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Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is precisely those examples which give us a great deal of concern on this particular proposal and this situation? Is not a key problem the inability of the Government so far to make up their mind on the enabling legislation that is required before they can make progress? There are actually only two choices—the Transport and Works Act or a hybrid Bill. That would at least get the project on the move. At a cost of between £7 billion and £11 billion for Crossrail, which is absolutely crucial to the London plan, is he really satisfied with progress at this moment?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the question of process has indeed been a problem in the past. The chosen route at that time was a private Bill, which foundered against something like 300 objections. The preferred route now is, as the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, rightly said, a hybrid Bill. That of course has all kinds of legal difficulties. But the problem is not the process, but that this is a very expensive project, for which there are a number of alternative developments. We need to

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be sure that it is right in transport terms, at the right cost and that it produces the right benefits. To rush into something of that kind—

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We are talking about a short period since the proposal was first put forward.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that if, as now appears increasingly likely, the Government take the very welcome decision to support a bid for the Olympics to be based on the east side of London, the construction of Crossrail is not only desirable but absolutely essential?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall not anticipate the Government's decision on the Olympics. The IOC has a deadline of 15th July. I have no doubt that we shall meet that deadline one way or another. But certainly it is true that the present proposal is for a major stadium in east London and that Crossrail could be of significant benefit to that if it can be completed in time.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that Crossrail is a 50:50 joint venture between the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London and that the proposal is to be financed by both the private and public sectors? Bearing in mind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, that it could cost up to £11 billion, what proportion of the overall spend will come from the public sector?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can confirm that it is a joint venture. The details of the financing are part of the consideration in which we are engaged at the moment. As I have said, in February this year we received an interim business plan. We are working on that as though it were a final plan. But it will not be a final plan until July. We could hardly make a decision until a final business case had been presented.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, is the noble Lord really saying that the Government are not prepared to listen to what is being said throughout the industry that major infrastructure projects in this country, and in London particularly, such as Crossrail, but also Thameslink 2000 and the East London Line will continue to flounder unless there is very strong government leadership in order to pull together the complex array of financial partnerships, operational matters and planning?

So far as rushing into things is concerned, are we really going to look forward to Thameslink 3000?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we do two things wrong in this country: we take too long about worthwhile projects; and we perform some projects badly—they are wrongly thought out and involve unanticipated costs. To take the Channel Tunnel rail link as an example, the previous government spent

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many years arguing about the route. It is only now that the present Government have a grip on the matter and the funding that it is under way—the first section will be open towards the end of this year.

There is always a balance to be struck, but I do not think that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, or anyone else would argue for entering into such expensive projects, however worth while, without having the technical assessments, the business case and financing all in place.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, is the Minister aware of another proposal that might make it possible to gain the advantages of Thameslink 2000 more quickly and at much lower cost: the radial rail proposal advanced by Dr JCV Mitchell, which would be compatible with the cross-river tramlink routes—CRT 2 and 3—and would avoid demolishing part of the historic train shed at London Bridge, rebuilding Blackfriars station on the bridge and obscuring that historic view of the City from the west? Is the Minister aware of the radial rail proposal and, if so, will he support it?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Question was about Crossrail rather than Thameslink 2000. Alternatives to Thameslink 2000 have certainly been advanced. I am happy to write to the right reverend Prelate about his suggestion.


2.51 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the progress of the reconstruction operation in Afghanistan.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, schools have reopened and approximately 4 million children have returned. Around 2 million refugees have returned home and 9 million children have been vaccinated against measles. Major efforts are under way to improve security outside Kabul in order to facilitate further development.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. As the humanitarian relief programme is now moving on to reconstruction aid, does she agree that security and stability are paramount for any progress? With that firmly in mind, what is the Government's position on the continuing funding of the warlords by the United States, which is causing instability and is of great concern to the Afghan transitional administration? What is the Government's position towards the ISI, the Pakistan intelligence service, which is still supporting the Taliban, thus causing still further instability in the area?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I entirely agree that security and stability are paramount. It is only through

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security and by extending the role of the transitional government to the whole of Afghanistan that we shall achieve further movement. That is why the establishment of provincial reconstruction teams, formerly known as joint regional teams, which will be civilian and military, will help to extend the transitional administration's authority to the regions.

The noble Baroness asked me specifically about warlords. The situation in the south is especially unstable because warlords continue. We must deal with that as a matter of urgency.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, will the Minister comment on the concern expressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, that the situation in Iraq was distracting attention from Afghanistan? In the light of the fact that there is no security outside Kabul, will she further comment on the lessons that can be drawn from the case of Afghanistan about the time and effort required by the international community to reconstruct countries after conflict?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, on the last point made by the noble Baroness, the time and effort required for reconstruction will vary from country to country. We have said several times in this House that reconstruction takes a long time. In fact, with respect to Iraq, I have tried very hard not to put a time-scale on it, because it is difficult to know.

On her specific question about whether attention is being taken away from Afghanistan, at the development forum meeting last month, donors reconfirmed their commitment to Afghanistan. We think that the amount pledged in Japan underestimates what is required, but there is also the issue of the capacity of the Afghan authorities, so we must get the balance right. At present, we believe that the funds going in are sufficient for current capacity, but we must continue to build institutions in Afghanistan so that they can increasingly take on that role.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, am I right in thinking that after the fall of the Taliban, the Government took upon themselves the task of limiting the production of opium poppies, which have previously been such a source of the heroin that has come to this country? Nevertheless, production of that poppy has soared alarmingly. Can the noble Baroness give us the latest figures and tell us the what the Government are doing about the problem?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. There are a number of lead nations in areas relating to security sector reform and we are the lead nation with respect to counter-narcotics. Last year, I think the figure is that there was a fall of 25 per cent in poppy cultivation. I shall of course write to the noble Lord if that figure turns out to be inaccurate.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the problem in the south of the

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country, to which she alluded, is not one that is susceptible to a purely military solution; that the real problem is that the Pashtun tribes in the south of the country have not been given a full stake in the new Afghan Government and consider themselves to be out of balance with the Northern Alliance in that government; and that something serious must to be done about that if the southern parts of Afghanistan are not to remain a continuing cause of instability?

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