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Part of Supplementary Estimates 2009-10 — Department of Health – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Shadow Minister (Transport) 6:12 pm, 10th March 2010

I hope that the Minister will refer to that. Norman Baker said that he wanted to abolish VED, but I believe that the need to make sure that a vehicle is insured and MOT'd at least once a year helps to clamp down on uninsured vehicles. I hope that the Government-although perhaps it will fall to others-will do something to address the problem of cloned vehicles and the ease with which counterfeit number plates can be obtained.

The Royal Automobile Club has calculated that only a third of the £37 billion raised from vehicle taxation is spent on motorists. The figure for tax revenue does not include VAT on new vehicles or revenue accruing from servicing, repairs and parking. On top of that, of course, the new showroom tax will come in in the new financial year, and that will levy up to £1,000 on the cost of some most polluting vehicles.

One could be forgiven for assuming that this Government included road investment in their massive splurge of spending, which was often funded by irresponsible borrowing, over the last few years, but the facts show that road investment has lost out. The following figures are based on real prices for 2007-08, and so allow for inflation. In the 10 years between 1987 and 1997, the average annual spend on road investment was £6.3 billion-and I do not need to tell the Minister who was running the country then-but in the 10 years between 1998 and 2008 the average was £4.3 billion. That represents a cut of a third in the money going into roads.

In fact, the peak year was 1992-93, when £6.89 billion was invested in roads. The lowest year was 1999-2000, when the figure was only £3.821 billion. So although the Government make big claims about all the money spent on transport, it certainly has not been spent on our country's road infrastructure. It is no wonder that congestion has continued to be a problem over the life of the Government. They failed not just to mend the roof when the sun was shining, but the driveway lost out, too.

Two flagship policies have foundered on the rocks of public opposition. First, the transport innovation fund was established in 2004 and promised generous funding for local transport projects if proposals were presented for local congestion charging. Some people have described that as bribing councils to introduce congestion charging. Of the 10 councils or groups of councils that expressed an interest, only Durham looks like delivering a scheme, at £2 a time. The final nail in the coffin was the referendum in December 2008, when 78.8 per cent. of voters in Manchester rejected congestion charging there, despite the fact that it had already cost £24.1 million to develop the scheme to that stage. That aborted congestion charging policy has still cost the taxpayer £41.7 million nationally. Secondly, the rebranded urban challenge fund will no longer include a requirement to introduce tolls. What an embarrassing and expensive U-turn by the Government.

We have heard from the Chair of the Transport Committee how the Government have backed away from their spy-in-the-sky road-charging scheme in the face of the 1.8 million people who signed on to the No. 10 website. That may possibly even merit an entry in "The Guinness Book of Records". The fact is that drivers did not trust the Government when they said they would reduce other types of taxation on drivers if a road-user charge was introduced. Drivers saw that as another stealth tax and another way to persecute the motorist. Now, of course, the Government have backtracked under pressure, but I am pleased that the Liberal Democrats have picked up that unpopular policy and are trying to run with it. I think they will get the same reaction from the electorate when they try to promote it, particularly as they take the irresponsible view that they can reduce investment in roads by 90 per cent. at the same time. That would have a devastating effect on our country's infrastructure and our ability to attract investment, jobs and all the other ways that the efficiency of a country's transport system can help the people who live there.