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Lord Swinfen: Vehicles can be loaded more efficiently and goods can be packaged more efficiently

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too. I believe that anything between 30 and 40 per cent. of the space in a cereal packet can be void. If that space is filled, far more cereal packets can be put on the same lorry. One would therefore need fewer lorries to transport the cereal. The same can be said as regards packaging for many other goods. I believe the Minister said that heavy lorries are environmentally less friendly than cars. However, up to four or five cars will occupy the same road space as one large lorry. All those cars will spew out fumes. As regards the space taken up by a lorry with a large trailer, far more cars would occupy that same space, all spewing out environmentally unfriendly gases.

Earl Attlee: I accept entirely the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. It was a good point. However, what concerns me is how central government can affect the decisions of industry.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I think we all know that decisions of central government affect decisions taken by private industry and indeed by other public authorities. We have only to consider the differentials in taxation between leaded and unleaded petrol to appreciate how that affects private decisions. You have only to note the requirement that all aircraft should undergo a noise certification process to appreciate how that has reduced the noise made by aircraft. It is that sort of pressure from central government which, over time, alters people's decisions, both in business and as private individuals, and also the decisions of people operating in other public authorities.

Lord Avebury: Perhaps I may point out one other example to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee; namely, the Government's planning policy on out-of-town shopping centres. If there are more such centres, obviously it encourages a great many more car journeys instead of people shopping in their own locality. Therefore, if the Government allow appeals by the big supermarkets to build shopping centres in rural areas, they are, ipso facto, generating a lot of additional traffic.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. This amendment has attracted more attention than one might have expected on a Friday morning--especially on the first fine day that we have had for a very long time. I certainly do not intend to press this amendment to a Division. However, I reserve the right to read what has been said and possibly return with a similar provision on Report.

My noble friend Lord Swinfen mentioned the Minister's remarks about freight vehicles having more environmental impact than motor cars. I would point out that this Bill exempts buses. The purpose of my amendment is to exempt freight vehicles as well. I remind the Committee and the noble Baroness the Minister that the most heavily polluted street in London is Oxford Street, where cars are banned. All the pollution is caused by buses and taxis. So there is an argument both ways.

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The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, rightly praised EWS for the moves it has made towards rail freight. As I said, that is very much to be encouraged. However, there is a limit to what is possible. I believe that the majority of freight journeys in this country are under 50 miles. It is simply not practical to attempt to move most of that freight onto rail. Even if we are successful in moving freight onto rail, that almost always involves a road journey, probably at both ends--though ideally at neither end.

I completely take the point about planning strategy. However, the fact is that out-of-town shopping centres are here. Even if no more are built, the ones that we have are popular with the public.

My noble friend Lord Swinfen mentioned that packaging could be done more efficiently in lorries. He may well be right. I regard that as a matter for the industry itself. It is not in the industry's interests to package inefficiently. It means that more lorry miles need to be travelled. Lorry miles are expensive, especially given the present price of diesel, which so dramatically increased in the recent Budget. As I said, people do not move freight around for fun; they move it around as part of the economic life of this country.

I shall read most carefully what has been said in the debate, as I am sure will my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Road traffic reduction targets]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 19, leave out ("adverse").

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to my Amendment No. 7.

At Second Reading I described my concerns regarding the tenor of the Bill. My amendment seeks to remedy that by deleting the word "adverse", so that Clause 2(3) would read:

    "the Secretary of State shall have regard to the impacts of road traffic, including".

The Bill then goes on to list the matters to which he must have regard.

Apart from overcoming the difficulty of making a semi-political statement, if I may put it that way, the amendment allows the Secretary of State to have regard to the positive social impacts provided for in subsection (3)(g). Without my amendment, he could only consider the adverse social impacts. However, I accept that other matters referred to in subsection (3) are obviously adverse impacts.

Amendment No. 5, tabled by my noble friend Lord Brabazon achieves similar objectives but by different means. Amendment No. 4 is not affected by Amendment No. 5. However, if Amendment No. 5 were agreed to, my Amendment No. 7, to which I shall speak, would be superfluous.

Amendment No. 7 requires the Secretary of State to have regard to,

    "the needs of business, commerce and industry".

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Without my amendment, the Bill as drafted would allow the Secretary of State to set targets without regard to the needs of business, commerce and industry. That is particularly so because of the very existence of subsection (4), which provides that the Secretary of State will have regard to persons with disabilities and to the need for adequate provision of taxis.

The Committee will note that "business", "commerce" and "industry" are slightly different terms. However, it is important that they all appear on the face of the Bill, as they are, together, all important for the strength of the economy. That point has already been covered.

As I implied at Second Reading, road traffic is a barometer of economic activity. One of the first sectors to feel the pinch in a recession is the road haulage sector. Similarly, if road transport is restricted, the economy will suffer.

I hope that the Committee will accept my amendments. They are designed to make the Bill more efficient and effective. I beg to move.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Amendment No. 5 is grouped with this amendment. It may therefore be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to it now. I support the amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Attlee.

Clause (2)(3) of the Bill lists all the things that are supposed to be wrong with road traffic. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas said (col. 610) that the Bill is not anti-car. I therefore feel that one should counter some of the disadvantages spelt out in Clause 2(3) by adding some of the advantages, so that the Secretary of State can, in the words of the Bill, have regard to those as well when setting targets.

The four items I have proposed in Amendment No. 5 are largely self-explanatory. I have referred to the economy in the context of freight traffic, as has my noble friend Lord Attlee. The same arguments hold for the private car, including the effect on the motor manufacturing industry, which has been one of the great success stories of the past 15 years or so. Indeed, it has been particularly successful in South Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will recognise the investment that has taken place there.

For many people, particularly rural dwellers and those who are less well off the car is often the only means of transport available to them. Visits to friends and family cannot always be arranged around the availability of buses and trains. The car has therefore become a major force in reducing social exclusion. The Committee will note sub-paragraph (b) in my amendment.

As regards shopping centres, whether one likes it or not many major retail outlets are out of town. Desirable though it may now be to change planning laws to discourage that kind of development, the fact is that they are there, and, as I said, are very popular with the public. That, coupled with the changing pattern of life--for example, the weekly major shop--the car is, in reality, the only way to get one's shopping home.

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The last item in the amendment covers access to public transport. It is unrealistic to suppose that people can always walk or take a bus to the railway station. If people are to be encouraged to travel by train it is essential that good parking facilities are available at all stations. The same goes for park-and-ride facilities out of town to encourage people to travel into town centres by bus. Of course, we are all waiting for the much heralded and delayed White Paper on an integrated transport policy. Therefore, I do not expect that the Minister will have a lot to say today on those items. But I hope that when it comes it will not be all stick and no carrot.

Hypothecation--a word which no doubt the Minister dreads hearing--will be essential if public attitudes to the private car are to be changed. Surveys have shown that people are willing to accept measures to tackle congestion, but the same surveys show that if those measures are fiscal ones, the overwhelming majority want to see that money put back into improving transport generally and not just syphoned off to the Treasury. I hope that when the Bill is enacted it will encourage the Government along that line.

I give the Minister a brief. She may well be aware of what happened in Oslo not long ago when congestion-charging in the centre of the city was introduced. It was done in such a way that people started work on the improvements, with a list of improvements that would be made, before they started charging people. So people could see what they were going to get for their money. It was therefore largely accepted by the public in Oslo. That is an important point. I look forward to hearing the response to the amendments.

12.30 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: Perhaps I may briefly speak not to the amendments but to apologise for not being here to move my earlier amendment. It was because I was attending a memorial service to my late boss, Lord Mellish, a Member of this House until recently. I hope that the Committee will accept that apology. I shall try to return to the matter at a later time.

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