HC Deb 26 February 1991 vol 186 cc887-911
Ms. Ruddock

I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 38, line 9, leave out 'traffic' and insert 'people and goods'.

Clause 41 sets out the overriding objective for priority routes, or red routes as they are unpopularly called. The overriding objective is improving the movement of traffic. Although the objective for the priority route network are set out later in the Bill—primarily in clause 42—any conflict or weighting needed between objectives will have to be set in the context of the overriding aim.

Several amendments were tabled in Committee to attempt to broaden the overriding aim. Many of the roads proposed as red routes can reasonably be said to be concerned solely with traffic movement and they include the motorways and roads such as the A3 Kingston bypass. However, far more of the roads must serve a wide variety of purposes. The A23 in Brixton, for example, runs through what is primarily a shopping centre. The A203 South Lambeth road is mainly a residential road. The A304 Fulham road is a mixture of housing and local shops and in Putney, it becomes the local high street. Those roads are not primarily main arteries for traffic, and it is wrong to have that as an overriding aim.

The amendment seeks to replace the word "traffic" with the words "people and goods". That is not a meaningless difference. To the lay person, "traffic" is synonymous with vehicles. We should not be concerned with aiding the movement of vehicles per se, because vehicles are only a means to an end. The objective of the movement of traffic is more important and it is to get people and goods to their destination.

The distinction is becoming clear to users of the red route pilot scheme and can be seen clearly by organisations such as the Freight Transport Association. The FTA originally had some reservations about red routes, but it quickly became a firm supporter as the allure of less congestion was waved in front of it. That was obviously quite important for its members who drive their lorries around the capital. However, after experience of the pilot scheme, the FTA has now called on the Minister for a radical review.

Great difficulties have been encountered in delivering and picking up goods from premises on red routes. For example, a bread lorry was towed away while the driver was telling the baker that he would not be able to make any deliveries. The FTA now opposes the red routes because it realises that a few seconds off driving time is vastly outweighed by the extra costs to businesses that front on to red routes.

Businesses are reporting big problems up and down the pilot red route. The Islington chamber of commerce has reported that, on average, turnover in shops on the red route pilot scheme is down by 30 per cent. in comparison with the same period last year. In some cases there was a decline of more than 50 per cent.

Mr. Allason

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Ruddock

No, I do not have time.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

There is no time limit.

Ms. Ruddock

I am aware of that, but some of the hon. Lady's colleagues took up a vast amount of time discussing earlier amendments, and we are anxious to proceed.

The businesses to which I have referred are mainly small businesses which Conservative Members support, but they cannot continue to survive in the climate that I have described. The Minister's response to the concern has been to say that the businesses should not have been there in the first place and that they should not have started up in areas that already have parking restrictions. That comment is, in part, misleading. Most of the parking restrictions have not changed. We believe that parking restrictions should be enforced. In earlier amendments we tried to have parking restrictions enforced. We criticised the lack of enforcement of parking restrictions.

Mr. Allason

The hon. Lady has just contradicted herself.

Ms. Ruddock

Not at all. We have said that parking restrictions should be enforced and we moved amendments to that effect.

Mr. Allason

Except for bakers' lorries.

Ms. Ruddock

If the hon. Gentleman bears with me for a moment, he will understand my point.

The decline of 15 per cent. over the past five years in the number of traffic wardens has meant that parking restrictions are not enforced effectively. If businesses have continued to accept that parking restrictions are not enforced, they cannot be blamed for that. They have traded according to the local climate. However, I am not even defending that—

Mr. Allason

The hon. Lady must give way now. I will be very brief.

Ms. Ruddock

The hon. Gentleman may be brief, but he must wait until I have finished my argument.

I was simply saying that businesses operate in that climate. The important point is that the problem stems not just from parking restrictions that are being enforced now for the first time on the pilot red route, but from the new waiting restrictions. The problem arises not so much for customer parking as for delivery lorries making deliveries. Businesses are complaining about the loading restrictions that have been introduced with the pilot red route. Those restrictions are proving to be damaging to local businesses.

Even if that were not the case, the Minister's approach would cause large areas of blight in London. If shops and businesses are now deemed to be in the wrong places and must therefore go, it will be difficult to find other uses for those premises along roads like the pilot red route. The Secretary of State will become responsible for blight, but he will not be prepared to take action to remedy it.

Mr. Bowis

Does not the hon. Lady accept that, before a red route is designated—at the moment, we are dealing only with a trial scheme—there is an enormous amount of consultation, including consultation with the local authority? Nothing in the Bill requires red routes to ban parking at any specific time. That can be geared to the needs of a particular road. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man in local government or of the director of traffic to work out for each route a sensible scheme that meets the needs of deliveries and of the people living, working and shopping in the area.

Ms. Ruddock

There is much logic in what the hon. Gentleman says. It should be possible to work out a regime that is sensible and meets the obvious needs of people and goods, which is exactly what we are suggesting should be the priority and main consideration. That is the purpose of the amendment. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will support it. [Interruption.] I remind the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) that the Bill does not contain a mechanism that provides for public consultation. Our next amendment, amendment No. 13, which I shall also move, introduces consultation, because that is signally lacking in the Bill as drafted.

If there had been consultation that was as rigorous and considerate as the hon. Gentleman would wish, the problems that I am now outlining would not be occurring. Adequate consultation would surely have ensured that businesses would not now be encountering the immense difficulties that they are currently reporting to the chambers of commerce and to my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and. for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith).

9.30 pm

The amendment emphasises the needs of people and goods. It will mean that the overriding objective of the red routes is not simply the movement of vehicles, but the movement of people and goods to their destinations, which is what we suggest should be the primary aim of transport.

Another function of the amendment is that it will allow priority to be given to the efficient users of road space—the buses. Various hon. Members set out their view in Committee, which was that it is not possible to speed buses without similarly speeding cars, and vice versa, and that any move to speed cars will automatically help buses. However, that analysis is not accurate. Large-scale bus priority measures will speed buses, but will not affect car journey speeds significantly. It is a fallacy to suggest, as some Conservative Members have suggested, that bus lanes slow down other traffic. That is not the case, as long as they are properly designed.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend has not yet mentioned—perhaps she is about to do so—that the movement of people, whether by bus or by car, might be enhanced by bus lanes, which would increase the time spent by people travelling in private cars, but there will be a net gain for everyone, with a better flow of people. That shows the inept and incorrect criteria that the Government are adopting in this part of the Bill.

Ms. Ruddock

My hon. Friend's points are well made. Large-scale bus priority measures would significantly increase the average speed at which people can move without significantly changing the average speeds of all vehicles. That is because buses are far more efficient users of road space than cars.

Furthermore, no-car lanes and other measures that aid lorries could speed the movement of freight without significantly increasing the volume of traffic or the number of cars, thus avoiding the environmental problems that that could create.

The distinction between traffic on the one hand and people and goods on the other is significant. The use of the latter definition would remove the overwhelming priority that has been given to passing vehicles and would allow a proper balance to be struck between access to red-route frontages and movement along those routes.

In the light of the experience of the pilot red routes, I hope that the Minister will concede that all is not well and that it is important to have much more regard than the Government have given in the pilot project to the movement of people and goods rather than stressing the simple speed at which vehicles can move past the homes in which people live and the shops in which they wish to conduct their business.

Mr. Adley

I am not unsympathetic to what the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) has said. I am sorry if that upsets some of my hon. Friends but I am bound to say——

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

My hon. Friend has already been reselected.

Mr. Adley

If I managed to vote against the poll tax without it causing me any problems, it will not be a problem if I agree with the hon. Lady. Having just returned from Ribble Valley, I am pleased to put that on the record.

The Government's phase of believing that the market is the only necessary discipline to deal with the problem of London's traffic should be consigned to the dustbin at the earliest opportunity. Unrestricted competition, certainly between coach companies, is one of the most serious problems that we face in London, although not the only one. Small numbers of people are brought into London by coach but the amount of congestion and pollution which the coaches create is out of all proportion. Therefore, the hon. Lady's amendment to replace the word "traffic" with the words "people and goods" is perfectly fair.

Westminster city council suggested in a recent document:

  • "The Government should recognise that coach terminal provision in London is a strategic planning matter.
  • The Government should support a dispersed terminal strategy.
  • The Government should recognise also that coach parking in Central London is a strategic national matter and consider making it eligible for grant support."
My hon. Friend the Minister properly praises Westminster city council for its efficiency, but I assure him that the people responsible for dealing with the day-to-day problems of London traffic in that local authority will tell him that they are unhappy with the present situation.

The number of coaches towed away by the Metropolitan police rises inexorably. Indeed, when my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo) was Minister for Public Transport, he produced some figures with which I shall not weary the House, which showed that the number of coaches towed away by the Metropolitan police was rising month by month. Unless we deal with the problems of priority routes properly, we shall continue to place an intolerable burden on the Metropolitan police. I am sure that none of us in the House would wish to do that.

You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that when the Sessional Order was moved at the beginning of this Session, I raised the problem of access to this building caused by the illegal parking of coaches in and around Parliament square. Mr. Cockram, the clerk to the traffic commissioners, has been in correspondence with an officer of the House, Mr. Brown, from the Select Committee on House of Commons Services. On 7 June last year, he said: On the evidence of recent checks, they"— that is a company called London Cityrama— appear to have broken one of those conditions and have now been warned about this. The breaches are not however such as to justify the Commissioner taking action to revoke the licence and nor does the legislation give him power to require them to use a different bus stop from that presently authorised. So clearly there is inadequate legislation on the statute book to deal with the problem.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) will not mind if I quote correspondence from National Express, which is one of the worst offenders on trunk routes and other roads in London. I have a series of letters from various members of its staff who admit that some of the company's drivers have erred and strayed from their way like lost sheep, or not, as the case may be.

One letter of 2 November 1988 says: I am concerned to note that the vehicle's engine was running unnecessarily and I will ensure that the matter is brought to the attention of the owning company". More recently, Mr. J. C. Myers, the managing director, wrote on 29 October last year: I have arranged for further notification to be sent to all of our operating companies reminding them of the restrictions defined by Westminster City Council. A letter of 5 December 1990 said: I regret this further intrusion and your identification of vehicle registration numbers is helpful in sorting out offenders … I would seek to reassure you that we are taking action to stamp out this practice. Two months later—indeed, only this morning—I received a letter which said: As you are aware, we have issued notices to all companies operating on the National Express network and your action in pinpointing specific times and registration numbers does at least enable us to trace individuals and arrange for the staff concerned to be disciplined". They write letters, but nothing ever happens. We need to stiffen the legislation in the way in which the amendment proposes.

We need much greater use by my hon. Friend's Department of exhortation with the local authorities to install road humps—not on red routes—which will be yet another opportunity to slow down traffic and prevent unsuitable traffic from using some of the routes. The changes in the law which we have produced in the last few years have aggravated and in some cases created the problems of which we speak. The Bill deals with the overall problem of traffic; it seems to me that one class of offender—coaches—is still allowed to escape the rigours of the rules.

Mr. Chris Smith

I support the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock). The red route proposals which the Government make in the Bill and which they are already implementing in my constituency are a classic example of putting the needs of the movement of traffic of and for itself before the needs of people and services. It is a case of the interests of commuters being put above the interests of local people, local traders and the local community.

The red route pilot scheme runs along Holloway road and Upper street, through my constituency. The Minister will know from my correspondence with him, and from the meeting that I had with his predecessor, together with the Upper street business association, of my fierce opposition to the idea and the content of the red route scheme. Its effect on local businesses has been severe. Its effect on side street parking for local residents has been adverse. Effectively, it has divided the community in two. It has the overall effect of drawing traffic into the area, whereas we should be attempting to reduce the volume of traffic passing through inner-city areas.

It is already having a discernible effect on local businesses and shops. Only this morning, I received a copy of a letter which the proprietor of a local shop, Aria, has sent to the borough council. I shall quote from the letter, because it puts the case succinctly: The red routes have been in operation now for some weeks and from the point of view of our business, the red route has proved a disaster. Whilst traffic speeds may have increased along Upper street this has been at a cost to the environment and in the long term the shops and businesses along it.… My area of greatest concern however is the effect on Saturdays when a greater number of people wish to visit the shop by car and yet restrictions apply as if it were a normal weekday. Levels of commuters and goods traffic are considerably less than during the week and there appears to be no sound basis for continuing with the red route restrictions in Upper street. That is a clear statement of the problems for just one of many businesses which are adversely affected along the line of the red route.

I have a number of specific questions which I hope the Minister can answer. First, when will the review that he has promised of the operation of the pilot red route scheme be carried out? Secondly, will that review look not so much at the flow of traffic and the impact of the red route on the flow of traffic as at the impact on the local people and the local businesses? Thirdly, will there be any amendment to the operation of the red routes so that they operate purely at rush hours and not throughout the day until a late hour? Fourthly, will the red route be removed entirely, as it should be, on Saturdays? Fifthly, will there be provision for tidal operation of the red route rather than operation on both sides of the road throughout the day?

Sixthly, what has been the diversion of police resources to police the operation of the red route? Are they there to protect the interests of passing traffic or to patrol the streets and protect the interests, property and lives of my constituents? It seems that at present they are devoting undue attention to the needs of the red route.

Seventhly, will the Minister think again about the whole crazy idea of red routes? It is about time he did, and for once put the needs, views and concerns of people first. We in Islington do not want this red route imposed on us.

9.45 pm
Mr. Allason

I am in favour of red routes, and I urge the House to reject the amendment. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) is trying to have it both ways, because this is clearly a matter of priority. It is concerned with the movement of vehicles, and it would be sheer ideological nit-picking to substitute the words of the amendment, for this is a matter of getting buses moving. If the hon. Lady also wants to prevent lorries from stopping and unloading, she is advocating two contradictory plans.

The red route at Archway has been a great success. I understand that the traffic flow has increased by 30 per cent. I know that I speak for many other residents of the Fulham road, the A304, which is scheduled to become a red route, when I say that delivery lorries parking inconsiderately clog the flow of traffic. Such vehicles could easily move into side streets if they wish to convey a message that will take perhaps only 30 seconds to convey—for example, to say that there will be no further deliveries.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) has a proper point to make about the implications for delivery and goods vehicles of changing the traffic flow, and it is right that we should consider that aspect.

The first principle of any traffic planning is that, if one creates a fast throughway for traffic, one draws more traffic to it, and the last thing London needs is more traffic. Traffic speeds in central London have slowed simply because there is far too much traffic for the capacity of London's roads. The more we investigate the possibilities of red routes, try pilot schemes and implement red route schemes more widely, the more we shall attract traffic down those arterial roads into central London and thereby congest the capital city.

I view with some apprehension any judgement by the Department of Transport that the Islington/Archway road red route is a success, because I have no doubt that the New Kent road and the Old Kent road, which run through the middle of my constituency, will be chosen because they are major trunk roads from London to Dover. They will obviously be considered as candidates for red routing.

If it were only a matter of containing the current amount of traffic and allowing that to pass in a less impeded way, that would be fine, but that is not the implication. Shoppers and pedestrians wishing to cross red routes find that they are more dangerous roads to cross and walk along. For those who live alongside those roads, there is more disruption and environmental disadvantage, with traffic pounding ever faster and in greater volumes along their frontages. That in all probability reduces the value of their properties even more, remembering that many people would not have chosen properties in the Archway road as homes even in the old days.

Mr. Bowis

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about not attracting more traffic into London. Does he accept that some of the traffic that comes on the faster flowing red routes has hitherto been rat running down residential streets, and that the interests of people living in those rat runs should also be taken into account?

Mr. Hughes

That is true, but the way to deal with that is to use traffic calming and other measures in side streets to stop the rat running and to make sure that we reduce the number of goods and private vehicles using the roads, thereby solving two problems. The problem of rat runs is solved, and that simultaneously reduces traffic coming into London. Such traffic ends up in the middle of the city and has to find somewhere to park or an escape route.

The GLC promulgated the good idea of encouraging vehicles to go round London rather than through it. The red routes will encourage drivers to come into the middle of London. As I said before, the red routes in London should be for underground trains and for buses.

Mr. Corbyn

The red route that we are discussing starts in Haringey and runs through my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). It is universally unpopular. In an answer today, the Minister told me that he had had 100 letters on the red route. Pressure of work or time, or an inability to count up to 100, prevented him from telling me how many of the letters were in favour and how many were against the red route.

I and my constituents object to red routes, because of the philosophy and principle behind them. Two years ago, the Government produced proposals for the east London assessment study, which was designed to create motorway-style roads into central London. The proposals were strongly opposed by people in my borough and neighbouring boroughs, and were subsequently withdrawn by the Government. It is interesting to note that the proposed red route follows roughly the line proposed for the major route.

We suspect that the red route's purpose is not to improve the safety or flow of traffic or the safety of pedestrians, but to bring more traffic on a fast route into central London, in this case to the City and docklands. Consultation on the system has been minimal. There was no consultation with the people of Islington about the principle of having a red route through their borough. We were consulted on the details of it being brought in. It is strongly opposed by people who see difficulty in crossing roads because of speeding cars, by people who are disturbed by increasing noise on the road and by those who suffer from disabilities and who are told that they can stop only in designated parking spaces, even though those spaces may not be outside the shops which people want to use.

At the start of the red route, there were farcical attempts by the police to move a post office van out of the way while the postman was emptying a letter box. He was told to remove his van and in future not to empty a letter box on the red route. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said, there was an attempt to move a milk float. There have been other such incidents.

Many of the shops and businesses on the red route have no rear access. They are old buildings, and some of them have a mews access. Deliveries and collections have to be to the front door of the shops. That is a fact of life, whether or not it is convenient to the red route. A furniture shop on the route has had a 30 per cent. drop in takings simply because it cannot take deliveries during working hours when the furniture is brought into London from the manufacturer. In one case, a lorry came from north Wales and had to be sent back because it could not deliver.

People buying furniture from a shop on the route cannot take it away, because they cannot park close enough. The only alternative is to walk across the Holloway road carrying a double bed or a settee, and that presents more danger than a lorry parking outside a shop. The route has had a detrimental effect on the lives of people in the borough.

Hon. Members who do not represent inner-London constituencies should be told, if they do not already know, that, about halfway through the Committee proceedings on the Bill, a map produced by the Department of Transport showed a plethora of red routes to be introduced all over London. That was to be done by an unelected, unaccountable, appointed traffic commissioner with powers over local authorities to do as he or she wished. In future, traffic management will be a form of dictatorship.

Our objection to the red route is not just the increase in traffic but the philosophy of increasing the volume and speed of traffic while in ignorance of the needs of pedestrians, people with disabilities, people who wish to shop in the area and those who wish to deliver to or collect from shops.

There are already signs of a significant drop in the takings of all the small businesses along the red route. That will lead to their closure. Around the Nag's Head, at the junction of the Seven Sisters road and Holloway road, Jones Brothers, once a major department store in the area, has closed, as have other shops. Dead shopping areas are appearing all along the route.

The Minister must understand that people who live in inner-city areas usually have a lower level of car ownership than those elsewhere. Less than half the households in my borough have access to a car, never mind the individual use of a car. The needs of pedestrians and public transport are more important to them than increasing the number of commuter motorists, often in taxpayer-subsidised cars, tearing in and out of London.

The solution to London's traffic problems does not lie with traffic management schemes such as the red routes and all that goes with them; it lies with the philosophy that increases accessibility to public transport and reduces its cost. That is the way forward for the city, not by bringing more traffic into an already overcrowded and polluted central area of our city.

Mr. Chope

This debate is largely about semantics. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members look at the terms of the amendment to which they have been speaking, they will see that it seeks to substitute a new word for the word "traffic". People who are travelling and freight that is being moved are important considerations, but people and goods are moved by vehicles, and vehicles constitute one part of the dictionary definition of traffic. The other part of the dictionary definition is people.

The Bill and the red routes are all about freeing the movement of traffic to cut down waste and pollution and to improve safety. Those are desirable objectives. The essence of the scheme is primarily to improve the movement of traffic, and that is what needs to appear on the face of the Bill.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Minister agree that the movement of goods and people can be achieved by various modes, including shoe leather and crossing the road? In the Minister's book, movement by traffic seems to mean movement by motor vehicle. It is not a semantic difference—it is a big and fundamental difference.

Mr. Chope

The hon. Gentleman will probably accept that the movement of people by bus and the movement of goods by lorry are important considerations. The movement of people who service the community in London by van is also important. All those are difficult considerations to balance, but we think that, by concentrating the through traffic in London on the main routes, we shall be able to relieve the pressure on the other routes. The red route scheme is gaining increasing popular acceptance.

When London Weekend Television wished to do a hatchet job on the Government's red route proposal, it sent a crew up the red route in the morning and back again in the afternoon, speaking to many people on the route, including motorists and others. But at the end of the day, when the crew came to interview me, it had to accept—contrary to what the producer had hoped—that the red route was a pronounced success. But then—surprise, surprise—LWT did not feel it necessary to show that programme.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Does the Minister accept the proposition that there will be more traffic on that red route?

Mr. Chope

I accept that the creation of a red route will make it easier for traffic to move away from the other routes and on to the main route. That is the essence of the scheme. We hope that the amount of traffic in London will not increase significantly, but it is important that we should make the best use of London's main roads, because it is clear that the people of London do not wish to have a lot of new purpose-built roads imposed upon them.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister accept that the creation of a red route will increase the amount of traffic passing along that route, wherever it comes from?

Mr. Chope

Yes, if it is successful, it probably will. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) looks dissatisfied with that, but surely it would show that the red route was a success.

Many comments have been made about the effects on businesses. I am sure that the hon. Member for Islington, North will have noted that it is not merely businesses in Islington which did not have an especially good January.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Road Traffic Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Boswell.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Chope

A firm in Knightsbridge has not been doing especially well on the retail side recently, but it has not blamed its lack of business on a red route.

We shall have to await the results of the monitoring being carried out by the transport and road research laboratory. As I have already said, I am willing to meet people from the business community.

Mr. Corbyn

I understand that the report is being prepared. To what extent will it look into the business and social effects of the route on shops and so forth alongside it? If the report deals solely with traffic movement, it will not answer many of our objections to the route.

Mr. Chope

As I understand it, the transport and road research laboratory is making a comparison with what is happening in Streatham, where there is no red route, so it will be able to compare effects on businesses and shops there in the same period with the effects of the red route in Islington.

There has been a great deal of disinformation and exaggeration about the impact of the red route. Many of the businesses complaining about it were already in unsatisfactory positions. Three of the businesses which have complained are located next to bus stops, on zigzags next to traffic signals—as they were before the red route was introduced. Ten other businesses which have complained about the new red route are complaining about enforcement of regulations which applied before. There is certainly more provision for proper loading and unloading facilities on the pilot red route than existed before. That will be helpful to the community in Islington, especially when work on side roads has been completed.

I do not think that I shall be able to persuade the hon. Member for Islington, North that red routes are the right answer, as he argued against them articulately and emotionally in Committee, but I am sure that people in London will come to appreciate the initiatives that the Government have taken by introducing red routes.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 143, Noes 219.

Division No. 82] [10.03 pm
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.) Flynn, Paul
Allen, Graham Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Alton, David Foster, Derek
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Fraser, John
Armstrong, Hilary Fyfe, Maria
Ashton, Joe George, Bruce
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Battle, John Golding, Mrs Llin
Beckett, Margaret Gordon, Mildred
Bell, Stuart Graham, Thomas
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Benton, Joseph Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bermingham, Gerald Grocott, Bruce
Bidwell, Sydney Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Boyes, Roland Hinchliffe, David
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hood, Jimmy
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Caborn, Richard Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Callaghan, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Ingram, Adam
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Kirkwood, Archy
Cartwright, John Lamond, James
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Leighton, Ron
Clay, Bob Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Lewis, Terry
Cohen, Harry Livsey, Richard
Corbyn, Jeremy Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cryer, Bob Loyden, Eddie
Cummings, John McAllion, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence McAvoy, Thomas
Dalyell, Tam McCartney, Ian
Darling, Alistair Macdonald, Calum A.
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McFall, John
Dixon, Don McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Dobson, Frank McKelvey, William
Doran, Frank McLeish, Henry
Duffy, A. E. P. McMaster, Gordon
Dunnachie, Jimmy McNamara, Kevin
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth McWilliam, John
Eadie, Alexander Madden, Max
Eastham, Ken Mahon, Mrs Alice
Evans, John (St Helens N) Marek, Dr John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Fearn, Ronald Maxton, John
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Meale, Alan
Fisher, Mark Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Sedgemore, Brian
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Sheerman, Barry
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Short, Clare
Moonie, Dr Lewis Skinner, Dennis
Morgan, Rhodri Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Morley, Elliot Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mowlam, Marjorie Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Mullin, Chris Spearing, Nigel
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
O'Brien, William Steinberg, Gerry
O'Hara, Edward Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Patchett, Terry Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Pendry, Tom Turner, Dennis
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Vaz, Keith
Prescott, John Wallace, James
Primarolo, Dawn Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Quin, Ms Joyce Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Redmond, Martin Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Reid, Dr John Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Richardson, Jo Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Robertson, George Winnick, David
Rooker, Jeff Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rooney, Terence
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Tellers for the Ayes:
Rowlands, Ted Mr. Frank Haynes and
Ruddock, Joan Mr. Jack Thompson.
Salmond, Alex
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cope, Rt Hon John
Allason, Rupert Couchman, James
Amess, David Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Arbuthnot, James Day, Stephen
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Ashby, David Dunn, Bob
Atkins, Robert Eggar, Tim
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Evennett, David
Baldry, Tony Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fallon, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Favell, Tony
Beggs, Roy Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bellingham, Henry Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Fishburn, John Dudley
Benyon, W. Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bevan, David Gilroy Forth, Eric
Biffen, Rt Hon John Franks, Cecil
Blackburn, Dr John G. Freeman, Roger
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter French, Douglas
Body, Sir Richard Gale, Roger
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Boswell, Tim Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bottomley, Peter Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Goodlad, Alastair
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bowis, John Gorst, John
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Greenway, Harry (Eating N)
Brazier, Julian Gregory, Conal
Bright, Graham Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Grist, Ian
Browne, John (Winchester) Hague, William
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Budgen, Nicholas Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Burns, Simon Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Butler, Chris Harris, David
Butterfill, John Haselhurst, Alan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawkins, Christopher
Carrington, Matthew Hayes, Jerry
Carttiss, Michael Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Cash, William Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Chapman, Sydney Hill, James
Chope, Christopher Hind, Kenneth
Churchill, Mr Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hunt, Rt Hon David
Colvin, Michael Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Conway, Derek Hunter, Andrew
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Irvine, Michael
Irving, Sir Charles Porter, David (Waveney)
Jack, Michael Portillo, Michael
Jackson, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
Janman, Tim Rathbone, Tim
Jessel, Toby Redwood, John
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rhodes James, Robert
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Riddick, Graham
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Key, Robert Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Kilfedder, James Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kirkhope, Timothy Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knapman, Roger Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shersby, Michael
Knowles, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knox, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Latham, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lawrence, Ivan Squire, Robin
Lee, John (Pendle) Stanbrook, Ivor
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Steen, Anthony
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Stern, Michael
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Stevens, Lewis
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lord, Michael Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
McCrindle, Sir Robert Taylor, Ian (Esher)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Maclean, David Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Malins, Humfrey Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Mans, Keith Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Maples, John Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thorne, Neil
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thornton, Malcolm
Miller, Sir Hal Thurnham, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mitchell, Sir David Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Moate, Roger Tracey, Richard
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tredinnick, David
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Morrison, Sir Charles Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Walden, George
Moss, Malcolm Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Waller, Gary
Needham, Richard Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Nelson, Anthony Watts, John
Neubert, Sir Michael Wells, Bowen
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wheeler, Sir John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Whitney, Ray
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Widdecombe, Ann
Norris, Steve Winterton, Nicholas
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Wood, Timothy
Oppenheim, Phillip Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Page, Richard
Paice, James Tellers for the Noes:
Patnick, Irvine Mr. Tom Sackville and
Patten, Rt Hon John Mr. David Davis.
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Question accordingly negatived.

10.15 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 38, line 15, after 'Commissioners', insert '(bb) such organisations of road users as he thinks appropriate;'. I shall be very brief. This amendment was tabled by Front-Bench Labour Members, and I have supported them. It may be that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and one or two of his colleagues will add a word or two in support of my remarks.

The amendment concerns the process by which red routes are established. The Bill, as drafted, includes a provision for consultation with three different agencies —the relevant local authority, the relevant commissioner or commissioners, and London regional transport. The amendment would result in the inclusion of such organisations of road users as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate. This is geared intentionally to ensure that all those other people who would be affected by the creation of red routes were consulted. The obvious categories include pedestrians, who are likely to be among the most severely affected categories, and users of public transport.

It seems to me that this is an appropriate and uncontroversial amendment. Ministers always have reasons for opposing amendments that are not of their own making. Those reasons can be either technical or substantive. I believe that there is no fundamental, profound or justifiable reason for resisting this amendment, and I hope that the Minister, having won the last skirmish, will be generous enough to admit that this is a good idea.

Ms. Ruddock

Throughout the Committee stage, Members on both sides expressed concern about the very limited consultation requirements that the Bill lays down. At no point in the procedure for the definition of priority routes or for the preparation of objectives, the network plan or local plans, is there any requirement for the public to be consulted in any way. At best, this principle is accepted only in the case of local plans drawn up by the local authorities, which would expect to consult local businesses and residents in any case. So far as the other cases are concerned, the Minister made it clear in Committee that he expects local authorities to consult local residents and businesses. That is hardly adequate. These are Government schemes, not borough schemes, and boroughs are hardly in a position to explain the details of such proposals, or the thinking behind them, when questions arise—as they surely will.

In the case of the London assessment studies, the Secretary of State accepted this point and agreed that civil servants should present the consultants' proposals to public meetings, as only then could the civil servants be in a position to explain them properly. Even though the civil servants objected initially, this procedure was followed, and most would agree that, although consultation was in many ways inadequate, it was a considerable advance on any form of consultation previously offered by the Department of Transport.

Not only has the Minister refused to accept that point in this case, but he refused in Committee to accept that boroughs should accept the costs of this consultation. He also said that, generally, there would be a period of two months for consultation. After taking into account the time taken to dispatch information, collate responses, write reports and send those reports to Committee members, two months, in terms of local authority practice, would allow the public a maximum of about one week to respond, and in, many cases, no time at all.

Given the fact that these proposals will dramatically affect many people's lives and activities, this is hardly adequate. The Minister may expect the boroughs to consult their residents. As I have said, we believe that such consultation would be totally inadequate, but there are also a number of road users' organisations that cannot be consulted in that way.

Mr. Bowis

Up to now, the hon. Lady has been talking about consulting the public. This amendment refers not to the public but to organisations of road users. One is aware of organisations such as associations of road hauliers and chambers of commerce, but what about the organisations that represent our constituents who drive on these roads?

Ms. Ruddock

The hon. Gentleman misses the point. We discussed at length, in the previous amendment, the fact that it is not just the movement of vehicles or the people who are moving through London that worries us, but all the people in the neighbourhoods, many of whom my hon. Friends represent in the case of the pilot scheme.

I was about to say that the boroughs are not responsible for the views of the RAC, the Freight Transport Association, the Pedestrians Association or the London Cycling Campaign. Many of those organisations, particularly the latter two, have many members in our constituencies. Indeed, they consist of no one other than ordinary members of our constituencies, who choose a variety of modes of transport and whose views must be properly represented.

Mr. Bowis

That will take place in the consultation. But we also need to hear from Londoners who have to drive.

Ms. Ruddock

If Government policies were different, with proper support for public transport, many of the people to whom the hon. Gentleman refers would not need to travel on the roads but would have alternative modes of transport. It would then be possible for organisations of passengers who travel by public transport to be represented.

Mr. Bowis

That is different.

Ms. Ruddock

Indeed, it is different. But if the hon. Gentleman refers simply to those many individual car owners who travel through areas of London but have no reason for being in a neighbourhood, for example for shopping, the only organisations that represent them are those such as the RAC, to which I have already referred.

Mr. Bowis

I am not referring to people who do not live in the area. If one is to have consultations with organisations, one must consult fairly, across the board, with organisations covering all road users. One specific group of users comprises people who live in London but who use their vehicles—because they have to, because they choose to or because public transport is not available. How would the amendment relate to them?

Ms. Ruddock

The amendment can deal only with organisations that exist. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, as I suggested earlier, that the RAC could be deemed to represent individual car users. Nowadays, organisations such as the RAC and the AA are not simply rescue services but have developed a broad tranche he of transport policies, and they represent car users. If the hon. Gentleman has in mind any other representative organisations, we shall be happy to hear from him. If he says that there are no organisations in existence, his suggestion is impossible. We seek to make available consultation to legitimate organisations that obviously represent a variety of forms of road users.

I repeat that there are organisations that should be consulted. The Bill gives the members of those organisations no right to be consulted whatsoever. That is the purpose of this minimal though important amendment. It would not be responsible of the Minister to put the responsibility for such consultation on to the boroughs, especially with the short time scales that he is proposing and without any extra finance. It is hardly sensible to expect the boroughs to consult more widely on proposals which are not theirs. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will take this modest proposal seriously and accept it.

Mr. Spearing

As I said on Second Reading, I have a particular reason for speaking on this amendment about consultation. I wish to show that, with better consultation, some of the misconceptions and difficulties of the scheme will be revealed. It is possible that I am the only person—certainly the only person on the Floor, although perhaps not in parts of the Chamber that we cannot name—who has been involved in implementing such a scheme.

It is now 25 years since the former Greater London council introduced clearways in London. Those clearways were designed to do almost exactly what the Minister is attempting to do with the red routes. A clear and comprehensive plan was developed across the river—where it should be—by a strategic, policy-making organisation for London. It relieved the House of matters with which it should not concern itself at this time of night, or any other time.

The plan involved a considerable amount of consultation. I remember going to many boroughs. Four sub-committees were dealing with the issue, and we spent hours round the tables in town halls trying to balance the need of the increasing movement of traffic against the needs of frontages along unique pieces of highway.

The Minister will know some of the high roads in the London borough of Wandsworth. Many of the potential red routes are along roads that existed as country lanes before London became a built-up area—for example, Streatham high road, East hill, Wandsworth, and Wandsworth high street. There are many roads in the Clapham and Battersea district with which he will be familiar from his local government days, which were built up in Edwardian times. Some of those roads were tram routes, and were thoroughfares long before the motor car or lorry became common.

A thoroughfare is not the same thing as a road; it is a multi-purpose phenomenon. It is true that it always has a road carriageway in the middle. Originally, horses and carts, trams and cycles went down the carriageway, but a thoroughfare is much more than that. It includes the pavements, the businesses, the houses, as well as the cross-routes that join the main carriageway, typical of Edwardian and Victorian London.

Further out of London there are roads that were built, specifically with traffic in mind, in the 1930s. Some of those roads were modified—for example, the Kingston bypass and parts of the A13. Some new arterial roads have been built specifically for traffic.

I suspect that the roads that the Minister has in mind and those on which he will be making designation orders are urban thoroughfares of the sort that I have described, which, for reasons we all understand, are the inner thoroughfares leading to outer arterial roads. The Minister wants the traffic-carrying capacity of those thoroughfares to impinge on the local community.

The Bill states that the Minister should take note of the unique circumstances of each scheme and consult on them, as the Greater London council did on clearways. Perhaps the Minister will explain why the clearways scheme cannot be extended as a concept, beefed up or modified, because it was the original scheme. It was not perfect, but it improved the flow of traffic without impinging too much on the interests of local people.

The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis)—there are many such roads in Battersea—asked which organisation should be consulted. I have no doubt that both he and the Minister are often approached by old-age pensioners' associations, which are sensitive to issues such as traffic lights and zebra crossings, which present desirable opportunities for people to cross roads. If the Minister takes a census—I do not know whether the transport and road research laboratory is conducting one—he may find that the number of people walking up and down the road or wanting to cross it on foot is larger than the number of vehicles using it.

Thoroughfares provide just as important a function for pedestrians as vehicles, sometimes more. There are often many more pedestrians walking up the sides of London roads than travelling on them. Victoria street might be a good example. One must take account of the fact that the flow of traffic is often lower than one might think. What about pensioners' organisations? All of us who use roads know that traffic lights must be phased. A judgment must be made at every intersection about the balance of traffic, including cross-traffic and local traffic which does not run on the trunk routes. It has to be decided how much time to allow for each phase.

When the Minister designates red routes and it comes to designing or redesigning the phasing of lights, the organisation that runs the lights—I bet that most people, even hon. Members who represent London constituencies do not know what it is——

Mr. Corbyn

Yes, I do.

10.30 pm
Mr. Spearing

Perhaps some do, through consultation.

That organisation says that, in his order, the Minister said that priority must be given to such routes, to the disadvantage of local traffic which has to make cross-journeys. It does not involve only pedestrians but other movements in the same area. That problem may be covered by local authorities, but why should not the chambers of commerce that cover the appropriate red routes also be consulted?

I mentioned zebra crossings, but what about pelican crossings? Sometimes, they are more effective and efficient. If there are too many zebras, the traffic is held up, perhaps unduly. It is thought that it does not matter too much if pedestrians wait for 15 seconds to let the traffic pass. They can press the button and cross in a group, which is why pelican crossings are sometimes more effective and efficient. The Minister must bear in mind when he makes an order for a red route the fact that pelican crossings will disappear, or a pedestrian will have a much longer wait.

I have a vivid recollection of a route in a former constituency of mine—Western avenue in Acton. That was built for traffic, and the poor pedestrian could not cross it. I was assailed by residents' organisations which asked me to induce the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), when he was a Minister at the Department of Transport, to do something about it. The residents did not have even a pedestrian signal, so they had to watch the main traffic lights and cross four lanes of traffic, if they could. An official came and got his feet wet, marching up and down to identify improvements to the route which are now enjoyed by the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young).

If the ill-begotten scheme and the vast complex statutory jungle of 28 clauses following clause 41 are accepted, they will be a barrister's paradise, a bureaucrat's nightmare and a citizen's jungle. There should be proper consultation with bodies that are relevant to each local scheme, because there will be users of the thoroughfares as well as of the carriageways.

Mr. Corbyn

I support the amendment, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for moving it.

The clause states that, before making a priority route order, the Secretary of State shall consult the London authority—the borough council— the relevant Commissioner or … Commissioners and London Regional Transport. We had a lengthy debate about that in Committee and the Minister told us that it was the local authority's duty to consult local organisations. He said that it should be the local representative body that dealt with local opinion and views.

I have no problem with that, because my local authority went to enormous lengths to consult people about the red routes and to convey the opinions of local people to the Minister. It faithfully conveyed local opinion through its transport committee and the council itself, to the effect that there was massive opposition to the red route. Unfortunately, the Minister, in his high-handed and didactic fashion, ignored and overrode the wishes of local people.

Other local authorities in London may not be as cautious in consulting local opinion as the borough of Islington attempted to be. In Committee, even the Minister accepted that Islington had gone to considerable lengths to consult local groups. Other borough councils may not do the same or may not have the resources to undertake a consultation exercise.

One feature of the introduction of the red or priority route system in London has been that expensive schemes and consultation documents are put together by the Department of Transport, which local organisations then rebut. The local organisations want to propose their own ideas, but they do not have the resources to do so. The Minister should, in fairness, tell us what assistance may be given to local organisations so that they can propose their own traffic scheme.

When dealing with road planning, there is a David and Goliath approach. The Goliath of the Department of Transport descends on the poor unsuspecting folk of one community and then expects them to produce, in a short time, an alternative view if they disagree with the Department's ideas.

We suggest that there should be a guarantee of consultation with those who use particular roads. Some organisations do not operate within one borough boundary; they may go far wider. An example is the Dial-A-Ride Users Association, which operates across London and which has local derivatives, such as the Islington Disablement Association. Groups representing the disabled should be represented. Those who represent pedestrians who live in a particular area should be represented, as should those who represent cyclists, those who represent delivery and collection, and local shopkeepers and business people. All those groups should be consulted and represented. The local authority's ability to put forward its view on the question before it is also important.

I find it rather depressing that, in 1991, when we should be talking far more about the development of activities and control in matters such as traffic, we face strong Government centralisation of local decision-making. It is depressing, as my own borough council of Islington has devolved its activities into 24 neighbourhood offices, which are popular within the borough. They give greater contact between the council and the people, and they provide far more effective consultation on issues such as traffic. Yet the borough council is unable to control what goes on with traffic across the borough.

A conglomeration of London boroughs banding together cannot decide what goes on London wide. Instead, the Secretary of State for Transport makes local and detailed decisions on where traffic flows go and on what powers the traffic commissioner has over neighbouring streets and sideworks. It is depressing that we should be moving into a period of centralisation.

If the system is brought into operation in London on the back of the abolition of our strategic authority, hon. Members who represent constituencies outside London should beware. If the Government abolish the county councils, these proposals will grow like triffids all over the country.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

Like what?

Mr. Corbyn

Like triffids—John Wyndham's book, for the uninitiated. Triffids grew up everywhere.

Hon. Members will find that the process of red routes and of centralisation of traffic management comes directly under the Department of Transport. We already live in an over-centralised country. These proposals will make it far more centralised.

We propose a slight mitigation. There would have to be consultation with all groups of road users who have a legitimate point of view to put. The consultation proposed in the Bill is limited and rests solely on the need of wheeled traffic to get more quickly through the area. That wheeled traffic is largely cars and, to some extent, buses. I want the needs of pedestrians and those with disabilities to be taken into account—indeed, the needs of the community as a whole should be taken into account. It cannot be lost on Conservative Members that, if one speeds up the traffic on a particular road, one increases the dangers to pedestrians. That will also increase the sense of isolation between communities on each side of the road. If the small shops are killed off, the bigger shops will be killed off, and if that happens, the shopping community will be killed off.

As the Minister drives along the Archway road in his publicly owned and chauffeur-driven care, if he looks out of the window, he will spot a large graffito which reads "Red route=Dead route."

The red route is damaging the community. There should at least be wider consultation so that all the effects of increasing traffic speeds and flows can be considered before a priority route is imposed on a community that does not want such a route.

Mr. Chris Smith

I support amendment No. 13 because it seeks to widen, to a certain extent, the process of consultation that must be undertaken before a red route can be designated. I would like the amendment to go further. The Secretary of State should have a statutory duty to consult local residents and businesses about a proposed red route instead of relying entirely on the channel of communication available to local people through their local authority.

In the limited consultation on the pilot red route scheme, the local authority quite correctly relayed to the Minister the near-unanimous view of local people and businesses that they opposed the red route proposal. However, the Minister completely ignored those views. Instead, he placed enormous emphasis on the anecdotal evidence of a London Weekend Television crew which stopped a few drivers on Upper street and asked them what they thought about the red route in operation. If a Transport Minister can make crucial decisions about transport in that part of London in that way and place more reliance on the hearsay ad hoc evidence of a television crew than on the carefully consulted evidence from the local authority, the provisions in the Bill cannot be sufficient.

The Department of Transport's consultations about the pilot scheme for the red route were completely inadequate. The idea for it germinated during consultation on the east London assessment study. At no stage in those discussions, or in proposals from Department of Transport officials, was the prospect of a red route mentioned for Archway, along Holloway road, Upper street and into City road. The only consultation—[Interruption.] It would help if the Minister would listen to the debate. These matters are of crucial importance to my constituents. If the Minister treats my views and those of my constituents with the disdain that he is showing now, I cannot be surprised by decisions taken by the Department of Transport.

Mr. Corbyn

Does my hon. Friend recall that, when he and I consulted people in Islington about the way in which the east London assessment study would affect the borough, we also asked our respective constituents about the red route and we received similar replies? Those responses were conveyed to the Secretary of State in the response to ELAS, but those responses were ignored and we discovered that the first priority route scheme was to be in our borough.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend leads me to my next point, which is that the only real consultation that was offered to my constituents on the institution of a red route along Holloway road and Upper street was when concrete proposals were set up in an exhibition in the town hall, with the Department of Transport telling us, "This is what is going to happen. We invite your views on it." A fait accompli was presented to local residents, with no real opportunity for local people to make it known to the Department of Transport that they did not want the red route in any shape or form.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend will have noticed that the Secretary of State for Transport is listening to the debate. Will my hon. Friend conjecture on the possible views of an hon. Member representing an Edinburgh constituency if a route in Edinburgh were in the hands of a Secretary of State for Transport in Whitehall whose constituency was on the south coast? Would not such an hon. Member's constituents take objection to that fact, and does not much the same apply to us, in principle?

10.45 pm
Mr. Smith

I hesitate to be drawn into a constitutional debate about the proprieties of the legislation as between Scotland and England. Nonetheless, my hon. Friend has a valid point and I am grateful to notice that the Secretary of State is in his place on the Treasury Bench and that he is listening to our debate with considerably more care and attention than his Under-Secretary, the Minister for Roads and Traffic.

Mr. Corbyn

Is my hon. Friend aware that the A1 is known as the London to Edinburgh main road?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend has a point. Indeed, the route that was chosen for the pilot red route lies along the route of the A1.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

For the last time, because I wish to make some progress.

Mr. Bottomley

Is not the A1—the road to Edinburgh—slightly to the east? Is not the hon. Gentleman discussing a road that goes up to, say Chester? We seem to have gone slightly off course.

Mr. Corbyn

The Edinburgh road is the A1. The hon. Gentleman is thinking of the A5.

Mr. Smith

The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) must know that the A1 passes precisely along Upper street, Holloway road and Archway and finally heads north towards Edinburgh.

It is obvious from what happened with the institution of the pilot red route and from the Minister's response to that consultation that the consultation has been inadequate. The amendment seeks to improve that by, at the very least, including some provision for consultation with road users.

The Minister made great play on amendment No. 12 of the fact that there had been misinformation about the impact of the red route. I must advise him that the only disinformation is in the Department of Transport. It is not among local people, who know full well what the implementation of the pilot red route has proved and is proving to be.

The Minister conspicuously failed to answer the series of questions that I asked when I spoke to amendment No. 12, although I am sure that he has every intention of writing to me with his responses to those questions. Perhaps he will write to me with his response to this question also. Under what legal authority at present is a car that is parked on a Saturday afternoon on a single yellow line within, one must admit, a dotted red line along the red route in Upper street in my constituency—[Interruption] The amendment relates to red routes and consultation. We are talking about the interests of road users. If a road user parks a car on a red route on a single yellow line within a dotted red line on a Saturday afternoon, when parking on that single yellow line— —

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I find it difficult to see how that matter can possibly arise under the amendment.

Mr. Smith

I do not wish to contest your judgment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but as you will appreciate, the amendment is about the consultation which the Secretary of State has to undertake before designating a red route. It is about consultation with such organisations of road users as he thinks appropriate". Under what legal authority can a road user with a cat who wishes to park on a single yellow line inside a dotted red box on the red route which has been implemented on a pilot basis in my constituency on a Saturday afternoon—when parking on a single yellow line is usually perfectly in order—be taken to task by police and charged with committing an offence? Once the Bill is passed, the position may be different, but what legal authority exists at present for the police to issue a ticket on that vehicle? I should be grateful if, perhaps after consulting his officials, the Minister could provide me with an answer to that question.

The Minister said earlier that the people of London would appreciate the initiatives that the Government have taken in implementing red routes. The Minister is mistaken, and if he consulted properly, with not only local residents but road users, he would find out that he was mistaken. We need more consultation, more consideration and more circumspection about red routes and rather less of the complacency that we have had from the Minister during out discussions this evening.

Mr. Chope

I am in no way complacent about the red routes, but I have to admit to being satisfied with the early effects of the pilot red routes. Indeed, I recall some Opposition Members suggesting that the red routes would never achieve their purpose and that the traffic would not flow more freely. Now that the traffic is flowing more freely, they have diverted their criticism and say that the routes will be at the expense of the local community.

The basis for the provisions for consultation on the priority route network is precedented in the Local Government Act 1985, which provides for consultation with the local authorities, but not with a whole host of other organisations. We think it reasonable that there should be statutory consultation with the authorities mentioned in the Bill, but that does not mean that there will not be provision for informal consultation by the Secretary of State with other organisations.

Mr. Corbyn

What would be the position of a local community organisation which felt that its local authority was unwilling, incapable or simply had not represented its views to the Secretary of State? Would it have redress against the local authority, or would it have direct access to the Secretary of State? It is a real problem which I can envisage occurring in some places.

Mr. Chope

That is a continual problem with any consultation in a rich democracy. Some organisations feel that to be consulted effectively means that they should have a veto on the outcome, when in fact their views simply have to be taken into account. I am sure that a democratically accountable local authority in London would not wish to ignore representations from such an organisation but would allow organisations to inform its view, to be passed on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as part of the formal statutory consultation process.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I have not checked tonight, so I am not 100 per cent. certain, but my recollection is that, when we debated the London Regional Transport Bill in Committee, at a fairly late stage the Government conceded that there should be included in the Bill formal provision for consultation with users and with the community. It may not have been in the Local Government Act 1985, but I think that it was in the London Regional Transport Act 1984. I ask the Minister to reflect on whether that precedent is more valuable than the precedent that he is citing.

Mr. Chope

The reason why I cited my precedent was that, as the hon. Gentleman will know, under the Local Government Act 1985, we established designated roads very similar to the roads that we are talking about under the Bill. In deciding what roads were to be designated, there was provision in that Act for statutory consultation with the council of the London borough in which the designated road was, and the council of any other London borough or county where it was likely to have an effect. It was assumed that, as part of the consultation process, those boroughs would represent the feelings of their citizens to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I understand that. Obviously the boroughs can do that, being a conduit of the views of local people and organisations. None the less, may I press the Minister to be brave, break from his brief and say that he will at least consider the precedent in the London Regional Transport Act and consider, obviously for potential amendment later rather than today, whether it would not be a good PR exercise for consultation with the public at large to be written on the face of the Bill?

Mr. Chope

I have already reflected, following the debate in Committee on the matter. That is why I referred to the precedent of the 1985 Act. That precedent relates to roads in London. The hon. Gentleman asks a reasonable question, and I shall certainly have inquiries made about the precedent which he thinks goes the other way. I cannot recall which way that precedent goes.

We do not intend to introduce the red route network without consultation, but I think that the way in which the Bill sets it out is right and that it would be for informal consultation by my right hon. Friend with some of the other organisations.

Mr. Corbyn

I am interested in what the Minister says about not introducing a wider red route network without consultation. Can he explain the origin of the curious map which appeared in Committee and seemed to show a positive plethora of red routes all over London? Who has been consulted on that? As I understand it, the commissioner has not been appointed, so he has not been consulted yet—if it is a he.

Mr. Chope

Indeed, the traffic director has not been appointed yet, and we do not know whether the person will be male or female. The map, which I am glad the hon. Gentleman found helpful, set out the designated routes to London. It set out a number of the other main highway networks in London. The hon. Gentleman will recall that the original consultation paper on the red routes for traffic in London set out on one page, in quite vivid colour, the routes which we had in mind. That is not the final word on the matter, and there will be consultation following the appointment of the traffic director before my right hon. Friend decides which roads in London will be involved.

Mr. Corbyn

What is the status of the map?

Mr. Chope

It was an attempt to be of assistance to the Committee. This is the first time today that there has been a direct reference to the map. I assumed that, because hon. Members had the map before them in Committee, that facilitated the speedy dispatch of the business.

I do not think that I can add further to what I have said. We take the whole issue of consultation seriously, but we do not think that there is any purpose in writing into the statute provisions which are not strictly necessary.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The Government may have a slightly more positive view towards integrated planning, and the traffic director's post may be a jobshare. Will the Minister consider that possibility?

Although the Minister shows some reticence about going further than his brief—clearly, his reflection has not persuaded him to go all the way with us—he seemed to suggest that there was a slight chink of hope that the amendment might be accepted. On the basis of being ever hopeful that there is redemption for Ministers, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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