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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that her problem as regards lonely and deserted stations, and the problem of the noble Lord, are derived from the fact that seven separate franchises serve Wales? That is a ridiculous situation. Will the noble Baroness encourage the proposed strategic rail authority to introduce an all-Wales service so that the railways in Wales will at least become co-ordinated?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an interesting question. As my noble friend identified in his Question, and as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, is aware, over 90 per cent of long rail journeys involving Wales include leaving Wales to travel to England and back to Wales, or vice versa. For that reason, we believe that having a Welsh member on a strategic rail authority can better serve the aim of an integrated rail system that the noble Lord identifies.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, in his final point the noble Lord raises the important issue of the need for close co-operation, in particular with regard to the transport links of the north-west, mid-Wales and south-east Wales across the border into England. The noble Lord referred to the level of expenditure. I respectfully remind him that, on coming into office, during the period of the comprehensive spending review the Government considered a pattern which had been established by the Government of which he was a distinguished member.
Resources available for transport in Wales, while the responsibility of the Westminster Government, included an additional £12.5 million subsidy over three years to improve public transport networks. We are confident that the Assembly will continue to build on the work which we did prior to the establishment of its responsibility for roads in Wales.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am aware that many people have such a difficulty. I am sure that the Rail Users' Consultative Committee, be it for Wales or for England, will be interested in taking up the experience of anyone in the country who has a difficulty.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I cannot give an assurance that the Assembly will be able to improve the road and rail networks, but I shall be in a position to comment on the effectiveness of the networks.
The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff): My Lords, first, I must apologise for the fact that the Chairman of Committees is unable to answer the Question. He is in Australia attending the conference of Commonwealth Speakers on behalf of the Lord Chancellor.
Noble Lords will be aware that the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England was set up as an ad hoc committee following the report of the Liaison Committee of 20th July 1998. The question of whether it should be set up again will be considered at the next meeting of the Liaison Committee on 7th February.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I should make it clear that I do not blame the noble Lord for that totally inadequate reply because he is not even a member of the Liaison Committee. However, I do blame the House's authorities, whoever they are. Some noble Lords will know who they may be, and perhaps those in the usual channels, who are sitting not too far away, can tell us.
Is the noble Lord aware that when the subject was debated on 4th November, there was on all sides of the House agreement and a strong demand for the committee to be set up again as a new Select Committee? Can he assure us that he will at least press the House's authorities for an earlier meeting of the Liaison Committee than is at present planned? Is there any reason why it cannot meet without the Chairman of Committees, or should we all move out to Australia in order to hold it? Indeed, it might be better to hold a meeting of the Liaison Committee without the noble Lord because the demand is that the committee shall meet as quickly as possible to set up a committee on the Monetary Policy Committee.
The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the House's committee on the Monetary Policy Committee was discussed at the meeting of the Liaison Committee in July. That was before the debate on the report. Indeed, it was before the report was published, although we had a pretty good idea of what was happening. I say "we", but the noble Lord is correct in saying that I am not a member of the Liaison Committee. However, I attend in my role as chairman of the European Communities Committee.
There were a number of items for discussion and several suggestions came from members who wanted ad hoc committees set up. The subject was deferred until the autumn. I am aware that the autumn has passed, but it should be borne in mind that until late in the year there was some confusion in your Lordships' House about who would be here. I believe that that is one of the reasons for the delay.
The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the Question was tabled for today, but as regards when the committee will be set up I can say only that it will be discussed at the meeting of the Liaison Committee on 7th February. There is no chance of bringing the meeting forward.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, perhaps I may reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. It always was a mistake that it should be regarded as an ad hoc committee. The report described its task as one of critical interpretation. Is it not a fact that the arrangements affecting the Monetary Policy Committee and the Bank of England are not those for a temporary phenomenon but one that is here for the long term? Therefore, is it not right that the same consideration should apply to the committee in order to make use of the expertise which exists in all parts of the House?
The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees: My Lords, that may well be so; no doubt the Liaison Committee will take it into account when it deliberates on 7th February. However, the committee was originally set up as an ad hoc committee almost two years ago and was regarded as such until the end of its deliberations when the results of the report suggested that it should be made permanent.
Lord Peston: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of how puzzled I am by his answers? The report was published last July and was widely acclaimed. It contained several explanations of why the committee must carry on. We discussed the subject in a widely acclaimed debate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, I believe that the committee should be made permanent, but that is another point.
One is left in a complete puzzle about what goes on in this place. One does many things and produces reports which are a credit to your Lordships' House and then no one does anything about anything! Those of us on the Back Benches must then ask how the place organises itself so that it is capable of taking a rational decision on a matter of some importance. I would never criticise my good friend, the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, but is he aware that many of us would like someone to do something sooner rather than later and learn a lesson about taking other decisions on other matters?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the importance of the Monetary Policy Committee was underlined this morning and therefore the importance of this House having a committee to monitor it is equally important and
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