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 Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon 4:15 pm, 16th May 2002

I take the point that the right hon. Gentleman made about trams. A tram link serves my constituency, connecting Merton and Croydon, and many business people use it. However, we have to start somewhere, and although this is a small measure, it is a very sensible one. I believe that it will encourage people to use public transport more and it is to be applauded. London suffers greatly from excessive congestion, which is a huge problem in my Wimbledon constituency, and the measure will help.

I want to take issue with, or perhaps add to, the points made by the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh). The aim of the measure is not simply to change people's behaviour. Obviously, it gives people an extra incentive to use local transport if they will not be taxed for it, but we should not forget the measure's importance to business. Businesses recognise the significant costs to themselves of congestion in major cities such as London and the health costs attached to the pollution that congestion generates. Businesses have made many representations to the Government asking them to work through the tax system to encourage people to use public transport more. We must look to businesses to publicise the benefit to their employees, making them aware that they will not be taxed if they travel on local stopping services. Businesses should encourage employees to take up the benefit.

In a similar vein, perhaps we can look in a future Finance Bill at ways of using the tax system to encourage the use of school buses or other public transport by people travelling to school. It is people taking their children to school, especially between 8

and 9 am, that leads to most congestion in my constituency, creating a lot of trouble for people trying to get to work.

The measure is welcome and I hope that we shall build on it in future Finance Bills. It is about changing people's behaviour, but also about business, the Government and the community working together to reduce congestion in our cities for the benefit of everyone.