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Part of Supplementary Estimates 2009-10 — Department of Health – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee 4:52 pm, 10th March 2010

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. It is unfortunate if the Government put undue pressure on local authorities. I understand that that particular scheme, although controversial locally, was decided by the local authority. In our report we say that where a referendum or consultation is required, there should be more explicit rules about how that should be carried out.

Government investment in transport has increased dramatically in recent years. It has increased by 70 per cent. since 1997, which our Committee warmly welcomes. We are, however, concerned-our concern is reflected in a number of our recent reports-by the disparity in transport spending in different parts of the country. For example, the figures for 2007-08, which are the most recent transport spending figures available, show that £86 per annum per head was spent on transport in the north-west. That is a 16 per cent. increase in spending per head in the north-west on 2002-03. That might sound reasonable, until we look at the figures for London and the comparable figures for the south-east. In 2007-08 £1,658 per head was spent on transport in London-an 80 per cent. increase over 2002-03. We do not want transport investment in the capital to be reduced. We understand that there is a need for greater investment there, but we feel strongly that it is not in the interests of equity or of raising the GDP of Great Britain as a whole that there are such massive disparities in spending between London and the south-east, and other regions. We would like to see the Government look again at that and invest much more in the regions outside the south-east.

I said at the beginning of my remarks that the Treasury had important obligations and an important influence on transport policy. One of the issues is the cost of transport. We deal at length with the need to increase the movement of transport, to get cars off the road where that can be achieved, to encourage people to use cars less, and to encourage hauliers to use the road less where that can be achieved.

Cost and charges are important. According to a parliamentary answer in response to a question from Norman Baker, between 1997 and 2009 the real cost of motoring declined by 14 per cent., bus and coach fares increased by 24 per cent. and rail fares increased by 13 per cent. in real terms. That is hardly conducive to encouraging a significant change in car usage. That requires due consideration by the Treasury as well as the Department for Transport.

Transport is essential for individuals and for our economy. How it is funded will be increasingly under the spotlight, particularly as all of us consider how we can best take our country out of recession without damaging the economy, damaging our services or creating unemployment. Addressing congestion and environmental issues in an equitable way, without damaging essential mobility, requires a closer link between transport and Treasury policies. That relates to incentives to produce more efficient vehicles and to develop alternative fuels, as well as to invest in integrated public transport.