HC Deb 09 February 1977 vol 925 cc1414-5
6. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Secretary of State for Transport over how many years the tax paid by road users has exceeded current and capital expenditure on roads as stated in Volume 25.27 of the transport consultation document.

Mr. William Rodgers

The tax paid by road users overall has exceeded current and capital expenditure on roads for at least the last 25 years.

Mr. Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the interest charges on the capital costs of the inherited road network of the pre-motor age were estimated in 1962 by Professor Hondelink to be £800 million a year? That figure has been brought up to date by the Library, and taking into account higher interest charges and lower money values approximates to £5,900 million a year—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is very useful information, but we must have a question.

Mr. Atkins

Should that figure not modify the glib assumption of the unfortunate writer of paragraph 27?

Mr. Rodgers

The answer could be "Yes" and the answer could be "No" —if my hon. Friend does not regard that as being unreasonably indecisive. I should like to read very carefully what my hon. Friend has said before hazarding a final answer.

Mr. Fry

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of us do not want to live in the past like the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) and are more concerned about the present and the future? Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer not clearly show that the road programme has, in effect, been effectively cut back so that subsidies may be granted to rail? Further, does he agree that all the statistics show that road is by far the major mode of transport and that by all tests of efficiency greater amounts should be directed towards that programme than to other methods of transport?

Mr. Rodgers

With respect, I do not think that any such conclusion could be drawn from my reply, which was very simple in its nature. Road users overall have paid more in tax than has been spent, but if I were to supply a supplementary answer to the hon. Gentleman I should be prepared to say that within that total there have been some differences that many Members would regard as anomalies.