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Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for giving me the opportunity to confirm that I have three amendments in the group we are discussing; namely, Amendments Nos. 310A, 321A and 324A. I refer to deleting the requirement that after 10 years the revenue from parking charges or congestion charges returns to the Treasury. I believe that we have discussed this matter before. It also fits nicely with the statement made by my noble friend the Minister earlier; namely, that the mayor will have the sole right to set the charges. It is a pity that he will not be able to keep the revenue. As I say, he can set the charges but he cannot keep the revenue. It would be nice if he could keep that revenue for ever.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, talked about the civil rights of motorists. I believe that bus passengers, cyclists and pedestrians have equal civil rights. The Government have never said that they are against people owning cars; they are encouraging it. However, they have said that in certain circumstances car usage must be restricted when there is a capacity constraint, for example--as the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said--in order to leave space for buses. I believe that there could be an enormous growth in bus passengers if there were continuous bus lanes and therefore little delay. I shall certainly oppose the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon.

10 p.m.

Lord Whitty: I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, on at least bringing some coherence to this block of amendments. I have similar difficulties with groups of government amendments and he has made a better job of it than I would. Nevertheless, there is a range of issues involved, many of which cannot be properly addressed. Noble Lords will have to decide which ones have priority for bringing back at a later stage. Certainly some of the points made by the noble Lord are fundamental to the totality of the approach.

Equally, many of the amendments seek to be deeply prescriptive. We are leaving to the mayor's discretion how and at what level he or she draws up the precise schemes. The issue of hypothecation, if I can put it that way--we have discussed it before--is quite clear. I should say to my noble friend Lord Berkeley and to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, that the hypothecation is for 10 years. For any scheme that starts within the first 10 years, the revenues remain within that ring-fenced area for 10 years thereafter--forever is a long time--which is a fairly substantial commitment. It is a reasonable period of time into the future in which to tackle many of London's infrastructure problems.

I have no doubt that London's responsible, democratically elected mayor will wish to consider many of the issues raised by the noble Lord in terms of

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where, at what level and in what sequence the charging schemes will be introduced and pay for transport infrastructure projects. The responsibility for working out those matters must rest with the mayor, rather than be prescribed on the face of the Bill.

The noble Lord expressed a particular concern about the interests of business in London. Clearly that must be central to our considerations. I understand that London's business community is only too well aware of the enormous costs currently imposed on the capital and its economic activity by congestion. Both London First and the Chamber of Commerce have found that business is quite prepared to support road user charging provided that the revenues are ring fenced and spent only on improving transport in London.

A number of other issues were raised in this context during the course of the debate. I agree with my noble friend Lord Berkeley and with the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, in relation to the improvement of bus travel. The capacity of buses within London depends on some reduction in road traffic; the two go hand in hand. That must be clear.

As to two of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord--he did not make much of these points in his address--there is an issue that I need to consider in the area of consultation. Amendments Nos. 304 and 319 seek to place a duty on charging and licensing authorities to consult on the detail of any charging scheme or any substantial variation to any scheme. While the amendments, as drafted, are unduly prescriptive, I recognise that there is merit in requiring at least a minimum amount of consultation on the detail of any such charging or licensing scheme. That would allow Londoners, organisations and businesses in London the opportunity to have their say. On that basis, I would like to take away and consider the two amendments with a view to bringing forward Government amendments on Report.

We envisage that such amendments would require a charging or licensing authority to advertise its proposals and to invite representations. As I said during earlier stages of the Bill, prescribing precisely who should be consulted will lead to a potentially endless sequence of demands that additional names should be added to the list. In any case, that is rightly left to the mayor to specify. Any minimum requirement in the Bill introduced after consultation could be improved upon by the mayor. Nevertheless, I accept part of the noble Lord's comments about consultation.

As to the rest, he is either raising again fundamental issues or attempting to be prescriptive, so I hope that he will not pursue the clauses. I trust that he will withdraw his large and wide-ranging group of amendments and will focus down at any subsequent stage.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am grateful to the Minister for his response and that I have at least achieved agreement on one small part of the amendments, regarding consultation. I was going to say that half a loaf is better than none but that is just a tiny slice. Nevertheless, it is better than nothing.

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The Minister referred to my enormous group of amendments, but it was the noble Lord's grouping, not mine. In the interests of time, I reluctantly agreed to accept it, feeling that we could at least have a short debate at this stage, returning to the more significant items at the next stage.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, rightly pointed out that the Underground has been at capacity during the rush hour for many years. I remember that that was so when I started working in London in the late 1960s. We must hope that the new PPP, if it happens, and revenue stream will do something to improve that capacity, if we are to see more cars off the road and additional passengers using the Underground.

It is right to say that bus services cannot improve until the cars have gone. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred to bus lanes. They have been introduced on many routes in central London but there are many others where there is no room. On the No. 14 route from where I live to Piccadilly there are many places where there is no room for a bus lane.

One reason that buses travel so slowly in central London is that they stop every 400 yards for people to get on and off--not necessarily because of congestion. At the moment, buses are not a serious means of transport for people who are in a hurry to get from one place to another.

Lord Berkeley: Route 14 is a particularly bad example but there are many other roads in London where there are two lanes in each direction and one could perfectly well be used for buses. Buses stop to pick up passengers, which is their objective. If bus lanes were continuous across traffic lights and so on, buses could travel even faster.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am glad that the noble Lord agrees that buses stop frequently to pick up passengers. Unfortunately, the corollary is that they do not make their journeys particularly quickly. I dare say that the noble Lord is right and that there are roads other than those used on the No. 14, 22 or 74 routes--to cite three examples that I know--where bus lanes could be introduced, and no doubt they will be.

Returning to the carrot-and-stick point, congestion charging has been introduced with some success in other cities of the world because improvements to public transport were made before or at the same time. The trouble with the Government's proposals is that congestion charging will be introduced but then a long time will elapse before there are improvements in public transport.

Apart from his concession to me on consultation--we shall wait to see what comes of that--the Minister quoted London First as being in favour of congestion charging. My point was not about business as such, but related to the retail trade and delivery to shops and also to the messenger trade and offices in the area. They do not have the alternative of public transport. Therefore, any congestion charge on them is nothing more than a tax on business in the area. It cannot be said to encourage public transport because they do not have that

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choice. However, I shall read what has been said in the debate. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 302A to 305A not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 305B:

Page 251, line 41, at end insert--
("( ) different distances travelled;").

The noble Lord said: This small amendment makes it clear that charging authorities can levy road user charges on the basis of distance travelled.

I recognise that this is unlikely to be an immediate option; and it will not be an option unless a charging authority brings forward a rather complex electronic road user charging scheme. Any such scheme is unlikely to be brought forward by the mayor in the short term. However, the primary legislation that we are putting in place should allow for a future road user charging scheme to be brought forward that levies charges on the basis of distance travelled. That is in line with our proposals to allow the mayor to design and implement the road user charging scheme which can best help deliver the policies and proposals contained within the mayor's transport strategy. The amendment allows for that. I beg to move.

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