Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said in moving the amendment. We on these Benches cannot support it. We regard the growth in traffic as being very much a consequence of the growth in the economy. We want to see good growth in the economy. To put an artificial target on it such as is proposed in the amendment would not be practical.

Lord Berkeley: What is proposed is a good idea, although I am not sure how practical it is in the short-term. It was interesting to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, thinks that the economy comes first and that traffic growth is inexorably linked to it. It is important to have a road traffic strategy even if the targets have to be reduced. Strategies are important. I am looking forward to strategies for the railways, which we have not had until now. There is no reason why there should not be a strategy for road traffic as well.

Lord Whitty: The noble Baroness has called for an absolute reduction in the national volume of traffic to 90 per cent of its current level. When we responded to the first report on the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act, we indicated, as we did again in the 10-year plan, that we wished to slow the rate of growth of traffic. In some places there may need to be an absolute reduction in the rate of traffic. Concentration on the national volume of traffic is not a good measure of the success of a transport policy; nor is it what people are worried about. People are concerned about congestion and pollution. We have therefore framed our objectives in those terms, both in our report, Tackling Congestion and Pollution, on the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act and in the 10-year plan.

That plan, in particular, sets out the outcomes that we expect to achieve. We seek to see a reduction, for example, in the contribution of road traffic to air pollution to be cut by around half, principally through cleaner fuels and vehicles but also through traffic management. Savings in carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector will make a significant contribution towards meeting climate change targets. Similarly, on congestion, with the investment to be made in alternative forms of transport and other measures contained in the plan, we seek to reduce

26 Jul 2000 : Column 498

congestion to below current levels, in particular in our largest cities where it is most severe--even when the total volume of national traffic is rising.

We believe that we should focus on air quality, health, road safety and the levels of greenhouse gases rather than on the absolute national volume of traffic. One of the objectives as regards the inter-urban network and large urban areas contained in the 10-year plan is the target of reducing congestion to below present levels by 2010.

We have set out our strategies for carrying these forward. We believe that that will be a better way to progress, rather than to aim for a simplistic national target that relates to volume rather than outcome. We have set that out clearly at least twice in government documents. The National Assembly for Wales came to similar conclusions, which it published in February. For those reasons, I would ask the noble Baroness not to pursue the national volume targets. The targets I have outlined are already built into our national transport plans.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his support for the general principle of setting a target for traffic reduction or, to put it another way, for the control of traffic growth. This is only one way of putting that ambition into a legislative mode but it may not even be the best way.

Our view is that it is necessary to adopt an overall approach to traffic reduction within which local authorities can relate to national aims and ambitions. I believe that merely seeking to solve congestion on the urban and inter-urban road network--which in most cases would mean simply building more space for cars to travel on--is not necessarily a way of reducing pollution, for example. It may even contribute to a slowdown in the reduction of pollution which is being achieved by other means. It is hoped that we shall see a transfer of journeys, not only those made by freight but also of passenger journeys, from the motor car to other, less polluting modes of transport.

I shall not press my amendment. I thank the noble Lord for his response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 373:

    Before Clause 253, insert the following new clause--

("Inshore shipping services

.--(1) The Secretary of State may enter into agreements or other arrangements--
(a) for the purpose of securing the provision, improvement or development by others of any inshore shipping services or maritime assets, or
(b) for any purpose relating to inshore shipping services.
(2) Agreements or other arrangements entered into under this section may provide for the Secretary of State--
(a) to make grants or other payments or loans,
(b) to give guarantees, or

26 Jul 2000 : Column 499

(c) to invest in bodies corporate,
on such terms and subject to any such conditions as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(3) The Secretary of State shall not enter into agreements or other arrangements under this section for the purpose of securing the provision, improvement or development in Scotland of--
(a) services for the carriage of cargo by sea,
(b) facilities for or in connection with the carriage of cargo by sea or the loading or unloading of cargo carried or intended to be carried by sea,
if the Scottish Ministers have power to do so.
(4) In this section--
"facilities" includes vessels, pilotage, buoyage, harbours, piers, jetties, equipment for embarcation and dis-embarcation and equipment for loading and unloading cargo;
"inshore shipping" includes coastal, island to mainland, inter-island, canal, navigable river, loch, lough and lake.").

The noble Baroness said: In the absence of my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie, I wish to table this amendment which was drafted by my noble friend. The concept behind the amendment and the wording have been developed from Clause 210 which makes provision for financial assistance for the purposes of railway assets and services.

The Bill is silent on the question of shipping and waterway traffic; it ought not to be. The Bill's Long Title states simply that it seeks to make provision for transport. At present it covers air, rail and road transport. We are left to wonder why sea and waterway transport has been left out. This amendment would fill that gap by establishing that the Secretary of State and the Scottish and Welsh Ministers may make grants to improve sea and waterway facilities for freight and in consequence for passenger services.

This will be extremely useful among the various islands and island groups that make up the United Kingdom. Living, working and trying to secure a strong economy are difficult enough in terms of remoteness, sparsity of population and distance from markets in those areas without adding the avoidable burden of inadequate freight and passenger facilities and services. The redevelopment of coastal shipping has the merit of removing substantial bulk loads from the road network. A new movement of timber from Argyll to Irvine by sea is an example of this. The same could also be true of the redevelopment of waterway traffic. We were pleased to read recently that the British Waterways Board has announced the new construction of a 19-mile canal in eastern England, the first to be built since 1810.

Those providing such forms of transport are also pleased with this amendment. They have made the point that more bulk goods could be transported by waterways, and thus come off the roads, if only the higher costs of waterway transport could be mitigated. The removal of bulk transport from the roads is a much sought-after objective and could be delivered in some areas by assistance with the costs of a modal shift to waterway transport. The improvement of piers and jetties, which would be enabled by the amendment, is vital to maintaining populations in the islands and, indeed, in some remote areas of the mainland.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 500

The provision of freight facilities grants for sea and waterway transport will add to the effectiveness of the Bill and are exactly parallel to the freight grants awarded to similar kinds of facilities to serve the rail freight industry.

I had an interesting meeting with a councillor from the Isle of Wight who brought to my attention the cost of travel from the Isle of Wight to the mainland. It is only a short distance but the journey costs £9 return. That is a considerable sum for a pensioner who perhaps needs regularly to visit a doctor or hospital on the other side of that short sea journey. In that context, it would be interesting to see if it would be possible to extend the provisions of the half-fare bus pass to that kind of pedestrian ferry service. Such ferry services are similar to the bus services to be provided through quality transport partnerships under the Bill.

I have covered only two of the many different advantages that might be gained by this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. Many people thought that I would oppose this amendment, but that is not the case. I support it and I have added my name to it.

This is a good amendment. It is not before time that the islands and not so inland waterways are brought within the scope of grants. The amendment does not separate the use to which the transport would be put; namely, between passengers and freight, whereas Amendment No. 426A in the same grouping does make that distinction. I was not absolutely sure whether the noble Baroness wished to suggest whether passengers should be included in the provision. There may be other ways of supporting passengers. Indeed, I believe that that is already the case in Scotland. However, the Bill does not cover Scotland and so that is not relevant.

Agreements of this kind would certainly be necessary for freight. It is already allowed for, of course, on inland waterways. I am told that in Scotland grants are available for inland waterway travel between the Mull of Kintyre and Ayr. That must be a very wide inland waterway and no doubt sometimes rather rough.

Basically, we need to examine, in comparison with rail freight, the number of road/lorry miles that might be saved. Some interesting calculations would need to be made as regards working out the correct ferry or sea miles. It is also important to recognise that the provisions should apply not only to islands such as the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Man and across to Northern Ireland but also to services along the coast. There is no reason why timber should not be transported from Aberdeen to the south of England by sea rather than by road or rail. So the competitive situation would have to be examined.

I should be unhappy if the provision were extended to apply across the North Sea to mainland European countries. I do not think that is the plan. It would introduce further questions of competition that would need to be looked at. Apart from that, the important

26 Jul 2000 : Column 501

point is to make sure the grants--presumably either for capital expenditure or operating costs, or a combination of the two--retain the same flexibility but also the same competitive edge against road freight as is the case with rail freight.

I hope that my noble friend will look with favour on this proposal. We have received many messages of support from the ports industry. I support the amendment.

8 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Before the Minister replies, it may be for the benefit of the Committee if I point out that inshore shipping includes coastal; island to mainland; inter-island; canal; navigable river, loch and lake. It does not include journeys across the North Sea or the Channel.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page