New Clause 12

Part of Local Transport Bill [ Lords ] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 8th May 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:45 pm, 8th May 2008

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We live in an age where people carry less and less cash around with them. That is obviously due in part to disposable incomes falling owing to the Government’s huge tax increases. It is also true because we live an age of chip and pin, so people are becoming increasingly reliant on debit and credit cards. We can often use those cards throughout our constituencies in the smallest of corner shops, yet does it not seem extraordinary that it is not possible for that payment method to be used for tolls on either of the Severn bridges, the gateway to Wales? This is a marvel of British engineering and it seems a shame that chip and pin technology and payment by credit card cannot be used.

Mr. Andrew Davies, the Assembly Member for South Wales Central, found that a particular problem when one of his constituents wrote to him saying that he had come across the Severn bridge only to be told to go back to Bristol to get some cash. At that point he wrote to Severn River Crossing plc and was told:

“I can advise that the Severn Bridges Act 1992 governs the current Tolling Operation of both Severn Crossings. Unfortunately, this legislation does not allow payment by credit or debit cards at the Toll Booths.”

That was confirmed by the Deputy First Minister. That confirmation not only acknowledged that that Act governs the toll arrangements, but added:

“You will know that the legislative responsibility for the Severn Crossings rests with the Department for Transport’s Government Representative in England and the Highways Agency (HA).”

It seems, therefore, that it is possible for us to make provision that the Severn bridge be able to use what is common technology everywhere else.

I remind the Minister her answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) on 24 April this year said:

“We want it to be as convenient as possible for people to pay tolls at the Severn Crossing.”—[Official Report, 28 April 2008; Vol. 475, c. 36W.]

I hope, therefore, that the Minister will, at the tail end of the Committee, agree that this is an uncontroversial proposal that would bring the Severn bridge into the 21st century. Her agreement to it would speed the Committee’s proceedings.