Local Transport Provision

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15 January 1996.

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Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Opposition Whip (Commons) 12:00, 15 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is his assessment of the adequacy of local transport provision. [7443]

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

We have allocated £830 million to English local authorities for 1996–97. I consider that allocation to be adequate.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Opposition Whip (Commons)

Does the Minister acknowledge that Labour local authorities such as York and Edinburgh have successfully pioneered new packaged approaches which address local transport needs? Is it not high time that the Government followed their lead and adopted an integrated, long-term approach to transport instead of the dogma-driven chaos of privatisation and deregulation which have strangled our railways and bus services and turned our roads into travelling car parks?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

That would have been an intelligent question were it not 18 months out of date. The packaged approach was developed by the Government and local authorities of all political persuasions enthusiastically support the approach because they see the good sense of it. The hon. Gentleman should know that packaged expenditure has significantly increased this year for precisely the reasons which—belatedly—he has come to realise make such sense.

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

Despite transport supplementary grant settlement being provided for the Wainscott northern bypass, Labour and Liberal-controlled Kent county council has delayed the start of the work and delayed issuing tenders. Why on earth did the Department not ring-fence the money so that the council could not indulge in such political chicanery?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

We gave by far the largest allocation of the local transport settlement to Kent, which historically receives a large allocation. The order of priority for schemes, however, is a matter for Kent. I regret that my hon. Friend is disappointed with the allocation, but I hope that she will direct her questions on that subject to the county council, which does not appear to have been particularly enthusiastic about defending her constituents' interests.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Does the Minister agree with me that while the issue of transport is important at the national level, most transport measures—such as rapid transit, chicanes, traffic calming, sleeping police men—are delivered at local level and impact at that level? If he agrees with that statement, will he explain to the House, to local authorities and to the local electors why his Department has cut central support to local authority transport schemes by one half in the past three years?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I think that it is up to the hon. Gentleman to specify how much in additional resources he would like to see allocated for transport measures. Once he has decided that, he should have a word with the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) and clear that rather aberrant line with him. I fear that the Leader of the Opposition would utterly dismiss such loose talk.

Any responsible Government will receive far more good quality bids for local transport expenditure than are able to be financed. The sooner the hon. Gentleman learns that fact, the better he may be able to perform in his new portfolio.