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Mr. Hill: I hope that before I turn to the substance of this short debate, it will be convenient for the House if I say that I intend to accept new clause 32 and amendment

10 May 2000 : Column 939

no. 418, relating to school crossings and tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster). I congratulate my hon. Friend on his persistence and persuasiveness in urging the Government to make that change; it may be a tiny change in the wording of legislation, but it is likely to make an important contribution to the safety of all children and other vulnerable members of society.

I understand that new clause 4 has been the subject of a significant letter-writing and e-mail campaign in recent days. I know that members of Friends of the Earth, of whom I am one, take a keen interest in the subject.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I hope that the Minister means new clause 3, which is what we are trying to discuss.

Mr. Hill: I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I meant new clause 3.

The House will recall that it was the predecessor of the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas)--sadly, the hon. Gentleman cannot be with us--who sponsored the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act 1998. It was a considerable achievement to get that on to the statute book. I appreciate the reasons for tabling the new clause, but I cannot support its inclusion in the Bill.

As I am sure the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) is aware, the Government's first report under the 1998 Act was published earlier this year. Our report, entitled "Tackling Congestion and Pollution", made it clear that we are not in favour of setting a national road traffic target in England. It may be helpful to remind the House of our reasons.

Mr. Patrick Hall (Bedford): I understand that my hon. Friend wishes congestion to be tackled where it actually occurs--at local level--and by local authorities. In that context, I believe that he is saying that a national target is a diversion from achieving real results, but does he not accept that the aggregate effect of local action in towns and cities throughout the country would add up to a national reduction in road traffic? If he does, what is wrong with adopting a national target in that national perspective? Can he assure my constituents and me that if the Government are not to adopt a national target and specify it in the Bill, they will none the less give clear and firm leadership to help achieve substantive results?

Mr. Hill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I recognise his powerful commitment, and he is right to say that we wish congestion to be tackled where it happens--at local level. We want to provide strategic guidance to local authorities and others on tackling congestion, but setting a national road traffic target is not the best way in which to do that, for two reasons.

First, as "Tackling Congestion and Pollution" makes clear, the national level of traffic is not a good indicator of our success in tackling congestion. Secondly, a national target takes no account of differing local circumstances. The need for congestion reduction is clearly different between, for example, rural Herefordshire and central Bristol. In the former case, a national target may be unnecessarily high. In the latter case, it may be

10 May 2000 : Column 940

irrelevantly low. In neither case does it provide a meaningful target against which local authorities can measure local progress.

In "Tackling Congestion and Pollution" we did not simply reject the idea of a national road traffic reduction target. Following the advice of the Commission for Integrated Transport, we said that we would take forward its proposal for separate congestion benchmarks and targets for different area types. I can assure my hon. Friend that there will be the firmest leadership from Government in achieving substantive results. I hope to spell out how that will be achieved in my few remaining remarks.

The central contention of "Tackling Congestion and Pollution" is that we should focus our targets on the outcomes that we want to achieve, rather than crude national traffic volume figures. We do not believe that the national volume of road traffic is a good measure of our success in improving the things that really matter to people at local level, particularly congestion and pollution.

The report showed that over the next 10 years, principally through cleaner fuels and vehicles, we expect the contribution of road traffic to local air pollution to be more than halved. In addition, with widespread support from local authorities, local business and the public for the policies in our 1998 integrated transport White Paper and for the Transport Bill, it should be possible to reduce congestion, even when national traffic levels are rising.

Trends in road traffic growth and the need for improvement will be substantially different in different areas of the country and for different types of road. Benchmarks and targets, and the policies and mechanisms needed to achieve them, should themselves vary. Our strategy, set out in the integrated transport White Paper two years ago, emphasises the need for such a localised approach.

We have the right policies in place and they are beginning to have real effect. There has been a 15 per cent. increase in rail passenger journeys. Private sector rail investment has more than doubled since 1996-97. Private sector investment has been brought in: £8 billion for London Underground, £3.3 billion for the channel tunnel rail link, £1.3 billion for National Air Traffic Services.

Next year, we are providing £750 million--a 20 per cent. increase on previous provision--to help local authorities to implement local transport plans. In 2001-02, the figure is set to increase to £1 billion. Additionally, bus quality partnerships are proving a great success in 130 towns and cities, increasing bus usage by 10 to 20 per cent. Bus industry investment has doubled, to £380 million a year.

Mr. Jenkin: The industry has been privatised.

Mr. Hill: That is perfectly true, but the bus industry also benefits from £300 million a year in fuel duty rebate and from £200 million a year in direct subsidy. Therefore the state itself makes a reasonable contribution to the bus industry's success, which I am celebrating in my few remarks.

By 2001-02, we shall have increased annual provision for local road maintenance to more than £2.2 billion, which is 20 per cent. above the 1997 level. Additionally, the Chancellor announced in the Budget an extra £280 million for transport in 2000-01.

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The 10-year plan for transport, which we shall publish in the summer, will provide the framework for investment in transport in the next decade. We believe that the way forward is to build on existing targets for the things that matter to people--air quality, the levels of greenhouse gases, health and road safety.

We intend to develop congestion benchmarks and targets for different types of area and road. We shall discuss our proposals for local congestion benchmarks with local authorities, businesses and other interested groups to ensure that targets are specifically tailored to local needs, and reflect what can reasonably be achieved. We shall also discuss the possibility of setting local benchmarks and targets for traffic, as a proxy for other local outcomes for which there are currently no targets.

The Government recognise the importance of effective action to reduce congestion and air pollution when they affect residents in specific areas. Our statement "Tackling Congestion and Pollution" received broad support when it was published earlier this year. We are now proposing positive plans to deal with congestion and pollution and to deliver a sustainable environment at the local level, where it matters.

New clause 3 seeks to divert the Government from that track. I hope very much, therefore, that the hon. Member for Bath will be able to withdraw it.

Mr. Don Foster: I have enjoyed the 100 or so hours of debate that we have had on the Bill, and I have enormously enjoyed the Minister's contributions--particularly when he tries his regular trick of speaking very quickly indeed to try to mislead people, or at least to try to mask the more difficult things that he has to say.

The House will have noticed that the Minister said that it was absolutely appropriate for there to be local traffic reduction targets as proxies in addressing all the other issues that matter, such as congestion and pollution. I fail to understand, therefore, why he does not accept that it would be equally beneficial to have national road traffic targets as a proxy in addressing all of those issues.

The Deputy Prime Minister has set the Government a national target, and I am surprised that the Minister is not prepared to support him in reaching it. Additionally, 300 Labour Members have pledged to support such targets. It would clearly be wrong not to give them an opportunity--by pressing the new clause to the vote--to say whether they are sticking by those commitments.

"Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 37, Noes 319.

Division No. 192
[8.59 pm


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Dawson, Hilton
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Drew, David
Fearn, Ronnie
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Kirkwood, Archy
Laxton, Bob
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thompson, William
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Webb, Steve
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:

Sir Robert Smith and
Mr. Tom Brake.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon
(Dunfermline E)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ennis, Jeff
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vaz, Keith
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and
Mr. Don Touhig.

Question accordingly negatived.

10 May 2000 : Column 944

Mr Deputy Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

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