§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 25, in page 121, line 36, after '(1)%% insert'Where the revenue raised is to be invested solely and exclusively in better provision for public transport, cycling and walking in Greater London'.
Amendment No. 81, in page 121, line 41, leave out `keeping or'.
Amendment No. 83, in schedule 18, page 230, line 36, leave out Schedule 18.
Amendment No. 82, in page 230, line 45, leave out `keeping or'.
Government amendments Nos. 140 and 141.
Amendment No. 8, in page 235, line 12, leave out from `scheme' to third 'the' in line 13.
Amendment No. 9, in page 235, line 14, leave out
'during the scheme's initial period'.
Amendment No. 10, in page 235, line 19, leave out from `(2)' to 'the'.
Amendment No. 11, in page 235, leave out lines 24 to 27.
Amendment No. 12, in page 235, leave out lines 32 to 40.
Amendment No. 13, in page 236, line 36, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 237.
Amendment No. 14, in page 237, leave out lines 24 to 38. Government amendment No. 142.
Amendment No. 26, in clause 223, page 122, line 3, after `(1)', insert`Where the revenue raised is to be invested solely and exclusively in better provision for public transport, cycling and walking in Greater London'.
Government amendment No. 143.
1001 Amendment No. 15, in schedule 19, page 247, line 6, leave out from 'scheme' to third 'the' in line 7.
Amendment No. 16, in page 247, line 8, leave out`during the scheme's initial period'.
Amendment No. 17, in page 247, line 13, leave out from '(2)' to 'the'.
Amendment No. 18, in page 247, leave out lines 18 to 21.
Amendment No. 19, in page 247, leave out lines 26 to 34.
Amendment No. 20, in page 248, leave out lines 28 to 44.
Amendment No. 21, in page 249, leave out lines 16 to 30.
Government amendment No. 144.
New clause 6—Traffic disruption charge—`(1) Where the money is to be invested solely and exclusively in better provision for public transport, cycling and walking in Greater London, each of the following bodies, namely,
- (a) the Authority,
- (b) any London borough council, or
- (c) the Common Council,may establish and operate schemes for imposing charges in respect of any disruption caused by works to roads, pavements or cycle lanes in their area.'.Government amendment No. 145.
§ Mr. Ottaway
This debate is on road pricing. It would be sensible to get some myths out of the way before the debate begins. We concede that a transport Green Paper in the early 1990s, towards the end of the previous Government's time in office, said that there was a presumption that road pricing would be introduced. A Green Paper is a consultation document, not a statement of policy. That would not therefore have been a national policy as defined in the Bill.
Secondly, a presumption in a Green Paper can be rebutted, and the Government should be under no illusion but that that idea was rebutted. The proposal was not taken forward. The proposal to introduce road pricing did not appear in the Conservative party manifesto in 1997. It never formed a part of our policy.
We share the concern of all political parties about the problem of congestion. There is widespread concern about pollution caused by cars and other motor vehicles. The challenge to Governments of either persuasion is how to manage the car. In our view, clobbering the motorist is not the solution, and we reject outright the Government's anti-car rhetoric. Furthermore, making London the pilot scheme for congestion tax stands logic on its head. I can think of nowhere less suited and nowhere that would pose greater technical problems.
Amendment No. 81 may be described as the lesser of our two amendments. It would delete the power from clause 222 to impose a charge for keeping a vehicle on the road. That charge is not a road user charge or a congestion tax. It is just another stealth tax. The clause permits the mayor and the London boroughs to impose a further levy for parking or keeping a car within a certain area. It is a further back-door tax that has nothing to do with congestion, and we oppose it.
1002 The main issue is the congestion tax, however. Already, 83 per cent. of commuters travel in and out of London by public transport. Public transport in central London is good, although that is, of course, a relative term. It is certainly better than in other cities in Britain and in most cities in the rest of the world. Whether under Labour or the Conservatives, public transport in London has been good. A wide variety of choice is available. By and large, and subject to the usual technical problems, the system gets people around the capital.
As a result, road traffic in central London is not growing. The Automobile Association notes:Road traffic levels within central London have hardly changed in 20 years. However, traffic levels in the outer areas have increased by 50 per cent in just 15 years.
The question is whether central London is the right place to impose a congestion tax. People like their cars, the most liberating influence of the post-war years. Cars allow people a freedom to travel that their parents and grandparents never knew. People feel safe in their cars. Mothers use them to take children to school. Nurses use them for their night duty. Pensioners or disabled people use their cars to get to the shops. These are the people who will be hardest hit by the congestion tax.
Let me turn to traffic speed. The AA, once again, states:Travel by vehicle through central London has always been slow going because of the high frequency of junctions. In outer areas, speeds tend to be higher. Overall traffic speeds are declining in London. though less so in the central area because traffic levels have reduced slightly.
Traffic speeds have slowed more generally in London and that is in large part attributable to the Government's anti-car stance. We are all in favour of pedestrian safety and of ensuring that drivers proceed safely, but do we really need each and every one of the extra crossings, traffic-calming measures and lane reductions that are currently being introduced? The widespread view is that the use of such measures has gone too far, and I have no doubt that it is a contributory factor to the reduction in traffic speeds in the capital.
I said on Second Reading and in Standing Committee that we have to hand it to the Government: they slow down the traffic and thereby create congestion, which they then tax—that is a smart move. The truth is that many of the traffic jams are man-made; they could be avoided and traffic could be speeded up through more pro-motorist thinking.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
I recall the hon. Gentleman saying in Committee how strongly he supported local government in London being able to make its own decisions, so I find it difficult to understand why he criticises the Government on this point, given that most of the decisions on traffic calming are local borough decisions and will remain so. Why is the Tory party coming out, not against a proposition that there will be road charging, but against a proposition that, the issue having been debated during the election, those elected to represent Londoners may choose to impose road charging?
Surely Tory policy, if it means anything, is to give freedom to local government and other authorities to make decisions; but the hon. Gentleman wants to restrict London's choices by removing altogether one of the options available to it.
§ Mr. Ottaway
It is perfectly straightforward: we are against the congestion tax in London. As for the
1003 introduction of traffic-calming measures being a local authority decision, the hon. Gentleman should recall that, about a year ago, the Government proudly published a press release in which they announced that they had authorised huge levels of spending for thousands of new traffic-calming measures in London. That was Government money being spent on schemes instigated by the Government, and the local authorities were nothing but the agents of implementation; the Government inspired the initiative and the drive behind the schemes came from the centre.
§ Mr. Hughes
A large proportion of the money will have been taxpayers' money because a large proportion of transport spending in Britain comes from the taxpayer by way of grant to local government. In some ways, for some purposes, local authorities are agents, but to my knowledge no local council has been required to spend money against its wishes on traffic-calming schemes. If the hon. Gentleman can give me one example to the contrary, his case has credibility—but I suspect that there is no such example.
§ Mr. Ottaway
The hon. Gentleman has caught me unawares and I do not have such an example to hand, but he should not doubt that, if a local authority is given money, it will spend it. The truth is that if the Government take the credit for the schemes, they must be prepared to take the criticism as well. Let us suppose that I am wrong and the hon. Gentleman is right and that all the measures are entirely local-authority inspired; in that case, the local authorities are creating the congestion. However, the point is that the slowing down of traffic and the increase in congestion is, to a large extent, man-made.
Two of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues—the hon. Members for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) and for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey)—are constituency neighbours of mine, and they might occasionally visit Coulsdon in my constituency; in fact, I know that one of them has, because he wrote to me to tell me so. The red route director has put no fewer than three pedestrian crossings across the A23 route into Coulsdon, which has caused tailbacks north and south of about a mile each way. Those tailbacks never occurred before the crossings were introduced, so the congestion is a man-made problem. The existing pedestrian crossings worked fine, but now that the additional traffic lights have been put in, we have huge tailbacks.
§ Mr. Edward Davey
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that all traffic-calming and road-safety measures cause congestion? The Minister for London and Construction was kind and helpful in working with local police and me to reduce the speed limit on the A3 Kingston bypass, which has improved the flow of traffic on that road and so reduced congestion.
§ Mr. Ottaway
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the reduction in speed on the A3 Kingston bypass is popular, he has another think coming.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
I do not want to distract the hon. Gentleman from the wider issues, but I am perplexed. 1004 Is he arguing that, for example, many more bus lanes in London would be a bad thing because, although they would allow buses a greater speed of travel, they would have an adverse impact on car users? If we enhance the safety of pedestrians and cyclists and the speed of buses, we are bound occasionally to run the risk of car transport being slowed, but that might be an incentive for people to use different forms of transport, or to go around London rather than through it.
§ Mr. Ottaway
I certainly do not suggest that all the measures are not wanted. My point is that I think that the balance might have begun to tip too far in one direction. If a speed limit of 25 mph were to be imposed throughout London, the whole city would grind to halt, just as a 25-mph speed limit on a motorway would clog up the whole road, because any trip would take twice as long and twice as many cars would be on the same stretch of road. There has to be joined-up thinking—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have seen an awful lot of the hon. Gentleman's back in the past few minutes. He should address the Chair.
§ Mr. Ottaway
I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was carried away by the interventions.
Before the Liberal Democrats put out their press releases saying "Tories oppose safety measures", alongside the one about the cracked paving stone, they should think seriously. Their holy grail appears to be the removal of congestion from London's roads, but that is unachievable, because if a motorist sees an empty road, the first thing he will do is drive down it—he will not take the bus. Congestion, once cleared, will return. The point is that many of the safety measures slow down traffic in London, and those measures are the result of Government decisions.
The Government have given three reasons for proposing to introduce a congestion tax: first, to persuade the motorist to leave his car behind; secondly, to reduce pollution; and, thirdly, to raise taxes for transport purposes. Will the Minister, through the congestion tax, persuade the people of London to leave their cars behind? The AA report "New leadership for London: transport in the capital", under the heading "Car ownership", states:The number of cars per London household is lower than many other parts of Great Britain, reflecting the cost of parking and the availability and accessibility of public transport.Were I to introduce an anti-congestion scheme and someone were to tell me that lower car ownership had resulted, I should say that I had achieved my objective. However, the availability of public transport in central London is already achieving the objective of keeping London traffic movements at a lower level than they would be if public transport were not available—all the evidence suggests that the availability of public transport in London keeps cars off the roads.
In Committee, we examined in depth the pilot scheme in Leicester. The Minister for Transport in London said that she would publish the results when they became available, and I assume that she is a woman of her word. However, early reports from that scheme give rise to serious questions about whether imposing a congestion tax on motorists will make much difference to their habits. Early reports from Leicester indicate that it takes a 1005 road-use charge of £6 to make a motorist change his pattern of behaviour. It is believed that in London the figure would be nearer £8. I do not think that even this Government would have the gall to introduce a £8 charge on motorists every time they made a journey in London. Given that they would not do that, it follows logically that a lesser sum would not deter anyone. So what do we have? We have a revenue stream. It is a tax by the back door. It is yet another example of a stealth tax.
What will happen in the London boroughs? In Croydon, there are reports that the council intends to produce a congestion tax that will bear on motorists entering London once the Bill is enacted. Apart from ensuring the re-election of the Conservative group at the next borough elections, what will be the net effect? The answer is that local shoppers will go to the new Blue Water retail development near the M25 rather than pay to go to Croydon. The congestion tax may solve the problem of congestion in Croydon, but it will make it into a ghost town.
A good example is provided by Bath, where the Liberal Democrat council has raised parking charges to such a high level that there has been a 7 per cent. fall-off in the local economy. The House must recognise that one cannot impose a congestion tax in isolation and expect there to be no knock-on factors.
§ Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
Does my hon. Friend agree that those who are most in favour of congestion charges are those who want to drive on our roads? The main purpose of a congestion tax is to get everybody else off the road so that the road is freer for oneself.
§ Mr. Ottaway
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have yet to hear anyone advocating a congestion tax who does not drive himself.
The second objective of the congestion tax is to reduce pollution. Notwithstanding my point that the tax is unlikely to affect volumes, it is possible to reduce pollution without the confrontational approach of extra taxation upon the motorist.
Such have been the advances and technological developments in the production and construction of engines that a car manufactured 30 years ago emitted 95 per cent. more toxic waste from the back end than would a car produced now. That has been achieved by co-operation with the motor industry and without the need to introduce a congestion tax. We must try to remove the final 5 per cent. without imposing a charge. I am sure that the technology is available to produce the ultimate clean car. The Conservative party would encourage the motor industry to do so. It would also give every encouragement to cars powered by liquefied gas or electricity.
It is worth noting that Oxford street, which is considered to be one of the more polluted areas in the country, is a street from which the car is excluded. The pollution tends to be the result of emissions from diesel engines in taxis and lorries. However, the Government must not use the environment as an excuse to impose a charge when other options are available.
The Government's final, unashamed reason for imposing a congestion tax on Londoners is that it will create a revenue stream for the mayor. The Liberal party 1006 has been eyeing this up and has given it its full support. In "Yes, Minister", when the Minister in that programme was about to make a controversial decision, Sir Humphrey used to say, "Very courageous, Minister, very courageous." It is very courageous of the Government to be advocating an additional tax on London. They are doing so unashamedly with the full intention of creating a revenue stream for the mayor.
The Government should be aware, however, of a recent report contained in a confidential Scotland Yard memo, according to the Evening Standard, which warns that there could bea violent backlash by drivers, increasingly angered by moves to penalise them at every turn. A separate Government-commissioned study has also warned that drivers' acceptance of technology that charges them for driving on roads-and traps them when they don't pay-cannot be relied upon.The congestion tax will not be an easy measure to introduce. It is a courageous decision on the part of the Government to introduce it. I do not believe that anyone will become the London mayor on a pledge to introduce the tax.
§ Mr. Gray
Is my hon. Friend aware of the report by the Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs on the integrated transport White Paper, which was produced last week? It comes to three clear conclusions on congestion charging. The first is that it must be 100 per cent. hypothecated. Secondly, it must be totally additional to any present expenditure. Thirdly, it must be permanent. We know that the Government are proposing congestion charging for 10 years. The Sub-Committee was plain that it must not form a revenue stream for the Government, the Treasury or local government.
§ Mr. Ottaway
We talk of nothing else in Croydon. I intend to address all three points that my hon. Friend has sensibly and wisely raised. Early reports suggest that the congestion tax could raise £200 million a year. First, it must be questioned whether that is enough. In Committee, the Minister made it clear that this money would not necessarily be used as a subsidy for London underground, and referred to road improvements or traffic-related improvements. I venture to suggest that improving London's roads or traffic-related schemes will need more than £200 million a year.
We congratulate the Government on the halfhearted establishment of the principle of ring-fencing and hypothecating the proceeds of any congestion tax. However, any congratulation must be tempered by two factors, one of which we believe to be fatal. First, the funding is ring-fenced for only 10 years in the Bill. That obviously prompts the question: what will happen after 10 years. In our opinion, the answer is clear. The money will go to the Treasury coffers. If it is to be ring-fenced, that should be the position in perpetuity and not for a limited period. To that extent we welcome the conclusion of the Sub-Committee to which my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) referred.
Secondly, the greatest weakness of the Government's proposal—in our view the fatal one—is the additionality factor. I have no doubt that a Chancellor seeing a mayor with a revenue stream of £200 million a year would immediately dock £200 million from his transport grant to London, with the result that the people of London
1007 would be no better off. If the Minister is to reassure me that that will not happen, it will be clear that the Department has fought the battle over hypothecation. If so, why does it not fight the battle over additionality and enshrine the result in the Bill?
We do not have to look far for a good current example, and that is next year's funding for London underground, about which there has been much discussion today. All the early signs are that that funding will have to come out of the road maintenance programme. If ever there were a classic example of having to rob Peter to pay Paul, this is it.
§ Mr. Edward Davey
The hon. Gentleman is exactly right about additionality. Why, then, did the Conservative party not support my hon. Friends and me yesterday when we tried, through an amendment to clause 86, to ensure that the Greater London Authority transport grant increased year on year, so that funding from central Government to Transport for London would not be a problem?
§ Mr. Ottaway
Because I had no idea that that is what the Liberals were voting on. As I read the amendment, it described something entirely different. In any event, I do not feel slavishly bound to follow the Liberals through the Division Lobby on every occasion. We know that they have a pious coalition deal, which they keep denying. The Conservative party makes up its own mind, introduces its own amendments and votes when it thinks appropriate rather than letting the Liberals decide for it. The Liberals could easily have joined us in the Lobby just now, as their spokesman endorsed every point that I made on the public-private partnership.
We oppose the congestion tax because it is a back-door tax—a stealth tax. It will not solve the problems of congestion in London, it will not ease pollution, it will damage local economies and it will hit the vulnerable. I urge the House to support our amendments.
§ Mr. Darvill
I support the Government amendments and oppose the Conservative proposal to delete clause 222. The Government's proposal is not to impose road charging. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) rightly said in his intervention, the permissive provisions in the Bill would allow charging by the mayor and the London boroughs.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) said that the balance between public transport and road congestion was moving the other way. That may be so in some areas, but surely it is a matter for each London borough to decide in accordance with local circumstances. On a Londonwide scale, it is a matter for the London boroughs, the mayor and the Greater London Authority to put before the electorate. If the Conservative amendment were accepted and clause 222 deleted, that possibility would be removed from councillors and candidates at the GLA election next year, which would be a disservice to the people of London.
§ Mr. Gray
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the conclusions of the oft-quoted Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport 1008 and Regional Affairs? The Sub-Committee's report on the White Paper on integrated transport were published last week. The hon. Gentleman's colleagues concluded that it would be wrong to allow any local authority to make up its own mind about congestion charging, as that would drive traffic into the neighbouring local authority. Labour members of the Transport Sub-Committee therefore supported a regional strategy only for congestion charging. Does the hon. Gentleman therefore differ from his hon. Friends on the Committee?
§ Mr. Darvill
Yes. Local councillors need to take a broader perspective. I would propose a sub-regional approach. Councillors and members of the GLA will have to think much more broadly. I have not read the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I understand the argument. My view is that the debate must take place on a Londonwide basis, recognising local conditions and the position of Londoners as a whole and the commuter transport implications.
§ Mr. Bercow
The hon. Gentleman said a moment ago that the Government were not advocating road user charging, despite the appearance to the contrary—after all, as he knows, clause 222 dangles that prospect. In the light of what his hon. Friend the Minister said earlier, in a characteristically arrogant fashion, about the likelihood of a Labour mayor being elected, would the hon. Gentleman advocate a Labour mayor supporting such charges—yes or no?
§ Mr. Darvill
The debate on the Labour manifesto and the manifestos of candidates for mayor will take place in the coming months. I recognise the point made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South about the balance.
In answer to the question from the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), if the clause is removed from the Bill, that debate will not take place. It is taking place now in the Chamber, but, if the amendment is accepted, there will be no possibility of candidates for mayor and the GLA, and councillors in the London boroughs, debating the matter locally. For that reason, the provision should remain in the Bill.
I recognise that there will be competing arguments. For example, when a bus lane is created, there is often opposition from car users, but support from those who use the public services. There is opposition from people who may be affected by rat running as a result of the new bus lane, and local measures may be proposed to avoid that. All that takes place locally.
I support the measure because the revenues to be raised from the charges are hypothecated. I have some sympathy with the argument of the hon. Member for Croydon, South about the longer-term nature of the investment. The longer term must be taken into account in the decision-making process. The hypothecation of the revenues over a longer period would give much greater scope for investment. However, in subsequent elections, a party that opposed hypothecation after, say, 10 years could put its alternative proposals to the electorate. Those proposals might be unpopular, but parties would nevertheless need to consider the long term when formulating their policies.
§ Mr. Darvill
I said that I had some sympathy with the argument for longer-term hypothecation. However, I support the Bill because it moves in an important direction and, with regard to hypothecation, it is unique in law making in this country. That is warmly welcomed, and the benefits will become apparent. It enables the argument about road charging to take place against the background of the resulting benefits and the scope for investing the revenues in public transport.
§ Mr. Bercow
The hon. Gentleman's tone is immensely reasonable. What is less reasonable is his unwillingness to tell us whether a Labour candidate for mayor should advocate road charging. As his party has included the provision in the Bill, does he understand that some of us are eagerly waiting, with beads of sweat on our brow, for Pandora's box to be opened so that we can discover the earnest intentions of Labour Members?
§ Mr. Darvill
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's patience will be rewarded in due course. I am happy to give my opinion, but other colleagues may have different opinions. When we have formulated our policies, we will have the debate. I believe that there is considerable merit in road charging, provided that the revenues are used to improve public transport. The charges will be unpopular with some people, but, if those who pay them can see the benefits in improved public transport, the policy will be much more popular than Conservative Members think.
Most members of the public who have to travel in and out of London and use their cars to do so realise that a major problem is building up, no matter who is in government and no matter who controls the GLA. Local traffic problems apply in local areas. The public want those problems to be resolved. They know that resolving such problems is difficult and often requires increased capital investment, but the road charging provisions are a way of squaring that circle. That is why I do not believe that they are as unpopular as Conservative Members say.
I hope that hon. Members will oppose the Opposition amendment and support the amendments that would facilitate discussions on hypothecation and the detail of the Bill.
§ Mr. Brake
I shall speak against the Conservative amendment and in support of the Liberal Democrat amendments.
What would be the effect of the Tory amendment? It would simply remove the possibility—not the certainty—of road user charging. However, if road user charging were implemented after the viable public transport alternatives were put in place, it could play a major role in raising funds for investment in public transport, in improving the health of the one child in seven who suffers from asthma and in helping the United Kingdom to meet its CO2 reduction targets. Finally, it could play a major role in helping the boroughs to deliver 1010 on their target of a 10 per cent. reduction in road traffic, which was agreed under the previous Government and which they have to hit.
§ Mr. Ottaway
May I take it from the hon. Gentleman that the Liberal Democrats will be campaigning in next year's mayoral elections on a pledge to introduce road user charging?
§ Mr. Brake
; I am happy to respond to that intervention. My understanding is that one of the Conservative contenders for mayor, Steve Norris, has indicated his support for the proposals. We have clearly said that we see a role for road user charging in reducing congestion in London. I am happy for that to go on the record.
The official Opposition have to confirm whether they are committed to the targets for CO2 reduction to which the Government have signed up and whether they are committed to the road traffic reduction targets in the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997, which was passed when the previous Government were still in office. Are they doing a U-turn on that issue, as on so many others? Even if the official Opposition are not convinced of the environmental arguments in favour of road user charging, are they not convinced that investment will arise from charges? In the unlikely event of a Conservative mayor or a Conservative Government being elected, how would they fund the investment that was needed? They have been distinctly quiet on that key point.
§ Mr. Gray
The hon. Gentleman has obviously forgotten that, only last week, he was one of those who voted in favour of the oft-quoted report of the Transport Sub-Committee of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. The report said, in absolutely straightforward terms, that road charging must be hypothecated, additional and permanent, and must not be used for revenue streams of any kind. It appears that he is, in classic Liberal fashion, arguing exactly the opposite of what he signed up to last week.
§ Mr. Brake
On the contrary, I am arguing in favour of everything listed by the Committee in its report. I shall come to those points in a moment.
Road user charging must involve additionality, which is why we tabled an amendment to that effect yesterday. It did not receive the support of the official Opposition, apparently because they did not understand what it meant. Road user charging must be hypothecated for the purposes of public transport, cycling and walking, which is why we have tabled an amendment on that subject. It must also be hypothecated permanently, and we have tabled an amendment to that effect.
It is clear that we cannot possibly support the Conservative amendment, which is all to do with political opportunism—a splurge in the media a few days before an election. It pays no regard to London's environment or to the investment needs of London Transport.
§ Mr. Gray
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in a debate that is extraordinarily important—not only to proceedings on the Bill, but to the recent general discussion on transport, particularly in the context of the integrated transport White Paper. The White Paper is much lauded by Labour Members and, as I have had
1011 occasion to say once or twice, the Transport Sub-Committee studied it recently and produced a report last week.
If we are to address the problems that we all face in cities and towns across this small country of ours, we will have to address the question of congestion. I take issue with speakers on both sides of the House—Liberal Democrat and Labour Members—who have suggested that, somehow or other, Her Majesty's official Opposition are opposed to reducing congestion. Of course we are not; all along—when we were in government for 18 triumphant years and since—we have made it plain that we are wholeheartedly in favour of reducing congestion. It is terribly important that we should do so for health reasons, because of air pollution and so that people can get about the town.
That brings me on slightly, to a point to which I alluded a moment ago. Most commentators produce ideas on environmental questions, not necessarily because they believe that they will carry them out, but because they hope that everyone else will carry them out. Two or three examples spring to mind. All my constituents talk gaily about how important it is to support village shops—and, indeed, it is—but, goodness me, they spend £5 in the village shop once a week and then zip round to Sainsbury's by road to spend £200 or —300 on their week's shopping. Although they pay lip service to reducing congestion by using the village shop, they contribute to it by going to Safeway or Sainsbury's.
The same applies to road user charging. People talk about reducing congestion in central London, for example. They say, "Until now, I have been using my motor car to get to central London. I would like you, Mr. Mayor, to introduce road user charging. That will hurt me in my pocket, so I will give up my car and get on the underground." Oh, no, that is not what they mean at all. They mean, "I want you, Mr. Mayor, to introduce road user charging. That will mean that there will be a great reduction in traffic across London, so I can drive into the office much more quickly than I have been for the past two or three years." That is entirely selfish and entirely the opposite of what is proposed.
The Government seem to be in nirvana. They think that, somehow, introducing this road tax—an entry fee of £10 according to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), although I hope that that figure is wrong—will make people better and make London a better place. All it will mean is that company car users will lob the fee back to their company accountants. Millionaires driving their Rolls-Royces will not be bothered about a fee—they would pay £8 or £10 with no trouble at all, and would pay £10, £20 or £30 for parking. They would not care about that. However, old people who need their motor cars to get to the shops, disabled people who cannot et down the steps into the underground and poor people who cannot afford to pay £10 would be damaged by such a fee.
Road user charges would have exactly the opposite effect to that which the Government describe, but would encourage the people whom I mentioned to say, "Fine. I have a big BMW and I work in a bank in the City of London. I do not care about road user charges. Indeed, 1012 they will make things even better because the roads of London will be clear for me to zip along at 90 miles an hour."
§ Mr. Darvill
A borough or a mayor introducing such a scheme would take into account, through concessionary measures, people with disabilities. Would that not answer the hon. Gentleman's point? Moreover, the groups to which he referred would benefit from improved public transport.
§ Mr. Gray
The hon. Gentleman reminds me of a point that he made in his thoughtful speech, which was about allowing individual boroughs to do different things. Let us imagine a situation in which the borough of Hackney signs up to road user charging and is determined to keep cars out of the borough. It may say, "We will charge road users £20 so that no one comes through the borough." Given the ring of steel around the City of London, the City of London would almost certainly say, "Fine. We are determined to deter cars from going through the City of London, so we will charge road users £100." My friend the fat cat in his BMW would not care about that. Those who would care are people in the borough of Islington and boroughs south of the river, which would be used as rat runs by those avoiding the heavy charges.
Allowing a borough to make up its own mind on road user charging would have exactly the opposite effect from that described by the hon. Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill). That point was brought out clearly in the Labour-dominated Select Committee report last week, which deals not with London, but with other parts of the country. It says that it would be wrong if a local authority had the right to make up its own mind about road user charging or parking charges because that would have an appalling effect on neighbouring boroughs and councils. It says that such decisions should be made by the regions. I do not recall exactly what the report says, but it was said in the Select Committee discussions that the regional development agencies, or possibly the elected regional governments—if, heaven forfend, those ever come about—might be the right bodies to make those decisions. If local authorities were allowed to make them, the effect on neighbouring councils would be deleterious.
§ Ms Glenda Jackson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who I believe is a member of the Select Committee to which he refers. Everyone in the House welcomes his interest in this debate, but this is clearly the first time that he has turned his mind to the Bill, because he is under a total misapprehension with regard to the introduction of road user charging within London. Boroughs must fit into a mayoral strategy. It will be for the mayor to decide whether to introduce such charges. Boroughs must be part and parcel of that strategy, and the Secretary of State will examine how the money will be spent. The figures which the hon. Gentleman is tossing across the Floor of the Chamber are absurd. I am delighted that he has at last managed to manifest an interest in our deliberations.
§ Mr. Gray
I was merely answering an intervention by the hon. Member for Upminster, who suggested that charging should differ from borough to borough. I am surprised that the Minister was not clearer about the fact 1013 that I serve on the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. I am proud to do so. Given the hard time that we gave her on one or two of her appearances before the Select Committee recently, I should have thought that our faces, if not our names, would be engraved on her memory.
§ Mr. Gray
My hon. Friend suggests that the Minister may be too thick-skinned to be aware of that. Perhaps he is right, but I would not be so ungentlemanly as to suggest it.
What is the purpose of road user charging? My thesis is that it will not achieve the aims that the Government have set up for it. It sounds like a frightfully good idea if it is to reduce road usage, but it will reduce road usage for the wrong people and allow those who do not care about the cost to continue to use the roads. It is rather like the recent increase in petrol charges, which has damaged my rural constituency, poor people and the disabled.
The hon. Member for Upminster also suggested that road user charging might enable disabled people to use public transport. I do not know about the disabled people in his constituency, but there are many disabled people in my constituency who could not use public transport under any circumstances. Flippantly to suggest that they should be charged off the roads in the hope that that will make public transport better is not a particularly caring point to make.
§ Mr. Darvill
The point that I made was twofold: first, that concessionary arrangements could be made for disabled people; and, secondly, that an increased investment in public transport might benefit some disabled people. I was not making a cursory suggestion; I was saying that there are two sides to the argument that road user charging could benefit the groups that we were discussing.
§ Mr. Gray
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his clarification. I hope that he will forgive me for misquoting him, but I was thinking on my feet. He makes a good point. The more reductions there are for old people and the disabled, the better. Even better, however, would be no user charging at all. We would then not have to worry about concessions for the old, the disabled and the poor.
§ Mr. Gray
I am grateful for that question, but I fear that you would rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I launched into a wider discussion on transport and how to reduce congestion on the roads. We are discussing the proposals in the Bill for road user charging within London. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I could have an interesting discussion about reducing congestion in the context of the Select Committee, but I would be trying your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I dealt with it now.
I wish to concentrate for a moment or two on the three aspects of road user charging that I find particularly unattractive. Labour Members talk gaily about hypothecation, but Treasury officials with whom we did 1014 battle over 18 years have always gone to lengths to say that there can be no such thing. Hypothecation does not fit in the Treasury's theology, for the good reason that, if a public duty should be carried out, it should be carried out through taxation. Hypothecation is a misleading way of pretending that, somehow, taxation is being put to a particular use.
Worthwhile measures such as improving the transport infrastructure in London will cost much more than the funds raised through road user charging. If the Government then say, "We are sorry, but we don't intend to do those things because they are more expensive than the money that we have raised from road user charging," they will be wrong. If we have to look after those with asthma, reduce pollution and facilitate movement around the centre of London, the GLA should do that, irrespective of how much money it raises from road user charging. Treasury mandarins always tell me that hypothecation does not work for that reason.
If one is to hypothecate, additionality is crucial. It must be possible to demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that the project for which the money is being used would not, under any circumstances, have been undertaken anyhow. The Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee is discussing bus lanes, improving the roads and all kinds of projects that should be undertaken by any Government. Additionality, which is absolutely central to road user charging, means providing for transport users something that they would not otherwise have. If the money is simply used to improve the underground or the road lights in Clapham high street, it is a wrong use of road users' money.
My next point—it is the main thing that is wrong with the proposals-is that the arrangement must also be permanent. It must not be for just a few years. The GLA must not be able to say, "Londoners will not notice. We shall charge them a few pounds for a few years, and they will then forget about it. We shall then bring the charges into the mayor's funds," or, in the case of the Labour party, into the Treasury's funds. That is a straightforward con. The Government are telling the public, "We're going to take this money off you. We're going to pretend that it's for transport use of one sort or another. Don't you all want cycle tracks? Don't you all want to encourage pedestrians"—as the Liberal Democrats are always reminding us—"and don't you want to improve roads? I'm sure you're all very fed up with the congestion in London. It must be awful when you're trying to get to work and the roads are all congested. Don't worry, we're going to charge you £8 a time when you come into London, and we're going to use the money to put those things right for you. Aren't we a wonderful Government?" However, there is a postscript at the bottom in very small print, which reads, "But only for 10 years."
§ Mr. Bercow
Does my hon. Friend agree that the precedents that the Government have established in other areas of public policy in the past 24 months offer us no confidence that a road user charging policy would be operated on the basis of additionality—rather, the contrary applies?
§ Mr. Gray
My hon. Friend makes that point extremely well. Our experience in the past 24 months shows that the Government will put a spin on the measure and will make out that it will help the public, but the truth is that it will help no one other than themselves.
1015 The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) alluded to revenue flows for the mayor. The Government are not even covering their nakedness by pretending that the revenue is additional, that it is for transport and that it is permanent. They have the brass neck to say, "It is only for 10 years and then we'll have the cash. What would the poor old mayor do if he didn't have road user charging, because he wouldn't have any money? The poor old mayor needs the cash. He needs the revenue flow. What's the point of having a mayor without the revenue flow? Road user charging is terribly important, because it gives the mayor some cash."
§ Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham)
Is the hon. Gentleman not overlooking the issue of accountability? The mayor will be directly elected by the people of London, and will be accountable for the policies that he or she puts into place. If a mayor were to do what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting regarding future investment in public transport in London, he or she would soon be accountable to the people and would be out of office.
§ Mr. Gray
The accountability point is a good one. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. It will be extraordinarily interesting to see in the manifestos of the various candidates for mayor whether they sign up to an £8 or £10 road user charge. Labour candidates—who knows, the Minister may be one—may be brave enough to say, "Please vote for me, because I'm going to charge you £8 if you come into London." I would be bold enough to say that accountability would work, and, if the hon. Lady were such a candidate, she would certainly not be elected.
It was interesting that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, when challenged on this point by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South, went to some lengths to avoid saying whether a Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor would be upfront and would say that he would introduce road user charging. The Conservative party is clear: we would not bring in road user charging in London. We have tabled the amendment to prevent road charging from being introduced, so that, even if an elected mayor wanted to do so, he could not.
The Conservative party is the only party in the Chamber that has made its position clear—none of the minority parties is present, except the Liberal Democrats. Her Majesty's official Opposition are making it absolutely plain that we wholeheartedly oppose congestion charging in London. Our mayoral candidate will stand on that manifesto. The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) is quite right in saying that accountability comes into it, and, if mayoral candidates from other parties stand boldly in front of Londoners and say, "We're going to charge you guys for using our roads," they will lose.
§ Mr. Efford
If accountability comes into it, should the mayor not have the right to choose whether to introduce road charging? By taking his approach, would the hon. Gentleman not be denying the democratic right of the people of London to choose whether they want road pricing?
§ Mr. Gray
The hon. Gentleman is quite right. However, with the amendment, we are trying to protect 1016 the people of London from the stealth tax that the Government propose to introduce in the Bill. We are opposed to congestion charging. We do not believe in charging Londoners £8 or £10 to use their own roads. The Labour party does, and the Liberal Democrats may or may not£but, as usual, it is not certain. That is true accountability. I am sure that, if the debate is reported—I hope that it will be reported during the campaign for the mayoral elections—it will be absolutely plain that the Conservative party is wholeheartedly opposed to road congestion charging. We have spoken against it for some time, but the other parties are in favour of it. It is worth putting it on the record that the Conservative party is the only party opposed to road user charging.
It should be made clear that the proposal that the amendment would change is not about congestion, health, air quality or any of the worthy issues that some hon. Members have referred to, but about revenue for the mayor. If done nationally, it is about revenue for the Treasury. That is one of the strongest reasons why we have tabled the amendment.
§ Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)
As there is such interest in what intending candidates for mayor would do, I can tell the House that I was initially sceptical about the congestion tax. I was aware of the origins of the tax. It was not drawn up in Labour party headquarters, and it is not some product of a leftie think tank: it comes from the neo-liberal, Thatcherite right. Milton Friedman and others argued for a congestion tax. According to my broader version of it, it is a flat-rate tax, like the poll tax. It would not be my tax of first choice to fund transport, but it is an integral part of the Government's transport strategy for Britain.
London is being given the chance to introduce this tax ahead of the rest of the country, largely because if it cannot work here, it will not work anywhere else in Britain. We still have a good public transport infrastructure and a degree of congestion that makes the case.
I think that there is wide public acceptance that something like a congestion tax must be introduced. The debate will be about the levels. [Interruption.] I see Conservative Members shaking their heads, but I have received detailed documents from broadly business organisations in London calling for a £5 tax. Taxi drivers, who are not normally part of the militant tendency, are talking about £7.50, although they think that they should be exempt. That is understandable, because the taxi trade should be integrated into the overall Government public transport strategy.
§ Mr. Ottaway
Before the hon. Gentleman is completely seduced by the pleas of the business community in support of the road user tax, he should be aware that it is trying to distract attention from the workplace parking levy, which affects businesses. If he reads on, he will find that businesses are opposed to the workplace parking levy, and that they want the man on the street—or, more to the point, the man behind the wheel—to pay the extra taxes rather than business.
§ Mr. Livingstone
It will come as no surprise to the hon. Gentleman that I find the car park tax a more attractive proposition, because it is not a flat-rate tax. 1017 To provide the extra resources that London needs to have a dramatic improvement in the quality of public transport, money has to come from somewhere else. The Government will not suddenly open their coffers to London so that there is a great flood of extra resources. As London is substantially more wealthy than the rest of the United Kingdom, and inner London is the richest region anywhere in the European Union, it is not unreasonable that we look to Londoners to pay part of the price of improving the quality of public transport.
A list of proposals is rapidly building up among candidates across the political spectrum. Jeffrey Archer wants high-speed bus lanes. Proposals for new buses from the outskirts, conductors back on the buses and improved cleaning of the buses will require money. I think that Londoners would be prepared to pay a reasonable sum to see an improvement in the quality of public transport, so that people are encouraged to leave their cars at home.
The tax could be introduced in a divisive and counter-productive way. It could be a massive levy dumped on Londoners without first seeing some improvement in the quality of public transport. I have not the slightest doubt that the Labour party manifesto for the mayor and assembly for London, and all the leading Labour candidates for the assembly and the mayoralty, will propose a phased introduction and tying the tax to a real improvement in the quality of public transport. That will produce the circumstances in which we can recreate the impact that the Greater London council's fares cut had in 1981 of getting people to leave their cars at home and switch to public transport.
Careful handling and planning will be needed. We shall have to listen to what Londoners say about the level at which the charge should be set, and the areas that will be affected. We shall have to be cautious. It would be a great mistake to set this tax at a level that would cause a public backlash, or to create the impression that we favour an anti-car strategy rather than a pro-public transport strategy.
I think that, during the debate that will take place in the coming year as the election of mayor becomes closer, we shall see that Londoners are prepared to pay that bit more to put a public transport system that previous Administrations have ignored for the best part of two decades back on its feet, and to ensure that it is effective, efficient and clean. At the same time, encouraging people to leave their cars at home by means of the combination of a congestion tax and improved public transport will lead to a better quality of life in London as pollution, congestion and the number of accidents are reduced.
I see the attraction to the Tory party of an opportunity to say, "This is just another tax. We are opposed to it, as we are opposed to every tax." The Tories will have to answer a question, however: where will the money needed to improve public transport come from if they turn their backs on the tax measures that the Government are giving Londoners a chance to implement? For we are talking about Londoners: it will be Londoners who go to the polls next May knowing where their candidates—Tory, Liberal and Labour—stand on the issue. I have no doubt that they will cast their votes, by an overwhelming majority, for candidates who are prepared to use these taxes to improve public transport and the quality of life in our city.
§ Mr. Edward Davey
I thank the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) for bringing us back 1018 to reality, and for referring to the need to tackle congestion. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) took us down an odd path when he spoke of paying £5 in his village shop and £300 in the nearest supermarket, especially as no London Conservative Members were present at the time.
Congestion is a huge problem in the capital. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) said that it had not increased in the past 20 years, but that is because it is so bad. It is a real problem in both inner and outer London. When I knock on doors in my constituency, I find that people raise the issue of traffic congestion time and again. They want the Government to give a lead.
We have not talked about the market economics behind road use charges. The Conservative party used to be the party that believed in market economics and price signals. One reason for traffic congestion is that public highways are a free good: people do not have to pay to use them. Basic macro-economic theory shows that, when a free good is available, people tend to use far too much, because they do not have to pay for it. When a price mechanism is introduced, people are given a signal to help them to make choices, and resources can be allocated more efficiently across society.
§ Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs)
Does the hon. Gentleman apply the same arguments to the national health service, as his logic suggests?
§ Mr. Davey
I can see from your frown, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you do want me to stray too far from the amendment, so I shall be careful about how I answer that question. The national health service was established to be free at the point of use: that was one of its basic notions.
People want to be able to travel along Britain's roads without the problem of congestion, and they want the Government to come up with policies to prevent it. That is the thinking behind this policy. We need only consider the incentives that will result from road user charging. People will ask themselves, "Do I really have to take that journey in my car? Is there an alternative?" Not only Londoners, but those living in the constituency of the hon. Member for North Wiltshire who are coming to London may think twice. Perhaps they will leave their Mercedes at home and get on the train, even if they are as wealthy as they seem to be.
§ Mr. Gray
I did not suggest at any stage that my constituents were wealthy. That is not the point that I was making, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. The hon. Gentleman wants the tax to be used to drive people off the roads, and leave them open to those who can easily afford to pay it. It is a rich man's tax. The rich man in his Jaguar will be fine, while the poor man will have to stay at home.
§ Mr. Davey
The hon. Gentleman clearly was not listening. What I said was that a price signal would lead people, rich or poor, to think about their journeys and about the alternatives. In fact, most people on low incomes do not use cars. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the statistics, he will find that the public transport system will be massively improved for those who use public transport most at present by the revenue streams that will be generated. Those on low incomes stand to benefit. 1019 Although congestion charges are right in principle, for the economic reasons that I have given and the environmental reasons given by other speakers, they will work only if there is a political consensus, not just here but in the wider London population. In that respect, I fear that the Government are not doing their own policies a service in regard to their presentation in both the Bill and the media. In this instance, the hon. Member for North Wiltshire was right: he complained that the Government had not ring-fenced the revenues from road user charges effectively. The Government are not guaranteeing to those who will pay that the charges will be ploughed back permanently into public transport in the capital.
The hon. Gentleman made two points in that regard. First, he made a point about additionality. We need to ensure that the revenues raised constitute additional funds. That is why the Liberal Democrats argued yesterday and in Committee that the Greater London Authority transport grant—the money that the Government currently suggest should go to Transport for London—should be maintained in real terms. If a future Chancellor could say, "Mr. Mayor"—or Mrs. Mayor—"now that you have your revenues from road user charges, you will not need the transport grant any longer", it would undermine public support for the charges in London.
Additionality is a key part of ensuring that road user charges are saleable to the public, but another key part is ensuring that they are ring-fenced. After the Second Reading debate, the Government relented and in Committee, by means of schedule 18, they inserted a complex set of paragraphs in an attempt to persuade people that they would ring-fence the revenues for 10 years; but, as we said in Committee, we do not feel that they have actually done that, and detailed scrutiny of schedule 18 will prove that we are right. Ministers did not accept our argument in Committee, but, even if they do not accept it now, the Government ought to consider it seriously in the other place. It is in their interests, and in the interests of those who want to reduce congestion, for the tax to be made saleable.
Paragraph 17(6) of the schedule sets out in detail how the 10-year period will be measured. Paragraph 17 introduces the concept of the initial period, at the start of the 10 years; sub-paragraph (6) specifies how the time when that initial period began will be judged. Under the sub-paragraph, effectively, the Secretary of State can deem that a particular road user charging scheme has been changed in some way. Perhaps the rates have changed; perhaps the district boundaries have changed. The Secretary of State can then say, "This is a different scheme", and the initial period will therefore be deemed to have come to an end.
As the initial period has come to end, the revenues will no longer be available solely and exclusively for investment in London Transport. I do not say that to make a political point. I am trying genuinely to be helpful to the Government because I want to ensure that they achieve in legislation what they say they want to achieve: to ring-fence the revenues.
That is not the only aspect of road user charging that we need to address to ensure that the new charges are saleable politically. We need to ensure that there are 1020 improvements in the public transport system up front. People who are going to be asked to pay the charges need to know that they will get benefits. As we have seen in the first two years of the management of London's underground and public transport system, such improvements to London's public transport system have not occurred. That is likely to occur again now that the Government have gone down the path of PPP schemes.
What may happen is that the charges will be introduced, people will be asked to pay and then they will not see any benefit for several years. That is not a politically sensible strategy. I am incredibly worried about that because I want congestion to be tackled. Charging may be one of a package of measures that will help, but it will fall at the first hurdle if we do not persuade people that it is in their interests—that it will tackle the problems that we are all concerned about.
Therefore, I ask the Minister to examine the way in which the Government are putting the road user charges element of their public transport strategy for London together, as well as the money that they are investing in London underground and other aspects of London's public transport.
I am particularly concerned about the following point, which was mentioned in the previous debate, but is relevant now: the money for London's public transport system from April 2000. At the moment, no one is clear, least of all in the management of London Transport, where the money will come from to maintain the infrastructure, to invest in the system and to ensure that improvements are achieved. If the managers of the system are not sure where the money is coming from less than a year before that financial year starts, clearly, they cannot make the proper investment plans and strategies that are needed.
Those are my two concerns about the way in which the Government are approaching the matter. First, they are not ensuring that the money is fully hypothecated and will be genuinely additional. Secondly, their overall transport strategy is not ensuring that there will be benefits up front for the people who will need to use the alternatives to cars or motor transport. Indeed, the alternative is public transport.
I do not think that Ministers can get away with leaving it to a future mayor. They cannot duck responsibility on the matter. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Brent, East, who may turn out to be a mayoral candidate, is now on record as saying that he supports road user charges. He has a legitimate point about the level of those charges. There will be a debate on that, but I am glad that, in principle, he is now in favour.
We have heard that at least one putative Conservative candidate—my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) mentioned him earlier—may be in favour of the scheme. Apparently, Lord Archer is against. He has taken the populist, opportunist Tory line, but it is possible that candidates who are against road user charges might win the mayoral elections.
The Minister cannot push that point aside and say that a Labour candidate will win. It is possible that a candidate from another party, or an independent candidate who is opposed to road user charges, will win. If that person has made a case against road user charges, that not only puts 1021 a massi[...]ve hole in the Government's strategy for London Transport, but may put a huge hole in the finances of the PPP and London Transport.
§ Ms Glenda Jackson
We have been round this course in Committee. I say to the hon. Gentleman again, as I said to him then, that the modelling for the PPP is not based on any funding from either road congestion charging, or a levy on workplace parking. I repeat to him for about the sixth time that the financial modelling for the PPP is not dependent on any revenues from congestion charging.
§ Mr. Davey
The reason why the Minister keeps having to repeat that point is that she will not publish the report that contains the modelling so that the House can see it before it passes the Bill. If she and her colleagues had the decency to publish that report, so that we could scrutinise and analyse it, the matter might be a little more open, the debates might be a little more fruitful and we would not have to make a stab in the dark about where the calculations are coming from.
In a constructive spirit, I say that the Government have to make the case for road user charges. We know that it will be politically difficult to sell. No one is under any illusions about that, but unless they create the framework properly and sensibly in the first place, making that case will be incredibly difficult.
§ Mr. Efford
The issue inspires much passion among people outside the House. If there were a referendum on the issue, there might be a higher turnout than in the local elections tomorrow. I recall having a public meeting about the closure of a hospital in my constituency and booking a rather large hall, expecting thousands of people to turn up; 110 did so. When I had a similar meeting on the introduction of speed humps in a short road, the same number turned up.
I have concerns about the introduction of road charging. We need to take a sequential approach to the issue, the first being that we need to charge at the place where people park. We need to end the process of allowing out-of-town centre developments with huge car parks that one can land jumbo jets on, which have free parking.
One of the concerns that I have, representing an outer London constituency, is that it is likely to be close to one of the areas where a booth or machine for charging for entrance to London will be sited. Many people from outside London use my town centre, which is likely to be the other side of the toll booth, or whatever it is going to be. That would place my town centre at a disadvantage. I know that other hon. Members representing other town centres and other cities have similar concerns. Therefore, the issue requires more discussion.
The problem that I have with the Liberal Democrats' approach is that they are taking away the democratic right of Londoners to have a say on the issue. A similar position has been taken by the Conservatives. The mayor should have powers to introduce the measure. The mayor should be able to go to Londoners to have the debate. At the moment, I err on the side of caution because I do not think that London is ready for road charging, but that option should be available to the mayor.
1022 Another problem that we face—it is something that I have spoken about several times in the House already—is that south-east London does not have the tube network.
§ Mr. Efford
North Greenwich will have the tube soon. My constituency does not have it. The A2 and A20 meet in my constituency near two motorways. The problem with road charging is that it does not offer at the outset an alternative for people to switch to.
Connex South Eastern says that, during peak hours, it is running at capacity. It does not have any excess places for people to use at peak times. The London bus network is not seen as a satisfactory alternative. People could turn to the London taxi, but that would only add to road congestion.
Are the Conservatives aware that the average speed in London before the introduction of motor vehicles was 11 mph and that their transport strategies managed to get the figure back down to 11 mph by the time that they left office? Their transport strategies do not, therefore, give them much to crow about.
The serious point is that there are no transport alternatives. We need substantial investment in public transport to improve and expand it, and to allow people a choice. They could then switch from their car to safe, affordable, comfortable and reliable public transport. At present, we are not offering people those alternatives, particularly in my part of south-east London. Public transport should be extended before we go down the road—if I may use that word—of introducing road user charging, but Londoners should have an opportunity to tackle that issue in future.
§ Ms Glenda Jackson
My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) is entirely right. The Bill contains enabling powers, and he put his finger on the point when he said that such powers should be available to the mayor, should he or she wish to use them.
Londoners have said time and again that traffic congestion in the capital needs to be tackled. Clauses 222 and 223 will enable London's mayor and boroughs to introduce road user charging schemes and levy a charge on workplace parking. We amended the Bill in Committee to give the mayor and boroughs those new powers, underlining our proposals for a strong, effective mayor with powers to tackle congestion.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) was at some pains, as he said, to set the record straight on the Conservative party's policy on that issue. However, he seems to have executed a U-turn this evening because I distinctly remember that, in Committee, he said that the Conservative party was not opposed in principle to introducing road user charging nationally; it was only London's mayor to whom it wanted to deny those enabling powers.
I regret that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) is not in his place, not least because he is clearly as uninformed about his own party's policies as he is about the Government's proposals. He is opposed to any charging scheme unless there is clear hypothecation. His experience of the Treasury led him to believe that hypothecation would never be introduced, but we, as a radical Government, have demonstrated that it can, and will, be introduced.
1023 The issue of hypothecation ran through all the contributions to the debate. Hon. Members expressed concerns about whether 100 per cent. of net proceeds would be available to the mayor and boroughs for the mayor's transport strategy, how long hypothecation would operate and whether hypothecated income would be additional. I shall lay to rest all the fears on those three issues. Certainly, 100 per cent. of net proceeds will be spent exclusively on the mayor and borough transport strategies.
Hypothecation may continue for longer than 10 years for specific schemes. However, I say to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), who spoke to the Liberal Democrat amendments, that we reject permanent hypothecation, as we did in Committee when the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey)—or perhaps it was the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow)—proposed it. As I said to Liberal Democrat Members then, it is absurd to think that one would achieve the best public transport system or the best value for the taxpayer if a scheme of permanent hypothecation were introduced, because we do not seek gold-plating or platinum-plating of public transport legislation. Surely it must be possible to evaluate schemes to find out whether they are delivering best value for the taxpayer.
§ Ms Jackson
As I have already pointed out, the 10-year period is not an absolute cut-off; when schemes are reviewed, it will be possible to extend them. Clearly, there will be schemes that will take much longer than 10 years to complete, but to include in the Bill the requirements in the Liberal Democrat amendments would be nonproductive. They would not produce best value for the taxpayer or, in the long run, the best and most effective improvements from transport schemes.
Concerns were expressed about whether such hypothecated income streams would be additional. I was somewhat surprised to hear the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, who was in the Committee when I made that point clear, but I shall make it clear again. The Bill requires any such scheme to keep separate income and expenditure accounts. Such accounts must be published annually and it will therefore be abundantly clear that those revenues are indeed additional.
§ Mr. Edward Davey
Is the Minister saying that the only money available for London transport will come from road user charges?
§ Ms Jackson
I am bemused by the hon. Gentleman's question, and I would love to know—or perhaps I would not—how he arrived at it. I repeat that any concerns that revenues raised from road user charging would not be additional should be laid to rest by the fact that the Bill requires all such schemes to keep separate income and expenditure accounts, which must be published annually. It will therefore be abundantly clear that those revenues are indeed additional.
1024 The hon. Gentleman was concerned also about whether there would be funding for the mayor and the boroughs. I cannot understand his concern, because the Government have announced an additional £1.8 million for local authority transport.
§ Mr. Ottaway
Does the Minister accept that I share Liberal Democrat Members' concerns? This is a question not of publishing accounts and saying that the revenue is additional, but of what the Treasury will be doing. Will the Minister assure us that there will be no reduction in the Treasury's grant to match the money raised by the schemes?
§ Ms Jackson
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously asking me to predict Budgets five or 10 years in advance? Did his party ever do so? Did his party ever guarantee any kind of funding for local authority transport? The Conservatives guaranteed year-on-year reductions. I say to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton that their fears that the hypothecated revenues might be a way for the Government to avoid their responsibilities, now or in future, by eroding central funding for local authority transport schemes are unfounded. I say for the third and final time that the Bill requires such schemes to keep separate income and expenditure accounts, which must be published annually.
I have already said that the Government's commitment to improving and integrating public transport is on the record, not only in our policy pronouncements, but in the additional £1.8 million that we have provided for local authority transport.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South accused the Government of being anti-car. That is far from the case, but we are anti-pollution. I am sure that he is aware that drivers suffer three times more pollution from petrol-driven cars than those who walk on the pavement. Any improvement that can be made in congestion will therefore not only improve journey times, but begin to reduce the amount of pollution in our air, thereby improving the environment and the quality of life in London. That point was made in the thoughtful contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).
The hon. Member for Croydon, South is clearly anti-pedestrian, and does not like the idea of zebra crossings being introduced. He is also very doubtful about traffic calming measures—which are road safety measures that have reduced accident rates, particularly for children, pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic calming measures have, indeed, reduced the accident rate for children by 67 per cent.
In this debate, the hon. Member for Croydon, South acknowledged that public transport in London is good; although, in our previous debate—in the criticism that he was levelling at London Transport—he could have fooled me that that was his belief. Nevertheless, he ignores the fact that public transport is good only because of a basket of schemes enhancing public transport's priority on the road.
§ Mr. Ottaway
I cannot let the Minister get away with saying that I am anti-pedestrian. The point—which I went to great lengths to make—is that there has to be a balance between the needs of pedestrians and of motorists. I also 1025 questioned whether the Government had struck the balance right. That certainly does not mean that I am anti-pedestrian.
§ Ms Jackson
The hon. Gentleman certainly implied that he was anti-pedestrian. He was much exercised by the introduction of pedestrian crossings in a road in his constituency. Moreover, his main concern about the crossings was not safety or the fact that they did not improve access to either side of the road for pedestrians, but that cars had to wait in queues for pedestrians to cross.
Roads are surely not the exclusive preserve of the users of one form of transport, and they certainly are not paid for by users of one form of transport. Surely pedestrians and cyclists, and certainly public transport, have a right to their fair share of our roads and of road use. Ever since the Government entered office, we have been prioritising the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South also expressed concern about the possibility of congestion charging leading to—I paraphrase—a "beggar my neighbour" policy. He gave the example of Bluewater, which he said is having an effect on a town centre in his constituency. Bluewater—which was given planning permission by the previous Administration—underlines the absolute necessity of co-ordinating planning and transport decisions. We have introduced a requirement for those decisions to be co-ordinated. We simply cannot create good transport infrastructures without considering land use and land use planning issues.
In his speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) expressed his concern about those issues. Precisely to address those issues, the Government have made it abundantly clear that there must be co-ordination in any such schemes, and that such schemes must work within an over-arching mayoral strategy. There would be no virtue or value if the introduction of such schemes turned city centres into ghost towns. We are concerned with the revitalisation of our urban centres, and one of the ways of achieving that objective is to make our urban centres pleasant places in which to work, shop, walk and live. We therefore have to reduce not only traffic congestion on our streets, but the noise and environmental pollution that go with that congestion.
I should say again—just so that there is absolutely no doubt about the issue—that the modelling for the public-private partnership for London Underground is not dependent on revenue from road user charges or the workplace parking levy.
As I said, I regret that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire has left the Chamber. I was somewhat bemused by his expression of concern for the poor, the disabled and the elderly. When the Conservative party was in government, those sections of our society seemed to have totally disappeared from Conservative party thinking. He also complained about increased fuel duty as it affected his constituency, again neglecting to point out that that policy was introduced by the previous Government.
The hon. Member also expressed some concern about protecting London. Again, however, a previous Conservative Administration abolished the GLC, thereby denying a democratic voice to the people of London. I shall not go into the details of the inordinate damage that Conservative Administrations have inflicted on Londoners—by taking away housing, jobs and many social services.
1026 The provisions in schedules 18 and 19 will ensure that the schemes that I have been describing may be introduced quickly and operate effectively and equitably. However, I repeat that they are enabling powers, and that it will be for the mayor and the boroughs to decide whether to make use of the charging powers provided by the Bill.
I have already touched on the issue of what I perceive to be the official Opposition's U-turn on the issue, by seeking to deprive the mayor and the boroughs of the option of introducing a road charging scheme. However, as I said, I appreciate from the remarks in Committee of the hon. Member for Croydon, South that he perceives Conservative party policy as in principle favouring introducing such charges—but only nationally and not in London. He did not afford any evidence that, should they be introduced, our hypothecation of any such revenue raised would become part of Conservative policy.
Evidence shows that road user charging and a levy on workplace parking are able to help to tackle the problems of congestion and pollution. Clearly, less congestion means faster, more reliable journey times, and that will benefit businesses, motorists and the capital's bus users. It will make the streets more pleasant for pedestrians and residents, and make our city more attractive to tourists.
New charges will also generate a revenue stream. As I have already made clear, all such schemes introduced by the mayor or boroughs within the GLA's first 10 years will retain every penny of the proceeds for transport expenditure. We shall review the arrangements 10 years after establishment of the GLA.
As I said, we do not share the view of the Liberal Democrats that hypothecation of charging revenues should continue indefinitely, as they might not provide value for money in the long term.
I have also touched on the issue of requiring separate accounts to be maintained and published for each charging scheme, guaranteeing transparency and demonstrating to Londoners that the revenues generated by new charges are additional moneys for transport expenditure.
The Government have made it clear that schemes may be introduced if they directly or indirectly help to deliver the objectives in the mayor's transport strategy. The requirements for the Secretary of State to make regulations covering various aspects of the schemes' operation have been reduced.
We have also given the mayor the opportunity of specifying which aspects of the charging schemes, if any, he or she would wish formally to approve as schemes are developed. That will help to ensure consistency across schemes when the mayor considers that to be necessary, and allow charging authorities the freedom to take decisions on other issues.
I have given only a brief overview of the key changes made to the Bill in Committee. As I said, the Government believe that the Bill's enabling powers are greatly important and must be available to the mayor and the assembly, to ensure that improvements not only in London's public transport but in London's environment may be made.
The Bill's provisions will provide the mayor and boroughs with powers to make a real difference in tackling London's serious traffic problems. Clauses 222 and 223 will, as I said, empower the mayor and borough 1027 to introduce road user and workplace parking charging schemes. The provisions of schedules 18 and 19 will ensure that schemes may be introduced quickly and operate effectively and equitably.
A world-class city requires a world-class transport system. It is therefore only right that London's mayor and boroughs should have the powers that they need to help them to deliver that goal for Londoners.
It was heartening to hear the support expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Brent, East, for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) and for Eltham. They each adopted a reasoned and thoughtful approach—cautious in some instances. Like the Government, they understand that the introduction of congestion charging or levies will need the consent of the people of London. It would not be possible for the debate to begin if the mayor and the boroughs were denied the powers that we have ensured will be enshrined in the Bill—powers that we believe will give Londoners the benefits and improvements in quality of life in this great city that we are committed to ensuring.
§ Mr. Flight
Like many Conservatives, I have been attracted by the concept of road pricing and the market principles that lie behind it, but the Government are profoundly mistaken if they sincerely believe that it will achieve the two objectives that they claim. Like the taxation of petrol, if it is to have any effect on usage, the charge will have to be very substantial. That would bear hardest on those in the middle of society and those for whom marginal expenditure is meaningful—often those bringing up children and paying mortgages.
My views against the principle were particularly shaped when I read a fascinating account of the early days of the London county council at the beginning of this century. It was a huge relief to Londoners when the LCC came in and swept away the various transport charges such as bridge tolls that were causing delays and congestion. I wonder about the practicalities of how the charges will work. Are they not likely to cause congestion? What is the position of someone who lives on the borders of London? What will the arrangements be for checking and presumably fining people if they have not paid their tax?
I have lived in London for 25 years. The hassle that Londoners have to go through to get a resident's parking permit is irritating, involving taking a form to their employer and getting him to sign and stamp it to confirm that they work for that firm. I suppose that we are now going to have another round of such bureaucratic hassle. I confess that I have driven to and from my workplace since I have lived in London, largely because I have worked late hours. The congestion seems to me to be less than it was 20 years ago. The main cause of that improvement is the building of the M25, which has taken a massive pressure of through traffic off London. It is naive to think that waving our fingers to promote public transport and a congestion charge will be a realistic answer to the problem.
The objective is clearly to raise money. The idea has nothing to do with reducing traffic in London. It would be politically impossible to think of anyone levying a charge high enough to discourage car usage. We are 1028 talking about yet another stealth tax. If the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) believes that the measure will be popular with Londoners, he is greatly mistaken. If he fancies his chances of being mayor of London, he will have to change his tune.
§ Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam)
The debate has been illuminating, giving us further confirmation of the Conservatives' emerging transport policy. We have learned that their candidate is to enter the mayoral elections with his hands tied in debates about road charges and the workplace levy. That makes it difficult for the Conservatives, to set out transport policies for the benefit of Londoners. It may explain why Steven Norris is at least beginning to consider the possibility of standing not as a Conservative but under an independent banner. As my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) has rightly said, during his time as a Minister and after leaving ministerial office, Mr. Norris was only too willing to acknowledge the fact that workplace charges were essential to deal with some of the fundamental problems of traffic and transportation in Greater London.
We have learned from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), as he gropes his way towards a new transport policy for the Conservatives, that their ideas involve ripping out pedestrian crossings, removing traffic calming measures and getting cars to go faster on almost every road. It will be interesting to debate those policies during the election campaign next year.
§ Mr. Burstow
I am delighted to issue the press release confirming that tonight we have managed to persuade the Conservative party to turn away from the crazy policy of which we heard earlier in the debate.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South is right to say that road pricing and workplace charges are not a panacea. They are not the be all and end all of a debate on transport policy. He was right to draw attention to the need to recognise that there should be more investment in clean vehicle technology. I should like to draw the attention of the House to work that is being done in London, led by my local authority in Sutton, in pioneering the Zeus project on the development of low and nil-emission technology, in partnership with Southwark, Merton and other local authorities throughout the country. They are liaising with European partners to work alongside the manufacturing industries that provide our motor vehicles to ensure that they bring forward plans from their drawing boards and put them in the marketplace. That is happening. We are grateful for the support that we have had from the Government, but we wish that they could give a little more leadership by investing the public money for which they are responsible in such vehicles and so setting an example.
The Conservatives have tied the hands of their candidate, but Labour is effectively doing the same thing because of the way in which the Government are setting up the two potential sources of revenue.
It is clear that the Government have not addressed hypothecation, or the permanence of the scheme. I listened closely to the Minister, and I shall address some 1029 of her comments. Reference has been made to the report of the Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs, and the three key issues identified in the report—hypothecation, permanence and additionality.
The Minister claims that there is 100 per cent. certainty that 100 per cent. of the net proceeds of the initial schemes will go into transport schemes in London. However, we are then told that hypothecation may continue into the future for specific schemes. The Minister has again rejected the idea that we should have the permanent hypothecation of resources, arguing that that would be gold-plating London Transport. Anyone outside this House who heard the argument that if a scheme went on for over 10 years, with the hypothecation of the revenue streams from the two sources of charging, we would be in danger of gold-plating the transport system would wonder where the Minister has been.
§ Ms Jackson
The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not what I said. I referred to the extension of the initial 10-year period, for example, for schemes such as a private finance initiative which would clearly run on for longer than 10 years. Such examples are included in the Bill, and will be entirely feasible. He is misinterpreting the review which will take place after the first 10 years of a running scheme. That does not mean automatically that hypothecation will end.
I have pointed out one scenario where hypothecation would, of necessity, have to continue, and I can think of many others. 1 did not say—I am clear that the hon. Gentleman does not think for one moment that I did—that, after 10 years, any form of transport in London would be gold-plated. The Liberal Democrats' argument for permanent hypothecation will not deliver the best possible value with the funds raised, and will not deliver the best possible public transport.
§ Mr. Burstow
I am pleased that the Minister has acknowledged that, after 10 years, our transport system will not be gold-plated by this Government. Undoubtedly, the Government are not putting in adequate resources to deliver that. Having said that, the key point is that if we are to persuade Londoners that the permissive powers to be granted to the mayor are to be invoked and used for the good of Londoners, we need to be able to say that the money that Londoners will pay will go back to the benefit of Londoners and London Transport. The Government are not prepared to accept that.
§ Ms Jackson
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will apologise to the House for misleading it in that way. The Government have made it abundantly clear that 100 per cent. of the net proceeds raised will be spent only on the improvement of transport in London.
§ Ms Jackson
I did not refer to that because I had just, in some detail, evinced to him the realities of what he sees as the 10-year bar less than a minute ago. As he is clearly having difficulty in retaining the information, I will give it again. There will be a review after the first 10 years. That review does not automatically mean the closure of hypothecation. I have given one instance where there 1030 would be a clear need for an extension way beyond the initial 10-year scheme. That is my point. We do not accept the Liberal Democrats' argument for permanent hypothecation for the reasons that I have, on more than one occasion, given to the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Burstow
The problem is that the Minister acknowledged earlier that she could not give commitments as to the level of public expenditure to be committed to London Transport over the next 10 years, or any other period. That is why we believe fundamentally that the Government's weasel words on additionality have nothing to do with additionality. The separate accounts to which the Minister referred do not give Londoners any form of guarantee that the revenue streams that the charges will produce will give additional funds for the benefit of London Transport.
§ Ms Jackson
Given the company he keeps, the hon. Gentleman clearly knows a great deal more about weasel words than I will ever know. The Bill states that the revenues will be additional by virtue of the requirement for separate revenue accounts and income and expenditure accounts, which must be published annually. My point was that I could not guarantee any budget; nor, in the unlikely event of the hon. Gentleman ever being in a Government position, could he. I can assure him of the Government's commitment to local public transport, by virtue of the additional £1.8 million that we have invested.
§ Mr. Burstow
The Minister is charm itself, and she makes my point for me yet again. She makes it clear that she cannot give a commitment tonight that is essential, in terms of a debate about charges in the elections next year, to give Londoners confidence that they are voting for something that will benefit them and not the Treasury, which undoubtedly has the Minister in an arm-lock and is denying her the ability to give the guarantee this evening.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)
Order. It is entirely up to the hon. Gentleman whether he gives way.
§ Ms Jackson
I am grateful. I repeat: we have made it clear that the Government have broken the wall of hypothecation, which was an absolute no-no as far as previous Treasuries were concerned. That is another indication of our unified, linked-up government, inasmuch as we have achieved a clear commitment that 100 per cent. of the net proceeds of the revenues raised will be spent exclusively and totally on transport. Those proceeds will not be diverted into the Treasury—not only in London but in the rest of the United Kingdom-when, as we hope, the schemes are introduced post-legislation.
§ Mr. Burstow
The Minister may be right in saying that hypothecation has had one of the arms that was held behind its back released, but the Treasury still firmly grips the other when it comes to budgetary matters. The hon. Lady has not persuaded me or my colleagues that she has been able to convince the Treasury on that point.
The Government will produce a sterile debate about road charging in London because they are not setting up a scheme that will give confidence to Londoners. That is one of our major criticisms of the policy, but we believe that the provisions are needed and we support the permissive powers that they grant. We want the debate to take place because we believe that, ultimately, with the caveats that we have set out, we need the charges to generate the revenues that the mayor will need to deliver real improvements for London in the long term.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
New clause 6 suggests a third revenue stream, which it calls a "traffic disruption charge". Some wonderful true stories have appeared in the London press over the past year. On 22 February, the Evening Standard carried a story,Same road dug up each week for a year".
One of my local authority chiefs complained that Southwark Bridge road in my constituency had been visited 30 times by BT alone, with workmen arriving 75 times, in the past 12 months. That was not as bad as a street in Camden that had been disrupted by the utilities 85 times in the previous year.
Without much notice, the Royal Parks decided to close the Mall, effectively blocking all central London's traffic for a few weeks at the turn of the year. The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mr. Fraser) introduced a private Member's Bill on the subject earlier in the year, perhaps because of his earlier incarnation as the unsuccessful candidate for Peckham, where I believe he got about 5 per cent. of the vote. The experience may have left a searing impression on him about traffic in London. I welcome his Bill. Lord Archer has also seen that there may be cause for complaint.
If we are seriously looking for revenue streams to help to fund public transport in a way that is ring-fenced, as my hon. Friends have so painstakingly argued, in addition to giving the mayor and the authority the option of workplace and road user charging—which we support—we should consider so arranging matters that, when an agreed contract for digging up the road has been breached, somebody should pay something into the London kitty for the disruption caused.
The Government may not have seriously considered that.
§ Mr. Hughes
As far as I know, the Minister has not yet put it on the record whether the Government are for or against the idea. I am not pressing her for an answer now, but I hope that, when the Bill goes to the other place, the Government will seriously consider introducing that third revenue stream. If we are looking for money for London, that seems an obvious source, and it will be extremely popular with Londoners.
§ Mr. Hughes
My hon. Friend nearly got his joke in.
1032 I hope that my proposal will be taken seriously. It would probably be more popular than the others. I hope that, in due course, not only will London government have the ability to raise revenue as it chooses, but the Government will not interfere in such revenue once it has been raised.
§ Mr. Ottaway
It is not often that I find common cause with the Minister, but I sensed her frustration when the Liberals were misinterpreting the Government's policy, just as they do my party's policy, which frustrates me.
As this debate has gone on, I have detected a certain frisson in the Chamber. It is beginning to dawn on Members that the Conservatives are right on this matter, and that the other parties are wrong. It is beginning to dawn on people that the Government's policy will not work. It will hit people hard, as my hon. Friends the Members for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) and for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight) have pointed out. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are not London Members."] It is a perfectly valid point, no matter where the hon. Members come from.
I also note a willingness among all Members who are not Conservatives to try to put an interpretation on Conservative party policy, so I shall clarify it. The Minister has chosen to misinterpret our policies possibly because I left a slither of a vacuum in them, which I shall now promptly fill. I should make it absolutely clear that we are opposed to congestion taxation in London. I stand by what we said in Committee: we still have an open mind on congestion taxation in the rest of the United Kingdom. That was and remains our position.
The Minister said that she was unable to give an undertaking on the question of additionality because she could not possibly decide the budget for years to come. That is exactly the point that we have been making. It is impossible to give an undertaking on additionality, which is why it will be impossible for the Government to persuade anybody that such additionality will occur.
§ Mr. Ottaway
No, not at the moment.
The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) said that the Government must make their case before they are able to support congestion charging. I do not think that they have made that case. We therefore hope that the Liberal Democrats will join us in the Lobby.
The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) spoke about out-of-town centres such as Bluewater, as, indeed, did the Minister. The hon. Gentleman said that he was against out-of-town centres where there was free parking. From that, I presume that he is advocating that such centres should have paid parking. The Minister chose to misinterpret my point about Croydon on that issue. Road pricing is being proposed in Croydon. Why should any shopper choose to pay to go to Croydon when they can go to Bluewater out-of-town retail development and park for nothing? That is the impact that the proposals will have on local economies in London. The Minister has made the case neither for additionality nor for hypothecation. Nor has she addressed the 10-year cut off for hypothecation. 1033 The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) supported congestion charging; it was the first time that I have heard him do so. I suppose that the waiting electorate will digest that development. He said that he thought that people would welcome a little extra for the funding of transport in London, but unless the Minister can assure him on additionality, there will not be any little extra. That is the difficulty.
§ Mr. Ottaway
That sounds like a man who is still desperate to be selected as a candidate.
The Minister has failed to persuade us that the proposal will do anything to solve the problems of congestion in London. In fact, it is a stealth tax—a tax by the back door. The issues of pollution can be tackled without the introduction of a congestion charge. Under the circumstances, we shall press the amendment to a Division.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 97, Noes 265.1035
|Division No. 166]||[8.55 pm|
|Amess, David||Hammond, Philip|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Heald, Oliver|
|Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Horam, John|
|Baldry, Tony||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Beggs, Roy||Hunter, Andrew|
|Bercow, John||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Boswell, Tim||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Key, Robert|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Lansley, Andrew|
|Brady, Graham||Leigh, Edward|
|Brazier, Julian||Lidington, David|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Lilley, Rt Hon peter|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Burns, Simon||Loughton, Tim|
|Butterfill, John||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|(Chipping Barnet)||MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew|
|Chope, Christopher||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Collins, Tim||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Colvin, Michael||Ottaway, Richard|
|Cran, James||Page, Richard|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Paterson, Ownen|
|Davies, Quentin (Grantham)||Randall, John|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|& Howden)||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Day, Stephen||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Duncan, Alan||Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Evans, Nigel||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Fabricant, Michael||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Fallon, Michael||Stantley, Rt Hon sir John|
|Flight, Howard||Swayne, Desmond|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Syms, Robert|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Fraser, Christopher||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Garnier, Edward||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Gibb, Nick||Trend, Michael|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Viggers, Peter|
|Gray, James||Walter, Robert|
|Green, Damian||Waterson, Nigel|
|Grieve, Dominic||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Whittingdale, John|
|Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Wilshire, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)||Mrs. Eleanor Laing and|
|Woodward, Shaun||Sir David Madel.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Dawson, Hilton|
|Allen, Graham||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Denham, John|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary||Dismore, Andrew|
|Ashton, Joe||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Dowd, Jim|
|Austin, John||Drew, David|
|Barnes, Harry||Drown, Ms Julia|
|Barron, Kevin||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Battle, John||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Beard, Nigel||Edwards, Huw|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Efford, Clive|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Ennis, Jeff|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Fisher, Mark|
|Berry, Roger||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Best, Harold||Flint, Caroline|
|Betts, Clive||Flynn, paul|
|Blackman, Liz||Follett, Barbara|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Blizzard, Bob||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Boateng, Paul||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Foulkes, George|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Gapes, Mike|
|Brake, Tom||Gardiner, Barry|
|Breed, Colin||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Gerrard, Neil|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Burden, Richard||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Burgon, Colin||Godsiff, Roger|
|Burstow, Paul||Goggins, paul|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Byers, Rt Hon Stephen||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Cann, Jamie||Grocott, Bruce|
|Caplin, Ivor||Grogan, John|
|Casale, Roger||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Chaytor, David||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Clark, Dr Lynda||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|(Edinburgh Pentlands)||Healey, John|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Clwyd, Ann||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Coaker, Vernon||Heppell, John|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Hesford, Stephen|
|Cohen, Harry||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Colman, Tony||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hoey, Kate|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Cousins, Jim||Hope, Phil|
|Cranston, Ross||Hope, Phil|
|Crausby, David||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Hurst, Alan|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hutton, John|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Darvill, Keith||Illsley, Eric|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Jamieson, David|
|Davidson, Ian||Jenkins, Brian|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie||Prosser, Gwyn|
|(Welwyn Hatfield)||Purchase, Ken|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Rammell, Bill|
|Jones, Ms Jenny||Rapson, Syd|
|(Wolverh'ton SW)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Robertson, Rt Hon George|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||(Hamilton S)|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Kemp, Fraser||Roy, Frank|
|Khabra, Piara S||Ruddock, Joan|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Kingham, Ms Tess||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Sanders, Adrian|
|Laxton, Bob||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Levitt, Tom||Sawford, Phil|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Linton, Martin||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Livingstone, Ken||Singh, Marsha|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Lock, David||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Love, Andrew||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|McAvoy, Thomas||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|McCartney, Rt Hon Ian||Snape, Peter|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|McDonnell, John||Spellar, John|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|McNulty, Tony||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|MacShane, Denis||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|McWalter, Tony||Stringer, Graham|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Mallaber, Judy||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter||(Dewsbury)|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Timms, Stephen|
|Meale, Alan||Tipping, Paddy|
|Merron, Gillian||Todd, Mark|
|Milburn, Rt Hon Alan||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Miller, Andrew||Trickett, Jon|
|Mitchell, Austin||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Moffatt, Laura||TWigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Morley, Elliot||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Mountford, Kali||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Mullin, Chris||Wareing, Robert N|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Watts, David|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||White, Brian|
|Olner, Bill||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Pearson, Ian||Wills, Michael|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Winnick, David|
|Pickthall, Colin||Wise Audrey|
|Pike, Peter L||Wood, Mike|
|Plaskitt, James||Wray, James|
|Pollard, Kerry||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Pond, Chris||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Pound, Stephen||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Jane Kennedy and|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Mr.Keith Hill.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ It being after Nine o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.