Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 4:45 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 2 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4.

When I think back to that rather distant past when I was young man, one of the problems I had when I was growing up was that my father and I almost always found it easy to agree as to ends but had huge difficulty in agreeing as to means. I sometimes feel that that situation fairly aptly delineates the differences between the two Front Benches in this House. Perhaps it is not surprising that now and again we box and cox with our ideas. I say that because the Minister will perhaps tweak me for seeking to insert these amendments into the Bill when he knows that, in principle, I am not in favour of laying down too much legislation, particularly in regard to local government.

This is the era--so the Government tell us--of joined-up thinking and joined-up government. While I understand that, and give them credit for trying, it does not appear that that joining-up gets as far as the field of legislation. My first amendment seeks to rectify what I see as that particular deficiency.

Part II of the Bill is about nothing if it is not about environmental improvement. Integrated transport systems are about nothing if they are not about environmental improvement. This part of the Bill makes it a requirement for local transport authorities to produce transport plans with the specific aim of trying to smooth transport flows, reduce environmental pollution, reduce noise, reduce congestion--all the little decisions that local authorities can take to improve matters and to make the environment better for their communities. If they succeed at this micro level they will also succeed at the macro level of atmospheric pollution.

But in this era of joined-up thinking and joined-up government, somehow the words "environmental improvement" are omitted from the face of the Bill. Of course, the Minister will say--and he will be correct in saying it--that other environmental legislation applies to local authorities and they have to take note of it. So they do. But it seems to me--and this is where we have the debate about means--that if we are dealing with legislation that is aimed at improving the environment, we should say so. The Bill is deficient without it.

My second amendment concerns the need to co-ordinate transport plans with structural planning or unitary development planning where it is appropriate. The issue here is somewhat different but of equal importance and concerns the question of joining-up systems. Planning legislation is voluminous, complex and separate, but there should be some mention in the Bill of the need to pull the two together.

It is a serious issue. Is transport a constraint on development, or is it simply a technical problem which has to be resolved subsequently? We get no idea from this legislation, which deals with the transport side of the issue, of what is or might be the relationship between the two. My experience is that transport is not considered as a constraint on development but as a problem to be resolved subsequently. I should like to think that the two issues will be rather better co-ordinated than that. One only has to think of the huge amount of development--however real or ephemeral the figures may be--that it appears the Secretary of State in another place wishes to impose on the south-east of England to realise what are the transport implications. One can begin to see the absolute necessity for thinking very carefully about the transport issues involved in that kind of intensification of the development of the South East.

This is not the appropriate time to go into the validity of those figures but we all, as a society, have to face those issues. We should be looking at the face of the Bill--again simply as a matter of what I would call the unifying psychology of the Bill--to bring the mention of transport planning and the mention of development planning into the same phrase. The Bill would be the better for it.

These are two simple amendments. I do not think that the Minister will disagree with either of them in principle--but, like my father, he disagrees with the means.