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Lord Dixon-Smith: Will the Minister deal with the point suggested by my suspicious nature. A licence which lasts only for one year can be renewed the next year for the same number of vehicles but at a different charge.

Lord Whitty: That is always possible. It is also open to the employer to reduce the number of cars if the new charge is not acceptable to him. That, in a sense, is the point.

Lord Dixon-Smith: We are entering interesting territory. My noble friend points out that it is also possible for a business to decide to move to a different location. That might be an unforeseen consequence. The law of unforeseen consequence is universal and arises with monotonous regularity. Businesses do not have to relocate in this country, so the unforeseen consequences could have a degree of unpleasantness that none of us would want.

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I shall study what the Minister said. There ought to be a position somewhere between the shaky quicksand on which he is standing and the more solid quicksand on which I am standing. They are both quicksands, but there ought to be a point at which there is an acceptable solution to the dilemma. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 263 not moved.]

Clause 187 agreed to.

Clauses 188 and 189 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 263A not moved.]

Lord Lea of Crondall moved Amendment No. 263B:


    Before Clause 190, insert the following new clause--

GREEN TRANSPORT PLANS

(" . Local authorities shall promote the drawing up by employers of Green Transport Plans and stipulate that these are discussed at an early stage with employees and their representatives.").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 263A and 263B were originally written together and I believe that they hang together in a certain way. However, Amendment No. 263B adds a highly practical dimension in saying that, in the context of introducing either of the charges, local authorities should,


    "promote the drawing up by employers of Green Transport Plans and stipulate that these are discussed at an early stage with employees and their representatives".

In other words, the congestion charge and the workplace levy would be brought forward by firms in the context of green transport plans.

I do not believe that the right reverend Prelate who spoke earlier was totally wrong when he said that the effect of the new charges will be not only to provide a means of paying for public transport; they will change people's behaviour. It is obvious that that is what we are doing: through the price mechanism, we are changing people's behaviour. When, for example, one puts up the price of strawberries, the result is that fewer people eat strawberries. I do not believe that I need to tell anyone that that is how price mechanisms work. That was the contention in the preliminary discussion which led up to the White Paper.

Be that as it may, it is employees who are being called upon to change their behaviour. It is they who in many cases will pay the congestion charges and I suspect that, in one way or another, in many cases they will pay for the workplace levy as well.

I part company with the dire predictions of the Official Opposition but I believe that these two measures will come as a shock to many firms. I believe that trade union support for them, which we have been developing, will be a vital part of their reception. This type of issue is on the agenda of a trade union and sustainable development advisory committee, chaired jointly by Michael Meacher and John Edmonds.

I believe that it is fair to say that very little has happened so far with regard to green transport plans. There have been some notable exceptions; for example, the round of discussions in government

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departments and in the Civil Service, and all credit to them. However, a new stimulus is needed and a clause such as this could act as a vital catalyst if the issues are to be developed in a serious way. After all, the repercussions could involve the staggering of hours of work and the pooling of travel for some firms, and so on.

Terms and conditions of employment will be affected both directly and indirectly through the extra charges. Although the amendment does not attempt to prescribe in detail how the consultations in a firm should be carried out with employee representatives, I have no doubt that in many workplaces that will be the make or break factor as to whether the scheme is a success--as I very much hope that it will be--or a failure.

Finally, although in many respects the national line of the TUC and the CBI is largely supported, both sides need a push to find a better way of ensuring that these matters are discussed in the workplace. It cannot be left to people's common sense in the hope that they will work it out for themselves. Experience shows that that does not happen. People will not march down Whitehall demanding that the charges are introduced; nor do I expect the converse. We do not wish to be wise after the event. That is why I hope that the Minister will be able to give a sympathetic response. Perhaps this particular form of words can be improved upon, but I hope that the amendment's essential ingredients will be incorporated into the Bill. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Berkeley: My noble friend has given an excellent and comprehensive summary of the aims of the amendment to which I have put my name. I do not need to repeat what he has said, but I have one other point to make on individual taxation, which is very important in selling the concept to employees.

The issue is a matter for the Treasury, but it comes up in your Lordships' House quite often. I still believe that the tax system encourages people to use their cars. Many people are given company cars and, regardless of whether they are given free petrol, the perception is that it is more advantageous for most of them to drive to work than to buy a season ticket for the train or bus, for which they have to pay out of fully taxed income.

I hope that, as part of the new 10-year plan for transport, the Government will have the courage to look at this continuing anomaly in the tax situation relating to transport for individuals.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I should like briefly to support the amendment. It has many merits, not least the interesting light that the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, in the trade union movement threw on his argument. When I was a member of Surrey County Council, we began a sort of green transport process, particularly in connection with a large development site. Heathrow airport has got rid of a good deal of its employee parking and introduced a number of bus services for employees. Those are two straws in the wind. Employers or

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managers of large companies are interested in the idea, because it can benefit them and enable them to get what they want, as well as bringing benefits to the local community. I hope that the Minister will give the amendment a fair wind.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I have a feeling that I should not speak in support of the principle of the amendment, but it follows on from amendments that we have discussed earlier in the Bill. It is a good idea. The noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, mentioned discussions within government departments about the issue. Many thoroughly commercial enterprises already have such schemes. They should be encouraged in any way possible. I shall be amused and interested to see whether the Minister is as encouraging to his noble friends as he has been to us when we have advocated good schemes. I do not intend to launch a torpedo into the amendments by saying that, because I hope that the Minister will take them seriously and will do what he can to support them.

Lord Whitty: Without showing undue favouritism to my noble friend, I have some sympathy with the amendment. It is important for local authorities to encourage green transport plans among employers in their area and for employers to consult properly with their staff and unions in developing such plans. Local authorities are well placed to do that, so we support the underlying aim of the amendment. However--the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will recognise these words--I have yet to be convinced that it is appropriate to include the amendment in primary legislation.

Local authorities are already being asked to promote travel plans through the local transport plan process. Existing LTP guidance asks local authorities to set out how they will encourage the widespread adoption of travel plans by employers, who will need to consult their work forces, and to consider setting targets for take-up and for modal shift. The extent to which local authorities include those aspects within their local plans will have clear implications for the bids which they put in under those plans.

In addition, our draft planning policy guidance, PPG13, on transport includes a system of transport assessment to encourage travel by sustainable modes to and from new developments. That means that developers may also be required to produce travel plans with their applications for planning permission. In turn, they will be encouraged to consult widely not only with local authorities but also with those who represent the staff.

I am less pessimistic than is my noble friend Lord Lea. I go round the country seeing some of those green transport plans and there is a lot of innovation and enthusiasm for them among employers and employees alike. We have highlighted that by producing several guides on travel plans which underline the importance of consulting employees and unions at the outset of the plan development. We have distributed those plans and the earlier guidance to local authorities and there was quite a good take-up to encourage good practice.

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Therefore, I am at one with the aim of the amendment but I remain unconvinced that it should be on the face of the Bill. However, I hope that with those assurances my noble friend will not press the amendment.


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