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Mr. Simon Hughes: Some of us do.

Mr. Efford: North Greenwich will have the tube soon. My constituency does not have it. The A2 and A20 meet in my constituency near two motorways. The problem with road charging is that it does not offer at the outset an alternative for people to switch to.

Connex South Eastern says that, during peak hours, it is running at capacity. It does not have any excess places for people to use at peak times. The London bus network is not seen as a satisfactory alternative. People could turn to the London taxi, but that would only add to road congestion.

Are the Conservatives aware that the average speed in London before the introduction of motor vehicles was 11 mph and that their transport strategies managed to get the figure back down to 11 mph by the time that they left office? Their transport strategies do not, therefore, give them much to crow about.

The serious point is that there are no transport alternatives. We need substantial investment in public transport to improve and expand it, and to allow people a choice. They could then switch from their car to safe, affordable, comfortable and reliable public transport. At present, we are not offering people those alternatives, particularly in my part of south-east London. Public transport should be extended before we go down the road--if I may use that word--of introducing road user charging, but Londoners should have an opportunity to tackle that issue in future.

Ms Glenda Jackson: My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) is entirely right. The Bill contains enabling powers, and he put his finger on the point when he said that such powers should be available to the mayor, should he or she wish to use them.

Londoners have said time and again that traffic congestion in the capital needs to be tackled. Clauses 222 and 223 will enable London's mayor and boroughs to introduce road user charging schemes and levy a charge on workplace parking. We amended the Bill in Committee to give the mayor and boroughs those new powers, underlining our proposals for a strong, effective mayor with powers to tackle congestion.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) was at some pains, as he said, to set the record straight on the Conservative party's policy on that issue. However, he seems to have executed a U-turn this evening because I distinctly remember that, in Committee, he said that the Conservative party was not opposed in principle to introducing road user charging nationally; it was only London's mayor to whom it wanted to deny those enabling powers.

I regret that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) is not in his place, not least because he is clearly as uninformed about his own party's policies as he is about the Government's proposals. He is opposed to any charging scheme unless there is clear hypothecation. His experience of the Treasury led him to believe that hypothecation would never be introduced, but we, as a radical Government, have demonstrated that it can, and will, be introduced.

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The issue of hypothecation ran through all the contributions to the debate. Hon. Members expressed concerns about whether 100 per cent. of net proceeds would be available to the mayor and boroughs for the mayor's transport strategy, how long hypothecation would operate and whether hypothecated income would be additional. I shall lay to rest all the fears on those three issues. Certainly, 100 per cent. of net proceeds will be spent exclusively on the mayor and borough transport strategies.

Hypothecation may continue for longer than 10 years for specific schemes. However, I say to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), who spoke to the Liberal Democrat amendments, that we reject permanent hypothecation, as we did in Committeewhen the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey)--or perhaps it was the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow)--proposed it. As I said to Liberal Democrat Members then, it is absurd to think that one would achieve the best public transport system or the best value for the taxpayer if a scheme of permanent hypothecation were introduced, because we do not seek gold-plating or platinum-plating of public transport legislation. Surely it must be possible to evaluate schemes to find out whether they are delivering best value for the taxpayer.

Mr. Brake: Would it not be possible, under a permanent scheme, for the mayor to decide to reduce the congestion charges or abolish them entirely?

8.15 pm

Ms Jackson: As I have already pointed out, the 10-year period is not an absolute cut-off; when schemes are reviewed, it will be possible to extend them. Clearly, there will be schemes that will take much longer than 10 years to complete, but to include in the Bill the requirements in the Liberal Democrat amendments would be non- productive. They would not produce best value for the taxpayer or, in the long run, the best and most effective improvements from transport schemes.

Concerns were expressed about whether such hypothecated income streams would be additional. I was somewhat surprised to hear the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, who was in the Committee when I made that point clear, but I shall make it clear again. The Bill requires any such scheme to keep separate income and expenditure accounts. Such accounts must be published annually and it will therefore be abundantly clear that those revenues are indeed additional.

Mr. Edward Davey: Is the Minister saying that the only money available for London transport will come from road user charges?

Ms Jackson: I am bemused by the hon. Gentleman's question, and I would love to know--or perhaps I would not--how he arrived at it. I repeat that any concerns that revenues raised from road user charging would not be additional should be laid to rest by the fact that the Bill requires all such schemes to keep separate income and expenditure accounts, which must be published annually. It will therefore be abundantly clear that those revenues are indeed additional.

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The hon. Gentleman was concerned also about whether there would be funding for the mayor and the boroughs. I cannot understand his concern, because the Government have announced an additional £1.8 million for local authority transport.

Mr. Ottaway: Does the Minister accept that I share Liberal Democrat Members' concerns? This is a question not of publishing accounts and saying that the revenue is additional, but of what the Treasury will be doing. Will the Minister assure us that there will be no reduction in the Treasury's grant to match the money raised by the schemes?

Ms Jackson: Is the hon. Gentleman seriously asking me to predict Budgets five or 10 years in advance? Did his party ever do so? Did his party ever guarantee any kind of funding for local authority transport? The Conservatives guaranteed year-on-year reductions. I say to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton that their fears that the hypothecated revenues might be a way for the Government to avoid their responsibilities, now or in future, by eroding central funding for local authority transport schemes are unfounded. I say for the third and final time that the Bill requires such schemes to keep separate income and expenditure accounts, which must be published annually.

I have already said that the Government's commitment to improving and integrating public transport is on the record, not only in our policy pronouncements, but in the additional £1.8 million that we have provided for local authority transport.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South accused the Government of being anti-car. That is far from the case, but we are anti-pollution. I am sure that he is aware that drivers suffer three times more pollution from petrol-driven cars than those who walk on the pavement. Any improvement that can be made in congestion will therefore not only improve journey times, but begin to reduce the amount of pollution in our air, thereby improving the environment and the quality of life in London. That point was made in the thoughtful contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).

The hon. Member for Croydon, South is clearly anti-pedestrian, and does not like the idea of zebra crossings being introduced. He is also very doubtful about traffic calming measures--which are road safety measures that have reduced accident rates, particularly for children, pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic calming measures have, indeed, reduced the accident rate for children by 67 per cent.

In this debate, the hon. Member for Croydon, South acknowledged that public transport in London is good; although, in our previous debate--in the criticism that he was levelling at London Transport--he could have fooled me that that was his belief. Nevertheless, he ignores the fact that public transport is good only because of a basket of schemes enhancing public transport's priority on the road.

Mr. Ottaway: I cannot let the Minister get away with saying that I am anti-pedestrian. The point--which I went to great lengths to make--is that there has to be a balance between the needs of pedestrians and of motorists. I also

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questioned whether the Government had struck the balance right. That certainly does not mean that I am anti-pedestrian.

Ms Jackson: The hon. Gentleman certainly implied that he was anti-pedestrian. He was much exercised by the introduction of pedestrian crossings in a road in his constituency. Moreover, his main concern about the crossings was not safety or the fact that they did not improve access to either side of the road for pedestrians, but that cars had to wait in queues for pedestrians to cross.

Roads are surely not the exclusive preserve of the users of one form of transport, and they certainly are not paid for by users of one form of transport. Surely pedestrians and cyclists, and certainly public transport, have a right to their fair share of our roads and of road use. Ever since the Government entered office, we have been prioritising the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South also expressed concern about the possibility of congestion charging leading to--I paraphrase--a "beggar my neighbour" policy. He gave the example of Bluewater, which he said is having an effect on a town centre in his constituency. Bluewater--which was given planning permission bythe previous Administration--underlines the absolute necessity of co-ordinating planning and transport decisions. We have introduced a requirement for those decisions to be co-ordinated. We simply cannot create good transport infrastructures without considering land use and land use planning issues.

In his speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) expressed his concern about those issues. Precisely to address those issues, the Government have made it abundantly clear that there must be co-ordination in any such schemes, and that such schemes must work within an over-arching mayoral strategy. There would be no virtue or value if the introduction of such schemes turned city centres into ghost towns. We are concerned with the revitalisation of our urban centres, and one of the ways of achieving that objective is to make our urban centres pleasant places in which to work, shop, walk and live. We therefore have to reduce not only traffic congestion on our streets, but the noise and environmental pollution that go with that congestion.

I should say again--just so that there is absolutely no doubt about the issue--that the modelling for the public-private partnership for London Underground is not dependent on revenue from road user charges or the workplace parking levy.

As I said, I regret that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire has left the Chamber. I was somewhat bemused by his expression of concern for the poor, the disabled and the elderly. When the Conservative party was in government, those sections of our society seemed to have totally disappeared from Conservative party thinking. He also complained about increased fuel duty as it affected his constituency, again neglecting to point out that that policy was introduced by the previous Government.

The hon. Member also expressed some concern about protecting London. Again, however, a previous Conservative Administration abolished the GLC, thereby denying a democratic voice to the people of London. I shall not go into the details of the inordinate damage that Conservative Administrations have inflicted on Londoners--by taking away housing, jobs and many social services.

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The provisions in schedules 18 and 19 will ensure that the schemes that I have been describing may be introduced quickly and operate effectively and equitably. However, I repeat that they are enabling powers, and that it will be for the mayor and the boroughs to decide whether to make use of the charging powers provided by the Bill.

I have already touched on the issue of what I perceive to be the official Opposition's U-turn on the issue, by seeking to deprive the mayor and the boroughs of the option of introducing a road charging scheme. However, as I said, I appreciate from the remarks in Committee of the hon. Member for Croydon, South that he perceives Conservative party policy as in principle favouring introducing such charges--but only nationally and not in London. He did not afford any evidence that, should they be introduced, our hypothecation of any such revenue raised would become part of Conservative policy.

Evidence shows that road user charging and a levy on workplace parking are able to help to tackle the problems of congestion and pollution. Clearly, less congestion means faster, more reliable journey times, and that will benefit businesses, motorists and the capital's bus users. It will make the streets more pleasant for pedestrians and residents, and make our city more attractive to tourists.

New charges will also generate a revenue stream. As I have already made clear, all such schemes introduced by the mayor or boroughs within the GLA's first 10 years will retain every penny of the proceeds for transport expenditure. We shall review the arrangements 10 years after establishment of the GLA.

As I said, we do not share the view of the Liberal Democrats that hypothecation of charging revenues should continue indefinitely, as they might not provide value for money in the long term.

I have also touched on the issue of requiring separate accounts to be maintained and published for each charging scheme, guaranteeing transparency and demonstrating to Londoners that the revenues generated by new charges are additional moneys for transport expenditure.

The Government have made it clear that schemes may be introduced if they directly or indirectly help to deliver the objectives in the mayor's transport strategy. The requirements for the Secretary of State to make regulations covering various aspects of the schemes' operation have been reduced.

We have also given the mayor the opportunity of specifying which aspects of the charging schemes, if any, he or she would wish formally to approve as schemes are developed. That will help to ensure consistency across schemes when the mayor considers that to be necessary, and allow charging authorities the freedom to take decisions on other issues.

I have given only a brief overview of the key changes made to the Bill in Committee. As I said, the Government believe that the Bill's enabling powers are greatly important and must be available to the mayor and the assembly, to ensure that improvements not only in London's public transport but in London's environment may be made.

The Bill's provisions will provide the mayor and boroughs with powers to make a real difference in tackling London's serious traffic problems. Clauses 222 and 223 will, as I said, empower the mayor and borough

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to introduce road user and workplace parking charging schemes. The provisions of schedules 18 and 19 will ensure that schemes may be introduced quickly and operate effectively and equitably.

A world-class city requires a world-class transport system. It is therefore only right that London's mayor and boroughs should have the powers that they need to help them to deliver that goal for Londoners.


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