Christopher Chope MP (Con. Christchurch) A Front Bench Opposition Spokesman for Environment, Transport and the Regions

Road Traffic Reductions (United Kingdom) Bill

The position of the Conservative party on this is that the Bill purports to be a Bill which is going to require the Government to set national road traffic reduction targets, but when you look at the small print, you see that it does not require any such thing. The Government is now avoiding saying that it is going to set a target, having forced changes in the bill which prevent the requirements target being included. You compare that with what Glenda Jackson, the Minister, and many other Labour MPs were indicating before the General Election, when they were saying that they wanted a 10% reduction in road traffic by the year 2010 compared with 1990. It is now clear that they realise that that was a totally unrealistic pledge that they gave, because even during the first year of this new Labour Government road traffic has increased by 3% rather than begun to go down.

Mr Prescott has said that he must be judged on the fact that he intends by the end of this Parliament there should be less traffic on the roads than there was at the beginning. It is quite clear that the trends are going in the opposite direction. All that is happening is that the Government is trying to create a climate in which it can justify reductions in investment in transport infrastructure on the back of the fact that it is trying to reduce road traffic. But the consequence for the environment is going to be very bad, because it means that we are going to get more traffic congestion as the amount of traffic increases and the supply side is not dealt with.

What should be happening is that the Government should be investing more in public transport. However, this year they are only reinvesting 10% of the additional 1.7 billion they raised from the motoring public. Only 10% of that is being reinvested in public transport, and most of that in London, which is quite irrelevant to those in rural areas, 65% of whom do not have access to any public transport at all at the moment.

The Government is also cutting back severely on the investment in bypasses and road improvements, and it has got a policy, a part of which is that Government ministers do one thing while they are expecting the rest to do something else. And I was yesterday quite critical of the cynical way in which the 60 limousines were hired to take representatives to the Environment and Transport conference in Chester. They were going by road from Manchester Airport to Chester because they thought that going by train would expose these representatives to Crewe station, and that it would all be rather inconvenient and bad for the image. Meanwhile those representatives are gathered in Chester today to try to work out policies which are going to require ordinary members of the public to go by public transport, while they themselves choose not to. I think that is an unhealthy attitude.

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