Examination of Witness (Questions 120-139)
TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER 2002
MR WILLIAM BUTTERFIELD
(Mr Butterfield) I cannot really answer that.
My view would be that together with the extra money that the government
are providing and so on there would be more activity, yes. Whether
it would all be council activity is debatable. We have limited
resources. I doubt that Westminster Council could do much more
than it was doing when the police were assisting us.
The witness withdrew
MR NICHOLAS LESTER, Sworn
Examined by MR CLARKSON
121. You are Nicholas Lester?
(Mr Lester) Yes, I am.
122. What is your job?
(Mr Lester) I am the director of transport
and environment for the Association of London Government.
123. What does that require you to do on a day to
(Mr Lester) I have two elements to my job.
One is an operational job which is responsible for large amounts
of enforcement in connection with local authority parking enforcement.
The other is to coordinate and develop London-wide policies on
behalf of the members of the Association with respect to transport,
environment and related issues. Environment includes public protection,
environmental health and air quality issues.
124. On a London-wide basis, taking it away from
just Westminster, how important is the power that is sought from
the Committee as far as London is concerned?
(Mr Lester) The whole issue of air quality
across London is as important as the previous witness set out
in terms of Westminster. We also identified against the government's
objectives for nine air pollutants and the mayor's statutory duty
to achieve seven of these - these are set down in the mayor's
air quality strategy - the particular concerns of NOX and particulates
that have been mentioned already. That is a matter that affects
all of the boroughs. Air quality mapping is a particular issue
that has been coordinated amongst all the boroughs and we have
identified the areas that have substantial challenges in terms
of bringing air quality up to the standard. These are not confined
to central London but, perhaps not surprisingly given the proportion
that comes from road traffic, are concentrated on the main road
networks throughout London.
125. The particulates and NOX that you are testing
for are for 2004/5 initial standards that I think we are aiming
for at the moment. Is that right?
(Mr Lester) That is correct.
126. Do you consider that that will be a static standard
or are there going to be higher objectives in the future?
(Mr Lester) The objectives could be enhanced
in the future. At present, we are particularly concerned with
even achieving those in 2004/5. We are currently engaged in a
number of activities to try and support the authorities in trying
to achieve those targets. Better enforcement is but one. We also
have a London-wide study being carried out jointly with the Greater
London Authority, for example, on low emission zones and the contribution
they might make to improving air quality and meeting those targets.
127. If every vehicle on the road in London today
is 100 per cent perfect in emission terms, is that a guarantee
that in five years' time those same vehicles will be emissions
(Mr Lester) No, by no means. We have seen
over the course of the years, particularly as Parliament, the
government and the public have expressed their concerns about
the issue, that standards have progressively been tightened.
128. Looking at the powers of authorities to check
for emissions and the need to check for emissions, is this clause
proposing anything extra by way of testing on the Road Haulage
Association or anybody else?
(Mr Lester) No. The clause merely provides
a simpler, more straightforward method to stop vehicles, to enable
tests to take place.
129. Looking at the broader approach of the police,
not just in Westminster, what are your views as to whether the
Metropolitan Police Service has the wherewithal to undertake these
duties throughout Greater London?
(Mr Lester) There are serious problems throughout
Greater London. As I have mentioned in my proof of evidence, we
have throughout London had to rely on police overtime and effectively
voluntary cooperation by the police to secure vehicle stops. This
time, these resources can be withdrawn at very short notice and
that has caused a lot of the problems.
Even working within the current legislation, as I
have set down, we have put in a bid to the Department of Trade
and Industry for specific resources to employ or give extra resources
to the Metropolitan Police for dedicated officers to stop vehicles;
but even if that is acceptable it is by no means guaranteed that
those police officers would in fact be dedicated to the task.
They would still be general constables and if the Police or Commissioner
had need to redeploy them on other purposes then they could do
that. I think the sort of contract that is being suggested means
that we might not have to pay in those circumstances for the time
that was not dedicated but it would still mean the stops were
not carried out.
130. Are there circumstances where people other than
police officers can stop vehicles?
(Mr Lester) Yes, there are, and these include
local authority school crossing patrols; they can obviously stop
vehicles at specific sites - usually outside schools.
131. Is there any reason why council officers will
fall short in training terms in stopping?
(Mr Lester) I see no reason why that should
be the case. We have taken on from the Metropolitan Police Service
school crossing patrols - that happened some years ago - and have
enhanced the training of the officers concerned. In other areas
where local authorities have taken on responsibilities from the
Metropolitan Police, and parking enforcement is one, we have established
nationally accredited qualifications, NVQs, to ensure training
is both consistent and up to an acceptable standard.
132. What happens if there is a row, a conflict?
(Mr Lester) At present we would expect the
police to be called. In many cases the police response time where
there is an actual conflict is quite short, so they can reach
the point of problem quickly. It seems to me that that is a much
better use of police time, that they attend when there is a need
rather than that they are there all the time. In practice, I understand
that the level of conflict is not particularly great in these
circumstances, although it does happen from time to time. I think
we have more experience of this in parking enforcement where the
level of conflict is significantly higher.
133. Security next, please. What do you see as the
issue of security for those lorries and the like carrying valuable
(Mr Lester) This is an important issue and
is addressed at present by those vehicles which need high security,
displaying a card effectively which says, "I will follow
you to the nearest police station" rather than stopping in
the roadside as in the normal way. I can see no reason why that
should not also be applicable, but instead of using the police
station the council's depot might be an appropriate place which
would also, firstly, be identifiable - you cannot set up an imitation
council depot very easily; and, secondly, it would have the necessary
security, because those depots are secure for other purposes.
134. I want to turn now to the mechanics of how you
would anticipate a typical stopping exercise, and how a local
authority stop would be undertaken in comparison to one where
the police officer is putting his hand up?
(Mr Lester) I think it would be very similar
in practice. When Mr Butterfield was being examined he said that
discussions were taking place on having a consistent uniform.
I think if that was understood, for most motorists they would
find it very difficult to spot the difference in practice.
135. Let us consider Lord Jacob's example of Marble
Arch. There you would set up your cones and have officers in uniform.
What difference would that mean for the individual motorist who
(Mr Lester) Very little difference in practice.
At present it is the council officers who decide which vehicles
should be stopped and that, of course, is not proposed to be changed
in any way. The only difference would be the detail of the uniform.
It would be the same cones and the same sort of traffic layout
as this is also determined largely by the local authority at present.
Similarly with signs.
136. Let us try and give the Committee the sort of
matters that you anticipate would be included in a code of practice?
(Mr Lester) We have set out a series of headings
which I think are important, and we take all of them into account.
The first is just the objectives of stopping and testing, so everybody
understands what they are trying to achieve, and this is quite
important. Second is the question of infrastructure, the equipment
and the training that would be required for people to undertake
137. I am sorry, we should have gone to page 16 of
(Mr Lester) We mentioned training earlier
on. It is a very important element that we do take very seriously.
The third element is deciding where vehicles should be stopped;
not all streets and locations are suitable. We have mentioned
Marble Arch before as a very suitable place to stop vehicles.
Any place to stop and examine vehicles must be such so that it
does not cause undue congestion further up the road network. Also
it should be addressing where there are pollution problems as
the important element. I have mentioned also the question of timing.
We would not anticipate, and it does not happen at present I understand,
stopping vehicles for tests after dark because of the danger that
that might pose. The fourth element would be the layout of the
stops, the signage, the cones, so that it was clear that any stop
was going to be safe and well signed; and that is safety from
everybody's point of view, including the testing officers who
will be in traffic. The fifth element is deciding which vehicles
to stop, and looking particularly at the question of secure vehicles
and security issues which we have already mentioned, and any exemptions
which apply to the emission control legislation. The sixth element
is the procedure for stopping and testing. The stopping side is
the point we are concerned about here today. The testing element
is something local authorities have been doing for some time.
Finally, we have mentioned the documentation that needs to be
involved, again to ensure that there is consistency across London
so that people knew what was going on and it would not be wildly
different in one borough from the next. We do know that something
like 10 per cent of Londoners do not know which borough they live
in, so the number which do not know which borough they happen
to be driving in at the time must be significantly higher.
138. Might I now turn to the effect of the Police
Reform Act. Dealing in particular with Lord Listowel's point
- how do you see the powers given to the Chief of Police Officers
under that Act addressing the concerns that the Promoters are
seeking to address by way of clause 10?
(Mr Lester) I would like to address it in
three ways, if I may, because there are three different elements
of the Act that might apply. The first is the traffic wardens,
and this was the burden of Mr Ditchburn's letter saying he thought
traffic wardens were the right way forward. I would just like
to add to one of the points that was made earlier on, that the
traffic warden service is currently significantly under strength,
even against the estimates that the police have of their traffic
warden requirements after decriminalisation of parking enforcement
has been taken into account. I understand it is currently something
in the order of 50 per cent under strength. The police are trying
to recruit but they have not got the resources available to get
anywhere near full strength. They are actively looking for more
traffic wardens to be transferred on to bus safety and security
issues. This is, indeed, causing significant shortage of resource
problems on even enforcing red routes. Many red routes in London
are not enforced substantially at present. There is a migration
of illegal parking from yellow lines on borough roads on to red
routes, which seems to me to be totally contrary to what everybody
wants to see. So that the question of using traffic wardens, even
though the Police Reform Act has given them power to stop vehicles,
seems unlikely to result in any improvements for the authorities
in the foreseeable future.
139. Who would be funding the bringing up of traffic
wardens to full complement?
(Mr Lester) The Metropolitan Police Authority.
The second element is community support officers, while I think
we are faced with exactly the same problem with community support
officers, that they are subject to the overall police resource
availability. The final point is the community safety accreditation
scheme. I have to say, I am not an expert on the Police Reform
Act, but it does seem to me that the direction that that particular
section of the Act has is very much for reducing crime and disorder,
and offers no guarantee to the authorities either that it would
be possible to secure such accreditation purely for emission control
purposes; or, indeed, whether it would be possible to have such
a scheme consistent across London. I think one of the lessons
we have learnt through parking enforcement is that there is a
great value to be achieved through increasing consistency across
London as far as we can. It is much more clear to motorists what
is going on.