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Mr. Bottomley : That is very interesting. If the hon. Lady had come with me by train to Wandsworth town about an hour ago, she would have seen how one of the objecting councils, Wandsworth, has just put four lanes of traffic into the southern end of Wandsworth bridge, paid for with public money. She might also have seen that one can go by bus from Cheyne Walk to Shepherds Bush, a journey which takes between 10 minutes and 40 minutes. If the western environmental improvement route proposal goes ahead it may be possible to achieve improvements for bus passengers.
If the hon. Lady also visited my constituency of Eltham and studied the Rochester Way relief road she would see how one can separate the through traffic from the local
Column 12traffic and give a great bonus to the local people. If the hon. Lady has a spare half day we might go round together and see some good road and rail improvements.
Mr. Bowis : Is my right hon. Friend aware that in my constituency we have the busiest rail junction in the world, Clapham junction, but that it is not linked to the Underground system? Is he aware that the only part of the Underground system that runs through my constituency is the most inadequate bit of the whole system--the southern end of the Northern line-- which, according to all the reports, cannot be improved? Will my right hon. Friend therefore respond to the genuine concerns and hopes of my constituents that the central London rail study will bring the Underground system south of the river to Clapham junction and beyond and thus provide a new link for local people and relieve the congestion on the Northern line?
Mr. Channon : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his general support of the central London rail study which, on the whole, has received a good reception. In spite of the present investment in London's rail services, more still needs to be done. We need to develop our plans to improve rail services and to cater for the demand that is forecast for the end of the century. The report has been published and I hope that hon. Members will let me have their views on it. We shall decide in the summer what is to be done.
Mr. Spearing : With regard to Clapham junction, the west London road assessment studies and the proposed west cross route, would it not be a good idea to electrify the line from Clapham junction to Willesden junction, which serves a number of important locations and was electrified before the war? Why does not the Secretary of State consider this in relation to the central London rail study? When is the closing date for observations? When the railways are built, what proportion of the cost will have to be met by passengers in increased fares--I believe that they should not bear any of the cost--and how much by the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
Mr. Channon : The exact way of costing these improvements--if we decide to go ahead with them--has yet to be decided. The cost will be met from a mixture of fares and--I hope--some contribution from the developers. Because of road congestion and for other reasons, some Government grant may be provided, but that is yet to be determined. As regards the electrification of one particular line, the relevant issues were considered in the central London rail study. It is hoped that, all the options having been considered, the package produced will be the one most likely to make the maximum contribution to London. The House will want to consider whether that is so. I very much welcome views from Londoners and others as to which option we should take.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : My right hon. Friends have decided that this final section of the M40 should go ahead as proposed. It will be built as a dual three-lane motorway. Subject to the remaining statutory procedures, we hope to start construction later this year for completion in 1991.
Mr. Baldry : My hon. Friend will be aware that the announcement that the route of the final section of the M40 has been agreed will be greeted ecstatically throughout Oxfordshire and the west midlands, where the announcement has been awaited for many years. It is also exceedingly good news that it is to be three lanes throughout. It will be recognised that my hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues have taken infinite care in considering the inspector's report and deciding the right route. As regards any possible time gap in the opening of the M40, will my hon. Friend confirm that, following representations from me and from other hon. Members, there is to be a meeting next week at which we and other representatives of the community can put forward suggestions to ensure that the inconvenience caused by any time gap is kept to an absolute minimum?
Mr. Bottomley : I welcome my hon. Friend's reaction and I know that he speaks for all those in the affected area. We have largely accepted the inspector's recommendations. We did not accept three of the recommended modifications because we were satisfied that their disadvantages--including delay--outweighed their advantages. As my hon. Friend said, he and other colleagues are concerned about the time gap. We are consulting hon. Members and county council members on the measures recommended by consultants to mitigate the effect on the trunk roads by completing the northern section first. I hope to make further announcements later.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : The biggest improvement would come if everyone drove as carefully and considerately as surveys show that they think they do, and nobody as badly as the same surveys show that they think other drivers do. There are good courses, videos and books available on how to improve techniques. The Institute of Advanced Motorists, for example, has just republished its motorway driving manual, which is full of practical advice.
Mr. Martin : I thank my hon. Friend for his impressive list of measures. In the spirit of his reply, would he agree that if some of those who drive on the roads were as sober as they believed that they were rather than as drunk as they believed others to be, the roads would be much safer and there would be less death and injury on them? Will my hon. Friend welcome, as I do, forthcoming legislation which will make the retaking of driving tests compulsory for those convicted of serious offences?
Mr. Bottomley : Yes, Sir. Although we have the best record in Europe --I would argue that it is the best in the world in terms of population--we must still recognise that 5,000 deaths per year are too many. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has set a target of cutting deaths and injuries by a third by the year 2000.
In terms of traffic, we have saved about 20 lives per week, and there is still further to go. I hope that all hon. Members will find local ways of ensuring that road users treat seriously the business of driving day by day : 5,000 deaths, 60,000 serious injuries and 300,000 other injuries are far too many.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister of Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Newton) : My responsibility for the appointmenof magistrates covers the shire county of Lancashire and the districts within the metropolitan counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside.
Any member of the public may serve as a magistrate. I am advised on the appointment of magistrates by advisory committees within the areas for which I am responsible. When a vacancy occurs, the relevant advisory committee puts forward recommendations to me.
Those who are appointed to a bench would normally expect to serve until their 70th birthday.
Mr. Bennett : Does the Minister accept that, especially in the Stockport part of my constituency and to a certain extent in the Tameside part, it appears that magistrates are not fairly appointed from all the wards in the local authority areas but tend to come from the more affluent areas? What steps will he take to ensure that there is proper representation on the bench in wards such as Brinnington and north and south Reddish?
Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman will understand that although we are anxious to have a proper geographical, social and occupational spread of magistrates we cannot force people to serve. As I think the hon. Gentleman knows, there has been some difficulty in obtaining enough recommendations from some parts of the area with which he is concerned. I am grateful for his efforts to put forward or encourage recommendations over the years. A substantial number of the suggestions that have come from or through him have led to appointments. If the hon. Gentleman can give us any more help, it will be most welcome.
Mr. Skinner : How many of the magistrates appointed wear little aprons and roll up their trouser legs? What percentage of them are freemasons? Instead of appointing magistrates, why are they not chosen by ballot?
59. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what deductions are made from clerical stipends to take account of Easter collections ; and what estimates have been made of such amounts for the current year.
Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners) : Easter offerings are an integral part of the clergy's stipend, the total figure for which is fixed by the diocesan authorities having regard to the
recommendations of the central stipends authority. No deductions of stipend are made in consequence of the receipt of Easter offerings, though to the extent that income is received in this form there is relief on the diocesan funding of stipends.
Mr. Greenway : May I remind my right hon. Friend of the happy and splendid tradition in the Church of England according to which members of the congregation could put money on the plate on Easter Sunday as a direct gift for the vicar or rector? Is it not sad that that tradition has now become so muted? What can be done to ensure that vicars receive a present from their parishioners in the old way? How about an Easter egg for the vicar?
Mr. Alison : If the Easter offering went directly to the incumbent, it would be taxable. To that extent, it is better that it should be treated like all other weekly church collections and taken to the diocese, where it avoids tax. I would rather not comment on the subject of eggs for the Easter offering.
Mr. Alison : Work is progressing well, and the new accommodation for commercial letting is expected to be complete by the beginning of 1990. The commissioners have recently accepted an offer for the tenancy of that accommodation and it is hoped that the Church of England pension board will take up its new accommodation in the Millbank complex in May this year.
Mr. Thurnham : Will my right hon. Friend give further consideration to my previous question about moving Church Commissioners' offices to areas of high unemployment? Will he ask those responsible for security whether No. 1 Millbank would be of use as secure accommodation for Members of Parliament with fears about security?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend will understand that the leaders of the Church of England, whether lay or ordained, clerical or episcopal, need to be relatively close to the centre of state power. It is, after all, an established Church. My hon. Friend might start a systematic programme of questions to see whether we might relocate Parliament and Whitehall, but until he succeeds in that respect we must leave the Church Commissioners where they are.
Mr. Alison : No. 1 Millbank could be entirely rebuilt if it were possible to evacuate both the pensions board and the Church Commissioners to a location such as Church House, but Church House as at present constructed is not large enough to accommodate the General Synod as well as the pensions board and the Commissioners. For that reason, it would be difficult to find a building into which to decant the present occupants while No. 1 Millbank was reconstructed. That is the basic problem.
61. Mr. Latham : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, whether the Church Commission has received any proposal for the reorganisation of benefices affecting the parish of St. Leonards, Swithland, in the county of Leicestershire.
Mr. Latham : Will my hon. Friend confirm that Swithland rectory in the constituency of my necessarily Trappist hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell) was donated to the Church less than 30 years ago so that the incumbent could live there? Given that a thousand ages let alone 30 years are but an instant in the sight of the Almighty, is it not unseemly for the rectory to be alienated so soon against the wishes of the benefactor?
Mr. Alison : This is one of the complications that have arisen as a result of the proposed reorganisation scheme. It will have to be considered actively by the pastoral committee and the board of governors when they consider objections to the scheme.
Mr. Allen : Will the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission comment on EEC fraud, which is now running at some £6 billion including CAP and other cross-border frauds? Does he feel that the National Audit Office is adequately equipped to meet this particular and growing challenge?
Sir Peter Hordern : Strictly speaking, this is more a matter for the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee but I recognise that this is a most serious matter. In considering the National Audit Office estimates, the Commission has to satisfy itself that the NAO has the capacity to carry out the tasks given to it by Parliament. I understand that the NAO has provided written evidence to
Column 17the European Parliament budgetary control committee for a public hearing on preventing and combating fraud in the European Community after 1992, and that the NAO joins in regular meetings with representatives of the national audit bodies of the other Community countries, at which this is one of the matters discussed.
Mr. Gow : Is my hon. Friend aware of the continuing consternation in all parts of the House that he is not permanently on the Treasury Bench? As he is seated below the Gangway, can he arrange to answer questions more frequently in the House?
63. Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission if he will list those public bodies whose accounts are audited by the National Audit Office ; and if he will list the audit fees charged in each case.
Sir Peter Hordern : The National Audit Office at present audits some 470 accounts. I will write to my hon. Friend giving him the list that he requires. The Comptroller and Auditor General has informed me that, under section 5 of the National Audit Act, in 1987-88 the National Audit Office charged a fee for the audit of 142 accounts. The total income from fees in that year was £3.8 million.
Mr. Field : I thank my hon. Friend for not reading out the entire list, which would have run the risk of filibustering my supplementary. Accepting that the National Audit Office is entirely independent, could my hon. Friend not arrange with the Comptroller and Auditor General to fix a level of employees, expenditure and audit fee below which the National Audit Office would normally employ a private firm of auditors?
Sir Peter Hordern : I will pass on my hon. Friend's interesting idea to the Comptroller and Auditor General, but an increasing amount of work is carried out by private sector firms on behalf of the National Audit Office. Additional provision is made in the 1989-90 estimate for that purpose.
Nevertheless, the Commission has taken the view that, as Parliament intended that under the National Audit Act the National Audit Office should undertake examination of the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which Departments and other public bodies use taxpayers' money entrusted to them, it is often more efficient for the National Audit Office to couple this value-for-money examination with the certification audit of those bodies' accounts.
Mr. Simon Hughes : Will the hon. Gentleman give general circulation to the information that he has undertaken to supply to his hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) so that all hon. Members may know which bodies are audited by the NAO?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : All Procedure Committee reports since 1979 have been debated with the exception of the first report of 1984-85, dealing with the printing of oral questions to the Prime Minister, which was the subject of a ruling by Mr. Speaker on 15 April 1985 and implemented with effect from 30 April 1985, and the special report on Government replies to reports from the Committee which was published only last Tuesday.
Mr. Allen : Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that those outstanding matters are considered? Will he also consider something which is not directly within the remit of the Procedure Committee--bringing forward for early discussion the reports on private Member's Bill procedure?
Sir John Stokes : May I ask my right hon. Friend a more fundamental question about this whole matter? Is there any means by which we can debate topics which are most important to ordinary people but which are seldom debated here, such as immigration and capital punishment?
Mr. Wakeham : The business of the House is arranged to meet many eventualities. Hon. Members on both sides of the House press subjects on me which they believe to be important. No doubt they have consulted their constituents about those subjects. I do my best to meet as many of their requirements as possible. I very much regret that it is not possible to arrange debates on all the interesting subjects which are proposed, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes).
Mr. Sims : Further to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction in the House about the way in which we handle private Members' Bills and that a combination of frustration and misunderstanding among our constituents is in danger of bringing parliamentary procedures into disrepute? Is it not important that we have an early opportunity to debate these matters and to consider in detail the specific proposals put forward by the Procedure Committee to try to tackle the problem?
Mr. Wakeham : I believe that the Procedure Committee is now having another look at those proposals. I recognise that there is dissatisfaction in some quarters about the way in which private Members' Bills are handled in the House. With regard to the last report, even the Procedure Committee, while making some suggestions for improvement, recognised that it was not always possible for everyone with a private Member's Bill to get it through the House, even if there was a majority in favour of it.
Mr. Hardy : Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the handling of private Bills which may be highly contentious but which are not amended in Committee? The fact that they are not amended means that the Report stage is avoided entirely and only insubstantive verbal amendments can be taken on Third Reading. That does not make those Bills any less contentious, as we know is the case with one Bill which may be before the House before long. Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the present rule with regard to the abandonment of Report stage?
Mr. Wakeham : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that any Bill, however contentious, must come before the House and that there must be an opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members to express a view and vote on it, whether or not it is amended. It is a wide question, and one directly relevant to the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure. I have undertaken to arrange a debate on that Committee's report soon after Easter.
Mr. Marlow : What procedure does my right hon. Friend suggest should be used to ensure that the issue of abortion law reform is properly, effectively and perhaps finally addressed? Is he aware that the current procedures are bringing the House into contempt with the public as well as wasting a great deal of private Members' time?
Mr. Wakeham : The Government's view is that that subject is best dealt with by the private Member's Bill procedure. I recognise that Bills in recent years have not been successful. That was due to a number of reasons. It has been suggested to me that the Government should consider the matter and perhaps take steps themselves to deal with it. I have not committed the Government to doing so, but I am considering the suggestions that have been made to me.
Mr. Banks : That is very helpful. I remind the Lord President that in the 18th century, Westminster Hall was humming with life and vitality. It is sad to see it being so underused. Indeed, it is bordering on the criminal to leave that space in its present state. Will the Lord President consider a number of proposals for bringing life back into Westminster Hall? Shops could be opened there. Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to study a proposal by the Chairman of the Catering Sub- Committee which I read in a newspaper, that the souvenir kiosk should be moved there and its range of facilities and items for sale extended? Will the Lord President consider that proposal very seriously so that a little more life can be brought back into Westminster Hall?
Mr. Wakeham : It may be helpful to the hon. Gentleman if I make it clear that in my previous reply I pointed out that responsibility for Westminster Hall is vested jointly in the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Speaker. The principles which govern their decision as to its use require the hall to be used only
Column 20for parliamentary functions, royal occasions, a ceremony in honour of a head of state, or for events with a clear historical connection with Parliament or with the Great Hall itself. My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), was of the opinion that the infrequency of the Great Hall's use contributed to its character. I share that view. If the hon. Gentleman has any proposals, I suggest that he puts them to the Chairman of the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee.
Mr. Latham : Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that a plaque should shortly be installed in Westminster Hall commemorating the visit of Her Majesty the Queen last year to receive the Addresses of both Houses in regard to the Bill of Rights--an event of great interest to schoolchildren, or at least to some of them, who visit the House?
Mr. Alan Williams : The Lord President's comment about infrequency of use has its novelty interest, but that is not a very practical approach to one problem that exists. The right hon. Gentleman has probably never had to wait in the pouring rain with visiting parties of constituents, many of them elderly, who may have travelled several hundred miles and have to wait up to three quarters of an hour before gaining access to the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at early-day motion 133, signed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, requesting that the hall be used for the benefit of constituents who travel long distances to the Houses of Parliament, possibly just once in their lives, and who should be able at least to wait in the dry and to pass through security screens in the dry?
Mr. Wakeham : I recognise the problem. The point has been considered but there are a number of difficulties, not least in terms of security. In the first instance, this is a matter for the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee.
Mr. Skinner : Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that the Budget debate will not be televised tomorrow? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget speech last year that that would be the last untelevised Budget debate. Has he got it wrong again? He got the balance of payments deficit wrong--it was to be £4 billion and has reached £14.3 billion. He got interest rates wrong ; he got mortgages wrong ; he has got nearly every sum in his book wrong. Who is holding up the television job? Is it the Prime Minister?
Column 21Chancellor is that he said that the Budget debate would be on television but that it is not to be televised the hon. Gentleman must be short of something to say. I believe that the truth is that he cannot wait to become a television star himself. Perhaps I should remind him that there is a vacancy for the part of Dirty Den in a certain television soap opera.
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