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The Minister was asked--

Transport Infrastructure

27. Dr. Starkey: What plans he has to secure the provision of an adequate transport infrastructure for the millennium experience. [13454]

The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Peter Mandelson): In addition to the road improvements under way, there will be an excellent public transport network offering visitors a variety of ways to travel to the millennium experience, including new river boat services and the new Jubilee line extension. These developments will be an important legacy for our investment and I am sure that they will be welcomed by the whole House.

Dr. Starkey: I thank the Minister for his reply. He may be aware from reports in today's press that public interest in the millennium exhibition is extremely high and that there are concerns that there may be some problems with congestion. What steps is he taking to ensure that visitors to the exhibition spend the maximum amount of time enjoying themselves at the exhibits and the minimum amount in queues to get in?

Mr. Mandelson: Our single most important objective is to ensure that when people come to Greenwich--we are expecting 12 million visitors in 2000--they have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, full of excitement and enjoyment, without delay or frustration in travelling to and moving around the millennium dome. That is why the New Millennium Experience Company has developed an operational plan that, through pre-booking of tickets, will guarantee access to attractions in the dome, ensure minimal queuing for the attractions and--[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. Stop it.

Mr. Mandelson: It will leave ample capacity in terms of the transport infrastructure that I have described.

Mr. Robathan: I am sure that the House will join me in welcoming the Minister to the Front Bench.

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How delighted we are that he has come to answer questions, albeit for only five minutes. He may not be aware that I was given this question by his parliamentary private secretary; sadly, I got no supplementary.

What definite proposals are there for improving river transport? That is a serious matter for the whole of London in the future, and not just the millennium. What definite proposals are there for money from the public side and also private money to be put into transport down to Greenwich?

Mr. Mandelson: We expect 1 million people to travel by boat from central London using new pier and river services and park-and-sail sites to the east of the site. Decisions on temporary park-and-sail facilities are expected in December. Five applications with Greenwich, Barking and the London Docklands development corporation have already been lodged. I am very pleased to say that the New Millennium Experience Company and the Cross-River Partnership, working closely together, are making sure that we bring about this increased use of the Thames as part of the Deputy Prime Minister's Thames 2000 initiative.

Mr. Simon Hughes: May I add to the pressure on the Minister to ensure that river transport not only is provided for the millennium but becomes part of the infrastructure of London transport for visitors, commuters and residents alike, integrated with the other public transport systems and at a price that ordinary people can afford?

Mr. Mandelson: That is exactly what the Deputy Prime Minister has in mind. I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend is making considerable progress in developing river services and the new millennium pier at the Greenwich peninsula, as well as investing in other piers along the Thames back from the Greenwich peninsula. I stress that they will be a permanent, important legacy for the Thames for the entirety of London. That will not be the only important legacy, but it will be a very significant one flowing from our investment in the millennium experience.

Mr. Maude: It is usual to welcome a Minister on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box. It is unusual to have to wait six months to do it. At the rate of answering one question every six months, we can be sure that the Minister will not outstay his welcome.

Given that the most popular visitor attraction in London attracts no more than 2.5 million visitors a year, does the Minister have any basis for believing that 12 million visitors will be drawn to the millennium dome, other than the assertion in a letter from Jennifer Page, which mysteriously makes an appearance in the Financial Times today?

Mr. Mandelson: The right hon. Gentleman is not correct. The British museum attracts 6 million visitors every year. The estimate of 12 million visits to the millennium experience is based on industry projections and poll findings. An NOP poll a year ago, when the future of the project was highly uncertain, showed that a third of the population were interested in visiting. A Gallup poll for The Daily Telegraph in August predicted more than 10 million United Kingdom visitors. That is, of course, together with travel industry

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projections that put the expected number of overseas visitors at almost 2.5 million. I do not believe that there will be any shortage of visitors to the millennium experience--something which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming strongly.


The Parliamentary Secretary was asked--

Morley Magistrates Court

32. Mr. Gunnell: What representations he has received in respect of proposals to close the magistrates court in Morley. [13459]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): No representations have been received by the Lord Chancellor's Department in respect of proposals to close Morley magistrates court. Magistrates courts are provided by the local paying authority for the use of magistrates courts committees. Decisions concerning the future of any magistrates court are for the relevant MCC to determine, in consultation with the local paying authority.

Mr. Gunnell: I thank the Minister for his reply. Nevertheless, I am sure that he will understand the concern of those Morley magistrates who have met me when he has read the report of Her Majesty's inspectors recommending that Leeds MCC consider the use of the outer courthouses and the response to it. Will he ensure that, in considering such issues, committees take account of the latest position, the investment that has gone into courts and the social consequences of any suggestion that such courts should be closed? Closure would have serious consequences, both for those who serve in the courts in Morley and for those who have to answer charges there.

Mr. Hoon: I am sure that the magistrates courts committee will take that into account. I understand that, in the light of the Court Service inspectorate report of March 1997, the Leeds magistrates court committee decided at its meeting of 17 October 1997 to conduct a review of its outer courthouse premises at Morley, Pudsey and Wetherby. I assure my hon. Friend that no decisions have been taken at this stage of the review and no plans have been formulated on the outer courthouses.

I understand that the committee has recently written to the local paying authority, Leeds city council, and the local benches about additional accommodation and facilities which might be made available to the MMC at Morley and Pudsey.

Immigration Adjudicators

33. Mr. Malins: What plans he has to increase the training given to immigration adjudicators. [13460]

Mr. Hoon: Although training is primarily a matter for the chief adjudicator, we have substantially increased the money available for judicial training from £47,000 spent last year to £220,000 planned to be spent this year.

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All new adjudicators receive two days' induction training, followed by a period of sitting in and mentoring by established adjudicators. Every adjudicator receives at least a day's training each year and attends a two-day conference at least every other year. They all have back-up from a research and information team.

Mr. Malins: Given that the immigration appellate system is judicial, not administrative, and that many immigration adjudicators are becoming extremely frustrated at what they see as an over-use, possibly an abuse, of judicial review--25 per cent. of all judicial reviews are now immigration related--is it not time that the Minister considered whether he should curb, restrict or in some way remove the rights of parties to seek judicial review of such decisions?

Mr. Hoon: As I have said before to the hon. Gentleman, a review of those matters is being undertaken by Ministers across Departments and, as a result, I hope that we will be able to bring forward proposals that meet his concerns.

Mrs. Dunwoody: I hope that my hon. Friend will bear it in mind that such issues must be looked at in a broad and tolerant way because we are dealing with people's lives. Two doctors in my constituency have been refused permission to bring in their mother on the basis that ladies aged 67 are not capable of work. I feel therefore that perhaps a little enlightenment in some of those Departments would not go amiss.

Mr. Hoon: The Lord Chancellor's Department's responsibilities relate to appeals. The enlightenment necessary in that context should be such as to ensure that such appeals are dealt with speedily, fairly and in a satisfactory manner.

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