Government rebuts plea for more road charges

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The government has rejected the case made by several Labour peers that charging for road use should be extended.

Transport spokesman Earl Attlee said peers were "on their hobby horses" when it came to road levies and asserted that "Lords will be well aware of the government's policy on wider road-user charging".

During committee-stage debate on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill on 4 February 2013, Earl Attlee reminded them the government has already brought in legislation to levy charges on heavy goods vehicles.

Earlier, Baroness Valentine, Labour peer and chief executive of business group London First, had argued in favour of an amendment to bring in "intelligent, barrier-free charging systems for new or existing roads or river crossings in response to the growing demand for road space".

Her party colleague Lord Snape complained about the operation of toll booths and called for a more modern system.

"Invariably," he said, "I find myself behind someone who has got in the wrong lane, or someone who does not have the right money or cannot find their credit card, and a lot of the time saved by using the toll road is lost as one queues to get through this barrier."

Opposition spokesman Lord Adonis joked in response: "I wish my noble friend Lord Snape well in his quest to abolish all medieval practices in this country. I would simply point out that your Lordships may be the first victims of such a policy."

Earl Attlee acknowledged the merit of providing "greater flexibility" for developers wishing to include road charging in their plans, but on the point of wider issues relating to charging for roads, he referred peers to the HGV Road User Levy Bill.

The bill is intended to promote investment in infrastructure projects and reduce delays in the planning system.

Under the plans, some infrastructure projects will be referred to the secretary of state, rather than local planning authorities, to be determined within a 12-month timetable.

Most of the provisions in the bill will apply only in England.

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