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Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): That selective quote is proof, if proof were needed, that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing in the hands of the Liberals. Of course I was referring to debates in the House 100 or more years ago when the big issue which made Maastricht look like a picnic was the Railways Regulation Act 1883. The hon. Gentleman well knows that that was the subject of my speech. There can be no consensus as long as he seeks to deliver speeches like that.

Mr. Tyler: I never thought that I would be so grateful for an intervention. I wish that the hon. Gentleman and Ministers would concentrate on the problems of the 21st century rather than those of the 19th. It is sad that the hon. Gentleman, who was at that time a Minister, thought


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that it was more important to re-run the rearguard action of the landowners of the 19th century than to look at what our fellow citizens will have to face in the 21st century.

The royal commission proposals would cost money, but in true cost-benefit terms we should consider what could be achieved by reducing the £19 billion that is presently earmarked for the roads programme, and especially for the motorway improvement and expansion programme. For the benefit not of the roads lobby but of the individual citizen, we believe in giving people real choice, and in that we agree with the Secretary of State. But we want to give our future citizens the choice of cleaner air to breathe, a public transport system that is reliable and pleasant to use, and an improved environment for future generations.

9.4 pm

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding): The House should be genuinely grateful to the Labour party and to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) for tabling this motion and introducing this debate. It has been extremely revealing and instructive. Over the past few months, there has been a great deal of chatter throughout the country about the fact that the Labour party is now supposedly reformed and suddenly committed to the virtues of economic rationality, freedom of choice and the rights of the consumer and so forth, having abandoned its former attachment to promoting purely sectarian producer interests--largely trade union--and to the cause of state planning and intervention. This evening, the hon. Member for Oldham, West ripped away the veil. Behind it we saw a rather unattractive face--the face of the traditional Labour party. Already this evening we have heard one speech on behalf of a transport union.

Let us consider the issues of consumerism and free choice. There was no evidence in the hon. Gentleman's speech that he has ever asked himself why roads are crowded and why new roads rapidly become popular and therefore crowded. It seems that it has never occurred to him that the reason is that people want to use roads. They need roads and they need more roads. In what other way can the motorist demonstrate that he likes a road and that he wants more roads than by using them? What is the solution to that? Of course, the hon. Gentleman referred to the traditional Labour party remedy of state control and intervention, preventing the consumer from doing what he wants.

The Opposition motion makes great play of the need to reduce pollution, accidents, noise and congestion. Has the hon. Gentleman asked himself what causes them? It is bad and inadequate roads. The amount of pollution generated by traffic stalled in a traffic jam is a vast multiple of the pollution generated by traffic flowing freely along a new bypass or motorway. The figures show that far and away the most dangerous roads are the traditional roads and the safest roads are motorways and bypasses. If he were serious about dealing with the issues of pollution, accidents, noise and congestion, the last thing to do would be to introduce a moratorium on new road building.

One may wonder about either the rationality or the sincerity of a party that complains about air pollution, but opposes nuclear generation of power --which is environmentally the most friendly form of generation. The pollution caused by CO and SO emissions by burning


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coal for power generation is three or more times greater than the CO emissions generated by traffic in this and other modern economies.

Mr. Butler: Does my hon. Friend accept that electric vehicles and dual-powered motor vehicles are not pollution-free? Indeed, they are pollution-free only at the point where we put the plug in. Under Labour policies, the production of electricity could be highly polluting.

Mr. Davies: My hon. Friend makes a good point. A large amount of the energy generated would be lost in generation and transmission. What price the economic rationality of the reformed Labour party? None of the contributions by Labour Members reflected the slightest evidence that any of them had thought for one moment about the negative economic consequences of congestion, or about the benign economic consequences of investing in new roads.

When one improves the road system, one increases human mobility for all sorts of purposes. One increases also job mobility, because people can travel to a larger number of possible jobs. They can take up employment that is located outside the range of public transport. However elaborate that network might be, there will always be a large number of places that cannot be served by it. That will be especially true in rural areas.

An improved road system also allows goods to be delivered more cheaply and rapidly, and provides greater consumer choice and competition. More transactions will lead to more specialisation and output, which will in turn create more jobs. To conduct a discussion of the consequences or otherwise of improving the nation's road system without mentioning the enormous economic stakes that hang on that decision reflects extraordinary unreality on the part of Opposition Members, including those on Labour's Front Bench, who should know better.

I am much in favour of railways and of higher investment in them, but the hon. Member for Oldham, West and other Opposition Members did not say that they would spend more public money on railways. Labour opposes root and branch our proposal to enable more private capital to be invested in the railways, to improve the network and to make services ever more market- oriented--and therefore more

consumer-friendly and likely to attract a higher volume of passengers and freight.

What is one to make of a party that argues for a better balance between road and rail, yet opposes the proposal to extract a price for the use of motorways--which alone could create the sort of level playing field on the basis of which private capital will be induced to invest in new rail projects?

It would be unreasonable flattery to term what we have heard in tonight's debate an argument, because it has been more a series of slogans and unthought-through prejudices and contributions full of the most elementary contradictions.

Another reason that I am grateful for comments by Labour Members this evening is that their line on the road programme will give me several thousand votes in the next election in Stamford and Spalding that otherwise I would not have received. The people of the beautiful, ancient town of Stamford, with which I hope hon. Members in all parts if the House are familiar, and of The Deepings, an only slightly less well-known town, are


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desperate for bypasses. My hon. Friend the Minister knows all about that, as did his predecessor. I am confident that, with his support, we shall have those bypasses before too long.

One thing that is clear beyond peradventure to my constituents is that, if Labour is in power after the next general election, there will be a moratorium and my constituents will not get those bypasses at all. I did not expect this evening to be given such a wonderful electoral gift, but the fact that it was given to me by the Opposition is not a good reason to be churlish, and I express my profoundest gratitude for it.

9.14 pm

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I am pleased that the hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies) is trying to keep his spirits up.

I took part in the transport debate on 26 April, which may have been the last occasion on which we debated transport in the Chamber. I raised a broad range of transport issues affecting the north of England: the lack of efficient transport planning, the failure of deregulation and its effects on integration--particularly as it affected the Tyne and Wear metro system, although the Secretary of State's self-confessed ignorance of integration perhaps sheds more light on why the Government pursued that lunatic policy- -the difference between opinion on roads policy in the region and the policies of the Department of Transport, which particularly affect the A1, A69, A19 and the A66, the loss of free transport for senior citizens, directly resulting from the financial squeeze on local authorities, and restrictions on capital expenditure that prevent more rapid development of Newcastle airport.

Hon. Members will be relieved to learn that I do not intend to rehearse those arguments this evening. I shall restrict myself to a local issue that affects my constituency--the severe congestion on the A1 Gateshead western bypass and the various proposals for its relief, specifically the Department of Transport's plan to bypass the bypass. Given the comments that were made about the advantages of bypasses--in some instances they do have advantages--Ministers must answer why it has become necessary to bypass the bypass. Where will it all end? Will we have a bypass to the bypass to the bypass?

Evidence showing that there is a significant problem in the area can be found in a reference in paragraph 12.21 of the royal commission's report. I understand that the commission met in Gateshead. In discussing the problem of congestion on primary routes, it said:

"Sometimes local traffic on a primary route is the result of large-scale developments . . . The A1 on Tyneside provides an interesting example. Congestion on this road, caused by predominantly local trips to and from the Metrocentre and a large industrial estate, led DOT to promote a controversial scheme for by passing what was itself in origin a by pass."

That is a controversial proposal. Two groups of local residents in my constituency have organised a campaign. One is opposed to the Department's bypass plan on the grounds of intrusion into the green belt and property loss--the proposed route goes right through one of the designated north- east tranquil areas of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England-- and the other is opposed to improvements to the existing road and is in favour of the bypass because it believes that the bypass would


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reduce the nuisance to residents living alongside the existing road, whereas improvements to the existing road would increase it. What does a Member of Parliament do in those circumstances? I can only examine the circumstances and try to reach what I believe to be the best all-round solution for not only the short-term but the long-term future welfare of people in the area.

Having considered the problem, Gateshead metropolitan borough council has proposed a plan that deals not only with the problem of through traffic, which the bypass option does almost exclusively, but considers the overall problem of traffic movement on and around the road and in and out of the Metro centre and the Team valley trading estate.

The council suggested various options, which are reflected in the royal commission's report: closing some of the access points to the road, at once relieving congestion points and creating a third lane; creating improved access and egress points to cater for the Metro centre and Team valley at peak-hour-traffic times; and restructuring traffic movements within the Metro centre and Team valley trading estate. Other options might include improving public transport by frequent links to park-and-ride facilities, creating bus priority lanes and extending links to the Tyneside metro system.

All the available evidence, including the royal commission's report, suggests that continually building more roads and wider roads will not solve the problem--although, of course, some improvements to existing roads will be warranted, and I have mentioned some of them--and, as the report recommends, more effective use of existing roads should precede any plans to build new roads wherever possible.

The royal commission also recommends a fundamentally different approach by the Department of Transport. We have heard from the Secretary of State that he favours a different approach; just how fundamental it is remains to be seen. To date, his Department has argued for the simplest--although, by its own admission, not the cheapest--solution to the Gateshead problem.

Tomorrow I shall meet the roads Minister to discuss the problem with him. I hope that evidence of a shift in opinion may be forthcoming at that meeting. I have come to know the new roads Minister--the new Minister for roads, that is, not the Minister for new roads--through an interest that we share.

The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris): A frequent Opposition error is to refer to any transport Minister as a roads Minister. One of the facts that I hoped the hon. Gentleman would note, it being very germane to the debate, is that there is no roads Minister. If he is referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr. Watts), he is the Minister of State responsible for rail and roads, reflecting our view that an integrated transport policy is very important.

Mr. Clelland: It seems that the "fundamentally different approach" is already showing itself in the Chamber. In any event, I have come to know the Minister responsible for roads and rail very well--or, rather, rail and roads: the Government, of course, put rail first every time--through our common interest in working men's


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clubs. In my experience, his work in that field has shown him to be a fair and reasonable person, and I hope that he manages--against recent trends--to retain those qualities in government. If he does, there may yet be hope of a progressive change.

I know that the Minister will not have an opportunity to answer in detail tonight on this specific proposal, but I shall put some points to him so that he can sleep on them. First, is it not true that the standing advisory committee on trunk road assessment has concluded that--contrary to the Department's thinking--new roads generate extra traffic? According to Oxford university's transport studies unit director, Phil Goodwin, who is a member of the committee:

"a new road scheme would, on average, induce an extra 10 per cent. of its base traffic in the short term and 20 per cent. in the long term."

When can we expect the report's publication? Does not Mr. Goodwin's conclusion make nonsense of the Department's traffic forecasts for the proposed bypass to the western bypass?

Is it true that the Department has let the contract for ground investigations on the site of the proposed new road? Could not that money be put to better use on the alternative proposals? What will be the cost of a public inquiry, which, it is forecast, may take as long as six months?

In short--in the light of all the information that is now available, the weight of opinion against further schemes of this sort, the fact that the Department has downgraded the priority of the scheme and the blight and suffering being caused to those now living in the path of the proposed route--is it not time that the Department cut its losses and sat around a table with local people to pursue a better, more effective and more rapid solution to the problem?

Earlier this evening, the Secretary of State said that he wanted to encourage local authorities to pursue environmentally friendly transport policies. Let him begin by supporting Gateshead council's environmentally sympathetic approach.

The answers to regional transport infrastructure problems will be properly deduced only if those who live in the regions are fully involved in the planning and decision-making process. The planned movement of Highways Agency operations from the north to Leeds is a further example of migration from the northern region, to the detriment of local involvement in decisions directly affecting the lives of people who live in that region.

Ministers cannot continually abrogate their responsibilities by hiving them off to agencies and then claiming that decisions are nothing to do with them, when those decisions have implications for the people of this country. The decisions have everything to do with them, and they must intervene to protect the regional planning structure from fragmentation. I look forward to hearing from the Minister that he plans to do just that.

9.23 pm

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden): I must first remind the House of my interest as an adviser to Johnson Matthey plc, which makes catalytic converters--not that I intend to dwell on that subject specifically.

The Opposition motion accuses the Government of

"an obsessional concern with road building and road widening".


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I can say only that that "obsession", if such it is, is widely shared. We do not help ourselves by failing to recognise that the public have a strong desire for good roads. A large section of industry is entirely dependent on roads.

People cherish the freedom that the motor car has brought them. Over the past 40 or 50 years, whole communities have developed on the assumption of road transport in the absence of anything else, and not one Government are responsible for that. Therefore, in some places, to talk of shifting freight from road to rail is utter nonsense. When the emphasis is on economic recovery and job creation, this cannot be the right moment to suggest a total change of direction, as is implicit in Labour's motion, which could hugely disrupt commerce and industry and add to their costs. The obsession to which I referred is a serious matter that grips a lot of private and commercial people in the United Kingdom, and it is not hard to see why.

Let me turn to the case for improving the A130 in Essex, which is the only strategic link between south-east Essex and the rest of East Anglia as all the other roads in south-east Essex feed into London and the M25. The proposed improvement will not only improve the quality of life in the villages that it bypasses but it is predicted to save some 17 injury accidents per year and make an annual saving of £1.2 million per year. There have been 152 such accidents in the past three years--five fatal and 22 serious. I have sympathy with the case for a major improvement to the A130.

The words that I have used are not mine; they are contained in a letter from the chairman of the highways and transportation committee of Essex county council, which is a Labour and Liberal-controlled authority. The same council is pressing for the speedy construction of the A120. What advice would Labour Front-Bench spokesmen give Labour and Liberal- controlled Essex county council? Is it that, instead of making an improvement to the A130 and the A120, there should be a moratorium, or that there should be railways in place of the roads? The proposition that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) put to the House is absurd.

In its motion, Labour calls for a major strategic shift in spending. Apparently, it is not an increase in spending but a major strategic shift in spending. Instead of talking in generalities, Opposition Members would assist our understanding of their case if they spoke in specifics. Which roads would go, and which bypasses would be forfeited? The more one listens to the debate, the more one realises that everyone is in favour of some roads; it is simply roads in general that Labour is against.

If one totalled up all the schemes we favour, there would be no diminution in the roads programme at all because we would all say--as the chairman of the Essex county council highways and transportation committee said--that there is an urgent case to have a particular road. We could do without the humbug that we hear from Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. All of us know of roads that need to be built, which people want and industry needs.

How would Labour deal with the problem of old cars that cannot be retrofitted with catalytic converters, which are mainly owned by elderly and low-paid people but which will still be a major polluting factor in our environment? Would Labour implement the royal


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commission package as a whole, including the proposal to increase the price of a gallon of petrol to £5, or would it simply pick parts of it? Labour Members have not assisted us at all; they have made a general swipe against Government policy without saying what they would do.

We are entitled to know what Labour's priorities are for public transport schemes. Let us cost such schemes to see whether its claim is right that road schemes can be replaced by public transport schemes. Calling for a new strategic approach, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West did, is simply not enough. Labour should be reminded that new public transport schemes do not come cheap, that they are not always acceptable to people in whose areas they are to introduced, and that they are not always successful in drawing people from the roads, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear in his example of the imperceptible shift that has taken place in the Bury-Altrincham corridor as a result of the light railway in Manchester.

Undoubtedly, there are serious issues to be faced, including those raised in the reports of the Royal Commission on environmental pollution and the Select Committee on Transport, but Labour's facile motion comes nowhere near addressing those issues. It will be an extremely difficult and sensitive exercise in an open, democratic society to persuade people away from vehicular transport. If we are honest, we cannot be absolutely sure that we know the whole story on environmental pollution and exactly what causes what particular illness, but we cannot ignore the main thrust of the evidence before us. We need the careful and considered approach that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recommends. A great deal of public education will be necessary before measures can be put before the House that will command respect and support. It may require a combination of the carrot and the stick, to which the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) referred, if we are to protect our environment, decongest our cities and safeguard our health. Labour would earn more respect if it spelt out in detail what it expected the electorate to accept: parroting slogans is not enough. 9.30 pm

Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): This has been an important debate. The Secretary of State and some of his colleagues responded in a manner that suggested that we lived in a monoculture of car owners and users. I remind the House that the percentage of our adult population who have a driving licence, let alone a car, is not 100 but 66 per cent. Almost half the women of Britain do not hold a licence. Among pensioners, women make up a mere 6 per cent. of those who hold a driving licence.

The Secretary of State referred to London smogs as if they were a thing of the past. I remind the House that, in December 1952, 4,000 people died in London as a result of smog--a thick, swirling, stinking blanket of choking air produced by coal fires and heavy industry. Today, the smog is invisible. It is a cocktail of toxic chemicals produced by private and commercial motor vehicles.

The warnings are all too clear. They include the report of the Royal Commission on Transport and the Environment, the Transport Select Committee report on


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transport-related air pollution in London, and the excellent briefings provided by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Cyclists Public Affairs Group.

Mr. Butler: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Ruddock: It is very soon, but I will.

Mr. Butler: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. Perhaps she can help me. The motion to which she is speaking says that this House notes "the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's condemnation of current Government transport and land use policies as unsustainable".

I have searched in vain for that condemnation. What I did find was paragraph 1.17, which says:

"We endorse the general framework for a sustainable transport policy which the Government has put forward."

Can the hon. Lady help me with that?

Ms Ruddock: Page 242.

Let me continue with my speech. Some 160 deaths in London have already been attributed to the photochemical smog in December 1991, and millions are suffering ill health nationwide. Nothing in the royal commission report comes as any surprise to those of us who have followed transport policies in recent years. Labour repeatedly warned the Government of the dangers inherent in their obsession with road building and road widening. Yes, we proposed a moratorium--a halt on new road schemes, while, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) said, we considered the most appropriate way to meet mobility needs.

We never said that there would be a cancellation of all roads for all time. Nor did we ever suggest that contracts already let would be reneged upon. We warned of the adverse impact of road building on our countryside, of growing demand for and depletion of non-renewable materials and of traffic disruption to our communities. We warned of noise and air pollution, the threat to our health, particularly of the most vulnerable--children and the elderly--and the growing contribution that road traffic makes to greenhouse gases. We warned that no amount of road building could provide for the doubling of traffic predicted by the Department of Transport. In short, we warned--and we reiterate--as the royal commission warned, that the Government transport policy was unsustainable. On every occasion in the past five years, Ministers rejected and even ridiculed our claims.

The hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies) proved true to form tonight by entirely missing the central point of the royal commission's report. Even if the Government spent all their £20 billion on new road capacity, it could not cope with their predictions for the increase in traffic on those same roads. The Government behave as if they have played no part in what has happened, yet today's ecological crisis is being driven by their policy. Let us look at the record. We acknowledge that increasing car ownership--desirable in many ways--and road haulage


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is a Europewide phenomenon. Yet--as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) said--as other European Governments began to take steps to alleviate congestion by a large expansion in public transport, this Government embarked on an orgy of reducing investment and of privatisation, fragmentation and deregulation?

While other European Governments, who recognised the environmental effects of increasing car use, agreed measures to reduce exhaust emissions, this Government fought to resist or delay them. While the decline in public transport produced further road congestion, the Government simply built more roads, and thus increased by one third the amount of land covered in tarmac. Yet congestion continued--total vehicle kilometres rose by nearly 50 per cent. in the past decade, while rail passenger journeys and rail freight decreased. The environmental consequences have been dire. Our towns and cities are noisy, dangerous and dirty. Despite its known benefits, cycling has declined by almost one third in the past decade, walking is hazardous, and while child pedestrian road casualties remain among the highest in Europe, parents are forced to drive their children to school.

Our countryside has been despoiled. The latest affront is Twyford Down, and more than 300 sites of special scientific interest have been damaged in the past year, with the habitats of precious wildlife threatened.

Ministers cannot evade their responsibilities any longer. They cannot hold that they are simply responding to public demand for greater car use when the public have no other choice. They cannot sit back in the knowledge that we are poisoning ourselves with petrol emissions and pretend that it is our fault alone. The nation's health is the Government's responsibility.

Let us look at the record again. Since 1979, emissions of black smoke from motor vehicles have increased by 78 per cent. Black smoke causes respiratory problems and may cause cancer. Emissions of nitrogen oxides have increased by 74 per cent.--they cause lung irritation and bronchitis and can cause pneumonia, contribute to acid rain and, when mixed with volatile organic compounds, cause ground level ozone, which causes eye, nose and throat infections and headaches. Carbon monoxide is up by 48 per cent. Fatal at high doses, that pollutant produces drowsiness, and is especially dangerous to people with heart disease. All that has happened despite the Secretary of State's claims about improving air quality.

Mr. Quentin Davies: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Ruddock: I am sorry, but I have not got time.

Surely the Government must now accept that, in the light of those two reports, ways must be found to limit the increase in car use and accelerate programmes to cut vehicle emissions.

Has the Minister who is going to reply to the debate--I am sorry that he is not an Environment Minister--noted the report's finding that about 3 million people now have asthma? That is twice as many as were diagnosed in 1979. Does he know that hospital admissions for that disease have also doubled? One of his hon. Friends mentioned costs--the cost of that disease alone is £400 million a year.


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Does he accept, as the royal commission did, that 50,000 tonnes of benzene are expelled from motor vehicles each year? Benzene is a potent carcinogen, for which there are no known safe levels.

The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. Robert Atkins): Not true.

Ms Ruddock: I tell the hon. Member that that is evidence presented to the royal commission, which it accepted.

Mr. Atkins: It is not true.

Ms Ruddock: I will debate this with the hon. Gentleman in another place and on some other occasion, but he is saying that the royal commission has taken inaccurate evidence.

The Government's complacency is literally breathtaking. They deny all the experts--

Mr. Butler: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is the first point of order that I have ever sought to raise, so I hope that you will forgive me if I do not get it quite right. The hon. Lady said when she gave way to me that I would find the royal commission's condemnation on page 242. I have found no such condemnation, and the hon. Lady may be unwittingly misleading the House. I wish to give her the opportunity to correct that.

Madam Speaker: That is barely a point of order for me. It is a point of argument for the debate. If the hon. Gentleman catches the hon. Lady's attention later in the debate, he may do something about that, but it is certainly not a point of order for me.

Ms Ruddock: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the uppermost paragraph on page 242, he will see that the very policies which the Government have pursued are described there, and that the royal commission says that these

"cannot therefore be regarded as sustainable".

I do not believe--

Mr. Matthew Banks: On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: Order. I feel now that I am getting points of frustration, rather than points of order. If it is a point of order for me, of course I shall hear it.

Mr. Banks: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Surely it is particularly important that during debates the House listens to accurate information. If we had time, I could draw umpteen examples from the last few minutes--

Madam Speaker: Order. It is important that the House listens to information, but it is not for me to determine whether that information is accurate or otherwise. It is for hon. Members who are using the information to determine for themselves whether or not it is accurate.

Ms Ruddock: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the policies described which the royal commission regard as unsustainable are indeed the policies which have been pursued by the Government, and we have heard nothing tonight to suggest that the Government will change those policies. I hope that they will, and I


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shall be asking the Minister to give us more information when he winds up. [Interruption.] If Government Members are not quiet, they will find that the Minister's time will be taken up by my speech. Do the Government accept, as we do--the Secretary of State failed to say--the royal commission's eight objectives and the accompanying targets for a sustainable transport policy? Will the Government match Labour's promises on the environment which were so ably developed by my predecessor, the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith)? [Interruption.] I can assure the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) that that was not a strategy that my hon. Friend proposed.

The Secretary of State implied that he would try to find some common cause with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). If the Government are prepared to make some small shift in resources, will the Minister tell us whether any money that is earmarked now--but which subsequently is not spent on roads--will be invested in public transport and not grasped back by a greedy Treasury? Will he create new financial incentives for private motorists to retro-fit catalytic convertors, and for bus operators to clean up their buses?

Will he make air quality monitoring a statutory requirement of local authorities? Will he ensure that when there are episodes when we are being poisoned that people are given the information speedily so that they can take some action? Will the Government, as the Secretary of State claimed, get rid of belching monsters once and for all; not by a few pathetic spot checks but by making more stringent MOT tests, as the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) proposed, and by helping local authorities to acquire and operate pollution cameras for long-term monitoring?

Will he help to make the fundamental shift that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West proposed, or is he beholden, like so many of his hon. Friends, to sectional interests? If the Government will not respond to my hon. Friend's challenge, will they respond to the royal commission's challenge to

"realise the benefits of a new transport strategy"

or will he only respond to the vested interests of the British Road Federation, whose spokesperson said:

"These costs"--

the costs of making the shift--

"cannot be justified."

I suggest that it is the costs of inaction that cannot be justified.

The reports of the royal commission and the Select Committee have offered every proof of the urgency of the tasks before us. Real freedom, real choice in mobility and economic well-being and quality of life demand Government action in line with our motion tonight. There must be action to shift from increasing road use to reliable, safe, clean and affordable public transport. Action must be taken on behalf of our shared community and our shared environment and it must be taken now.

9.45 pm


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