TRANSPORT (LONDON) (re-committed) BILL
STANDING COMMITTEE A
Tuesday, 6th May, 1969
[Sir Beresford Craddock in the Chair]
New Clause 2
Control of off-street parking
‘(1) The provisions of this section shall apply to any area in Greater London which the Council may by regulations designate as a controlled area for the purposes of this section; and any such regulations—
(a) in addition to including any such provision as is authorised by subsection (6) of this section, may prescribe forms to be used for the purposes of this section and any other matters which under this section or Schedule (Control of off-street parking) to this Act are to be prescribed;
(b) may include such supplementary, incidental and consequential provision as appears to the Council to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of this section; and
(c) may make different provision as respects like matters in different circumstances; but the provisions of Part I of the said Schedule (Control of off-street parking) shall apply to the making of any such regulations.
(2) Subject to subsection (14) of this section, in a controlled area no person other than the local authority shall operate a public off-street parking place of a prescribed description except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence granted to that person by the local authority.
(3) An applicant for a licence in respect of any premises may apply either for a permanent licence or for a licence for such limited period not exceeding five years as the applicant may specify, and any application to the local authority for a licence shall be accompanied by the prescribed fee appropriate to the type of licence applied for towards the administrative expenses of the local authority under this section; and, subject to subsection (6) of this section, on any such application the local authority may at their discretion either grant the applicant a licence of the type applied for or refuse the application.
(4) Subject to subsection (6) of this section, every licence shall specify—
(a) the period of its duration, that is to say, whether it is a permanent licence or a licence for a limited period and, if for a limited period, the period for which it is granted;
(b) the maximum number of parking spaces to be provided at the licensed parking place for all, and, if the local authority think fit, for any respectively, of the following descriptions of parking, namely, short-term parking, long-term parking, casual parking and regular parking or any particular category of regular parking;
(c) any conditions in addition to those specified in subsection (5) of this section subject to which the licence is granted, being such conditions, if any, as the local authority may think fit with respect to all or any of the following matters, namely—
(i) the scale of charges, or the minimum charges, or the maximum and minimum charges, to be made for the use of parking spaces at the licensed parking place for all, or for any respectively, of the aforesaid descriptions of parking;
(ii) the proportion of parking spaces to be available respectively for casual parking and for, or for any specified category of, regular parking;
(iii) the times of opening and closing of the licensed parking place for the reception of vehicles;
(iv) the manner in which users of the licensed parking place are to be informed of the effect of the terms and conditions of the license;
(v) the accounts and other records to be kept in connection with the operation of the licensed parking place.
(5) It shall be a condition of every licence—
(a) that any person authorised in that behalf in writing by the local authority or by the Council may, subject to production if requested of his authority, at all reasonable hours enter upon and inspect the licensed parking place; and
(b) that the holder of the licence shall, on being given reasonable notice for the purpose by any such person, produce to that person and permit him to examine and make copies of, or take extracts from, any accounts or other records required by virtue of subsection (4)(c)(v) of this section to be kept in connection with the operation of that parking place.
(6) Regulations made by the Council under subsection (1) of this section may include provision—
(a) as to the maximum number of parking spaces to be made available at licensed parking places for all, or for any respectively, of the descriptions of parking referred to in subsection (4)(b) of this section in, or in any specified part of, any controlled area comprised within the area of a particular local authority; [end p1]
(b) requiring that, in the case of licensed parking places in a particular controlled area or part of a controlled area, all or any of the matters referred to in subsection (4)(c) of this section shall or as the case may be shall not be the subject of conditions specified in the licence;
(c) regulating the conditions which may be imposed with respect to any of the matters aforesaid;
and every local authority shall exercise their functions under subsections (3) and (4) of this section in conformity with any regulations for the time being in force by virtue of this subsection.
(7) Where a licence has been granted—
(a) the local authority shall, if so requested by a successor in title to the business (so far as it consists of the operation of the licensed parking place) of the person to whom the licence was granted, transfer the licence to that successor in title, but a licence shall not otherwise be transferable;
(b) the holder of the licence may at any time surrender it;
(c) the local authority may at any time on the application or with the agreement of the holder of the licence vary any of the terms and conditions specified in the licence under subsection (4)(b) and (c) of this section;
(d) in the case of a permanent licence, the local authority shall have the powers of revocation or variation of the licence conferred by Part II of Schedule (Control of off-street parking) to this Act.
(8) The provisions of Parts III and IV of Schedule (Control of off-street parking) to this Act shall have effect with respect to appeals and compensation in connection with certain decisions of a local authority under this section; and the local authority shall comply with the prescribed requirements as to the giving to an applicant for a licence of information as to the rights conferred by the said Parts III and IV; and every person who applies for or is the holder of a licence in respect of any premises shall give to any other person known to him to be entitled to any interest in those premises information as soon as may be—
(a) of the making of the application; and
(b) of any decision of the local authority relating to the premises of which he is, or is deemed under paragraph 1(2) of the said Part III to have been, notified by the local authority; and
(c) of the bringing, and of the determination or abandonment, of any appeal from any such decision brought by that person under the said Part III.
(9) Subject to subsection (14) of this section, any holder of a licence who contravenes or fails to comply with any of the terms and conditions of the licence shall be liable on summary conviction—
(a) in the case of a term imposed under subsection (4)(b) or a condition with respect to any of the matters referred to in subsection (4)(c)(i), (ii), (iii) or (v) of this section, to a fine not exceeding £100;
(b) in any other case to a fine not exceeding £50; and on the conviction of the holder of a licence of an offence under this subsection the local authority may, if it appears to them proper so to do by reason of the extent to which, or the period over which, or the frequency with which, the holder of the licence has contravened or failed to comply with the terms and conditions of the licence or by reason of the wilfulness of the offence, revoke the licence.
(10) Save as provided by subsection (9) of this section or Part II of Schedule (Control of off-street parking) to this Act, a licence shall not be revoked; and the revocation of a licence under that subsection or the revocation or variation of a licence under the said Part II shall not take effect—
(a) before the expiration of the period for giving notice of appeal under Part III of that Schedule from the local authority's decision to revoke or, as the case may be, vary the licence; or
(b) if such a notice of appeal is duly given, before the determination or abandonment of the appeal.
(11) Subject to subsection (14) of this section and to the provisions of Part V of Schedule (Control of off-street parking) to this Act, any person who, in contravention of subsection (2) of this section, operates a public off-street parking place without holding a licence for the purpose shall be liable on summary conviction—
(a) to a fine not exceeding £200; or
(b) in the case of a second or subsequent conviction of an offence under this subsection, to a fine not exceeding £400.
(12) The local authority for a controlled area shall have regard to any regulations for the time being in force under this section when exercising in that area any of their functions under sections 28 to 32 of the Act of 1967; and where a public off-street parking place is provided in a controlled area by the local authority under the said section 28, any such regulations shall apply to the operation of that parking place, with such modifications (if any) appearing to the Council to be necessary for the purpose as may be prescribed, as if that parking place were being operated under a licence granted by the local authority.
(13) In this section and in Schedule (Control of off-street parking) to this Act— “licence” means a licence under this section; “local authority” , in relation to a parking place, means, where the parking place is situated in a London borough, the council of that borough or, where the parking place is situated in the City of London, the Common Council; [end p2] “long-term parking” and “short-term parking” mean respectively parking for a continuous period exceeding four hours and parking for a continuous period not exceeding four hours; “public off-street parking place” means a place, whether above or below ground and whether or not consisting of or including buildings, where parking space for motor vehicles off the highway is made available by any person to the public for payment; and references to operating, or to the operator of, such a parking place shall be construed as references to making, or as the case may be to the person making, such parking space at the parking place so available.
(14) The Minister, after consultation with the Council, may at any time, if it appears to him expedient so to do by reason of any emergency which appears to him to have arisen or to be likely to arise, by order, which shall be laid before Parliament after being made, provide that this subsection shall apply either in relation to all areas for the time being designated as controlled areas or in relation to such part or parts of any of those areas as may be specified in the order; and—
(a) during the period while any such order is in force in relation to any controlled area or part thereof, any public off-street parking place in that area or part may be operated as if that area or part were not, or, as the case may be, were not comprised in, a controlled area; and
(b) nothing in subsection (9) or (11) of this section shall apply to anything done at any such parking place during that period.’—[Mr. Marsh.] Brought up, and read the First time.
The Minister of Transport (Mr. Richard Marsh)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
We have had a useful and valuable debate and have made very good progress, but we come now to a crucial Clause, relating to the control by public authorities of off-street car parks available for public use. The relevant provisions are contained both in the new Clause and in new Schedule 6.
In view of what was said by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) last Thursday, about the alleged lack of consultation in this matter I want to say a few words about that, because these proposals are very important. They have probably received more discussion and consideration that any other part of the Bill—rightly so, because they involve the interests of many people, as well as being crucial to our whole policy.
The White Paper was published in July, 1968. No representations were made to me or to the Ministry about the proposals to control off-street parking. The Bill was published on 27th November, 1968, and the first approach by the major interested party—National Car Parks Ltd.—to my Department was a telephone call on 16th December, 1968, which was the day before the Second Reading. I want to make this quite clear, because it would be wrong if people went away with the impression that there had not been consultation on this matter.
Subsequently, in the course of the Committee proceedings, much consultation took place and many representations were [column 396]made. As a result, we decided that it would be too complex to try to amend the existing Bill in order to produce the safeguards and changes which most people wanted, and that the best way to proceed was to produce the new Clause and the new Schedule.
First, I want to refer to the question of the justification for any public control at all. The whole basis of the Bill is the assumption that in an area such as London there must be comprehensive policies for planning and operating all the interrelated elements in the transport system, including traffic—and a major part of the control of traffic movement is the control of parking. In particular, it has become clear over the last few years that parking is much more important, in terms of traffic management, than was ever previously realised.
The 1963 Buchanan Report on “Traffic in Towns” says:
“It appears absolutely essential that the public authority should retain complete control of:— (i) the amount of parking space that is provided, (ii) its location, and (iii) the charges that are levied, and it should be prepared to use its control methodically as part of the implementation of the transportation plan.”
In 1967 a further study was commissioned by my predecessor, which recognised that some restraint—deliberate or through congestion—was inevitable in big towns. The study suggested that the most promising method of deliberate control was better control over the location, amount and use of parking space, both off and on the street, and that this was particularly needed to restrict long-term parking by commuters.
In our view the need for action was obvious, and the White Paper, Transport [column 397]in London, made it quite clear that we were going to introduce measures to control the use of publicly available off-street car parks, whether publicly or privately owned. These proposals are the ones before the Committee today. Under the proposals the G.L.C. and the London boroughs will, subject to safeguards to which I shall refer in a moment, jointly operate a licensing system. The G.L.C. will have the strategic role of defining the area to be controlled and the general conditions to apply to it, and the boroughs will apply the system locally and issue the individual licences.
The intention is that through this system the local authorities will be able to influence, by regulation or price, or a combination of the two, the volume and composition of traffic in the interests of more efficient movement over a wide area of London. We are talking here of parking policies designed to affect movement far away from the car parks themselves, and over a much wider area.
A licensing scheme has several objectives. One is the control of the volume of traffic on radial routes into Central London during peak hours, so as to cut down congestion and reduce the economic losses that it represents. Another is to limit peak-hour car commuting on radial routes, so that they can be used more efficiently by public transport. A third is to encourage the provision of car parking space which can be used by residents, thereby reducing the need for street parking.
I should add that while the effects of parking policies may cover a very wide area, the G.L.C. has in mind initially to control an area of about 10 square miles in Central London.
Next we come to the question of the important checks and safeguards for protecting the legitimate interests of private operators. These provisions are comprehensive; that is why the new Schedule is so long. As a result of discussions with the interested parties many changes have been made since the Second Reading debate, and I am quite sure that the present draft provides as fair a system as possible. But this has been achieved only at the cost of some complexity.
The basic safeguards are, first, that an operator who objects to any of the provisions in the G.L.C.'s regulations can make representations, which have to come [column 398]to the Minister who, if he thinks fit, will call the Regulations in, in whole or part, and make any modifications which he considers appropriate. The Minister can hold a local inquiry if he wishes.
Secondly, when an operator comes to apply for a licence and objects to any of the conditions put in it by the borough, or indeed by a refusal to give a licence at all, the applicant will have another channel of appeal to the Minister, who will again be able to insist on remedial action. The Minister has power to call for a hearing or a local inquiry.
Despite these applications to the Minister and the ability to call for an inquiry, if, at the end of the day, it is concluded that the wider interest of the general public must override those of the operator concerned, it will be open to the operator to put in a claim for compensation, as laid down in Part IV of the new Schedule.
In total, this adds up to a very fair set of safeguards. The G.L.C. must have control over off-street car parking, for the reasons which I have given. These reasons have been accepted by virtually everybody who has considered the problem of urban congestion. On the other hand, the private operator is entitled to expect that he shall have the opportunity of appeal and objection, and those safeguards are written into the Bill. It is against this background that I invite the Committee to consider the new Clause and Schedule.
Mr. R. Gresham Cooke
This extraordinarily complicated new Clause and Schedule—nearly 550 lines of closely-packed print, or the equivalent of nearly 10 pages of ordinary print—is the most amazing piece of legislation in this amazing Parliament, so noted for its complicated legislation. In my view the Clause will go down in history as the chef d'oeuvre of all bureaucratic legislation and will be held up to ridicule and contempt by the A. P. Herberts of the future. When we look at it closely we see that it is the most Draconian piece of bureaucratic legislation since the introduction of the Land Commission, and betterment levy.
Despite what the Minister says, I believe that those responsible for establishing car parks in London were not consulted in the early stages, when Clause 36 was first introduced. There may have been some consultation after [column 399]that date but the first the providers of off-street car parking saw of it was on the Order Paper of the Bill. It is most surprising that these providers of off-street car parking should not have been consulted.
National Car Parks Ltd. was started in 1948 by two young fellows working on bomb sites and collecting the sixpences themselves—a most praiseworthy effort in providing a service to the public. In the last three years they have established 147 parks in London. In the last six years they have gone from 31 parks to 147. Their efforts are so highly regarded by large financial interests that the I.C.I. pension fund has invested £3 million in their company, by way of loans. Their efforts have provided a real service to Londoners. As a London Member I have helped them on one or two occasions in their efforts to obtain sites, and I have used their car parks where there were none before.
Not only that: the organisers of this company have worked closely in contact with the local authorities. In fact, 80 per cent. of their car parks are linked with local authorities in some way or another. It is right that they should work closely, because some very technical problems have had to be solved. For instance, in Cavendish Square, Queensway, Portman Square and Young Street, National Car Parks Ltd. surrendered its freeholds or leases to the local authorities and took the car parks back on a managerial basis from the local authorities. It cannot be faulted for not having worked in with the local authorities. It is therefore very surprising that there was no consultation.
My experience, for what it is worth, is that many local authorities are very grateful for the private providers of car parks. I think that the one in Abingdon Street is sometimes used by visitors to this House. Whatever one might say about it, the Clause is really trying—as the Minister has said—to regulate the numbers of parking places available for short-term, long-term and other categories of parking.
In one Schedule the authorities brought in to operate this system are the G.L.C., the local authorities, the Minister, the Minister's Inspector and, in certain cases, the courts and the Lands Tribunal. This complicated procedure will put an end to the future development of car parks in London, because it will not be possible to obtain building finance under the terms [column 400]of this Clause, owing to its complicated procedure.
The whole Clause is calculated to discourage investment in future car parks. It talks of five-year term licences, short-term parking, long-term parking, casual parking and regular parking, in an area where investors really look for about a 20-year investment. These 525 lines in the clause and the Schedule introduce the tightest possible control of charges, the proportion of parking spaces for casual and regular parkers, the time of opening and closing, the manner of informing customers, and the inspection of books of account by anyone—not, apparently, in confidence. All these things will frighten off the investor.
Is the main object of the Clause to frighten off the commuter motorist? If it is, why not say so outright, and put a tax of £25 or £50 on anyone who wants to enter Central London, and be done with it? That suggestion might be a fit subject for one of the “instant” statements by the Secretary of State for Social Services in the House. I believe that this is really the object that the Minister has stated today.
In a recent report the G.L.C. said:
“It is the Government's intention to give the Council and the borough councils powers to control the use of public car parks by varying times and charges to meet variations in local need. This will give the authorities a management tool to restrain the use of motor cars in favour of public transport” .
If that is so, the motorist commuter should have been given a chance to make his case. There should be a procedure by which complaints can be met. I am talking not about the providers but about the users of the car park. Is it not desirable for the public to have the opportunity to speak if these private enterprise car parks are to be semi-public activities in future? 10.45 a.m.
Why should not we rely on the existing planning control and planning provisions for the control of these car parks? The Government are attempting to divide motorists into sheep and goats—into those parked for under and over four hours. As I see it, when local authorities set up their car parks, they will not be controlled; they will be in competition with private operators, who will be put under the most amazing bureaucratic control.
I believe that the object of the Clause is first, to frighten off the commuter and, [column 401]secondly, so to control the provision of car parks that the operators of off-street car parks will be swamped and strangled, and future developments of these car parks will be brought almost to an end. I suggest that the Clause and the Schedule should be rejected and re-thought from the very beginning.
Captain Walter Elliot
I want to support my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke). I agree with much of what he said. This is a vital Clause. It will give the G.L.C. and the borough councils the power to say who and what shall use the roads in the Greater London area. It will affect not only operators and private motorists in the Greater London area but others living far outside it.
The Minister referred to representations made on the Clause, and seemed to argue that because he had not received any early on—I believe that he said he received only one, from the National Car Parks Ltd.—there was no particular interest in the Clause, and that it could not therefore be considered of overriding importance. That is a wrong view. The vast mass of private motorists are not organised to make representations like this. They may never have seen the Clause; its potential may never have sunk in. Unless we publicise it to the limit of our ability, only when it is in operation will they find out what it means—and I have no doubt that many of them will be greatly upset.
I agree that some control is necessary, though it is arguable how much. I have argued for such control in the past. We probably all agree that traffic management is necessary—that there should be “No Right Turn” signs; one-way systems; “No Entry” signs, and so on. These restrictions are necessary. It is now generally agreed that on-street parking restrictions are necessary because we do not want to impede the flow of traffic. It can be argued that roads are not constructed for the purpose of putting stationary vehicles on them; they are there for the traffic to flow along.
But the controlling of off-street parking is a very different matter. The control of both on- and off-street parking puts an authority in a position to control who and what uses the roads. That is all very well, but it opens the way to high-handed, dictatorial, bureaucratic control. That is [column 402]what I am nervous about. I think that that is the wrong way of going about the matter.
I have argued in the past, and I still argue, that if we had a really efficient public transport system we would find private motorists and freight operators turning to it, because it is really more expensive to use the private motor car. Looking at the matter purely from a cash point of view, the cost of petrol, depreciation, the cost of the licence and insurance, and all that sort of thing, as well as the expense that one's wife or family probably incurs from staying at home and having to use a bus for shopping, and so on, make it more expensive. It is certainly more fatiguing to use a car in much of the present-day traffic conditions.
If we can provide an efficient public service the motorist will turn to it, leaving his car off the streets, and thereby giving us a good chance of achieving what we all want—a reasonably fast flow of traffic without a mass of dictatorial, bureaucratic interference. That is what I should like to see the Minister going for, but I am sorry to say that he does not seem to appreciate the position.
I have questioned the Minister in the House—though I have not got very far—about the work of the London Transport Co-ordinating Committee, which was established by his predecessor with a great flourish. It is a high-powered committee, comprising among its members my good friends Harry Nicholas and Sid Greene. I wonder whether those two now realise that they are on the committee.
Order. I am sorry, but I cannot see anything about that in the Clause.
I am sorry if I am going a little wide, but I am arguing on the basis that the Minister's approach is probably wrong, in that it would certainly have been better if we had tried to tackle the problem by improving the existing public transport services in London. I have referred previously to the vicious circle, with public transport becoming even worse, and private individuals therefore using their motor cars, making the roads even more congested. I have argued that this vicious circle ought to be broken.
A great deal could be done by co-ordinating and improving the Southern [column 403]Region services and taking motorists off the road, by co-ordinating between bus and railway services, developing the Arrow services, considering where railways should cease to pick up passengers coming into London, leaving them to be carried by buses, and so on. I see no signs that the Minister has been under-taking any such co-ordination. If the Clause is forced through it will not exonerate him from his responsibilities for co-ordinating the present services, so as to improve them to such an extent that the motorist will leave his car at home and transfer to public transport, so that the Minister may find that the G.L.C. never has to implement the Clause at all.
Mr. Leslie Huckfield
Speaking under a special Ministerial dispensation, I really am surprised at the hon. Gentleman asking my right hon. Friend to co-ordinate London transport services. If my ears do not deceive me, and they normally do not, despite the fact that I usually sit two benches back, I have heard you every single morning in this Committee——
Order. The hon. Gentleman has not heard me.
I apologise, Sir Beresford. If the hon. Gentleman really thinks that we do not need to have control of parking in Central London, and that this is an appropriate field for private enterprise to fill, I respectfully suggest that he should read some of the speeches made in the past by his hon. Friends. We are dealing with a situation in which a private car park operator is making his profits at the expense of the community—[Interruption.] I dispute the fact that these operators are providing a service. When I go to Heathrow I have to pay. I have no choice about it. When I go to Euston I have to pay. I have no choice about it. I do not see why people should be allowed to do these things, and should be allowed to charge prices which are not subject to extensive controls.
My main point is that if we are going to have parking facilities in Central London—and we must have them—they must be controlled far more strictly than they are at the moment. I have a fundamental objection to a private operator coming along, grabbing a piece of land which the community as a whole has made valuable [column 404]and, because he has been quick enough to get that piece of land before somebody else, going ahead and making money at the expense of the community.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
In the one or two cases where I helped my constituent—who is connected with this Company—the sites were empty, awaiting re-development. It was providing a great service to the community to get these sites free for parking.
I suggest that it would have been an even greater service if people had been allowed to park on these sites free, which is certainly happening in Birmingham and Coventry, and I hope that it continues to happen in many other places that I know.
For the hon. Gentleman to come forward this morning and pose as the great defender of National Car Parks Ltd., who is at the apex of this, to me, really destestable industry, is basically objectionable. If he is going to argue that we must have control of all the other services but do not need to have control of parking he is not even being rational. I would have thought that even he would realise that since it is very difficult to control moving traffic we must have some kind of control of the traffic which comes to a halt—in other words, parked traffic.
For hon. Members opposite to suggest that we have only to improve public transport services to make private motorists leave their cars behind is surely flying in the face of every piece of evidence that has been produced from Europe and North America. The evidence suggests that if public transport services are improved there is a marginal switch from the private car to public transport, but that if we really want to achieve the kind of decrease in private traffic that the hon. Gentleman wishes to see we have to do a lot more than improve public transport services.
Therefore, in view of both the philosophy advanced from the benches opposite and the weird and peculiar advocacy of co-ordination that we have heard from those benches, I an solidly behind the proposed new Clause.
Mr. Michael Heseltine
I was interested in the observation about the special dispensation which permitted the hon. [column 405]Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) to intervene. The only other thing which coincided with that observation was that the Minister stopped swinging his spectacles. I should have thought that that was a particularly rash activity to be engaged in this morning. If the Minister believes in investing in the future he has chosen something which has escalated by 25 per cent. overnight. It is a very sound investment and we congratulate him. I am not sure that he will feel quite the same about the speech of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), which was not exactly a sound investment.
It was a helpful speech because, if nothing else, the hon. Member for Nuneaton introduced a note of realism and integrity into the debate. We are now quite able to understand what lies behind the general tone of Clause 36, or of the new Clause that we are now discussing. I hope that the Minister will be able to explain exactly why he found it necessary to permit his hon. Friend to intervene, and will also make it quite clear to us whether he stands behind the deep-seated hatred which the hon. Member for Nuneaton has for National Car Parks Ltd.
I have heard the hon. Member for Nuneaton make speech after speech in which—usually quite irrelevantly—the name of National Car Parks Ltd. is dragged in. The only thing that matches the hon. Member's determination to drag in National Car Parks Ltd. is the slanderous irrelevancies with which he always describes its activities. Today is no exception. To put forward the idea that this company is in some way behaving in an undesirable way, and has somehow failed to provide a public service over the 20 years in which it has been operating in the main cities of this country, is simply completely to misunderstand the way in which that company has operated. It has provided a legitimate service by developing that for which there was a real demand and which was completely within the requirements of the law and completely suited the demands of local authorities. If this is not a fitting operation for a private organisation to operate in, I can think of no organisation that could act in this country without the sort of attack which the hon. Member has subjected it to.
It is obvious that the hon. Member is seeking not to control traffic but to [column 406]control the National Car Parks Ltd. as a private organisation, and prevent it from acting at all. His is a totally mixed motive. I am glad that it has been clearly revealed by the hon. Member for Nuneaton, because he then went on to reveal the other facts of life. I am sympathetic to the general philosophy behind what he said, in that I understand it. I do not say that I agree with it, but I understand it.
Basically, we are now confronted with a situation in which the London Transport Executive finds that the only way in which it can develop its services and hope to balance its books is to eliminate any other service that might compete with it. It is clear that the hon. Member for Nuneaton realises that public transport is a dead duck, in terms of attracting people to it by the quality of its service and its reliability. In order to make quite sure that the decline is halted it is to be made very difficult, if not impossible, for people to use any other form of transport, presumably with the exception of their own feet. They must then use the services of the Executive.
That is what the hon. Member for Nuneaton has said, and at least it provides a coherent Socialist plan, which we can understand. I hope that the Minister will agree that the idea of competing for people's services on the London Transport is now at an end. It is formally admitted that it is necessary absolutely to control the alternative means of transport—the car—in the way that the Clause will do.
The allegation made against the Minister is that he did not consult the interests concerned when drafting this legislation. Rather than explaining how late it was the consultations took place it would have been more helpful if the Minister had simply admitted what we have always said, namely, that he did not consult anybody. He did not, and he knows it. I know it because I was one of the first people to ring up some of the organisations involved in this field and ask, “Have you seen the small print in the legislation?” —[Laughter]—and they could not believe me.
I am interested in the hilarity shown by hon. Members opposite. I do not know what they have got to laugh about. If they think that it is not the duty of somebody interested in transport on the Opposition benches to consult interested parties where the Ministry has failed to do so, I disagree with them. It would seem behoven upon me to investigate the [column 407]activities of the Ministry and to see whether it is doing its job properly.
When I asked the people involved in car parking, “Do you think that this legislation, as drafted, is a good idea, and is helpful to the industry and is helpful to the problem of the travelling public?” I received the reply not “Yes” , or “No” , or “In part” , but “What legislation?” . That was the legislation that the Minister alleged had been the subject of detailed consultations. The Minister knows that the original Clause 36 was drafted and produced before there was any consultation with the industry. If the Minister could rest behind the philosophy of caveat emptor, or whatever the Parliamentary equivalent is—that is, the duty of industry to inform itself what the Government are doing—that would be a legitimate defence. But that was not the defence that the Minister chose to use. He said that there was no consultation until very late in the day. That is right, and it is a grave reflection on the public relations activities of the Ministry, if nothing else, that there was no such consultation.
The question has also been asked, “Why cannot the Ministry or the G.L.C. deal with this situation under existing planning provisions?” —because car parking is very tightly controlled under local authority provisions for general planning. Many of us remember the way in which planning powers were used just a few years ago to make sure that there was additional parking. It was only ten years ago in London. Every time somebody wanted to put up a building or anything like that, the local authority chaps on the other side of the water were absolutely adamant that there must be a fixed ratio of car parking units to go with every additional unit of accommodation. It was all very tightly controlled and worked. The authority was able to use the provisions of planning legislation in order to deal with the situation.
That fad has gone. Now we have a new fad—the alternative situation. No parking at all is to be provided from now on. That is a matter of policy. I have not heard a coherent argument put forward to show why the same machinery that was used 10 or 15 years ago to increase parking cannot now be used with equal efficiency to reduce parking. The provisions exist. The same methods could be used.
I do not want the Committee to lose sight of the danger that in using measures [column 408]of this sort the people who produce the latest transportation plan can get the facts wrong. They often do get them wrong. One of the tributes to National Car Parks Ltd. and other organisations in the same field is that over the years they have made good deficiencies in car parking facilities which had not been made good by anybody else. There has been a very real public demand for the services which they provide.
Reference has also been made to the question of the provision of privately-raised finance for development. The Minister must know that there is private investment in car parks and I hope that he will explain whether he sees a future for private investment in car parking—whether he wishes the public sector to assume the future development of all car parks, as a charge on the ratepayer or the taxpayer, or believes that the private sector can reasonably be expected to go on doing so.
If he believes that it is desirable for the private sector to go on doing so, will he be kind enough to tell the Committee what consultations he has had with those people who have already invested money in car parks, and what he believes their general attitude to be about the attractiveness of car parks as a form of investment? My information is that it is now less attractive: it has now become an industry into which it is probably advisable not to put money, because within a few years a local authority or Government organisation may suggest that the owners of private car parks should be bought out, admittedly with reasonable compensation.
Investors do not want to be bought out and receive compensation; they want long-term investment, where they know their money is safe and that they can rest secure in the knowledge that it will not be interfered with. I hope that the Minister can explain his attitude to the future use of private investment in this field.
What advice has the Minister been given about the possibility of using the detailed controls which the regulations will provide? I understand that the intention is to divide car parkers into various groups—short-term, long-term, weekly, monthly and daily, or whatever it may be, and presumably evening car parkers as opposed to those who park in office hours. A whole range of possible groups of people could be subdivided.
Has the Minister considered the difficulties that will confront an organisation, [column 409]faced with inspection—an organisation with between 140 and 200 cars parked in its car park? Somehow or other it will have to explain to a Ministerial or G.L.C. inspector that a certain car is parked for 24 hours; the one next to it has been parked for three-and-three-quarter hours, and is going in a quarter of an hour's time; the one next to that has been parked for four-and-a-quarter hours, and that although the owner is a four-hour parker he has just rung up to say that he has had an accident and will be arriving in ten minutes' time to take his car away. The inspector will be told, in respect of three other cars, “We are very sorry; these three people promised they would come back last night, but they have not turned up.”
This is what happens with parking. I have talked to people who run car parks and they tell me this is the sort of problem with which they are confronted. The only way in which a person can deal with the situation is to adopt the system commonly used and with which every hon. Member here will be familiar, namely, to give the car owner a ticket when he goes out and take his money when he takes his car away. That system allows the degree of flexibility which, Heaven preserve us, we are all entitled to in our daily lives.
We often do not know—and do not want to know—for how long we are going to be parked. We have a whole range of activities for which we need flexibility. It is very difficult to control people who are the recipients of 200 units of our flexibility. The mind boggles at the problems that will confront the inspector. But he has not much at stake—nor has the member of the public who parks his car.
The man who really has problems is the operator of the car park, because he, if he finds that he cannot control all of us, is the man whose licence will be at stake; he will find himself reported, possibly fined, and possibly threatened with licence withdrawal. We are all largely uncontrollable with the precision which it will be necessary to inject into these regulations if they are to have any meaning at all.
The enormous number of cars—I do not know how many, but the Ministry will know; perhaps a million cars in Central London on any given day—all these cars will in some way be brought within the general ambit of this legislation. [column 410]When all the tiny problems to which I have referred are multiplied, this will be an extremely difficult piece of legislation to enforce and control. Probably, what the Ministry has done here—perhaps in the regulations, it will have the sense to avoid the worst pitfalls—has been to try to do the job in too much detail. It has tried to cover every conceivable loophole and every conceivable contingency, with the result that it will defeat its own object in trying to secure the control it wants. I sincerely hope that something will be done about it in the regulations.
Now, the question of the local authorities as opposed to the G.L.C. As I understand it, the G.L.C. will lay down the strategy. I think that those are the Minister's words, and in the context of this legislation they make sense. The G.L.C. lays down the strategy, but the local authority carries out the strategy, devising the details of the proposals which go to build up the general strategy. I think that that is how the plan works. The difficulty with which we are confronted is that the local authorities are the owners and operators of car parks in certain circumstances. Therefore, at one end of a road one may have a local authority-owned and operated car park. At the other end of the road, there is a privately-owned car park. The local authority has to make regulations for the way in which it shall be operated. There is nothing in this Bill of which I am aware—perhaps the Minister can correct me—which says that the local authority has to apply the same regulations to its own car park as it applies to the one run by the private owners. This is an extraordinary state of affairs.
With the best will in the world, the temptation to adjust regulations to make sure that the empty local authority car park on one side of the road is able to siphon off some of the traffic from the full privately-owned car park on the other will be more than human nature, in certain circumstances, can resist. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that my general contention is right, that a local authority can apply different regulations to its own car park even though that car park is within spitting distance of a privately-owned car park subject to other regulations.
We all realise the problems of congestion, the need for traffic management and, [column 411]probably, for some sort of parking control. I do not dispute that. But this Clause, probably because of an attempt to do the job too thoroughly, defeats its own object. I hope that the Minister, if he will not agree to the lengthy Amendments which we shall argue in detail, will watch for the pitfalls which will await him in applying the Clause.
A great deal of heat has been engendered over this new Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) made his characteristically energetic speech about National Car Parks. Hon. Members opposite rushed to the defence of National Car Parks. I am totally neutral as regards National Car Parks. I do not think that I have ever met anybody from National Car Parks——
That is the trouble.
Or had any connections with its car parks as opposed to anybody else's car parks. This is not an argument for or against any particular car park company. Neither is it an argument about whether we should have more car parks or fewer car parks. It is accepted by virtually everyone who has ever looked at the problem of urban congestion that one cannot have traffic control without some control and regulation of off-street car parking. There is no question of using this Measure to try to force the motorist off the road. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must get it clear. The motorist will not be able to travel in London unless there is some traffic control. I am always receiving complaints about the problems which the motorist faces, but if one took this to the extreme, if one took all the motoring restrictions off for 24 hours, no motorist would be able to move in London, such would be the congestion. One of the ways by which we have been able to maintain traffic flow in Central London has been by continually introducing or changing restrictions on vehicles. The vehicles themselves cannot travel unless they are restricted.
I am not arguing that we do not need restrictions. As I said earlier, [column 412]we have restrictions in traffic management and so forth. I have no doubt that the Minister has read the recent forecasts of population for Central London. There are forecasts that it will fall. If that is taken into consideration, one does not need to impose Draconian measures on the private motorist, shutting him out when he has no efficient alternative. The right hon. Gentleman ought to take that sort of thing into account.
With respect, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has got it wrong. On any forecast, the number of vehicles licensed will increase. The mileage per annum of those vehicles also will increase, both figures probably tapering off to some extent in about the mid-1980s. This is a growing problem. It is a major problem to enable people to use their cars. It is not a question of “shutting the motorist out” . We have to produce a situation which enables the motorist to travel. The intention is not to shift them all on to public transport. There will be no need to do that. Ninety per cent. of commuters come in to London by public transport now. There is no question of trying to take a slice of the market. Our purpose is to enable London to continue to have free-moving traffic.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he was not violently opposed to some sort of traffic management. As Miss Rice-Davies said once, “He wouldn't, would he?” . It was under the Conservative Road Traffic Act, 1956, that we first had controls over car parking. It was recognised at that time—I pay tribute to it—that car parking is an essential feature of traffic management. We cannot have traffic management without a car parking policy. This the G.L.C. recognises—and it is totally right—that it could not operate these powers without some control over car parking of this kind.
Obviously, some legitimate questions are asked. Is the object to frighten off the commuter motorist? Is this some great piece of legislation to keep motorists out of London? Of course, it is not. What is intended is to create a pattern of private car movement so distributed that it enables private cars to go on moving. There are plenty of easier ways of stopping the private car, if that were the object of the exercise. It is not the object of the exercise.[column 413]
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Has not the Minister said that it would actually reduce the number of private cars in certain places?
I start again. It is not intended to reduce the total number of private cars.
It must be.
No. What it does is to redistribute the movement of those cars, so that they are moving in a particular pattern which enables the traffic to flow. [Interruption.] I ask the hon. Gentleman to read the Buchanan Report, or anything which has ever been written on this subject. There is plenty written about it.
The Minister must be realistic. We have argued before, in the Chamber as well as here, about the question of staggering working hours. The right hon. Gentleman himself said from the Front Bench that we had been trying to do it for 40 or 50 years. The fact remains that we cannot beyond a certain point stagger working hours. It is no good the Minister saying “redistribute the pattern” , suggesting that, if a man cannot travel to work by car at, say, 9.30, he will have to leave his car at home.
I do not want to go round in circles, although I should like to talk to the hon. and gallant Gentleman at great length about this topic. For example, the man who is commuting cannot commute unless he has somewhere to leave his car. He cannot leave his car somewhere if the space is already occupied by somebody who is just using it as a permanent garage. He cannot commute if the roads are so blocked because there are inadequate off-street car parking facilities. This whole scheme facilitates movement. What is intended here is not a total reduction in the amount of car parking space but a recognition that car parking space has to be provided in a pattern which results from a deliberate policy designed to enable the motorist to travel around London. That is the reason why it will not put an end to private investment in car parks. I see nothing wrong in private entrepreneurs running car parks and making a profit, but I find the suggestion that they are doing this as some sort of social service for the nation is a little far-fetched. However, there is [column 414]nothing wrong in people having initiative and providing these facilities because they make a profit, and also providing a service at the same time. This is perfectly legitimate, but one does not have to elevate them to philanthropists. There will be investment in car parks because it will still be a profitable undertaking. There will still be very considerable need for car parking space, and the licences can be provided for an indefinite period precisely to enable them to have this long period to look forward to.
I am asked, “Why not use the existing planning Acts?” . The reason is that the planning Acts would not meet this particular problem; they are designed for a different purpose altogether. The controls in those Acts relate primarily to matters like amenity, land use, balance between different kinds of development in different parts of the locality, and the general planning requirements of the whole area. They are designed for a different set of problems from those which we have here, and for a different purpose.
The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) asked what would be the position of a local authority running its own car parks. I stress again that it would be to the advantage of the local authority and the Greater London Council to operate the regulations not for or against any particular car parks but to secure the most beneficial traffic management scheme. This problem is dealt with in subsection (12) of the new Clause:
“The local authority for a controlled area shall have regard to any regulations for the time being in force under this section when exercising in that area any of their functions under sections 28 to 32 of the Act of 1967; and where a public off-street parking place is provided in a controlled area by the local authority under the said section 28, any such regulations shall apply to the operation of that parking place, with such modifications (if any) appearing to the Council to be necessary for the purpose as may be prescribed, as if that parking place were being operated under a licence granted by the local authority.”
There is no incentive here for the local authority to take what would be an absurdly short-sighted view. This is not an attack on car parks; the aim is to have them operated in the best possible way. The individual operators cannot possibly do this job. They cannot do it, because the only people who can see the flow and can see the whole problem are the people charged with the job of traffic management in London.[column 415]
The Minister's reply is helpful, but I have one question. In the event of a private operator appealing to the Minister under the appeal provisions and being able to show that the local authority was using its own discretions unfairly in relation to the private operation, would the right hon. Gentleman regard that as a legitimate area for intervention by the Minister?
I should have thought, without taking any advice on the legal aspects of it, that there could be no suggestion that the purpose of this Bill is to inveigle publicly operated car parks to be run on the basis of unfair competition against privately operated car parks. The purpose of the Clause is to obtain an instrument of traffic management. The powers are wide. They are wide because there will be a number of options which the local authorities and the G.L.C. may want to use separately, together, or in varying combinations.
We have had an interesting debate on this Clause, and I do not for one moment dispute that it is an important Clause. As regards discussions, there is no point in going into who should have raised what with whom, since the first references to these provisions were in the London Transport White Paper in July of last year. The first representations which we had were the day before Second Reading of the Bill. Resulting from those discussions comes this large and comprehensive new Clause which is designed to meet many of the representations and fears which were expressed to us. The Committee is now faced with a new Clause which is essential to the Bill and essential for the Greater London Council. Understandably, it is not welcomed with wild cheering enthusiasm by private operators of car parks, but, in my view, it contains safeguards which will ensure that their businesses are not endangered.
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher
We have had an interesting discussion, and it is not finished yet. The Richard MarshMinister put up a number of irrelevant arguments, saying that we were arguing about whether control was necessary or not. We are not arguing about whether some control is necessary.
I went round a number of car parks yesterday. I had a look at one provided [column 416]by a private operator under a London square. In order to provide that car park, under existing legislation, he had to obtain six different consents. There is, therefore, a great deal of control already. He had to obtain planning permission. That planning permission, under town and country planning law, was granted subject to a condition attached to the grant that a certain number of spaces be allocated to long-term and a certain number to short-term parkers. The control already exists. If that is all we need, we do not need this Bill to reinforce it. Second, he had to obtain two byelaw consents under the London Building Act, Section 20 and Section 34. So there are three consents controlling car parks already under existing legislation. The next consent he had to obtain was under the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act, 1928, if storage of petrol underground is required. That is the fourth control existing already. The next consent he had to obtain was under the London Squares Preservation Act. There is a fifth control existing already. The sixth was under the Building Control Act. I hope that that will no longer be necessary.
There were five permanent consents he had to secure under existing legislation before he could start on that car park. They were worth securing because they were consents which, once obtained, were obtained permanently. That would not be so under the new Clause, although the Minister spent some time talking about safeguards. The safeguards in the Clause are virtually non-existent. Under the Clause compounded with the Schedule, a licence can be revoked or varied at any time. We are not, therefore, arguing about whether controls are necessary. For that car park which I visited yesterday, consents already had to be obtained under six different provisions of five different Acts. There is a great deal of control. 11.30 a.m.
We have had a little debate already on the objectives of this new Clause. Let us look back to the White Paper on London Transport. At the bottom of page 16, one finds an innocuous little paragraph of 55 words or so which says this:
“Arrangements will be made for more effective measures to rationalise the provision and operation of off-street parking space: this may mean licensing publicly available off-street parking [column 417]facilities (whether publicly or privately owned) so as more effectively to control their capacity and charging arrangements, and thus ensure proper balance between short- and long-term parking supply.”
It “may” mean further control, not “will” . There is only one objective stated there, to
“ensure proper balance between short- and long-term parking supply” .
That is the entire objective. But there is already that control under the planning permission system in so far as new car parks are required at the moment. The Minister goes “blabbing” on about the pattern of private car movement so distributed as to enable traffic to keep moving. He has that control under the town and country planning law for the provision of car parks. He could say that he wanted car parks in so many places, have tenders put out to private developers or the local authorities, and ask them to give permission for car parks in certain places. He would produce the pattern exactly as he wished to have it.
The only objective stated in the White Paper was to
“ensure proper balance between short- and long-term parking supply” .
But that is not an objective at all; it is a method of achieving another objective. Then what is the true objective? One goes back to page 15. This appears to be the true objective:
“The Government intend that the Council should be able to control the major patterns of movement in the metropolis” .
That appears to be the true objective, but it is a very long cry from that objective of this Clause.
Of course, it is. I shall try to show that it is. If one wants to control patterns of movement in the Metropolis, the first thing to do is to get the cars off the streets. The first thing to do is to control parking on the streets. But that is not the subject of this Clause. That objective is a long way from a Clause dealing with control of off-street parking. The first thing to do to reach that objective is to use the already extensive powers to control on-street parking so that the roads are used for the movement of traffic and not parking. Until one has dealt with [column 418]that—and the local authorities have extensive powers to deal with it—the Minister has no business to bring in a Clause as Draconian as this. The first objective, if one wants to control the pattern of movement and produce freer movement and less congestion, is to deal with on-street parking. If attention had been paid to that, we should not have been dealing with this Clause at all.
How is it proposed to control off-street parking? Bearing in mind that there are already extensive controls on off-street parking, I shall come in a minute to some of the details of the Clause. But first a major point. It has not yet been mentioned, but the Clause extends to the ordinary car parks available to the public and also it crosses over the statutory powers of other bodies. Parliament has already laid duties upon the British Airports Authority and upon British Railways. They have to break even. They have to make the best use of their assets. The Clause cuts deliberately across statutory duties which we have given to other bodies. They are no longer to have power to use their own land for car parking purposes as it fits their own objectives. Under this particular Clause the Greater London Council, aided and abetted by the Minister, will come in and cut directly across the statutory powers which we have given to those bodies. As I see it, the G.L.C., aided and abetted by the Minister, could go to a car-parking station in a commuter area and tell British Railways exactly how they should operate their car parking facilities.
I should think a great deal more of any statutory authority if it kicked up a fuss and said to the Minister, “Make up your mind. You cannot lay a duty upon us and at the same time cross it with another piece of legislation which prevents us from carrying out our duty” . There is a well-known method of dealing with this kind of conflicting interest between statutory authorities. The Minister has not taken that method, although it is well known and is used in cases of land compensation when there are conflicting interests between authorities. Why has he not taken it? His advisers will know about it perfectly well.
Now, I come to the details. All this is to stop congestion and to control the pattern of movement in the Metropolis. How is the Minister to do it? He has planning permission as a major instrument [column 419]of control. He can at the moment control long-term and short-term parking as a function of planning. He then wants a lot more powers. For example, the powers under subsections (4) and (5) of the Clause enable the authority to prescribe in a licence the close detail of the operation of a car park, closer detail than I have ever known in any legislation. Although I do not know every Act of Parliament, if I were responsible for putting through a Measure of this kind, providing these powers, I should expect the whole of my own party and a large number of hon. Members opposite to object and say, “No” .
Let us see what the right hon. Gentleman is doing. He has control over long and short-term parking already. Then he wants price control. From there, by a peculiar sequence of thought, he says that there must be conditions about how the accounts are kept. Then, again, by a further peculiar sequence of thought, he says that if there are conditions about how the accounts are kept and there is price control, one must enable anyone from the authority to go in and inspect the records and take extracts from them at any reasonable time.
Those are powers in excess of police powers. If any policeman turned up at a business and said, “I want to inspect your accounts and take records from them” , the owner of that business would at once say, “I shall get on to my solicitor straight away. You cannot do that without a warrant, unless I am under grave suspicion for fraud or wilful default” . Not even the James CallaghanHome Secretary has asked for these powers in connection with police matters. They are in excess of the powers of the Inland Revenue. The Inland Revenue cannot send along an officer and ask instantly to inspect any records or accounts. The Minister is demanding powers in excess of Inland Revenue and police powers. Yet he says that this is an innocuous, harmless Clause. Does he know what he is doing?
I doubt that the members of the G.L.C. know exactly how far these powers go. Does the Minister know? Did he know what he was asking for? Let us have it clear. The Minister is happy, and even anxious, to grant to officials of another authority powers in excess of both police and Revenue powers, enabling a representative of another authority to inspect accounts and records, and to snoop to an [column 420]extent we have never never known in this country.
Let us apply the same line of argument to a pharmacy business. There is a certain amount of control. The pharmacist takes money for the dispensing of prescriptions. Therefore, the Government must specify that his accounts be kept in a certain way. Therefore, they must enable anyone from a local authority or hospital management committee to go and look at his accounts and take records at any reasonable time. As far as I know, there is no legislation to that effect. Similarly, I apply the argument to an estate agent. There are certain laws against key money. There are certain laws about fair rent. Therefore, we must have a person from a Government Department or local government department going into the estate agent's office, looking at his accounts, and taking records. I do not think that any estate agent on the G.L.C. would agree to that any more than any pharmacist on the G.L.C. would agree to it. Similarly, it could be said that, as a solicitor receives money under legal aid, we must, therefore, go and see that he is not charging more than he is entitled to charge; his accounts must be kept in a certain way, and someone be able to go in, from the Attorney-General's Department or the Lord Chancellor's Department, to see that he is not receiving more, look at his accounts, and take records. That is asked for in this Clause. It is an absolute nonsense.
If one wants to deal with congestion in London, one must first deal with on-street parking. When one has dealt with on-street parking, one can then turn to the really extensive powers which already exist. We shall never deal with on-street parking unless there is much more provision of off-street parking, and there will be no more provision of off-street parking under this Clause.
I have a letter here from one car park operator, not National Car Parks Limited, saying that he had looked at the Clause, and—
“I can illustrate the inefficiency of the drafting by pointing out that the dustman can be given powers under subsection (5) of the Clause to enter upon and inspect a licensed parking place and have produced to him any accounts or other records that must be kept in connection with the operation of that parking place.”
He says earlier:
“The Clause will strangle the future development of public off-street parking places and it must be made clear to the members of your [column 421-422]Committee that it will not be possible to obtain building finance for a car park that will be subject to the fetters of this Clause.”
There are already very extensive provisions. I fail to see why we should give any such Clause a Second Reading until on-street parking is dealt with, or any Clause which grants to an authority powers in excess of police or Inland Revenue powers.
Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 6. Division No. 18]
Boston , Mr. Terence
Brown , Mr. Bob
Coleman , Mr. Donald
Fletcher , Mr. Raymond
Huckfield , Mr. Leslie
Lewis , Mr. Ron
Marsh , Mr. Richard
Ogden , Mr. Eric
Berry , Mr. Anthony
Elliot , Captain Walter
Grant , Mr. Anthony
Greham Cooke , Mr. R.
Heseltine , Mr. Michael
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, Amendment (a), in line 3 after ‘section’, insert:
‘provided that the Council shall not designate as a controlled area or include in a controlled area the whole or any part of any aerodrome (as defined in the Airports Authority Act 1965) owned or managed by the British Airports Authority in the exercise of its statutory functions;’.
After that illuminating debate and the speech, on which I congratulate her, of my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), I must point out to the Committee that we are here talking about the specific problems of Heathrow airport which is owned by the British Airports Authority. The British Airports Authority petitioned the Select Committee, when it was considering this hybrid Bill, against being brought into the Clause at all, but it was refused a hearing by the Select Committee on the ground of want of locus standi. This is, therefore, the first opportunity for its case to be put.
The British Airports Authority is constituted by the Airports Authority Act, 1965, and under Section 2(1) of that Act a duty is laid on it to provide such services and facilities as are, in its opinion, necessary or desirable for its operations. Under that duty, it has provided many car parks of all types. The British Airports Authority has built up London Airport at Heathrow to be the largest international airport in the world. On a busy day, it handles about 35,000 passengers. The nation has invested £50 million in the airport. It provides some £70 million a year in wages and salaries for people who work there.
The important point for this argument is that the B.A.A. is the highway authority for the airport, and it provides ground and multi-storey car parks for both its staff and passengers, and its roads cover an area 4½ miles square. As we have heard earlier, the G.L.C. is the highway authority for the Greater London area, and it seeks to deal with parking related to its own highways. If the principle be right that the highway authority shall be the parking authority, it must equally be right for London Airport. It would be wrong to split the functions up, as this Clause would do, by having two authorities for London Airport, one a highway authority and one a parking authority. This is completely wrong, in my view, but it will happen under the Clause. As I understand it, the G.L.C. and Hillingdon and Hounslow Borough Councils could bring three-quarters of London Airport under their control, including the vital central area which would come within the controlled area. Therefore, these councils could dictate the number of car park spaces as a whole, particular categories of parker, and so on.
Has the British Airport Authority failed in its duty to provide parking space in London Airport since it was constituted? I think not. One sees the great growth of multi-storey car parks every time one goes to London Airport. There are, in fact, five multi-storey car parks built by the British Airports Authority or by its predecessors. There are four service car parks as well, and the staff have the use of the four service parks and two of the multi-storey parks. Travellers and business users have the use of the three other multi-storey car parks. [column 423]
I claim that there is a great difference between the problems of the G.L.C. and those of the Airports Authority. The G.L.C. is considering urban traffic, commuters, the Central London area, shoppers and visitors. Therefore, as the Minister says, it divides parkers into the two categories, those parked for under four hours and those parked for over four hours. That is understandable. At the airport, however, the problems are different. First, there are the short-term visitors who come to bring or to meet passengers; they are there for under one hour, generally. Then there is the staff who work an eight-hour shift; they have to be provided with eight-hour parking. The great majority of passengers on domestic flights have to be provided with car parking for up to 24 hours. The long-term passengers are provided with car parks for over 24 hours.
One can see that the problem is completely different at London Airport from the problem faced by the G.L.C. Heathrow is open and busy 24 hours a day. Its car parks have to work 24 hours a day. It would be absolutely wrong for Hillingdon, Hounslow and the G.L.C. to dictate the number of car park spaces and the categories of parkers at London Airport. It has nothing to do with them. Parliament gave the British Airports Authority the function of providing a smooth and efficient ground transport system. which it provides—bus routes, car routes, commercial vehicle routes, and parks. Those are all within their present powers.
Let me explain to the Minister how complicated this specialist problem is. No doubt, as an air passenger, he recognises it as much as anybody else. In eight years, the system of parking has been changed 13 times to meet the changing needs of the airport and building developments. The new freight building on the other side of the airport alone brings a host of problems for that part of the airport, quite different from the passenger problem.
It is interesting to see where the passengers come from. Half the passengers to the airport come by car from their homes in a widely dispersed area throughout the whole of the Home Counties and elsewhere. That is not generally appreciated, but it has been so for a long time. Of the other half, 60 per cent. go to and from hotels in Central London, and 30 per cent, outside Central London, but—and [column 424]this is the interesting part—of those who go into the Central London area and out again, most go by bus, not by car. Only 12 per cent. of the total number of air passengers go to and from Central London by car. So only about one-tenth of the London Airport problem really affects the G.L.C. when one comes down to the question of car traffic. The problem of the passengers has very little to do with the G.L.C.
Now, the workers. Of the 42,000 workers, 80 per cent. live within a radius of eight miles round the airport. Some come from my constituency, but about half of them come from areas outside London altogether, from Slough, Windsor, Colnbrook, and other places outside. We know that about three-quarters of these workers come by car, but they are on shift work, spread all over the 24-hour period——
I realise that this is a complex matter, but staff car parks are not covered by this Clause.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I am very glad to hear that. I am sure that the British Airports Authority will be pleased to hear it, because it was not the impression which I had. I shall not then go into the complicated problem of staff car parking on the shift system.
If the G.L.C. is to start interfering with the car parking arrangements at Heathrow, the consequences could be disastrous. Heathrow is the third largest port in trade value in the country, earning millions of dollars and foreign currency. If parking arrangements were to be upset for all these passengers, visitors, business users and so on, it would be a severe blow to the administration of London Airport.
I am sure that the whole principle of this Clause is wrong in its conception and it is unworkable in practice. It goes against the spirit and principle of the whole Bill, which is to deal with the commuter and traffic problem in and out of Central London. It also brings into question of principle, the conflict of two legally constituted authorities in the London area. No doubt, my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who is a barrister-at-law, will be able to deal with that problem later on. I move that London Airport parking arrangements be excluded from the G.L.C. area.[column 425]
Mr. Eric Ogden
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has raised some persuasive arguments. I congratulate him on the amount of information which he has given, and also—I hope that this will not embarrass him—on the persuasive manner in which he put his argument. It seemed that he was trying to persuade the Committee, and I found it a pleasant change from the harangues earlier today. There may be a time to lecture a Committee or to be bitter and abrasive, but not, I suggest, after a late night on the Post Office Bill. If the intention is to persuade, that is not the best way of going about it.
I have one question to put to the Minister. So far, I am with the hon. Member for Twickenham, but airports, at times, seem to be one mass of cars, lorries, vans, motor coaches and motor cycles parked all over the place. Will the Minister give an assurance that the control of car parks does not include the control of cars parked. I hope that there will be no attempt by regulation or otherwise under the Bill to say that the airport must not put a service car here or there for two minutes, or a charabanc going to a particular terminal building, but it will be limited to the actual car parking rather than where a particular service van or lorry should be parked at any given time.
Mr. Anthony Berry
I want to raise one question with the Minister. We are all aware of the problem of the third London airport. Whether it be Foulness or any of the other places which are being considered is a matter for much more detailed discussion, but I do not imagine, whichever site is chosen, that it will be within the area of the G.L.C. Are we to have the car parking arrangements at the new London airport run by the local authority in that area or run as laid down in existing airport regulations by the British Airports Authority? It will be a most untidy confusion if the Airports Authority is to run the car parking arrangements at the new airport and yet be deprived of its responsibilities at Heathrow. It seems right that one should learn from the experience of the other, that the same authority should run the car parking at both airports, that authority being the British Airports Authority.
The fears which have been expressed are unjustified and needless. [column 426]In reply to the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry), the regulations are not designed to control car parking in airports; they are designed to control traffic flow in and out of London.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) gave us some interesting figures about the people travelling to and from London Airport. He spoke of the number coming from the Home Counties, but a large proportion of those people pass through London. An airport the size of Heathrow is a very significant generator of traffic. But it is not proposed necessarily to apply these regulations. What we are saying is that, when the Greater London Council comes to extend its area of control—at the moment it is thinking in terms of about 10 square miles, which would not involve Heathrow—in some years to come, it will be able to discuss with the British Airports Authority the parking controls which they may or may not need, because by that time the traffic movement in and out of London Airport through London will be even larger than it is now.
The Amendment does not seek to deal with London Airport per se. It deals with the British Airports Authority. We have now reached a situation in which we have a trans-Atlantic aircraft taking off from the centre of London. This is a significant development. In a few years, with the coming into operation of vertical take-off aircraft, we may well find the British Airports Authority operating these aircraft within the London area. We may well find the British Airports Authority operating heliports within the London area. It would be quite unrealistic to exempt what might be a busy heliport or vertical take-off airport in the London area, attracting and generating a great deal of traffic, exempting it for no other reason than that it was part of the British Airports Authority. 12 noon.
If the hon. Member for Twickenham, as he said, is opposed root and branch to the principle of this Clause, then, obviously, he carries that objection to the application of it anywhere. If one accepts the Clause, however, there is no justification for excluding the British Airports Authority.
But there is, because the British Airports Authority has statutory duties laid upon it by Act of Parliament.[column 427]
Mr. Gresham Cooke
It is the highway authority.
I was about to come to that point.
It has been argued that there is now a conflict of statutory duty, that on the one hand, the British Airports Authority has its statutory financial and other duties, and in the course of performing those duties it would decide, among other things, on particular patterns of car parking, whereas, on the other hand, here we are giving powers to the Greater London Council to take issue with the British Airports Authority. All the statutory authorities find themselves faced with other statutes with which they have to comply, but they will have the same safeguards in this as anybody else.
The British Airports Authority will have the safeguard if these regulations are introduced or applied to it. Certainly, this might not be for some years, and perhaps even not at all.
We have here created two distinct authorities, both with duties over the same area. This is quite different from someone having so to arrange his action as to be in accordance with certain other regulations. There is a direct conflict. Two authorities have definite duties with regard to the same area. In carrying out those duties, they may proceed on a collision course. In such a case, as for example, when one authority wishes compulsorily to acquire land belonging to another authority, there is the well-known Special Parliamentary Procedure for the matter to come before Parliament, with Parliament having power of decision.
With respect, there is only a clash if, first, the G.L.C. attempts to apply controls over the car parking at London Airport, and, second, if the application of those controls has an adverse effect on the financial obligations of the British Airports Authority. If it does not do so, there is no clash, because it is causing no problem. If it does do so, the British Airports Authority is perfectly entitled to appeal in exactly the same way [column 428]as anybody else is entitled to appeal. It is entitled to appeal to the Minister. The Minister can call in the regulations if he so wishes. This would be a perfectly legitimate objection, and, if it was suffering damage to its business, it would, presumably, be compensated in the same way as anybody would be if he suffered financial loss. So there will be no conflict regarding the interests of the British Airports Authority.
It is just not practical to say that these large generators of traffic should be little islands not subject to the regulations which apply to the rest of the area within which they operate. I would have thought that the national authorities, reasonable as they are and used to dealing with public bodies, would be perfectly capable of agreeing with the Greater London Council on anything which the Greater London Council wanted done in this respect. There will be no great feud. But if they do not agree, the Clause gives sufficient protection.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Every block of flats or hotel with its own private car park is a generator of traffic. Surely, the Minister will not bring under control the private underground car parks in blocks of flats.
I am still rather mystified by the Minister's attitude. We have the double “ifs” . He is laying down these provisions in the new Clause. Therefore, we have to assume that they will be applied. If they are never to be applied, there is no point in discussing them. So he is envisaging the possibility that they will be applied. Then, says the right hon. Gentleman, if the Airports Authority does not agree with what the G.L.C. wants to do, it can appeal to the Minister. I do not understand that at all. The Authority has duties laid down in the Airports Authority Act, 1965, to provide services and so on, and it has power to do what is necessary to facilitiate the discharge of its duties under that Act.
This is exactly what it would appeal to the Minister about. It would say, as the basis of its appeal, “That which the G.L.C. requires of us conflicts with our statutory obligations, or our business” .[column 429]
I am surprised that the Minister, who has brought in such important legislation over the last 12 or 18 months, should envisage the possibility of that happening. I do not understand how he can support a complete clash between two Acts of Parliament. They will be directly opposite to one another. I do not see how, as a responsible Minister, he can institute legislation which is exactly opposite to an existing Act of Parliament.
If I may answer the last point, it is the Opposition who are claiming that this clash will occur. It is the Government who are saying that it will not. Our reason for not accepting the Amendment is precisely that we do not believe that there will be this problem. If regulations of this kind are being drafted, there may be many concerns to which the regulations may well not apply, and this may well include car parks operated by the British Airports Authority. I do not know, but I imagine that it will be a long time before the G.L.C. applies these provisions as far out as Heathrow. But what we are being asked to do is to exclude certain concerns from these provisions straight away. I am quite sure that this clash will not occur.
The Richard MarshMinister is getting into a really woolly-minded muddle now, in his usual ingenuous way. He has produced a Clause which is inherently capable of clashing with an existing Act of Parliament. If the powers are not used, there will be no clash. All right. So the first problem is to exclude the powers. No clash. That should be our Amendment. If he accepts that—fine. The second possibility is to recognise that, if certain acts are done under these powers, there is the possibility of a clash.
He accepts that. He accepts the possibility of a clash. We should be very unwise if we did not make provision for that possibility. His answer is, “The Minister has power to decide which Act of Parliament shall go in abeyance” . This is the whole basis of his argument: “I, the Minister, shall have two Acts of Parliament. Two authorities come before me. The G.L.C. [column 430]will say, ‘We want to do this under our powers in this Act’. The Airports Authority will say, ‘We want to do this under our powers in this Act’. I, the Minister, shall have power to say which Act of Parliament shall go into abeyance” .
Yes, that is the basis of his answer on an appeal. It is not good enough. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean, then, by saying that there is an appeal to the Minister? There is an inherent clash of two duties. The Minister ought to say, that if there is a clash of this kind—and it is inherent in this Clause that there could be—Parliament must decide. That is the right answer. If he says that on Report he will bring forward the well-known Parliamentary procedure, invoking the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, which enables Parliament to decide matters of this kind, we shall withdraw this Amendment. But we cannot withdraw it if any Minister says, “They can appeal to me, and I shall decide which is right between two Acts of Parliament” . He should have a look at the Special Procedure, under which the Order has to be laid before Parliament, a petition can be presented against it, the petition be referred to a Committee, and, if the Minister wishes to act contrary to the Committee, he has to introduce a Bill. In that way, Parliament has the decision between two conflicting Acts of Parliament. That is the right way to go about it.
On these occasions, the hon. Lady shows the difficulties of dealing with women on this kind of subject, because she starts by stating a case which I do not accept, and she then proceeds, not surprisingly, to have a great deal of fun with it and proves conclusively that it is wrong. I have not said, and do not say—because it would be quite wrong for anybody to take that view—that the Minister has the right to decide which of two Acts of Parliament shall take precedence. He has not got that right. What the hon. Lady may think will happen is one thing, but what I am saying is something different. I have said—and on this I agree with her—that a Minister should not have that right; nor do I think a Minister can have it. [column 431]
The Airports Authority has a statutory obligation to take on and to meet certain specific financial obligations. I do not believe that any scheme of parking regulations, if applied, would affect those financial obligations. If it did affect them, the Minister has no power under this Clause to say, “Despite the financial obligation in the Act on the British Airports Authority, I shall decide to give it a miss this week” . These statutes have to come before Parliament, and Parliament has already decided. The Minister would have to say to the Greater London Council, “Under the powers which I have in this Bill, I cannot allow you, the Greater London Council, to pursue these regulations because they clash with the statutory duty of the Airports Authority” . The hon. Lady is a knowledgeable constitutionalist on these matters. She knows that she is putting up a hare which will not run. No Minister could claim that he could choose which Act of Parliament he would accept. Parliament has already decided this. Parliament has placed financial obligations on the British Airports Authority and no Minister can say, “The G.L.C. wants to establish some parking controls, so I am afraid we shall have to knock off the financial obligations for a while” . A Minister could not do it even if he wanted to; and I think that he would be mad to want to do it.
What would happen in such circumstances, if there were a dispute? I do not think that it would arise, because the Greater London Council is a large, sophisticated body and recognises the problems of these things, but if it did arise, the basis of the appeal to the Minister would not be, “Please may we carry out our financial obligations?” , but, “Will you accept that this regulation clashes with our financial obligations?” . In those cases, the Minister has no alternative but to say to the Greater London Council, “Sorry, you cannot continue with this regulation” .
At the same time, the G.L.C. would argue that it clashed with its statutory obligation. That is the reason for appeal to the Minister.
No. The statutory financial obligations on the Greater London Council relate to the undertakings which it has in respect of the London Transport [column 432]Executive, and that is not involved in this argument. The Greater London Council in the hypothetical dispute which breaks out, or is postulated, puts forward its proposition to the Airports Authority. The Airports Authority argues with the Greater London Council—it is pure hypothesis, in many years to come—that it does not want to do it that way because it clashes with its statutory duty. This would normally be something which could be conveyed to the law officers of the Greater London Council and taken on board pretty quickly. If there were any argument about it, the Minister has the power, and, in my view, the obligation, to stop the regulations of the Greater London Council, because he cannot impose upon the British Airports Authority something which directly prevents it from carrying out its statutory duty.
I now have some important traffic figures. On the traffic estimates that we have—this is looking forward from 1966 to 1981—the total traffic entering London Airport on a summer weekday was 38,000 in 1966, and total traffic estimated by 1981 is 76,600. The peak hour flow of traffic entering London Airport, which is obviously very important, was 5,200 in 1966 and will be 10,100 in 1981. The total number of cars parked at the Airport in mid-morning in 1966 was nearly 13,000. These are very large numbers of cars indeed, coupled with the fact that, by 1981, there may be other airport centres in London.
In short, the peak demand for parking at London Airport in 1981 is estimated to be about one-fifth of the total traffic demand in Central London. Against figures like that, if one accepts the Clause, it would be totally unrealistic to exempt the British Airports Authority, and nobody else, from its provisions when the British Airports Authority is probably the largest single generator of traffic in the Metropolitan area.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I do not want to become emotional about this because I do not want the Minister to be emotional. I want him to look at it coolly. As the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) suggested, let us look at it impartially. [column 433]
Let us suppose that this had been a Private Bill promoted by the G.L.C. One knows the procedure in the Private Bill Committee. The British Airports Authority would have petitioned against it. All the arguments would have been listened to, and the chances are that there would have been the usual protective Clause excluding the British Airports Authority. But because this is a Public Bill, that procedure cannot be invoked.
Will the Minister think about this for a moment? As my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said, if there is a conflict between two Public Acts, there is the Special Statutory Order procedure under the 1945 Act. It is quite often invoked. For instance, it was invoked on the Pipe-lines Act, 1962, the Harbours Act, 1964, the Gas Act, 1965. It is often used in the acquisition of land where there is conflict between two public bodies over acquisition. It was brought into the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946.
There is a case for looking at the airport case again and coming back on Report. I am certain that, if it had been a Private Bill, the Authority would have had a protective Clause. But, because it is a Public Bill, we have got on to this rather hot argument. There is a case for taking it back and looking at the Special Procedure covering conflict between two Public Bills.
If the Amendment were accepted and the British Airports Authority was excluded, would that establish a precedent so that any similar body operating in a different field, say, for example, road or rail transport? What about Euston Station? If we exclude the airport, someone will come along and say, “Why not exclude Euston station, Waterloo, King's Cross, Paddington?” —or the N.C.B., the North Thames Gas Board, the C.E.G.B. Would it not enable other authorities to say that they were in a similar position? By giving exemption to the airport, one is saying that the planning and controlling authority can be different simply because different bodies are operating. This would throw the whole field wide open, and, by the time whole chunks of areas had been taken out—stations, road transport, and the rest—the purpose of the exercise would be defeated.[column 434]
We have at least established that the senior Act will be the Airports Authority Act. If appeal goes to the Minister, and he will decide in favour of that Authority, that merely confirms my view that our Amendment is necessary to the Clause.
The Minister has just given us some interesting figures. Substantially, I accept them. They show the great importance of tackling this problem of traffic at Heathrow Airport during the years ahead. I remind him of what the London Transport Board said on page 43 of its 1968 Report:
“At the end of 1968, a Government decision was still awaited on the two schemes for rail links with Heathrow airport … Meanwhile the Board continued to stress the advantages to the 60,000 workers at the airport, as well as airline passengers and visitors, of the short direct link between Heathrow and the Underground system … The link could be built quickly at relatively low cost and would provide facilities over a wide area without the problems of road congestion inherent in the concentration of facilities at a large in-town terminal.”
If the figures which he has quoted are so important, the Minister should bear in mind the need for an early decision on those two matters.
One last word. I now have the Airports Authority Act, 1965. Section 2(1) gives the functions:
“It shall be the duty of the Authority to provide at its aerodromes such services and facilities as are in its opinion necessary or desirable for their operation …”
Then, subsection (2):
“In carrying out that duty the Authority shall have regard to the development of air transport and to efficiency, economy and safety of operation.”
Subsection (3) also is relevant:
“The Authority shall have power to do anything which is calculated to facilitate the discharge of its duty under this Act.”
So all the Airports Authority has to say to the Richard MarshMinister is, “The Act says that we can do what in our opinion is necessary” . It is,
“such services as are in its opinion necessary or desirable for their operation” .
Then, according to the Minister's reply, he is duty bound to say to the G.L.C., “You cannot do what you want under your statutory powers because it conflicts with what the Airports Authority in its opinion thinks is necessary” . The Airports Authority can stop it, in any event, unless it has its agreement. If that is the [column 435]case, its agreement could just as well be obtained by voluntary arrangement as under a conflicting statutory power.
The Minister should look at this again. The Airports Authority petitioned against this Clause, and it has not had its right to have the petition heard. If the Minister does not do that, we shall have to vote in support of our Amendment.
On a point of order, Sir Beresford. It seems that the Government have got themselves into a muddle. The position appears to be that two public authorities acting under their statutory responsibilities can approach the Minister with an appeal. I want to know whether the Minister has a legal right to rule in favour of one or the other. I suggest, Sir Beresford, that we send for a Law Officer to rule on the legality——
Order. That is not a point of order.
That last point brought back happy memories to me of the Transport Bill and the Steel Bill, except that in both those cases the customary demand was for a Scottish Minister. I think that the Committee is agreed that, whatever else we may have our disputes about, nobody is asking the Secretary of State for Scotland to come into this argument. It is a purely London argument.
It is the Opposition who have got themselves into a bit of a muddle. They are making much heavier weather of this than is justified. Duties and obligations placed upon the British Airports Authority are in very general terms, and they are similar to those which are placed upon many other nationalised industries. Obviously, anything within those obligations is still subject to the rest of the law. Publicly owned industries are not above the normal law. The British Airports Authority may have a very strong case for deciding, for example, to extend its runway, but it cannot do so without planning permission from the local authority under the planning Acts. This is no different. It has to work within the framework of the general law.
I know that the British Airports Authority got rather excited about this subject. If I thought that this would create the enormous difficulties which it foresees, obviously, I should not proceed [column 436]with it. It will not cause those difficulties. It does not raise massive constitutional Parliamentary problems. It does involve, in 1980 or so, one-fifth of the total traffic in London.
Time is going on. If the Minister cannot be generous, I can. We shall have a look at this between now and Report, and reserve our position, in order to facilitate consideration of the next Amendment.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, Amendment (b) in line 14, leave out ‘other than’ and insert ‘including’.
If agreeable to hon. Members, we shall take at the same time the following further Amendments:—
Amendment (p), in line 126, leave out subsection (12).
Amendment (q), in line 126, leave out ‘have regard to’ and insert ‘comply with’.
Amendment (r), in line 130, leave out from ‘place’ to end of line 131.
Amendment (s), in line 132, at end insert:
‘(12A) The provisions of Part VI of Schedule 6 to this Act shall have effect with respect to the making of objections by the holder of any licence to operate a public off-street parking place in a controlled area or any other person entitled to an interest in the premises used for the purposes of that parking place, to the terms and conditions on which the use of parking spaces at a public off-street parking place provided by a local authority under section 28 of the Act of 1967 in that area is offered.’
Amendment (o), to the new Schedule, in line 367, at end add: ‘Part VI
Right of objection with respect to operation of public off-street parking places provided by local authorities
1. If a person who is the holder of a licence to operate a public off-street parking place in a controlled area, or any other person entitled to an interest in the premises used for the purposes of that parking place, is aggrieved by any of the terms and conditions (being any term or condition which may be imposed in relation to licensed parking places in that area and being in this Part of this Schedule called “the local authority's terms and conditions” ) on which the use of parking spaces at any public off-street parking [column 437]place provided by a local authority under section 28 of the Act of 1967 in that area is offered, he may make written objection to the Minister.
2. Any objection made under paragraph 1 of this Part of this Schedule shall be expressed to be made on the grounds that the licensed public off-street parking place of the person making the objection cannot by reason of any of the local authority's terms and conditions be operated in accordance with the terms and conditions of the licence for that parking place to such advantage or potential advantage or potential advantage by reason of unfair competition inherent in the local authority's terms and conditions when compared with the terms and conditions of the licence with respect to that parking place.
3. A person making written objection under paragraph 1 of this Part of this Schedule shall, forthwith after the objection is lodged, send a copy thereof to the local authority as to which the objection is made and the Minister shall not proceed to consideration of the objection until such period for consideration of, and comment upon, the objection by the local authority as the Minister thinks reasonable has elapsed.
4. The Minister shall, if either the person making the objection or the local authority as to which the objection is made so request, afford to each of them an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by, a person appointed by the Minister for the purpose.
5. The Minister, after effect has been given to paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Part of this Schedule, shall either—
(a) approve the local authority's terms and conditions; or
(b) give to the local authority such direction with respect to the alteration of the local authority's terms and conditions as seems fit.
6. A direction given under the last foregoing paragraph to a local authority must be in writing and must specify a date for its coming into operation and the period from that date during which it is to have effect, and the authority shall comply with it.
7. If a local authority fail to comply with an obligation to which they are subject by virtue of the last foregoing paragraph, they shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine.’
Mr. Gresham Cooke
This will not create as long an argument as the last, but it is an important point. The object of these Amendments is to ensure that local authorities operate their own car parks just as strictly as their own regulations require private operators to do. In other words, it is a measure of social justice—and the Minister and the Labour Party are keen on social justice. The students also always remind us about it. This is a very fair-minded Amendment.
Amendment (b) by itself would simply include local authorities in the legal obligation to comply with the regulations made under this Clause, that is, those placed on private operators by subsection (2). If this is accepted, the further [column 438]Amendments will be unnecessary. If Amendment (b) is not accepted as it stands, there is another way of getting at it. Amendments (q) and (r) would strengthen the requirements of subsection (12) in relation to the local authorities by obliging them not simply to have regard to their own regulations but to comply with them. Amendment (r) would remove the power of the Council under subsection (12) to make special modifications in the regulations as they apply to local authorities.
I move my Amendment in order to bring the local authorities within the ambit of these regulations and to bring about a measure of social justice between them and private operators.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)
There is no real point of difference between the Government and the Opposition on the intention of these Amendments. But the Amendments would not achieve the effects intended. Amendments (b) and (p) would cause the London Boroughs, as the licensing bodies, to license their own operations, that is, to pay themselves fees, issue themselves licences, and give notice to themselves to vary or revoke these licences. Surely, the hon. Gentleman is not seriously suggesting that we should introduce this Gilbertian situation.
Amendment (q) is unacceptable on technical grounds. The boroughs' car parks will not be licensed, and it would, therefore, be impossible to require them, by a form of words, to comply with the regulations. Subsection (12) meets the intention behind the Amendment, and the boroughs are required under this subsection to observe any regulations applying to the operation of car parks. Amendment (r) has been largely dealt with in a previous debate. Suffice it to say that any unfairness can be dealt with by the Minister.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I am glad to hear the Minister say that we are at one in trying to make the local authorities obey their own rules, as it were. I cannot quite see how this obligation is placed on them, but he has said that, and it is on the record. I shall study it afterwards.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.[column 439]
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, Amendment (c), in line 17, at end insert:
‘Provided that it shall not be unlawful to operate any public off-street parking place otherwise than under such a licence for any period not exceeding three years from any date whereof notice in advance and in the prescribed form is given by the person operating the parking place to the local authority.’
The purpose of this Amendment is to give the small operator on a temporary site, such as a demolition site, permission to have a short-term licence without all the complicated procedures. My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has talked about the complicated procedures which an off-street car parking operator has to undergo. The intention is to enable a small operator on a temporary site to avoid all those procedures. I hope it will be the intention of the Government and the Council to exempt small operators from all the six steps which have to be taken by the large-scale operators.
As the Amendment stands, it would enable a private operator to give notice to his local authority, run his car park for three years, give notice, and so on indefinitely. But I give the hon. Member an assurance that the Minister accepts that temporary car parks might not need to be subject to the same restrictions as permanent ones, and, therefore, in subsection (3) he has specifically provided for the issue of a short-term licence for periods of up to five years. With that assurance, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be able to withdraw his Amendment.
Why should it be necessary to have a licence at all in this case? If there is to be a distinction between normal licensing and the short-term operation, it would be much easier to exclude licences for short-term operators altogether. That would make it unnecessary to have any form of control, which must cost some money and which has certain disadvantages attached.
May I explain the sort of problems involved? A person wanting to operate a short-term licence for, say, a demolition site needs to make quick decisions. Properties of this sort come on to the market, people wish to make decisions regarding their acquisition, and there is [column 440]great competition for this sort of opportunity. It will be difficult for them to make decisions if they have to find out about licences and the rest in the meantime. It must have the effect of making that sort of competition very difficult in practical terms. Perhaps half-a-dozen or more people all discover the same site, and they are all clamouring to get hold of it. But no one knows whether he can get a licence.
Second, if there are to be these short-term licences, are they to have the same sort of conditions imposed upon them as are prescribed in the rest of new Clause 2? In other words, will there be distinctions in long- and short-term parking and that sort of thing?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the licences referred to might well be granted on more generous and less restrictive terms than permanent ones. This is one of the ways in which the Minister has elaborated the scheme so as to have not only an effective control system but a flexible one, which can be tailored to the circumstances of individual car parks. I am sure that the G.L.C. would treat reasonably the type of case to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
We have heard the assurance given by the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not wish to waste the time of the Committee, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, Amendment (d), in line 21, after ‘fee’, insert ‘(not exceeding £5)’.
We have heard a good deal this morning of the animosity felt opposite—the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) has given vent to it—against private car park operators. There is a good deal of fear that the fee to be asked of these operators may be very large indeed, much more than just a nominal fee. If so, it would become a kind of tax. It would be easy for some authority, particularly if the political colour of the authority over the river were to change, to put up the prescribed fee to astronomical heights, making it a heavy tax. [column 441-442]
I am probing to learn what the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind. There are all sorts of licence fees required of various people in the London area, for music and dancing, café clubs and so on, which are fairly nominal. I hope that he will say that this fee will fall within that area. If it is not to be a nominal fee, we shall have to oppose it. It would give considerable alarm to operators if it were anything more than nominal. I suggest that £5 is the maximum that the figure should be.
It is made clear in subsection (3) that the fee is only intended to cover the administration expenses of the local authority in operating and licensing the scheme in its area. The fee is not to be used as any form of taxation. I think that clears up the point which the hon. Member made. Fees to cover such expenses cannot seriously be represented as crippling in the context of the sort of turnover involved in providing off-street car parking. I would, therefore, ask the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Could the Parliamentary Secretary give us an idea of the figure to cover administration expenses? There are not many operators. There are only about 150 car parks in London. If all the expenses of a large department are to be spread over three or four operators, the fee could be very large indeed. The expenses of the vehicle licensing department, for instance, which has several hundred people in it, when spread over a few operators in the London area could produce an astronomical figure. Will the Minister give us an idea of the sort of fee he has in mind?
Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8. Division No. 19]
Berry , Mr. Anthony
Elliot , Captain Walter
Grant , Mr. Anthony
Gresham Cooke , Mr. R.
Heseltine , Mr. Michael
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Boston , Mr. Terence
Brown , Mr. Bob
Coleman , Mr. Donald
Fletcher , Mr. Raymond
Huckfield , Mr. Leslie
Lewis , Mr. Ron
Marsh , Mr. Richard
Ogden , Mr. Eric
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, Amendment (e), in line 25, at end insert:
‘(3A) Where under subsection (3) of this section the local authority decide to grant the applicant a licence subject to conditions, or to refuse a licence, they shall state in writing the reasons for their decision.’
If agreeable, we shall take at the same time Amendment (w), in line 71, at end insert:
‘(6A) Where the local authority decide in pursuance of subsection (3) of this section— (a) to refuse an application for a licence; or (b) to grant a licence subject to any conditions which they are not required by regulations under subsection (6) of this section to impose with respect to any of the matters referred to in subsection (4)(c) (i) to (iv) of this section, they shall inform the applicant in writing of the reasons for their decision.’
Mr. Gresham Cooke
As we know, these procedures will be extremely complicated, with large sums of money involved. The I.C.I. pension fund, for example, has £3 million invested in car parks in London. There may be appeals on the subject of car parks. Obviously, a telephone message from the G.L.C. or local authority to the operator just saying that the application has been turned down would be absolutely out of place in such a matter as this. The grounds for refusal should be put in writing so that the applicant, if he wishes to appeal, may know the grounds on which to base his appeal.
I hope that the Committee will accept this as a sort of combined operation between the hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and myself, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that, while I agree entirely with what he is trying to do, he is trying to do it in the wrong place and in the wrong way. Subsection (3), while referring to a permanent licence, to a licence for a [column 443]period of five years or less, and so on, does not refer to any conditions imposed in a licence. That comes rather later in subsection (4).
The purpose of my Amendment (w) is to do almost exactly what the Member for Twickenham wants, but to do it in the right place and in the right way. Perhaps we may achieve a degree of unanimity which we have not had before. My Amendment would ensure that, when an application for a licence is refused, as under subsection (3), or when a licence is granted subject to conditions other than those conditions covered by subsection (6)—that is, subsection (4)(c)(i) to (iv)—the local authority must give the applicant the reasons for its decision. More than that, it must not be content with saying that it has used its discretionary powers but it must give the applicant the reason why it has decided to use them. It is as wide as we could possibly take it.
Here is an example of what I mean. Someone makes application for planning permission. It is not enough for an applicant to be told that planning permission has been refused. He has to be told exactly why that planning permission has been refused, and those reasons have to be given in writing so that everybody knows exactly what terms and conditions are imposed, not only under statute but under discretion, too. In other words, the hon. Gentleman and I are both asking for the fullest possible information to be given about any conditions to be imposed. The reasons must be in writing so that it is clear all the way along the line.
If the hon. Gentleman were to accept Amendment (w), he would find what he is seeking by his Amendment (e). It would do no harm to the local authority. It would help in terms of communication. It would certainly help applicants. It would make the working of the Bill just that little bit easier. Finally, it would enable me to say, in this rather interesting week when someone at home asks me what I have been doing, that we have been amending the London Transport Bill.
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) seemed to imply earlier that private concerns providing a service for motorists were somehow engaging in a reprehensible activity, particularly if they made a profit. I suppose that he might, perhaps, be more [column 444]leniently disposed towards them if they made a loss. I believe that they are providing a valuable service, and particularly if they are making a profit.
The preliminary work in acquiring a site, examining it for its suitability, assessing the demand for it, and all that sort of thing may put these concerns to considerable expense. It would be a good thing to avoid that, if possible, and to avoid work for the G.L.C. in considering applications, and so on. If, as cases arise and reasons for refusal or otherwise are given, there will build up a certain amount of case law, if I may so describe it, which subsequent applicants will be able to consider. They may be able to decide that, in the circumstances, it would be useless for them to acquire a site and put in an application for planning permission. This would save a good deal of expense for the firm itself, and work for the G.L.C. in considering an application. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will consider these Amendments sympathetically.
We are at one with the Opposition on the principle of Amendment (e). Unfortunately, the drafting is not satisfactory. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby (Mr. Ogden) for tabling a suitably drafted Amendment which we can accept.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
In view of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, Amendment (f), in line 25, at end insert:
‘(3B) Where a person has, otherwise than in breach of planning control, operated a public off-street parking place substantially over the period of six months immediately preceding the date on which pursuant to subsection (1) of this section the area in which the parking place is situate is designated as a controlled area, he shall, on application made to the local authority under this section before the end of the period prescribed for the making of applications for licences in respect of parking places in operation at that date, be entitled to the grant of a licence in respect of that parking place on terms and conditions not less stringent than those reflecting the user and capacity of the parking place at that date.’
There are a good many parking places in London at present; about 80 per cent. of them are operated in conjunction with local authorities, and all of them [column 445]have had to go through the complicated procedure of planning control and all the other controls which have been mentioned. These parking places in the Greater London area are of immense use to the motorist. It would be idiotic if the Clause were used to get rid of any of these well-liked and useful parking places which are already there. The object of this Amendment, therefore, is to provide that, where there is a public off-street parking place which has been in existence for six months in the controlled area, having been properly operated and not in breach of planning control, it should be equitable for the operators of such existing parking places to be assured of the grant of a licence on terms which reflect the licence currently being operated, so that they may continue to be of service to the public.
I have no doubt that the Amendment is intended to cover bona fide existing operators, but it would open the door wide to abuse. We believe that existing operators' rights are safeguarded adequately and that the Amendment is unnecessary.
That is a totally inadequate answer. A great deal of money has been laid out, and a great deal undertaken, on the basis of the law continuing to be as it was at the time that money was laid out. The safeguards in the Bill are not sufficient to protect either those who are in business now or those who have lent money to finance the undertaking. Indeed, the safeguards are pitiful indeed.
There is a reasonable argument for saying that anyone seeking these powers could quite well start from the point at which the Bill receives the Royal Assent; in other words, existing car parks should be allowed to continue on the basis of the consent they have already obtained. I do not believe that the success or failure of G.L.C.'s wish, or the Minister's wish, to control the amount of traffic on the roads depends upon taking extra powers over car parks already in existence. They would not fail if we managed to exempt from the Bill car parks already in existence. The hon. Bob BrownGentlemen's reply is not adequate and it does no justice to the Amendment.[column 446]
Is the hon. Lady suggesting that, every time an Act of Parliament comes along which would improve fire prevention, industrial safety or safety of life at sea, it would be reasonable to argue that, simply because someone has invested money in a ship, a factory or anything else before the Act came into force, he should be excluded from it? The effect would be to create a situation in London in which one had two different car parks on either side of the road, within spitting distance of one another, as the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) put it, one built in 1968 subject to a certain number of controls and one built in 1969 subject to a different kind of control. That is to put forward the theory that, simply because someone has invested in good faith for a good service the conditions under which he can operate should be different from those operating after a different date. In fire and safety matters generally, it is a dangerous doctrine to put forward.
If the hon. Eric OgdenGentleman relates it to safety regulations, no. No one would think of making that suggestion. But in conditions where already a large number of consents have to be obtained, and where those consents were adequate to achieve the objective, my answer is, “Yes” . If people wish to put up £½ million, or a pension fund wishes to put up another £3 million, on the basis of new law, they should do so knowing what the new law is. But, taking the view we do about this Clause, and the view that the previous consents were adequate, we are certain that existing operators should have greater safeguards than are provided by the Bill. That is the reason for this Amendment.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
I reinforce what my hon. Friend says. The Clause gives the power to revoke licences; in effect, it is bringing about retrospective legislation.
I want to know where the safeguards are. I cannot find them. This is a most serious point. These private car parks may be operating in opposition to the publicly owned car parks. One could visualise the horrible position when, possibly, the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) was in [column 447-448]power in the Greater London Council. If he saw a private car park operator running at a profit—an appalling state of affairs to him; he thinks that loss-making is to be applauded—he would refuse to grant this safeguard for the private operator. This is a most important matter, and I should be obliged if the Minister would point out where the proper safeguards for these operators are.
I was anxious to make progress, but, since the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends do not think that they have had an adequate reply, I shall have to spell out the reasons against this Amendment.
To accept the Amendment would be to open the door to abuse. I suggest that, as soon as word of a possible G.L.C. proposal to designate a controlled area got about, would-be operators, or indeed, mere speculators, would try to jump on the bandwagon of automatic licences for existing car park operators.
In any event, the Minister believes that ample safeguards have been provided for existing operators' interests. They have three means of protection. First, when the G.L.C. draft regulations are published designating an area a controlled one, there is an objection period. All objections have to come to the Minister, who can, if he thinks appropriate, call in the regulations, either in whole or in part. The Minister can then give his consent or refusal to the regulations thus called in or require modifications to be made to them. Before deciding this, the Minister can order a public inquiry to be held.
Second, once regulations have been made designating an area a controlled one, operators have the further safeguard of the appeals machinery in Part III of the new Schedule. They can appeal to the Minister on the conditions imposed by the London borough, and again the Minister has power to order a public inquiry to be held into the appeal.
Finally, and as a last resort, there is the protection to operators of the compensation provisions of Part IV of the new Schedule for anyone who has suffered damage as a result of a licensing decision.
The G.L.C. can make different regulations for existing car parks as compared with new car parks if it considers this to be right. But there is no case at all for exempting existing operators altogether.
To sum up, I do not believe that this Amendment is desirable or necessary. The existing operators' interests are adequately safeguarded, as I have tried to explain. I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would see fit to withdraw the Amendment.
Question put, That the Amendment be made:
The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 6. Division No. 20]
Berry, Mr. Anthony
Elliot, Captain Walter
Grant, Mr. Anthony
Gresham Cooke, Mr. R.
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Boston, Mr. Terence
Brown, Mr. Bob
Coleman, Mr. Donald
Huckfield, Mr. Leslie
Lewis, Mr. Ron
Ogden, Mr. Eric
It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Committee adjourned till Thursday, 8th April, 1969, at half-past Ten o'clock. [column 449-450]
The Following Members Attended the Committee:
Craddock, Sir B. (Chairman)
Brown, Mr. Bob
Elliot, Captain W.
Fletcher, Mr. Raymond
Gresham Cooke, Mr.
Heseltine, Mr. Michael
Huckfield, Mr. Leslie
Lewis, Mr. Ron