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Mr. Channon : There are improvements in the programme, but I do not think that all the possible improvements are included. Again, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman. He will be pleased with the progress on the Newcastle bypass.
Non-trunk road schemes are the responsibility of the region's 18 local highway authorities.
Mr. Thurnham : Bearing in mind the congestion on roads in the north of my constituency, will my hon. Friend examine the need to designate as a trunk road the A666, which links with the M61? What is he doing to improve the dreadfully designed junction of the M61 with the M6?
Mr. Bottomley : I am aware of the junction to which my hon. Friend draws attention. We have had consultants look at it. We are not likely to trunk the A666 in the short term, partly because we are giving transport supplementary grant for some of the improvements to it.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Why is the construction of the M66 in my constituency being delayed? Why has the completion date slipped by almost six months? When does the Minister expect the Denton to Hollinwood section to be completed? It would do a great deal to relieve the horrific congestion on the east side of Manchester.
Column 426delay and to ensure that we can spend the money so that work can be completed. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's question and give a precise date for when the road will be finished.
Mr. Leigh : Will my hon. Friend consider the many requests being put to him by Humberside councils and Lincolnshire county council for an extension of the M11 to the Humber bridge and then northwards to York? The problems on the A1 are the result of overloading. The whole of the east midlands would benefit from an extension of the M11.
Mr. Bottomley : Taking the needs of the east midlands and the north- east together, it is right to continue with improvements to the A1, which is what I said earlier to the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong). When we have done that, we may well consider what further can be done.
Mr. Spearing : Does the Secretary of State recall that his Department's standing instructions, issued by a former Secretary of State, are to cut support by £95 million a year and to keep fares level? Is he aware that the withdrawal of buses from West Ham garage last week was the result of new schedules which require drivers to work longer hours and cover more miles, putting their health and the safety of passengers at risk? Is not a change of the instructions overdue? How is it that, although the instructions say that fares in London should remain more or less stable, we now have increased fares--increased ahead of the cost of living- -and reduced safety standards? Will the right hon. Gentleman change the instructions very soon?
Mr. Channon : I am about, I hope in the not-too-distant future, to publish new objectives for London Regional Transport. The hon. Gentleman's description of the 1984 objectives was a little colourful. The objectives refer to LRT's statutory duties, which include safety, and make it clear that they supplement the board's statutory duties. The board could not override those statutory duties. I shall see that LRT considers the hon. Gentleman's detailed point carefully.
Mr. Squire : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it remains an objective of the Government to maximise the use of public transport in London and that, since 1984, there has been a welcome increase in the use of London transport and in the provision of services, particularly on the Underground?
Mr. Portillo : The matter does not arise yet, but the hon. Gentleman realises that if there is a change in the ownership of British Rail, the question about the British transport police will arise. We shall consider that if there is to be a change in the ownership of British Rail.
Mr. Bennett : As most other European countries have had light rail or tramway systems for many years, will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the authorities which are now considering such a system? Will he say which other local authorities are considering private finance?
Mr. Portillo : Yes, I congratulate local authorities which are considering such systems and private sector interests which are also considering them. Several projects are in the pipeline and among those that spring to mind are those in west Yorkshire and the west midlands, where both passenger transport executives have made it clear that they are interested in private finance.
Mr. Moate : Does my hon. Friend agree that the present traffic flows make it abundantly clear that a full dual carriageway is justified? Bearing in mind that this road is a single carriageway over a lifting bridge that rises thousands of times a year and leads to one of the largest ports of the United Kingdom, will he tell me when we may get our dual carriageway and second crossing?
74. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what representations the Church Commissioners have received about the staff costs associated with the maintenance of cathedrals.
Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, Representing Church Commissioners) : The commissioners have receivedone request in the past year for increased help towards the staff costs of a cathedral. It will be considered in the new year in the context of the distribution of the commissioners' income for 1990-91.
Mr. Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend agree that our cathedrals are part of our aesthetic, spiritual and cultural heritage? Does he agree also that it is an absolute scandal that the authorities of Hereford cathedral are having to consider selling one of their great legacies to finance its continued maintenance? Does he further agree that, as the Government are financing the maintenance of historic churches, more public funds should be made available for the maintenance of our cathedrals, which do so much to encourage the tourist trade?
Mr. Alison : It is a little premature to talk of scandal in the context of the sale of the map. That would arise only if the authorities were forced to sell it. At present, consideration is being given to selling it, but the public debate and widespread general interest generated by the proposal may result in the sale not having to take place.
Mr. Frank Field : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an increasing amount of property is sold on a time share basis? Could not such a principle be applied to Mappa Mundi? In particular, if the time share were limited to a certain period, would that not raise the necessary funds and ensure that Mappa Mundi stayed at the cathedral while the cathedral sorted out its long-term finances?
Mr. Alison : The hon. Gentleman has made a helpful and constructive proposal. The cathedral authorities in Hereford tried to negotiate with the Government and other national bodies and istitutions with a view to selling the entire collection of treasures in Hereford cathedral to the nation at a preferential price on condition that it remained in situ. Unfortunately, those negotiations were unsuccessful.
Mr. Cormack : Is my right hon. Friend aware that those remarks have not been substantiated in all quarters and that there seems to be some dispute about precisely what was done and when? Will he, with his commissioner colleagues, take an initiative and call together the various interested parties to ensure that the map remains in situ and the cathedral is helped?
Mr. Alison : I shall certainly consider whether an initiative by the commissioners would be helpful, although a large number of people privately and in public positions are only too anxious to secure the objective that my hon. Friend mentioned. He will be aware that the Church Commissioners already give over £100,000 a year to Hereford cathedral.
75. Mr. Alton : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what assistance is available to parishes in the inner cities to enable church renovation to be undertaken.
Mr. Alison : In certain cases assistance for inner city parishes may be sought from the diocese, which can seek grants, for instance, from the church urban fund, but those funds are limited. Help may also be available from the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, local authorities, national and local trusts and charities. I have placed a list of grant- making bodies compiled by the Council for the Care of Churches in the Library of the House.
Mr. Alton : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for going to that trouble. Does he agree that it would be in line with the spirit of the "Faith in the Cities" report if more funding could be made available to churches in inner cities such as Liverpool, where churches are having to consider selling local variants of the Mappa Mundi? One church in my constituency is considering selling a prize piece of stained glass to try to pay for a crumbling Victorian edifice. Does he agree that that is an unfortunate position in which to place churches, and that additional assistance is needed?
Mr. Alison : The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government can provide help in maintaining the fabric of individual parish churches, but not cathedrals. The church urban fund is generating a huge amount of voluntary giving, although there is always more to be spent than the sums available. The Church Commissioners would have been delighted to give more than the £1 million a year that they give to the church urban fund, were it not for the priority that we have to give to clergy pensions and stipends. I believe that an enormous amount of ground is still to be made and I would encourage the hon. Gentleman and my fellow commissioners to do everything possible to encourage voluntary giving for inner city parishes.
Sir Peter Hordern (The Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission) : The Commission's last formal meeting was held on Tuesday 25 October, when among the subjects considered were the National Audit Office's appropriation account for 1987-88, and its Vote on account for 1989-90, and the salaries of the C and AG and the C and A-G for Northern Ireland. In addition, four members of the Commission paid an informal visit to the Northern Ireland Audit Office on 1 November.
Mr. Allen : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply. Will he elaborate a little more on the status of the C and A-G for Northern Ireland? Obviously, the Public Accounts Commission and a number of hon. Members are
Column 430extremely concerned about the status and salary of the C and A-G for Northern Ireland. Did the Commission have any further thoughts on that?
Sir Peter Hordern : The Commission has considered these matters on many occasions, particularly in our report issued in July. However, we have made no further progress in increasing the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor-General's salary. Indeed, his position is somewhat worse than originally intended as he is not due to receive the merit awards that are available to other permanent heads of other Departments in Northern Ireland. It is a very regrettable affair.
Mr. Cohen : At its next meeting, will the Public Accounts Commission give some consideration to what should happen to Ministers of the Crown who cost the taxpayers millions of pounds in public money in neglect, for example, over the sale of the Royal Ordnance factories, when the Ministers who were to blame have subsequently moved on? Should they not be brought to account--
76. Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, if the Church Commissioners have any plans to seek responsibilities in respect of treasures of national and historic significance held in cathedrals in England.
Mr. Alison : No, Sir. This is a matter for the cathedrals. However, the General Synod has recently given general approval to a draft Care of Cathedrals Measure which makes certain provisions in this area.
Mr. Shepherd : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the citizens of Hereford and the people of the Hereford diocese are absolutely devastated at the prospects facing the Mappa Mundi and Hereford cathedral? Is he aware that although the Care of Cathedrals Measure does in some way set out a mechanism for exercising a veto on moves such as are contemplated by the dean and chapter of Hereford, it in no way constitutes a constructive proposal for solving such problems? Does he not feel that the Church Commissioners have a positive input to make at least in establishing the mechanisms by which deans and chapters of cathedrals under threat may realise as much as possible of their assets without selling them--that is, by getting into marketing?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend knows that the Church Commissioners have no direct responsibility for the maintenance of cathedrals other than through the considerable grants given for the stipends of certain cathedral staff. My hon. Friend also knows that the controversy and publicity over the Mappa Mundi, which the Archbishop of Canterbury has said would be a severe loss to the nation and the cathedral, will generate considerable charitable thought or support. For example, there may be support through the City livery companies,
Column 431the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, possibly through the Royal Commision on Historical Manuscripts, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and other similar bodies. It is in that direction that the constructive moves that my hon. Friend has bespoken will materialise.
Mr. Simon Hughes : Will the right hon. Gentleman point out to the General Synod that if it alters the Care of Cathedrals Measure in January and passes an appropriate Measure, it could come to the House and be approved before the prospective sale of the Mappa Mundi by Sothebys in June? The General Synod and Parliament could act in time if the will was there and the Church Commissioners gave their backing.
Mr. Dalyell : On Friday, in discussions on the new building, will the Lord President of the Council be announcing a suite of rooms fitting to such a great personage as Mr. Ingham? Will there be provision for a sub- station for him at Buckingham palace, and can the right hon. Gentleman tell us, once and for all, whether, when Mr. Ingham was instructing the Lobby on the question of the Queen and Russia, he was semi-detached?
Mr. Wakeham : On the first part of the question, the hon. Gentleman would be in trouble with his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who wants more facilities in the House for Opposition Members, because his rather fanciful suggestions would make matters worse. I have no plans of the type mentioned. On the other issue, the matter does not arise and is completely hypothetical. Consequently, it has not been addressed by the Government.
80. Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Lord President of the Council when he expects the completion of the inquiry by the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee into proposals to improve hon. Members' facilities in the Palace of Westminster.
Mr. Wakeham : It is not possible to predict at this stage when the inquiry will be completed. Preliminary discussions are taking place between the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee and the new Building Sub -Committee with a view to deciding how best to proceed. I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate that for
Column 432the Sub-Committees to consider thoroughly the wide range of possible improvements to right hon. and hon. Members' facilities, the inquiry will necessarily take a little time.
Mr. Thurnham : Will my right hon. Friend take steps to improve the security of the facilities in the building? Is he aware that the CID is examining handwriting to discover the identity of a thief who stole a private letter from my secretary's desk and posted it to the former Member for Bury and Radcliffe? Some Opposition Members have asked that we stop calling each other hon. Members. Will my right hon. Friend condemn the action of a former hon. Member in posting copies of such a letter to the press, and will he ask the Lord Chancellor to review the position of a justice of the peace who stoops to such disgraceful behaviour?
Mr. Wakeham : I know something of the case to which my hon. Friend refers, but it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any particular case, however distressing? I am sure that the arrangements to protect hon. Members' personal possessions and papers are, by and large, adequate. However, there is a point beyond which those arrangements cannot and should not operate. In the final analysis, hon. Members must bear responsibility for their possessions and are so advised in the official literature issued to them and their secretaries. I know that that goes wider than my hon. Friend's distressing case, but it is right that I should say it.
Mr. Allen : Before the Lord President of the Council comments on the report of the Sub-Committees, will he compare our facilities with those of Representatives and Congressmen in America, where there are up to 15 members of staff for each Congressman and three offices in each constituency, each with two full-time people? Although we would not require so many facilities, would not such assistance be a major improvement and help hon. Members to do their jobs?
Mr. Wakeham : I share the hon. Gentleman's view that we do not want those sorts of facilities, but I am sure that the Sub-Committees will do their best to provide better facilities where existing ones are not adequate.
Mr. Winnick : When a briefing is given to the Lobby, especially by someone of the importance of Mr. Ingham--who, as the Leader of the House knows, is in effect the deputy Prime Minister--should not the general public be allowed to see him in action giving his views on all sorts of national and international questions?
Mr. Wakeham : The parliamentary Lobby journalists have a room allocated to them in the North Turret above the Upper Committee Corridor. I understand that it is for their own convenience that they invite Ministers, Government information officers and others to brief them. The hon. Gentleman may well have been there. Arrangements for briefing the press outside the House are
Column 433organised separately by Government Departments. I do not believe that there is any need to change the arrangements.
Mr. Wakeham : That is a slightly more difficult question. The Select Committee that I chair is charged with providing an experimental scheme for televising the proceedings of the House. If the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) takes part in those proceedings, he will be as likely as any other hon. Member to be seen on television.
83. Mr. Alton : To ask the Lord President of the Council if he has any plans to seek to implement the recommendations of the Bow Group that additional time be provided in some circumstances to enable completion of consideration of private Members' Bills.
Mr. Alton : Given the imminence of a debate on procedure and also the next private Members' ballot, is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman brought forward proposals, perhaps based on some of the recommendations of the Bow Group, to cover such matters as injury time, when time has been lost for various reasons, or for razor motions, to allow the House to decide whether additional time should be given so that important private Members' Bills can complete their stages, if that be the wish of the House?
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the beat-the-clock tactics that are so often used against controversial private Members' Bills bring the House into disrepute?
Mr. Wakeham : The question of time for private Members' Bills is something which the House might, at some stage, wish to reconsider. I am open minded on the matter and should prefer to hear the views of the House. That is one reason why I arranged for a procedure debate to take place later this week. I do not believe that the appropriate way to proceed is necessarily on the basis of a recommendation from even such a distinguished body as the Bow Group. However, if it is the will of the House to change the procedure, we can think about that at a later stage.
Mr. John Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is profoundly unsatisfactory that the House can spend many hours and days debating a topic such as abortion, but, due to the delaying tactics of a minority, no final decision can be taken, despite very strong public opinion that a change in the law is overdue?
Mr. Wakeham : I certainly deplore delaying tactics. Debates should be conducted in proper accordance with our traditions and order. For a long time private Members' legislation has been subject to an overall time constraint, although this Government have allowed more time for such legislation than was the previous practice.
Mr. Wakeham : As I confirmed earlier in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham), the relevant Sub- Committees of the Services Committee are already charged with an examination of what further facilities should be provided for all Members, including those of the Opposition. The debate on the Services Committee report on the new parliamentary building (phase 2) this Friday should provide an excellent opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to raise any specific points he wishes to make.
Mr. Banks : When I tabled the question, I had in mind the inequality of treatment between the Government and the Opposition in the Chamber, for example on Report and in Committee on the Floor of the House. Ministers can refer to civil servants in their Box, and notes can be passed backwards and forwards. Opposition Members have difficulties if they wish to consult our advisers sitting under the Public Gallery. For example, our advisers are not allowed to bring in notes or to write notes for us. There seems to be inequality of treatment. I should like the Lord President to examine the matter and make sure that he acts upon it.
Mr. Dykes : The sad reality is that, even if we improve facilities for Opposition Members, we will not improve their arguments and the cases that they deploy. Bearing in mind that we are members of an increasingly successful European Community, would it be more worthwhile to introduce access to our modest facilities for the first time for European Members?
On the question of access for European Members, as my hon. Friend will know, I have tried to get agreement to make some modest changes in the arrangements. It is right that we should proceed by agreement. At the moment I do not have that agreement, but I shall continue to try to get it.
Mr. Cohen : Fax machines are high-tech extensions of photocopiers and telephones, both of which are available for hon. Members. Should not the machine's general availability be one of the fax of life in this Parliament?
Mr. Wakeham : As the hon. Gentleman knows, the matter was considered by the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee not long ago. The conclusion was that it should be the responsibility of individual Members to provide their own machines, if that is what they want to do. There is a much-enhanced allowance--I shall say no more than that--for office expenses, which makes it possible to do so nowadays.
That the matter of the effects of the Queen's Speech on the people of Wales, being a matter relating exclusively to Wales, be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration.-- [Mr. Dorrell.]