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Transport: Motoring Lobby

Volume 717: debated on Thursday 4 February 2010

Question

Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what influence the motoring lobby has on his transport policy and appraisal schemes.

My Lords, the Department for Transport consults a range of stakeholders as part of its commitment to evidence-based policy-making, and I consider all representations made to me, including those from motoring organisations. However, all policy decisions are reached properly and independently.

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that Answer. However, I believe that about 80 per cent of the transport budget is spent on roads—at least, 80 per cent of the capital budget. If, as I hope, the Minister would like to spend more on public transport, particularly on the railways, does he feel it necessary for political reasons to continue to appease the motorist? Does he have plans to review the appraisal schemes, which seem unfairly to favour the motoring lobby?

My Lords, I am glad to say that the noble Earl's statistics are incorrect. If you aggregate revenue as well as capital spending by my department, for the current year, its budget is being spent as follows: £4.1 billion on rail, £3.1 billion on strategic roads, and, in addition, £2.7 billion is being allocated to London, a good deal of which is going on public transport.

My Lords, does not the Secretary of State agree that the revenue raised from motorists is a very salient aspect of the finances of this country? The suggestion that they should be penalised in any way will not help that. Will he underscore his support for the fact that motorists should not be under too many coshes?

My Lords, motorists have legitimate interests that need to be properly protected by the Government. Indeed, we are doing so. We are now embarked on a five-year investment programme in the strategic road network, and £6 billion will be invested in improving the strategic road network and enhancing capacity. We are doing our duty by motorists as well as by other transport users.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that, in the opinion of many of us, the motoring lobby has been dictating transport policy in this country since it succeeded in abolishing the man with the red flag who used to walk in front of motor cars? Will he tell the House why appraisal schemes for road and rail matters are so different?

My Lords, as my noble friend will be aware, we have updated the new approach to appraisal and, in particular, our treatment of fuel duty—a matter of concern before—which now makes it possible better to capture the benefits that apply to public transport schemes. That change has been widely welcomed.

My Lords, what action are the Government taking to assist local authorities that are responsible for many of the roads now suffering from potholes as a result of the bad weather?

My Lords, we allocate them very substantial resources. In the current financial year, £1.1 billion is being allocated to local authorities, which enables them to improve their roads and fulfil their other transport responsibilities.

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend’s answer to my noble friend Lord Snape on the appraisal methodology, but does the new approach include taking into account the value of carbon for all forms of transport?

My Lords, as I think my noble friend is aware because he studies these issues in great detail, it gives a much better allowance to the cost of carbon in the appraisal of schemes.

My Lords, the Secretary of State gave a very interesting breakdown of his department’s budget between rail, road and London. Will he advise the House how much of the London portion is to do with the Olympics?

My Lords, only a small proportion is directly concerned with the Olympics. Most of the £2.7 billion I referred to is to enable the mayor to fulfil his wider transport responsibilities.