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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I can certainly assure my noble friend that there is no cut-off date or age bar on membership of the boards. We need a balance. He is

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1016

right to articulate the needs of people who can identify with those of an older generation. But we all have a responsibility, whatever our age, to make sure that services for older people are appropriate to their needs.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister said that we now have a better balance of more local people and less business or similar professional people. Is she aware that some trusts which have had very successful solicitors willing to give up their time for this small honorarium, and now no longer have them, are obliged to invite them back in a voluntary capacity as observers because their expertise is so badly missed?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I should not like to denigrate, in any way, the contribution that can be made by individuals and individual professional groups. However, it is important that we have a balance here and that all sections of the communities that are served are well represented. I believe that we have made great progress in doing that.

Mobile Telephones: Transmission Masts

3 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will issue guidance to planning authorities on factors to be taken into account when applications for constructing transmission masts for mobile telephones are being considered.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, planning guidance on telecommunications development has been published by each of the three territorial departments, and in England by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. This includes guidance in respect of mast development.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. Are reports correct that many more masts are needed for the wider use of mobile telephones? Because they give rise to aesthetic objections, are the Government supporting efforts to locate them where they can be disguised; for example, as trees or adjuncts to farm buildings? It seems that special arrangements are no longer needed for transmissions from the Red Lion in Whitehall.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I have never been involved, in any way, in transmissions from Whitehall or London. As the noble Lord will know, my home is in the north. We believe that it is extremely important for local residents to have an opportunity to comment on the proposed installation of telecommunication masts. For that reason, following the consultation announced on 29th December, it is proposed that a 42-day prior approval period be available in future in all parts of the country to allow

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1017

people to comment. I cannot comment on the feasibility of disguising such masts as trees, but I am sure that other noble Lords can make suggestions.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, will the Government make sure that the guidelines indicate that masts should be sited so that they cover the widest possible area, especially in the hills in Scotland where they can be absolutely vital to people who get into difficulties and who rely on mobile telephones to send for help? There are far too many "dead" areas at present?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, makes the extremely important point that such areas should be covered, and I agree. For that reason, the Government are committed to meeting the need to provide adequate cover while seeking to protect particularly those areas to which she refers, which include some of the most beautiful in the country.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some masts are already disguised as trees and that the process should be encouraged? Do any of the guidelines to local planning authorities include the suggestion that where planning permission is given for a mast it should be conditional on the willingness of the applicant to share the mast with other companies who also want transmissions in the area? That would reduce the amount of ironmongery in the countryside.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it is possible in certain circumstances to insist on mast sharing. However, that may cause problems, and local concern, by leading to even larger installations. I am very interested in, and look forward to receiving, as I no doubt shall, pictures and descriptions of trees which turn out to be masts.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that the present arrangements provide for an adequate separation between the sites of such masts and residential development?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the policy adopted is taken in concert with detailed advice from the Health and Safety Executive. We are aware that there is concern, and we ensure in the planning guidance that due regard is paid to the latest possible information.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, first, is it not grotesque to try to disguise a mast as a plastic tree and can the Minister discourage that? Secondly, can she give an indication of how many more masts are required to give the country full coverage and when that is likely to be completed?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I do not have details of how many masts will be needed to ensure that the blind spots across the whole country will be covered. If it is possible for me to write to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, with that information, I shall do so. I am delighted to say that within the terms of the

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guidance given to local planning authorities, it must be for individual authorities to consider whether or not plastic trees would be of benefit to their local community.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are some masts very effectively disguised as coat hangers outside the Peers Guestroom which, when I passed earlier today, were covered with mobile telephones, all ringing?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Baroness has given us a most interesting piece of information. I am quite sure that if anyone is interested in espionage, they now have information as to where to collect much political gossip.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the need to resolve the situation is becoming rather urgent? There is a proliferation of masts and, even worse, wind farms, over some of the most beautiful areas of Britain. I hope that she can expedite the consultation and that action can be taken this year before the situation deteriorates further.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Government are responding to the concerns raised as urgently as possible, in particular, the need to extend the time for local residents to have due opportunity to put forward their views. As regards wind farms, the Government are supportive of renewable energy. However, that does not mean that there is a special presumption in favour of wind farm energy development. Any wind farm application would be subject to a full planning application.

Business of the House: Debates this Day

3.7 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debates on the Motions in the names of the Lord Berkeley and the Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws set down for today shall each be limited to three hours.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Deputy Chairmen of Committees

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract and the Baroness Gardner of Parkes be added to the Panel of Lords appointed to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees for this Session.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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3.8 p.m.

Lord Berkeley rose to call attention to the White Paper A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone (Cm 3950) and other related transport matters; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to have a transport debate in your Lordships' House. This will be the first such debate in your Lordships' House since the publication of the White Paper and the first since the general election. The number of noble Lords who have put down their names to speak is evidence of the interest in this subject.

The White Paper represented a decisive switch in policy; a policy which, at government level, had belatedly realised that reliance on the motor car was unsustainable in land use planning terms, environmental terms and in terms of quality of life. This realisation by the previous government was not brought about by any policy switch--to my mind, they did not have a transport policy to switch--but rather because of a unique coincidence of objectives from the more vocal and aggressive anti-road protesters and the Treasury, which did not want to pay for any more roads. Unfortunately, however, the previous government did not put anything in place, apart from stopping road building. I see the White Paper as designed to fill that vacuum.

The White Paper concentrates on integration: integration of modes for passengers; integration of modes for freight--I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group and of the Piggyback Consortium--and a move to rebalance competing demands on road space in favour of pedestrians, cyclists and buses, with a reduction of space for other road vehicles. It is a policy document and, as such, has been criticised for not containing much detail or "action". However, I understand that 84 of the 94 measures in the White Paper can be implemented without legislation and that a start has already been made. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to say a little more about that.

I see the White Paper as covering both national and local issues. Many people feel passionately that to achieve the necessary change to implement those measures, there needs to be a massive programme to shift people's attitudes: to transport, to the needs of others, and to the quality of life. That is why people need to see results. They need to see the carrot offered before the stick is administered. Dare I say this, but I hope that Ministers will ensure that in their own departments and in local and regional authorities around the country, the White Paper's policies are not diluted into old thinking and put into the "too difficult" category. Politicians and officials must start to question and to think the unthinkable. Some such policies will take years to implement; all the more argument for starting now.

Perhaps I may give your Lordships a few examples to encourage debate. First, I believe that policy-makers at all levels should try out their own policies at first

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hand. Some noble Lords may have read in the press last week that the whole board of China Airlines intends to be in the air at midnight on 31st December this year so that, if the millennium bug has not been sorted out on their planes, they will be the first to experience it.

Coming to perhaps a more parochial level, how many national and local politicians regularly use public transport? I know that many of your Lordships and many Members of another place use buses and trains in London, but how many try out regional rail services or use local bus services? How many know where their local bus stops are? Do they know where the trains and buses come from? Do they know how to get a timetable? Many people need to know how to get a wheelchair on to a bus or train. How do you manage if you cannot see? I know that many able-bodied passengers on London's buses have trouble in standing upright, given the way in which some of the bus drivers brake. That needs sorting out.

In a quick review, I shall try to cover some of the main subjects of the White Paper and to concentrate on attitudes and solutions to many of the problems identified.

The days of predicting and providing for the perceived needs of road transport have, I hope, been put to bed for ever. I hope that the Government now accept that new roads do not always bring economic regeneration. In fact, some of them do the opposite. However, occasionally individual schemes seek resurrection, as we heard in your Lordships' House yesterday when we discussed the A.40 in north-west London.

Perhaps I may start with air transport where the policy of predicting and providing is still around. Why? The air operators argue that they must provide increasing air services and terminals to keep up with those offered by other areas and other countries. That is the argument for Terminal 5. It will still be many years yet before we get the results of the public inquiry into that. However, the same arguments were used 10 years ago with regard to roads to the regions and motorway building.

What is missing is a policy of providing surface transport to, and between, the airports. If one compares the provisions at Heathrow, which has two railway links to London, with those at other major airports, such as Schiphol, Zurich, Frankfurt and Paris, one sees that those airports have intercity rail links to many other parts of those countries. They have had such provision for some time. I know that we have such a link at Gatwick, but there was a railway at Gatwick before the airport, so that does not really count. We still do not have a connection between Gatwick and Heathrow. The problem is: who pays? I would argue that those developing the airports should pay for the substantial amount of public transport that is required, and not the state.

Perhaps I may turn quickly to shipping and the waterways. The White Paper mentions the need to encourage the diversion of freight to water from road. I look forward to the plans for reviving the shipping industry. I hope that my noble friend may be able to tell your Lordships when those plans will be published.

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I also welcome the new ideas for regenerating the Thames so that we can see more traffic on it--not just to the Millennium Dome, but to many other locations. I hope that those plans will include the use of the Travelcard on river services. That is extremely important.

Local transport is high on the agenda of the White Paper. We have now had the first daughter documents in the Draft Guidance on Local Transport Plans and the proposals for congestion and parking space charging. I welcome them because they put the White Paper's plans into practice. The idea of reallocating more space for other road users appears in the White Paper, but I still detect a fear of reducing road space in towns for cars. I believe that the Government have commissioned research which indicates that restricting road space has far less effect on reducing road traffic than was originally thought. If reducing road space for cars and allocating it to other traffic helps the buses to operate a better quality service in continuous bus lanes, allows cyclists to move more safely, and encourages walking without fear of being drenched by vehicle spray whenever it rains, surely that is not a bad idea for starters.

Traffic planners must consider equally the needs of all users of the highways. Therefore, I welcome the announcement in December by Glenda Jackson, the Minister for London, of an extra boost for London's public transport, pedestrians and cyclists. The Government announced that £27 million would be devoted to public transport and local projects out of a total of £84 million. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister can tell me what the rest of the money is to be spent on. I hope that it is not all to be used for new roads.

I turn now to congestion and to parking charges. They are an essential part of the overall package. We, as a nation, are very attracted to our cars. A car is a fantastic freedom and offers flexibility for many people who have often worked hard for it. I do not think that that comment applies to those who have company cars. We have more company cars per head of population than any other EU state. It will be difficult to find an incentive for company car users to use public transport when they have not only a free car, but often free petrol, free maintenance and free parking at work. I hope that the Treasury will look again at revisions to the system. I do not see any argument for keeping the company car system. If people need to use a car for business, they could buy one themselves, lease one, or get a loan from their companies.

I know that the car lobby will complain bitterly, but I do not think that the car lobby should make the Government's policy for them. The freedom to use a car is a great freedom, but it counts for little when one is stuck in a traffic jam for hours on end. I believe that everybody now accepts that some restriction is essential. I should like that restriction to be introduced in a more measured and planned way and not merely to be the result of congestion. Therefore, I believe that congestion charging and non-residential parking charges are very important in terms of constraining the number of cars on our roads at peak periods. I hope that the

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1022

Government will resist the temptation to add more and more exclusions to the list of those who do not have to pay or who can enter freely--that is, obviously apart from the emergency services and disabled people. I believe--the AA's research has confirmed this--that congestion charging will come about and that people will accept it, provided that the money raised from the charges is put back and is invested in transport projects.

About a year ago, the Deputy Prime Minister launched a project seeking green transport plans for all government departments. I hope that that will continue. I hope that we shall see its effects at the planning stage. When a local authority or local health trust says, "Let's have fewer larger hospitals on greenfield sites, fewer schools and fewer county courts", it should consider the extra costs of that, including the full environmental cost of the transport that will be needed so that people can get to those places. Those costs should be added to the financial analysis.

Finally, I turn to rail. I shall leave the subject of cycling to colleagues; I am sure that it will be raised because it is extremely important. Rail traffic is growing. Passenger traffic on our railways grew by 7 per cent. last year, and freight by 12 per cent. Ministers said recently that in the first half of this year rail freight had increased by 16 per cent. and that the Government intend such growth to continue. They inherited a system which was the product of the unseemly rush to privatise. That may have resulted in some of the highly critical problems of delays.

However, at the moment the structure does not encourage growth and new services. People have come up with many new ideas but I think the most important point is for the new strategic rail authority and the new regulator to tackle the policy of the infrastructure provider, Railtrack. It has just been discovered that many signal boxes are so old that if they are touched there will be an accident. However, Railtrack knew that when it took over the signal boxes from British Rail four years ago. Why has that suddenly been discovered? Why has Railtrack not done something about that?

Railtrack has a licence obligation to enhance capacity ahead of demand. It is not investing and, sadly, it tends to say that maintenance is the same thing as investment. Of course that is not the case, maintenance is a matter of just keeping the system going. Railtrack has taken 12 months to sort out a signalling project in Leeds because it required a 12 per cent. return on its capital as it could not get any guarantee that trains would use the lines after the present franchises expired. That seems an extraordinary submission.

Railtrack has just announced that its cost estimates for a service from Heathrow to St. Pancras--which apparently, up until now, was not supposed to incur any infrastructure costs--have risen from nought to £210 million in two years. That is not very good estimating, is it? I note that, sadly, Railtrack seems been unwilling even to maintain existing infrastructure or to improve it to modern standards. One of the challenges facing the Government is to assess Railtrack's investment and, if it discovers Railtrack is not investing, it should make it do so. I see little difference between

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Railtrack as a public utility, a monopoly utility regulated in the usual way, and the utilities that provide us with gas, electric, telephone or water. They should all be treated in the same way. I hope that the new regulator will do that.

I think what is missing is the entrepreneurial spirit within Railtrack. A fantastic growth in rail traffic is forecast. Railtrack should seek it out, encourage it and demonstrate that it is a world leader in operating a reliable, modern infrastructure which is responsive to customer needs. I should like to see Railtrack do that, but it obviously has not done it yet. Let us hope that happens soon.

I shall not dwell to any great extent on rail freight. However, rail freight is happy to compete with road freight, but road freight must abide by the law. I have received a letter from a traffic commissioner who is responsible for issuing licences to lorry operators. One such operator had committed an offence and had his licence revoked in 1995. The commissioner had recently refused to grant a new licence. The operator indicated that the would continue to operate without a licence. It is interesting to note that that operator's main customer is the Ministry of Defence. That matter needs to be investigated. Enforcement, which should include impounding, is essential. I have been pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Whitty speak of the "Kill your Speed" initiative. The police need resources and they need to obtain revenue. We need to enforce that initiative.

The White Paper mentions change. I believe that the majority of the population will welcome it. A change in attitude to transport must come about. Local authorities and local government have a major role to play in this area. However, let us not forget the needs of pedestrians and cyclists who have just as much right to highway space as road vehicles. Unlike car occupants, pedestrians and cyclists are not encased in a steel box and they are vulnerable in an accident with a road vehicle. As I say, pedestrians and cyclists have just as much right to get around safely as those in road vehicles. Let us not forget the needs of the 30 or 40 per cent. of the population who do not have access to cars. All these measures cost money. I believe there is evidence that the public will pay congestion and parking charges if that money is reinvested in public transport, and with no time limit. Now is the time for action to implement these bold measures. I beg to move for Papers.

3.23 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, when my party was in government integrated transport was very much the buzz word. Therefore I looked forward to reading the White Paper that had been promised. However, there is no definition of integrated transport in the White Paper and any reference to it can only be described at best as peelie wally. It is no wonder that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, had to broaden his speech to include other transport issues. I welcome the debate and I am grateful for the noble Lord's comments on transport.

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Although the White Paper is fairly repetitive, many of its ideas are continuations of those developed by my party when in government. I am glad that we should have been of help to the right honourable gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull East having done so much of the thinking for him. The Government issued a subsequent publication on shipping entitled Charting a new Course, which is full of good intentions. However, where are the targets? How many new officers and ratings do the Government expect to have registered with the British Chamber of Shipping in 10 years' time as a result of their policies? How much extra tonnage in the UK fleet? There are no targets and little has been done in the way of proposing concrete measures for the shipping industry. Who will have the experience to train the recruits of the future to maintain the high standards of our fleet?

As regards London Underground, the White Paper says so little that I missed it the first time. What are the Government's views on the Underground? What are their thoughts on the Chelsea-Hackney Line? There is much potential there to get people off the roads in London. However, there is no mention of it in the White Paper. What can the Minister tell us with regard to private enterprise and the money it has made available? Or is it the Minister's intention that private enterprise should provide the infrastructure for the Underground and that Jimmy Knapp should run the trains, or not as the case may be? What about investment for the Underground? The previous Conservative government increased investment four times in real terms between 1979 and 1997. Can the Minister confirm that the Labour Government will continue to increase expenditure at that rate, or do even better?

I turn to aviation. I hope the Government will bear in mind that many of the good intentions with regard to reducing noise and controlling airports mean that the industry could suffer unless restrictions and standards imposed on our key hub airports are repeated throughout Europe. This is a competitive area. We have a successful United Kingdom business which earns a great deal of revenue for the country. If pressures are applied to it which are not applied in Europe, we shall see our standards decline and the European airports will be only too pleased to receive traffic that should come to Britain. One of the most stupid sentences in the White Paper concerns a 30-year plan for aviation. When one considers the changes in aviation that have taken place over the past 30 years, how can one predict what will happen in the next 10 years, let alone the next 30? However, if planning procedures continue to stifle opportunities in this country, perhaps a 30-year plan becomes a little more realistic.

As to roads, I hope that the Government will bear in mind that for many the car is an essential item of daily life and not a luxury. It appears that much of the consultation was carried out in urban areas. How much was carried out in rural areas where there are no opportunities to use public transport? Despite the emphasis on local solutions, which the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, welcomed--I also welcome it--why will investment by local authorities decrease in real terms next year? If one adds to that the Government's

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ideas for de-trunking, thereby giving local authorities more roads to maintain, surely congestion will only get worse and not better. When the Government are saving £700 million annually on motorway and trunk road infrastructure improvements, why is only £75 million being invested in encouraging people to transfer from road to rail? There are good points in the White paper but there are many questions that need to be answered. The Government have not yet reached a satisfactory standard.

3.29 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I join the noble Earl in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for introducing this debate. He is an acknowledged expert on transport matters. The House always listens to him with great interest. The noble Earl applied the Scottish adjective peelie wally to the White Paper. There are many adjectives one could think of in connection with the Deputy Prime Minister, but that is hardly the one that comes first to mind. The Deputy Prime Minister deserves credit for a White Paper which has a broad thrust and coherence about it. I want to concentrate on the vital role that cycling can play in achieving the Government's aim of an integrated transport policy to fight congestion and pollution.

I found in the days when I used to travel around London from one meeting to another that cycling was by far the most reliable means of arriving on time--much better than taking the bus, a taxi or the Underground. And it was good exercise into the bargain. Cycling or walking to work on a regular basis is one of the best contributors to good health, far more worthwhile than the practice of a hospital executive I heard about the other day. He took his health seriously. He believed in getting into his company car twice a week and driving to a gym in order to sit astride a stationary bicycle.

The figures of our travelling habits are very revealing. Seventy-five per cent. of all journeys in the United Kingdom are of less than five miles; 86 per cent. of journeys over one mile are made by car; and 61 per cent. of car journeys are of less than five miles. Even a modest shift from these staggering statistics would be very good for the national health.

Since the national cycling strategy was born two-and-a-half years ago, much positive action has taken place at national, regional and local levels. But there is still an immense amount to do. It is becoming clear that the target accepted by the Government of doubling the cycling levels by 2002 may not be met. There is an urgent need to look generally at the resources being deployed in this area of transport policy.

Let me conclude by asking the Minister three questions. He can perhaps reply to them at the end of the debate. If not, perhaps he will write to me. First, as regards safety, the White Paper says:

    "we wish particularly to improve the safety of more vulnerable road users, including cyclists and pedestrians ... in a way that is consistent with encouraging more cycling and walking".
In the light of that statement, what measures will the forthcoming road safety strategy contain to improve cyclists' safety while also supporting greater cycle use?

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I would add to what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said about the use of cars. I notice that Mr. Kinnock, speaking as a European Commissioner, talked the other day about the great need for car design to take account of pedestrian and cyclist safety. I hope that the Government will encourage people to take on the car lobby in that respect and encourage it to emphasise in its advertising a good deal more of the safety side of cars rather than the sexual side, which I notice appears in most television advertising.

Secondly, the White Paper talks about local transport plans. The way in which local authorities plan for transport is being radically changed for the better by the White Paper. What mechanisms will the Government introduce to ensure that these new local transport plans deliver additional funding to cycling provision?

My third question concerns integration, a word that is used a good deal. The White Paper rightly supports an integrated policy generally and an integrated policy in relation to cycling. How will the proposed strategic rail authority deliver greater integration for cyclists? And how will it liberate them from the hazards that they find among railway companies when trying to make journeys associated with cycle travel? If the Government can produce an improvement there, they will earn the blessing of the entire cycling community.

3.34 p.m.

Lord Currie of Marylebone: My Lords, I also welcome this debate on transport initiated by my noble friend Lord Berkeley.

The transport system is absolutely vital for the economic performance of this country. If we neglect it, our performance will fall behind that of our competitors even more than at present. Getting the transport system right is essential.

It is right that the White Paper argues the need to use congestion pricing to discourage the excessive use of cars, particularly in congested urban areas. If that is to work, we must ensure that the rail system is enhanced in a way which allows people to shift the emphasis of their activity from road to rail, both in regard to passenger and freight transportation. Promoting the rail system is essential.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley was absolutely right to highlight the essential role that Railtrack, the monopoly provider of the key rail infrastructure, will have to play. The White Paper talks about a better deal for everyone in the transport area. One group which has clearly had a wonderful deal over the past few years is the shareholders of Railtrack. The share price of Railtrack has gone up four times since privatisation. One wonders whether that is not a signal that something is amiss. My remark is not motivated by jealousy, or anything of that kind; it is merely a question as to what has transformed the company's prospects over those years.

It is worth reflecting on the nature of the privatisation of rail. We are confronted with a highly fragmented rail system, with very little effective competition in all but a few areas. That was not the original aspiration, which was to create effective competition. It was not possible

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to do that. The consequence is that rail now poses a quite different regulatory problem from that of other sectors. In telecoms we see significant competition over large swathes of the industry, growing ever greater; the same is true, and will increasingly be true, of electricity and gas. It is fair to say that we do not have competition with water, but we have a rather simple industry structure. In rail we combine a lack of competition with a very complex industrial structure, and it is a real challenge therefore to manage it.

That is why the White Paper is entirely right to argue the case for creating a strategic rail authority. This is an industry which requires effective co-ordination far and above that required of and provided by the regulator in the other regulated sectors. The strategic rail authority will have a hard time in trying to make the rail business work as well as it should, as will the rail regulator. The acting rail regulator, Mr. Chris Bolt--who, the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, will be delighted to hear, is an avid cyclist (he arrives at all his meetings with his helmet as an essential part of his business accessories)--has a very important role to play. He is right to have made some tough statements recently in respect of the performance of Railtrack and other industry sectors.

The key to the regulator's problem is to get incentives right. My noble friend Lord Berkeley mentioned the Chinese approach in relation to the Y2K problem. Without going entirely down that road, it is important that the regulator aligns incentive appropriately. That involves paying an appropriate cost of capital to the regulated monopoly part of the business. There is a danger, I believe, that some regulators might be too tough in that area.

More importantly, it is crucial that, whatever return Railtrack gets, it should be given in a way that provides Railtrack with incentives to invest and modernise the rail infrastructure. That is not the case at the present because Railtrack's return is largely independent of the passenger traffic along that infrastructure. That remuneration system will not encourage Railtrack to invest in expanding the network in order to ensure an efficient system that avoids delays and congestion. We have to get that incentive structure right if we are to have a modern rail system fit for the next 10 to 20 years.

3.40 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, we are all dependent on the free movement of goods and services as well as personal mobility for the quality of our lives. Economic growth brings yet more movement and the reality is that we all prefer to face the problems created by growth rather than the problems of recession which would almost certainly reduce transport demand. Transport demand, therefore, is likely constantly to change and grow.

Even since this White Paper was published last summer matters have moved forward, with the publication of the London Bill and plans for possible congestion and parking charges in London to provide funds to be used to make public transport more attractive and effective within London. It will be

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essential to ensure that the funds raised by these means are retained and used locally and not lost in the maw of the Treasury, as the London Bill appears to imply might happen. Local charging and improvement of local conditions must go hand in hand if the local economy--initially in London--is not to be damaged and the acceptability of these additional revenue streams is to continue.

I have been fortunate enough to see a brief from the Boots company, with which I hasten to add I have no connection at all, which illustrates the complexities in this area. Boots operates 1,400 pharmacy stores as well as 290 opticians stores and 400 specialist cycle and car maintenance stores through Halfords. It is committed to existing town centres. It comments:

    "The vitality and viability of town centres should be an explicit requirement of local transport plans".
It relates its experience in Edinburgh, where trading in its city centre store has shown a noticeable deterioration as the result of traffic restraint measures in Princes Street. Anecdotal evidence from other traders supports that. Driving traffic from a town centre may help to improve the environment there, but if the centre becomes uneconomic and trade moves out, I doubt very much whether that will be seen as an improvement in the longer term.

Boots also comments that it has worked very hard to improve transport arrangements for its 6,500 staff at its Beeston headquarters near Nottingham. Its work includes improved facilities for cyclists, which should please some, and a computer assisted car-sharing programme. It also assists local bus services as well as a shuttle bus from the nearest station. But it is interesting to note that these last actions have resulted in a tax assessment from the Inland Revenue for £500,000 because the company is providing a benefit in kind. Clearly, I conclude that co-ordinating and restraining the Treasury's appetite with the needs of the environment has not yet been wholly achieved.

I find it somewhat surprising that, while the White Paper pays lip service to technological development, the Government appear reluctant to take steps to encourage changes that might dramatically improve the atmosphere. The modern diesel engine is very efficient and produces dramatically less pollution than its forebears. It uses up to 30 per cent. less fuel than petrol engines, and a wider fuel excise duty differential between petrol and diesel could rapidly produce greatly reduced CO 2 emissions by getting this changeover under way. City diesel, with its very low sulphur content which improves exhaust catalyst performance, would also help. City diesel will not generally be introduced until 2005 under the European Union auto-oil programme. I have to ask the Government whether this date could not be brought forward. By that time we shall begin to see the first fuel cell-powered vehicles coming on to the market, with all the scope that that technology provides for dramatically reducing pollution.

These changes will happen whether or not the Government sit on their hands. However, they will happen sooner and the benefit will be felt more rapidly,

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1029

if the Government take appropriate action. The White Paper itself is long on discussion, but it is just that--a discussion paper.

3.45 p.m.

The Earl of Stair: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for initiating this vital debate. The Government have produced a White Paper on integrated transport which should show the framework for a United Kingdom transport plan. However, this paper deals mainly with England, and I would like to include in my contribution to the debate detail which is to be found in the Scottish White Paper which was produced concurrently with this one and is entitled Travel Choices for Scotland. I look on this debate on United Kingdom transport from a Scottish perspective, where a good public transport system is essential for business and employment, particularly in the more remote areas.

When devolution is completed and the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Irish Assemblies have been formed, the greater majority of transport responsibility will be devolved to those three bodies. I believe that, although responsibility and control are devolved, there should still be an infrastructure of transport networks which are more centrally co-ordinated. I use the word "co-ordinated" rather than "controlled" because, although the road and rail networks will be paid for and controlled by devolved authorities, they do over certain routes provide a link not only within the United Kingdom but on to the Continent as well. I am not only referring to the west coast main line or the A.1 but to routes such as the E.18 which links Coleraine in Ireland in the west to Leningrad in the east.

My point is perhaps better illustrated on page 161 of what I shall refer to as the English White Paper, which should show the principles of the UK transport network as described on page eight. Page 161 shows a map of most of the United Kingdom but shows only what are described as core national routes in England. Although the routes will be paid for and administered by the devolved administrations, it is in my view a major weakness that the document which pertains to show the basis for an integrated United Kingdom transport network does not acknowledge the existence of the major link roads that connect England to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For some reason that has been possible for the railway map shown on page 162, although Northern Ireland, with an inter-European rail link, has been omitted altogether.

I am in complete agreement with the Government on their intention to reduce pollution and congestion by transferring more road freight to rail. However, I would suggest that the rail infrastructure is going to require a considerable investment not only to enable the tracks to carry the extra traffic but also to existing structures such as bridges and power cables to allow for the most effective intermodal freight system to be used.

The paper clearly favours rail transport, and the instigation of the strategic rail authority will provide a useful control. It is particularly encouraging from

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1030

a national perspective that the Scottish Executive will be able to instruct the strategic rail authority on matters concerning trans which start or finish their journeys in Scotland. However, the commission for integrated transport will have only representatives from the devolved countries. This organisation will only be able to advise government on transport matters. I suggest that instead of advising, it should recommend actions on a national basis on integrated transport matters.

Finally, I wish to mention the trans-European networks. The United Kingdom White Paper refers to the Government's intention to continue work with the European Union on a development of trans-European networks. It is perhaps an omission that the only routes currently being bid for are both rail oriented. There is no mention of trans-European networks in the Scottish White Paper, and they receive only a brief mention in the one published for the United Kingdom.

I return to the E.18, to which I made reference earlier. This route is an essential road link through Scotland, where it is known as the A.75. It links the ferry port at Stranraer to the M.6 at Gretna. It links Northern Ireland to England and Europe using the shortest sea crossing, and is therefore favoured by many travellers. It is already eligible for trans-European network funding, provided that is matched by government funding. The route not only provides a European road link which cannot be replaced by rail unless a new modal freight facility is built or a new rail link is completed for approximately 80 miles from Stranraer to Gretna; it is also the key to the sustainable existence of rural business and industry in an area where there is already high employment. This would not be an example of planning and providing. It would merely be a question of improving the infrastructure of the existing road.

3.51 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am not a transport expert. However, I am, like all other Members of this House, grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for introducing this debate. I have no specialist knowledge, but I suffer the frustrations of being a public transport user each and every day. I can tell the improbable but true tales of misery, and much more, of life on the London to Brighton line. I can tell the House that it has become no better since the line was privatised, and certainly not since Lord Olivier enjoyed his kipper breakfasts on the Brighton Belle 30 years ago, when he used to make journeys to this House.

My primary interest today is to raise the importance and significance of local transport strategies and the key role that can be played by local authorities. My council covers a population of a quarter of a million, and the wider city a third of a million. It is a complex and difficult sub-region for public transport to navigate. It has a road network constrained by the valleys which comprise our city and the seascape which is our shining glory and a major attraction. Brighton is an incredibly popular place. It attracts more than 7 million visitors a year.

Brighton has a host population which, unlike the rest of the affluent south, is not so car-dependent. Less than 50 per cent. of our residents are car owners. Many used

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1031

to see that as a problem. I see it as an opportunity. Because of the built-up and congested nature of Brighton and Hove we need to reduce car dependency and strike a balance between the needs of car users and the overriding need to protect and enhance the quality of the urban environment which makes our area so special.

Many years ago, in the 1970s, transport planners foresaw an opportunity to connect our suburbs to the city centre. However, it would have meant the wholesale demolition of some of the most interesting and attractive inner urban areas. That approach was resisted and, although we have suffered the inevitable consequence of congestion, we are now finding solutions which are much rehearsed in the White Paper.

In the early 1990s, when we still suffered from some of the problems that represented a hangover from the "car is king" era, the council, together with East Sussex, decided to reverse long-term trends in bus usage and try to promote buses as an environmentally sound approach.

The strategy that has since developed relies on a range of factors: cheaper buses; frequent services from all areas; accessible, user-friendly services; integration with the rail network; the development of clean technology buses; and road space reduction. That strategy is now bringing benefits. Between 1994 and 1998 we saw year on year increases in the numbers of passengers for the first time, at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum; 25 per cent. more people now use the local bus network. No other conurbation in the United Kingdom can boast that record. Last year saw major disruption to services as we extended our priority network, and passenger numbers still held. Towards the end of the year when the work was completed numbers again began to rise, with an 8 per cent. increase between September and December to the Churchill Square area of the shopping centre. It was an amazing increase. We have now developed with our major bus provider, Brighton and Hove Buses, a quality partnership. The result has been METROLINE--a high-quality, high profile route branding/tube network imitation which makes the bus network easy to use and easy to understand.

That approach has not been without its problems, and there are certainly lessons to be learnt. I would argue that we need both carrot and stick--we probably need more stick than carrot. Public transport must be given priority if it is to provide a speedy, efficient alternative to car-borne city centre traffic. A clear communications strategy must be adopted to persuade and inform local residents of the need to use public transport and to promote the need for environmentally friendly strategies.

Consultation is essential. We need to take the business communities with us. It is essential to work in close partnership with the police, the Highways Agency, the health services, taxi and bus operators and major employers. The final lesson that we have learnt is that it is also necessary to be brave. There are some green lobbyists who will never be satisfied. We must watch out for special pleading near local election times, and we must beware of all those who accuse councils of being anti-car--they usually have no idea of a strategy;

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1032

their idea of balance in transportation terms is simply to retain the status quo. If we adopt that model, if we listen and learn from those lessons, I believe that we can have local transportation strategies that will, first, halt the decline in public transport and, secondly, bring more people onto our bus and rail networks, to the benefit of all, but more particularly of our urban environment.

3.57 p.m.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for introducing this important subject for debate. Before saying anything substantive, perhaps I may remind the House that I have an interest as president of the Heavy Transport Association. Also, I am speaking from the Back- Benches, not for Her Majesty's Opposition.

The Government recently had a difficult decision to make regarding maximum lorry weights and the EU directive imposing an extremely "un-road-friendly" 40 tonne vehicle upon us. Despite the conclusions of the 1994 report of the Select Committee on the European Communities, the Minister has opted for a "road-friendly" six-axle 41 tonner rather than the opportunity to introduce a highly efficient and environmentally friendly 44 tonne vehicle--a vehicle that is physically no larger than the current vehicles. In other words, he has foregone an extra three tonnes of maximum payload and introduced a vehicle that will be unique to the UK market. So much for the Single Market.

The reason for that is apparently to relieve competitive pressure as regards the railway industry. That is indeed understandable; however, it has to be recognised that the cost is considerable. The Esso company alone, using 44 tonners, would save over 2 million road miles per year compared to 38 tonners. In addition, it would be able to reduce its fleet size by 20 per cent., with 35,000 fewer movements. As the Esso fleet largely delivers to factories and retail outlets, almost none of its road traffic could be transferred to rail. It is gratifying to see the enthusiasm and the regeneration of the rail freight industry since privatisation. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his efforts in promoting the industry and organising his group. He has been doing much good work in this House.

Noble Lords will be aware that the road haulage industry is extremely competitive and easy to enter. There is nothing wrong with that; however, unfortunately, the industry also attracts cowboys and illegal operators, and has done so since the days of a man with a horse and cart.

A charitable view is that some enter the industry wearing rose-tinted spectacles. Frequently, new entrants have no realistic idea of the cost of their operation, the depreciation, maintenance and tyre costs. They therefore unwittingly charge less than the cost of the operation. Inevitably they end up sailing very close to the wind and eventually either go out of business or operate illegally. Typical examples of illegality are to employ drivers claiming unemployment benefit, taxing vehicles at the wrong rate, overloading, driving excessive hours and falsifying tachograph records.

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Those illegal activities can result in the licensing authority withdrawing the operator's licence, but unfortunately many will continue to operate without a licence and with relative impunity. If, however, their vehicle could be impounded by the authorities, this would provide a major deterrent to illegal operation.

As noble Lords will be aware, there has been much discussion and consultation on the matter. Unfortunately, the Government have not found parliamentary time for a suitable Bill to allow for impounding. I therefore intend to help the Minister by introducing a suitable Private Member's Bill. I am currently receiving expert help in drafting it. It will provide that in future, when the authorities detect a vehicle being operated without an operator's licence, they will be able to impound it. This will go some way to reducing unfair competition in the industry. I will leave further discussion to the Second Reading debate.

However, the Bill will be a non-starter and cannot actually be implemented until the joint enforcement database initiative (JEDI) is up and running accurately. Also, it may be necessary for the Minister slightly to change the procedure for operators adding vehicles to their licence. The DTI has been making much of electronic commerce, and with good reason. I hope that it will soon be possible for operators to notify the licensing authority of changes electronically. The future with IT is exciting, but of course it will still be necessary to retain postal transactions as well for small operators.

I believe that if we can eliminate cowboy operators from the road transport operation, the basic rates available to the industry will rise. That would help the rail industry to undertake transport tasks ideally suited to it, and for road transport safely, legally and profitably to undertake tasks not suited to rail transport.

4.2 p.m.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, I shall expand on the contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in that it is widely considered that diesel, when compared with petrol engines, will emerge as the better option, long-term, for various reasons. Diesel vehicles use 25 per cent. less fuel which equates to 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. saving in CO 2 emissions and this gap will be maintained as technological advances will affect both types of engines.

Improvements in emission control techniques, particulate traps and low sulphur diesel fuel provide good grounds for expecting that emissions from diesel engines will be equal to or better than petrol engines by 2005. However, I know of one manufacturer which is developing a zero emission diesel engine. I cannot recall anyone committing suicide using diesel exhaust gases, yet everyone here today will have heard of suicides from petrol exhausts. Diesels produce half the level of hydrocarbon emissions including the proven carcinogenic benzine. One Swedish study has shown that petrol station attendants had three times the expected level of leukaemia caused by benzine. This highly volatile carcinogenic vapour displaced, when filling a petrol tank, contains 3.5 million parts per billion

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1034

of benzine compared with the Government's target of 1 part per billion. So, when filling up your petrol tank, it is wise to wear a gas mask.

Diesel engines also produce half the level of ozone precursors compared with equivalent petrol engines. Studies have shown that oxides of nitrogen increase with increased mileage in petrol cars, but fall slightly in diesel-engined vehicles. So, after about 30,000 miles, diesel engines produce on average less nitrous oxide. That illustrates the gulf between theoretical and actual emissions of petrol engines.

In order to provide further food for thought, I continue. Because of a rich fuel cold start, short journeys of less than five miles which make up 61 per cent. of all journeys are more inefficient in a petrol-engined vehicle. Because the catalyst does not work properly until it is hot, it produces excessive pollution and emissions. Diesels are at almost maximum efficiency as soon as they are started. Consequently, a petrol-engined vehicle which might average 50 miles per gallon under normal driving might only achieve 20 to 25 miles per gallon over short distances, whereas the 50 mile per gallon diesel will almost always achieve 50 miles per gallon, irrespective of the distance covered.

The statement that diesel exhaust fumes are a serious health threat has been repeated so often in recent years that it has become accepted as fact. The view that the use of diesel vehicles should be discouraged assumes that particulate emissions are so harmful as to outweigh all the areas in which diesel emissions are lower--for example, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, benzene, ozone precursors and carbon dioxide--and also that diesels are the principal source of PM emissions. But both assumptions are flawed. Diesel vehicles produce only a fifth of total particulate emissions with the main sources being industry, power generation, domestic fires, bonfires, construction, quarrying and agriculture. Although diesels produce about 20 times as much PM10 by weight as petrol vehicles, the vast majority is accounted for by comparatively heavy but innocuous particles in the 2.5 to 10 micron range.

It is very surprising that there is hardly any published information comparing petrol and diesel emissions of PM2.5, but I am led to believe from an impeccable source that one eminent independent research and development company has measured PM2.5s from petrol engines and shown them to be four times the level of equivalent diesels. It has also been shown that, in the south-east, wind-blown particulates of the size 2.5 microns can be formed from pollutants coming from the continent and not directly from vehicle exhausts.

One American study of deaths due to high pollution levels has indicated that industrial pollution is the cause and not diesel pollution. There are very few diesels in America. But the media have extrapolated figures from this study in a grossly inaccurate and scaremongering way.

There is no epidemiological evidence of diesel fumes being dangerous and your Lordships will be interested to learn that at the Merton bus garage, workers were found to have slightly lower than usually expected levels of respiratory and heart disease.

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But the whole picture is more important than anything. We should be more worried about global warming which might affect everybody than the effect on a few people worldwide.

I had hoped to have time to ask the Minister whether he intends to implement the excellent recommendations contained in Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary's Thematic Inspection Report 1998 which concedes that traffic policing has been neglected for far too long. I had also hoped to be able respectfully to suggest that the daughter document to the White Paper on road safety be published before public support for it is lost.

4.7 p.m.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for initiating this important debate. I am pleased to be one of only two women taking part--both from the Liberal Democrat Benches--because women are important transport users.

I want to talk about integrated transport in London, not as a transport expert but as an enthusiastic user of public transport. I have not sought a House of Lords car parking permit, not to be morally superior, but to do as I would be done by.

I daily, or almost daily--and I shall come to that--share the experience of millions of other Londoners, travelling mainly on the Tube and buses rather than by rail. We need to remember that this rail, Tube and bus network is a fantastic asset for London, and we are especially lucky to have escaped the horrors of bus deregulation that the previous government inflicted on other parts of the country.

However, the network could be so much better. It was horribly neglected by the previous government, no doubt because it was in the public sector--the public sector was regarded as bad--and because leading members of the government did not use it. Perhaps I may recommend the experience of a 14-minute wait at the Angel on the Northern Line or the Piccadilly Line at King's Cross at 8.45 a.m. You can only get on the fourth train to arrive and the crowding on the platform is frankly terrifying. This Government's attitude is more enlightened but it needs to be pushed harder.

I wish to highlight two issues particularly this afternoon. The first is the need for adequate funding. The Government say that their plans will bring £7 billion in investment in the Tube over 15 years, presumably a mixture of public and private money. Can the Minister give an assurance that the income raised from congestion charging or taxing office parking spaces in London will be additional to government grant towards London's public transport system and will not be used to justify cutting the Treasury contribution? Linked to that, while I understand that the Government have given an oral pledge that the mayor will keep the proceeds of congestion charging for the first 10 years, Londoners want a guarantee that the money they pay will never be swiped by the Treasury. Londoners want their money to be used to improve public transport, either through investment in the network or value-for-money fares.

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London's fares are the highest in the world. It costs £1.40 to travel one stop on the Tube or £1 to travel four or five stops on the bus. These Benches call for a reduction in fares in real terms by keeping rises below the rate of inflation. This can probably be done only if the mayor can subsidise fares from road pricing or parking charges.

The Government's solution to the future of the Tube is completely unsatisfactory. The former chairman of London Transport, Mr. Peter Ford, told the Transport Sub-Committee of the other place that the public/private partnership would cost £1 billion more over 25 years than the public sector option, which the Liberal Democrats favour, of keeping the Tube tracks and trains in public ownership but allowing freedom to borrow on the commercial market. Will the Government publish the Price Waterhouse costings so that we can all see them?

There are also great worries that a non-integrated Tube may become a disintegrated Tube. If there are three private track owners and one public operating company there will be five interfaces. Will safety be guaranteed in those circumstances? How is it that Railtrack, which is so castigated (by this Government among others) for its poor performance and latterly has revealed that its signal boxes for London commuter traffic at crucial locations, such as Dartford, Guildford and Tottenham, are so old and fragile that they must not be touched, is rumoured to be the Government's favourite to operate the Tube track?

The greater London assembly and mayor must be allowed the resources to plan for increases in the capacity of London's transport network. There is no Crossrail and Chelsea-Hackney line in the pipeline. Why does the Heathrow Express go to Paddington, where it connects with a very infrequent Circle Line service, rather than there being an efficient Crossrail?

The best prospect for short-term capacity increases lies in buses. But can we please have better buses than the current one person-operated vehicles, which are very noisy and whose design is horrible? Can we also have a flat fare on buses, which would be welcome? I believe that that is a matter that London Transport is considering.

There needs to be a long-term strategy for increasing capacity, including new bus routes, matching transport investment to areas suitable for population growth so that transport assists in the attainment of urban regeneration and sustainable development, and does not undermine it. We have much to learn from continental cities in areas such as car pools, bike hire and integrated ticketing. That is my second point.

I said earlier that I travel almost daily on London Transport. It is not quite worth my while to buy a travelcard, so I must buy single tickets. Ministers encourage flexible work patterns and part-time working. They also urge Londoners to leave their cars at home for a few days a month. They will not find it a happy experience. There are no carnets for the bus; one cannot interchange between Tube and bus on a single ticket; one cannot even interchange between buses; and one

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1037

cannot buy a one-day travelcard for the bus. We are two or three decades behind continental cities in the area of ticketing.

Until we have a first-class, consumer-friendly public transport system Londoners, who expect and receive efficiency and comfort in other areas of their lives, will not be tempted to use London Transport.

4.13 p.m.

Lord Islwyn: My Lords, our grateful thanks are due to my noble friend Lord Berkeley for initiating this important debate. He has advocated with conviction the need to get as much freight as possible on to rail to ease the congestion on our overcrowded road network. This principle is part of an integrated transport system. Calls for such a system have been repeatedly made over the years. They have appeared hardly more than empty platitudes for little has been done.

Things, however, have changed. First, we now have a Labour Government with a huge majority in the other place. Secondly, the transport portfolio has altered considerably. Not so long ago the Transport Minister was not even a member of the Cabinet. There is now a new concept with an omnibus ministry headed by the redoubtable Mr. John Prescott. In addition to being Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions he is Deputy Prime Minister. The transport portfolio therefore now has clout which hitherto it has tended to lack.

Nevertheless there is a need to recognise the reality of the transport situation in Britain today. In 1996, for example, of the total inward goods movement 91 per cent. was accounted for by road. A similar situation obtains in passenger transport of which some 94 per cent. is estimated to be accounted for by road. The vast majority of this high percentage is accounted for by private cars. To make any impact on the situation, whether in respect of freight or passenger transport, there is a mountain to climb.

I shall give a local illustration of the problem. In Newport, which I represented for 10 years in the other place, there are now excessive delays on the M.4 between junctions 23 and 28. These are expected to worsen significantly as traffic volumes increase as a result of both rising car ownership and greater economic activity further west. The resulting bottleneck will jeopardise continuing investment in South Wales to the west of Newport. That area badly needs new investment. Newport county borough council has called for the provision of an M.4 relief road. The scheme is now subject to review under a common appraisal framework. I understand that the study is to be completed by the spring of this year.

There is opposition to the proposed relief road from the environmental lobby. While not doubting the sincerity of the individuals and groups concerned, I believe that economic reality points to the need for the early construction of the road. My understanding is that removal of the need for the proposed new relief road at Newport by the transfer of freight from road to rail would require another eight freight interchanges equivalent to the one presently being built at Wentlooge

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1038

on the outskirts of the town. Such a proposal is unrealistic. That is an example of what I mean by the need to climb a mountain. I urge the Government to give the go-ahead to the new road without further delay. I am glad to have had the opportunity to make a brief contribution to the debate.

4.18 p.m.

Lord Mountevans: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on initiating this wide-ranging debate. Nowadays I have only a non-motorist's interest to declare and therefore I find much to welcome in the White Paper. We find in it some old familiar friends already discussed but there are other aspects such as the emphasis on the alleviation of congestion, transport integration, the viability of public transport and seamlessness. I welcome the evolution of the strategic rail authority. I hope that it will be rapid because, in common with many others, I should not like to see the traffic growth prospects of EWS, or passenger franchise operators, becoming mired by concerns about the future regulatory regime which in turn may impact on innovation, marketing, the ability to raise capital, the ability to invest--no longer constrained by PSBR--and the viability of the equipment supply industry.

In the context of the White Paper I also hope that we shall see progress, as did the Swedes, in levelling the playing field as to the costs of the road and rail infrastructure.

I welcome the increased involvement of regions, other authorities and planners although I am disappointed that the counties are not becoming PTAs. I give one example. In the Isle of Wight consideration is being given to turning the existing rail franchise--the smallest, leanest but, sadly, one of the most heavily subsidised--into a light railway and integrating it with the existing preserved railway. Light rail gets a fairly raw deal in the White Paper. I am sorry about that. I believe that we should build on Tyne and Wear's recently improved extension to Sunderland which shares Railtrack facilities.

My main regret is that the White Paper almost overlooks practice abroad. There are some 30 references to European or other international commitments; they are not totally relevant to the passenger or the freight shipper. There are 10 references to best operational practice. I believe that there are only two references to transport practices in the world beyond Europe; and there are almost no references to such practices to be found in the index.

Against that, I place great store by the commission for integrated transport which is charged with identifying and disseminating best practice. Perhaps we should add encouragement or even enforcement to its remit, as the noble Earl, Lord Stair, implied. What can be considered best practice? Is it the use of colour in the Dutch timetable to make it more accessible to the visibly impaired? Is it the use of minority languages such as Arabic and Turkish for those whose mother tongue is not Dutch? We should look at the Dutch all-mode nationwide strip ticket for once-off journeys. You buy

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the equivalent of 10 journeys and can use the ticket on any transport anywhere in the Netherlands. We should also look at the Dutch use of taxis as a complement to, or replacement for, unviable bus services.

I turn to Norway, a country with which I am most familiar. The national timetable lists all public transport, cross-indexing it by maps, index or the schedule tables. Where operationally practical, long-haul transport connects. That means that a boat which has travelled for seven days connects with a train which is travelling 400 miles, even if the boat is delayed, within a reasonable margin. Short-haul services also connect. A national transport map adds to the information provision, as does a national fares manual. Is there a bus at Aviemore that will take me where I wish to go? Perhaps national parallels here are too ambitious, but those relating to smaller areas are worth considering.

The means to such ends lie with the strategic rail authority and CIT which I hope will be up and running in time to influence the welcome national travel information service. All those factors will enhance public transport and make it more attractive. That will encourage change in our public transport habits.

4.23 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on initiating the debate and speaking so well. I wish to put on record my great appreciation of our close work together on the transport sector during the years in opposition. I also welcome the constructive and coherent approach of the Government to transport, an area of policy which was so neglected during the 18 years of Conservative government. Their concept of pilotage of this sector was, I think, characterised by an irresistible urge to ensure that the transport ship landed on the rocks. In that they certainly succeeded.

I wish to devote my remarks to the issue of shipping. The Government issued a White Paper on shipping--and a very good one, too. In contrast to our predecessors, clearly those in charge of our transport policy believe in the industry. The former government did not. They allowed the industry to founder. They took over a bequest of nearly 1,300 ships of over 500 gross registered tonnes. They left behind a bequest of just over 200 ships. That was their way of honouring an industry which has meant so much to this country--a country which has been dependent on, and should be interested in, the industry to a much greater extent. So much of our trade is dependent internationally upon shipping. British shipping should be playing a critical part; the former government neglected it.

They applied piecemeal measures to try to mitigate some of the problems, but those failed miserably. We have failed to recruit the cadets whose skills and seamanship are needed to build that role in the future. There was a failure, too, to ensure that the maritime-related industries which depend on people who have served at sea are properly manned. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating as regards the White Paper. Will the resources be available? The document shows a critically important belief in the industry and a

27 Jan 1999 : Column 1040

determination to see it revived. We did not experience that during the previous 18 years. In consequence the former government carry a huge burden of debt to the people of this country.

There is a crisis in recruitment. The paper indicates ways in which it can be tackled. It is important to continue and enhance the attack on sub-standard vessels. Most of the problems come from open registries. New initiatives need to be promoted by the Government in the European Union to ensure that port state control becomes much more effective. That requires additional resources.

Unfair competition results from sub-standard vessels, from flags of convenience. We hear much from the party opposite about its belief in fair standards of competition--but not apparently in relation to shipping. We hear very little from it about the need to enhance the role of coastal shipping which is environmentally enormously advantageous. I must declare my interest as chairman of the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea, of which my noble friend Lord Callaghan is the president. As the paper indicates, we should ensure the environmental friendliness of shipping.

I conclude with reference to some of the issues which I believe are so important in the paper. I refer to the establishment of a national trust fund to co-ordinate industrial funding for seafaring training. Why did the former government not introduce it? I refer also to increasing the number of training berths for British seafarers; developing levy schemes for non-training companies; revising and improving the terms of the crew relief costs scheme; providing improved social security protection for UK seafarers; and considering the launch of a UK tonnage tax system. I believe that all those represent the way ahead. In the interests of our overall trading position, the means have to be found to ensure that the industry is made more meaningful in the industrial and economic life of this country. We have shown a will to implement the scheme. I hope that that will be translated fully into action.

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