7 May 2024
Colin Martin and the Liberal Democrats on the Tamar Bridge

A Parliamentary Debate on the future funding of the Tamar Tolls has been branded a “sham” by Liberal Democrats after opposition MPs were prevented from taking part.

Sheryll Murray, the Conservative MP for South East Cornwall announced last week that she had secured an “adjournment debate” in the House of Commons; a half-hour slot at the end of the day’s business to raise awareness of an issue. But when Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse asked to take part in the debate, she was told that the Conservative MP “will not be taking any interventions”.

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton Richard Foord MP waited patiently through twenty minutes of Ms Murray’s speech and ten minutes of the Minister’s response, but neither of them allowed him (or any other opposition MPs) to contribute to the debate. Mr Foord said "I can't think of any MP - of any political stripe - who is so scared of being challenged as to prevent all backbench MPs from participating in their debate"

Campaigners who have been calling for the abolition of the tolls reacted angrily to the news. Cornwall Councillor Colin Martin believes that Ms Murray doesn’t want the public to know that the Liberal Democrats support the abolition of the tolls. "Whilst all parties agree that the tolls are a burden, only one party has a policy to abolish them. The cost is significant to local residents (£18m per year) but not even a rounding error on the Government finances (one thousandth of one percent). At our recent conference, Liberal Democrat members unanimously supported my proposal for central Government to fully fund the crossings so that the tolls can be abolished."

Cllr Martin will be standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate against Sheryll Murray at the general election, which is expected to take place later this year. He said “Since her election fourteen years ago, our Conservative MP has consistently defended the principle that the Tamar crossings should not be funded by central Government. Now that she realises her seat is under threat from the Liberal Democrats, she suddenly supports our policy. She even called it “the greatest thing the government could do for levelling up and boosting the economy in this part of Cornwall”. But if Ms Murray had allowed the Liberal Democrats to take part in this debate, she would have been forced to admit that the Conservative party has no intention of abolishing the tolls.”

Colin Martin says that if he were an MP, he would work hard to build support across the political parties for funding the Tamar Tolls, something which he says the incumbent has failed to do. “This so-called “debate” is just a sham; a piece of worthless grandstanding from an MP who knows her seat is under threat from grass-roots campaigns like mine. South East Cornwall deserves an MP who puts the best interests of their local community above party politics.”

An online petition to abolish the tolls can be found at www.seclibdems.uk/tamar-tolls

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