HC Deb 28 November 2002 vol 395 cc137-76WH

[Relevant documents: Eighth Report from the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee Session 2001–02 HC558 and the Government's response thereto CM5569.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Charlotte Atkins.]

2.30 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

When the Government came to office, it was clear that transport had not been one of the best-planned or best-organised industries on an island that is not the largest landmass in Europe. It is astonishing how frequently in the past we allowed individual industries to grow like Topsy without a clear idea of their real worth or place in society. Therefore, any Government who set out to produce a plan for the future of transport that goes up to 2010 and beyond are doing something that is desperately needed and will be widely welcomed by the industry and the public.

The then Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee set out to examine closely the Government's proposals and whether the terms of reference and resulting report had produced the results that we thought important. The final Committee report is detailed, exhaustive and critical, highlighting those areas where there are real difficulties. However, the report begins by accepting that, to have an integrated transport system, we must have a clear idea of our objectives and intentions and the timetables to which we will work to achieve the high level of contentment among the public that we all want.

The 10-year plan is based on key objectives and improving choice across all modes of transport. It seeks to reduce negative impacts. The Government set out a vision of modern, high-quality public transport; improved choice about how to travel; well maintained and larger road networks with better information; safer and more secure transport; a transport system that has less impact on the environment; and easier access to jobs through regeneration and town planning. Initially at least, the plan examined some of the difficult choices that previous Governments avoided, because transport impinges on so many areas of our lives that any Government have to take a number of very difficult decisions across the board.

We were therefore disappointed that the 10-year plan was not sufficiently balanced. It should have considered different aspects much more carefully. Why, for example, was so much of the plan predicated on a congestion model that our witnesses, almost without exception, said was flawed? Why was sufficient importance not attached to all the environmental questions, and why are the targets used not necessarily the correct ones?

Any transport plan that relies heavily on congestion targets rather than traffic growth, and does not confront the need to control or manage that growth, almost automatically avoids many very complex but urgent questions. We were not convinced that the document faced up to those arguments.

The first debate is about the car versus public transport. Our report clearly sets out that the costs of private motoring will fall substantially in the next 10 years, or in the time that the plan covers. We have the evidence to back that up. On the other hand, the costs of using public transport, if we can gauge them accurately, will continue to rise. They have already risen substantially under privatisation of the railways and other forms of transport. Frankly, that makes it much more difficult to get people out of their cars and on to public transport and to use public transport to counter social exclusion. The Government appear to be hindering, rather than helping.

The other great lacuna in the report was safety. However, I want to deal first with the argument about the private car versus public transport. This week, the Transport Committee took evidence from the Strategic Rail Authority. If I must make one strong complaint about the 10-year plan, it is about the lack of cohesion. It is strange that a Government constantly under attack for being centralising and full of control freaks who control every form of organisation do not seem to have got their basic planning right in relation to safety.

In giving evidence, the SRA made it clear that it operates to the obvious capital receipts and targets that it was given, but does not take account of the broader social interest. In some instances, it does not appear even to take account of the multi-modal studies, but is continuing along a narrow and targeted path to create change in its own interests. It is odd that in the 10-year plan the Highways Agency is expected to provide 25 per cent. of private capital for its expansion, whereas the rail industry is expected to provide 65 per cent. of its investment.

As soon as we begin to examine the detail, we discover that the original plan insisted that congestion charging schemes, which it expected to be widely available throughout the United Kingdom, would contribute substantially to the amount of money available to develop transport. Much transport planning was based on that assumption, but the Government must know that their attitude to congestion charging is not as clear as the rest of us would like it to be.

The Government wrote into the Transport Bill the right of local authorities to impose congestion charging, and included a great deal of extra cash from congestion charging schemes in their plan for transport. Yet when the Mayor of London appeared to be taking an active interest in setting up a congestion charging scheme, they were extremely careful not to back him too energetically, but did not set out their objections to the detail, interests, or objectives of the scheme. Inevitably, that will confuse those who want a clear view of where we are going.

The Government will have to accept that the 10-year plan must not simply be something set in stone that can be dragged out occasionally so that we can tell people that we have a firm plan for transport. It needs to be a rolling programme that re-examines at almost every point changes in circumstances and the requirements for investment and change brought about by factors over which Governments have little control.

The railway industry is in an extraordinary situation. Private companies that took over franchises on the assumption that they would make considerable commitments to the Treasury are no longer doing so. Indeed, in the case of the west coast main line, the incompetent assessments of the former Railtrack have led to the Strategic Rail Authority giving considerable sums of public money to two companies—Virgin and Stagecoach—on the basis of their inability to deliver the services that were promised under the original contracts. It now appears that they may also be entitled to considerable compensation on top of the writing off of their previous commitments—we are not talking about small sums—and their additional Government funding.

Only this week we were told that eight different franchises within the railway system are running on management contracts. Frankly, when taxpayers and rate payers are examining their needs for transport systems and know that they will have to foot the bill for much of the investment themselves, they will begin to ask, "As I am paying for a management system over whose assets I have no control, and as I can see no evidence of my ability to dictate the standards, speed, cleanliness or security of the services, is it justifiable to continue to shell out at the rate and in the manner that has obtained until now?"

The Government are over-optimistic about how much private funding the plan will deliver. We took evidence from local authorities that are contemplating congestion charging systems. They are not doing so at the rate envisaged in the plan, and it is not enough authorities to make a difference. Inevitably, many of the original targets in the plan will prove unworkable. We must have a detailed debate on the future of charging for road use. Alternatively, we shall have to find other ways of managing the excessive and self-defeating growth of traffic. The Government need to set about those tasks as a matter of urgency—otherwise, the investment decisions within the plan will turn out to be incorrect.

We examined the plan's gaps in great detail. Local charging schemes were the cornerstone of the transport White Paper, but the Department has now decided to downplay the contribution that such schemes will make. If we are to have 20 schemes, we would like to see more evidence of them than is currently available.

I return to motoring costs. If the Government are allowing their attitude to be dictated by fear of the Poujadists of north Wales, they are not facing up to the implications of their policy. If motoring costs were held—not increased; we did not recommend that—at their existing level in real terms, that would not impose any extra costs on motorists than they pay today, but it would begin to address the difference between public transport and motor cars. It is not good enough to tell people that they should use public transport because it has environmental and other benefits. We need first to supply the services that people require and, secondly, to assure them that using public transport will not be more expensive than travelling by their own motor transport.

We need a great deal of clarity about the linkage between regional planning at different levels and transport decisions. I am sure that some of my colleagues will want to mention that today, because there is little point in having multi-modal studies, which go in considerable detail into regional needs and planning and the desires of the population, if they are not married up with the targets of larger transport authorities. There is little evidence that integrated planning is taking place in either the Highways Agency or the Strategic Rail Authority.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud)

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way on the issue of multi-modal studies. There is at least one other hon. Member from the south-west here this afternoon. This is an excellent concept, but there has been no consultation with local areas about how their schemes could fit in. It has been very much top down. I want the tracks on the railway line from Cheltenham to Swindon to be doubled, and I am having difficulties getting the proposal back into the process. It has been left out, and now no one else wants to pick it up too willingly as a priority.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I think that the Government want to have a first-class rail system. They want to have it modernised as soon as possible, but that makes nonsense of the idea that the Strategic Rail Authority should take no account of the multi-modal studies or the targets in the 10-year plan. The SRA has already made it clear that several projects originally expected to be delivered through this plan will not be possible without new resources.

I did not intend to use this debate to talk in detail about rail services, but it is extremely worrying that as far as we can see, the enormous costs of the west coast main line have wiped out not just the budget that would have been available for modernisation but many small schemes all over the country that would have produced immediate and positive results. We are getting close to the point at which few companies in the train operating group contribute to national finance, yet taxpayers, who are still shelling out for this system, have not received value for money or any clear idea of how they will see the projected improvements that are so vital for their future. I have already said that we think that the Government are over-optimistic about the level of private funding. They seem to plan the main application of private funding for public transport because of their attitude towards roads.

This study which we undertook at the beginning of the year, accepted that the Government, for the best reasons in the world, were unable to deliver every detail of the plan that we considered essential. We gave them full marks for trying and we thought that their objectives were sensible, but frankly, that makes their failure to achieve what we seek even more worrying. The Government will have to provide a much more urgent plan, which will first need to deal with the practical problems of a transport industry that is close to meltdown. It would be bizarre in the extreme if the Government contributed to lowering motoring costs at the same time as they allowed the cost of travelling by public transport to increase. They must look urgently at a way in which the conclusions of the multi-modal studies can be integrated into the targets and delivery programmes of the transport system. Passengers are becoming increasingly irritated by the amounts of money that are going into public transport systems without seeing a positive sign of real improvements.

The Committee is most grateful to Professor Phil Goodwin for his support; it was extremely helpful to have him working on the report. We are grateful to all those who gave evidence. They represented a wide range of interests—both the general public and people working in the transport industry. We also put on record our admiration for the work done by Greg Marsden, who is one of our specialist advisers, and by the Clerks.

Having a good idea is not enough. In transport policy, knowing what will be done with an idea is rather more important. Knowing how it will be achieved, how much it will cost and, above all, what will be done when bits of it go badly wrong marks out those Governments who are successful from those who are not. This Government can be successful, but they have to deal with severe time constraints. There is disillusion among the public. The 10-year plan needs to be put into operation in the long term, but needs to be seen to be coming on stream in the short term. I hope that if there is that kind of sensitivity to the needs of the travelling public, in five years' time we will be able to produce a report that has nothing but praise for my right and hon. Friends.

2.51 pm
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) on ensuring the publication of a hard-hitting and challenging report. No doubt it was why the Minister was biting his nails, although perhaps the hon. Lady could not see that.

In considering the 10-year plan, the Select Committee's report and the Government's response, we should bear it in mind that the outcome of the plan should, among other things, be a safe, reliable and affordable public transport system. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich referred to targets and monitoring. The report's list of conclusions on page 53 states: It is … imperative that the Plan sets yearly or intermediate targets for travel conditions so that progress towards the targets for 2010 can be assessed. On page 58, it notes that the Department requires local authorities to produce interim targets for 2005 as part of the local transport plan process, but seems reluctant to come up with intermediate targets of its own. We must be able to monitor whether progress is being made so that, if it is not, action can be taken to ensure that the targets are reached within the time frame that was originally agreed.

We must look at the issue of joined-up government. The Government have set out some key objectives—tackling social exclusion, for instance—that the transport policy should be designed to achieve. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich referred to the need to look at the balance of cost in relation to public transport versus the private motor car. Although the 10-year transport plan identifies the fact that a significant percentage of the poorest households do not have cars—one assumes that the transport policy was designed to tackle social exclusion and assist the poorest people—the Government's response states: Given its central aim of improving the transport system, it is not surprising that the Plan can be expected to produce most benefit for those who travel most. I disagree with the Government. If one of their priorities is to tackle social exclusion—in other words to help people who do not have access to a car and therefore do not travel much—it is surprising that the Government's 10-year transport plan should focus on making travel easier for those who travel most rather than for those who are socially excluded.

With regard to joined-up government, we are in the middle of a Select Committee inquiry into multi-modal studies, and it is unfortunately very clear that there is no real linkage between the 10-year transport plan and the multi-modal studies. We have identified the fact that there is no money available for rail improvements or that, if they are made, they will occur at the tail end of the process, in the last couple of years of the plan, or possibly beyond 2010.

Will the Minister comment on whether there will be enough skilled people available to do the work needed? For instance, if Crossrail, which is due to be delivered by 2011, receives the go-ahead from the Government, it will require between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. of all the skilled signalling staff available. I suspect that if all the rail improvements proposed by the Government as part of the multi-modal studies were to take place during that same period, there would be no one available to do the work.

The Government say that the environment and sustainability are at the core of their decision-making process. However, it is clear from the evidence that we received that the approach of the Highways Agency is still based on predict and provide for roads and an increase in car use, rather than a more sustainable approach.

The Select Committee report identifies the Government's commitment to improve the quality of service on the tube through a public-private partnership. The summary says that that process is nine months to one year behind schedule. If Mr. Livingstone proceeds with his court challenge, it could be three, four or five years behind—that is if there is any truth in the predictions that the legal battle over the tube will not be completed until 2006.

It must be pointed out that, so far, approximately £400 million has been spent on the tube through PPP without a single new escalator, let alone a new train set being provided. However, I was pleased to hear that the Secretary of State's private office gave him a new train set today, as a birthday present. That may be the only new train set that he has to play with for some years to come.

We heard a long statement and exchange of questions about aviation today. It is worth pointing out that the 10-year transport plan assumed that the White Paper on aviation would be published by the end of this year. Clearly, that deadline will not be met: it seems probable that publication will be deferred to autumn 2003. More worryingly, there seems to be a disconnection between the Government's stated priorities on sustainability and what they are delivering on aviation, which has an almost total absence of emphasis on sustainability.

The Select Committee focused on rail freight and the clear target to increase it by 80 per cent. There has been a welcome increase in the amount of rail freight. However, that may be a case of putting all the eggs in one basket, because that increase is principally in the transport of coal. I hope that that positive increase in freight will continue, and that the coal market does not move away from rail freight.

I am concerned about the target that has been set for rail freight. There has clearly been a shift away from the 80 per cent. target, because the Government have now said that the substantial increase in rail freight will be up to 80 per cent. That could mean no increase whatever. Can the Minister be more specific about where the increase is in the range between 0 per cent.—or even a decrease—and 80 per cent.?

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich has referred to the need for a clear position statement, and David Begg from the Commission for Integrated Transport has called for leadership from the Government. We need that leadership in relation to both congestion charging and road user charging. Every time the issue of congestion charges is raised, a Minister steps up and says yes in principle, then goes on to rubbish whatever is being proposed. That is a rather soft position. No clear statement has been given on road user charging, so we have seen the spectacle of a series of multi-modal studies, each proposing something different because each made different assumptions about what the Government might do.

There is great uncertainty about the Government's ability to raise the necessary private finance for rail. My hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) will talk about that shortly. Questions remain about the Government's commitment to cutting congestion, introducing congestion and road user charging, and tackling social exclusion through their transport policy. Severe doubts remain about the Government's ability to monitor their progress and to adjust their policies if they appear to be missing the targets. After five years, transport remains the Government's Achilles' heel and I fear that the Minister's response this afternoon will do nothing to dispel that view.

3.2 pm

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

I come to the debate in a detached way. I say that because the exchanges between the Select Committee and the Government seem to pass by my area and its transport needs—needs that arise from the fact that Lowestoft and the rest of my constituency feel detached from the national transport network.

My constituency is the easternmost part of the United Kingdom. Its road and rail links to the rest of the country are very poor and anything but modern at this time of talking about modernisation. When we talk about an integrated transport policy, we just want to be integrated with the rest of the country. Lowestoft is a small to medium-sized port whose purpose is to integrate the movement of goods on land and sea. It is difficult for a port to be successful if, unlike the rest of our industries, it does not have good transport links with the rest of the country. We want modern connections to the rest of the country and we do not want to be left out or left behind.

Nevertheless, from my reading of the Select Committee report and the Government's response, the latter is more in touch with the ordinary people of my constituency and their expectations of transport than the former. The biggest failing of many of the debates on transport in this House and elsewhere is that we are presented with what I call a one-stroke policy—it is as though there is one policy for the whole country. Clearly, different parts of the country have different needs. I spend four days a week in London. Obviously, the policies needed here are completely different from those needed where I live for the remainder of the week.

Of course, transport policy must recognise environmental objectives, but we must understand that transport is the engine of the economy and that it must sustain local economies throughout the country, including in the "far east". At the moment, however, it is not doing so. An examination of the map reveals that the national road and rail network simply peters out in East Anglia, and the further east one proceeds, the worse the problem becomes. Poor transport links accentuate my constituency's geographical remoteness at the end of the East Anglian peninsula. Indeed, if we were to draw a map based on journey time, East Anglia would stretch half or two thirds of the way across the North sea, and my constituency would be at the end.

Unemployment is the key issue that we face locally. I am delighted to say that, since the Government have been in power, unemployment in my area has fallen from more than 11.5 per cent. to just 4.1 per cent. The figure fell again last month, but my area still suffers structural unemployment. The rate in most of the rest of East Anglia is 2 per cent. or below, and at 4 per cent., unemployment in my area is still above the national average. The Government recognise all that and give us all the designations that they can, including assisted area status, objective 2 funding and funding from the single regeneration budget. However, we still have structural unemployment, which is linked to low pay and deprivation. That all adds up to a weak economy.

Again and again, people in my area ask themselves, "Why us? Why are we in this position?" Labour and land are cheap, but we have lost our traditional industries. We have lost our shipbuilding, almost all of our fishing, much of our canning industry and many of the industries that sustained the town for so long. We cannot attract new industries, and existing industries find it difficult to expand and employ more people.

I cannot believe that our economic situation and our lack of jobs are not connected to our poor transport links and what I call our "disconnection". Many others feel the same way, and employers in my constituency are unanimous in claiming that the situation makes it harder for them to compete—it is the old level-playing field argument. I presume that entrepreneurs who want to start businesses have formed the same view, because we have a very low start-up rate in our area. I spend a lot of time in Westminster talking to national business leaders, telling them how wonderful the east coast is and how many opportunities there are. However, they all say, "Nice one, Mr. Blizzard, but you're a bit off the beaten track. Your area's almost a backwater, and we don't tend to look there." As we know, people cite location, location, location as an important factor in business.

Those involved in the last public examination of the regional planning guidance reached the same view. They said that transport links in East Anglia—particularly road links—were poor, and the decision makers accepted that view. Ministers say the same thing. Nearly all the Ministers who come to my area arrive late because they underestimate the time it takes to get there. When I meet them here afterwards, they say, "My God, the roads are pretty awful up your way!" or "The railways aren't very good." Everyone recognises the problem. I had lunch with one of the country's most eminent environmentalists last year, and even he said, "We need to do an awful lot on modal shift in this country, but I have to say that East Anglia needs some better transport infrastructure."

The 10-year plan contains some good statements on that issue: Good transport is essential to an enhanced quality of life, to a strong economy and to a better environment. I cannot disagree with that. The "Vision" chapter states that the aim of the plan is to boost the economic development of all regions … promote the renaissance of towns … enhance access and opportunity in rural areas … reduce social exclusion". We tend to think of East Anglia as a generally rural place, although it has sizeable towns and cities. Overall, its economy is very strong; indeed, in places such as Cambridge, it has overheated. The city is turning business away because it cannot cope. For a long time, the regional strategy has been dispersal of that economic activity to other parts of the region. However, I cannot see how that prosperity can be dispersed unless there are better transport links.

What do I ask for, as the Under-Secretary of State for Transport listens to me this afternoon? Quite a lot of effort has been put into trying to develop a good rail link to Lowestoft. The project to develop rail in Lowestoft was even mentioned in the integrated transport White Paper, because the lines are right alongside the docks. The problem, however, is that a critical mass of freight volume is needed to make the project worthwhile. There is only one company that has that volume. It did a study, and, although there was quite a lot of hope, the plan did not work economically. I wish that such rail grants as exist were a bit wider in their terms of reference, in order perhaps to make up that difference and to get the freight going. At the moment, however, the situation looks bleak.

Let me turn to roads. I recently conducted a survey of 300 businesses in my constituency, to try to establish the most important route. It turns out that the A12 is a clear priority. Those businesses employ the people who need the jobs. The results of my survey underline the folly of trying to pretend that the other trunk road in the area—the A47, which runs from Norwich to Great Yarmouth—can operate as Lowestoft's main link. Few people in my town think that it makes sense to start by going north if one wants to go to London or even along the A14. I have measured the distance, and if one wants to go to London that way, it is 16 per cent. further, which means 16 per cent. more miles, fuel and emissions. The Minister will remember me talking in a previous debate about the magnificent lift-up bridge in the middle of Lowestoft. The idea that if one lives in the south of town one will go north over that bridge in order to go south is, frankly, bizarre.

The focus is on the A12, which was de-trunked following the roads review. I personally objected to the de-trunking. However, the local highways authority, Suffolk county council, supported the de-trunking, because it felt that it could do more with the road by managing it itself. That view prevailed. Now we see what the council had in mind. It recently carried out a route study, which seems to have been conducted by asking everyone on the route what they want. If one lives on the road, it is obvious what one wants: understandably, one wants the traffic to go slower, for there to be more crossing places, and so forth. That is what the county council is coming up with. However, given that the route is necessary for the regeneration of our fragile economy, that will make things worse. Journey times will be increased, the perception of what getting to Lowestoft entails will be made even worse, and it will be harder to attract the businesses that we need. There will be fewer opportunities to overtake the ubiquitous East Anglian tractor when trying to get from A to B on time. We are now trying to get the highway authority to think again, and to make the economic needs of Lowestoft a priority, fitting in with the economic policy of the county.

If we want to satisfy the needs of people living on the roads in those villages, and to meet the needs of the economy of Lowestoft, we shall obviously have to consider some bypasses. There is a clear policy on bypasses in the 10-year plan: the Government will support them; there is funding for a number of bypasses. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to confirm this afternoon that that remains the policy, that the Government support bypasses and will consider the case for them if a highway authority puts forward a proposal in a local transport plan.

Although I mention local transport plans, I do not think that we should underestimate how much is being achieved under the 10-year plan through local transport plans. A third of the money allocated under the 10-year plan is for those local transport plans, so long as they are the right plans and command the support of local people. I assume that just because a route has been de-trunked does not mean that it cannot be upgraded. I ask my hon. Friend to confirm that.

Many studies have been made of the relationship between making road enhancements and the effect on local economies. People who do not like roads under any circumstances quote the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment report and say that it came out against making that link. I have read the report very carefully, and it does not say that at all. In fact, the writers of the report say that the result of improvements may be some modest growth in local economies, but they are not sure to what extent. The report certainly does not say that there will be none—it says that it will be modest and that further local studies need to be carried out.

Some of the research that I have conducted suggests that there are other places in this country—in south Wales, north Wales and around Hull—where road improvements have had a major impact on local economies. Other countries around the world do not seem to have such doubts on the matter; whenever they want to open up a more remote part of the country, they invest in infrastructure. My hon. Friend the Minister has been visiting some of the countries that are about to accede to the European Union, which are all investing in their transport infrastructure to improve their economic performance.

Last summer, Lowestoft lost most of its fishing industry, which gave us the opportunity to look to the future. There are three possible futures for our town: we could be a retirement town, of which there are plenty around our coasts, a dormitory or a thriving working town. The only option that offers opportunities for our young people is the latter, but to reach that point we firmly believe that we need road improvements.

The issue is one of fairness. Other parts of the country have had investment in transport, and few people in those areas regret that investment. Those parts of the country that have been left out now need attention. We do not want to be abandoned or to be dealt with by a one-stroke transport policy that says "Anything but roads."

I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to keep an eye on our campaigning with the highway authority. If and when proposals are made to upgrade the A12, I ask him to look on them favourably and take note of what I have said this afternoon. We have heard about multi-modal studies, in which much transport policy is rooted. I respect such studies and understand that we must consider these matters in a scientific way, but I urge him not to take the politics out of politics. The studies are a useful tool for prioritising schemes, but sometimes a bunch of experts go to a place and say to the local people, "You are all wrong, you don't know what you're talking about. You thought you needed that but we think this." That is dangerous, because it simply gives people another reason not to vote. If people say they want something and their Member of Parliament says, "Yes, I support that, vote for me," but they realise that even if they vote for him they will not get it because the matter has been decided by an expert, it puts another nail in the coffin of democracy.

3.18 pm
Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

The 10-year plan published by the Government got a widespread welcome, not only in this place but in the wider world, which is encouraging. It generated a lot of optimism and hope that, for the first time in a generation, we had a Government who were prepared to publish a document that moved away from the short-termism that has blighted transport policy for decades. Therefore, the general welcome for the document is well deserved.

I have the honour of being a member of the Transport Select Committee and the particular honour of serving under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), who is responsible, in no small way, for this comprehensive report. It is critical but positive and raises many important issues. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will regard the criticism in the report not as negative but as a positive attempt to move forward the agenda. I seem to recall that, in the dim and distant days of the 1997 election, and perhaps even during the 2001 election, transport policy was one of the issues on which the Government said that they wanted to be judged, so Labour Members have a vested interest in the matter.

The Government are seeking to engender a shift from use of the car to public transport. They seem to believe that giving people genuine choice about whether to use their cars or public transport will bring about the modal shift that we all want by some mechanism that I have not yet been able to identify. The vital issue is whether promoting choice will be sufficient to tackle what we all know is the core problem—the increasing dependence of the travelling public on the motor car. Personally, I do not think that it will be. Our report shows in detail why that will not be sufficient. The Government need to step back, take a deep breath, count to 10 and closely examine the report, because based on the evidence, promoting choice simply will not work and more will be required.

One of our witnesses, Professor Begg from the Commission for Integrated Transport, said that a sticks and carrots approach was required—promotion and improvement of public transport and restraint on motor car use, especially in urban areas. The Government show no signs so far of being successful in the former or having any enthusiasm for the latter. That extremely important point comes out in our report.

The 10-year plan concentrates on improvements and new facilities for transport. That is all well and good because, without those improvements, the plan will not succeed, but there is something missing. If we focus entirely on what transport provision we should approve or what new infrastructure we should provide, we will avoid forming any vision of life or of travel beyond 2010. The report clearly shows that we should not start work on a major transport infrastructure and hope for it to be completed within 10 years. As we know, most of the important rail transport infrastructure projects will be backloaded. We must consider what vision we have for our society in 2010 and beyond, but there is little evidence of that in the 10-year plan or the Government response to our report. Indeed, there is little evidence that the Government have such a vision.

Will the projects that go ahead in the 10 years of the plan be consistent with any vision for after 2010? If the Government have no vision for living and travel in our society after that time, how can they reach a judgment as to whether the schemes that are started, particularly any that are backloaded three years before the end of the plan, will have an effect beyond that time?

The report is critical of Lord Birt's refusal to attend our Committee. As hon. Members may know, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister appointed Lord Birt to head the forward strategy unit. He is particularly involved in forward strategy thinking on transport, so we asked him to attend. We said, "Come along, Lord Birt. Don't be shy. We have watched your television programmes many times," but he refused to come. The position was, in other words, "If there is forward strategic thinking, it has nothing to do with the Select Committee on Transport. Mind your own business." That cannot be acceptable, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will comment on it.

Our report points out that the Government refuse to set targets to reduce the growth in traffic. That is disappointing, and a serious omission. I hope that, in the review of the 10-year plan, my hon. Friend the Minister will reconsider that, because we must address whether we have the capacity to cater for growth. If we do not know what the growth will be, and we are not taking measures to restrain it or setting targets to adjust it, we have no chance of developing the necessary infrastructure. The result will be that no account is taken of the impact of traffic growth on quality of life and the reliability and safety of transport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich referred to costs, and I want to emphasise the increasing and alarming gap between the cost of motoring and of public transport. How on earth can we increase public transport use by 50 per cent., or whatever percentage the Government have laid down in the 10-year plan, when it is cheaper to use a motor car and more expensive to use public transport? The financial mechanism is completely the wrong way round for that to be achieved, but as yet the Government seem unwilling to consider the problem. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in evidence to the Committee that he did not intend to place unreasonable additional cost burdens on motorists.

Let me repeat the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich. We are not talking about imposing extra costs on motorists; we simply want the Government to keep the cost of motoring constant in real terms. If that happens, we have a chance, but if it does not, we have no chance. It is vital that the Government deal with the situation. If it is allowed to continue, it will benefit the better-off motorist and continue to penalise the less well-off in our society. I do not know how that squares with the Government's social inclusion agenda. I simply cannot equate the two, and I am someone who supports the Government—most of the time. The Minister needs to tell us how that apparent contradiction squares with the Government's agenda.

The 10-year plan does not keep the difference between the cost of driving and of using public transport anything like constant; it exaggerates it. We described that in the report as incomprehensible. The balance desperately needs to be restored. The basic question is this: if motoring costs will not remain constant during the 10 years of the plan—the Secretary of State has said that he is not prepared to impose an extra burden—why is it acceptable for extra cost burdens to be inflicted on public transport users? That is not an unfair question, and our report poses it.

Charging schemes are central to the plan. Some £2.7 billion from such schemes has been incorporated into the budget available for transport during the period of the plan, so it is not insignificant. At the moment, few schemes are on the drawing board or being planned. We know about the one in London and will see what happens there. However, the Government need to deal with some barriers. Local authorities and the population at large may accept charging schemes of one description or another, provided that public transport alternatives are available. At the moment, that is not the case. The Government have to ensure that public transport improvements can be provided in local areas, at least at the same time as charging schemes may be applied. My real problem with the Government is that they are too cautious. The Department for Transport is far too cautious, and ought to be more proactive in terms of charging schemes and resources for public transport.

I consider the most difficult and problematic aspect of the 10-year transport plan and its objectives to be rail. Some hon. Members have referred to freight, but I want to concentrate on passenger rail. The objective is to increase passenger kilometres on rail by 50 per cent. during the period of the plan. Some £33.5 billion of public money and £34 billion of private money will be involved in that increase in ridership. Those are enormous sums. Of course, we still hear from the SRA that they are not enough.

All the evidence that we have taken, not only during the inquiry but since the report was published, suggests that the SRA is having great difficulty levering anything like the necessary money from the private sector so that infrastructure developments can go ahead. Several billion pounds of private money have been put into rolling stock, which we welcome, but as yet I have been unable to detect a single infrastructure project that has levered in any private money. Such difficulties will increase.

The Government's transport plan and all the other plans suggest that infrastructure costs through the SRA will be based on Railtrack's cost assessments. If I dare to mention the west coast main line, that will give some idea of how silly and groundless it would be to base costs on Railtrack's assessments.

The report is deeply sceptical as to whether the Strategic Rail Authority will lever in the private money that accounts for more than half of the Government's intended expenditure on rail of £60 billion over 10 years. One of the Government's great challenges, and a problem that is a legacy of the previous Administration and the privatisation of rail, is the fact that the railway industry has been splintered and almost dismembered. That has led directly to the problems that the Government face today. In spite of the progress that has been made—and a lot has—in addressing that splintering and in putting back together and co-ordinating the railway industry, much remains to be done.

We are nearly three years into the transport plan, and as yet no private money has been levered in for infrastructure projects. If the Government and the Strategic Rail Authority continue to insist that so-called special purpose vehicles are to be the channel through which private investment will be forthcoming for infrastructure projects—although there have not been any such projects yet—they could create great problems. First, will the money be forthcoming? Secondly, will that not splinter the railway again, as we shall have up to 15 special purpose vehicles?

If the special purpose vehicles involve the train operating companies, as is intended, they will presumably be concentrated on sections of track that are of concern to a company. Would that not create a risk of repeating the splintering of the railway industry that created the problems in the first place?

There is a lot to commend the Government on, including their courage in tackling the issue. We must realise that everyone is a transport expert. Put a compulsory purchase order on someone's home and there will be a row, but paint double yellow lines and put a bus stop outside their door and you will have a revolution on your hands, Mr. Butterfill. Go into any local pub, and everyone has an answer to such problems.

The good intentions and courageous objectives laid down in the plan by the Government are in danger of not being achieved because some very important spokes in the wheel are beginning to look wobbly—in fact, some of them are beginning to come off. Unless they act decisively, not to reinvent the wheel but to put the spokes back in place, and have the courage of their convictions to tackle the issues that they know exist, the Government will not fulfil the good intentions and objectives that we all support, certainly not in the planned period, and it is difficult to think that they will do so afterwards.

Our report goes far in pointing the Government in the direction of tackling the difficulties and challenges in a positive way, and I hope that the debate will help the Minister to take the agenda forward.

3.38 pm
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) on the way in which she conducted the wide-ranging investigation that has resulted in a report that identifies what is good in transport and the importance of the 10-year plan. The report identifies the aspects on which there is lack of ambition and uncertainty of delivery. I thank the Minister and his colleagues for their response. Much has changed since the publication of the report. We now have Network Rail and a rejuvenated Strategic Rail Authority. The Government have recognised the importance of transport and the priority that they must attach to it in dealing with our communities and promoting economic regeneration. They have made major attempts to improve the situation that existed only a few months ago, but there are still areas of concern. I shall identify some of them and suggest a way forward.

The report says that important aspects of transport are omitted from the plan. One aspect is social inclusion. We need a transport policy that takes into account not only mobility and regeneration, which are important, but the needs of excluded individuals and communities so that they can participate fully as citizens in our society. It is important to remember that 60 per cent. of the poorest households have no access to a car. National figures show that 31 per cent. of the population do not have access to a car, but the situation is different in the areas of greatest need. In Liverpool, 55 per cent. of all households do not have access to a car.

We must recognise that individuals need transport to have access to employment—to get to job interviews, to get to jobs and to keep jobs. They also need it to have access to amenities such as shopping, health and leisure facilities. Transport enables people to participate fully in society, whether as workers or as citizens.

If we add that understanding to the fact that many people do not have private transport, we see the importance of concentrating on accessible and affordable public transport. We must improve bus services. In the poorest groups, nine out of 10 journeys are made by bus, something that is often overlooked.

I noted with pleasure that the Government's response to our report stated that they were in discussion with the social exclusion unit over the study of the relationship between transport and social exclusion. I welcome that, and should be interested to hear from the Minister what progress the Government have made in addressing this important aspect of social exclusion. I shall suggest to the Minister a way in which he and his colleagues can address social exclusion and regeneration and start to fulfil some of the specific promises in their 10-year plan. It is something that could be done in Liverpool at the moment on the commitment in the 10-year plan to an expansion in light rail. The plan refers to the Government's intention to double the number of journeys made by light rail and increase the number of light rail lines by about 25.

The Minister could fulfil part of that promise this afternoon by giving us the long-awaited answer to Mersey Rail's application to go ahead with the Mersey tram scheme. The scheme is extremely important. If successful, it would bring trams back to Liverpool for the first time in 50 years. Ministers are considering line 1 of a scheme that is valued at £400 million. Line 1 is valued at the bargain price of just over £200 million. The scheme would provide a link between Kirkby and Liverpool city centre, including the city centre loop. It would allow the Government in one jump to fulfil their promise to increase passenger journeys on light rail. Of the three lines, line 1 alone would lead to 9 million extra passengers per annum using light rail.

Sixty-four per cent. of households on the lines to be covered by the proposed Mersey tram have no access to cars, so it would deal immediately with social exclusion issues. Line 1 would go through six pathways areas, which have the highest concentration of social and economic need in Merseyside. There is 10 per cent. unemployment, 15 per cent. of people claim income support compared to the national average of 9 per cent., and the average household income is about £11,500 whereas the United Kingdom average is £16,000. The line would cross areas of great need in Kirkby, the 580 partnership, Queens, Stanley, Parks and Liverpool 1. It would link up with existing bus and rail services. It would provide jobs in construction and maintenance of the line and would create a link with employment areas such as the waterfront development in Liverpool and the new retail centre being built by Grosvenor/Henderson.

The scheme would link people with amenities. Along the proposed lines there are 38 primary schools, 10 secondary schools, Knowsley community college, 20 adult centres and seven libraries with special drop-in centres to encourage adults to develop their training and education. The trams would also create a link to medical facilities such as the Royal Liverpool university hospital. Supporting and approving the line would at one stroke provide excluded communities with access to jobs and amenities and help the regeneration of Liverpool and Merseyside.

The Mersey tram application has been with Ministers for some time. Time matters, because regeneration in Liverpool is well under way and we need the project to allow it to develop further in a way that benefits all people in the Liverpool and Merseyside area. It matters, too, because a significant part of the funding for the project—in addition to what we hope will come from the Government—is objective 1 money from the European Union, and there is a time limit on those funds. I appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister to give us an answer today and to ensure that it is a positive one to allow the Mersey Rail light rail system to go forward as quickly as possible.

Another area of concern in the Committee's report is economic regeneration in general. In her introductory remarks, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich referred to the lack of clarity between national decision making, regional plans, regional economic strategies, comments made by regional assemblies, plans proposed by passenger transport authorities and passenger transport executives, where they exist, and the multi-modal studies currently being put together. There is a lack of clarity not just about specific transport issues but about decisions that relate to the interaction between transport, land planning and economic regeneration. It is far from clear how those decisions are made and how they are co-ordinated.

Paragraph (r) of the Government's response to our report relates to assessment of rail transport schemes. Paragraph (r) states: All scheme proposals, including those emerging from regional transport strategies and multi-modal studies, are evaluated using generally accepted methodology … This takes full account of costs and benefits under each of the five main criteria—environment, economy, safety, accessibility and integration. I welcome that very much. However, at an evidence session held by the Select Committee on Transport only yesterday, I was most disturbed that the chief executive of the Strategic Rail Authority, Mr. Bowker—who provides a welcome lead on transport issues—appeared to be unclear about whether economic regeneration was a factor in his assessment of transport initiatives. I would like some clarification on the matter. The Government's reply to our report also causes me concern. I am unclear about where economic regeneration fits into the Government's and the SRA's evaluation of proposed transport schemes.

Mrs. Dunwoody

My hon. Friend has been rather kind to Mr. Bowker. I do not think that he said, in quite the gentle terms that she used, that there was no very clear understanding in the SRA; I think that he positively said that the SRA would not take account of the factors that she has just enunciated and that are so vital to the development that she has been talking about.

Mrs. Ellman

My hon. Friend may well be correct. I certainly felt that it was very far from clear what was happening. My hon. Friend notes that Mr. Bowker suggested that economic regeneration was not a factor in analysing the costs and benefits of particular schemes. I recall that that was what was said.

Mr. Stevenson

Does my hon. Friend find it rather puzzling that when the development of airports is proposed, economic regeneration is one of the first issues that the Government say is important, yet when it comes to railways the Government and the SRA do not seem to recognise the issue?

Mrs. Ellman

Yes. My hon. Friend's point adds even more weight to the importance of considering economic regeneration in relation to all transport measures.

If there is going to be successful economic regeneration, we need to address the importance of freight. Freight is important to the country as a whole and to individual regions. Certainly in the north-west, the need to meet freight requirements to support the expansion of the economy is being addressed. However, we are still without answers to very important questions. A freight quality partnership is operating in the north-west, yet the north-west regional freight strategy has not yet been completed.

Again, if I can refer to the comments made yesterday by Mr. Bowker, I am extremely concerned that a centralist approach is being taken. I fear that the importance of regional needs, as expressed through those quality freight partnerships and the regional development agencies, will not be seen as part of the national strategy. They will simply be seen as something additional to it, which may or may not be relevant to the decision that will be taken centrally. It is not clear what decisions are being taken about the west coast main line and the differing needs of passengers and freight. We still await an answer from my hon. Friend the Minister and, perhaps more specifically, the Strategic Rail Authority on the proposed dedicated freight route from Liverpool to northern France mainly using existing rail lines and going through the channel tunnel.

We must also look at the importance of ports and links with ports in developing freight. In particular, we must see how the port of Liverpool can be linked with improvements to trans-Pennine routes. That is especially important as we look at the potential for expanding trade with Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Has any thought been given to that in the studies in NETA—the north European trade axis? I am far from clear how local developments are being linked with national strategies and national decisions.

It is also important to look at the contribution that airports such as Manchester airport and the expanding and increasingly successful Liverpool John Lennon airport can make. We need to look at the contribution that can be made by road, rail, airports and ports and the links and integration between those different modes. I feel unclear about how that is to be addressed. I would feel much more confident if we had a directly elected regional assembly with the powers to work with the Government in co-ordinating national needs and regional interests.

I recognise the renewed importance that the Government have attached to transport issues. I recognise the care that they are taking to implement the recommendations in the 10-year transport plan. It is important that the Government continue to be conscious of the importance of transport to economic regeneration and for those who are socially excluded. They must look at the national interest while recognising that regions and localities are intrinsic to it.

3.58 pm
Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman). I hope at the end of my speech to echo some of the points that she made about the lack of integration of planning and decision making. She made a thoughtful speech and I listened to it with great interest.

I also congratulate the Chairman and members of the Select Committee on an excellent report. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson) said that everyone considers themselves to be a traffic expert. I strongly recommend that he does not come to my meeting with the Bath chamber of commerce tomorrow, when I suspect I will be confronted by 200 people who are all traffic experts. The advantage that the Committee has is that it can call expert witnesses, and the Committee's analysis of some of their comments is helpful to all hon. Members, not just those who are here today.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made a rather muted speech. She has been much more coruscating in the past about Government policies. She was right to set out at the beginning her praise for the Government in that they at least had a plan that looked to the future and had a set of aims and objectives. After all, if there had not been such a plan we would not be having this debate today. As the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South pointed out, there is much to criticise in the plan. However, he implied that he supported some aspects of it, which the Committee has said it also supports. We also support several elements of it. Inevitably, in a debate such as this, we tend to concentrate on areas of disagreement, but I would not want it thought that there were none.

As the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside appropriately said, it is right to have a plan with aims and objectives. I also fully support her comment that this needs to be the basis for a rolling plan, and we need to look forward to the future. I hope that the Minister, in his winding-up speech, will comment on the Government's intention to reconsider the changes to the 10-year transport plan.

As I said, there were, rightly, several criticisms about various aspects of the plan. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South described it as a wobbly wheel whose spokes were coming off. Having listened to the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard), I suspect that he would be grateful for any wheel whatever in his constituency, however wobbly it might be. Members of the Select Committee expressed concern about the unbalanced nature of the plan and its failure to address the management of traffic growth as motoring costs fall and public transport costs rise.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside and others were right to be critical of the Government's failure to give a clear signal about where they stand on congestion charging and road pricing. Given the latest announcements about the continued growth in congestion on our roads, it seems odd that the only real response from the Government was to announce that we will have a congestion tsar. So much for a Government seemingly obsessed with targets—we now seem to have one that is increasingly obsessed with tsars of one sort or another. I note with interest that since September this year alone, a London schools tsar, an anti-spam tsar and an emergency medicine tsar have already been announced. We are now to have a congestion tsar.

As other hon. Members said, we need seriously to consider how we will address the problem of congestion on our roads, using the carrot and the stick. We are all aware of the figures, although some of them may not have the firmest of economic foundations. We all know that some people would argue strenuously that congestion on our roads is costing British businesses from between £15 billion and £20 billion a year, a figure that is rising. We also know that it is causing the nation significant health problems: large numbers of people are suffering as a result of air pollution from congestion on our roads. In many of our cities, traffic speeds are slower than they were in the time of carts and horses in the Victorian era. Clearly, we need to address those problems and must be prepared to offer bolder and more radical solutions.

Sticks must be used in the form of congestion charging and road pricing. However, I hope that those who have already talked about this will agree that we should introduce those sticks only where alternative "choices", as the 10-year plan calls them, are available to the people who will be affected. In an area where congestion charging is to be introduced, it is vital to have high-quality, safe, reliable and affordable public transport alternatives. Such a choice must be available first. It is therefore important that the Government and all political parties have now seen that some of the cruder measures designed to manage traffic growth are not right.

In the past, we might simply have suggested massively slapping up the cost of fuel. In reality, that would hit everyone in all sorts of circumstances, especially those people in remote rural areas without the alternative of high-quality public transport, who would lose out. That is why increasingly it is right to focus on measures that address the specific problems of congestion and the pollution that it causes.

It is important that the Government give clearer signals as to where they stand on the sticks now available under the Transport Act 2000, which are frequently referred to in the 10-year transport plan. If we are to improve the availability of safe, reliable and affordable public transport, we need a clear indication of the level of financial support other than that likely to be achieved through the fare box.

The Select Committee is concerned about the clarity of the Government's intentions on funding. Much is made of the £180 billion in the 10-year transport plan, but we all know that in the first two years under the Labour Government, the amount invested in public transport was less than under the previous Conservative Government. Further analysis of the alleged £180 billion makes apparent the smoke and mirrors behind the calculation of the figures. Under the current price base, the £180 billion becomes £157.6 billion. Taking out the amount spent on public resource expenditure leaves only £103 billion for new investment, of which £48 billion depends on the private sector, thus leaving only £55 billion of committed public investment. Comparison in real terms with the amount provided by the previous Conservative Government reveals that, although the funding is welcome, we are gaining only £1 billion a year more. We have to ask questions about the hype surrounding the amounts that the Government have announced.

The Minister has an opportunity today to clarify some of the confusions that remain. He will be well aware of doubts about the moneys available to different bodies and the letters of comfort provided to various companies developing bids to become infracos on the London underground.

Particular concerns have also been voiced about the status of Network Rail. The Liberal Democrats are delighted that the Government moved from Railtrack—a monopoly body torn by conflict between passenger safety and shareholder profit—to a public interest company through which profits will be fed back into the system. We genuinely welcome that and we proposed it some time ago. However, the new body's funding seems increasingly unclear. Is Network Rail's £21 billion budget on or off the Government's balance sheet? A row is now developing between the auditors and statisticians about where Network Rail fits. I understand that it is to borrow money in the public market on the basis of Government guarantees. One would have thought that that meant accounting on the Government's account books, but some people are arguing against that. We need clarity, so I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Some additional moneys will become available, so the crucial point is where and how they will be spent. Many people, including myself, can stand up and make a case for various projects in their local areas. The hon. Members for Waveney and for Liverpool, Riverside have rightly done so. I do not ask a great deal for my area—perhaps a decent public transport system with some Government support, the opening of Corsham station just outside my constituency, and sorting out the problems of Freshford station within it. The list is endless, but one thing is clear: there is a lack of clarity about who is taking the decisions and who can influence them. What will be the role of the regional assemblies and elected regional government in the future?

As other hon. Members have said, we are confused about why the Strategic Rail Authority's thinking is not linked to the multi-modal study's work. I go a stage further and suggest it is bizarre that today there was a statement on airport expansion, but in the consultation documents there was little or no reference to the role of the Strategic Rail Authority and the work that will be necessary to improve surface transport access to existing and planned new airports. There is a lack of integration in many of the projects and some rather strange thinking by those who take the decisions.

I welcomed the Government's recent announcement of improvements on our roads to deal with what they call "pinch points". I am not a great believer in huge new roads being built all over the country but it is common sense to build improved roundabouts and so on to provide better access to roads. Why is there such thinking in relation to roads but not to the railways? A great deal of money is being locked into the west coast main line and the Government have not yet placed a cap on public expenditure on that project. We should be thinking much more smartly about the sort of small improvements that improve the capacity of the existing network—measures such as putting in an odd little siding in a loop system so that a slow train can get out of the way of a fast train and then return to the main track.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich touched on rail safety and how it can be improved along with improvement to network capacity. There is a problem because Lord Cullen said that advanced train protection must be in place on all trains by 2008 and be operational by 2010. However, if the current basic ATP was introduced, it would not do a great deal to improve safety and it would do nothing to help with track management and greater track utilisation. It might be better to wait for the European rail traffic management system—ERTMS—level 2 which will come a few years later, but that would mean admitting that Lord Cullen's requirements will not be met and having a genuine, open public debate about it. It worries me enormously that the Health and Safety Executive website states that it is having a quiet little consultation on the subject, but the public has not been notified. There has not been an opportunity for wide-scale involvement in a very important consultation.

It concerns me deeply that 63 recommendations made by Lord Cullen either have not been met, or, if they have, no one has told anyone that they have been met. Some of them are probably not very sensible recommendations and there may be good arguments for changing or dropping them, but we need to be told what they are and when the remaining recommendations will be implemented. I hope that the Minister will say something on the important issue of safety.

I am worried that lots of deadlines are being missed, whether they are on safety targets to which my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) referred, targets in the 10-year transport plan or targets for the public service agreements agreed by the Department with the Treasury. Of seven key targets, it is worth reporting that the Government have failed to meet four.

The Committee should dwell long and hard on the crucial matter raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside, namely how the decision-making processes on these matters need to be much more closely and effectively linked. The hon. Lady referred to the difficulty not only in linking together the various transport bodies but in linking transport with planning issues. There is huge fragmentation when it comes to taking decisions. I entirely support the Government's aspiration to develop integrated transport, but if they are ever to do it, there must be integrated thinking about the development of integrated transport.

I ask the Minister to reflect on how many different bodies have been set up by the Government and the industry with the sole job of looking at creating integrated transport. The list is lengthy and it includes the Commission for Integrated Transport. I worry about the failure to integrate thinking on these issues.

I end on a positive note: not all is doom and gloom and some real improvements are being made but there are some areas of difficulty. For example, more secure stations are needed, although none could be more secure than Bath Spa station at 4 am on Monday. A group of my constituents had set off from Paddington at 9 o'clock the previous evening. The first two trains were cancelled and the next one was massively delayed. It then stopped in Reading, where the group had to change. Having set off at 9 pm on Sunday to make the 90-minute journey to Bath Spa, they eventually arrived at 4 o'clock the following morning. When they reached their destination, they discovered that the station was truly secure, because all the doors were locked and there was no way out. Those constituents were very angry. Stations are, therefore, secure.

I hope, Mr. Butterfill, that you will have the opportunity to see the work being carried out by Journey Solutions, which has put together one of the more exciting integrated transport schemes. Under that scheme one can, at long last, go into certain railway stations to buy a railway ticket and buy a bus ticket at the same time. It has taken us a long time to reach that point.

4.15 pm
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

I welcome this debate and am delighted to participate in it. I do not wish to disappoint my former colleagues on the Transport Committee and so will declare an interest at the outset. My husband is an airline executive, and I have interests in BA, BAA, Railtrack, First Group, Eurotunnel and the RAC.

I congratulate the Select Committee, and its Chairman, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) on this excellent report. I hope that she will forgive me for a little bias, as I was a member of the Committee. I believe that it was one of the hardest-working Committees during the last Session, and that we achieved a huge amount. I was delighted to participate in its work.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am delighted to tell the hon. Lady that we miss her on the Committee. She worked hard and was a useful member. We also miss her because of her marvellous declaration of interests, with which we started every meeting, and of which we are now sadly deprived.

Miss McIntosh

Perhaps I can send a framed copy of the relevant page of this debate to the hon. Lady.

I congratulate the Committee and its members on this timely report, which is a comprehensive and constructive appraisal of the 10-year transport plan.

I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I say that this is now a downgraded plan from a downgraded Department. We noticed, with some interest, that we have had three Secretaries of State for the almost three years of the plan. Many now see the 10-year plan as a 10-year sham.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, mentioned smoke and mirrors. I prefer to speak of announcements and re-announcements. I will not list all the dates of the relevant press releases, but the investment in infrastructure and capacity has been announced five times since December 1999. Opposition Members are therefore a little cynical about re-announcements.

On page 20 of their response to paragraph (hh) of the Select Committee report the Government state: We will publish a first report on progress on delivery of the 10 Year Plan in the autumn. Will the Minister tell us where that report is? He said that it would be published this autumn, but there is less than a month to Christmas. It is less than a month to the winter solstice and we still see no sign of that first progress report.

The targets lie in tatters and the funding is clearly insufficient.

Mr. Stevenson

I recognise the expertise of the hon. Lady, and her input into the work of the Select Committee and this report. I am intrigued that she mentions funding. Is she about to tell us whether, if her party came into government, it would commit itself to the funding that the Government have committed to, or whether it would cut it?

Miss McIntosh

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait for another opportunity. It will not be too long before we set out our stall, but he will forgive me if I do not take the opportunity to do so. Perhaps by the spring solstice we will have more information, so he should watch this space.

Has the Minister seen the details of trade routes circulated to all right hon. and hon. Members who have an interest in transport? They could be an alternative 10-year strategic plan, setting out investment priorities for the road and rail networks. Can he respond to them?

The Government's proposed funding is £180 million, made up of both public and private cash. The hon. Member for Bath made a point about the off-balance sheet liability of Network Rail, which will apparently be £21 billion. I wait to hear from the Minister the implications of that for transport spending. Hon. Members will have had the opportunity to study the Red Book this week. Of the total budget for the current financial year of £420 billion, only £12 billion is to be spent on transport. By my calculations, that is approximately 3 per cent.

The Government's original funding programme would have provided £60 billion for railways, of which £7 billion probably had to be accounted for twice as it would have gone to the railways anyway to make up private sector commitments. There was £60 billion for roads and £60 billion for local transport. A target was set to increase significantly rail's share of the freight market by 2010, which meant an increase of 80 per cent. in rail freight.

As hon. Members who serve on the Select Committee will recall, we learned in the context of other reports that those targets were way off beam. For six months, transport through the channel tunnel was disrupted between 9 pm and 3 am. Indeed, a paragraph of the report is devoted to that. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich will recall that that disruption was ongoing when our report was published. I record again my sincere disappointment at the failure of the Department for Transport and other Departments to raise that subject with the French authorities. Our constituents, such as Potters of Melmerby in the Vale of York, EWS, the Freight Transport Association and others lost vast sums of money in that regard.

The Minister must accept that putting Railtrack into administration destroyed, in one swift move, the confidence of private investors much wealthier than myself who might have wanted to invest in rail projects in future. The greater the risk, the higher the cost. We have discussed the £21 billion off-balance sheet liability for Network Rail.

Mr. Stevenson

Is the hon. Lady seriously trying to convince hon. Members that if Railtrack had been left alone and no action had been taken, its obvious success since its establishment by the previous Government would have seen us through?

Miss McIntosh

This is not the occasion to go over the history; we could spend the entire afternoon on it. In a spirit of constructive criticism, we should try to move forward.

Of the Government's projected investment in the railways, 50 per cent. should come from private finance. In the first two years of the 10-year transport plan, we have seen nothing like that level of funding. The Minister might contradict me this afternoon, but I have not seen a level of investment to convince me that, having been so low over the first two years, it will recover over the remaining period.

Tom Brake

Does the hon. Lady agree that one of the best ways in which to unlock the private investment for a project such as Crossrail is for the Government to indicate their support?

Miss McIntosh

I am coming to the lack of Government transparency over which projects they support.

My comments on a previous Select Committee report, which recommended the establishment of an independent rail accident investigation board, apply here too. That would go a long way towards satisfying both investors and rail passengers. It is some time since Lord Cullen made that recommendation. Perhaps the Minister has an announcement on the point this afternoon.

The target was to increase rail passenger use to 50 per cent. above 2000 levels by 2010. However, the SRA has announced a disappointing reduction in the duration of rail franchises from the revised—increased—20 years to six or eight years. Mindful of the fact that the original franchise holders said that seven years was not long enough for them to see a return on their investment, I record my disappointment in that reduction.

The words of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) on bus use struck a chord with me, as I represent a rural constituency. There are pockets of rural poverty in the Vale of York that have insufficient public transport, particularly buses. I am disappointed that we have lost one route from Rawcliffe and Skelton into York, because buses are a potential answer to a problem with which we have become familiar during the first term of this Government—social exclusion. The Government hope to see bus use increase by 10 per cent. over the 2002 levels by 2010. How can they claim that that is achievable when, under Labour, bus use across England has declined outside London, Birmingham and eastern England? Perhaps the Minister can square the equation this afternoon.

Mr. Stevenson

The hon. Lady raises some important points. She mentions the success of bus passenger ridership increases in London, which is still regulated. Is she arguing for a re-regulation of bus services in the rest of the country?

Miss McIntosh

No. I pray in aid the rather inadequate evidence that the Committee heard in a separate inquiry from the Office of Fair Trading. I believe that the jury is still out. That is a separate debate, and I hope that we can return to it.

On road congestion, Trafficmaster this week judged that road journey times had increased by an average of 16 per cent. since 1998, but that the increase was more than 30 per cent. on the busiest stretches of motorway. As the Daily Telegraph reported on 26 November: The analysis, by the driver information group Trafficmaster, showed that delays had risen much faster than the increase in traffic, suggesting that the knock-on effects of network bottlenecks were worsening. Perhaps the Minister would care to answer that one.

The congestion in London is familiar to all hon. Members and members of the public. It has worsened in anticipation of congestion charging. What is the response of the Secretary of State? It is to announce a traffic tsar. That was the subject of the lead article on the front page of the Evening Standard, also on 26 November. If the Government are minded to introduce the concept of a traffic tsar, why was it not deemed suitable at the time of the creation of the office of London Mayor, or when setting up Transport for London? All future applications for permits to dig up the road or to do any repairs will have to be made through the tsar. That adds an extra tier of bureaucracy. Who will it be? When will he or she be appointed? The measure was not in the Queen's Speech, and perhaps the Minister can tell us when parliamentary time will be made available for the necessary primary legislation. How many tsars will there be? Will there be one for London, one for Birmingham and one for Manchester? Perhaps the Minister can satisfy our curiosity.

The original 10-year plan also set targets for walking and cycling, and hon. Members will recall that I am keen on both. I simply make a personal plea to the Minister, whose attention I crave at this point. Will he dispense with staggered crossings, such as that outside 4 Millbank? I notice that some Ministers, although not this one, do not deem it appropriate to use that crossing.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich spoke of the important relationship between local transport plans and multi-modal studies, regional planning priorities, as expressed in regional transport strategies, and projects under the 10-year plan. That struck a chord with hon. Members and with the Select Committee, and I want to add another issue. We should consider the implications of the road de-trunking programme, which is due to be completed by the end of March 2003. Will the Minister tell us when financing for de-trunked roads will be fully integrated into local authorities' budgets? I gather that that will not coincide with local authorities taking up their new responsibilities for those roads. It will be interesting to hear about that.

In paragraph (cc) of the report, the Committee states: We reiterate our concern that it is impossible to tell whether the Plan is on target, if it merely consists of a series of aspirations for 2010 and little detail on how we shall achieve them from the current position. The Minister must be able to see for himself and to understand the increasing anxiety on the part of industry, those involved in transport operations and even the businesses whose goods are transported. They are anxious about the Government's commitment and ability as regards delivering the 10-year plan. Will the Minister respond to their anxiety by giving us a date for the announcement of investment decisions and a timetable for implementation? Most schemes have a seven-year lead time for completion, so that information is vital to the transport industry.

Out of interest, can the Minister name any project that was started and completed in 2001? Most of the projects carried out in the first two years of the Labour Government were in fact holdovers from the outgoing Conservative Government, who agreed them, and no road projects were undertaken for the next two years.

As the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich and the Select Committee report have made clear, the question is not just how much money is available, but which budget it comes from. At a recent conference, Dennis Roberts, the head of the Road Transport Directorate, quoted some expenditure figures. He said that there was £36 billion for road maintenance, £21 billion for road schemes, £11 billion for light rapid transport and other local transport, £13 billion for buses, coaches and rail rolling stock, £52 billion for rail infrastructure and £25 billion for London. That raises several questions. How and over what time scale will money for road maintenance be allocated and spent? How will the £21 billion for the road schemes, the £11 billion for light rapid transport and the money for buses and rail be allocated? What budget will the money come from?

In paragraph (dd), the Select Committee concluded: two years into the Plan, there are still very few details about the results of the multi-modal studies … The Committee recommends that the Government establishes a multi-modal study delivery fund to ensure a co-ordinated approach to delivering the solutions proposed". Are the Government minded to agree to that request? In paragraph (ff), the Select Committee points out: The Government is over-optimistic about how much private funding will be delivered in the Plan. I tell the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson) that I am not alone in thinking that. The Select Committee was in agreement.

In paragraph (gg), the Select Committee points out very poignantly that the current skills shortage is likely to impede delivery of the 10 Year Plan". The strategic road network excepted, most of the new projects put forward in July 2000 are already behind schedule. The budget for completing the work proposed by the multi-modal studies must be set aside to ensure that the recommended balance of schemes is constructed. That was a request from the Select Committee. Is the Minister minded to agree it?

In the spirit of co-operation and constructive criticism, echoing the conclusions of the excellent Select Committee report, I request that the Government satisfy the need of the travelling public and industry for more details about the plan. That should include timetables for the construction of new projects, greater clarity and transparency and, above all, delivery of their projects. I commend the Select Committee report to the House, and hope to have provoked a more adequate response from the Minister.

4.36 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) on the work of the Select Committee and on securing the debate. She not only secures debates directly through her work on the Select Committee on Transport, she even gets the Liaison Committee to secure debates.

As usual, my hon. Friend presented her arguments extremely robustly and powerfully. I believe that that is how things should be in Select Committees. Having served on one, I think that it is quite proper that Select Committees have robust views. Sometimes they challenge the Government's views, because that is their role. I do not know why the media were so surprised in the summer when the Select Committee came out with a number of criticisms in its report. Is it not the Select Committee's role to do just that?

The importance of the 10-year plan was widely acclaimed on its publication. The Select Committee report described the 10-year plan as a "crucial step" towards implementing the Government's integrated transport policies. Introducing a long-term investment plan that works across all transport modes was a major step forward. I think that that was recognised both by the Committee and in a number of speeches today. What was needed was a plan that continued beyond a single Government term and a long-term programme that could give the industry the necessary certainty to plan ahead and invest. That is what the 10-year plan gave.

I wish to respond to some of the points made about training and skilled people. The ability to plan in the long term gives companies the opportunity to train people to do the job. We have moved on from the stop-go of the past, when there was no certainty. The plan sets out a programme of more than £180 billion of public and private investment over 10 years. That is an unprecedented commitment in this country. I have heard nobody—certainly in this debate—express the view that long-term planning is bad for transport. The transport industry and those on whom we depend to implement the improvements certainly welcomed the plan. In their delivery plans, they have been able to set out how the investment mentioned in the 10-year plan will be used to deliver the plan's objectives.

Naturally, people will criticise some of the choices. Different people have different priorities, some of which have been reflected in the debate. There will always be difficult choices and differing opinions. However, that is not to say that we tear up the plans and go back to the drawing board every time we hear a criticism.

The plan needs to evolve. We need to take account of events and new pressures, and to review the plan in the light of progress. That is what the Select Committee asked us to do. Its report will be useful, and we are taking careful note of what it says in conducting the current review. I am sure that we all want to achieve the same things. When I read the Select Committee report, as opposed to reading its coverage in the newspapers, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much the Government and the Select Committee seem to agree on. I shall try to pick up the important points raised by those members of the Committee who have contributed to the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich raised the issue of congestion charging, which, as she said, was provided for in the Transport Act 2000. Of course, we are carefully monitoring how congestion charging unfolds in London. It is up to the Mayor to make the scheme the success that we hope it will be. The detail of what the scheme does is important, but it is also important that local authorities, in conjunction with their communities, work out what sort of scheme they want on the basis of the particular needs in their areas, which they know best.

My hon. Friend asked about the possibility of a rolling programme and regular updates. We will certainly provide those, but we will not contemplate a fundamental rewrite, because that would create more unwelcome uncertainties.

Hon. Members have asked when the progress report will be published. We said that it would be published in the autumn. Climate change has given us a mild autumn this year, so autumn is not yet over, and the report will be published shortly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich also raised the important matter of the comparison between public and private transport costs, and the plan made certain assumptions about that. In the light of experience, however, those assumptions may be wrong, because several issues, such as the price of oil and the price of cars, are not under the Government's control. Some 20 per cent. of the funding outlined in the plan—vast sums—will go to subsidise public transport.

Mr. Stevenson

As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, over the past few years, the cost of public transport has increased by 40 per cent. while the costs of motoring have decreased by 20 per cent. Under the Government's plan, that gap is due to widen over the next 10 years.

Mr. Jamieson

That is exactly why we are providing extra funding to subsidise public transport. Many of the schemes that we have been encouraging as part of the urban and rural bus challenges will help local authorities to meet some of the demands in their areas and to provide services at a reasonable cost.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jamieson

Let me finish answering the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson).

Some of that subsidy has been in the form of payments to operators and concessionary fares, which have been welcomed, especially in areas where there were previously no concessions for elderly and disabled people.

Mrs. Dunwoody

What concerns the Select Committee is that that is fundamental to the whole plan, and that if we get it wrong, the rest will not matter. The Department appears to accept that the cost of public transport will increase and the cost of private transport will decrease. If that is so, how does it fit with the objectives of the 10-year plan?

Mr. Jamieson

The ambition of the 10-year plan is to ensure that public transport is more widely used. Bus and rail patronage is growing. In an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) said that the multi-modal studies are very much top down. I contest that, because the feedback from those involved in the studies suggests the opposite. They welcomed the chance to work together, with one highways authority working with another, and the Highways Agency and other parties working with the appropriate Government offices. That has been welcomed on the ground, and people have regarded the process as bottom up rather than top down.

Mr. Don Foster

I do not want to speak for the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who is not in his place, but the Minister should be aware that many local people feel that huge holes were left in the consideration of the south-west multi-modal study. The Minister should be aware that we had to set up a greater Bristol study to fill the huge hole in the previous study.

Mr. Jamieson

If local people did not feel involved, it was the responsibility of local authorities to involve them. The process was being undertaken for the first time and it may have some imperfections, from which we shall learn, but it is wrong to say that it was top down—it was very much bottom up. Those who were best placed to recognise local needs were those on the ground who were most involved in the process.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) said that I was biting my nails. I may have been nibbling my fingers as I tried to keep myself awake during his contribution. He referred to the skills shortage, which is very real, and we have been working closely on that with our colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills. It is a problem throughout the transport industry, but that is the result of having such a successful economy and low unemployment. It is difficult to recruit people of quality for the entire transport area and for other industries. That is a by-product of having such a successful economy.

I always listen carefully to the hon. Gentleman, but in his assessment of the plan today he at no point told us his party's views. I look forward to hearing about his party's alternatives, either from him or from the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster).

Tom Brake

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jamieson

The hon. Member for Bath is wafting round a large document, which may be a collection of focuses or a plan in embryo.

Mr. Don Foster

The Minister will be well aware that the Liberal Democrats published detailed documents about our policies. We are simply delighted that the Government adopted one of our polices in moving from Railtrack to Network Rail. They adopted another with the proposal to reduce the number of rail franchises, and another with regard to the rail regulator and safety regulation. We look forward to many more of our policies being adopted. I am sure that the Minister regularly delves into our documents, because he is forever using our policies.

Mr. Jamieson

We must have powers of clairvoyance if we are adopting Liberal Democrat policies without even seeing them.

Tom Brake

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jamieson

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington also referred to aviation, and I noticed his antipathy towards increasing people's ability to fly. We take careful note of that, in fact, because several things that he has said in the course of several debates suggest that it is Liberal Democrat policy to reduce people's ability to fly on their holidays. If I have got that wrong, he may like to tell me so.

Tom Brake

I am happy to respond. We have made it clear that, for reasons of sustainability, demand management would be appropriate for aviation. As for Liberal Democrat policy, we are discussing the Select Committee report. If the Minister would like to know what recommendations he should be implementing in relation to the 10-year transport plan, he should look at the recommendations at the back of the report.

Mr. Jamieson

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned congestion charging. He might want to find out whether his Liberal Democrat colleagues on councils are interested in bringing forward proposals for their areas; I am not sure that we have received many from Liberal Democrat councils. If he is enthusiastic about congestion charging, perhaps he will tease some of his colleagues along. He is now going to tell us about the Liberal Democrat councils undertaking such schemes.

Tom Brake

The Select Committee made it very clear that it requires leadership from the Government on the question of congestion charging. The Minister has said that he is monitoring what is happening in relation to London. Is that the leadership that he is providing?

Mr. Jamieson

The Liberal Democrat party talks about devolution. Now the hon. Gentleman tells us that the Government should instruct local authorities to go ahead with congestion charging. If he wants such charging, perhaps he should go back to some of his colleagues on local councils, who, I must say, show rather less enthusiasm for it—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman will stop barracking for a moment and listen, I shall tell him that Liberal Democrats on councils show less enthusiasm for congestion charging than Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament do. But there we are; we live and learn. Perhaps once the hon. Gentleman has had a little tour around the country and talked to some of his colleagues on councils, he will come back and inform us afresh. He asked about progress on increasing rail freight. In 2001–02—just one year in the 10-year plan—freight increased by 9 per cent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) made a studied and helpful contribution. He is a breath of fresh air in any debate in which he participates, and he has spoken particularly powerfully on behalf of his constituents. However, in doing so, he also spoke for many others, and he has made a useful speech. He talked about the need for links to ports, which are very important; falling unemployment in his area; and the contribution that good transport systems can play in reducing unemployment and creating investment. He also made a good point about the importance of various Government schemes in his area that have improved employment prospects.

A number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman), made a good point about transport and its contribution to regeneration in urban areas. In the foreword of the 10-year transport plan, the Deputy Prime Minister said: The Plan will ensure that transport plays its full part in delivering our wider objectives, contributing in particular to the renaissance of our cities". A paragraph in chapter 3 referred directly to social exclusion and contained some of the figures that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside used. I shall not labour the point, as the subject has come up a number of times. Paragraph 8.3 says: Improvements to the transport network will bring other economic benefits. They will open up new and expanded markets for business generally, stimulating competition and potentially contributing to faster economic growth. Better transport infrastructure can also play a major role in supporting regeneration programmes and access to new jobs, at both regional and local levels. I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South now that I have finished quoting.

Mr. Stevenson

The look on the Minister's face betrays his knowledge of the provocation. If what he says is so, why does the Strategic Rail Authority show through its approach that it does not have the first idea about economic regeneration?

Mr. Jamieson

What I am saying, through the quotation, is that the Government think that improvements in our transport system are vital to regeneration. That is our confirmed view. I was not at yesterday's hearing, but I shall look very carefully at the contributions that were made. If there is any more joining up of various sections of government to be done, debates such as this are always helpful.

Mrs. Ellman

I note with pleasure the commitment to include social inclusion in transport and regeneration plans, but can the Minister tell me when the Government will approve Mersey tram's line 1?

Mr. Jamieson

If my hon. Friend could be a little patient, I shall come to that. Who knows? There might be good news for her. I want to finish replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney and I shall then answer her question.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney referred to his surveys of businesses' views on the A12, soon to be de-trunked. I am pleased to see the work that he has done and the interest that he is taking on a matter of such great importance to his constituency, and I assure him that de-trunking in no way inhibits a local authority from including in its local transport plans further improvements to such a road.

My hon. Friend also mentioned bypasses. Where bypasses are appropriate and meet all our targets, and will improve local traffic and conditions for people living in congested areas, such as narrow villages, the bypass programme will go forward. His point on bypasses was well made. He asked us to keep an eye on his local schemes; in fact, he will not allow us to take our eye off them, because he is a regular correspondent with the Department and often catches my ear around this House. He also mentioned multi-modal studies and the importance of regional balance. We share his concerns on those matters.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South is a very distinguished and valued member of the Select Committee, and has made a considerable contribution to the House over a very long period. Few of us could aspire to make a contribution of the quality that he has made over the years. He said that he hoped that we would view the report's criticisms positively. That is how I see them, as my opening remarks made clear. He rightly quoted David Begg's comments on the stick and the carrot. We want to improve public transport, but my hon. Friend also mentioned restraints on the private motor car and the cost of the car as against public transport—the point that I have just made.

My hon. Friend's most powerful points were those about social inclusion—points that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside also made powerfully. Yes, of course our plans must focus nationally and, particularly, at local level on including some of the people who have no access to the private motor car. Some 40 per cent. of my constituents have no access to private motor cars. Outside London and the south-east, it is often the bus, rather than the railway, that is important to such people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South will know that we have made many more resources available, for example through the urban bus challenge. We allocated £46 million to the scheme between 2001–02 and 2003–04. Looking at the schemes that have been approved under the urban bus challenge, it is interesting to see how many are using funding to assist people with poor access to transport in general. The schemes are helping people in outlying areas where jobs have disappeared and where transport is needed to access jobs that have appeared elsewhere. Schemes have also been set up to get people to health centres and hospitals and to help people with disabilities. The demand bus is perhaps more appropriate in the more outlying and scattered places around the suburbs and in rural areas. I noticed that Stoke-on-Trent was one of the winners in the 2001 competition and received nearly £750,000 for its dial-a-ride service, which was welcome to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Stevenson

Does the Minister share my view that subsidies, no matter where they come from—whether from local transport plans, the urban bus challenge or elsewhere—cannot in themselves solve the problem? Does he agree that the bus companies involved should take a more proactive view of marketing, risk taking and developing networks, and should regard subsidies as a starting point rather than an open-ended commitment whereby money is poured in and nothing really develops?

Mr. Jamieson

Indeed. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is considering with others how we can make better use of subsidies for routes that, although insignificant in terms of profit making, are vital to certain communities. We are very much aware of the issue, and my right hon. Friend will make known the group's thoughts in the near future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside made a thoughtful contribution in which, like my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney, she spoke powerfully on behalf of her constituents. I felt that she spoke also for mine and for those of many other hon. Members. She recognises many of the improvements that have been made, and I am grateful to her for that. She spoke powerfully about social exclusion issues, which are desperately important to her in relation to her constituency. Great strides are being made in her area. When I visited it some years ago as a member of a Select Committee—the then Select Committee on Education—I saw many of the great challenges that it faced, and I was impressed by some of the work that was being done in the public services. I was struck by the importance of good-quality transport links in creating regeneration, getting people back to work and bringing new hope to communities that had completely abandoned hope. In the years when the Conservative party was in power, people entirely abandoned any ambition to work again or to have aspirations for themselves and their families. Transport plays a vital part in such regeneration. In my hon. Friend's area, as in other large cities and conurbations, people find bus services terribly important—probably more so than rail services. As she knows, local transport plans in her area have almost doubled in recent years, which gives the transport authority the extra funding that it needs to meet its ambitions.

Miss McIntosh

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jamieson

In a moment. I want to deal with my hon. Friend's question about the Mersey tram. I can tell my hon. Friend that since 2001 we have approved light rail lines in Nottingham, Manchester, south Hampshire and Leeds, and that we are carefully considering the scheme in which she has a great interest. An announcement may not be too far away.

Mrs. Ellman

Can the Minister give me an assurance on when the announcement will be made and what it will be? We should not like to be kept waiting for an announcement only to find that it was not what we wanted to hear.

Mr. Jamieson

In the privacy of this Chamber—I am sure that no-one from outside is listening—I can tell my hon. Friend that she will not have to wait much longer for the decision, and that it will have been informed by the powerful representations that she and other hon. Friends from Liverpool have made.

Mr. John Butterfill (in the Chair)

Order. I should advise the Minister that our proceedings are being broadcast.

Mr. Jamieson

Thank you, Mr. Butterfill. I thought that we were having a private session. I am grateful to you, because I have not yet announced the decision; perhaps I was wise to be cautious in my choice of words.

Miss McIntosh

Given that there appears to be cross-party support on the importance of bus services in urban and rural areas—particularly in relation to that dreaded expression "social exclusion"—will the Minister respond to the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which noted that the target of a 10 per cent. increase in bus use was not sufficiently ambitious?

Mr. Jamieson

All I can say is that it is probably more ambitious than any of the Conservative party's plans for the bus service. If it is not ambitious enough, it can be revised upwards. At the moment, it appears that we will more than meet the target and if we surpass it, we will be extremely pleased.

The hon. Member for Bath asked a number of questions. I have to say again that he did not say much about his own policies or ideas. The Liberal Democrats talk of their great ambitions, but, on the Floor of the House, they have opposed just about every means of raising the funds to achieve those ambitions.

Mr. Don Foster

Name one example.

Mr. Jamieson

Well, they have reacted in that way to just about every ambition and Bill relating to budgets. I think that the hon. Gentleman and his party have opposed most of them.

Mr. Foster

May I formally ask the Minister to name one vote when the Liberal Democrats opposed money going into public transport? Then his reply will be on the record.

Mr. Jamieson

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington was asked in this Chamber how much extra money the Liberal Democrats would invest in transport. He said that they would not invest any because it would be going into education. He said that that was where the 1p would be going.

Mr. Foster

Name one.

Mr. Jamieson

The hon. Gentleman says name one. It is all very well having ambitions, but the Liberal Democrats have no means of achieving those ambitions because they do not have the funding. It is all promised.

Mr. Foster


Mr. Jamieson

I shall not give way again because I want to answer some of the hon. Gentleman's other questions. He said that the numbers that we quoted on funding were smoke and mirrors. I do not want to enter into that discussion with him again. The plan sets out clearly how the £180 billion is made up. He knows that it includes £130 billion of public expenditure; it also includes £121 billion of capital investment. That is a real-terms increase of 75 per cent. over the previous 10 years.

The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh)—I was wondering where all her friends were, but I am sure that they are engaged with other things—has a great interest in transport. That is apparent from the number of interests that she declared.

Miss McIntosh

At least I declared them.

Mr. Jamieson

Yes, the hon. Lady quite properly declared them. She asked again about the progress report. As I said, the ambition is to have it before Christmas. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South asked whether the Conservatives would meet our spending plans—that was the first of the three tests that we had for the hon. Lady—but he never got an answer. The Liberal Democrats never answer that question either. Had the hon. Lady given an answer, I am sure that she would not have cleared it with the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard). There may be inadequacies in the report and things that we want changed, but we have to remind ourselves that it would not be happening at all if we were not putting funding in. None of these things would have been happening under the Conservatives.

Miss McIntosh

I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to put in a bid for three hours to discuss other parties' policies. I thought that we were here to discuss the conclusions of the report. Will he respond to my request to name one infrastructure project for 2001?

Mr. Jamieson

The hon. Lady will know that some infrastructure projects take more than a year. We have announced many of them. I have been to a number of very large new developments on roads in some of her hon. Friends' constituencies. Those developments have been welcomed by her hon. Friends, one of whom was extremely pleased to see me announcing in Norfolk a large new programme for a bypass and improvements in her constituency. We also announced the Selby bypass, which is not all that far away from the hon. Lady's constituency, and a scheme around the City of York on the fringes of her constituency that will greatly improve safety and the flow of traffic from her constituency into the City of York.

The hon. Lady asked about the rail accident investigation board. I do not know whether she fell asleep during the Queen's Speech, but it was announced then. If she wanders through the Speech again, she will find reference to the RAIB.

The problems with transport in recent years were the result of the recent economic success—1.5 million more people are now in work who want to travel to work and for leisure—and decades of under-investment. We cannot turn around those decades of under-investment in only a few years. We know that prosperity increases people's need and desire to travel—the history of the 20th century is an excellent example of that. Economic success is no bad thing; no one would argue against it, but it imposes even greater pressures on our transport system.

The Government's role is to help people to travel, not to inhibit them. We inherited a transport system that had suffered from decades of under-investment and stop-go funding. The 10-year plan contains the long-term certainty, which has been recognised across the board by organisations that provide transport in this country, that the necessary funding is in place.

The plan provides an overarching framework that sets out our objectives for reliable, safe and accessible transport, concerns about which were raised poignantly in the debate today, and for transport that has less impact on the environment but supports a strong economy. We have targets to reduce congestion, improve the reliability and punctuality of the rail network, increase rail and bus use, and reduce the numbers of those who are killed and seriously injured on our roads.

It is important to remember that our 10-year plan is, in essence, a framework investment programme—something that has been overlooked in the discussion of the plan. The plan did not purport to set out detailed projects and schemes, which are often matters for individual delivery agents and agencies such as the Strategic Rail Authority, the Highways Agency and, in many cases, highways authorities through their local transport plans. Nor did it purport to set out or reproduce the whole of the Government's transport policies, which are set out in a wide range of policy papers that began with the original integrated Transport White Paper in 1998. The road safety strategy is an example. We published it just a couple of months before the publication of the 10-year plan.

Work is being done in a wide range of areas not covered by the plan. For example, we are working on environmental policy at European level. There are European Union directives and agreements on improving fuel efficiency and vehicle emission standards. Other parts of our transport strategy contribute to and complement the 10-year plan. We are now focusing on delivering the improvements set out in the plan, and will shortly publish a report on the progress that we have made in that regard.

Miss McIntosh

I thank the Minister for generously giving way. When will he publish the investment announcement on one project in the 10-year plan? We all agree that the objectives have been set out, but when will he give the details that the industry seeks?

Mr. Jamieson

I am not sure to what the hon. Lady is referring. There is no end to the projects that have been announced through the local transport plans. Some of them will be developed through the multi-modal studies. We have examined the first tranche and are now considering the second, which will unfold over time.

The hon. Lady is stuck in the past—the days of the Conservative Government when quick fixes were fashionable—but we are talking about long-term planning, even beyond the 10-year period. Eventually, the aviation White Paper will be published, looking 30 years forward.

The 10-year plan remains a major achievement and has been widely welcomed. The Chairman of the Select Committee acknowledged it as a crucial step in delivering our transport policies. The investment is in place; our task is now to deliver real improvements to our transport system. That is precisely what we are doing.

5.16 pm
Mrs. Dunwoody

With the leave of the Chamber, Mr. Butterfill.

The Minister is such an engaging fellow, full of charm and intelligent and caring thought, which makes it difficult to disagree with him. I used the technique myself as a junior Minister: when in doubt, always be nice to everyone—[Interruption.] Well, pretend to be. However, I must tell the Minister that this report will come back and hit the Department hard again and again. "Monitoring" is the new phrase, so our Select Committee will be monitoring the development of the Department's transport policy.

We have not yet heard how the Government will react to one fundamental problem. If they set aside all the other problems because they will be dealt with by the multi-modal studies or other plans, they will still have to address the fundamental question: if it is and remains cheaper to travel by motor car, how will the Government secure the movement towards public transport that they need to deal with environmental and transport problems? That is so central to all our arguments that we should have been more honest about it today. Unless the Government face that problem honestly, it will be a trap into which they continually fall.

The Government have not succeeded in giving many independent agencies a clear commitment to deal with the people who are lowly and dispossessed in transport terms. We can talk about social exclusion, but for the people concerned it means no access to doctors' surgeries, no way of fetching urgent shopping, no going out to the cinema or seeing friends in the evening, and no way to deal with the constant problem of coping with the practical difficulties of living on one's own. Under a Labour Government, we should not merely talk about social exclusion or view combating it as an ideal; we should insist that ending social exclusion is the top priority for those who plan railway and other transport services. We should not allow it to sink gently below the horizon. The problem will continue unless the Government are more brutal in insisting on the priorities that the various agencies must have.

I do not want to appear ungracious. I know that the Minister is genuinely committed to making the system work. He wants to ensure that buses, railways and even aviation operate in a way that will benefit us economically and improve the quality of life of the people we represent.

In closing, I shall say what I think the Minister should do and what I expect him to do. If he does not do it I may want to remind him about it in the near future. The review of the 10-year plan is supposed to be published in December. We can call it autumn—it would be a rather elongated autumn—or winter, but nevertheless I understand that the Department's review will be published next month. This is what it should contain. On interim targets, the review should not just be a list of schemes that are wanted. It should not be a wish list; it must contain targets so that we, the ordinary people concerned with transport, can judge whether the policies are working.

On rail, the Secretary of State and the Strategic Rail Authority have both made it clear that we cannot afford the schemes that are anticipated in the 10-year plan. The money is not there and some of the decisions taken so far will rebound badly on the plans for the future.

A consultation is being undertaken on raising fares. How does that fit in with the argument about the difference between the costs of private and public transport? The impact of all those problems must be made clear in the review if we are to know what the Government's plans are for the future.

On smaller measures, we should accept that many of the major schemes will not be built, at least not until the end of the 10-year plan. We were given evidence to that effect: so much is backloaded that we will not see the results for a long time. The Department should concentrate on local measures, especially for buses, and be much more ambitious. The Government acknowledge that the target of 10 per cent. growth for buses will lead to a decline outside London by 2010. That is not in the interests of the ordinary traveller or those whom we have been talking about so much this afternoon, who need our support to change their lives.

I believe that the Government are serious. They are the first for a long time to come up with an attempt at an integrated policy. That is why I ask them to make it clear that they are not just committed, that they do not just have a series of wish lists, that they are not prepared just to say, "Because we are good fellows, trust us and we will do something in the future." I ask the Government to do something far more focused, far more positive and, in the final analysis, much more satisfying: in December to print a simple list, not of what they would like to do but what they are going to do; not of the things that they cannot do, but of what they think is important. Above all, I ask them to explain to those who work in rail, aviation and road planning that every one of them has a role that is much wider than simply balancing their books and making sure that they can defend a list of advances over the next 10-year period. If we fail in this important respect, it will not just be the Government who are made to pay, but all those who have for years called for a workable transport system, because the parliamentary system will no longer be seen as capable of developing those things that are important and those services that matter. Above all, we will have failed those whom we most want to serve. That is too high a price to pay.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-three minutes past Five o'clock.

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