24 February 1998

Mr. Martin Caton MP (Lab. Gower)

I shall be brief in support of Road Traffic Reduction and against monogamy.

I realise that this is probably not the most propitious time in the world's political history to launch an attack on monogamy, but it must be done. The monogamous relationship that must come to an end in Britain is the unhealthy, obsessive and dangerous love affair that, for far too long, we have enjoyed with a metal box that has a ring of rubber at each corner.

Our passion is understandable. For many of us, it is a relationship that has been the most liberating experience of our lives. It has enabled us to see, do and enjoy things that would otherwise have been beyond our reach. The love of our lives has made us feel more significant, more powerful and more independent than any other lover we have ever known. We are besotted, but in our hearts we know that it cannot continue because, quite literally, it is proving to be all-consuming.

We have to begin to shed ourselves of the monomanic, exclusive love for our motor cars and appreciate the special virtues of polygamy. We have to start nipping off for romantic weekends with the railway system. We have to be prepared to get together day or night with many other new lovers--the good old bus as well as trams, light railway systems, guided buses and the bicycle. We have to be prepared far more frequently to indulge in a practice that involves only the stimulation of our own bodies--walking.

Our monogamous relationship with the car is damaging our economy, killing our children, destroying our environment and stressing us out. In more and more towns, cities and villages, it is making life quite intolerable.

We have to share ourselves out a bit more. I suspect that persuading us to do so will take an armoury of sticks and a shed full of carrots. Different sticks and carrots are likely to be appropriate for different geographical areas and circumstances.

In employing various mechanisms to achieve change, we need to set ourselves realistic and achievable targets for reductions in road use and then we have to develop strategies to meet those targets in respect of transport, land use and local and national taxation.

If we can get more people to embrace alternative ways of getting about, they will learn to love them for their own special attractions. The Road Traffic Reduction will help us become a nation of happy transport polygamists.

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