17/09/2013 12:45 BST | Updated 17/09/2013 12:57 BST

Norman Baker Urges High Street Shoppers To Use Public Transport, Not Cars

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Norman Baker MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Enviroment, makes his speech at the autumn conference of The Liberal Democrats held at The Bournemouth International Centre on September 21, 2004 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)

Shoppers should be priced out of their cars in city centres and encouraged to use public transport, transport minister Norman Baker has said.

Speaking at a meeting hosted by the CentreForum thinktank at the Liberal Democrat conference on Sunday, Baker said: "I was in Southern Germany for a holiday a few years ago. I forget which town it was, but there were no cars in the centre at all.

"The place was heaving with people spending money - and every single shop was occupied."

Baker said ministers should give more money to cycling schemes and public transport.

"That works. Filling towns and cities with cars can't work," he said.

The minister admitted that higher parking charges could "damage" town centres, but suggested that greater public transport usage "can work" and driving should be "disincentivised".

Baker added: "If we are doing everything to make sure towns are attractive for bikes and public transport, it’s right to say that cars should be disincentivised."

The minister wrote in August that the government was working to "promote safer cycling and to get more people to switch from four wheels to two."

Tory sources told the Daily Mail that Baker's attempts to increase parking charges have been foiled by Conservative Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

One said: "It has been blocked and it’s not going to happen under this government. We don’t want to get rid of cars from town centres."

Tory MP Peter Bone derided Baker's suggestions as "madcap nonsense".

He said: "This is just the sort of madcap nonsense we have come to expect from the Liberal Democrats. I would congratulate Norman Baker on speaking his mind because it proves what stupid things his party says.

"It must be very frustrating for sensible ministers to have to work with people who come up with completely clueless proposals like this."