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Column 590question was from the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). He asked a customarily frank question :
"Why does not the Foreign Secretary admit that although there are two tenable logical positions that the Government could have adopted, there is only one tenable principle position? The two tenable logical positions are either that everyone should be given the right to come to Britain or that no one should. The one tenable principle position is that everyone should be given the right to come to Britain.--[ Official Report, 20 December 1989 ; Vol. 164, c. 376.]
It is clear that there is a gulf of confusion between the Labour leadership and the vox populi below the Gangway.
On 17 January 1990, the questioning of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave the House and the nation no glimmer of enlightenment about the real policy of the Labour party for the purpose of reassuring those in Hong Kong whose continued residence there is vital to the colony's continuing prosperity. My right hon. Friend announced a package of measures on 20 December which was intended to anchor those who have vital professional, educational, administrative, managerial and entrepreneurial skills in the colony. He has done so because in 1984, Britain and China signed the solemn and far-sighted joint declaration, which lays the foundation of the one nation-two systems principle for the future of Hong Kong beyond 1997. That joint declaration envisaged Hong Kong in 1997 as the bustling, thriving and successful commercial and trading centre that it was at the time of the signing of the declaration in 1984. Over the five years since the agreement was signed there has been an erosion of confidence in the territory. That erosion was given a great boost by the brutal repression of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in Peking on 5 June 1989 and has led to a haemorrhage of talent, as my right hon. Friend described it on20 December. Those leaving have been those with the most transferable skills and greatest experience--the very people that Hong Kong can least afford to lose.
I understand that in major enterprises in the private and public sectors in which local management had been installed, companies have been forced to promote people beyond their skill and experience because so many of those better equipped to manage the enterprises have sought to establish residence in Canada, Australia and the United States.
I give my absolute support to the package introduced by my right hon. Friend. It is crucial that Hong Kong's citizens be reassured so that they may continue in their vital tasks until and beyond 1997. My only anxiety is that the number of 50,000 households to be granted citizenship may be insufficient to provide the necessary anchor for all whose support is necessary.
When I asked him the final question on Wednesday, my right hon. Friend was unable to allay my fears, and I urge him to hold further discussions with our right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, so that he may establish an option to increase the 50,000, if that proves necessary.
It is clear that my right hon. Friend's package has jolted the Government of the People's Republic of China. The intemperate comments of Lu Ping on Wednesday--that Hong Kong's residents with British passports will not have the right to British consular protection after 1997--prove that my right hon. Friend's package has already begun to have the desired effect of bringing the negotiators of the PRC back to pragmatic good sense--
Column 591Mr. Simon Hughes : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has the second motion on the Order Paper, and he is speaking to it, not to this one
The gerontocracy that rules China has realised just how great would be the PRC's loss if Hong Kong's economy collapsed and its pre-eminent position as a trading centre were lost. The words of the right hon. Member for Gorton prove to me that he has allied himself and the Labour leadership with China's aged rulers in seeking to intimidate my right hon. Friend and dissuade him from introducing the necessary legislation to implement his package of citizenship. That a few of my right hon. and hon. Friends take a similar line is a source of sadness to me. They underestimate the need for us to honour our part of the joint declaration and to seek to keep buoyant the economy of Hong Kong. If that economy collapses because the managers and professionals leave to establish residence elsewhere, there will be an exodus from Hong Kong which will make the emigration of Vietnamese boat people pale into insignificance. The world will look to Britain to help those fleeing Hong Kong in those circumstances.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has my support, circumscribed only by my concern that the number of passports may not be enough. My right hon. Friend should have the support of the Opposition, but the Opposition are prepared to abandon Hong Kong and its population to the old men of Peking. They seek to cloak their embarrassment by urging a swifter pace or the democratisation of Hong Kong's Legislative Council. The party of the trade union bloc urges greater democracy for people for whom democracy has never been a natural state and of whom only a tiny vociferous minority have aspired to more democracy. If Hong Kong's economy collapses before 1997 for lack of management and enterprise, and if the population leave in their hundreds of thousands--even millions--it will be irrelevant whether the LegCo is fully democratically elected, partially democratically elected or wholly appointed. In such circumstances, that council would have little or no power to shape events. Unless the House gives my right hon. Friend the power to issue those passports, the debate about increasing the proportion of the Legislative Council that will be elected democratically will be increasingly seen as a meaningless cul de sac.
The policy of the Opposition on Her Majesty's colony of Hong Kong and her subjects there is misguided and mischievous at best and destructive and dishonourable at worst. The people of Hong Kong will judge Labour's attitude towards the colony just as the people of Britain will judge Labour's attitude to Britain on today's debate. The people of Hong Kong and of Britain owe my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne a debt of gratitude for his choice of subject in the debate.
Two years ago, I initiated a debate and chose as my subject the future of the Property Services Agency. Because of his considerable ministerial experience, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne was able to give a dazzling performance in support of my modest opening speech. I like to think that our joint exposure of the
Column 592inadequacies of the PSA led directly, or made a substantial contribution to, the welcome Bill that is in Committee and which will bring the PSA into the private sector where it will be exposed to the full rigours of the market.
My hon. Friend's intervention in my debate was crucial, and I have no doubt that the great service that he has rendered to the House and the nation in today's debate will be similarly memorable and influential in persuading the electorate of the folly of voting for a party that would wrap up the tawdry and discredited policies of the 1960s and 1970s in a parcel with pretty paper. I hope that my hon. Friend welcomes my brief contribution.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : I shall be brief. I congratulate the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) on winning the ballot for debate and choosing the subject. I should have liked an amendment to the motion because our policies merit scrutiny "and implementation." Perhaps we will get to that at some stage.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne is such a respectable Member that I would not dream of alluding tomad "Gow" disease. However, the Government are increasingly infected by mad cow disease. They are flailing about and are desperately out of touch. They go around saying, "Bully for me" and beef up their failures to make them look like successes. They should be put out of their misery at the earliest opportunity.
Tory policies are massively unpopular. For example, the poll tax will bankrupt people and it is unjust because a millionaire will pay the same as a midwife. Poverty has reached an outrageous level. The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux report illustrates the degree of misery because it shows that 49 per cent. of pensioners and 23 per cent. of sick and disabled clients are refused grants from the social fund. It shows that 81 per cent. of the unemployed and 21 per cent. of single parents are also refused loans, and that 80 per cent. of young people are refused any help at all.
Child benefits have been frozen and the benefit has been cut for 16 to 17- year-olds. There have been cuts in the National Health Service which faces deficits and waiting lists, and there is a shortage of life-saving equipment. There are teacher shortages. In terms of our environment, we have the scandals of unclean drinking water and sewage-ridden bathing beaches. Profits come first and that is why the Government will not do anything about cleaning up the environment and will not put in public money. There is squalor on London Regional Transport.
Money continues to be spent on defence despite world trends in disarmament. The Government will spend an extra £1 billion per annum over the next three years even though the defence budget is already inflated. That money could be used in the National Health Service to help our people. Whole groups of people such as ambulance men have been victimised. The Government have refused to pay them a decent wage and have ruled out arbitration. They cast a slur on them by calling them professional drivers and they ignore the public will, because 85 per cent. or more of the population support the ambulance men. That has been accompanied by Conservative authoritarianism, with attacks on trade unions, local government, the Church, the media, and the BBC. Even Prince Charles has been ridiculed.
Column 593The Government have made an absolute mess of the economy, with high interest rates, high unemployment, high inflation, record balance of payments deficits, and a decline in manufacturing. North sea oil revenue has also been wasted. There is a desperate need to get rid of the Government and to implement Labour policies. I do not agree with everything in my party's policy review--such as the official party view on Trident--but there is much in it that is worth while. It promises investment in education and skills in industry and in our infrastructure-- communications, transport and sewers--environmental protection and improvements in welfare, the National Health Service, housing, and pensions. There will be a national minimum wage, and a vast improvement in health and safety at work. There will also be better policies for women and for child care. A clean water Bill will be introduced.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) asked the crucial question of where the money will come from to pay for those policies. The answer is that it will come from rearranging Government spending priorities, and in particular by defence cuts--through implementing the Labour party conference resolution to link defence spending with the level of our gross domestic product. We shall also take back all the money that the Tories have given to the rich over the years, and we shall return to this country capital that has been invested abroad. Labour will use the skills of our people by ensuring full employment. We shall create more wealth instead of pursuing a policy of high unemployment as a tool against workers and wages.
Not only policies but values will change under Labour. The Conservative Government are interested in money--money first, second and last. Labour is more interested in caring values that respect the community and encourage co-operation, the development of the family, better education, and improved cultural understanding. Labour will also promote the environment and a better quality of life. We shall improve democracy and decency--another value which has been lost under the Government. I shall return to those points on another occasion. Meanwhile, the Government have fallen a long way short, and we must get rid of them.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) spoke of the need to return to decent values, and I echo his sentiments. However, he believes that the Government should instil decency in people and that society is controlled by the state. My belief is that moral systems make people decent and encourage them to treat one another responsibly. The Government have been trying to develop such systems of morality for the past 10 years, and to make people responsible for their actions by giving them a choice in the first place.
One cannot have responsibility unless one has choice as well. Unfortunately, the whole of Labour's policy document is about taking choice away from people and creating an irresponsible society. Labour does not believe that the ordinary individual is capable of making decisions for himself and for his family without the state taking control.
Today, we glimpsed the glitter of the package that the Labour party has carefully promoted over the past 18 months, but which is gradually being unravelled. Inside
Column 594the packaging, we find that designer-wear Socialism is really the same old tatty underclothes. Labour has not changed. Right hon. and hon. Members who sat through the 10 January debate on the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill saw the real Labour party in action. The Opposition defended monopoly trade unionism, opposed the construction of ports to allow better imports and exports, and demanded a siege economy and import controls.
At one moment Labour says that it wants lower taxes, but whenever the Opposition have an opportunity to vote for them, Labour votes against. The party supports every inflationary wage demand that confronts the economy, and in every strike its supporters can be seen on the picket lines. The reality is that Labour does not believe in its own policy document. A small number of the members of Labour's Front Bench cobbled together a package whose only purpose is to ensure that Labour wins the next general election by abandoning the principles for which it once stood.
The Leader of the Opposition has been contrasted to the Prime Minister. I am glad that that contrast has been made because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has stood for principle during the past 10 years. On occasion the Government have been unpopular because they fight for what they believe in.
For the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour party, no principle is so important that it cannot be abandoned, no policy so sacrosanct that it cannot be overthrown, and no sacred cow so holy that it cannot be slaughtered if it means electoral advantage at the next election. I do not believe that the great British public will be taken in at the next election by a party which is prepared to abandon anything and everything to win a few votes.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has introduced this debate because it has exposed the tawdry package which represents Labour party policies.
It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
That, at the sitting on Wednesday 24th January, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1)(b) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business), the Motions in the name of Mr. Secretary Walker relating to Local Government Finance (Wales) may be proceeded with, though opposed, for one and a half hours after the first of them has been entered upon, and Mr. Speaker shall at the end of that period put any Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on those Motions. That, at the sitting on Thursday 25th January,--
(1) notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Orders Nos. 14 (Exempted business) and 15 (Prayers against statutory instruments, &c., (negative procedure)), Mr. Speaker shall not later than Seven o'clock put any Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the names of Mr. Secretary Rifkind relating to Housing (Scotland) and Local Government (Scotland) and of Mr. Neil Kinnock relating to Housing (Scotland) ; and
(2) notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business), the Motions in the names of the Prime Minister relating to Shipping (Dangerous Goods) and of Mr. Neil Kinnock relating to Merchant Shipping may be proceeded with, though opposed, for one and a half hours after the first of them has been entered upon ; and, if proceedings thereon have not previously been disposed of, Mr. Speaker shall at the end of that
Column 595period put the Question already proposed from the Chair ; and no further such Motion shall be made-- [Mr. Chapman.]
Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Chapman.]
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury) : The east London assessment study is a report commissioned by the Department of Transport from the private consultants Ove Arup to consider traffic and transport issues in an area of north and east London covered roughly by the boroughs of Haringey, Islington and Hackney. The report was published on 14 December 1989, just before Christmas, and it presents a range of different traffic schemes, among which are a number of favoured options that the Department of Transport has put before the House and before my constituents for their comments. The favoured package contains a number of public transport options--for roads, rail and Tube--and a major proposal for a large-scale new highway coming from the A1 into the City of London. I should declare a personal interest, because if that highway goes ahead, during the course of its construction my home, along with several hundred other homes, will be destroyed.
I live in a street of Victorian terrace houses which survived the blitz. However, it looks as though it will not survive Cecil Parkinson. A number of people in the street have lived there for the past 40 years. Their house is their home, but it will disappear because of the broad sweep of a brown line on a map by transport planners. No Government Department should undertake that course lightly. Only the most pressing regional or national requirements should justify such proposals. The proposals put forward by the Government do not meet that test.
We should welcome one or two aspects of the report, which puts forward some extremely good options for public transport--for example, the long-awaited proposal, which was floated some time ago in the central London rail study, for the construction of a Chelsea to Hackney Tube line. That would be of great benefit to the residents of Hackney, and to those of my constituents who live on the eastern side of Islington.
The east-west cross rail link between Liverpool street and Paddington is another proposal whose implementation is desperately needed, as is the upgrading and improving of the Northern line. Anyone who travels on that creaking, inefficient part of the Underground network will know that that is essential.
All those proposals are very welcome, but what the Government do not tell us in their response to the study is how they are to be paid for. They have made no commitment to fund the work ; on the contrary, last year's Autumn Statement suggested that money would be available for only one London public transport option, the extension of the Jubilee line to docklands, which the central London rail study regarded as a thoroughly bad option. We fear that the bad option will be constructed and the good option--the one that ordinary people want--will not. We want a commitment from the Government that they will provide the funding for the public transport improvements that we all want. My constituents and I fear that we shall otherwise end up with a road scheme that we do not want and none of the public transport improvements that we do want.
Column 597The proposed new road will run from Archway, along Holloway road, across to Caledonian road and thence to York way, down to King's Cross, up Pentonville road, through the Angel, on to Old street and finally to Aldgate. It will be a new highway corridor running from the A1 and M1 into the heart of the City. I can tell the Minister that the vast majority of my constituents do not want it--not just those who will lose their homes, although that is bad enough, and between 300 and 600 will be in that category--but those who will stay put. If a major highway is dumped on their doorstep, they will suffer noise, disturbance, pollution and disruption of their environment. Thousands will be affected. The new road will run right beside the Caledonian road estate, the Boston estate, the Bemerton estate, York way court, the Weston rise estate, Angel house and Kestrel house. The Government must realise that the proposal is deeply unpopular, and I hope that that will become clear to them during the public consultation exercise that is now under way.
Apart from ruining people's lives, the new road is wrong in principle. By creating a new fast corridor into the centre of London, the Government will end up attracting more traffic into the heart of London when they should be doing precisely the opposite--restraining traffic from coming in in the first place. For what purpose are they doing this? Simply to knock 10 minutes off commuters' car journeys. In my view, that is not worth the destruction that will be caused. We need a two-pronged policy of real and immediate improvements in London's public transport network, along with traffic restraint to keep unnecessary vehicles out. That option has been put forward by the boroughs concerned--for instance, in the Haringey blueprint. The consultation period for the east London assessment study is far too short. The report was published on 14 December. Comments have to be received by 28 February. That is a period of two and a half months, with the first half month entirely taken up by the Christmas period. The problem has been made even worse by the fact that the report has not been made available to many of the people who will be affected by the proposals. Quite a number of local residents and local community groups, nominated London Members who will be affected and who ought to receive copies of the report, have not received it. Libraries that were promised public information displays have not received them. The technical report on the study will not be available until a month after the consultation period ends on 28 February. Departmental representatives will attend only one meeting in each borough, despite an early commitment that they would attend all public meetings. The availability of the information on which comments can be made is grossly inadequate. Surely, therefore, the consultation period ought to be extended beyond 28 February so that people can obtain the information, think about it carefully and then make considered comments to the Department about it. Doubtless the Department will say that that would increase the period of planning blight. Those of us, including myself, who are affected by blight would prefer comments to be made properly and in large numbers to the Department rather than that the consultation period should be drastically curtailed.
I ask the Minister, first, to extend the deadline for consultation ; second, to give a firm commitment that money will be made available for the public transport
Column 598improvements that we all want ; and, third, to scrap here and now a new road scheme that no one wants, that will destroy homes and whole neighbourhoods and that will not solve the traffic problems of London as a whole. I urge the Minister, as passionately as I possibly can, on behalf of thousands of my constituents, to think again about what his Department is doing and to scrap, once and for all, this major new road proposal that we neither want nor need.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : I am obliged, as are many other people in Islington, to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) for what he has said in the debate. Last night I attended a meeting of the Holloway neighbourhood traffic group, where 250 people were packed into a room that was designed to hold fewer than 100. An overflow room was then filled up, after which we had to turn people away. Such was the interest and concern. No representative from the Department of Transport or the consultants turned up. However, local authority representatives, the Member of Parliament and local residents were there to discuss the issue. It was a sober and serious discussion. Much genuine concern was expressed about why that community should be torn apart by the construction of a huge highway, which could result in the loss of up to 600 homes and as many as 2,000 people being displaced. The Government's strategy for London calmly predicts a 30 per cent. increase in commuter car journeys during the next decade. The Government calmly say that they will continually underfund London Regional Transport and British Rail. They insist that all new public transport development should be self- financing. Calculations have been made showing that all the public transport options in all the assessment studies will lead to a fare increase of roughly 46 per cent. That is fundamentally wrong.
The Government have failed to address the problem of car-borne commuters. Car-borne commuters moving in and out of central London make up less than 20 per cent. of the total number of people commuting in and out of central London ; circular commuter journeys represent slightly more. The Government propose to spend up to £4.2 billion on the construction of major road schemes around London to serve a minority of the population and bring more vehicles into central London. So far there has been a woeful silence about how much money they intend to put into public transport to finance bus services that need improving, the rail schemes that are necessary, new Tube lines and improvements to existing ones.
I hope that the Government recognise that many people are concerned. There is a lack of London-wide debate because we lack a London-wide authority. When the Government abolished the Greater London council they took away the forum in which elected representatives could discuss serious planning matters. I hope that the Government will be prepared at least to engage in public debates with those of us who are concerned about what is happening to London and give some credibility to the fine work that Haringey borough council has done to promote the blueprint for transport in London which shows how resources could be directed to improve the transport needs of the people of London.
The local effect of the road will be the destruction of a large number of houses. At the moment there are plans for a tunnel where the Archway road passes Highgate station and plans are being considered for a bored tunnel down to
Column 599Finsbury Park, the construction of a new route to King's Cross and the widening of the junction at Highbury corner to send more traffic eastwards to Hackney, Tower Hamlets and docklands. It is a catastrophic scheme, and I urge the Government to extend the consultation period way beyond 28 February, provide details of the schemes so that we know which roads will be closed and which will be kept open and to recognise that the folly of road building in London has now been exposed for what it is. We need a strategy that relies on restraining powers and improving and encouraging public transport.
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) : I want to say on behalf of my constituents in Hackney that, although the terrible shadow of new road building in Hackney has been lifted, we are aware that if the road schemes are implemented in east London, in the long term that will increase the pressure for new through roads in Hackney. That is why we are prepared to continue campaigning alongside other people in east London.
Hackney is the only London borough without a Tube station. We cannot emphasise how important it is for us for the Ministry quickly to come forward with agreement and finance for the new
Chelsea-Hackney line. If there is one thing that I should like to achieve as a Member of Parliament for the borough, it is a Tube station for Hackney.
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Atkins) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) on raising this matter on the Adjournment with the style and ability by which we have come to recognise him. I understand the concerns that he has expressed. He may well already know, and if he does not the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) will tell him, that I know the area very well indeed. I was born and bred there, I was educated there, and I was on Haringey council for about eight years. My family have been connected with Islington and Hornsey for more than 150 years, so I know the area extremely well and, therefore, I appreciate all the points that he made and the geography to which he refers.
I should like to get one thing crystal clear. The proposals that are the subject of the assessment studies have nothing to do with the Government as yet. They are not Government proposals. Let us get that absolutely clear. They are options produced by consultants whose work has been going on since 1984 or 1985--a long time before I took my present job. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have merely issued in the document that we have prepared for consultation purposes our preliminary indications of what might not be subject to further consultations, in addition to those options that have already been dropped.
Mr. Chris Smith : Does the Minister agree that the Department of Transport gave Ove Arup its remit? The assumptions on which it based its traffic models were given by the Department of Transport. They included a prediction of a 50 per cent. rise in the real cost of public
Column 600transport, but an increase of only 15 per cent. in the real cost of private car transport. Those assumptions were fed to the consultants by the Department.
Mr. Atkins : Quite right, the taxpayer. We commissioned the documents, but the proposals and discussions on them have been controversial, and doubtless will remain so. The fact remains that those are the consultants' proposals. Since I have been responsible for these matters with the Secretary of State, I have said that we shall listen closely to the consultations before making any decisions on what will be our proposals, which will then be subject to the sort of criticisms that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury is mistakenly making of the Department at present.
I understand, not only from my erstwhile knowledge of London but from the concerns that have been expressed from across the political spectrum, that the options originally canvassed for the study that affects not only the constituency of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury but other parts of London were very unpopular. Where I can, I have sought to defuse some of those concerns. The hon. Members for Islington, South and Finsbury and for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) were gracious enough to accept that, as some of the options have been turned down, that has relieved some of the concerns and worries of people in various parts of London. I re-emphasise that these are not our proposals.
The consultation period has been going on for far too long. I have received the impression from consultations with people who know London better than I do that that is so. We must put a stop to that as soon as possible by accepting or rejecting options. That is why I determined--and I make no apology for so doing--that the period of consultation should end on 28 February. Discussion on the studies has been going on for a long time-- arguably too long. The date that I have set gives more than enough time.
I draw to the attention of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury the fact that the Department has been criticised--this may not be true of him, but it may be true of the hon. Member for Islington, North-- for not making copies of the consultants' report available to groups until recently. We received only days ago a list of groups that the hon. Member for Islington, North wished
Mr. Atkins : May I finish the point? We received only the other day a list of groups in the hon. Gentleman's constituency--I presume that there must be groups in other parts of Islington--and we sent them copies of the report as soon as possible. We said throughout that we would send them only to properly constituted groups, and we took the advice of hon. Members about which groups were properly constituted. We were not prepared to send them to individuals.
Column 601Mr. Corbyn : I am glad that the list is at last being sent out. The Minister should contact the Secretary of State. My office sent the list to the Secretary of State's office as soon as it was requested. It later transpired that the Minister had not received it, so we sent him a copy. It is not my fault that the Minister of State does not speak to the Secretary of State.
Mr. Atkins : First, I am not the Minister of State. Secondly, I talk to him frequently. The reports were not received by my Department and so I could not send them out. However, we should gloss over this matter because there is no point in delaying the debate. I want to address some of the more fundamental issues. When we have received notification from London Members across the political spectrum we have quickly sent out the reports. If the hon. Gentleman talked to some of his colleagues he would find that they had received them. That is certainly what I have heard from Opposition Members. I am clearly not in a position--I wish that I was--to make decisions off the cuff at the Dispatch Box about the sort of resources that will, or will not, be made available. If I could do so I would have more power than I am entitled to have. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury and his hon. Friends must not, and cannot, assume that we shall not make resources available. Insofar as I can predict such matters, bearing in mind the Cabinet, it is my determination that the public transport and road options--subject to the consultation--should each be as likely to receive a resource allocation and, therefore, have the chance of being constructed. Let there be no misconception that, automatically, we shall not fund the public transport options any more than the road transport ones. We shall consider the views expressed at the consultation. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury is an active and well- respected constituency Member. If he is right, and I am sure that he is, the points he made, which were represented to him by his constituents, will be taken into account. It may be that his representations, and those of his constituents, will be the deciding factor in ensuring that the road will not be built. However, I cannot predict that until we hear people's views at the end of the consultation period.
Mention has been made of the Haringey blueprint. I know a little bit about Haringey and I am automatically suspicious of what its council has to say, particularly these days.
Haringey's blueprint is being advanced as a serious contribution to the debate. But it is no more or less than a mixture of old ideas, strung together with no facts to back them up. The figures quoted are fictional--I
Column 602emphasise that word. For example, they ignore the aspirations of ordinary people to have independent means of transport and put forward the mistaken belief that improvements in public transport alone will solve traffic problems. The financial calculations do not add up. For example, it quotes new road and maintenance costs of £1, 000 million a year when, in truth, they are only £350 million a year. It claims that heavy traffic causes road repairs of £500 million a year and that £800 million a year is spent on subsidising company cars. Those figures are simply untrue.
Ms. Abbott : I am not in a position to bandy figures. However, I hope that the Minister will not let a certain party political animus--old rivalries and rancour about Haringey council--affect his view of the blueprint. I cannot answer for every detail of the blueprint, but the Minister must believe me when I say that it represents the feelings of many people in the area. The broad outline of the blueprint genuinely reflects the feelings of many people in Hackney, Islington and Haringey about the answers to the transport problems in London.
Mr. Atkins : I must correct the hon. Lady : I have no rancour about my days in Haringey. I enjoyed myself immensely and had many friends across the political divide. Regrettably, many of those friends on the controlling side in Haringey were thrown out by some of those who now run the council, and I do not have so many friends among the new council members. However, the council needs to get its act together in relation to the blueprint to which many hon. Members have referred. It needs to try to get its facts right.
I am more concerned about what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said, because he speaks with considerable authority in the House and I respect his opinions, although I may often disagree with them. He made some fair points about his constituents' concerns. I have undertaken today--I reinforce this--to ensure that his concerns, and those of his constituents, about the road, or roads, and finance for the public transport options will be carefully considered. I know the area and I appreciate the problems, whether they involve the Archway road at the top-- that was a problem when I was on Haringey council and it still is--or the bottom end of the hon. Gentleman's constituency.
I shall listen most carefully to all that the hon. Gentleman and his constituents have to say. At the end of the consultation period, the Department of Transport will decide on its proposals. The hon. Gentleman will then be able to attack me fairly--or unfairly--about what the Government are doing. However, at present they are merely options and not proposals, and I hope that his expressions of concern and those of his hon. Friends, and Conservative Members, will be taken into account.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at Three o'clock.
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