Road charging is needed in the West Midlands to cure the congestion on routes such as Spaghetti Junction, Liberal Democrats said yesterday.

The party's transport spokesman, Tom Brake, described the 30-acre junction, which connects the M6 with the A38, as a " road to nowhere".

He also backed Rover workers who protested against the award of an honorary degree to motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson.

Clarkson, who received an honorary engineering doctorate from Oxford Brookes University, has described Rovers as "stupid cars" and revealed his first thought on hearing Longbridge had closed was "good".

But Mr Brake said: "His views do not constitute any form of academic achievement".

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is considering the introduction of a roadcharging scheme which would involve tracking the movements of every vehicle and charging drivers for the roads they use.

Other charges, such as vehicle tax or petrol duty, would be reduced.

The West Midlands could be one of the first regions to pilot the scheme.

Mr Brake said he backed the idea, and warned Mr Darling against backing out.

Speaking at his party's annual conference, he told delegates about his journey to the Blackpool venue.

He said: "On the way we passed the infamous Spaghetti Junction and its seemingly endless number of junctions and roads leading from it.

"Seeing it reminded me of a song by the Talking Heads - Road to Nowhere - a song as symbolic as any of Labour's policies on transport in Britain."

He added: "Britain has the dubious honour of having the most congested roads in Europe.

"A country where our high streets are often at a virtual standstill; where our motorways frequently move at little more than crawling pace. And, if time is money, then the CBI estimates that the cost of congestion could be as much as £20 billion."

He said the solution was a system of road pricing.

"There is a value in ensuring freedom from congestion and pollution. There is a value in having liveable neighbourhoods and cities."

He claimed Mr Darling had "followed the Liberal Democrat lead" in considering road pricing - but claimed the Secretary of State was getting "cold feet".

Mr Brake then went on to attack Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of Top Gear, saying: "His glamorisation of speed and power, and reckless approach to the environment, may amuse some but it frustrates me."

More than 1,400 people, including Longbridge workers, signed a petition objecting to Oxford Brookes' decision to award him an honorary degree. In April, Mr Clarkson wrote in a newspaper column: "I didn't like the vast majority of Rover's cars when they were being made and I won't miss them at all.

"What's more, I cannot even get teary and emotional about the demise of the company itself - though I do feel sorry for the workforce. In fact when I heard the news my first thought was 'good'."