» Thursday, March 1, 2007

Road Pricing

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that the wave of congestions taxes introduced should be progressive, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister believes that first and foremost people have to recognise that doing nothing is not an option. If you look at the projection for congestion it is clear that doing nothing is not an option. What the Prime Minister then believes is that what we need to do is find out what works and what doesn’t work which is why we proposed ten pilot schemes, and then you come up with the proposals. There is a process of education for Government, for local authorities and for the public that we all have to go through. Simply reacting in a knee-jerk way to what people think the Government is proposing is not the way to go. People quite rightly feel strongly about this issue but what we have to do is have a mutual education exercise in which we all come to learn more about how we deal with this difficult issue. Asked what the difference between not having a knee-jerk reaction and the Prime Minster saying that the Government couldn’t proceed if everyone was opposed, the PMOS said that what the Prime Minister was acknowledging, as we did acknowledge, was that people feel very strongly about it. People equally feel strongly about congestion and feel very strongly that they want congestion dealt with as an issue. Those two position are somewhat contradictory but what the role of Government is, is to see how we can deal with congestion in a way which people recognise as being fair and dealing with the problem and actually offering a long term sustainable solution. What is absolutely clear is if you don’t look at the problem you will end up with something that people don’t want which is cities in which no one can move. That is not just bad in terms of the use of peoples time and terms of the environment, it is also bad for jobs. The BBC estimate quoted that if nothing was done about congestion in Manchester it would cost 30,000 jobs.

Asked if there was a time frame for the policy, the PMOS said that the pilot schemes will determine the pace by which we progress, but it is years not weeks.

Asked if the Daily Mirror’s view that the Prime Minister suggested that the wealthier should pay more, the PMOS said that there were all sorts of options which need to be considered, but that does not mean that the decisions have already been taken at this stage. We should not trivialise this debate by jumping ahead, grabbing headlines and saying that a story is Government policy. We need an intelligent debate, which means an intelligent media debate as well as an intelligent debate by people.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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