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Lord Holme of Cheltenham: Before the noble Lord sits down, if I derive one conclusion from his consistent message throughout this afternoon and this evening it is that he believes in a single member constituency with a first-past-the-post vote. He is staunch, he is clear and he has been entirely consistent on that. In that case, I wonder whether he might not now want to indicate that he does not propose to move the later amendment in his name to provide for a multi-member constituency Finnish open-list system and so allow us all not to have to come back after dinner.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The noble Lord can please himself whether he comes back after dinner or not.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: As a matter of elementary courtesy will the noble Lord tell us, having spent so much time rubbishing any PR system, whether he is going to move this amendment? The convenience of people, other than his own, is involved. Can he not help us?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I suggest that the noble Lord waits until after dinner. He will then find out why I am moving the amendment and what I intend to do with it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There is virtually nothing new to be said on this and therefore I do not propose to try to say it. I believe that I put our approach pretty plainly earlier on because of the elision of the three or four schemes that there were. We believe that STV has worked well in Northern Ireland. I have never found anyone who has disputed that. As I said earlier, there have always been two Unionist parties and one SDLP. I do not believe that the people in Northern Ireland have felt that they cannot have decent access to their own member.

Indeed, I note that over the past 18 years or so--this is not a party point in any way or a partisan one--the previous government made no attempt to remove STV from Northern Ireland for local or European elections. If it comes to large constituencies with multi-members for England, Wales and Scotland, we believe that the same considerations do not apply. I set out the reasons earlier. In some constituencies such as the South East region, there would be as many as 50 candidates. A choice of up to 50 would have to be made by the unfortunate voter. We have 84 members only available and we have an electorate of 43 million. We do not believe that STV is going to work in those circumstances.

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The noble Lord, Lord Evans of Parkside, asked me a particular question. The specific answer is that one would be entitled to vote for a single independent--one and one only. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, raised a question as to whether the Secretary of State had power to change the boundaries. He said that that would be over his dead body. Since he looks in extraordinarily good health even at this time of the evening, I can reassure him that the Secretary of State has no power to change boundaries: only Parliament can do that. I believe that I put the Government's view plainly. I cannot improve or embroider on it further. I have to give way to the best argument that I have heard tonight, which is that if I am brief, as the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, said, we can have dinner earlier.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: On the basis of that argument I, too, shall be extremely brief. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, was kind enough to say that my earlier speech almost beguiled him. I shall try to beguile him a little further by being as reasonable as I can in pointing out that we have a straight choice about the systems which will apply here. One of them will not be the first-past-the-post system.

Therefore we have to decide on the best way to proceed. I agree with him that, ideally, that would be multi-member seats so that areas such as Greater Manchester or Merseyside, which are areas that he and I are both familiar with, would elect under STV for those defined areas. In that sense I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that it is not ideal to have a constituency of 6 million voters. But that can be divided up. We still have time to do that by grouping Westminster constituencies together to form multi-member seats in which STV votes would be cast. It would be quite wrong to presume that that could not be achieved, because it could.

In this Bill we are creating a region, not a group of seats, in Northern Ireland, which will vote again under STV. In the Republic of Ireland, in Connaught, Leinster and Munster, they vote in those regions for MEPs using STV. So it is practicable and it can be done. It has the admirable quality about which we both agree; namely, it retains a link between an elected representative and the voters. That ought to be uppermost in our minds.

Earlier today just 89 Members of this Committee voted for the Government's preferred system and even fewer, 73, voted for the Liberal Democrat amendment that was before us. That was an improvement on what the Government were offering.

I have been particularly struck by the speeches made by people who have vast experience of how politics work. I refer to the former Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, the former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party and people such as the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart and Lord Evans. They are very distinguished Members of this Committee who know how politics work. In their speeches tonight they have been saying, "Let us pause to reflect on the system that we are to introduce and which may well set a precedent". I should be very unhappy to force a vote tonight to prematurely bring the debate to a conclusion.

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I pick up what the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said earlier about needing to consider the strength of the first-past-the-post system and see how it can best be applied in whatever we decide to do for Europe. I do not believe that that is incompatible with a fair voting system.

Perhaps I may give one example; namely, the Greens. During an election in the 1980s the Greens polled 15 per cent. but failed to elect a single member to the European Parliament. I do not believe that that was just and the question of justice has to be addressed in the way that the electoral system is organised.

I should like time for us to reflect on these questions and accept what the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said to the Committee. He wisely argued that perhaps a better time to divide on this issue would be when we have disposed of the Finnish system which may be offered to us after dinner. We have yet to see. When we have put aside the other options it may be then that the beginnings of cross-party consensus will emerge and that closed party lists will be considered a very bad thing. We should think again about it. That might be met by some agreement over the single transferable vote. We have between now and Report stage to consider that further. On that basis it would not be my intention or, I believe, that of my noble friend Lord Kitchener to press this amendment to a vote this evening.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Lord Hoyle: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion I suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 9.25 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Bill

8.27 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Meaning of "road traffic"]:

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe ,moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 6, after ("roads,") insert ("including public transport").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am full of goodwill towards the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. I first fought a parliamentary seat in 1959. At that time part of our manifesto was to have an integrated transport system and I hope that we are now approaching the situation in which that may finally be fulfilled. I wish my noble friend on the Front Bench the very best of luck with that endeavour.

In considering this Bill it seems to me that one matter has been overlooked. As it now stands, there is a lacuna in the omission of public transport which might have disastrous effects. I can perhaps illustrate the point by reference to a case with which I have recently been

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concerned. In the past I have raised in the House the question of the building of a bus depot in Bristol in my old constituency on the Creswicke Road playing fields. I am not going to dwell on the points that I have raised before about the inadequate consultation and posting of the notices and the general feeling that the thing has been bounced into this working-class area.

The residents have been told that it means jobs for the area. That is manifest nonsense because it is rebuilding the bus depot which is already at Winterstoke Road. As a City supporter I mention that that is at Ashton Gate. So no fresh jobs are coming to the area. These are basically side issues to what I wish to raise.

It seems to me that the question of health hazards associated with public transport is getting better and better known. In particular I have already raised the reports by the British Heart Foundation and the British Lung Foundation and the much greater knowledge of the dangers of diesel emissions, particularly PM10 and PM2.5. The diesel emissions are the principal sources of PM10. It is known to cause cancer, heart and lung diseases and much asthma. From that list it is obvious that it is responsible for a number of premature deaths. The PM2.5 is a much smaller particle. As I understand it, it is not monitored at the moment, but it is thought to be even more dangerous than the PM10.

I have referred to the growing knowledge of this subject. Last Sunday, the Sunday Times colour supplement contained a very full article about the increasing knowledge of air pollutants. I believe that the targets and monitoring should include public transport, because a bus depot such as the one to which I have referred, placed as it is in the heart of a working-class area, can do a great deal of damage if it is not properly monitored. I am told by the council that the company is not currently monitoring the Winterstoke Road depot. Asthma rates in the area are the highest in the Avon Health Authority area--I do not know why that name still lingers; the county has gone--and a number of local health professionals have expressed opposition to the development.

It seems to me that planning regulations and planning knowledge are so far behind our increasing knowledge of pollutants and their effect on health that they should be brought within the Bill. The Bill makes provision for taxis, but not for buses. I suppose that one could say that that is part of the increasing tendency to have regard only to the country's middle class. Let us have a little consideration for the working class. I beg to move.

8.30 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I listened with great care to the comments of my noble friend Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe. I know that he has been assiduous in his questioning on the specific matter of Creswicke Road playing fields in Bristol, to which he referred in moving the amendment. I hope that my noble friend will understand that, although I am conscious of his concerns about that decision, I am unable to

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comment on the specific circumstances as it is possible that an appeal could be lodged against the conditions which were attached to the planning permission.

My noble friend properly drew the attention of the House to the issue of public transport as it relates to the Bill. This Government's aim is to encourage greater use of public transport. With regard to Amendment No. 1, we do not, therefore, think it is sensible to include public transport in the definition of road traffic to be used in the context of setting road traffic reduction targets.

Public transport is difficult to define except in terms of the number of passengers that a vehicle can carry, which is why Clause 1, as it currently stands, refers to vehicles designed to carry eight or more passengers in addition to the driver.

Since we seek to resist Amendment No. 1, it follows that we could not accept Amendment No. 2 either, since it cannot stand on its own. In any case, we think it is perverse to take wording that was expressly intended to define public transport and then turn the sense round so that it no longer does. In practice, there are relatively few vehicles designed to carry eight or more passengers that are not public transport vehicles.

It is important to take note of my noble friend's comments about the potential for public transport being a polluter. When we tackle the problem of road transport emissions, it is important that we do not ignore the emissions from buses or taxis. However, I believe that that is best achieved through the provisions that were brought into force at the end of last year. I refer to a new system of local air quality management under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. Local authorities now have a duty to review and assess air quality, to designate air quality management areas where statutory air quality objectives are unlikely to be met and to draw up action plans for those areas in pursuit of the objectives. In this context, guidance was issued to local authorities about air quality and land use planning. The guidance is available in the Library.

There are measures by which we can deal with the potential problems of pollution and the emission levels from public transport vehicles, but to do so by the vehicle of amending this Bill, as suggested by my noble friend, would go counter to the spirit of encouraging public transport. However, I take on board the thrust of my noble friend's remarks that we should encourage public transport.

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