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Mr. Gray: I did not suggest at any stage that my constituents were wealthy. That is not the point that I was making, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. The hon. Gentleman wants the tax to be used to drive people off the roads, and leave them open to those who can easily afford to pay it. It is a rich man's tax. The rich man in his Jaguar will be fine, while the poor man will have to stay at home.

Mr. Davey: The hon. Gentleman clearly was not listening. What I said was that a price signal would lead people, rich or poor, to think about their journeys and about the alternatives. In fact, most people on low incomes do not use cars. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the statistics, he will find that the public transport system will be massively improved for those who use public transport most at present by the revenue streams that will be generated. Those on low incomes stand to benefit.

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Although congestion charges are right in principle, for the economic reasons that I have given and the environmental reasons given by other speakers, they will work only if there is a political consensus, not just here but in the wider London population. In that respect, I fear that the Government are not doing their own policies a service in regard to their presentation in both the Bill and the media. In this instance, the hon. Member for North Wiltshire was right: he complained that the Government had not ring-fenced the revenues from road user charges effectively. The Government are not guaranteeing to those who will pay that the charges will be ploughed back permanently into public transport in the capital.

The hon. Gentleman made two points in that regard. First, he made a point about additionality. We need to ensure that the revenues raised constitute additional funds. That is why the Liberal Democrats argued yesterday and in Committee that the Greater London Authority transport grant--the money that the Government currently suggest should go to Transport for London--should be maintained in real terms. If a future Chancellor could say,"Mr. Mayor"--or Mrs. Mayor--"now that you have your revenues from road user charges, you will not need the transport grant any longer", it would undermine public support for the charges in London.

Additionality is a key part of ensuring that road user charges are saleable to the public, but another key part is ensuring that they are ring-fenced. After the Second Reading debate, the Government relented and in Committee, by means of schedule 18, they inserted a complex set of paragraphs in an attempt to persuade people that they would ring-fence the revenues for 10 years; but, as we said in Committee, we do not feel that they have actually done that, and detailed scrutiny of schedule 18 will prove that we are right. Ministers did not accept our argument in Committee, but, even if they do not accept it now, the Government ought to consider it seriously in the other place. It is in their interests, and in the interests of those who want to reduce congestion, for the tax to be made saleable.

Paragraph 17(6) of the schedule sets out in detailhow the 10-year period will be measured. Paragraph 17 introduces the concept of the initial period, at the start of the 10 years; sub-paragraph (6) specifies how the time when that initial period began will be judged. Under the sub-paragraph, effectively, the Secretary of State can deem that a particular road user charging scheme has been changed in some way. Perhaps the rates have changed; perhaps the district boundaries have changed. The Secretary of State can then say, "This is a different scheme", and the initial period will therefore be deemed to have come to an end.

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As the initial period has come to end, the revenues will no longer be available solely and exclusively for investment in London Transport. I do not say that to make a political point. I am trying genuinely to be helpful to the Government because I want to ensure that they achieve in legislation what they say they want to achieve: to ring-fence the revenues.

That is not the only aspect of road user charging that we need to address to ensure that the new charges are saleable politically. We need to ensure that there are

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improvements in the public transport system up front. People who are going to be asked to pay the charges need to know that they will get benefits. As we have seen in the first two years of the management of London's underground and public transport system, such improvements to London's public transport system have not occurred. That is likely to occur again now that the Government have gone down the path of PPP schemes.

What may happen is that the charges will be introduced, people will be asked to pay and then they will not see any benefit for several years. That is not a politically sensible strategy. I am incredibly worried about that because I want congestion to be tackled. Charging may be one of a package of measures that will help, but it will fall at the first hurdle if we do not persuade people that it is in their interests--that it will tackle the problems that we are all concerned about.

Therefore, I ask the Minister to examine the way in which the Government are putting the road user charges element of their public transport strategy for London together, as well as the money that they are investing in London underground and other aspects of London's public transport.

I am particularly concerned about the following point, which was mentioned in the previous debate, but is relevant now: the money for London's public transport system from April 2000. At the moment, no one is clear, least of all in the management of London Transport, where the money will come from to maintain the infrastructure, to invest in the system and to ensure that improvements are achieved. If the managers of the system are not sure where the money is coming from less than a year before that financial year starts, clearly, they cannot make the proper investment plans and strategies that are needed.

Those are my two concerns about the way in which the Government are approaching the matter. First, they are not ensuring that the money is fully hypothecated and will be genuinely additional. Secondly, their overall transport strategy is not ensuring that there will be benefits up front for the people who will need to use the alternatives to cars or motor transport. Indeed, the alternative is public transport.

I do not think that Ministers can get away with leaving it to a future mayor. They cannot duck responsibility on the matter. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Brent, East, who may turn out to be a mayoral candidate, is now on record as saying that he supports road user charges. He has a legitimate point about the level of those charges. There will be a debate on that, but I am glad that, in principle, he is now in favour.

We have heard that at least one putative Conservative candidate--my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) mentioned him earlier--may be in favour of the scheme. Apparently, Lord Archer is against. He has taken the populist, opportunist Tory line, but it is possible that candidates who are against road user charges might win the mayoral elections.

The Minister cannot push that point aside and say that a Labour candidate will win. It is possible that a candidate from another party, or an independent candidate who is opposed to road user charges, will win. If that person has made a case against road user charges, that not only puts

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a massive hole in the Government's strategy for London Transport, but may put a huge hole in the finances of the PPP and London Transport.

Ms Glenda Jackson: We have been round this course in Committee. I say to the hon. Gentleman again, as I said to him then, that the modelling for the PPP is not based on any funding from either road congestion charging, or a levy on workplace parking. I repeat to him for about the sixth time that the financial modelling for the PPP is not dependent on any revenues from congestion charging.

Mr. Davey: The reason why the Minister keeps having to repeat that point is that she will not publish the report that contains the modelling so that the House can see it before it passes the Bill. If she and her colleagues had the decency to publish that report, so that we could scrutinise and analyse it, the matter might be a little more open, the debates might be a little more fruitful and we would not have to make a stab in the dark about where the calculations are coming from.

In a constructive spirit, I say that the Government have to make the case for road user charges. We know that it will be politically difficult to sell. No one is under any illusions about that, but unless they create the framework properly and sensibly in the first place, making that case will be incredibly difficult.

Mr. Efford: The issue inspires much passion among people outside the House. If there were a referendum on the issue, there might be a higher turnout than in the local elections tomorrow. I recall having a public meeting about the closure of a hospital in my constituency and booking a rather large hall, expecting thousands of people to turn up; 110 did so. When I had a similar meeting on the introduction of speed humps in a short road, the same number turned up.

I have concerns about the introduction of road charging. We need to take a sequential approach to the issue, the first being that we need to charge at the place where people park. We need to end the process of allowing out-of-town centre developments with huge car parks that one can land jumbo jets on, which have free parking.

One of the concerns that I have, representing an outer London constituency, is that it is likely to be close to one of the areas where a booth or machine for charging for entrance to London will be sited. Many people from outside London use my town centre, which is likely to be the other side of the toll booth, or whatever it is going to be. That would place my town centre at a disadvantage. I know that other hon. Members representing other town centres and other cities have similar concerns. Therefore, the issue requires more discussion.

The problem that I have with the Liberal Democrats' approach is that they are taking away the democratic right of Londoners to have a say on the issue. A similar position has been taken by the Conservatives. The mayor should have powers to introduce the measure. The mayor should be able to go to Londoners to have the debate. At the moment, I err on the side of caution because I do not think that London is ready for road charging, but that option should be available to the mayor.

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Another problem that we face--it is something that I have spoken about several times in the House already--is that south-east London does not have the tube network.


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