Examination of Witnesses (Questions 467
WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
SPELLAR, MP, MR
Chairman: Could I have a declaration of those
in this Committee with an interest?
Mr Stevenson: George Stevenson, Transport and
General Workers' Union.
Mrs Ellman: Louise Ellman, Transport and General
Chairman: Gwyneth Dunwoody, Rail, Maritime and
Transport Trade Union.
Mr Donohoe: Brian Donohoe, a member of the Transport
and General Workers' Union.
Miss McIntosh: Anne McIntosh. Railtrack, a minor
shareholding; BA and Eurotunnel.
Chairman: Anything else?
Miss McIntosh: My husband is a director of an
American airline company still.
467. Minister, we are delighted to see you
here this afternoon. Would you like to introduce yourself and
(Mr Spellar) John Spellar, Minister for Transport.
I suppose I ought to declare myself as a member of the Amalgamated
Engineering and Electrical Workers' Union.
468. We all make mistakes.
(Mr Roberts) Dennis Roberts.
469. Perhaps you would like to tell us which
union you belong to!
(Mr Roberts) The FDA. I am from the Road Transport
(Mr Linnard) Bob Linnard, from the railway side.
470. Did you have something you wanted to
open the batting with, Minister?
(Mr Spellar) I do not think so particularly. It is
a very wide ranging remit today and we should spend most of the
time on questions.
471. There may be occasions when, because
there is so much to cover, we will have to ask you for a written
note. All the targets for the ten year plan are predicated on
the assumption that things like road pricing, workplace parking
levy schemes are going to be in place. How can you hit your targets
for reducing congestion if that is not so?
(Mr Spellar) Road pricing, or more particularly and
more immediately, congestion charging and workplace parking are
seen as appropriate tools that are available to local authorities
for dealing with their particular local circumstances.
472. They are nevertheless part of the assumption
in the ten year plan.
(Mr Spellar) They are one of the tools that are there
and local authorities will be looking at the local circumstances
in their town or in their area in order to decide whether this
will enable them to achieve the targets and also to facilitate
transport in their area. For example, London is looking at congestion
charging as their preferred mechanism for alleviating congestion
in central London in the same way that Nottingham has looked at
that but is now looking at workplace charging because they believe
that that is a more appropriate mechanism for dealing with their
local problems. In all cases, they are also looking in parallel
at what improvements they need to make to public transport in
order to be able to transport people as a result of the relief
of that congestion.
473. I ask you again: if these are tools
and for one reason or another the tools are not employed by either
local authorities or those in your own Department, what is the
alternative, because the calculations are done on the assumption
that these mechanisms will be not only in use but in place?
(Mr Spellar) There are a number of other alternative
approaches to this. To give one example, one of the significant
contributors to congestion and indeed to air pollution in towns
is delivery during the rush hour. Quite a bit of that is brought
about by either general lorry bans, probably dating back about
20 years, or specific restrictions as part of planning approval
particularly given to supermarkets. If we went back about 20 years,
we would have found a general atmosphere of approval of those
limitations. As a result of the increase in congestion, concerns
about pollution and also as a result of improvements in lorry
design and lorry operation, there is a significant shift. For
example, the Commission for Integrated Transport is conducting
a study for us at the moment in cooperation with the industry
to see whether relaxations of some of those bans would enable
overnight delivery because many supermarkets open 24 hours now,
quite apart from whether they are working 24 hours and stacking.
Therefore, you could be taking a considerable load out of the
system at an early stage.
474. That is fairly general. I do not think
we would disagree with the arguments but do you have a formula
that would indicate the difference that that would make? Do you
have some indication of what this would do to your targets? If
you do not impose congestion charging, what would happen for changing
the hours of delivery? What are the changes that you would envisage?
(Mr Spellar) As I am awaiting the outcome of a study
by the Commission for Integrated Transport, I am anticipating
that they will be putting figures on that as well. In terms of
actual operation, there is still quite a bit of work being undertaken
by local authorities across the country who are looking at congestion
or workplace charging and still quite a bit of modelling work
to be done as to the impact on reduction of numbers. That is quite
different from whether that generates a revenue which may then
facilitate and finance other transport alternatives and maybe
encourage people to move to those other alternatives. There is
still quite a bit of work being done as to the extent to which
and at what level people are discouraged from using their cars
or whether indeed restrictions on parking levels are more effective.
These are areas where there is not as yet clear evidence one way
or the other. That is why a number of authorities are looking
at different approaches. We are awaiting the outcome of their
work to see whether we believe they will achieve the objectives
they believe are right for their community and they have involved
their community and therefore as to whether this might be an appropriate
mechanism. I think some others, quite frankly, are looking to
see how those early authorities succeed in order to decide what
may be an appropriate mechanism for their own area.
475. You are not insisting on urban pricing
schemes at local authority level?
(Mr Spellar) No.
476. When do you expect to have the results
of these experiments?
(Mr Spellar) The Greater London Authority and Transport
for London are at the moment undertaking consultation. As you
will probably have seen, there has been a slippage in the consultation
procedure as a result of moving the end time from 7 back to 6.30.
It was believed that that required an extension of the consultation.
That is the belief of Transport for London, not a decision of
ours. We will therefore be awaiting some time early next year
to receive the results of that to decide whether that is appropriate
for London. There is a lot of consultation going on with London
boroughsthey are not of one mind on thisand indeed
discussion within the Greater London Assembly.
477. You have said that you would be prepared
to block congestion charging in London if you felt that other
modes were not offering a viable alternative. If it cannot work
in London, where will it work?
(Mr Spellar) I do not recall that I said that either
in the House or
478. Mr Spellar indicated in The Financial
(Mr Spellar) I think you will find in the actual bit
that is in quotes in The Financial Times I state the legal
position which is that the plan has to be submitted to us, differently
in London than elsewhere in the country. The only area of discretion
that the Department has or I have as a Minister is on the application
of the funds that are received from the congestion charging scheme.
479. When we produced our report on the
White Paper, one of the sections that we devoted quite a bit of
time to was exactly this issue on how you are going to attract
people to use different modes of transport, particularly public
transport, in place of their cars and how congestion charging
and workplace charging where implemented were going to produce
resources to help to support or to demote. One of the suggestions
we made was that the government should consider urgently making
resources available to those authorities that do implement these
systems of charging on the basis of future income streams so that
alternatives could be provided at the same time or as near as
possible to the same time as the charging. I think I am correct
in saying the government rejected that concept. Is that still
(Mr Roberts) The local transport plan settlement does
provide considerable sums for local authorities to develop their
public transport systems which will be done in advance of those
charges coming into effect.