Wednesday, February 21, 2007

E-petition: Response from Man in a Shed to the Prime Minister

E-petition: Response from the Prime Minister and corresponding fisk from Man in a Shed (blue)

The e-petition asking the Prime Minister to "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy" has now closed. This is a response from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Thank you for taking the time to register your views about road pricing on the Downing Street website. (Thank you for giving me your email address.)

This petition was posted shortly before we published the Eddington Study, an independent review of Britain's transport network. This study set out long-term challenges and options for our transport network.( At the time this petition was started you were unaware of all the facts and so are ignorant and ill informed.)

It made clear that congestion is a major problem to which there is no easy answer. (Its taken 10 years to figure that out eh ?. Well I guess you had John Prescott in charge of all this for a long while.)One aspect of the study was highlighting how road pricing could provide a solution (to Treasury funding without raising income tax and ruining our re-election chances - then we'd be stuck on public transport with the rest of you. Ministerial limousine from Heathrow in the bus lane is the only way to travel ) to these problems and that advances in technology put these plans within our reach. Of course it would be ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically ( you've got that bit right), feasible.

That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" (No we are hiding them in open cover - they are camouflage taxes) or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance (unlike cross checking all the finger prints on the ID cards against past crimes - which is. But we can be trusted) . This is a complex subject(ie you voters are too thick to understand), which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level. That's why I hope this detailed response will address your concerns (when will that bit start ? ) and set out how we intend to take this issue forward. I see this email as the beginning, not the end of the debate, and the links below provide an opportunity for you to take it further.

But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing (please don't vote against us.). Indeed we are simply not yet in a position to do so (see you don't even have to trust us ! ). We are, for now, working with some local authorities that are interested in establishing local schemes to help address local congestion problems. Pricing is not being forced on any area (of course just untrue - the people in the extended congestion charging area don't want it and its being forced on them.), but any schemes would teach us more about how road pricing would work(for raising revenue - for example London congestion charging just reducing traffic by about 4% - but will bring in lots of dosh ) and inform decisions on a national scheme ( we'll we're hoping for the exact opposite really.). And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas ( Oink flap ).

One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad. It's bad for business because it disrupts the delivery of goods and services. It affects people's quality of life. And it is bad for the environment. That is why tackling congestion is a key priority for any Government. (As is raising yet more money to waste on an unreformed public sector which will create a large client state to ensure Labour get returned to power and we can all keep our 1st class travel and limousines.)

Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015. This is being driven by economic prosperity. There are 6 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue.( Of course it takes one person to drive on vehicle so there's a limit here - but we don't want to spend your money on road - not we'd like to waste it on expensive rail schemes -see west coast line upgrade - in Labour heartlands and on ourselves. )

Part of the solution is to improve public transport, and to make the most of the existing road network. We have more than doubled investment since 1997( this is spending Tony SPENDING - you need to stop deceiving people with the words you use ), spending (Ok now that's better) £2.5 billion this year on buses and over £4 billion on trains - helping to explain why more people are using them than for decades ( no I'd say it was bus deregulation and rail privatisation ...). And we're committed to sustaining this investment (SPENDING), with over £140 billion of investment(SPENDING) planned between now and 2015. We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows - for example, over 1000 Highways Agency Traffic Officers(cheap police officers - the traffic cops we're moved to filling forms in for the home office down the station) now help to keep motorway traffic moving.

But all the evidence shows that improving public transport and tackling traffic bottlenecks will not by themselves prevent congestion getting worse (bollocks - build bigger motorways - why are France and Germany OK ??). So we have a difficult choice to make about how we tackle the expected increase in congestion. This is a challenge that all political leaders have to face up to, and not just in the UK. For example, road pricing schemes are already in operation in Italy, Norway and Singapore, and others, such as the Netherlands, are developing schemes. Towns and cities across the world are looking at road pricing as a means of addressing congestion(revenue generation).

One option would be to allow congestion to grow unchecked. Given the forecast growth in traffic, doing nothing would mean that journeys within and between cities would take longer, and be less reliable. I think that would be bad for businesses, individuals and the environment. And the costs on us all will be real - congestion could cost an extra £22 billion in wasted time in England by 2025, of which £10-12 billion would be the direct cost on businesses.( So build more roads.)

A second option would be to try to build our way out of congestion. (thats better) We could, of course, add new lanes to our motorways, widen roads in our congested city centres, and build new routes across the countryside. Certainly in some places new capacity will be part of the story. That is why we are widening the M25, M1 and M62. But I think people agree that we cannot simply build more and more roads, particularly when the evidence suggests that traffic quickly grows to fill any new capacity.( No I don't - there is a physical limit to how many vehicles the population of the UK can drive - one each )

Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly, requiring substantial sums to be diverted from other services such as education and health, or increases in taxes( again rubbish - it would stimulate the economy - leading to higher tax take- giving jobs to many of the working class). If I tell you that one mile of new motorway costs as much as £30m, you'll have an idea of the sums this approach would entail (given the GBP22Billion/year your worried about you could build 733 miles of motorway a year for the same cost - every year).

That is why I believe that at least we need to explore the contribution road pricing can make to (funding Labour's failed public spending splurge)tackling congestion. It would not be in anyone's interests, especially those of motorists, to slam the door shut on road pricing without exploring it further.

It has been calculated that a national scheme - as part of a wider package of measures - could cut congestion significantly through small changes in our overall travel patterns. But any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, may well be able to play a role here(we've never heard of peoples location being confirmed by mobile phone station records in court have we ? Oh that's right we have), by ensuring that the Government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been (again see ID cards and finger prints). But there may also be opportunities presented by developments in new technology. Just as new medical technology is changing the NHS, so there will be changes in the transport sector. Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.

I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't. Road pricing is about tackling congestion ( believe this and you'll believe just about anything - in fact you probably voted NuLabour at the last election).

Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation. This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall. Those who travel longer distances at peak times and in more congested areas would pay more. But those are decisions for the future( hint: Those in rural areas vote Tory - were do you think the taxes will fall ? If you wondering just see how Fox hunting ban was forced - against the will of local areas - onto the country). At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme (we don't want to loose votes until its too late to stop us), stories about possible costs are simply not credible ( so they are credible - just read your argument again - what proper job did you have before becoming an actor for the Labour party ? ), since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.

Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works. (Haven't you finished yet ?)A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair. I fully accept that we don't have all the answers yet. That is why we are not rushing headlong into a national road pricing scheme. Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations. The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.

We want to continue this debate, so that we can build a consensus around the best way to reduce congestion, protect the environment and support our businesses. If you want to find out more, please visit the attached links to more detailed information, and which also give opportunities to engage in further debate.

Yours sincerely( there are two words I just don't believe),

Tony Blair

(Man in a Shed)

1 comment:

Curly said...

Nice job! I'm not going there anymore, and any further emails from C.A.L.Blair are being filtered straight to the deleted bin without being seen. I would urge others to follow my example!