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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord thinks it more important to report to the House on opinion research findings than to read the speech. Had he read the speech, he would have realised that the principle of public service provision free at the point of delivery is exactly the thrust of the Chancellor's argument about healthcare. I referred also to schools and to national defence. I should have to know the provenance of the noble Lord's figures relating to public opinion in order to comment on them. As a market researcher, I am sorry to say that far too many dubious polls have been published in the past few years and months.

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Lord Barnett: My Lords, I am sure that the researcher for the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, will have read the speech—as will my noble friend; I know how assiduous he is. Perhaps I may draw my noble friend's attention to a particular point in the speech. My right honourable friend the Chancellor said:

    "in those areas where markets failures are chronic, I am suggesting that we step up our efforts to pioneer more decentralised systems of public service delivery".

Can my noble friend tell the House what exactly he had in mind?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have already volunteered an answer to that question in referring to the National Health Service and to the Chancellor's statement that in the NHS we would be devolving responsibility to front-line health organisations. The Secretary of State for Health is very keen on that. If that is allied to what the Department of Health has been doing in improving and establishing inspection facilities, it will be seen that the organisation of the National Health Service is very much in line with what the Chancellor is describing.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, what philosophical distinction does the Minister draw between, on the one hand, charging for prescriptions and charging for road use in London, and not charging for other public services?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, prescription charging goes back a very long way and has not been challenged by governments of either political persuasion for more than 50 years. That is an accepted variation on the principle of free delivery at point of use. As for congestion charging, because of the growth of traffic, it is no longer acceptable to say that all roads shall be available to all types of traffic at all times without some sort of charge. The introduction of the congestion charge in London is a good example of how that is both necessary and correctable.

Lord Newby: My Lords, in the speech, the Chancellor says that achieving the Government's economic objectives,

    "demands the courage to push forward with all the radical long term reforms necessary to enhance productivity".

Given the Government's extremely patchy record on productivity, what courageous measures did the Chancellor have in mind?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not accept that the record is patchy unless the noble Lord, Lord Newby, means by patchy that he cannot claim that it is a bad record. I suspect that that is the case, because, as he very well knows, there have been significant improvements in productivity during the lifetime of the Government.

Lord Naseby: My Lords, although the Minister derides the view of my noble friend Lord Saatchi on opinion polls, is not the Chancellor's speech an opinion in itself? Does the Minister recognise that

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there really has not been any progress on the health service in the last seven years? Waiting lists are as long as they have ever been—probably longer. If there is to be devolved power to the front line—to the GPs, in other words—does that mean we can hope to have fundholding back again?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know what the noble Lord heard of what I said about opinion polls. As a survey researcher myself, I am not one to criticise opinion polls as such. However, I am one to criticise bad opinion polls, and I would need to know more about the sources of the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, to comment on them. As for the point about delivery in the health service, the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, is plain wrong. Since 1997, we have 10,000 more doctors, 30,000 more nurses and 750,000 elective admissions—that is, 16 per cent—and waiting lists are down by 116,000.

European Working Time Directive

2.52 p.m.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:>

    Why they intend to implement the European Working Time Directive on the railways before they implement it on the roads.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the Government are required to implement the Horizontal Amending Directive which extends the Working Time Directive to all railway workers or non-mobile workers and some road transport workers by 1st August 2003. However, drivers subject to EU drivers' hours rules are subject to a more specific working time directive called the Road Transport Directive, which was adopted only in March 2002 and is required to be implemented by March 2005.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that between now and the time of implementation, it will be quite impossible to recruit, for example, sufficient train drivers and signal engineers to make up for the extra employees who will be required to implement the directive? Is it necessary to implement the directive so soon? Why does the road transport industry have a derogation until 2006 or 2009, depending on the size of vehicle? Will the directive be implemented by other European countries or will we, once again, be zealots for introduction while other people please themselves?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I hope I made it clear in my Answer that we have no option about this. It is a piece of a directive that we have to implement by 1st August 2003. It is as simple as that.

In 1998, the railway sector signed the railway social partner agreement, which was incorporated in the Horizontal Amending Directive in 2000. So the

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railway sector has had five years in which to implement this regulation. The idea that it has suddenly been sprung on the sector is misleading. Five years is a perfectly reasonable amount of time, and the sector has had three years since it knew the final date. There were no objections to the railway sector's inclusion in the Horizontal Amending Directive, along with its timetable for implementation, during the course of negotiations which came to a conclusion on 1st August 2000.

As with most legislation coming out of Brussels, there has been plenty of time to take notice of it, deal with the situation and even recruit people. There is no derogation on the Road Transport Directive, which was adopted only in March 2002 and is required to be implemented by March 2005.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the regulations from his department to implement the directive into national law were published only this winter. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group, but this applies to all rail passengers or freight. Until those details were published, it was not possible to get into the nitty-gritty of how many new drivers and signalmen were required. So in fact the Minister is allowing only six months for training people, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, would take several years. Has the Minister told his colleagues in the Department for Transport? How many trains will have to be cancelled because of the shortage of drivers from 1st August?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord is being somewhat naive. The industry had notice of the legislation, which is quite clear. All that was required was the detailed regulations to implement it. I cannot see that it is that difficult, over this period of time, to take action to deal with the situation. Very precise derogations apply in terms of certain categories such as night work limits, which are there to help the industry.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, leaving aside the railways, could one of the reasons that the Government are not implementing the directive on the roads at this time be that it is part of the wider agenda of waiting for the second regulation on road transport, which is currently before Ministers at the Council of Europe? That would impose heavy penalties on the road haulage industry. Why did the Government oppose that regulation at the beginning but have now changed their mind?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the Road Transport Directive was adopted in March 2002 and is required to be implemented in March 2005. We will implement it by that date. I cannot believe that the noble Baroness is suggesting that we should bring it forward so that we are, as she would say, gold-plating this and putting our industry at a disadvantage compared with the industry in the rest of Europe.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, although I agree with my noble friend that it is hardly zealotry to want

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to implement these measures for road and rail—after all, it is 13 years since the original Working Time Directive—it was nevertheless always intended that road and rail directives should, for obvious level playing field reasons, be implemented simultaneously. Is my noble friend aware that this two-year gap—or discrimination as the rail industry will argue—opens up the possibility of legal intervention by the Commission, which would have every chance of success?

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