London, 24 January 1998.
For immediate release.

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Road traffic campaigners' 'trap' revealed
Letter to supporters shows real attitudes behind Road Traffic Reduction Bill
[FoELetter]

The Road Traffic Reduction (UK Targets) Bill - a private member's Bill supported by Friends of the Earth, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru - is due to be debated in Parliament on 30 January. These organisations put out a four page newsletter on 5 January entitled "Traffic Reduction File 10", designed to canvass support for this Bill and to encourage its sympathisers to lobby their MPs in its support. The press received a copy of this document attached to a press release and it goes to some lengths to reassure concerned readers that it seeks to reduce traffic by "policy, not compulsion", and that it is not the intention of the Bill to be authoritarian, to ban cars or to forbid people to drive them. It does not, however, rule such things out completely.

However, a very different letter went out to the known supporters of the Bill. We have obtained a copy of it, the most telling part of which reads:

"Four Years Hard Work: Now We Spring The Trap

"Enclosed is Traffic Reduction File No 10. It springs the trap that you have all worked so hard for over the last four years. All your letters; your phone calls; all your lobbying have set this trap. Every response you sent us we filed; every shift you achieved we noted; every promise, every commitment we recorded. TRF10 is the result.

"But a trap is most effective when properly sprung. In the run-up to the Second Reading of the Bill on 30th January we must snap this trap shut as hard as possible. We have this opportunity now to make all this work really bite, and bite hard."

To hear the language of the wicked and cruel gin trap used with such relish under the logos of environmental groups is shocking enough, but it begs the question of who is in the "trap".

This Bill is designed to defuse opposition. Its aims seem laudable, are far in the future and are so generalised that few individuals could feel specifically threatened by it. Its wording is full of platitudes and reassurances which make it seem harmless. Supported by a determined minority, too boring to publicise, too non-threatening to incite opposition, it stands every chance of slipping quietly onto the statute books. But who is in this trap they talk about?

The answer is simple. The ordinary driver. The media and opinion formers. The very mother of Parliaments itself. This Bill is designed specifically to set legally binding targets for traffic reduction and to allow open ended measures to achieve them. It is being railroaded through Parliament by a minority pressure group as part of a co-ordinated, ruthless and devious campaign against the car and its use by those ideologically opposed to the freedoms it brings. It is potentially the most repressive piece of peacetime legislation passed in Britain this century , and it must be stopped.

The language of this letter shows how determined these people are to get their way at the expense of true democracy.

 

Notes for Editors