|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. At the beginning I believe that we had some trouble in putting the logos together. The Prime Minister clearly asked the Deputy Prime Minister to take control of an overall department.
The point I sought to make was that we are trying to look at complex issues in a holistic way. I do not think it helps anyone in the debate to caricature the approach of one side as anti-car or anti-motorist, and the other as pro-environment. These are balanced issues that will need a balanced approach.
It is important that we consider policies towards the road network in the context of an integrated transport policy. We have to look at different modes of transport, and at the real opportunities which will be of enormous environmental benefit, for example, in transferring road freight to rail.
Not only must we look at different modes of transport: we must also look at land use planning, and the need for journeys in the first place. Considering, for example, the creation of out of town shopping centres, many of us would challenge the effects of that policy not only as regards demand for road transport, but also in the light of the effect on the health and prosperity of town and city centres.
Nor can we ignore the effect of increases in road transport on CO 2 emissions and global warming, and on local air quality, in particular within cities. How one addresses that problem requires a range of answers. In the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force we are looking at how we can utilise improved technologies so that we minimise emissions. Noble Lords who spoke have sometimes been scathing about fiscal measures. However, there are important fiscal measures. We talked about them in terms of VED rates for cleaner, more fuel efficient cars, which can have a significant effect. No one in this Government is crudely anti-car, anti-motorist. I have to say to the noble Lord that there was never a suggestion by anyone that it would be illegal to own a second car. In this country we have lower car ownership than in many Continental European countries, and higher car usage. We have to ask ourselves whether that is sustainable in the interests of the economy, of a functioning road system and of the environment.
That is where the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, about public transport come into play. We are talking about giving people greater choice as to how they make the journeys they need to make. In order to give them real choice, yes, there has to be reliable public transport. It has to be safe, efficient, and priced so that people can afford it. I should also add that it has to be innovative, such as the Wigglybus to which my noble friend referred. We must not write off rural areas as incapable of being provided with public transport.
Much concern has been expressed tonight about the needs of the motorist. We must recognise that one in three families does not have access to a car. We have to provide choice, not only for people who do not have cars to use but also for people who do not want to be forced into making a car journey. In that area it is important that we look at the number of trips made by
We must ask ourselves in whose interest it is that twice as many schoolchildren are being driven to school than was the case 10 years ago. I say that not simply in terms of congestion--the fact that 25 per cent. of journeys being undertaken in rush hours in many of our city centres are journeys to school--but in terms of the future health of a generation of children. These children do not even get the exercise of walking to school or experience the confidence which comes from being out on their own. We can get into a vicious circle of streets being deserted, parents concerned about security driving their children to school, emphasising and recreating the problems that were there in the first place.
There is a whole range of issues that we can bring to this area. I make no apology for the roads programme in that context. We have to look at priorities. But I should like to make it clear that we recognise that the road network is a key part of our transport system and of the economic fabric of the country.
The noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, said that we should not talk about the last government, we should talk about this one. I certainly shall talk about it. I shall talk about putting £300 million into trunk road maintenance this year rather than the £200 million that we inherited from the last government and starting to put right some of the under-investment in maintenance.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, I hope the Minister will forgive me as she is making such an erudite and agreeable speech at this time in the evening. But I am anxious that the Minister does not dodge the issue of the huge demand for bypasses from constituents all over the country and their MPs. These are measures which reduce pollution and improve the local environment and are of great importance. I hope the Minister will be able to deal with that matter.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I shall certainly reply to the noble Lord. I shall not bypass the issue but I have to say to him that all the schemes within the programme--and they are varied schemes from large motorway widening to small bypasses--are being assessed against the criteria. As the Minister with responsibility for road safety, I am aware of the effects on road safety that can be provided by targeted investment in improving the trunk road network. We
I was rather surprised when the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, said how distressed she was about the accelerated review decisions. Early on, we tried to take decisions which were extremely urgent. I was not sure whether she was distressed about the decision to go ahead with the A.13 scheme or the Birmingham Northern Relief Road to which the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, referred and said there was a great need for it. We recognised an overwhelming economic need to deal with congestion in the short term, the here and now, and not on the basis of predict and provide. The noble Baroness will understand that, because of the proceedings now taking place, I cannot comment on the court proceedings. I did not know whether she was concerned about the decision to cancel the Salisbury bypass. In that case, we felt that the weight and the scale of the balance went the other way and the environmental damage was too great.
As regards the SACTRA Report, there are differing interpretations of the effect of road building schemes on local economies. That should make us all aware that we are not dealing with black and white issues. Not all road building creates economic growth, just as not all taking away of road schemes will help the environment.
We need to take a balanced approach. This Government are fulfilling their responsibilities as regards assessing very carefully against open criteria in an exercise that has had a huge response. Ministers have gone to the regions and those in regional offices have talked to people within their areas about their priorities for schemes. I have met MPs from all the different regions to discuss their schemes with them. We shall be extremely open about the appraisal framework and the values that have been taken into account in making decisions as to which schemes should or should not go ahead.
I conclude by saying that we are aware that there is much support for tackling the problems that have been described this evening in some areas and in some cases by additional investment in road improvement schemes. But we must look at those demands for investment in the whole context of dealing with this country's transport problem in an integrated framework.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|