Does the Minister accept that no less than 17 per cent. of all commuter journeys in and out of central London are made by car, congestion and pollution are getting worse, and the danger to Londoners is growing worse as a consequence? Should not the Minister take steps to reduce further the level of car commuting in and out of central London and concentrate on reducing the cost of bus and train travel, so that this will be a cleaner, safter city in which to live?
The actual figure for commuting by car is something like 14 per cent., so I agree with the hon. Gentleman about that. I agree also that our policy should be to contain and, where possible, to reduce car commuting into central London. That is why we devoted substantial funds to improving our public transport network—not only the tube but buses. Bus priority measures include the pilot red route, which I hope the hon. Gentleman agrees has produced considerable benefits. However, I disagree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that I do not believe that the answer is simply to slash fares. That is a disastrous policy, which would leave the taxpayer with a huge bill merely to cover operating costs —instead of investing resources in improving the system.
Does my hon. Friend the Minister accept that for many people, the car is the only way of gaining access to central London? Will he promise to hold an inquiry in respect of the roadworks on the M20, A20, on two points on the A2 in my constituency, and at the Blackwall tunnel that are all being undertaken simultaneously—that is, at the same time? Will he hold an inquiry, so that we may achieve ease of access from north-west Kent into central London?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a former education Minister, for pointing out the precise nature of his question. Using grammar as simple as I can muster, I may tell him that I entirely—that is probably the wrong word—rather, wholly accept his comments about the necessity in some cases to use a private car. It is just a shame that some single-issue lobby groups do not appear to recognise the obvious truth of my hon. Friend's observation. As to the particular problems that he mentioned, I will undertake to bring them to the attention of the appropriate officials.