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Part of Supplementary Estimates 2009-10 — Department of Health – in the House of Commons at 5:36 pm on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Peter Soulsby Peter Soulsby Labour, Leicester South 5:36 pm, 10th March 2010

My hon. Friend the Chair of the Committee has given a clear exposition of the report, and it was a pleasure to serve under her chairmanship. She spoke of the vital importance of the road network, which was clear to us right from the start and from the evidence that we received. She also spoke about the high level of mistrust from motorists and more generally about the way in which charges and taxes are levied. I do not intend to cover the same ground as my hon. Friend, but I shall address three areas that the Committee considered.

The first was the issue of road pricing, whether by urban congestion charging or inter-urban road pricing. It was clear that although such road pricing has many attractions, it is by no means a panacea for the problems of congestion. We looked closely at the situation in London and saw the considerable success that congestion charging has had in the capital. However, as we considered the evidence, it was clear that London is very different from any other part of the UK. It is very different from other urban areas and, of course, that scheme shows us nothing about the prospects for inter-urban road pricing. London is very densely populated, it had pre-existing levels of congestion that were unacceptably high and the area chosen for congestion charging is one that enables those who do not need to go into the area to avoid it. The area is also served by high levels of public transport, which is not the case in many other urban areas-and certainly not public transport that is available for the hours that buses and tubes run in the capital. It is therefore not an especially good model for elsewhere, and it was evident from the experience in Manchester, where charging was considered, and the response to the No. 10 petition-misleading though it may have been-that the level of public support for road pricing is not sufficient to make it a politically realistic option nationwide or in any urban area in which it has so far been under consideration. That is not to say that it is not an attractive prospect, but its introduction would be politically fraught.

The second area is the discussion of further road building. It was evident to the Committee that further extensive road building was not a panacea-