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Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making available to me a copy of his statement and the report at the correct time. All hon. Members will have found it helpful to have had individual copies of the parts of the report appropriate to their constituencies. I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new responsibilities. I congratulate him, and I wish him well. We regret that his post has been demoted from Cabinet rank, feeling that that illustrates the Government's attitude to transport. However, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will perform his task well. I only hope that his ministerial career will not be affected by the poisoned chalice that he has been handed today. I am delighted that he has made an oral statement. It has come at the last possible moment, but that was not of his doing.

The previous Conservative Government laid down the principles on which an integrated approach to transport policy should be based, as the Secretary of State was generous enough to acknowledge last week. There was general agreement that road building must be carefully appraised, and responsible use of the car encouraged. The previous Government also indicated an end to the predict and provide strategy.

If we felt that the roads review was doing all that, we would welcome it. However, it demonstrates that the Secretary of State lacks the clout to establish transport as the priority promised before the general election. Even given the hugely increased spending plans announced in the comprehensive spending review, the Secretary of State was rolled over by the Treasury. As a result, the travelling public are getting a triple whammy. Road users will pay more in fuel taxes, congestion charges, workplace parking charges and motorway tolls; there will be no early improvement in public transport to encourage people to use the roads less; and, today the right hon. Gentleman has announced that the main strategy to achieve his Department's aim is to force people off the roads by increasing congestion and jams.

I have a number of questions for the right hon. Gentleman. Will he confirm the answer that the Minister for Transport in London gave on 27 July to my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) that less money will be spent next year on road construction and

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maintenance than was spent this year? If the position has altered in the light of his announcement, can he tell us by how much and in what way?

The right hon. Gentleman confirmed that only 37 of the 140 schemes under consideration have been given the go-ahead. He said that construction of those schemes is due to begin during the next seven years. However, the comprehensive spending review identified spending totals only for the next three years. What assurance can he give that the 37 schemes will both start and reach completion?

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made no increase in the comprehensive spending review for local authority spending on roads maintenance? What message does he think that conveys to local authorities when he is proposing that they take on greater responsibility for the roads network? Will he define "minimum whole-life costs"?

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the so-called extra funds for maintenance are derived either from reducing subsidies to privatised rail companies--if he does, will he be generous enough to withdraw his Government's objection to the principle of privatisation--or from the total removal of subsidy from London Underground by 2000? I asked the Secretary of State last week, but he was unable or unwilling to answer, what investment is expected from the private sector between now and 2000 to justify that removal. What happens if it is wrong? Does Rail Maritime Transport share the Secretary of State's aspirations?

The answer given by the Minister for Transport in London on 27 July states that spending on bypasses is to be halved next year, from £157 million this year with one start, to £82 million next year. Does that mean a half start? What hope does the right hon. Gentleman hold out to the 500 communities that, with Friends of the Earth, see relief from congestion and pollution arising from properly planned and constructed bypasses? How many of those communities will today be disappointed?

What contribution does today's statement make to the Government's ability to meet their stated carbon dioxide emissions targets and their commitments under the Kyoto agreement?

We welcome the setting up of properly resourced and equipped regional traffic control centres. Given that so many of the road schemes that the Minister has today delayed or scrapped have been the subject of reviews because of congestion problems, how quickly does he envisage road users experiencing real improvements on, say, the M1 and the M6? Many will be listening to his reply as they sit in jams and I do not think that further studies will be much comfort to them.

One notable exception to the Government's general approach to road improvements and road building, for which the right hon. Gentleman gave some explanation, is the M25. I am sure that he would like to confirm to the House that the Government have changed their mind, and widening that road is no longer lunacy.

Now that the Government have published a transport White Paper designed to reduce dependency on the car, will the Department be publishing revised forecasts for traffic growth, based on the success of their policies?

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The Deputy Prime Minister said that the country was in the mood for radical change in transport policy and that he was in the mood to give it to them. After all his promises of immediate benefits for the travelling public, all the hype, the glossy publications and the media opportunities for the right hon. Gentleman to prove his public transport credentials by standing at a bus stop before sweeping off in the ministerial Jaguar, the radical change amounts to more taxes for motorists, less investment in transport overall and the certainty of more gridlock on the roads. The long-delayed roads review, far from achieving the immediate benefits that the right hon. Gentleman promised, is in fact delivering more delay, more planning blight and yet more Government reviews. Jams today, jams tomorrow, jams until after the next election--that is the Government's transport policy.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott): One hundred and fifteen questions.

Dr. Reid: I shall attempt to answer only 110 of those questions. First, I thank the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) for her congratulations and am deeply moved by her concern about my future career prospects, but I think that I would rather take care of them. The fact that no less a person than the Deputy Prime Minister is in charge of the Department is a sign of the priority that we place on transport. As for the right hon. Lady's other questions, I shall avoid answering those that were merely personal abuse.

The right hon. Lady asked whether less money was being spent on investment in, and the maintenance of, trunk roads next year and the answer is no. Spending will increase by £52 million during the next year, as I have managed to discover in the 72 hours that I have been in the Department, so I am glad to be able to enlighten the right hon. Lady on that matter. There will be an extra £470 million for trunk roads in the next three years--the comprehensive spending review period--and, in addition, in the longer term, extra money will become available from our income streams.

On privatisation, we have made it plain that an integrated transport policy means the integration of all forms of transport, cross-departmental working and a partnership between the public and private sectors. The difference between the previous Conservative Government and our Government is that we are not driven by a blind ideology down the pathway of one form of ownership. We want the public and private sectors to work together.

On the Kyoto summit, we shall be producing a document to outline our detailed response in the autumn. As for road maintenance, we have restored the cuts that took place under the Conservative Government.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex): What about money for local authority roads maintenance?

Dr. Reid: The hon. Gentleman has a cheek interrupting as he does, when the Conservative Government, after 18 years, left us in a worse mess than any other Government have done. I shall give one example. The right hon. Lady had the brass neck to criticise us implicitly about bypasses. We have given the go-ahead for

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15. The highest number in any year during the 18 years of Conservative control of the transport system was 16, so this year, we have almost reached the highest figure that the Tories ever managed to achieve. Their record in their last three years was as follows: in 1994-95, they started the sum total of three bypasses; in 1995-96, they started one; and in 1996-97, they started one. So, this year we are starting three times more than they did in their last three years and they ought to consider those figures before they speak.

In reality, the previous Government had 18 years during which they did not even begin to think about such issues. They did not carry out an annual review and, indeed, did not even carry out one every decade. They spent tens of millions preparing schemes and then dropped them when they realised that they could not afford them, for example when they prepared their grandiose plans to build link roads around the M25 only to abandon them. They said that they did not believe in predict and provide, but acted as though they did during that period. Every year, they produced a fantasy football league of hundreds of road schemes, which were never funded, planned or carried out and for which no time scale was delivered. We are offering a policy programme based on a rational analysis, which is practical, and which is funded--we have laid out the funding--and can be delivered within a specified time. That is a marked improvement on the 18 years of the previous Government.


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