'Investment in and reform of our public services, most particularly our National Health Service, our education system and our transport system are critically important,' he said. 'I believe in the last four years we have laid foundations. I have learnt from the mistakes as well the good things but above all else I have learnt of the importance of establishing the clear priorities of Government.'
Fleet leaders are in no doubt about their transport priorities and what they expect from Stephen Byers, who has taken over as Secretary of State for the newly-formed Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions. The 10 key demands from the fleet and motor industry include a better road system, a rethink on carbon dioxide-based company car tax to help high-mileage drivers, higher investment of motorists' taxes in alternative transport, lower fuel prices, clearer policy guidelines on diesel, tax incentives for alternative transport and a stay of execution for the car distribution block exemption.
Fleet managers also demanded lower fuel costs and action to tackle congestion. The key message, however, was for consistency and stability from Government following the upheaval caused by the Supply of New Cars Order 2000, which was intended to create a level playing field between fleets and private buyers.
Ironically, Byers was responsible for the Order in his previous role as Trade and Industry Secretary, but he did gain support from the motor industry for his efforts to secure the futures of MG Rover's Longbridge plant and Nissan's factory in Sunderland. His new department replaces the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, whose previous chief John Prescott will now focus on his duties as Deputy Prime Minister. Environment now falls under Margaret Beckett, whose brief also includes food and rural affairs.