HL Deb 10 July 2000 vol 615 cc11-25

Each local transport authority shall have a duty—

  1. (a) to promote sustainable transport, including especially all forms of public passenger transport, and the conveyance of freight by rail or water, and
  2. (b) to identify and safeguard such land as may be required for the improvement of transport infrastructure, including interchanges between modes.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 109, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 113. Before doing so, I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group and an adviser to Adtran.

The amendments relate to the duties of local transport authorities, first, to promote sustainable transport and, secondly, to identify and safeguard land. The first duty goes back to the 1998 White Paper, which devoted 15 pages to sustainable transport. It referred to health, jobs, the environment, integrated transport, climate change, traffic congestion, local air quality, a more inclusive society and various targets. It was a most impressive document, but I am sad that as yet there is no reference to sustainable transport in this part of the Bill which relates to local transport plans and bus strategies.

It is also quite surprising to compare the lack of reference to sustainable transport in this section with that in Clause 206, where one of the functions to be exercised by the Strategic Rail Authority is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Therefore, I would argue that if it is all right for rail, it is logical that sustainable transport should be referred to in connection with local transport as well.

I also believe that the local transport plans should include reference to freight as well as to passengers. The reason why I am taking a little time to explain this is that in two recent publications by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions there seemed to be a certain lack of reference either to freight or to rail freight. I give two examples.

First, in its guidance on the preparation of local transport plans—as the Committee will know, local authorities must submit them by the end of this month—the department's 150-page book contains one paragraph on rail freight. It recommends that: Authorities should liaise with rail freight companies and their customers". It does not tell them how to do that; it does not even provide contacts for information, let alone an address for what is now the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority.

The second example is the guidance on methodology for multi-modal studies. This goes quite well with the route studies that have taken place with regard to roads. It seems to me that the guidance should refer to all modes of transport—road, rail and water—and should refer to freight, too. However, in the 80-page document only eight lines relate to rail freight. Again, I quote: It is good to know that encouragement of other modes of freight is likely to focus primarily on rail-borne freight". That is very interesting but it does not provide much guidance to local authorities and regional agencies which are preparing the multi-modal studies. Therefore, I believe that it is important to have on the face of the Bill a reference in this area to sustainable transport.

I now turn to paragraph (b) of my amendment, which proposes to, identify and safeguard such land as may be required for the improvement of transport infrastructure, including interchanges between modes". I believe that it is important to place a duty on local transport authorities to identify land for infrastructure improvements and interchanges. Later in the Bill, we shall come to the question of Rail Property Board land, so I shall not mention that further at present.

Traffic by rail or road is set to increase. The forecast percentage increase for rail is between 75 and 100 per cent over the next 10 years. However, it is clear that there is no land on which to expand these facilities: there is nowhere to park one's car when one wants to get on the train and there will be no intermodal terminals, be they for passengers or freight. It is interesting that a similar section is to be found in the Greater London Authority Act, which we debated a year or so ago. The Minister was kind enough to accept that it was important for the Greater London Authority to be able to own and develop land, and perhaps I may refer the Committee to Schedule 11 to that Act. Paragraph 14 sets out the provision for intermodal interchanges, and paragraph 15 allows the Greater London Authority to develop land. Therefore, there is a precedent which I hope will be useful.

Lastly with regard to land, I believe that we must look at local transport plans as a medium-term planning tool for local transport policy. At the moment, there is no easy way for local authorities to safeguard land for transport. As the Committee will know, the Department of Transport can safeguard alignments for major rail schemes and probably major road schemes. However, I believe that there is also a need for local authorities to be able to safeguard land for those interchanges. They may not have the funds to do so at present and they may not have the permissions. However, at least they can identify the land; otherwise, when they decide that they want to do something or obtain a budget for it, they may find that they cannot develop a park-and-ride scheme or develop an intermodal freight interchange because they do not have the necessary land.

In conclusion with regard to this amendment, I believe that it is absolutely vital that the question of land and sustainable transport is reflected somewhere at the beginning of Part II. I accept that my drafting may not be perfect and the Minister may say that it is in the wrong place. However, I believe that the principles are very important.

Before I sit down, I should like to speak briefly about Amendment No. 113 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and others. It is encouraging that in the first of their paragraphs they also note that there need to be policies for improving the movement of freight and people by whatever mode, including walking and cycling. My comments apply also to that proposal. I beg to move Amendment No. 109.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I rise to support the view expressed by my noble friend, who for many years sustained me as my number two in transport matters.

If the Minister comes to the view that these matters are implied and that the Government support the ideas behind paragraphs (a) and (b) of Amendment No. 109, so be it. However, I believe that it is incumbent upon him to say why those words are not included on the face of the Bill. At the moment, as I understand it, they are not included. Therefore, I ask the simple question: why not? It seems to me that in every respect—it does not matter whether the right words are used—my noble friend who moved the amendment has sustainable transport as the target of his views. Sustainable transport is the aim of the Government and, therefore, I believe that it should be set up. I do not necessarily believe (and neither does he) that the words used contain the epitome of everything that should be said. However, the basis of his remarks is that they promote sustainable transport, and that is dealt with in paragraph (b).

I do not believe either that the noble Lord opposite will regard his words in Amendment No. 113 as being the last words. I believe that the word "no" should have been expressed more vocally by the noble Lord opposite. But whatever is said, it is clear that a point of view has been expressed which should appear on the face of the Bill. However, I am more inclined to support the view of my noble friend who moved the amendment. I hope that, so far as this matter is concerned, the Minister will be able to reply in a positive way.

Lord Dixon-Smith

It is a pleasure to find myself running in double harness with the noble Lord, Lard Berkeley. Like him, when I read the Bill I thought that it was deficient. Taking this part of the Bill at face value, one might come to the conclusion that the Government's real concern was buses, buses and buses, to coin a phrase—or to borrow one, perhaps. I am grateful for the support in principle of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. I agree that none of us ever regards our phrasing of amendments as the last word on the issue, but we do our best.

Amendment No. 113 follows on from that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. We have deliberately tried to introduce mention of other modes of transport and the issue of intermodal change.

Cycling and walking are clearly the most environmentally friendly and cheapest forms of transport, but they are not mentioned in the Bill. About one-third of all journeys are less than a mile, which is definitely walkable. About another third are between one and four miles, which is certainly cyclable.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Not by everybody.

Lord Dixon-Smith

Not by everybody, I agree, but certainly by a large number of people. If we are to encourage children to walk and cycle to school, which would greatly ease the morning rush hour, cycle routes and safe routes for walking ought to figure prominently in transport planning. The greatest problem for both categories of people is safety. Almost every morning there is a parental rush to the car somewhat after 8 o'clock because parents are concerned about how their children are to get to school in safety—and that means safety not just from traffic, but, heaven help us, from interference by other people. The car will remain a prominent means of transport, particularly in the less metropolitan areas, but we would support anything that would encourage walking or cycling, so we think that they should be mentioned.

The other two subsections in Amendment No. 113 were drafted in an attempt to ensure consistency and congruence between local and district strategic transport plans. Planning can influence the need for transport. Good planning can diminish needs to an extent, although its powers as a cure-all can be overrated. The two branches of the planning process should be brought together. We have tried to insert that in the Bill.

There will always be questions about what should be specified in the Bill. I can see the Minister's mind ticking already, working out how he will answer the question. However, a lot of people will read only what is in the Bill, not all the background literature—which I shall have something to say about subsequently. Of course, the professionals will study the background literature as well, but the bulk of the population will be guided by what we deliberate on here. That will inform what they think—I was going to say what we think—that the Government think. Like the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I think that what the Government are thinking—or what they are revealing of their thinking in the Bill—is inadequate.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My noble friend Lord Berkeley has raised an important point. Too often, local authorities are interested only in cars and buses, buses, buses, but buses cause congestion, too. If anybody wants to know about that, they ought to visit Oxford, which shows that having a lot of buses does not always solve the traffic problem.

I am principally concerned about heavy goods vehicles, whose presence in town centres often causes a great deal of congestion. They are allowed into areas where they should not be allowed. Local authorities and the country as a whole must examine the problem thoroughly and work out the role of the goods vehicle.

I am old enough to remember the time when most goods went by rail, not to the edge of towns, but into the town centre, because that is where the railway stations and marshalling yards were. Many of those yards still exist. There is a case for examining whether local authorities and the Government should begin to push heavy goods vehicles out of town centres and, in particular, out of residential areas adjacent to town centres, through which heavy goods vehicles have to travel, causing a great deal of inconvenience, danger and environmental pollution to the people who live along those routes. My noble friend has raised an important issue.

There is another problem with heavy goods vehicles travelling along our roads—and, indeed, through continents. It has long been the case that goods are only semi—or perhaps quarterly—manufactured on any single site. Absurdly, all sorts of products, such as ladies underwear or men's suits, might start in Bradford and finish up in Finland, for example. That is a journey of hundreds of miles across our congested motorways and roads and through the continent of Europe, almost to the continent of Asia. That needs thorough national and international examination. We are wasting a lot of fuel and causing a great deal of avoidable environmental pollution.

Those are some reasons why the amendment should be considered. I have one final point about lorries, on which perhaps there should be some national examination. Many lorries make journeys when they are either empty or not full. Those journeys would be unnecessary if there was proper planning of the transportation of freight.

I thank my noble friend for tabling the amendment and for raising this very important issue. I hope that the Government will take it extremely seriously.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I want to speak briefly in support of Amendment No. 109 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Some of my reasons for wanting to support it may strike terror into the heart of the Minister but let him not become too terrified because I shall comfort him thereafter.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, reminded us of the GLA Bill. It is interesting to start with a general duty of the local authority to do X or Y. It is not the first time that such an idea has come into our recent legislation. The Government may respond by saying that this is not a Bill about the duties of local authorities; it is a Bill about specific items of local authority business. The Minister is nodding his head joyfully as I speak. But it would be of great assistance if some ideas, such as sustainability and the need to promote interchanges—and I can think of others too—which are being put forward in great detail could be written onto the face of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, says that his amendment is not perfectly drafted. When do we see an amendment that is? However, a provision of this type could be used to bring in a number of themes which would then be applicable to whatever the local authorities involved do in relation to, for example, Clauses 107 to 112. Those are the basic clauses which deal with local transport plans and bus strategies. That is preferable to repeating the subject every time it seems relevant to subsequent clauses. You could, for the sake of argument, include a provision "to promote sustainable and accessible transport". That removes the need to keep on bringing in the extremely important idea of accessibility, about which many Members of the Committee wish to speak. It is possible to use other important words to indicate the kind of duty being imposed on a local authority, not in relation to every single thing they do but in relation to this Bill. That would be extremely helpful.

I look forward to the Minister's response. There has been a varied collection of speeches in support of the amendments. I ask the noble Lord to think about the matter in the way I have outlined as a way of providing some important guiding principles right at the beginning of the Bill.

I remember the arguments used during the passage of the GLA Bill. Ministers kept saying, "But it is right there, in Clause 1. It is not needed anywhere else". The same approach could be used here to satisfy some of the legitimate worries which people will be expressing during the course of the day about this part of the Bill.

I conclude rather frivolously by saying that I was rather appalled that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in talking about parking, referred to parking one's car rather than one's bicycle at the railway station. I am sure that was merely an oversight.

Lord Swinfen

In Part IV we have a Strategic Rail Authority but I do not see any strategic transport authority to bring the whole lot together. Roads are administered by local authorities. Should there not be a national strategic transport authority?

Lord Bradshaw

In particular, I support paragraph (b) of Amendment No. 109. As a veteran of structure planning in county councils, I can vouch for the fact that everybody is in favour of extending park-and-ride schemes, of getting more freight onto the railway and of extending station car parks. However, when you try to implement any of those policies, they are always fought tooth and nail at ground level.

It is important that if we are to have a strategy for encouraging park-and-ride schemes, freight terminals and station car parks, they must find their way into the planning process at the earliest possible moment. Therefore, I welcome in particular paragraph (b) of the amendment.

Perhaps I may say briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that he cannot have been to Oxford very recently because we have solved the problems of bus congestion. More and more people are using the buses. Both air pollution and traffic congestion have virtually been eliminated.

Lord Whitty

In a sense I am surprised but, nevertheless, grateful that we have had a wide-ranging debate on the first item on the agenda today. I remind the Committee that this amendment is the first under the clause headed "Local transport plans", although some of the issues raised have been somewhat broader. Those plans are designed to bring forward an effective transport system at local level.

I was slightly surprised by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. In normal circumstances—that is, when we are discussing local government legislation—he is the first to argue that very little should he on the face of the Bill and more left to the local authorities. In the transport context, he seems to be saying that local authorities should have everything laid down for them.

Lord Dixon-Smith

The Minister is absolutely right: I am all for leaving matters to local authorities. If that were happening in this instance, I should be content. Sadly, it is not. There is an awful lot of paper betwixt this Bill and the local authority before it can do anything in relation to a transport plan.

Lord Whitty

It is true that there is guidance in relation to local transport plans with which the noble Lord will be familiar. But the guidance is flexible and leaves a lot of discretion with local authorities. The more we put on the face of the Bill, the less flexibility there is. Therefore, I must say to my noble friend Lord Berkeley and others who have spoken that although I can be reasonably positive up to a point, I believe that the amendments are either unnecessary or, in some circumstances, undesirable. They are dealt with better both by the provisions in the rest of the Bill and by the process of guidance to local authorities over what they should deliver in their transport plans.

The requirement to set out policies for the movement of freight, for example, which was the burden of the main contribution of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, is provided in Clause 107(1)(a) and (2)(b). Clause 107(1)(a) states: Each local transport authority must … develop policies for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within their area". Subsection (2)(b) defines those services as including, those required for the transportation of freight". Therefore, I believe that the freight issue is already dealt with clearly on the face of the Bill. I contend also that that covers the thrust of the proposed new duty in paragraph (a) of the amendment as regards the duty to promote sustainable transport. Current guidance on local transport plans is very specific on that and on the need for liaison and partnership working to improve integration between transport modes. Therefore, there is no need to specify that further on the face of the Bill.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Will my noble friend admit that the burden of the Government's policy in this respect is "sustainable transport"? Unless I am wildly mistaken, nowhere on the face of the Bill do the words "sustainable transport" appear. Does my noble friend not believe that the words are necessary in relation to the desirability to promote it?

Lord Whitty

The Committee will be aware, and certainly my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis will be aware, that sustainable passenger and freight transport is already the foundation of our local transport plan. We are not starting from scratch. The guidance specifically sets out that we expect authorities to integrate thinking and action across the policy areas, ensuring that transport policy works with environmental policy, with spatial planning, with health policy and so forth. Authorities should aim to provide transport choice for all within that sustainable context.

With respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, the situation is slightly different from that of the GLA Bill in which we set up an entirely new authority with new functions. In this Bill we are talking about a transport policy that already exists, local authorities that already exist and a local transport plan process that already exists. Therefore, this is incremental. We do not need to state first principles again, whether in relation to sustainability or freight.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I hate to interrupt the Minister, but guidance can change. Anyone concerned with planning policy in the 1980s and 1990s will remember that the guidance on out-of-town shopping centres changed, first, one way, then another way and then back to the first way. To have something on the face of the Bill is comforting because, on the whole, governments find it less easy to be pressurised by individual interests into changing the guidance.

Lord Whitty

The benefit of guidance is that within that guidance local authorities have the ability to fashion their policies according to their local circumstances. Without that flexibility, over-prescription on the face of the Bill will restrict local authorities in that respect.

On the second point raised by the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Berkeley in relation to the safeguarding of land, existing planning guidance sets out full and clear advice to local authorities in that area. PPG13, at present in draft form, states that local authorities should identify and, where appropriate, protect sites and routes, both existing and potential, which could be useful in transport infrastructure development. PPG12 makes clear that development plans should include only proposals that are firm and that have a degree of certainty of proceeding. That seems to be a sensible policy, while protecting land in appropriate circumstances. The guidance is also specific that authorities should have regard to planning and development plan strategies when preparing their local transport plans.

This Bill is on top of a pre-existing process that is familiar to local authorities and within a framework of a transport policy that is familiar to noble Lords. Therefore, I believe that it is unnecessary to prescribe on the face of the Bill some of the issues proposed by the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the amendment in relation to planning tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am much obliged to the Minister for giving way. I do not disagree with the majority of what he has said about transport, nor does my noble friend. However, I believe, particularly in the light of what he has said, that he should take this matter away for consideration. On reflection, it may be that the Government will take the view that he has expressed, but I do not believe that they will and nor do I believe that it is right that they should do so. None the less, I believe that it would be right for the Minister to take away the idea put forward by the noble Lord for careful consideration. Sustainable transport goes to the heart of that which the Government have been considering.

Lord Dixon-Smith

Before the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, decides what he will do with his amendment, to which mine is attached, I should say—

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Perhaps the Minister could be allowed to finish what he has to say.

Lord Whitty

I was hoping that I had finished actually! In reply to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, clearly we shall consider what has been said in this debate. In general terms, it is not the Government's intention to prescribe more in this clause, which relates specifically to the process of local transport plans and not to the totality of transport policy.

Lord Dixon-Smith

If I was out of order I apologise. I was trying to prevent the Minister from having to rise twice, three times or possibly even four times. I could not let what he had said pass without pointing out to him that he had singularly succeeded in avoiding any mention of pedestrians or cyclists. They are the forgotten part of the transport equation and, in my view, they require some attention. I wanted to say that before the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made up his mind about what to do with his amendment. He has an interesting dilemma.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on this amendment. I thank them for their support. I also thank my noble friend the Minister for what he has said. I am partly comforted, but not entirely, because my objective was to see the words "sustainable transport" somewhere in this introduction. Those words are included in the duties of the Strategic Rail Authority, so if it is all right for the SRA to have sustainable development why cannot local transport? My noble friend said that it is all contained in the guidance, but, as I sought to point out, the guidance is fairly deficient on some of these matters. I would much prefer to see those words on the face of the Bill. That deals with paragraph (a).

On paragraph (b), on the issue of land, again I hear what my noble friend has said, but if the Greater London Authority is allowed to own and to develop land for transport, I do not understand why that phrase cannot be in this Bill.

On the PPG13 draft guidance, my noble friend talked about the firm proposals and certainty of proceeding. That is the difficulty with local authorities; one needs to look many years ahead when dealing with transport plans. Certainty of proceeding requires many things apart from simply having the land. I hope that my noble friend can reconsider that point too. Like other noble Lords, I shall read carefully what the Minister has said on this matter, and I may return to the subject. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 107 [Local transport plans]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 110: Page 65, line 23, at end insert (", and (c) those required for business and commerce operating in the area;").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 110 seeks to add words to subsection (2) of Clause 107, which reads at present: The transport facilities and services mentioned in subsection (1) are—

  1. (a) those required to meet the needs of persons living or working in the authority's area, or visiting or travelling through that area, and
  2. (b) those required for the transportation of freight".
We believe, as stated in Amendment No. 110, that it is appropriate to add: (c) those required for business and commerce operating in the area". Of course, business and commerce are intimately involved in the movement of people and freight, but the straightforward, smooth and streamlined system of moving those people and freight may not always be in the best interests of business and commerce. Indeed, business and commerce should properly be taken into account in this matter.

A simple way of illustrating this point is that for years my local small town prayed for a by-pass and eventually achieved one. Everybody was immensely relieved. It was as though a river that had been pouring down a ravine through the middle of the community had been turned off. One month later the local chamber of trade met to protest that it had lost business, as it had. Some of that huge volume of traffic that passed through the town used to stop.

I do not need to argue as to who is right and who is wrong. That example makes the point. So business and commerce must have their views taken into account. All businesses need customers. It does not matter whether they are big multinational corporations or the village shop, they depend on customers; they depend on the smooth movement of both people and freight in relation to their business. But that may not be the same as in relation to their community, which is the way in which the Bill is presently biased.

Amendment No. 111 was tabled almost in surprise that nowhere in the Bill is the question of atmospheric pollution or greenhouse gas emissions mentioned. Considering this is the Transport Bill and the reduction of those emissions, among other things, is what the Bill is about, it is an extraordinary omission, particularly coming from a government who have preached the needs of cleaning up the atmosphere as a nation. I felt therefore that the words in Amendment No. 111 should be added to the Bill.

There are many different aspects to this problem. There is the strategic planning issue to be considered. But much can be done by local authorities in the immediate time-scale. Paradoxically, traffic authorities face a problem in this regard in that there is a huge conflict of interest between them and residents who want traffic in their areas slowed d own to make crossing the street easier. Initially, sleeping policemen are requested at monotonously regular intervals. The residents then find that with cars accelerating or braking and, even worse, lorries driving down those roads, they experience much more noise and atmospheric pollution than before. But the way parking restrictions are laid out on streets can have an effect on the smooth flow of traffic.

We may find, particularly in some of the metropolitan areas, that the authorities are in a position to help to reduce atmospheric pollution by encouraging people involved in transport to take advantage of new technologies. For instance, if all buses and taxis were fuelled by compressed natural gas, atmospheric pollution in metropolitan areas would be dramatically reduced. I can well imagine, under the powers in the Bill, some authorities wishing to introduce experimental schemes of that nature. They are not barred at the moment, but there is nothing in the Bill to make them specifically consider doing so. The addition of Amendment No. 111 would encourage that. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

The noble Lord's intervention on this issue shows exactly the point I identified in relation to the previous group of amendments; namely, that once we start specifying things in the Bill, the list becomes endless. There is little in what the noble Lord said in terms of policy with which I disagree. But it is a question of whether this should be done by stipulation on the face of the Bill or by guidance.

For those who doubt the efficacy of guidance, it is clear that Clause 111(1) places a legal requirement on authorities to have regard to the guidance. If we are too specific in the Bill and list all those who must be consulted or whose interests must be taken into account, then that list expands, as do the policy objectives.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, almost accepted that, if we were to add the reference to business and commerce, we would in a sense be duplicating what must be subsumed in the Bill—if it is not subsumed, then there is a problem—under Clause 107(2)(a), those required to meet the needs of persons living or working in the authority's area", and Clause 107(2)(b), those required for the transportation of freight", which clearly cover the commercial and business interests within the area. Amendment No. 111 seeks to add the words, those required to reduce atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gas emissions". Again, that is already part of local authorities' existing duties which must be integrated with the local transport plan. Under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995, local authorities are required to review and assess their local air quality and to designate air quality management areas where there are problems. The right way to draw the local transport policies and air quality processes together and to ensure consistency between them is through guidance, which we have already issued on local transport plans. The transport and air pollution guide which we issued earlier this year under Section 88 of the Environment Act 1995 already emphasises the importance of close co-operation between transport planners and environmental health officers.

The reality is that those matters are being built into the local transport plan process at local level through that process and other requirements on local authorities. The amendments therefore go beyond what it is sensible to specify on the face of the Bill.

Lord Dixon-Smith

The Minister's reply ran along the lines I was expecting. But his answer did not add to the clarity of the Bill. None the less, I shall study what he said with great care. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 111 not moved.]

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 112: Page 65, line 25, after ("document") insert ("containing targets").

The noble Lord said: It is not very often that I find myself in the position of offering assistance to the Deputy Prime Minister, but circumstances prevailed upon me to do so in these amendments.

In 1997, shortly after the general election, the Deputy Prime Minister stated clearly that he, "would have failed if, in five years, there are not more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car". I should hate for him to fail. That is why these amendments are essential to making local transport plans work. Without these simple amendments it will be impossible to measure the success or failure of policies employed within local transport plans. Without this analysis I fear that it will be difficult to share best practice between local transport executives or for best value to be judged objectively on behalf of the public transport user. Without these amendments how can we guarantee that this otherwise fairly interesting piece of legislation is taken seriously at a regional and local level?

Let me briefly outline the concerns that lead my party to deem that specific action to encourage challenge setting is necessary—concerns which Members of the Committee on all sides of the Chamber have expressed both today and previously.

Cycling and walking are in decline, yet doctors tell us, as we are all well aware, to take more exercise. Children are not allowed out to play because parents are concerned that they may be involved in traffic accidents, and the leading cause of death in the one to 14 age bracket is motor accidents. In relation to climate change, the weather the world is currently experiencing must be at least partly ascribed to climatic changes in our atmosphere brought about by pollution. Recent surges in the use of the private motorcar have seen levels of CO2 rise massively. That has led to significant increases in the numbers of asthma sufferers. The pollution levels on the vast majority of streets in Britain now exceed the safe standards agreed by the World Health Organisation, and those safety standards are there to protect human life and well-being.

Not only that, but the Confederation of British Industry believes that British businesses lose £19 billion a year as a direct result of road congestion. In the past decade, each car journey was subsidised in terms of road building, related costs to the NHS, and environmental degradation to the tune of 5p per kilometre or 9p per mile.

If we are to meet our national commitment, agreed at Kyoto, to reduce CO2 levels by 2010, we must add transport. It is less of a nettle because nettles are easier to grasp than a thorny rose that rips one's hands. More than 400 Members in the other place have signed a number of Early-Day Motions supporting traffic reduction, and the general public want significant progress. The Deputy Prime Minister promised as much and the Government must deliver. Targets will produce transparent change. Success can be monitored more easily and shared between local transport executives, leading to swifter benefits to our lungs and safety. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Lord Whitty

I begin by correcting the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in quoting my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister. He gave an indirect quote that has been misused on a number of occasions. To this very day, my right honourable friend has to put people right on it. We have never purposed a target in the sense that the amendments suggest.

We support the idea of targets and they will appear in local transport plans. We have encouraged local authorities to draw up appropriate targets, but is it right to introduce a statutory duty to that effect? We think not. It is by no means clear what would be achieved by the amendments. A simple duty to include targets is vague. How many targets? In what areas? The duty could be met by a minimalist approach or by a maximalist and excessively prescriptive approach. We do not accept that it would be sensible to be restrictive in this part of the Bill. The nature of targets has to be built in by each local authority.

We have already set out in current guidance on non-statutory LTPs that plans and strategies should include targets and performance indicators across all areas covered by an LTP, as part of the monitoring process. It should be left to local transport authorities to determine the precise package of performance indicators and targets that best reflects their particular local circumstances. The current guidance on local transport plans also requires authorities to have regard to already established national transport or transport-related targets.

Amendment No. 116 would place a requirement on an authority to keep its local transport plan under review and to alter it if that were considered appropriate. The effect is to remove the power to alter the plan. That seems unduly Stalinist, when the noble Lord is usually flexible in such matters. The amendment would remove also the flexibility to react to changing circumstances. Retaining the power to keep the plan under review and to modify it must be central to making the process work.

I have to resist the amendments and Amendment No. 116 in particular as it seems undesirable.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before the noble Lord decides what to do, perhaps the Minister could say whether the targets include one for road traffic reduction based on a national concept of what that ought to be, given that we are committed to Kyoto.

Lord Whitty

The climate change programme includes a CO2 target relating to vehicle emissions, which would be achieved through our broad transport and traffic management policies. That national target is not easily translatable into local transport plans. The issue is not total traffic volume—that can mean different things in different parts of the country and on different types of roads—but national and local authority targets relating to CO2 emissions, pollution and congestion rather than volume.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I am not entirely sure that I understand the Minister's concluding remarks but I shall study them and his earlier comments. Does the noble Lord agree that his first reply was a classic example of willing the ends but not the means? I stand by my observation that unless one places a duty on local transport authorities, one will not get the results—or the data one wants on the way. It is extremely likely that I shall gather some allies and return to this issue at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 113 not moved.]

Clause 107 agreed to.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 114: After Clause 107, insert the following new clause—