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House of Lords

Tuesday, 30th January 1996.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford.

Transport Policy

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will adopt the objectives for a sustainable transport policy and the targets for achieving them contained in the Royal Commission on the Environmental Pollution's 18th Report Transport and the Environment, published in October 1994.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, decisions on the Government's response will be taken in the light of the national debate on transport, as set out in the consultation paper Transport: The Way Ahead.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that interesting Answer. It is 16 months since the report was published. The report contained 110 recommendations and, as the Minister said, was followed by a debate on transport policy which was instigated by the former Secretary of State, Dr. Mawhinney. One of those recommendations was that the amount of freight moved by rail should treble in 15 years.

Lord Strathclyde: Question!

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, many people had an input, but when are we going to see something, even a smoke signal, come out of that bottomless pit? Can the Minister say when we are likely to have an answer?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, it may be 16 months since the report was published, but that report took two and a half years to produce. I think that that gives some indication of the weight of that document. I believe that that report was valuable in putting forward environmental issues, but it also raised a number of other important matters. If those targets were to be accepted, there would have to be real change in terms of people's transport requirements. That is why we have undertaken such a major transport consultation exercise.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his reply hardly seems an answer given the urgency of the matter, bearing in mind that his own department's report indicated, among other things, that diesel pollution was killing thousands of people a year? I repeat that his own department said that. Is the Minister not aware that unless and until the Government

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begin to approach transport as an integrated whole, they will never begin to solve the urgent problems affecting transport and the environment?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we are taking serious measures with regard to air quality, in terms of both static-based pollution and pollution from vehicles. We have a wide range of policies designed to address that matter. The fact that there has not yet been a specific response to the commission's report does not mean that we take those issues other than extremely seriously. The noble Lord calls for an "integrated transport policy". I am not always entirely clear what is meant by that, especially when it is proposed as a universal panacea.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, does my noble friend recollect that the report of the special Select Committee on Sustainable Development made some clear recommendations about the establishment of more targets in relation to transport? Does he further recollect that in their reply the Government were not entirely enthusiastic about them? As there really is evidence that, without such targets, there is unlikely to be the sort of progress that many noble Lords would like, can my noble friend give the House an undertaking that the Government are looking again at this matter and that their response to the Royal Commission will take a step forward by setting targets on transport, as they have done so admirably in so many other environmental areas?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I have sought to explain that we are addressing all of those issues in the extremely wide consultation exercise that we are undertaking at the moment. Indeed, I could describe that wide consultation as unparalleled. Of course, targets are important and we already have a number in relation to transport, on, for example, road casualty reductions and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. New targets are being developed in relation to air quality standards. They are extremely important, but the issues raised by the Royal Commission were very wide ranging and I think that we need to make the best possible response, which means involving the population as a whole in the wide transport debate that we have initiated.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some of the worst areas for air pollution are our large inner-city centres? Is he aware that the situation in Manchester is giving cause for great concern among a substantial number of people? If Manchester and our other large cities are to deal with that problem, can they expect any assistance from the Government other than advice?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the Government have a wide range of policies designed to address the problem of air pollution. We have already taken forward new standards on emissions from vehicles, both in relation to those currently in use and for the production of new vehicles. I believe that such policies will help to address the difficult issue of air pollution.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is not the Minister aware that there is no coherence in what the

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Government are purporting to do in that regard? What we are promised is more and more analysis--in fact, that seems to be the determinant factor of government policy--but analysis on that scale can also mean paralysis.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am afraid that we are now back to slogans. I should have thought that even the party opposite would realise from the report that there are no easy answers to these questions. The Royal Commission proposed the doubling of fuel prices. Such a measure would have a real impact on the way in which people lead their lives. We need to give all such proposals proper examination and I think that wide consultation is the answer. We have strong transport policies, but we are not so arrogant as to believe that we know everything about this and that we should not involve the public.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, is the Minister aware that my railway fare has gone up this week from £149 to £165? Does he believe that a contribution could be made towards solving the problem by making railway travel more attractive? Is his privatisation policy likely to contribute to that end?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, yes, I entirely agree with the noble Lord that we should make rail travel more attractive. Yes, rail privatisation will do precisely that. That is why we have taken the policy forward.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the Minister explain how railway travel will be more attractive in the light of the result of government policy being that connections can no longer be made and that the service has been fragmented? Whereas three years ago a question about a train from the north of Scotland involving connections allowed the public to make the assumption that those connections would be met, the answer now from the separate parts of the rail network is that trains are no longer intended, or can be relied upon, to connect. How will that encourage the use of rail transport and reduce car pollution?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, such fears and scaremongering will be shot down as soon as the new services start to run. No one would seriously expect that privatised airlines, for example, would offer services that did not connect with others, or would offer unattractive fares. One has only to look to history. Those companies have shown themselves to have come from the public sector and be now providing the service that the passenger wants. That will happen with the railways as well.

Baroness Young: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that since 1950 billions of pounds have been poured into the railways by way of subsidy, and that the number of passengers travelling on the railways has reduced consistently? As someone who travels regularly by train, I can assure my noble friend that the service is far from excellent at present.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my noble friend is right. Some £15 billion has been invested in our national

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railways since 1979. It is clear that major structural change is required if we are to have the type of railway that we all want: an efficient railway with the best possible benefits for passengers. That will be achieved under privatisation.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in travelling from the north, as the result of competition from the airlines and the threat of privatisation, there has been a dramatic improvement in the condition of the coaches and the service which has been very noticeable?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my noble friend points to the advantages of competition, which the party opposite refuses to believe even in the face of such clear evidence.

Restraints on Prisoners

2.46 p.m.

The Earl of Longford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will now cancel any instructions issued in 1995 regarding the handcuffing of prisoners.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, in his Statement of 18th January, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary set out new arrangements for the use of restraints on prisoners attending hospital. The Prison Service Director of Security, Mr. Tony Pearson, wrote to governors with details of those new arrangements the following day.

The message to governors said that the changes should be implemented immediately. An instruction to governors formally cancelling the 1995 amendments to the security manual affected by those changes will be issued as soon as possible and a copy will be placed in the Library.

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