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The Earl of Onslow: I was under the impression that it was already an offence to drive a vehicle which had smoke coming from its exhaust. I say that because I have a rather elderly horsebox which was stopped the other day by the police. It was pulled over to the side of the road and the police said that the vehicle was emitting too much smoke. The vehicle was driven straight to a testing station and it was found not to be emitting too much smoke. There is already the power to take that step.
I do not believe that anyone is denying this perfectly reasonable and sensible course. As regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that people should not use diesel fuel belonging to somebody else just to keep their feet warm, I believe that everybody has an immense amount of sympathy with that. I believe that it is also an offence to leave a motor vehicle with the engine running without the driver being present. If those two factors are correct, is it really necessary to add yet another offence to the legislation? I ask that in a spirit of friendly inquiry, and that is all.
Lord Finsberg: I support my noble friend and make two additional points. I should like to see the penalties made stronger. I should like to see the power introduced for confiscation for second or third offences. We know that there are fleets of vehicles which are badly maintained and it almost pays the owners to pay the fines and to get away with it. At some stage I should like to see confiscation powers included.
On the question of keeping one's feet warm, one of the two biggest offenders in London are the buses of London Transport. One can go to the bus terminus at the side of John Lewis in Oxford Street and see buses with engines running with the drivers sitting in the cabs. That is done alongside a notice put up by London Transport telling staff to turn off their engines, but no one bothers to do it. The second biggest offenders are the tourist coaches waiting for their hordes of very valuable tourists. The drivers like to keep warm. I believe that an occasional warning from police who happily pass by may be worth trying.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: I rise briefly to support the spirit of the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding. I declare an interest in that I am a member of the Public Policy Committee of the RAC which is one of the organisations to which my noble friend referred. It has petitioned against the London Local Authorities Bill, currently before your Lordships' House, for the reasons which my noble friend expressed.
There is no doubt that my noble friend has touched on a couple of important issues. The RAC has always been very much in favour of cutting down on vehicles which make dirty emissions. It is a fact that only 10 per cent. of badly tuned vehicles account for over half the bad emissions. The few vehicles which do that give all motorists a bad name.
The issues are quite complicated. We need national measures to ensure that vehicle emission standards are properly and fairly enforced, in particular in our cities. That is why these amendments are, as I say, preferable to the approach contained in the London Local Authorities Bill. We must be sure of course that new legislation is indeed needed, as my noble friend Lord Onslow has said. The problem is not simply the lack of money to enforce laws which are already in force.
The construction and use regulations already provide the necessary legal framework and sanctions for tackling polluting vehicles. The real problem of course is that resources cannot be made available on a sufficient scale to tackle the problem at street level. Given that that is the case, should we not be trying to find ways to fund enforcement of the existing regulations rather than starting all over again? Moreover, it must surely be right that the penalties in this field should be the same as those which apply under the construction and use regulations which is not the case with these amendments.
There is a fundamental issue to which my noble friend Lord Jenkin has referred; namely, the power to stop vehicles on the public highway in order to test them. At present the power can only be exercised for traffic matters by a police officer in uniform under Section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1968. That situation must be maintained for obvious reasons relating to personal safety and security. Clearly, there is widespread anxiety among the public about the possibility of any change in the law in that respect. I believe that the existing position needs to be made absolutely clear. I know that my noble friend's amendment does not refer to this matter, but the London Local Authorities Bill does. In replying to the amendment, I hope that my noble friend will say that the situation must be maintainedthat is to say, that a police officer is the only person who can stop a vehicle.
The requirement should also be that the training of testers referred to in the amendment must also be as good as that required for the testers of the Department of Transport from the Vehicle Inspectorate. We must not have two standards in this matter.
My noble friend's Amendment No. 264A refers to emissions from stationary vehicles, and my noble friend Lord Finsberg has referred to that. The problem seems to be concerned with stationary coaches and buses. One sees them in this area. I wonder whether the amendment is drawn tightly enough for that. It says in subsection (2) (b),
I hope that that will not allow drivers to leave vehicle engines running solely for the purpose of using the heater. If so, that would drive a coach and horses through the purpose of the amendment and that I would not want to see. However, it seems that the amendment as drafted would require people to drive straight off after having started the car. That is a very dangerous thing to do on a cold and frosty morning when the windscreen is covered with snow and ice. The car must be allowed to get warm enough in order to heat the heater to get the windscreen clear. I wish to see the amendment put in such a way that that can happen otherwise there would be important safety implications.
Lord Tope: I support the amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said, they come from the latest London Local Authorities Bill. I suppose that I should declare my interest as I currently chair the policy and finance committee of the London Boroughs Association which is among those promoting that Bill. The noble Lord explained his amendments well and fully, and I am grateful to him for doing so. I shall not repeat his comments. He referred to the London Local Authorities Bill. The Committee will know better than I what a long and tortuous process that is. I am aware that our No. 2 Bill, which was introduced in 1991, received its Third Reading in this place only this week.
The problem in London and other urban and rural areas, as I believe we are all agreed, requires more urgent action than to wait for the long and tortuous process of getting a Private Bill through Parliament. In London, 90 per cent. of the pollution from vehicle emissions comes from only 10 per cent. of vehicles. That would suggest that this is a problem which could be tackled effectively if effective enforcement powers existed. The amendments aim to give local authorities the power to carry out testing. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, suggested that such powers exist already; they do, but only the police and the Department of Transport Vehicle Inspectorate can do the testing. That can obviously happen on a limited scale only and, because the offences are criminal, the fines then go to the Treasury. We need a more urgent and effective way of tackling this problem on a wider scale.
The purpose of the amendments is to give local authorities powers to initiate a self-financing scheme by introducing penalty chargesI hesitate to say thissimilar to those introduced recently for parking. It would enable such pollution control to be brought forward on a self-financing basis. That is the important difference.
Reference has been made to the proposals in the London Local Authorities Bill to give local authorities the power to stop vehicles. I am aware of the opposition from the RAC, the Freight Transport Association, and so forth. As I believe the phrase goes, these proposals are eminently negotiable. They are deliberately not part of the amendments. We are much more interested in
As I say, I support the amendments and thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for moving them so well today. I look forward, when the Minister replies, to hearing his assurance that we are pushing at an open door, and that, although the amendments may not yet be drafted perfectly and every point may not yet have been covered, they will be by the end of the Bill's passage through this place.
Buses have been mentioned and reference has been made to drivers needing to keep warm. I declare another personal interest: my local bus garage happens to be in the ward that I represent on my local council. This has been a considerable problem for me and, more importantly, for my constituents for many years. If we achieve nothing else today, I shall be grateful to put an end to those complaints.
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