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Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex): But there is a £5.6 billion Treasury guarantee.

Mr. Prescott: No, the private sector bears the risk. In addition, we will not pay the extra £1 billion requested for the rail link, but will direct that money to our education and health priorities.

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As Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my approach on taking office was to set out a clear strategy for a better integrated transport system. Our White Paper "A New Deal For Transport: Better for Everyone" did that, by building on the consensus in favour of better integration of our transport system. The right hon. Member for Wokingham is outside that consensus, which was established under the previous Administration, and is leading his party further away from it. He is the extremist, just as his party was revealed to be this weekend by the ex-Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward).

We have set out the policy and much of it is already being implemented. Alongside that policy, the Bill reflects our radically new approach to funding public transport. That approach is based on public-private partnerships, which will combine the best skills of the public sector in providing public service with the expertise of the private sector in efficiency, innovation and project management. We shall ring-fence any future real increases in fuel duty for public transport and roads, and introduce new income streams of revenues from congestion charging and workplace parking to improve local transport. That implements the principle of hypothecation--a truly radical move, which no British Government have done before.

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes): Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm whether or not the Government remain committed to adopting national road traffic reduction targets? If they are, when will they be published?

Mr. Prescott: The Government were never committed to that. When road traffic reduction legislation was considered by the House, we made it clear that we would report within one year on our proposals and on other means by which we could achieve the objectives of reducing congestion and environmental damage. The Commission for Integrated Transport has just reported to me, making it clear that those objectives can be achieved without banning the entry of cars into towns on the scale suggested by the hon. Gentleman.

Last Monday, I launched our 10-year programme to revitalise Britain's transport system.

Mr. Redwood: Does the right hon. Gentleman recall saying

Does he know that the new Minister for Transport has said that of course there are going to be more journeys by car? Is that not a U-turn and has the Secretary of State not been overruled?

Mr. Prescott: The Minister for Transport said that there probably would be more cars. That is due to the success of our economy over the past two years. I said that there would be fewer car journeys. If the right hon. Gentleman went to Manchester, Brighton or Leeds, he would see that public transport has been improved. People are changing from using their cars to using public transport. That means that there are fewer journeys by car and more by public transport. That is being proved around the country. If he visited such places, he would be better informed.

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For the first time, we will give transport the long-term stability and certainty that it needs, building on a strong and stable economy. We are prepared to take the difficult long-term decisions needed to improve the quality of public transport and reduce congestion through public transport plans. That is the basis of the approach to improving local public transport outlined in part II.

Part II includes our proposals to improve local transport services, particularly buses. The new local transport plans are the centrepiece of our approach to providing integrated transport at local planning level. They are the key to providing local solutions for local problems and set out our policies for the promotion of safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities in each area. The Bill puts them on a statutory footing.

Last Thursday, we announced a local transport settlement for 2000-01 of £755 million. The total over three years for local transport will be £2.4 billion, including £700 million of additional expenditure. The Bill requires authorities to develop a bus strategy to ensure good quality bus services tailored to local circumstances. It puts the current voluntary quality partnerships on a statutory basis. That will allow all parties to invest with confidence. It will mean that local quality standards can be imposed to help reduce congestion and improve air quality in our towns and cities.

The Bill provides powers for local authorities to require bus operators to participate in integrated joint ticketing and bus passenger information schemes. It allows local authorities to enter into quality contracts for bus services to determine networks and service levels.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Prescott: I have never known a common-sense intervention from the hon. Gentleman in the past, so I have no desire to give way.

Such contracts will be subjected to a strict public interest test and will require the prior consent of the Secretary of State or of the National Assembly for Wales.

The Bill honours our promise to introduce a national minimum standard for local authority concessionary fare schemes. That will guarantee all pensioners at least half-fare on local buses if they buy the bus pass. That will benefit around 3 million pensioners. We think that that is right, and a good example of a good transport system meeting people's needs.

Part III introduces a radical new approach to road user charging and the workplace parking levy. It is clearly controversial. The Bill will grant powers to local authorities similar to those included in the Greater London Authority Act 1999. Such powers can be used only at the direct request of a local authority. The Bill provides that every penny of the net revenues raised from new charges will be retained locally and ring-fenced for spending on improvements to local transport for at least 10 years. Local authorities will have to submit their plans for charging and the use of revenues to improve local transport to me or to the National Assembly for Wales for approval. I am pleased to say that 25 local authorities have said that they are interested in road user charging or the workplace parking levy.

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Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire): What is the right hon. Gentleman's estimate of the charge that would need to be imposed by a local authority in, say, London or Manchester, to reduce traffic on the roads by 10 per cent.?

Mr. Prescott: The calculations have been done by the local authorities that have chosen to use the scheme, based on the consultation document. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, who produced the Green Paper on transport for the previous Administration, had arrived at the same conclusion--that greater priority should be given to public transport and the possibility of congestion charging. Perhaps he has a better idea as a result of his analysis, but I have asked local authorities to examine our consultative document. At least the right hon. Gentleman and I are at one, though in total disagreement with those on the Opposition Front Bench, who are opposed to congestion charging and the improvement of public transport.

Mr. Redwood indicated dissent.

Mr. Prescott: Clearly, the consensus has ended. We now know where the extreme position is held: on the Conservative Front Bench.

I shall deal now with our proposals for air traffic services, which are also controversial. Air traffic services are covered in part I.

Mr. Gill: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Prescott: I have made it clear that the hon. Gentleman has never made a sensible intervention. I have no intention of conceding to him. [Interruption.]

Part I provides powers to proceed with a public-private partnership for the National Air Traffic Services. The Civil Aviation Authority and NATS provide a world-class service, but there are three reasons why we believe that change is necessary.

First, the existing public sector framework is inadequate to deal with future growth. NATS is denied access by restrictive Treasury rules to new forms of financing to fund the £1.3 billion of investment required over the next 10 years.

Secondly, there is a clear conflict between the obligation to provide air services while regulating safety. The Bill addresses that as the Select Committee onthe Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs recommended. Thirdly, project management of the new Swanwick and Prestwick centres has been poor, with five-year delays and a budget overrun of more than 50 per cent.

Under the PPP, NATS, which is already a private company but publicly owned, will be jointly owned by the Government, a strategic private sector partner, and its employees. It will not be unique. It will be designated to the private sector, like the air traffic control at many of our major airports--for example, at Belfast and Bristol, to name just two. There are 35 air traffic service providers in the UK, most of which are privately owned.

We have always made it clear that we saw a PPP as the solution for NATS, rather than the wholesale privatisation demanded by the Opposition. When my right hon. Friend

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the Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh(Dr. Strang) was the Minister for Transport, he stated on 11 June 1998:

    "The Government believe that the level of investment and efficiency that we need in our National Air Traffic Services can best be achieved through a partnership between the public and private sectors."--[Official Report, 11 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 637W.]

That partnership will ensure that NATS is able to finance its future investment within a stable regulatory framework. I agree that that is somewhat different from the amendment before the House today.

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