HC Deb 18 March 1999 vol 327 cc1322-73
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

4.12 pm
Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk)

I beg to move, That this House believes that the Government, having promised an integrated transport policy, are creating a standstill Britain and failing to deliver the immediate benefits promised before the general election; notes that 94 per cent. of passenger travel and 91 per cent. of goods moved within the UK is by road, so that a modern and efficient roads network is vital for UK prosperity and competitiveness; notes that the condition of UK roads is deteriorating; condemns the Government for cutting the programme of motorway and trunk road improvements to 37 schemes, which will increase the congestion and pollution which the Government say they oppose, despite raising the tax burden on the road user to £33 billion per year, of which less than one sixth is spent on transport; and calls upon the Government to stop hitting the road user with ever-higher taxes as a substitute for real policies to reduce congestion and pollution and to get Britain moving again. The Labour party came to power pledging immediate benefits for the travelling public from its transport policies. Its manifesto promised an effective and integrated transport policy at national, regional and local level that will provide genuine choice to meet people's transport needs. Two years on, where are those benefits? There has certainly been plenty of spin. The Government have churned out more than 100 glossy publications and consultative documents on transport. Friends of the Earth has described the Government's style as "carry on consulting".

There has been no shortage of photo opportunities. The travelling public have been treated to images of the Deputy Prime Minister posing at a bus stop—unfortunately for him, with one of his two Jaguars just within camera shot waiting to pick him up. They have seen him strap-hanging on the London underground—for just one stop, I think—to prove his public transport credentials. Those credentials were subsequently rather damaged by the revelation that he took a Royal Air Force helicopter, at public expense, to switch on the Blackpool illuminations. This week in the tabloid press there have been some fetching pictures—I suppose that one has to call them glamour pictures, although, thankfully for us all, they were not on page 3—of the Deputy Prime Minister delivering a lecture from the jaws of the deep on the need for the rest of us to use the bus more. The Sun called it "scuba skiving".

There have been promises, promotional pamphlets, photographs and hot air—plenty of that—but no immediate benefits for the travelling public. The Government's transport policy has achieved increased fuel taxes, cuts in transport spending, a slashed roads programme and no reductions in congestion and pollution. It is small wonder that a recent BBC MORI poll showed that just 3 per cent. of people think that the Government are doing a good job on transport. People know that they are paying more and getting less.

The Government want the public to believe that they have not increased taxes. Despite the Prime Minister's denials in the House and elsewhere, figures from the House of Commons Library show that taxes are set to be £7.1 billion higher next year as a direct result of the Chancellor's first three Budgets. Increased taxation for the motorist is part of the Government's stealth tax attack. They are hostile to the motorist. They attack what they call car dependency as though it were an illness. They appear not to realise that, for many, the car is a necessity, not a luxury.

Petrol in Britain is now the most expensive in Europe. Of every £10 that the travelling public pay at the pumps, £8.50 goes straight to the Exchequer. As the Automobile Association has said, it is as though the Chancellor is using motorists as a private piggy bank". Adding together increased fuel tax, VAT and increased excise duty on all vehicles except sit-on lawnmowers, it became clear this week that not even the Mini has a small enough engine to qualify for the Chancellor's much trumpeted reduction in vehicle excise duty: road users will be paying to the Exchequer around £33 billion this year. The Government will be taking £9 billion more from road users in extra fuel tax during this Parliament than would have been the case if our policies had remained in place.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Does my right hon. Friend anticipate, as I do, that the Minister of Transport will say that the escalator was of the Conservative party's invention? To pre-empt the jeering Labour mob, will she confirm that this Government increased the escalator by a full 20 per cent. in the Budget?

Mrs. Shephard

We introduced the fuel escalator when fuel was cheaper in the United Kingdom than in Europe and we needed to meet our CO2 targets. This Government have increased the fuel escalator. We oppose that increase. As we did with whisky duty, the Government should review the global effect of their policies on road travellers and reduce that tax burden.

The Minister of Transport (Dr. John Reid)

To set the record straight, will the hon. Lady confirm that the last five increases under the Conservative Government in the taxes about which she is talking were 10 per cent, 10 per cent., 13 per cent., 10 per cent. and 7 per cent?

Mrs. Shephard

No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will confirm later that he has imposed an extra £9 billion on the motorist during this Parliament, together with cuts in public transport and the roads programme.

The people worst affected by the Government's policies, as the AA regularly points out, will not be those with two Jaguars, but people for whom a car is a necessity. It is a secure, convenient means of transport for women, the elderly and families, as well as for those who live in the countryside, where 85 per cent. of households have and need a car.

Mrs. Christine Butler (Castle Point)

May I advise the right hon. Lady that one of the Jaguars of the Deputy Prime Minister is a bicycle?

Mrs. Shephard

That is the best definition of Jaguar that I have heard for some time. I look forward to the next photo opportunity and seeing the Deputy Prime Minister on a bicycle disguised as a Jaguar.

This will not be the end of the Government's taxation on motorists. They are preparing three more taxes; congestion charging, motorway tolls and a tax on workplace parking. It is no good the Government promising that the income will be hypothecated to invest in transport improvements, because they also promised, before the election, that there would be no tax increases under the Labour Government. I am afraid that no one will believe them.

The Government are saving their worst example of highway robbery for business. Company car tax is to be increased—but at least the Chancellor announced that in his Budget. Curiously, he failed to announce that he was increasing the price of diesel by more than 11 per cent.—or more than 6p a litre. He played down the fact that he was setting the price of a tax disc for large trucks at a rate 11 times higher than the average in Europe.

The day after the Budget, the Road Haulage Association set up a telephone helpline to advise haulage companies planning to register abroad. There were 700 calls on the first day. However, moving abroad is perhaps what the Government want. In a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) on 23 February, the Minister said that all hauliers who operate internationally can take advantage of lower prices elsewhere. At least we know.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

Did not the price of DERV increase by 60 per cent. between 1990 and 1997? Why did the considerations that apply in 1999 not apply between 1990 and 1997?

Mrs. Shephard

If the hon. Gentleman does his sums, he will realise that he is talking about a period of seven years, and he is talking about price increases.

Many smaller haulage companies cannot afford to move abroad, and many do not operate internationally. They will go out of business. This week, The Times, on the basis of a letter sent by a number of business organisations, estimated that transport tax could cost 50,000 haulage and associated jobs in three years.

The Minister of Transport is a sensible man.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Hon. Members


Mrs. Shephard

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to correct me?

Mr. Davies

I wish to refer to the point made before the right hon. Lady's last, excellent point. May I draw to her attention the fact that the overall costs of running a typical firm of 50 38-tonne trucks—when corporation tax and labour costs are taken into account—are higher elsewhere? In the Netherlands, costs are 50 per cent. higher; in Belgium, 68 per cent.; and, in France, 35 per cent. The assumptions of that ridiculous article have not been made public, because it costs more to run companies in continental Europe.

Mrs. Shephard

I would not advise the hon. Gentleman to tell that to the average British trucker. He might regret it. The Minister of Transport—normally a sensible man—told the Freight Transport Association a month ago that British hauliers were not suffering any serious disadvantage. I would like to read to him a letter faxed to me today by Mr. David Burton who runs a small transport company in Whissonsett, in Norfolk. He said: I am contacting you for help and to lobby this Government regarding the terrible plight of UK hauliers. As you are aware we cannot compete with unfair competition from continental hauliers due to this Government's insistence of the fuel duty escalator. I and my wife have built up from nothing to a profitable company employing 17 employees from a small rural village in mid Norfolk over the last 20 years. This is now very much in jeopardy due to vast differences in fuel duty. We have in the last month lost an valuable contract running to Spain due to unfair competition and also another contract to Holland and Germany is under scrutiny by our customer, asking for a reduction in rates which will be the final straw. We are desperate for help and cannot survive much longer. I appeal to the Minister to listen to Mr. Burton—an authentic voice from the smaller end of the business—to reduce the tax burden and to play his part in saving 50,000 jobs.

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell)

The right hon. Lady's concern for that haulier and the lorry industry—and for motorists in general—is clear. Will she make it clear whether the policy of her party is now to end the fuel escalator, and whether the shadow Chancellor has agreed that with her?

Mrs. Shephard

I have said that we think the Government should do as we did with whisky duty and review the global effects of their policy on the haulage industry and reduce the tax burden. That is what they should do—they are in charge.

Mr. Christopher Leslie (Shipley)

The right hon. Lady is developing policy on the hoof. Is she proposing that we freeze duty on diesel, or cut the duty?

Mrs. Shephard

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman was not listening—I suppose that he was bemused by the glamour pics. What I said earlier was what I just said to the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor). I could hardly put the position more clearly. He may recall that we voted against the increase in the Budget.

The Government have increased road taxes, affecting every man, woman and child in the country. That is despite their promise that there would be no tax increases under Labour. The travelling public—the people who were promised immediate benefits under Labour—are entitled to ask why. Clearly, despite the Government's desire to hide behind a green smokescreen, this is not being done for environmental reasons.

The stark fact is that, following the Budget, the Government's tax take from road users will increase this year by £1.6 billion. Spending on transport is to be cut for each of the next three years, as the Department's own figures confirm. Thus, there will be no investment in public transport to provide a choice for motorists, as promised in "Consensus for Change."

The then Labour transport spokesman, now Secretary of State for International Development, said that her intention was that people should be caught in traffic jams when driving to work to see clean fast buses whizzing by and determined to leave their cars at home. She was right on one count. We have the jams—but where are the buses?

As John Dawson of the AA said, The Chancellor's environmental excuse for hitting motorists is wearing very thin. He said that the Budget is a purely revenue generating measure which impacts most on less well off families and those living in rural areas without any realistic public transport alternatives. No country in Europe spends so little of what it takes from motorists on its transport system.

Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk)

Does the change in policy that the right hon. Lady is making on the fuel escalator—which, I understood, was introduced by the Conservative Government for environmental reasons—mean that she is abandoning a commitment to achieve the environmental objectives, or does she have alternatives to suggest? Many of us who represent rural areas understand the concerns that she is raising. The county that we both represent has more to lose—literally—in land mass by global warming than most.

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman makes his point, whatever it may be. I have made it absolutely clear why we voted against the Government's punitive increase in diesel duty. I remind him that he, too, has many hauliers in his constituency.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

Surely the Government are misunderstanding the point. It is not that lorries will cover fewer miles, but that companies will flag out to other European countries. They will carry on transporting, but far more cheaply than is possible in this country.

Mrs. Shephard

From what we understand from the Minister, the Government's policy is to attract foreign companies here to add to our pollution and congestion. The Government cannot claim that the extra tax that they have raised is used to reduce congestion and bottlenecks. Last July's roads review slashed the roads programme from more than 140 targeted improvements to only 37, and it will be up to a decade before many of those are completed.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

May I take it that the Conservative party no longer supports the international agreement to curb carbon dioxide emissions? If so, what measures would the right hon. Lady put in place that would have the same effect as our taxation measures?

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Lady should listen to the case that I am making. The Government are imposing swingeing tax increases on road users. They have made cuts in overall transport spending, depriving road users of public transport alternatives. They slashed the roads programme, which would have reduced congestion and pollution.

The local transport settlement amounted to a real-terms decrease in cash for local authority road schemes, and that is set to continue for the next three years. The December survey by the Institution of Civil Engineers found that the maintenance backlog had increased by 40 per cent. since 1996 and now stands at a total of £160 for every vehicle licence holder.

The Opposition support an integrated approach to transport. We agree that we must make the best use of what we have, in the way that is most sustainable for the environment. We support the responsible use of the car and responsible roads investment to reduce congestion and pollution. When in office, we invested £26 billion in roads and nearly the same amount in public transport. Our policies levered in more private funds to increase public transport choices.

The Government have broken their pre-election promises on transport. There have been no immediate benefits for the travelling public. Their answer to transport problems is to tax the motorist off the road and to put hauliers out of business. Their swingeing stealth tax increases are hitting every man, woman, child and business in the country. They are cutting investment in public transport and our roads. They are creating a standstill Britain. I urge the House to support the motion.

4.34 pm
The Minister of Transport (Dr. John Reid)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: commends the Government for taking a far-sighted and more integrated approach to roads policy than the previous administration; notes that the previous Government's 'predict and provide' approach to road building has been discredited and that the present Government has instead taken a realistic and practical approach based on the five criteria of integration, the economy, the environment, safety and accessibility; notes further that the previous Conservative Government's grandiose but impractical wish-list of schemes for which funding was not available has been replaced by a targeted programme of improvements, all of which can be started within seven years; welcomes its increased and more rationally-based spending on roads maintenance; and applauds the Government for tackling the problems of congestion and pollution, thereby ensuring that the road transport system operates for the benefit of individual people and the UK economy as a whole. I strongly deprecate these attacks on my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. He is a sensitive soul and will no doubt have been deeply offended by the remarks of the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard). If she chooses in future to start a debate with an attack on my right hon. Friend for his obsession, as she put it, with media opportunities, she should advise her colleague, the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), not to send letters round to all Conservative Members saying: Central office will be using the debate to mount a major media operation. That may be the pot calling the kettle black.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)


Dr. Reid

I have not actually said anything yet, but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Lansley

I thought that it might be unwise to wait until the right hon. Gentleman had said something. As he purports to understand the road haulage industry, can he tell me how much it costs to fill a 1,000 litre tank with diesel in the United Kingdom and in Belgium?

Dr. Reid

I cannot give the exact cost, but I have looked into the matter and I can use the same example used by the hon. Member for North Essex in the weekend newspapers, and give the costs for 50 trucks of 38 tonnes each, assuming that they are flagged out and paying all the relevant costs in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands respectively. We are entitled to make that comparison. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asked me a question on a subject in which he purports to be interested, so he should listen to the reply.

For a fleet of 50 38-tonne trucks, if we include the social costs, national insurance, taxation, corporation tax, employees' costs, fuel and vehicle excise duty, the additional cost in France, as compared with the United Kingdom, is about £425,000 a year; in the Netherlands, about £600,000; and in Belgium, about £800,000.

I take the competitiveness of the road haulage industry extremely seriously—I shall meet representatives of the industry next Tuesday and will be pleased to listen to them and to discuss the industry's future—I understand that it is a fiercely competitive world and that there is overcapacity in the United Kingdom; but let us not exaggerate to the extent of blaming all the problems with competitiveness on the fuel escalator or on VED. We need a balance if we are to do justice to the industry.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)


Dr. Reid

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would allow me to read the first sentence of my speech. I intend to start at the beginning, which is always a good place to start.

I listened with attention and admiration to the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk. I listened with attention for any mention whatever of the previous Government, whose legacy was our starting point, and with admiration because of her sheer oral dexterity in managing to speak for 25 minutes without mentioning that Government. There was no hint of self-criticism, no shred of remorse and not even a suspicion of guilt.

Let me remind the House of the starting point of the Labour Government's challenge on roads and transport. We inherited an awful legacy from the previous Government. We inherited road traffic set to grow by more than 33 per cent. over the next 20 years, and congestion, costed by the Confederation of British Industry at £20 billion per annum to business, set to double over the next 20 years. We inherited roads that kill or seriously injure more than 45,000 people a year. We inherited roads that add substantially to local air pollution, hastening the deaths of thousands of vulnerable people each year. Perhaps above all, we inherited no choice in public transport—a system in which all non-road transport had been allowed to decline for two decades. Those two decades saw reduced bus usage, reduced rail freight, reduced rail patronage and, above all, a road infrastructure that by every statistic issued even by the then Conservative Government was in the worst state of repair of any roads since records began.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre)

My right hon. Friend mentioned the legacy of 18 years of Conservative Government. In my constituency, we have the legacy of a quarter of a century of Tory rule in Lancaster and the interminable Tory years in Wyre. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the problems caused by the scandalous condition of the moss roads network which blights the entire rural community in the Wyre district? Is he aware of the appalling condition of bridges throughout Lancashire and of the desperate need for the Heysham-M6 link, which the previous Tory Member of Parliament resisted for so many years?

Dr. Reid

My hon. Friend makes his point well, and we and the wider nation are now aware of it. What was the Tories' policy to tackle the problems? Was it a plan for the future? Was it the development of public transport services? Was it the provision of choice? No. It was to produce every year an ever-lengthening wish list of roads—roads that were never funded, timetabled or finished, because they were never started. I shall remind the House of that cruel deceit that was perpetrated annually on the people of this country by the previous Conservative Government.

Mr. John MacGregor (South Norfolk)

If the right hon. Gentleman really believes that—it is a travesty of what happened, and I hope if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to make that clear—why has he slashed the roads programme, substantially reduced expenditure and cut the transport programme generally?

Dr. Reid

I shall give the right hon. Gentleman an example—the House may find this illuminating—of the fantasy league of roads that was produced every year by the Conservative Government. In 1990, which was around the time that the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Transport, the Conservatives' wish list had 500 roads on it. They boasted proudly that it was costed at £30 billion, but it was funded only up to £1.26 billion. That was a deceit, because it was a pretence that—

Several hon. Members


Dr. Reid

Conservative Members are very keen and I can see some of the young bulls getting up. They will get their chance in the ring in a moment. The Conservative Government pretended that they could build £30 billion worth of roads with £1.26 billion of funding.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

Why cut it then?

Dr. Reid

It was the Conservative Government, as a gesture towards the real world, who cut the list between 1990 and 1995 from 500 roads to 250 and, finally, two years ago, to 150. They were the only Government in history to cut paper roads faster than they were building actual roads.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to a 50-year-old bull. I feel as if he is waving a red rag at me, because my constituents do not recognise the description of the previous Government's so-called wish list. Can he explain to me why a road that was a third built under the previous Government has had its eastern and western sections cancelled by this Government? That was not a mirage of a road, because a third of it is there. Can we please have the other two sections?

Dr. Reid

Because of the delicate way in which the hon. Gentleman put his point, I shall look at it and see what can be done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] I said that I shall look at it. The reality is that we have changed the policy and the programme because we are not prepared to deceive people.

The policy that we inherited was one of increasing congestion, with its associated costs and inconvenience, increasing pollution with its increasing damage to health, and increasing intellectual paralysis, as the Tory Government stood like rabbits transfixed in the headlights of a million oncoming juggernauts. I cannot pretend that we will turn that mess around overnight. The transport system is like a supertanker and it cannot do a pirouette. I realise that our transportation system is inadequate: it could not be otherwise because it is still largely the product of the legacy that were left. Inevitably, we have to deal with that. Although change will take time, we have already started with some success.

If congestion on our roads is to be tackled, we need to increase the amount of freight carried by rail. Under this Government, for the first time in more than quarter of a century, we have increased rail freight by 12 per cent. For the first time for more than 25 years, we now have more rail freight year on year—12 per cent. more last year and 16 per cent. more so far this year.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)


Dr. Reid

I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman. As the originator and developer of congestion charging, he is entitled to come to the Dispatch Box.

Sir George Young

For sheer effrontery, it would be difficult to match what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. The increase in freight by rail was secured by privatising the rail system, a policy that the Labour party did all it could to obstruct.

Dr. Reid

For the first time in 25 years, in the first year of this Government, rail freight increased. Part of that, last year and this, was no doubt the result of privatisation. Part of it was because of the political backing and the money put into infrastructure grants for rail freight as a direct policy of this Government to reduce congestion on roads.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)

How much?

Dr. Reid

A 16 per cent. increase in the first six months of this year—

Mr. Burns

Of what?

Dr. Reid

In tonnes per kilometre of freight carried on the railways. I shall send the hon. Gentleman a note and an abacus to make it easier for him.

If the waste and inconvenience of traffic jams are to be reduced, we must offer people a choice.

Mr. Jenkin


Dr. Reid

I will give way if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish a paragraph. I may get through one yet.

If the waste and inconvenience of traffic jams are to be reduced, we must offer people a choice, a real alternative to using the car. Over the past three years there has been a choice. Use of railways has increased—as the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) said, there has been a 25 per cent. increase in passengers—and there has been a reversal of the decline in bus passenger numbers in many areas. If crowded inner-city roads are to be improved, we must encourage the use of buses, and, for the first time in decades, the Government have begun to halt that decline and to turn it around.

We are making progress, and, unlike the previous Government, we have provided resources commensurate with the task of encouraging and developing public and private sector public transport systems. We have increased funding for capital maintenance of trunk roads by 50 per cent., from £200 million to £300 million, and we will end the decline of the condition of the trunk road network.

We will increase funding for making better use of that network by 60 per cent. by 2001–02. We have established a £50 million safety budget for small trunk road safety schemes, and a new programme of targeted improvements. We are committed to start a realistic programme of 37 schemes costing £1.4 billion within seven years, and we set out the relevant dates last December.

Mr. MacGregor

indicated dissent.

Dr. Reid

The right hon. Gentleman may laugh, but when he was Secretary of State, he presided over 500 schemes that had starting dates ranging from any time between now and the millennium after next.

Several hon. Members


Dr. Reid

I must give way to the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor).

Mr. MacGregor

The Minister must know that the £1.4 billion is to be spent over seven years. We spent almost that amount on new road schemes in a single year.

Dr. Reid

The right hon. Gentleman was not spending the same amount every year as we are spending over seven years. It is true that we have, for two reasons, diverted our emphasis from building new roads to road maintenance. First, we discovered—as did the previous Government—that we cannot work on a predict-and-provide basis, and that we cannot build our way out of congestion. Secondly, the dreadful state of the roads means that we will pay more in the long term by failing to maintain our roads in the short term than we would if we spent a decent amount of money on them. We have reallocated resources, and we make no apology for that.

Unlike the previous Government, we have made sure that every target road is funded and that we are capable of delivering it. We have been especially keen to construct bypasses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] My first statement as Minister of Transport was made two and a half days after I was appointed, and I was delighted to announce a programme that included 19 bypasses—almost four times as many in a single statement as the previous Government declared during their final four years in office. My statement included three bypasses shelved by the previous Government that I had reinstated. I think that every hon. Member would agree that bypasses are beneficial.

Dr. George Turner

I hope that I do not impose on the mood of generosity that my right hon. Friend has been displaying, but he will know that my constituents were promised a flyover at the Hardwick roundabout near King's Lynn. The promise was repeated for 14 years, but the flyover was never delivered. I respect the Government's honesty, and, although the pie-in-the-sky flyover is not to appear yet, my constituents will welcome the fact that the Government have said that there will be a flyover. May I tell my constituents that there will be a start on the project during this Parliament?

Dr. Reid

Before every hon. Member intervenes with a local bypass suggestion, let me remind my hon. Friend of what I have said before: if hon. Members have a specific case to raise, would they write to me about it? My hon. Friend can certainly commend to his constituents the honesty of the Government.

Several hon. Members


Dr. Reid

I will give way to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), but it must be the last intervention. I must make some progress.

Mr. Jenkin

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Naturally, we welcome the bypasses that he is building, but nine bypasses over seven years pale into insignificance against the 160 plus that we built during our 18 years in office. The Government are failing to live up to the expectations that they generated when they stood for office two years ago.

Dr. Reid

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comment. However, we are building 19 bypasses, not nine. Those 19 were announced in a single statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey)


Dr. Reid

I have to make some progress.

Mr. Gray

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister has been on his feet for 20 minutes to speak on a motion about the Government's road policies without yet having mentioned the Government's road policies. Is not that a disgraceful waste of Back-Bench Members' time?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister has taken a large number of interventions, which do not help him to make progress on his speech. Points of order of that sort only slow down the whole process.

Dr. Reid

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker; that has ensured that I take no more interventions.

Unlike the previous Government, we have a coherent strategy, and it was set out in our White Paper in July last year. We are establishing integrated local transport strategies as well as national ones. We base our approach on partnership. There will be partnership with local authorities, to whom we are prepared to hand over decision making on 40 per cent. of trunk roads and we shall ensure that they have the resources to back those decisions. There will be partnership with the private sector; we have already announced three design, build, finance and operate trunk road projects. That brings us to the meat of the subject, about which the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) asked. Those projects are for the A13 in east London, the Al in Yorkshire and the A2-M2 in Kent; they are designed to harness the energies of both the public and private sectors.

As further evidence of that partnership, I am pleased to announce today the go-ahead for a private initiative project to fund the construction of the A 130 bypass in Essex. The Government will provide £92 million to Essex county council to help fund construction on the A130. The poor reliability of the existing road has made it difficult for south-east Essex to attract business, investment and jobs. The scheme demonstrates that central and local government can work together effectively. It is integration in action: improving transport, aiding local regeneration, improving safety and creating jobs.

Apart from the differences that I have outlined, I hope that there are points on which the Government and the Opposition can agree. Streetworks are among the largest blights on Britain's roads. People are sick and tired of the disruption and inconvenience of prolonged streetworks. We intend to act on that and have made it plain that we shall authorise local authorities to penalise utilities or contractors for work that is overdue. We therefore entirely support the thrust of the private Member's Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mr. Fraser). We want to hold consultations on the mechanics of any such legislation to ensure that we have the best and most effective mechanism to minimise the disruption caused by streetworks.

The terms of the hon. Gentleman's Bill would pre-empt that desire. However, I am glad to tell the House that the hon. Gentleman and I have held fruitful discussions and he has assured me that he is willing to co-operate in taking account of those points and I am hopeful that we can find a way forward. In any event, we want to act as speedily and effectively as possible to reduce the disruption and inconvenience of prolonged streetworks.

Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Reid

In view of my direct reference to the hon. Gentleman's Bill, the House would expect me to give way to him.

Mr. Fraser

I am most grateful to the Minister for his comments on my Bill. I hope that it will be one step in a positive direction for Government support on a matter that currently has all-party support; we shall continue to work on that matter.

Dr. Reid

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that note of all-party consensus, because in other areas the Government are prepared to take the hard choices that the Opposition are no longer willing to face. We have provided a new mechanism for reducing congestion, while providing a new income stream for transport initiatives. Congestion charging will provide local authorities with powerful new tools to tackle congestion, both through the charges themselves and through the additional transport investment that the income from the charges will allow them to fund. The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk attacked congestion charging in her speech. I have to tell her that I cannot claim all the credit for that idea. Credit where credit is due: the concept was invented and developed by the Conservatives, by no less a person than the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire. The 1995 Green Paper stated that the Conservative Government held a presumption in favour of legislation on congestion charging. I am not so churlish as to deny the Conservatives the credit that is due to them, but am rather taken aback by their apparent modesty in claiming their birthright on congestion charges.

I was even more surprised to read the robust comments of the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway). In debate on the Greater London Authority Bill he said that the Conservative party did not rule out the possibility, at some time in the future, subject to consultation, of having a look at congestion charging. It is not as if Opposition Members know where they stand on that issue. I am reminded of the words of Churchill about Baldwin' s Administration: They have decided to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity and all powerful to be impotent. That just about sums up the Opposition's approach to some of the issues that they have raised today.

The right hon. Lady referred also to the haulage industry, and particularly to vehicle excise duty and fuel. I assure the House that we recognise the impact that taxation can have on competitiveness and profitability. That is why we must strike a balance between legitimate environmental concerns and the transport needs of the industry. I shall listen carefully to what the Road Haulage Association representatives have to say when I meet them next Tuesday. However, we firmly believe that we can best help the industry—and particularly hauliers—by creating a climate of sustainable economic growth and long-term investment.

Let us examine some of the Budget measures. We have reduced main corporation tax to 30 per cent. and small companies corporation tax to 20 per cent. Moreover, from 1 April 2000, companies with profits of up to £10,000 will pay corporation tax of only 10 per cent. Companies with profits of up to £50,000 will benefit from relief given to ease the transition from the new starting rate to the 20 per cent. rate. Employees of haulage businesses will benefit from the new 10p starting rate of income tax from this April and employers will benefit from reduced national insurance contribution levels from 2001.

Those are only the general initiatives; the Budget also contained specific measures for hauliers. We have frozen road duty levels for 98 per cent. of all lorries—I thought that the Opposition would applaud that move. The reduction in VED for cleaner lorries has doubled from £500 to £1,000. The duty rates on ultra-low sulphur diesel have been reduced relative to ordinary diesel and the duty rates on road fuel gases have been cut by no less than 29 per cent.—one of the biggest ever cuts in duty.

The Opposition's suggestion that the Budget does nothing for haulage firms is a grotesque misrepresentation of the facts. It is all about balance. Vehicles with an 11.5-tonne drive axle weight—to which the Opposition like to refer—cause significant road damage. That is why their road duty rates were set as they were, although we froze 98 per cent. of other rates.

The Opposition are also suffering from amnesia about the fuel duty escalator. I remind the House that the previous Government introduced the fuel duty escalator in 1993 and committed themselves to maintaining it until 2000. The right hon. Lady accused us of placing a burden on industry of 6 per cent. a year. She seems to have forgotten that 5 per cent. was imposed by the Conservatives and only 1 per cent. by Labour. We made that imposition in recognition of our need to act if we are to continue to lead the world on climate change.

As for the firms that are moving abroad to avoid the so-called excessive burdens, I gave the comparative figures for the whole cost earlier in the debate. I admit that it is a complex matter: I do not suggest for a minute that it is not possible to engineer a formula that would achieve savings. I want to talk to the industry about that and other matters. However, international haulage firms with 50 38-tonne lorries based in the Netherlands and Belgium—the countries with which we are invited to make a comparison—will face costs additional to the levels that I outlined earlier.

In view of the Conservatives' declared opposition to the fuel duty escalator and VED rates, I have done their Front-Bench spokesmen the courtesy of spending time reading through the speeches that Conservative Members made in government, so that I can consider their criticisms and how publicly they voiced them. Since Norman Lamont introduced the fuel duty escalator, there have been eight Budget debates and a huge number of transport debates. Not once during those years did tonight's Opposition spokespersons express a scintilla of criticism.

In the Budget debate of March 1993—the Budget that introduced the fuel duty escalator—the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk hailed the Chancellor's statement as a Budget for business. She not only acquiesced in that Budget, but lauded it.

Mr. Jenkin

What was the price then?

Dr. Reid

I am coming to the hon. Gentleman. In the debate on the Budget of November 1993, the hon. Member for North Essex, who will wind up for the Opposition tonight, waxed lyrical about the Chancellor's weight and stature, the heaviness of his task and, above all, his courage and the toughness of his decisions. In that Budget, which was lauded by the hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor increased the fuel duty escalator by 66 per cent.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should now recall the words of that Chancellor, who during that Budget statement, which both he and the right hon. Lady lauded, declared: Any critic of the Government's tax plans who claims also to support the international agreement to curb carbon dioxide emissions will be sailing dangerously near to hypocrisy."—[Official Report, 30 November 1993; Vol. 233, c. 939.] All we can say to the Conservatives tonight is, "Hello sailor."

On roads, as on transport in general, we have set out an agenda for a generation, a radical platform for action and a programme for progress, with which I am sure the vast majority of hon. Members are pleased and proud to be associated.

5.8 pm

Mr. John MacGregor (South Norfolk)

I begin by declaring an interest in that I am a non-executive director of a company that has a transport subsidiary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, at least that gives me an insight into the effect of the Chancellor's measures. I want to speak primarily as a former Secretary of State for Transport who had a substantial roads and road-building programme and as a Member of Parliament for a rural area who sees the damage that the Government's policies are doing. I shall focus on the roads programme.

The Minister of Transport does a good cabaret turn and has a sardonic wit, which was demonstrated in his opening remarks comparing his Government's performance with that of our Government. He could scarcely conceal the smile on his face as he quoted the figures, and I shall, I hope, demolish his case.

I am glad that we are having this debate because I have frequently spoken in the House, both as Secretary of State for Transport and, since I left office, as a Back Bencher, in favour of a major roads programme. I want to develop my case because the Government's actions are extremely dangerous for the country's future transport infrastructure.

I shall first set out the background that existed when I was Secretary of State for Transport and with which the right hon. Gentleman must now deal. As he knows, about 90 per cent. of all road traffic, both passenger and freight, consists of cars. I am all in favour of—and was myself determined to introduce—measures to change that balance, particularly for freight. I find it rather ironic that he is now claiming the credit for the current increase in rail freight, which is entirely due to the policies that I introduced in the Bill to privatise the railways, which his party completely opposed. I knew that the focus on the customer and the drive that the private sector produces would be the only way in which to achieve a switch of freight from road to rail. I am delighted that that strategy is working and that our policy achieved it.

I am in favour of as much switch as possible, but we must face the fact that, however much switch one achieves and however much one improves public transport, there will still be a substantial year-by-year growth in the use of roads by cars and lorries. We all know that many people must make essential journeys by car, especially in rural areas. Also, it is most people's aspiration to be more mobile. What is the first thing that young people want when they leave school and start to earn? About 80 per cent. want to own a car and to use it. We must face that fact as we develop transport policy.

There are two other background points. It has often occurred to me that one of the reasons why the climate is sometimes against road building and the car is that so many officials in Departments and national media commentators live and work in London. In London, the issues are entirely different because it has a good public transport network. In London, when we were in government, we spent much more on public transport than on roads. It was a different matter in rural areas, but I used to find it extraordinarily difficult to get the argument going about the needs of rural areas.

All Members of Parliament who represent rural areas know that public transport cannot replicate all the journeys that people want to make in rural areas. Therefore, a heavy emphasis must be placed on road investment in not just rural areas but many market towns and others outside the metropolis. I have often felt that the national debate just does not mirror the real needs of people in rural areas. Any Secretary of State for Transport who travels around the country knows that the greatest representations are made on improvements to the road programme, such as bypasses, and so on. A Secretary of State for Transport ignores such representations at his peril.

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

As a former Minister, does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the conclusion of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment, which reported to his Government, that new road infrastructure generates journeys that otherwise would not be made?

Mr. MacGregor

That intervention was absolutely splendid, because it raised just the point that I was about to address. The Tories were not building any new roads. I stopped the last proposed new road—the additional proposal on the east coast as an alternative to the A 1— because I did not think that it was necessary or desirable. It would have created what the hon. Gentleman suggested. There is a big distinction between building entirely new roads and substantial road schemes to widen and improve—not just maintain—the motorway and trunk road network, and bypasses.

Dr. George Turner

The right hon. Gentleman and I come from Norfolk, and he will know that the dualling of the All is still not complete after 30 years of waiting. Similarly, improvements to the A47 have been awaited throughout that period. Given what he has said, should not we have expected action and completion during the 18 years in which he was able to deliver?

Mr. MacGregor

The plain fact is that, when the Conservative Government came to power in 1979, no part of the All was dual carriageway. I was a Member then, and it used to take me four hours to travel from London to Norfolk. Now, the vast majority of the road is either motorway or dual carriageway, and my journey time has been halved. This Government will never implement the programme on the tiny bit left—the key part. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. The Conservative Government made a huge improvement, but we shall not see any improvement from this Government. He knows that the major A47 Norwich southern bypass has hugely improved the position in Norfolk.

I must tell the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner)—I was going to make this point later—that 13 bypasses were built in my constituency while the Conservative Government were in office. [Interruption.] Most of them were not built while I was Secretary of State for Transport; I did not authorise any of them when I held that office. I worked very hard for them for my constituents outside that period in office. Two more such bypasses are needed, but they will never be built under this Government. I defend our record entirely—including in Norfolk. I am very glad that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, because it enabled me to make a point which I hope everyone in Norfolk will recognise.

Mr. Anthony D. Wright (Great Yarmouth)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

No, I will not give way again, because I know that many hon. Members want to speak.

On new roads, it is important to recognise that the road projects that we are talking about, the expenditure on which has been so deeply slashed by the Government, are designed for improvement of the infrastructure, and include motorway widening schemes and bypasses. If one calls bypasses new roads, okay, those are new roads, but they are highly desired by everyone in the locality and are environmentally friendly.

I want to comment on the integrated transport programme. Integrated transport is a fine-sounding phrase, but we actually promoted it during our period in office by aligning road and rail, aligning airports and so on. Much more alignment of bus and rail journeys is taking place as a result of privatisation than was ever achieved by central planning. That is evidenced by the fact that the White Paper recognises that no new road network is necessary—in other words, the road network that we established was the right one for an integrated transport planning policy.

The massive hole in the Government's integrated transport policy stems from the fact that they have devastated the road programme, thereby neglecting the one area of transport that takes 90 per cent. of the traffic. That is not what is meant by integrated transport policy. In my view, it is a disadvantageous approach to transport.

That brings me to the road programme generally. The Minister of Transport was far less than fair to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard); she repeated the figures for expenditure undertaken during the Conservative Administration: £48 billion on transport infrastructure, of which £26 billion was spent on roads. Given that 90 per cent. of traffic goes by road, the fact that just over half of our spending was devoted to roads shows that we did not have an undue bias towards them, but that we acknowledged the importance of expenditure on them.

The balance has now gone completely the other way; that is devastatingly serious.

Mr. Gordon Prentice

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

No, I will not give way.

In my last year as Secretary of State for Transport, we were spending just over £2 billion on the road programme—the Highways Agency programme. By 1998–99, that had reduced to £1.3 billion and it will reduce in the next three years, although road maintenance will increase. However, the increase in road maintenance in the next three years will bring back the relevant figures, in real terms, to precisely what I was spending on that work in 1993. I do not understand how the Minister of Transport can criticise us for neglecting road maintenance when he is claiming a great deal of credit for the increase that he is making, which will simply bring us straight back to where we were.

Mr. Prentice

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

No; I am sorry, but I will not give way. [Interruption.] Well, I will give way in a moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] All right; in fairness to my hon. Friends, I will not.

Therefore spending on road maintenance has not been substantially increased. Moreover, new road projects—bypasses, improvements to motorways and so on— have been cut almost to nothing. Four hundred national road schemes were carried through in the period between 1979 and 1997–400 in 18 years. The Government are planning 37 schemes over seven years. That is the difference. It would take 70 years, under the Government's programme, to achieve what the Conservatives did. That is why the Minister was wrong in the comparisons that he drew.

The worrying aspect of all this is that the combination of all those factors will lead to increasing congestion on our roads and increasing uncompetitiveness, as well as a decline in road maintenance in local authority areas. That brings me to the subject of local authorities.

Mr. Prentice

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor


On detrunking, I support the Government. Their proposals to detrunk a substantial number of roads and pass them back to local authorities make sense. I often noticed that some national road schemes had less of a priority at local level than the local road scheme which failed to be included in that national programme. I therefore perfectly understand the principle of detrunking. However, it makes sense only if money goes with it, and I believe that there are only one or two new road projects in this year's transport settlement, the expenditure on which has almost reduced in real terms. Eighty schemes were requested—normal local authority schemes, not detrunking schemes. If one adds the detrunking schemes and examines the programme that the Government are offering, detrunking is a poisoned chalice for local authorities. No funding is going with the programme, so nothing will happen and all those road schemes will be frozen. The Government will try to blame the local authorities, but the fault will lie with the Government.

I shall say a word or two about DBFO—design, build, finance and operate—schemes and motorway tolling. I introduced the DBFOs and I am in favour of them. The Minister has just announced such a scheme—the A130—which I welcome, as I know the great need for it. However, I am worried about DBFOs. When I initiated the programme, I intended that in due course we would be able to introduce motorway tolling. The DBFO schemes to improve motorways would be financed by real income from motorway tolling. That is extremely important.

If the Government concentrate all new road schemes on DBFO and claim the credit—justifiably—for the private sector involvement, they will pile up enormous public expenditure later on the DBFO schemes. Those should be accounted for separately. Motorway tolling would provide genuine money to pay for such schemes, so there would be a genuine private finance initiative, genuinely costed and properly implemented. There is a serious danger if all future road schemes, or most of them, are done by DBFO. I hope that the Government will look to that.

I make no apology for having argued for motorway tolling. I issued a Green Paper proposing it, and I still think that it is the right way to improve our motorways. It gets revenue in to provide a better service. When the technology is available, which is the problem at present, the policy should be pursued. I regret that the Government are not putting enough initiative and push behind attempts to improve the technology. Congestion charging is entirely different and gives rise to many more problems than motorway tolling.

On the fuel duty escalator, I shall add one or two points to those that my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk made. The environmental background to the introduction of the fuel duty escalator in 1993 has changed. There have been huge reductions in toxic emissions as a result of catalytic converters and other improvements in technology. Toxic emissions have fallen by 30 per cent. since 1993. That is a much more effective contribution to the global warming target than the fuel duty escalator will achieve.

Reducing toxic emissions acts directly on the issue. The fuel duty escalator has outlived its usefulness. It is producing tiny, if any, environmental benefits. All the revenue coming in from it is going not on environmental expenditure, but elsewhere. Let us admit that it is a means for the Chancellor to raise revenue for other purposes, and it does not achieve its objective.

Mr. Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley)


Mr. MacGregor

No, I am not giving way.

I strongly support the Government in their endeavours to reduce toxic emissions and in the improvement of the technology of cars. I would happily endorse any programme to pull in polluting cars, impose heavy fines for lorries and so on. I believe that what the Chancellor introduced in a puny way could be developed further. The vehicle excise duty reduction on 13 types of car out of several hundred is another example of a flashy new scheme pulled out of the hat to look good, but which does not amount to much. I hope it will be built on, because it is the right way to tackle matters.

Dr. Reid

The scheme is a start.

Mr. MacGregor

A pretty modest start, if I may say so.

The fuel duty escalator is not the way to deal with the environmental issue, because it is causing more harm than the environmental benefits that it may produce. It is causing huge harm to rural areas, people on low incomes and those who depend on their car. People are coming to us in droves to complain about the Chancellor's Budget, as is the road haulage industry. It is time to end the fuel duty escalator.

My conclusion is simple. While the Government speak about an integrated transport policy, the country is seeing the results in practice and it does not like what it sees, as the recent BBC poll showed. The Chancellor talks of improving the nation's investment in infrastructure, but is destroying it by not putting anything like enough money into it. Anyone in business knows that one should be spending about 10 per cent. of the value of one's capital assets every year on their renewal, or certainly as much as depreciation. We have a capital asset here of £230 million, but we are spending practically nothing on maintaining and renewing it. Not only is that damaging the economy, but it is already clear that the electorate has tumbled to the fact that the Government's transport policy is failing the nation.

5.25 pm
Mrs. Diana Organ (Forest of Dean)

There is now widespread consensus that the past road policy of simply building, or wishing to build, more and more roads was not sustainable, could never be the answer to traffic growth and congestion, and would not in itself provide efficient transportation for people, goods and services.

The Conservative Government's policy was dominated by deregulation, privatisation and a road building frenzy. The damaging consequences of that policy are starkly illustrated in rural areas such as the Forest of Dean.

First, the 1985 bus deregulation led to the decimation and fragmentation of bus public transport, so that by 1997 even the main market towns in the Forest of Dean were not connected to one another by a bus service. That forced many rural dwellers on low incomes to sacrifice much in order to maintain a car on the road. If they did not do that, they were at the mercy of and wholly dependent on a dwindling public transport network, or they ended up isolated.

The other strand of the previous Administration's policy was privatisation, which had an equally detrimental effect. In 1992, a short but strategically crucial section of road was privatized—the Severn bridge. In that deal, tolls were allowed to be increased greatly and could be collected one way only. That was carried out without consultation, without public representation from local communities and without a study or a consideration of the impact that that would have on regional traffic flows and movement.

The main impact was on the roads of the Forest of Dean. They have become rat runs for lorries avoiding the tolls. Any heavy goods vehicle travelling from the west midlands or east of Gloucester to south Wales looks to those roads as a rat run. A regular census shows that, between 1992 and 1998, there has been an increase of more than 10 per cent. in the number of heavy goods vehicles of 3.5 tonnes and over trying to avoid the tolls. That is an extra 100 vehicles a day. Roughly 40,000 extra vehicles a year go through village communities along the A48, A40 and A4136, and often parts of those roads are unsuitable to such traffic, which causes noise, damages buildings, affects the quality of life and threatens the safety of pedestrians.

The third part of the previous Conservative Government's predict and provide policy of more and more roads was equally threatening. There had been a proposal in the early 1990s to build a multi-million pound A40 extension from Gloucester westwards. That would have brought extra development to the river Severn floodplain, increasing the possibility of flood damage, and taking away many wonderful water meadows and sites of valuable flora. Fortunately, that scheme faced widespread opposition and, thankfully, was rejected.

This Government's integrated approach to transport has already shown real benefits and is a realistic way forward in the Forest of Dean. The integrated approach is inclusive. It consults, but realises that local communities can often solve their own transport problems and become effective.

Children in Berry Hill primary school looked at the problem that many of them had of travelling to and from school in cars because their parents were concerned about their safety. The children questioned each other about their journeys, plotted a route for a bus to take them to and from school, and then took the initiative, writing to bus companies to ask whether they would be interested in running a bus service. With a little funding from the local authority, the scheme went ahead. Now, that school has a bus service which the children say is enjoyable and a real social opportunity for them, and which has reduced early morning congestion.

The Government recognise that local solutions can often be valuable, and their policy of allowing local authorities to draw up local transport plans, setting out their proposals for the management, maintenance and development of local roads, works. My local authority, Gloucestershire, thinks that that is definitely a better approach. The plans not only must be sustainable, but must involve all local parties in their execution.

In October 1998 I carried out a constituency-wide consultation on the Government's transport White Paper. It was widely recognised that all community parties must be involved, as should the planning authority, which has a major role to play on transport issues. Where developments are sited, how big they are and their impact on traffic flows and transportation are crucial.

A legacy of housing's predict and provide days was a proposal to build 2,000 houses on green-field sites around the village settlements of Sedbury and Tutshill. That area is close to Chepstow, the M4 and the Severn bridge. The present Government's housing policy says that new housing must be sustainable, centred on economic centres and it must follow the sequential principle. Those criteria meant that the proposal was rejected, thankfully—principally because it was recognised that 2,000 new homes would generate a vast increase in commuter traffic. People would have moved out of the urban areas of Avon and south Wales to those new homes and, consequently, commuted daily by road to their jobs in those centres.

We have inherited a lot of failures in the Forest of Dean, but they are being addressed. The Labour Government have invested £50 million in rural transport and, in the Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a 20 per cent. increase in that spending—it will rise to more than £120 million over the next two years. That is a significant increase on previous levels and the rise in bus fuel duty rebate will also help.

The increase has already had a significant impact on rural public transport in the Forest of Dean, delivering 11 new bus services, and, for the first time, we have a Sunday service to Gloucester. It has also led to the appointment of a transport broker and co-ordinator who will consider how rural areas can develop the increasing numbers of innovative community transport and car-sharing schemes.

In addition, the announcement of a national half-price concessionary fare scheme for pensioners has been widely welcomed by the 29 per cent. of my constituents who qualify. I hope, as they do, that it can be delivered as soon as possible.

Instead of building more roads, the Government have changed the focus of road investment and their top priority is maintaining and managing existing roads and getting them to work better. Our major concern is safety, because 70 per cent. of fatal accidents occur on rural roads. Excessive speed is the main cause of a third of those accidents. In our surgeries every week we all hear the distressing tales that are brought to us by the relatives of victims of such accidents.

The A48 had a dreadful history of accidents. A route study of the road was undertaken because it was identified as atypical, due to the accident level. The Highways Agency made available £268,000 and a comprehensive package was introduced, including speed cameras, high-friction surfacing on the approaches to bridges, warning signs, gateway signs for villages, white lining to upgrade laning and the giving of directions and other traffic-calming measures.

The results of those measures have been phenomenal and very impressive. Accident and casualty statistics have come down, to 35 accidents and 50 casualties in 1998 against a high of 64 accidents in 1989 and 68 casualties in 1992. A similar programme has been outlined for the A40, in order to improve safety on that road. I hope that that programme reaps the same benefits.

This year's local transport capital settlement for Gloucestershire is the highest yet, with a large element of the £9.25 million going on improved maintenance on those important roads. There is a £2 million package for safety schemes, such as that for the A48. Although that allocation is generous, I must make my plea for the Government to look favourably on bids to improve the A4136, which is a prime access route to the heart of the forest and its industries. We were unsuccessful with our £11 million major scheme, and I understand why—it does not come within Government policy—but I hope that future bids from Gloucestershire for sections of that road to be upgraded, for the safety of road users and pedestrians alike, will be treated favourably.

The A48 and A40 are trunk roads that have been identified in the trunk roads review for possible detrunking. This is a complex and emotive issue, and there will need to be widespread consultations—which did not happen under the previous Government on the Severn bridge changes—on the implications of detrunking those routes and how that will affect the communities and the economy of the Forest of Dean, which rely heavily on manufacturing.

The county council was concerned that it would not obtain sufficient funding for maintenance should those roads be handed over to the local authority. It tells me that it has been seriously reassured by the discussions that it has had with the Government about the grants allocated for those roads. The officers tell me that they are happy about the funds moving across, which they say will meet their requirements. That offers us an opportunity to control and manage the heavy goods vehicles that are avoiding the Severn bridge tolls. By the imposition of weight restrictions, with exemptions for lorries accessing the Forest of Dean, we shall tackle another of the problems inherited from the previous Administration.

Transport problems will not be solved overnight: that takes time. This is a huge issue, but the Forest of Dean has already benefited from the Government's policies. They are making headway at a local level to improve transport for all the community.

5.36 pm
Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

I welcome the opportunity to discuss roads and transport issues generally. I am pleased that the Tories have used their Opposition day for that purpose. It is pity that the debate is not longer. However, the Tories have blotted their copybook by the words they have chosen for their motion—which is brazen, to say the least. It is a year zero motion that pretends that nothing happened between 1979 and now, and that they have no responsibility for the transport system that we have today.

Our present transport infrastructure has been built up—or not built up—over the 18 years of a Conservative Government. If the Conservatives want to maximise their influence on transport issues, they should have a little more humility and recognise that they made mistakes when they were in government. There is no indication of that in their motion. It shows their usual arrogance—the arrogance that caused them to lose the last election.

An alternative Tory motion might have been,"That this House adopts a policy of collective amnesia in respect of the years 1979 to 1997, ignores the catastrophic failure of Tory transport policy during those years, and begs for the Tory party to be allowed to reinvent itself." That is what the motion says if we read between the lines. Incredulity is the word that describes the Tories' approach.

The Conservatives talk about congestion and pollution, which they seem to be concerned about in the motion. Between 1979 and 1997, motor vehicle traffic increased every year—cumulatively by a total of 75 per cent. There was a growth of traffic for each type of vehicle, but the largest increase was in cars, at 82 per cent. In 1979, when the Tories came to power, the mileage covered by cars in the United Kingdom was 200 billion km. In 1997, that figure had reached 370 billion km, which is almost twice as much, whereas the figures for bus and motorcycle usage dropped during that period.

It is clear that under the previous Government there was an increase in traffic, congestion and pollution. If the Tories want us to take their transport policies seriously, they must acknowledge that fact and start from a new base, not from the fictional base in the motion.

Mr. Gray

What about the Government's policies?

Mr. Baker

I shall come to the Government's policies in a moment, but we are discussing the Conservative motion. If the Tories think that I am going to let them get off scot-free, given their motion, they have another think coming.

The Tories could not build their way out of a crisis. The right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) made a reasonable contribution based on his experience as a former Secretary of State for Transport. However, the fact of the matter is that the Tories had a substantial road-building programme; I am happy to acknowledge that. Capital expenditure on roads was more than £50 billion between 1979 and 1997. Between 1986 and 1996, almost 1,700 km of motorway and trunk roads were completed. As the 1989 White Paper "Roads to Prosperity" stated, that was the biggest road-building programme since the Romans. Some of them were not built, as we have heard, but a considerable amount was undertaken and completed. But what has been the result of that road-building programme? It has been more congestion, more pollution and more transport problems.

We cannot build our way out of transport problems. There is no point in going on about which bypasses are not here and which trunk roads are not there; we cannot solve transport problems by building more and more roads. I thought that all hon. Members had learned that lesson, but it seems that the Conservatives have unlearned it.

Before Conservative Members complain about the effect of the Budget on the motorist, they should bear in mind that between 1974 and 1996, according to Government figures—the last Government's figures, in fact—the real cost of motoring fell by 3.5 per cent. Over the same period, rail fares rose in real terms by 74.8 per cent. During those Tory years—and, indeed, the years of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan—bus fares rose by 57.5 per cent. We must deal with the fundamental flaws in our transport system. Building more and more roads is an antiquated 1950s solution, which I hope the Conservatives will now reject because it simply will not work.

In an earlier intervention, I referred to the report of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment. That report demonstrated beyond doubt that building more and more roads and creating more and more road space—that includes the widening of roads, as well as the building of new roads—leads to an increase in the number of journeys that are made. People are now commuting from Reigate to Watford; they would never have done so before the M25 was built. Some hon. Members may see that as an example of freedom, but I see it merely as the undertaking of an unnecessary journey. It is a great pity that so many journeys are now made by road that were not made by road previously.

Mr. Jenkin

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the M25 should not have been built?

Mr. Baker

I am suggesting that its creation has led to a huge increase in the number of vehicle movements. Before it was built, I used to travel along roads close to the hon. Gentleman's constituency, I think. I used to use the Al28. Progress was slow—there were traffic jams—but the number of vehicle movements increased dramatically as soon as the M25 was built.

I shall now deal with road fuel duties. We have heard from numerous speakers about the escalator introduced by the Conservative Government. When the Conservatives are cooing to the Automobile Association about how much they sympathise with it, they should remember that between 1992–93 and 1996–97 the revenue from all duty and value-added tax on road fuel was £80 billion. During the same period, only £16.1 billion was spent on public transport. [Interruption.] If the Conservatives want to blame the Government—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. Some hon. Members are interrupting the hon. Gentleman's speech, which is not allowed.

Mr. Baker

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for defending me so stoutly.

The Conservatives appear to be arguing that the present Government are taxing motorists unfairly, and using the money for other purposes. I must tell them that they did the same when they were in government. We are not allowed to use the word "hypocritical"—I believe that it is unparliamentary—but what they did then is significantly at variance with what they are saying now.

Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Does the hon. Gentleman not realize—I am thinking particularly of diesel fuel duty—that by raising the escalator to such a level, and so many times, the Government are simply replacing the fumes from British lorries with fumes from Belgian, French and German lorries? There is no environmental gain whatever.

Mr. Baker

I accept that there is a problem with the fuel duty escalator as it relates to the road haulage industry. I have met Steve Norris to discuss that very issue. I think that the Government should concentrate on increasing European Union levels rather than on reducing them here, but I agree that there is a problem that must be dealt with.

Although we are debating a Conservative motion, let us waste no more time on the Conservatives. Theirs has been a catastrophic catalogue of failure—a lamentable indictment of their hopelessly ineffective and inappropriate dogma over 18 years—but let us now leave them to one side. Let us leave their great car economy—the Great Britain snarl-up; let us leave the biggest road-building programme since the Romans—the biggest traffic jam of all time—and consider the Government's roads policy.

I welcome the fact that the Government produced a White Paper on transport, and that it contained radical and good ideas. Ministers and hon. Members will appreciate that I am not averse to criticising the Government when they get it wrong, but the fact is that the Government produced a good White Paper on transport. The trouble is that not much action has followed it. The jury is still out on whether the Government will deliver everything that they said in the White Paper that they wanted to do.

Part of the problem has been that, although there has been some very good thinking in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, its thinking has not been matched by support from elsewhere in Government. "Blair and Brown on the line"—perhaps the wrong type of Chancellor—has been offered as an excuse for delaying action in changing the Government's transport policy from road to rail.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. A trend seems to be emerging in some speeches, which I might be able to stop now. References to other hon. Members should include their constituency name or their title. Perhaps "the Prime Minister" or "the Chancellor of the Exchequer", for example, would be better terms of reference in the Chamber.

Mr. Baker

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I entirely agree with you, and apologise for making those references.

I shall be happy with the Government when they have introduced the Strategic Rail Authority. The Deputy Prime Minister—for all his commitment, and that of his Ministers, which I do not doubt—has, so far, not been able to secure parliamentary time for introduction of legislation on that authority, for which there is no substitute. Shouting at train operating companies is not a substitute for proper legislation on a strategic rail authority.

We are also still unclear about the powers of Railtrack. We still do not know what Alastair Morton will be doing, or what investment will be made in rail transport. If the Government are to turn their words into positive action, we will have to have from them some definite answers and clear action.

I acknowledge that the Budget contained some positive measures, such as the very long overdue one ending company car abuse. I was very pleased to see that. I was pleased also that the Budget contained money for rural buses.

The Budget made a start on changing vehicle excise duty. However, I agree with the right hon. Member for South Norfolk that that will go only a very short way. It is no use saying that the provision was only a first step—why not take all the steps in one go? Only 9 per cent. of cars now on the road are 1100 cc or smaller. Therefore, only one in 11 cars will benefit from the Government's VED changes. Moreover, only 5 per cent. of 1998 new car registrations were 1100 cc or smaller. Therefore, only one in 20 of those cars will benefit from the change.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the real significance of the VED changes is not the single change this year, on cars below 1100 cc, but the announcement that, next year, a completely variable VED system will be introduced? Is he aware that the new VED system has been delayed because of an argument about the best way of measuring—by engine size or emissions—a variable VED system? The Government have accepted the research and come out in favour of measuring emissions. That is why it has taken so long. As I said, the real improvement will be made next year, when the fully variable VED system is introduced.

Mr. Baker

I should like to think that the hon. Gentleman is right. However, the Government have been in power for almost two years, and I should have thought that—not just in this Budget, but in the previous one—they could have analysed the matter and proposed a proper solution. I am always suspicious of Governments who embark on reviews and consultations, as those are often used as an excuse for inaction. Nevertheless, I hope that he is right, and that we shall have some action on the matter in the next Budget.

My greatest criticism so far of the Government's transport policy is on road traffic reduction. When in opposition, many Labour Members—including the Minister for Transport in London, who is in the Chamber—were committed to real reductions in road traffic levels. There was a recognition that, for environmental, health and social reasons, we could not continue increasing the number of vehicles and vehicle miles driven on our roads.

The intellectual argument on the need to stop the increase has been won. Hundreds of Labour and other Members signed up to road traffic reduction. At the end of the previous Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) promoted his Road Traffic Reduction Bill. Subsequently, the hon. Member for Ceredigion promoted his Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Bill. At the start of this Parliament, the Government were committed to road traffic reduction, but that has changed. In a written answer that I received from the Minister for Transport in London on 3 November last year, the policy changed to: we need to reduce the rate of road traffic growth. I am afraid that that is the Conservative policy with life breathed back into it by the new Government. In layman's terms, it means that the Government are going to deal with congestion by allowing more cars on the road doing more mileage. That is a wrong policy.

Further on in the written answer, the Minister said: we want to see an absolute reduction in traffic in those places and streets where the greatest environmental damage is done"—[Official Report, 3 November 1998; Vol. 318, c. 458.] The implication is that traffic levels may go down in places such as Chester, Bath or York, but overall levels of road traffic in this country will go up. That is a failed, unsustainable policy that the Government must correct. The parliamentary answers that I have received from the Minister and her colleagues in recent days have been opaque, so I should like her to tell us clearly the projections for road traffic growth during this Parliament. What is the Government's aim? Which areas will have actual reductions in traffic levels? What will the overall effect be?

Another more recent written answer on 12 January said: Using the National Road Traffic Forecast model it is estimated that with these policies"— set out in the previous paragraph— in place traffic would grow by 37 per cent. by 2010 relative to 1990 vehicle kilometre levels."—[Official Report, 12 January 1999; Vol. 323, c. 189.] That is almost identical to the previous Government's figures for growth if no action was taken. What is the Government's policy on road traffic reduction? Will the Minister guarantee that by the end of this Parliament the amount of traffic on our roads will be lower than at the moment? If she will not, she should withdraw her name from the letters and motions that she signed in the previous Parliament and accept that she was wrong. I hope that she does not have to do that. I hope that I have misunderstood the policy and there will be an absolute reduction in road traffic during this Parliament. I look forward to hearing from her on that.

To sum up, the Conservatives have a bit of a cheek in tabling the motion. They undermine their case with their words. The Government have published a White Paper, but they have not yet enacted the measures in it. We want some action before the end of this Parliament.

5.52 pm
Mrs. Christine Butler (Castle Point)

I sincerely thank my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport for his efforts in securing the A130 private finance initiative bid, worth £92 million for Essex. Many hon. Members, on both sides of the House, will welcome that. If I had not heard that announcement today, I would have been asking for it. My right hon. Friend's decision is right. It is the right answer to the high rate of accidents, the crushing congestion and the unremitting costs to travellers and the economy of south Essex caused by a road that amounts to nothing less than a blockade at times.

South-east Essex is heavily populated, with almost a third of a million people in 40 square miles. Essex people are some of the most enterprising in the country, but without that important road scheme our local economy could stagnate. Castle Point, Southend, Rochford and Rayleigh are aware of the problems and are getting together in a sub-regional approach to explain what we need to keep business thriving and to steer a course towards success in the region.

Road safety has not been mentioned enough in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mrs. Organ) mentioned it, but it is worth returning to the subject. I could weep at the toll that the present A130 is having on families in Essex, many of whom are from my constituency. Any level of personal injury from road traffic accidents is unacceptable, but this road has a terrible record. The jams, bunch-ups and pile-ups all point to one solution: the scheme that my right hon. Friend the Minister has announced this evening. Some sections of the route are so narrow that one tractor might cause tailbacks for miles in the morning. My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Hurst), who is sitting next to me, has probably experienced that many times on the way to his constituency. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has listened to the arguments, and I thank him for throwing a lifeline to south Essex.

Other hon. Members want to speak, so I will not say all that I intended to say. However, I wish to refer to sustainability. The word trips easily off the tongue, but it is an important word. For the first time, we have a genuine attempt, through joined-up thinking across all Departments, to try to deliver sustainability. Those attempts should not be sneered at. We have hardly begun, and there is more to follow in legislation.

We cannot go on deciding where houses go, where major transportation corridors might be, where inward investment must locate and where jobs are created without considering all of them in parallel. Without such planning—and the tough decisions that will follow—we will get nowhere. That is a message that we have taken on board. We will deal with it in the regional plans after 1 April, when the regional development agencies start to work with the regional chambers to deliver sustainability, along with increases in GDP per capita.

To deliver a sustainable economy with more investment and more jobs—along with sustainability in the environment—is not easy. That is why it has not even been attempted before. Now it is being attempted. We should stop the snide remarks and the party politics and give credit to the Government for what they have done so far, and for the measures that we will take in the not-too-distant future.

5.58 pm
Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

In approaching the debate, I was not sure what tone of voice to adopt—whether it should be sadness or anger. In the hope of winning the sympathy of the Minister for something that I will say later in my speech—a matter with which she is well familiar—I will adopt the tone of sadness, which I shall try to combine with honesty and brevity.

The brevity is made possible by the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), who said many of the things that I would have wished to say. The honesty is forced upon me by the admission that I was never comfortable with the fuel duty escalator, and I am certainly not at all comfortable with its increase and continuance under this Government. A question of straw and the camel's back comes to mind. When the back is breaking, it is time to take the straw off.

Road haulage is a big employer in my constituency. I cannot pretend that that is always particularly welcome, because of the severe environmental impact that it has on many villages in the vale of Evesham. However, it is there, it is inevitable, it is not going away and it creates many jobs.

The modern economy is dependent on road haulage, as has been generally accepted in what has been a constructive debate. I had a visit from a haulier at my constituency surgery on Saturday, who said that it would be a good idea to organise a week-long strike of the road haulage industry—if it could be guaranteed that it would be total. For the first couple of days, the British people would say that it was wonderful that the roads were empty; on days three and four, as the supermarket shelves started to empty, they would feel rather differently; by the end of the week, they would be crying for the lorries to get back on the roads. I think that that haulier was right.

That operator told me that he is spending £500 a lorry to increase the size of the tanks, so that he will only ever have to fill up in France. He reckons that he will recoup the cost of the new tanks within two and a half journeys to and from the continent. The Chancellor should think about that. I was in Ulster last week, talking to hauliers and taxi drivers. The land border and the devaluation of the euro make the problem even worse there. I imagine that hardly any petrol or diesel is sold in Northern Ireland these days.

When a Government have got something wrong, there is no shame in admitting it. It is time for the Chancellor to admit that he has got it wrong and to reverse the changes. The Minister's clever statistics in his opening speech do not bear critical scrutiny, and the fact is that there is now a huge and unjustifiable differential.

I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to intervention in local problems where road haulage is an environmental issue, as in my constituency. I have written this week to the Deputy Prime Minister, asking him to intervene in my patch where there is a bad problem with road haulage, as three counties meet at one point and there is no effective integration. If the Government's integrated transport strategy is to mean anything at all, it should mean intervening in such situations.

Conservative Members have made the point—Labour Members may also have done so, but if so, I missed it—that the increase in petrol duties and the token reduction in vehicle excise duties will have a devastating impact on poorer motorists in rural areas.

Mr. Chaytor

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the latest research, available in the Library, by Mr. Skinner and Mr. Fergusson of the Institute of European Environmental Policy, which exhaustively analyses the impact of different policies on different categories of motorist? It proves fairly conclusively that the Government's policy of reducing the fixed costs and increasing the variable costs helps poorer motorists. I suggest that he looks at the research before making—

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Luff

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I happen to agree with the spirit of what the hon. Gentleman said. I find it a little difficult to argue with the principle of reducing the fixed costs and increasing the variable costs, but it must be done in a much more meaningful way. The token reduction in vehicle excise duty will have no impact at all on my poorer constituents. They cannot afford to change down to smaller cars, because of the capital costs involved.

There is a direct financial impact on my rural constituents, who have no realistic hope of a comprehensive bus service ever being restored to their villages, even if the odd improvements here and there are welcome. Those people depend on their cars for getting to the doctor, to work or to school, and for doing their shopping. The Government's policies are having a disproportionate effect on my poorer constituents, especially in areas such as the Vale of Evesham, where there is no real prospect of any significant improvement in public transport.

Those people have a democratic right to freedom of movement. At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, the freedom of mobility is as important as the freedom of speech was to previous generations. As democrats, we should respect that principle.

The Minister talked about the increase in the budget for repairs and maintenance on trunk roads, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk largely demolished his argument. At county council level, the budget for road repair and maintenance has been squeezed out of sight, and especially in rural shires. I do not know what the standard spending assessment for road maintenance in Worcestershire is, but it is made irrelevant by the disgracefully low SSA for social services.

Everything that should be available for other services is poured into social services. That must be right, because the protection of vulnerable people by social services departments should be a priority in any civilised society, but the result is that the potholes in Worcestershire are becoming a disgrace, the roads are becoming dangerous and maintenance is falling alarmingly behind schedule. To be fair to the Minister, there is not much that she can do about that, because the problem is the Government's underfunding of social services in rural shires.

I share my right hon. Friend's concern about detrunking. Given the squeeze on county council finances, there is a real risk that detrunking will impose a huge and unaffordable burden on county councils, which will then get the blame for not maintaining the roads effectively. To be fair, I should say that the Highways Agency is doing a good job bringing the roads up to scratch, prior to detrunking, and I wish to put on record my deep gratitude to the agency and the Government for what has been done to the A449 between Worcester and Kidderminster, which will make what was a killer road much safer.

I am slightly less grateful for the Government's failure to act in the matter of the Wyre Piddle bypass, and that also raises important wider points. I am glad to see a smile on the Minister's lips because we have talked about that bypass on many occasions. It is also important because it would bypass the town of Pershore in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Sir M. Spicer). It was next in the queue. Worcestershire has done well on bypasses, because we have the Broadway, Worcester Western, Norton-Lenchwick and Evesham bypasses. They have all been built without the significant traffic generation consequences that the Liberals fear, and they have provided a genuinely better environment for the people of those towns.

The Wyre Piddle bypass has been turned down twice by this Government, and they now propose a non-roads solution. I understand that there are non-roads solutions to urban traffic problems, but there are no non-roads solutions to rural bypasses. A community such as Wyre Piddle faces problems caused by bottlenecks and heavy lorries going to the landfill sites. Of course, the Government may have heard that I have nearly been involved in two accidents with lorries in Wyre Piddle, but they do not want the road built because they hope for a by-election in Mid-Worcestershire. However, they would get a shock if that were to happen. I ask the Minister to reconsider that decision on a road with no adverse environmental consequences. Not a single tree would be cut down for that road.

I am very disappointed by a response I received yesterday from Ministers. They said that they would not visit Wyre Piddle to observe the situation, and the ground they gave for that decision was extraordinary: Any visit in advance of that consideration"— of the case in this year's local transport plan bid— would be premature."—[Official Report, 17 March 1999; Vol. 327, c. 669.] When else are they to visit except before they make a decision? After a decision is made, it is clearly too late. The Anchor in Wyre Piddle is a fine pub: I hope that I can have a drink with the Minister there and that we can discuss the problem. She is a reasonable woman, and I am sure that she will be able to see the case for the road.

In conclusion, I wish to raise a point of principle. We in Worcestershire want two bypasses: Bordersley and Wyre Piddle. They could both be paid for out of a fraction of the increase in fuel duty that will be paid by Worcestershire motorists over the next three years. If the Government hypothecate only a tiny bit of that increase in revenue, they will make the lives of dwellers in rural England far better.

6.8 pm

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster, Central)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. It is important to get roads policy right, not only for the sake of our economy—many right hon. and hon. Members have referred to 90 per cent. of all journeys being made by road—but because of the need for policies that will reduce congestion. Congestion damages not only business, but the environment.

I am a member of the RAC Foundation's public policy committee, and I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will be pleased to learn that the RAC welcomed the "New Deal for Transport" White Paper, and said that it represented a good change in approach from the predict and provide model of the previous Government, under whose stewardship road and bridge maintenance deteriorated alarmingly. The new approach of improving management of the trunk road network, and investing in road maintenance so that maximum use of the network can be made, is the key to improving the lives of motorists, as the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) pointed out, although he is no longer in his place.

Motorists have also welcomed the radical change of approach in hypothecating revenue from road pricing to improve public transport, and the Government's strong commitment to improving urban and rural public transport so that there is a viable alternative to car journeys. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, local transport plans have a vital role to play in achieving the Government's integrated transport plan.

The Government's priority of maintaining existing roads and bridges must be reflected at local authority level. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of routine planned maintenance of roads. Maintenance is not just about improving road safety for car users; it can improve the quality of life for those living near roads and it can reduce noise pollution. A good road surface is important for pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists.

When he was not referring to pubs in Wyre Piddle, the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) referred to the problems created by potholes. I very much agree with what he said. A war on potholes would be welcome, if the Minister could declare one.

The general situation is not helped by the constant digging up of roads by public utilities so that pipes can be mended or cables laid. Local authorities seem unable to get to grips with doing anything about that problem, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport's statement provided good news for motorists in the form of a Bill on public streetworks. Government support for that will be very welcome.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

Before the hon. Lady leaves the subject of local government and roads, would she reflect on a national study by the County Surveyors Society, which indicated that £5.25 billion must be spent if local authority roads are to be brought up to the standard set out in the local authority code of practice?

Ms Winterton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for calling attention to the previous Government's failure to invest in roads. That failure is also reflected in a parliamentary briefing from the Automobile Association. It notes that the backlog in roads maintenance will cost £5 billion, which is plainly the result of the actions of the Conservative Government.

It is important that the 23 million motorists in the United Kingdom should be represented on the forthcoming commission for integrated transport. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell me when the commission's membership is likely to be announced, and if she could give us an assurance that road users will be properly represented.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport stressed how important integration is. There is an excellent example in Doncaster of how the Government are integrating transport through the funding of support for the North Bridge road project and the building of a new transport interchange. The existing road takes more than 60,000 vehicles a day. Queues over the bridge are horrendous during rush hour, and pollution levels rise. Access to the railway station is difficult and unreliable. Communities outside the town centre become isolated because of access problems.

The project will reduce congestion, and it will let the council introduce a quality bus corridor which will give buses priority over other vehicles, and allow for segregated facilities for cyclists and pedestrians. It is an excellent example of how roads can be used to promote integrated transport. It brings together access to rail-based transport, major improvements to public transport and improvements for general traffic. All that will assist in the economic regeneration of Doncaster, while also reducing pollution. It is a good example of joined-up Government thinking.

Along with the Doncaster interchange—a partnership between Government, the local authority and the private sector—that North Bridge road project will make it easier for people who want to change from one mode of transport to another to do so. That is integrated transport at its best and it is welcomed in my constituency.

The Conservative Government's road policy failed the people of Doncaster; in 1994, funding for the North Bridge relief road project was withdrawn by the Tories after £7.5 million of public money had been spent to put the scheme together. The Labour Government are making integrated sustainable transport a reality; that is good news not only for the motorist, but for cyclists, motor cyclists and pedestrians. I assure my right hon. and hon. Friends that my constituents and I already see the results of that new approach, which we warmly welcome. I congratulate the Government on taking swift action to put right the dismal record of the previous Conservative Government.

6.16 pm
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), although that name does not have the same resonance and romance as "the hon. Member for Wyre Piddle"—my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff), who spoke before her and whose well-argued speech we all greatly enjoyed.

Labour's pre-election pledge on transport promised "immediate benefits" to the travelling public. I cannot remember whether it was one of their early pledges or a general pledge, but nothing could be clearer than "immediate benefits". However, if we are to believe the representatives of the AA, with whom a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House had lunch today, the travelling public are bitterly disappointed by the fact that they have seen no benefits of any kind—immediate or otherwise. Before the Budget, the level of satisfaction with the Government on transport was about 15 per cent.—the worst of all their satisfaction ratings. Since the Budget, public satisfaction with Labour's transport policies has gone off the Richter scale; some say that it is about 3 per cent., others that there is zero satisfaction among the travelling public.

It is an absolute disgrace; the Government have had two years to do something and they have done nothing. I say "nothing", but the speech of the hon. Member for Doncaster, Central was a classic example of what the Government have done; they love expressions such as "joined-up Government" and "integrated transport White Paper". However, let us consider the White Paper and what it promised. Where is the strategic rail authorities Bill? Where is the tonnage tax promised by the Minister when she gave evidence recently to the Transport Sub-Committee? She gave a strong indication that a tonnage tax would be introduced. Where is it? Nowhere.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Glenda Jackson)

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that what he has just told the House bears no relation to what I said to the Transport Sub-Committee. I ask him to withdraw those remarks.

Mr. Gray

We seem to have touched a raw nerve. If what I said bore no relation to the hon. Lady's evidence to the Sub-Committee, I would happily withdraw it and apologise. However, my clear impression and—I think—that of other members of the Sub-Committee who are in the Chamber of the hon. Lady's evidence was that she and her colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions were passionately in favour of the tonnage tax, that she hoped that it would be included in the forthcoming Budget and that she would be extremely disappointed if it were not. That is all on record.

Ms Jackson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gray

If I may, I should prefer to give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is one of my colleagues on the Sub-Committee.

Mr. Stevenson

I fear that I must tell the hon. Gentleman that his recollection is incorrect. Although there was a significant amount of debate and questioning on the tonnage tax—which, by the way, relates to shipping, not to roads—my hon. Friend the Minister gave no such commitment as the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Gray

I accept that; there was no firm commitment, merely a clear impression. Under instruction from my Whips, I shall take no further interventions on that point, but we can read the record of the proceedings of the Sub-Committee and of today's debate.

There is huge disappointment among the travelling public about all Labour's transport policies. Those policies have amounted to nothing: all mouth and no trousers, like so many of Labour's other policies. As a result of last week's Budget, the Government have hit rock bottom in public perception of their record on motoring. The Government's aim seems to be to tax the private motorist off the road. Currently, private motorists throughout the nation pay about £1,000 a year in taxes on petrol and car ownership. That figure includes the towns. In rural areas, it is twice that amount: people pay £2,000 to £3,000 a year to run their cars. In rural areas such as my constituency, most families—even the poorest—have two cars. So we are talking about motoring expenses of £4,000 or £5,000 from very small incomes.

The Government have put up petrol prices by an extraordinary 6 per cent., and apparently the escalator will continue. The Government make great play of the fact that a Conservative Government introduced the escalator—and they are right. However, when people ride an escalator at a department store or an hotel, they get off when they get to their destination. Now that United Kingdom petrol prices are more expensive than those of any other country in the world, I suggest that we have got where we are going. We are very close to achieving our Kyoto targets. We have achieved 10 per cent. of our 12.5 per cent. target and will easily attain the full 12.5 per cent. through changes in energy generation.

The Government also propose congestion and parking charges, both of which would do nothing but hammer the private motorist. They are revenue-raising proposals and have nothing to do with the environment. It is significant that, having given his imprimatur to the proposals as environmental taxes, the Deputy Prime Minister was then packed off to the Maldives for a bit of shark fishing so that he could not comment during the Budget process. The truth is that they are not environmental taxes: they will not reduce car use, help with congestion or cut pollution levels. The proposals are aimed simply at raising a large amount of revenue, and it is important for the Government to come clean and admit that.

Worst of all is the tax on lorries. Earlier in the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) challenged the Minister of Transport to disclose how much tax would be paid on a 1,000-litre tank of petrol. It will now cost £644 to fill that tank in the United Kingdom, but £340 in Belgium. The vehicle excise duty for 38-tonne, five-axle lorries has increased from £3,310 to £5,750 in Britain. The comparative figure in France is £269. That is an outrageous increase.

The Government are determined to tax the private motorist off the road and the lorry driver off to the continent. It is a disgrace and, like the rest of the Government's transport policies, amounts to nothing. The Government are all talk and no trousers, except when it comes to taxing the motorist into the ground.

6.22 pm
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North)

I welcome the progress that the Government have made on roads policy over the past two years. It is fair to say that the political landscape has been transformed in all aspects of transport policy.

As time is short, I shall make three brief points. The first concerns traffic reduction. The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) was the only hon. Member to refer to the report of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment, which was produced in the early 1990s when the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) was in office. That report concluded that new roads do not reduce congestion but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, its real significance was in signalling an end, once and for all, to the predict and provide model.

The report found that it is impossible, on this small island with a population of 56 million people, for all those people to exercise their right to use a motor car as and when they see fit because the freedom they wish to exercise is impossible to achieve. The more people believe that they can simply drive wherever they want, whenever they want, the less likely their chance of doing so because the motorways will seize up. That point is central to the Government's transport and roads policy. We cannot assume that we can continue to exercise our personal freedom indefinitely. We all have a responsibility to understand that point and to take action.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport referred to a remark made by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) about the hypocrisy in the Conservative party of those who argue that, on the one hand, they support its policy, and that of the Government, of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to meet the Kyoto targets, but that on the other hand, they oppose the fuel duty escalator and other restrictions on private motoring.

I would not mind if Tory Members said that they were opposed to the Kyoto protocol and they supported people's right to drive their cars whenever they want. That, at least, would be consistent. It is not intellectually consistent for them to say that they support environmental measures and are all in favour of cutting carbon dioxide emissions, but that they want to do nothing about that in their roads policy. That goes further than hypocrisy; it is schizophrenia. The division in the Conservative party between those who profess to support the environment and those who are simply mouthpieces for the road haulage lobby is growing by the day. It is equally as great as the Conservatives' divisions on Europe, and sooner or later, it will cause an equally serious crisis in the party.

My second point concerns my constituency. If I may, I will tell a brief story. Thirty years ago, a railway line connected Bury to the smaller towns to the north and to the Rossendale valley even further to the north. Thanks to Lord Beeching, that line was closed, and a few years later, a large motorway, the M66, was constructed. After that, areas of land adjacent to the motorway were developed for housing. Thousands of new houses were constructed, and many of them attracted two-car families. Shortly after its construction, therefore, the M66 became clogged up with traffic. What an indictment of our transport policy it is that over 30 years, we shut down the railway system, built roads, put new houses next to them and clogged them up with cars. The people who wanted to get out to work in the conurbation further to the south were simply unable to do so.

My final point concerns the fuel duty escalator. I referred in an earlier intervention to the recent research available in the Library which proves conclusively that the fuel duty escalator is fair, effective and workable. It proves conclusively that it does not damage the interests of low-income households in rural areas, because the lowest-income households do not have cars. It proves conclusively that the policy shifts the balance of taxation from those who can least afford to pay to those who can well afford to pay.

6.27 pm
Mr. David Faber (Westbury)

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution late in this debate, not least because it saves me from having to instigate, at a later stage, an Adjournment debate on a road in my constituency.

First, I strongly associate myself with the earlier remarks of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the previous Conservative Government's record on building bypasses and the effects of this Government's policies on the road haulage industry. I am proud to have successful members of that industry in my constituency, one of whom I spoke to this morning, when he described the Government's current Budget plans for the industry as idiotic.

My colleagues have referred also to the slashing of the roads budget. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) that the Government have misunderstood the problems of people in rural areas, especially poorer areas, and their dependency on their car to take their children to school, go to work and do the weekly shop.

In his opening speech, the Minister of Transport said that he hoped that hon. Members who had individual constituency cases would write to him rather than raising them in the debate. I am happy to say that hon. Members on both sides of the House have ignored his strictures. They were right to do so if, like me, they have been trying to contact Ministers for the past six months by post, through speeches in the House or by invitations to the constituency. I know what a forlorn hope that can be.

I make no apology for mentioning a road in my constituency that illustrates the grave problems that the Government will face on detrunking. In July last year, the Government issued their paper, "A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England", which, referring to the south-west, said: A number of smaller scale but badly needed measures are under way or planned in the South West which address safety or capacity problems at particular points on the trunk road network. They will proceed regardless of the outcome of studies affecting the roads. The A36, which runs through my constituency, is a main regional road. It runs from Southampton on the south coast to join the A46 at Bath, and on into Wales and the midlands. It is a vital inter-regional link which carries huge amounts of heavy traffic. I am especially concerned with one small link: the Codford to Heytesbury bypass, which is considered by local police to be the most dangerous part of the A36.

On several occasions under the previous Government, I took representatives from local parish councils to see the Minister of Transport's predecessor, John Watts. By the general election, it had been agreed that a design, build, finance and operate project would go ahead, and it was almost certainly at the top of the council's priorities. Designs had been submitted and bids were prepared, but in July came the bombshell that this main regional route was to be detrunked, and that not only would the scheme be cancelled, but the road would no longer be central Government's responsibility.

The width of the small link is the same as it was when it was built as a turnpike in the 19th century. The narrowness causes frequent blockages, and the junctions and bends are lethal. One junction on the brow of a hill is a constant source of accidents, but the most dangerous stretch is the turning out of the village of Upton Lovell£a blind bend that the police acknowledge is the most dangerous on the road between Southampton and Bath, and which I, like the locals, refuse to use. We all prefer to drive several miles through other villages in order to gain access to the main road.

I am sorry to say that the stretch of road has been the scene of tragic accidents. In 1991, 16-year-old Matthew Armes was killed when he was hit by a car while sitting on his bicycle outside his front door. I have stood with his mother at the very spot where he sadly died. A second cyclist, Mr. Terry, was killed on the same stretch of road in the same year. A year later, there were three accidents in a fortnight just near the spot where Matthew died. This year, there has already been one fatal accident on that stretch of road. Two days before that, a child was critically injured in a crash at the junction on the brow of the hill to which I referred.

All this may sound like a purely local issue, but I make no apology for raising it because road safety and the wider issue of detrunking is important. Local people are horrified that, by detrunking the road, the Government are effectively washing their hands of the problem. Worse still, although county councils have always been compensated for taking responsibility for roads following detrunking, Wiltshire county council has been told informally that there is to be no compensation.

The hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mrs. Organ) made great play of how her county council was happy with its negotiations with central Government, yet Wiltshire county council has still not been told whether the road is to be detrunked, when it is to be detrunked and whether there will be any compensation. The Under-Secretary is shrugging her shoulders.

Ms Glenda Jackson

I do not understand what the hon. Gentleman is attempting to elicit. I understood him to say that the road had been detrunked and that there would be no compensation. Detrunked roads for which a local authority has asked will lose no status. There will be fair funding to ensure their life-long maintenance. Such matters are on-going between the Highways Agency and local authorities.

Mr. Faber

With respect, life-long maintenance is not the same as improving a stretch of road which the local police have acknowledged is the most dangerous in the region.

I am aware that other hon. Members want to participate, so I shall leave the Under-Secretary and the Minister of Transport, who I am glad to see is back in his place, with the issue. Perhaps I can at least secure an undertaking this evening that the Under-Secretary's officials will contact the county council to explain the true status of the road and that, if the road is to be detrunked, they will work with the county council to ensure that compensation is paid. Perhaps, too, all records on that stretch of road that are held by the Highways Agency will be made available to the county council.

6.34 pm
Mr. Christopher Leslie (Shipley)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly in this debate. Several issues have already been raised, so I shall not repeat them.

One of the most striking features of the debate has been the U-turn of Opposition Members—and not only on the number of roads that they want in the roads programme. We knew that that number started at 500 back in 1990, and that it fell to 150 by 1997, but from the way in which they have spoken in this debate, one would think that they wanted to throw in another couple of hundred for good measure.

Not only has there been a U-turn on that but, more interestingly—despite the fact that, in 1994, the Conservative Government increased diesel duty by 13 per cent.—Conservative Members have said that they actually want to cut diesel duty. They therefore have a responsibility to say how they intend to raise the millions of pounds of revenue for vital public services that that duty generates. There will be some interesting things for us to consider in tomorrow's Hansard.

I believe that the Government's strategy is more realistic about tackling congestion, is realistic in the sense of prioritising infrastructure investment where necessary, and focuses on the necessary integrated public transport strategy that has been missing for so long. The extra funding for transport—£1.7 billion in the next three years—is extremely welcome, providing new opportunities to reduce congestion. It will also help to move people out of cars and into more effective methods of public transport.

The Chancellor announced many things in his Budget. One of the announcements for which my constituents were most grateful was that relating to the capital modernisation fund. That will double infrastructural investment across all public services during the life of this Parliament, and it highlights the many ways in which transport infrastructure investment will benefit.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said that the Highways Agency was being refocused on better maintenance, the more effective use of existing road space, and a greater emphasis on the environment and road safety. The legacy left by the Conservative party was one of individual car growth spiralling out of control, pollution and an unfortunate increase in the number of road casualties. At last—it is about time—we have a Government who are tackling these things at a comprehensive strategic level.

Most importantly, I want to take the opportunity to say thank you once again to my right hon. and hon. Friends for their approval of the A650 Bingley relief road. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hurrah."] I am glad to hear hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber greet that announcement with such acclaim. I was bowled over with excitement when the announcement was made. I am so proud that, after 27 years of my short life and a 35-year wait by my constituents, a £60 million, 5 km stretch of dual carriageway is being prioritised. Work is scheduled to start in 2001–02. That is an extremely welcome announcement, and contrasts with the failure of the Conservative party ever to get things under way.

The road will increase accessibility to the local town centre and help the local economy, enabling businesses to move about more easily instead of being stuck in congestion. It is a cost-effective scheme and it will do a tremendous amount to regenerate Bingley town centre. Apart from the generally improved environment that will result, pollution will reduce significantly as decreased congestion causes emissions of smoke and particulates from vehicles to fall.

On road safety, I hope that the average of 35 casualties that have taken place in Bingley each year will be almost eliminated because roads and pedestrians will be separated. That is a very important point.

I have taken the liberty of setting up a working group in my constituency to consider how we may use the Bingley relief road go-ahead to benefit integrated public transport development. I have brought together a local Railtrack representative and representatives of the Northern Spirit train company, First Bradford bus company, Keighley district bus company and several user groups to see how we can use the free thoroughfare that we shall have on the Bingley main street to further public transport development.

I am delighted that this relief road will create enormous potential for my constituents in public transport. I am very proud of the Minister. I repeat that my constituents are extremely pleased, delighted and happy with the Government's road policy.

6.39 pm
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

The policy of the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) seems to be that there should be new roads for Shipley, but not for anywhere else. We do not regard that as a satisfactory policy. I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that we voted against the diesel duty increases in the Budget, so there was no U-turn today. Indeed, we voted against the diesel duty increases in the previous Budget. The hon. Gentleman should read Hansard.

The Prime Minister said that he wants Europe to be more like America. The price per litre of unleaded petrol is 67.89p in the UK, whereas in the US it is 15.9p. There is rather a big gap between the Prime Minister's rhetoric and the reality.

I particularly enjoyed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), who made a strong case for a substantial programme of trunk road and motorway renewals and improvements. He rightly pointed out that the 400 schemes that we produced over 18 years are not matched by the mere 37 schemes that the Government propose over seven years.

The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) could not say whether he thought that the building of the M25 was a mistake, which rather sums up Liberal Democrat policy. He mentioned the subject of traffic growth. We are against the increase in congestion and pollution which has been caused by the Government's policies.

Mr. Baker


Mr. Jenkin

I will not give way, as I am short of time.

I thank my colleagues and the Labour Members who contributed to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) mentioned the Wyre Piddle bypass and the problems at Bordersley.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) was absolutely right again about the escalator. We introduced the escalator with the intention not that it should go on for ever, but that, when we got to the top, we should get off.

It is utter cant for the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) to justify the tax increases in terms of the environmental policy. We have met our Kyoto targets. He is promoting coal-fired power stations, instead of cleaner gas-fired power stations. Coal-fired power stations contribute far more to environmental pollution than cars. Petrol duty increases will contribute virtually nothing towards reduced CO2 emissions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Faber) made a moving speech. His concerns about the detrunking of the A36 and A46 are significant, and I am sure that the Minister of Transport took them on board. My hon. Friend's comments reflect the fact that the roads programme is a matter of life or death.

We all enjoyed the speech by the Minister of Transport, possibly more than he did. We must be fair to him—he has inherited a mess that is not entirely his fault. [Interruption.] His colleagues have landed him in it because of the commitments that they have made and the cuts that he has been landed with. We were stirred by his loyalty to his boss. Perhaps he will pass on our apologies if his boss bursts into tears as a result of the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard).

We welcome the Minister's announcement about the A130, which is a tribute to our skills as an Opposition in calling for the debate. I also welcome the Minister's endorsement of the Streetworks Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mr. Fraser).

The Minister complained about the accident statistics that he inherited from the previous Government. The statistics are better than those of any European country, by miles. That shows that he was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)


Mr. Jenkin

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for not giving way, but I have very little time.

Transport taxation has rocketed under the Government. As the House of Commons Library confirms, the Government will raise an extra £9 billion in fuel duties over the lifetime of this Parliament, over and above what was planned by the Conservatives. However, new taxes on motoring and the motorist do not end there.

In the most recent Budget alone, there is an extra £270 million from company car drivers. There are extra taxes on business, especially small businesses, through the increase in national insurance for the self-employed. There is the punitive vehicle excise duty rate on 40 and 41 tonne trucks, which is more than 11 times higher than the equivalent rate in other EU countries.

All that compounds the overwhelming impression that the Government do not begin to understand the circumstances of the road haulage sector. The industry is manifestly in a state of crisis, yet the Budget piles on even more pain and taxes.

People's livelihoods are being destroyed and 50,000 jobs are set to go. This is all the more evident now than it was before the Budget, yet, to the Freight Transport Association, the Minister of Transport could only say: While it is a problem, it is hardly the massive one that it's made out to be. I'm convinced that you don't suffer from any serious disadvantage. What planet is he living on? Now the Prime Minister acknowledges the problem. In the House yesterday, he said: I certainly understand the problems of the road haulage industry as it has set them out."—[Official Report, 17 March 1999; Vol. 327, c. 1120.] What happened between the Freight Transport Association's conference and the Prime Minister's statement yesterday? It happens to be the Budget. Yet, as -though in mitigation, the Prime Minister has the gall to add that he has now given a £400 million subsidy in low-sulphur fuel discounts. A subsidy—is he serious? Has he forgotten that the Budget has just increased the duty on ultra low-sulphur diesel by 9.82 per cent? Yet he calls it a subsidy. He has just clobbered the road haulage industry with a massive tax increase and he insults the industry that is underwriting his increases in public spending by claiming that it is receiving a subsidy.

That blindness is matched only by the comments of the Minister for Transport in London, speaking just after the Budget, when she said: many foreign hauliers … are now moving to the United Kingdom and using it as a base for their operations. She added: We perceive haulage firms from mainland Europe moving their operations into this country."—[Official Report, European Standing Committee A, 10 March 1999; c. 8–9.] She can only mean that they are coming here with foreign registered trucks, burning cheap foreign fuel to mop up the UK competition.

To add further insult to injury, speaking to the Freight Transport Association conference, the Minister of Transport said: I have never met a businessman yet who goes out of business and says it is his fault. How out of touch can the right hon. Gentleman be?

From the reports of Downing street briefings today, and for all the Prime Minister's supple body language, we know that the Government are still in complete denial about the catastrophe that the haulage industry faces. No wonder there will be a demonstration of the industry's despair in London. The chaos will be the fault of the right hon. Gentleman and his Government. He would do well to say this evening that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree to see representatives of the road haulage industry for the first time, because that might do something to diffuse the crisis.

Dr. Reid

In view of the hon. Gentleman's commendation of that demonstration, will he stop his weasel words, get up on his two feet, and tell us whether he supports the demonstration that is to take place on Monday which will disrupt and inconvenience London?

Mr. Jenkin

Of course I do not support the demonstration. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the truckers have been driven to this despair by the Government's policies. He would do well to acknowledge the destruction that his policies wreak. Where is all the money going? It is not going on transport, because transport spending is falling. The previous Conservative Government, in their last year in office, spent £4.9 billion on transport, and were planning to spend £5.2 billion in 1997–98. The comprehensive spending review shows that the Government are spending only £4.7 billion this year, falling to £4.6 billion next year, and falling further to £4.5 billion the year after that.

On trunk road and motorway improvements, the Conservative Government spent £1 billion a year between 1994–95 and 1996–97. The Government will spend only £300 million a year between 1999 and 2002. Spending on local road improvement schemes will increase next year by a paltry £1 million to £624 million—a cut in real terms. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk described, the backlog of repairs is getting even worse. No—for all the glossy brochures and reannounced initiatives, the Government's priority is not transport. The reason why motorists must pay tax of £8.50 out of every £10 spent at the petrol pump is to pay for the Government's profligacy and incompetence in other departments.

The Government have increased—

Mr. Ivor Caplin (Hove)

What about the money for the health service?

Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Gentleman talks about the health service, but the Government have increased social security spending—tax credit spending—by £38.4 billion and are squandering billions of pounds on the so-called new deal for the unemployed, ignorant of the fact that their other policies are throwing people straight back on the dole.

Two years into the Parliament, we have only endless consultation and not a single transport Bill. Britain needs a Government who can think creatively about solving Britain's transport problems. Labour inherited creative thinking from the Conservatives—for example, a £20 billion investment programme for the railways—and that is how we transformed so many state-owned transport industries.

We provided the new ideas in the past, and the Conservatives will have to provide the new ideas in the future, to get Britain moving again. Two years ago, Labour promised an integrated transport policy, but it is delivering a standstill Britain.

6.50 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Glenda Jackson)

The hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) made his only salient point at the beginning of his contribution: he confessed, albeit without apology, that the Government inherited a mess in respect of road and rail transport because of the previous Government's total failure even to begin to consider what is central to our policies—an integrated transport strategy.

An integrated transport strategy was supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Forest of Dean (Mrs. Organ), for Castle Point (Mrs. Butler), for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) and for Shipley (Mr. Leslie). Each and every one of them could detail to the House how the Government are improving the lives of their constituents by introducing policies and funds to create integrated transport strategies. Those strategies relieve overdependence on the private car and play their part in reducing not only congestion, but pollution.

Every contribution made from the Conservative Benches was fascinating, because the Conservative party is doing a major U-turn on every transport policy that it inflicted on this country for 18 years.

Mr. Faber

Will the Minister give way?

Ms Jackson

No, I am afraid that I am almost out of time.

The right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) made a particularly interesting contribution. Apparently, he managed to obtain 13 bypasses for his constituency, but he complains that he needs another two. If I remember rightly, he agreed that we had to move away from what had been Conservative party— and provide—because putting more and more tarmac on our roads does nothing but encourage more car journeys.

The right hon. Gentleman's contribution was also interesting because he wants to introduce motorway tolls, which I understand is not Conservative party policy, although we know that the Conservatives would introduce congestion charging. However, they would never, ever hypothecate the sums so raised to the improvement of transport, which is our policy in respect of the Greater London authority. [Interruption.] It is in the Bill.

The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) somewhat ungraciously neglected to accord to the Government credit for the help that they gave to the hon. ember for Ceredigion (Mr. Dafis) when he took his Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Bill through the House. The hon. Gentleman asked particular questions; no, of course I cannot guarantee that there will be the reduction in traffic about which he spoke by the end of this Parliament. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport made clear in his opening remarks, changing direction is like manoeuvring a supertanker, which cannot be turned on a sixpence. However, our commitment to achieving not only a reduction in road traffic, but an absolute reduction, stands firm.

Two central themes emanated from the contributions of Conservative Members: their unwillingness to acknowledge that they introduced the fuel duty escalator and their inability to accept that the major rises in the escalator occurred under the previous Administration, as we have had occasion to say. The price of DERV has risen by 7p since May 1997; under the previous Government, it rose by 26p.

Conservative Members also made much of the fact that they put funding into trunk road maintenance and local road schemes. This Government have increased funding for local road maintenance to almost £2 billion—the figure was frozen for four years by the previous Administration—and there is almost £250,000 in additional funding for the bridge programme. We have given a clear commitment on the 37 road schemes which we announced, with a budget of £1.4 billion. The figures for trunk road maintenance are £651 million for 1998–99 and £780 million for 2001–02, and there has been an additional £550 million for making better use of our roads.

Conservative Members were much concerned about what they claimed was an unbearable burden on our freight industry. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will meet representatives of the haulage industry. Conservative Members do no favours to the companies in their constituencies if they do not point out to those hauliers the facts of the case. If hauliers moved to the continent, the real burden would be the infinitely higher rates of corporation tax—the United Kingdom has the lowest—and infinitely higher social costs on the mainland of Europe.

Mr. Paterson

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Jackson


The net differential with haulage companies in France has been estimated at almost £450,000 in France, almost £600,000 in the Netherlands, and more than £800,000 in Belgium. If Conservative Members are seriously committed to their constituents and are really concerned about retaining jobs in their areas, they should give the industry the facts, as my right hon. Friend most certainly will.

Another issue which was raised by more than one hon. Member was detrunking. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Faber) spoke of a particularly tragic incident in his constituency on the road that is proposed for detrunking. Detrunking does not mean a reduction in status, and discussions are continuing between the local authorities and my Department. Nor does it mean that there will be inadequate funds to maintain such roads throughout their lifetime. I hope that that will reassure the hon. Gentleman.

My hon. Friends made many valid points on safety. The Government are committed to ensuring that our roads are safe. We want there to be a shift and we want to offer real choices for travel, so that we begin to reduce the dangers on our roads. Conservative Members would apparently abolish the fuel duty escalator. They have clearly given up any commitment to meeting the environmental targets of Kyoto. [Interruption.] They have washed their hands of taking any steps to improve our environment and to reduce congestion on our roads. They would go back to the old predict and provide strategy on road building. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The House must come to order. There is far too much noise in the Chamber.

Ms Jackson

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Conservative Members shed crocodile tears about what they regard as the horrendous impact on rural communities of the fuel duty escalator. The Conservative Government pillaged rural communities. They took away roads, jobs, houses, health care, village shops and village schools. Now, suddenly, Conservative Members are caring, but what was significantly missing from their contributions was any mention of the 30 per cent. of people in this country who have no access to private transport. Where would those people be now if Conservative policies had continued?

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question accordingly put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 121, Noes 302.

Division No. 119] [6.59 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James & Howden)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Day, Stephen
Bercow, John Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Beresford, Sir Paul Duncan, Alan
Body, Sir Richard Duncan Smith, Iain
Boswell, Tim Faber, David
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Fabricant, Michael
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Fallon, Michael
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Browning, Mrs Angela Fraser, Christopher
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gibb, Nick
Bums, Simon Gill, Christopher
Butterfill, John Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Chapman, Sir Sydney Gorman, Mrs Teresa
(Chipping Barnet) Gray, James
Chope, Christopher Green, Damian
Clappison, James Greenway, John
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) Grieve, Dominic
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth Gummer, Rt Hon John
(Rushcliffe) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hawkins, Nick
Colvin, Michael Hayes, John
Cormack, Sir Patrick Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Cran, James Horam, John
Curry, Rt Hon David Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard Robathan, Andrew
Johnson Smith, Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Key, Robert Ruffley, David
Kirkbride, Miss Julie St Aubyn, Nick
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shepherd, Richard
Lansley, Andrew Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Leigh, Edward Spicer, Sir Michael
Lidington, David Spring, Richard
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Steen, Anthony
Loughton, Tim Streeter, Gary
Luff, Peter Syms, Robert
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Tapsell, Sir Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Taylor, Ian (Esher& Walton)
McIntosh, Miss Anne Taylor, John M (Solihull)
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Taylor, Sir Teddy
Maclean, Rt Hon David Townend, John
McLoughlin, Patrick Tredinnick, David
Madel, Sir David Trend, Michael
Malins, Humfrey Tyrie, Andrew
Maples, John Wardle, Charles
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Waterson, Nigel
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Wells, Bowen
May, Mrs Theresa Whitney, Sir Raymond
Moss, Malcolm Whittingdale, John
Nicholls, Patrick Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Norman, Archie Wilkinson, John
Ottaway, Richard Wilshire, David
Page, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Paice, James Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Paterson, Owen Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Randall, John Mr. Oliver Heald and
Redwood, Rt Hon John Mr. Tim Collins.
Abbott, Ms Diane Butler, Mrs Christine
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Ainger, Nick Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Allan, Richard Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
Allen, Graham (NE Fife)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Atherton, Ms Candy Canavan, Dennis
Atkins, Charlotte Caplin, Ivor
Austin, John Casale, Roger
Baker, Norman Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Banks, Tony Chaytor, David
Barnes, Harry Chisholm, Malcolm
Barron, Kevin Clapham, Michael
Battle, John Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Bayley, Hugh Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Beard, Nigel Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Clelland, David
Bennett, Andrew F Clwyd, Ann
Benton, Joe Coaker, Vernon
Bermingham, Gerald Coleman, Iain
Berry, Roger Connarty, Michael
Best, Harold Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Betts, Clive Cooper, Yvette
Blackman, Liz Corbett, Robin
Blears, Ms Hazel Corbyn, Jeremy
Blizzard, Bob Corston, Ms Jean
Boateng, Paul Cousins, Jim
Borrow, David Cox, Tom
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Cranston, Ross
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Crausby, David
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Browne, Desmond Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Buck, Ms Karen Cunliffe, Lawrence
Burden, Richard Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Burgon, Colin Dalyell, Tam
Burstow, Paul Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Keeble, Ms Sally
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dawson, Hilton Kelly, Ms Ruth
Dean, Mrs Janet Kemp, Fraser
Denham, John Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Dismore, Andrew Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobbin, Jim Khabra, Piara S
Donohoe, Brian H King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Doran, Frank Kingham, Ms Tess
Dowd, Jim Kumar, Dr Ashok
Drew, David Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Laxton, Bob
Edwards, Huw Leslie, Christopher
Ellman, Mrs Louise Levitt, Tom
Fatchett, Rt Hon Derek Linton, Martin
Feam, Ronnie Love, Andrew
Field, Rt Hon Frank McAllion, John
Fisher, Mark McAvoy, Thomas
Fitzpatrick, Jim McCafferty, Ms Chris
Fitzsimons, Lorna McDonagh, Siobhain
Flint, Caroline Macdonald, Calum
Flynn, Paul McDonnell, John
Follett, Barbara McIsaac, Shona
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Mackinlay, Andrew
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) McLeish, Henry
Foulkes, George Mactaggart, Fiona
Fyfe, Maria McWalter, Tony
Galloway, George Mallaber, Judy
Gapes, Mike Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Gerrard, Neil Marek, Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman A Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Gorrie, Donald Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Grocott, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Grogan, John Martlew, Eric
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Maxton, John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Meale, Alan
Hancock, Mike Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hanson, David Mitchell, Austin
Harris, Dr Evan Moonie, Dr Lewis
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Moore, Michael
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Moran, Ms Margaret
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Morley, Elliot
Hepburn, Stephen Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Heppell, John Mountford, Kali
Hesford, Stephen Mudie, George
Hewitt, Ms Patricia Mullin, Chris
Hill, Keith Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hodge, Ms Margaret Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hoey, Kate Naysmith, Dr Doug
Home Robertson, John Oaten, Mark
Hoon, Geoffrey O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hope, Phil O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Hopkins, Kelvin O'Hara, Eddie
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Olner, Bill
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Neill, Martin
Hoyle, Lindsay Öpik, Lembit
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Organ, Mrs Diana
Hughes, Simon (Southward N) Osborne, Ms Sandra
Hurst, Alan Palmer, Dr Nick
Hutton, John Pearson, Ian
Iddon, Dr Brian Perham, Ms Linda
Illsley, Eric Pickthall, Colin
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Pike, Peter L
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Plaskitt, James
Jamieson, David Pollard, Kerry
Jenkins, Brian Pond, Chris
Johnson, Alan (Hull W& Hessle) Pope, Greg
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Ms Jenny Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
(Wolverh'ton SW) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken Stinchcombe, Paul
Rapson, Syd Stoate, Dr Howard
Raynsford, Nick Stott, Roger
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Rendel, David Stringer, Graham
Roche, Mrs Barbara Sutcliffe, Gerry
Rooker, Jeff Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Rooney, Terry (Dewsbury)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Temple-Morris, Peter
Rowlands, Ted Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Roy, Frank Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Ruane, Chris Timms, Stephen
Ruddock, Joan Tipping, Paddy
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Todd, Mark
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Ryan, Ms Joan Touhig, Don
Sawford, Phil Trickett, Jon
Sedgemore, Brian Turner, Dennis (Wotverh'ton SE)
Shaw, Jonathan Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Sheerman, Barry Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Shipley, Ms Debra Tyler, Paul
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Vis, Dr Rudi
Singh, Marsha Walley, Ms Joan
Skinner, Dennis Ward, Ms Claire
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Wareing, Robert N
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Watts, David
Smith, Miss Geraldine White, Brian
(Morecambe & Lunesdale) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wills, Michael
Snape, Peter Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Soley, Clive Wood, Mike
Southworth, Ms Helen Woolas, Phil
Spellar, John Worthington, Tony
Squire, Ms Rachel Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 272, Noes 123.

Division No. 120] [7.12 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Blears, Ms Hazel
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Blizzard, Bob
Ainger, Nick Boateng, Paul
Allen, Graham Borrow, David
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Atherton, Ms Candy Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Atkins, Charlotte Buck, Ms Karen
Austin, John Burden, Richard
Barnes, Harry Burgon, Colin
Barron, Kevin Butler, Mrs Christine
Battle, John Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Bayley, Hugh Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Beard, Nigel Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Canavan, Dennis
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Caplin, Ivor
Bennett, Andrew F Casale, Roger
Benton, Joe Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Bermingham, Gerald Chaytor, David
Berry, Roger Chisholm, Malcolm
Best, Harold Clapham, Michael
Betts, Clive Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Blackman, Liz Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hurst, Alan
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hutton, John
Clelland, David Iddon, Dr Brian
Clwyd, Ann Illsley, Eric
Coaker, Vernon Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Coleman, Iain Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Connarty, Michael Jenkins, Brian
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Johnson, Alan (Hull W& Hessle)
Cooper, Yvette Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Corbett, Robin Jones, Ms Jenny
Corbyn, Jeremy (Wolverh'ton SW)
Corston, Ms Jean Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Cox, Tom Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cranston, Ross Keeble, Ms Sally
Crausby, David Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Kelly, Ms Ruth
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kemp, Fraser
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Khabra, Piara S
Darvill, Keith King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kingham, Ms Tess
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Kumar, Dr Ashok
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Dawson, Hilton Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Dean, Mrs Janet Laxton, Bob
Denham, John Leslie, Christopher
Dismore, Andrew Levitt, Tom
Dobbin, Jim Linton, Martin
Donohoe, Brian H Love, Andrew
Doran, Frank McAllion, John
Dowd, Jim McAvoy, Thomas
Drew, David McCafferty, Ms Chris
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McDonagh, Siobhain
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Macdonald, Calum
Edwards, Huw McDonnell, John
Ellman, Mrs Louise McIsaac, Shona
Fatchett, Rt Hon Derek McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Field, Rt Hon Frank Mackinlay, Andrew
Fisher, Mark Mactaggart, Fiona
Fitzpatrick, Jim McWalter, Tony
Fitzsimons, Lorna Mallaber, Judy
Flint, Caroline Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Flynn, Paul Marek, Dr John
Follett, Barbara Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Maxton, John
Foulkes, George Meale, Alan
Fyfe, Maria Merron, Gillian
Galloway, George Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Gapes, Mike Moonie, Dr Lewis
Gerrard, Neil Moran, Ms Margaret
Godman, Dr Norman A Morley, Elliot
Grocott, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Grogan, John Mountford, Kali
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Mullin, Chris
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hanson, David Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Naysmith, Dr Doug
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hepburn, Stephen O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Heppell, John O'Hara, Eddie
Hesford, Stephen Olner, Bill
Hewitt, Ms Patricia O'Neill, Martin
Hill, Keith Organ, Mrs Diana
Hodge, Ms Margaret Osborne, Ms Sandra
Hoey, Kate Palmer, Dr Nick
Hoon, Geoffrey Pearson, Ian
Hope, Phil Perham, Ms Linda
Hopkins, Kelvin Pickthall, Colin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Pike, Peter L
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Plaskitt, James
Hoyle, Lindsay Pollard, Kerry
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg Stevenson, George
Powell, Sir Raymond Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Stinchcombe, Paul
Primarolo, Dawn Stoate, Dr Howard
Prosser, Gwyn Stott, Roger
Purchase, Ken Stringer, Graham
Rapson, Syd Sutcliffe, Gerry
Raynsford, Nick Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) (Dewsbury)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Temple-Morris, Peter
Rooker, Jeff Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Rooney, Terry Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rowlands, Ted Timms, Stephen
Roy, Frank Tipping, Paddy
Ruane, Chris Todd, Mark
Ruddock, Joan Touhig, Don
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Trickett, Jon
Ryan, Ms Joan Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Sawford, Phil Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Sedgemore, Brian Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Shaw, Jonathan Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Sheerman, Barry Vis, Dr Rudi
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Walley, Ms Joan
Shipley, Ms Debra Ward, Ms Claire
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Wareing, Robert N
Singh, Marsha Watts, David
Skinner, Dennis White, Brian
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Miss Geraldine Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
(Morecambe & Lunesdale) Wills, Michael
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Wood, Mike
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Woolas, Phil
Snape, Peter Worthington, Tony
Soley, Clive Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Southworth, Ms Helen Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Spellar, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Steinberg, Gerry Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Clappison, James
Allan, Richard Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) (Rushcliffe)
Baker, Norman Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Bercow, John Colvin, Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Cormack, Sir Patrick
Body, Sir Richard Cran, James
Boswell, Tim Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice
& Howden)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Day, Stephen
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Browning, Mrs Angela Duncan Smith, Iain
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Faber, David
Bums, Simon Fabricant, Michael
Burstow, Paul Fearn, Ronnie
Butterfill, John Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies Fraser, Christopher
(NE Fife) Gibb, Nick
Cash, William Gill, Christopher
Chapman, Sir Sydney Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
(Chipping Barnet) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James Norman, Archie
Green, Damian Öpik, Lembit
Greenway, John Ottaway, Richard
Grieve, Dominic Page, Richard
Gummer, Rt Hon John Paice, James
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Paterson, Owen
Hancock, Mike Pickles, Eric
Harris, Dr Evan Prior, David
Hawkins, Nick Randall, John
Hayes, John Redwood, Rt Hon John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Rendel, David
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David Robathan, Andrew
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Ruffley, David
Hunter, Andrew Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael St Aubyn, Nick
Jenkin, Bernard Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Johnson Smith, Shepherd, Richard
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye) Spring, Richard
Key, Robert Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Steen, Anthony
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Streeter, Gary
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Syms, Robert
Lansley, Andrew Tapsell, Sir Peter
Leigh, Edward Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Lidington, David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Taylor, Sir Teddy
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Loughton, Tim Tredinnick, David
Luff, Peter Trend, Michael
McIntosh, Miss Anne Tyrie, Andrew
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Wardle, Charles
Maclean, Rt Hon David Waterson, Nigel
McLoughlin, Patrick Wells, Bowen
Madel, Sir David Whittingdale, John
Malins, Humfrey Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Maples, John Wilkinson, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Wilshire, David
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
May, Mrs Theresa Tellers for the Noes:
Moss, Malcolm Mr. Oliver Heald and
Nicholls, Patrick Mr. Tim Collins.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House commends the Government for taking a far-sighted and more integrated approach to roads policy than the previous administration; notes that the previous Government's `predict and provide' approach to road building has been discredited and that the present Government has instead taken a realistic and practical approach based on the five criteria of integration, the economy, the environment, safety and accessibility; notes further that the previous Conservative Government's grandiose but impractical wish-list of schemes for which funding was not available has been replaced by a targeted programme of improvements, all of which can be started within seven years; welcomes its increased and more rationally-based spending on roads maintenance; and applauds the Government for tackling the problems of congestion and pollution, thereby ensuring that the road transport system operates for the benefit of individual people and the UK economy as a whole.

It being after Seven o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the Questions relating to Estimates which he was directed to put at that hour, pursuant to Standing Order No. 55 (Questions on voting of estimates, &c.) and the Order [16 December].

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