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Lord Mountevans: My Lords, while travelling here today from the New Forest in my electric train, I thought how marvellously clean such a train is, both to those of us who use it and to those who live nearby. However, I also thought how very foul it is for those who live downstream at the power stations in Yorkshire and get the acid rain. When I arrived here I looked at our palace. As many noble Lords will remember, the external fabric was severely damaged by effluence from coal combustion, be it household fires, industry or the steam engine that was the mainspring of the Industrial Revolution. Over the past decade, much work has gone into refurbishing or restoring the exterior, but now it is the car that is doing the damage; indeed, it is the exhaust from the internal combustion engine. That leads me to think, as many speakers have said today, that our needs for transport and the environment are uneasy bedfellows.

Nonetheless, it is a pleasure to be the last Back Bench speaker in tonight's debate and to share the compliments paid to the Royal Commission for a provocative report. When I say that, I mean one that provokes thought and reaction, and not one that incites violence. It is also a pleasure to join in with the compliments that have been paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for giving us the opportunity to discuss the report. It is of course a great pleasure to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to our debates.

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As ever, I declare a railway interest. Therefore, I should like briefly to explore the passenger dimensions of some of the conclusions of the commission. It is also nice, when you are speaking last, to realise that you have actually chosen a topic that no one else explored.

If we are to make greater use of our public transport services we need to make them, and information about them, as accessible as possible. Hence I strongly support the commission's recommendation—I believe it is number 43—that additional PTAs and PTEs should be established outside the former provincial metropolitan county areas; and, indeed, in London. It may not sit easily with local government reorganisation, but I believe that there is a strong case for a shire county PTA-PTE structure—not one massively buying transport through the mechanism of subsidy, but one spreading information and seeking to co-ordinate the various disciplines and modes.

I believe that such a structure can in fact still be established under the railways legislation of 1968. I do not think that that spoke specifically and exclusively about the metropolitan areas. The structure has served us well, in the metropolitan areas in respect of its support for rail—and I believe that that support will become more locally focused as the passenger train operating units gather strength—but especially as regards inter-modal (the bus, the train, the tram or even the boat) transfer tickets and information provision.

Perhaps I may take information first. Timetable and fare information must, I believe, be readily and easily accessible if the car is to be left at home. It was most interesting for me to listen earlier this week to a solicitor who lives in Portsmouth but who works in Southampton. He had been persuaded to take up the Government's option—namely, "Leave the car at home for a day. Don't choke Britain". That solicitor was amazed to discover, first, that there was a very convenient bus and train which would take him to work; secondly, that it was actually cheaper, if one took seriously the annualised costs of one's car, than motoring was; and, thirdly, that he did not, as he put it, waste time because time on the bus and in the train could be spent working whereas time in the car must, for safety reasons, be spent concentrating on the job in hand. The solicitor was not aware how cheap the train would be. As I said, he was not aware of how simply and easily the two modes connected.

What that solicitor needed was timetable and fare information which was readily and easily available. In London, we have London Regional Transport's excellent telephone inquiry bureau. I believe that it fulfils an essential role for anyone, motorist or non-motorist, who is thinking of using public transport. "Yes, inquiring customer, there are trains. There are tubes and there are buses, or whatever. These are their times, their fares and their routes". That is the information that a potential user needs before deciding to use public transport. I believe that is an essential plank regarding anything that we set out to do to make more use of our public transport.

The second stage in which PTAs have excelled is through ticketing across the different transport modes—not, as in London, with just a travelcard for the frequent traveller, but also in respect of single journeys where one changes routes or discipline modes. In fact, that is a

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particular weakness in London in terms of the traveller who is making a single, perhaps discretionary, journey. "Is your journey really necessary?" Surely we do not make journeys that are not necessary.

In the old days, I could go to the Treasury Building of an evening and get a through bus from there to Regent's Park on one single ticket. Now my route has been divided and I have to purchase two single tickets. Therefore, my fares have increased and so, indeed, has the hassle. I have to wait for two buses instead of one. If I had a car I would be inclined to use it and, given some of the persuasiveness used this evening, I might even consider buying a bicycle if I was really brave.

I strongly endorse Recommendation 85 of the commission on multi-modal ticketing and Recommendation 86 on information provision. However, I would go further and ask the Government to look at best practice abroad. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned, Holland has a publicly-owned railway and a mix of public and private road transportation, publicly-owned trams and a mix of public and private shipping companies to serve the off islands and to cross some of the water gaps.

If I go to a station in Holland, I can buy not only a train ticket, but I can also buy a strip ticket that enables me to ride on any bus, tram or boat anywhere in the country. If the Dutch can do that, surely we should not renounce it. We should consider whether we can do it so that a Londoner could buy a strip ticket here and then use it on the Tyne & Wear Metro or wherever. Not only that, as was mentioned, I can also book a taxi at my destination; I can even hire a bike.

I believe that I should stress the word "connecting". In Norway, all public transport is listed in a national timetable called Rutebok for Norge. Not only does it list all the schedules, and so on, but every railway timetable shows where bus services inter-connect with the trains. If one looks at Stockholm, a suburban or underground train crosses from one side to the other—let us say the south to the north. On the south, on its way in, it is fed by buses. In the centre it does its business. On the north, it feeds into buses. One arrives at the terminal station and five minutes later eight or 10 buses cascade over a wide area of the county of Stockholm. I believe that that is also best practice that we should look at. In addition, at the point where one boards one can buy a ticket that takes one right the way through to one's destination, whatever other transport modes one may use.

I believe that we can learn from the Dutch, the Norwegians, Swedes and the Germans. When we have learnt I believe that the PTA/PTE mechanism spread nationwide will prove to be an apt operating vehicle, not to buy service through subsidy, but by way of information provision and through user-friendliness. As we all know, outside the absolute peaks rail and bus have vast amounts of spare capacity. PTAs have the knowhow. Put them together and one will make a modest contribution towards reconciling transport needs and those of the environment.

8.10 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I am delighted that we have had an extremely good debate, particularly as I was the Peer who put down this subject on the Order

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Paper. I believe that we have injected a great deal of wisdom into the subject. As the Secretary of State for Transport is widely known as a thinking Minister—why it should be necessary to pick out a thinking Minister from the rest of Ministers is not entirely clear—it is to be hoped that what has been said in the debate will be taken up. The quality of the speeches has been extremely high. Having become slightly deaf in my old age, I am not quite certain whether the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said that we all had an extra decade or that we were all extra-decayed. Whichever it is, I believe that we have taken advantage of the first and denied the second.

We have discussed a large number of subjects. We have taken the recommendations of the commission and subjected them to considerable examination. It has been said that the cost of putting them into operation will be enormous. One of the interesting points to emerge from the debate is that a number of the speeches have included recommendations for how that money is to be raised. A number of Peers referred to large savings that could be made by following the recommendations of the Royal Commission, not least taxation of company cars, which was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. Of course, we very much welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. In particular, I welcome his call for a regulator for the whole public transport system. I believe that that is something we most have, together with the information required for the whole public transport system. That is one of the reasons why we on these Benches deplore the privatisation of the rail system.

I very much welcome Eurotunnel, if that is the noble Lord's achievement. I travelled on it recently. However, I was slightly disappointed to find that when travelling from London to Brussels the only part of the journey which was conducted at speed was that which took place in France. In both England and Belgium it was very slow, though pleasant. I speak as someone who in his youth cycled from London to Paris and used the Dartford Tunnel, which was an appalling experience. I do not recommend that to anyone. I welcome the fact that we have Eurotunnel. I do not know why this should apply to the French. I suppose that we have got into the habit of thinking of the French as somehow a fast nation and it is not very seemly for us or the Belgians to proceed at the same kind of speed.

The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said that the report hung together and rather wished that one could separate out the British parts. If I may say so, that is typical of the attitude of his Government and party at this time. They appear to be dissociating themselves from Europe as fast as possible. We cannot and should not do it. The more we can integrate our systems the better.

The noble Earl raised the important topic of the country motorist. There are answers to this problem. One of them in which we on these Benches are particularly interested is the taxation of cars according to size and speed capability. On the whole, one does not need a very large car in the countryside, although a large number of Members of this House appear to drive enormous four-wheel-drive vehicles. However, the people who need transport and about whom we are speaking do not need to do that. They do not cover great mileages in most of the

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countryside of Britain, although that may not be true of the county of Caithness or one or two of the more distant areas.

We have dealt with the whole range of transport. We have touched on air and airports. My noble friend Lady Hamwee said that the person who used the train was also the person who drove a car and was a cyclist. She did not mention that he was also a pedestrian. Other people have spoken about pedestrians. We have dealt with internal waterways. My noble friend Lord McNair dealt with that very well. I do not believe that we have spoken about coastal transport in connection with goods, but that is a very small omission from coverage of a very large area.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that the costs of all this had been underrated. He said that the cost of a packet of cornflakes would go up if all of the recommendations of the commission were put into operation. That is true. If we are to come to terms with a sustainable environment and economy in future, it is essential that we take into account the costs which at present are spread about in different places. Over the weekend I attended an all-day conference of Friends of the Earth. Mention was made of a win, win, win solution. That is a solution where economically, environmentally and socially one wins. It is very good to have a solution where one wins on all three, but one must win on at least two of them in order to have worthwhile transport. If one wins socially and environmentally one may have to put up with rather more cost. That is something that all of us have to face.

There are all sorts of ways of dealing with the various immediate transport problems. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, suggested that we have a £5 fee for entering the M.25. I think that may be a good idea but I was not quite certain whether he wished to introduce it to raise money or to deter people from going on to the motorway, certainly at certain hours of the day. I do not think it would have much effect in the second instance because if the extent to which the M.25 is being dug up now does not deter your Lordships and the rest of the general public from using it, I do not know what will, certainly not £5!

We have dealt with cycling at great length. I wish to add one small point. I think that cycling is tremendously worthwhile and that it is worth encouraging. I usually come to your Lordships' House by public transport, but when I drive I travel through a part of Lambeth where there are quite a few signs, one of which states,

    "Kill your speed not a child".

Another states,

    "Mind cyclists when you turn".

We have already heard about the death toll of cyclists. Some of your Lordships will know that I have lost a child who died in a cycle accident in London. The question of cycle safety is tremendously important. Of course we must pay attention when we turn left to ensure that there is not a cyclist coming up on the inside at 20 miles an hour. But there ought to be rather more education of cyclists so that not many cyclists come up on the inside at 20 miles an hour. We need to pay attention to that matter.

I am a vice-president of the Pedestrians Association and I am not given much to cycling myself. I very much welcomed the comments of those who have talked about the virtues of walking. It is important that we take all these methods of transport into consideration.

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In conclusion, I wish to sum up what I, and I think we on these Benches, believe. The most important thing that we need to take to heart as we move into the era of a sustainable economy is that transport is neutral on the balance sheet. If it enables one to have access to desired goals without undue expenditure of resources, especially non-renewable ones, and without pollution, it is a good thing. If not, it is not. The object of transport and planning policy should be to provide as much access as possible at minimum real cost. Transport, like trade, is a means not an end and if we are to have a sustainable future we must realise that.

8.23 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, like so many noble Lords I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for introducing this debate, although I have to say that I believe that it should have taken place in Government time. It is an issue which has been ventilated with great care in this report and it deserves more than a debate on a Wednesday evening.

A number of your Lordships have spoken from great experience, notably of course the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, who sat on the commission and who spoke with great authority about the matters that were raised. We all welcomed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It was, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who said that he was delighted to welcome him to the clique. I want to assure him that it is not so much a clique as a sect. We have some pleasant times together, and that includes the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, also speaks from great practical experience and he will certainly give us more grounds for enlightenment in the future.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, encouraged us all to participate in a cycling event. I think he was a little unwise to do that as boldly as he did in the environment of this House. The noble Lord then explained how perilous that activity was. I suppose that is one way of abolishing the House of Lords. The noble Lord then said that on average Members of your Lordships' House live 10 years longer than the rest of the population. I suppose that depends from where one starts. All that, of course, the noble Lord intends to end with a great degree of suddenness. He was reinforced in those views, a little more moderately in some ways, by my noble friend Lord Rea and others who are interested in cycling issues. I believe that the whole House was interested to hear those views.

The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, had some interesting things to say about the railways, as he always does. He also made a plea to enable the PTAs and the PTEs to remain. I hope that the Minister will give firm consideration to that matter. This debate is based on the report but it has been wrong not to draw attention to the Green Paper issued by the commission in 1992 entitled The Impact of Transport on the Environment—a Community Strategy to Sustainable Mobility. It is not surprising that there are a number of important common denominators which emerge in relation to both documents. I give praise to those who were involved in enabling those documents to see the light of day.

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It is not surprising that because both documents have been radical they have given rise to a good deal of criticism, which has been to some degree articulated in this House this evening. Somehow or other the task before society is to secure the right balance between economic and transport activities which sustain our people in work and also enable improvements to enhance our standard of living. On the other hand, how do we protect the environment which is essential for the quality of life of this and future generations? It is an enormously difficult problem. Too often the debate affecting transport and indeed industry as a whole and the environment is seen in a wholly adversarial light whereas I believe that the two should be viewed in terms of their advance in complementary terms. That is what the notion of sustainable mobility is all about. That is why modal shifts will be required on an increasing scale and why we need to encourage combined transport, or "piggyback" transport—which was of such great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—and the greater use of coastal shipping which has just been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont.

This debate also has the singular advantage of enabling the House to try—I think unavailingly—to tease out from the Government what is their transport policy and how the Government see transport and the environment developing together. Of course they have done something of a U-turn on road building but they remain on the horns of an ideological dilemma over the role of public transport and are finding some obvious difficulties with regard to their absurd rail privatisation proposals.

Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, especially in industrialised countries, undoubtedly lie at the root of so many of our environmental problems. Back in May of 1990 the Bergen ministerial declaration on sustainable development in the ECE region stated:

    "The attainment of sustainable development ... requires fundamental changes in human values towards the environment and in patterns of behaviour and consumption".

The document then highlighted the need,

    "to reduce the harmful effects of the transport sector on the environment by promoting fast, safe and convenient urban and regional transport services and reducing urban car traffic".

Five years later, that remains the problem: hardly tackled.

No one can doubt that transport is a major contributor to energy and environmental problems. It is, after all, one of the main consumers of fossil fuels and has much responsibility for nuisance and damage to the environment. Transport can never be environmentally neutral, and I cross swords with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in that regard. The fourth and fifth environmental action programmes of the European Community began to identify transport in this light, focusing on the interaction between transport and the environment.

There is a growing consensus, though the issue was hotly disputed not so long ago, that the high atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is having a deleterious, and perhaps irreversible, effect on the earth's climate, causing a warming of the globe and an ensuing rise in average sea levels. Transport is seen as one of the main sources of carbon dioxide, which is the main man-made

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greenhouse gas. So it is with regard to the emission of CFCs and halons; acid deposition owes much to the problems posed by transport. Urban degradation, too, with noise emissions, atmospheric pollution, congestion and inconvenience, again owes much to a failure to deal with these particularly difficult transport and environmental problems.

We cannot fail to address these problems in the years ahead. On the other hand—one has to maintain a balance about these matters—transport in all its modes, including those which carry responsibility for so many of the problems I have underlined, is vital to our economic and social well-being, to the production and distribution of goods and services, as well as to trade and regional development, which are so vital to our economic activities. Transport has given us a wide range of choice, and that applies to the producer and consumer alike. So, directly or indirectly, it affects the quality of life of all our people, not least in peripheral areas.

The question is: how do we go about seeking solutions? I agree with so much of what has been said in a brief issued by the CBI today. It says:

    "The Commission is also right to argue that ways must be found to make the longer-term development of transport environmentally sustainable".

That goes without saying; but it also went on to say this in commenting upon Missing Links, which was a document the CBI produced earlier in the year:

    "this difference has arisen from other countries' ability more successfully to integrate strategic economic and environmental objectives for transport, supported by broad consensus about those objectives and long-term investment".

Until very recently we have not even tried to obtain that consensus. I remember that Mr. Brian Gould, who was then shadowing this portfolio some years ago in the other place, called for that. The call was repeated by John Prescott, but the calls fell on deaf ears. It is sad that that should be the case because consensus is the only way that we can tackle radical problems requiring radical solutions.

It is true that the Secretary of State has now called for a national debate. I think it is a little overdue—by something like 15 years, which is the period during which this Government have been in office. It requires the abandonment of some of the ideological shibboleths which are currently invading the whole question of transport policy.

I also read the observations of the Freight Transport Association. It is right to stress the importance of the job that its members do. It is right to stress how they have contributed towards resolving a number of environmental problems by intensifying their research and development and by ensuring that older lorries leave the roads. The FTA calls repeatedly for an integrated transport policy because it is concerned with all modes of transport. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and his successor probably do not like the words "integrated transport policy", but it is amazing how many people use the phrase: people who know, people who are in the trade, and among them members of the Freight Transport Association. It is not only the Labour Party.

I believe that this report from the Royal Commission has concentrated on vital problems. I do not think that anybody, including the Royal Commission, would claim

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that it has managed to produce what might be called a blueprint: not at all. It has produced a number of recommendations which demand intensive study, and I praise it for the intensity of its work in that regard. I very much agree also with the CPRE in its view that strategic environmental assessment at all stages of decision making is vital. It is vital for Britain and vital in terms of planning trans-European road and rail networks, and in ensuring as best we can the best practical environmental options, as recommended by the Royal Commission.

We shall have to consider all these matters in greater depth at some time in the future. I have run out of time, although not quite to the same extent as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. I propose to resume my seat on this note. Some of your Lordships have concentrated on the cost of the proposals. Not too many of those who have been critical of the report have concentrated on the cost of not approaching environmental issues which society may well have to bear in the future.

8.35 p.m.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, first, may I, like other noble Lords, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for giving us the opportunity this evening to discuss the important issues that are raised by the Royal Commission report. If I may say so, this has been a debate in the best traditions of the House of Lords in that, apart from a very small amount of ritual posturing on such issues as rail privatisation, I believe there has been a consensus to a considerable degree in the House on the problems to be faced on the environmental issues that are associated with transport. There has also been a similar recognition that the methods proposed carry considerable costs, be they economic or in terms of the possible restriction of choice.

I was particularly interested to hear the speech of my noble friend Lord Selborne. I welcome the experience that he has brought to the debate as a member of the commission. I also particularly enjoyed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who brought his own considerable experience in the field of transport to the debate, particularly in connection with the magnificent achievement of the Channel Tunnel.

Good transport links are vital to the country's industrial competitiveness. Transport holds the economic machine together and keeps it running. Changing patterns of transport have shaped today's social and recreational lifestyles. People want ever-wider access to job opportunities; to shops; to leisure activities; to schools; and to other people. Yet this demand for transport services has a profound impact on the environment. Our aim is to continue to improve the quality and range of transport provision in the country. However, we must recognise that there is a balance to be struck between the environmental, economic and social consequences of transport. With that, we realise there are some extremely difficult decisions to be made.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to "Win, win, win" situations and solutions, but I suggest that they are rare indeed. Whatever measures we have to take to counter the problems posed by the environmental effects of transport are going to give rise to costs of one sort or another. The issues were brought sharply into focus by the

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Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's report on Transport and the Environment. The commission did a thorough job in assessing the scale and nature of the environmental problems posed by today's transport and by the forecasts of traffic growth. Their report set us a number of challenging targets which they believe should assist us to deal with those threats. However, we cannot deal with those targets without giving consideration to the measures needed to implement them, for it is clear that some unpleasant measures would be necessary if we were to strive to meet them.

I welcome the statement of my noble friend Lord Selborne that this report should not be taken as a blueprint but rather as an indication of very important issues to help us to provide choices and to illustrate what can be done in order to combat the problems that we face. An example of the difficulties I have described—for instance, to achieve reductions in road use and an increase in public transport share which the commission recommended—may lead to measures to restrain car use. The implications of such measures would need to be thought through very carefully indeed. The evidence is not available which suggests that people are yet ready or willing to change their lifestyles in ways which would be required. No detailed assessment has been made of the costs although it is clear that they would be substantial.

We have had a considerable debate on the issues of cycling. I was pleased to hear the contributions of my noble friend Lord Marlesford, the noble Lord, Lord Rea, my noble friend Lord Colwyn and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, who described the perils of cycling in London and the advantages they felt that it brings. I believe that there has been a recognition of the Government's positive attitude towards cycling. We do not forget the contribution that cycling can make. It often offers an economic, environmentally friendly and realistic means of transport for a great number of people in particular for the short journeys that we have heard described. We are keen to encourage more people to adopt that mode. In 1995-96 we are providing some £3 million for the London cycle network. Local authorities are encouraged to consider the potential for cycling in planning and traffic management strategy and through the package approach.

However, I believe that we are referring here to local decisions involving local circumstances. One often faces criticisms that local authorities should be given more power to do this, that or the other. But I believe that we are talking about a situation where local decisions are best taken at the local level.

The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, also referred to the issue of motor cycling. He realised that I have a certain sympathy with the issues involved. As with the cycling issue, there are real concerns about safety. Those have to be taken fully into account. I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, regarding the discipline of cyclists themselves, be they of the motorised or leg-propelled version.

My noble friend Lord Colwyn asked how one reports smoky diesel goods vehicles. I can forward to him a pamphlet produced by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport entitled How to Report Smoky Diesels. It involves communication

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with the vehicle inspectorate which then takes up action on the complainant's behalf. Some 12,000 reports have been made to the smoky vehicle hotline to date.

There is still a belief that all the problems we face could be solved simply by switching investment from road to public transport. Public transport can play a valuable role in safeguarding the environment and our spending plans for the next few years focus on public transport and making more efficient use of the existing road network. Investing in rail, bus, trams and light rail can have a tremendous impact on certain areas. That is why we have invested some £15 billion in national railways since 1979 and £7 billion in London Transport.

However, research and practical experience has demonstrated that improved public transport in itself is not enough to solve the problems of traffic growth. In his maiden speech, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was quite right to say that if one wishes to take cars off the roads, the clear conclusion of what can only be described as common sense, as well as various pieces of research on the subject, is that sticks and carrots are required. That is the theme which ran through the debate in your Lordships' House today.

Some way of making car use more difficult or expensive would be necessary, as well as ensuring that alternatives are available. The issue for debate is how far such measures are justified or acceptable.

As I mentioned earlier, these are not easy issues to face. They are complex, emotive and fundamental to our way of life. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State initiated recently a national debate on transport policy. As a start, he has made a series of six speeches aimed at focusing attention on the key issues and has invited comments from a wide range of interested parties.

We have been heartened by the response to the debate so far. A number of organisations have taken it upon themselves to organise events to follow up the questions raised by the Secretary of State in his speeches. For example, Transport 2000 has hosted a series of seminars. The Ashden Trust has organised a two-day event to discuss transport and the environment. Oxford University has a conference planned for next week.

In debating the way forward, we should not lose sight of the significant achievements that have already been made in reducing environmental damage. A good example is the efforts made to improve air quality in our cities. We have already made considerable progress in reducing the contribution that transport makes to air pollution through the introduction of improved vehicle emission standards. The first round of improvements introduced in 1993 has effectively required all new petrol engined cars to be fitted with catalytic converters which reduce harmful emissions by over 75 per cent. Already some 5 million cars and vans are fitted with catalytic converters.

The effect of these and other standards is already evident. National emissions of pollutions have stabilised or are falling. Even if no further measures were taken, emissions would continue to fall well into the next decade as a result of older vehicles being replaced by newer, cleaner models.

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However, further measures will be taken. A second round of the reductions of limits for 1996-97 was announced as part of the air quality statement, Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge launched by the Secretaries of State for Transport and the Environment in January of this year. We have taken firm steps to address the problems of carbon dioxide emissions from road vehicles in the context of our international obligations arising from the 1992 Rio Summit, a subject which has been discussed in the debate today.

The duty on road fuel has been referred to by a number of noble Lords. We have made clear our strategy of increasing road fuel duties by an average of at least 5 per cent. above inflation each year. That will encourage motorists to conserve fuel and will give long-term signals to manufacturers to produce more efficient vehicles.

Another important issue involves noise. Again, considerable improvements have been made as a result of new technology. It is said that three modern cars will make less noise than one 1978 model, while 10 of today's trucks will make the same amount of noise as one single 1978 equivalent.

That has also been the case with air travel. One should not just consider the issues of surface transport. Modern jets are considerably more efficient in reducing the amount of noise that they produce, producing fuel economy, and reducing the amount of harmful emissions that they put out.

We are also paying increasing attention to the interaction between transport and land use planning, another of the major themes which noble Lords addressed this evening. That develops around the issue of reducing the need to travel. We have heard some descriptions of teleworking, and the use of new technology and Internet, and how that could affect the issue. Nonetheless the question of the journey to the supermarket, the provision of car parks and out of town stores have all had a significant impact on the desire of people to travel. Local authorities have a very important role to play in that area as different measures will be appropriate in different areas. Our aim is principally to ensure that they are given the right guidance and necessary powers.

Again I believe that good progress has been made. Last year my department and the Department of the Environment jointly published a new planning policy guidance note on transport (PPG 13) which has as its key aims to reduce the growth in the length and number of motorised journeys, to encourage alternative means of travel which have less environmental impact, and hence to reduce the reliance on the private car. I believe that that guidance has been widely welcomed; and that welcome has been reflected by the contributions of your Lordships this evening. Added to this we have introduced a new approach to funding local transport investment. The so-called "package approach" allows local authorities to take a broader view of local transport problems and to come up with solutions not based solely on road-building.

We are investing significant amounts to improve public transport and we already have grants available to encourage the transfer of freight from road to rail: some 150 freight facilities grants have been awarded since 1979. The new track access grant was introduced in

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April last year, and we have also been looking at measures which might stimulate the transfer of freight from road to water. That is an issue upon which the noble Lord, Lord McNair, concentrated. It comes within my particular portfolio as Minister with responsibilities for shipping and internal water transport. I have been looking at the matter extremely carefully. I have talked to ship owners and those who have cargoes that would be suitable for movement by inland waterways or coastal shipping, to try to determine measures that would increase the attractiveness of water-borne transport.

However, it is not easy. There are no easy buttons to push which would suddenly make the issue of water-borne transport more attractive. We have had some success with the freight facilities grant; but again, that has been on a limited basis. Where companies need help to create infrastructure on the quayside that is more acceptable to the type of business that they run, we have been able to help. We have had considerable success with a chemical company in Manchester, for example, which now saves a significant number of road journeys that would otherwise be causing a great many problems.

In addition, the Government are prepared to consider funding for different types of public transport where it makes sense to do so. We made significant contributions to funding for the Manchester Metrolink and the South Yorkshire Supertram, and we have set aside resources for the Croydon Tramlink and the Midland Metro schemes.

Last year we undertook a wide-ranging and in-depth review of the roads programme. The newly prioritised programme that resulted seeks a sensible balance between the different economic and environmental considerations. We are now concentrating resources on making the best use of the existing road network by focusing on the removal of accident, congestion and pollution blackspots. But it is important to note that the days of making large-scale additions to the network are gone.

We have heard a few contributions, notably from my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the issue of air transport, and particularly on the question of regional airports. We fully support the valuable role that regional airports can play in providing transport links for people nearer to their point of departure; in environmental issues; in relieving congestion at the major airports in the South-East, and so on.

However, a crucial consideration must be that commercial realities are fulfilled, that airlines actually want to operate services to regional airports. The other consideration is that they are able to operate services to regional airports within the scope of air service agreements. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced last year the unilateral liberalisation of access in terms of transatlantic traffic to our regional airports. I was very pleased to see, for instance, that a service started recently between Birmingham and Chicago. That is a fruit of that particular policy. But I do not believe that it is possible to direct people to fly to a particular destination. That

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was what lay behind the traffic distribution rules. They have been shown not to be an economically efficient way of distributing traffic.

I hope that I have shown that the Government take very seriously the need to strike a balance in transport policy. We do not pretend that the balance is easy to find. Apparently simple solutions tend to fall apart on closer examination. We had an interesting discussion on the question of integrated transport policies and the emotions that are created by the use of the term. Those who believe that the greater integration of transport policies is a sufficient answer must be required to say exactly what they mean and what an integrated transport policy entails. That is the difficulty that the Government have had with those who on occasion have used the term by way of a throw-away explanation on the basis that "everything will be all right". What we have sought to say is that a centralised planning strategy whereby people are directed when and where to travel and things are done on a grand scale, is not the solution to the problems that we face. We believe that a better combination of transport and land use planning, for instance, with our planning guidance, smoother links between different modes and easier availability of information are all worthwhile, and they are aims that this Government are pursuing.

The toughest questions we face are all about attitudes. The research I referred to earlier illustrated how current attitudes make it very difficult to achieve significant changes in behaviour, even after spending large amounts of money. So how can we change attitudes? What mechanisms do we need to use to encourage people to change their transport decisions? If we seek to introduce painful measures to encourage change, how much pain is our society prepared to bear?

What is very clear is that there are no magic wands, no quick fixes and no easy answers. The "Win, win, win" options are very few and far between. We are all agreed that we are faced with a rising demand for travel, and that transport is of key importance to our economic well-being. But with it, come major economic problems. The RCEP report, and today's debate in this House, will play a major part in furthering the wider debate about transport and the environment that affects us all.

8.57 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, it is now nearly 9 o'clock, and I shall be brief. First, I thank all noble Lords who took part in this debate. Many of them told me things that I had not thought of or heard before. That is always a pleasure for somebody like myself who has spent 10 years thinking and doing things about transport policy. They were very welcome news to me. I thank particularly my noble friends who supported me with their speeches. Perhaps I may single out one other speech, that of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, who, in his extremely cheerful and amusing remarks offered me some reassurances that the kind of measures for which I was looking might be on their way.

I cannot say that I was satisfied with the response given by the Minister. But then I do not suppose that he expected me to be. As to some of the other interventions, particularly those from the noble Earl, Lord Caithness,

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and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I rather hope that perhaps we can discuss some of the points that they raised over a tea cake or some iced coffee in the Members' Dining Room. But the mention of dining reminds us once again that it is nearly 9 o'clock and we have not had any. I therefore beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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