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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty): We are considering what improvements can be made to the administration of concessionary travel schemes in England for the benefit of local authorities, transport operators and concessionaires. We have no plans to change the statutory minimum requirement for concessionary travel for older and disabled people, or to prevent local authorities from offering more generous schemes.
Mr. Pike: The operation of a statutory scheme for minimal provision throughout the whole country is very welcome, but does my hon. Friend recognise that people in many parts of the country have considerable concerns when they look at the London scheme, which offers the freedom pass, and other parts of the country that offer free travel? Why cannot people living in every part of this country have as good a scheme as London has?
Mr. McNulty: As part of the spending review White Paper, we have undertaken to review the administration of concessionary fare schemes to see whether there is scope to simplify their operation, particularly in relation to the examples quoted by my hon. Friend. I accept that disparity between neighbouring authorities' schemes does not work in many people's favour.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): When the Minister conducts his review, will he consider devising some means whereby local authorities can calculate the value for money that they get for their contributions to schemes such as the London-wide freedom pass? Authorities such as the London borough of Havering have no means of knowing how many journeys they receive in return for their contributions. As we know, some pensioners make extremely good, frequent use of the pass, whereas others who are entitled to it put it behind the clock where it gathers dust, but both cost the council the same.
Mr. McNulty: If that is the emergence of a nascent Tory policy on concessionary faresthat they should be means-tested, and that pensioners in Havering should have their number of journeys restrictedI will pass that on to the local Labour party in Havering. I am sure that it will review it with some interest.
Mr. John Grogan (Selby)
(Lab): Will my hon. Friend congratulate the Yorkshire regional assembly of local councils, which, following a campaign by the Wetherby, Boston Spa and Tadcaster News, has set up a feasibility study to examine the possibility of mutual recognition of bus passes across the county of Yorkshire? If that comes off, it will allow pensioners from Selby district, for example, to travel in West Yorkshire and enjoy cheaper bus fares?
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Mr. McNulty: I will be more than happy to congratulate the assembly, not least because that is precisely what we are trying to do by reviewing the entire administration and bureaucracy of concessionary schemes. It must be right that pensioners throughout a region such as Yorkshire know what is available, and not just in their district.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): Both the Department for Transport and the Department for Education and Skills recognise that well-designed, dedicated bus schemes can reduce car dependency for the journey to school. The Department for Transport is providing £18.7 million to support a large-scale pilot in West Yorkshire and, subject to affordability, will consider further proposals submitted through the local transport plan process.
Mr. Chapman: Given that yellow school buses have the potential to remove congestion, eliminate the school run, improve air quality and the environment, allow local authorities to rationalise their transport arrangements and provide a safer and more disciplined way to get kids to school, ought we not to do more? Can I expect to hear more on the subject of school buses later today?
Mr. Jamieson: On the latter point, my hon. Friend will have to wait a few more minutes, and perhaps he will hear something on that. He is absolutely correct: getting children on to buses and out of the car is very important in reducing congestion and improving air quality outside schools. We must be careful, however, to ensure that encouraging the use of buses does not divert children from walking and cycling to school, which are better for their health. He will probably be aware that in September last year we published the "Travelling to School" action plan and good practice guide. We have also provided £7.5 million to local authorities for school travel advisers, all of which will help improve the journey to school, and particularly the take-up of school buses.
11. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Pursuant to the answer of 1 July 2004, Official Report, column 368W on Irish-registered vehicles, if he will make it his policy to collate separate statistics for foreign-registered vehicles not displaying current road tax. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson):
We recognise the problem of illegal use of foreign vehicles on British roads and are determined to take the necessary steps to control it.I have asked the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to work with the police and other enforcement agencies on the question of how best to take action
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against unlicensed foreign vehicles. As part of the process, they will collect statistics on the numbers involved.
Mr. Robathan : I am glad to hear that, but in the interests of joined-up government will the Minister speak to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has recently been making some rather unconvincing statements about antisocial behaviour and being tough on crime? Is he aware that up and down the country, in Leicestershire and, I suspect, in Devon, so-called Travellers are bringing a great deal of misery to people through antisocial behaviour and often criminal activity? They use Irish-registered vehicles with no road tax, and the police say that they can do nothing.
I note from the Minister's reply that this could be covered by the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994. Will he and the Home Secretary please direct chief constables to prosecute Irish-registered vehicles without road tax and force the so-called Travellers to pay their taxes just as law-abiding citizens must?
For the first six months in this country, vehicles from the Republic of Ireland and other European Union countries must meet the requirements of their home state. Subsequently, they must meet this country's requirements: they must have British licence plates and they must have paid vehicle excise duty. I have asked the DVLA to ensure that vehicles reported to it, or seen in checks, that do not have the appropriate tax discs are clampedand I believe that in some cases there are powers for them to be confiscated.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): The Highways Agency is currently proceeding with a programme of 81 major trunk road schemes. Further schemes are being prepared for entry to the programme and will be considered in the light of our priorities and available resources. Our transport strategy document, published today, provides further details of our plans for the road network.
: Can the Minister name two other neighbouring cities the size of Newcastle and Edinburgh that are not linked by a dual carriageway in this country, let alone Europe? The Government are a laughing stock in the north-east because of this. Can we expect some good news in the document that is being published today?
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Mr. Jamieson: As my hon. Friend probably knows, I visited the A1 a couple of weeks ago to have a look at the road myself. We have invested, or will invest in the coming years, nearly £100 million. The multi-modal study, which was intended to establish local views, showed no support for full dualling from Newcastle to the Scottish border. However, the improvements from Morpeth to Felton mean that there will be dual carriageway or motorway all the way from Alnwick to London. Although I cannot promise dualling throughout, I can tell my hon. Friend that past and future improvements constitute a major investment in the road.
Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): What on earth is going on with the A21 at Hurst Green? The Minister has now broken his third self-imposed deadline for coming up with his preferred scheme. In a letter to me on 15 July, he said that he was aiming to present his proposals by the autumn, but on 19 July he wrote that he was aiming to make an announcement later in the summer. Is it any wonder that people are losing all confidence in the Government's handling of this proposal, given that hundreds of homes have been blighted by Labour's indecision and stalling?
Mr. Jamieson: Oh dear, that really was not very good at all. The hon. Gentleman came to see me about the road, and I thought that we had had a perfectly sensible discussion about the improvements that we are making to it, the importance of which we do recognise. He should tell his constituents about the policy of his Front-Bench colleagues, which is to cut the roads programme. Under it, there would be no improvements at all, either this year or next.
Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton) (Lab): When considering future roads programmes, will my hon. Friend impress on the Highways Agency the need to reduce noise from motorways through resurfacing and noise barriers, so that the people who live near them can have some quality of life? Will he further ensure that the Highways Agency implements such measures, particularly noise barriers?
Mr. Jamieson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: intrusive noise from motorways is very disturbing for people who live close to them. All new or resurfaced roads now have quieter surfaces, and it is this Government who have set aside dedicated ring-fenced funds for resurfacing some of the concrete roads that, although of very good quality, tend to be much noisier than black-top roads. The Highways Agency has the issue very much in mind. I can assure my hon. Friend that the roads will be resurfaced over time and that, once they are, they will be quieter than they were, say, 10 years ago.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
(Con): All this is mere words. Every day, the Government are fleecing motorists through £120 million in motoring taxes, yet they reinvest just £2 million in new roads every day. That is what this Government must be held accountable for, and we need a better deal for the motoring public.
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Mr. Jamieson: I am very interested to hear that this Chamber is about wordsthat will come as a total surprise to everybody here. We are improving junctions, widening roads and making various improvements throughout the country. Such improvements are significant and they represent the very substantial investment that this Government are making in our roads system. Will the hon. Gentleman go back to his constituents in Christchurch and peddle the line taken by the shadow Chancellor
Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware that although the London to Ipswich multi-modal study recommended dualling of the A120 from Harwich to Hare Green, it has not been made a priority. If there is a major change in circumstances and the planned port development of Bathside bay goes aheada public inquiry into that development is under way, but I do not expect my hon. Friend to comment on itwill he review the situation and introduce road dualling, if necessary?
Mr. Jamieson: Yes, and I know that my hon. Friend has made regular representations about this road. Of course, if circumstances changed and major developments occurred in any part of the country in respect of a road serving a port or any other facility, we would re-examine the priority of the scheme in question.
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