§ 6. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)
What measures he has taken to monitor emissions from all forms of transport since 1 May 1997. 
§ The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher)
Direct monitoring of emissions from road vehicles occurs at the annual roadworthiness tests and in roadside emissions testing exercises. National aggregate figures for the transport, industrial and domestic sectors are provided by the national atmospheric emissions inventory. The Department monitors levels of air pollution at 114 automatic networked sites.
§ Fiona Mactaggart
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that the town of Slough, which I represent, is encircled by the overcrowded M40 to the north and the M4, which operates at 105 per cent. of capacity, to the south? The M4's eastern junction with the M25 is the busiest road junction in Europe. Heathrow, with its aviation emissions, is to the east of town, and a railway that is not electrified runs through the middle of it. Slough has fantastic communications, but we do not have adequate information about how those different forms of transport add to air pollution. In the preparation for the integrated transport White Paper, could consideration be given to providing better information on how each of those forms of transport contributes to air pollution? For example, what is the effect of Heathrow on the people in the surrounding areas?
§ Mr. Meacher
My hon. Friend makes it clear why the people of Slough voted for a Labour Member at the last election. Areas such as Slough desperately need an integrated transport strategy, and that is what we shall deliver. I agree that full information about the quality of air, the quality of water and the contamination of land should be more widely available. I hope that the freedom 851 of information Bill, which will not be published before the White Paper on integrated transport, will enable us to make available much more extensive information which should be more readily accessible to the public, including on the internet. A great deal of information is already provided on teletext and in the public media. It is broadcast hourly, but it is not broken down by district to the extent that I would like.
§ Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that emissions from modern motor car engines are minimal, and that the problems are caused either by vehicles that are badly maintained or by engines in older cars, which are often owned and run by people who are less well off? Will the Government introduce measures to encourage those people, by fiscal means if possible, to buy newer, cleaner engines for their cars? [Interruption.] And does he accept, in spite of the noise from Labour Members, that ownership of a motor car remains one of the aims of most families? Personal mobility is exceptionally important. I hope that an anti-car strategy is not emanating from the Government.
§ Mr. Meacher
There is certainly not an anti-car strategy emanating from the Government, as the Opposition will rapidly discover when we publish our White Paper. We are concerned that people should walk or use bicycles and public transport where appropriate. If that is not possible, cars remain extremely important, particularly in rural areas. We are trying to deal with that problem for people who do not have cars or cannot afford them.
I accept what the hon. Lady said about emission levels: the problem is indeed caused by older, badly maintained cars. We are trying to deal with the lack of maintenance by carrying out roadside emission tests and issuing summary fines of £60 at the kerbside. I take note of her comments. It would be helpful if we could find ways of encouraging people to exchange old and polluting cars for newer, more fuel-efficient cars.
§ Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
The Minister did not mention compressed natural gas, perhaps because it is pollution-free. May I warmly congratulate the Government on the £500 grant enabling people to convert from polluting fuels to compressed natural gas? May I also urge the Minister to make local authorities aware of the grants that are available? Thousands of depot-based vehicles could benefit from those grants, which could rid our streets of noisy, nasty, polluting vehicles.
§ Mr. Meacher
I am sorry that, in a rather long answer, I failed to mention road gas duty. As my hon. Friend says, we have frozen the duty for the second successive year, improving the market attractiveness of alternative fuels. I accept that we have not made the advantages of using such fuels sufficiently available, although I think that the major problem that we must overcome is the lack of recharging points around the country. Until there are several hundred or, preferably, several thousand, I do not think that the market will take off.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. We have not heard a brisk question or a brisk answer as yet. It has been a very poor performance so far. Let us try the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett).