HC Deb 03 February 1998 vol 305 cc839-41
34. Mr. Day

If he will make a statement outlining how he plans to tackle congestion on Britain's roads. [24921]

Dr. Strang

The Government are developing an integrated transport policy. As part of that, we are considering options for tackling congestion and pollution on local and national roads. We will announce how we intend to proceed in the forthcoming transport White Paper.

Mr. Day

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will the Government turn their mind for a moment from clobbering the motorist with threats of heavy increases in petrol prices to the Manchester airport eastern link road, which is left over from the previous Government's road programme? Residents in the area have fought very hard for the road. Although a third of it has been built, the rest has not. It is not even linked to the airport—and it is traffic from the airport of which the local area is supposed to be being relieved. I hope that the Minister can assure my constituents that the road will be finished before the Government complete their seemingly endless review.

Dr. Strang

The review is neither lengthy nor endless. I recognise the popular support for the road to which the hon. Gentleman refers and I pay tribute to his efforts to advance its cause—indeed, he raised the matter with my noble Friend Baroness Hayman. We shall make an announcement about that road, and others, in the summer.

Ms Walley

I welcome the integrated transport review, but may I draw to my right hon. Friend's attention a pitfall against which we must guard? We should not proceed with the review of trunk roads before we have had the opportunity to put at the heart of our policies integrated transport and concern for the environment and sustainability. I am thinking in particular of the recommendations of the Government office for the west midlands.

Dr. Strang

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend says, which is why we attach such a high priority to our integrated transport White Paper. It is an indictment of previous Conservative Administrations that this transport White Paper will be the first for more than 20 years. In 18 years, the Conservative Government produced only a Green Paper—a consultation paper.

Sir Norman Fowler

Does the Minister agree that a policy of taxing and taxing the motorist hits everyone, irrespective of need, and will not by itself tackle congestion? Is it, in principle, his policy to ring-fence the proceeds of any congestion tax and use them to improve transport, and is that also the Treasury's view?

Dr. Strang

In the consultation paper that we issued last August—about which we received so many responses and on which we held so many constructive seminars throughout the country—we made it clear that we were considering the possibility of new dedicated income streams. That would discourage car use—not necessarily car ownership—and also raise money not only for us, but for local authorities to invest in improved public transport.

Dr. Iddon

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the previous Administration's policies, such as the deregulation of buses, a lack of investment in rail, and predict-and-provide road building, caused the congestion on our roads, which costs British industry and commerce £19 billion a year? Is not that a good reason for having a properly integrated transport policy?

Dr. Strang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Current traffic projections, which are based on the assumption that policies will be unchanged, are not consistent either with developing a modern, competitive economy, as we must tackle congestion, or with environmental sustainability. We must tackle this issue, which is why we are biting the bullet and publishing the first transport White Paper for more than 20 years.

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