Column 1T H E
P A R L I A M E N T A R Y D E B A T E S
IN THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FIFTIETH PARLIAMENT OF THE
UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
[WHICH OPENED 25 JUNE 1987]
THIRTY-NINTH YEAR OF THE REIGN OF
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
SIXTH SERIES VOLUME 178
SEVENTEENTH VOLUME OF SESSION 1989-90
House of Commons
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Cecil Parkinson) : We have received nearly 100 representations so far in response to the consultation paper that was published on 21 June. Most of those who have offered views have supported the principle of the Government's proposals for establishing new procedures for authorising the majority of rail, light rapid transit and harbour works projects.
Mr. Stewart : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware, however, that, contrary to an EC directive, the new Humber port is to go ahead without an environmental impact study having been done, and that, as a result, 10 million tonnes of coal will be travelling to and from Nottinghamshire power stations, causing an environmental blitz on villages along the route? Does my right hon. Friend agree that Nottinghamshire community charge payers should not be left to pick up the bill for the
Column 2resulting road damage, as happened at the end of the miners' strike? Should not the proposals to which my right hon. Friend referred be made to apply retrospectively to all Bills passed in 1990?
Mr. Parkinson : As my hon. Friend knows, the House is quite properly suspicious of retrospective legislation, and the point that he made was considered by the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure. I am sure that he knows, too, that the Government have accepted the recommendations of the Select Committee that an environmental assessment study should accompany future private Bills.
Mr. Skinner : Surely, what is being requested is not retrospective at all. Are not we merely calling upon the Government to do the decent thing and ensure that an environmental impact study is undertaken by the Department of Transport, in consultation with the Department of the Environment, in respect of these massive changes, which would result in up to 30 million tonnes of coal being brought into the British coalfields and in our miners being displaced? If that study were made, and if the proper planning requirements were adhered to, the Humber port and the other associated ports would not go ahead.
Mr. Parkinson : The whole point of the new procedures is to widen the discussion and give more people a chance to register their objections, while preventing unreasonable objections and preventing small minorities of hon. Members from blocking Bills. The point that the hon. Gentleman has made was considered by the Select Committee and the argument was rejected. The Committee felt qualified to reach its decision without an environmental assessment and the House approved the Committee's thinking when it gave the Bill its Third Reading.
Mr. Gerald Bowden : Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is an unfairness inherent in the private Bill procedure and that, in the drafting of the King's Cross Railways Bill, which presumed a rail link from the channel tunnel to central London, there was no mention whatever of the
Column 3alignment of that route, which denied to those who might be affected, by implication, the opportunity of making any representations? Was not British Rail's draftmanship too clever by half?
Mr. Parkinson : I think that the whole House recognises that our present arrangements for approving major infrastructure projects by the private Bill procedure are unsatisfactory. That is why we came forward with a consultation paper. That is why we shall consider carefully the points made to us and I suspect--although I cannot commit the Government--that we shall come forward with primary legislation in due course.
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Christopher Chope) : I expect work on the first construction contract at the northern end of the scheme to commence early in 1992, subject to the successful outcome of the remaining statutory procedures.
Mr. Bennett : I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that my constituents are extremely concerned about the traffic congestion at the Denton end of the existing piece of motorway and are keen that he should publish as soon as possible the side road orders in connection with the proposed link from Denton to Middleton because they fear that the whole process is being delayed by the proposals of North West Water to develop a business park at Kingswater? We should like an assurance that the Department will not delay in getting the motorway link in place, because it is essential to the safety of my constituents.
Mr. Chope : I share the hon. Gentleman's concern to see the project completed as soon as possible. I can assure him that the Kingswater park scheme will not be allowed to interfere with that very important motorway project. If the Kingswater park scheme cannot be implemented at the same time, it will have to wait until after the M66 has been completed. That important scheme will cost about £250 million and we are proud to have it in our roads programme.
Mr. Sumberg : When the motorway is completed, will my hon. Friend the Minister bear it in mind that it will relieve some of the congestion on the M62 and will therefore make unnecessary the unloved and unwelcome extension to the M62, which would seriously damage and decimate parts of my constituency? That extension is totally opposed by every constituent whom I have met and know, including many who met my hon. Friend the Minister when he was kind enough to come and see the site for himself during the recess.
Mr. Chope : As my hon. Friend recognises, I went to have a look at the proposed site and to listen to some representations about it. Obviously, I cannot anticipate what proposals might be made later and only at that stage can I go into the merits of the scheme.
4. Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when his Department intends to respond to the proposals contained in the draft European Community directive for investment to provide high-speed rail links between Scotland and the channel tunnel ; and if he will make a statement.
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman) : The draft directive for a high-speed European rail network makes no such proposals, but a full electric service between Edinburgh and London is expected to start next year, and British Rail's plans for the channel tunnel include services between Scotland and the continent.
Mr. Salmond : Can the Minister explain why the European Transport Commissioner is more concerned with fast rail links to Scotland and the continent than is the Department of Transport? How did the Secretary of State for Transport have the brass neck to announce at the Tory party conference some £2,500 million of additional rail spending in London while the Edinburgh-Aberdeen line has not been supported for electrification? The Government are not running a transport policy ; they are running a regional and political policy directed to the south of England where they want to spend their way to the next election.
Mr. Freeman : I do not accept that for one moment. The hon. Gentleman knows that British Rail's investment programme totals £3.7 billion over the next three years, and that includes the completion of electrification to Edinburgh involving £450 million for an excellent service up the east coast main line.
Mr. Adley : Will my hon. Friend confirm that any of the costs of the improvement to high-speed rail links between Scotland and the south-east of England will have to be borne by British Rail out of its operating revenue, including all or any costs for environmental work? Will he further confirm that any environmental roadworks between Scotland, the south-east and the channel tunnel will all be funded by the taxpayer? Why do we have double standards between road and rail for environmental protection?
Mr. Freeman : In response to my hon. Friend's question about British Rail having to finance its investment programme out of its operating revenues, that is not the case. British Rail's investment programme of £3.7 billion over the next three years is financed through the receipt of grants from the taxpayer, the receipt of proceeds from the sale of surplus land and borrowing from the taxpayer. With regard to the difference between road and rail appraisal, I should be glad to meet my hon. Friend, to go into the details and explain how British Rail appraises its projects.
Mr. John D. Taylor : Is the Minister aware that the demand for a fast rail link between Scotland and the channel tunnel has increased since last week? Is he further aware that one of the two links between Northern Ireland and Great Britain--the Belfast-Liverpool ferry--was closed down last week and that the remaining link between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom is the Northern Ireland-Scottish link between Larne and Stranraer? Will the Minister take into account the new
Column 5circumstances and accept that everyone in Northern Ireland fully supports the demand by Scotland for fast rail links between Scotland and the channel tunnel?
Mr. Freeman : I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall pass on his comments to British Rail. It plans investment and it runs the railway. In respect of high-speed rail links, the first priority must be the line from Folkestone to London. British Rail is presently evaluating alternative routes into London. When it has completed that appraisal--I hope in the spring of next year--it will then, in due course, come to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with specific proposals for a new high-speed rail link, which the Government accept is needed.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : I am sure that my hon. Friend is well aware that my constituency attaches considerable importance to the King's Cross project. There was much dismay there when the private Bill procedure was delayed by the absence of Labour Members, which made the Committee inquorate. Will my hon. Friend use his best endeavours to ensure that when British Rail makes use of the impressive investment that he referred to, some of the money goes to places such as Lancaster to give us a good freight and passenger service?
Mr. Freeman : Perhaps I can reassure my hon. Friend. She may have read in the press a very misleading account of an alleged postponement or nigh cancellation of west coast main line improvements. That is absolutely untrue. The west coast main line investment, which will be substantial-- about £750 million, I understand--is still in British Rail's plans. Improvements cannot be built overnight. When British Rail comes forward with a specific investment proposal, that is a matter for it. [Interruption.] I am sure that it is as interested as the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), and we are interested in looking at such a proposal. When it comes forward we shall give it sympathetic consideration.
Mr. Prescott : Is not the Minister aware of the despair that is felt by British Rail management that they have to postpone plans for the north- west high-speed rail link because of the inadequacies of the corporate plan of which we warned last December? Will the Minister and the Secretary of State now review that decision, come to the House and give us a further statement on the changes before any further damage is done to our inadequate and deteriorating railway system?
Mr. Freeman : I find the hon. Gentleman's question difficult to comprehend. In the light of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to say following the autumn statement and the updating of the external financing limits both for British Rail and for London Regional Transport, I am sure that British Rail will come forward with updated plans and proposals not only for the next three years but for the next decade. It is right that it should look beyond the three-year public expenditure survey planning period. One cannot build major railway lines within the three-year PES planning period. We look forward very much indeed to positive proposals from British Rail.
5. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are the latest available statistics for traffic accidents involving (a) vehicles and pedestrians and (b) vehicles and cycles for Greater London.
Mr. Corbyn : Is the Minister aware that one of the great problems in London is the lack of transport planning because of the abolition of the Greater London council? The Government are calmly presiding over a massive increase in the number of commuter cars in central London, which increases the number of accidents involving cyclists--they went up by nearly 30 per cent. in 1988-89--and the serious number of accidents involving pedestrians. Does not the Minister agree that the time has come to control the growth in commuter car motoring in London, to increase the grants available to public transport, and, in planning red routes and other routes, instead of being obsessed with increasing the number of cars, actually to make life safer for pedestrians and cyclists? Under present plans there is no proposal for cycle routes on major road junctions. We need safety first for pedestrians and cyclists, not an increase in the number of cars.
Mr. Chope : The fact is that there has actually been a reduction in the number of cars commuting into London. There has been an increase in the number of cyclists, and I welcome that. The Government are investing a lot of money in road safety and transport supplementary grant, and we have given local authorities substantial sums to spend on road safety schemes. If the hon. Gentleman encouraged more people to pay the community charge, instead of discouraging them, there would be more money to spend on road safety.
Mr. Bowis : Does my hon. Friend agree that far too many accidents involving pedestrians are caused by rat running and that the welcome news about red routes will go some way to deterring that? Does he further agree that we also need road humps and restricted road widths, and that that should be encouraged by local government? Finally, does he agree that far too many bicycle accidents are caused by cyclists travelling without lights at night?
Mr. Chope : I agree with all my hon. Friend's points. The borough that he is fortunate enough to represent has set a good example and has shown what can be done to improve traffic flow on the roads and road safety and to ensure that there is less rat running.
Mr. Cohen : Is the Minister aware of the early-day motion that I tabled about six months ago about the horrifyingly high number of deaths and injuries on pedestrian crossings? That early-day motion, which was signed by many hon. Members, called on the Department of Transport to take action to try to reduce the number of deaths and injuries. However, we have heard nothing from his Department and very little from the police about prosecuting the motorists who cause those deaths and injuries. When are we going to get some action?
Column 7Mr. Chope : There is plenty of action, but there is a limit to what the Government can do because safety depends on pedestrians, cyclists and other road users using their common sense and applying the rules that they should know about. However, we are spending £1.5 million to promote child safety this year and we have encouraged the private sector to contribute £8.5 million towards that same campaign. The Government are not complacent about that, but we look to people such as the hon. Gentleman to support us.
Mr. Parkinson : London Underground alone plans to invest approximately £400 million in 1990-91. In real terms, that is two and a half times the future for 1984-85, the last year that the Labour Greater London council set funding levels for London Transport.
Mr. Marshall : May I assure my right hon. Friend that his statement will be warmly welcomed by commuters in London who deeply deplore the attempts of certain Opposition Members to use the private Bill procedure as a means of frustrating improvements to London's transport? Will my right hon. Friend spend substantial sums to improve existing routes such as the Northern line, on which the trains are all to often graffiti-ridden and irregular and where the standard of service is not what it ought to be?
Mr. Parkinson : London Underground plans to invest about £1,700 million in the next three years, £1,200 million of which will be spent on the existing underground. The Northern line will, in due course, come forward for modernisation, and the Central line modernisation is already under way. In addition, as my hon. Friend pointed out, we can put the Opposition's commitment to improving London Underground's system to the test by asking them to support us both with the London Underground Bill and the Heathrow Express Railway Bill, which deal with the Jubilee line and the east-west crossrail.
Mr. Simon Hughes : Does the Secretary of State recognise that people south of the river feel that, over the years, investment has been made disproportionately north of the river? Will the right hon. Gentleman affirm that the key immediate tests of the commitment of both the Government and London Underground to transport south of the river are their commitment to the stations that he already knows about, such as Southwark and Bermondsey on the Jubilee line, a commitment to the south extension of the east London line, and their commitment to improvements on the Northern and Bakerloo lines, because we shall then begin to feel that we are at least getting fair treatment?
Mr. Parkinson : As the hon. Gentleman knows, one attraction of the Jubilee line is that it brings south London more favourably into the underground system. He should also remember that we are planning to take the Jubilee line to the Greenwich peninsula, which will bring that part of south London into the system. We accept the hon.
Column 8Gentleman's complaint that south London has not had its fair share of public transport investment, but we are doing our best to make up for that.
Dr. Goodson-Wickes : My right hon. Friend may be aware that the Northern line, which serves much of my constituency, celebrates its centenary in a couple of weeks, which I believe, makes it the oldest tube system in the world. Will my right hon. Friend give the line, which, unfortunately, has been dubbed the "misery line", some really good news to celebrate on its centenary?
Mr. Parkinson : As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), a substantial programme for improving the existing lines is in hand. The Central line is at present in the middle of a £750 million modernisation programme and, as it is completed, the Northern line will be the next to get the treatment.
Ms. Ruddock : Given what the Secretary of State said about investment, will he tell the House why he believes that ridership on the underground is falling when, in its annual business plan, London Underground predicted a 4 per cent. increase in the current year? Does he intend to bail out London Underground's £40 million deficit or to inflict further pain upon the travelling public in London?
Mr. Parkinson : I wish that the deficit on London's underground was only £40 million. The loss that London Underground expects to make this year is £120 million, so its investment programme will be funded virtually entirely by the taxpayer through a grant of more than £434 million to the Underground. I am sure that the hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that over the next three years London Underground will receive another £1.75 billion. That is how it will pay for the rest of its capital programme.
In and around London, Network SouthEast and London Regional Transport are investing £3.4 billion during this and the next two years in public transport, and I have just announced the £1.4 billion east-west crossrail project, which is in addition to that. I have also announced a major series of measures to overhaul traffic and parking controls in London.
Mr. Evans : May I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply and congratulate him on his imaginative and bold schemes--schemes that this country can afford, thanks to the prosperity achieved under the Government? Is not that in stark contrast to the crackpot spending schemes of the Labour party, which would quickly find itself bankrupt as it bankrupted the country in the late 1970s, just like a certain building in the Walworth road and the unions are bankrupt? In other words, no money and no ideas.
Column 9and the result was a huge cut in every capital programme. My hon. Friend is right to point out that we have record investment in the underground, the railways and Network SouthEast and we have plans for clearing space on our roads to get better use out of them. All that we hear from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and his colleagues is whingeing and wild promises.
Ms. Abbott : Is the Secretary of State aware that at least some of the traffic congestion in Hackney is caused by the fact that we are the only borough in London without a tube station? Is he aware of how much some of us in Hackney have pinned our hopes on the Chelsea-Hackney line? Can he give us some assurances about the future of that scheme?
Mr. Parkinson : As the hon. Lady knows, we had to make a choice between east-west crossrail and Chelsea-Hackney. We concluded that London simply could not stand the simultaneous construction of two major lines. It would bring the capital to a grinding halt, a fact that the newspapers now appear to be getting hold of. Therefore, we have approved the plan for east -west crossrail and we have kept the option of Chelsea-Hackney open by protecting the line at an initial cost of £15 million.
Mr. Sayeed : Is my right hon. Friend aware that one way to reduce congestion is to encourage the use of bicycles by people who commute in the inner cities? As one who bicycles to and from the House fairly frequently, I find that one of the problems is the state of the road surface. Can my right hon. Friend tell me what the Government are doing to encourage the public utilities, which usually cause the problems with the road surface by digging it up one after the other and leaving it in a poor state, to return road surfaces to the standard that we have every right to expect?
Mr. Parkinson : First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his courage in cycling around central London and daily to Westminster. The good news is that, all being well, we hope to present a Bill in the next Session giving us much more control over public utilities and their activities in digging up roads and setting higher standards for resurfacing repaired roads. We shall probably also include a power to charge and penalise such utilities if they do the job badly.
Mr. Cartwright : Does the Secretary of State accept that traffic congestion in London will not be improved if the new Networker trains from Kent and south-east London do not come in as planned at the end of 1991? As these are to operate on some of the most crowded routes in Europe and British Rail accepts that the present service is below an acceptable standard, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that those trains will come in on time?
Mr. Parkinson : The order was placed in September last year, the new trains are due for delivery in September next year and they are scheduled to come into full service in January of the following year. It is now in the hands of the manufacturers. Resignalling is under way and the necessary work on the stations is to begin.
Mr. Hill : Is my right hon. Friend aware that Southampton is becoming known as the city of a thousand traffic lights? The eastern docks road, to which we looked forward for many years, is extremely dangerous--
Column 10narrowing from four lanes to two every few hundred yards. Is my right hon. Friend also aware that a private Bill--the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill--will increase congestion? That railway will start and end in the city centre and all the motorists will have to converge on the city centre. Does my right hon. Friend propose in future to leave it entirely to local authorities to control these great areas of congestion or will he send people from the Department to investigate as soon as possible all the problems of traffic safety in Southampton?
Mr. Parkinson : As my hon. Friend knows, the Department of Transport owns 4 per cent. of the roads--the motorways and national trunk roads-- while the other 96 per cent. are owned and controlled by local authorities. Southampton has taken a fairly major step in the right direction as a result of the recent reshuffle. We now have in the Department a Minister-- my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope)--who is determined to make sure that the problems there are properly addressed.
Mr. Rooker : May I remind the Secretary of State that not all Britain's transport problems are in London? One clear way to reduce congestion is through the use of mass transit and light rail networks. Can the right hon. Gentleman cite even one instance in which the Department has offered concrete, solid financial assistance to any of the proposed light rail systems? When will Birmingham get the benefit of the electrified north -south route that he announced during the Mid-Staffordshire by-election?
Mr. Parkinson : The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is yes--the Manchester Metrolink is being backed by substantial Government funds. I was in that area a couple of weeks ago and good progress is being made on what looks like an interesting scheme. Other schemes are being considered.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about electrification. We wish to get ahead with that as quickly as possible because we think that the cross-Birmingham route from Redditch to Lichfield, which will use the new rolling stock that has been ordered and approved by my Department, will be a major boon to Birmingham. There are a variety of answers to the problems of our different cities. Some will have light rail and some will have improved electrification of existing lines. Both systems are under way.
Mr. Freeman : The Central line is currently undergoing modernisation costing more than £700 million and involving 85 new trains and complete resignalling. The first of the new trains is expected to run in early 1992 and the whole programme is scheduled for completion by 1995.
Mr. Greenway : I thank my hon. Friend for outlining those welcome improvement programmes. In the meantime, is he aware that for many of my constituents the Central line has become the new misery line? There is gross staff rudeness, graffiti all over the place, unpunctual trains and trains turned around without the people waiting
Column 11for them being told. Other failures relate to the use of public address systems. Will my hon. Friend address himself to those problems and do something about them?
Mr. Freeman : I shall certainly pass my hon. Friend's comments on to London Underground, which tries hard to meet quality targets. The east-west crossrail will bring substantial benefit to the Central line between Paddington and Liverpool street stations at the end of the decade, when it is completed. I hope that my hon. Friend will join me and my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) in inaugurating, in Ealing, the new anti-graffiti paint that London Underground is shortly to introduce. The end of graffiti man is at hand.
Mr. Tony Banks : Has the Minister seen the recent speculation in the press that due to a squeeze on London Transport, particularly as a result of the fall in the price in land, it will not be able to proceed with the Central line upgrading or the crossrail? Will he give an absolute assurance that both the improvements to the central line and those to Stratford railway station will go ahead?
Mr. Freeman : I can give that assurance. The fall in property receipts, to which the hon. Gentleman rightly refers, applies not only to London Underground but to British Rail. However, it will not affect progress on the Central line or on the east-west crossrail which, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, will be financed in the conventional way, largely by Government grant.
Mr. Stern : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. May I draw his attention to the lines that run from Severn Beach to central Bristol, through Avonmouth and Shirehampton in my constituency? Does not study of that line show that what the area needs is not so much investment as a willingness by British Rail to publicise the existence of the line and protect the frequency of services, which could do so much to get people to their work on Severnside and in central Bristol without using the roads?
Mr. Parkinson : The problem with the line in question is that it is using out-of-date, worn-out rolling stock because of late deliveries from manufacturers, running up to two years late, of new stock which would replace the old and unreliable stock. One of the reasons why the service is not marketed actively is that British Rail regards it as unreliable and is determined to get a better service before it starts encouraging people to use the line.
Column 12People in the north-east of Scotland react with a hollow laugh when we hear all these discussions about transport problems in the south and promises from the Secretary of State of huge sums of money to improve them. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a genuine fear, particularly in the Grampian region, that we shall become isolated because of our transport problems? British Airways has refused to give us a shuttle service, British Rail has refused to invest a meagre £80 million in electrifying the east coast line, and all the 17 miles of single carriageway between Aberdeen and Rome are located between Aberdeen and Dundee. When will there be a real direction in transport policy to help not just the south but the rest of the country?
Mr. Parkinson : As the hon. Gentleman knows, roads north of the border are the province of the Scottish Office. However, I can deal with his point about the railways. We shall be completing the electrification of the east coast main line through to Edinburgh. The new 158 services were introduced between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the first of those services using air conditioned, modern diesel units. ScotRail has had at least its share-- most people south of the border would say more than its share--of investment. As to the roads connecting Scotland--
Sir David Mitchell : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread welcome for his announcement that British Rail will have the go ahead to put new rolling stock and new trains on the services from Exeter, Salisbury and Andover to Waterloo? Does he accept that that announcement is long overdue and that British Rail should have brought proposals forward much earlier?
Mr. Parkinson : I am glad that my hon. Friend is pleased about the announcement. He has led the charge for that investment. I am pleased to tell him that as the new trains come forward for delivery, and as the 18- month gap is closed, we expect to see some of the regions with more new stock and a great improvement in the service.
Mr. Snape : Is the Secretary of State aware that, whatever he says publicly, the reality of travel on Britain's suburban railways is a saga of delays, cancellations, overcrowding and high fares? None of his speeches, plans and promises have made any difference to that. Does he accept that after the Government's 11 years in nominal charge of British Rail and nearly five years in charge of the London Underground system, none of us is surprised that he did not get a standing ovation at the Tory party conference? If he does not put up some money instead of just wind and talk, he will be lucky to get a clap next year.