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Lord Gisborough: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that those who cast doubt on the rightness of carrying on are suggesting to Milosevic that there is a division in opinion which is likely to prolong the conflict?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, London Underground's financial performance has improved steadily over the past seven years. Service levels increased by 6 per cent during 1997-98 and a further 8 per cent increase is planned for 1999-2000. Nevertheless there remains a great deal to be done. Reliability and punctuality are still not good enough and that is why the Government are developing our plans for a public/private partnership to create a modern underground for London.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. However, does he not agree that there has unfortunately been a delay in the setting up of the public/private partnership which could extend for a year or more beyond the original objective of May 2000? The question then arises of what happens to the financing of the London Underground in that interim period. Would it still have--as it has had to do in past years--to adopt a policy of stop-go in its financing in order to accommodate those developments? That would be particularly unfortunate in view of the increased use of the underground.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I recognise the increased use of the Underground to which the noble Lord refers. It plays an important part in the improvement of services. As to the situation of the PPP, clearly it is a very complex negotiation. It is intended to raise £7 billion-worth of investment, which involves serious negotiations that we are not prepared to rush. In terms of current investment, the Government have already made available an extra £365 million to London Underground over the next two years which will mobilise up to £1 billion of investment to take the tube system into the
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, has the Minister received any information from Railtrack about integrating underground sub-surface routes with Railtrack's network? Can he comment on that? Will he ensure that if such a scheme goes ahead, it will not be to the detriment of Railtrack's expenditure and the commitment of management to its existing network?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, Railtrack has put forward some proposals for integrating the London Underground sub-surface lines into the mainline network, for which infrastructure it is responsible. We are looking at those proposals, but no decisions have been made. Railtrack has not submitted a bid and we are not negotiating indirectly with Railtrack. To imply that that could divert Railtrack from the much-needed investment on the existing mainline rail network is therefore wrong. We would not wish to end up with such a situation. Nevertheless, we are assessing Railtrack's proposals.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I, for one, am amazed at the complacency of his original Answer? When did he last meet travellers on, for example, the Northern line? When did he last travel on the Underground?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I last travelled on the Underground a couple of days ago. As noble Lords will know, I quite frequently use the Underground. As I said in my original Answer, I find that reliability and punctuality are still not good enough. That is one of the reasons why we need to mobilise this new investment and this new approach to the management of the assets of London Underground to take us into the next century. We have already mobilised some PFI money; a £1 billion deal will introduce the Smart card, which will be of great benefit to passengers, and we also have a PFI deal relating to the power distribution network, which again should have the effect of improving service and reliability. I do not think it is appropriate to talk of complacency. Clearly, the Government and London Underground recognise that a lot more needs to be done. The users of London Underground recognise that fact every day.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the report produced by three distinguished transport experts which was commissioned by the London School of Economics? The report urges the Government to change their plans for the Tube "before it is too late". Will the Government take that report into consideration? The noble Lord has said that the PPP is likely to be delayed. When can we expect it to happen?
Lord Whitty: Yes, my Lords. As noble Lords will know, the Jubilee line extension is due to open in three stages. We are confident that the final stage will be open well in time for the opening of the dome.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, at one point that matter was drawn to my attention. I had hoped that London Underground would have removed that notice by now. Westminster station is open; the issue is when the Jubilee line extension will be open. We are confident that it will be open by the late autumn, in plenty of time for the millennium celebrations.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My Lords, the National Assembly for Wales will have the power to revoke or amend the controls on the sale, use and disposal of beef bones in Wales, including the ban on beef on the bone. The Beef Bones Regulations 1997 are made under the Food Safety Act 1990, which is included in the transfer order made by both Houses. But in considering whether to take such a step no doubt the National Assembly for Wales will take into account the advice of the relevant Chief Medical Officer.
With some sadness and temerity I must ask the noble Lord why, in Hansard on 2nd June 1998 (in columns 214, 215, 226 and 229) the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, assured the House that the beef on the bone order would not be devolved. The Government opposed an amendment that I and my fellow Back-Benchers supported and won a Division so that it would not be devolved. This was followed on 21st April of this year
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I apologise for the absence of my noble friend; he is unavoidably abroad. Perhaps I may explain the matter. At the time my noble friend made his Statement to this House in June last year it was indeed the Government's position that this issue would be a joint responsibility between the National Assembly and MAFF. That position was subsequently changed and it was decided that it would be devolved to Wales. That fact was stated to the House of Commons by Alun Michael on 24th February of this year. It was decided that that responsibility would be transferred to the National Assembly for Wales. The matter is explained by the passing of nine months and the evolution of policy. When my noble friend made the Statement, that was the Government's position and their advice to him.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that what he has just told us is quite amazing? Anyone can make a mistake in making a Statement, I appreciate that, but he is telling us that the National Assembly of Wales will be able to allow Welsh people to eat beef on the bone--presumably it will be the case in Scotland--and yet Welsh and Scottish MPs can come to England and vote to prevent English people from eating beef on the bone. That surely cannot be right. Is it not about time that Ministers took hold of themselves, had some guts and told the medical officers that in their view--I know it is the view of my noble friend--the ban on beef on the bone is absurd and ridiculous? Beef on the bone is of no danger to anyone and the ban should be removed. Why do they not do that?
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