite sure where to put their bikes and whether, if they leave them in certain places, they will be confiscated.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, not as far as I know but if I am wrong I will let the noble Baroness, Lady David, know. The spaces available are for Members of your Lordships' House and the staff.