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Earl Attlee: My Lords, Amendment No. 497 deals with research. The Secretary of State claims that he wants an integrated transport policy. The mayor is under a duty to pursue such a transport policy and this amendment fulfils that purpose by ensuring that road pricing cannot be introduced in an ad hoc manner without proper research into the knock-on effect on other roads. That makes good environmental sense. The research is required to be published widely as a means of democratic accountability.

During the previous debate I explained my fears that congestion charging would simply suck in the more affluent motorist. What research has conclusively shown is that traffic flows can be reduced overall? Can the Minister show where it has worked before?

Amendment No. 508 follows on from Amendment No. 497. It is only common sense to ensure that traffic which would be displaced by private means by any

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charging scheme can be absorbed by the public transport system and thus prevent double counting in the research. The amendment covers both people and goods. Charging could impact on business adversely.

Amendment No. 510 tackles hypothecation as it applies to workplace parking rather than congestion charging, as in Amendment No. 495. Amendment No. 512 introduces the requirement for research into workplace parking. The transport White Paper states that new measures are needed to tackle excessive workplace parking provision on existing developments, so that local authorities can develop comprehensive parking management policies to support their transport and development plans. To make this effective without penalising the responsible car driver who cannot avoid using his car--we shall come later to amendments which cover that point--there needs to be a mixture of incentives and disincentives.

If everyone stopped using a car and used public transport, London Transport would collapse from overload. We heard about the lack of capacity on the railway system when debating an earlier amendment. Therefore, parking charging should discourage excessive use only and not every use. We understand this because we are the party of the responsible car driver and his employer. There is also the need for parking charges to be linked to a comprehensive parking management policy, as envisaged by the transport White Paper. This amendment provides for no parking charges where research is inconclusive and seeks to ensure that the results of any research are made publicly available, including on the Internet.

The amendment fulfils those purposes by ensuring that parking charges cannot be introduced in an ad hoc manner without proper research into the knock-on effect on roads in the area. The research is required to be published widely and, it is hoped, on the Internet. Amendment No. 523 covers a similar issue. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has at least a consistent approach to these matters. His view is that local authorities should use their own money and that there should not be too much, if any, interference from the centre in relation to money raised locally.

I respect that position. It is one which has been taken by governments of either complexion for many decades, although it is not one which this Government take. We believe that all methods of raising local government money, including those within the Greater London area, have to be subject to some local government finance regime, charges included. Therefore, the issue of hypothecation or otherwise does arise.

The noble Lord is not consistent in the wording of his amendments, as distinct from what he said--which is the principal position--in that he wants us to lay down the time at which the scheme should automatically end without local decision, without

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local accountability and without local democracy. Amendments Nos. 495 and 510, to which the noble Lords opposite spoke, would require a charging scheme to be terminated if the net proceeds from the scheme were not being used to fund transport improvements.

We have said that they should be hypothecated. Under the noble Lord's freedom situation, why should the mayor of London not be able to spend that money on whatever he likes? That is inconsistent with the noble Lord's general approach. It is better that we are clear from the beginning that hypothecation is laid down in the schedule and that it will be reviewed in 10 years' time. If it is then, indeed, the case that there are no longer any value for money transport projects in London on which it is worth spending money--which I believe we all agree is a fairly unlikely scenario--we should then look at the system. There will be other aspects of the system besides the appropriate and necessary hypothecated spending, which determine whether the system is fair, socially just, and so forth.

Therefore, a review is built into the provision. However, in the terms of the noble Lord's amendment, there would be an automatic cut-off in certain circumstances. I believe that the review process is far more sensible. There is nothing in our proposition--here I am reverting in part to the earlier amendment--to suggest that after those 10 years the Secretary of State would from there on pocket the money. We should review the situation and allow the mayor to keep the revenue and to continue to spend it on transport. Alternatively, should an unlikely scenario arise, we might even decide that he could use it for London Transport projects. However, that judgment needs to be made at that point. At this stage we are concerned with setting up schemes with clearly hypothecated revenue, and that revenue being recycled into transport infrastructure and improvements.

I turn now to the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I am never quite clear where the Front Bench transport team stands on these matters, particularly in relation to the position taken by the noble Lord, Lord Archer, who obviously, I am sure we all appreciate, has better things to do with his time than to be present for this debate.

The amendments place substantial constraints on the operation and continuation of these schemes. One is tempted to believe that they are actually intended to make it extremely difficult for the mayor--or the boroughs, for that matter--to set up and run such schemes. Obviously, we all recognise that there is a need for research at various stages to determine how they are working and what the alternative might be. However, to lay down those provisions in such a prescriptive way seems to me to be the thin end of the wedge and to make that far more difficult.

There will be both operational and political problems for the mayor or the boroughs in deciding to go for these options. If, on top of those political and technical difficulties, we include these prescriptive constraints, it begins to add up to a position which, without quite saying so, would prevent the mayor and

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the boroughs from adopting this route towards the improvement of London's internal transport. The noble Lord may deny that that is his motive, but that would be the effect. As it chimes so much with what the noble Lord, Lord Archer, has said in a wider context and slightly premature stage of a certain contest, I therefore have deep suspicions of the amendments and hope that we should not pursue them here today. I hope also that, if the noble Earl's views are somewhat different, he will consider rather different amendments, or, more properly, support the position which we have already taken in the Bill.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me and understand if I divert to what is an apparently unrelated subject. The Minister will recall that, a year or 18 months ago, I asked him a question about the position of the Dartford River Crossing and at what date the tolls on that crossing were expected to cease.

The Dartford River Crossing--to refresh the memory of the House, which may not be necessary--was provided at the initiative of Essex and Kent County Councils. Because its provision was a local decision, it was decided that the tolls charged and the revenue from them would be applied to cover the cost of construction until all the construction and running costs had been paid and a sufficient pool of capital was established for the future maintenance of the crossing.

It was the joint view of Essex and Kent County Councils that the charges should cease at that point. My position is consistent. Indeed, when the crossing was in effect nationalised and privatised all in one swift motion by the previous government, that principle was accepted and followed in the Bill which went through both Houses of Parliament. It established the private system for that crossing, so that after the firms running the crossing had paid for it and received a reasonable profit for their investment and risk, and built up an adequate maintenance fund and paid all the costs, the tolls were due to cease.

That is a perfectly proper decision to be taken locally. I draw from that experience and apply it to this provision relating to London. The Minister is also indeed consistent, because in his reply he hinted at the possibility that, before the tolls ran out on the Dartford crossing, a national scheme might come into being which might mean that the tolls would continue. I suppose that in the great scheme of things one must accept that governments have that power. I further suppose that, as I now stand here, in a sense, as a representative dealing with government matters as opposed to local matters, one must accept that that is the way in which such matters must be considered. That is, of course, also proper.

However, we are here asking the putative mayor of London or the London borough councils to establish a scheme which may subsequently be abolished without further legislation. Under the provisions of the Bill, if the hypothecation runs out, that will be it. I said in my introduction to these amendments that we must face the possibility that there may be national schemes. If there are, that is a separate issue. But I do not believe

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it is right that we should place the burden of initiating what could, in effect, become schemes to produce national revenue, on the mayor and the boroughs. I do not believe that that is reasonable.

I believe that there may well be a fundamental difference between myself and the Minister. I listened with interest to what he had to say and I shall certainly consider very carefully the wording of Amendments Nos. 495 and 510. However, I assure the noble Lord that I believe that we shall need to bring back these amendments at Third Reading. My noble friend Lord Attlee will, of course, also consider what the Minister has said in regard to the amendments in this group to which he spoke. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 496 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 497 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 497A not moved.]

Schedule 18 [Road user charging]:

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