3 March 1998

Caroline Flint MP (Lab. Don Valley)

It is clear from the debate that the Road Traffic Reductions Bill is part of an emerging political consensus aimed at tackling the environmental damage of inefficient road transport usage. "Inefficient" means inefficient methods of transport, inefficient and unnecessary journeys, and the overloading of inappropriate roads, particularly with heavy vehicles. I hope that the Bill will complement measures to improve public transport and make sensible decisions about our road infrastructure.

I also have constituents who complain about the pollution from heavy vehicles that have to make long winding journeys through villages at relatively slow speeds. Both residents and road hauliers point out that short link roads could replace those inefficient polluting journeys through residential areas, with short efficient routes to major roads and motorway networks. That is what I mean by making sense of the road infrastructure; my constituency is criss-crossed by motorways and major roads, but it suffers from a lack of link roads to industrial centres.

In the past decade, we have become increasingly aware of the adverse impact on health of poor air quality and the sudden rises in hospital admissions when air quality deteriorates. I do not believe that there is a teacher in this land who does not take a daily count of the number of inhalers used in his or her classroom. I speak not only as the mother of a daughter who suffers from asthma, but as one who can remember that, when I was at school, hardly anybody had an inhaler. In 30 years--in living memory--that has changed completely and having an inhaler is no longer the exception to the rule. I also represent a constituency with a large proportion of elderly people who suffer from industry-related breathing difficulties such as emphysema. For such people, the quality of air has a daily impact on their lives.

I am delighted that the Government are supporting the broad principles of the Bill. The Bill also complements efforts to cut emissions through fuel technology. I have visited a firm in my constituency, K. H. Manufacturing Ltd., which has developed an air-stream inspirator which halves emissions and guarantees a fuel saving of 5 per cent. on any vehicle. That Denox device, which can be fitted to buses and heavy vehicles and to old or new cars, is just one example of the ground-breaking research and development being carried out by British companies which recognise the environmental challenges we face.

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