HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 cc187-8
9. Mr. Savidge

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for increasing the use of public transport. [6699]

Mr. Chisholm

I intend to publish a White Paper on an integrated transport policy for Scotland early next year.

Mr. Savidge

I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he agree that the Government's promotion of public transport, combined with the decision that the roads review will pay regard to environmental as well as economic factors, should help us to fulfil our ecological responsibilities? Will he further be prepared to consider, with specific regard to my constituency, whether the western peripheral road, combined with an integrated public transport service, might be an environmentally friendly and economically sound way of solving Aberdeen's traffic problems?

Mr. Chisholm

As I told my hon. Friend in the Scottish Grand Committee, I shall look at the western peripheral road as part of the roads review. The criteria that we shall use for that review are the environment and the economy, but we shall also have regard to considerations of safety and congestion. We shall look at the scope for a modal shift towards public transport, which will be a key theme of our White Paper, and we shall consult on that very soon.

Mr. Ian Bruce

If the democratic will of the Scottish people is that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-raising powers, and if local authorities in Scotland go to that Parliament asking for public transport grants to help them to get more public transport, will the Labour Government stop that new Parliament from raising additional taxes? Are they asking the people of Scotland to give a democratic view of what should happen and then denying them the ability to use that varying power?

Mr. Chisholm

Once again, Conservative Members try to tempt us to reveal what will be in next week's White Paper. Transport will be dealt with clearly in the White Paper. A debate about congestion charging is going on at UK level among the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Scottish Office and local authorities.

Mr. Donohoe

Will my hon. Friend give us some idea about the progress that has been made on the roads review, particularly in connection with the A77? The economy of Ayrshire will be greatly affected if the section that has already been proposed does not go ahead.

Mr. Chisholm

I am aware of the arguments in favour of that section of road, and it will be considered as quickly as possible. It will be early next year before it is completed, because we are determined to have a comprehensive review to introduce a coherent rationale into the road building programme. We inherited from the previous Government a make-believe roads programme; we are determined to form a real roads programme. The previous Government promised roads here and there, but there was no money in the forward budget plans to pay for them. We shall therefore introduce a coherent roads policy, which will be revealed early next year.

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