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Lord Davies of Oldham: Certainly, my Lords. As I said, we have provision for regular reviews. The last one was only in 2001. We are aware of the fact, as the noble Lord is, that traffic moves at a speed in excess of the speed limit quite frequently on our major motorways. It does not do so, in my experience, on the M25 during about eight living hours of the day, because it cannot. But I am aware of the noble Lord's point about the motorway when it is relatively free of heavy traffic.

The issue is not settled for all time. Far from it—we are mindful of the fact that we need to consider the situation from time to time. I give him that assurance.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the issue a little further. I shall think of his words as I drive back to Oxfordshire tonight—naturally, keeping to 70 miles per hour on the motorway, like all noble Lords who have long distances to travel tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
 
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Clause 92 [Application of surplus income from parking places]:

[Amendment No. 138 not moved.]

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 139:


"PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON THE LONDON CONGESTION CHARGE
(1) The Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29) shall be amended as follows.
(2) After section 295(1) there is inserted—
"(1A) After the coming into force of section (Public consultation on the London Congestion Charge) of the Traffic Management Act 2004, the Mayor of London and Transport for London may not establish, extend or operate a scheme under subsection (1) above unless the scheme has been approved by a majority of the residents of any London borough proposed to be included, wholly or in part, in the charging area.
(1B) The approval of a scheme mentioned in subsection (1A) shall be determined by—
(a) a local referendum conducted by the borough concerned under section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 (c. 26) (local polls); and
(b) where at least 50 per cent of the residents of the borough concerned have voted in that referendum.
(1C) Subsection (1A) shall not apply in the case of a scheme already in operation, but Transport for London shall take into account the result of any referendum that may be conducted by a borough in which such a scheme is in operation in determining—
(a) whether it is reasonable to continue to operate an existing scheme concerned; or
(b) whether the existing scheme shall be modified.
(3) In Schedule 23 to that Act (road user charging) after paragraph 3 insert—
"3A A charging scheme may only be made by the Mayor if it is also approved by the council of the borough or boroughs, included wholly or partly within the boundaries of the scheme, following a referendum conducted by the borough or boroughs concerned under Section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 (c. 26).""

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a simple little amendment on which I hope that the Government will look favourably. As we know, the Government believe in local accountability, referendums, local people being consulted, regional assemblies and all such things. The amendment refers to the congestion charge which, as the Minister will know, has been the subject of some controversy in London and during the mayoral election.

Whatever one feels about the current congestion charge, the issue is—now that Ken Livingstone has returned to the fold or the bosom of the Labour Party—whether the congestion charge zone should be extended. I have no particular view on that, as I believe that it should be a subject for those who will suffer the consequences if it is extended. My modest amendment would allow those who might find themselves in a new extended zone a right to say in a democratic way whether they approve of the extension. I should have thought that the Government would think that that is a very commendable way for any government to behave and, indeed, for the Mayor to behave.

It seems to me that, before this controversial proposal goes ahead, the very least that the Mayor could do is to ensure that those who are affected have
 
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some say about whether they want to be in the congestion charge zone. This is a matter of allowing local people to have a local say. It is a London issue but if the amendment is accepted by your Lordships' House, it is something that could be used for other towns and cities that may have plans to introduce congestion charges of their own. We believe in giving people the right to chose whether they want it. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on my modest amendment because I am sure that he believes in local accountability. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, if the Opposition had any courage at all they would be proposing a referendum on the abolition of the congestion charge. But they would be up against the small matter that the election was won by the present Mayor with that issue very much up-front. It was not only up-front but was also canvassed very strongly by the candidate who represented the noble Viscount's party, who was intent on its abolition. We all know the result of that election.

Of course, the noble Viscount is right. We are in favour of consultation. The Greater London Authority Act makes absolutely clear how that consultation should be carried out and who is responsible for ensuring that it is carried out; namely, the Mayor of London. It is quite clear that we have in place under that Act the checks and powers that are necessary to govern the way in which he arrives at such a decision. He is charged with taking account of the impact of the congestion charge on residents,
 
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businesses, visitors and tourists and he is uniquely placed to do so. As everyone will recognise, he has a duty to provide and implement a transport strategy for London. The congestion charge is a part of that.

I also note that the noble Viscount introduced into his amendment a uniquely high hurdle that would have to be leapt in order for any extension to be considered. I recognise the fact that it is a misfortune for the Opposition that this part of the Bill was not before the House immediately prior to the recent election so that they could have articulated their arguments with the force and charm of the noble Viscount this evening. But I predict that the result would have been exactly the same.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, the Minister seems to have put the case that Ken Livingstone won the election for Mayor of London solely on the basis of the congestion charge. Looking at some of his other policies on the Tube and similar matters, that may be the case. Bearing in mind the lateness of the hour and that some of us will have to walk home, some will bicycle and some will be able to get into the ministerial limo—I am not mentioning names, of course—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 12 [Repeals]:

[Amendment No. 140 not moved.]

Written Statements

Tuesday 29 June 2004


 
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Police Service of Northern Ireland: Report of Chief Constable 2003–04

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have received the annual report for 2003–04 of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which is being presented to Parliament today as a Command Paper.

Copies of the report are available from the Vote Office and the Library of the House.

Independent Assessor of Military Complaints Procedures: Annual Report

Baroness Amos: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have today laid in Parliament the annual report for 2003 of Jim McDonald, the Independent Assessor of Military Complaints Procedures. The report of the independent assessor continues to provide valuable reassurance to both the public and the Government that the Army's complaints procedures stand scrutiny. I will consider Mr McDonald's report carefully and respond in due course.


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