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Mr. Raynsford : Will the hon. Gentleman give way ?

Mr. Carlisle : I shall not give way because the hon. Gentleman knows, and I know, that it will not be worth my while to do so. The Opposition, supported in most cases by the Liberals, continue to propose an incredible policy, but it will not go down well in a town that relies heavily on the motor car and the motor trade. About 10,500 workers in and around my constituency are employed by General Motors. The company is a success story partly because it has been encouraged by the Government's excellent road-building projects during the past few years. It is a success story which has also brought enormous benefits in terms of car quality to its customers. General Motors has espoused a sensitive policy on the environment, pollution, noise control and so forth and has been in the forefront of such developments.

As other hon. Members have said, we must accept that our people should have the freedom to have a motor car if they so wish. It ill befits Opposition Members to deny them that privilege. Since I came to this place about 15 years ago, the car park, which was relatively empty then, has become full to bursting mainly because Opposition Members--including many London Members, some of whom are sitting opposite at this very moment--come here in their cars. They enjoy owning motor cars, but would deny ownership to others.

I crave your indulgence for a few minutes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to put a word in the ear of my hon. Friend the Minister about widening the M1. As he knows, I fully accept the need for widening, and welcome it. The M1 is our major trunk road and carries about 100,000 vehicles a day through the heart of my constituency. Road widening is necessary and to be welcomed, but I must bring several matters to his attention which he may wish to deal with tonight or by post at a later date.

There is talk of the road widening being delayed by about 12 months for all sorts of reasons. The worry,

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nuisance and concern that widening is causing people who live near the motorway is such that they would rather that we got on with the work and got it out of the way as quickly as possible. I know that that would be my hon. Friend's intention, provided that the public inquiry agrees. I hope that there will be no further slippage in time. I am not blaming anyone for it, but now that the road has been widened to junction 9, it is important for widening to continue as far as junctions 10 to 12 as quickly as possible, although I understand that my hon. Friend and his colleagues must go through the diplomatic process.

The second problem is noise pollution and I make no apologies for mentioning that subject, because it is extremely important. My hon. Friend the Minister may not have seen a recent letter that I wrote about people who have lived near the motorway from the start and were there before it was built about 30 years ago. At that time, they were not given grants for noise insulation, because, when the M1 was built it had virtually no traffic on it. Some hon. Members may have seen pictures of it.

An anomaly exists whereby grants for noise insulation can be given only to people for whom the level of noise will be reduced when the motorway is completed. I am not talking about many homes--probably about 100 or even fewer--but under the 1975 noise regulations, about which we have corresponded, there is an anomaly. Some of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) will be affected and will not get compensation even though the noise levels that they are suffering are totally out of proportion to the levels existing when their houses were built more than 30 years ago.

My plea to my hon. Friend the Minister is that, when he receives my letter, he should look at it carefully and possibly come back to me with a somewhat kinder reply than he gave a month ago. That would help those poor people, who are genuinely caught in a trap that only my hon. Friend can alter, possibly through a statutory regulation. Having said that, it gives me enormous pleasure to support the Government and their policy and to condemn the attitude of the Opposition parties, which has been remarkable this afternoon. The motor car is here to stay and the trunk road should receive

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris) : Order. I call Mr. Peter Snape.

8.6 pm

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East) : My only comment on the speech by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) is that it is typical of the present Conservative party. Having seen all their policies collapse around them, all Conservative Members can do is to use their usual scaremongering tactics and say that other parties are anti-car. Most Opposition Members drive motor cars. The unrestricted use of private cars at certain times of the day is the cause of major congestion throughout the country, however, and Government transport policy should be directed towards curing that congestion and not to the sort of silly yah-booing that we have heard from so many Conservative Members.

In the short time available, I must mention two points, but must first declare an interest as a member of the RMT, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and as a non-executive director of the employee-owned West Midlands Travel.

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The railway industry is my first concern, especially the locomotive and rolling stock manufacturing industry. Recently, we have heard much about the acquisition of British companies by European firms, but not much about the acquisition of British rolling stock and locomotive manufacturers by European concerns.

The former British Rail Engineering was privatised and was taken over by Swedish-based ABB Transportation. Our other major manufacturer, GEC Alsthom, is a largely French concern. Certainly, for Birmingham-based Metro -Cammell--part of the latter group--times are tough, although at least the Washwood Heath factory in the city of Birmingham is involved in work on channel tunnel Eurostar trains as well as those for the Jubilee line extension. However, like firms in other parts of the country, it has no work for British Rail, or the core British Rail business, beyond the end of this year.

May I draw the attention of the Minister for Public Transport to an article in the Birmingham Post of 29 March in which the deputy business editor reported on

"an industry in danger of going off the rails".

Under the heading, "Locomotive industry rolls nearer to cliff edge of BR privatisation", Mr. Barber points out that that

"venerable industry now faces one of the worst crises in its illustrious history."

He leaves his readers in no doubt who is to blame and writes : "The prime culprit behind the current plight is rail privatisation."

He sets out starkly that

"order books have dried up as uncertainty over privatisation casts a virtual freeze on investment in Britain's railways."

The article quotes a spokesman for the Railway Industry Association, who stated :

"the bleak outlook is hitting not only the big manufacturers but also specialist subcontractors and general engineering companies," throughout the country, but especially in the midlands. Total employment, for example, at ABB's works in Derby, Crewe and York has been slashed from 8,500 in 1989 to just over 5,000 today.

We have heard a great deal during the debate about the need for investment in the west coast main line. I remind the House that that line lost out in its bid for £150 million of Government money last year to lease 15 new InterCity 225 trains. The more cynical among us were not surprised when that order went instead to Network SouthEast for new rolling stock on the London-Kent commuter services. We in the midlands did not only lose out on the benefits of railway modernisation. Metro-Cammell, for example, lost out, as it would no doubt have manufactured those new trains.

The article from which I quoted earlier is a gloomy one and points out that the Railway Industry Association is quick to dispel hope that the private sector will come to the industry's rescue by ordering gleaming new rolling stock for the newly privatised railways. I know of no operators wishing to acquire franchises, and we still wait to hear from the Government of any who do. I am willing to bet money that no franchisee, with a seven, 10 or even 15-year franchise, will make the huge investment necessary in new rolling stock. The concluding words of the spokesman from the Railway Industry Association in the article are :

"It is difficult to come up with an encouraging scenario."

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With the opening of the channel tunnel shortly, the future for Britain's rolling stock manufacturing industry could well become much worse. Given that what is left of the industry is in foreign hands, the tunnel will make it much easier for the French to use the French arm of GEC Alsthom to meet any new British rolling stock requirements in the years to come. What can the Minister say tonight to give us some hope that that vital sector of British industry, especially in the midlands, has a future ?

During the debate on the Finance Bill a couple of days ago, I drew to the House's attention the need for the go-ahead for the midland metro, especially as it affects the west midlands region. I reiterate that plea today, for if we are to begin to tackle congestion in the Wolverhampton- West Bromwich-Birmingham corridor, a fast, modern metro system is, in our view, the only way to tempt motorists out of their cars.

I emphasise to the Minister for Public Transport, who has made supportive noises, although has not come up with the cash, that the agreement with the private sector, which was so applauded by the Government, expires in 1996. Given the long delay, it will not be surprising if, at that time--if the go -ahead has not been given--the private sector walks away from it on the basis that the Government have no real interest in the project going ahead.

With or without the metro system, the bus will continue to play a major role in moving large numbers of people around the conurbation. We are all familiar with the decline in the industry that has taken place since deregulation in 1986. In spite of some of the nonsensical comments that we hear from Ministers, fares have increased countrywide and bus fares and timetables change with bewildering rapidity. The average age of vehicles has increased remarkably and the British bus-building industry has all but collapsed.

We now learn that what the Ministers used to call "the benefits of deregulation" are to be denied Londoners. Lucky old them, in the view of many of us on the Opposition Benches. May I inquire of the Minister why the rest of the country is forced to suffer from the ideological nonsense that is deregulation while the capital escapes ? I am sure that it is not that ministerial limousines are considered too important to be delayed by the congestion that deregulation has brought to busy routes in the west midlands and other parts of the country.

No reputable operator in the bus industry objects to competition, provided it is competition that can be seen to be fair. However, in the west midlands, for example, where things have been reasonably stable in recent years, we are now witnessing an influx of smaller operators who buy clapped -out, high-mileage vehicles from other regions, repaint them and run them up and down the busier routes of the conurbation between 7 am and 7 pm. They do not operate late at night or early in the morning unless specifically paid to do so by the transport authority ; nor do they operate on Sundays. Those people are not competitive--they are parasites. By undermining the profitability of major network operators, they make those operators' marginal services less competitive and less profitable. If that type of conduct is not to be allowed in London, where the more sensible route franchising system is to operate, why is it encouraged in areas such as the west midlands and other parts of the country ? Needless to say, those companies are not known for the enlightened nature of their working hours, conditions of

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service or rates of pay. I have here a contract from one of those small companies for its bus drivers. It speaks about remuneration : "You will be paid for each duty worked at the rate for the duty (a standard duty of approximately 12 hours is paid at the rate of £50, shorter duties pro rata)."

It speaks about holidays--that is a brief part of the contract : "During the first year of employment--Nil

During the second year of employment--2 weeks (ie 10 days if employed to work 5 duties per week, otherwise pro rata) . . . No payment will be made for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Bank Holidays or Public Holidays unless required to work."

Ebenezer Scrooge, where are you today ? He would be proud of companies such as that.

Under the column, "Deductions from wages", any damage to the vehicle due to an accident, however caused, means a deduction of up to £100 from the driver's wages, in any one month limited to 10 per cent. of that month's gross pay--so there is a bit of heart there. The balance of any difference between cash paid in and the amount shown as due by the ticket machine is deducted from the driver's wages. Those are the type of people who have been attracted into the industry, yet are being specifically kept out of London because deregulation is not to apply here.

The Department of Transport should acknowledge the real contribution that the bus can, and does, make to the reduction in urban congestion, and work with local authorities and passenger transport authorities to fund bus priority measures, guided bus systems and natural gas-powered vehicles.

As we have seen for many years in the west midlands conurbation, people will not tolerate massive urban road building any longer. If we are to avoid complete gridlock, some of the money that the Department throws at the road building sector--that £20 billion referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), for example--must be diverted to fund the type of bus priority measures and public transport improvements demanded for many years by the Opposition. Only when that type of common- sense decision is taken will we make some progress to alleviating congestion throughout the country, and only then will the Government be able to say that they have a transport policy.

8.16 pm

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) : My right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) pointed out that motor car ownership was now a blessing and a curse.

Car ownership has brought about a democratisation of the freedom to travel when and where one wants--which, until comparatively recently, was only available to a small, wealthy elite. The value of car ownership is well known to any parent who has had to struggle to travel, not only with a small child, but with the nappies, potties and pushchair that go along with being a parent of a small child. Nevertheless, the car and its growing use have brought noise, pollution and the destruction of large areas of countryside to make space in which those greater numbers of vehicles can travel. It is obviously a cause for concern that present forecasts are that private vehicle ownership is on course to double between now and 2020 or 2025. If that trend is realised, no amount of good environmental policy, no number of catalytic converters or lean-burn engines, will stop the sheer number of vehicles on the roads from overwhelming

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the Government's correct attempts to implement important international commitments about limits on vehicle and other emissions.

The Government have rightly said that they will not try to build sufficient roads to accommodate all the traffic that is forecast. Therefore, if that greater number of vehicles is manufactured, bought and used at present rates, we shall experience increased congestion, with all the additional burdens and costs which that means to British industry.

We cannot disinvent the car, but we have to find ways in which that growth can be checked. I do not believe that it can be stopped, and that means finding ways in which we can discourage unnecessary journeys, especially short journeys, by motor vehicle. It is worth pointing out that about a quarter of vehicle emissions come from the first four to five miles of a car journey, when the engine is cold. Therefore, we should try to deter those journeys which will have the greatest impact on vehicle emissions.

As hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, good public transport is one way to achieve that objective. I welcomed the Government's private finance initiative to try to get the resources that are needed for public transport.

The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), who is no longer in his place, complained that his constituents had been promised an extension of the Northern line since 1926. That illustrates the problem of keeping public transport capital spending entirely in the public sector.

Each year, the Minister for Transport must go to the Treasury and argue the case for public spending on transport. In doing so, he is competing with his colleagues who are asking for money for hospitals, schools and pensions. In the bargaining on public expenditure, the amounts allocated for transport are often settled by means of a compromise based on horse trading, rather than a proper business assessment of the capital that is needed and can be commercially justified.

I especially welcomed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's reiteration of the Government's support for the crossrail project, in which I have a particular interest. I hope that the reason for the absence from the Chamber now of the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) is that he has nipped out to telephone Liberal

Democrat-controlled Tower Hamlets council and ask it to drop its campaign of opposition to the crossrail project, which is using up a lot of time and costing local council tax payers many thousands of pounds in expensive barristers' fees.

It is appalling but not surprising that Liberal Democrat spokesmen should champion a public transport project in the House of Commons when Liberal Democrats outside are leading opposition to the project in practice.

Better public transport will not be a panacea. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out that an increase of 50 per cent. in rail passenger traffic would cut road passenger journeys by only some 3 per cent., so we should look to other policy measures as well. Those include ensuring that transport policy is integrated with land use planning.

That is why I strongly welcomed the issuing of planning policy guidance note 13 earlier this year, with its firm advice to local authorities that they should use their local regulatory and planning powers to ensure a sensible balance in their localities of different modes of transport. They could be achieved through traffic management schemes, traffic calming measures and park-and-ride

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schemes. It is right that the Government should require those systems of traffic management to be driven according to local circumstances, rather than impose a nationally drafted blueprint that would not be appropriate in all parts of the country.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton said, the Government should look with an open mind at the use of national regulations to discourage unnecessary road journeys. They could include the use of speed limits to ensure a better use of the existing roads, and designating lanes for commercial traffic, public service vehicles or cars with more than one occupant. I am, however, well aware that such proposals entail enormous opportunities for avoidance and difficulties of enforcement. I only hope that my hon. Friends are prepared to look with an open mind at some of those suggestions.

I hope that the Government will push forward with their policies on road pricing and taxation, even though they will not be popular. The Government have been right in recent Budgets to shift the tax burden from car ownership to fuel consumption, a policy that should be maintained. They are also right to look to the introduction of road pricing. I agree with the suggestion by an Opposition Member that road pricing could be appropriate not only on motorways and trunk roads but in certain urban areas, although the decision must be taken in the light of local circumstances.

Politicians must be clear and honest about the consequences of road pricing. A wealthy car owner will be able to afford the extra charges ; somebody driving a company car could probably be reimbursed ; and a commercial company could pass the charge on to customers. But relatively poor car users will be most affected. That is why, before pursuing such a policy, it is important to look carefully at its practical consequences and why, for road pricing to become publicly acceptable, the Government must ensure that the revenues from it go not only into road maintenance and building but into other forms of transport.

There is no single solution to the challenge posed by the exponential growth in car ownership, but a judicious mix of the measures that I have suggested might enable us, over the next couple of decades, to strike the right balance between personal freedom and the need to ensure for all our citizens a pleasant and civilised environment in which to live.

8.25 pm

Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East) : Like the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), I accept the need to achieve a balance. Having listened to the debate, however, I believe that the chances of the Government achieving a balance or coming up with a coherent transport policy are seriously hampered by two things. First, as a number of hon. Members have already mentioned, they are hampered by the dead hand of the Treasury. The Government's transport policy is dictated more by the Treasury than by Ministers responsible for transport.

A good example is the roads programme. The reason for the Government's cutting the roads programme was not, as some hon. Members may think, because of environmental concerns or as a result of a real assessment of the programme. I have talked to people in my regional office of the Department of Transport, who say that they found

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out about the cuts in the review by reading about them in the newspapers. Official confirmation arrived a few days later. Nor is the reason for the cut in the roads programme to give priority to genuine bypass schemes, or to divert money from the roads programme into public transport. It is simply because the Treasury wants to take money back. That is the only reason that I can find. Secondly, the Government are hampered by their obsession with and blinkered approach to privatisation, which seems to be their answer to everything. They are so inept that they save £500 million on the roads programme and spend £500 million on privatisation. That money is frittered away, when it could be used in many other areas. Examples have already been given of how it could have been spent : 220 new locomotives or 29 new InterCity trains could have been bought with the money that has been spent in preparation for privatisation. That is important in the context of what the Central Transport Consultative Committee says. The CTC chairman, Lennox Napier, said :

"I share the grave concern of the RIA"

the Railway Industry Association

"that apart from the £150 million worth of leased Networkers ordered in 1993, no further orders for rolling stock have been placed since 1992, and as far as we know are unlikely to be placed in the near future. The railways in this country are facing a double problem--if new orders are not placed soon, many thousands of passengers will be condemned to travel in trains that are already well past their use by' date with the resulting unreliability. At the same time, we face the real prospect of this country's railway manufacturing industry becoming so run-down that we might well lose the capacity for building trains in Britain."

That is of particular importance to places such as Eastleigh, as my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St.Pancras (Mr. Dobson) mentioned. The rail workers in the works at Eastleigh want to see orders coming in, and think that the Government should be prepared to give them orders.

The Secretary of State told my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras that the pensions issue was finished, and there was no problem. I know that the Secretary of State met people about railway pensions today-- or it may have been the Minister

The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman) indicated assent .

Mr. Heppell : The Minister met the trade unions today, and I understand that he met the trustees this afternoon. I understand that the Government will introduce statutory instruments towards the end of May.

It seems strange that, after two years of prevarication and an inability to resolve the pensions issue, all of a sudden, just before a by-election in Eastleigh--where many workers are employed by the railways and are worried about their pensions--the problem is solved. That typifies what the Government are all about.

We see nothing about transport, but we see press releases and publications. The Government may have organised the demise of BR, but they have certainly not organised the demise of PR. Instead of public transport, they are concerned with public relations. Glossy brochures are produced on rail privatisation, the Highway Agency and the Marine Safety Agency, to which I shall refer later, if I have time. The Government have less time for transport than any other Government in the past. Spending through the 1980s was at least £2 billion less than spending through the

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1970s. The public service obligation--which is not a subsidy--to try to ensure that we keep the 11,000 miles of track we now have, has fallen steadily. Some £3 billion has gone from the public service obligation since 1983. The Government have bragged about the fact that they now give less money to keep open socially beneficial lines.

I know that the Minister will come forward with statistics to show how much investment the Government have put into the railways, and how much money they have spent on trying to retain the viability of public transport. That will not wash with the people in Nottingham any more. When Ministers say that they think that it is justifiable to lie to Parliament some of the time-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman might wish to rephrase that.

Mr. Heppell : I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was not suggesting that the Government would lie to Parliament ; I was saying that a Minister in another place has made that allegation

Mr. Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman could avoid getting into difficulty if he used a different word. We do not want the word "lie" being banded about.

Mr. Heppell rose

Mr. Snape : What about "inaccuracy" ?

Mr. Heppell : Yes, inaccuracy--if a Minister is prepared to give inaccuracies to Parliament some of the time, people realise that the Government are prepared to give them inaccuracies all the time. The public see what is happening in the transport sector, and see that no investment is being made in the railways. People no longer refer to Nottingham station, but to Nottingham sidings. They see that less money is being spent in that area. It is no longer one of the InterCity stations. Every time that a new timetable comes out, we see that another train has disappeared. Tonight, I would have been able to catch the 10.30 pm train back to Nottingham, but it has disappeared from the timetable, and I shall have to catch the later one at 11.30 pm.

I do not want to dwell too much on the railways, as I recognise that there are many other sorts of transport. Buses are still the cheapest and most reliable way of providing public transport in this country.

I owe my credibility to the Minister and the Government. During the mid- l980s, I campaigned to try to stop bus deregulation, and I was called a scaremonger. I said what would happen--I said that there would be leapfrogging of buses, congestion and problems in the streets. Unfortunately, after deregulation, none of that happened--it was easy, and there were no problems. But since then, the bus wars have begun in Nottingham, and there are headlines in the papers such as

"Bus stopper! War' could hit services".

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The clock system is not working quite as it should. I shall be fair and check exactly what is happening. Speeches are still limited by the 10-minute rule. I call Mr. Nigel Waterson.

8.35 pm

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne) : I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in today's important debate. I begin by welcoming the announcement of my right hon. Friend

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the Secretary of State earlier today on measures to help the shipping industry, which will go a long way to deal with the concerns that many of us have had over a number of years. I also declare an interest as a maritime lawyer. I am sure that those important measures will be widely welcomed in the British shipping industry. The Government are to be congratulated on their roads policy for various reasons--principally two. First, they had the courage to produce a prioritisation statement and dropped 49 schemes. Secondly, they have proposed measures to improve and streamline planning procedures. It is a scandal in this country that it can take up to thirteen and a half years from the original proposal to the opening of a new road.

I wish to dwell particularly on the roads policy of the Liberal Democrats. We are all aware of their eccentric approach to policy-making. It seems to boil down to knocking on doors and asking the first person what they want and believe, and saying that that is what they too want and believe. It does not matter if the person next door takes a different view, as that is also what the Liberal Democrats say they want and believe. It is not merely that their views and policies differ from one part of the country to another : they can differ from one part of the same constituency to another. Nowhere is that more true than in relation to roads.

Earlier, the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) spoke of the Liberal Democrats' relentless hostility at national level to road improvement schemes. He came out with the immortal comment that he was hostile to the majority of the Government's roads programme--a view that he backed up eloquently in his speech. Nationally, the Liberal Democrats oppose roads, but they never say to which part or majority of the roads programme they are hostile. But that attitude is not always carried through locally.

The hon. Member for North Devon was reported in the Mid Devon District Star as saying :

"Unfortunately, at its"

the north Devon link road's

"inception, wiser voices calling for a dual carriageway were overruled".

I assume that those wiser voices included that of the hon. Member for North Devon.

We have to decide what the national policy of the Liberal Democrats is, and then see whether it is carried through locally. The answer, as on so many other matters, is that it is not. There are some exceptions. The Liberals in Somerset have been doing their bit to fulfil the national policy by cutting £2.6 million from the roads and highways budget. I imagine that they thought they were following party policy. In my next life, I want to be a Liberal Democrat, because it is an easy way of making one's way through the political jungle.

There are important road schemes in my area.

First, the Government have recently announced a transport supplementary grant of £25 million for the A22 new route. I am very grateful for that decision, especially in the midst of a tough spending round. There were many representations from local politicians, authorities, businesses and people in favour of the scheme, and I led a delegation to meet my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic.

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A member of the delegation was Councillor Skinner, the chairman of the management and finance sub-committee of East Sussex county council--which, for the moment at least, is controlled by a Lib-Lab pact. The council gave its enthusiastic support to the scheme. It is an important scheme for Eastbourne. It will cure much congestion and improve the environment. It will assist tourism, including the Sovereign Harbour development, and in due course it will help with access to the channel tunnel. The scheme will provide more access for business and industry in my constituency. It has been estimated that some 2,000 jobs have been lost over the years because of poor access. It is the last piece in a jigsaw of important road schemes in our area.

A second very important scheme is the Polegate bypass. I am chased regularly by Liberal Democrat councillors who ask why the scheme is not proceeding. However, I am pleased to say that it is on the reserve list for a start in 1994-95. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there is the A27 Lewes-Polegate road improvement. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) has been a doughty campaigner for that scheme.

The link is vital for all of East Sussex. However, views about its importance do differ--not least among Liberal Democrats in different parts of the county. In a recent letter to the Coastal Leader , Councillor David Rogers, the Liberal Democrat leader of East Sussex, said :

"The County Council supports the proposed trunk road improvements, and wishes them to be constructed as soon as possible.

Poor trunk roads discourage inward investment and are a severe handicap to many existing businesses".

I could not agree more. But Councillor Rogers wrote the letter in answer to comments by Councillor Norman Baker, who is in fact the Liberal Democrat leader of Lewes district council.

Councillor Baker has a rather different view of the scheme. In a press release, he expressed "severe uncertainty" about its impact, and said that the route will have a "devastating effect". He continued :

"It will also have an adverse effect on the whole of the South Downs between Lewes and Polegate and many of our local communities." That is a typical piece of Liberal democracy--a real example of leading from behind.

Councillor Baker said :

"we will continue to support whatever action the public wants us to take over the preferred route proposal."

That is a very courageous and clear-cut political lead from Councillor Baker.

But the scheme is a vital link in the road network in our part of East Sussex. It is remarkable that there are almost as many views--whether general or specific--about road programmes as there are Liberal Democrats. There is a national policy, about which we have heard already this evening, and then there are local policies. The county councils seem to favour the road schemes, but then the Liberal Democrats in Lewes take the opposite view.

Finally, I turn to the Labour party. The Labour party spokesman said very little about roads. Labour is also hypocritical on roads issues. Labour Members oppose roads programmes in general, but are in favour of them in particular.

I ask the spokesmen for the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party simply to do what the Government have done

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