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John Mann: I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is intending from now on solely to use public transport in his constituency. Perhaps he could let the House know how many times he has travelled into and out of Newhaven station over the past few years.
Norman Baker: The advice that I give to Members is not to ask questions unless they know the answers to them, because the answer to that particular question is that I use the railway a great deal. I always travel by train to London; in seven years I have travelled by car once to this place. I use the local rail service to get to my surgeries in Newhaven and Seaford, so I am very familiar with Newhaven town station. I use the railway to get to my surgery in Polegate.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Is the hon. Gentleman going to give us the train timetable?
Norman Baker: I would be happy to read out the train timetable if the hon. Gentleman wants me to do so, but that might be an imposition on the House. I very strongly support my rail services.
John Mann: The hon. Gentleman suggests that one should not ask questions to which one does not know the answers, but I am sure that the House is keen to know the answers. How often in a year, then, does the hon. Gentleman go in and out of one of the three Newhaven stations?
Norman Baker: If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to go through my diary and give him a specific answer to that question, I will try to do so. I make it a policy always to use the train where possible. Nine times out of 10 I take the train to my surgeries in Newhaven, which are once a month. I use the train a great deal more than many. As I said, I managed to secure reductions in fares along that line, and there has been a big increase in patronage as a consequence. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman raises the point. I am sure that he could find something on which to attack me more effectively; I do use the railways in my constituency.
I want the Government to reintroduce the rail passenger partnership fund in order that they can consider some of the schemes that I have mentioned.
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That little pot of money for the Department for Transport was welcome, but it is now gone. The schemes to which I have referred could have been funded out of it, with match funding from local councils and, dare I mention it, from regional government.
I want the Minister to consider the environmental impact of rail. I raise that seriously. The Civil Aviation Authority has a duty to look at economic, safety and environmental matters in relation to aircraft. The Office of the Rail Regulator, which was set up by this Government, looks at economic and safety issues but not environmental matters. That is a big omission that needs to be corrected. Will the Minister give an assurance that, as the Railways Bill progresses through the House, the Office of the Rail Regulator will be given a clear environmental duty?
Mrs. Dunwoody: There is an absurdity in the CAA considering the environment and also being responsible for the aviation industry. If the hon. Gentleman does not understand that, I understand why his policies are so muddled.
Norman Baker: I am happy to say that my policies and those of my hon. Friends are not muddled. I was not holding up the CAA as some shibboleth, but there is a need, as with Ofwat, Ofgem or whatever, to impose on an independent regulator an environmental duty. The Office of the Rail Regulator does not have that; there is a need for it.
Rolling stock on the railways is far more energy intensive than it was. That is one reason for the need for a big upgrade of electricity supply for the southern region. There is now a much greater use of energy, which is bad. Air conditioning on trainsinformation on trains uses more energy, toois responsible for a gigantic use of energy. One might say that air conditioning and information on trains are welcome, but there has been no attempt by the rail industry seriously to reduce energy use as well as provide improvements for passengers. The rail industry needs to grasp that nettle.
I strongly agree with the Transport Secretary and the hon. Member for Crewe and NantwichI shall be nice to the hon. Lady if she is nice to methat our railways are very safe. It is highly disappointing, therefore, that the media portray rail accidents, however horrific and tragic for the individuals involved, in such a way as to imply to the public that railways are not safe. They are safe. It is almost certain that, on the day of the last terrible accident near Newbury, in which seven or eight people died, more people died on the roads. Yet, we hear nothing about that in the newspapers. I ask the media to report such matters in a more rounded context. The consequence of such reporting over the past 20 or 30 years has been to push politicians of all parties into driving up rail safety to a degree that, in objective terms, is possibly beyond what is necessary. Meanwhile, road safety has largely been ignored, and that needs to be corrected.
I mentioned aviation; I hope that the Government will take that seriously. Their predictions on emission levels are unacceptably high. We need to bring aviation within the European emissions trading scheme as soon as possible. I do not know whether the Minister has a deadline for that, but he ought to have. We ought to be considering taxing freight on planes, too.
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The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich mentioned buses. I prefer the London modelunder which there is a central public body that determines which routes are appropriate and then allocates franchises from thereto the higgledy-piggledy mess elsewhere in the country. It is instructive that bus use in London is going up while, Brighton and Hove excepted, it is going down in much of the rest of the country.
On the environment generally, we welcome the principles behind the safer, cleaner, greener neighbourhoods set out in the DEFRA Bill, but providing penalties is one thing. It is important, but it is also important to ensure that environmental crimes are properly dealt with in the courts. It is crucial to have viable solutions to dissuade people from erring in the first place. We are rather short of such solutions. We still have fridge mountains. The Guardian and the Metro carried pictures yesterday of a huge fridge mountain near Manchester. We have an abandoned car mountain. There has been a 37 per cent. increase over the past two years in the number of abandoned cars, which is mainly because the Government chose to interpret the relevant directive in an unhelpful way. That made the end-user responsible, rather than the industry. We have a hazardous waste problem and a large battery hill is in the making. An EU directive requires 44 per cent. of batteries to be recycled, but we recycle less than 1 per cent. and have no recycling facilities in the country. That is a big problem for the Government. DEFRA has a habit of being behind EU directivesfinding out at the last possible moment that it has to do something and coming up with a panicky solution that does not meet the requirements.
I hope that the Minister will be able to answer some of my points. I welcome the fact that we are debating the environment and transport. We must make a lot of progress on transport, for social and economic reasons but most of all for environmental reasons. Climate change is the biggest issue facing us; the transport sector is the biggest problem in the UK's meeting its targets. I want to hear some strategy from the Government to stop that 47 per cent. increase in transport emissions to which I referred. I have not yet heard it from the Secretary of State; perhaps the Minister will oblige when he replies.
Mr. Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab): I want first to respond to a point made by the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), who rather surprisingly claimed that Baroness Thatcher when Prime Minister was a great advocate of good environmental policies and a campaigner against global pollution. In one sense and in one sense only was that right. When she was Prime Minister, she closed down most of the mining industry and destroyed much of the manufacturing industry in this country. That was one reason why the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) was able to proclaim that this country had met its carbon dioxide targets and that, indeed, it would improve on them: so much of the basis of British industry had been destroyed.
Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con):
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously saying that the manufacturing industry has grown under this
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Government? All the jobs that have been created are in the service sector, not in our former manufacturing base.
Mr. Stringer: I was not saying that at all; I was pointing out that when Baroness Thatcher was Prime Minister it was the start of the end for the mining industry and it took until 1992 for capacity in the industrial sector to reach what it had been in 1979. That was the simple point that I was making. If the hon. Gentleman wants to praise this Government for creating a record number of jobs throughout all sectors, I am sure that hon. Members would be willing to listen to him.
I shall discuss four important strategic aspects of transport where the Government have not quite got the balance right, although I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport when he says that transport solutions are long term. They certainly are. Many of the decisions that are currently being made will be felt by people in this country and by the economy in 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. It is important that we get them right. Politicians are not always used to thinking or acting over such long-term time horizons.
The first item that concerns me is aviation policy. For the benefit of the regions and the country, it is urgent and important that a third runway be built at Heathrow. The aviation White Paper neither rules it out nor rules it in, but explains that the problems of air pollution around Heathrow need to be investigated. A better approach would be to deal with the air pollution and build a third runway. As the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) pointed out, there can be no benefit in getting people from this country to take short-haul flights to Schiphol, Paris and other European hubs. That causes more pollution than if they used Heathrow.
It is bad for the regional economies of the UK not to have access to the capital city via Heathrow, and it is bad for London, as a major world city, that Heathrow is losing a number of destinations. Even with the fifth terminal at Heathrow, there will be fewer destinations in 2005 than there were in 1995. That is not the case with Frankfurt, Charles de Gaulle, Schiphol, Copenhagen or the other major European airports. It is bad economically and environmentally, and I hope the Government will look at the capacity issue and, with real determination, speed up the building of a third runway.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said what I had intended to say about capacity in the ports. Again, it is bad environmentally not to ensure that there is capacity in our deep-sea ports for the largest ships that go around the world. Ships are probably the most environmentally friendly form of transport. What sense does it make to restrict the capacity in this country so that ships have to offload in Rotterdam, Antwerp or elsewhere, transfer their cargo to containers and continue on ferries or through the channel tunnel? That is environmentally bad. The decision on Dibden was wrong and the Government need to make a quick decision to ensure that we have deep-water capacity elsewhere in the country.
We also need to make sure that the railway lines for freight and cargo from the ports are good, because people transporting goods in this country want speed. If
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the railway lines are in a poor state of repair, as those to some of our major ports are, and the trains go very slowly and cannot get to where they should go, or there is not the required capacity, those goods will be moved on to the roads. That would be a mistake. I hope the Government will speed up sorting out our future port capacity.
Road capacity is more controversial, I expect. I apologise for knowing thisI would have thought that the hon. Member for Lewes was the only anorak in the Chamberbut when the hon. Member for South Suffolk said that we had the worst record in Europe for motorway density, he was wrong. According to the EUROSTAT definition, we come 12th. The three countries in the European Union before it was expanded where motorway density is worse are Sweden, because most people do not want to go to the north of Sweden, Ireland and Greece. Our position cannot be good when we are competing with Germany, France and other countries that have more motorways.
One can deal with the problems of congestion by means of extra taxation on fuel or on road usage, but will that deal with the capacity in the system to transfer people and goods? I do not believe so. If we are only 12th in the EU in terms of capacity, we must have a much better balance between new road buildingonly £1.5 billion is currently spent on new roads, out of about £42 billion raised from the motoristand extra taxes, which is essentially what congestion charging, road user charging or fuel duty escalators are. We have not got that balance right. We need to increase the capacity, and there must be a better balance of those measures.
Rather than use arcane and difficult measures such as motorway density, one can simply look at interurban congestion. The UK's transport problems are markedly different from those elsewhere in Europe. Every major city that is successful has congestion problems. This is the only country, by and large, with interurban congestion problems. We need to deal with it through capacity measures and possibly taxation.
Incidentally, I think the hon. Member for Lewes was quoting the Rocasta report from 1992. It is often used, and it is used by Governments who are in economic trouble. The economy is not doing well so they look for a report and they become green as a way of not investing in the transport infrastructure. The Rocasta report did not say that roads create traffic; it said that where new roads are built over estuaries or where there has previously been heavy congestion, more traffic will be generated. If new roads are built elsewhere, they do not necessarily generate traffic. I recommend that the hon. Gentleman reread the report.
Finally, the problem of the railways is related to a capacity issue but is a major strategic issue. The Transport Committee, on which I serve, produced a report not long ago entitled "The Future of the Railway", in which we considered the costs and structure of the railway and came up with some direct recommendations. The Railways Bill is not exactly what the Committee recommended, but it is probably halfway towards the integrated control that we wanted applied to the railways. In that report, we considered the costs of the railways, which a number of hon. Members have mentioned. Those costs have been increasing
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dramatically. I am not referring to straightforward investment such as the investment in the west coast main line, which I support.
We could not establish why costs had risen by two and a half or three times over the past three or four years. We established that there had probably been gold-plating on the part of the Health and Safety Executive to the tune of £750 million to £1 billion, which would not have protected as many people as could have been protected with the same sum. I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who lectures those of us who represent Manchester on getting value for money out of the system, that I am not impressed that nobody can tell us where the £7 billion that will not go into investment over the next three or four years is going in extra costs on the railways. Other parts of the transport system are damaged by that money being taken away.
If one works it out quickly on the back of an envelope, probably a quarter of the growth in the economy is going into a black hole in the railway system. That is not satisfactory. I hope that during the discussions that we have on the Railways Bill, we will be able to talk not only about structures, but about getting value for that money and getting the railways back quickly to the level of efficiency that they were at in 19992000. Not only is that huge amount of extra money going into the railway system, but we are getting probably 10 to 12 per cent. less out of the system when it comes to punctuality and reliability. That is completely unacceptable. It is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to explain to us where the money is going and how we can return to standards that we were not satisfied with in 1999, before 2009 or 2008, which seem to be the latest estimates.
I support the Governments proposals to transfer powers over rail expenditure to passenger transport executives. I think that PTEs are a good thing. Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent each year on the northern railway system and on commuter services in large northern cities, and it would be better if the PTEs could control that money. They could make rational choices between rail, light rail or buses. That is good local democracy in action, rather than supporting a system merely because it has always been in place and is in a national pot.
I have some concerns about the detail that applies to Greater Manchester, which I know best. One concern is that when money is transferred to the PTEs, they will lose their right to sign franchises and to be cosignatories with the franchisees when they take up new railways. If we want a good integrated system that is quickly responsive to what people need in the greater urban conurbations in the north of England and elsewhere, that is much less likely to happen if we exclude the PTEs. The Secretary of State has given us one example that did not stop anything. A PTE was being slow in signing a franchise, which really did not affect its area. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have another look at that.
The Government set out their proposals in the White Paper as a response to problems in the greater urban areas. That does not apply to London. Basically, the Government are saying that if a congestion charge is introduced, they will give some control over buses and they will allow there to be a quality contract with the bus
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companies. It is not quite re-regulation, but they will allow more local control than at present. Passenger transport authorities and PTEs spend money supporting bus services over which they have no real control in terms of influencing services, and that is wrong.
My initial response is to welcome the Government's approach. The Transport Select Committee recently asked the Secretary of State whether section 124 of the Transport Act 2000 would be withdrawn. He said that it would not, although he might look again at the matter following further questions. Section 124 provides that before a PTA can introduce quality controlsomething approaching regulation of the busesthat has to be the only alternative. There has to be no other way. In effect, that leaves the real power in the hands of the private bus companies, which can say, "Yes, we will do this" and for a short period they can operate many more services in an area. That is not the only practical way of delivering services. It undermines the idea of having an integrated transport system.
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