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Mr. Carrington : I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that that is an excellent way of increasing investment in the road infrastructure and obtaining value for money at the same time? Does he also agree that the introduction of tolls on roads would have the further benefit of ensuring that roads do not get clogged up with non-essential traffic and that commercial transport will then be able to get through properly?
Mr. Channon : I am grateful to my hon. Friend and am sure that as the new developments come forward--with some possibly being financed by tolls--they will provide extra opportunities for roads and will be widely welcomed throughout the country.
Column 676are all bitterly opposed by the local communities? Will he confirm whether there have been discussions with any private road entrepreneurs to build private roads in the area covered by the east London assessment study?
Mr. Channon : I can today announce my approval for a scheme to link Manchester airport to the rail network at a cost of just under £25 million. The rail link should be ready by 1993 when the second terminal is due to open. About £1 billion of the £7 billion increase in trunk roads spending announced on 18 May is for the north-west. There are proposals to widen existing motorways, construct a new motorway west and north of Manchester, and for new bypasses.
Mr. Thurnham : In welcoming that good news from my right hon. Friend, may I urge him to press ahead with that work as quickly as possible and to ensure as few delays as possible in view of the importance of the air-rail link to the continuing success of the popular airport at Manchester?
Mr. Channon : I am extremely anxious that Manchester airport should have every opportunity to expand still further. I shall certainly do my best to ensure that the rail link is in operation when the second terminal is opened. I hope that that will provide general satisfaction in the north- west.
Mr. Channon : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks about the rail link to the airport. As he knows, four major motorway contracts have recently been completed. We are also engaged in the completion of the Manchester ring gantries, the completion of the M63 widening south of Barton bridge and the Derby road improvement in Bootle. I shall bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman said, and if he has a detailed point to raise, perhaps I had better write to him about it.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf of my constituents who will no longer have to go to London and waste time and money spending the night there when they could perfectly well fly from Manchester. When considering these megaschemes, will my right hon. Friend also remember the village of St. Michael's on Wyre which urgently needs a bypass if the horrendous danger of the humpback bridge in St. Michael's is to be avoided?
Mr. Snape : Let me assure the Secretary of State that the Opposition welcome his belated announcement about the rail link to Manchester airport. Can he confirm that the £25 million cost of the project that he has so graciously
Column 677authorised falls neither on the budget of his Department nor on that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Does he agree that future road, rail and air transport links in north-west England should be evaluated on the same basis for each mode of transport?
Mr. Channon : On the whole, they are evaluated on a very similar basis. [Interruption.] There is a difference between air, rail and road. I have been trying for some time to get that into the hon. Gentleman's head, but so far I have failed. The different modes of transport are evaluated on a very similar basis. The proof of the pudding is in the eating : we are achieving massive road and rail investment and, I hope, massive air investment, in the north-west. All that is to the general good and is much to be welcomed.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Tony Newton) : The affairs of those dying intestate in the county palatine of Lancaster are administered by the Solicitor for the Affairs of the Duchy of Lancaster. He is the person appointed for this purpose under the Administration of Estates Act 1925.
In the year to 29 September 1988 the solicitor administered a total of over 270 such cases. The gross total of funds involved after payment of debts but before ex-gratia payments or administrative expenses were made was £1,129,298.
Mr. Pike : Will the Chancellor of the Duchy do everything in his power to ensure that the estates are dealt with as speedily as possible? Will he also ensure that any residue is used to help create jobs and to encourage development in the county palatine?
Mr. Newton : I shall certainly do everything that I can to make the administration of the estates as speedy as possible. I think that I referred to the question of a benevolent fund. I should be rather reluctant to tie that to the creation of jobs--many such funds are for charitable purposes--although naturally it is to be hoped that employment opportunities will be created as a result.
61. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, when the Church Commissioners last met the leaders of the Methodist Church to discuss the use of ecclesiastical buildings.
Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners) : The main forum for inter-denominational discussion of matters concerning Church property is the Church main committee which meets regularly under the chairmanship of the Bishop of London. Its last meeting was on 13 March and it meets again on 17 July.
Mr. Marshall : When my right hon. Friend talks to the Church Commissioners, will he tell them to emphasise, when they next meet the leaders of the Methodist Church, that many people in the House and elsewhere are appalled at the misuse of his position by the president of the Methodist Conference, who prefers political propaganda to religious faith?
Mr. Alison : As my hon. Friend has done, no doubt, I have read Dr. John Vincent's inaugural address to the Methodist conference carefully. In many respects, it is an inspiring and edifying speech, but the comments on public policy contain a substantial number of inaccuracies and suggest a good deal of misapprehension. In respect of those rather negative aspects of the speech, I propose to write to him in a personal capacity to try to put the record straight.
Mr. Frank Field : Has the right hon. Gentleman seen a copy of the Archbishop's sermon yesterday on toleration? If so, would he care to give a copy to his hon. Friend the Member of Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall)? Will he draw the attention of the House to the fact that while some of us may disagree with what the president of the Methodist conference says or does not say, it is a sign of our democracy that he can say it?
Mr. Alison : I have much sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. If Church leaders, in the context of Church occasions, make speeches on public policy, it is important that those speeches are accurate and factual. Given those ingredients, such speeches are to be welcomed.
Mr. Heffer : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the reaction of some of his colleagues in the House this afternoon would have been precisely the same as that to Christ our Lord when he was alive?
Mr. Alison : Dr. Vincent's speech, as I have already suggested, contained a great deal of material that was accurate, edifying and inspiring. However, it also contained a substantial number of inaccuracies. I believe that there is no precedent for, or merit in, making speeches about public matters which contain substantial inaccuracies.
62. Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission what information he has on the total cost of auditing the following accounts : (a) Palestine Currency Fund, (b) Paris Commission, (c) Doris Duke Gift Fund, (d) Anglo-German Foundation for Study of Industrial Society, (e) Sir Henry Dale Lecture Fund, (f) Winchester College, University and College Estate, (g) Tithe Act 1936, (h) Home Grown Sugar Beet Research and Education Fund, (i) Gas Levy (j) Distribution of
Column 679Energy Property, (k) Water Act 1973, (l) Iron and Steel Act 1982, (m) Antient Domain of the Crown, Jersey ; what review of the need for public audit of these accounts has taken place ; and when.
Sir Peter Hordern (Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission) : The Comptroller and Auditor General has informed me that the total cost of auditing the 13 accounts listed in my hon. Friend's question was £42,000 in 1988-89. Eight of those audits flow from statutory duties placed on the Comptroller and Auditor General. The remainder are audits that he undertakes by agreement with the Treasury. In most cases this is because the funds concerned are within the control of a Government Department of which he is already auditor ; the audit of the Paris Commission is undertaken at the request of the governing body of that international organisation and the full cost is recovered.
Mr. Field : Given my hon. Friend's knowledge of public service pensions and his well-known zeal for expunging inflation from the economy, precisely how do the costs of the audit fees for those accounts take into account the future liability of the index-proofed, inflation-proof pension of the National Audit Office staff who undertake those audits? Does my hon. Friend agree that no such future taxation liability arises under a private audit fee carried out by a private practice? What justification, therefore, is there for continuing those audits in the public sector?
Sir Peter Hordern : My hon. Friend's question, alas, does not arise from the original question on the Order Paper. However, if he cares to table a question specifically on the subject that he has just raised, I shall do my best to answer it.
Mr. Yeo : I thank my right hon. Friend for his helpful answer. Has my right hon. Friend seen a copy of "Regional Trends" published last week which shows that East Anglia is by far the fastest growing region in the country by almost any measure that my right hon. Friend can think of, including the number of Conservative Members of Parliament? In the light of that, will he bring forward at the earliest possible date those proposals in his White Paper which will be of great benefit to improving the road system in East Anglia?
Mr. Channon : Yes, Sir. I can give my hon. Friend that complete assurance. If my hon. Friend studies the proposals for East Anglia, he will see that £1,800 million of new schemes are added to the £700 million handled at the moment. That shows our awareness of the importance of the road network to the economic growth of East Anglia.
Mr. Foulkes : Is not the quickest and cheapest method of reducing congestion in the south-east of England to encourage firms in the south that have difficulty recruiting trained labour to move up to the north and to Scotland where there is an abundance of such labour?
15. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a further statement on Her Majesty's Government policy on the privatisation of British Rail ; and if he will introduce legislation to permit the privatisation of particular services within the passenger network.
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo) : No decisions have yet been taken on the privatisation of British Rail. I have no plans to bring forward legislation for the privatisation of particular services in advance of those decisions.
Mr. Taylor : Is my hon. Friend the Minister aware that on the Fenchurch street line to Southend, the reliability of service is so unfortunate that on occasions, passengers find it difficult to establish whether there is a labour dispute, a strike, a work to rule or nothing in progress? Would not Southend be an ideal place to try an experiment with privatisation, bearing in mind that we have two lines from Southend to London, one which could be run by a private company and the other by British Rail? Will he bear in mind the successful privatisation of the cleansing department in Southend? Staff are paid much higher wages and provide a better service at a lower cost to the rate payers?
Mr. Portillo : My hon. Friend will understand that I am peculiarly well-informed about services to Southend. I have a lot of sympathy with him. This matter has been looked at several times in the past. The present position is that the Government wish to examine the case for privatising all parts of British Rail. My hon. Friend will probably agree that that would be a better outcome. Until we take decisions on whether and how to do that, I do not think that it would be right to divert our efforts into looking at the proposals on a line-by-line basis.
63. Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Lord President of the Council what was the percentage increase in the amount of Short money provided for the running of the official Opposition in the House of Commons in 1988-89 and 1989-90.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : The resolution of the House of 21 June 1988 provides for a maximum payment to the official Opposition of £839,709.90 in each calendar year, compared with a maximum of £493, 947 under the previous resolution. This represents an increase of 70 per cent. However, because of the change in the basis of calculation of Short money, this comparison is of somewhat limited value. The actual amounts paid during any financial year reflect the irregularity of the submission
Column 681of claims. In the financial year 1988-89 the amount of financial assistance paid to the official Opposition including arrears was £1, 035,649. It is not possible to compare the actual amount paid to the official Opposition in 1989-90 against the actual amount paid in 1988-89, since payments for 1989-90 are still continuing.
Mr. Bennett : When my right hon. Friend considers submissions for further Short moneys for the Opposition, will he consider the report that was published by the parliamentary Labour party review committee 10 days ago on the state of the Labour party? It reveals that many Labour Members practise the cult of the individual, are rowdy and ill-disciplined and have poor morale, and that it would help if they improved their parliamentary performance. Does he agree that the Labour party needs not more money but better leadership?
Mr. Winnick : Leaving aside the snide and sarcastic comment that we have just heard, does the Leader of the House agree that it would be wise for all Conservative Members carefully to bear in mind Short money for the official Opposition, considering that they will be filling our places after the next general election?
Mr. Wakeham : If it comes to snide remarks, the whole House knows where to look for experience. The House will continue to provide Short money for the official Opposition for many years to come, and the hon. Gentleman will be a recipient of some of it.
Mr. Wakeham : Yes, Sir. A number of hon. Members, including the hon. Gentleman himself, have raised the issue of access for mass lobbies and for visitors to the Line of Route in correspondence with me, during business questions, and in early-day motions.
Mr. Banks : It is about time that we started doing something to make members of the public more welcome in their Houses of Parliament. Frankly, hon. Members seem to do all that they can to put them off coming here. Why can we not now have a proper inquiry into ways that we can improve access and facilities for members of the public, so that they can come here without having to have a Member of Parliament take them to get a cup of tea and a sandwich? It is about time that we made people welcome in this place. They pay for it.
Mr. Wakeham : These matters are looked at from time to time, but it is appropriate that I should repeat once again that the use of Westminster Hall is a matter for those authorities in whom responsibility for it is vested. The principles that govern its use require the Hall to be used only for parliamentary functions, royal occasions, a ceremony in honour of a head of state or an event with a
Column 682clear historical connection with Parliament. As my predecessor said on one occasion, one of the attractions of Westminster Hall is how little it is used.
Mr. Andrew MacKay : As my right hon. Friend acknowledged, concern has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House for some considerable time because although members of the public wait outside the Norman Porch entrance of the other place, often for many hours in the rain, no canopy has been erected for them, although there are often parties of schoolchildren. It is inexcusable that there has been such a terrific delay in erecting such a canopy. If it happened outside the precincts of the Palace, we should all be complaining loudly. Can something be done about this?
Mr. Wakeham : As I have said before, these matters are the subject of inquiry, and there are discussions going on with the other place. The Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee has made a number of proposals, which are being investigated. It is hoped that it will be possible to respond positively in time for some improvement to be made before the onset of winter.
Mr. Simon Hughes : I welcome the current investigations. Will the Leader of the House consider two things? The first is monitoring, over a short period, the time that it takes on different days for lobbies to get through the security system and into the place where they are meeting, whether that is the Grand Committee Room or the Central Lobby. Secondly, on the days when there are lobbies, could they be given the exclusive use of one of the channels of security clearance so that people on other business can have a clear passage through the other?
Mr. Wakeham : Some 163 hours, including 14 hours in Standing Committee and 11 hours on ministerial statements. This total excludes time spent on European Community matters during Question Time and during the business statement, for which timing could be calculated only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Wakeham : I am not convinced of that. In fact, I am convinced of rather the opposite--I do not believe that the time is as well spent as it should be. That is why I am pleased that the Select Committee on Procedure is looking at these matters, and that is why I have had a number of helpful discussions with the Select Committee on European Legislation. I hope that all this will enable us to bring before the House proposals to deal with these matters in a rather more satisfactory manner.
Column 683European elections, is it not time for this Parliament to transform its attitude towards the rights of Members of the European Parliament when they visit Westminster? We may have discussed these matters on previous occasions, before that famous vote was cast, but is it not time that we changed our attitudes and considered bringing Members of the European Parliament into our proceedings--[ Hon. Members :-- "No."]--not giving them a vote, but allowing them the right to attend our Committees, where on occasion they might have the right to speak?
Mr. Wakeham : If the hon. Gentleman thinks that his party receiving 14.5 per cent. of the total vote of the electorate is a strong performance, I should be interested to know what he thinks is a weak performance. As to access by Members of the European Parliament to the Palace of Westminster, the hon. Gentleman will remember that one of my hon. Friends moved an amendment during a debate that we had recently to make a modest improvement in that situation. I accepted the amendment, and the House passed it, but against strong opposition from Labour Members. They showed clearly that they would oppose any further suggestion of increased rights. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman raises the matter at a parliamentary Labour party meeting to see how he gets on there.
Sir Dudley Smith : Given that media coverage of the European Parliament is most inadequate, surely it is vital that debates on important Community matters in this House should be in prime time rather than in the far reaches of the night, which happens so often nowadays.
Mr. Wakeham : The question of what we do in prime time is subject to a lot of competition. There is no more prime time in the day that I can find and something must disappear if we are to find more prime time for European matters. I believe that it is possible for the existing time to be better used. That is what I am seeking to achieve, to, I hope, the general satisfaction of everyone in the House.
66. Mr. Allen : To ask the Lord President of the Council what steps he will take to make provision for a sound or television link from the Chamber to the offices of those Members and Officers who request it.
Mr. Wakeham : There are no plans to go beyond the recommendations contained in the report on televising proceedings of the House which advocated the installation of a monitor screen in each of the Division Lobbies.
Mr. Allen : You, Mr. Speaker, quite rightly, have the right to have a sound feed to your Rooms, as do your Deputies, IRN, the BBC and the press lobby. Could those rights be extended to Members of this House?
Mr. Wakeham : Obviously they could be, but I must tell the hon. Gentleman that such a decision would be contentious. The unanimous opinion of the Select Committee on televising proceedings of the House was that any such system would tend to encourage Members away from the Chamber, would be intrusive to neighbouring Members and costly to install. I am afraid that that is why the hon. Gentleman received a negative reply when he wrote to me about this matter. My reply represented the unanimous view of the Committee.
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