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Lord Brett: My Lords, my name is associated with those of my noble friends Lord Lea of Crondall and Lady Gibson of Market Rasen on these amendments. I endorse entirely the comments they have made in support of them.

Some 30 years ago it was my misfortune to become the trade union official in the organisation of which my noble friend Lady Gibson was a national official. At the time, the University of Nottingham decided to introduce parking charges. They did not tell anyone and that proved to be a slight problem. During my six years in Nottingham, of all the issues that resulted in the greatest rise in temperatures, along with proposals such as burning down the university and hanging the vice-chancellor, the introduction of parking charges at the university came out on top.

Rational arguments could be brought forward in support of the charges. However, those rational arguments were put forward after the decision had been made. They did not precede it. Although I endorse entirely the policy here under consideration, it will be a difficult one to render acceptable in most local authority areas, whether the local authority, trade unions or employers are involved in promoting it. The campaign to win over hearts and minds will be extremely important. For that reason, the need to consult employers and workforce representatives will be an absolutely essential prerequisite if local authorities wish successfully to introduce such schemes. If that is not done, they will encounter the kind of backlash I witnessed at Nottingham some 30 years ago and of which I believe I still bear the scars.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I should like to speak briefly in support of these proposals. In particular I should like to support Amendment No. 219. I am a great supporter of workplace parking charges. Indeed, I was sorry to read that the Mayor of London appears to have put the proposal on the back burner for the time being. I believe that such charges could make a major contribution to the reduction of congestion in London; indeed, the same could be said of many large towns.

It is important to consult widely. It is important to consult those who run businesses as well as employees. It will be key to recognise the fact that those who run businesses will probably in any case have their own private parking spaces and will have a rather different view on the need to retain them or to charge for them from those who do not have access to such parking facilities, in particular those women who may be paid less and must rely on a good bus service. It is vital that employees are given an equal say in these matters.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have made a case for

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these amendments. To that end, I am pleased to be able to start our deliberations on Part III of the Bill by agreeing with noble Lords on the need for full and proper consultation on proposals for road user charging and workplace parking levies.

The amendments spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, would require any charging or licensing scheme brought forward by one or more local authorities in a metropolitan area to consult the local passenger transport authority before the scheme could be introduced. I can assure the noble Baroness that it will not be acceptable for local authorities in a metropolitan area to introduce any new charges without consulting the local passenger transport authority. Consultation at this level will be a fundamental requirement for securing the Secretary of State's approval for any scheme brought forward in a metropolitan area.

The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, would require more general consultation to take place before a road user charging or workplace parking levy scheme could be introduced or varied or--for road user charging--revoked. Again, I can assure the noble Lord that no charging or licensing scheme will be approved by the Secretary of State unless full and effective consultation has taken place on the details of the scheme. I should note in passing that the National Assembly for Wales also attaches similar importance to the need for proper consultation on scheme details.

The amendments spoken to by my noble friend Lord Lea and other noble Lords emphasise the need for consulting with employers and workforce representatives before a road user charging scheme or workplace parking levy scheme could be introduced. I can assure my noble friend that full and proper consultation on scheme details will, of course, include consultation with local employers and the business community, as well as other interested parties, including workforce representatives. My noble friend further asked me to suggest to some ballpark figures for road user charging schemes or workplace parking levies. Such sums would be extremely small in the context of the £180 billion that we foresee being invested in transport over the coming 10 years. However, it will be important to the hypothecation in local transport plans, in particular as regards the effect that charges of this kind may have on such plans.

As regards the question of timing, my noble friend asked when the regulations might be made. I understand that such schemes could be put in place from next year, following consultation with interested parties. He further asked how this would relate to schemes presently being brought forward. We are working with interested local authorities in our charging development partnerships to ensure that schemes will be compatible both with the legislation and with regulations.

Although agreeing in principle with these amendments, I am unable to accept them because they are overly prescriptive. What these amendments seek to put on the face of the Bill, we intend to cover in

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regulations, guidance and through the approval of individual schemes. This will ensure that, for example, statutory consultees are clearly identified and that the appropriate level of consultation is tailored to take account of different schemes and local factors. I emphasise that the regulation-making powers in Clause 167 for road user charging and Clause 182 for the workplace parking levy provide a means for specifying statutory consultees and consultation procedures that must be followed.

Further, Clause 169 for road user charging and Clause 184 for the workplace parking levy enable the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to direct a charging or licensing authority to undertake further consultation where the charging or licensing authority has not undertaken adequate consultation. This means that there is no possibility that any charging or licensing scheme will be introduced without proper consultation having taken place.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the need for full and effective consultation on scheme details, including consultation with businesses, workforces and passenger transport authorities. I suspect that the issue of what should be placed on the face of the Bill and what should be left to regulations, guidance and scheme approval will be a recurring theme as we debate Part III.

I hope that noble Lords will accept that these amendments are too prescriptive for the primary legislation and that with the assurances I have given they will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his response. I shall convey it to my noble friend. I suspect that he also will be satisfied with what has happened. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 164 [Joint local charging schemes]:

[Amendment No. 192 not moved.]

Clause 169 [Charging schemes: consultation and inquiries]:

[Amendments Nos. 193 to 196 not moved.]

Lord Dixon Smith moved Amendment No. 197:

    Page 101, line 27, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 197, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 198 and 199 and to Amendments Nos. 220 to 222. These two groups of amendments both relate to the holding of inquiries--the first group in relation to congestion charging and the second in relation to workplace parking licensing schemes.

We believe that the maximum amount of study, publicity and, as the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, argued, public education is essential if the schemes are to be introduced with any hope of success--and, more importantly, with any hope of there not being a violent, negative public reaction, which probably will be the likeliest outcome. We think

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that it will help if the holding of an inquiry is obligatory and we therefore seek once again to change the word "may" to "shall".

It is important that if such an inquiry is held, it should be under the chairmanship of an independent chairman. That is not specified in the Bill and we believe that it would help enormously if it were. As I have said before, no matter what the intention may be, such matters should be explicit on the face of the Bill. That is what we are attempting to achieve with these amendments. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his explanation of these amendments. As I made clear only a few moments ago, we all attach great importance to the need for effective consultation on the details of road user charging and workplace parking levy schemes. Amendments Nos. 197, 198, 220 and 221 would place a specific requirement on all charging and licensing authorities to hold a public inquiry for all schemes, any variation to a scheme and on the revocation of any scheme.

Holding a public inquiry before a charging or licensing scheme is introduced may well be appropriate. It may also be appropriate to hold an inquiry if there is a significant variation to a scheme or a revocation of a scheme. But it cannot be sensible to make public inquiries compulsory in all circumstances, for all schemes and for any changes to each and every scheme. Some small-scale schemes may simply not justify a full-scale public inquiry. In addition, the amendments would remove the ability of charging and licensing authorities to fine tune schemes or to revoke schemes quickly. Consequently, while the noble Lord's amendments are well intended, they would not be helpful or beneficial.

However, I emphasise again the considerable importance that we attach to the proper scrutiny of the details of individual schemes. Clause 169 for road user charging and Clause 184 for the workplace parking levy give local authorities the power to hold an inquiry when they deem it necessary, and we intend to issue guidance on this matter. We currently envisage that while a public inquiry may not be necessary for the smaller schemes or for minor variations to schemes, it is certainly likely to be appropriate for larger schemes or for more substantial changes to a scheme. Our guidance is currently being drafted and we plan to issue it in draft for consultation in the spring of next year. These clauses also provide the appropriate national authority with the power to cause a public inquiry to be held if it feels this is appropriate.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 199 and 222. I am again in agreement with the noble Lord over the need for qualified and independent persons to hold inquiries. However, I do not believe that it is necessary to write this provision onto the face of the Bill. This is because any inquiry that failed to meet that criterion would be vulnerable to a successful challenge in the courts. But I reiterate our belief and intention that inquiries should be run by independent and suitably qualified people.

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Having spelt out why I am unable to accept these amendments, I hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw them.

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