Is John Redwood making just a fatuous debating point here, is he stupid, or is he a hypocrite? In lamenting Ruth Kelly's proposals for road pricing, he says:
I look forward to seeing her contribution to the next Labour manifesto. Coming from the Marie Antoinette school of politics, it will presumably say “The poor should take the bus or stay at home”. It will make its bid to get the votes of the better off by recommending ” You know you can afford it - try one of our motorways now we persuaded those on low incomes to stay off the road. You know you’re worth it.”
This is just drivel. There is in principle, an overwhelming case for road pricing. Roads are a scarce resource, and prices are the best mechanism we've discovered for allocating scarce resources. And using roads imposes costs - pollution, congestion - onto others. Efficiency requires that these be internalized.
If these prices are regressive, the solution is more (and more efficient) redistribution to the poor, not to forego efficiency-enhancing policies.
So, why is Redwood moaning? He's supposed to be in favour of free markets - he's Honorary President of the Selsdon Group which "exists to promote the case for free market policies". So why does he not want a (near) market in road use? Or do I know the answer to that?