The Government have no plans to roll out tolling on existing roads. Successive Governments have taken the view that tolls are occasionally justified when private finance enables some of the most expensive road infrastructure, such as significant river crossings, to proceed. It is right that the user pays, rather than the taxpayer, because the user benefits.
My constituents who work in Liverpool will need a pay rise of £1,000 a year just to stand still when the Mersey crossing tolls are introduced. Will the Minister consider a scheme whereby those who can demonstrate that they were in permanent employment on the other side of the water on the day the tolls were announced would have either some kind of tapered introduction or a discount to reflect the additional costs?
As I said, it is not unusual for Governments to use tolls to finance large estuary crossings. I would rather be straightforward with the hon. Gentleman about this matter because he is a diligent, popular and well-respected Member of this House and, more importantly, he is one of my friends. I cannot do what he wants and I would rather say that now. We did consider whether we could widen or add to the discount scheme, but we could not make that cost-effective, so I would rather be absolutely frank with him and just say that.
Last week marked nine years since the Scottish National party scrapped the last of the transport tolls in Scotland. Since then, the average commuter travelling on the Forth and Tay bridges has saved around £2,000. In the same period, the average toll-paying commuter in England and Wales will have paid just under £4,000. If the Government are serious about helping what they call “just about managing” families, why will not the Secretary of State reassess his transport toll policy?
My goodness, what barefaced cheek from the SNP. It did indeed cancel the tolls, and the crossing closed because the SNP did not have enough money—[Interruption.] There was not enough money to make it work.