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Mr. Redwood: No unfair tolls.

Mr. Prescott: Now we see the picture. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) said, "We're against congestion charging."

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): I am.

Mr. Prescott: You might be--perhaps that is new new Conservatism--but you should have a chat to your mate on the Front Bench.

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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. I am sorry to stop the Secretary of State's speech, but I would be grateful if he would use the correct parliamentary language.

Mr. Prescott: I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: Will my right hon. Friend give way to an intellectual? [Interruption.]

Mr. Prescott: I missed that comment, but I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Prentice: I have a copy of a document from the British Road Federation which reminds us that the 1997 national road maintenance condition survey showed that the condition of all types of road was the worst since national measurements were first published in the mid-1970s. Does not that information bear out the point that my right hon. Friend has just made that it is incredible brass neck for the Conservatives to point the finger at us when they systematically neglected the roads programme for half a generation?

Mr. Prescott: I agree with my hon. Friend, who makes a sound and intelligent point. That was the conclusion of the Green Paper of the old Tory Government.

Mr. Ian Bruce rose--

Mr. Prescott: Are you standing for the old Tory Government?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the Secretary of State that the purpose of the conventions is to ensure that we choose our words carefully.

Mr. Ian Bruce: The Deputy Prime Minister visited my constituency during the European election campaign and we were grateful to him, not least for the result that we achieved. He will know that at the end of the old Conservative Government, when they were cutting back on roads, the Dorchester relief road was No. 1 on the list for Dorset. The road is in his programme, but for two years he has failed to tell the local authorities whether they will be allowed to proceed. He has not answered my letters on the subject, so will he tell the House now whether he will allow it to proceed?

Mr. Prescott: If I have not answered the hon. Gentleman's letter, I apologise and I will see that it is answered immediately.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) rose--

Mr. Prescott: The hon. Gentleman claimed that someone had seen someone who looked like me. I do not know whether there is another version of me somewhere. He was told that it was not true, but he pursued it through parliamentary questions. That was the height of stupidity, but we are used to that from the hon. Gentleman. We have made it clear that we will be building more bypasses. That is part of our programme which, as the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) knows, is not for one year any more, but for three. If the bypass that he mentioned is part

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of our programme, I shall have to discuss it with the local authority. I have set out a core road programme and also a regional programme. That is an entirely new structure for road programmes. However, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and try to give him the best information available at this stage.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) rose--

Mr. Bercow rose--

Mr. Prescott: I want to move to measures on congestion.

Dr. Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Secretary of State to compound a misleading written answer to me, in which he wrongly claimed to have dealt with a matter over the telephone? In this debate, he has repeated that he dealt with the matter, but he has not, and he has refused to give way to me.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman is just seeking to join in the debate.

Mr. Prescott: There are many elements in the Redwood plan, as I shall continue to call it, that I should like to examine. Of the 52 proposals, the press release stated that 25 would cost a considerable amount of money, but we have not yet heard anything about their costing. Debates on these subjects involve much talk about tax raising. Given that the Opposition are making great play of the matter, I thought that I would look at the sums raised in transport taxes and the amounts that have been spent.

In 1979-80, the final year of the previous Labour Administration, something like £4.1 billion was raised in revenue from vehicle excise duty and other duties. Expenditure on transport by that Government was £3.7 billion. Total transport expenditure expressed as a share of that revenue was 90 per cent.--in other words, we spent 90 per cent. of the amount collected. In the final year of the previous Conservative Administration, the amount raised rose to £21 billion, and expenditure was £8 billion, or 40 per cent. of the total raised.

Under the old Tories--and I think that I must now make that qualification every time I refer to them--40 per cent. of the amount raised in tax was spent, whereas the preceding Labour Government spent 90 per cent. That is worth remembering. In addition, the right hon. Member for Wokingham needs to turn his attention to the fuel duty escalator, which he knows raises about £1.5 million extra a year. He has said that he would abolish it, but if he did, he would have to examine the expenditure programmes and decide either to raise more in taxation or to make cuts--in the transport expenditure plans, or in the programmes for education or health provision.

When we were in opposition, we were constantly asked where the money would come from to pay for our plans. The question was, "Where's the beef?" Yet we have heard nothing from the Conservative party in response to the same question. I hope that we will be told later on.

Mr. Redwood: I have enjoyed the knockabout from the Deputy Prime Minister, but he has been attacking a

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policy and a document that are not the ones that I launched. My document is about a fair deal for the motorist, and we shall be launching policies on rail, the tube, buses and other transport elements over the coming months. We have a comprehensive approach to transport, and the document is just one element.

However, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's specific query, I can tell him that we believe that the tube should be privatised. That would mean that he would not need the £760 million taken out of the taxpayer's pocket for tube investment. That money would then be available for the other schemes that we propose in our 52-point programme.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that his increase in tube investment--which is a lot of money--is in the budget for the coming year. That money would be available to spend elsewhere if only he would privatise the tube. We have costed our plans to live within that budget.

Mr. Prescott: According to a quotation that I have seen, the right hon. Gentleman assumes that privatisation would realise an income of about £500 million a year, but the road programme alone costs £1.5 billion a year, even at the level of expenditure of the previous Conservative Administration. Privatising the tube cannot pay for all the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, such as building more roads, getting rid of "impediments" such as speed humps, and so on. Frankly, those proposals will not be financed out of such a small amount of money.

The other problem with the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, apart from the impossibility of using income from tube privatisation as a substitute for investment, is that income would be taken away from the Exchequer as a result of his proposed ending of the fuel duty escalator. The escalator was introduced by the previous Government, for a number of reasons, and the right hon. Gentleman supported it.

I am therefore left in some difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman has disowned--decoupled himself from--the actions that he took in government, and now says that he wants to start afresh. The trouble with starting afresh, however, is that money and solutions still have to be found. As I have said before, no Government can build their way out of the problem. The evidence for that is clear. The right hon. Gentleman should tell the House what he intends to do.

Given the time and the interventions that I have taken, I shall now move to the important question of congestion charging. People have been given the impression that the Opposition intend to do away with congestion charging and motorway tolls. I think that the right hon. Member for North Wiltshire said as much--

Mr. Gray: I am only honourable, not right honourable.

Mr. Prescott: I apologise. The hon. Gentleman will probably never get that far: I was just feeding him up a bit. Brokers do not usually get on--they only get money.

The Opposition are apparently wholeheartedly opposed to congestion charging, to workplace charging and to retail charging. Is that the position of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman? I take that nod from the right hon. Gentleman to mean that the Opposition would repeal those measures. I find that difficult to believe when I read the right hon. Gentleman's document, which does not say

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precisely that. It talks about "unfair" congestion charging. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree about that? He does not answer, but I need his help because I am in some difficulty here. Do the Opposition want fair congestion charging? Is that okay?

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