I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Before proceeding further, I have to inform the House that I have it in Command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that Her Majesty places her interests, so far as concerns the matter dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.
My point of order is that the Minister has submitted what appears to be a manuscript proposal which the House has known nothing about. We did not have knowledge of a word of this prior to it being read. It was read very quickly and we could not follow it. I submit to you, Sir, that it is reasonable to suggest that we should either have it circulated in manuscript form, or the Minister should read it again so that we can hear it.
If the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) wants me to read it again, I shall be only too pleased to do so. What I said was, "I have to inform the House that I have it in Command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that Her Majesty places her interests, so far as concerns the matter dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament."
It is with much pleasure that I move the Second Reading of this important Bill. It concerns a very large scheme of work which has waited for a great many years. The purpose of the Bill is best and most clearly set out in Clause 1. I think that most hon. Members would agree that Hyde Park Corner, Park Lane and Marble Arch are at the very heart of the London traffic problem, and the House may be interested to know that this will be the biggest single road improvement in Central London since the construction of Kingsway, in 1905.
I hope that hon. Members will have taken the opportunity to look at the model which has been exhibited in the Upper Waiting Hall, because this is a matter which is more easily followed if one has a detailed knowledge of the layout of Park Lane, Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch. I do not propose to go through the physical details of the scheme at any great length; they are clearly listed in Clause 1.
These works should be seen against the background of a great deal of other work which is going on in London and all over the country. I will mention just one or two schemes which are, to some extent, linked with this one. There are, for example, the Notting Hill Gate widening and the Strand widening. There are, however, a great number of these schemes going on all over London. It is my view and the view of those who advise me that, if we can get these done within a reasonable time, they will make a major contribution to the solution of London's traffic problem.
One manifestation of the British pastime, which I think is a dangerous one, of self-depreciation is the way in which so many people seem to think that nothing that we do in London can ever be as good as what is done in New York, or Paris, or some other capital city. It might do something to correct this somewhat unrealistic attitude if I say that at this moment over £10 million worth of road works is committed in London and the Bill will add another £4½ million of work to that total if the House approves it.
In addition, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is presiding over a joint Committee of my Department, the London County Council and the Road Research Laboratory which is drawing up a long-term programme of new roads and road improvements for the capital in the light of the most recent traffic information. Therefore, I think that the Bill fits in with the general plan of works and development in London, which, I believe, compares more than favourably with what any other country in the world is doing.
The House might be interested if I quoted a sentence or two which hon. Members might think were uttered by a British Minister of Transport:
We have waited too long, in the city and in the suburbs, and the result is that today, instead of being able to find openings and paths we can follow with comparative ease, we have to take down great big occupied residential, office, and other buildings and move thousands of people who don't want to be disturbed, who don't fully understand what we are driving at and who listen to all kinds of critics. We have to resist the pressures of groups and individuals who propose impractical alternate routes and by-passes. They want us to stay away from them even if in the end they will be enormously benefited.
Those words are not mine. They are the words of Mr. Robert Moses, who, as many hon. Members know, has done so much for traffic engineering in New York. They show that all over the world major capital cities are faced with this problem.
I think that it is time in this country not for more argument, but for more action. What we need is better roads now. We really must press forward and get some of the large schemes completed if we are to achieve any solution to the London problem of traffic congestion. I hope that the Bill, as I have explained it, will be seen in its proper context of making a major contribution to the solution of the traffic problem against the background of many other large schemes which are also going on.
Before I come to the details of the Bill, I notice that some hon. Members have tabled a Motion by which they seek to defer the passage of the Bill. They will no doubt explain their reasons for so doing, but I should like to remind the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South about something in which I know he has taken a personal interest. In March this year I authorised stage one of the Stretford—Eccles by-pass, including the Barton High Level Bridge. The work on this scheme has begun, and it will cost about £3½ million.
I hope that the hon. Member will not claim that London is getting more than its fair share, because that is not true. London must have its share, too, of the very large sums of money that are being spent throughout the country.
The residents of London may say that they have had to wait a long time for some solution of their traffic problems. London must have its fair share of the road works which are going on in the country. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would argue that London should not have its fair share.
I now come to the details. This is really a Bill not about a great political principle, but about practical details of civil engineering work. The details are best set out in paragraph 2 of the Explantory Memorandum accompanying the Bill. The Bill seeks to authorise the London County Council, as the improvement authority, to do three things. The first is to remodel the East Carriage Drive inside Hyde Park so as to form with Park Lane a twin carriageway road which will lie outside the boundary of the park, although we hope, as I shall explain, to preserve most of the trees, grass and amenities.
The second thing is to provide an under-pass between Piccadilly and Knightsbridge. The third is to construct two large roundabout systems at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch. Perhaps I should mention—it is an additional advantage for those who like Hyde Park, as I do—that there will also be constructed a number of subways which will enable those going into and out of the park to do so Without having to worry about waiting for the traffic.
The scheme is simple in conception. It means that the East Carriage Drive, in general, will really become one of the twin carriageways. Each carriageway will be 40 ft. wide. In other words, each one will carry four lanes of traffic. That should give much greater freedom of movement from north to south. To enable the traffic on the north to south route to go smoothly into Hyde Park Corner, a new road, called Apsley Carriageway, will have to be driven through Nos. 145–148, Piccadilly. Apsley Carriageway will be 85 ft. in width, which will be more than sufficient for four lanes of traffic in each direction. There is also the enlargement of the roundabouts at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch.
As the House knows, this scheme has been under discussion for very many years. The working group was set up in 1955 by my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. It brought forward the present scheme as basically the one it considered most suitable and the one making the largest contribution to the solution of the traffic problem.
If hon. Members doubt the necessity for the Bill, they might bear in mind that the traffic passing through Hyde Park Corner, as shown by the Metropolitan Police census of 1956, is about 91,000 vehicles in a 12-hour day. That makes it the busiest junction in the whole country. Everyone knows that at peak hours it is overloaded, as is also the length of Park Lane and Marble Arch. Marble Arch carries 65,000 vehicles in the same period, which makes it the third busiest junction in London.
What is of interest is that I have had the commercial vehicle aspect of traffic at Hyde Park Corner looked into. I am told that the number of commercial vehicles passing through Hyde Park Corner is next only in London to the number using the Vauxhall Cross and the Blackfriars Bridge approach. There is considerable commercial advantage in this work as well as the benefits which it will provide for bus travellers, private motorists, and coaches.
Perhaps I may deal with the underpass. A great deal has been said about this project. The working group, which included all the interests involved and the Road Research Laboratory, did not consider that an under-pass between Knightsbridge and Piccadilly was an essential feature of this scheme. They considered, at the time they reported, that the new surface layout at Hyde Park Corner would provide a substantial reserve capacity of about 30 per cent. That was their view. Since then, however, the Ministry has had further traffic counts taken and we have been very careful to try to see that we have not underinsured ourselves for the future.
We particularly looked at the state of affairs which occurs in the mornings and evenings of each working day due to the great tidal surge of traffic in and out of London at this time. It was as a result of that study that we came to the conclusion that an under-pass, while perhaps still not strictly justified on present figures, would be a useful bonus to add to the scheme. It would be an insurance for the future and it would help to carry the traffic at the peak hours when, as many hon. Members know, it is difficult to get through Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch.
I therefore decided, in agreement with the London County Council, that a two-lane under-pass should be added to the scheme, although this adds to the total cost by over £1½million. There are those, no doubt, seeking even greater perfection, who will say that still further expenditure should be incurred to provide a four-lane under-pass. Incidentally, this would cost at least another £750,000 and, in my view and those of my advisers, this sum is certainly not justified at the present time. Let me explain why.
I have had an up-to-date study done of traffic capacity and the House will, I think, like to know that the present layout of the new surface roundabout, together with the two-lane under-pass, will provide a reserve capacity of not less than 40 per cent., which we calculate to be sufficient for the traffic increase for at least ten to fifteen years.
If my hon. Friend will allow me I will explain.
As I have said, first, the expert committee, which studied this for a long time, decided that the greatly enlarged roundabout at Hyde Park Corner, the model of which, no doubt, my hon. Friend has studied in the Upper Waiting Hall—and he will have noticed that it is an enormously enlarged and quite different and more scientific roundabout—gives a 30 per cent. reserve of traffic capacity. That is a 30 per cent. reserve over the worst conditions for which calculations have been made. But as the committee's calculations were, I think, based on the survey of 1954, it was obviously right that we should look at all the figures again. That we have done and that was why I decided, with the L.C.C., to provide an under-pass. The under-pass, plus the roundabout as proposed, gives a reserve capacity, allowing for the worst conditions in present traffic, of no less than 40 per cent. As I have said, on the most conservative calculations, that should be enough to cater for the increase in traffic over the next ten to fifteen years.
I was going on to say that we could take the view that it would provide a reserve capacity indefinitely, because the amount of traffic approaching Hyde Park Corner is obviously limited by the width of Knightsbridge and Piccadilly, and there is a physical limit to the traffic which those two highways can carry. So I could have made a perfectly sound technical case for saying that this underpass should not be built at all. But because experience has led me and my advisers to believe that it is always well rather to over-insure than under-insure in traffic problems, we have decided to build this two-lane under-pass.
As I have said, that provides a 40 per cent. reserve of capacity which will be ample for ten to fifteen years and probably indefinitely.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm or deny the rumour which I have heard that it is not intended that London Transport buses operating from Piccadilly to Knightsbridge and vice versa should traverse the under-pass, and that they will go round the roundabout? Does that mean that the under-pass will not be high enough for really high and large commercial vehicles? If so, I should have thought that the chaos would be worse.
The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. All sorts of rumours circulate. The under-pass will take heavy commercial vehicles and buses, but it is not London Transport's wish to put buses through the under-pass at present, because it raises difficulties in trans-shipping the passengers. It is London Transport's decision and not mine. Of course, the under-pass is fitted for the heaviest vehicles. The London County Council will do certain work such as sewer diversions and building works which will make the addition of the other two lanes at some future date a relatively easy matter.
This is one of the most important points of this discussion. The right hon. Gentleman said that a 40 per cent. reserve capacity would cover the situation for the next ten or fifteen years. Is he really saying that in ten or fifteen years' time the position may once again be just as bad as it is today?
No. I am saying that on any count at all, taking the most pessimistic and alarmist view of the situation, the design of the surface roundabout plus the under-pass will be an immense improvement and will cater in a speedy way for all the traffic and avoid blockages and holdups for at least ten to fifteen years. I could take a more optimistic view and say that it could be almost indefinite because of the limited amount of traffic that will be able to pass through Piccadilly or Knightsbridge owing to the physical limitations of those two highways.
The rate of increase in traffic would seem to show that those statements are all on the conservative side. In other words, we are definitely over-insuring considerably by putting in the under-pass and my reason for doing it is that, apart from over-insuring, which I think is right, it will be of assistance in giving people a quick under-route from Piccadilly to Knightsbridge and from Knightsbridge to Piccadilly.
I have been into this quite carefully and I cannot justify spending more money than I have done, allowing for the fact I have given to the House that we shall have 40 per cent. reserve capacity. The scheme is competing with schemes all over the country, as no doubt the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) will soon be saying.
This is a most interesting point. If it be the case that an extra £750,000 would be required to make an under-pass with four lanes and if at the same time, in case it were ever needed, a further over-insurance were offered by the London County Council which is putting in sewers and other services, has the Minister anything that he can tell us as to what would be the cost if the improvements had to be made at some later date, namely, in ten or fifteen years?
It is difficult to be specific, but I can tell the House that the cost of £1½ million in itself allows a great deal of general preparatory work for another under-pass. I understand that the main sewer is to be diverted and certain works done under the hospital which are appropriate to another under-pass. I am advised therefore that the cost of an extra two lanes at some future date should not be very much more on the values of today, whatever they may be then, than the figures I have given to the House today—and that is £750,000.
I should warn the House—and I think that hon. Members who have studied the model will realise this—that if we have a four-lane underpass it will take a great deal more planning. We should have to demolish far more houses, and it would involve awkward kinds of shapes of carriageway. This is all better seen on the model than from my effort to describe it in the House. If hon. Members will bear my words in mind and later study the map or the model I think that they will find—and the L.C.C. and the Road Research Laboratory agree with this—that we have achieved the best solution which is one which I am quite confident will cater for the traffic for a very long period.
Briefly to deal with the rest of the Bill, I think that I should just explain that by far the greater part of the land required for the various works belongs to the Crown, and this Crown land is being dealt with in two ways. The land which is not part of Hyde Park or Green Park will he acquired by the L.C.C., but the ownership of the land which is part of either of those parks will not pass. In other words, Clause 6 deals with the treatment of Crown land outside the parks and gives authority for the L.C.C. to purchase such land, but the freehold of the parklands, so to speak—Green Park and Hyde Park—which are part of the hereditary possessions of the Crown, will not pass from the Crown. Therefore, the Bill gives the L.C.C. the power to enter upon the land and do the necessary works thereon. That is the purpose of Clauses 1 and 3. It is perhaps, a unique point, but I thought that I should mention it in introducing the Bill.
There is another point I should like to make a little more strongly, because there are, I know, those who are worried about the amenities of Hyde Park—and so am I. I am quite certain that our new arrangement of subways—which, incidentally will be equipped, not with steps but with ramps so that people with prams, bicycles and so on can wheel them up and down—will give much better access to the park, and avoid that unpleasant trip over a crowded road which so many people now face before they can get into the park at all. I will not go into details as to where those subways will be placed—they are to be seen on the model—but there are a very large number of them.
No powers are taken in the Bill to control pedestrians, but the L.C.C. will, of course, fence off certain reservations so that access will be gained through the subways and not, we hope, over the road.
Turning to the general amenities, I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, who has been most helpful in all this, and who himself hopes, I think, that his new Hyde Park will be rather more private and cut off from traffic, and of rather greater amenity than the present one. The sum of £450,000 is earmarked for the layout of street islands, the central reservations and so on. That is a considerable sum, and I am sure that the London County Council will spend it wisely. The L.C.C. is taking the advice of the Royal Fine Art Commission. I have made it plain, I think, that the Road Research Laboratory and all the other interests concerned strongly support the Bill.
I should also report the views of the Royal Fine Art Commission, because the Commission, naturally, has been consulted both by my Ministry and by the L.C.C. I am authorised to say that its view is this. It is opposed to encroachment on the Royal Parks as a whole, but it has made some helpful suggestions on the details of what has now been proposed. These suggestions concern the treatment of the islands at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, the effect on the park of the inclusion of the East Carriage Drive, and the facilities available for car parking when the scheme is completed. The Minister of Works, the L.C.C. and myself are giving careful consideration to these suggestions and we shall, of course, have occasion to consult the Commission again when we come to work out the details. The Commission's advice has been most helpful, and we shall hope to take advantage of it.
In case any hon. Member is not clear, I will deal with one point about the area. The total area affected by the Bill is 21 acres but, of that, 11 acres are at present, and will remain, in the carriageway. A further six acres of grass and trees will he preserved, and the advice of the Royal Fine Art Commission is that that acreage should be left in as natural and informal a state as possible. Therefore, the actual loss of land will be only four acres.
As the other provisions of the Bill are mostly self-explanatory, I do not think I need trouble the House with them. They are all permissive, and allow the London County Council and others concerned to get on with this very necessary job. If any hon. Member wants to ask questions about them, I am sure that my hon. Friend will be only too pleased to answer.
In commending the Bill to the House, I would only say that it is really an essential part of what, I believe, is at least a systematic series of attacks on the growing congestion of traffic in inner London; a congestion which, we all know, would, if allowed to proceed unchecked, in the end throttle our capital city's commercial and industrial life. Road building and road improvements are, of course, only part of the cure. In this debate it would be out of order to mention the other measures which I hope to carry out in conjunction with the L.C.C. in the next few years.
But this is an essential part of the solution, and if we do not press on and do these works now I believe that we will miss a very great chance of improving, not only the traffic conditions but the amenity conditions and layout of this vital and most beautiful part of London. In this, I have the full support of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, the Road Research Laboratory, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and, I think, all the interests involved. I would therefore, make a plea to the House to pass the Bill quickly through all its stages, so that I may advise the London County Council to spend a very large sum of money.
Before my right hon. Friend sits down, may I ask him, while congratulating him warmly on this imaginative Bill, to clear up one point? Are Park Lane and East Carriage Drive to be widened? Because, if not, the total volume of traffic will remain much the same; and it will be inhibited, as at present, by long lines of cars parked on each side.
Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend did not get the point when I said that the new width of the carriageways would be 40 ft., which is quite adequate for four lines of traffic in each direction.
Before my right hon. Friend sits down—and for the comfort of the House, in that I shall at this stage ask a couple of questions and, therefore, make it unnecessary for me to try to catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker—may I ask him or the Parliamentary Secretary to tell me when it is expected that the scheme will be started and when it will be finished? My right hon. Friend will remember that he has been bombarded with requests from hon. Members to make the East Carriage Drive of Hyde Park subject to one-way traffic, and that these requests he has always turned down because, quite rightly, he has pointed out that this is impossible as long as the gate at Hyde Park Corner is not by-passed. Can he tell us that the first steps will be taken to make the one-way system possible first?
I will leave some of the answers to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, but we all realise that the actual carrying out of this work might temporarily make traffic worse in that area. It is my express wish to the L.C.C. which it says it will meet—in full consultation with my Ministry—that the work shall be done in such a way as to cause the least possible congestion. Whether or not my hon. Friend's suggestion is right, I do not know; but to cause the least congestion will be a major objective. The work will start as soon as possible after the House, if it should so decide, passes the Bill.
The House will be grateful to the Minister for having explained the contents of the Bill in such detail. In fact, it is pleasant to be able to speak from this Dispatch Box on a transport matter which is not politically controversial. I should like, therefore, to make it clear at the outset that we on this side, for the most part, recognise the need for this major improvement at Hyde Park Corner and recognise it as a matter of considerable urgency.
The carrying out of these improvements has been delayed far too long. This scheme was included as far back as 1951—not 1955, which was the scheme to which the Minister referred. We certainly agree in principle with the scheme. All of us who motor round Hyde Park Corner on our way to the House suffer considerably at peak periods. In fact, I believe that Hyde Park Corner is the motorists' worst nightmare in the whole of London. Sometimes one is tempted just to hold the wheel tight, close one's eyes and hope for the best. To my hon. Friends on this side of the House who have some doubts whether the priority should be given to the Bill which the Minister has decided to give it, I say that it is essential that as much road improvement should be carried through as is economically feasible.
There must be very considerable difficulty in determining the priorities. London has a claim upon those priorities, because it is not only the capital of the United Kingdom, but equally, in a sense, it is the capital of the Commonwealth. Millions of visitors come to London from other parts of the United Kingdom and from overseas. It is highly desirable that the traffic in the city should flow freely, not only for business purposes, but for pleasure as well.
Having said that, I think it is necessary to examine carefully the proposed plan for the major improvement with a view to ensuring three things. First, whether the best possible layout has been decided upon. Secondly, whether full value will be obtained for the £4½ million that it is to cost; that is to say, whether equal relief to traffic congestion and improvement in the flow of traffic could be obtained for less outlay or whether greater relief and better flow of traffic could be obtained for the same expenditure if there were a different plan in operation. Thirdly, whether additional expenditure in making additional underpasses or larger under-passes could bring proportionately better results; that is to say, whether in some detail we may not be spoiling the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar. There is a fourth consideration to which the Minister referred, namely, amenities, which I will leave to my hon. Friends who hope to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
First, let us consider the under-pass. The Minister explained that this will carry only one lane of traffic each way and that it is to £1½cost million. I was relieved to hear that it will carry commercial traffic and will be deep enough to take double-decker buses. I regret that London Transport so far has decided not to make use of the under-pass. I hope the time will come when it will change its point of view. The traffic at Hyde Park consists of a very large volume of London Transport vehicles. If London Transport does not make use of the under-pass, clearly the relief to congestion will be nowhere near as great as it might be. Its objection, I understand, relates to the picking up and setting down of passengers at the stops at Hyde Park Corner. It is true that there are about 18 different services which converge there, and there is a very considerable inter-change. I should have thought that that difficulty could be overcome by moving the stops or following the example of the old Kingsway Tunnel, which had stations for the boarding of trams down below.
Might we have this point clear? Has London Transport said that it will not use this under-pass for all its vehicles, or has it said only that it will not use it for those where there are already traffic stops or bus pick-up points? Has it said that it will not use it at all?
No doubt when the Joint Parliamentary Secretary replies to the debate he will give a more authoritative answer than I can, but in The Times, when the later scheme was put forward and the introduction of the Bill was announced, it was reported that a London Transport official said:
…buses would not use the under-pass. It would take buses away from the stops in the Hyde Park Corner area and inconvenience passengers who interchange between the 18 services using the junction.
That is the only information I have, and I thought the Minister confirmed the fact that it was not the intention of London Transport to send its buses by way of the under-pass.
I understand. I was somewhat confused by the Minister's figures about the under-pass, because he stated that the original scheme, which did not include it, would leave a 30 per cent. excess capacity at the Hyde Park Corner end; but he said that with the underpass it would leave a 40 per cent. excess capacity. That means that the expenditure of £1½ million on the under-pass will increase the surplus capacity by the difference between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent.
There were two different base dates. That is the difficulty of statistics. The 30 per cent. figure was based on the 1954 census. The 40 per cent. figure is based on the up-to-date count. The two figures are not comparable.
That explains it. However, I did not share the Minister's optimism that the surplus capacity would be adequate. The traffic is increasing at the rate of 7 per cent. a year, which means that within three to four years this surplus capacity will be taken up and we shall be in the same position as we are today.
In the circular which he sent to local authorities a short while ago, the Minister suggested that they should plan for a traffic increase of 75 per cent. That was the Minister's view. Surely, he is not following the advice that he himself gave to local authorities. He is providing an increase in this very busy area in a traffic congested city of up to only 40 per cent. rather than up to the 75 per cent. for which he advised local authorities to provide. For my own part, I am convinced that within a very few years, despite improvement and the construction of the under-pass, we shall be in little better position than we are today. It is for that reason that I ask the Minister to consider increasing the under-pass from two lanes to four in view of the fact that it would cost only £750,000 more. I understand that the L.C.C. suggested there should be a four-lane under-pass. Is it not very shortsighted to cut down expenditure on the scheme to £4½ million by cutting £750,000 and thereby reducing the size of the under-pass from four to two lanes? Would it not have been far more reasonable and far wiser to look to the future and to provide for an underpass of four traffic lanes?
Clearly, if in three, four or five years' time it will be necessary to enlarge the under-pass, then the dislocation which will take place will be so great that the chaos will be unbearable. I suggest that we are doing in this case what has been done so often in the past, not only in London, but in other parts of the country. Rather than planning for the future, we are planning simply for the present situation and for the immediate future. We are not planning for the next few years when we know that traffic will increase to a very large extent. It is short-sighted and, in my view, foolish not to carry out the complete structure at this time, but to prefer, as is being done, to put it off until a future date.
After having looked at the roundabout at Hyde Park Corner, on the model and on the plan, I wonder whether the best layout has been decided upon. A new street is to be created, which the Minister called the Apsley Carriageway, and it is to be, as he pointed out, a two-way street. That means that westbound traffic turning from this new street will still have to cut across eastbound traffic proceeding towards Piccadilly Circus. There will still be this complicated weaving of traffic as one lane cuts across the other. Could not the scheme have been planned differently so that the Park Lane traffic, which is one-way, could have continued down Hamilton Place which could be widened? The new street could then have been a one-way street for northbound traffic which could turn into the East Carriageway as now planned.
I cannot understand why, since it was decided to use Park Lane for one-way traffic, it was decided to use this short new street for two-way traffic. If the new street had been one-way for northbound traffic, corresponding to the East Carriageway, Hamilton Place, which already exists and which is being eliminated as far as traffic is concerned, could be used for one-way southbound traffic. I suggest that some such scheme as that could have eliminated the necessity for different lanes of traffic to intercept. Incidentally, a scheme of that nature might have enabled No. 148 Piccadilly—which is a fine house and which is to be demolished, regrettably in view of the manner in which its interior is furnished—to have been saved.
When we look at the northern end of the scheme up at Marble Arch, I do not understand why an under-pass is not to be constructed there. I should have thought that that was one of the most obvious places in London, where traffic is so busy, to construct an under-pass. Surely, that is a place where it would be practicable to provide an under-pass and where its value would be immediately realised. There is ample space at Marble Arch for an under-pass to be built to take traffic coming from Edgware Road and going in to Park Lane and vice versa. A great deal of traffic passes in those directions.
I suggest that in a few years' time these roundabouts at Marble Arch, with the weaving and crossing of traffic, will be found to be quite inadequate to cope with the increased volume of traffic which is inevitable, and that an under-pass will then be necessary. I regret that when one embarks upon such a major scheme as this at such a great cost, the extra cost of these additional works is not added so that the whole scheme catering for ten or twenty years ahead may be embarked upon at once instead of limiting it to one which will be adequate for only five years at most.
I welcome the provision of subways for pedestrians, which are essential at these busy traffic centres, but I must say that I find it a little difficult to follow them either on the plan or on the model. It seems to me that these subways would involve pedestrians descending and ascending a great deal. That is to say, they will have to descend and ascend to the islands at Hyde Park Corner and then descend again for the latter part of the crossing and then ascend once more. In other words, they will go down and up to the islands and then down and up to the far side. I do not see pedestrians embarking upon such an exercise. Unfortunately, all of us when pedestrians are apt to be rather lazy and we like to take the shortest cut, even if we run risks to our limbs in so doing.
Similarly, I notice that there are to be subways linking both Park Lane and the East Carriageway to the central reservation in Hyde Park which will no longer be in the park itself. I wonder whether this is really necessary. Admittedly, one hopes that this central reservation will, be an amenity; one hopes that it will be maintained at the high standard at which it is maintained now, as part of the park, but does the Minister think that pedestrians or people in the park will descend subways in order to get into this central reservation which will be situated between two fast-flowing lanes of traffic, one in Park Lane and the other in the East carriageway, and that people will desire to stay in the reservation between these two streams of roaring traffic? I should have thought it would have been better to create through-subways at the Marble Arch end and the Hyde Park end in order to avoid the necessity to go to the central islands, rather than create additional subways to this central reservation.
Those are the only qualifications that I have to make about the scheme. In Parliamentary Questions to the Minister I have asked whether adequate reference was made to those most experienced and expert in traffic engineering before the scheme was decided upon. Today the right hon. Gentleman explained to us the bodies which had approved it and the care which had been taken in finalising the plans. But one still has some reservations on whether the final plans have not been too rushed, perhaps inevitably, and whether or not it is too late still to re-examine not the principles but some of the details in order to make absolutely certain that the greatest benefit will be derived from this scheme particularly in regard to traffic flows at the roundabouts.
While this scheme for the improvement of Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch and the Park Lane area is to be welcomed, and indeed is necessary, as are the removals of those other bottlenecks to which the Minister referred, particularly at Notting Hill Gate, the Strand and the Elephant and Castle, they do not in themselves provide the solution to London's traffic problem. London is a built-up area and there is a limit both to the physical improvements which can be made and to the finance that can be provided. Traffic has increased, is increasing and will continue to increase, and it must be catered for in some way. One cannot hold back this stream of traffic, as it were. It is a baffling problem because the position is never static. One might almost say that the traffic never stands still—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—although it may well do so if we proceed at the present pace. What I mean is that the traffic always out-paces the facilities which are provided.
That means that those responsible for dealing with traffic problems in great cities like London face a dilemma in that the more facilities they provide the greater becomes the volume of traffic. That has been the experience in Brussels, and I expect that some speakers will refer to the great reconstruction work which has been done to provide for the increased traffic in the centre and outskirts of Brussels.
In passing, I would remind the Minister who said we were now spending £10 million on traffic improvements in London, plus the £4½ million which is to be spent on this proposal, and that we were leading the great capitals in the amount being spent for this purpose, that the cost of the major improvements now under way in Brussels—a far smaller city with a much smaller population—is £14 million.
Appalling though London traffic congestion is, I believe that it is certain to become worse and, unless other measures than these major improvements are taken, we shall not be able to relieve the congestion sufficiently to enable traffic to continue to flow freely. I know that it is difficult to imagine traffic getting worse, but we are rapidly approaching the day, it seems to me, when it will take longer to travel on the surface from the West End to the City of London than it does for a Sputnik to encircle the earth in outer space.
What can be done at the present time in addition to these essential major schemes? One of the chief essentials is to take traffic underground, for which the construction of new tubes must be authorised. This should be done in addition to taking traffic through underpasses or overground by the new system of overhead roads on prestressed concrete viaducts. Unless the Victoria Line is constructed in London within the next few years, traffic in the area we are considering this afternoon will again become intolerable. That line would relieve the very area with which we are concerned. We all have reason to be thankful for the Underground which was started fifty years ago; it is difficult to imagine how bad London's problem would be without it. Every Londoner as he travels to and from his daily work should render a prayer of thanksgiving to Lord Ashfield for his enterprise and foresight in laying the foundation of what has become the most extensive and efficient system of metropolitan transport in the world.
I suggest that the Minister should seriously consider ways and means of financing the building of the Victoria Line. It is quite clear that it cannot be built by the British Transport Commission. The Commission has not the funds and would not be able to make the line pay if it had to finance it at the high rate of interest now prevailing. The line can be built only if it is treated as this Park Lane improvement scheme is being treated, that is, as a major road work, the funds being found by the Government. Once the line is built, it should then be handed over to London Transport for operation, on lease perhaps, but at least constructed initially by the Government as a contribution towards the relief of traffic congestion in London.
No one wishes to sacrifice the character of London by ruthless vandalism in an effort to make traffic flow freely. There is, as I have said, a limit to the reconstruction we can do in London if we are to preserve London's character. We shall, therefore, have to resort to other, limited, means of relieving traffic congestion, apart from these major schemes. The Bill provides a major contribution and should be supported, subject to some qualifications on detail to which I have referred.
I believe that the London County Council is to be congratulated on preparing the scheme, on its appreciation of the urgency of the matter, and on the persistence with which it has pushed it forward and urged it upon the Government. The Minister also is to be commended for having realised the necessity for the scheme, and, the more so, for having obtained the authority of the Treasury to go ahead with it. The need now is to press on as speedily as possible and to see the improvement realised.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on presenting the Bill to the House. The scheme undoubtedly displays very great imagination. I will go so far as to say that this is almost the first occasion when the Ministry of Transport has revealed that it has, at last, realised that there is a growing weight of evidence that the motor car is here to stay.
I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has been saying. In the Bill, we are dealing with one specific problem, but there is a multiplicity of problems in the surrounding area which themselves contribute towards the aggravation of the situation we are here considering. I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell us that steps are in train to provide relief in other places where it is very much needed.
For example, the exit and entrance to Hyde Park, in Bayswater Road, is one of the most serious bottlenecks in London. Anybody who has had to struggle through there in the evening during the rush hour will know exactly what I mean. There is the problem also at the exit of the Mall via Marlborough House into Pall Mall, where the traffic authorities have made matters even worse within the last few months by putting in the centre of the roadway a temporary bollard which restricts traffic to a single line where previously there was one road with a double line.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East made a point which we sometimes tend to overlook. We have in London what one might call a serious tradition problem. There are many old buildings in London which we could destroy only at the cost of very great public outcry. For example, in fifteen or twenty years' time—personally, I should like to see it done now, though perhaps I am a heretic—Tower Bridge may well have to be done away with. As a means of transport over the river, nothing could be more outdated for a city such as London.
For more than three years I have asked questions of my right hon. Friend about traffic congestion in that area, and every time I have put down a Question I have received the reply that the authorities are considering it. What is the period of gestation required before the authorities produce an idea about these serious problems? The movement of transport in London across the river is a very serious matter, to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past.
The Bill will give some assistance, though it does not go all the way, in assisting the exit of traffic out of Constitution Hill into Hyde Park Corner. There again, at half-past five and six o'clock in the evening, a great mass of traffic is suddenly forced into a single line at the exit of Constitution Hill and, before very many minutes pass, there is complete congestion throughout the length of Constitution Hill which sometimes takes half to three-quarters of an hour to disperse.
The loss of money sustained by the country as a result of traffic jams at peak hours is incalculable. We really cannot afford this continual drain on our national resources, and we must consider far more imaginative schemes than the one now before us.
Up and down the country, and particularly in London, roundabouts are constructed which are a disgrace to the nation. In many cases, up to eight lines of traffic converge on to a roundabout round which there is only one carriage width and traffic is expected to flow freely in conditions like that. The fact is that the engineers in the Ministry of Transport themselves contribute largely to our traffic problems. We must face the fact that we have to make the traffic flow and that we must build roundabouts round which it can flow.
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months".
In making this proposal, on behalf, also, of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) and my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), I associate myself without any equivocation with those who have already paid tribute to the Minister. Although he and I differ fundamentally politically, I believe in giving credit where it is due. The Minister is conscientious and anxious, within the limits of his own political outlook and the limitations set by the Cabinet, to do whatever he can to improve the transport and the roads. If Ministers of my party, when they have similar power, will do the same, nobody will be better pleased than I.
I pay a tribute to the Minister for the manner in which he introduced the Bill. He did not make a speech of unnecessary length. He was precise, he dealt with the issues at stake and he was very clear. It was a treat to sit here and to hear so few minutes taken up by the introduction of a Bill of this importance.
I understood the Minister to say that he wanted fair shares in the expenditure on the roads. That is all we are asking for. If we can have fair shares, nobody will be more pleased than my hon. Friends and myself. We speak this afternoon not only on our own behalf. If anyone likes to test what we are saying, we invite him to test it in any part of the country, and particularly north of Birmingham, except for the extreme south of England.
Let me make our position quite clear so that middle-class people in particular and those in the areas with which I am concerned should have no misunderstanding about our attitude. We take second place to no one in appreciating and admiring the cultural contribution made by our fellow countrymen throughout the ages to the rest of the world. We take second place to no one in admiring and appreciating the Royal Parks, with their beauty and their vegetation. We take second place to no one in admiring these roads, which are already relatively wide compared with the streets and roads where we were born and where we live. Upon that, we shall have some observations to make later.
The park that we are talking about is an object lesson for the whole of the country. When taking exercise, I spend hours walking through the park. I did so especially in pre-war times with my hon. Friends with whom I had the privilege of serving on this side of the House. I should not be worthy of them if I did not take the line that I am taking today. They were men of strength and character, who had come through the hard way, who built up the Labour Party, who were real Labour men, and it would have been wrong of me not to speak in this way this afternoon. If they were still here, these benches would have been packed with indignant men representing the areas where they spent their lives.
In the park, we have watched people, among them some of the most humble, admiring the plants and the flowers. One never saw anybody touch the flowers, the shrubs and the trees. That illustrates the great lesson that the average person responds to the environment in which he finds himself. The beauty is such that apart from a few irresponsible young people, for whom we must make allowances—some of them may be suffering from the aftermath of a world war, so do not let us be too hard on them—little damage worth talking about is done to the beauty of the park.
I understood the Minister to say that this scheme was the biggest road improvement to be made in London since 1905. Then he said that a great deal of other work is going on in London and will link up with it. I speak from memory, but if I remember aright, this project will amount to £4½ million, to which can be added £10 million; and there is a great deal of other work going on in London which links up with it. That means, therefore, an outlay of at least £14 million at present in London.
In addition, the Parliamentary Secretary—I do not complain of this, but I want to get the facts on record—is meeting a number of committees and experts and as a result of this work, considerable further improvements may be made. It is against that background that we now consider the situation in relation to the rest of the country.
I admit that some people can make a case, although I do not altogether accept it—but I do not have time to go fully into it now—that the situation at Marble Arch should be treated as one of extreme urgency. The same may apply to Hyde Park Corner. [HON. MEMBERS: "More so."] My hon. Friends who are motorists, and in whom I have great confidence, say "More so." I accept what they say. I have been brought up to study and to measure plans—I could not have got my living otherwise—and I calculate that in comparison with what they say is a matter of extreme urgency, the cost will be seven times greater than to deal with the Marble Arch problem and it is eight times greater than the Hyde Park Corner problem.
In addition, it is proposed to have six shelters within a few yards of Marble Arch, but not one shelter from Green Street Gate to Piccadilly. We could remind our hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who spoke about the subway, that it is no strange coincidence that it is midway between the Dorchester and the Grosvenor. Park Lane is already 50 ft. wide. At Marble Arch, there is a width of approximately 200 ft. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary why areas of that dimension should have priority over the rest of the country. The Minister said that he believed in fair shares and we accept that. If he replies upon that basis, he will find no objection from this side when the Bill is put to the vote.
Let me give credit where it is due and say how much we appreciate the announcement made by the Minister at the beginning of the debate. The reason why I asked for it to be repeated was that I did not understand it, and I do not wish to speak on anything which I do not understand. When the Minister repeated it, I was able to understand it and I want to express our great appreciation of the generous gift by the Sovereign in placing this land at our disposal for the proposal that is now being considered.
We contrast that with the attitude of landowners in many other places, people who are holding up urgently required improvements in industrial areas. It is even necessary to take legal proceedings, some of which have lasted for months and some even for years. Sometimes landlords demand an unreasonable amount of compensation. Contrast that experience in some of the industrial areas and this experience now, in London.
I would ask why the plans of the proposed improvements have not been placed in the Vote Office. It is true that there is an excellent model upstairs and a plan standing on easels by it—and I have been examining them, and I give the Government the credit due to them for having provided us with those—but I remind the Parliamentary Secretary that this is a hybrid Bill, partly the responsibility of the Government and partly the responsibility of the London County Council, and that what is done when there are Private Bills ought to have been done with this Bill, for which there is duality of responsibility. Surely it is only reasonable to ask that, because this Bill is of great interest to hon. Members.
Plans should have been placed in the Vote Office so that we could all have studied them at our leisure, the better to comprehend the proposals. "Oh," some people have said to me, "but the plans have been issued." Yes, they have been issued to the Press. They have been issued to certain people in London. It is Members of Parliament who ought to have had access to them.
The purpose of the Bill, as stated in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, is
to enable the London County Council to carry out the road improvements…which are designed to relieve traffic congestion at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch and substantially to improve the capacity of Park Lane…
I want to underline those last few words with as thick a pencil as I can find:
substantially to improve the capacity of Park Lane.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us upon what basis this has been given priority, the substantial improvement of the capacity of Park Lane? We contrast the capacity of Park Lane with the capacity of roads in every industrial area of this country, and we know the needs of every industrial area.
The works to be done in this area of London include the introduction of large roundabout systems. In the area that I have the honour to represent here, there is a main road linking London and Manchester. It caters for the whole of the Birmingham traffic, and for the Manchester traffic, and all that that means. I have here a map of that road. A local authority can provide us with maps even if we cannot be provided here with a map by the Government.
For years I have pleaded for improvements to that road. The work has been continually put off. On one side of it are a number of housing schemes, and the children living in those houses have to cross that main road to get to school. We have asked that a subway be built under the road. We were told, "No, we could not afford it." We have asked for various improvements to be made on the road, and that traffic should be slowed down. We have been told, "No, it could not be done."
I am not prepared, as a Member of this House, to see this large number of subways built in this area of London to serve relatively rich people who stay at the Dorchester and Grosvenor House while our little children and their mothers have to run the risk of crossing that main road in my own area because no subways are built there, or while the children and their mothers in other industrial areas are exposed to similar risks on similar roads.
I have living very close to me two of the finest young children it is possible for anyone to have, and we think the world of them; but it is not desired that they should be privileged above the children of anybody else. If what nearly happened in my case ten years ago were to happen to them on the road, I do not know that we should have the spirit to live any longer.
Anyone who knows anything about working-class people knows that for them their children come before anything else in life. The fathers go out to work. In the area where I live most of them go between six and seven o'clock in the morning and they do not return until six or seven o'clock at night. If one of those fathers, on returning at night from work, finds that something has gone wrong with his child, then before he has his dinner he will run out to the chemist's to seek what remedy he can for the child. There is nothing a father can do for his child if the child has been killed on the road, or has lost limbs. The father just lives on, broken-hearted.
It is reasonable to ask for fair shares, for the expenditure on road improvements to be shared fairly. If it is right for all these subways to be built in this area in London for rich men and women, surely it is reasonable to suggest that there should be a fair share of such road improvements for the industrial areas, for the sake of those who are making the greatest contribution to the economic future of Britain. We cannot live only by maintaining exports.
I remember that on a Sunday afternoon in Trent Vale a child going to Sunday school was killed as it was crossing the road. It is experience of that kind which arouses our emotions and gives us the courage to speak out and act as I am endeavouring to do now. Some of us think that we should have organised such a demand as this, instead of leaving it to a few.
The Bill provides for improved lighting and for the installation of lighting equipment in this area of London. Last Saturday night I stood in a bus queue at Long-ton, when it was raining, and on the other side of the road there was not a light: it was black. For me personally it does not matter, but it does matter for the miners going to work in the early morning. It does matter for the pottery workers going to work in the early morning, and coming home in the dark at night.
Therefore, we say that if it is right to install improved lighting in Park Lane, bordered by huge hotels, with those other huge buildings in Curzon Street and thereabouts, and all those lovely flats in which well-placed people live, surely, for the sake of the miners and the pottery workers going to and from work, there ought to be the necessary expenditure to enable us to install modern lighting—in Fenton, Longton, and places of that kind.
I was born in the most densely populated area of Lancashire. It is within a few miles of Manchester. There we have the worst roads in the country. If anyone doubts it, let him go there and see. From Patricroft Bridge to Swinton the road is so narrow there cannot be two lines of traffic. People walking along the footpath have to jump aside for their lives if a vehicle comes—and there is a canal on one side. Along this road huge oil tankers run to Trafford Park and big lorries travel from all over the country to Salford Docks. Yet we are expected to vote for the spending of £102 million on these parks in London. All we ask is that there should be fair shares for other places in the country.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member has said. We are discussing a Bill to authorise the London County Council to carry out certain works. Has the local authority for Stoke-on-Trent been prevented, by lack of a Bill, from carrying out this work, and will the people of Stoke, Salford and Manchester have these improvements made any sooner if the hon. Member obstructs the passage of this Bill?
The hon. Member lives in Manchester and I will tell him about that city in a moment. We are talking about Stoke-on-Trent for the time being.
In 1936, the Staffordshire County Council Bill was presented to the House of Commons. I shall be sparing with my language, because I respect hon. Members who did not agree with me politically, but whom I can recall sitting opposite when we presented that Bill. It has always been the policy that, even when it did not agree with a Bill, the House would give it a Second Reading and send it to a Committee. The Bill might be strangled in Committee, but at least it was given a Second Reading. But not so with that Bill, because we were proposing to take over all the transport organisations in the area and run them as a public service. During the war that transport system was very busy because of the two Royal Ordnance factories in the area, but the House of Commons decided that we could not have the Bill. That answers the hon. Member's question on Stoke-on-Trent. Is that fair?
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I should like to proceed. We have an unanswerable case and the more of this argument which we can get into the debate the better, provided that Mr. Deputy-Speaker allows it.
As I have just said, the Parliamentary Secretary is also working on the Bill and it may be that there will be further expenditure. The Minister made a statement this afternoon, but we do not know what the total expenditure will be. It may be £10 million or £20 million. We know that, as the Bill stands, it is £4½ million.
If the hon. Member had been listening, he would have noted that I spent some time in dealing with Trent Vale, which is in the centre of Stoke, and with the main road between Birmingham and Manchester and an area where children run the risk every day of losing their lives. Other road improvements are also desired in that area but, owing to the limitation on capital expenditure, they cannot be carried out.
I have concluded my remarks on Stoke, and now I come to Manchester. If there is one local authority in the country which has had a raw deal from Whitehall in the last few years it is the local authority for the area which is partly represented by the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson). The hon. Member appears to be agreeing with me and I will leave it at that.
On the question of power to carry out subsidiary works, I am sorry to have to differ from my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), for whom I have great respect. London can be relied upon to obtain power to carry out subsidiary works. Does anyone doubt that? If he does, let me provide the House with evidence. During the preparations for the Victory March, following the war, thousands of beautiful trees were planted in various parts of London, including the Royal Parks. The rest of the country paid for the cost of the planting.
Yes, but it is a question of degree. Now we are being constantly told that the country is in a serious economic position and that there must be a limit on capital expenditure. All we ask is that there should be fair shares. Is that reasonable?
Before the Coronation, thousands of pounds were spent upon improvements in London. Everybody knows that but yet, superimposed upon all that expenditure, we now have this Bill. Where will it all stop? We hear a great deal about Wales and Scotland. It is time that we heard more about the north of England, where the work is really done.
Now it is proposed to widen and improve streets, to introduce new lighting equipment and to provide guard rails in this area in London. We in Stoke-on-Trent have made several applications for the right to provide guard rails. We cannot obtain permission to do it in an area where the streets are relatively narrow when compared with the roads, which are already 50 ft. wide, that are proposed to be improved by means of the provisions of the Bill. Many of the roads in the Stoke-on-Trent area will hardly take two lines of traffic. Yet there is to be priority for this London area, and we in Stoke are compelled to continue to suffer from the lack of these amenities.
My final point on this aspect of the matter, and one upon which I speak with a touch of bitterness, relates to the fact that, relatively speaking, Stoke has the finest housing record in the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North has said that Stoke was at the top of the housing league.
It was a treat to hear councillors and other public-spirited people in that area speaking of the housing record with such pride, but now those people are broken-hearted. In accordance with Government policy, they wish to embark upon large-scale slum clearance. They have started on it because there are thousands of people, as good as any of us here, who are living in terrible slums in that area. They want new houses. They have seen the conditions in which other people are living in the new housing estates.
Now we are in the position that, relatively speaking, we are spending little on slum clearance and this expenditure is given priority against the background of the Grosvenor, the Dorchester and all the other huge buildings in the neighbourhood. There is something wrong. The miners, the pottery workers, the engineers—all those in the main industries contributing to meeting Britain's economic needs—are treated in that way, whereas this area is treated in the way proposed by the Bill.
Further, in every mining area there are mountains of tips and in every steel area there are mountains of slag heaps which have been there for generations. Every summer the local people dare not open their windows because of the dust and fumes. These tips and slag heaps are monuments to the enormous wealth gained in those areas, and they remain untouched while beautiful areas of the kind dealt with in the Bill receive this attention.
Where is the sense of proportion? Where is the sense of justice? The other night my hon. and respected Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), introduced a Prayer whose object was to oppose a Government proposal to economise on children's welfare foods. The only point I have against my hon. Friend is that he ought to have taken it to a Division in order to put our views on record. This Bill will involve the expenditure of fell million by the same people who steal the babies' orange juice. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like this; it is getting under their skins.
I do not mind that, because this is how we make progress. The hon. Gentleman does not live in such an area, so he does not realise the position. Has he any children of his own?
Then does he realise that they have no fruit juice and orange juice? Does he realise that the more orange juice they have, the more Vitamin C they have, the fewer colds they have? Yet, at the expense of the poor, £800,000 is being saved by the same people who spend £4½ million in this way.
I ask the Minister whether he is now prepared to introduce another Bill having for its object the improvement of industrial towns? It would save life and limb and prevent anxiety. It would make the roads safe, especially for school children. It would provide bus shelters and lighting. It would mean the planting of trees, shrubs and turf in the industrial areas. Hon. Gentlemen have a lot to say about America. Well, Pittsburg was the blackest city in the world, but within a few years it was made a city of beauty. We are asking for the introduction of a Bill of this character to improve the industrial areas. Plymouth, in the United States, has done this and it is now a city of beauty. Indeed, I doubt whether there is a finer centre in America. What can be done there can be done in other places, provided that we are determined, that we plan, that we have fair shares and that we apply them throughout the country.
I beg to second the Amendment.
At the outset, I want to make it clear that I am second to no one in this House in appreciating the great city of London. There is something about London which one does not find anywhere else in the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "Well said."] As one who comes from the provinces into London, I get the thrill of coming into one of the great capitals of the world.
Yes, the greatest. I am always anxious that the history and tradition and the well-being of London shall be improved as far as possible.
Having said that, I endorse what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), that we must discuss this Bill in the context of roadworks throughout the country. I differ from my hon. Friend in so far as I drive a car, and before I came to the House of Commons I had to travel by car to almost every part of the country in connection with my work. So I know what it is to drive on some of the defective main roads in Wales and in Scotland, and how difficult it is to get through some of our industrial towns at the peak hour of traffic. I agree, therefore, that it is important to look at he expenditure on this one part of London in the context of our general expenditure on road improvement.
The Minister gave the figure of £4½ million to be spent on this project, plus a proposed further £10 million within the foreseeable future.
No, but on other schemes. I understand that the expenditure under consideration for roadworks generally is about £240 million, so I estimate that £10½ million is in the region of 6 per cent. of the work to be undertaken throughout the country. I consider that to be a reasonable proportion. This leads me to ask whether, if preference continues to be given to the City of London, how far, and for what length of time, some of our other great cities and also the rural areas, particularly along our main trunk roads, are to be retarded in favour of London having the first preference.
Turning to Stoke, in the area of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) there is a main road running from Stoke out to Leek and to the moorland towns of Sheffield. Before the war there was a proposal for a dual carriageway with a cycle track. The project was not too expensive because it was not necessary to buy up a great deal of old property, since there was a crematorium and a school there. It could have been done easily, but the war came and, since the war, the city council has repeatedly put forward proposals for dealing with sections of the road.
Yet the only thing that has been done is that during Coronation Year we got the parks committee to tidy up the grass verge. It now looks as if that proposal will not be implemented for a long time. During the past five years we have been promised repeatedly that work will start on a small part of the road nearest Stoke, but that has been deferred time after time.
In addition, the City of Stoke-on-Trent had a forward-looking plan to remodel the whole of that city which, by the nature of its geography and its industry during the last hundred years, has "growed", rather like Topsy. For instance, the main ring road would take the heavy traffic from the middle of Hanley, out of the main shopping area of the city, and considerably relieve the traffic situation. It would also much improve the position for Stoke-on-Trent generally, but we have about as much hope of putting that work into operation as we have of many more projects. The people who conceived that plan thought that in the years after the war we should, at any rate, begin to do something about it, but they can almost forget their hope if proposals such as those in the Bill are to have preference over proposals for remodelling and remaking the road system in cities such as Stoke-on-Trent.
Street lighting presents another major problem. There are large sections of the main traffic roads, adjoining large industrial towns, where the street lighting is not good. One can leave the main part of a city which is in reasonably good lighting and then come to large areas which have many black spots and where, apparently, nothing is likely to be done to improve the lighting. One can be in good lighting in the City of Manchester, which I know very well, and then travel for long stretches without any satisfactory road lighting at all.
London is considerably better off than most large cities and their adjoining areas in respect of street lighting. One has only to fly over London to see the difference between it and some other stretches of this country.
Moreover, on our main trunk routes, where lorry drivers have the difficult job of driving heavy vehicles by night, we find repeated bottlenecks. Very little has been done to improve them. I know that some improvement has taken place on the main road from London to the North, but goodness only knows that it took many years before that improvement was made.
Every city authority has still a long way to go in making up the streets within the city. Unmade streets and unmade roads are a big problem. If one reads local newspapers one finds complaints not only from people who live on housing estates, but from people who live in ordinary streets which have been unadopted for far too many years. Time and again we find that these people are annoyed because they have to go on living in bad and dangerous streets, often with no street lighting. Because local authorities have so little money approved for the purpose, there is little chance of making up these unadopted streets.
There is a provision in Clause 3 for the planting of
trees, shrubs and other vegetation
and for the carrying out of work
for improving the appearance of a part of any adjoining building exposed by the taking down or alteration by the Council of any building.
May I relate that to the general position in the country? Every city and town is carrying out a slum clearance programme. When houses are taken down they are often left with unsightly gable ends. The sites remain unplanned and undeveloped. My own local authority has many plots of land which have remained virtually rubbish heaps for many years. This year, for the first time, £10,000 has been allocated so that the parks committee may clear up these untidy corners.
In the area of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, right in the middle of the town, one of these small plots has been tidied up and made into a flower garden. Seats have been placed there, and on any nice day the old people sit there enjoying the pleasure of that small garden. London has its parks, and so has Stoke, but in Stoke they are not as conveniently placed as are many of the parks in London. I should hate to see London's parks disappear, because they represent one of the great joys of the workers in the middle of the city. They slip into the parks to enjoy the fresh air.
Every local authority would like to feel that it had its fair share of such provisions as these permitting the planting of trees and shrubs and the tidying up of places where old buildings have been taken down.
May I point out that Clause 3 goes much further than that and provides for the installation of
seats, ornamental pools, fountains, statues and monuments.
We have nothing like that in Salford or Stoke. It seems a little unfair that the West End of London, which already is far better off in this respect than we are in the dirty cities of the North, should have further improvements while we have none.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. It is quite true that Clause 3 makes provision for seats. In Stoke, we have to get generous people to give us seats for these places at £15 a seat in order that we shall not only be able to tidy these places up but shall be able to make them available for old people who wish to sit there and enjoy the surroundings.
I want to emphasise a point made by my hon. Friend. One must look at this expenditure in relation to the Government's attitude towards many other projects which we have been discussing over the past few days. For example, there is the question of expenditure which is being denied for many other urgent projects. There is the question of provisions for the extension of sewerage works. This is a problem which I have very much at heart because I am anxious to see the sewerage facilities at some of our seaside towns improved so that the sea water shall be made reasonably safe.
There are also such questions as those of health, education and the provision for young and old which we have discussed during the last two days. There is the veto on the award of an increased salary to employees of the National Health Service. All these are being denied because of lack of money. At the same time the Government are offering facilities such as those contained in the Bill for an area where much luxury provision is already available. When other major schemes have to be postponed, surely some economy could be made in the provisions included in the Bill.
The Minister has recommended the Bill to us, but I ask him to relate it to the very urgent problems of every large city and industrial area and the road improvements which they need. I ask him to do that to make safety on the road very much more possible than it is a present.
I welcome the Bill and the imaginative approach to the problem of London's traffic. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) took a somewhat dog-in-the-manger attitude. I am fully conscious of the need for an improvement in the traffic conditions of Manchester. There are plans—on paper, at any rate—to make those improvements possible.
I must admit that the complaints from my constituency are that the character of one of the roads there is such that people drive along it too fast. The complaints are directed to slowing down rather than speeding up the traffic. I cannot see that improvements in Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester, or Salford will be in any way expedited if we delay the passage of this Bill for six months. The Amendment seems to me to be quite senseless.
Some allusion has been made to the great work which has been done in Brussels and I admit that that work is very remarkable. Perhaps we have something to learn from it, but the problems in Brussels are very much easier than those in London, because of the layout of Brussels. Progress has been made in Brussels because the authorities have moved forward rather more boldly than we have, but I am glad to see that we are now making up what is perhaps lost time, for which I do not blame my right hon. Friend in the very least. I hope that this scheme, which is a fine scheme, will be the forerunner of many others not only in London, but in Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, and in other great cities.
There is one aspect of the Bill about which I am somewhat dubious and I hope that my right hon. Friend will have second thoughts about it. It is that part of the Bill, to which reference has already been made, which provides for only single-line traffic in the under-pass between Piccadilly and Knightsbridge. My right hon. Friend said that there was a margin of 40 per cent. already allowed for the amount of traffic likely to use it. That may be so and I would not venture to dispute it.
However, it is generally agreed that the volume of road traffic will be doubled by 1964, so it seems that that margin will not be adequate then. My right hon. Friend pointed out that it would cost about £750,000 now to provide for four-lines of traffic instead of two, and he said that the cost of it would not be very much more if the matter was further delayed. I find that very hard to understand, because if the under-pass is to be completed now for only two lines of traffic, although some of the preliminary work for the two extra lines may have been done, it would appear that it will be to root up what has been done already and start all over again when the time comes to start the actual work on the extra two lines. I should have thought that it was false economy to provide for only two lines of traffic now, when four lines will almost certainly be needed later.
My right hon. Friend also said that the amount of traffic which could use the under-pass would be limited by the character of the streets in Knightsbridge and further up Piccadilly. That is undoubtedly so at the present time, but surely my right hon. Friend is not asking us to accept that position as permanent. I hope that by various ways means may be devised for doubling the possible flow of traffic through Knightsbridge and Piccadilly, perhaps by making one-way streets, perhaps by using some of the existing side streets as one-way streets. It is a rather defeatist attitude to say that we are to be permanently limited at Hyde Park Corner by the character of the streets which lead to its approaches.
Of course, further road works of this kind are greatly needed in other parts of London, too. We do not want to have a state of affairs in which there is a great rush of traffic through Hyde Park Corner, which gets blocked in various other bottlenecks of which we all know. At any rate, this is a great step forward, perhaps the greatest stop forward we have taken in our road building plans in London. As such, I very much welcome the Bill and hope that it will be a forerunner to other schemes of this kind all over the country.
This is a very interesting debate and I do not blame my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) for having taken the opportunity of moving the Amendment and expressing what I am sure he genuinely feels to be a grievance of a number of provincial areas.
It was quite clear that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) had similar feelings. After all, this is a place where people take every opportunity to ventilate grievances. That is what it is for and, certainly, I shall not complain that my hon. Friends should have done it—as long as we get the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North was good enough to say that she had a great liking for London and that it had enormous attractions and was one of the finest capital cities. That is true—although there are other capital cities which are very fine.
If I may reciprocate, one of the first things I learned when I entered politics as a young man was to have a great admiration for the North of England, for provincial municipalities who were doing progressive work, notably the City of Bradford, in Yorkshire. I have never lost that admiration for the North of England and my kindly sympathy and feelings with that area in any troubles it may have. Since I married a lady from Rochdale, I am still further tied to the North of England, and I am very fond of that town.
However, I want to tell my hon. Friends that I have been a member of a number of Cabinets and that I have studied their outlooks, psychology and mentality. I am not sure that my hon. Friends will believe me, but I can assure them that the place in the country which gets the least consideration and sympathy, from a United Kingdom Cabinet is London.
I know that it is hard to believe, and I understand the feeling, but I assure my hon. Friend that that is so. Will they have any sympathy with my point of view—I doubt it—when I tell them that I once asked a Cabinet why London had to suffer the grievance that, because we were distant from the coal mines we had to pay a substantially greater price for coal than did other parts of the country?
It is not decisive about producing it. Why should London have to pay additional costs merely because of the transport charges? If we have a Socialist conception, why should the idea of an equalisation of charges shock my right hon. Friend, merely because we do not dig the coal in London? I assure my hon. Friends that I raised that point in a Cabinet, but got no sympathy whatever and that all my colleagues, who came from the provinces, Scotland and Wales, either froze me with a deadly silence, or denounced it as an utterly impossible idea.
London suffers from its grievances. In the war we were bombed more than any other part of the country—that is generally admitted and I am not trying to wring any tears about it. Moreover, we were also the worst fed part of the country. I was Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security. I travelled all over the country by car and train, and the further I got from London the better fed I was. That probably could not be helped. Poor old London put up with it. Londoners did not come to the House and say, "We are the worst treated of God's children." It would have been true if they had said it, but they did not because they are a brave lot. They stuck it, and expected to be treated worse than any other part of the country.
Reference has been made to the growing of trees. As I read the Bill, the question of amenities in the park is not so much a question of a present to London; it is an obligation upon the London County Council at least to restore the amenities which were there before. This is a very beautiful park, and it would be a tragedy if it were damaged or messed up in any way. I read the provision more as an obligation upon the Council to restore the amenities—
I gather that more amenities may be included, and I hope that that is so.
I do not know what Hyde Park Corner will look like. I have had a look at the plan and the model upstairs, but I am one of those people who find it difficult to understand plans and models, and I do not really know what it will look like. I expect that it will look all right, but if there is a great open space round which the traffic goes I should have thought that it would be foolish and undignified merely to spread out a slab of concrete and not to have a fountain or two and some other amenities. I regard this provision as an obligation upon the Council to make the place as fine as it can, so that hon. Members and citizens who come from the provinces, from Scotland and Wales in great numbers will have something pretty to see in London. We know that it costs them a lot of money to get here, and we think that they should be treated well when they come.
Another point that should be remembered is that London pays a lot of money in taxation to the central Government and to the so-called Road Fund. Whether there is a Road Fund or not I do not know; I do not think that there is. As a matter of fact, it is a sheer fraud. The motoring community is taxed up to the hilt, and the Government just collar the tax. That process was started by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no Chancellor, whether Tory or Labour, has ever abandoned the system. It reminds me of Income Tax, which was started at 2d. in the £ and which was to be stopped in two or three years. No Chancellor has ever stopped it, and no Chancellor is ever likely to.
There it is. The amount of money that goes into the Road Fund is enormous—if, as I say, there is a Road Fund. The money certainly goes somewhere. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South talked about an expenditure of £41 million. I would remind him that 25 per cent. of it will be found by the ratepayers of London, which is treating London a bit better than it was treated in connection with Waterloo Bridge. He also talked about another £10 million being provided, but that is not much when one compares it with what London contributes in motor taxation and other taxation. I advise my hon. Friends not to be unduly disturbed about the point. Heaven knows when we shall have got all that other £10 million. It may be spread over a long period.
I should like to offer a word of advice to the Minister. If he ever brings in such a Bill again let him consider its Title. Just fancy this being called the Park Lane Improvement Bill! It is enough to start up the class-conscious feelings of hon. Members on this side of the House. Half the annoyance of my hon. Friend has arisen because of the Bill's tie-up with Park Lane. My hon. Friend cannot forget that very well-to-do people live in Park Lane, in the Dorchester Hotel and Grosvenor House. Indeed, find it dfficult not to share his feelings.
The Bill should have been called the Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch Bill—and perhaps the Edgware Road Bill, which is not so respectable—and then the Minister would have been all right. He should not bring in a Bill entitled the Park Lane Improvement Bill, because he is just asking for trouble from the class-conscious revolutionary proletariat.
There will certainly be a fast one-way traffic down Park Lane, and residents in those hotels will have to be careful how they cross the road. On the other hand, I would point out that getting through Park Lane, especially when there are any public dinners being held in the hotels, or during peak traffic hours, is an awful job.
I shall refer to the subways in a few moments. People have a very interesting psychological attitude towards subways.
There is undoubtedly a great need for an improvement at Hyde Park Corner. It not only carries the most heavy traffic in London; it is one of the most worrying places to drive through. One honestly does not know where the next fellow is coming from and where he is going. One does not know whether he is coming up or is going to cut across one's bonnet, or whether one is going to cut across his. It is a dreadful place, and it is not creditable either to past Governments or to the County Council that the problem has not been dealt with before. It was urgently necessary.
I do not believe that it will make the amenities of the park worse than they are at present. In some respects I think that the amenities will be improved. But if we remember the enormous amount of traffic which goes through the park from Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch we must admit that it is not merely a way through the park; it is really a great main road in London. If we regularise the position and make it a road, besides putting the amenities of the park upon a proper basis, the situation will be better than it is. Marble Arch is not quite so bad as Hyde Park Corner, but it is bad enough.
Reference has been made to the fact that one Clause provides that trees may be planted. I believe that it is an obligation. The planting of trees is a fairly normal local authority obligation. Indeed, one of the finest enterprises in the planting of trees was in the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey, in about 1920, when it first had a Labour majority. It was started by Dr. Salter and his wife. Ada Slater. They planted trees in every one of those rather poor Bermondsey streets. Bermondsey was one of the poorest boroughs in London, and Dr. and Mrs. Salter paid for the trees out of their own Council money, without any State grant. That was an imaginative action, and such action needs to be taken in other parts—as it occasionally is taken.
I am a little worried about the underpass. The fact that there will be only two lines of traffic worries me. Has any hon. Member recently been through Blackwall Tunnel? I would advise hon. Members not to go through it. It was built in the days of horse traffic—and when there was not even much of that. If one motor vehicle or horse vehicle breaks down the tunnel is messed up. Now we are going to the expense of building another tunnel, so that there will be two tunnels, each with one-way traffic, and two lines of traffic each way.
Having studied bridge constructions, fly-overs and Heaven knows what in the United States, I am not at all sure that we should not have had a great bridge from Woolwich over to the north side of the river, and let Black wall Tunnel go—but that is by the way. If any hon. Members have been in Blackwall Tunnel they will know what a two-lane traffic subway means. I think that this is a false economy. If we have to widen the subway later it will cost more than it will if we do the job now, and if we have a blockage in one line of traffic in the under-pass it will mess it up and may also cause trouble outside it. I do not want to attack the Minister over this or to be too aggressive, but I ask him, with respect, to look into the matter again, together with the London County Council to see whether it would be worth while having an under-pass with four lanes which, in my opinion, would be better than the present proposal.
We must think about subways. I am not saying that we should not have them, because they are desirable and necessary in many parts. But the fact is that Londoners do not use them much. There is an amazing honeycomb of pedestrian subways at the Elephant and Castle. I drive through that area every day and, by the way, it is not so bad as it looks. But the number of people who go down the pedestrian subways is relatively few, and the number of people who go flying across the road is large. It may well be an indication of their sense of adventure. Either they do not like the idea of going down the steps through the subway and then having to climb up again—which I can understand—or they have such a lively sense of adventure and a wish to court danger in that they would sooner risk their lives by going across the road. Perhaps the reason is a combination of those two things.
There is a subway at the corner of Parliament Square. I often go across Parliament Street, but I never use the subway and practically no one else does. I wait for the traffic to stop—or hope that it has stopped—and then get over, and sometimes it means making a dash. If we build subways which are not used, it is a waste of public money. If we build them, we must, somehow, see that they are used. The Minister said that in this case the subways will have a ramp, and this may result in their being used to a greater extent.
Whether, in the end, we shall have to resort to compulsion and make pedestrians use the subways, instead of being a nuisance to themselves and others by crossing the road, I do not know. As I drive a car, I do not propose to get into trouble with the pedestrians. We may be a long way from the time when compulsion is used. But it is true that at present, according to the amount they are used, we are not receiving value for the money we have spent on subways. The Minister must think carefully about this matter and see whether, when the subways are constructed, something can be done to tempt pedestrians into them, and especially the Londoners.
What is to be the future of the traffic in this City? Figures have been bandied about. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) gave some figures about the probable increase in traffic and I expect that he is right. But it is an awful outlook, this limitless increase in traffic. I do not know that we can contemplate the automatic provision of roads for all the traffic which may come. It may be necessary to discourage traffic in central London.
There was a London County Council valuer named Frank Hunt, who was a great man. As an official, he did more about London's Green Belt than anybody else. But on an occasion when there was pressure for roads in London—I think that it was being exerted by David Lloyd George, as he then was, because he was a great enthusiast about roads—and I was "chasing round" about London having more roads, Hunt said to me, "Mr. Morrison, if you are not careful, this will be a city of roads with no buildings on it, and then where is your rateable value to come from?"
That is an exaggeration, but it is a point worth keeping in mind. There cannot be a limitless provision of highways merely because people decide to travel on the roads. It may be that the only way we shall keep traffic out of Soho and the West End will be by making it impossible for cars to get there. But that is a miserable doctrine which I do not wish to develop.
This is a Bill to be welcomed and I congratulate the Minister and the London County Council on its introduction. The Minister will agree that the Council and its officers have been speedy and efficient in this matter. I do not think that London is getting more than its share—I am not sure that it is not getting less. We do not hear about developments in the provinces because Bills are not necessary. It is a matter of arrangement between the local authority and the Minister—
I am sorry about that.
But in London, somehow, there seems always a need for legislation. In this case, I imagine it is because the plan encroaches on a Royal Park; otherwise there would not have been a Bill before Parliament but only legislation involving the London County Council, in which case it would not have attracted so much attention. I do not blame my hon. Friends for taking this opportunity to air their grievances. If we can do anything to help to get their grievances remedied, we will, but I hope that they will not press this Amendment to a Division, and will allow us to have this improvement which, I think everyone will agree, ought to be made.
Like other hon. Members, I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the introduction of this Bill. I hope that the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) will take comfort from the fact that there is a vast amount of roadwork now going on in different parts of the country compared with what was being done a few years ago. Let us hope, therefore, that not only the schemes in which they are interested but many other schemes will be put into operation as time goes on. It is absolutely essential that we speed up the traffic all over the country as well as in London, because by so doing we shall save an enormous amount of money.
I support what has been said about the danger of this two-lane under-pass. It may well be that a heavy lorry using the under-pass—which is of considerable length with very long ramps, the gradient of which I do not know—and crawling up the gradient may create a traffic jam in the under-pass of such dimensions that it may be quicker to go round the roundabout than through the under-pass. That is a point which should be considered. Hon. Members who have seen the underpasses in Paris and Brussels will agree that not more than one of them has less than three traffic lanes and most of them have four. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) pinpointed the difficulty when he mentioned Black-wall Tunnel. That presents an appalling example of how congestion can occur. If we spent another £750,000 on making a four-lane under-pass now, that would be a long-term economy.
I have been told by a friend on the London County Council that the idea is to build a two-lane under-pass now and another later on with a separate tunnel. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would clear up that point. Is it intended eventually that there shall be two tunnels or is there a possibility that a four-lane under-pass will be built in one tunnel?
I should like to ask a question or two about the roundabout system at Hyde Park Corner. After looking at the plan, I think that the straight section at the south-east end, near the bottom of Hamilton Place, will be rather short for traffic to weave. I hope that the point will be looked into. One of the things causing congestion at roundabouts is that there is not enough length for vehicles to weave in, one with another. That is why Hyde Park Corner is so uncomfortable today to drive through. There is little space for traffic to cross. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South is absolutely right when he says it is a nightmare to drive round. It is not so much the congestion, except in the rush hour, as that one never knows where anything is coming from.
On the speed of completing the work I submit that less congestion will be caused the faster it is done. I wonder how the proposed drive to carry out the work will compare with the rate at which under-passes, overhead roads and other works have been completed in Brussels in the last year and a half. I know there was an incentive because of the exhibition to be held in Brussels next year. The appalling congestion from which we have suffered and the even worse congestion which will take place while the work is in progress are an argument for carrying it out as speedily as possible, even if it makes the cost a little more. The extra money will be recovered in the increased speed it brings about.
I cannot help agreeing with the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South about subways. There is a disincentive to pedestrians to use subways because of the trouble of going down the steps and coming up again. I gather that there are not to be steps but ramps, but I think trouble may still arise. When I was on the London County Council a few years ago a scheme was brought forward for a raised roundabout at the Elephant and Castle with subways underneath but on the level. I think the scheme has been abandoned altogether and something else has been put into its place. It is a pity we cannot have something like that at Hyde Park Corner. There is a difference of level between Constitution Hill and the Piccadilly side and I am wondering whether the subways there will not have any ramp at their south end because people will have to come up the steps. The absence of a ramp would be a little bit more incentive to pedestrians to use the subways. If people cannot be made to use them voluntarily, perhaps we can take steps to put up guard rails and so make it impossible for people to cross the road in any other way.
One of the causes of congestion and difficulty at Hyde Park Corner is that the traffic has to be stopped just outside Constitution Hill for pedestrians to cross the road. There is nowhere else for them to do it. That makes coming round the corner much more difficult. I hope we shall be able to get over the difficulty and, if not compel, then persuade pedestrians to use the subways. I hope the scheme is only the forerunner of a good many others, not only in London and Stoke-on-Trent, but elsewhere. One of the best ways to speed up our economy and save money is to speed up our traffic.
Before I turn my attention to the Bill, as I propose to do in a moment, I should like to put on record the fact that I am delighted, after thirteen years association with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), to find at long last some way in which I differ from my hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill. I am glad of the opportunity of saying that in the way he did it and in the context of his speech there was nothing with which I disagreed in principle.
My hon. Friend referred to the areas in which so many of us live who have not the good fortune to live in the capital of this great country. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) described the amenities of Stoke-on-Trent; I noticed that she chose my own constituency rather than her own. There is a reason for that. It is that my constituency is what we call the metropolitan constituency of Stoke-on-Trent. That is where public money is spent rather than in the north or the south. That is inevitable, and cannot be helped. I hope my two hon. Friends agree with me and will not complain. In any event, we are a very happy trio.
I come to the possibilities of criticism of the Bill, and hope that some action will be taken when it is considered in Committee. The cost, £4½ million, is an appreciable sum of money but for solving a problem which has been so intractable it is not too much. Nor can I see how it is possible to economise. I am one of those who have doubts whether the under-pass is big enough considering the development which is likely to take place in London's traffic. The Minister made it clear that there has been an increase in traffic on the road from Knightsbridge moving towards Westminster or Piccadilly. I believe that since 1954 the percentage increase to date is 12 per cent. for the three years. That increase throws a spotlight on how long it will be before the gain which we shall achieve by the under-pass will be overtaken. The under-pass gives us a reserve of 40 per cent. but how long will that advantage last, considering the way in which the traffic is increasing?
If motor car manufacturers start designing cars that are even longer than cars are today the present difficulties will soon return. It seems a long cry since Henry VIII, of blessed memory, enclosed this park, and since Charles I, who was less interested in hunting than in collecting great paintings—for which we are very thankful—opened the park to all the people of the city.
In those early days, London must have been a very pleasant place to live in. It was not a very large city and was on a hill, which was surrounded by magnificent woodlands and fields. At that time from Charing Cross to Hampstead and further the land had been enclosed for the pleasure, certainly of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth. It was only under Charles I, who was more addicted to the arts than to shunting, that the park was opened to the public.
Monetary values have charged very significantly. I note that we are to find approximately £1⅓ million for compensation and purchase of property to effect these improvements, but at the time of the Protectorate the whole of the park was sold in three lots for £17,068 2s. 8d. There is a note in the Journals of the House for 27th November, 1652, which says:
Resolved that Hyde Park be sold for ready money.
Perhaps £17,068 2s. 8d. was a lot of money in those days. I must say those who bought were not ultimately very fortunate in their purchase. They did the best they could for themselves for a while, they charged for admission to the park—1s. for a carriage and 6d. for a horse, a lot of money in those days—but there was a great deal of ill feeling about it. I notice that Evelyn wrote in his Diary:
I went to take the air in Hide Park where every coach was made to pay a shilling and every horse 6d. by these sordid fellows who purchased it off the State.
Londoners were very lucky, because Charles II came back and declared the sale illegal. In my researches I have not been able to find whether compensation was paid, but this would seem a fragment of retrospective legislation, which is of great interest. I know it is not popular legislation in this House at present, but we have a most respectable precedent for which to use it. I will leave that point there, because it is full of contentiousness and I do not want to put too many ideas into the heads of my hon. Friends, nor even of my right hon. friend the. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who has had so much influence on the Labour Party and this House in general, and certainly upon London.
In supporting the Bill in principle, as I do, I note that the figures given by the Minister emphasised that it is dreadful to negotiate Hyde Park Corner in a car. It is the busiest corner in the whole of this country, not only at peak hours, but at any time in a twelve-hourly period. It is embarrassing to us to drive round it, for reasons which have been given by my right hon. Friend, but one can always tell when a foreigner is trying to do so, whether he comes from Leek, Stoke-on-Trent, France or Germany. He looks as though he is about to collapse. The technique of infiltration which we have learned to adopt at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch should be got rid of and we should learn to drive safely for ourselves and our neighbours.
We must, however, ask ourselves if the Bill is the way to achieve what we all want. We want the best possible result for as long as possible—permanently if possible. We want it as economically as possible, with due regard to the fact that we are not legislating for other parts of the country but for the capital city of this country and of the Commonwealth. Therefore, we cannot think of economies in the same sense when we legislate for London as we would for a great city like Manchester, or even Eccles, which is not a city but one day may be. I will not mention my own city in case I get into trouble with my colleagues when we leave the Chamber. London has its special position and no one can deny it. I am sure my hon. Friends do not; we are completely agreed on this matter. This must be done aesthetically, in the best practical fashion, and the amenity aspect needs very special consideration.
I have mentioned my doubts about the under-pass. I am no expert and I was very much influenced by what the Minister said in counter to my thoughts and those of many of us this afternoon. He said he doubted whether the surface road could ever hold such traffic as would need a four-lane under-pass. That is a very important point. If his experts so advise him that must weigh with us very much indeed. I am not averse, of course, on principle of saving £750,000 now or any other time, because that will give me an opportunity to support my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, which I may do very gladly.
We see that land has to be taken from Hyde Park. That is objectionable in principle, as I am sure the Minister will agree. It is objectionable in principle to take even a yard of open space in this great wilderness of brick and mortar and stone in which people live in this huge city. One must preserve every tiny scrap of open land, especially delectable parks of this description.
There are three points which I think should be particularly the concern of those who are to consider how this improvement is to be effected. First, there is the question of trees. That has been mentioned and stress has been placed upon it. The trees must be preserved. New trees must be planted, but they must be planted under expert planning conditions in such a way as to ensure that the greatest possible advantage will be derived from them. Secondly, the northbound carriageway inside the park to run parallel to Park Lane should be completely screened from the park itself.
The Royal Fine Art Commission suggested that there should be a mound to separate that carriageway from the park. The L.C.C. considered and rejected that view. It used these words in order to support its rejection:
We take the view that vehicular traffic along the carriageway is now accepted as part of the park scene and we do not consider that the amenities call for visual separation between the park and the traffic.
I do not know whether hon. Members know that it is proposed that every kind of traffic should run on this carriageway, buses and heavy lorries as well as private cars. If that be the case, a new element is introduced from the point of view of enjoying the park, a new and somewhat ugly element. Personally, I should like to see no traffic on the carriageway, but should like it to be reserved purely for pedestrians. We cannot do that; it is impossible. If we must allow buses and heavy vehicles to use it—that is why we are spending this money—what would be the cost of building a mound, which would be grassed over? Is it not well worth while considering such a separation? Certainly the Royal Fine Art Commission thinks it should be considered and has advised it.
The Minister told us that the Royal Fine Art Commission, when consulted, had been very helpful. However, I have noticed reports in the Press that it objected to the scheme as a whole and criticised it in detail. I hope that when the Joint Parliamentary Secretary gives his answer this evening he will give some information as to what in fact the Royal Fine Art Commission feels about this scheme. Let us have that in some detail. I will tell the hon. Gentleman why I asked that. The Commission has not printed anything, I gather.
Let me see whether I understand that correctly. The Minister states that the words which he used are agreeable to the Royal Fine Art Commission. I am very glad to hear that because we are dealing with men who Serve this country very well, even though they are not always quite as modern minded about certain aspects of life as are younger people or people with less experience. I include myself in those with less experience. I have tried to get information from the Commission about what was in the minds of these gentlemen, but I have been unable to do so. They feel that as they have not printed their views they should not give their views. I think that that is a mistake, because I wanted to give their views to the House. I am particularly interested in the amenity aspect of this matter and I am handicapped because I have no information from them.
Nevertheless, I know that they are meeting this afternoon to consider whether they should print and publish their personal views. That will be too late for this debate, and I deplore that fact. I think I have said enough on that point, although the Minister may have noted that in the Fourteenth Report of the Royal Fine Art Commission, 1955 and 1956, the Commission gives its views in page 4 under the heading "Open Spaces". It reads:
London presents a number of special problems, the most urgent perhaps that of traffic congestion. Many proposals have been put forward for easing the situation, but some of them may do more harm than good. The suggestion, for example, that a strip on the east of Hyde Park should be sacrificed to the improvement of the traffic route between Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner has caused the Commission much concern. It does not believe that such a step would contribute much to the solution of the problem and such encroachments on the Royal Parks, which are a unique feature of the capital, would set a dangerous precedent. What is wanted is a comprehensive traffic plan at least for this part of London that would provide substantial relief for Park Lane. Improvements might still be required at Hyde Park Corner and perhaps at Marble Arch but they should not involve encroachment on the park.
We have heard from the Minister that the net loss would be four acres. The gross loss involved is 21 acres, but he worked it out for us that the net loss would be only four acres. Much as I personally like Hyde Park and much as I feel in principle that these gentlemen
are right in saying that we should not give up land from the park if we can possibly avoid it, I think that perhaps they were wrong and that the Minister was right in introducing the Bill when, for the loss of as little as four acres, we are to get as an advantage for our citizens something which is worth while. But what reward are we to give our citizens? I suggest that at least we should offer them a true visual separation from the traffic when they are inside the Park.
Those who are to be responsible for the ultimate decisions have a great responsibility, and we hope that they will give the most careful consideration to every aspect of the problem. Indeed, I am sure that they will. We have many beautiful things in London, and some that are not. I am delighted, for example, to see that the Decimus Burton Screen, as one comes out of Hyde Park, is to be retained. Recently someone wrote to the Press suggesting that we should destroy it because that would make things easier, but I believe that to be quite wrong and absurd. It is a handsome monument and we should retain it.
In London we have three well-known triumphal arches. Only one of them has not been moved and knocked about from pillar to post, and that is the arch outside Euston, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North will agree serves as a Doric entrance to the Potteries or perhaps Glasgow. The second is at Marble Arch, and it always looks lonely because it leads nowhere. Thirdly, we have the Wellington Arch. The French always deny that they were defeated either at Trafalgar or Waterloo, and especially do they deny that they were defeated at Waterloo. When we argue with them and show them how wrong they are, they retort by saying, "When we look at Wellington Arch we have had our revenge."
I am glad to note that one of the hon. Members from Stoke-on-Trent supports the scheme proposed in the Bill. If it is any help to him, I should like to tell him that I have seen many schemes for the alteration of Hyde Park Corner and in my view this is better than many which have been presented to the public. As he said, one of these proposals envisaged the removal of the Decimus Burton screen from Rotten Row. There have been others, too, and looking at them I think the Minister and the Royal Fine Art Commission are to be congratulated on this scheme, which will give a great deal of pleasure to London.
I am pleased that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) supported the scheme, because I do not want to be drawn too much into the football match between Stoke City and Hyde Park Corner "Hotspur," which has been going on all day. Nevertheless, I should not like to leave unchallenged the fantastic picture of London painted by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater). I should not like this fantastic picture to be left in the minds of the House. It was a picture in which only the rich used these subways round Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch. These hon. Members showed a truly provincial view of what London is. If they knew the facts they would realise that Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch and even Park Lane form the centre of great offices and that the people who will use the subways will be humble typists and clerks.
There are just as many good workers in the centre of London as in the Midlands or the North of England.
I do not agree that this Bill prevents any schemes from being implemented in the Midlands. I have been in those parts of the country in recent months. When we see the improvements on A.5, the building of the Preston motorway and even improvements in Staffordshire we must admit that the whole country is getting a fair share of the road programme.
It so happens that I have seen more of the traffic at Hyde Park Corner than almost anyone else in the world, because before I entered the House my office was at 148, Piccadilly, right on Hyde Park Corner. It was on the ground floor and I had a grandstand view of the traffic. The house, which is now the headquarters of The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, Ltd., was formerly the home of the Rothschilds. It is a grandiose building next to Apsley House. When I looked out of the window and saw the traffic being tangled up early in the morning, again in the lunch hour and worst of all between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., with traffic blocks lasting about ten minutes, I could not take a complacent view of the position of Hyde Park Corner.
I am sorry to say, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will pass this on to his right hon. Friend, that the view I had of that situation and of the traffic blocks, was one of the things which led me to approach the Chairman of the R.A.C. about four years ago and say, "Isn't it time we did something about this?" The result was that we founded the Roads Campaign Council, which has been such a thorn in the Minister's flesh ever since.
I managed, also, to get the support of the motor manufacturers, who made a substantial contribution to the funds of the Roads Campaign Council. I was, therefore, amazed and amused to find that one of the first fruits of the efforts of the Roads Campaign Council was that my old office, 148, Piccadilly, the home of the motor manufacturers, was to be knocked down to make way for this new road.
Many take credit for it. I think it must be admitted that the Roads Campaign Council has highlighted the problem of the roads and that this is one of the things which has, perhaps, led the electorate to demand great road improvements. I am glad to say that the Government have listened to what the Council has said.
As a result of this scheme—I should like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, who moved the Amendment, to realise this—London will lose some amenities as well as other places. Gone will be the Rothschild House, with its gilt decorations, marble staircases, pictures on the ceilings of the rooms painted in the style of Michaelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. I am told that the cost of rebuilding that house today would be about £250,000. Gone will be that house when this improvement scheme comes in. The present tenants, I think, have taken all this in good part and the joke on the motor manufacturers has, I think, been accepted.
I am rather surprised today that neither the Minister nor anyone else has tried to calculate what we have lost at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch in fuel and time. I have often tried to make some calculations and it may interest the hon. Members, if they will bear with me for a moment, to listen to them. This is the most heavily-trafficked site in the whole of Great Britain. There are 90,000 vehicles passing around it every day, and I think it fair to say that any vehicle going from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner inclusive is held up two or three minutes on the average.
Therefore, I calculate that each vehicle must lose about one-thirtieth of a gallon of petrol in that journey. If that figure is correct, we are losing about 3,000 gallons a day in wasted fuel by traffic blocks at these points. That is equivalent to £700 a day, or over £200,000 a year.
So, if, by getting rid of the traffic congestion at these places, Marble Arch, Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner, we can save fuel to the extent of about £200,000 a year, we get a remarkably valuable contribution of nearly 5 per cent. return on the £4½million which we are spending, not counting the return we shall get from cutting out the waste of time as well as the waste of fuel.
I have one or two other small points which, perhaps, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would reply to or think about. As has been mentioned, 90,000 vehicles go round Hyde Park every day. That means that at peak periods about 10,000 vehicles an hour are passing. We know that there is a limit to the capacity of a roundabout. A gentleman who is an expert on what is called channelisation of traffic, Mr. Nigel Seymer, and who has sent me a lot of correspondence in the past, has said that however big we make the roundabout at Hyde Park it will not be big enough to take all the traffic in the future. I know that this position will be moderated to some extent by the building of the underpass, but I should be glad if my hon. Friend would say that he has given consideration, with the Road Research Board, to the capacity of the roundabout at Hyde Park, and whether, as we hope, it will be sufficient to take the traffic in the future.
Another point to which I would draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention is this. Under the new scheme, if one looks at the plan, one will see that coming from Park Lane to Hyde Park Corner vehicles will pass three sets of traffic lights—one outside Upper Brook Street, one at Upper Grosvenor Street and one outside the Dorchester Hotel. So there will be three places of hold up when coming down Park Lane. I suggest that it should be possible, and, of course, it would be preferable, to allow traffic from the south to come up the boulevard, go beyond the point it wishes to reach and then turn right into Park Lane and come back again into the stream of traffic. It would mean cutting one or two minor roads through the grass verge, but it would certainly avoid having traffic lights in Park Lane. Perhaps my hon. Friend would tell me whether he has been able to give attention to that point.
Lastly, we have seen, on the West Cromwell Road extension and at Chiswick, very large and significant notice boards giving the completion date of those schemes. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to put up notice boards in Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner giving the completion date of this scheme which is contemplated. I am quite sure that puting up notices of that type leads the contractors, engineers and everyone concerned to get a move on and to see that schemes are completed in the proper time.
I welcome the Bill as containing a bold and imaginative scheme. The scheme will do much to free traffic and is sadly needed to deal with what is, as must be appreciated, the most heavily-trafficked place in the whole United Kingdom.
I wish to say a few words in reinforcement of the plea of my two hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater). There seems to be an impression that when any hon. Member on this side puts down an Amendment to any Bill he is trying to stir up class war. I assure the Government that such is not the case. It is part of the Parliamentary procedure that we have to adopt to ventilate some of the grievances that affect us every day of our lives. I do not want it to go forth that the differences of opinion in this case amount to a battle between North and South. But what we do ask for, as has been emphasised by my hon. Friend from Stoke-on-Trent, South, is that there shall be fair shares, and a fair distribution of the capital about to be expended upon road improvements. That is all we ask.
Be it remembered, Mr. Speaker, that it is now twenty-one years since any great scheme was adopted in Lancashire—
I quite agree that we must have fair shares all over the country, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is now fifty-two years—1905—since the last great scheme was put into effect in London?
I very much doubt whether the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) can sustain that statement. Has he forgotten the amount of money that was expended on the construction of the Waterloo Bridge? That was a great improvement.
I admired every word of the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). He was so tolerant, so persuasive, so pleasing, but there was a time. Mr. Speaker, when he was afire and determined to get something done for the London County Council. Now that he has secured some of the things on which he had his mind—well, I will not say that he has taken a back seat, but he is not as vigorous as he was many years ago. I do not blame him for his vigour, because I have learned that in this House one has continually to prod and press the Government to do the things that one thinks desirable.
I know that the Minister and his predecessors must be sick and tired of the Questions that have appeared on the Order Paper about the traffic at Hyde Park Corner. This Bill seeks to relieve the congestion and to increase safety. The authorities have been a long time in starting but, now the Measure is before us, anything that increases the safety factor, anything that decreases the danger on the roads, must be given wholehearted support by all sensible people. We have heard so much about the alarming road death rate that we are gravely disturbed about what is to happen in the future unless we are prepared to spend some money on road improvements in the country as a whole.
Nevertheless, if there is money available for road improvements, that money should be apportioned on a fair and equitable basis. My mind goes back to the construction of the East Lancashire roadway. How long and how patiently we waited in that county before we got that roadway constructed, but it should also be remembered that that work started and finished only at certain points, and has never yet gone a yard beyond. It is still awaiting full and final completion.
It is with that example before us that we are so anxious to put before the Government the need for fair shares for all. I know that the hon. Member for Twickenham has said that Hyde Park Corner is a great business centre, or a great centre where business people live. I grant that. Some of us on this side also remember that the centres from which we come are great industrial centres, where the country's wealth is made. It is because we feel that so keenly that we are now attempting to ventilate our opinions to the Minister, and to ask him to see to it that there is fair shares for all.
The three parks—St. James's Park, Green Park and Hyde Park—have been mentioned. As a Northerner, I often ask myself what this city would be like if it did not have any parks. One cannot imagine London without them. It follows that its parks, like those in other places, are a great attraction for the people, and if they have that great attraction, we must make access to them as safe as possible. To a large extent, that is what this Bill seeks to do.
I know that London is a great city. As a Briton, I am proud of it and of many of its aspects. I scorn others. I scorn some of the things I see in this city, but those things that are beautiful and attractive I greatly admire, and I admire the London County Council for providing them. This is a great city, because it is the pivot upon which the world moves. It draws people from all countries to conferences and the like from the north and the south. For that reason, it is essential that the city itself must be a model of beauty and safety; and of all the other features that make up a great metropolis.
We are anxious that the Bill should reach the Statute Book but, at the same time, we very strongly press the Minister and the Department to have some regard for other parts of the country. I know that I have said it before, but I come from a mining area. I have lived in the mining areas since I was born. When I compare what is done in the great cities with what has been done in the mining areas I am disgusted at the approach there is to the question of equity in the distribution of money available for capital expenditure on improvements.
The House should, I think, be reminded that in the people's minds today there is a totally different outlook from that of, say, fifty years ago. Half a century ago, we never dreamt of, or advocated the planting of trees in industrial areas, but the rising generation is now asking that that should be done. That demand is coming, not from the politicians, the Parliamentarians or the statesmen, but from the ordinary people. It is they who desire surroundings more beautiful than our forefathers had—and rightly so.
What is the purpose of that education upon which we spend so much money, if it does not broaden the minds of its recipients? Therefore, I say that, as a nation, we ought to help these people to enjoy the things that education has made them desire. A few days ago an article appeared in one of the northern newspapers. This is not something coming from the business people at Piccadilly, or Hyde Park Corner or Park Lane, but from the ordinary working people in Manchester, Eccles, Monton Green, Walkden, Mossley, and most of the industrial towns of Lancashire. This is what it says—in big headlines:
Clean up the towns and cities, and make it possible for us to enjoy the beauties of nature.
We would not have had that twenty-five or fifty years ago, but these people, realising what their forefathers missed, are now insisting on the cities being made more beautiful and the countryside considerably improved, and rightly so.
I was glad to note that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South said, the Bill puts an obligation on the local authorities. The obligation should rest on every local authority to make its towns and cities as beautiful as money and effort can make them. I was also delighted to see a reference to the planting of trees, shrubs, etc. I hope that that will be compulsory; that it will be not only an obligation but a compulsion upon the L.C.C. to plant trees.
Mr. Speaker, while I have been sitting here I have been thinking of a debate that we had when you occupied the very responsible position of Minister of Town and Country Planning. I was one who took part in that debate, which was about the planting of trees. What would London be, what would the parks of London be, without trees? I say that it is of paramount importance that future generations should be able to look back to what was accomplished by their forebears, and to see the vision—and it is a vision—that prompted us to do what we could in our day to give pleasure and joy to those generations which will follow us. Therefore, I am all for the planting of trees and shrubs wherever they can be planted, and I am glad that the Bill contains provision for that.
After all, this country's trees and woodlands are in a worse state than ever in its history. If we look at it from a commercial point of view, we are at the bottom of the league, whereas, we used to be at the top. The Parliamentary Secretary, who used to occupy a responsible position in another Department, knows how vigorously I fought the Ministry of Agriculture and the then Ministry of Fuel and Power, who had the audacity to go along to a woodland district in my constituency and hack down valuable trees. I insisted that trees should be replanted in their place. I heartily endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) said. If a man cuts one tree down the only thing that relieves him of the guilt upon his shoulders is that he should plant two in its place.
When the figures are produced I hope that I shall be wrong and that my two hon. Friends are wrong, but we should have fair shares for all. Whatever may be the answer to our inquiries, we want more safety and the removal of danger factors so that the alarming death rate upon our roads, whether at Hyde Park Corner, Park Lane, or wherever it may be may be lessened. If we can remove the dangers to life and limb it is our job to do it. The Bill is an attempt in that direction. I know that there is a feeling that we ought to divide the House, but I do not think that we are so silly as that.
I will withdraw that if it offends my hon. Friend. Shall I say that we should be unwise to divide the House, that we have no desire to divide the House. There is, deep down in our hearts, the desire that whatever is done for the City of London shall be done to a lesser degree in the industrial areas, where all the wealth is made to try to create an improvement for the people who work day after day, and week in week out. That is all we are asking. It is not an unreasonable request. It is a reasonable plea to which sensible men ought to respond. I think that in the course of the next few weeks, or months, when the Minister or the Department may be considering the Government's long or short-term programme, for road improvements the Minister should send some of his officers into the industrial areas, for there we will show him what ought to be done to improve the areas in which we live, especially from a safety and amenities point of view.
I feel no sense of guilt in protracting for a few minutes this very interesting debate on a very intriguing Bill, if I may say so as one who comes from the provinces, say with all sincerity that we should feel grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), and Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) who moved and seconded the Amendment. Their action has, as has already been said, given us the opportunity of trying to impress a sense of pro portion upon the minds of the Government about the relative needs for different, parts of the county.
The Minister should have been only too aware that once he presented an important Bill of this kind and designated it as the Park Lane Improvement Bill, the thoughts of those of us who have been industrialised to the very core of our being would go to the Merthyrs, the Aberdares, the Rhonddas and the Potteries, and so on. The Title of the Bill was the principal thing that provoked me to take interest in it.
I am sorry not to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) in his place. He has, I know, been here many hours this afternoon. As I expected, he took exception to the Title of the Bill. I am sure that all hon. Members were delighted to hear him make his speech, because to some of us he is not only the perfect Londoner; he is a Londoner with a wide streak of the lovable cockney about him. He certainly commands my attention whenever he speaks on any London problem.
He had complaints to make, too. He lamented that London was getting less sympathy from Cabinets than any other place in the country. We doubt whether that is correct, but certainly we from the industrial areas can never be expected to share our sympathies with him. He went further and said that he lamented and complained that, among other things, London had to pay more for coal than most other parts. I would like my right hon. Friend to appreciate that for every ton of coal that London gets, it gets many other things of value from the provinces.
Where would this city be were it not for the fresh blood and culture of the people from the provinces and many from my own small constituency? There are hundreds of graduates here making their contribution to preserving whatever level of civilisation there is in London. They are from the training colleges and universities from all over the country. When my right hon. Friend and others complain about the cost of the goods they have to buy in London, they should remember that no city or town strikes the magnificent bargains that London does with what it gets in human and cultural contributions—not merely in education, but the medical profession, the architects, key engineers who are drawn from my part of the country, and other parts of the provinces. London should be expected to pay a little extra not only for coal, but for many other things she gets from other parts of the country. I cannot help being intensely interested in London. More than half my family is working here.
They are doing more than that. With the hundreds of thousands who come in from the provinces, they are filling the needs of the medical and teaching professions as well as other professions, which London by itself cannot do.
However, the Government should remember that we in the provinces cannot help being extremely critical when we come here and see the situation that exists in relation to these insoluble problems. The Minister knows that this is only a small patchwork, a small desperate improvement that the Government are trying to effect in an insoluble situation here in London. I cannot agree that the provinces should suffer as a result of the great expense that is incurred by the vast aggregation of human beings who exist here, who, sociologically speaking, cannot any longer be welded into a social organism. The local authority that—is the London County Council—should have had some regard for the control of the huge streams of humanity who come here, knowing that sooner or later we should have a miserable patchwork of Bills of the type we have before the House this evening to deal with insoluble problems.
This is a costly matter and it means that we in the provinces are deprived of the assistance which we are entitled to request from the Government. The Parliamentary Secretary in particular knows very well that within the last year or so I have had to protest in this House on two occasions. The last occasion was only a few weeks ago when I had to detain the Parliamentary Secretary here after midnight because of a piece of sheer vandalism in my constituency. This sort of thing is becoming commonplace in Wales. I refer to the closing down of railways within my constituency without any regard to alternative means of transport. I have protested on two occasions about this sort of thing, but to no avail. The Parliamentary Secretary said that there was nothing he could do except refer to a largely fictitious alternative means of transport.
May I remind the Minister that eleven years ago the Trunk Roads Act was placed on the Statute Book? It was recognised that Merthyr Tydvil was an appalling bottleneck for the valleys of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, and alternative road schemes were laid down. Yet the Government have done next to nothing to implement what was placed on the Statute Book eleven years ago. We have to protest in cases of this kind. We who come from the provinces appeal to the Ministry of Transport in particular to help us solve our transport problems. I wonder what conception the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have, for example, of the traffic that runs from Merthyr Tydvil and the adjoining valleys into Cardiff. In spite of this Act which has been on the Statute Book for eleven years, nothing has been done by the present Government about the proposed new trunk road from Cardiff, through Merthyr to Brecon and on to North Wales. It is asking too much—
I am trying to explain, as my hon. Friends have already tried to explain, why we do not like this Bill. The reason is that the provinces, and particularly the people whom I represent, are being sacrificed in order that the money for this Bill shall be found. We are entitled to draw these comparisons. I am sure you will agree with me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
I was about to finish what I had to say. I have made my protest; but we shall continue to make these protests in the hope that we in Wales will get our reasonable share of Government assistance. There is a suicidal move to close down a number of our railways in Wales while at the same time the Government are doing practically nothing to provide us with sufficient means of alternative road transport.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), I so seldom disagree with my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) that I feet I should mark the occasion by registering my disagreement in public. If they are still labouring under any sense of injustice, I hope they will feel that sense of injustice to be mitigated by the fact that just about one-third of the time of the debate has been taken up by my hon. Friends who represent Stoke-on-Trent.
Try as I will, I cannot regard this as a savage class Measure perpetrated by a Tory Government, which I detest as much as my hon. Friends, because the truth of the matter is that this is a Bill to implement a scheme put forward many years ago by the London County Council which has had a Socialist majority for the last twenty-three years and is likely to increase that majority next spring. Rather than this being a savage Measure by the Government, it is a beneficial Measure which owes its inspiration to the London County Council. I should like to compliment the London County Council on the patience and the persistence that it has shown in carrying the scheme through to this stage.
I wish the scheme had emerged today in the form in which it began, because the scheme that the London County Council originally conceived was, I think, in many ways as great a scheme as the Waterloo Bridge scheme, for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) must take the credit. I was pleased to hear the reference of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) to my right hon. Friend. I think that all of us were delighted today to hear his intervention and to know that London's greatest Londoner is still keeping a benevolent watch on the affairs of the city for which he has done so much, which he loves so well and which, in turn, loves him.
The L.C.C. has had to struggle for a considerable time to get this scheme through, and to reach this stage, and it has involved a great deal of consultation with Government Departments and other authorities. I should like to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Treat, Central about the Royal Fine Art Commission. The only information we had before the Minister's speech this afternoon, apart from the very short reference in the Fourteenth Report of the Royal Fine Ant Commission, to which my hon. Friend referred, was a reference in the Press which was taken from the report of the
Town Planning Committee of the London County Council. This report stated:
Apart from the Royal Fine Art Commission there has been agreement by these authorities"—
the various organisations that is involved—
on the general form of the improvement. The Commission is opposed to the scheme in general and has criticised it in detail.
We know from our previous experience that the Royal Fine Art Commissioners are a body of conscientious men who are doing a remarkably good piece of work for the benefit of the entire country as well as of its capital. It would be helpful, however, to have the views of the Commissioners made more readily available to hon. Members on occasions of this kind. I suggest—and I hope that the Royal Fine Art Commissioners will note these suggestions—that when their advice is sought on such a scheme, which is a most important one, involving twenty-one acres of the Royal Parks, and obviously having a great effect on the amenities of the capital, it would be helpful if the Commissioners would make their views public, or at any rate be rather more co-operative with this House, with the Library of this House and also with the hon. Members, than they have shown themselves on this occasion. After all, they are a body which is maintained out of national funds, and I feel that we are entitled to have their views made available to us just as much as to Ministers of the Crown and other public bodies which seek their advice.
If some aspects of this scheme are disappointing, I do not think that the fault rests with the London County Council. The fault rests with the Ministry of Transport, which has been acting in this matter as the agent of the Treasury. We have had another example of the penny wise and pound foolish policy which hon. Gentlemen opposite believe to be the same as prudent management.
The Minister said very properly that we must not depreciate the work that is done here in the United Kingdom. It is the Minister's job to give an impression of great activity, and he does it very well indeed and, if I may say so, with considerable charm. On the other hand, we know that, if we take into consideration other countries, there is not only the tremendous programme in Brussels, to which my hon. Friend referred, but New York City at present has a £200 million road programme in hand. Many of us too have seen the amazing achievements of the City of Rotterdam and the contributions made there to the solution of the traffic problem by the building of tunnels and other road improvement methods of that kind.
In the Park Lane improvement scheme, we have, thanks to the London County Council, the first really serious attempt to deal with the traffic problem at a point where, as hon. Members have said, about 80,000 vehicles, or more, pass every twelve hours. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South said with a note of pathos in his voice that he had waited fifty years for the Barton Bridge scheme to be approved. In London we have waited fifty-five years since the first really substantial contribution to the problem of traffic congestion at Hyde Park Corner. It was in 1902 that part of the Green Park was cut away in order to relieve congestion. Then, of course, thirty years ago there was a rather less major scheme when roundabout working was introduced. In spite of all the efforts made in 1902 and at later stages, traffic congestion has persisted.
The L.C.C. scheme, as I understand it, would have cost originally approximately £5,800,000. The Ministry of Transport insisted on that amount being reduced to £4,550,000. That reduction, said the Ministry of Transport, involved the L.C.C. in doing two things. First, they had to cut out one of the twin two-lane tunnels and have instead one tunnel with two-way working. Secondly, they had to alter the layout of the island sites at the Marble Arch and at Hyde Park Corner.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South referred to the Black-wall Tunnel and told of the difficulties that arise by having one single tunnel with two-way working, and that point was taken up by many hon. Members on both sides of the House. I hope that the Minister will look at it again seriously and dispassionately, because clearly there is a great deal of apprehension on both sides of the House as to whether the present proposed arrangement will serve the purpose for which it is intended.
I was interested to read in the Daily Telegraph on 7th December a letter from Mr. John Baker White, whom many of us will remember as a member of this House. Referring to the under-pass he wrote:
Unless it is capable of carrying as many streams of traffic as do the roads it connects, it is bound to cause congestion…
Later he wrote:
Would it be all that more expensive, if there are going to be underpasses at all, to excavate to an adequate width instead of building what may well prove to be a double-necked bottle?
The Minister expressed himself as satisfied that the proposal would meet the situation, at any rate for the next ten or fifteen years, but I think the House will be well advised to realise that this is not the view of the Westminster City Council, the local authority controlling the Hyde Park Corner area. The General Purposes Committee of that Council was reported on 12th November, 1957, as having said:
Experience will show after a short while that two traffic lanes in each direction are essential, and that to increase the capacity of the underpass once it has been constructed, will prove to be much more costly than to provide four traffic lanes from the start.
If we continue in this world of inflation, with building costs rising day after day, it is obviously false economy to put off until tomorrow something that we could be doing today; so I hope that the Minister will consider seriously the views of the Westminster City Council, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South and of all other hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion.
Even supposing that it was wise to postpone the actual construction of one of the tunnels, I want to put to the Minister the following point which reveals an even greater absurdity. The London County Council is intimately involved in the architectural work which will be required. I am informed that the L.C.C. suggested to the Ministry of Transport that, whilst accepting the decision that one tunnel must not be built, the architectural treatment should nevertheless provide for a double portal at each end. The purpose of this would be that the whole surface work would not have to be altered when, as will inevitably happen, the second under-pass is built. I think it was incredibly, and almost criminally, shortsighted of the Ministry of Transport to turn down that suggestion when it was made. It would have been a reasonable compromise between the Ministry of Transport at the centre and the local authority actually carrying out the work.
I said that the reduction insisted upon by the Ministry involved two changes. The second change was the alteration in the proposed layout at Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. I think that from the amenity point of view that alteration will prove to be serious in its effects. The treatment which is now proposed in the interests of economy is humdrum and uninspired compared with what we have a right to expect at sites of such importance. I would stress that in making these criticisms I intend no disrespect to the London County Council, because I feel that the responsibility rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Minister himself.
At Marble Arch the island site could have been paved and treated at different levels, with tremendous advantage both to its appearance and to its amenity value. Instead of that we shall have a flat, grassy, rather sterile site of the kind that we have in Parliament Square.
At Hyde Park Corner the same sort of thing will result. There one could have had a magnificent scheme if real imagination had been allowed to be shown. There we have wonderful trees, especially the trees which are at present part of the Green Park, and one could have had a combination of the trees with water, and with paved areas.
However, the difficulty with which the London County Council has had to contend is a two-fold one. There has been not only the difficulty of meeting the budget imposed upon it by the Minister of Transport. There has also been the difficulty created by the insistence of the Ministry of Works upon a processional way across the island site. It seems a pity at this time that it should be necessary to determine the character of an island site by the need for having a processional way going across it. I should have thought that it was perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the time for the processional way to go round the square instead of across it. But, if it had been possible to have paved areas, as the London County Council wanted, instead of the grass that the Minister's economic budget has dictated, it would have been, possible to have a processional way winding its way across the paved areas of the island site without it being obviously a processional way, as it is, and as hon. Members will appreciate if they look at the plans which have been on show in the Palace of Westminster.
It is a great pity that, with this wonderful opportunity for landscaping and proper planning, we should instead be having a rather prim and prissy and neatly clipped grass, site where there will be paths winding around it and presumably a notice saying that walking on the grass is strictly forbidden. So, out of what started as a wonderful and imaginative scheme submitted by the London County Council—one which we still welcome—has emerged a scheme which is far less worthy, far less adventurous, and far less imaginative than we had, a right to expect, and than the one to which the people of London are entitled.
That is why the Opposition are critical of the scheme. We wish the Minister had been more generous in his attitude to the London County Council. Although we have no confidence in the ultimate contribution which the scheme will make to the solution of the traffic problem, we nevertheless welcome the fact that the Minister is making some attempt, and we shall watch the carrying out of the scheme with interest.
We have had an interesting debate, which has covered many aspects of London's traffic needs and the needs of many other parts of the country as well. I have listened with interest to almost all of it.
In the main, the Bill has been welcomed on all sides of the House, even if with some reservations. It occurred to me as I listened to the very agreeably delivered speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that it hardly lay in his mouth to chide Us for being penny wise and pound foolish. He had this plan, or something like it, before him when the Labour Party formed a Government, but he and his right hon. and hon. Friends did nothing with it at all. Therefore, it seems to me that a little more, credit to my right hon. Friend and the present Government might not have been out of place.
The Title of the Bill has caused offence in some quarters. I would hope that the hon. Members representing- Stoke-on-Trent will be able to say, with Romeo, that
By any other name would smell as sweet…
I hope that they will not be deterred by the fact that this is called the Park Lane scheme, but will see that it gives great benefit to very many people, not only those who live in London but many who live elsewhere.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) made a reference to the necessity for the Bill. I should like to confirm that the only reason why this piece of road work has to be separately legislated for is that it involves using part of the Royal Parks. We are fortunate—the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) generously acknowledged this—in having Her Majesty's gracious approval to this scheme, for this has made it possible for the land to be made available, and has incidentally, saved us very much in respect of the acquisition of property. Road works elsewhere do not require legislation at all; they require nothing more than the approval of my right hon. Friend and the normal approval of the House in the Estimates.
Anxiety has been expressed about the amenities. I will read again for the better information of the House what my right hon. Friend read as expressing the view of the Royal Fine Art Commission:
The Royal Fine Art Commission have seen the outline of the plan. They are opposed to encroachment on the Royal Parks, but they have made some helpful suggestions to us on the details of what has now been proposed. These concern the treatment of the island at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch.
Here, the hon. Member for Rossendale was misinformed. Nothing has been settled yet about the layout of these islands. The L.C.C. has certainly not had its ideas turned down by us, and the final layout will, of course, be settled between the London County Council, the Royal Fine Art Commission and ourselves, and everything possible will be done to see that it is something suitable.
I should like just to con-elude this part of my speech, and then I have a suggestion to make, concerning the treatment, which might be acceptable to the House.
The effect on the park of the inclusion of the East Carriage Drive in the new Park Lane and the facilities which will be available for parking when the scheme is completed is a matter which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, the London County Council and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport are giving consideration, and we shall, of course, have occasion to consult the Commission again when we come to work out many of the details.
What I had to suggest to the House was that I should ask the London County Council, as soon as the designs and landscape drawings are completed, to arrange an exhibition of them so that right hon. and hon. Members and others who are interested would have a chance to see what is proposed. We entirely accept that this is a matter of tremendous interest not only to hon. Members but to many persons outside, and that we must do everything that is humanly possible to ensure that the amenities are all that they should be.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) asked how long the work would take. The estimate—it is only a very rough one—is three or four years. It is a particularly difficult job to carry out, because this enormous volume of traffic must be kept moving at the same time. When the contract has been let, there will, of course, be very careful consultations between the London County Council, the contractor and ourselves, to ensure that the work is carried out so that there is the minimum of interference with this very important traffic flow.
For the treatment of the various spaces, railings, structures, and so on, £450,000 is being reserved and the House can be assured that the intention and the resources are there to see that the visual effect is all that it should be.
I entirely share the sentiment of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) in my affection for trees. The trees in the London parks are a wonderful feature. Tremendous character and beauty are there and all the year round the trees are there for everybody to enjoy. I quite agree with him that we have a duty to see that the wonderful amenity of our parks is fully preserved.
There was a great deal of discussion about the under-pass and much anxiety was expressed about whether a four-lane under-pass should be built and whether a two-lane under-pass was sufficient. The estimated traffic capacity of the scheme gives a reserve of 40 per cent. over the present traffic volume. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) pointed out that the traffic flow had increased by more than 10 per cent. since 1954 and he asked whether we were not being optimistic in thinking that a 40 per cent. reserve would be enough.
In fact, the 1956 count of 91,000 vehicles per 12 hours shows an increase of only 10 per cent. over the 1935 traffic flow there. In fact, the 1954 traffic flow was only roughly equivalent to the 1935 traffic flow. That confirms my impression that the capacity of the roads leading to Hyde Park Corner is already very near the maximum. No doubt it can increase somewhat, but it would be a mistake to expect that the increase of traffic which will take place at Hyde Park Corner will be by any means of the same proportion as in the rest of the country. The 75 per cent. increase over 1954 which we advised local authorities to have in mind in designing their road capacity refers to rural areas, but in this case, as hon. Members will see from the information I have just given, the picture is very different.
Hon. Members asked a number of questions about the under-pass. The two-lane under-pass will have a total capacity of 2,000 to 2,500 vehicles per hour. The count of Piccadilly—Knightsbridge traffic on the estimated basis of 1954, was a maximum of 1,780 vehicles per hour. We think that the actual maximum will not be more than 1,600 vehicles per hour, so that on that basis the reserve capacity in the two-lane underpass will be about 40 per cent.
The House can see from that that the reserve capacity of the whole lay-out of the above-ground roundabout system and the under-pass provides a substantial reserve capacity over any increase of traffic which we can expect in the next ten or fifteen years, or possibly indefinitely.
At what speed is my hon. Friend calculating that capacity? Surely, everything depends on the speed of the traffic. If there are only two lanes of traffic, one heavy vehicle going along slowly will slow up the whole stream and speed is vital.
These calculations are based on figures supplied to us by the Road Research Laboratory and I think that my hon. Friend can take them as being a reliable basis on which to assess the relative virtues of the different schemes. On the basis of the figures which I have just given, it is evident that the capacity of the design which we are now advocating, a single under-pass plus a new roundabout system, is sufficient for many years to come and possibly even indefinitely.
As it would cost an extra £750,000 to build a second under-pass—here, at any rate, is one point on which I can roundly agree with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South—that money could be very much better spent elsewhere, because we may never need the second under-pass. If we do need it, it is perfectly true that it will be a separate under-pass, as the hon. Member for Rossendale suspected.
However, to provide portals large enough to take both under-passes, for which the hon. Member asked, would necessitate taking a large additional slice from the south of the Hyde Park region as well as demolishing a number of additional houses to fit in a slipway beyond the portal. We felt that in the circumstances we should not be justified in doing that, but if and when the situation changes the additional cost of building it separately will not be serious.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) asked about an under-pass at Marble Arch. The capacity at Marble Arch is estimated to be a 25 per cent. reserve over the present volume. An under-pass there would be very costly and would involve heavy demolition in the Edgware Road. One of the troubles is that hardly any of our roads is wide enough to put in underpasses without demolishing houses on either side—unlike those in continental cities. We felt that in the circumstances we should not be justified in contemplating the extra heavy expense and the demolition when we had a substantial reserve capacity of 25 per cent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) asked why we did not have a channelised system. There has been much comment outside the House on that. The working group studied that very carefully along with a number of other systems. The channelised system was used here a good deal before we started developing roundabouts. It consists of putting islands and raised strips in the road to channel traffic round at intersections and then controlling the traffic with systems of traffic lights.
Such a system is cheaper initially, but when our experts studied its effects at the Hyde Park Corner intersection they computed that the extra time traffic would take in a channelised system would be double that in the lay-out we now have and it would also inevitably involve the demolition of the Decimus Burton screen, which the whole House would deprecate. On those grounds, we considered that it was not a starter.
"Demolition" is perhaps too strong a word, but many of us would be extremely sorry to see it even moved.
My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham also asked me about the traffic lights at the park gates at Park Lane, Grosvenor Gate and Stanhope Place. He asked me why we did not have a weaving system which would allow traffic to move east or west from the Mayfair area into or out of the park. He asked why we did not provide gaps in the central reservation so that traffic could filter through.
The answer is that we studied this very carefully as an alternative, but the system involves vehicles, when travelling eastwards, travelling round an extra loop before emerging on to Park Lane. They then have to wait at the exit until a gap appears in the traffic flow, when they must weave through until they can turn off to the left into Mayfair.
We have computed that the time taken to do these operations would be significantly longer than the wait which would occur at the traffic lights. I have satisfied myself about this, and I went into the question in very great detail. Nor was that the only disadvantage. In addition, to get traffic weaving across at all at the peak periods—which take up most of the day in Park Lane—it would be necessary to have a policeman standing in the traffic flow to get the traffic across. Extra police duties would be involved, and it would be a very hazardous job for a police patrol.
Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham, who appeared to have a nostalgic feeling about the matter, asked me about No. 148 Piccadilly. The hon. Member for Enfield, East and the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South were also concerned about this building. It is a very valuable building, and we should certainly have preserved it if we could. The limiting factor here was the weaving length required for the vehicles coming down Park Lane, moving round the central island in Hyde Park Corner, and going off down Constitution Hill or Grosvenor Place.
That flow of traffic has to weave into the stream coming from Knightsbridge and going up Piccadilly, and there has to be a sufficient length going eastwards between the junction of the Apsley carriageway and Hyde Park Corner and the eastern extremity of the Hyde Park Corner island. The junction as it is now planned provides the absolute minimum length. There would have been room to get between the buildings, but, unfortunately, the weaving length left would have been dangerously short, and we were driven to the present solution.
Consideration has been given to that possibility, but it is not easy to understand these discussions without a model. In fact, the use of Hamilton Place would give no weaving length at all; it would bring the southward flow of traffic directly into the traffic flowing from west to east, at right angles, and it would have made the problem worse, because the two traffic flows would have met actually on the bend. We looked at that point very carefully indeed.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South expressed anxiety about the pedestrian crossing problem, and we agree that it is a very real one. My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) was also concerned about it. The subways will be made as attractive as we can make them, wherever possible with ramps, so that prams and cycles may be taken through them. Those hon. Members who have seen the new subways at the Cromwell Road extension will know that subways can be made quite attractive when they are tiled and decently constructed. They are a very different proposition from the old type. I hope, therefore, that pedestrians will be encouraged to use them.
In any event, on the surface we shall do what we can to discourage pedestrians from taking a chance and going across the road by fixing guard rails on the central reservations. The fact is that, without exception, the Londoner is the most adventurous jay walker in the world, and whatever we do we shall probably not be able to stop some Londoners from "having a go". It is just in their blood. But we intend to do the very best we can to provide safe ways for pedestrians to cross, and I hope that they will be sensible and use the facilities which we shall provide.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North supported by the hon. Member for Ince and the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies)—but, I am glad to say, opposed by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central—felt keenly that under the Bill London was getting more than its fair share of the road works of the whole country. To convince the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and his hon. Friends. I have ascertained how the figure of £10 million compares with the expenditure over the whole country. In his speech my right hon. Friend referred to the fact that there is at present about £10 million worth of road works going on in London. That is the volume of work which has been authorised over the past three financial years. The comparable figure for the whole country is £150 million, and I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will recognise that London is not getting more than its fair share in this matter, certainly measured on a population basis.
We appreciate the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary is making a very reasonable reply, and we also like the way in which he is handling the matter, but the Minister said that he was informed that there would be further work, on top of the £10 million. According to the experts there may be several more millions.
The hon. Member need not fear. The volume of work that we are authorising for the whole country continues to rise, and there will, naturally, be more to do in London. Indeed, my right hon. Friend has asked me to take the chair of a joint committee of the Ministry and the London County Council, so that we can look ahead for the next twenty years to see what is the best road plan that we can work out to satisfy the demands of London traffic and preserve the amenities of London, within the resources that the nation may be able to devote to it.
We are looking ahead over most of the country, and I can assure the hon. Member and his hon. Friends that we assess most carefully the relative priorities of the different schemes. We have our divisional road engineers all over the country—including South Wales—and we very carefully assess each road scheme in terms of the volume of traffic which it carries, and especially the volume of commercial traffic, which gets top priority. We also assess the road safety factors. We do all that is humanly possible to see that we get these matters in the right order.
At the end of the day, however, I have to confess that we cannot get round the fact that the arrears of inaction over the past two decades are very great. We cannot, in one stroke, overtake them all. But I hope that the House will be assured that everything is done to assess priorities in the fairest possible way.
There are many other interesting points which could be discussed but which will have to be left to the Committee stage. London bristles with traffic problems, with its narrow streets and junctions that were really laid out for the horse and carriage. But the streets and buildings which line them are part of the charm and character of our great city.
To preserve the treasures and improve the traffic flow is a formidable challenge, but my right hon. Friend and I feel that we are equal to it. By this Measure we feel that we are making a contribution to an improved traffic flow in London which every driver in central London will appreciate. We are determined, with the London County Council and the Royal Fine Art Commission, at the same time as helping road users, to do all we can to preserve the great treasures which we find in this part of London.
Any Petitions against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the seventh day after this day in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents, to stand referred to the Committee, but that if no such petition is presented, or if all such petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the Order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee to be discharged and the Bill to be committed to a Standing Committee:
Any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the prayer of his Petition, to be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents, upon his Petition provided that the Petition is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill to be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against the Petition: