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Part of Supplementary Estimates 2009-10 — Department of Health – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 6:32 pm, 10th March 2010

There is not a three-line whip that requires people in any given setting to have the most polluting and largest vehicles. Equally, because of the technology under the bonnet, not all large vehicles fall within the higher bands. We have been incentivising vehicle manufacturers to work together in partnership to reduce emissions levels from any particular model.

To pick up on a point that the hon. Member for Lewes made, he suggested that abolishing VED and reducing fuel duty would make everything much better. He said that people would shift to the railways and so on. I recognise what he says, but I do not believe that it would work, and I am sure that he does not either. The first thing he said was that motorists deserve a fair deal, and I doubt whether they would recognise cutting 90 per cent. of the road budget as a fair deal.

The railways are undoubtedly a beacon, because of the investment and changes in the system. There are 49 per cent. more people travelling on our railways-the highest level since the second world war-and all the changes have made a real difference to people. The hon. Gentleman will know about the levels of patronage and use. There is still further work to be done, and it will be interesting to see what further developments the Government will suggest as we go forward.

Equally, however, I wish to point out that I attended an urban logistics conference this morning, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South for recognising my commitment to freight. It is absolutely essential that we have a strong freight logistics business in this country. That includes road, rail, inland waterways when that is sensible, and coastal shipping. I strongly believe that, which is why the Government will continue to invest money via the various modal shift grants that we provide. I must recognise, however, that there are limitations. Sixty-eight per cent. of freight moves within the same region. With the best will in the world, and given that we are geographically a relatively small country, it would not be common sense to shift that freight on to the railways or some other means of transport. We must take a balanced approach.