Clause 33 - Employer-subsidised public transport business services

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 16th May 2002.

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Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport 4:15 pm, 16th May 2002

I hesitate to make any kind of contribution in such august company as this. I am on a learning curve, but I have a relatively simple contribution to make.

Labour Members are very much in favour of a taxation scheme that modifies behaviour, and one that modifies behaviour and encourages environment-friendly behaviour is doubly welcome. However, and I do not make the accusation directly, the clause could smack of tokenism.

Statistics show—I have the advantage of being on the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions—that there is no increase in the use of buses across the country except in London, with a marginal increase outside London. The projected increase in the Government's 10-year transport plan is small, so the growth in the bus network will be fairly minimal. I dare say that the change in taxation law will make some difference, although I do not think any Ministers pretend that it will make a massive difference. When one adds to that the future fall in the cost of motoring, an eloquent plea can be made for the exemption to be widened to take in all kinds of travel plans.

Why are trains not included in the clause? In the area where I live, most people who commute do so by train or through an integrated ticketing system that involves trains and buses. Why are coaches not included and, particularly, why not park and ride? That is essentially a bus scheme, which makes an enormous difference in many town centres. To incorporate it into the Bill would be an example of joined-up government. How would the Paymaster General respond to that suggestion?