HC Deb 24 June 1999 vol 333 cc1283-4
11. Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

If he will make a statement on his policy on taxation of road fuel. [87067]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ms Patricia Hewitt)

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has confirmed the Government's commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2010, in line with our Kyoto and domestic targets. The road fuel duty escalator, which was introduced by the previous Government, is an important part of the Government's policy to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to improve local air quality. We estimate that the fuel duty escalator will save between 2 million and 5 million tonnes of carbon annually by 2010.

Mr. Winterton

I am not sure that that is an answer to the question. Does the Minister accept that practically all goods and products that are delivered to shops, factories and other premises throughout the United Kingdom are delivered by road? Does she believe that not only the managers and directors, but the employees of all the transport companies in my constituency—Kirks Transport, Swains Transport, Coopers Transport, Whittakers Transport, Stevens Transport and Dane Valley Transport—are wrong when they say that the Government are following a policy that is detrimental to the UK haulage industry and is increasing costs dramatically? Further, the policy acts against the interests of the many people who live in rural areas where there is no public transport and never will be. Many of those people are on low wages. Will the Minister change the policy and end the fuel escalator?

Ms Hewitt

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on mentioning so many of his local transport firms. I seem to recall that he supported the previous Government, who introduced and increased the fuel duty escalator. This Government have cut corporation tax and have frozen the rate of vehicle excise duty for lorries. I hope that he will congratulate us on that.

I also remind the hon. Gentleman that air pollution in this country contributes to more than 8,000 deaths every year and to more than 10,000 annual hospital admissions. Every sector, including road transport, must make its contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality by finding more efficient ways of transporting goods and people. I notice that the Conservative party these days opposes not only tax credits and child benefit but measures that will improve children's health.