|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, again I resist all attempts of noble Lords and noble Baronesses to have me anticipate the issues in the appeals. The position in relation to Derbyshire is that five courthouses in west Derbyshire--two in Chesterfield; one at Ashbourne; one at Bakewell; and one at Matlock--are being closed and replaced by a wholly new building in Chesterfield, which will consist of seven courtrooms. That is the subject of an appeal to me. Also subject to an appeal to me is that three courthouses in south Derbyshire--two in Derby and one at Swadlincote--are being closed to be replaced by a single new courthouse in Derby, consisting of 11 courtrooms.
When such appeals come to me, I consider each on its own merits in the light of local circumstances. Typically, I address the quality of the existing courthouses and the facilities they offer; the feasibility and cost of bringing the existing courthouses up to modern standards; the efficiency of the distribution of existing court business among the existing courthouses; accessibility for all court users; the extra distance that some court users may have to travel; and the time taken to complete that return journey. When the parties to the appeals give me their full grounds, I shall consider them.
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that throughout the country there is a great deal of dissatisfaction where courts have already closed? That was done as a cost-saving exercise, but it has not saved a penny. It has cost a lot more and has inconvenienced many magistrates, witnesses and counsel.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, it must be appreciated that some people feel such an affection for particular courts that they almost constitute themselves as local preservation societies in order to keep them. However, some courts are quite incapable, at economic cost, of being brought up to modern standards, particularly for the disabled. The range of considerations I have already listed are those I apply in considering all appeals.
Lord Cadman: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging Answer. In view of the positive messages on this subject in the Government's White Paper, can the Minister tell the House what encouragement and advice are being given to local planning authorities by the Government to enable them in the short-term to make suitable land available for rail freight terminals? To what extent can local authorities be encouraged to invest in rail freight infrastructure?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's welcome for our review. I should point out that the British Railways Board will suspend land sales while the review takes place in order to give just those interests the opportunity to express views about potential sites. Local authorities already have an opportunity to ask for sales to be put on hold if they think that there is the potential for rail freight use. We are considering revising planning guidance to local authorities, as well as planning guidance at regional level in the regional transport plans. However, we also intend to issue revised planning guidance to facilitate more freight to be moved by rail. When preparing their development plans, local authorities will be expected to consider and, where appropriate, to protect opportunities for rail connections to existing manufacturing, distribution and warehousing sites adjacent or close to the rail network.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that in both rural and urban areas land no longer required for rail transport could be of considerable service to the cause of conservation by extending the ecological resource and perhaps by providing "green lanes" for public access, peace and enjoyment? Could those purposes be given a higher priority?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, there has to be a balance, and we have recognised that. The land which the British Railways Board owns and which it took into ownership in 1994 was considered not to have any
Lord Burnham: My Lords, in the light of Mr. Prescott's announcement about discouraging the use of cars, will the Government bear in mind the necessity of producing a great deal of extra space for car parking at rural railway stations?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, part of the purpose of the integrated transport White Paper is to ensure that we facilitate the use of public transport. We are doing that in a variety of ways, including investing very large sums of money in providing quality public transport. For some people, the ability to leave their car at a railway station will be important, as the noble Lord pointed out. We are considering how to ensure that they can do that--and do so securely. The security of vehicles, and sometimes of drivers, has been a problem in the past.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's statement that the British Railways Board has been asked to reconsider its holding of railway land. As chairman of the Rail Freight Group, I very much welcome all the rail freight measures in the White Paper. However, can the Minister explain a little more about the timetable for the British Railways Board's review and its consultations with the industry? When might the board be likely to report back to government, as is stated in paragraph 4.35 of the White Paper?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am tempted to say, as did my noble friend, "very soon". We are in the preliminary stages. I understand that today we have received an initial response from the British Railways Board about the scope of the review. We shall want to consult relevant interests, but we do not want a long drawn-out process. We need some clarity and to be certain about the portfolio. We should be able to achieve that clarity within a sensible period of time.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, can the Minister say how much land is owned by the British Railways Board? What is its estimated sale value, and what has been provided for in the budget to reflect that sale value? If the land is not sold, from where will that money be found?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, firm estimates relating to receipts from the sale of railway land were taken into account by the Government. I shall write to the noble Lord with the exact details. One must look at overall transport needs. We have set up two new funds
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Assuming that the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, moves his amendment it may be for the convenience of your Lordship's House if any noble Lord who wishes to raise a matter on any other part of this report should do so during the debate on the amendment. While that is strictly a departure from our normal procedure we have done it before. It saves time and will avoid the need for two debates. It also avoids the need for me to inflict more than one speech on your Lordships. I am very conscious of the very weighty business that is to come before your Lordships this afternoon.
Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end insert ("except paragraph 3 which shall be referred back to the Administration and Works Sub-Committee for further consideration").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall try to be brief in moving the amendment in my name on the Order Paper. Paragraph 3 of the report of the Administration and Works Sub-Committee deals with Old Palace Yard.
I have said before in debates that I believe that at times we are fobbed off by the Chairman of Committees with the comment that the matter in question has been considered by the relevant committees and brought before this House. Consequently, let us look at what was said at the meeting of the Administration and Works Sub-Committee when this matter was proposed:
It is like a Russian doll. One opens it up to find another one inside. One must probe further and further back to discover the original decision. It is rather like radio astronomy. I hope that in this case noble Lords will make an exception to the good work that goes on and agree to take another look at it for the sake of the reputation of the House. Matters have changed since the original decision was taken. I beg to move.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page