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Lord Dixon-Smith: It is a pleasure to find myself running in double harness with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Like him, when I read the Bill I thought that it was deficient. Taking this part of the Bill at face value, one might come to the conclusion that the Government's real concern was buses, buses and buses, to coin a phrase--or to borrow one, perhaps. I am grateful for the support in principle of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. I agree that none of us ever regards our phrasing of amendments as the last word on the issue, but we do our best.
Cycling and walking are clearly the most environmentally friendly and cheapest forms of transport, but they are not mentioned in the Bill. About one-third of all journeys are less than a mile, which is definitely walkable. About another third are between one and four miles, which is certainly cyclable.
The other two subsections in Amendment No. 113 were drafted in an attempt to ensure consistency and congruence between local and district strategic transport plans. Planning can influence the need for transport. Good planning can diminish needs to an extent, although its powers as a cure-all can be overrated. The two branches of the planning process should be brought together. We have tried to insert that in the Bill.
There will always be questions about what should be specified in the Bill. I can see the Minister's mind ticking already, working out how he will answer the question. However, a lot of people will read only what is in the Bill, not all the background literature--which I shall have something to say about subsequently. Of course, the professionals will study the background literature as well, but the bulk of the population will be guided by what we deliberate on here. That will inform what they think--I was going to say what we think--that the Government think. Like the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I think that what the Government are thinking--or what they are revealing of their thinking in the Bill--is inadequate.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My noble friend Lord Berkeley has raised an important point. Too often, local authorities are interested only in cars and buses, buses, buses, but buses cause congestion, too. If anybody wants to know about that, they ought to visit Oxford, which shows that having a lot of buses does not always solve the traffic problem.
I am principally concerned about heavy goods vehicles, whose presence in town centres often causes a great deal of congestion. They are allowed into areas where they should not be allowed. Local authorities and the country as a whole must examine the problem thoroughly and work out the role of the goods vehicle.
I am old enough to remember the time when most goods went by rail, not to the edge of towns, but into the town centre, because that is where the railway stations and marshalling yards were. Many of those yards still exist. There is a case for examining whether local authorities and the Government should begin to push heavy goods vehicles out of town centres and, in particular, out of residential areas adjacent to town centres, through which heavy goods vehicles have to travel, causing a great deal of inconvenience, danger
There is another problem with heavy goods vehicles travelling along our roads--and, indeed, through continents. It has long been the case that goods are only semi--or perhaps quarterly--manufactured on any single site. Absurdly, all sorts of products, such as ladies underwear or men's suits, might start in Bradford and finish up in Finland, for example. That is a journey of hundreds of miles across our congested motorways and roads and through the continent of Europe, almost to the continent of Asia. That needs thorough national and international examination. We are wasting a lot of fuel and causing a great deal of avoidable environmental pollution.
Those are some reasons why the amendment should be considered. I have one final point about lorries, on which perhaps there should be some national examination. Many lorries make journeys when they are either empty or not full. Those journeys would be unnecessary if there was proper planning of the transportation of freight.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I want to speak briefly in support of Amendment No. 109 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Some of my reasons for wanting to support it may strike terror into the heart of the Minister but let him not become too terrified because I shall comfort him thereafter.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, reminded us of the GLA Bill. It is interesting to start with a general duty of the local authority to do X or Y. It is not the first time that such an idea has come into our recent legislation. The Government may respond by saying that this is not a Bill about the duties of local authorities; it is a Bill about specific items of local authority business. The Minister is nodding his head joyfully as I speak. But it would be of great assistance if some ideas, such as sustainability and the need to promote interchanges--and I can think of others too--which are being put forward in great detail could be written onto the face of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, says that his amendment is not perfectly drafted. When do we see an amendment that is? However, a provision of this type could be used to bring in a number of themes which would then be applicable to whatever the local authorities involved do in relation to, for example, Clauses 107 to 112. Those are the basic clauses which deal with local transport plans and bus strategies. That is preferable to repeating the subject every time it seems relevant to subsequent clauses. You could, for the sake of argument, include a provision "to promote sustainable and accessible transport". That removes the need to keep on bringing in the extremely important idea of accessibility, about which many Members of the Committee wish to speak. It is
I look forward to the Minister's response. There has been a varied collection of speeches in support of the amendments. I ask the noble Lord to think about the matter in the way I have outlined as a way of providing some important guiding principles right at the beginning of the Bill.
I remember the arguments used during the passage of the GLA Bill. Ministers kept saying, "But it is right there, in Clause 1. It is not needed anywhere else". The same approach could be used here to satisfy some of the legitimate worries which people will be expressing during the course of the day about this part of the Bill.
I conclude rather frivolously by saying that I was rather appalled that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in talking about parking, referred to parking one's car rather than one's bicycle at the railway station. I am sure that was merely an oversight.
Lord Swinfen: In Part IV we have a Strategic Rail Authority but I do not see any strategic transport authority to bring the whole lot together. Roads are administered by local authorities. Should there not be a national strategic transport authority?
Lord Bradshaw: In particular, I support paragraph (b) of Amendment No. 109. As a veteran of structure planning in county councils, I can vouch for the fact that everybody is in favour of extending park-and-ride schemes, of getting more freight onto the railway and of extending station car parks. However, when you try to implement any of those policies, they are always fought tooth and nail at ground level.
It is important that if we are to have a strategy for encouraging park-and-ride schemes, freight terminals and station car parks, they must find their way into the planning process at the earliest possible moment. Therefore, I welcome in particular paragraph (b) of the amendment.
Perhaps I may say briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that he cannot have been to Oxford very recently because we have solved the problems of bus congestion. More and more people are using the buses. Both air pollution and traffic congestion have virtually been eliminated.
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