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Mr. Prescott: On hypothecation.

Mr. Taylor: As the right hon. Gentleman says, hypothecation is included in both documents.

Motorists' taxes should reflect not only investment in roads but the real economic costs of road transport--the costs to business of congestion, the costs to the health service of treating problems arising from fumes and pollution, and the cost to society of damage to the environment.

The previous Government's Green Paper--if the right hon. Member for Wokingham has not read it, he should--went into detail on all the matters that the Conservatives now criticise, concluding that


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    reducing the provision of off-street non-residential parking. The Government accepts that there is a case for such powers to be available for use locally at the discretion of individual authorities."

The issue is not purely urban, although it is true that the issues are different in rural areas. One of the advantages of congestion charging over an increase in petrol prices is that it can be targeted on motorists where public transport is available, so as to have the greatest effect.

The document continues:


who are entirely forgotten by the new modern Conservative party--


    "and about the environmental impact of high car use both in sensitive rural tourist locations and more generally . . . The Government believes more attention will need to be given to reducing car dependence in rural areas without damaging economic activity or restricting access to shops."

The Conservative Government targeted congestion in urban areas; they argued in favour of allowing local authorities to levy charges on non-residential car parking and in congestion areas, and to implement electronic and pass charging. Those are exactly the things that the right hon. Gentleman now rails against and commits himself to oppose--unless, of course, they are fair, whatever that means. Yet the Conservatives used to accept the need for traffic reduction even in rural areas.

Mr. Redwood: Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House why it is fair to tax people on low incomes off the road, thus leaving the roads freer for those on high incomes?

Mr. Taylor: The right hon. Gentleman misses the point of what I have just quoted from a Conservative Government document. Perhaps he should have considered that before publishing his policy. He also forgets that even in rural areas, one in five people--overwhelmingly the poorest, the old or people with disabilities--do not have access to a car. That consideration runs right through the document.

If there were congestion charging in urban areas where public transport could be made available, what would that do for people? It would fund the provision of that public transport alternative. Indeed, using public and private links, provision could be made before congestion charging was introduced. There could be a twin-track approach, providing fast, efficient, clean and safe public transport to get people off the roads. It would be paid for through congestion charging, so that neither poorer people nor anyone else would have to pay high charges, and the roads would be clear for those who needed to use them.

Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): The hon. Gentleman rightly describes a form of social exclusion in rural areas. Will he comment on the deregulation policy of the previous Tory Government, especially as it affected bus services in rural areas such as his and my own? How much damage did that policy do, and how much worse did it make the problems of social exclusion in rural economies and communities? There were 18 years of increasing social exclusion.

Mr. Taylor: The hon. Gentleman is right. However, there is a notable difference between London and the

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rest of the country. In London bus use has grown; in the rest of the country it has fallen. The issue affects even those whom the Conservative party might regard as its natural supporters, those in business. Estimates of the cost to business arising from congestion range from £15 billion to £30 billion a year. Most of the increase in that figure occurred while the Conservatives were in office.

The Deputy Prime Minister referred to traffic calming, on which the Conservatives' proposals are muddled, to say the least. Their policy document states:


I am not quite sure what the phrase "environmentally unfriendly traffic humps" means. It may mean that the humps are made from some material that damages the environment, in which case I agree with the right hon. Member for Wokingham. However, I think that he means that all traffic humps are environmentally unfriendly because he does not like them in the environs of his roads. Presumably that is because the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would like to drive faster. Indeed, I am sure that is what he means, because he recently referred to road humps as "impediments".

I represent a rural community, and every September I spend a couple of weeks visiting all the villages that I represent--about 70 different stops--holding travelling advice surgeries. During the past two years, the No. 1 overwhelming request has been for traffic calming. Village after village is being destroyed by the cars that drive through.

Mr. Geraint Davies: The hon. Gentleman's constituents want to slow him down.

Mr. Taylor: As I tow a caravan, there is no chance of my going too fast. However, the hon. Gentleman is probably right in that many people would prefer it if I did not travel with a caravan; motorists tend not to like them. However, I am a form of traffic calming process in my own right, so I point out to my constituents that I am doing exactly what they ask.

I have made so many requests for traffic calming during the past two years that I wrote separately to the county surveyor to apologise for inundating him with requests. I know that he cannot pay for all the schemes, because he does not have the income stream to do so--although income has increased recently, and I praise the Government and the county council for taking that decision. Liberal Democrat county councillors wanted to give greater priority to such matters.

The key point is that rural people want to slow down traffic in their communities. The right hon. Member for Wokingham has focused on the motorist; he has spoken to one or two organisations that are fixated on arguing the motorist's case and not to the organisations that take a more intelligent view and consider the safety issues.

Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): Jeremy Clarkson?

Mr. Taylor: Perhaps, but the Conservatives have not consulted people who have considered the issue rationally. The right hon. Member for Wokingham should talk to those in his party who had ministerial

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responsibility for these matters before the general election. They learned and understood the lessons, and continue those arguments in their new roles.

My criticism of the Government is not, and never has been, on the policies that they said they intended to pursue. We may have some differences. I would like vehicle excise duty on all cars up to 1600 cc to be abolished. It is sensible to charge people for use, not for ownership. That applies especially to small ordinary family cars; big petrol guzzlers may be another matter.

However, I am concerned, as is the Deputy Prime Minister, about the lack of progress so far. After two years there has been no legislation to put the policies into effect--although I realise that the Deputy Prime Minister has fought for that. The process is now starting, but the Railways Bill will be held up until after the recess. There is likely to be a major traffic Bill in the autumn, but we do not know for sure; I hope that the right hon. Gentleman wins the battle for a broader Bill to implement the major features of the White Paper.

The slowness emanates, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, from others in the Government, and from Departments that fear the very issues being raised by the Conservative party. Short-termism makes the matter politically unacceptable. That is wrong. Any member of the public who is stuck in a traffic jam, any family whose children suffer from asthma that is worsened by traffic-related pollution, and anyone who suffers from noise, will see the logic of introducing the policies--provided that they are sensibly implemented alongside public transport provision.

Mr. Bercow: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Matthew Taylor: I want to finish soon, so I shall give way only to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow).


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