Draft Greater London Road Traffic (Various Provisions) Order 2001

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Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): It is a pleasure to serve on a Committee chaired by you, Sir David. I thank the Minister for his clear explanation of the order. I have studied the order for most of last week; I am glad that I now understand it.

I have several questions. If the Secretary of State can, in effect, produce orders that designate nearly every road a GLA road, what are the implications for the boroughs? The Minister said that once a road was designated, parking restrictions became an issue for Transport for London rather than the boroughs. Does that have any impact on parking charges raised from meters? Have the boroughs been consulted about that? I know that Westminster raises more than £100 million a year from off-road and meter car parking. Is there any resource implication in the interaction between the GLA and the boroughs, and if so, have the boroughs made any comments to the Government about the changes?

A move to a decriminalised parking regime would probably be for the best, as it would release police officers and others to look after more important aspects of crime. If that move goes ahead, will it be made directly by the GLA and Transport for London, or sub-contracted out to a firm? We have had some bad experiences with clampers and others in central London. Will the level of penalties remain as it is now, or are we likely to have a higher penalty regime?

If the money accrues to the GLA and Transport for London, will the Minister assure us that it will not be spent on posters on sites throughout the capital to show what wonderful things the mayor might want to do in future, if he had more money, although he seems to spend it on posters rather than transport?

I would be grateful for the Minister's comments on the interaction between the GLA, Transport for London and the boroughs. Will he let us know whether the regime will be the same and whether there will be any impact on car parking charges raised for the boroughs. If there is a change, what impact will there be on the revenues of the boroughs and Transport for London?

The order seems to be a tidying-up measure, broadly speaking. It seems sensible and logical in relation to what the Government did with the Greater London Authority Act 1999. Providing that the Minister can reassure us on one or two issues, I do not think that we shall divide the Committee.

4.56 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): The Minister thought that he had got away with it, but I have one simple question. As I understand it, the import of the statutory instrument is that it will decriminalise how offenders who park on the so-called red routes are dealt with. The red routes were introduced to try to keep London's traffic flowing on the busiest routes. After decriminalisation, will incidents still be dealt with by the London traffic authority and the police? If so, will there be two different regimes or will the police operate under the new legislation?

Mr. Hill indicated assent.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: The Minister is nodding in agreement. As I understand it, parking on red routes will no longer be a criminal offence, although it will still be serious. What deterrents will there be to prevent people from parking on red routes? Will the routes still be policed—I use the word inadvertently, because I cannot think of a different one—as effectively as before? It would be serious if there were a relaxation in the red route regime and those critical routes became clogged up.

How will the matter be dealt with? What penalties are available? Will traffic wardens have the same powers as the police now have to call for immediate removal of the vehicles?

4.58 pm

Mr. Hill: Perhaps I could take the questions in reverse order, as I ponder internally on the impact on parking charges on GLA side roads as designated by the Secretary of State. I believe that red routes have served a useful purpose and have improved traffic flow in London. I say that as one who, when my predecessor, the former Member for Epping Forest, announced the red routes system to the House, responded by saying that it would be a total disaster and would be deeply resented by my constituents. Indeed, I was joined in that response by a large number of Labour Members. I take the opportunity to recant, as I have in another public forum. It has been an effective system and has helped in difficult conditions to keep traffic moving in London.

On decriminalisation, as I said in my opening remarks, the process is already widely under way. I often sign orders on behalf of a variety of local highway authorities that seek such powers. I emphasise to the hon. Member for Cotswold that such powers are sought and granted absolutely on condition of the assent and approval of the local police. The order has the consent of the Metropolitan Police Authority. It will serve a useful function for the police. They have scarce resources, and it will permit them to focus them on the key issues of safety and traffic offences, as opposed to parking offences. We anticipate no reduction in deterrence as a result of the order; nor do we anticipate any increase in the penalties charged.

The penalties that may be set are determined by Government; in this case the Government have decreed that they shall be £80 upon the offence and £40 if the fine is paid promptly. I hope that that allays the anxieties of the hon. Member for Cotswold that the order will produce either a more draconian or a less effective system of policing. To answer another of the hon. Gentleman's points, it is a sensible way for the local authorities—the London boroughs—and Transport for London to come together in a joint enforcement strategy, so that there will be consistency and an effective application of the provisions.

The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) asked about decriminalised penalties and whether penalties were likely to remain at their present levels. As I said, they will. Let me try to deal with some of the other issues that the hon. Gentleman raised. He asked whether the boroughs have been consulted. Yes, they have. The Association of London Government, which represents all London boroughs of all political hues, gave its assent to the order. Indeed, as I said, it is looking forward to working with Transport for London to achieve effective enforcement of the regime.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me about GLA side roads. Let me speak from my experience; I was extremely interested when I came to sign the orders to see that some of them applied to side roads not just in my borough, but in my constituency. I carefully considered the orders, and as they apply for limited areas off the red routes—areas that, incidentally, are normally part of the red-route parking regime—they do not relate to parking meters. To that extent, I do not think that there is a resource implication for the boroughs. Their primary parking concerns are on controlled parking rather than the enforcement of parking restrictions.

I shall add the words of inspiration that have winged their way to me on whether the Secretary of State may designate any more GLA roads. The order limits the extent to which roads can be designated GLA side roads. As I tried to explain, a new GLA side road will be designated by the mayor with the agreement of the relevant local authority. I hope that those answers are satisfactory to hon. Members.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Greater London Road Traffic (Various Provisions) Order 2001.—[Mr. Hill.]

        Committee rose at five minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Madel, Sir David (Chairman)
Bottomley, Mr. Peter
Clifton-Brown, Mr.
Colman, Mr.
Drown, Ms
Gerrard, Mr.
Hill, Mr.
Hopkins, Mr.
Hughes, Mr. Kevin
Keen, Mr. Alan
Moore, Mr.
Syms, Mr.
Woolas, Mr.

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