That comprehensive package will deliver to Greater Manchesterand its citizensa world-class public transport system. The proposals include plans for up to
seven extensionsamounting to 22 miles of new routesto the Metrolink system, including lines to Ashton, the airport and East Didsbury. People will see bus services transformed, with new cross-city bus routes as well as more reliable, frequent and safer services for passengers. The introduction of smartcards will cut queues and costs. There will be major improvements to local rail, including more carriages and seats on busy commuter routes, safer and more comfortable stations and improved passenger information. A network of yellow school buses will be introduced to ferry pupils to school and help to cut car journeys. There will also be investment in new cycle routes and secure cycle parking spaces, as well as improved park and ride facilities for rail and Metrolink.
To ensure that the people of Greater Manchester have real choices over their journeys, the majority of the improvements will be in place before the introduction of the congestion charge in 2013. The charging scheme will operate only in peak times, when congestion is at its worst. Only vehicles crossing the outer or inner ring into the city centre in the morning, and leaving during the evening peak time, will face charges. The peak-hours-only congestion charging scheme is considered critical to the success of the package, maximising the economic benefits, constraining future congestion and providing a local revenue stream to support public transport investment across Greater Manchester.
Studies have shown that the combined package of investment in public transport followed by congestion charging would deliver far more benefits in terms of the citys economic growth and quality of life than either investment or a charging scheme alone. To allow as many people as possible the opportunity to express their views on the proposal, Greater Manchester will now hold a public consultation. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, and after further work has been completed, the next step for Greater Manchester is to submit a bid for conditional approval to my Department. We expect that to happen in the autumn.
The Government are also in discussion with other towns and cities where local leaders believe that combining extra investment in public transport with congestion charging schemes is the right long-term solution for their area. Greater Manchesters proposals demonstrate their determination to develop innovative approaches to tackling congestion for the benefit of the economy and the mobility of people living in the city region.
Today, as a country, we are faced with an unprecedented growth in peoples desire to travel. It is essential that we provide people with greater choice over how and when they travel, cut congestion on our roads and take the right decisions for our quality of life, the environment and the long-term health of our economy. I commend this statement to the House.
The proposals could see Manchester commuters paying £1,200 a year in congestion charges8 per cent. of the income of someone on a £15,000 wagewhen they are already struggling to make ends meet with rocketing fuel prices and multiple tax increases. Will the Secretary of State confirm that todays package would leave council
tax payers footing the bill if the proposed transport projects overrun their budget, and that council tax payers also bear the risk if the revenue from the scheme fails to cover the £1.24 billion in borrowing that the Government are asking Manchester to take on? The London experience shows that collection costs can be considerable. With the net profit of the London scheme estimated at just £10 million since its inception, if the charge in Manchester is successful in reducing congestion, that will further reduce revenue and increase financial risk.
Transport improvements in Manchester, including Metrolink extensions, are, of course, welcome, but todays announcements on Metrolink do not make up for 11 years of Labour broken promises on light rail, including pulling the plug on Leeds and Liverpool. Were not improvement schemes in todays package, such as the Bolton rail-bus interchange, already promised by Labour before the TIF bid? What guarantees have people in Manchester that the charge will not be increased excessively in future? Has extending the congestion charge to a third outer ring been ruled out?
Finally but most important, why are the Government pressing ahead with this proposal when three out of 10 local councils oppose it and one is demanding a referendum? Why are they not prepared to offer the whole conurbation of Manchester a referendum on the scheme? The truth is that the Government are telling Manchester, If you say yes to congestion charging you will receive money to improve transport, but if you say no you will not. That is bullying, pure and simple.
Why is the Secretary of State depriving her own constituents in Bolton, West of a free choice on the issue? Everyone knows that she is not too happy in the Cabinet. Will she back her Government or her constituents on this issue? Her statement was heard in stony silence on both sides of the House. Will it turn out to be the longest resignation letter in history?
Ruth Kelly: The hon. Lady came here today, yet again, with not a single policy proposal to her name not a single proposal to tackle congestion in our towns and cities. Eighty per cent. of congestion today exists in our towns and cities, and over the next 10 years 80 per cent. of congestion will build up in our towns and cities. When Rod Eddington examined the issue he said that the economy would suffer to the tune of £22 billion if we did nothing, but the hon. Ladys proposal appears to do just that: nothing at all. She has ducked so many difficult issues that she practically walks
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am always reluctant to interrupt a Secretary of State, but I say again and again that the function of a Secretary of State answering questions on a statement is not to talk about the Oppositions policies but to answer the questions that have been put to him or her.
I am happy to answer the questions that the hon. Lady put to me, Mr. Speaker. If she had presented a list of serious questions and alternative proposals I would certainly have dealt with them, and I will of course deal with the points that she raised. One thing we do know is that if the Conservative party were
in power today, the £3 billion that we have on the table for Greater Manchester would not be available to that great city.
The hon. Lady suggested that this deal would somehow be bad for the motorists of Greater Manchester, which represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what the package is about. It is about delivering a world-class transport system for a world-class city, and we should celebrate the fact that a strong and effective local leadership in Manchester has produced an innovative package of proposals that will bring real benefits to peoples day-to-day journeys. What is more, by committing us to introducing the vast majority of public transport improvements ahead of a congestion charging scheme, the proposals give people real choices in regard to their journeys across the city.
The hon. Lady asked how the financial risk would be borne. In presenting its bid to the Government, Greater Manchester said that it was prepared to accept and manage the risks associated with the deal. She asked what guarantees there were that the congestion charge would not increase in future. We have said that Greater Manchester must be completely transparent about the level of the charge, and that if it changed the terms of the proposals it would have to publish a new scheme order on which the people of Greater Manchester would be consulted.
The hon. Lady accused the Government of bullying the people of Greater Manchester. The people of Greater Manchester have said that they want a world-class public transport system. They have also said, incidentally, that they want a world-class bus system, which is an integral part of the proposals. The hon. Lady represents a party that voted against the Local Transport Bill, for which Conservative councillors have been campaigning throughout Greater Manchester.
I am disappointed by the hon. Ladys response, but I am afraid it comes as no surprise. It bears all the hallmarks of todays Conservative party. Conservative Members are clear about what they are against, but silent on what they think should be done. They have nothing to say and nothing to do, and they stand for nothing.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Notwith- standing the curmudgeonly response that my right hon. Friend received from the Opposition, there will be enormous enthusiasm for the proposals on the Labour Benches and in parts of Greater Manchester, because public transport in Manchester simply is not adequate. Does she agree with the claim that if Greater Manchester does not deal positively with congestion over the next 10 years, we will lose about 30,000 jobs? That is a lot of people who would be put out of work if we were to fail to act in the way my right hon. Friend has outlined.
Ruth Kelly: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Greater Manchester itself has said that dealing with congestion is not an option, and that as congestion increases it will choke off growth in the city. It estimates that, by 2021, 30,000 jobs could be at risk. The argument is fundamentally an economic one: if Greater Manchester is to continue to grow, and to become the world-class city it aspires to be, it needs to tackle congestion by introducing a congestion charge and, equally importantly, by investing in public transport.
Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): May I add my condolences to those expressed by the Secretary of State in respect of the police officer who has died? May I also thank the Secretary of State for giving me notice of the statementalthough in the light of your welcome statement just now, Mr. Speaker, I am bound to ask the right hon. Lady how three national newspapers were able to report this story on Friday? How were they able to get information about this announcement, which has been made to the House only this afternoon?
The Secretary of State will know that the Liberal Democrats support in principle the use of market mechanisms to achieve environmental ends, and that we therefore support congestion charging and road pricing. Does she accept, however, that as motorists will be worse off as a consequence of this congestion charge scheme, it is important to front-load public transport improvements across Greater Manchester so that the benefits for those using public transport and those using private motor vehicles are clear? More specifically, will she also accept that although the proposed scheme might work for the city centre and parts of Greater Manchester, it will not work for other parts, as the benefits will not be evenly spread? For example, in Hazel Grove and Cheadle the charge will be payable but there will be minimal improvements in public transport, and Stockport will be cut in half and people will be required to pay to cross from one side of Stockport to the other. Will she, therefore, look at the detail of the scheme to ensure that the benefits of congestion charging are rolled out across the whole area?
Will the Secretary of State also explain the role of consultation and assure the House that it will not be the phoney consultation we saw on Heathrow, but that instead it will genuinely involve local people and local people will decide what happens with the Government proposals, rather than any other mechanism? Will she explain, too, how the views of local councils will be taken into account, given that at least three oppose the proposals?
Finally, does the Secretary of State not think that it is a little inconsistent for Members of this House to say that they are green, that they believe in market mechanisms and that they want localism, and then to try to rubbish comprehensively a scheme that at least partially meets those objectives, as the Conservatives have done today?
Ruth Kelly: I welcome the tone of the hon. Gentlemans contribution. The remarks he makes in this Chamber are always worth hearing. He makes a number of important points. The first of them is that it is important to invest in public transport before any congestion charge comes on stream. We have committed, together with Greater Manchester, that the vast majority of the public transport investment will be in place by 2013, when it intends to turn on the congestion charge. He makes a point about how the benefitsor otherwiseof the scheme will be spread across Greater Manchester. I have talked to the Greater Manchester economists who did the work underpinning this scheme, and they estimate that the economic benefits will be spread not only across the city of Manchester, but right across the whole of the city regionindeed, some of the outer boroughs will benefit most from the increase in the availability of labour to become employed in different sectors and jobs in future.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the consultation. The method of consultation will be for Greater Manchester authorities to determine and take forward, but they have committed to an intensive period of public information followed by a 12-week consultation period, during which they will gain the views of people throughout each district in Greater Manchester and of business. They have set themselves the test of public acceptability, both in terms of residents and business support.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the number of councils who need to support the proposal. It is good that there should be local devolution on these matters, and AGMAthe Association of Greater Manchester Authoritieshas set its own rules that seven out of 10 local councils will need to support the bid for it to re-submit its scheme for conditional approval.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): At the heart of this scheme is the requirement for local authority support. What mechanisms are there to ensure that that support is maintained, and what absolute commitment will there be to the improvements offered actually being delivered?
Ruth Kelly: Again, the form of the local consultation is for Greater Manchester, although the Government would have to satisfy themselves that consultation had indeed taken place. However, AGMA has set itself four tests, and an important one is that both the public and business ought to think that this scheme should go ahead, so that there is public acceptability for the proposals. It will be having exhibitions in each part of the city, across the city and in the boroughs surrounding the centre of Manchester, and I understand that it will conduct polls at the beginning and the end of the consultation period. It has to satisfy itself that these proposals pass that test before saying again to Government that it would like conditional approval to be considered.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): Our prosperity is threatened not just by congestion but by excessive taxation, and in this instance we are looking at an absurdly complex charging system with two charging zones, no resident discount and the possibility of having to pay the charge more than once in a given day. Before this is imposedwithout wide public supportI would like the Secretary of State to give an absolute guarantee that there will be not just consultation in this House but a vote if an extension is proposed to a third zone, which would be devastating for my constituents and hers.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that it is a sophisticated scheme. In fact, one of its great merits is that it does not charge people throughout the day, as in London, for travelling in and out of the scheme. It is a peak-hours-only scheme, using a tag and beacon system. When people enter the zone, they will have to pay once and there is no prospect of their having to pay twice for entering the scheme. Clearly, they have to enter the scheme, and if they return during the peak hour, they will be charged a top-up fee. It is because the scheme covers peak hours that it will reduce
the amount of traffic during the peak times, and it will alter the choices that people make between using the car in the peak times, driving outside those times or using public transport. It is an inherent virtue of the scheme that it can charge people for driving at the most congested period of the day, rather than for using the roads per se.
Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield) (Lab): May I add my condolences to those expressed earlier? In the past year or so, we have had some grievous losses in Greater Manchesterfrom police officers in the ranks, to the very senior ranks. Our thoughts are with the family of that officer.
I thank my right hon. Friend for this announcement. For a decade, those of us living on the western side of Greater Manchester have been under-resourced in the extreme when it comes to public transport infrastructure. Her announcement today is welcome to me, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Turner), particularly in the light of the campaign for more than a decade for a new station at Golborne. Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport facilitate a meeting between now and the autumn involving the transport authority, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh and I, Network Rail and the rail franchise, to ensure that in the autumn we can agree the option for the construction of a new station in Golborne? That would be the first in this area since the Beeching axe took it away in the first place.
Ruth Kelly: I am glad that my right hon. Friend welcomes the ambition and reach of these proposals; I know how long and hard he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) have been campaigning for Golborne station to be reopened. It is right that that is now on the table for consideration as part of these proposals, and I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for rail has met them to discuss the merits of that proposal. I am very happy to facilitate any further meetings that may be required.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): The Secretary of State referred to the residents of the great city of Manchester and Greater Manchester. She made no reference whatsoever to the areas immediately outside Greater Manchester. Perhaps as many as 2,000 of my constituents need to go into Greater Manchester each day for their work. There is little or no public transport to take people from the villages surrounding Macclesfield to the station, where there is inadequate transport anyway. The railway has not the capacity to take additional people, and there is little proper road transportthat is, buses and coaches. Is the Secretary of State not aware that this is going to place huge additional costs on my constituents, and does she not think that she should have made some reference to those who will be affected outside Greater Manchester and the city of Manchester?