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Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): I wish to take the Secretary of State back to his earlier points about drink-driving. Does he agree that it is an equally important challenge to make driving when tired as unacceptable as driving when under the influence of drink or drugs? A member of my family was seriously and permanently injured because somebody drove into him when they were asleep at the wheel. It is a common cause of accidents. All too often people do not realise the dangers in which they are putting other people's lives.

Mr. Darling: The hon. Lady makes a very good point. It would be much more difficult to enforce. It is easy to establish whether someone has too much alcohol in their blood, but tiredness is much more difficult to evaluate.
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It is clear from road casualty figures how many serious accidents involve cars where no other vehicle is involved—people just come off the road—or, again this is difficult to prove, the loss of control of a car or a lorry for no apparent reason. That is alarming and tiredness must be a factor. The road safety Bill will introduce places where a driver can draw up and rest, which are commonplace in France. That may help motorway driving. The hon. Lady is right and it is a reason why the Department for Transport road safety campaign looks at the question of tiredness regularly.

I have spoken rather longer than I intended to, but I want to say a couple of things about the environment and airports. Sadly, the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) has pushed off despite the fact that I said that I would return to his airport.

Bob Spink rose—

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con) rose—

Mr. Darling: I want to make some progress, but I may give way if hon. Gentlemen will hold on for a moment.

A Liberal Democrat Member rightly said that environmental concerns are important. It is important to note that progress has been made in that our vehicles are about 50 per cent. cleaner than they were 10 years ago. The Government have introduced measures to differentiate the amount paid in vehicle excise duty to encourage people to get cleaner cars. We are investing a lot of money in public transport as an alternative. As I have made clear on many occasions, in the longer term we need to develop road pricing as an alternative. I am glad that the Liberal Benches welcome that. I want to take the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) slightly to task, however, because in July in a BBC interview he said:

Right enough, I had said that it would be 10 to 15 years before that could happen. I very much welcome Liberal support for the measures dealing with congestion, but perhaps today's Liberal spokesman will explain why the Liberals are campaigning against the one congestion charge scheme proposed in Britain, in Edinburgh. I find it hard to understand. They have even been condemned by the Young Liberals, students in Edinburgh, for this attitude. On the one occasion when the Liberals have a chance to demonstrate their credentials on congestion charging, they are against it. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will want to take advice on the point, but during the afternoon he will, I hope, refer to this in some detail.

Gregory Barker: I hope to catch your eye a bit later, Mr. Speaker, but in case the Secretary of State is not in the Chamber then, may I make a plea for the Bexhill link road? The Department is due to make a decision on this within the next two weeks. It is vital to the town and for the regeneration of neighbouring Hastings. It requires money from his budget—it will be money extremely well spent—not just to improve traffic flow, but also to allow building in Bexhill and save building in the High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty. Please will he consider our plea for the link road?

Mr. Darling: Yes, I am aware of that. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will try to square his plea with the
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Conservative commitment to cut £2 billion from transport spending. Schemes up and down the country, to which hon. Members attach great importance, are affected by such things. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can justify to the House why he will campaign for a £2 billion cut in transport.

Bob Spink: The right hon. Gentleman is most generous in giving way. I am not going to make a claim on his budget now. He talked about road pricing and tolls. Is he aware that there is a surplus of £60 million from the operation of the Dartford crossing and that that money is to be spent on local roads? Can we use some of that money to help Canvey get its third road?

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman needs to come to terms with the fact, whether he likes it or not and assuming that he will be wearing a blue rosette at the general election—

Bob Spink indicated assent.

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman says he will. In that case he will have to explain how on earth a Conservative Government could do anything on Canvey Island or anywhere else when they are committed to such drastic cuts. [Interruption.] Before the Liberals get too happy, I notice that it is their policy at the moment—I use those words advisedly because, rather like some railway timetables, they are subject to alteration at short notice—to stop the road building programme. That will come as some news to Liberal colleagues who frequently stand up and ask for a bypass or a relief road.

I want to speak briefly about the important subject of airports. The Government's policy was set out last December. At the International Civil Aviation Organisation assembly in September this country was successful in persuading the majority of countries not to introduce measures that would have prevented us from tackling aviation emissions. It was not widely reported at the time, but the United Kingdom took the lead on that and it would not have happened otherwise. It is important that we accept that while there will be an expansion in air travel because of well known pressures, we must be mindful of the pressures that that puts on the environment. That is why we set out a range of measures, including our determination to persuade the European Union to introduce an emissions charging scheme in the European Union from 2008. That is very important. I can also tell the House that the various measures on aviation that we set out in the White Paper are being pursued. As I said earlier, they do not require primary legislation, but it is important to note that we are making progress. I was interested to see that the Conservative spokesman on aviation included many caveats in his support for aviation expansion, all of which can be found in the White Paper. So I commend him for having read it and, if I can put it this way, supporting it.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Will the Secretary of State give way?
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Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman has sat here patiently and said absolutely nothing, since his party has nothing to say on the subject, so I will listen to him.

Angus Robertson: Today we are discussing, among other things, devolved government affairs and I am certain that the Secretary of State has plenty to say on that. While co-operation between law enforcement agencies is welcome, why on earth are the UK Government legislating for the Home Secretary to be able to order Scottish police forces around? Does the Secretary of State for Scotland agree that justice and policing are both devolved matters? Why is the proposal being made?

Mr. Darling: What the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, if any of them were here, cannot come to terms with is that we are all part of the United Kingdom. Yes, power has been devolved to the Scottish Executive on matters such as crime, but it is necessary for us to co-operate. I know that the hon. Gentleman would like us to live in a world in which there was a tartan curtain from coast to coast, trains stopped at the border and no policemen ever ventured north; criminals going from one side to another would not have to worry. That is not the world in which the rest of us live. I suggest in the nicest possible way that the hon. Gentleman face up at some stage to the fact that at successive general elections the vast majority of the Scottish electorate have come to the same view as I come to on these matters. So the hon. Gentleman should have saved himself the bother, but at least he got to his feet to stretch himself.

The measures that we have introduced will enable us to carry on improving the transport system. The measures that the Government are introducing overall will continue to build the country; they will build on the economic reforms that we have made and ensure that we live in a fairer and far better country than we had seven years ago. I commend the Gracious Speech to the House.

1.2 pm

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