HC Deb 11 March 1991 vol 187 cc659-60
10. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what research his Department is undertaking to evaluate the environmental effects of the road traffic increases forecast by "Roads for Prosperity".

Mr. Chope

We have set up a joint study with the Department of the Environment to see what contribution the planning system can make to tackling the problem of CO2, emissions.

Mr. Hughes

Have the Minister and his colleagues been working hard with the Department of the Environment to put pressure on the Treasury to ensure that gas-guzzling vehicles are more heavily taxed at the next Budget. [HON. MEMBERS: "Certainly not."]—or do they accept that the electoral consideration of not offending the motoring and car lobby will, as always with the Tory Government, override environmental matters, particularly in the Department of Transport?

Mr. Chope

I cannot anticipate anything that might be in the Budget. It is worth pointing out, however, that even existing motor cars with 1300cc engines may vary by up to 40 per cent. on the miles per gallon achieved. It is open to the environmentally concerned motorist to purchase a motor car that is more fuel-efficient than another in the same range.

Mr. Rathbone

Will my hon. Friend, while helping in any way that he can to reduce emissions from motor cars, not fall for the blandishments of any lobby that is trying to persuade him to cut the road-building programme?

Mr. Chope

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) shakes his head, but he may have forgotten that his colleagues, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and the hon. Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and for Truro (Mr. Taylor), have recently been lobbying me for more investment in the road-building programme.

Dr. Kim Howells

Does the Minister agree that his bland statements simply add to the list of things about which we have heard in the past 10 years, including lean-burn engines and all the rest of it? Does he agree that appropriate fiscal measures would do a great deal to clean up the environment? In Germany, 98 per cent. of cars have catalytic convertors fitted. Would not it be in the interests of the nation and its environment to introduce fiscal measures to reward those who purchase cars with lean-burn engines and catalytic convertors?

Mr. Chope

The Government recognise that there may be a role for the taxation system in the process of ensuring the best improvements possible in our environment by trying to reduce CO2 emissions. However, it would not be right to suggest that that would be a total panacea.

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