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I will now address the measures that my Department will introduce to build on the objectives set out in the Gracious Address. The concessionary bus travel Bill will implement the announcement set out in the Budget
23 Nov 2006 : Column 788
that from April 2008 people aged 60 and over and people with disabilities will get free off-peak travel on all local buses in England. The Government will provide up to £250 million per annum to pay for the scheme, which is in addition to the £350 million already provided to local authorities. I am proud that, together with measures such as winter fuel payments and free eye tests, this Labour Government will introduce free local bus travel for every pensioner in the country.

The draft road transport Bill aims to underpin regional economic growth, tackle road congestion and improve public transport by giving local authorities greater flexibility to implement transport measures that meet real local needs. The Bill will update the powers that allow the development of road pricing pilot schemes, so that motorists and businesses benefit from reduced congestion and more predictable journey times in local areas. It will also provide local authorities that need them with real powers to improve the standards of their local bus services.

As has been mentioned, 20 years ago last month the Conservatives deregulated bus services and then watched bus patronage drop by about 20 per cent. in their remaining years in office. This Government recognise that despite growth at the national level in recent years, the quality of service is not good enough in too many of our communities. With two in every three public transport journeys made now taking place by bus, we recognise that buses are a lifeline to many in our communities. That is why I shall shortly make proposals to change the way in which bus services are run.

Chris Grayling: We will look carefully and constructively at the Secretary of State’s proposals on buses. However, I ask him to acknowledge that in reality the decline in bus passenger ridership began in the 1950s and was more rapid prior to deregulation than subsequently.

Mr. Alexander: My recollection of history is that the Conservatives were in power in the 1950s. If they are now seeking to disown not only the 18 years that they were last in office but every previous Conservative Administration, it takes to new heights their desire for cross-dressing.

In addition, we have carried over the Crossrail Bill, which is being scrutinised by the Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill. Since 1997, in contrast to the 18 years of Conservative government, the UK economy has been stronger and more stable than any other major economy, whereas the previous two decades saw two of the deepest recessions of the past century. It is that economic foundation, which the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was recently moved to refer to as “a paragon of stability”, that has enabled us to begin to address the decades of under-investment that previously afflicted our transport system. As a consequence of that economic growth, people have become richer and they seek to travel more. Consequently, the long-term solutions for transport lie in sustained investment, in the effective management of the transport infrastructure and in planning ahead to ensure that transport meets the needs of the future. As a number of speakers have made clear, those aims all
23 Nov 2006 : Column 789
need to be achieved in a way that recognises the impact of transport on the environment and meets our environmental obligations.

By next year, transport spending will have increased by more than 50 per cent. in real terms to above the level it was in the last year of the Conservative party’s last Administration. Indeed, planned transport spending over the next three years will grow from more than £12 billion to more than £15 billion by 2008. That investment is delivering real improvements for passengers.

I was genuinely sorry that the Conservative spokesman did not take the opportunity to explain the effect on the transport budget of the £21 billion of public spending cuts specified in recent weeks by the Conservative party’s tax commission, led by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. That proposal to put spending cuts before economic stability and before transport investment was, of course, endorsed by none other than the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), the shadow Chancellor, who said at the commission launch on 18 October that

I can understand why after years of under-investment, a botched rail privatisation, neglect of the bus network and cuts in the roads budget, the Conservative spokesman said so little about his party’s record in government. On reflection, perhaps the reason he said so little about his present transport policy is that he has so little money to spend. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said at the outset of the debate, the Opposition cannot with credibility will the ends but not the means.

Our approach to roads is to provide targeted investment when it is warranted, with 39 major trunk roads and motorway schemes since 2001, and to improve the management of the road space while taking forward the debate on road pricing. More than 1,100 traffic officers are deployed across the motorway network, helping to assist traffic flow after accidents and incidents. The national traffic control centre provides real-time information for motorists for better journey planning. The seven regional control centres based around England monitor our motorways to keep traffic moving and congestion to a minimum.

With nearly 33 million vehicles on our roads, compared with 26 million in 1996 and the 60 per cent. increase in cars in the past 20 years, we cannot simply build our way out of the challenge of congestion. That is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South-West (Mr. Darling), the former Secretary of State for Transport, and I have tried to advance the debate on road pricing. The road transport Bill will make it easier for local authorities to introduce pilot schemes in their areas, alongside better public transport, to provide local solutions to local needs. The transport innovation fund will support that work.

I had hoped to gain a clearer view of the Conservatives’ position on road building during today’s debate but my hopes have been dashed once again. The Leader of the Opposition said on 8 November 2005:

That position was flatly contradicted only two months later by the man that that same leader appointed to co-chair the Quality of Life Commission. The right
23 Nov 2006 : Column 790
hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) was quoted in the Daily Mail in January as saying,

The only safe assumption is that, once again, the Conservatives are divided and trying to face two directions at once. That is not limited to transport policy.

We face three key challenges on our railways. First, we need to strengthen performance and reliability. Secondly, we must provide the extra capacity for a now growing railway. Thirdly, we need to ensure that rail meets the environmental obligations. Those challenges can be tackled only now that we have brought stability to the economy and the industry.

With Labour, we now have the fastest growing railway in Europe. More than 1 billion rail journeys are made every year. Indeed, people are now travelling further by rail than at any time since 1946. In the past year, almost 700 miles of track have been renewed, compared with fewer than 300 miles a year renewed at the time of privatisation. With around 40 per cent. of trains and carriages replaced since 1997, we have one of the youngest fleets of carriages in Europe. That has been achieved by sustained investment. The Government are currently spending £88 million a week, with significant sums being spent by the private sector.

We are planning for the long-term, sustainable future that the industry needs. In the next few weeks, we will receive the Eddington report, which examines the relationship between transport, investment and economic growth. Next year, we will publish costed proposals for rail for the next five years, set in the context of an even longer-term framework.

In contrast, we are now beginning to discover how little the Opposition have learned from their botched privatisation, notwithstanding the fact that they recently chose to apologise again for the privatisation that they visited upon the United Kingdom’s railways.

Transport is only one aspect of the Gracious Speech, which contains a set of proposals that will enhance economic stability and underpin growth, promote prosperity and opportunity, and create a fairer, more secure and more just society. For all the reasons that I have outlined, I ask hon. Members to oppose the amendment and commend the Gracious Speech to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—


The House divided: Ayes 190, Noes 263.
Division No. 002]
[5.58 pm



AYES


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm

Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mercer, Patrick
Milton, Anne
Moore, Mr. Michael
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John

Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Tobias Ellwood and
Mr. Robert Goodwill
NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, Mr. David
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George

Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mann, John
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine

Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Michael Foster and
Huw Irranca-Davies
Question accordingly negatived.
23 Nov 2006 : Column 791

23 Nov 2006 : Column 792

23 Nov 2006 : Column 793

23 Nov 2006 : Column 794

It being after Six o’clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.

petitions

St Edmund

6.14 pm

Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds) (Con): I wish to present a petition initiated by BBC Radio Suffolk and the East Anglian Daily Times, signed by more than 1,250 Suffolk and East Anglia residents. The petition calls for St Edmund, the former king of East Anglia who was martyred in the year 869 for refusing to renounce his Christianity, to be reinstated as patron saint of England. It states:

To lie upon the Table.


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