HC Deb 20 March 2001 vol 365 cc179-80
5. Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

If he will make a statement on the introduction of the congestion tax in London. [152912]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill)

Parliament has given the Mayor, Transport for London and the other London local authorities powers in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to introduce congestion charging. The Mayor has chosen to use those powers and he is now consulting on proposals for a scheme in central London.

Mr. Ottaway

The Minister is correct in saying that this is a matter for the Greater London Authority. With that in mind, may I draw his attention to the front page of the Labour party's London manifesto for the elections that took place last May? Will he explain what exactly was meant by the words "no congestion charges"?

Mr. Hill

That is perfectly simple. It was the position of the Labour candidate in those elections that he would oppose not the principle of congestion charging, but its introduction in the first four years of mayoral tenure. In practice, the legislation is absolutely simple and straightforward. The Mayor is entitled to introduce congestion charging proposals and the evidence is that they are widely supported in London—[Interruption.] I hear cries of scepticism. Let me point out that the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, of Westminster and of Wandsworth, all Conservative boroughs—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is absolutely no point in shouting at the Minister.

Mr. Hill

Those three Tory boroughs in London have opposed the introduction of the scheme and poured money into fighting it. However, when the borough of Kensington and Chelsea conducted a consultation exercise, the result was a majority in favour of charging. Further evidence emerged in a MORI survey of senior city executives published in February 2001—it revealed that 59 per cent. agreed that a system of congestion charging would benefit London. The Government are broadly supportive of the Mayor's proposals and so, it appears, is much of London opinion.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

The hon. Gentleman failed to explain the sheer hypocrisy of the Labour party's position in its London election manifesto. After four wasted years on the tube, during which the Government have failed to raise a single penny of the private investment that was promised, will the Minister tell the House what exactly the Government have done for public transport in London since they were elected?

The Conservatives built the docklands light railway, the docklands light railway extension, the Jubilee line extension, the Croydon tramlink and the Heathrow express. Those were Conservative projects. What has the Labour party done? It promised that things would only get better, but they have got worse. The Labour party has failed Londoners, failed the London tube and delivered London to a standstill.

Mr. Hill

That was a pretty good rant from the hon. Gentleman. However, in addition to seeing through the completion of the Jubilee line extension, the docklands light railway, and the introduction of the Croydon tramlink, the Government have introduced the £60 million London bus initiative. Additionally, we have pumped no less than £1.5 billion into London's underground system. There is no need to look into the crystal ball to find out about Labour's achievement—hon. Members can read it in the book.