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Lord Porter of Luddenham: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that it may now be rather late to teach many of us old dogs new tricks? Does she further agree that the problem started many years ago when we were 16 years of age or even earlier, with the narrowness of our educational system? Is she aware of the proposals that have been put forward by the Royal Society, the British Academy, the Salters' Institute of Industrial Chemistry and the Confederation of British Industry, to name but a few, which would promote a common understanding of science and technology and the arts from the age of 16 and for the rest of life? Have the Government any plans to implement these many proposals?
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Porter, may be right in saying that perhaps some of us are too old to learn new tricks, but he certainly learnt his tricks very well when he was younger because he is very distinguished. I understand that he has a Nobel Prize for Chemistry. I believe that the noble Lord will agree with me that this question is rather wide of the original Question, but the noble Lord was courteous in that he gave me advance notice of it. I have made one or two inquiries. I am happy to tell him that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and her Ministers are engaged in a debate with those concerned with the qualification structure for those aged 16 years of age and upwards. Indeed, meetings have been arranged already with most of the groups which the noble Lord mentioned.
Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the quality and variety of reports that come from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, covering such subjects as radiotherapy and cancer treatment, urban air pollution, and national identity card technology? They are available to all Members of both Houses of Parliament and provide very good background material to those who need an understanding of science and technology if they are to consider a wide variety of solutions to the problems of the day.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Platt for bringing that point to our attention. I have a list of all those publications with me, but it would take far too long to read it out.
Lord Dainton: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that this House participates in and contributes financially to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which serves both Houses? Indeed, we do so as a result of a recommendation of some two-and-a-half years ago from the Library and Computers Sub-Committee of this House. The noble Baroness may not be aware that there is a great deal of anxiety about the fact that that preliminary agreement runs out in 1996. We hope very much that that office will continue. Perhaps the noble Baroness will give her weight to seeking to secure the continuance of that office, which, as has already been mentioned, is valuable from all points of view. Is the noble Baroness aware that this House has been unique in establishing its own Select Committee on Science and Technology, which produces reports which carry a great deal of weight, and which has done so for well over 10 years?
Finally, the noble Baroness may or may not be aware that there are yet other sources of information. I refer to the professional bodies which have already responded to the needs of Parliament by setting up committees specifically to produce documents which are available to Members of both Houses. They are also very willing to brief us. I refer to bodies such as the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics. There is no lack of sources of information. Although these are early days, it is absolutely essential to continue to support such efforts.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I am aware of the points which the noble Lord has raised. In 1992, both Houses of Parliament accepted the recommendation of the House of Commons Information Committee that Parliament should provide funding for the work of POST for three years from 1993 to 1996. It is not a government body and both Houses will have to consider the extension of financial support for POST after April 1996.
Viscount Chelmsford: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the work of two other all-party parliamentary associations with which I am involved? I refer to the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, which is part of that on science and technology. It has been going for 10 years and currently has 97 members across both Houses. I refer also to EURIN, which was formed only a year ago and deals with the European aspects of information technology. It is in its first year but now has 75 members: 39 Members of Parliament, 14 Members of the European Parliamentwhich we think is extremely important for the future since the
Lord Molloy: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her answers. Does she agree that there seems to be great interest in science and technology on all sides of the House? There is massive interest outside. All I am asking is that the noble Baroness will consider all that has been said here this afternoon to see whether some improvements can be made in the arrangements whereby those outside Parliament can have contact with the Members of both Houses on this subject.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, essential maintenance and new construction work on transport infrastructure and below ground services must continue if London is to prosper in the future. Inevitably this will continue to cause inconvenience to road users and others. However, following the enactment of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, both the utilities and highway authorities are working hard to implement its new co-ordination arrangements to minimise congestion and delays.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, but does he agree that motorists might be forgiven for assuming that that new Act, which was so warmly welcomed in this House as a step forward, is either not working or is not being enforced? Is my noble friend also aware that drivers are becoming increasingly frustrated at hearing every week about more and more threatened restrictions on motoring in London, given that the congestion is caused by other factors? I refer, for example, to the incredible fact that 300,000 holes are dug in Westminster every year and that 60,000 miles of cable TV are being laid at the moment, all of which is unsupervised and causing even worse congestion. So when can Londoners
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, it is important to realise that many of the works described by my noble friend are either urgent maintenance work that is being carried out by the utilities or openings of the roads to fix major emergencies such as gas leaks. The Government have a strong interest in reducing congestion in London and in keeping the traffic flowing. I believe that the new Act will be a big step towards that once its provisions have had a proper chance to be implemented.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that across wide areas of London the problems of congestion come not from the public utilities or the necessity for repairing the roads but from the private cable companies which appear to be able to conduct their activities free of any kind of control whatever? They not only cause grave congestion, but in many areas come back a fortnight later to duplicate the business all over again. Has the noble Viscount, either as a Minister or via the local authorities, any control whatever over the activities of those private cable companies?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, yes, the noble Lord is not correct to say that those activities are uncontrolled. The cable TV companies generally operate under licence from the Department of Trade and Industry. That gives those companies many of the statutory powers that are available to the larger established utilities. In the same way as the utilities, they are required to give advance notice of their works to the highway authority. They have a duty to co-operate with that authority and one another in the same way as the utilities.
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