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Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, at his leisure, perhaps the Minister will give me a list of the sites for which that arrangement has been made, and perhaps will place that list in the Library.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I shall be happy to do so.

For other woodlands used regularly by the public, every effort will be made to secure an access agreement before they are sold. The Forestry Commission will encourage local authorities to enter into access agreements. The commission will pay the authorities' reasonable legal expenses in drawing up the appropriate agreements.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, was worried that, quite apart from the legal expenses being covered, the local authorities were taking on an ongoing financial burden. That may possibly be the case where there is considerable recreational infrastructure involved in those areas of land. But I must immediately stress that, in those types of properties, it is unlikely that the Forestry Commission will be selling in the first place. It is more likely that the Forestry Commission will be selling those sites with lower public access and therefore with much lower running costs, so solutions are hopefully sought on that issue.

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. However, no one has ever defined what "higher level of access" means. What criteria will be applied?

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, that is being considered at present in the review. I believe that three

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tiers of access are envisaged. Suitable criteria will be attached to each. The details of each tier have yet to be finalised. However, those who are considering the problem will also read the report of the debate, so I hope that comments made by noble Lords will be carried forward into that review programme. The new arrangements are presently being worked out, as I said. As soon as the conclusions are available—that will be shortly—they will be announced.

While dealing with transactions, I can assure the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, that the Forestry Commission will not use compulsory purchasing powers when buying freeholds of leased areas.

Many noble Lords have referred to the 33,000 hectare planting target. I believe that it is fair to say that in areas, both within and outside the industry, there are many who now regard that target with some scepticism. The target was set in 1987 when quantity seemed to be the only criterion on which we should be working. What has emerged since 1991-92 especially, is that as important as how much we plant is what we plant and how we plant it. Therefore a preoccupation with the planting target is now seen to be potentially misleading. What matters is that we should continue to achieve a steady expansion. Here the Government have been successful. Since 1988 they have grant aided well over 100,000 hectares of new forests and woodlands. I stress that point to those noble Lords who felt that there had perhaps been a downturn in activity or commitment. I also stress to my noble friend Lord Addison and others who questioned the extent to which there is a strategy which looks forward, that, quite apart from the review that we have studied today and the UK sustainable forests programme, there is also the anticipated rural White Paper which was recently announced. At its centre, that will have the role of woodlands and forestry—as it were, the rural heartbeat, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, described it.

I should add that planting by restocking woodland is also important. Today restocking is almost at the same level as new planting and will increase in future as more and more woodlands reach maturity and timber is harvested from them.

The removal of tax relief was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Rees and others. I can only repeat what has been said many times in the House, that it was done with the best interests of the forestry industry uppermost. We have now put the industry on a more publicly acceptable footing through a grants-only regime. Government grant-aid has been substantially increased since 1988.

My noble friends Lord Addison and Lord Astor of Hever and others asked about limited tax relief for estate woods, and suggestions have come from the Country Landowners' Association on that score. The main problem with tax relief for management, as we have found in the past, is that it is an ineffective incentive in terms of delivering policy as there is little control over the type of work being supported. Of course, the recent review increased the grants because of that.

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Points were made by my noble friend Lord Barber and others on taxation and investment vehicles. All I can say is that, in the various reviews that are still ongoing, such thoughts will be considered and taken on board.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, mentioned the lack of new planting by the commission. That is simply a reflection of the Government's wish to encourage the private sector to undertake more new planting. However, the commission has a substantial programme of restructuring and restocking its forests and that programme will continue in the years ahead. It still retains a substantial estate of its own. In questioning whether the commission could or could not be self-financing, I point out that, quite apart from the income received from disposals, the commission will have an increasing income from the greater productivity of its maturing forests.

Other points were made by noble Lords, and I stress that I shall write to them on those which I do not manage to cover in the remaining few minutes. My noble friend Lord Mersey dwelt at length on the short rotation coppice, having described his own pleasures and pains in being a forester in East Sussex. I stress that both the Forestry Commission and the Government are committed to the continued development of SRCs, as they are known. The Forestry Commission research division has recently been awarded a £500,000 research contract by the DTI to develop SRC into a commercially more viable means of energy production. There is a tranche of grants, some for set-aside land and some for non-set-aside land. The bottom line is that we expect that it will support the planting of about 2,500 hectares of short rotation coppice per year.

I apologise to noble Lords whose points have not been answered in full. Apart from the promise to write to them, I also stress what I mentioned earlier, that the Forestry Commission is carrying out an internal review of the Forestry Authority with a view to improving its performance and efficiency. Once again, that review has a fairly wide remit and therefore the many good points made by noble Lords such as my noble friends Lord Clinton, the Duke of Somerset and Lord Addison will be read with care.

We in the Government have every confidence in the future of the forestry industry in this country. We have only to look back over this century to see the enormous progress that has been made. Currently, the broad approach of multi-purpose forestry, carried out on a sustainable basis, receives wide support in the country. Indeed, it is the cornerstone of the actions being taken, both here and in countries throughout the world, in the follow-up to the commitments entered into at the Earth Summit in Rio. I am pleased that we have had the opportunity this afternoon, thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, to discuss the main issues. The Government will take careful note of the comments made by noble Lords and I am confident that, as the proposals are taken forward, they will give further

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impetus to forestry in this country by placing the industry on a stronger and more confident footing as it looks towards the next century.

5.35 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I opened the debate by congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, on his appointment, although I regret the absence of the Minister of State. Let me assure the noble Earl that that was no reflection on his competence but simply his status in the government machine. In addition to the noble Earl's summing up, we are grateful to him for his manner of handling the contributions that have been made. I reiterate that so much good advice and experience exist around the House that it is a great pity that the Minister of State is not in his place to convey that advice and information through the appropriate channels. However, I thank the noble Earl and wish him well in his new duties.

I wish to correct one point as a matter of fact in his summing up. The total disposals of the Forestry Commission are 187,000 hectares. The noble Earl said 40,000 hectares, but it is only 40,000 hectares within the programme of 100,000 hectares that was announced. The total disposals are way beyond that. There is nothing more for me to say except to congratulate all, including the Minister, on their contributions. The mass of good advice and experience in the House certainly justifies my putting my name down for the ballot. I thank all who have spoken with such knowledge in offering advice to the Government. I particularly welcome the noble Earl's concluding remark that the Government are committed to a steady expansion of woodland cover. That has been said before, but it has been noted and is in the record. I can only hope that the record will justify what has been said. I should have welcomed a few more reassurances on the future of the Forestry Commission. However, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Parking in London

5.37 p.m.

Lord Dubs rose to call attention to the state of parking arrangements in London; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, being successful in the ballot for a short debate at the first attempt is probably the political equivalent of winning the National Lottery—at least, a small prize in the National Lottery. I am very happy to have the opportunity of initiating a debate on parking in London.

At the outset, perhaps I may put a small challenge to the Minister when he comes to reply. Does he believe that it would be possible to devise a map of London and a leaflet designed to explain to visitors from other parts of the country and from abroad where they may park, where they may not park, and in what circumstances and at what times they may do so? That is small challenge to the Minister to see whether it can be done. It will

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obviously be the thrust of my argument that it cannot be done because it is too complicated. However, it should be capable of being done. What we need is a better system—better public transport and better facilities for cyclists and for walkers as well as for motor vehicles. I accept the inevitable tensions in finding parking space in London. The need, surely, is for a parking system that is fair and effective—a system that makes it possible for all road users to use our streets and to park on them where possible. It must be a system whereby shopkeepers do not feel that they inevitably have to lose trade because of parking restrictions in their area.

The system must also operate with the goodwill of the motorist. I do not normally speak on behalf of motorists. I accept that traffic wardens have been subject to much unfair criticism. But there are times when either the wardens or the rules that they have to enforce do not make for a system that is conducive to goodwill. Indeed, it leads to much ill will. Since it became known that this debate was to be held, I have received anecdotes by the dozen: hard luck stories of people who have tried to park and failed, who have failed to avoid a parking ticket, or whatever. I appreciate that the issue is difficult for many London local authorities. I know from experience that Wandsworth council got itself into a real tangle over parking schemes. I know that Westminster has been the subject of much criticism, as has Camden. But the problem involves not only the inner London boroughs; there has also been criticism of some of the outer London boroughs. I know that there is much argument about some schemes in the borough of Croydon.

If we are to look some years ahead, we need to do more than simply make our present systems work better. The pressure of increased motor car usage by Londoners and by non-Londoners wishing to drive into London will make the situation far more difficult. If we are not careful, we shall reach the situation some years ahead when not only will there be nowhere for cars to park but there will be no road space in which they can move. Those who doubt that have only to pay a short visit to Bangkok to realise that it is a city totally unable to function because of the pressure of motor cars. We are not in that situation, but it is one in which we may find ourselves before too long.

I understand that present arrangements will lead to some 5 million parking tickets a year, giving London local authorities, I am told, an income of some £125 million. However, I hope that pressure to raise income will never be the main motive for having a sensible system of parking controls. The aim has to be a better and safer road system for all users. It should not be: how much cash can we get out of motorists for whatever purposes we want?

I should like to thank the Parking Committee for London for its help in providing back-up information for the debate, and also the AA. I have also had a useful discussion with the Cycling Public Affairs Group. All have helped me to put together the arguments.

The background to the debate is clearly the Road Traffic Act 1991, which came into effect in July 1994. That legislation took the very sensible step of decriminalising parking offences and handing over enforcement of regulations, except on certain main

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traffic routes, to local authorities. Overall, that is a welcome development. It has improved matters up to a point.

The legislation, however, leaves a number of ambiguities. For example, if a car or heavy goods vehicle breaks down it is not totally clear whether that renders the driver or the owner liable to a penalty charges notice. I am told that the point is not clear; perhaps the Minister can clarify it.

There is also, I understand, a difficulty relating to the area close to pedestrian crossings on the so-called zig-zags. Who enforces the regulations if somebody should park on the zig-zags? The police or the parking attendants? If it is the police, it adds to the totting up on the licence; if it is the parking attendants, it does not lead to penalty points. So there is a problem over responsibilities which I understand is being considered.

I appreciate that on red routes, which are main traffic routes, parking controls are enforced by the police. They are a criminal matter. If, however, a motorist drives in a bus lane during hours when that is not permitted it is a matter for the police, but if he parks in a bus lane it is a matter for parking attendants. Is that logical?

There are some Londoners who park in the front gardens of their houses. The question then arises of whether another motorist may park in front of the access to the front garden. In some areas the local authority draws a white line on the road, thereby protecting access to the front garden. I am not sure whether the white line has any legal status. In other boroughs it is a yellow line. The problem is that if one may not park in front of a driveway or a garden where a motorist wishes to park in the evening, then that area cannot be parked upon at all. Equally, the motorist who has driven his car away is parking somewhere else, thereby using up another parking space. So there is an anomaly there.

Wheel clamping and towing away constitute a very vexed question. I hope that the practice will not increasingly be seen as a device to generate revenue but only as a means of achieving fair and effective parking control. If a motorist has his or her car towed away, then it has to be collected. There has been much criticism of the location of vehicle pounds, and in particular that behind King's Cross station in York Way. The area consists of dark, unlit streets and for motorists, especially women, collecting their cars, it can be pretty dangerous. I understand that local authorities were advised that they should locate vehicle pounds in areas that would be safe for women at any time of the day or night. The area behind King's Cross is not such an area. There is a trace service to enable motorists to find cars that have been towed away, but I understand that not all boroughs make use of it.

Some boroughs insist that motorists present themselves at pounds to pay de-clamping fees even though the parking code recommends that payment should be possible via the telephone by use of a credit card. So there are a number of difficulties. Enforcing the regulations has thrown up issues which were previously masked by the lack of proper enforcement. So one benefit is that these matters have been highlighted.

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I want to identify four issues and say a little about each of them. The first is that some parking regulations seem inappropriate. Secondly—and perhaps the most important point—there is poor signing of regulations. There is poor indication of what regulations operate in any particular part of a borough. Thirdly, information about parking controls is generally inadequate. Fourthly, there is clearly a lack of sufficient parking spaces.

I turn first to inappropriate parking regulations. In some parts of London different regulations apply on different sides of the same street where the centre of the street is a borough boundary. Had there been a Greater London Council that body could have insisted on some element of uniformity. But there appears to be no way in which an element of uniformity can be exercised. It is absurd that motorists can park, let us say, on a Saturday afternoon on one side of a street but are not allowed to do so on the other side. I shall come to one or two specific examples in a moment.

My second area of concern overlaps with the first. It relates to the poor indication or signing of regulations. This is particularly important because there is such a diversity of practices. For example, in some boroughs, or even some parts of boroughs, there are parking controls all day on Saturday. In others, the controls stop at midday or at 1.30 in the afternoon on Saturday. In some parts of boroughs it is a matter of Mondays to Fridays only. In some places it is until 6.30 in the evening; in some it is until 8.30 in the evening; and there may be other times as well. It is a very complicated business. It is my contention that a motorist who wishes to abide properly by the parking regulations finds it almost impossible to do so if entering a borough with whose parking regulations he or she is not totally familiar.

That leads to contraventions, some of them inadvertent. The system has been brought into disrepute and motorists become hostile. They park anywhere and that makes it difficult from the point of view of the safety of road users. A classic example of where regulations are inappropriate and the signing impossible to follow is in the area of Lincoln's Inn on the Westminster-Camden boundary. I defy any Member of this House or any person to know exactly where to go. The signing is not clear. It is not possible to know that behind the law courts one may not park on a yellow line before 8 p.m. or 8.30 p.m. but that a short distance away one can park much earlier without being in contravention.

The Department of Transport should review the whole matter, especially the way in which local authorities put up signs or indeed inadequacy of signs. It is only right and proper that motorists should know where they can park properly and in compliance with the regulations.

There are other oddities. For example, some signs in residents' parking areas say "Residents' parking only". But they do not mean that. As I understand it, they mean "Residents' parking only up to a certain time of day". They do not apply on Sunday—at least not in my experience. No doubt there will be examples where they do. Some do not apply in the evenings, perhaps, or only within parking meter hours; others apply at different

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times. In any case, residents' parking controls vary. Sometimes they apply until 6.30 in the evening, sometimes until noon on Saturday and sometimes until 10 o'clock in the evening. It is a difficult situation.

I do not want to go into anecdotes of my own experiences. However, in Paddington the residents' parking controls where I live operate until 10 o'clock in the evening from Monday to Saturday. When I asked the local authority how visitors could park there—how can one be visited by friends other than on a Sunday?—the answer was, "Park on a yellow line." That is not safe. Yellow lines are there because on the whole they are intended to indicate either that one should never park in that place or that it is not advisable to do so. To have empty residents' parking bays while, on the other side of the road, people park on yellow lines can hardly lead to traffic safety and can hardly be a desirable practice. But that is the advice one receives.

Another oddity is that sometimes residents' parking bays are for residents only—I am talking generally now and not about where I live—while at other times they combine pay schemes for non-residents with resident parking in the same bay. It is a little confusing. I do not say that it should not happen but it is confusing if the indications are not clear.

I believe it right that local authorities should have discretion in this matter. Indeed, one of my criticisms of the Government is that they have taken away from local authorities too much discretion. It is not my aim to be seen to argue otherwise, but I also believe that sometimes the local authorities have gone too far. They have not merely adjusted their parking controls to meet sensible local needs; sometimes they have gone so far as to meet local foibles and idiosyncrasies.

There is generally inadequate information about parking controls. It is probably generally known that yellow line restrictions and parking meter hours are identical in the same street. But perhaps not everyone knows that. The Parking Committee for London has provided some useful information. I believe that there is a need over and beyond what that committee has been able to do. I feel that motorists, both visitors and residents, are entitled to better information about where they can park properly in different parts of London.

Lastly, there is a lack of sufficient parking space. I suspect that the answer to that is to control the number of motor cars rather than to find ways of increasing the parking space available. I have not gone into the area of heavy goods vehicle parking, which has been a problem. I understand that through the measures that have been taken it is better now. However, the parking of heavy goods vehicles has caused a lot of pain in residential areas although I am not sure that it is now as much of a problem as it was.

The real answer is to improve public transport and facilities for the whole range of road users, motorists and others, including those who want to walk to work and those who cycle. We cannot indefinitely allow an increase in the number of cars parked or being driven in London. At some point all that has to stop. Even if the criticisms that I make are met, in the fullness of time it

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will not make parking in London easier. We shall reach a situation when, frankly, there will be more cars than parking space and further controls will be necessary.

Finally, let me put a more limited argument than the wider one to which I referred. I believe that the motorist does at times have a sense of unfairness. Despite the improvement in legislation, the system is still arbitrary. It is better than it was, but I believe that it can still be improved.

I conclude by repeating the challenge I put to the Minister. Does he believe that it will be possible to devise a map of London and produce a leaflet combining a map which shows how people can park in the various parts of London? I fear that it is impossible, because the system is so complicated. But we must look at what has happened and review even the past seven months of the new system. Above all, we need to have an urgent review of the way in which local authorities sign parking controls. We could make it better. I hope that the Government will agree to that suggestion.

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.58 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I am sure all those who live in London, or sometimes bring their cars into London, are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for raising this matter. Personally, I feel a certain sense of déju vu. Over the past 40 or 50 years I have taken part in several debates in your Lordships' House with regard to London traffic and parking. I well remember the debates in 1956, when parking meters were first introduced. I received definite assurances and categorical promises from the Government at that time that all profits from parking meters would be entirely devoted to the provision of further off-street parking.

Indeed, the late Lord Selkirk, who took the Bill through this Chamber, assured the House on Second Reading that,

    "the proceeds of parking meters are directly and exclusively linked with the provision of off-street parking. This objective is pretty closely tied up by Statute.—[Official Report, 12/6/56; col. 847.]

At the Committee stage he drew your Lordships' attention to that fact and the particular clause that dealt with it. He said:

    "We think that we have drawn this clause pretty tightly, and if any noble Lord can show me how the local authority can dispose of their funds otherwise than in maintaining and providing parking meters or providing for off-street parking, I shall be interested to know. It means that all the proceeds of parking meters are quite certain to be dedicated to the provision of off-street parking ... in so far as it is not provided there is little hope of parking meters being of any benefit".—[Official Report, 3/7/56; col. 341.]

There are, of course, promises and political promises. That is one that has certainly not been kept. One does not have to be a great cynic to understand why the ever-increasing revenue from parking meters and penalties and the contribution which that has made to local government finances proved too much of a temptation. Consequently, today we find that parking meter revenue is a major source of income for local authorities. Indeed, naturally everything possible is done to increase it. It produced £125 million last year. Often we find yesterday's double yellow lines become today's revenue-earning meter space.

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It is not only the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who hoped it would be different. Motorists can be forgiven for concluding that the first priority in many parts of London is to make sure that the parking machinery makes as much money as possible, hence the nefarious schemes and devices to pay rewards and bonuses to parking wardens according to the number of tickets issued or to clamping operatives in the same way. It is always denied but we all know that it exists.

The second priority therefore seems to be to keep London traffic flowing. If that was the first priority, as we all believe it should be, one would not be faced with the absurd situation which happens daily, for instance, in the morning rush hour. We all know it is essential to keep the main routes into London clear from parked cars, but where are the wardens? They are far from the madding crowd, patrolling and dishing out tickets in quiet residential squares and other soft targets where there is virtually no traffic whatever and certainly no congestion. Similarly, in the evening when the routes out of London should be strictly controlled, manpower seems to be deployed in the same way, issuing tickets up to around 6.30 in the evening. Until there is a better sense of priority in the deployment of labour, there will be growing frustration and hostility between the motorists and parking officials, and congestion will get worse.

However, not all is bad. I want to say a word of compliment to Westminster City Council for its efforts to consult local residents and listen to their views regarding the future. After all, those who pay council tax should have some rights to access to their property during the day and also the ability to unload heavy luggage. The time was when five minutes' grace was given to motorists. Now we have wardens with walkie-talkies and mobile phones, warning each other where they can nab the next victim. We need more flexibility; more generosity towards the disabled and particularly to overseas visitors. Nothing depresses me more than seeing a French or German car clamped—what terrible publicity for the City.

I want to raise the topic of coaches. We definitely need a proper coach park in London. One knows that efforts are being made in the Embankment and Park Lane; but, quite frankly, they do not enhance the park. On the other hand, some coaches seem to be allowed complete freedom to cause congestion, as at the junction of Great Cumberland Place and Marble Arch. There is also the absurdity of BT repair vans being clamped, which can hardly help our telephones to be repaired quicker. The vans are seen as soft targets. The drivers do not have to pay the fines and BT pays out thousands of pounds every month without question.

The main cause of congestion in London at the moment is not caused by bad parking but by the unprecedented amount of road works. It seems that there is hardly a road anywhere not currently being dug up, sometimes for months on end, putting many parking meters out of action. I doubt that even Hitler's bombs caused as much congestion as the present road works. Again, one would think that that was the ideal situation in which to employ labour to ease traffic through the

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black spots. But that is not done. It does not raise any revenue. Traffic is therefore delayed and we pay the penalty.

My view is that in spite of the undoubted flaws in the system and the sad lack of any desire to get priorities right, parking restrictions are essential in keeping traffic flowing in a large city like London. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, what has been missing over the past decade is the effort to win the goodwill and co-operation of the motorists. Instead, they are hounded on a day-to-day basis and made to feel like petty criminals. I have already applauded the new attitude of the Westminster council and only hope that it spreads to other parts of London. Perhaps then the promises made many years ago to provide more offstreet parking will become a reality. I also welcome the traffic adjudicator who I am sure will do a very good job, and also the London traffic supremo. Your Lordships may be surprised to know that he has nothing to do with side streets.

There is much talk of restricting the number of vehicles in cities like London. That may well come one day. But those concerned with planning such schemes forget that most of the vehicles in London are owned by its inhabitants. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, one of the most difficult problems is parking at different times in the evening. The London theatres depend enormously on out-of-town traffic. Many theatres finish so late that people cannot rely on catching a train home. It is essential that the situation is rationalised so that theatres can at least provide some parking spaces for clientele.

I was rather depressed the other day when discussing with a local government officer the matter of restricting cars coming into London. He told me that if such restrictions came into force, authorities would need to greatly increase the charges for parking, fines and penalties, in order to make up for lost revenue. One knows what their priorities are. Tonight it would be good to hear from the Government that their first priority is to ease congestion; to provide car parking off street and under ground; to use the manpower where it is best needed and, most particularly, to see that local authorities are forced to embrace the policy, as laid down by statute, of using their revenue to build more underground car parks. Or is it the policy to restrict car parking in order to restrict traffic coming into London?

6.5 p.m.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for calling this debate. Parking in our capital city is of great importance to all who work and/or live here.

Since the London local authorities took over enforcement of parking in July last year there have been numerous stories in the newspapers of outraged motorists and complaints and misunderstandings. Indeed, one appeared in the Evening Standard on Monday, admittedly in the early edition. Without doubt there is a high level of public anxiety about the parking attendants being private contractors and that local authorities keep the money from the parking fines. Those elements of the new scheme represent a

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significant departure in this country from the traditional role of law enforcement by the police and where fines went into the general Treasury fund.

It is not surprising that motorists who feel that they have been unfairly ticketed or had their vehicle clamped or removed in bewildering circumstances should wonder whether the financial aspects of the new parking enforcement may have a bearing on the matter. However, the new scheme introduced another new initiative which safeguards motorists' rights by allowing them to appeal to a parking adjudicator. That is surely a great step forward in the rights of citizens of this country. There are now lawyers who are appointed to hear appeals from motorists who have had their initial complaint to the local authority rejected.

The parking appeals service is an enormous improvement on the magistrates' courts where parking offenders were previously dealt with under the full process of the criminal law. I had the opportunity of visiting the parking appeals centre in central London (though, I hasten to add, not in the role of a disgruntled motorist!) and was impressed with the arrangements that the Parking Committee for London has made.

Motorists can now request a decision from the parking adjudicator by post or they can attend a hearing in person before the adjudicator. The proceedings are very informal and friendly and it is clear that the public feel at ease and, indeed—dare I say it?—comfortable with this new process. It resembles more an appointment with a doctor or dentist than a court hearing. Most impressively, the hearings with the parking adjudicator can be arranged between 8 o'clock in the morning and 8 o'clock at night so that those appealing do not need to take time off work to exercise their rights of appeal. In addition, they are not kept waiting more than 15 minutes and the whole process usually takes no more than half an hour.

This new way of dealing with parking disputes is a great improvement on the previous court system and I congratulate the Government for introducing this particular scheme under the Road Traffic Act 1991. I understand that the parking appeals service has already dealt with more than 1,000 cases, more than half of which were resolved in favour of the motorist. While the public are undoubtedly justified in having some concerns about the new decriminalised parking arrangements, this is surely a welcome safeguard of their interest through their right of appeal to the independent adjudicator.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for giving us the opportunity to debate this subject. He was for many years my MP in Battersea, where we have the occasional parking problem. I imagine that it is as easy to be a parking bore as it is to be a computer bore. I hope that I shall be able to avoid, as have other noble Lords, being so this evening.

I shall not ask the Minister to answer all the points that I make because my experience of asking Ministers to answer instantly is that one almost always receives

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the negative Civil Service defence answer. All I would ask him to do is to take away the ideas and cogitate on them and then perhaps I might be allowed to ask him how he is getting on by means of Oral Questions later on.

My first premise is perhaps a wider one than the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, started with. It is that the supply of parking will always be limited in London and other cities and can never meet potential demand. There are disadvantages to having car parking space. By definition, car parking space generates traffic. It therefore weakens public transport, which I am keen on strengthening. Secondly, the traffic generated pollutes in terms of fumes and in terms of noise. It is environmentally intrusive to have cars parked in some of the areas where they are parked.

I believe that in general the supply of parking should be allocated by the market, with two possible exceptions. One is obvious. There should be special provision for the disabled. Secondly, there probably should be some bias in favour of the short-term parker and residents.

Declaring an interest as its chairman, I would point out that the Council for the Protection of Rural England has recently put forward the thesis that one of the reasons why there is so much pressure on the countryside is that cities are such awful places to live in. If there are ways in which we can make cities better, we may be able to release pressure on the countryside. This applies particularly to London, where the population has been shrinking for years. Commuters often feel that they have to have a car. If people commuted less they might be able to live in London and might even do without a car. Although I admit that Manhattan is not a place where I would wish to live, most of my friends who live there do not have a car—the game is not worth the candle—part of the reason being that it is extremely cheap to rent cars in the United States.

There is one big gap in the sensible enforcement of car parking provision through parking meters. I refer to the absurd system whereby one may not feed meters. A great deal of the time of meter attendants is taken checking that meters are not fed. The argument used against meter feeding is that people with enough money would be able to stay on meters all day. The fact is that, having introduced sensible parking meter charges, there are now plenty of parking spaces in the most expensive parking areas nearly all the time. The target should be to fix parking meter charges so that at peak times about 10 per cent. of meters are unoccupied. That would show that the charge is roughly the right side of the supply and demand equation. If fewer people were needed to supervise parking meters, a great deal more cash would be generated for something more useful than people making little notes in their notebooks as to what time a car arrived. I have raised this matter over many years and I always receive the same answer from the Department of Transport—that it might mean that people with Rolls-Royces were able to park all day. If it did, so what? And in fact we all know that that is not the way the world works.

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I shall now give an example of environmental intrusion. I admit that it is a very sensitive subject, not so much for Ministers but for civil servants. I refer to the Horse Guards Parade Ground, which is still used for parking. I happen to remember how parking there originally started. It was more than 30 years ago when Ernest Marples was the Minister of Transport. He wanted to use Horse Guards for temporary car parking over the Christmas period. Being part of a Royal park, he had to get the Monarch's agreement. I believe—and how right she was—that there was a certain disinclination to give that agreement. He described to me how he went along to the Palace to ask for parking to be allowed on Horse Guards. The conversation was not going too favourably and so he went towards the window and started looking out of it. He was asked what he was doing. The answer was, "Well, Ma'am, I am just looking to see how many cars we could fit into the forecourt of Buckingham Palace". That is how agreement was obtained. Parking on Horse Guards has been with us ever since. It is deplorable.

As long ago as April 1993 Dame Jennifer Jenkins recommended very unequivocally in the Royal Parks Review that parking on Horse Guards should no longer be allowed. Her report said:

    "This great London place is regularly packed out with about 400 parked cars ... It is quite unacceptable that so fine an open space as Horse Guards Parade should be used in this way ... Car parking should be banned from Horse Guards Parade, which should be restored as a public open space".

There was huge opposition to such a suggestion from the civil servants who park there. There was a big press campaign in favour of Dame Jennifer's proposal, initially in the Independent, culminating with a splendid article, which I recommend to noble Lords, by Simon Jenkins in The Times. He said:

    "In Paris, civil service cars do not fill the Louvre. Washington officials have not seized Lafayette Square. In those cities, rulers share with the ruled a common respect for the beauty of their surroundings. British officials treat this part of London as the Politburo treated the streets of Moscow as available for their private use at will".

I challenge the Government to end parking on Horse Guards. Again, I do not expect an answer from the Minister tonight. I shall, however, be interested to see whether the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, who is to speak from the Opposition Front Bench, is bold enough to offer any such hostage to the voters concerned. To coin a phrase, this is an example of the need for the Government to demonstrate that,

    "they are in power as well as in office".

I want to move to another aspect—what one might call the reverse side—of parking. I refer to cycling. The subject recently came up in this Chamber and the negative attitude to cyclists from a small minority of noble Lords did not show your Lordships' House at its most endearing. Bearing in mind that there are 15 million cyclists in this country and also that some noble Lords may be fighting for their political lives, just as Members of another place may be fighting for their political lives, it might be as well to take a slightly more sympathetic and less hoity-toity, poof-dammit view of cyclists.

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I say at once that Her Majesty's Government have recently changed their attitude towards cyclists. A couple of years ago that attitude also was fairly negative but I am glad to say that my right honourable friend John MacGregor changed the attitude. I should like to welcome PPG (Planning and Policy Guidance) No. 13 of March 1994 which was produced by Mr. MacGregor. Paragraph 4.15 states:

    "The level of cycling in the UK is significantly lower than that in a number of neighbouring countries ... Local plans should include policies to encourage implementation of specific measures to assist people to use bicycles. The 'proposals map' should indicate routes along which measures will be encouraged to make cycling safer and more attractive, and any specific new cycling provision".

I should also like to congratulate the present Secretary of State on having announced on 4th December 1994 that £3 million will be given towards a 1,200-mile cycle network for London. That is a big plus, which we salute.

Bicycling is clearly healthy and does not pollute in terms of fumes or noise. It is cost-effective in terms of road space. One can get 12 bicycles parking in the space of one car and four bicycles in the space of one moving car. I am told that over the first 10 metres a bicycle can accelerate as fast as a car. I recognise that it is essential to separate cyclists from pedestrians so that we do not have aggro, just as it is essential to separate cyclists from cars. Thirty years ago Buchanan said that pedestrians and cars should be separated as an absolutely crucial part of traffic management.

I have one specific suggestion for the Minister as regards the provision of cycle routes. Very often on one-way streets there are parking lanes on both sides. If one makes a suggestion for doing something, one tries to make one which does not involve extra public spending because it is always very easy to say that we do not have the money. The following suggestion does not involve extra public spending.

I suggest that where there is parking on both sides of the road needed for a cycle route, one of the car parking lanes should be converted into a cycle lane. That would be easy, quick to achieve and very effective. It is important if cycle lanes are created that cars are not allowed to park on them. There have been a number of cases where cars have parked on cycle lanes. There is the deterrent of clamping and big fines, which is the right way to deal with the problem. It should be every bit as hazardous for a car to park on a cycle lane as it is to park on the zig-zag lines in the street. If one is sensible one avoids doing this unless one is drunk or very rich.

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