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Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Trunk roads cut.

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend has got there before me. Trunk roads cut; trunk transport in.

15 Jul 1999 : Column 594

Today, the Opposition are proud to present a transport policy that would get Britain on the move again, a policy that tackles the standstill Britain that is being created by the Government: an answer to their policy of jams today and jams tomorrow.

The Government seem to think that people use cars wilfully and unreasonably and that we are a nation of planet wreckers driving around for the sake of it. They have to understand that most people use their cars to go about their daily business: to go to work, to go to a business meeting, to visit family members, to go out with friends, to go to the cinema or theatre. They often go by car because there is no alternative public transport for the journey, or the alternative public transport is inconvenient, slow, difficult or too expensive.

The Deputy Prime Minister should recognise that most of us do not live near a train station, or have a bus stop at the bottom of our garden. Many of us would like to use trains and buses more, but we first have to get to the station or the bus stop, and that often means a car journey. That is why our overall transport policy includes the fair deal for the motorist which my hon. Friends and I had the pleasure of launching earlier this week. We need to be able to get to the bus stop or the station. The motorist needs a break and a choice.

The House might be interested to know that, since we made some announcements along those lines, I have been inundated with letters praising our initiative and showing enormous frustration at the Government's anti-transport, anti-traveller, anti-motorist stance. May I give the House a little flavour of the many letters that I have received? One says:

The author goes on to say:

    "In the recent Euro elections I broke the habit of a long lifetime to vote Tory for the first time (I'm a Euro sceptic); if you can cobble together a rational transport policy there is a grave danger that I might also vote Tory at the next general election".

That is exactly what I intend to do. I am pleased that my correspondent is on my side.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has received a letter from his colleague, the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), who said during the trunk roads review when he was Secretary of State for Transport:

Has he received such a letter?

Mr. Redwood: I have not, but I have had praise from my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), who thinks that my initiative is excellent. He gives it his full support; he stopped me only the other day to say just that.

Another correspondent writes to me to say that

He goes on to say something that Labour Members should listen to very carefully:

    "As a retired senior citizen of 71 years, I own a small economical car to enable me to take advantage of the freedom of movement it gives me. Furthermore, public transport is so expensive that even allowing for road tax, insurance and repairs it is still much cheaper than buses and trains. Time too is a consideration."

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): I am sorry to trouble my right hon. Friend--and it is rare, indeed, for any of

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his colleagues to have the opportunity to trump him. But is he aware that I have an 81-year-old constituent--Mrs. Elizabeth Zettl, who lives in High street, Buckingham--who was literally incandescent about the Government's most recent hike in petrol prices, and pointed out to me that she depended on her car; that she travelled to outlying areas in the course of her voluntary work for two local charities; that she did not think that those charities could afford to reimburse her petrol expenses, and that she did not wish to ask them to do so? I am sure that that lady, who is a person of the most splendid commitment and courage, will warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's new and fair deal for motorists.

Mr. Redwood: I am very grateful.

To reinforce the point for Labour Members, another correspondent says:

She had in mind the high taxation on motorists who have no other way of travelling and for whom there is no public transport alternative.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): My right hon. Friend will probably have seen that the Automobile Association has done a survey of motorists--who basically said that they would be happier if money collected in additional taxes were being used to improve roads and public transport.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a road scheme to relieve traffic in Weymouth and Portland was ready to go when, more than two years ago, the Government came to power, but that Ministers have still not told local authorities whether they may go ahead with the scheme--on which millions of pounds have already been spent? Is it not about time the Government started to sort out their integrated transport policy, rather than simply handing over money to the Treasury?

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend is right. However, I am sure that the truth is that there is no money for lots of schemes, such as the one he has in mind, and that the Government's dithering is a cover for their failure with the Treasury--or their hatred of the motorist, and their wish to cancel every sensible road scheme.

Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood: I really do not have time, as I have promised to limit my remarks to 20 minutes, to give hon. Members on both sides of the House the chance to debate--[Hon. Members: "Frit."] The House knows that I am not frit, and that I usually frequently give way. However, if we are to make use of the short time available, I cannot show my normal generosity by giving way, as I have some points that I want to make and I want other hon. Members to have a chance to speak.

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Another correspondent says:

My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) has rightly mentioned the problem that local government is already experiencing under the new Labour Government in trying to make the books balance and to make the investment that they would like. It is no wonder that local government is in trouble. Compared with the final year of the Conservative Government--one of their least generous years--in the first year of the Labour Government, there was a £70 million cut in local transport expenditure; in the subsequent year, a £169 million cut; and, this year, a £48 million cut. [Interruption.] Those figures are from the Government's own book on expenditure, so Labour Members cannot argue with them.

The same document on roads and traffic shows the damage that the Government are doing across the board on investment, including big cuts in overall national road expenditure. In Labour's first full year, national road expenditure was down £138 million; in their second year, it was down £87 million. That expenditure reduction explains quite a lot of the current chaos--[Interruption.]

Labour Members ask whether we would reverse the reduction. If they had listened, they would know that I am announcing--both today and in the document that we announced earlier this week--that, yes, a much better deal is needed for the motorist, and that it will have to include additional road building in areas that need bypasses--[Interruption.]

I shall tell hon. Members exactly how this would be done. We would privatise the tube, so that we could raise London Transport investment and have money left over for transport elsewhere in the country, as we should not have to milk the taxpayer for that particular necessary investment.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: Will my right hon. Friend give way on that point?

Mr. Redwood: I am afraid that I do not have time.

Mr. Geraint Davies: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood: No.

We shall oppose the Government's plans to tax the motorist more. We want to take the motorist off the fuel escalator--we have gone high enough: it is now time to stop the higher taxes. We are against Labour's unfair congestion and parking taxes.

Those new taxes are Labour's poll tax on wheels.

Mr. Davies: Will the right hon. Gentleman--

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