HC Deb 23 November 1966 vol 736 cc1375-6
14. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Minister of Transport what is her policy regarding a system of road pricing and taxing meters for motor cars in London.

Mrs. Castle

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 9th November to a Question by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell.)—[Vol. 735, c. 296.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

How does the right hon. Lady reconcile that pussy-footing Answer with her dogmatic utterances made before the entire New York Press on 15th October, when she and I were both in New York—[Interruption.]—when the right hon. Lady and I were both on business in New York—and reported verbatim in the New York Times that high fees were about to be imposed on cars entering the congested areas of London?

Mrs. Castle

I did not make any such statement in New York. I said, and I stand by it, and indeed I have said it in other places repeatedly, that it is essential for us to consider whether we need to go further than the parking controls which were introduced by the previous Conservative Administration. In this connection, I said that we were studying the feasibility and desirability of introducing road pricing systems, but I have always made it clear that this will involve at least another two years of research before any decision can possibly be taken.

Mr. Whitaker

Will my right hon. Friend flatly renounce the principle of licensing by wealth and any such suggestion as this which discriminates in transport in favour of the rich at the expense of those who are less wealthy? Will she fully develop public transport, and also consider licensing cars by size, so that large cars which take up three times as much road space as smaller cars pay their fair share of taxes?

Mrs. Castle

In reply to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I would point out that parking fees are a form of licensing by wealth. The alternative to control by that kind of pricing is administrative control. I would prefer this—and I agree with my hon. Friend—but it raises enormous practical difficulties. How does one decide which is an essential car, and which is not? This is the simple problem which we have to face. In the meantime, every extension of priced parking control is a form of road pricing.

With regard to public transport, I have made it clear time and again that we are going to encourage it. For the first time the Government are going to give a capital grant for it.

The question of the size of cars in cities is too big a one to enter into in reply to this question.

Mr. Peter Walker

Would the right hon. Lady agree that the grant for the Victoria Line was a grant by the Government?

Mrs. Castle

It is a good indication of how right are the policies in the White Paper, which will supersede those of the 1962 Transport Act.