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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, Thomas Fuller, almost as long ago as the quotation which the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, has just recited to us, said:


From time to time it has not necessarily been well conditioned, although there have been other periods when it has been, as we have heard this afternoon. Under God's divine providence, as Thomas Fuller said, it will, we hope, be well conditioned again.

We are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for initiating this debate, in which we have heard a very considerable number of interesting speeches, not to mention the very entertaining speech of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon.

It is quite clear that following last night's events and the good will of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, which we understand will be devoted to finding a solution to the problems of the mayoral election, my party now hopes to be quite well represented on the new

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authority. It is therefore very important that such an authority and the candidates for mayor should have a real policy as to what should happen to the Thames. This is a very important centrepiece for the future of London.

My party's candidate, Darren Johnson, has veered away from our usual concentration on green matters to suggest that we should have a "bluebelt" zone around the Thames, the equivalent of a greenbelt, to prevent inappropriate development. The Thames is an important resource for Londoners and ought to be given proper priority in the planning process. The area around the Thames cannot simply be regarded as another brownfield site. We need to have a clear strategy to protect the river, its foreshore and its hinterland. Such a strategy would involve the promotion of public access for pedestrians and cyclists.

It is also very important, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that we should be able to be by the Thames; that we should be able to see it; that it should not be covered in; and that it should not have walls built around it so that we cannot be by it. Efforts to promote Thames walks are very important, as is public access for pedestrians and cyclists. Wildlife corridors, green space along the river, and a lot of the most important biodiversity of this whole area, which has been tended by nature authorities both under the old GLC and, more recently, under the continuing authorities, have been respected and preserved in order to ensure that any development on the Thames that is easy on the eye is sustainable and non-polluting.

We must also have a policy for promoting river-related activities, such as sailing, educational opportunities and walking. Many of your Lordships will remember the speeches made in your Lordships' House by Lord St Davids about the boys' clubs that he ran, which provided education and entertainment for numerous children who otherwise would have been rather starved of those things.

We need suitable river transport. I was very interested in the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, that we should use the site of the Dome as a massive park-and-ride facility, the ride being provided by boats on the Thames. That is very important. We must find a way of using the Thames for passenger traffic. There should be a stable company able to make certain that it can cover its costs and make a reasonable profit in order to continue producing that kind of service for the people of London. In addition, of course, we must protect the river from pollution; for example, pollution from radioactive discharges from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. We must look after our river.

Henry James said:


    "Few European cities have a finer river than the Thames, but none certainly has expended more ingenuity in producing an ugly river-front".

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That situation has improved slightly in recent years. I hope that it will improve to an even greater extent in the future. The whole look of the Thames and the waterfronts along the,


    "five miles up and seven down",

as Kipling described the beat of the Thames in front of London Town, should be protected, should be made fruitful, should be kept free from ugliness, and should remain,


    "A thing of beauty [and] a joy for ever".

It was from Westminster Bridge that William Wordsworth celebrated his great view. We must strive for the kind of celebration of the Thames that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, has so entertainingly given us this afternoon. There must be a real dedication to its use and enjoyment.

2.50 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for initiating this debate because not only has it brought before your Lordships' House a subject of enormous importance in itself but it has attracted also a number of diverse and interesting speeches. First, I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, for rising to speak when I did. I was told that he had been obliged to scratch from the debate. I am delighted that he has not done so, and I had no wish to be rude to him.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, I find the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for the use of the land surrounding the Dome as an interchange facility to be extremely profitable and interesting. I hope that the Minister will be able to comment on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, reminded us of the efforts which we made during the passage of the GLA Bill. I was glad to hear that the problems in relation to the provision of tourism services on the Thames are on their way to being solved. I hope that that is true because in a sensible and well-ordered world there should not be a conflict between the use of the Thames for tourism and for transport.

Many noble Lords have referred to the history of the river and its importance for the purposes of transport. We have all seen films and read history books about the way in which the Thames connected the great palaces and castles which lie along its banks, from Windsor and Richmond to Westminster and the Tower, to mention only the most obvious ones. Of course, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Strand was not a road cut off from the river. On the contrary, it was on the riverbank and along it were the great town palaces of the nobles seeking to live as close as they could to the very place where we are today. They too used the river as a means of communication with their country houses further along.

We know from paintings and some of us know from earlier experience how busy the river used to be. The gains that we have made in terms of the cleanliness of the river should not be lost but we need to recapture some of that sense of "busyness" at the heart of our great city.

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I have not come here primed with beautiful quotations but I may be one of the first people who set off for her first diplomatic post--at least, it was my husband's post, not mine--accompanied only by my few-weeks old baby, from Tilbury to Leningrad. We all returned in the same way from Leningrad to Tilbury, this time in the cabin which the then President Khrushchev had used for his famous trip to America where he beat his shoe on the table.

As a little girl, I lived near here, in St George's Square and later in Warwick Square. So my origins as a Londoner come from being very close indeed to the river. Subsequently, I had the great pleasure--as did my noble friend, which is where we met--of living in Richmond, although my stretch of the river was really at Kew rather than at Richmond itself.

Many activities still take place on or near the river--rowing, walking, cycling, tourism, transport, fishing, birdwatching and swimming. My noble friend referred to our mutual friend, Bamber Gascoigne, swimming in the river. I was interested to hear about that. I knew him in the days when he wrote an annual letter to the local paper complaining about dog turds on Richmond Green. He may still be doing that. That is also a very useful activity.

We need to support the initiative of Mr Prescott, which I hope will be carried forward, for a joint approach to how the river should be used and in particular how its transport activity should be increased. The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, gave an extremely detailed account of the cargo potential of the river, particularly in relation to waste disposal. If I remember correctly, that is to be the responsibility of the mayor. I am keen, as other noble Lords have expressed themselves to be, that use of the river for the movement of waste should be maintained and, if possible, increased because nothing is more disagreeable than the movement of heavy waste lorries through built-up areas. Movement along the Thames is cleaner and quieter than it can ever be along roads. When planning is being considered for future disposal sites along the banks of Thames, including any future incineration, I hope that those responsible will bear in mind the need to be able to access those sites from the river.

The Prescott initiative was important because it brought together so many different organisations in the public and private sectors. But it was not the first such initiative. The Thames Path--the walking fraternity's great benefit from the Thames--was also the result of initiatives taken many years ago and maintained over many years by a large number of local authorities. It is to their credit that they have overcome most of the difficulties which stood in their way to build that great walking facility all the way from Lechlade to the Thames Barrier. Sustrans has a similar, although not identical, initiative as regards cycling. Those are two initiatives which must be continued and encouraged by whichever local or regional authority is in charge of the river.

In the past two or three years, the initiative seems to have been fairly successful with regard to transport between this part of London--for the sake of

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argument, Westminster--down-river as far as the Dome. But we have heard less about transport up-river from Westminster. As other noble Lords have said, the increase of building of residential properties in particular and offices along the river gives some justification for hoping that those new transport systems will be profitable, as previous efforts have not been.

But that is almost as true in the upper reaches of the Thames--let us say, as far as Richmond--as it is lower down. The noble Lord, Lord St John, was right to say, in his wise words, that there is need for more investment, particularly in the upstream part of the river, for floating jetties to take on board the tidal problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, referred in his extraordinarily amusing, entertaining and profound speech which everyone enjoyed. The growth and sensitive use for transport purposes of the river upstream will become a major matter of importance for those in charge of the river.

I am committed to using the river as a transport route, going back to its original use. Nevertheless, that has certain downsides. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, mentioned the importance of the natural life, bird life, vegetable life, and so on, up and down the river. Much of that has increased over recent years. A new bird facility which has just been opened by the RSBP is of great value to Londoners and to the birds given sanctuary there. They can rest on their migrations and, of course, we are given great pleasure when we watch them.

It seems to me that the trick is to enable the growth of transport without transferring to the river all the disadvantages and disbenefits we suffer from road transport. That brings me to the question of standards in general and safety standards in particular. As the years go by, cars are obliged to become greener and greener, as are aeroplanes. Currently, what regulations apply to boats and ships? I have no idea, and I ask that in the true spirit of inquiry. I hope someone has thought about that point. If we are to increase the number of boats on the river--as is desirable--we must ensure that the river does not become steadily dirtier from the extra boats using it. We also want to ensure that they do not emit fumes that are bad for wildlife.

A second aspect to which I hope the Minister will feel able to respond is that of safety. The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, gave us a comprehensive account of the Clarke report and its various recommendations. He also mentioned the existing river services: the police and the London Fire Brigade. In terms of search and rescue, it is upon those two existing organisations that we ought to build the ability to deal with accidents. Those two organisations know the river well in all its intricacies and throughout its length.

However, can the Minister say whether the current situation with regard to the setting of safety standards is all that it should be? In view of the fact that the "Marchioness" inquiry will soon start, I hope that the Government will commit themselves to responding

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favourably to any recommendations that may come out of that inquiry in terms of standards of safety that should be maintained on the river.

This has been a fascinating debate and on a number of occasions reference has been made to the role of the mayor. I continue to regret that we failed to make the mayor responsible for a strategy for the River Thames. However, it is plain from today's debate that no matter what the Greater London Authority Act may say, the mayor will find herself or himself involved in the creation of such a strategy.

3.2 p.m.

Lord Luke: My Lords, first, I want to add my thanks to those of other noble Lords, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for initiating this diverse, amusing but also serious debate, thereby giving us the opportunity to return once again to the subject of the great river which runs so close by and yet never, to my mind, seems to be given the attention that it deserves.

I was grateful to my noble kinsman Lord St John of Bletso for reminding me that just a year ago I initiated a debate on this subject. Many things have changed but, like the Thames itself, many things are exactly the same, although I do not remember a helicopter flying overhead during that debate!

I was interested to hear that my noble friend Lady Wilcox has walked the length of the river path. One hundred and eighty-nine miles seems an awfully long way. If any noble Lord has recently taken a boat trip along the river, particularly down-stream, it must have become apparent rapidly what a hotchpotch there is on both banks, particularly the south bank. New buildings lie next to derelict buildings; there are new piers, old piers, refurbished piers, decrepit jetties, the Woolwich Arsenal, the Bankside Tate, the Globe, the Wheel, the Dome, the Barrier, new blocks of flats and the Canada Tower. The aspects of the banks of the river change almost as much as the river changes colour.

In those circumstances, a cohesive approach to riparian development is not really possible unless everything is pulled down and we start again from scratch. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, said, that does not mean that the new mayor should not have a close strategic look at the river. I hope that he or she will, although, like the noble Baroness, I believe it is a great pity that the Act does not suggest that.

As has been said by several noble Lords, the river should be used as much as possible, not least to take traffic off the roads. The most obvious example of that, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, mentioned, is the use of the river for waste disposal. Cory Environmental, to which I am grateful for information, has operated on the river, one way or another, for over 100 years. Currently that company transports over 600,000 tonnes of municipal waste per annum down the river to Mucking in Essex. It is marvellous, is it not, that waste should go to Mucking? That saves over 100,000 lorry journeys through

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London. One tug, towing four barges, takes the equivalent of 100 container lorries. Currently, Cory, as has been said, is looking for new sites for use from 2002 when Mucking will be full. Will the Minister look at the problems and perhaps persuade local authorities to be positive in helping to find suitable and, in terms of the overall strategy of moving waste on the river, vital new sites?

The other relatively new development on the commercial side, as has been mentioned, is the prospect of P & O joining with Shell UK to develop a possible new deepwater roll-on/roll-off facility for containers at the Shellhaven site in Essex. We heard about that from the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and from my noble friend Lady Wilcox. Provided the necessary dredging and other necessary activities are carried out, the Port of London could be capable of taking the same size container ships as Felixstowe, Thamesport and Southampton. That would reduce the millions of road miles that are presently covered transporting goods from coastal ports into the United Kingdom's largest market of London and the south-east.

As the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and other noble Lords have said, there is continuing concern by tourism and leisure operators on the Thames about the attitude of London River Services towards them. However, this morning I received a fax from the Thames Passenger Services Federation, stating that it has perceived a greater level of understanding of its problems from the LRS in recent weeks and that it is most appreciative of the support that it has received from the Minister, Mr Hill, and from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. Nevertheless, the federation still believes that much needs to be done and it wants LRS to focus even more closely on the needs of tourism. I understand that recently, the LRS has joined the London Tourist Board, so that organisation will be left in no doubt as to the priority of tourist concerns.

I ask the Minister to continue to give close attention to this matter, bearing in mind the vital part that tourism in London, and in particular on the Thames, plays in regard to the balance of payments. I believe that there is a good chance that twice as many tourists as at present visit the Thames (some 2 million) could be attracted and sustained, provided that the vital interests of the tourist industry are supported right down the line.

I am delighted, together with my noble kinsman Lord St John of Bletso, that more piers are being built and others refurbished in line with the intentions of my right honourable friend John Gummer in his report on the Thames three years ago. Nevertheless, I suggest that a new review may be necessary as there are not enough piers in the right places; that is, close to where there are bus stops by the Thames or within easy walking distance of appropriate Tube stations. Given that, the LRS should ensure close liaison with all transport bodies to establish transport up and down the river, which will benefit the travelling public without impinging on the tourist companies' activities. That will require understanding, co-operation and, above all, good will on all sides.

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I return to my opening theme and repeat what I have said in your Lordships' House on so many occasions. The Thames is there almost, as it were, at our elbow--quiet, flowing and stress-free. I want to see much greater use of it by people. I want it to be safer, as I am sure we all do. In spite of the moon, Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, just do not let us forget it!

3.11 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate and I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for raising this subject. Not many noble Lords have as great an experience of the River Thames as the noble Lord; nevertheless, we have heard of those experiences and our hopes for the future for this great river.

I join other noble Lords in saying that the Thames has played an important role in my life. I cannot be quite as lyrical as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. I have lived in London most of my life and have worked out that I have actually lived in nine of the riparian boroughs under the present structure, most of the time within (admittedly ambitious) spitting distance of the river itself. When in London I still do. The river is an important part of all our lives.

I have lived at the same end of the river as the noble Lord, Lord Watson; on the other side of the river at Isleworth and, as a boy, have even swum in the river. I have seen the river get cleaner, dirtier and then cleaner again at that end. At its other end, I have lived in Greenwich and seen its industrial boom disappear in the early 1970s to be replaced by what is now the millennium peninsula and, we hope, a new era.

So the Thames changes all the time. The buildings beside the Thames change, as do its uses. It is one of London's greatest assets and perhaps, in recent decades, it has been under-used. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, I have seen the river busier as well as dirtier; I hope that we shall see it both busier and cleaner in the future.

The Government recognise the enormous potential of the river and its enormous importance to London. That is why, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, mentioned, John Prescott launched the Thames 2000 initiative. We are working in partnership with many other players to encourage the full use of the river as a transport artery for commercial and leisure purposes. That is why we gave such wide-ranging powers and duties to the new mayor of London to promote transport on the river. We referred to that in some detail during the debates on what became the Greater London Authority Act. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and others were right to say that the role of the mayor will be extremely important in this instance.

I am not sure whether I heard the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, aright when he suggested that the mayor might be a "headbanger"; but any of the announced candidates will have to address responsibly, strategically and comprehensively the role of the Thames in their plans.

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The project, Thames 2000, consists essentially of three elements: first, the improvement of the infrastructure. As the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, said, there are deficiencies in that regard. When I travel on or beside the Thames, it is a great pleasure for me to see progress being made on the building of the new piers and the contributions from the Millennium Commission, the Government through the Single Regeneration Budget, and the private sector amount to a total of £18 million going into piers. The new piers at the Tower, Blackfriars and at the London Eye are already in operation. We shall see new piers at Westminster and Millbank. Of course, in this House the reference to "creating new piers" is always slightly ambiguous, but the prospect of "upgrading old Peers" is even more alarming! However, we are engaged in upgrading the infrastructure and it is an important part of our approach to the regeneration of London.

It is not just London in the GLA sense; it is London more widely. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, indicated her interest not only in the upper reaches and tidal Thames, where she has walked, but also in the estuarial ports in her other capacity. We need to see the Thames as a whole in that respect.

In relation to river transport, in which the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, was particularly interested, we are indeed seeing the Millennium Dome as a powerful catalyst for a lasting legacy of improved river services. The first dedicated Dome river service began on 1st January and the legacy services will run in due time. Indeed, we already have one legacy service operating in embryonic form.

The role of London River Services in this debate and in the debate on the GLA Bill has been controversial. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of London Transport and has key responsibilities in this area. When the LRS goes to the mayor's Transport for London set-up next year, we shall see river travel as a fully functioning part of London's integrated transport system. The role of the LRS in relation to other operators and potential operators can be a delicate one. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Luke, indicated, although some of the anxieties expressed a few months ago have perhaps been ameliorated, they are not entirely absent and we need to make sure that the LRS works in conjunction with the other operators in developing new services and preserving the infrastructure. I have every confidence that the LRS is aware of the Government's views and that it takes a positive view towards development of tourism on the Thames. The undertakings which my colleagues Nick Raynsford and Keith Hill gave and the positive response from LRS confirmed its understanding of that position. I feel that we are now in a more healthy relationship with everybody concerned in that regard.

It is important that the LRS and others develop new services, as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, said, and LRS is carrying out a systematic evaluation of all proposed service changes. We need to develop that evaluation. I can assure the noble Lords, Lord St John and Lord Luke, that consideration of the need to build up new services and to have regard to the effects on existing services are part of that assessment.

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Inevitably, London River Services' decisions will not always meet with universal agreement. However, it has a role as the body which balances all the considerations. As such, it will play a major part in our developing integrated transport policy. But it is important that in this area we have innovation, new entrants and new uses of the Thames as both a tourist and a transport facility.

The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, spoke at length not only of the attractions of the Thames, but also of the nitty gritty in relation to developing infrastructure as well as fun on the Thames. We fully agree. The provision of new infrastructure by the Government and our partners in local authorities and in the private sector--the Millennium Commission and so forth--is a key part of our strategy and of Thames 2000 which the mayor will take on. As I said, we have already seen a significant increase in the number of pier and jetty infrastructures and the improvement of those already in being.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, also referred to the hopper-style service that helps to integrate transport on the Thames with other aspects of transport. The Central London Fast Ferry was introduced in the summer of last year as an experiment. It is intended that the full legacy services will come into play after this phase of the Dome is completed when all new piers will be open and boats will be diverted from the Dome service into other services. In the meantime, although the new timetable introduced last month is for the winter, it forms the basis for developing further services on the Thames.

Some noble Lords referred back to the halcyon days of the Tudor taxi service and the Riverbus. I, too, have a photograph of myself with my father on the Riverbus, which I believe dates back to 1950, or thereabouts. As several noble Lords said, there have been attempts to operate commercial services, which have not entirely worked. It is to be hoped that we are in a new era. The Thames 2000 services stand to benefit considerably from the new infrastructure work. We hope that the new competitive tenders that are coming in will mean that better services are available on the Thames.

It is sometimes suggested that there is contradiction between the tourist services and the transport services. We need to have a facility on the Thames that provides for both. Indeed, that will be one of the great responsibilities for the mayor and for Transport for London, in conjunction with other operators, in the future. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, said, the mayor will need to be bold. He will also need to ensure that the transport facility of the Thames does not interfere or cross over too much with the tourist and the community use of the Thames.

A number of bold suggestions have been made during the course of today's debate, including proposals on how we should use the Millennium peninsula as a giant park-and-ride operation. The noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Greenway, and others, made suggestions as to how we could use the Dome area. Clearly, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson,

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said, the river is an important part of the setting of the Dome. We need to look at the way in which we can integrate the river, both in transport to and from the Dome, and in the setting of the Dome more generally. I understanding that the New Millennium Experience Company will take note of these matters, as well as what the noble Lord said.

There is something in the suggestion about a park-and-ride scheme. The New Millennium Experience Company looked at that particular proposition. However, it is not necessarily in the right place here in relation to park-and-ride schemes as regards keeping traffic out of London, because traffic will already have had to come through a fair amount of south-east London to reach the millennium peninsula. Nevertheless, there are possibilities in this area, especially as we develop new sites in the Thames Gateway further down-stream for another out-of-town park and ride. I am not at all sure whether the London Borough of Greenwich would be entirely in favour of what is proposed. However, there is some scope for using that site creatively.

Many points were raised during the debate, including the need not so much for river use, but for London's community to have access to the riverside. When I am in London over the weekend, I very much enjoy walking along the banks of the River Thames; indeed, I have done so all my life. It is very important that public access to the river is addressed in the development prospects for the Thames-side. That is why the environs need to be enhanced by the provision of facilities for walking and cycling both to and along the Thames.

The scheme of the Countryside Commission to create a continuous Thames path through London is pretty well advanced now. The Government's Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames requires that developments along the river frontage should incorporate a riverside walkway. These are shown as gaps in the Thames path proposals. That used to be the policy under the GLC, and it needs to be the policy again.

As regards cycling to which the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred, Sustrans and the local authorities in London are developing proposals to establish a full Thames cycle path to form part of the National Cycle Network. Again, we shall encourage and support that initiative. Access to the riverside for recreation and education is also important. The local authorities and the Port of London Authority are co-operating in that respect.

I turn now to the commercial aspect. Many speakers referred to the transport of waste and to use of the river for commercial purposes. The Government are fully committed to using the Thames, and other waterways where they can contribute, as a sustainable mode of transportation. Our current strategic planning guidance for the Thames, which the mayor will take on, requires local authorities to adopt policies to encourage freight transport on the river and to identify and protect suitable sites for loading and unloading freight. Clearly, the biggest area for that is Docklands

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and a number of very promising developments are taking place both there and elsewhere within the estuary of the Thames.

Allied to this, the Secretary of State has issued directions protecting 32 riverside wharf sites from the area beyond the Thames Barrier from redevelopment for other uses. Therefore, they could also be used for commercial or transport purposes. In the context of a strong development pressure, which inevitably exists on the Thames-side, that is to ensure that we keep those wharves to enable the transhipment of freight, including waste and aggregates. The transport of waste, in particular, is a major potential and actual use, as noble Lords have said. Indeed, some 20 per cent of London's waste is already transported by barge to disposal facilities down-stream.

As the noble Lord, Lord Luke, said, we need to consider those facilities most carefully. They save many thousands of heavy lorry movements per year. We are considering how we can develop that facility and we regret decisions that moved in the opposite direction. We also believe that there is a positive environment for using the river in the transportation of waste. That fits in very well with the role that we have given to the mayor. We hope that he will develop that strategy, as well as others, which will apply to Thames waste management. That will be pursued in relation to the Thames, as is the case elsewhere.

Several noble Lords said, "Well, if the mayor has to take on all these functions in relation to the Thames, why do we not have a separate strategy for the Thames?" Indeed, the mayor will be taking on the Thames 2000 initiative and other existing strategic guidance for the Thames. He also has the option of developing a comprehensive strategy for the Thames. However, we need to ensure that the Thames is an integrated part of our other strategies; for example, the spatial development strategy, and the general development strategy, as well as the waste and transport strategies. Therefore, we do not wish to block off the Thames from its central role in relation to those other strategies.

Whether we are talking about transport, tourism or, indeed, commercial use, safety on the Thames is most important. A number of references were made this afternoon to the inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Clarke, with its remit to look at safety standards on the river. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, said, the report made 44 recommendations--10 of which have already been implemented--all of which have, in principle, been accepted by the Government. Those recommendations should make a major contribution towards safety on the Thames and thereby ensure that tragedies like the "Marchioness" do not recur.

Further consultation was among those recommendations, including consultation on the consumption of alcohol on the Thames, which I am sure everyone recognises as being important in relation to passenger and commercial boats. However, we also recognise the wider issues to which the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, referred regarding the boating

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fraternity as a whole. So consultation is taking place on alcohol and boat use. The closing date for submissions is 31st March, if anyone is interested.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and other speakers, also referred to the question of which authority should take on the statutory responsibilities for search and rescue on the Thames. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, also mentioned that issue. We are looking into the matter. It seems that we need to consider this most seriously. Lord Justice Clarke recommended that we need to ensure adequate search and rescue facilities and suggested that the duty should fall to the Secretary of State. Clearly, the Secretary of State will need to delegate those powers. We are currently considering what is the appropriate body to which those powers could be delegated. Lord Justice Clarke favoured the PLA. We need to take a decision on whether that is appropriate. I cannot give a definitive response on that matter at this point, but we have it under active consideration.

This has been a fascinating debate. I thank all noble Lords who have participated in it. A whole range of aspects of London life have been covered. We have made substantial progress on the infrastructure; we are beginning to make progress on the services, and the stage is set for a boom in river services. I believe that London as a whole will benefit from that.

I am not sure that I have given an adequate response to the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, and the point about the moon. However, other noble Lords may feel that I have not adequately covered the points that they made. I shall read Hansard and write to them if that is the case. Again, I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. I thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for initiating the debate.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Greenway: My Lords, I am most grateful to all who have taken part in the debate and, indeed, to the Minister for his comprehensive response.

When I tabled this debate, I hoped that the wide knowledge of your Lordships would extend the debate somewhat beyond my slightly narrow confines of commerce and leisure, and I have not been disappointed. All contributors to the debate have touched on different areas of the Thames and have been most interesting. I thank particularly the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, for his witty and informative contribution.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, said that one cannot see the Thames when one emerges from the Jubilee Line at the Dome. I have always thought that most of the developers who operated along the Thames in the past have tended to turn their backs on the river, which to my mind has been a great shame. It is surprising how few restaurants along the Thames look on to the river.

When talking about the Dome, I did not mean to suggest that it should be flattened and made into a carpark. The Dome is an extraordinary building. I

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have no doubt that in time a suitable use will be found for it which will last for many years. The Dome could still be very much an integral part of what I proposed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, asked a question about emissions which I do not think that the Minister answered. The noble Baroness will be interested to hear that the International Maritime Organisation has done a lot of work into emissions from larger ships, but I am not certain how far that work has progressed with regard to smaller river craft, although I am sure that someone in Brussels has been doing something about that! However, when I look back, it strikes me that the old, smoky coal burners that used to run up and down the river in huge numbers did not have a huge effect on the birds on Rainham Marshes.

The Minister was supportive and, indeed, positive in most of his comments, which I welcome. It was a pleasure to see him at the London Boat Show last month. It is always pleasing to see Ministers take an interest in boating matters.

We shall no doubt return to safety issues. Safety is a weighty matter. No pun is intended when I say that Lord Justice Clarke's submissions are too heavy for me to have carried in this afternoon. Safety is important and deserves a separate debate at some stage. Once again, I thank all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who took part in the debate. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.


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