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Support for Motorists

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 26 October 2023

Through Network North, we announced £8.3 billion for road resurfacing—the largest allocation of money for local road maintenance ever—and an extra £4 billion for local road schemes. In addition, the plan for drivers set out 30 new measures we are taking to make motorists’ lives easier, from restraining the most aggressively anti-driver traffic management interventions to stopping councils profiting from moving traffic enforcement. Our plans show that the Government are on the side of drivers.

Across the country, the Department for Transport and local administrations have had great success in reducing the impact of roadworks on everyday motorists through lane rental schemes. Unfortunately, Greater Manchester is not one of the areas making use of that highly effective tool. Will my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that Greater Manchester adopts a similar scheme to tackle the massive disruption caused by roadworks?

I entirely agree with the point made by my hon. Friend. I am pleased to report that, following his very effective representations and those of others, the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s Bee Network committee recently endorsed a decision to develop a proposal to introduce lane rental in Greater Manchester, and discussions are now taking place with local authorities.

I welcome the UK Government’s £1 billion investment to electrify the north Wales main line, but for my Ynys Môn constituents, the best connectivity for motorists would be a third Menai crossing to take the pressure off our two lovely but old bridges and to make the most of Anglesey freeport and of Holyhead, the second busiest roll-on roll-off port in the UK. Will my right hon. Friend see what the UK Government can do to make that a reality for north Wales, now that the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff have banned new road building?

The UK Government recognise the importance of Ynys Môn to the UK economy. Decisions about the Menai crossings are the responsibility of the Welsh Government. That emphasises the damage, both to the Welsh economy and the UK economy, being done by Labour’s decision to ban all new road building, which I very much hope it will revisit.

Petrol prices in Barnsley are significantly higher than in neighbouring areas. Indeed, it is often cheaper to buy petrol in central London than it is in Barnsley. I do not think that motorists in Barnsley should have to pay a petrol price premium. Does the Secretary of State intend to include in the King’s Speech legislation on a fuel watchdog to help motorists in Barnsley?

I hope that the hon. Lady will have noted the announcement that we made earlier this year about PumpWatch, as well as the work that the Government have done to ensure that the Competition and Markets Authority looks carefully at the way in which the fuel market operates, to ensure that it does so in the interest of consumers, as we all want.

Some 50-plus years ago, when I first took my driving test, there was one other thing we had to do: be able to afford a car. I can remember pinning all my £165 to buy a wee Mini car, but that was 50-plus years ago. Today, one of the issues for people who want to drive and be on the roads is that they just cannot get a practical driving test. What has been done to address that so that young people who have a car and insurance can take a test and get on the road?

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. The wait times for theory driving tests are within target. He is absolutely right to draw the House’s attention to the fact that there is currently a longer waiting time for practical driving tests. That is why both I and the roads Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), have tasked the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which has a plan to get back within target in the next few months, exactly to help those constituents of the hon. Gentleman who are keen to get their practical test and get on the road, so that they can take advantage of the freedom that being able to drive offers.

Pothole repairs halved since 2016; insurance premiums up; fuel prices up; electric charge point roll-out 10 years behind schedule; £950 million EV charge point fund still not open three years after being announced; 10% trade tariffs threatening consumers and manufacturers—which of those is not an example of where this Government have failed drivers over the last 13 years?

The hon. Gentleman had a number of things that he purported to suggest were facts. Let me just pick one of them: the roll-out of EV charging. That is absolutely on track according to the independent assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission. The number of public charge points is up 43%. As the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) set out, we have published and laid before the House the legislation to implement our zero-emission vehicle mandate, which gives the industry the confidence to invest in and roll out those charge points, to drive the roll-out of electric vehicles. We are absolutely on track to do that, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not welcome it.