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Madam Speaker: Before I call the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), may I point out that I noticed some Members leaving the Chamber during the statement, no doubt to go to the Vote Office to obtain the document? I regard it as a discourtesy to any Secretary of State for Members to walk out to obtain a document while a statement is being made. If Members want to be called, they should remain in the Chamber throughout and listen to the statement. The statement, not the document, is being questioned at this stage.

Mr. Jenkin: I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for giving me an advance copy of the statement. I give a broad endorsement to the comments that he made about safety and, in particular, about the Cullen inquiry.

As for the rest of the statement, the Deputy Prime Minister must think that the British people were all born yesterday. The travelling public will not be fooled. Labour has made promises before and people are still waiting.

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They are waiting in traffic jams, and they have done that; they are waiting for buses stuck in traffic, and they have done that; and they are waiting for overcrowded trains, and they have done that. They are fed up with the right hon. Gentleman's promises and they are fed up with being ripped off by the Government; they have done that.

After three wasted years, the Deputy Prime has the nerve to come to the House and say, "I've got a 10-year transport plan." How much tax will road users have to pay over that period? It is at least £423 billion. That is more than £18,000 per household. That will be his legacy. His only real policy is to try to tax hard-working people and hard-pressed pensioners off the road.

Petrol tax is a regressive tax. Under Labour, the poor pay the biggest increases. Where is the social justice in that? On top of the £423 billion in taxes, the congestion and parking taxes will hurt the poor most. Why are the Government simply reserving the roads for the rich and for Ministers in their Jaguars? Should cars be just for the privileged few?

What does the Deputy Prime Minister's big spending number really mean? How much is double counted or reannounced? How much relies on investment by the transport industries that we privatised? How much is just pious hope, empty promises and post-dated cheques?

As in every Government announcement, these figures are designed to mislead. How can we believe the Deputy Prime Minister's promise of 25 light rail schemes when he told the House of Commons that


His former deputy, the right hon. Member for Hamilton, North and Bellshill (Dr. Reid), said in a press release that


However desirable light rail systems may be, are these not just fantasyland promises from a Government desperate for votes? How many systems will actually be built within 10 years?

What about all the promises that the Deputy Prime Minister has made before? Does he remember the 1998 White Paper? In it, he said:


However, the Deputy Prime Minister is building more houses over the green fields of England. Britain now has the worst congestion in western Europe.

Labour Members all cheered two years ago when the M6 widening was cancelled, apparently to save the planet. Now they all cheer when it is going ahead. That is an admission that the Deputy Prime Minister was wrong. Will they all cheer again when it fails to materialise?

Does the Deputy Prime Minister recall saying that he would have failed if there were not far fewer journeys by car? This new 2010 target is an admission that he has already failed. Has he not read the dire warnings of his own congestion report, which showed that congestion will increase by 90 per cent? Why is his target on congestion any more relevant than all his other targets?

The Deputy Prime Minister has abandoned his other targets, such as that to treble rail freight or that to double cycling. What is the point of all the new rail investment

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if people keep missing their train because they are stuck in traffic jams created by the right hon. Gentleman? How dare he claim credit for announcing 100 new bypasses today, when he scrapped so many bypasses just two years ago? Can he explain why he has announced 100 bypasses, although his own publication says that there will be 50 new bypasses? Is that just another bit of spin? Is not the Secretary of State who murdered the roads programme now trying to change his plea to manslaughter? How is he going to stop the Mayor of London cancelling schemes such as the A23 Coulsdon bypass?

Is it not perfectly clear that, after three wasted years, nobody believes a word that the Secretary of State says? After all the White Papers and consultations, glossy brochures and photo opportunities, today is about nothing more than the sliding credibility of the Government and the looming date of the next election. Does the Secretary of State think that the endless spinning of larger and larger telephone-number figures for his plan conveys anything other than the whiff of panic about the Government's lamentable transport policy?

The Deputy Prime Minister has often attacked the spinning and lying of spin doctors and has said:


However, is he not resorting to that and that alone? In March, he told the House:


Who, therefore, has been briefing the press on the 10-year plan, week after week, for the past six months? The so-called enemy of spin is the king of spin.

This is not real money, but a 10-year plan from a one-term Government who cannot see further than the headlines in tomorrow's newspapers. The plan is a broken policy on the back of broken promises from a broken- backed Secretary of State.

Mr. Prescott: I am pleased that the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) thanked me for giving him the report, but it is a pity that he did not read it. If he had, he would not have asked half the stupid questions that he did.

There has been some speculation on the number of leaks to which he referred. I treat leaks seriously. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] The House can make a judgment on those matters. There has been a great deal of speculation, and different figures are given all the time. I have a document--which I shall not call a leaked memo, as it is a paper from the research department of the Conservative daily bulletin--which predicts that I would produce a £130 billion programme. I announced a £180 billion programme, but the research department had a chance to speculate, although it underestimated what I would do. Many other people made judgments about what the total amount would be, and I observed with interest all those different figures. I have brought my figures for the 10-year plan to the House at the proper time.

Mr. Jenkin: Fantasy.

Mr. Prescott: The hon. Gentleman thinks that that is fantasy. However, I did not notice him address himself to rejecting the idea that investment was needed. There was not one word from him to suggest that he rejected the fact that all that money was needed to modernise the transport system. If that sum is needed, on that considerable scale,

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representing the greatest investment in rail seen in generations, it is because investment had presumably declined in the past 20 years. I am prepared to concede that no Government have ever found sufficient resources to put into our transport system and I feel that that is because Treasury rules rather limited that investment.

Our plan talks about public-private partnership, which is something that the previous Administration started to do, but we have taken it much further, by getting private contracts guaranteeing investments for a longer period than the one year or three years that one is likely to get from the Treasury. As a public-private partnership will provide that money, I would have thought that the Opposition could at least agree with that.

Mr. Jenkin: Fantasy.

Mr. Prescott: If the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is fantasy, I suggest that he talk to the director-general of the CBI, who is not necessarily known as one of our spokesmen and who announced today that the minimum amount needed for investment in our transport system was £180 billion. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the CBI is fantasising, I must tell him that it arrived at that view after proper consultation and having listened to its members, who explained what the country needs to improve the economy and the environment to and reduce congestion, which all involve considerable cost. That is the CBI's judgment. Talk of fantasy is just Opposition rhetoric.

On delivery, in three years we have seen, for the first time, a reverse in the decline of our industries. We have reduced the backlog and seen growth in freight and passenger traffic, both on buses and on rail. That was not evident during the 18 years of Tory Administration. As for all the talk about glossy documents, I can say to the hon. Gentleman that I think that long-term solutions are necessary. I have been in the transport industry, and I am fed up with seeing Governments cut back on capital programmes, because those cuts eventually catch up with them. I have tried to introduce long-term planning.

If we want such planning, first we have to get the thinking right, so we issue a White Paper and then we debate it. Then we have to make sure that we have the powers to introduce the measures, and I have done that. This is the third step in three years to get substantial resources, which the Chancellor has been able to give us simply because we made difficult decisions in the first two years, so I am proud to bring this investment to the public--let them judge what is fantasy and what is reality. The election will surely give the hon. Gentleman his answer.


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