Senior Lib Dem Transport MP slams Blair's 'Spam Email!'

February 23, 2007 10:12 AM

Rochdale MP and Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson - Paul Rowen has accused the Prime Minister of being 'out of touch and misleading' in his reply to well over a 1.7 Million people, who a signed a petition on his Website against Road Pricing. Paul said, "The huge response from all walks of life has taken the Government by surprise. The petition was hugely popular in Greater Manchester where the debate has been handled particularly badly by Labour transport bosses. The rushed way that the idea was announced has led to a completely avoidable campaign that I am afraid has not helped ease congestion on our roads nor improved public transport."

Here in Greater Manchester, as Local Labour Transport Bosses admit we are being 'blackmailed' by the Labour Government. We are told that the Transport Innovation Fund money will provide huge improvements in public transport, yet we are told in the next breath that you will only be realistically successful if you make huge strides in bringing in Congestion Charging. What this means for Rochdale Town Centre is unclear - we are in a desperately difficult situation. Basically we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. I feel that Labour have let Rochdale down again - don't forget this is money that was promised to us by the Labour Party in the 2001 and 2005 General Elections. The conditional part of the Transport Innovation Fund Bid means that this debate has just been foisted on us. I have always said that I am broadly in favour of Congestion Charging but with the proviso that there is a significant investment in public transport and the 4 conditions as set out by Council Leader Alan Taylor on public support, business support, the ability to attract additional investment to help our economy and the need to put congestion charging where roads are heavily congested."

I do not feel that Tony Blair has moved this debate on one iota - his Labour Government are determined to bring in congestion charging by hook or crook - to the extent that they are bribing local authorities to bring this in."

Paul has slammed the Prime Minister's comments in his bulk email. The email claims, "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, but any schemes would teach us more about how road pricing would work and inform decisions on a national scheme. And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas."

Paul said, "I'm afraid that this email is about as useful as the dozens of Spam Emails I delete every day. He claims the Government are 'working with some local authorities' and that 'pricing is not being forced on anyone' Well, here in Greater Manchester, it's coming down to either support congestion charging or lose the Metrolink into our Town Centre, with all the associated regeneration benefits. I am afraid that Tony Blair's email illustrates how out of touch he actually is at best - either that or it is damn right misleading "

Councillor Peter Davison, Rochdale Lib Dem Spokesperson on the GMPTA said, "I find this whole debacle astonishing - I went on record in November stating that we were over a barrel on this one. That we either supported Congestion Charging or we would lose a bid running into the hundreds of millions to bring Metrolink into the heart of Rochdale and the other significant improvements to our public transport. The additional money for the Metrolink should not be conditional - but proves that Labour is breaking yet another promise to the people of Rochdale. I did not sign the petition but am aware of the content of the Prime Minister's response which I feel has not contributed much to this debate."