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Lord Boyd-Carpenter: I rise only to ask my noble friend the Minister to confirm what I believe he said on an earlier amendment: that it is the Government's firm intention to introduce into the Bill provisions to have effective control in these matters. However, I understand that they will not in fact be introduced until the Bill goes to another place. If, as I am sure is the feeling of the Committee at the moment, we are not to press these amendments, we want to know that the Government are firmly committed to legislating on this subject in the Bill, even though it be in another place.
Lord Lucas of Chilworth: I have listened with great interest to all that has been said. Like other Members of the Committee, I have sympathy with the purpose of the amendments. Vehicle emissions are a nuisance. The cry that seems to be coming out is the usual one, "and something must be done".
My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding tabled the amendments, with which I see a number of problems. I should be most reluctant to provide any legislation which would mean the setting up of yet another army of officialsuniformed, I expecton our streets. It is already confusing with parking wardens, private security services and so forth. As my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara so eloquently said, the responsibility for stopping vehicles has been, and should remain, with the police authorities. Whether a vehicle which is taken off the road by those authorities and taken to a testing station should have the test carried out by a sub-contractor is another matter.
My noble friend Lord Finsberg talked about confiscation. In so far as concerns commercial vehicles, the traffic commissioners have all the authority and power that they need to remove such vehicles from the road, and, as he knows, to close down a business merely by removing the licence. It is a great disappointment to me that greater evidence is not available to us to demonstrate that the traffic commissioners are doing their job in that area. With regard to taxi cabs, there is the hackney carriage licence inspection, when any defects can result in the licence being withheld. That provision already exists.
Other Members of the Committee have spoken about the MoT on the vehicle's third anniversary. There is the power to keep the vehicle off the road if the emission test which is incorporated in the MoT is not satisfactory. We might bring that test a little earlier, and bring it into the second year and not after the third anniversary. There is ample evidence to show (again, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Brabazon mentioned this) that a significant proportion of the 23 million motor cars on the road are the gross polluters. He said 10 per cent.; I would have said 20 per cent. or 25 per cent., but whether it is 10 per cent. or 20 per cent., it is a significant number.
Rather than have the blanket cover which my noble friend Lord Jenkin proposes in this series of amendments, we should use more effectively the construction and use regulations which are already available; the enforcement should be better targeted; and resources for the enforcement should be made available, because without adequate enforcement the existing law is disregarded. That is not something we should condone.
I hope that when my noble friend answersI am sure that he will acknowledge the problemhe will undertake to have a much wider review of some of the technical and practical difficulties that arise in overcoming this problem.
Lord Desai: In speaking to the amendment, I must first declare a non-interest in that I do not own or drive a car. If the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is correct in saying that only a small percentage of cars causes a large percentage of the pollution, we should address that problem. It is clear that the existing regulations do not tackle it. It is not right to say that we should have better enforcement. We must increase the incentives to discourage people from owning cars which emit a great deal of pollution. Unless the incentives are changed, pollution will continue. I do not know how one should increase the cost of owning polluting cars; but perhaps as cars become older, the owners should pay more road tax. That will be much more effective and targeted than a blanket provision which will catch the drivers of all kinds of cars.
Viscount Ullswater: The amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Jenkin aim to tackle certain aspects of traffic pollution. We are all well aware that traffic is now the major source of pollution in our town centres. I therefore sympathise with those aims. Indeed, the fact that the Government's strategic proposals were developed jointly by my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with the Secretary of State for Transport, reflects the importance that the Government as a whole attach to tackling this sector. The proposals include a separate action plan for transport.
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: I was not suggesting that they were suitable. I was asking whether the Government were giving a firm undertaking to introduce legislation on this subject in this Bill in another place.
Viscount Ullswater: As I indicated, the proposals include a separate action plan for transport. As the Government's air quality strategy develops, we shall consider how to develop them further both strategically and at the detailed level of implementation.
Amendment No. 264A sounds very attractive. It purports to deal with motorists who leave their engines running unnecessarily. I very much sympathise with the sentiment expressed by many Members but I am not sure that this amendment is the answer. A similar offence already exists. Regulation 98 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 already requires that drivers should take appropriate action to prevent unnecessary noise by switching off their engines when stationary. In practice, the offence is very difficult to prosecute and very difficult to prove.
I have to say that proving unnecessary emissions would be likely to be even more difficult than proving unnecessary noise. Creating a new offence along the lines proposed would seem therefore to serve no effective purpose. It may be far better to concentrate further on making motorists alert to the consequences of leaving engines running unnecessarily.
Amendment No. 264B aims to extend the statutory nuisance controls in Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to include such things as emissions from mobile tarmac plant. The Government believe that there are already sufficient powers available to the police, vehicle inspectors and others to control these emissions. I believe that deals with the problem of my noble friend Lord Onslow's horse box. These include the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and a variety of provisions under health and safety legislation.
In turning to my noble friend's Amendment No. 264C, we come to an additional opportunity to remove polluting vehicles from the roada matter to which we attach the greatest importance. A similar proposal has been made in connection with the Sixth London Local Authorities Bill, as amplified by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Transport have made clear that the Government are keen to consider the approach of giving powers to local authorities. As the Secretary of State has indicated, the Government recognise that this is the sort of power that might be appropriate for local authorities in exercising their proposed functions under the air quality strategy. However, there are technical problems associated with the proposal. In particular, I must say to my noble
The Government believe that the proposal should be considered at more length. The Government are ready to do that, in conjunction with the wider proposals on air quality which we shall be bringing forward in another place. But Members of the Committee will understand that in view of the particular difficulties that we see in this case, I can at this stage give no assurances as to the outcome of that consideration. I hope that on the basis of what I have said, my noble friend will agree to withdraw his amendments.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am grateful for the considerable volume of support that the amendments have attracted in Committee. As we are trying to work to the new Rippon rules, I shall not attempt to comment on all the points that were made. The Committee will wish to move on to the next amendments.
My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked a strictly pertinent question to which I was hoping to hear a more committed reply. I believe that in so far as these matters can be made effective in legislation, the Committee wishes them to be legislated for in this Bill. We do not wish to be fobbed off with the reply, "It will need a great deal more talking and thinking about". Everyone knows that it will be years before another Bill is introduced.
The existing powers are not sufficient. One has only to walk down the road to see that. Perhaps I may say to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth that it is not merely a matter of resources. I hope that the police will do more to combat real crime rather than stopping vehicles puffing out smoke. Policemen are expensive, rare and valuable commodities. The local authorities should have the power to act because they must respond to public pressures. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, illustrated that by referring to the bus depot in his constituency.
The amendment introduces a new self-financing scheme which will be enforced by local authorities. They have every incentive to do that without being distracted from other more immediate topics, such as fighting crime. The present system does not work. Perhaps I may remind my noble friend Lord Ullswater that his department has given a warm welcome to the London Bill. If it is right in London and the Government are going to support the Bill, why not support these new clauses?
I shall not press the matter to a Division. However, I wish to leave my noble friend in no doubt that the Committee wishes to see this matter legislated for in this Bill. We hope that the Government will bring forward their proposals in another place, together with the rest of the package. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.