HL Deb 20 July 1998 vol 592 cc604-23

4.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Madam Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on transport policy. A White Paper, New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone is published today and has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

"This White Paper delivers on our manifesto commitment to develop an integrated transport policy to assist mobility and economic growth, to fight congestion and pollution and to help create a fairer society. It will widen choice, providing people with a real alternative of a decent, modern and reliable public transport system.

"The public mood has changed. The previous government's Green Paper, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Select Committee and our own consultation exercise demonstrated that there is now a consensus for radical change. Everyone now agrees that no change is not an option.

"Privatisation and deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s produced a public transport system which was fragmented, lacked investment and attracted fewer passengers. It led to more congestion and did more damage to the environment and public health.

"Last year, two records were broken: a record 1 million rail passengers complained and a record number of rail millionaires were created. What an indictment of privatisation. Bus passengers have fallen by 25 per cent. since deregulation. Car drivers sit in traffic for hours. The CBI complains of the £15 billion cost of congestion. Walking and cycling are often unpleasant and dangerous. Many women fear for their own safety on public transport and for the safety of their children going to school.

"If we do nothing, traffic will grow by 30 per cent. in the next 20 years with more traffic jams, longer rush hours and a 10 per cent. increase in CO2 emissions at a time when the Kyoto accords require us to cut emissions.

"The core of our approach is integration, to allow people to switch from bus to train, from their cars to park and ride. But it is also about integrating transport with environment policy and land-use planning and with our economic, health and education policies and the creation of a fairer society.

"People need better information to achieve a seamless journey. Today I can announce a revolution in information to the passenger. We will introduce a comprehensive integrated national public transport information system by the year 2000. A passenger will be able to access information on all forms of transport to a single point by phone, teletext or Internet.

"Through better planning policies we can reduce the need to travel as we are showing with our Millennium Village in Greenwich. Homes should be close to shops, schools, health and other services so that people can walk rather than drive. We will revise planning guidance to take account of our new integrated transport policy. We have given more emphasis than any previous government to making it easier to walk and cycle. I endorse the target to double cycling within six years.

"Rural areas have their own specific needs; 75 per cent. of rural parishes now have no daily bus service. We have already committed £150 million to improve rural public transport, doubling the support in many rural areas. Proposals are in the final stages of preparation.

"Better public transport, particularly rail and bus, are the cornerstone of our approach. A better, modern, reliable bus presents the best opportunity for leading a renaissance of public transport. Quality partnerships, which already exist in a handful of local authorities, have proved popular with the public and passenger numbers have increased by up to 40 per cent. and people are using their cars less. I want to see more of them.

"The bus must have priority on the road. This will lead to faster, more reliable services which attract more passengers. Stiffer penalties and tougher enforcement will deter bus lane road hogs. We can transform the economics of the bus industry by adding just two extra passengers per bus journey, improving revenues by some £400 million. More revenue will lead to more investment, better buses, more frequent services and proper training and conditions for bus drivers. The one I met this morning could benefit from a visit to charm school—probably the same one I attended.

"Bus operators must help spruce up bus stations, provide better information at bus stops and co-operate on ticketing with other bus and rail operators. In addition the Government are prepared to give statutory force to exclusive quality contracts on particular routes. The days of the cowboy bus operators are over. For too long the bus has been seen as the workhorse. I want it to be a racehorse. Today I issue a challenge to bus companies and manufacturers to create a new bus fit for the 21st century in design, operation and comfort; buses which are more accessible to elderly and disabled people and to mothers with children and heavy shopping.

"Transport policy needs to pay special attention to the 13 million people in homes without a car. Pensioners in particular rely on good quality services at affordable prices. I am therefore pleased to announce for the first time a national minimum concessionary fares scheme guaranteeing at least a half fare for every pensioner in Britain. This will benefit 3 million pensioners currently denied the benefits of such a scheme.

"Our proposals for railways are in line with the unanimous recommendations of the Select Committee, the response to which I am issuing today as Cmnd 4024. There will be tougher regulation of train companies. Spearheaded by our new strategic rail authority, enforcement will be speeded up and strengthened with tougher penalties. If these companies continue to fail the passenger, they will lose their right to operate. In the short term, OPRAF will remain the operator of last resort. British Rail will retain the ability to be a train operator. The functions of both will become part of the strategic rail authority.

"The rail industry needs a stable framework to deliver long-term investment and better services for passengers. Seventeen of the existing franchises come up for renewal within the next six years. Some train operators want early renegotiation of their franchises. I stand ready to consider their requests. But I make one thing clear. If any application is to succeed, it will have to guarantee better performance, more investment, improvements for the rail passenger and value for the taxpayer.

"An independent rail regulator will remain but there will be clear demarcation from the new responsibilities for the strategic rail authority. Railtrack will be tightly scrutinised to ensure it invests sufficiently in the rail infrastructure. The rail regulator has been critical of Railtrack's investment record as recently as last week. I intend to see that these criticisms are addressed. I have asked the rail regulator to carry out a review of both the level and the structure of the charges, including the mechanisms for payment. We will set up new rail funds with £100 million to lever in additional leading edge investments in the rail network.

"The House is aware that the National Audit Office condemned the scandalous sale by the previous government of the rolling stock leasing companies, known as Roscos. I asked the rail regulator to investigate the failure of the Roscos which he has completed. I have asked him to negotiate a new concordat with Roscos on the leasing and re-leasing terms of rolling stock. If that is not effective, I will consider bringing Roscos into formal regulation.

"Rail freight is a better environmental option and we endorse the rail freight industry's target to double traffic carried by rail within five years and treble it in 10. We have already doubled rail freight grants. We will increase them by a further one-third this year and extend them to coastal shipping. It is my intention to use the proceeds from the part sale of NATS to reinvest in transport improvements, such as a Euro-gauge freight rail system from the Channel Tunnel right through to Scotland if terms can be agreed.

"This Government will invest in rail freight but we recognise that over 90 per cent. of goods will continue to be moved by road. From January 1st next year, European law requires us to raise the maximum gross weight of lorries from 38 to 40 tonnes.

"I am concerned about the cost of road and bridge maintenance with an increase in five axle heavy lorries and I therefore want to send the strongest possible signal to encourage six axle lorries. I have therefore decided to allow 41 tonne lorries on six axles from January 1999. I am not convinced of the case for going to 44 tonne lorries but I will ask the new commission for integrated transport, which I will describe later, to review the evidence and make recommendations.

"Everyone now acknowledges that we cannot build our way out of congestion. The days of 'predict and provide' are over. We will give top priority to maintaining and managing the existing roads. I propose to transform the Highways Agency into a network operator rather than simply a road builder. I am pleased to announce the signing today of an historic agreement between the Highways Agency and Railtrack to work together on developing integrated solutions.

"We will allow the Highways Agency to operate a number of pilot charging schemes and use the income stream to re-invest in the road network. For example, I am looking at how to redirect toll revenue from the Dartford crossing to improve traffic management on the M.25.

"Like millions of my fellow drivers, I know that sitting in traffic jams at all times of the day robs driving of its convenience. It is not pro-car to allow congestion to escalate. It is not pro-car to allow smog and pollution to increase. The car driver is breathing in air around three times more polluted than the air outside. The most anti-car policy is to do nothing. Pro-public transport does not mean being anti-car.

"I am pleased to announce today a new deal for the motorist. The Highways Agency will have specific responsibility to reduce delays. We will establish regional traffic control centres to help traffic flows and improve information to motorists about road works and delays. We will also act against cowboy wheelclampers. And we will use the DVLA's databank to provide better information and protection for drivers when buying used cars.

"As school holidays begin, everyone notices the differences in traffic. Parents driving their children often short distances to schools has increased congestion significantly at peak times. Some schools have already shown that safe and secure routes, with adult supervision, can reduce unnecessary car use. Parents welcome this as an extension of choice and a safer alternative.

"No transport issue is more important than safety. We intend to issue new road safety strategy and targets later this year. And in response to the Select Committee, we propose to carry out a thorough review of the institutional arrangements for transport safety.

"The key to the success of our new approach to transport is partnership. Let no one say we are not putting our money where our mouth is; £1.7 billion increase in public investment for transport over the next three years; £7 billion public-private partnerships for the Underground; £6 billion partnership for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

"Together with new revenue streams for local authorities, commercial freedom for local authority airports and private investment in buses and trains, this represents the biggest ever investment in public transport, and, as the Chancellor said, doubling the total transport investment over the next seven years.

"Partnership will also be important at local level. Local councils will consult with all the main interested parties to draw up local transport plans. These plans will set targets and actions to develop public transport, improve air quality, enhance road safety and reduce road traffic.

"This is a major new initiative and will be backed by £700 million which will enable 150 local transport strategies over the next three years. There will be new powers for local authorities to levy charges for the use of congested roads, and on workplace parking. The revenue from this will be used to improve local public transport and traffic management.

"These will be local schemes decided by local people, defined by local needs. The proceeds will be reinvested in local transport through a ring-fenced fund. All such plans will be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. This White Paper establishes the principle. I intend to issue a consultation paper in due course on its implementation.

"I am grateful to my right honourable friend the Chancellor for allowing the courage to establish such a radical reform of public finances, allowing hypothecation of this income. This Government are ending decades of under-investment, modernising our transport system and investing for the future.

"Transport must be publicly accountable. I intend to give real power to the passenger: public hearings on rail and bus franchises; stronger bus and rail consumer bodies joining forces with real powers; a strategic rail authority with real teeth to improve standards for the passenger.

"Madam Speaker, this White Paper is the start, not the end, of the debate. It is almost 20 years since the last comprehensive transport White Paper. The speed of change means that we cannot wait another 20 years.

"Members will appreciate that I have touched only on the main points of the White Paper, which covers all forms of transport. There will be a number of 'daughter documents' similar to today's rail document, on roads, freight, aviation, shipping and others.

"Transport policy is not just a matter for government. The debate needs the involvement of all sections of society. The Government therefore propose to establish an independent commission for integrated transport which will monitor targets, provide a forum for debate and make regular reports to Ministers and to this House.

"Madam Speaker, the White Paper is based on a real consensus for change. No change is frankly not an option. The country wants a better transport system which does not continue to damage our health, industry and environment; a transport system which improves the quality of life for everyone without passing on a poorer legacy to future generations.

"Radical change is necessary. This White Paper is about that radical change and how to achieve it. I commend this White Paper to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating her right honourable friend's Statement. We have waited a long time for the Statement. It was promised in the spring of this year. I know that spring came late and that that was not the Government's fault. We now have the Statement on what I hope is the first day of summer. I understand the reasons for the delay. My first question therefore is: whose White Paper is this? Is it the Deputy Prime Minister's, or is it the policy from the No. 10 Policy Unit with money from the Treasury?

Of course, we welcome some aspects of the Statement. However, do the Government accept that the previous government's 1996 Green Paper, referred to in the Statement, had already set out some of the proposals announced today—quality partnerships with local authorities in relation to buses and bus lanes are already happening. I also welcome the apparent disappearance of a proposed tax on parking at supermarkets. I hope that the Minister will confirm that that is no longer on the agenda.

Will the Minister confirm that the increase in spending on transport, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, was a matter of creative accounting within the existing departmental budget and that the real increase is not the £600 million a year announced by the Chancellor but £7 million a year as calculated by the British Road Federation? Is it not the case that the so-called extra funding of £1.8 billion is made up largely from the proceeds of reducing subsidies to the privatised railways? Will the Minister confirm the Government's conversion to the cause of privatisation, given the benefits that our policy is affording them? Is it not a fact that all the money announced in the White Paper comes from the benefits of privatisation—from both the reduction in rail subsidies and as a result of the proposed privatisation of National Air Traffic Services?

Will the Minister confirm that all subsidy to London Underground is to be removed by the year 2000? Will she tell the House what assumptions have been made as to likely private investment in London Underground by the year 2000, and what contingency plans have been made if that investment fails to appear? What would be the effect on fares and overcrowding? Whose responsibility will that be? Will it be for the new mayor to pick up the tab if it all goes wrong?

Will the Minister confirm that the Government intend to fund their plans for improvements in transport infrastructure by imposing more taxes on road users? By how much will that taxation increase? How soon will the improvements be in place?

Will the Minister confirm the statement in an article in today's Financial Times that, The new charges will begin to provide funds from 2000–2001 but will not really bite until after the next election. They are expected to raise about £1 bn a year from 2005–2006"? That seems a very long time to wait for the improvements.

How will the Government guarantee 100 per cent. hypothecation of these taxes, and what system will be put in place to ensure their transparency? The Deputy Prime Minister apparently said on the "Breakfast with Frost" programme yesterday that the Treasury had assured him that any money raised from these new incomes would now be channelled directly to transport policies. Can we be assured that that will be the case? Can we further be assured that VAT will not be added to these charges and that, if it is, it will not go straight to the Treasury?

What of the fuel-tax escalator? Will that now end or will it go on and on at 6 per cent. above inflation year on year, further increasing the money to the Treasury without bringing any improvements from that source to the transport system?

Do the Government accept that higher taxes for motorists will affect disproportionately women, the elderly, disabled people and people in rural areas, all of whom regard the car as a necessity and for all of whom safe and secure travelling by car is a major consideration?

Can I have an assurance from the Minister that when a local authority wishes to bring in congestion charging it will at least take into account the considerations of other local authorities? To give one example, is the noble Baroness aware that the vast majority of traffic to and from the Isle of Wight has to travel through the city centres of Portsmouth and Southampton? Can we be assured that any congestion charging by those two councils will not further add to the burden of a fragile economy which already has to bear the cost of the ferry journey?

On the question of the school run, much referred to, there is much to be welcomed in the proposals. But does the Minister recognise that for many parents—working mothers and indeed working fathers—the school run is only part of the journey to work? I hope that the Minister will take that factor into account in the proposals.

Can the Minister confirm that there will be an exemption from non-residential car-parking charges for health and education establishments? What other exemptions are planned? What about the car park outside this House? Who will pay non-residential car-parking charges for that? Will Members of another place be able to reclaim anything they are charged from the taxpayer?

How will the income streams generated by the new taxes and charges on motorists affect the department's assumptions for the distribution of other local authority finance in the form of the rate support grant and standard spending assessments?

Is the Minister aware that the increasing differential between United Kingdom and Continental diesel prices will, according to the Road Haulage Association, lead to the loss of 26,000 jobs in this country during this Parliament? What do the Government intend to do about that?

I give a cautious welcome to the statement that 41-tonne lorries on six axles are to be allowed from the beginning of next year. But why not go the whole hog now to 44 tonnes, as recommended by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House? How does the Minister think that the decision to allow 41-tonne lorries on six axles but not to give a decision yet on 44-tonne lorries will affect the investment plans of transport road haulage companies?

Given that the privatised rail freight companies intend to treble the amount of freight carried by rail in the next 10 years, what further plans have the Government to transfer more freight from the roads? Will the Government recognise that the welcome increase in freight and the welcome target set by the rail freight companies are a direct result of the privatisation of the railway network?

Can the Minister assure the House that the strategic rail authority will not result in more bureaucracy for the industry and that it will not attempt to second-guess the commercial decisions by rail operators and thus damage the record investment taking place in both the track and operating companies?

The Statement mentions the Dartford crossing and the possible improvements to the M.25. Does the Statement mean that the bridge is no longer to become toll-free when the concession is over, as is presently enshrined in legislation? On that subject, can the Minister tell us when we can expect the other nine papers which are heralded in the White Paper, in particular the roads review which, no doubt, will contain news of the possible U-turn on the widening of the M.25?

Finally, can the Minister be more specific with the House and the nation? How will the success of these policies be measured? Will targets be set for the overall reduction of traffic growth and the increase in train and bus travel and the number of journeys made on bicycle and on foot? Or is this White Paper simply about setting new targets to tax motorists? Apparently, in another place the Deputy Prime Minister said following the Statement that no one would need a second car. Can I have an assurance that the Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers will give up theirs?

5.6 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, I approach this White Paper from a slightly different standpoint to that of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. It has been long awaited. It was preceded by a barrage of speculation about rival approaches to transport within government, and the usual barrage of leaks as well. It is 170 pages long and includes a most welcome index. The practice of including an index is something that all government departments might follow. It enables one to find one's way around a paper reasonably rapidly.

However, we have had less than an hour to look at the White Paper. Perhaps I may ask the Minister to use her endeavours to persuade the usual channels that we need a rather more profound debate on these major issues which affect everyone's lives every part of the day. I do not believe that the eight minutes or so that the noble Lord took are sufficient.

We have all known for a long time what the problems are: congestion, leading to pollution, severance and billions of pounds of costs to industry; excess mobility for some and reduced mobility for others. We have all recognised for some time that we cannot just build our way out of these problems. Local government has tried to respond many times in England and has made excellent efforts to cope with the problems of congestion. York is an example and Truro is another; one could cite Birmingham and Manchester and towns of different sizes. What has been lacking is an overall envelope of government policy to sustain and give long-term direction to the efforts of local authorities.

Another problem has been the arbitrary allocation of government financial support between transport objectives or even its total diversion to other heads of government expenditure whenever things become difficult for the general budget. The fact that the Government have recognised the problem and have committed themselves to an integrated transport policy should be praised; and I have often done so. But what does the paper tell us about the reality, or even the realpolitik, of this commitment? Does it pass the test? Some of the tests are matters such as whether we are really going for integration of modes and for better access for people with mobility problems. On the whole, the White Paper is quite good on that aspect. I like the commitment to a half-fare ticket for all pensioners which will help to reduce the inequalities between the provision in neighbouring local authorities, particularly odious to those who live around London some of whom have to pay full fare whereas Londoners do not.

The strategic rail authority is a good idea. We need to improve public transport. Anything that can be done to put the public interest back into the privatised rail companies should be supported by all of us. I hope that it can be done efficiently and without unnecessary bureaucracy. The point is to get public interest and public importance back into decision-taking with regard to rail.

Another test is whether there are traffic reduction targets. There are some targets, not so much for traffic reduction, but for freight growth, which other people have to satisfy. I do not see quite what the Government intend to do to facilitate that; perhaps the noble Baroness can respond. There are targets for accidents, which is not a new idea. I am disappointed that among other targets—including those for walking and cycling—the targets for road traffic reduction are still to be considered. Perhaps the noble Baroness can say for how long that consideration will continue.

There is some sign of another important aspect; that is, better enforcement of speed rules and HTV road worthiness rules. Those are welcome as part of an effort to make roads safer. Vulnerable road users will not use roads which are perceived to be or are in reality—there is little difference between the two—unsafe. Action must be taken to make roads seem safer. There are some signs of that. I confess that I have not read the entire report. I cannot be sure how far it goes.

I am delighted to welcome a commitment to improved planning policies to reduce the need to travel. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether, taking the speed and planning policies, the Government are proposing to encourage low speed areas where children, residents and so forth, either on foot or on bicycle, have an absolute priority over cars which will be kept to a low speed limit.

Another question concerns where the money is going. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, was concerned about where it was coming from. As one reads the paper there are doubts as to whether the figures reflect new money, money that has already been announced, money that is added up from a number of sources and put into a box labelled, "This is something good", or whether we are getting new funds, particularly funds diverted from road building into road maintenance, cycle schemes, pavements and that sort of thing. I would welcome a response from the Minister in that regard.

There is some evidence of a willingness on the part of the Government to use elements of tax policy to support their transport policy. I welcome the ability on the part of local authorities to tax non-residential parking, to retain the fines from traffic infringements and to put them into ring-fenced funds for the use of local traffic schemes. On the other hand, the Government trumpet 150 traffic schemes funded from central sources. That does not sound to me an enormous number. I am interested to know whether it is a significant increase over the numbers funded in recent years.

The variable vehicle excise duty is welcome, particularly the higher rates for heavy goods vehicles that cause a great deal of damage. We would have suggested a lower lowest level because if VED were reduced far below the £100 minimum being considered at the present time, people in rural areas would be able to combat the increase in the cost of petrol. It would give a strong indication that the Government were taxing the use of the car rather than the ownership, which is another important point.

There are many subjects which other Members of your Lordships' House will wish to mention. I conclude by saying that I am glad to welcome the evidence in the report that this is not just a one-off Statement. Quite apart from the additional bodies mentioned—for example, the commission for integrated transport—there are elements of action which will carry us forward down the years so that the pressure upon a number of co-operating partners such as local government, industry and so forth, will continue to be led by government.

The devil in such a report is always in the detail. I feel that some of that detail is good. I am sure that there will be parts with which we disagree. As I said at the start, I hope that we shall be given an opportunity to debate it in greater detail at a later stage.

5.14 p.m.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I am grateful to both Front Bench speakers for their welcome, to a greater or lesser degree, for many of the proposals outlined in the White Paper, although the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, was perhaps a little half-hearted in some respects. I make clear from the start that this is the Government's White Paper. It comes from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, but when one reads through the amount of interactions with other government departments it is clear that we recognise that transport and transport policy must evolve as a whole government policy.

The paper came out later than originally suggested—but a lot sooner than the 18 years during which the party opposite had time to create a White Paper and never achieved one at all. The fact that it has arrived within 18 months is not something for which I apologise. Also, the decision taken to publish it after the Comprehensive Spending Review was sensible. It allowed for some transparency and for the sorts of searching questions in relation to funding which came from the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas.

Perhaps I should make clear in talking about figures—the noble Baroness asked me about those—that we are talking of £1.8 billion of extra money over the CSR period. We are talking of £700 million more for local authorities to establish 150 new local transport plans and to restore the cuts in maintenance to their principal roads. We must recognise in that sum of money and in the £400 million extra spending on the trunk road network that we have, sadly, a backlog of disinvestment that must first be put right. There will also be £300 million more for local bus services in addition to the £50 million a year for rural transport announced in the Budget.

There is to be £300 million additional resources for the rail industry, including support for the Channel Tunnel rail link, on top of the annual subsidy of over £1 billion to rail operators for existing franchise contracts. Those new resources will allow for extra freight grants and extra funds will be available from two new sources—the infrastructure investment fund and the rail passenger partnership scheme.

I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, that that does not represent a conversion to privatisation; it represents making the best of a very bad job which we inherited. It represents also some value for the travelling public from the reductions that are at last being seen in the amount of subsidy going to the rail operators. What is different about this Government is that, unlike the previous government's plans, that money will not go straight back into the Consolidated Fund; it is being recycled into support for public transport.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, suggested that the British Road Federation's £7 million was the increase. I suggest that he looks a little more closely at the real new money that is coming in, rather than taking sums that are bandied about by a lobbying group on behalf of investment in road building.

The noble Lord asked also about the taxation plans and the plans for congestion charging. On the issue of the fuel duty escalator, about which he asked specifically, we intend to continue the Government's commitment to increase road fuel duty by 6 per cent. above inflation every year. That is because its impact in the long run should not be too great when it is combined with the other measures in the White Paper to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles. This work is taking place in the "CO2 from cars programme" and in the cleaner vehicles task force to encourage better public transport and to give people a real choice as to how they undertake their journeys.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, asked about other fiscal incentives towards environmentally friendly transport policies. The Chancellor announced a raft of measures to encourage people to use their cars and to make their choices about buying cars in ways that reflect the need to reduce pollution, emissions and congestion.

I was asked about the funding of local transport plans. The 150 local transport plans in the CSR period will be funded through the additional money from the Chancellor under the Comprehensive Spending Review. In addition, we are looking at the possibility of local charging for private non-residential parking at workplaces or congestion charging. I was asked for an assurance that those would reflect local needs and that the money would go back into local transport schemes. That is precisely the agreement that has been reached. It is important to recognise that we are not talking about new national taxes. We recognise that different areas have different transport needs. The local transport plans will have to deal with both income and expenditure and they will not be approved unless we can see—and the public and the local community can see because they will be involved in drawing up the plans—that there is a clear correlation between any charging strategy and any strategy for investment in public transport. It is important to understand that point.

I was asked about the effect of our proposals on particularly vulnerable road users. The noble Lord referred to disabled people. The particular needs of disabled people and the details of any exemptions for, for example, hospitals will have to be looked at in the consultation document on congestion charging which we hope to issue very soon. While we recognise the needs of women who are worried about using public transport, of disabled motorists and of elderly people, it is important that we provide public transport that is safe and secure and is accessible for disabled people. We must look not only in terms of the car. We have to recognise that 30 per cent. of households in this country—some 13 million people—have no access to a car. They are already excluded. For them it is crucial that we improve public transport so that their mobility and their ability to participate in society to the full is increased.

I was asked about the strategic rail authority and it second guessing commercial decisions. That is not what the strategic rail authority will be there for; it will be there to provide clear, coherent and accountable planning and regulation to ensure that the railways are run firmly in the public interest and that rail freight is considered alongside the passenger railway.

I was asked specifically about rail freight. It will benefit from the investment fund that will be created to address pinch-points in the network. The commission for integrated transport will look at rail freight issues. However, the Government's record in improving both the amount of money available for rail freight and the take-up of it is a significant one.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, asked why we had not gone for 44-tonne lorries immediately. We were looking in the round at the freight industry. It is important that we give a clear message about six-axle vehicles. In terms of the investment decisions that the road haulage industry will make, the point is made clearly in the White Paper that we are looking, through incentives, to encourage re-equipping on six axles. That is why we made the decision to go to 41 tonnes next year. The case for 44 tonnes will be looked at by the commission for integrated transport. We have to consider what would be gained by having fewer lorries on the road because of their having higher payloads if that were to be lost by the effect that had on the rail freight industry. That is a complicated calculation and one on which we need advice.

I was asked about the role of targets. Targets are a significant feature of the White Paper. There are local targets for air quality. We have targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the UK by 12.5 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. The report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said that targets for road traffic reduction nationally must have a clear and specific justification. The transport commission will be looking at that. Meanwhile, these issues will be taken into account locally when local authorities are putting forward their local transport plans. I can assure the House that the CSR White Paper assumes that the funding of local authority packages from public funds will be broadly at current levels and that the new charges will be additional to that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, asked about vulnerable road users and about the potential for creating areas in communities that are sometimes called home zones. We have asked local authorities whether they would like to put proposals to us for such schemes. These schemes would not need a change in legislation. One of the important considerations is the review of speed policy set out in the White Paper. That is important because it reflects not only a concern with speed as an issue in safety but also as a consideration in terms of people being less willing to cycle, less willing to walk and less willing to allow their children to go to school by themselves and in terms of CO2 emissions because of the speed at which vehicles are travelling and also in terms of noise. We are looking at the review in the round.

I have spoken for too long and have probably reflected the noble Baroness's view that a Statement is not the best way to deal with this matter. I, too, would welcome an opportunity to speak at greater length.

5.29 p.m.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, I very much welcome the White Paper of my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister. He hit the nail on the head when he said that 13 million people do not have access to cars and that that has to be provided for.

As chairman of the Rail Freight Group, I welcome what the Minister and the Statement say about rail freight and, in particular, about the Euro-gauge project, where I think they probably mean piggy-back. That is a great step forward. The Statement says that the Highways Agency intends to operate a pilot charging scheme to re-invest in the road network. I find that very interesting. As the Highways Agency and Railtrack have made an historic agreement to work together for integrated transport, does my noble friend see any means by which some of the revenue from such a scheme could be invested in an integrated transport scheme?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, my noble friend is right in terms of Euro-gauge meaning piggy-back. The opportunities are extremely exciting. The White Paper looks at the possibilities for pilot schemes for charging on the trunk road and motorway network and for recycling that revenue. Within the new remit for the Highways Agency we have a new strategic aim and objective. We are looking at its role as a provider within an integrated transport framework. That money can be spent on performing that role rather than on the more traditional roadbuilding role as in the past.

There are many exciting things that we can do in terms of traffic management, regional control centres, better information for motorists and to encourage modal shifts from road to park-and-ride and then on to rail. There are opportunities. We need to look at pilot schemes very carefully because we also have to recognise that we do not want diversion on to unsuitable local roads. Therefore we have to assess schemes carefully.

Lord Geddes

My Lords, the noble Baroness is to be congratulated not only on repeating the Statement but on having the stamina to do so over 15 minutes. I warmly support the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, in requesting that the usual channels consider together so that we get some time to debate. This document contains 162 pages even if one disregards the index. One cannot hoist it all in in an hour. The document contains a great deal of very important information and very important ideas. I ask the Minister to try to make the best overtures she can in that respect.

In the interests of the House and speed, I have one general and two specific questions. As regards the general question, can the Minister advise the House when we can expect to receive what are delightfully described as the "daughter documents?". I do not believe that I have ever come across that expression in these circles before. It is rather nicely put. Can she advise us when those documents will be available?

I have two specific points. When discussing the tougher regulation of train companies and the strategic rail authority, the Statement says most interestingly, If these companies"— by that I assume is meant the train companies— continue to fail the passenger, they will lose their right to operate". Does that mean within the period of the franchise or at the end of it? That could set all kinds of warning bells ringing within franchise operators.

My second specific question to the Minister concerns the part of the Statement which says, We have already doubled rail freight grants. We will increase them by a further one-third this year and extend them to coastal shipping". Does "coastal shipping" mean what I believe is termed "short-sea shipping" or does it mean "coastal shipping?" To put it more succinctly, does it include trans-North Sea or simply include around the coast of the United Kingdom? I hope that the noble Baroness can enlighten me.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I have to confess to the noble Lord that I was trying not to say coastal shipping and short-sea shipping for very good reason. I can assure the noble Lord that it will apply to both. In the interests of completeness we shall look at encouraging the take-up of freight grants which are available for inland waterways and which do not need an extension. They are not well taken up at the moment.

As regards the franchises, it is important that we make quite clear the standards that are expected of franchisees and also the standards expected of those who wish to renegotiate their franchises. As the noble Lord said, there are important messages here. I want to be absolutely clear. I shall write to the noble Lord with the detail.

Lord Geddes

My Lords, can the Minister say anything about the timing of the "daughter documents?"

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I thought that that was a European phrase and I would expect the noble Lord to be well acquainted with it. The daughter documents will be out very soon; the first one on rail came out today. I hope that we shall see the document on roads before the House rises. There is a document on buses which it is important to get out soon. There is another on sustainable freight and distribution. Within the next weeks and a couple of months we shall see a great many of these documents appearing.

It is slightly more difficult as regards airports. A large-scale Statement on airport policy will have to await the outcome of the Terminal 5 inquiry because we do not wish to prejudge it. So there are issues of timing, but the main daughter documents will be out soon. The consultation document on the detail of congestion charging will also be out soon.

Baroness Ludford

My Lords, can the Minister tell us more about the thinking on integrated ticketing, particularly for single journeys? It is most welcome that the White Paper refers to the matter, but the Statement does not. Nor, curiously, does the report on consultation.

A great deal of the debate is on macro issues such as investment. But the micro issues on subjects such as ticketing have a big impact on the willingness of people such as those being asked to leave their cars at home on some days and not the whole week. Does the Minister accept that for London—which is the area I know—the people who do not travel enough to justify a travelcard find the Underground arrangements totally inadequate? We need solutions like strip cards and carnets if people are to be persuaded to travel on a one-off basis.

Can the Minister also try to dissuade London Underground enforcing its deeply resented £10 penalty fare until it can guarantee ticket machines that work and do not show "Exact money only" when one has queued for five minutes or those which say "closed"? There are also platform ticket machines and the question which arises when one changes one's mind about the destination between Zones 1 and 2. There should be carnets for Zones 1 and 2 and other convenient flexible arrangements. I believe that that is referred to in the White Paper. There is also the ability to pay by cash on horrible one-person operated buses. One cannot even buy a one-day travelcard on a bus. All these matters have a very big impact on the willingness of people to undertake single journeys. Can the Minister say more about that and whether the commission on integrated transport will look into these matters.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to identify these issues as important. In London the specifics will be a matter to which the mayor and assembly should give their attention very early on in the process. There are many things that have to be ironed out. We expect local authorities, when preparing their local transport plans, to consider the arrangements for through-ticketing and for travelcards. We shall be publishing advice on good practice because that is available. The necessary powers should be available locally to require operators to promote and participate in joint ticketing and travelcard schemes. There have been difficulties with different bus operators in some areas. It is important to get them to participate. We shall make sure that they do, so that multi-operator ticketing schemes will be available.

We are also looking to the bus industry to introduce simpler fare structures and through-ticketing, where necessary, in conjunction with local authorities. There are opportunities available because of technology. We should make the most of smart cards. We are looking with the key players in the industry both to identify the potential benefit for integrating journeys and to see exactly what role the Government should play in helping to bring forward the kinds of applications we need.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that there is a contradiction at the heart of the Statement between its accent on safety and its encouragement of the use of the bicycle? As an elderly and infirm pedestrian, I am not troubled that a motor vehicle may mount the pavement and knock me over, but I am constantly in fear of cyclists on pavements. Would it not be a good idea to insert into criminal justice legislation a provision that cycling on the pavement is a major criminal offence?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord that frantic cycling is an offence and one on which the police can issue on-the-spot fines and tickets. I appreciate the concern of pedestrians about frantic cycling and their feeling that they are vulnerable road users in relation to cyclists. However, it is important to give cyclists, who are themselves vulnerable in relation to motorcyclists or car drivers, proper safe cycle routes where they will not be a danger to those using the pavement and where they will not themselves be in danger.

The noble Lord says that there is a contradiction at the heart of the White Paper. He raised a conundrum that we must address. I refer to the fact that we do not want to see increases in cycling and walking at the expense of higher casualty rates. However, we also recognise that we shall not see those wished-for increases unless we provide a safe and secure environment in which people can use other modes of transport. That is particularly true when it comes to parents encouraging their children to walk or cycle to school. Parents will not do that unless we have made proper, safe arrangements. I mean "safe" in the broadest sense—not only in terms of road safety, but in terms of community safety also. That is why it is tremendously important to look carefully at the question of safe routes to school. It is not simply a question of lecturing people about leaving the car at home but of enabling people to do what they recognise is for the benefit of themselves and their children—and they do not do that at the moment because of the downsides.

There are some shining examples around particular schools and in particular local authorities which show that we can square the circle between safety and increased cycling and walking. We must do so, however, with the appropriate engineering and enforcement measures in place. There must also be attention to local detail.

Lord Desai

My Lords, as one who does not have a car, I greatly welcome the White Paper. Perhaps I may draw my noble friend's attention to the fact that those of us who use the buses have very different needs at different times. When travelling to work, we need speed and reliability, whereas shoppers using the buses do not need speed quite as much as they need comfortable buses on which it is easy to load their shopping and their children. Will my noble friend draw the attention of the commission on integrated transport to the fact that differently shaped buses are required at different times of the day and in different areas? I believe that that is possible with the new technology. Anyone who has seen a mother with two children and two shopping bags trying to get on to a single-operator bus will know what I mean.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I must advise my noble friend that when I shop, I certainly need speed—and not only when I go to work. But that may simply reflect the reality of women's lives! I take my noble friend's point. His concerns lie behind the challenge which my right honourable friend put today to the bus industry. There are wonderful examples of buses which are accessible to people in wheelchairs, with pushchairs or with large amounts of shopping. However, investment is needed to ensure that such buses are available to everyone and, as my noble friend pointed out, they are reliable, whatever the journey. That means giving buses priority. It means more bus lanes and better enforcement of those bus lanes.

Lord Clark of Kempston

My Lords, does the Minister realise that I am "allergic" to cyclists and that it is not a question merely of providing cycle lanes, but, as my noble friend Lord Beloff said, of preventing cyclists riding on the pavement and jumping the traffic lights?

With regard to taxation on non-residential parking, does the Minister agree that if such a charge is levied on Members of both Houses of Parliament, that will amount to taxpayers making direct payments? Presumably, for businesses, any such charge will be allowable for taxation purposes, which means that the taxpayers again will pay for that loss of corporation tax on the profits of the business. Will the Minister explain whether the money allocated to the new fund—"ring-fenced" as the Minister said—will be the gross amount or the amount net of tax?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, that detailed question shows why there has to be a consultation document on the proposals and on, for instance, the question of possible exemptions, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. On the general principle of workplace parking, I do not think that it is right that we should talk about government exemptions—quite the opposite. The Government should be leading by example. The main government departments have already been consulted on "green commuting" plans. They will be expected to draw up such plans and to consider how their workplaces can encourage sustainable transport policies. Such plans are expected to be in place by next year. All government departments will be expected to have such plans in place by the year 2000. It would be foolish of me to talk in detail about parking charges for your Lordships' House—and even more foolish to do so in connection with another place. However, any exemptions would have to be very well argued.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I welcome the Statement, and especially the fact that my noble friend has laid down the foundations for the long-awaited integrated transport policy. Does my noble friend accept that, as a cyclist, and as somebody who has never—or hardly ever!—ridden on a pavement, I feel something of an endangered species in your Lordships' House? Does my noble friend accept that although we should be encouraging cyclists to obey the law and to use the roads safely, that would come much easier if facilities for cyclists were much improved? At the moment, the behaviour of many motorists does not encourage cyclists to behave sensibly themselves.

Does my noble friend accept that her remarks on home zones have been very encouraging? I refer particularly to the fact that local authorities are being encouraged to consider whether they could adopt home zones in some of their districts. That adoption would be welcome as it would encourage parents to allow their children to play out in the neighbourhood of their own homes again rather than being cut off and not allowed to go out. If local authorities say that home zones are difficult to implement without legislation, will my noble friend consider bringing forward legislation to enable such zones to be implemented effectively?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, we need to look at this stage by stage. We are already facing quite a legislative programme as a result of the White Paper. A great deal can be achieved. If it emerges that there are gaps in the present legislative framework which make it impossible to enjoy the sort of benefits to which my noble friend referred, we would have to address them.

With regard to my noble friend's comments about cycling, it is a shame when something is always somebody else's fault. There is a shared responsibility here. Everyone has to behave responsibly. Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers all need to behave responsibly. In our review of the driving test and of the question bank for the written driving test, we are trying to ensure that more emphasis is given to alerting drivers to be aware of the needs of vulnerable road users, whether cyclists, horse riders or pedestrians. In the past, that has sometimes been neglected.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, I am glad that cycling has been mentioned. Will the Minister consider making cycling policy one of the daughter documents? At the moment, it does not appear on the list in Annex A. Cycling policy is most important. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Beloff feels that it is at the heart of the White Paper; my worry is that it is not. However, there is much scope in the White Paper and there is much that could be done. Perhaps I may remind the Minister of the words of one of the most effective Ministers of Transport we have ever had, Mr. Ernest Marples, when we were young—some of us very, very young—that it is action, not words, that counts. It is what you do, not what you say, that matters.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, the White Paper provides a long programme of action as well as a good number of words. The Cycling Strategy Group drew up targets to increase cycling and they are endorsed in the Statement. Very much in line with what the noble Lord has said, when we look at the advice given to local authorities in terms of outputs from local transport plans, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Wherever a holistic approach has been taken to transport needs in a particular area the encouragement of cycling in a safe environment has had enormous benefits both for individuals and communities. As to the role of the Highways Agency a lot more can be done to make cycling safe, even on trunk roads. That is one of the responsibilities to be taken on by the Highways Agency.

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