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Railways: Carbon Emissions

Question

11.46 am

Asked By Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, the Government's assessment is that high-speed rail is consistent with our carbon reduction targets. Carbon emissions from high-speed rail are substantially lower per passenger mile than from other modes. It is likely that the core high-speed network, proposed in the Command Paper published last week, will lead to modal shift away from domestic aviation.

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: I thank my noble friend for that reply and congratulate him on the tremendous response that his White Paper has received. I declare an interest as the chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, whose power stations are responsible

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for something like 80 to 85 per cent of the electricity consumed by the British rail network; as a consequence, it is the base-load generation on which high-speed rail and an expanded electrified rail network will depend. Therefore, can he not nod too closely towards the false gods of intermittent renewable technology in preparing his plans for this exciting development in our transport system?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, being an Adonis I steer clear of false gods in all their guises. However, my noble friend is absolutely right as to the benefits of high-speed rail, one of which is the much lower carbon impacts that it has per passenger mile than alternative forms of new transport capacity. The average carbon emitted per passenger kilometre by high-speed rail is in the range of 8 to 17.6 grams of CO2, based on the current operation of Eurostar. That compares with an average of 128 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre in the case of car travel and 171 grams per passenger kilometre in domestic aviation. There are significant carbon advantages to be had from high-speed rail if we are going to provide significant additional transport capacity between our major cities.

Lord Bradshaw: Will the Minister take into account the much wider effects on transport of the high-speed rail line? Much more traffic will be able to use other lines as a result of the high-speed line. Will he also please take account of the fact that the fares charged to passengers are another important factor in the volume of use that these lines will get?

Lord Adonis: I absolutely agree with the noble Lord's comments. All the modelling work done by High Speed Two Ltd, which prepared the plan on high-speed rail that we published last week, was based on the assumption that fares charged on the high-speed line would be the same as those charged on the existing network; it was not based on any assumption of a fares premium. On modal shift from other forms of transport, all the international evidence is that, when journey times between major cities by train can be reduced to three and a half hours or less, a significant shift takes place from the plane to the train. In the Command Paper published last week is the projection that with lines extending from London to Manchester and Leeds-connecting respectively with the west and east coast main lines so that high-speed trains can then run through to Glasgow and Edinburgh-it would be possible to have a Glasgow and Edinburgh to London journey time of three and a half hours. That would be a massive achievement for the railways and would lead to a significant shift of traffic from the plane to the train.

Lord Martin of Springburn: My Lords, how many apprentices will the construction and engineering industries be able to take on through this excellent project?

Lord Adonis: A large number, my Lords. The estimate in the Command Paper last week is that at least 10,000 new jobs will be created as a result of the high-speed rail project and there will be significant opportunities for new apprentices.



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Transport: Cross-Channel HGVs

Question

11.50 am

Asked by Earl Attlee

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, 80 per cent.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I thank the Secretary of State for that Answer. Does he agree that we can't go on like this, with UK operators subject to significant vehicle excise duty and very high fuel costs, while continental operators pay much less for their fuel and absolutely nothing to the Treasury for the use of our infrastructure? What, if anything, is the Secretary of State going to do about this?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the Government have undertaken several reviews to explore the possibility of charging foreign lorries in this country, which I take to be the implicit proposal in the noble Earl's question. They most recently considered a vignette scheme in the context of the freight data feasibility study. However, the cost benefits of this scheme were not persuasive, and we do not propose to take it forward at present.

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, is the Secretary of State aware that large numbers of cross-Channel freight drivers carry freight on the return leg of the journey, and can he be satisfied that it represents fair competition for British drivers? Is he also aware that, in some cases, the rules on road traffic drivers' hours are being breached?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, under existing EU rules, foreign lorries are allowed 30 days in the UK. They can come over empty and can carry as much freight as they like on journeys within the UK while they are here. However, from the end of May, those EU rules will be changed; foreign lorries will be able to undertake only three jobs in seven days, and they will have to come over to the UK loaded. My noble friend's concerns are therefore being taken very much to heart in policy, and improvements will be made in the very near future.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, it is often asserted that foreign operators' involvement in road traffic accidents in the UK is disproportionately high. Is there any evidence of this, and if so, is it a question of driver training or inadequate vehicles? Do the Government collect any data on the numbers of accidents involving UK drivers when they are in continental Europe?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I do not have those latter figures. However, in terms of roadworthiness checks on UK and foreign HGV motor vehicles and trailers, the prohibition rate is higher for foreign-registered vehicles than for UK-registered vehicles. That is precisely why two years ago we announced the £24 million package over three years to allow the Vehicle and

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Operator Services Agency significantly to increase its safety checks on high-risk vehicles on international journeys and to recruit more enforcement staff.

In addition, we introduced a scheme whereby the police and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency have the power to issue fixed penalty notices. These measures have been rolled out successfully, and, in the period from April last year to the end of January this year, approximately £3 million was taken by VOSA examiners in financial penalty payments from foreign lorries that were found not to be roadworthy. I have been out with a team of VOSA inspectors and have seen them in operation. They do excellent work in this area and are having a big impact on improving the roadworthiness of foreign lorries.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, will the Minister explain what the cost-benefit analysis showed? Surely a vignette scheme is very cheap to run.

Lord Adonis: If only that were the case, my Lords. What it showed is that the cost of setting up such a scheme and maintaining it would be very high and that the benefits would be lower.

Lord Campbell-Savours: The benefits would be lower, but the point is that there are not very many collection points nationally; they would only be at the major ports, such as Harwich, Hull, maybe a port in the north-east and Dover and Newhaven. How can that be a particularly expensive project?

Lord Adonis: I will be very happy to provide my noble friend with the details of the cost-benefit work that was done.

Business

Announcement

11.55 am

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand that my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons has made a Statement today announcing proposed Easter Recess dates for the other place. Don't get too excited, my Lords. As is current practice, I intend to match these dates, subject to the progress of business. These dates are as follows. We will rise for the Easter Recess at the end of business on Tuesday 30 March, returning on Tuesday 6 April. A note of these dates is, of course, now available in the Printed Paper Office.

Damages-Based Agreements Regulations 2010

Order of Referral to Grand Committee Discharged

11.55 am

Moved By Lord Hunt of Kings Heath



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The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Motion agreed.

Conditional Fee Agreements (Amendment) Order 2010

Order of Referral to Grand Committee Discharged

11.55 am

Moved By Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Motion agreed.

Funding Code: Criteria and Procedures

Motion to Refer to Grand Committee

11.56 am

Moved By Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Motion agreed.

European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962 (Amendment) Order 2010

Representation of the People (Timing of the Canvass) (Northern Ireland) Order 2010

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Housing) (Fire Safety) Order 2010

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Housing and Local Government) Order 2010

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Culture and Other Fields) Order 2010



18 Mar 2010 : Column 674

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Education) Order 2010

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Transport) Order 2010

Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 (Directions to OFCOM) Order 2010

Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Amendments to Part 18A etc.) Regulations 2010

Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Liability of Issuers) Regulations 2010

Motions to Refer to Grand Committee

11.56 am

Moved By Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon, I beg to move the 11 Motions standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Motions agreed.

Allhallows Staining Church Bill [HL]

Third Reading

11.56 am

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

British Humanist Association: Reports

Quality and Equality: Human Rights, Public Services and Religious Organisations

Debate

11.57 am

Moved By Lord Harrison

Lord Harrison: My Lords, with a general election in which reform of this House will undoubtedly feature only a few weeks away, discussion of the two British Humanist Association reports published in 2007 is pertinent. The first, entitled Quality and Equality: Human Rights, Public Services and Religious Organisations, provides us with a marker to calibrate the deterioration over the past three years in establishing greater equality in the world of employment. The second, entitled The Case for Secularism: A Neutral State in an Open Society, can guide us in that future reform of the House of Lords and the role of the church within it.

It is undeniable that in its present form, with 26 seats reserved for the Church of England Bishops, the House of Lords presents an odd face to the outside world. It is interesting to note that even within the 38 provinces

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of the Anglican Communion, only England still insists on an established church. This is a problem. As the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, warned some eight years ago in your Lordships' House, when this subject was last debated,

Regrettably, in the intervening years the Church of England has continued unwarrantedly to enjoy and increase its privileges within the state-in education, in employment practices, law and public broadcasting-as statutory public services continue to be contracted out to religious organisations.

The consequences have been to imperil the take-up of public services and to encourage discrimination against users of such services and against employees who owe allegiance to another religion or to none at all. Most egregious has been the discrimination offered to the gay community. Career prospects have stalled for some attached to the wrong religion or to no religion at all. Religious harassment has had an open goal to shoot at, while the status of religious organisations has been undeservedly advanced under the cover of the public purse.

Uneconomic duplication in the provision of services is a constant danger, as is the division fostered within local communities by the separatist approach of the religious organisations using public money. In the current Equality Bill, for instance, the Government still ponder giving religious organisations the power to discriminate against gays, non-believers and believers of other faiths who apply for lay positions. The hesitancy over the sensible amendment from my noble friend Lord Alli, which would allow religious groups to conduct civil partnerships in their own places of worship if they so wish, is a further example of bowing to church pressure.

In the Children, Schools and Families Bill, religious groups have seemingly wrested back the control to teach children their versions of sex education. The Government's feeble sticking plaster of a "balanced approach" will hardly dilute the ingrained homophobia and antipathy to sex redolent in the teaching practices of too many of our religious schools. Seventh-Day Adventists, for example, can still freely teach that abortion is a sin to be tolerated only in exceptional circumstances, like a pregnancy arising from rape. It is the lack of clarity and consistency in the teaching of sex education that continues to maintain our unwelcome reputation as being at the bottom of the class in Europe for unwanted teenage pregnancies.

It now appears that believing in a religion privileges those who have broken the law. A custodial sentence was recently set aside because the prisoner was deemed to have a greater sense of right and wrong, born of his religious belief. The fact that three out of four prison inmates declare themselves to be religious undermines that partialist philosophy.

Astonishingly, the BBC found itself taken to task by a member of the most recent Church of England Synod for failing to support religious broadcasting. This inventive thought was suborned by the evidence

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of the rampant but wholly unjustified doubling of religious output by the BBC. The new fad for identifying the religious allegiances of the contributors to "Any Questions"-three Roman Catholics and one Church of England on last Friday's edition-as well as the scheduling of two "thoughts for the day" each morning also scotch that myth. Indeed, the shame of the continued ban on humanists contributing to "Thought for the Day" is only intensified by that privilege being afforded to the Pope, an offer masterminded by the unabashed Catholic Mark Thompson, D-G of the BBC.

I turn to the second BHA report, outlining support for a secular state in an open society. Some years ago Prince Charles suggested that when he came to inherit, he would like to be known as the defender of faiths. While overlooking humanists, he at least was recognising the very changed nature of contemporary Britain. We now live in a multicultural and multireligious Britain, where other religions challenge the established Church of England.


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