Politics: Prescott scorns PM's teenybopper politics story

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The Independent Online
JOHN PRESCOTT dismissed one of the Prime Minister's policy advisers as a "teenybopper" yesterday after the official criticised his transport plans for being too green.

The Deputy Prime Minister also suggested that although Geoffrey Norris was an employee of the Prime Minister his views did not always count.

"Who's Mr Norris? Mr Norris is an official in the department. We sometimes call them teenyboppers. You know what I mean?" he said when questioned on the matter during a BBC television interview.

Mr Norris had written to Mr Prescott under the Prime Minister's name warning that plans for a transport White Paper were going too far and were too "anti-car". The memo was revealed in the Independent on Sunday yesterday.

Mr Prescott said Britain had accepted legal targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases and must make "difficult choices" to fulfil them.

Dismissing the memo, he said: "That doesn't make it Number 10 policy. I can tell you, as the one who has responsibility for this matter, I want people to use their cars less. I don't necessarily have to force them into that position. That happily happens in Europe and they do it because they've got a better public transport system.

"Yes there may be difficult choices. I don't think they're as difficult as people think they are."

His plans reportedly include powers for councils to levy "congestion charges" on motorists who bring their cars into towns and cities at peak times as well as heavy levies on "private, non-residential parking" designed to hit those who use their cars to go to work or shop.

Shops, offices and factories could be charged for parking spaces they provide, as would out-of-town supermarkets. The money raised from these schemes could be used by councils to finance transport projects.

Mr Prescott insisted he had the backing of the Prime Minister. "Tony Blair is very strong about the environment. He's very strong about public transport policy. I've no doubt about that," he said.

Mr Prescott also denied that the White Paper had been delayed. "No. It's in the first week or the second week of June. That's what was intended. Put your money on it," he said.