HC Deb 03 March 1998 vol 307 cc848-9
30. Mr. Dobbin

What guidance has been issued to local authorities under the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997. [30652]

Mr. Prescott

Guidance to local authorities on meeting their obligations under the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 was issued in draft on 15 January in order to allow local authorities and other interested parties to comment on its contents.

Mr. Dobbin

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing concern about ill health caused by pollution from road traffic? Does he agree that the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 will provide an important framework for local authorities to tackle the problem of traffic congestion? I welcome the guidance that has been issued under the Act and I congratulate the Government on their support for the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill.

Mr. Prescott

My hon. Friend has established a reputation for campaigning hard on this matter. Air pollution from traffic is a serious problem and we hope to tackle it through our national air quality strategy and the integrated transport White Paper that we will publish shortly. The Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 provides an important framework for local authorities to take action, and the Government are committed to tackling the harmful effects of the growth in road traffic. It is estimated that up to 24,000 people die prematurely each year because of exposure to such air pollution.

Mr. Brake

Will the Secretary of State add up the reductions contained in all the local authority plans so that we can assess the contribution that local authorities will make to reducing road traffic? Will he also introduce a national target for the Government so that local authorities do not have to take sole responsibility for reducing traffic?

Mr. Prescott

Those matters are very much in our mind and are being considered for the White Paper, which will be published in May.

Mr. Ottaway

Does the Secretary of State agree that, whatever their good intentions, local authorities can do little in practice to reduce traffic levels, and that the way forward is to encourage people on to public transport? With that in mind, will he give a warm welcome to Virgin's announcement today of a £1.8 million order for rolling stock for the west coast main line, which demonstrates the long-term benefits of rail privatisation?

Mr. Prescott

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's conversion to the need to give public transport priority over private transport. Whether the privatised rail system will contribute to that, we wait to see, although the signs are not good. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that, in the past 20 years, the costs of car transport have increased by 8 per cent. while the costs of public transport have increased by 30 per cent., and that that happened because the previous Government pursued a different policy.

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