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We have had an important debate, because parking is of great interest to the people of London. There is a lack of adequate parking facilities in London. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) pointed out in his admirable speech, the lack of parking facilities and the fact that motors must be parked on the roads are major contributory factors in the gradual decline in the speed at which London traffic moves. A most telling point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West. Even a single motor parked in a road can impede traffic flow to an astonishing degree.
My hon. Friend the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household, who has taken time off from his onerous duties overseeing the finances of our Sovereign, will probably have journeyed this morning in a motor from his house to the House of Commons. I shall give way to my hon. Friend so that he can confirm whether that is an accurate observation. We do not hear frequently from my hon. Friend.
Mr. Gow : I find myself in respectful disagreement with the Chair. I should like to hear more from my hon. Friend. He came to my constituency and made a superb speech of which you would have approved, Madam Deputy Speaker, but he will not speak today. I invited him to speak. I introduced him a fortnight ago today. The hon. Member for Bolsover will be pleased, because my hon. Friend travelled in a railway train. We were not contributing to traffic congestion. We made a journey, each accompanied by the other.
Mr. Adley : When the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) referred to one of our hon. Friends, we were at pains to know the Spanish translation for the term "sub judice". As my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel Jones) is fluent in Spanish, he might be able to help us and the Hansard staff.
Mr. Gow : My hon. Friend is fluent in Spanish and in many other languages as well, but we do not want to be led astray. We might be rebuked by the Chair if we refer to the brilliantly gifted woman who is married to the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household. The Government should direct much more attention to parking in London. Mercifully, the Minister is in his place. Mercifully, there are few Ministers whose prospects are more glittering than those of my hon. Friend. He would enhance his prospects for promotion if he were able to speed the flow of traffic. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West spoke about London, but the matter concerns not just London or even England. I say that to my hon. and reverend Friend the Member for Belfast, South. Even in Belfast, a city which my hon. Friend knows better than I do, but even I am a fairly frequent visitor
Column 503Even my hon. Friend the Minister does not have ministerial responsibility for the city of Belfast. Hon. Members will have noticed the final clause which states that the Bill
"does not extend to Northern Ireland."
But it should extend to Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East represents one of the great cities of our land. If he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, he will not tell the House that there is no problem about parking in Leeds. He will not tell the House that the traffic flows rapidly in Leeds. That will not be the burden of his speech. Therefore, the problem is not only in London or in our great cities but in many of our towns. It is a growing problem, partly because of the success of my hon. Friends who are seated on the Treasury Bench.
Mr. Gow : My hon. Friend will be able to speak. If he intervenes during my speech, I may speak longer. We do not want that. I want to try to bring my speech to a conclusion. As much as I try, I am not assisted by my hon. Friend if he asks me to give way.
It is because of the success of those who are seated upon the Treasury Bench that more and more of our citizens have motors. The hon. Member for Tooting, who is a former Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, knows about these matters. He was a Minister in the Treasury. He knows what has happened. He knows that more and more of those people who, in the past, would have dreamt of having a motor now have motors. The hon. Gentleman--I almost called him my hon. Friend--is with me when I say that there are families of relatively modest means with two or even three motors, and they are not all minis. Some of them are made overseas. Too many of them are made overseas ; not enough are made here. It is because of the growth of motor ownership, achieved through the success of the Government's economic policies.
I know what an enthusiastic supporter of the monetarist cause my hon. Friend is. He is one of the driest of the dries. He is one of those who said, "Let us bear down upon inflation and let us, therefore, having had one great economic success, provide more motors for the people." We are all Thatcherites now. My hon. Friend is a Thatcherite. Because of the economic success and the extent of the ownership of motors, my hon. Friend the Minister has these problems. If we had not been so successful in extending the ownership of motors, my hon. Friend's Bill might not have been necessary.
I fear that even the Minister, as wise as he is on so many matters, may not be wise enough on the new clause. I hope that he will advise the House to agree the new clause, because it will diminish grievous parking problems. We need to provide more space to park motors, and we need to enforce the existing parking regulations much more strictly. We need to impose much heavier penalties on those who defy the law on parking. I welcome the Bill and should have liked to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to address the House.
Column 504Paper. Nevertheless, it has been a most useful debate thus far in which we have discussed not only parking but cruising, walking, cycling and--close to the other place--trotting, and we have certainly said a lot about not moving.
I have been impressed by the industry and ingenuity of my hon. Friends in devising sufficient new clauses to more than double the number that I had in the original Bill. Perhaps naively, I was working at the time on the premise that small is beautiful. I seem to have ended up with a greater number of interests, which I very much welcome, and a debate that has been much broader than I thought it might be. However, it has served to underline the importance of parking and attendant matters relating to traffic movement to the people of this country.
I am worried about the content of the new clauses because, although they may be desirable in their own respective ways, I am not sure that the Bill is the right vehicle--if I may use that word--for them. If the new clauses were accepted, they would increase the scope of the Bill dramatically and radically change its basic nature. Apart from that, they would attract considerable controversy, which I set out to avoid by being modest in my proposals.
There is, of course, the question of pragmatism, practical politics and what one can actually achieve. I think that the Bill, as proposed and as amended in Committee, is a pragmatic measure that will meet with great support from all quarters. Indeed, I have already received considerable evidence that there is support for it. I am pleased that, among other bodies, the Association of District Councils is particularly keen to see the Bill enacted because it believes that it will enhance and give greater flexibility to the powers of local authorities in relation to parking.
The fact that the title of the Bill was changed in Committee has been mentioned. I make no apology for it. It was an amendment that I moved because I believed that it would make the Bill clearer and easier to understand than did the original title, which appeared to have a rather abstract meaning which could be interpreted in many different ways.
Before I deal in detail with new clause 1, I should like to say a few general words about the purpose of the Bill because this is my first opportunity to do so on the Floor of the House. Hon. Members have been kind in their remarks about the speed with which the legislation has gone forward. I hope that it was well considered in Committee--I am sure that it was--and although the Bill has reached this stage quite speedily, it has received attention and has been considered carefully by many hon. Members.
As this is my first opportunity on the Floor of the House, I should like to emphasise that I have deliberately confined the Bill to a single aspect of parking--the method of payment. My main purpose is to increase choice and flexibility in the arrangements that local authorities can make for off- street car parking. As we have heard today, there are many other aspects of parking provision and enforcement. It may well be that in due course other measures should properly follow to take account of the new efficiency that I hope will arise as a result of this legislation. Some of the new clauses have highlighted those other issues, but I am reluctant to widen the scope of the
Column 505Bill along those lines. I believe that the Bill as it stands will benefit many people and, as far as I can envisage, do nobody any harm.
The Bill does not raise any new issues of principle but clarifies and extends an area of the law on parking controls while--this is terribly important--also allowing much greater opportunity for emerging technology. We hear a lot about technology and I think it important that at every opportunity where technology can be applied without harming people or their freedoms, it should be applied. I have already mentioned local authorities. I emphasise that the Bill will give them greater powers and greater flexibility. Governments are often criticised for doing things that seem to harm local authorities and their powers. That is not true, but it is often alleged. This small measure will underline the fact that we believe strongly in giving local authorities powers where appropriate and where we believe that they can operate them effectively and efficiently.
It may be helpful if I give the House a little background to the Bill. Many hon. Members have referred to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, which enables local authorities to designate parking places on highways in their areas and to provide off-street car parks. The Act places a duty on authorities to exercise their powers and to secure, among other things, the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities both on and off the highway. That general duty applies to all vehicles, not just to motor cars. Local authorities must take into account the need to maintain reasonable access to premises, the safety and convenience of the motoring public and other matters including--I emphasise this--preserving local amenity. Interestingly, although some people would think otherwise, local authorities remain the largest collective providers of off-street car parking in the country, though, clearly, there is increasing scope for involvement by the private sector. Many authorities choose to have a form of unmanned pay-and-display arrangement which puts the motorist on trust to purchase a ticket when he arrives and makes him liable to an extra charge if he fails to pay or if he overstays his time.
The method for enforcing such arrangements is provided by means of parking place orders made by the local authority under the 1984 Act. Breaching the provisions of an order constitutes an offence. Indications displayed by parking equipment can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. The 1984 Act therefore requires parking equipment and the parking devices associated with such equipment to be approved by the Secretary of State. That well- established procedure goes back to the first parking meters in this country. Obviously, it offers a safeguard to the public and ensures that the equipment meets certain minimum standards. That is important, because, I am informed, British standards are being developed as a basis for streamlining the approval process. Clearly, the British standards must be applied to all new parking devices and equipment that might be introduced as a result of my Bill.
That is the background, but why is the Bill needed? Until recently, the Secretary of State could approve the use of coin-operated equipment only. Many people will be somewhat incredulous of the fact that they can use only coin-operated equipment in the late 1980s. The original provisions were drafted before any alternative systems were available, and technology is advancing in this as in other areas. In 1986, the hon. Member for Kingston upon
Column 506Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) successfully introduced the Road Traffic Regulation (Parking) Act 1986 to allow non coin -operated parking equipment to be approved for use on the street. That extended what had been a London-only provision to apply nationally. It certainly opened up the way for a range of cashless equipment, which includes prepaid tokens, vouchers, magnetic cards and electronic in-car devices.
My Bill will build on that in two specific ways. First, it will allow the Secretary of State to approve for use in off-street car parks the same types of equipment that can now be used legally on the street. Secondly, it anticipates and provides for the introduction of parking equipment on or off street that can accept bank notes and credit and debit cards. While I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North on what he did, the new provision gives manufacturers with such equipment the opportunity to take advantage of the market that will become available and to extend their work in developing new parking devices.
The second provision is essentially a logical development of the first. It is wrong that we should provide for other cashless forms of payment without also widening the current definition to include bank notes and credit and debit cards, as well as coins. That, of course, assumes that parking equipment and control mechanisms develop in the same direction as those for the payment of other goods and services, which we now enjoy in retail outlets throughout the country. I am trying to ensure that my Bill does not get overtaken quickly by technological progress.
The Bill was further improved in Committee. When I was talking about the speed of the legislation, I mentioned that we carefully considered the Bill's four clauses in Committee. In particular, there is now provided in clause 1(3) a power to allow the Secretary of State to amend the definition of a parking device. That is shorthand for any method of paying for parking by prepayment rather than by a coin in the slot. The definition of a parking device is fairly comprehensive, but there is a possibility that technological advances will produce some further variants. We certainly do not want to have primary legislation in the House every time that happens. The amendments, which cover both on and off-street parking, would allow the Secretary of State by order to extend the categories of parking device that local authorities may be permitted to employ. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) referred to the unfortunately large number of imported vehicles. I can tell him that the export potential of manufacturers with this new technology and new parking devices appears to be enormous. They would do well to follow up the opportunity that they are given through my legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) has rightly drawn attention in new clause 1 to the problem of coaches parking on the streets. I do not wish to dispute his facts--I am not able to do so--but clearly my hon. Friend the Minister may wish to do so. As the Minister's constituency is not that far from Lewisham, the particular problems to which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West referred may also be problems for the Minister. I emphasise that my legislation is of course--with the sad exception of Northern Ireland--national. While the debate on London problems has been most
Column 507illuminating to me as a northern Member of Parliament, I found that some of the matters discussed were not completely relevant. If they were allowed to proceed, they would probably muddy the waters. They would certainly diminish the impact of the Bill as a small but national piece of legislation.
I hazard a guess that the main problem concerned in new clause 1 is not that caused by coaches parking at designated bays, but that of coaches parking haphazardly or even illegally in other places. Obviously, we would all like to move the problem off the street, but the passengers who use buses and coaches may not be so happy. That may, of course, be the basis of another debate.
Mr. Adley : My hon. Friend touched on an important point. We cannot have a situation where we pass legislation in the House, or leave the police to administer the law, and then say to the police "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we know that they are breaking the law, but if you enforce the law, you will inconvenience a few people." Will my hon. Friend confirm that he agrees that that is a completely unacceptable proposition?
Mr. Kirkhope : I agree with my hon. Friend. He was right to mention that point. I am not trying to come down one way or the other, but am merely pointing out what I believe could be genuine difficulties in pursuing new clause 1. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will have more to say on that issue. He is better equipped than I am to remark further on it. However, I thought it right that I should make my views known at this stage.
A decent off-street coach park is expensive to provide, especially in London. Parking is, of course, expensive and taking up the space of a lot of our cities is an expensive operation. It is certainly known that there is little suitable land available for off-street parking in the capital. High land prices tend to rule it out as an easy option, because it is unlikely that a reasonable return could be made on the investment. That is one argument, but there are those who could argue effectively the other way. On that basis, parking charges would have to be high. However, if they were too high, they would obviously drive away customers. It could be argued that that is what we need to do. My hon. Friend the Minister for Lewisham, West suggested that it would be a good idea, especially in London, to drive away some of the customers. It may be the time to consider not allowing so many of these vehicles and their occupants to come here. All round, the argument is for designating a limited number of coach parking places in the areas that need them most, but not elsewhere. Perhaps we should be a little more rigid on that.
I am not sure that the proposed new clause will help the progress of the Bill. However, it is right that it has been proposed. Perhaps it will be useful for the clause to be incorporated in some future legislation that may be more appropriate to it. I should be interested to hear the views of the Minister, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West will not press the new clause. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West for his remarks on new clause 3, but I am still in doubt about what that clause would achieve. My understanding is that the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 allows local authorities to restrict resident parking places to any class of vehicle that they choose. Some residents may choose to drive a car and some may choose to drive a small minibus or van that occupies the same
Column 508space as a car. Of course, there are widespread permit schemes for residents, which I believe have been generally accepted. I am not aware of any real pressure to discriminate. I question whether it is a good thing to be more restrictive than we are now. We have not taken account, for instance, of residents' motor cycles. What about areas of mixed residential and business use, where there are bound to be some vans and lorries needing space? I am not saying that it would be always right for them to take up residents' space, but I feel that the matter might best be left to the discretion of the local authorities, which take into account local feeling, rather than being legislated for in this manner.
New clause 4 perhaps raises similar issues to the previous new clause. There are flexible provisions in the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 for restrictions on waiting and loading by all kinds of goods vehicles. Those restrictions may apply throughout the day or for any part of the day. Those powers are extensively used already. They may not always, of course, be well enforced, but that is another issue. It is certainly not something that we can put right here and now. I am all for restricting peak hour deliveries, but, if the will is there, that can be achieved under the present law.
New clause 4 would tie the hands of the local authorities unduly. We should be thinking more about giving highway authorities more discretion in parking matters rather than less. Again, it is a matter of retaining as much flexibility in the law as possible. I hope that that my hon. Friend will not press new clause 4.
New clause 5 is, I believe, returning to the theme of new clause 1. It would impose a new duty on local authorities or it would be a more specific variation of their existing general duties to which I referred earlier. Local authorities are already obliged to secure suitable parking provision not just for cars, but for all kinds of vehicles. It does not mean, of course, that they always must provide it themselves at the ratepayers' expense. My hon. Friend the Minister may wish to correct me, but I imagine that, if anyone should be responsible for providing off-street coach and bus parks, it should be the bus and coach operators themselves, if that is possible to achieve.
If I understand the situation correctly, local authorities already have the power to build and operate bus and coach stations and many do so. The need varies from place to place and therefore I am not sure that it would be appropriate to impose a duty on every local authority to provide off-street parking for coaches and buses, especially if it was not required. That extra burden would lead to rigidity rather than flexibility. The power should be given to the local people through their elected representatives.
New clause 7, which is proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, contains an interesting suggestion. Even though it raises important issues to which the Minister should address himself, I am not sure whether it is within the scope of my Bill. I would, however, be interested to learn the Minister's reaction to it. My initial reaction is that the new clause proposes a radical approach that carries a severe penalty. It would have to be considered carefully before it was accepted. I look forward to what the Minister has to say and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch for raising the matter.
Column 509Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) who has been invited to attend the Guildhall lunch with Mr. Gorbachev. She will be dealing with broader and more strategic matters while I am left to deal with London parking--so be our allotted roles. Given my hon. Friend's background, I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate that I was only too willing to help to ensure that she attended that lunch.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) on his Bill. I must admit that when the hon. Gentleman was discussing the new clauses that have been tabled by the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) and for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) I got the impression that he was more concerned about his Bill than the arguments put by his colleagues. The Bill enjoys support from both sides of the House and deals with an important matter. Although the arguments put by his hon. Friends were strong, I appreciate that the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East does not want to take controversial baggage on board as the Government might then feel that they could not accept the Bill.
It is somewhat surprising that this important measure has been introduced as a private Member's Bill. It is the role of Government to provide time to introduce such measures. I notice that the Government have said that they cannot find time for such measures, although they welcome their introduction by others. It is funny that the Government could find time, within about 24 hours, to make a statement about the dock labour scheme. There were no problems there and that statement will affect thousands of dockers. I will not go into that matter now, but it demonstrates that the Government have plenty of time to deal with any piece of legislation if they so wish.
The unique claim on behalf of the Bill is that we are all winners and there are no losers. It is important to judge this Bill, however, against the comprehensive problem of parking. Every speaker has said that one cannot simply solve this growing problem of parking by providing better car parking space or computers to deal with paying the parking fees. Parking is a major problem facing urban communities. I often visit Leeds and Yorkshire --I am told that I now live in Humberside, but that is another matter and I will leave it aside--and Leeds suffers from similar problems with lorries and coaches as those in London. Parking is a national problem. The Government should have provided time for this Bill and, having studied the business statement for next week, I should have thought that that was possible. Legislation could also be introduced as a result of the North report, which is being produced by the other place. The measures in the Bill could, therefore, have been included in other legislation, but it is important to judge the Bill on its own merits. I wish it well, and I hope that it goes through all its stages today.
The arguments advanced by the hon. Members for Christchurch and for Lewisham, West are worthy of support. The hon. Member for Christchurch and I have had more than two exchanges on transport and other issues, but I hope that he will not be embarrassed if I say that I support the arguments he advanced today.
The deregulation of buses has added to the problems. More inter-city buses now operate on the motorways and people exercise their right to choose a cheaper way to travel to London. Buses are cheaper than trains, but that
Column 510gets us on to the question of fair prices and all sorts of other things. Anybody who is familiar with Westminster and Victoria is well aware of the problems caused by coaches. This morning, as I passed Parliament square, I noted two Italian coaches parked on the square. That is one of the major routes out to the motorways and that incident illustrates the problems associated with parking, in many cases illegal parking. Those problems will not be solved by more technically efficient means of payment for parking.
We must deal with the tremendous input of cars, coaches and buses into our city. That problem will demand that we challenge one of the basic philosophies of the Tory party. The Secretary of State has expressed that philosophy on a number of occasions, even at the Tory party conference. It is claimed that the ownership of the car is the greatest expression of individual freedom. The idea is that people may use their cars for wherever they want to go and that we should try to meet the demands of all those with cars. Even though we have a lower proportion of car ownership in comparison with most other European countries, we cannot continue to build more and more roads and more and more car parks to meet that demand.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, West was right when he said that we should try to manage the existing system much better. I am rather sceptical about the auto-glide system, which we shall discuss shortly. I know that that system does more than tell people where the empty road is, but when I have travelled round London, in all forms of transport, I have always found it difficult to find any empty roads. The M25 is certainly not an empty road.
The Bill has a contribution to make, but we need a much more radical approach. One of the Government's major mistakes is to assume that we can deal with this matter in a departmental manner. I am not laying that charge against this Government alone as the problem has been with us for some time. Colin Buchanan told us more than 20 years ago that we would have to do something about organising traffic in our cities. The choices facing us are whether to ban cars in certain areas or to offer better opportunities for public transport. The hon. Members for Christchurch and for Lewisham, West were right when they said that we need more public money to fund the public transport system. We cannot allow market prices to determine future developments in public transport. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West was careful not to speak about a subsidy, but that is precisely what we are talking about. Public money must be made available so that choice may be affected.
I remember the arguments advanced by the Greater London council about its "Fares Fair" policy. Whatever the controversy about that policy--I supported it--it led to more people transferring to public transport and fewer people using their cars. It also reduced the number of accidents on our roads. In that regard I must give credit to the Government, and particularly to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, for their efforts to reduce road accidents. The Minister is right to be proud of his record. He is aware that the record for pedestrians is not as good and that we need to do a lot more. We welcome the improvements that have been made and, although I have not said it before, I would like to put it on record that the present safety record is something of which he should be
Column 511proud. If we save lives, in whatever way, it is a matter for congratulation. Let us hope that we can do more about that. The Bill also deals with safety to an extent, but it relates mainly to cars. Its main concern is how to pay for those cars once they arrive in the city. We are, after all, in a cashless society. I should have liked to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) who brought in the original legislation. I do not know whether hon. Members know, but my hon. Friend has been ill for a time and I am sure that all of us would want to pass on our best wishes, particularly today, when we are following on from his legislation. It was clear that, as the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East said, the legislation was not comprehensive enough and much of the machinery on street parking that it was suggested should be introduced was not introduced because the manufacturers thought that there was not a big enough market and that this would provide them with greater opportunities.
If we are to deal with the problem in our urban cities, we must recognise that there are too many cars and we cannot merely pursue the policy of providing more car parks. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) made an interesting point. He was really talking about a park-and-ride system, but it was being used by people taking the Underground to the unfortunate disadvantage of people in the area. Those people were denied the very local car parks that they want for business and shops in their areas, because other people were doing something which we would encourage them to do--using the car park because they could not get into the inner city and it is quicker to use public transport.
The combination of park and ride--of public and private transport--is one way forward. We must realise that cars will stay and play an important part in the transport system. They will not go away ; we cannot eliminate them. We should consider how we can ration their use within cities.
Another interesting point is whether we should impose more severe penalties on motorists who park illegally. In London there are problems for ambulances and fire services in gaining access to some of our streets. They are held up because cars are illegally parked. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) suggested that the best way to deter such motorists was to increase fines. That may well have happened to a certain extent. The evidence obtained from the use of the clamp tends to suggest that.
However, the clamp brings the worst of both worlds. It makes it inconvenient for motorists who have parked illegally because the clamped car stays in the road much longer, but, because it does so, the congestion continues for much longer. It deters the motorist from repeating his offence. However, many people who use company cars or who are self-employed and use cars for business seem to think that the only way to operate is to park illegally. A parking fine becomes a business fine--almost a business charge. Even if the fine is £50 or £10, it can be passed on, or one can pay by credit card--they have already arrived in the cashless illegal parking system. Credit cards or cheques are used to pay the fine.
We must think more seriously about the penalties to show our displeasure about motorists who park illegally and the way that they are putting so many people at a disadvantage. We may well have to put point endorsements on licences for parking offences. Often when
Column 512I talk to drivers in business they say that their company boss has said "You must wait there" or "You must deliver this package and if you get a fine I will pay it". If the driver was then able to say "But it is my licence that will be endorsed, not yours," he would have some defence against the businesses which pressure their employees to park illegally to carry out business. Illegal parking is causing considerable problems in our cities, and we may have to consider taking such action to control the car within the community. Hon. Members have also mentioned environmental problems. The Minister is well aware of the more controversial London assessment road programmes. History has shown that whichever Ministers come along with watever ideas people find them controversial and they oppose them. Much of the opposition to the Bill is because the local authorities which used to deal with the roads programmes and the GLC contribution have been done away with. The London assessment programmes are not assessed against a public transport system. It is not considered what could best be done to achieve the best contribution from public transport--whether eliminating the obstacles in the bus lane, or providing a cheaper fare system so that people use public transport. The GLC, in what was largely a successful transport policy, was trying to achieve all that. Even the lorry bans were introduced by the GLC. There must be a comprehensive approach to the problems in the urban city.
Even the CBI is now calling for planning and one supreme body, which is remarkable from an organisation that professes to believe mainly in market forces. However, market forces cannot solve the transport problems in our cities. We must have a major contribution from public transport but the Government appear to have set their face against that ; they are against public transport systems. However, there will be opportunities next week to debate that. However, the Government are on the wrong side of the argument and are the only Government probably in western Europe who cannot see a role for intervention and planning in integrating the transport systems, even the fare systems. One question posed today is, where will the money be found for the systems? People say that it should come not from the ratepayer but from the user. However, the taxpayer has a role to play. Every other developed economy believes that the taxpayer must make a greater contribution.
No Government has had a hypothecation policy of using all money raised in that way. However, every other European country spends about 50 per cent. of the road tax raised on roads and
transportation. In this country , in 1979, 35 per cent. was spent and now it is 25 per cent. It is not that, in this country the same share of road tax has not been spent on roads, but we have given more and more of the money to the Treasury. The money has not gone into any other form of transportation--whether public passenger revenue support or building more roads. We are spending less as a proportion and less in absolute terms--in case the Minister asks for a comparasion of the two Government records. That is an argument for another time. There is much to be said for using more of the money raised in road transport taxation, not just on roads but on transport generally and for considering more radical ways of raising transportation tax and how we spend it.
Column 513The M25 has at least relieved some of the through traffic. Before London had a circular road around its centre it must have been unique amongst capital cities. A number of political parties were involved and they each must share the political blame. What we have at present is quite inadequate. Although I understand that we cannot have--and would not want--five or six motorways through our cities and must do more to rationalise our use of space within the city areas, we must have a much more effective means of moving around our cities, particularly with the advent of the Channel tunnel, which will have a major effect on transport flows in this country.
All these factors show that many of the Government's present policies-- their central rail study, the Channel tunnel and London road assessments-- are dealt with separately, instead of being seen as contributions to a whole, as is the case abroad. To do so Government must have an active role and intervene and plan. It is tragic that such language is the language of ideological difference in this country. The hon. Member for Christchurch made that point. There must be other ways of making rational decisions rather than leaving it to the price and the market.
In any civilised developed economy transport must play its part. It is no coincidence that transport is a much more politically sensitive issue now than it was 10 years ago. That is not solely due to recent terrible tragedies ; it is because it involves people's daily experience of being stuck on the M25 or being unable to find car park space in a town, or having to pay fines.
Our main criticism of the Government's approach is their lack of an overall transport policy. Nevertheless, I offer my congratulations again to the Bill's promoter and my support on behalf of the Opposition for the Bill. It is a sensible Bill, worthy of our support. I hope that it will be supported generally and that the Government will accept the amendments to it, if not today, then eventually. These problems must be dealt with if we are to solve the problems of transport by car in our urban areas.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : I join previous speakers in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope). There was a time when many would have bet that no private Member's Bill would have reached this stage, but my hon. Friend's quick reactions got the Bill through Second Reading. There was a good debate in Committee--perhaps more closely related to the Bill than some of the issues raised by the new clauses discussed today, but that is understandable.
A word of caution to my hon. Friend. I have been conscious during proceedings on other private Member's Bills to which I have responded for the Government in the past two or three years that just one hon. Member has been able to try to force an amendment or block a Bill. That is what happened last year to the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), a measure dealing with child restraints in cars. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) here. Northern Ireland was included at the suggestion of an hon. Member from Northern Ireland. The year before that saw the passage of the Adley Act--if I may call it that. It did much to reduce the terrible noise pollution from motorcycles, which can do more to ruin the lives of people than even coaches. I am sure that many are grateful to him for the priority that he gave to that issue at that time.
Column 514I hope that my hon. Friend's Bill makes further progress. I do not intend to speak for long as I know that other important Bills await discussion. The next to come up may not be controversial, but it will be important to some people, and the House has an obligation to small as well as large numbers of people.
My problems is that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has made the speech for which we have waited for two and half years, so I can get rid of my response to the speech that I thought that he was going to make. When and if I appear shortly on "Any Questions" I shall be able to report to Carol Stone that the hon. Gentleman's New Year resolution, announced on "Any Questions" two years ago, to avoid shouting, has now been fulfilled. If he stands again for deputy leader of the Labour party I am sure he will be successful. He is certainly more active than its present deputy leader. I had better stop exchanging compliments before I get into trouble--
Mr. Bottomley : What we are really discussing is whether store cards, credit cards and even kidney donor cards can be used to pay for parking in an off-street parking place. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East said, we understand the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) who, in 1986, brought forward a similar group of measures. Had anyone guessed then that our legal friends would say that one cannot be certain whether the same equipment authorised for on-street parking will be lawful for off-street parking, the previous legislation might have been more comprehensive. Today's debate is an important use of private Member's time and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East on that.
We shall return to the subject of small coaches next Tuesday night when discussing European driver licencing, and to general traffic arrangements which, I am sure, will be able to be debated on the Second Reading of next Thursday's legislation. I want to make plain the Secretary of State's and my position on motorways in London. We do not intend to put forward motorway proposals. As the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) said, there are reasons for considering new roads. He served in Fulham and in what is now the borough of Wandsworth. As I said in an earlier intervention, Wandsworth Council has promoted--and, I have no doubt, will promote in future--road schemes of advantage to local people. They will need to be considered in terms of their wider impact, but I do not believe that Wandsworth or any other London borough or the Department of Transport will promote a road that will be a substitute for the M25 for crossing London.
I have made this point almost so often that it bores me silly to repeat it. It is not our aim to spend public money on building roads to encourage people to give up their rail season tickets and get into their one-tonne motor cars
Mr. Bottomley : Perhaps I can make myself plain by referring to page 59 of the Forshaw and Abercrombie report of 1943, which referred to people who drive their cars into theatreland. Messrs. Forshaw and Abercrombie
Column 515recommended that there should be 7,000 car parking spaces for vehicles in the West End theatreland alone. My aim, even if it upsets my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) is to ensure that such people will come in by coach from the railway terminus, go to the theatre, and then use the railways to go home.
Nothing I have done or said in more than three years as Minister for white lines and potholes should give anyone the idea that we will try to build motorways in London--or on radial routes in and out from the centre--which will only increase car commuting. We are not trying to do that and have said so. I would be grateful if Mr. Nick Lester of the Association of London Authorities, and others who produce resident groups leaflets describing half mile wide motorways covering most of London, would stop doing so. Could they please desist. I should like to give some advice to Thames Television which spends some time covering parking provision and other road issues in London. Instead of quick responses and asking the Minister to make a comment when somebody else has grabbed the microphone, Thames Television should occasionally read our leaflets or listen to our speeches. We have issued publications called "Transport in London" and "Statement on Transport in London". Why does it not heed the rather good speech that I made on Tuesday in Brighton at the Traffex exhibition? It was called "Civilising the Motor Car."
There are many opportunities for media people to listen to what we say. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has said, we ought to take some of the party politics out of this. There are always local issues and in that context I pay tribute to the societies and associations who pay attention to them. I had a meeting only last night with the Eltham society about various considerations in the borough of Greenwich. But we must make sure that we do not say that we must never build any more roads in London. There are too many casualties and too much of an environmental impact because of present traffic arrangements. In many areas of London new jobs need to be created. When people from the boroughs come to see me about parking or other traffic problems I advise them to seek advice from their officers about how many casualties they have and where they occur, on the rat runs as well as on the main roads. I advise them to bring in a map showing which households are affected by through traffic. We must start talking positively rather than just slipping back into the mistakes that have been made over the last 100 years. The whole history of parking in London is covered in the Gibbon and Bell book called "The History of London County Council--1889-1939" and in the follow up edition. If we look at those, or at the Bressey report of 1938, or at Forshaw and Abercrombie we see that it is a case of people taking short-term decisions to do nothing without taking account of the impact on others. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East said, that kind of approach does not work in other forms of transport and will not work on the roads.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East for his remarks about reducing casualties. However, we have not gone nearly far enough. I suspect that when the account for 1988 comes forward the casualties will amount to about 5,000. The target is not just
Column 516to get below 5,000 a year. Over the last 14 years casualties have been reduced by about 1,500 a year, but we have to reduce the figure of 100 lives per week being lost on the roads to 80 then to 60 and then to 40. Two thirds of deaths and injuries on the roads are unnecessary.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) is with me on the Front Bench. Perhaps I should seek to work as his junior because the Northern Ireland figures used to be better than those in Great Britain, but now they are not so good. We have heard about parking problems in Belfast as well as about those in the rest of Britain. We must seriously consider the new clauses, and I would do that at great length if we did not have other pressing business before the House. Coach parking is an emotive problem and there are no easy solutions. I sympathise with people on both sides of the argument. In his ninth Nicholas Bacon memorial lecture John Julius Norwich talked about tourist pollution. He said that it was possible to destroy the things that we are trying to see and appreciate if too many people come in. He was referring to the hundreds of coaches going to Florence and to the outskirts of Venice. We see the same thing around Westminster.
There are problems to be faced, but they cannot be faced effectively by blanket new clauses which would ban coaches that do not have designated parking spaces. It would be imprudent to adopt the alternative new clause which says that parking spaces should not be designated. There is a great conflict between two of the new clauses that we are debating. We must recognise that the Bus and Coach Council is trying but has not yet succeeded.-- [Interruption.] Perhaps when my hon. Friend's birthday next comes around we will send him a letter or arrange for a parliamentary question.
As a non-sponsored member of the Transport and General Workers Union, I do not want to see too much unjustified criticism of drivers who face difficult problems when they have to drop people at the right place at the right time, pick them up at the right place at the right time and must also find time to take a break and leave the coach if it is not being used. The same problems apply with buses. Buses and coaches provide a valuable service for the public and since deregulation they have provided alternative provision for customers. Put another way, they may be regarded as extra competition for British Rail because, unlike the railways, buses and coaches do not require expensive infrastructure for which they must pay themselves. They share infrastructure which is provided at great expense.
Do coaches use the existing road space efficiently? The answer must be yes. However, in terms of parking the answer is no. A parked coach takes up the space of three cars. However, a coach carrying 50 people is saving a great deal of road space in terms of the number of cars on the road.
There is a particular problem in London and the Metropolitan police are stepping up their efforts against illegal parking. I understand that the police have been in touch with the Bus and Coach Council to enlist its support.
Local authorities already have discretion about the vehicles that they allow to use designated parking spaces. Coach meters are not numerous, but they exist. We would like to see more in central London. The City of Westminster council has already introduced card-operated