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The overall strategy for dealing with air quality is extremely welcome. We are delighted that it appears on the face of the Bill. However, the provision imposes specific new duties on local authorities; and costs could be considerable in terms of capital outlay. It has been estimated that purchasing or leasing the equipment to monitor a station to the appropriate standard could be as much as £0.25 million per authority. In addition, there would be annual running costs of anywhere between-
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps I may assist the House. Amendment No. 134C stands in my name. That may be the amendment in the mind of the Minister which deals with the questions of cost. It is grouped separately from this group of amendments.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg Lady Hilton's pardon. She was right to speak. I have no doubt that when the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, speaks on her amendment, the Deputy Speaker will first put the amendment to which the noble Baroness's amendment will refer.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I have not put down a specific amendment. The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is not in this group. However, I wish to make a general point about costs. I hope that the Minister will assure the House that those will be met from central government funds.
I wish to speak to the new regulation-making power, to which my noble friend referred in Commons Amendment No. 141. That provision will give the local authorities power to tackle poor air quality and in particular to undertake the testing of vehicles at the roadside which are recognised as contributing substantially to atmospheric pollution in the cities. It is interesting that since the matter was discussed in your Lordships' House in Committee and on Report, public anxiety about the consequences of vehicle pollution in cities has greatly increased. During periods of still air and bright sunshine, the health consequences of pollution have been very much underlined. We must all from time to time, either in our families or among our friends, meet people who find that during the middle of the day in the cities it is almost impossible for them to go out because of the impact of conditions on their breathing.
The clinical connection with asthma is the subject of a major study which has yet to be resolved, but no one can seriously doubt that adverse air quality from vehicles is now a serious matter. The Bill gives local authorities the power to join the Department of Transport in enforcing the construction and use regulations by testing vehicles at the roadside. That is a matter which we have pressed and it is now covered in the Bill.
I remind the House that the London Local Authorities Bill contains a power for that, but it is confined to the London boroughs. Subject to one point, this Bill probably makes it unnecessary for the authorities to proceed with that part of the local authorities Bill.
I feel it is a little unfair that when one has been given a bowl nearly full of cherries, one should still ask for the bowl to be filled. However, there is one issue which I believe it is right for us to consider: the power of stopping. Everyone agrees that it is only police constables in uniform in general who should have the power to stop vehicles. I know that my right honourable friend is strongly of that view. After all, he spent a long time at the Home Office. It was asserted again in another place and is now to be found in Amendment No. 141, the long clause, subsection (5A) on page 39 of the Commons Amendments. Near the bottom of the page we see the explicit injunction that nothing in the clause would allow anyone other than a police officer to stop a vehicle.
However, there is a great difficulty. If there is no power to stop vehicles, how will the local authorities be able to carry out their testing functions? It is mostly when a vehicle is on the move that one can see that it may well be guilty of emissions beyond the permitted limits. Therefore the London Bill originally included the power to stop vehicles.
It has, therefore, been suggested, that it is a perfectly legitimate extension of the existing role of traffic wardens that they should be permitted, under police control and directionand that is what it would beto engage in the stopping of vehicles so that the local authority testers can carry out tests.
I entirely understand the difficulties of the Home Office and my right honourable friend in another place, Mr. Atkins, made it perfectly clear that he was having considerable arguments with his opposite numbers in the Home Office. I had the advantage of a brief discussion with the Home Secretary. Policemen and the police service do not regard it as a proper use of police time to stop vehicles for emission. They have more important things to do. Noble Lords will remember that I made that point firmly in earlier stages of the Bill. Policemen have plenty to do preventing crime and apprehending criminals. It is not realistic to expect them to stop vehicles for emission.
Perhaps I may take the example of the 33 London boroughs. They hope to be able to have at least one team of testers per borough in action for most of the week. It is only one team covering the whole of a London borough with a population of 250,000 to 350,000 people, so that it is not a substantial exercise. However, in terms of 33 full-time policemen employed throughout London on that purpose, one begins to see why the commissioner and the Home Office are reluctant to commit police manpower to it. It is not just a question of moneyno doubt it could be paid forbut trained policemen are expensive and they are specifically trained for certain purposes.
Why should not local authorities be allowed to authorise and supervise where necessary traffic wardens carrying out the stopping of vehicles? My amendment would not automatically provide for that; all it does is to write into the Bill the power for the Government to make regulations which would authorise traffic wardens to carry out those functions.
The Government may be right that the power to test will be a sufficient measure and deterrent. It may well be used on vehicles which have already been stopped and that action will, to an extent, have the effect of cleaning up the atmosphere. But a large number of people outside this House have the gravest doubt. If the power which the Government have now taken is to be made effective, I believe that as a precaution they should extend the power to allowing traffic wardens to stop vehicles. The wardens will be in uniform, instantly recognisable. Drivers are increasingly used to traffic wardens directing traffic, particularly when there are
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I believe that in order to get us back onto the right rails it would be correct if he called the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The rest of the discussion can then take place on her amendment.
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