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Mr. Channon : The strong economic growth brought about by this Government's policies has resulted in increased demand for transport, and some delays are occurring on motorways. If our industry is to keep pace with foreign competitors, good roads are vital. Therefore, we are planning to spend more than £4 billion over the next three years on measures to improve trunk roads and reduce congestion.
Mr. Lofthouse : The Minister will be aware that freight operators claim that traffic delays on the M25 alone cost them up to £1,000 per vehicle, and that total congestion costs are almost £3 billion per year. Does he agree that British industry should not be permanently disadvantaged because policy is determined by the Treasury and not by the Department of Transport?
Mr. Channon : I am glad to have the hon. Gentleman's support. I have just announced that we are spending more than £4 billion over the next three years. There is increased spending on the roads programme, and it is nice to have the Labour party's support for increased roads expenditure. I shall treasure it and remember it with pleasure.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : My right hon. Friend will be aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and I have nagged for years, because although there are excellent motorway links to the north-west, we lack a motorway link. We are most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving one the go-ahead. Many thanks.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : How can an ordinary passenger travel to London on motorways when they are blocked by traffic hold-ups, and how can he travel to London by train when the standard class on the Carlisle to London British Rail route is like a cattle truck? Is the Secretary of State aware that hon. Members throughout the north-west are besieged by the public complaining that there are no seats available on British Rail trains? Does he not have a responsibility to do something about that?
Mr. Warren : Given that only this morning, about 5,000 vehicles were locked on the M25 for more than a hour and were unable to move, does my right hon. Friend accept that there is a need, when designing motorways, to consider the provision of emergency exists for use in such circumstances and of more ordinary exits? On the M26-M25 route, there is one stretch of more than 25 miles where there is no exit from the motorway.
Mr. Channon : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He raises two important points. I am expecting the consultants' report on the whole of the M25 in the next few weeks. I shall bear his comments in mind when I receive it.
Mr. Pike : Does the Secretary of State accept that while it is necessary to invest in improvements to our motorway network, it may be more cost-effective and environmen-tally better for the Government to take a more positive attitude towards British Rail, by getting long-distance freight back on to the rail system and linked to the Channel tunnel? Is not that the approach which the Government should be taking at this stage?
Mr. Channon : As I explained when answering the previous question, we are making a larger investment in both British Rail and roads. Therefore, I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I am grateful to him for his question.
Mr. Atkinson : Is my right hon. Friend aware that in France and elsewhere private and business motorists have a choice between congestion- free toll roads and state-run trunk roads and motorways? Can he confirm his intention to publish a Green Paper on ways of tackling our worsening road conditions? If so, will he include in that Green Paper a detailed analysis of Europe's privately funded toll roads, and also perhaps a list of prime candidates in this country, including the proposed east coast motorway to relieve the A1?
My hon. Friend is right that there has been tolling on motorways in many, although not all, European countries for a good many years. I am extremely anxious to introduce private finance into our entire road system, and I shall come forward with proposals soon. I shall consider what my hon. Friend has said, but at present I have no proposals to make about tolls.
Mr. Hardy : Will the Secretary of State resist the current Conservative fashion of delving into ancient history to resurrect past practices? We have had quite enough with the poll tax and the possibility of the indentity card without further measures such as the toll turnpike and toll booth.
Mr. Channon : I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should take that philistine attitude to history. It is most unlike him, with his teaching background. I see no reason why we should not examine all good ideas, whether they are new or old.
Mr. Simon Coombs : Does my right hon. Friend accept that if there is a choice between congestion and paying a toll, many people who use the M4 motorway every day between Maidenhead and Hammersmith will be more than willing to consider the latter alternative?
Mr. Prescott : Does the Secretary of State accept that Britain has the smallest and most congested motorway system of any developed economy? It is one third the size of that in Germany, and we have an expansion programme one fifth of the size of Germany's.
Does the Secretary of State share the growing resentment of the Government's support for tolls when, since 1979, they have doubled the level of road transportation tax to about £7 billion, which represents 25 per cent. of the total raised, compared with the 35 per cent. raised under Labour? If the right hon. Gentleman had been able to maintain that level against the Treasury, he would have had £2 billion more to improve the quality of our roadways.
Mr. Channon : The hon. Gentleman may have misheard what I said in answer to the original question. I said that I have no plans to introduce tolls at present, so a good deal of his question is aimed at the wrong target.
The hon. Gentleman knows that it takes a considerable time to complete a motorway. I would take his protestations more seriously but for the fact that the Labour Government had such an appalling record on motorways. We are reaping some of that legacy now.
Mr. John Browne : Does my right hon. Friend accept that the people of Winchester will be particularly interested in the answer that he gave to the original question? They look forward to the speedy completion of the M3. Will my right hon. Friend please assure the House that when he has looked at the inspector's report he will spend sufficient money, including privately raised finance, to ensure that the internationally very special environment around our historic city of Winchester will be fully protected?
Mr. Peter Bottomley : Our target is to cut road casualties by one third by the end of the century. Over the year ahead we will be concentrating our efforts on vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists, as well as on dangerous groups such as drinking drivers and selfish and aggressive road users. Engineering, education, enforcement, exhortation and example will all play their part.
Mr. Morley : I welcome the Minister's initiatives, but when he considers such road safety measures will he do so in the context of an integrated package and try to get more people to use public transport, particularly rail and buses? Will he bear that in mind especially as British Rail is
Column 14considering closing a number of rail routes, in particular one near my own constituency, the Grimsby-Gainsborough line?
Mr. Bottomley : The hon. Gentleman will realise that in many parts of the country the growth in the use of public transport, especially on London Underground and British Rail, greatly exceeds the movement of commuters in cars, where numbers are falling. Across the country we are likely to see a growth and an improvement in public transport and road links.
Mr. Tony Lloyd : May I refer the Minister to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) about unlicensed motor cyclists who are employed as couriers, particularly in London?
Mr. Lloyd : It is on road safety, Mr. Speaker. I usually know what I am asking. Will the Under-Secretary accept that as he is a Minister, it is possible for him to legislate on the matter? What will he do other than exhort employers? Exhortations are no good.
Mr. Bottomley : It is possible to propose legislation to Parliament. The use of the road by unlicensed motor cyclists is illegal. I hope that, besides the point on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) and I agreed, we can direct most parliamentary attention on areas where most lives are to be saved. It is worth remembering that 14 people today will lose their lives on the roads--5,000 a year. We may have the best record in the world, but there are still far too many deaths.
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : I am continuing to give high priority to the building and maintenance programmes of the national museums and galleries. I have made a series of increases bringing annual expenditure to £55 million by 1991-92, an increase of 53 per cent. since 1987-88.
Mr. Butler : My right hon. Friend the Minister is aware of the excellent imperial war museum redevelopment, which was in a sense a precursor of his incentive funding scheme. Could not the incentive funding scheme be more generally applied to the refurbishment of museums?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right. There has been an element of incentive funding with the redevelopment plan for the imperial war museum. That new mechanism is being used for other areas and other museums. For example, there is joint funding for the Clore gallery at the Tate--the capital funding comes from the Clore Foundation and the running costs from the Government. A role is being played by the Government in the national gallery's Sainsbury wing. At the British museum the refurbishment of galleries for the display of Roman material is being funded through the generosity of the Wolfson Foundation, and Government funding is also being made available.
Mr. Robert Sheldon : Is the Minister aware of the Public Accounts Committee report which repeated what the director of the Victoria and Albert museum said in connection with its manuscripts and printed matter? She pointed out that the way in which they were being looked after was a national disaster and that to put right the deterioration at the present rate of progress would take 200 years. As they are a national asset, should we not regard this as a matter of the highest priority?
Mr. Luce : As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Government are due to reply to the important report of the Public Accounts Committee as soon as possible. Without pre-empting what they wish to say, I do not underestimate the seriousness and importance of conservation and the condition of our national museums and galleries. For that reason, in the new three-year funding policy, we have allocated an extra £13 million for the new third year--at least half of which must be allocated to conservation, storage and other matters. That will have a strong bearing on what the right hon. Gentleman said.
Mr. Jessel : Has my right hon. Friend considered the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) that funds for the maintenance and repair of existing collections should be increased, instead of spending funds on purchasing grants, which should be phased out?
Mr. Luce : I have read with great care and interest the pamphlet written by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart). Considerable additional resources have already been made available through mechanisms other than the purchase grant system to help preserve objects of great importance to our heritage. For example, last year an additional £20 million was given to the national heritage memorial fund. The acceptance of items in lieu of taxation allows important objects to be preserved in this country. I have undertaken to review carefully the working of the purchase grant system to see how the money could be better deployed. In the meantime, an extra 53 per cent. of resources will be made available over the next four years for the building and maintenance of our museums and galleries.
Mr. Luce : Last November I announced the grant-in-aid allocations to the national museums and galleries that I sponsor, rolling forward the three-year funding settlement introduced in 1987 to the year 1991-92. I have made increases specifically to help the national institutions in tackling their priority concerns.
The Government are considering the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the management of collections of the English national museums and galleries, and will respond as soon as possible.
Mr. Bradley : The Minister seems complacent about this matter. Has he not read the two reports of the National Audit Office, which outline the appalling problems facing our national museums, the root cause being the cut of at least 9 per cent. in the budget of the Victoria and Albert museum and the 5 per cent. cut in the budget of the British
Column 16museum between 1979 and 1987? Will he support today the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee calling for a specific fund to deal with the accumulated conservation problems in addition to the existing allocation of national funds going towards conservation? The Minister must act today to ensure that conservation work is maintained in our national museums.
Mr. Luce : As I have said, the Government have not yet replied to the Public Accounts Committee and when we do reply, the hon. Gentleman will see what importance we attach to the issue. I do not need to wait until then to reinforce the point that the chairmen and directors--almost to a man--have made in representations to me over the past two or three years about the priority that they attach to building, maintenance and conservation. For that reason, over the four-year period 1987-1988 to 1991- 92, I am increasing those overall resources by 53 per cent. That does not show complacency ; on the contrary, it shows the priority that I attach to the matter.
Mr. Bowis : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will continue to listen closely and talk to the directors of museums and galleries, so that he can go on getting it right? When he talks to them, will he also ensure that one added priority is that museums bring forward a programme for opening their establishments at times when the public want to visit them, such as bank holidays and weekends, when young people, in particular, can attend?
Mr. Luce : I appreciate the final point that my hon. Friend made. Clearly, it is important to attract as many people as possible to our museums and galleries. This is Museum Year, so there is a sustained campaign, sponsored by The Times and run by the Museums Association, to attract greater participation and attendance at museums. It is estimated that about 80 million people will go to museums this year and, if the campaign is successful, attendances may increase to 100 million. Flexibility in opening hours is one part of the marketing policy to create greater public interest in museums.
Mr. Fisher : Will the Minister accept that the disgraceful state of our national museums, as detailed by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee, is a direct result of his Government's policy of neglect and underfunding of our great museums? Does he not understand that that is now a national scandal and that, although we welcome the sums that he has announced today, if he dared to have a national audit of the needs of the museums in building and maintenance--let alone in conservation and other areas--the sums would be revealed to be wholly inadequate for the crisis into which his policies have plunged the museums?
Mr. Luce : I suppose that I should expect the hon. Gentleman to use such colourful language, as he regards it as part of his job. However, that is not the real perspective. Our magnificent institutions are doing a fantastic job. They are lending out a great deal and far more is on display than when Labour was in office. New galleries are open and we have seen the development of the Clore gallery at the Tate, the Tate gallery extension in Liverpool, the redevelopment of the imperial war museum, the extension of the national gallery through the Sainsbury wing, the opening of new galleries at the British museum and an extension to the national portrait gallery. How can the hon. Gentleman say that everything is stagnating?
Mr. Atkinson : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the British museum has one of the most valuable collection of original moulds for the making of plaster casts of the most celebrated statues in the world? Does he agree that there is a worldwide potential for a casting service and is he satisfied that it is profitable? If it is not, will he privatise it?
Mr. Luce : I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of the service that has been offered in the past by the British museum. At the moment the British museum faces certain pressures and problems, as a result of which the trustees are now considering the future of the department and how it should operate. I know that privatisation is one very serious proposition that the trustees are considering.
Mr. Allen : Does the Minister recognise that the facsimile department may be much overused, because if he does not act quickly on the recommendations in the Public Accounts Committee report many of our great treasures will fall apart? Will he give a guarantee now that the three-year programme that he has introduced will meet all the points that were noted in the Public Accounts report?
Mr. Luce : Of course I attach importance to what is said in the report and the House will look forward to the Government's reply. In the meantime, I believe that I have already demonstrated the importance that I attach to this problem. I have said that in the new third year, 1991-92, I shall be increasing resources to museums and galleries by £13 million- -in addition to the overall increases that I am giving now--to give particular priority to the conservation and maintenance of their buildings.
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce) : Information about the demographic changes in the 1990s has been disseminated to all Departments. The overall number of school leavers will drop sharply. Like all employers, we need to retain good staff and attract recruits from all sections of the labour force. The Government are approaching this with flexibility and imagination.
Mr. Knapman : My right hon. Friend is obviously aware of the reduced number of school leavers in the 1990s and of the need for the Civil Service to recruit more women, including women with young children. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to recruit more women, both full- time and part -time?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right to focus attention on that point. It is estimated that the number of school leavers will drop by 30 per cent. by 1993, which suggests the scale of the problem and the need to take whatever action we can to improve recruitment and retention in the service. As for part-timers, it is important to take into account the changes in working patterns in the country as a whole. The Civil Service is doing that. There has been an increase in the number of part-timers in the service. A number of measures are being taken to recruit more women. Flexible working hours, career breaks, the reinstatement of civil servants and the provision of child care facilities will help to improve the recruitment of women to the Civil Service.
Mr. Beith : If the Government are to recruit from a shrinking labour force of young people, will not they have to improve pay and conditions at many levels of the Civil Service and reinstate the concept of a non- partisan Civil Service that is not the creature of any one Government?
Mr. Luce : To respond to the hon. Gentleman's last point first, there is no doubt whatsoever that we have an outstanding, loyal and impartial Civil Service. That was reinforced by the views of an all-party Select Committee in 1988. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that various policies on pay are already being developed. They include more flexible pay schemes to deal with recruitment and retention problems that concern specialist groups and particular areas. Flexible pay schemes, involving special pay additions, performance pay--which is being increased in various areas--as well as a 14 per cent. increase in London weighting from July 1988 are all designed to help to recruit and retain staff.
Mr. Luce : Since I last spoke to the House on this subject on 5 December 1988, Her Majesty's Stationery Office has been launched as an agency, bringing the total of agencies that have been set up to three. Around 30 other candidates for agency status have been announced as under active consideration, and I expect more to be announced.
Mr. Field : Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that one of the best ways to speed up the agency function is to ensure that the chief executive, and not the appropriate permanent under-secretary, is the accounting office? Will he place a list in the Library of those agency functions where the permanent under-secretary is still the accounting officer?
Mr. Luce : I appreciate the importance of my hon. Friend's question. The Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee said forcefully that accountability policies should be clarified and that the chief executive of the agency should carry responsibility for day-to-day operations as accounting officer. The Government have agreed with that, in their reply. The HMSO was recently launched as an agency. It is the first example of a chief executive being accounting officer. I shall respond to the other part of my hon. Friend's question.
Mr. John Garrett : Does the Minister agree that the purpose of agencies is to introduce regional pay and, therefore, to reduce the relative pay of civil servants outside London? That is precisely what is likely to happen in the HMSO, the headquarters of which is in my constituency. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is widely thought that another intention behind the agency programme is to make political appointments to head the agencies? Can he satisfy the House on that anxiety as well?
Mr. Luce : The suggestion that, as a result of the establishment of agencies, there will be a cut in pay is a total and utter misconception. If regional pay is introduced, it will not lead to a cut in some people's pay. It is concerned with catering for certain circumstances, such as those found in the south-east, or for professional groups such as administrative officers or scientists, by providing a flexible pay system.
It is also utterly wrong to suggest that there are political appointments as chief executives of agencies. We are looking for the best man for the job. The first agency was the vehicles inspectorate, and we have an outstanding civil servant in charge of it.
Against the background of the many changes in recent years, I should like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the Government's acknowledgement of the high standards of excellence in the Civil Service.
Mr. Fisher : Is the Minister aware that morale is extremely low in north Staffordshire, where civil servants are very angry that two of their colleagues at GCHQ Cheadle have been sacked for having the temerity to want to belong to a trade union? If he is serious about improving morale in the Civil Service, will he at least allow civil servants to belong to a trade union?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman knows the position with regard to GCHQ. He knows that the very first consideration is the need for continuity of service and a high standard of service at GCHQ. He also knows that, between 1979 and 1981 a total of 10,000 working days were lost, as a result of which the important services provided by GCHQ in the interests of the security of the nation were undermined. Since the decision about trade union membership was announced in 1984, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has painstakingly dealt with individual problems of people who work at GCHQ.
Column 20to go from London's Department of Social Security offices means a rough, raw deal for civil servants in those offices? Does he further agree that it will mean a worse service for the public? Will it not mean that staff in the offices will be unable to provide a decent service and that their morale is likely to sink to rock bottom as a result?
Mr. Luce : The House will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has announced that more than 1,000 jobs are to be created in Belfast, Wigan and Glasgow. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is aware of our recruitment problems in London, does not welcome such a decision.
Mr. Luce : The position has been made absolutely clear that in institutions that deal primarily with intelligence and security matters, there should not be representation by national trade unions, although there is a staff federation of which at least 50 per cent. of the people who work at GCHQ are allowed to be members. In answer to an earlier question I said that the reason for that is that we must have a higher standard of service at GCHQ which cannot and will not be undermined by industrial disruption.
Mr. Rowe : Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way of raising or maintaining morale in the Civil Service would be to provide a service at a time that is convenient to the public? I very much hope that he will follow his other pioneering moves by making it easier for Civil Service offices in many Departments to be open when it suits the public rather than the civil servants.
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend has put his finger on an important point which is linked to the development and creation of agencies, which are designed not only to improve the performance of the Civil Service above its present excellent standard but to ensure that the service to local people is as good as possible.
Mr. Allason : Given the alleged concern about security at GCHQ and elsewhere, is it not unusual that the Government did not introduce the polygraph testing that was recommended by the Security Commission so many years ago?
Mr. Luce : That is principally a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who studied the matter very carefully and reached the conclusion that it should not be introduced. I said earlier that there must be a continuous service at GCHQ and we cannot allow it to be jeopardised in any way.
Mr. Favell : Does it not strike my right hon. Friend as extraordinary that Labour Members, who profess to be worried about the regions, are bemoaning the moves to produce more jobs in the north? Many young people in the north are better qualified, more competent and a great deal more enthusiastic to serve the Civil Service. Therefore, the measure is most welcome.
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In previous Question Times I have repeatedly been asked questions by the Opposition about the need for more civil servants to move to the north. Now that exactly that is happening, there is silence from the Opposition. The House must make its own judgment on that.
Dr. Marek : The Minister has not excelled himself with his proposals to increase the morale of civil servants, at least today. Perhaps it would befit him to consult civil servants before deciding their future. How does he square the abolition of free association in GCHQ--which his Government carried out five years ago--with article 23 of the United Nations declaration of human rights which states that everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests? How does he square it with convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation which states that workers have the right to establish and join organisations of their own choosing?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman may not realise that the European Court has already passed a judgment in favour of the Government's decision on GCHQ. I can only continue repeating the basic reason for that decision. The most important aspect of our security and intelligence institutions is to have a regular and continuous service. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that if that is jeopardised we are not carrying out the duty of the Government of the day to the security of the nation.