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Tolls: Roads and Bridges

Volume 614: debated on Thursday 15 September 2016

Successive Governments have taken the view that tolling is justified on certain infrastructure, such as significant river crossings.

I thank the Minister for the reply. Before the general election, the former Chancellor promised motorists in Cheshire West, Warrington and Chester discounts on the tolls that are to be introduced in 2017 on the new Mersey Gateway bridge and the old Silver Jubilee bridge. I have no objection to the Government’s paying for discounts for motorists, but my constituents in Liverpool and in Knowsley live closer to those bridges and rely on them just as much as people who live in Chester and Warrington. So will the Minister have a word with the new Chancellor and ask him to provide some money to pay for those discounts to be extended to my constituents?

I imagined that the hon. Lady would ask that question, because she has tabled a number of written questions in a similar vein. She rightly says that a local discount scheme will operate on the Mersey Gateway bridge. The Government have said that they were looking to extend those discounts, as she also said. Let me be clear: officials are currently working through the character and effect of that extension, and no decision has been made upon it. Of course, I will give full consideration to the arguments she has made on behalf of her constituents and others.

I did say at the outset that successive Governments have taken the view that tolling is justified on major infrastructure schemes. My hon. Friend will know that those matters are, as I said earlier, also being considered in the round. No decisions have been made to the effect that he describes.

The M4 is the main supply route into the Welsh economy and hence there is cross-party support in the National Assembly for devolving ownership of the Severn bridges once they return to public ownership. Will the right hon. Gentleman update the House on what discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on this issue?

I am always happy to have discussions with the Welsh Government, and I have done so in a variety of ministerial roles. My view is very clear, and I think that we have been plain about the toll on that important crossing. It is this Government who, when the current regime comes to its conclusion in 2018, will halve the toll. The hon. Gentleman must welcome that, as he knows how good it will be for his constituents, so I hope that after today’s questions he will put out a press release, congratulating the Government on their decision.

On behalf of the Scottish National party, may I welcome the Secretary of State and his new Ministers to their places?

Was the Minister aware that the very first act of the SNP Scottish Government was to introduce the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Act 2008, which means that, in Scotland, there is no need for discounts? Tolls are gone, saving commuters around Scotland hundreds of pounds a year and boosting tourism and the economy. Has he studied that model for his own use?

I will give a mercifully short answer: Scottish independence would mean that the SNP Government could not afford that anymore.

Of course, there will be no tolls either on the new £3 billion dual carriageway of the A9. On the subject of the A9, will the Minister congratulate the Scottish Government on the safety cameras on the non-dualled section between Perth and Inverness, which was unbelievably opposed by one of the Minister’s former colleagues, Sir Daniel Alexander? Those cameras have seen speeding drop from 43% to 10% since 2012, thereby reducing death and injuries. Will the Minister consider that matter?

Of course we always give consideration to those kind of matters and it is important that we give credit where credit is due. When I have worked out, following the hon. Gentleman’s rather long question, whether credit is due, I will decide whether or not to give it.