|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Is he aware that if the whole road is not finished and there is a repeat of last year's traffic chaos, we risk not only losing our largest televised sporting eventwhich, over a week, puts £40 million into the local economybut also seriously undermining the £5 billion British high-tech motorsport industry?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, yes, the Government are very aware of that, as shown last December when we lent our strong support to retaining the British Grand Prix in the face of its threatened withdrawal by some
Lord Elder: My Lords, is the state of preparedness of the link road from the bypass to the site well advanced? While my noble friend's comments are encouraging, it is a matter of concern that the link road may not be ready. The two projects go together. Although I appreciate that the matter is principally for the site operator, can my noble friend say whether there has been any progress?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, we emphasised that at the meeting that my honourable friend and I recently held with all the parties, including Octagon. We emphasised that there was little point in the Government making efforts to ensure that our part of the jigsaw was in place unless they contributed theirs. I am certain that they were well seized of that. Nevertheless, we shall be closely monitoring the situation in relation to all parties. Despite the challenges that all parties face, there are extremely good relationships between them.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Silverstone bypass constitutes just a small part of the improvement of the road between Northampton and Oxford and that much traffic will come to Silverstone from both the south and the north? Therefore, it is not just the Silverstone area which is involved here.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite correct. It is part of a £56 million major dualling of the A43 trunk road. The review meeting that we held did not identify any other substantial pinchpoints or problems in that respect. Furthermore, there are some fairly sophisticated management plans this year to increase the use of coaches to bring in people at alternative entrances to the site and to manage the car parks vastly better than was the case last year, all of which increases our confidence but not total certainty that all parts of the problem will be cracked this year.
Lord Addington: My Lords, does the Minister accept that failure once again to get infrastructure in place for a major sporting event does not exactly inspire confidence in our ability to do so for any future large-scale sporting occasions?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, in the circumstances, that is a slightly churlish remark given the effort that everyone is making to drive this event forward. I take the opportunity to nail a few other points as regards the commitment of the Government to promoting the
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the biggest problem at the previous Grand Prix held at Silverstone was that it rained and cars could not get on or off the course? It had nothing whatever to do with the road system.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I agree, but it does not give me great comfort to use that argument. Many of the measures I have described have been put in place to ensure that the event is not reliant on good weather. Having said that, it was not just appalling rain in October and November that caused delays. The contract was also stopped for two months due to foot and mouth disease, but in saying that I am not encouraging your Lordships to debate that issue again.
Lord Stewartby: My Lords, do the Government accept that the importance of this matter lies in the fact that if we were to lose the British Grand Prix we would have a tough time trying to get it back and that would inevitably have a major impact on the motorsport industry, as the Minister said? The industry is not only high-tech; more than half its product is exported.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I strongly agree. Without repeating what I said previously, I echo the noble Lord's comment. The matter is also, of course, of considerable importance to the south Midlands economysome £28 million-worth of benefits flow into that economy as a result. That is why all parties are working to ensure that the event is a great success this year.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, our High Commissioner to Botswana regularly discusses issues surrounding the Bushmen who remain in the Kalahari Game Reserve with the Government of Botswana. He did this most recently on 22nd January with the Minister of Local Government.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply which, however, will not bring much comfort to these unfortunate people. First, in view of our original agreement when we gave Botswana her independence, do not Her Majesty's Government have a special duty to try to persuade the Government of Botswana to respect ILO Conventions 107 and 109 and thus to continue the Bushmen's right to enjoy the resources of their land? Secondly, in view of our excellent relations with the Government of Botswana, and, indeed, with the European Union
Lord Pearson of Rannoch :could we not also try to persuade the Government of Botswana to accept European Union funding which is available to help the Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to continue living as they wish to live?
Lord Grocott: My Lords, a kind of sixth political sense suggested to me that the noble Lord might mention the issue of Europe. I can say to him that the issue to which he rightly refers has regularly been raised. A commitment was given in 1997 by the Government of Botswana to a number of high commissioners, including our own, that while they wanted the Bushmen, the San people, to relocate they would not do that on any forcible basis. Of course, we are concerned at what is being proposed at present. However, I emphasise, as the noble Lord acknowledged, that we have the friendliest of long-standing, good relations with the Government of Botswana. There are good ways of discussing issues between friends. That is the way that the matter is being discussed.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, that is a question, obviously, that needs to be addressed to the Government of Botswana. It is not my job to express the view of the Government of Botswana but the President has stated that the Government of Botswana would like these people to live in more settled communities where health, education and other facilities can more easily be provided. Many of them have moved. I believe that there are about 500 people still remaining in the Kalahari Game Reserve. As I said, this issue has been raised regularly. It was raised most recently at a high level when President Mogae of Botswana visited the United Kingdom last June. It was raised with him by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page