Private Vehicles, London

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd May 1995.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 12:00 am, 22nd May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward proposals to limit the use of private vehicles in central London. [23883]

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

Our approach is already laid down in the document, "Traffic Management and Parking Guidance", which we issued in 1993.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

That simply is not good enough. Does the Minister share the concern of the Opposition—and, I am sure, that of Tory Members—about the appalling air quality in London? There is congestion in the streets, with clapped-out old buses, lorries and cars spewing filth into the atmosphere which we then have to breathe. What are the Government doing about that? Where are the monitoring stations? What is being done about checking the emissions from filthy cars, lorries and buses and taking them off the roads? Is the Minister waiting for people to start dropping dead in the streets of London before he acts?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

If the hon. Gentleman wants to tackle the issues, he must accept that campaigning on the slogan that one is about to restrict the use of private cars in London is unlikely to make him attractive even to the electors of Newham. The reality is that we have to ensure that economic and social activity continues while we come to terms with the very real issues of air quality and congestion that he raises which, as is widely accepted not only by the political parties but by the pressure groups, need to be resolved by using the carrot and the stick, by ensuring the accessibility of public transport and a number of measures to manage traffic demand in a way that improves air quality and the quality of life. I do not believe that arbitrary bans on the number of vehicles coming into major cities is either right or acceptable.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

How about closing the House of Commons car park for an experimental period, giving each hon. Member a week's bus pass and putting a bus lane up and down Whitehall?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

Someone told me that when my hon. Friend was a Northern Ireland Minister he once jumped out of his ministerial car to ask a couple of taxi drivers to put on their seat belts. That same brave attitude towards policy formulation perhaps lies behind his offer today, which I will leave on the table for hon. Members to consider.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Would the Minister consider a number of proposals, such as making parts of central London entirely car free and tackling the questions of tax relief for business motoring in and out of the centre of London, car parking in central London and a subsidy for public transport so that people are encouraged to use it rather than facing the current exorbitant fares?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

Subject to the fact that there is already a substantial subsidy for public transport—the largest that there has ever been—to assist operations such as London Underground and London Buses, it might surprise the hon. Gentleman to know that my answer to his question is yes. All the matters that he raises need to be properly explored; I only wish that he would put some pressure on his Front-Bench colleagues to start talking seriously about them rather than hiding behind a great mountain of waffle.