Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Brabazon of Tara: The amendments were probing amendments. I understand the Government's objection to some parts of them. They have enabled me to have a reply from the Minister on some of the issues involved. I was interested to hear the reply regarding the research and information which will be available to mayoral candidates in October. I wonder whether the noble Lord could make that information available in September so that we may be able to look at it when we return in the overspill period for the next stage of the Bill. Perhaps that is asking too much.

The amendment concerning the value of the car was a little tongue in cheek. I was trying to assist the Government to fulfil their White Paper commitment that they do not want to restrict car ownership. I hope that their vision for a prosperous Britain and the ability to afford a car will be shared by all. I have been interested to hear the reply of the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 228, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 300 and 301 not moved.]

Schedule 18 [Road user charging]:

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 302:

Page 250, line 5, leave out paragraph 3 and insert--
("3.--(1) A charging scheme may be made by the appropriate charging authority only if it appears necessary for the purposes of--
(a) relieving or preventing congestion of traffic on such roads or in the surrounding area, or
(b) securing the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic (including pedestrians and cyclists) on such roads or in the surrounding area.
(2) If the Authority reasonably considers that a charging scheme needs to be introduced by a London borough or boroughs--
(a) because the objectives of the transport strategy cannot otherwise be achieved within the periods specified therein,
(b) to achieve the objectives of any charging scheme introduced by the Authority, or
(c) to achieve the objectives of any other London borough in introducing or proposing to introduce a charging scheme,
the Authority may invite such London borough or boroughs to introduce a charging scheme for that purpose.
(3) If any London borough in question shall fail to introduce a suitable charging scheme within a reasonable period the Authority may, following a resolution of the Assembly to that effect, impose such a charging scheme provided that it shall have no power to do so if such charging scheme would conflict with the local

5 Jul 1999 : Column 695

implementation plan of that London borough or otherwise have an adverse effect on the provision of public transport or management of traffic or movement of pedestrians and cyclists within Greater London.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 302 and in order to save the Committee's time, I shall speak also to a large group of amendments. Most are in my name but one or two are in the names of my noble friends and no doubt we will deal with those as well. I do not intend to deal with all these issues in detail. I believe there is a play in London at the moment called "All Shakespeare in one-and-a-half hours"; these are all my objections to road user charging and work-place parking levy in a nutshell. Again, as on the last amendment, I shall listen carefully to what the Minister says in reply. I will no doubt wish to distil the issue before the next stage and come back with a real blockbuster at that point.

The Bill at present gives the Greater London Authority the power to ride roughshod over the boroughs in imposing road pricing schemes at will. That is undemocratic. The GLA should have the power to impose schemes only in respect of GLA roads or trunk roads and have a reserve power, if necessary, to achieve the objectives of the transport strategy so long as that does not conflict with the implementation plan or the borough's aims strategy.

It is of key importance for democratic accountability that the boroughs should be given a chance to produce their own schemes first. Paragraph 3 of the amendment enshrines that objective, and assembly consent is included for that reason.

Other amendments cover the need to receive and publish a report from an independent economist on the effect of business activity in the area. As I said earlier on the previous amendment, the White Paper clearly states that the purpose of this charging scheme is to reduce congestion and encourage people to use public transport. If we are talking about business activity in an area, we are talking about deliveries by commercial vehicles to businesses in the area. They do not have the alternative of public transport to turn to and should not be penalised by a congestion charge. Any congestion charge levied on commercial vehicles delivering to an area is nothing more than a tax on the business in that area. I know that the associations involved in this activity are concerned about that.

We believe also that as a consequence of that there is an insufficient requirement for consultation on the introduction of road user charging. Amendment No. 304 requires consultation with, among others, organisations and representatives of potential users--motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and disabled persons; I add to that business users in the area--before a charging scheme is introduced.

We believe also that the objectives meant to be achieved should be stated so that everybody knows what the purpose of introducing the congestion tax is. Those objectives should be published and voters can then hold the relevant politician to account if the objectives either are or are not achieved.

5 Jul 1999 : Column 696

I am trying to deal with the amendments as briefly as I can. Amendment No. 306 has the object that only the minimum charge should be made which is necessary to secure the specified objectives. The fear of many Londoners--it is certainly mine--is that this will become a new back-door tax which can be used for other things and that it will not necessarily be used for that which we would like to see it used. Therefore, we propose that the road pricing charges should be set only at the minimum level necessary to achieve the limited objective of reducing traffic congestion and that it should not be set any higher.

Amendment No. 307 brings us back to the issue of those who should be exempted from road user charges. Here we are suggesting the inclusion of the disabled, schoolchildren under secondary-school age who cannot really be expected to use public transport on their own (nor can their busy parents be expected necessarily to take them to and from school), school buses, doctors and nurses, hospital and emergency vehicles and motorbikes. Of course, there could be other categories and I am sure that the issue of exemptions will arise again.

I should like particularly to mention motorbikes in this connection. As I said earlier, if the purpose of the provision is to reduce congestion--and that is what it is supposed to do--it cannot be argued that motorbikes cause congestion; indeed, although they cause a good deal of other inconvenience, that is the one thing that they do not do.

Amendment No. 309 provides that "penalty charges"--the fines--for not obeying this congestion charge should be no more than is reasonably necessary to secure the specified objectives of the scheme. Again, people are worried that this will prove to be yet another way of raising taxes. Of course, we do not know whether the penalty charges will actually be spent on improvements to public transport, cycling, walking, and so on.

I believe that what I have said sums up the majority of the amendments in the group. I should stress again that one of them refers to the capacity of the public transport system. As I said on the last occasion, the Underground is operating almost at capacity; indeed, many lines are certainly running at capacity in many central areas at peak times and running very nearly at capacity at non-peak times. So where will this extra traffic go when it is turned off the roads?

As I see it, the whole problem with this congestion charging and non-residential parking is that at present it is all stick and no carrot. If we must have this, we would like to see a situation where at least some improvement is made to public transport, preferably before the introduction of congestion charging; but, if not before, then certainly at the same time as such charging is introduced. This takes us back to the arguments about borrowing, and so on, to which we shall no doubt return. I repeat: as set out in the Bill, it seems to be all stick and no carrot. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: I have two amendments in this group; namely, Amendments Nos. 310A and 324A. I do

5 Jul 1999 : Column 697

not intend to speak to them for very long, but they are designed to ensure that TfL and the mayor should be able to keep the Revenue from these various parking charges--

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I should point out to the noble Lord that those amendments are not included in this group; indeed, they are self-standing.

Lord Berkeley: I am sorry. I thought that they were in this group.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I shall step in while the noble Lord re-groups himself. We have been dealing with a complicated series of amendments which were obviously very difficult to group. Efforts were made to re-group them with the assistance of the various teams involved, but, even so, I am not entirely sure that an absolutely satisfactory arrangement has been found for this large group of amendments. Nevertheless, we are all doing our best to cope with what we have. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, may wish to know that Amendment No. 321A, which is tabled in his name, is in this group.

We have tabled a number of amendments in this group. I refer in particular to Amendments Nos. 302B and 317A which pick up one of the themes mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, in that they suggest that a road user charging scheme or a workplace parking levy scheme should be levied only if it has regard to the capacity of the public transport system to accommodate such increase in use as may result from the scheme. I believe that that ties in with some of the fears that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, understandably mentioned.

In the dear, dead days of Fares Fair, it was relatively easy to lower fares and thus encourage increased use of the Underground system because it did not carry the number of passengers that it does today. Today it is always full, although it has always been full at the rush hour. I remember when I first worked in London a large number of years ago. I did not get onto the Northern Line going north until at least half-an-hour after the main rush hour had passed because I could not bear being crammed into it. Some famous lines have been "black holes" as far as capacity is concerned for a long time. But now all the lines seem to be in that position and it seems to be the case more or less all day long. It is not just a matter of the trains being full; the stations are also extremely full now at any time of the day. The capacity of the Underground is a serious matter and must be addressed.

Buses are the other main form of public transport. Here I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, because one cannot improve the capacity of the bus system until one has taken some of the cars off the road. That is the balance that this Bill seeks to achieve in the series of clauses which concern charges and their use. Quite apart from the issue of borrowing against revenue streams which we dealt with earlier, we need to be certain that revenues from charging schemes will be spent on public transport and that those two issues will

5 Jul 1999 : Column 698

gradually move together. One cannot significantly improve road public transport until one reduces the number of cars on the roads.

I may address the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, when I am certain that it means what I think it means. For the moment I shall leave that amendment to him.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page