Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Redwood: Of course I know my own pledges. I helped to draft and write them but, for the sake of accuracy, it is a good idea to have them in front of me when presenting them to the House.

We will halt the annual fuel duty increases. We will publish a clear balance account, showing what the Government raise in tax and how it is spent. We will

15 Jul 1999 : Column 600

oppose Labour's plans for increased tax burdens on the motorist. We remain opposed to Labour's plans to tax people who have to drive to and park at their place of work. We will challenge the Government to commission a full and fair inquiry into the competitiveness of the haulage industry, which they are gravely damaging. We will promote schemes to take heavy lorries and through traffic out of our towns and villages that need bypassing.

We will publish, and keep updated, a list of the most pressing road improvement schemes needed on the main trunk roads, and we will not cancel them all in the way the Government do. We will penalise water, electricity, gas and telephone companies for excessive delays, which cause problems when they extend their roadworks unnecessarily. We will set up local traffic flow forums to work with motoring organisations to try to find good ways of easing traffic flow on the existing road space. We will consider minimum speed limits to improve traffic flow on major routes.

Those are good, sensible suggestions. We offer them to the Government for the next couple of years in a helpful spirit. Will the Deputy Prime Minister take up any one of them, because any one of them could make the position better? What can the Government offer, other than division at the top and bashing the motorist?

Out of new Labour comes transport chaos. Out of new Conservative comes the traveller's friend. Will the Deputy Prime Minister bury the hatchet, help the motorist, get on with improving trains and buses and adopt some of our ideas? I recommend the motion to the House.

2.26 pm

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott): I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

In his last few words, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) made it clear why he has rejected so much of previous Conservative policy, to which I shall refer--he has discovered new Conservatism. Am I to accept that that is a complete change from everything the previous Administration believed in? [Interruption.] We shall wait and see whether that is confirmed. The right hon. Gentleman is rejecting everything that was done by the previous Administration, and the transport lessons learned over 18 years appear to have been wiped out. If that is so, I must tell the right

15 Jul 1999 : Column 601

hon. Gentleman that I had more sympathy for the previous Administration's analysis of transport priorities and congestion than I have for the new Redwood plan.

I believe that most people in this country--there may be agreement between both sides of the House here--want a transport system that is safe, efficient, clean and fair to all users. We can have consensus, right at the beginning of the debate. The argument appears to be about how we achieve that, how the resources are raised and whether we can build our way out of congestion. I suspect that there is a fundamental disagreement on that point.

The previous Administration concluded that we could not build our way out of congestion, and their conclusions were similar to those in our White Paper. When I introduced the White Paper to the House, I said that much of the thinking in the previous Government's Green Paper had been adopted in our analysis and consultation, and that we had arrived at similar conclusions. It is now clear that new Conservatism rejects those ideas on transport, and I wish to address myself to that point.

Before doing so, I wish to refer to the comments of the right hon. Member for Wokingham on investment in the underground. I inherited an underground system with a massive disinvestment of £1.2 billion. There is no doubt about that--it is clear, audited and there to be seen. That was simply because inadequate resources were put into core investment. Much of the money provided by the previous Administration was poured into the Jubilee line--quite rightly, as we need a Jubilee line. However, the contract was not very good, and has now cost well over £1 billion more than was needed. It was paid for by sucking out the core investment in the underground. We hope and believe that we have control of that now, and we are looking at the core investment needs of the London underground.

I can announce today that more than £500 million extra will now be found for the underground system, and that information has been provided in a parliamentary answer today. Expenditure on the underground is set out in the Red Book. We can see the investment and expenditure pattern. In our first two years, 1997 and 1998, despite accepting the previous Government's expenditure plans, we found a further £300 million. I announced in a statement that the £1 billion and the further £300 million would restore the cuts that had been proposed for the London underground.

We considered precisely where the extra resources are to come from, as we wanted to complete the public-private partnership bids in 1999-2000 and get the investment programme under way. Unfortunately, we have not been able to meet that timetable. I expressed a fear at the time that we would not be able to complete the deal on time. I am now concerned to get a good deal for the taxpayer and avoid reproducing the problems that we had with the Jubilee line contract and the channel tunnel rail link, both of which involved demands for an extra £1 billion.

In 1999-2000, there will be an extra £763 million of investment in the London underground. Added to the resources available in 2001, that is a total of £1 billion. The previous Administration planned to invest

15 Jul 1999 : Column 602

£161 million in the underground in 1999-2000, by contrast with our £763 million. That shows the clear difference between our priorities and theirs.

Mr. Redwood: I am glad that our debate has at least provoked the Deputy Prime Minister into finding a bit more investment for the underground, which is sorely needed. I remind him that the investment was £955 million in 1994-95; £1.114 billion in 1995-96; and£1.06 billion in 1996-97. We were planning to have privatised the tube by now, so of course the numbers went down, because we expected a lot of money to come in from the private sector. The right hon. Gentleman cancelled that. The record of investment for the successive years of this Government is £843 million, £654 million and, according to the original plans for this year, £564 million. That is a massive slash in investment compared with the last three years of Conservative government.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that heis increasing the investment in 1999-2000 from £564 million to £763 million--an increase of £199 million--and that that is still £300 million less than we invested in the last Conservative year?

Mr. Prescott: The right hon. Gentleman has not denied that the Conservative Government planned to invest only £161 million in 1999-2000, whereas we are investing £763 million. That is a substantial difference. His argument is that he would have privatised the underground. Let us consider the previous Government's record on the privatisations that it rushed through.

Billions of pounds were lost on Railtrack and the rolling stock companies, and the Conservatives paid a company £250 million to take the freight industry away from the state, rather than selling it or getting any money for the taxpayer. I have no faith that they would have been able to produce a privatisation plan in time, and even if they had, they would have rushed it to such an extent that it would have cost the taxpayer billions of pounds, as the Public Accounts Committee has reminded us.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that he would sell off the underground for £560-odd million, as I understand it. I do not know how he arrived at that figure, but it is very small and entirely consistent with the value that the Conservatives got in previous privatisations, when they sold off our great public assets very cheaply, turning many of them into millionaires along the way.

The right hon. Gentleman made great play of spending plans and national roads programmes. It is fair to keep telling him what the previous Government planned to spend had they been re-elected. There was a great deal of shouting about the fact that we said that our public expenditure would be similar to their plans--although we found a little extra, in the shape of the £300 million to restore the cuts--but the difference is that we have taken a view that we cannot build our way out of congestion. That is at the heart of the argument about transport.

Next Section

IndexHome Page