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Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 299.


Page 126, line 15, at end insert--
("(4) The purpose of any charges imposed by schemes established pursuant to this section shall be to encourage the use by individuals of public passenger transport services in preference to other forms of transport and regulations issued to establish such schemes shall be drafted, applied and interpreted in the light of this purpose, and any feature of or provision within any purported regulations which is neither essential nor reasonably incidental to such purpose shall be void and of no effect.
(5) In order to fulfil the purpose set out in subsection (4) above, no scheme shall be established which imposes a charge for the use of any road unless it contains a provision for the Authority or any London borough council or the Common Council, as is appropriate (in this Chapter "the charging body"), to make payments to any resident (including the occupier of any business premises) of the area over which they have authority.
(6) The payments referred to in subsection (5) above shall be calculated, as far as is reasonably practicable, to be equal to the charges which would be borne by a person who used the road or roads in question no more than the average during a twelve month period; and the charging body shall review the level of payments each year to ensure that the purpose in subsection (4) is fulfilled.
(7) In order to calculate the payments referred to in subsection (5) above, no regulations establishing a scheme pursuant to this section may be made unless the charging body in question has first conducted research over at least three months into the level of use of the road or roads in question (including such information as the number of persons using such road or roads, the frequency with which they use the road or roads in question, the nature of the motor vehicles used, and the distance travelled by them within the relevant area).
(8) Where the research conducted pursuant to subsection (7) above indicates to a charging body that the payments required by subsection (5) above cannot be calculated with reasonable accuracy, then no scheme relating to the road or roads in question may be established pursuant to this section.
(9) The results of the research conducted pursuant to subsection (7) above shall be available at no charge to members of the public and published electronically by the charging body in a form capable of access by members of the public.").

The noble Lord said: The introduction of road user charging, or of congestion tax as we would prefer to call it, is a significant break with our centuries old tradition in this country that the public highway should be free for use by the public. The Transport White Paper states,


That comes from Chapter 4 of the Transport White Paper, Making it Happen, which deals with changing travel habits, tackling congestion and pollution on local roads.

In other words, the purpose of road pricing is to encourage people to use public transport instead. There is an amendment to clarify that this significant breach of the civil rights of the motorist should be subject to an overriding purpose to combat possible abuse, in other words the use of road pricing to raise funds for other purposes. The Transport White Paper states that road pricing will be based upon mileage travelled, in other words acts to cut down distance which motorists travel. To make this effective without penalising the responsible car driver who cannot avoid using his car, there needs to be a mixture of incentives and disincentives.

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If everyone stopped using their cars and used public transport, London Transport would collapse from overload. I do not know how many Members of the Committee use the Tube but I can say from my personal experience that even travelling outside the rush hour, as I do most of the time, the system is in serious difficulty, particularly with the closure of the Circle Line and, today, with the closure of a major branch of the Northern Line. There are continuous problems. There is simply no more room on the system at, for example, half past eight in the morning. As a regular traveller in the ordinary way, I cannot bear to think that there may suddenly be a huge number of additional people trying to use London Underground.

Therefore, road pricing should discourage excessive use, but not every use, of the road. The amendment provides for payment of a rebate to people likely to be affected by road pricing, the rebate to be based on likely mileage charge suffered by the average road user; the average mileage to be calculated; and so on. Indeed, it requires research to be conducted, as envisaged by the transport White Paper. It would be good to have that research publicly available.

It would be sensible to ban road pricing where an average mileage cannot be calculated because if that cannot be found by research, how can a local authority justify road pricing to reduce congestion?

I turn to Amendment No. 300. The transport White Paper states that,


    "we do not want to restrict car ownership--with our vision for a prosperous Britain where prosperity is shared by all we expect more people to be able to afford a car". That is on page 1 of the White Paper.

Therefore, this amendment seeks to protect the low paid. We suggest that road pricing should be capped to the value of the car. For the most part, cars are a notoriously bad investment and lose value the moment they are driven out of the showroom. Therefore, that cap should be linked to the second-hand value. We suggest that a 1 per cent limit would ensure that road pricing does not put car ownership out of the reach of the low paid. I am sure that the Government would approve of that. Certainly, from their statement in the White Paper, that would appear to be the case. Therefore, we bring forward that suggestion.

The last amendment in the group again refers to the Secretary of State's claim to want an integrated transport policy. The amendment fulfils that purpose by ensuring that road pricing cannot be introduced in an ad hoc manner without proper research into the knock-on effects on other roads. There is that question of other roads in nearby areas. Again, research is required to be published widely as a means of democratic accountability. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: Taken together, these amendments seriously undermine the approach to road-user charging in the capital which we have proposed. Although some of them have a superficial attraction, they do not add up to anything which we could accept.

The first two amendments would allow charging schemes to be brought forward only if they encourage the use of public transport in preference to all other

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modes of transport. I am sure that the mayor's strategy will encourage the use of public transport. The noble Lord is saying that it would not be possible to use those revenues to encourage cycling or walking in preference to public transport or it would not be possible ever, in any circumstances, to use the revenue for road improvements or for improvements which benefited a number of users wider than those who use public transport. That would not be sensible. As I said earlier to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, it is clear that the Government's intention is that the money will be used to promote the mayor's transport strategy in all its aspects. Although a big aspect of that will be the improvement of public transport, other aspects will need to be addressed.

Amendment No. 299 would also require revenues from road user charging to be paid to London residents and businesses. Exactly how much would be paid is not clear from the amendment, but the Government have made it clear that all that money will be ring-fenced for transport for at least the first 10 years. That will ensure that transport services and facilities can be substantially enhanced for the benefit of all Londoners. Paying the money back to Londoners is not appropriate and sits rather uncomfortably with the proposition of the noble Lord that the revenue from any charging scheme should be used to encourage the use of public transport.

The amendments would also require extensive research to be undertaken into the effects of road user charges. Before any road user scheme were to come into effect, the results of that research would be required to be made available electronically. Extensive research has been undertaken by the Government, the previous government and by other bodies such as London First into the impacts of road user charging. The findings indicate that charges can reduce traffic levels in the areas where they are applied, leading to less congestion and less pollution. They can also generate a revenue stream to fund improvements to transport services and facilities.

In addition, the Government are currently undertaking an extensive study to provide information for mayoral candidates on the use of road user and workplace parking charging powers in London. The Review of Charging Options for London study is looking at how charging schemes may work in practice, what impact they can have on congestion and pollution in the capital, and how they would be received.

Representatives of the study's steering group include London Transport, the London boroughs, the transport departments of three universities in London, the AA, the RAC and Transport 2000. The final report is expected in October and will be available to mayoral candidates. Ultimately, it will, of course, be open to the mayor and boroughs to undertake further research. However, the power to decide to undertake that research should not be on the face of the Bill but should be for the mayor and the boroughs.

Amendment No. 300 is extraordinary, unless it is intended to undermine any credibility in the scheme. The amendment would cap the road user charges so that they are levied on motor vehicles at 1 per cent of the value of a vehicle. I am not clear why the value of the

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vehicle should be relevant. The mayor should decide whether or not to place such a cap. Normally the payments would relate to an access charge or a mileage related charge. The idea that it would relate to the value of a vehicle is slightly odd. It must be for the mayor to decide how the scheme would work, but a cap on this basis would be totally impractical. Every vehicle of a different age, type and state of repair would face a different maximum charge. The mind boggles as to how such a scheme could operate.

I do not think much of this group of amendments. I hope that the noble Lord, who no doubt will wish to return to these issues later tonight and at later stages of the Bill, will reconsider his proposal.


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