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Column 608should not be beyond his imagination, determination and skill to find a way in which these people, who are quite properly seeking to be admitted to the scheme, could be so admitted.
The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East spoke about variations in pricing and the need for display of information where such variations occur. These variations are an important factor in traffic management. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the possibility of empty car parks and encouraging people into them through low tariffs. There may be such empty car parks in rural areas and small cities, but in London we have the opposite problem. There are too many vehicles and too much congestion, so restraint must be exercised and management improved.
The flexibility that these new systems can offer would be an extremely important tool in traffic management and control and car restraint within our cities. The variations in pricing should be carefully displayed so that people have no doubt about the penalties that they face if they bring in vehicles in peak hours.
Traffic and parking problems in our cities are important factors in our consideration of the Bill and the amendment. The problem of parking is growing, as the number of cars and goods vehicles on our roads increases. The White Paper envisages traffic increasing by between 83 and 142 per cent. by the year 2025. That could mean an increase of 32.7 million vehicles. Hon. Members may wish to speculate on the scale and size of car parks needed to house so many additional cars, no matter what method of payment might by instituted and no matter how well information might be displayed at car park entrances. If we reach that point--as we shall, unless the Government act more positively to deal with traffic problems-- the regulations proposed in the amendment might mean signs stating, "Did you need to bring your car today?" or even "Full up--please use the bus next time." The sheer volume of cars and other vehicles is not only bad for parking--it is bad for our environment and bad for safety. I remind the House that the casualty rate in London is the highest in the country. If we continue to build more roads, especially in city areas, we shall exacerbate all those problems.
The provision of car parks with efficient methods of payment and well displayed signs is essential to deal with existing problems. We must also adopt a package of measures, of which an important component must be stricter parking controls. That means increasing fines and penalties for illegal parking and violation of bus lanes. Although we certainly need this small and modest Bill, we also need a more comprehensive approach to traffic problems. The Government should introduce major legislation to tackle the difficulties with which we are all becoming more and more familiar day by day. We welcome the amendment and appreciate its safety and security aspects. We are in favour of any method of payment which improves safety for those who deal with the machines and use the car parks. We are increasingly becoming a cashless society. That is our choice. We want an opportunity to pay through vouchers--free vouchers, I hope, for the disabled--or magnetic systems, for those of us who can make those choices and who have sufficient money to do so.
The Bill will be widely welcomed throughout the country and the Opposition wholeheartedly support it. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East has had all-party support for his Bill, which is very rewarding for anyone who, as I have done, introduces a private Member's Bill.
Column 609Piloting such a Bill through the House is an interesting and stimulating experience, but it is also a complex task. I pay tribute also to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, who paved the way for this measure with his original Bill.
The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East said that he was offering us a Bill which had no losers, only gainers. That must be
extraordinarily rare in this House. The Bill will shortly reach the statute book, which will give the hon. Gentleman a great deal of satisfaction.
Mr. Wilshire : I echo the words of congratulation from the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope). It is no mean feat to bring a Bill this far, this smoothly.
Like my hon. Friend, I welcome the Lords amendment because it provides additional safeguards for consumers. I am not known as one who always enthuses about everything that aims to further the cause of consumerism. My wife ran a shop for far too long for me to be wholly in favour of everything to do with consumerism. Therefore, when faced with such an amendment, the first question I ask is whether it is trying to protect people from their own stupidity. The second question is whether it sets out to assume that all providers of service are necessarily crooks. If those were the sorts of consumerism embodied in the amendment, I would not support it. I have learnt not to accept such approaches to consumerism. In the end, they turn the consumer--be he a driver or a shopper--into a human version of a rottweiler who will simply launch unprovoked attacks on quite innocent providers of services.
I have no hesitation in supporting the additional protection for consumers provided by the amendment. When drivers set out to buy parking space they are all too often vulnerable, and certainly not through their own stupidity. They are often at their wits end and may have spent a long time looking for any available parking space. They are often late for meetings-- which, I suspect, has something to do with the tourists referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight). Because they are late they will take any parking space they can find.
Even when drivers are not simply chasing every available parking space, they are still vulnerable because they cannot obtain the information they need because there are no signs and the car parks are not staffed. Somebody should tackle those problems, and it seems sensible that that person should be the Secretary of State. I accept that there should be certain exceptions --the "just in case" argument is sensible. However, I am not attracted to the argument that just because a car park is small, or just because a car park is temporary, that is a blanket reason why information should not be available. If the Secretary of State is given the necessary enabling powers, the test whether he needs to use them should be based on whether drivers are genuinely short of information. In an ideal world information would be available at all car parks, but we do not live in an ideal world. In a near ideal world it should be sufficient simply to say to local councils, "You are not providing enough information." I regret to say that experience has taught us that local government as a whole, of whatever political
Column 610persuasion, does not have a good track record on doing what it is asked to do. In the world in which we live we must, therefore, make reserve powers available to the Secretary of State.
Hon. Members could no doubt cite many examples of sharp practice and sloppy management by car park operators. I suspect that private operators rather than local government operators are more guilty of sharp practice. Only last weekend, while on the way to Wimbledon, I was stuck in yet another traffic jam and saw a cardboard sign for a temporary car park stating, "Car park spaces here--£4.50." When I pulled up to the entrance, another cardboard sign said, "Car park spaces here--£7.50." That is a classic example of getting the driver committed to coming into the car park and then pushing up the price. It is right that steps should be taken to protect the consumer against such sharp practice.
Again, we could all cite examples of sloppy management. What makes me most furious is when, on a wet day like today, I have driven a very long way and, having found a space at a pay-and-display car park, I find that I have no change. The change machine does not exist or has broken down and somewhere there is a little hut containing two employees sitting drinking tea or playing cards, and a scruffy notice is stuck on the window saying, "No change". That is sloppy management. If that is the sort of car park that the operator wishes to run, he should put a notice outside saying "This is a sloppily run car park. There is no change available."
If it is necessary to force certain car park operators to put up notices, we should spell out what those notices should say. First, they should say whether the car park is full. We have all had to make the vast trek up five or six storeys of a multi-storey car park, only to find that we need not have gone there in the first place. They should also say whether the car park is supervised, not only because supervision might provide the chance of obtaining change but because knowing whether a large, dark car park is supervised is important, especially at night.
The notices should also specify the method of payment, and whether change is available. They should mention the closing time, if there is one. How many of us have discovered, having gone back to collect the car late at night, that the gates were locked at 7 pm and that, moreover, no address or telephone number is available for someone who might be able to deal with the matter?
Reference has been made to disabled people. If a car park provides facilities such as special spaces, lifts or escalators, the advance sign should state, "This car park caters for the disabled." It would also be helpful if the sign stated whether the car park had toilets. Certainly it should specify the charges. If there is a
choice--particularly in the inner cities--between cheaper long-stay rates at the edge of the city and a higher charge for a short stay, advance signs should not only make it clear whether the car park is long-stay or short- stay but should expalin how to find a long-stay car park : not everyone will know the way in a strange town. Notices should give the names, addresses and telephone numbers of owners and operators, so that drivers can take action if they wish to complain or to obtain further information.
Other hon. Members have already raised the question of where the notices should be placed. I think that there should be signs in several places, and that the amount of
Column 611information and how it is displayed should vary according to where they are. A large, simple advance notice, telling the drivers whether it is worth their while to join a queue and where they can go to seek alternative parking, would be extremely helpful. Notices should encourage--or require--drivers who opt to queue not to block the road and prevent others from driving around to look for another car park. For years I drove a caravanette which was over height in many places, and I was frequently unable to discover from car park advance notices what the headroom would be if I joined the queue. I therefore feel that notices should specify size restrictions.
Motorists should be able to read a sign at the main entrance before they are committed to driving into the car park. Like others, I suspect, I have had to take a ticket and have then found it difficult, sometimes impossible, to be let out of the car park--because it is full or the conditions are not satisfactory--without having to pay for the indignity of having driven around the car park and then left. The notice at the main entrance should say whether the car park is full and should state the charges, if any. It is crucial that the closing time be clearly displayed, along with the method of payment. Details of owner and operator should appear not only on all signs but on all tickets, so that the driver has a written record for the future. The size of the notice will have been touched on only briefly when the lawyers were deciding how much small-print gobbledegook should appear. Signs whose print is too small for drivers to read, however, are not only useless but potentially dangerous. Any regulations or code of conduct must specify that the basic information on notices can be read by a driver still sitting in his car.
We have discussed whether temporary car parks should be exempted, but I am anxious to hear whether they can be included. I am not a lawyer, and I am not sure whether the legislation would cover only permanent car parks, but I feel that it should extend to temporary ones. I suspect that the wording of the Lords amendment, which can require local authorities to perform certain duties, confines the scope of the Bill to local government. Although it may well be the largest provider of parking spaces, local government is far from being the only provider, and neither sharp practice nor sloppy management is its exclusive prerogative. If at this late stage the Bill cannot be made to cover privately operated car parks, I hope that someone will strike lucky in next year's ballot and set about seeking to extend it in another private Member's Bill.
I appreciate the cunning of the proposed penalties : they are a good way of concentrating wonderfully the minds of councillors who realise that they may be surcharged if they do not deal with problems. The Bill does not specify, however, who is to put up notices stating that the existing notices are no longer valid because they do not comply with the regulations.
Having said that, I do not hesitate to add that both the amendment and the Bill have my wholehearted support. Let me finish where I began, by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East, who has done a splendid job. I am not entirely sure whether I envy him the task of steering a private Member's Bill through the House, but he nevertheless deserves the congratulations of all of us.
Column 612on piloting the Bill through its stages in the House. It has been interesting for those of us who served on the Standing Committee to observe the enormous skill with which he has done so. He displayed that skill again today. When some of my hon. Friends tried to introduce party political divisions of view, he poured oil on troubled waters and bipartisanship returned.
I also congratulate spokesmen on both Front Benches on being able to make such wide-ranging speeches within the confines--and the rules of order--of such a narrow Lords amendment. I pay tribute to their ingenuity.
My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) was right to say that the signs must be clear and that certain minimum requirements are necessary. This is not, as some hon. Members have suggested, a matter of byelaws and numerous details about the rules and regulations--nor is it a matter of posting signs in various different languages. We need clear signs providing people with the basic information that they require, in at least one
language--English. We can leave it to local authorities to decide whether, for the benefit of tourists or for members of the ethnic community, such signs need to appear in other languages.
I could point to examples of London car parks which are the responsibility of councils controlled by all three main political parties from which it is very difficult to find one's way out. Signs indicating exit points would help the flow of cars departing and leave spaces free for others. I commend subsection (2)(d) because making it impossible for local authorities to collect any money unless they apply the regulations is a wonderful way of concentrating their minds and ensuring that they display the right signs and comply with the regulations in other ways. I cannot remember which political party controls Ealing council, but my experience of parking in that borough leads me to believe that that council will be unable to comply with the regulations.
I welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister concerning the disabled and his remark that although new ideas and technology are important to them and can make an enormous difference to the quality of their lives, such developments are no replacement for orange badges. I welcome also the nature of the scheme that my hon. Friend wants to operate. During my time in London local government, concern was felt by people of all political persuasions that the orange badge scheme was being misused. Although I accept the argument of the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) that the number of badges should not be limited, if too many people who do not really need badges are allowed to have them, the scheme will not be so advantageous as it might be for those who really need the orange badge facility.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : If local authorities believe that there are too many orange badges, they will introduce their own regimes, with the loss of the national benefit. As to qualifying criteria, I refer my hon. Friend to Statutory Instrument No. 1740 of 1982, which refers to
"a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking."
That can either be interpreted as admitting a very small group of disabled, which means that the problem can
Column 613easily be solved by local authorities rather than by the Department, or the wording must be amended. The number involved is not 100 versus 1 million badge holders. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members who are interested in that aspect will address their minds to the basis of our 1986 consultation. I deeply regret that some interests outside Parliament who now display a great interest in the matter did not bother to write to us about it in 1986, 1987, 1988 or 1989.
Anyone who read the article about the orange badge scheme in last week's issue of The Sunday Times would instinctively have taken the view that the only reasonable thing to do is issue the additional 150 badges in question. However, my hon. Friend the Minister explained today that it is not so simple as that. If there is to be reasonableness and justice, many categories of the disabled deserve consideration. If The Sunday Times really cares about the cause, and not just about a front page headline, this Sunday it will present a detailed analysis and provide a genuine insight into all the problems.
Cashless parking is extremely important. Sometimes I think that local authorities choose the combination of coins that is most difficult to find in one's pocket. I have often been caught out, as I am sure other right hon. and hon. Members have, after entering a car park in the belief that I had the coins needed for payment. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East describes the Bill as a relatively modest measure, but it is significant to the motorist, who will be extremely grateful for all the work that my hon. Friend has done. Tribute should also be paid to him by car manufacturers and distributors. One day in the future, perhaps we will all be saying, "There is a car park, and I can park there easily using my Kirkhope card."
Mr. Arbuthnot : The amendment is important and gives the Secretary of State a power rather than a duty to make regulations, which is the right way to go about it. Right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House hope that he will not have to use that power and that local authorities will enter into voluntary arrangements. In the same way that it is better that the Secretary of State has a power rather than a duty, it is better that local authorities act under their own volition than under central direction. Ours is not a centralist party--or should not be--and this should not be a centralist House of Commons. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) agrees that the Secretary of State should be given the power to compel local authorities to take certain action if they do not do so of their own accord.
I am delighted also that the hon. Member for Deptford has persuaded her party to support the Bill. All too often in this House, we shout yes while the Opposition shout no, and vice versa. In respect of this Bill at least we can all shout yes, and I hope that that is a growing trend.
I particularly welcome the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) about the amendment that aims at improving the situation of the disabled. As to the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister concerning Thalidomide victims, having read the newspaper features about Alison Wright, I was undecided
Column 614until I went on to read the various articles in the Evening Standard, when I was sure that the policy of my hon. Friend the Minister is the right one. It is true that hard cases make bad law, and my hon. Friend should be congratulated on resisting intense and emotional pressures to produce a result that would not necessarily be right when judged by the criteria decided after considerable consultation and a great deal of thought by many people.
The comment in the Evening Standard that it does not matter if 2 million people have orange badges was ridiculous, and on that point I part company with the hon. Member for Deptford. Of course it matters how many badges are issued. The more there are, the less valuable they become to those who have them. I accept the argument of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) that there should be stringent enforcement of the rules governing the issue of orange badges and severe penalties on those who breach them. However, to some extent it must also be a question of numbers.
Ms. Ruddock : Does not the hon. Gentleman concede that there are about 6 million people with disabilities and that if it can be shown legitimately--I stress the word "legitimately"--that there is a real need for parking concessions for as many as 2 million people, we must accept it? The question must be need. We should not say that just because a person has not come forward or has not been identified as having a disability that is relevant to the need to have a car parking concession, he or she should not have it.
Mr. Arbuthnot : The question is not only need. The question is also balance. If so many people have orange badges that those who cannot walk are prevented from parking near enough to the places where they want to go, that damages everybody. If the 6 million people to whom the hon. Lady referred had orange badges--
Mr. Arbuthnot : I know that that is not what she suggested, but I am taking her argument to absurd extremes in order to demonstrate that there must be a balance. If all the 6 million had orange badges, the amount of car parking space that was available to those who cannot walk would be limited because of the pressure on space. Those who cannot walk must have an orange badge, but the basis has to be balance.
Ms. Ruddock : I thought the hon. Gentleman was reaching the point where he was failing to see that the entirely able-bodied would be put at a disadvantage and would have to park much further away from the places to which they wanted to have access.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : It is vital to recognise that the Department and others are trying to work on the 6 million figure. We are not necessarily dealing with people who are travelling by car. The poor, the disabled and the elderly often have to travel by bus. The bus industry is involved in significant changes. There have been dramatic improvements, most of which were on display at the mobility road show to which, sadly, the media did not pay much attention. I invite the media to ask themselves what they can do by means of coverage that would help the greatest
Column 615number. Within the 6 million people, there are 1 million, or even more, who have difficulty in carrying shopping, either because they have no upper limbs or because their limbs do not work, for one reason or another. Within that group there are people who cannot walk. We need to solve the shopping problem. We need also to solve the problem of putting money into meters, which is where we return to the Lords amendment. We must also--here I thoroughly support what my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) is saying--pick out those who are faced with the greatest difficulty or with the impossibility of walking. For them the orange badge concession or facility is absolutely essential. If we cannot distinguish between that group of people and another group of 1 million or 2 million, we are not doing our job properly.
I understand why media interest is aroused. If the editor of the Evening Standard watches an ITN programme or sees an article in The Sunday Times which, because of pressure of space on the front page, was not as full as it might have been, one can understand how one quarter turn of a cog can lead to the editor of the Evening Standard saying, "All right, we're going to get at Bottomley." I do not mind if I am got at. What matters is that the 50,000 or the 500,000 people who most need the mobility advantage of the orange badge should get something of value out of a national scheme.
The amendment may lead to a proliferation of signs that would be good for the information of motorists but would be bad if they led to motorists being distracted, particularly if those signs were as prominent as hon. Members have said today that they hope they will be. Too much information might be displayed. Companies can confuse their readers by providing too much information in their reports, with the result that nobody knows exactly where to look for the information that he or she wants. There could be the same problem outside car parks. The more eye-catching the notices outside car parks, the more dangerous they may be to drivers who may be distracted by them.
The amendment does not solve all the problems. It will not help motorists who are queuing on a ramp. There will still be pressure from motorists further down the queue, urging drivers in front of them to get on with it. If there is no queuing on the ramp, there will be queuing on the highway, which would be even worse. Still, all things considered, it is a very good amendment, which we ought to accept, to a good Bill. Therefore I congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent measure.
Mr. Kirkhope : We have had an extremely full, very interesting and though-provoking debate. I am sure that the Minister will take on board many of the points that have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I hope, therefore, that they will excuse me if I do not deal with a number of the points that they have made. I noticed that the Minister was scribbling away furiously during their contributions, so I have no doubt that any regulations that are proposed at any point will take their points into account.
Column 616It is appropriate, however, to pay tribute to a few hon. Members. I pay tribute first to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on having introduced his far-sighted private Member's Bill in 1986. It allowed me to climb on board his vehicle while it was still on the move--a potentially very dangerous thing to do. Nevertheless, it seems to have worked out quite well. I pay tribute also to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). One effect of the amendment will be to help disabled people. The right hon. Gentleman was the instigator of the very fine orange badge scheme, and I pay tribute to him for his helpful and thought-provoking remarks in the debate.
I pay tribute, too, to Lord Teviot who kindly agreed to steer the Bill through the other place. He did so with great flair and imagination. He made very helpful and constructive suggestions throughout its passage in the other place. Lord Teviot takes a great interest in transport matters and he displayed a similar interest in this measure, which he so kindly handled for me in the other place. I am also grateful to my colleagues on both sides of the House who were kind enough to sponsor the Bill and to all hon. Members who have been good enough to contribute so constructively and helpfully to the debate, both on this occasion and on previous occasions. In particular I thank the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) who has been so helpful. She is an Opposition Member. It underlines the fact that not everything that we do in this place has to be contested. There are certain issues on which all reasonable honourable Members of good will can combine and do something useful, to the benefit of a large number of people and to groups of people within that large number who particularly need help.
I mention also The Sunday Times. Every other hon. Member seems to have done so, but I do it in this light. I congratulate The Sunday Times on its Thalidomide victims campaign. It did an excellent job on that issue, as on other issues in the past. I hope that the slight differences of opinion that have been expressed this morning about the nature of its campaign on this general issue will not cloud the fact that nevertheless The Sunday Times has made a major contribution to the debate. I know that the Minister has also been involved in co-operating with the media generally. I hope that the co-operation will continue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) said that the card ought to be named after me. I said that this measure involves no losers, only winners. It would be taking things a little too far, and I should be sticking my neck out much too far, if his suggestion were to be adopted. Nevertheless, it was kind of my hon. Friend to make it. There may be occasions on which people will be able to glide into a car park, place their plastic card in the meter and go straight to their allotted space, with all the parking signs perfect and everything wonderful. They will get out humming to themselves and saying to themselves, "How wonderful that I've been able to use the Kirkhope card." But there may just conceivably be occasions--I admit that it is unlikely--when there is an enormous queue and an enormous hold-up. The machine is broken, the notice has fallen down, the car's tyres have gone flat or the petrol has run out as the car enters the car park and the driver will take a small card out of his wallet. I prefer not to say what he would say--or perhaps only in French.
I said that I would not deal with all the points that have been raised and I do not intend to do so, with the
Column 617indulgence of my hon. Friend. I shall mention only almost the last remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) who said that conceivably too much information could be provided. I accept what he says and I realise that there is some risk, but I would prefer to take that risk. It is very rare that we have too much information, and we would welcome having a little too much rather than far too little. I renew my invitation to the House to accept the amendment.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords amendment No. 1 agreed to. [Special Entry.]
Lords amendments considered .
Lords amendment : No. 1, in line 1, leave out "repeal" and insert "amend"
"A Bill to amend section 16(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act 1956 and section 1 of the Clean Air Act 1968."
Some words of explanation are needed as to why there is a need for these Lords amendments to be considered at such a late stage. I support the arguments in another place and suggest that we first consider why the Bill has the wrong long title and then to consider why the amendments will make the long title the right title. Ironically, virtually the only controversy generated by the Bill has been centred on the long title. When the Bill received Third Reading on 14 April, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) acknowledged :
"It is a small Bill, but it is an important amendment to existing legislation."
She continued :
"the Bill is important in the context of air pollution."--[ Official Report , 14 April 1989 ; Vol. 150, c. 1161.]
Similar sentiments were expressed during the passage of the Bill through another place. On Second Reading, Lord Graham of Edmonton said that the intention of the Bill would receive a warm welcome from the Opposition Benches. Lord Mayhew made an interesting observation, expressing the opinion that it would be inappropriate for such a Bill to receive a Second Reading in another place without a word of support from the Democratic Benches. Throughout the proceedings in the House, there has been not one contribution from SLD and SDP Members on Third Reading or during debates on amendments. Today we note the total absence of SLD and SDP Members. In Committee in another place, Lord Tordoff, another Opposition spokesman, praised the Bill and declared total support from the Opposition. Nevertheless, there has been some controversy about the long title ; hence the amendments from another place.
In moving that we accept the Lords amendments, let me first explain how and why the Bill came to have the wrong long title. The answer lies significantly in the origins of the Bill. The genesis of the Bill was a Government document entitled "Air Pollution Control in Great Britain : Review and Proposals", a consultation paper issued in December 1986 by the Department of the Environment, the Scottish Development Department and the Welsh Office. The sequel to that was "Air Pollution Control in Great Britain : follow-up to consultation paper issued in December 1986". It was issued in December 1988 by the Department of the Environment, the Scottish Development Department and the Welsh Office.
Column 619The beginnings of the controversy about the long title can be traced back to the consultation process. The introduction to the consultation paper states the following objectives :
"In 1982 the Government decided that a comprehensive review of air pollution legislation should be undertaken. This was in part a response to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's recommendations in its Fifth Report, that there should be new, comprehensive legislation to cover all aspects of industrial air pollution."
It set out conclusions from that review and invited comments on the proposals for action. One of those was :
"to make certain other changes to the Clean Air Acts 1956 and 1968".
Clause 1 of the Bill relates to domestic smoke nuisance from private dwellings.
Paragraph 8 of the consultation paper is significant in understanding why the Bill has the wrong title. It states : "Under existing legislation, the emission of dark smoke' from chimneys of all buildings in all areas is forbidden. In areas subject to smoke control the discharge of any smoke is generally forbidden. In addition, smoke may be a statutory nuisance for the purposes of the Public Health Act 1936, except by virtue of section 16(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act 1956 where it is emitted from a chimney of a private dwelling. There is no good reason why troublesome emissions of non- dark smoke from houses in areas not subject to smoke control should be exempt from control."
There follows the key sentence :
"To remedy this it is proposed to repeal section 16(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act 1956".
It was then believed that the repeal of section 16(1)(a) of the 1956 Act was necessary to close the loophole in that Act. The paragraphs of the consultation paper dealing with clause 2 of the Bill--entitled "Dark Smoke from Industrial or Trade
Premises"--proposed changes to the Clean Air Acts 1956 and 1968. Those paragraphs explore at length particular loopholes and weaknesses that were experienced by local authorities in bringing prosecutions. Paragraph 3 states :
"The following amendments to the legislation are being considered in order to ease these enforcement problems"
That is partly how the long title of the Bill came into being--from what was believed at the time of the consultative process to be necessary to close the loopholes in the Clean Air Acts ; that was the repeal of part of the 1956 Act and the amendment of part of the 1968 Act. For reasons that I shall explain in a minute, it came to be realised that that was an incorrect analysis. It should not have been decided that it was necessary to repeal part of the 1956 Act and to amend part of the 1968 Act. On the contrary, all that was necessary was to amend both.
Why is the amendment necessary? When I introduced the Bill on 21 December, parliamentary counsel had not finished the first draft of the Bill--by no means, I am assured, an unusual state of affairs. There was a title, but there was no Bill. The Bill's long title was, as I have said, drawn from the terminology of the consultative process to repeal section 16(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act 1956 and to amend section 1 of the Clean Air Act 1968, but the Bill itself did not exist. After introduction, parliamentary counsel produced a first draft of the Bill duly repealing section 16(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act 1956, as the title said it would.
My objective has been and remains the implementation of the consultative process conclusion that non-dark smoke emissions in areas not subject to smoke control should come under the ambit of the statutory nuisance provisions of the public health legislation. However,
Column 620parliamentary counsel realised that that objective was not best achieved by repealing section 16(1)(a) of the 1956 Act. So as not to depart from the consultation paper proposal, parliamentary counsel concluded that it would be better to retain part of section 16(1)(a). Thus, subsection (1)(a) required amendment, not repeal. The title of the Bill said the reverse. That meant that, at some stage, an amendment to the long title had to be tabled. Obviously, time would be spent in Committee, but the prospects of the Bill becoming law would be greater, so I thought, if the Bill had its Committee stage on the Floor of the House immediately after Second Reading.
Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport) : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way while still in full flow. I, and I am sure other hon. Members, are riveted by this exposition. May we assume that the good people of Basingstoke will be thrilled by what is happening today, and that we can expect a pollution-free statue erected to my hon. Friend's memory?