HC Deb 11 January 2000 vol 342 cc140-2
10. Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury)

By how much he estimates transport-related emissions of greenhouse gases will fall as a result of the Government's policies towards motorists. [103261]

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)

The growth in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector will be reduced as a result of the fiscal policies, technology and the measures that we announced in the transport White Paper. Our 1998 climate change consultation paper suggested that those measures could save about 6 million tonnes of carbon in 2010. We are currently updating those estimates and will publish revised figures in our draft climate change programme shortly.

Mr. O'Brien

Although I welcome any improvements in climate change problems, that answer demonstrates just how much the Government's policies for cars and the hard-pressed British motorist is informed by concern about vehicle emissions that lead to global warming. That source makes up only a fraction of the sources of global warming that emanate from this country. Will the Secretary of State tell us what steps the Government are now taking to reduce emissions from dirty, coal fired power stations?

Mr. Prescott

I do not think that the amount of greenhouse gases and CO2 emitted by cars is insignificant; it is approximately 25 per cent. of all emissions, and it is the fastest-growing sector. That is why we have identified the package of measures to which I have referred, and we shall be discussing other areas of contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases, such as those that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, and the climate change levy in our proposals, which we will bring to the House shortly.

Mr. Fabian Hamilton (Leeds, North-East)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles is further to encourage the development of alternative fuels? He mentioned new technologies in an earlier reply, but what plans does his Department have to promote the infrastructure development for those alternative fuels which is so essential to developing more vehicles that use those fuels?

Mr. Prescott

Such proposals are among the group of measures that we are considering at the moment, and we have been actively consulting on those. We shall produce those measures in our document shortly.

Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that unless the Government set a national target for road traffic reduction, transport-related emissions of CO2 will continue to rise? Does he agree that the Government need to lead by example and scrap free car parking spaces at the House of Commons for Members of Parliament?

Mr. Prescott

The hon. Gentleman's last point is a typical Liberal point, and it can be left to the House to make a judgment on that at the appropriate time. We have made it clear that we do not accept the argument that we can set the national targets to reduce emissions from cars, as he mentioned, and the Commission for Integrated Transport has supported that view. We are concerned to deal with congestion and pollution, and the package of measures that we are putting forward will do that.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that if people purchase a new vehicle that runs on alternative fuel, it will not be more expensive than other cars? Such cars ought to be cheaper. The complicated system in which people claim back money when they buy a vehicle that runs on alternative fuel ought to be made easier or disposed of.

Mr. Prescott

I agree with my hon. Friend, and we are looking at procedures by which we can achieve that.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I seek the Deputy Prime Minister's advice and help. Does he not accept that transport-related emissions of greenhouse gases will increase in north-east Cheshire unless he grants money for the Poynton bypass and the Manchester airport eastern link road, because inevitably the second runway will, despite the increase in public transport, cause a huge increase in car transport requiring access to the airport?

Mr. Prescott

I thought for a moment that we were going to have another Member crossing the Chamber. [Hon. Members: "No, no."] That was a joke, in case anybody thought I was trying to be serious.

The hon. Gentleman has always found rather ingenious ways of bringing up the road programme that he is concerned about. Our measures relate to congestion and pollution, and the package that we are putting forward will help to reduce those problems. As I have announced today, in Cheshire some £640,000 has been given to improve the public transport system.

Mr. Damian Green (Ashford)

I am afraid that, as ever, the Secretary of State is providing aspirations but no effective action to help the environment. I urge him to take a positive view not only of the suggestions from a couple of his hon. Friends but of our common-sense proposals to cut the tax on fuels that produce low or no emissions of greenhouse gases and to cut the duty on the cars that use them. Conservative Members want to use lower taxes to help motorists and the environment. Why does he persist in clobbering the motorist with high-tax policies that have done nothing to improve air quality in this country?

Mr. Prescott

It is a bit much to hear that from someone on the Opposition Front Bench when we scrapped the fuel duty escalator that the Conservatives brought in. That is certainly one major change that has taken place. As for the proposals by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) about making greener cars, I have to say that some of them are ideas that we have already implemented, some are clearly contradictory and some are not even consistent with the facts. We have a package of measures that are putting us on the road to achieving the Kyoto targets that we have set ourselves for 2010.

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