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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I assumed beforehand that his reply would be in line with the spirit of my amendments and--dare I say it?--that, as usual, he would swat me gently over the head and tell me that they were unnecessary.

I am particularly grateful for the points he made about the independence of chairmen of inquiries, but I always feel vulnerable when someone says, "If "X" happens, "Y" could resort to the law in order to prove that the procedure was inadequate". As I keep saying, resorting to the law is expensive, and it is sometimes difficult for people to do that. None the less, I am grateful for the Minister's response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 198 to 201 not moved.]

Clause 170 [Matters to be dealt with in charging schemes]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 202:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, despite the remarks that have been made about proposing exemptions for either small vehicles or small numbers of car parking spaces, I do not apologise for bringing forward these amendments. I do not believe that the two exemptions from congestion charges or the exemption from the workplace levy indicated in the amendments are on a par with everyone asking for an exemption or small employers asking for an exemption from the 30 limit.

Although two-wheeled vehicles may have some disadvantages, they certainly have great congestion advantages. If people could be encouraged to use them rather than cars, congestion may well be reduced. I say "may" because motor-cyclists travelling on roads similar to the appallingly wet ones we suffered this morning could well fall off. If that happened, congestion could be increased as a result of the accident.

The case for doing everything that we can to encourage the small employer is always worth arguing. I do not apologise for seeking an exemption from the workplace parking levy for small businesses. Small industries, if successful, often go on to become much bigger--in which case the community gains a great deal in terms of employment and general social benefit, and, I dare say, in terms of the additional charges that will then arise. On the other hand, it would be unfortunate if small businesses found themselves throttled at birth and this provision happened to be a factor. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord raises some interesting points. However, my instinctive reaction is that these are precisely the kind of matters

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that need to be argued when a scheme is proposed. Other Members of this House have argued the case for the involvement of employers. Amendment No. 214 is not about small employers; it is about employers of any size who happen to have workplaces with four or fewer parking places.

It is entirely right that those who are liable to be affected by a scheme should have an opportunity to contribute to it. It may be, for instance, that a small number of parking places can be used for those who have mobility problems. Although the points raised are interesting, it is better for them to be dealt with in the context of a particular scheme rather than for Parliament to endeavour to legislate in detail for what might be a range of circumstances in different cities up and down the country.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has said it all. However, I am afraid that I shall have to give the official response all the same.

Motor vehicles, as defined in the Bill in Clause 197(1), already exclude certain electrically assisted pedal cycles and other forms of unpowered modes of transport. That leaves us with the question of whether, as the amendment suggests, the Bill should automatically exclude all powered two-wheelers from charges in all circumstances.

We consulted on this matter in Breaking the Logjam. We examined the possibility for a national exemption for motorcycles. Over 60 per cent of responses said that there should not be a national exemption, although many people thought that it should be a matter for local discretion, as the noble Baroness rightly said.

We recognise the merits of an exemption for motorcycles. It is true that motorcycles do not cause congestion in the same way as four-wheeled vehicles--although there are some people who think that motorcycles cause a certain amount of danger in city streets given the way in which some are driven.

We are also aware that under the provisions of the Bill a local authority could charge motorcycles if they contribute to local congestion problems, or it could exempt them if that were thought proper. There are places where one can imagine motorcycles causing congestion--one has only to look at scooters in Rome or Athens to realise that. There is also the possibility of a reduced rate if local authorities think it appropriate. Discretion is the answer.

The same is true of the threshold of four spaces, which I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Lea, criticise in speaking to an earlier group of amendments. Again, we made it clear in the consultation paper that there are attractions in applying a threshold. It is administratively convenient to exclude a large number of negotiation and enforcement power duties from a scheme. It may be that some are small businesses--although, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, they are not necessarily all small businesses--and there may be advantages which local authorities can and will take into account.

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Who is to say that four is the right level for every town or city where there might be a workplace parking levy? The requirement could be different in different cities; it could be different with a different pattern of enterprises. Surely it is better to leave it to local discretion in this case as well.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, not least among the pleasures of being a Member of this place is that one learns things all the time. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, always manages to correct me on matters of definition--for which I am grateful, because one does not always think these matters through. I am grateful to the Minister for his response. If he thinks that scooters in Sienna--he said Rome, but Sienna will do--are a problem and that might or might not be a reason for including them, he ought to think of bicycles in Beijing. A congestion charge on those might be deemed worthwhile, but if such a charge were levied no one would get to work at all.

This has been a useful debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 203:

    Page 102, line 29, at end (", and

(f) include a provision for any vehicle able to pass through any designated charging area without any charges being incurred once every calendar month").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment enables us to discuss particular circumstances which merit consideration (although I heard what was said about considering a scheme). I can envisage circumstances--which happen all too often--in which someone takes a family member to the doctor, the doctor says that he or she had better go straight to hospital, and the person's car is suddenly acting as an emergency vehicle. If the hospital happens to be in a congestion charging area, there is a problem. We believe that this matter needs to be considered and we have tabled the amendment to make sure that it is.

The Minister will probably say that such a provision is impractical. He may also take the not unreasonable view that in an emergency people would drive their car to the hospital, not notice and the cost and would, as it were, "bite the bullet" if a charge were levied. But there is a question of whether we should consider these matters in a more lenient way.

Amendment No. 204 deals with a different and more important matter; namely, the question of keeping a charging scheme under review. If a charging scheme fails to meet the criterion laid down in Clause 163(2)--namely, that it is desirable in order to achieve the policies within the transport plan--it should cease.

An authority may not introduce a scheme unless it is desirable in order to achieve the policies of the transport plan. But circumstances can change. One can envisage a situation where that is no longer the case and the transport scheme is not helping the transport plan at all. In such a case we believe that the scheme should be rescinded.

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I turn to Amendment No. 205 in this group. As I read the Bill--and I may have misinterpreted it--it requires a congestion charge to be made on a road where a charge is already being made for parking. There may well be a need to control parking but it may not per se be creating congestion. It could be in a residential street where it is highly desirable to control parking but there is no congestion. The matter requires careful thought.

Amendment No. 206 provides for the charge to be used if the money to be raised is used for transport. We debated these amendments in a different form in Committee. If these charges are to be introduced, we believe that it is important for the benefit to go back into the transport system of the communities that are actually paying the money. That is not absolutely explicit in the Bill, although it is implicit as a result of the criteria under which the charges have to be commenced. We need to think about the resulting situation should such criteria cease to apply.

Amendment No. 213 has been tabled for a somewhat different reason. Where a congestion charge applies through a town centre, especially in more rural parts of the country, there will almost certainly be people who will wish to avoid it. If an authority produces a charging scheme in such a situation, it would not be a bad thing if there were a designated and explained alternative route, so to speak. Indeed, it would be very humane and would certainly help people driving commercial vehicles. This is a problem when transport costs are already very high. It would be a good idea to have an alternative route available in areas where people believed it was desirable to introduce a congestion charging scheme.

Amendment No. 226 is the final amendment in this group. It would require the licensing authority to keep every licensing scheme under review and to revoke it,

    "if it not longer meets the criteria set out in subsection (2) of section 178".

This reverts to the point that we have already made: an authority may not introduce a licensing scheme, unless it fulfils or facilitates the achievement of policies in its transport plan. It is always necessary to refer such charging schemes back to that original intention, so that they can perhaps be revoked if they are not fulfilling the purpose for which they were initiated. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, it seems to me that, in the main, these are matters that should be addressed in the context of each scheme. The noble Lord may like to consider an alternative to his proposal to deal with an emergency; namely, the arrangement proposed by the Mayor of London, for whom I do not speak. Nevertheless, the proposal is worth considering. Of course, all this will depend on the mechanisms used, but it is proposed that a driver will have up to midnight on the day on which he enters the charging area to make the payment. Therefore, if he has forgotten or is facing an emergency and has not had time to make the payment before entering the charging area, he will have the opportunity to make that good without

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incurring a penalty. It will be a very limited opportunity, but one which will meet the point. I believe that that is an illustration of how each scheme can be designed to meet particular circumstances. Indeed, we wait to see how the public will react to such a proposal in London.

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