Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Howard : I dare say that, whenever the statement was made, we would have had a similar reaction from the Opposition. Even the hon. Gentleman, with all his customary ingenuity, cannot find a criticism to make about the substance of the statement.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West) : I welcome this imaginative scheme. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that its beauty is that it is locally planned, with education authorities and training and enterprise councils working together to provide the training needed in the immediate locality? It is flexible, so that the training can be taken in work, at college or in the evening.

Mr. Howard : My hon. Friend is absolutely right ; both the general flexibility, to which he referred, and the extent to which the training provided will respond to local circumstances--local jobs and the need to provide the skills necessary in each local area--will mean that it will be warmly received outside the House.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie) : Is the Secretary of State aware that £12 million for Britain is less than one third of the cost of providing training this year in Scotland? The Secretary of State for Scotland has recently been saying that he is in control of training within Scotland. Will the Secretary of State for Employment confirm that the scheme is to be introduced in Scotland in exactly the same way as the rest of Britain and that there is nothing distinctive about it there? If there is something distinctive about it, what is it?

Mr. Howard : Local enterprise companies in Scotland will be able to bid to put forward a pilot scheme and operate it in the same way as training and enterprise councils in England. We shall consider such bids on the same basis as we consider bids from England and Wales. I am sure that Scotland will wish to play its full part in the initiative.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central) : Is not the key to success in the scheme the size of the resources that the Government are prepared to allocate to it? Do not we judge the Government's record by what they have already allocated to youth training and the decisions that they have set out in their expenditure plans? Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is still the Government's intention to cut £240 million from the youth training budget between this financial year and 1992 and 1993? Will he confirm also that it is still his intention to cut the amount of money available for each trainee's training from £50 a week to £33? Will he give a guarantee that any youngster wishing to follow any training course will have the money made available to him or her either by the employer or by the TEC, or will the money available to the TEC be cash- limited so that certain youngsters will be disqualified from using the freedom that the right hon. and learned Gentleman claims under the credit?

Mr. Howard : I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber yesterday to listen to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair). If he had heard the hon. Gentleman's speech, he would appreciate how

Column 221

absurd it is for him to say that the only criterion is the money that the Government are putting forward. The hon. Member for Sedgefield reaffirmed the Labour party's commitment to a jobs tax, to a compulsory payroll tax and to the sanctions which he said that the Labour party would apply to employers. How can that be said while at the same time the hon. Gentleman suggests that the only thing that matters is the money which the taxpayer is contributing towards the cost of training?

I said yesterday--I have repeated it today--that employers are making an increasing contribution towards the cost of youth training. The only difference is that, under this Government, they are doing it rapidly and voluntarily, while under the Labour party's proposals they would be obliged to do it as part of a payroll tax. There will be ample, and more than adequate recourses available to ensure the success of these proposals. We are content to see them judged by the monitoring to which the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, referred and by the monitoring to which the Department will subject them. They represent an exciting new step forward. They will be warmly welcomed everywhere except on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Nellist : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : I call Mr. Secretary Parkinson to make another statement. I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point of order afterwards.

Mr. Nellist : My point of order is on the first statement.

Mr. Speaker : I shall take it after the next statement.

Column 222

London (Traffic)

4.13 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Cecil Parkinson) : With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about transport in London.

On 14 December I published a discussion document, "Traffic in London", on traffic management and parking control, together with consultation papers on the four London assessment studies. I asked for comments by 28 February and I am now ready to announce my conclusions. I want to tackle the problems urgently and end the uncertainty as quickly as possible.

We already have in hand a major programme of transport investment in London. In the next three years substantial sums are to be spent on improving the capital's public transport. I have already approved a programme of investment of £2.2 billion over the next three years by London Regional Transport. It includes extending the Jubilee line to south London and docklands, completely upgrading the Central line, increasing the capacity and appearance of the most congested underground stations, modernising underground rolling stock, increasing the capacity of the Docklands light railway and extending it to Bank and to Beckton. Network SouthEast plans to spend £1.2 billion over the next three years. There will be 1,200 new coaches coming into use, giving the growing number of passengers a better service. Stations will be improved and some of them lengthened to provide more capacity. Work is in hand to improve rail links to London's principal airports.

I am pressing ahead with my £1.9 billion programme to improve London's trunk roads. Priority is being given to the north circular road and better access to east London. In addition, the boroughs have 41 major schemes worth some £445 million and the London Docklands development corporation plans to spend over £550 million on new highway developments inside docklands.

The consultants' studies were intended to establish what more could be done in four particular areas. The response to consultation has been very full. I shall be publishing an analysis shortly. The main points are clear. First, there was strong support for improvements to public transport. Secondly, there was widespread opposition to most of the major new road schemes suggested by the consultants. Thirdly, there was support for proposals to slow traffic in residential areas, both to improve safety and to deter rat-running. Fourthly, there was general recognition of the need for better traffic management but concern about the level of traffic and a wish to see higher priority given to buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

A number of the most important public transport schemes identified in the assessment studies are now under active examination. We are evaluating urgently with LRT and BR the proposed Chelsea-Hackney underground line and east-west cross-rail. Subject to the satisfactory outcome of the work, I expect to authorise the introduction of a Bill for one of these lines in November 1990. LRT is appraising the extensions of the Docklands light railway to Lewisham and of the east London line northwards to Dalston and Highbury and southward to east Dulwich. It is taking forward studies of the Croydon light rail system with the borough and BR. Funds to begin upgrading the Northern line are already in LRT's investment programme.

Column 223

I have asked the chairman of LRT to consider further the case for the extension of the Northern line from Kennington southwards to Streatham and Crystal Palace and for a further extension of the east London line to Balham. I am asking BR to give further consideration to service improvements and new stations suggested by the consultants.

I have decided not to proceed with the major road schemes recommended by the studies. I have rejected the western environmental improvement route and the idea of a tunnel from Chiswick to Wandsworth. I have also ruled out schemes on the south circular such as those at Stanstead road and Brownhill road, and the tunnels under Clapham common, Dulwich park, Tulse Hill and Forest Hill. My Department will press ahead with limited improvements along the south circular, and A3 West hill to improve conditions in Wandsworth. In south London, we shall not pursue new routes across Chipstead valley or along the Wandle valley. We shall take forward proposals for improving the M23-A23 junction, for a Hooley bypass, and for widening and junction improvements between Coulsdon and Thornton Heath. I have ruled out new roads at Norbury and Streatham, but I propose to consult the local authorities on establishing an improvement line so that new development is set back to allow eventual widening.

In the east London study area, a new route from Holloway road to King's Cross, the Archway road scheme and a tunnel under Parkland walk have been ruled out. I shall be taking forward improvements at the Archway roundabout and Highbury corner. I shall be discussing with the local authorities concerned ways of taking forward improvement of the inner ring road from King's Cross to Aldgate. These road improvements will cost some £250 million. Normal statutory procedures will apply. They will bring worthwhile gains in safety and reliability. The new road schemes will be designed in a way that is sympathetic to the local environment. We shall discuss with the local authorities the scope for associated measures to improve safety on local roads. I shall consider suitable measures for grant aid. We shall pay close attention to provision for pedestrians and cyclists. My Department will work with the boroughs to develop a network for longer-distance cycling in London.

I am going ahead with my proposal for the appointment of a traffic director and for a priority route system--red routes--for the efficient movement of through traffic, especially buses. This will be based on the primary route network, as proposed in "Traffic in London" but subject to further consultation on the exact composition. Discussions with the Metropolitan police and the Home Office about the resources needed to enforce the red routes, as well as to maintain an adequate level of cover elsewhere, are under way. There will also be further consultation on the level of penalties for illegal parking. I am planning, with the co-operation of the boroughs concerned, to start a pilot scheme covering the A1 from Highgate to the Angel, round the inner ring road to Aldgate, and on to the A13 Commercial road. The purpose of the pilot scheme will be to work out the practical details, such as how to cater for the needs of local residents and traders, and how the benefits can be used to help buses and introduce traffic calming in the surrounding

Column 224

area. We shall be consulting widely with the local authorities, the police, bus operators and representatives of local residents and businesses.

Although I recognise that the local authorities would like to take over all parking enforcement, I believe that there should be a clear distinction between enforcement action against illegal parking and the regulation of permitted parking. A new system of permitted parking controls, together with a review of yellow lines, will give the local authorities a significantly increased role.

I shall be issuing guidance to the local authorities reminding them of the need to relate parking provision to the capacity of the road system. In general, they have opposed major new road schemes and have said that they would like to see less traffic. They should reflect these views when taking decisions on planning applications, particularly for new development with parking provision that would encourage the use of cars. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and I will consider what further guidance on the preparation of development plans will be necessary following the decisions I have announced today.

I shall be introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity to give effect to these changes. The most controversial issues about the future development of the road system in London have now been settled. Our plans for investment in public transport and roads will secure the status and success of London and its economic future.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East) : The Secretary of State's statement represents a great victory for the London Labour boroughs, for the London Labour party and, above all, for the people of London, who have protested in their thousands against the crazy road building plans that have been put forward by the Government. Is the Secretary of State aware that his climb down will cause a tremendous sense of victory throughout London? After six years of delay and concern, during which 48 road building options have blighted 100,000 homes, the Government have finally been forced to see common sense--just before the May local elections. I trust that the Secretary of State will have more success with this bribe than he had with the Stafford electrification proposals.

Is he aware that, in rejecting a road-based solution to London's transport problems, he has missed a major opportunity to develop a modern, reliable public transport system that Londoners could be proud of? Does he accept that the £10 million that was wasted on the consultants' report could have paid for more bus lanes, which would have enabled traffic to move much more quickly than it did during the six years of delay? Is not this blind electoral panic? The Secretary of State has dropped the unpopular plans that could make London's transport crisis even worse, but he has failed to adopt the plans that could improve the situation.

In his statement, the Secretary of State identified the results of the consultation exercise, not the conclusions--better public transport, no new road building, more traffic restraint and better traffic management : the very approach that he dismissed as an eastern European approach at the previous Conservative party conference.

If the Secretary of State has finally seen sense, why has he not offered us any prospect of immediate action to fulfil those aims? Is not it clear that he lacks any coherent strategy for tackling London's worsening transport crisis?

Column 225

The Secretary of State's policy for London amounts to the introduction of red routes, a confused parking enforcement system which will see two agencies patrol the same streets, the vague hope that pedestrians and cyclists will be encouraged and the prospect of more public transport studies.

Will the Secretary of State now reconsider a return to a directly elected transport body which Londoners want, with the powers and the resources to do the job? Will he give the House the assurance that the nearly £4 billion worth of money allocated for the proposed roads should now be used to invest in the findings of his Department's central London rail study?

Finally, while the Secretary of State is in the mood for policy climb downs, will he announce that he is to rethink the financial targets for British Rail and London Regional Transport so that we can end the disgraceful situation in which Londoners pay the highest fares in Europe for the dirtiest, most overcrowded and least reliable transport system, forcing many of them on to the roads and making our problems worse? Will he do that quickly before London grinds to a complete standstill and begins to demand his resignation, as it did with his predecessor?

Mr. Parkinson : One of the difficulties in answering the hon. Gentleman is that he clearly does not understand what the House is discussing, so let me tell him. Consultants were appointed. They put forward their proposals, not the Department's proposals. I dismissed some of the consultants' proposals and I put the rest out for consultation. When the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) and many other Labour Members urged me to abandon the major road programmes, I did not form the impression that they were trying to help me to win the London local elections in May.

The hon. Gentleman referred to a climb down, but it is difficult to climb down without climbing up. The proposals were never ours ; they were those of the consultants. We put them out for consultation and we have declared the results. It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman should criticise us for listening, taking advice and carrying the consultation process through.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the public transport system. He was clearly sitting there reading his questions and not listening to what I had to say. Let me repeat the figures.

Mr. Prescott : I have read them.

Mr. Parkinson : I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has read them.

London Underground will receive £2.2 billion.

Mr. Prescott : Who is paying for that?

Mr. Parkinson : The taxpayer. I am sick of giving the hon. Gentleman accountancy lessons in Parliament. If he comes to see me in my office, I will explain to him why he has been consistently wrong in his proposals.

Mr. Prescott : That is why the right hon. Gentleman is going down.

Mr. Parkinson : The only thing that is dragging me down is facing a reprehensible fellow such as the hon. Gentleman.

Column 226

Our policy has not changed. We are pursuing a balanced transport policy and, as a result of our proposals, London will have a modernised underground system. I explained to the House why. Network SouthEast will be totally modernised. We have announced spending of £3 billion on London's roads. We are improving London's airports, air traffic control and access to airports. While the hon. Gentleman sits playing with his merchant ships in the bath, we get on with the business of modernising London's transport and giving London families a choice.

Several Hon. Members rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. May I remind the House that in the Consolidated Fund there are two debates--No. 1 and No. 4--in which this matter may be outlined in greater detail and a reply may be received from a Minister. Therefore, I urge hon. Members to ask single questions so that we can get on to the Adjournment motion debate and to those subjects on the Consolidated Fund.

Mr. John Moore (Croydon, Central) : I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and in particular the way in which he has rejected so much that the consultants recommended which all Members of Parliament for Croydon--I hope that I may include you in that number, Mr. Speaker-- objected to. Those proposals were unacceptable, in the unanimous view of Croydon council.

Although I have read the details of the press release, I know that my right hon. Friend would wish to reassure my constituents and especially those people who are concerned about the proposals for enormous flyovers in the Waddon Road and fiveways area. Can he confirm for the record that those proposals have been abandoned, as have the consultants' proposals? Also, will he confirm that the widening and the improvement of junctions will be done in consultation with the local authority? On the assumption that I can have that confirmation, I thank my right hon. Friend for listening so carefully to Members of Parliament for Croydon and to our constituents. I am grateful.

Mr. Parkinson : I am pleased to confirm that the consultants' proposals for flyovers have been totally dismissed and that we shall join with the local authority to discuss the improvements that my right hon. Friend recognises are necessary to some of the junctions in Croydon. I thank him for his welcome.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement, but it seems to have taken the Government a long time to come to the conclusion that Londoners reached many years ago. If he is to become an increasingly green Secretary of State --as I hope he is--in an environmentally acceptable Department, he will have to persuade his colleagues in the Treasury to increase incentives for the use of public transport and disincentives for the use of private transport. The real test may be when he decides what to do about the proposals for Thameslink and a Channel tunnel rail link. Perhaps having rejected tunnels for roads he will reconsider them for railways.

Mr. Parkinson : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. My predecessor and I have stressed that we envisage that public transport will play an important role. That is why investment in London transport has doubled

Column 227

since we took the system over from the Labour-controlled Greater London council and why investment will increase next year and double again. We recognise the importance of public transport. We believe that a good public transport system will attract passengers, and that is what we are determined to provide.

Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green) : I thank my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport for having listened so carefully to the representations that I made to them on behalf of my constituents, who warmly welcome the rejection of the consultants' proposals for Parkland walk and Archway road, whether above or below ground. May I remind my right hon. Friend that my constituents have been bedevilled by uncertainty about the proposals for Archway road which have come forward from every Administration during the past 25 years? That uncertainty has blighted the area and caused dereliction of property. Will he ensure that his proposal for the pilot red route scheme will not perpetuate that uncertainty for the future and will not generate extra traffic through my constituency?

Mr. Parkinson : I recognise the problems that my hon. Friend has faced and coped with for many years in dealing with a range of proposals for the Archway road. The Government have made their position clear : we want improvements to the two roundabouts at Archway and Highbury, and the red routes. We have made it clear that in implementing the red routes we will discuss with local residents and local shopkeepers the best way to do it so that they are not disadvantaged. I recognise the problems faced by those living in that area, and that is why we have been specific about our proposals. There are no other proposals.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : As the Secretary of State is a London Member, may I express the hope that he will be present to reply to a debate that I hope to initiate, later in the early hours? In reiterating the statement that his road schemes that remain will be sympathetic to the local environment, does he realise that he has forgotten our disagreement-- or discussion--on 12 March concerning Oxleas wood? Will he now reconsider-- not necessarily today--the controversial decision to destroy that wood, and not to put a tunnel under it, as recommended by the inspector? If there can be a tunnel for the M25 under Epping forest, why can there not be a tunnel under Oxleas wood?

Mr. Parkinson : I was originally a London Member, but the constituency boundaries changed in 1974 and I have been a Hertfordshire Member ever since. Therefore, I will be deprived of the opportunity of replying to the hon. Gentleman's debate early tomorrow morning. I am sure that that is a matter of great regret to both of us.

The decision on Oxleas wood was taken by the previous Secretary of State for the Environment and by my predecessor at the Department of Transport, and I do not propose to reopen the matter.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea) : Given that three of the consultancy firms produced four of the worst possible road schemes--all converging in my constituency--does my right hon. Friend accept a quadruple welcome from myself and from my neighbour, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) for his rejection of the

Column 228

road schemes for our part of London, and a loud welcome for his commitment to public transport schemes? Will he confirm that he will seriously examine schemes for the Hackney-Chelsea line to come further south through Wandsworth, and for the west London line linking Clapham junction--at long last--with the main London rail network?

Mr. Parkinson : I assure my hon. Friend that the Government are aware of the need to improve public transport links with south London. That is why I have announced within the past couple of weeks that the Jubilee line will go to the Greenwich peninsula, why--as my hon. Friend will know-- I am keen for there to be an extension of the Docklands light railway to Lewisham, and why we are taking the Jubilee line south of the river from Waterloo. I shall examine my hon. Friend's proposal for the Chelsea-Hackney line, because I share his conviction that we must improve underground lines south of the river.

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East) : Will the Secretary of State reflect on the fact that the statement that he has just made takes Londoners back to where they were four years ago, being largely an endorsement of the roads strategy of the Greater London council, which he abolished? Will he further reflect on what that four years has cost Londoners? Perhaps he would stop the nonsense about the present Government's spending more on investment in London transport by reminding the House that the control of investment in London transport was under Secretaries of State for Transport who could veto, individually and collectively, the GLC's capital budget? Will the right hon. Gentleman remind the House that his predecessors personally vetoed the GLC's plans to build the Docklands tube and the Hackney-Chelsea link, and to extend tube lines throughout south London? All those things would have been functional and operating if his predecessors had allowed the GLC to go ahead. What we see today is basically an admission that the Government have spent 10 years wrecking the public and private transport systems of London. They should resign as an apology to London.

Mr. Parkinson : The hon. Gentleman has a lot to answer for to Londoners. Very little of it is to his credit. He knows that he handed over an underground system that was in an appalling mess, because he preferred to spend the money on buying popularity through subsidy rather than on modernising the system. That is why we are having to spend so much, and are spending so much, on putting the system right.

Sir Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth) : I hope that my right hon. Friend will pay scant regard to the political posturing and the sour attitude of Opposition Members. He is to be warmly congratulated on having undertaken a proper consultation exercise, on having listened to what people said to him and on having taken account of their views. Those of my constituents--over 13,000 of them--who petitioned against the road tunnel from Chiswick to Wandsworth will be very pleased with his decision not to proceed, as they will be with his decision to increase investment in public transport and to provide better traffic management. I ask my right hon. Friend and his Cabinet colleagues to look again at realistic and practical measures to restrain traffic. I am sure that they are needed and that they will come.

Column 229

Mr. Parkinson : I thank my right hon. Friend for welcoming our proposals. It seemed to us to be absolutely essential to bring an end to the uncertainty. Over 10,000--not 100,000--houses were blighted. We wanted to remove the worry from the people of London. I believe that we have done so.

As for my right hon. Friend's delicate suggestion about road pricing, that is not an immediately available option, as some of its proponents would have one believe. There are a number of serious problems to be overcome. However, I am watching the situation carefully, and I am in touch with my Dutch counterpart who, after a very long consultation period, is introducing such a system in the Hague.

Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich) : Is the Secretary of State able to say when effective action will be taken to deal with the illegal parking that clogs so many main roads into central London? How much longer, for example, shall we have to put up with one northbound lane on Westminster bridge being regularly occupied by up to a dozen tourist coaches, an ice cream van and a hot-dog seller?

Mr. Parkinson : I thoroughly agree with the hon. Gentleman about thoughtless, illegal parking. One of the principles of red routes is that parking restrictions will be enforced stringently and that those who park there will be lucky if they ever see their cars again--that is a joke, Mr. Speaker, not a threat. I am beginning to sound like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). However, we intend to penalise those who thoughtlessly cause congestion. Sir William Shelton (Streatham) : Does my right hon. Friend accept that both my constituents and I will be delighted by his statement, especially by his reference to the possible extension of the east London line and of the Northern line to Streatham? Does he also accept that we need some junction improvements and that the decision not to go ahead with the St. Leonard's relief road and the Clapham common underpass will be warmly welcomed? Will he reject any Opposition imputations of a U-turn and accept my congratulations on having held genuine consultations and on having accepted the representations I made on behalf of my constituents? The Opposition are not used to genuine consultation--which this has been.

Mr. Parkinson : I thank my hon. Friend for so warmly welcoming the proposals. He is quite right. These documents were produced by the consultants. We put them out for discussion, and we have announced our decision on them. I am glad that my hon. Friend recognises that junction improvements are needed. We shall be discussing them with the local authorities concerned.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood) : If the Secretary of State were the Home Secretary within a capital punishment system, he would certainly be the best person to hand out reprieves. I thank him for ending the uncertainty about tunnels in Dulwich park, thus saving the Prime Minister's home and also Tulse Hill. What priority does he intend to give to the extension of the underground route to Streatham and Crystal palace? And is he now to be transferred to deal with the poll tax?

Mr. Parkinson : If one wanted, I suppose that one could relate everything to poll tax, but if I were the hon.

Column 230

Gentleman I should not waste my time on trying to relate this to poll tax. These major ideas for extending the underground will take some time to work through. None of these road schemes will be available before the end of the century. There are short-term proposals, but the longer-term, major proposals will take time to work through. However, we are determined to get a better service into south London.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington) : Thousands of my constituents will be greatly relieved by my right hon. Friend's wise decision and very appreciative of the fact that he and his colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins), have listened so carefully to our representations. Does he accept that the real lesson of the story is that in inner London and Greater London and in all urban and suburban areas the appropriate means of transport which is both socially and environmentally friendly is public transport, adequately invested and adequately pursued. We urge him strongly to continue that policy in the London area.

Mr. Parkinson : As I said to the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), the Government are pursuing a balanced policy. There is no point in pretending that there is no demand for roads and for the ability to drive in London, but we believe that the public are perfectly capable of making a sensible choice, provided that a choice is made available to them. That is why we want to provide a decent rail system and a decent underground system. We also want to provide a decent bus service and to make it possible, by means of the red routes, for people to drive. People are quite capable of making the choice that suits them best.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting) : The Secretary of State's statement is a direct result of the total opposition of thousands and thousands of Londoners to the scheme. They have also made it clear that, although they want a modern public transport system, they want the fares to be realistic. Unfortunately, that is not what we are getting. With 32 London boroughs pursuing their own traffic policies, totally unaware of what may be happening in adjoining boroughs, surely it is time for an overall traffic authority for London. Until that comes about, there will be no realistic development.

Mr. Parkinson : We had an overall strategic authority for London. It was a disaster. When it disappeared, it must have been the most unlamented body that had ever existed. It was no advertisement for strategic bodies and strategic planning. We have got the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) to remind us of just how awful it was, if we are ever tempted to forget.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton) : My right hon. Friend and the Minister for Roads and Traffic deserve warm praise for proving that this Government listen and that they take careful note of the environmental points that are made by our constituents. The proposals are welcome. However, may I put to my right hon. Friend a point that relates to my constituency and the red route proposals? My constituents do not want the A243 between the M25 and the A3 made into a red route. They feel that it would be inappropriate. They would prefer a relief road around the village of Malden Rushett which would attract some private sector funding.

Column 231

Mr. Parkinson : It is early days to settle the final details of red routes, as I said in my statement. The proposals were set out in the document that I put before the House in December. I will look at the point that my hon. Friend raised and report back to him.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the most cost-effective, value-for-money way of providing access to and from east London, as well as for reducing tube congestion in central London, would be to go ahead with the Chelsea-Hackney tube line? Did he in his statement give a guarantee that that would go ahead, or did I detect a question mark over it?

Mr. Parkinson : We are looking at the two lines and evaluating them both--that is, east-west cross-rail and Chelsea-Hackney--but we do not believe that London could stand the simultaneous building of two major underground lines ; it would completely snarl up London during the construction. So the work is in hand to assess them and, subject to that work going well, a Bill will be brought before the House by LRT for the new line in December.

Dr. Ian Twinn (Edmonton) : I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcements, especially for the reduction of traffic in residential areas and for the improvement of public transport. Will he give urgent consideration to using some of the £3 billion for London roads to end uncertainty concerning the north circular road in Edmonton, where Pimms park is under threat and needs money spent on it for, among other things, a tunnel beneath it? Is he aware that a number of my constituents are still having their houses blighted by the lack of a decision about the north circular road?

Mr. Parkinson : I will look into that point and write to my hon. Friend about it. It arises only indirectly out of today's statement.

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham) : Does the Secretary of State recognise that people in south London welcome the fact that the blight cast over their homes by what were disastrous road plans has been lifted, but that their homes remain blighted by the Channel rail link plan? Does he further recognise that the people of south London will judge the Government's commitment to public transport by the overcrowded trains, filthy stations, frequent cancellations, infrequent buses pumping out exhaust and by the complete absence of tubes? Only when he deals with those problems and we see in practice the situation in public transport improve will the Government get any credit for their so-called commitment to public transport.

Mr. Parkinson : I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks about removing blight and uncertainty. What troubled me when I arrived at the Department was the huge number of houses that were under threat, and I was anxious to clear up that anxiety as soon as possible. I have bad news for the hon. Lady and the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench. Between now and the next general election we could see the investment of about £2.5 billion in public transport, and the results will be too noticeable even for Labour Members to miss.

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich) : There will be great rejoicing in my constituency this evening at the blight having been lifted, at the fact that the road scheme will not

Column 232

involve a grandiose underpass and at the decision to extend public transport into east Dulwich. While thanking my right hon. Friend for that, may I urge him to take steps to lift the other blight of the proposed route for the Channel tunnel rail link? Will he urge British Rail and its partners, Trafalgar House and Eurorail, to consider professionally and properly the alternative routes that have been suggested, with a through junction at Stratford going on to King's Cross and serving the whole of the United Kingdom, thereby immediately lifting the blight from Dulwich?

Mr. Parkinson : Hon. Members on both sides of the House have argued the cases for their constituencies, but nobody has argued more ferociously on behalf of his constituents than my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden). I cannot promise him an immediate answer to the second part of his question, but I note what he says and appreciate the concern that the Channel tunnel rail link uncertainty is causing in Dulwich.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury) : The Secretary of State will be aware of the enormous relief among my constituents that the proposal for a major new road from Archway to King's Cross has been dropped. I would add the personal observation that I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman will not now be sending in the bulldozers to knock down my home. Is he aware that there will be continuing concern, especially among traders and shopkeepers along Holloway road and Upper street, about the news of the pilot project for a red route? Will he guarantee to consult them in detail about his proposal, because they are deeply worried about the impact on their deliveries and businesses and on pedestrian shopping?

Mr. Parkinson : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks, and it was a small pleasure to me that I was able to decide that we would not be knocking down his home. We recognise that it is important to introduce red routes properly. That will involve making arrangements with the local traders and local people so that their lives are not too disrupted. We believe that we can find ways of doing that, but we shall be discussing them with all those affected.

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : I thank my right hon. Friend for his considered approach to the issues involved and for the approach of the whole of his team. They have done a difficult job extremely well, and we are grateful to them.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituents are still totally opposed to any road widening of the south circular road? Will he confirm that the statutory protections to which he referred include public consultations followed by public inquiries if it is decided that proposals should go ahead after people have shown their dissatisfaction with them? Will he also confirm that he has scrapped the proposal for a light railway from Hammersmith to Roehampton because of the terrible environmental damage that that would cause at Barn Elms?

Mr. Parkinson : The answer to both parts of my hon. Friend's question is yes.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : I do not know what the Secretary of State plays with in his bath, but it clearly is not the strategic transport plan for London. Does not he think it disgraceful that £10 million

Column 233

of taxpayers' money should have been spent on consultants' reports, for them finally, after all these years, to come up with the suggestion, and for him to decide, that public transport should be given preference in London?

Is it not a fact that transport planning in London is now predicated on Tory party electoral chances on 3 May and beyond and from where the Government can get private money to fund public transport schemes? No wonder the CBI and a number of other organisations say that London transport is now heading towards chaos. That state of affairs is entirely the responsibility of the Government.

Mr. Parkinson : If the hon. Gentleman is not careful, I will send him autographed copies of all four assessment studies. He will then see the volume of work that was done. He will see from my statement that many valuable suggestions were put forward by the consultants, suggestions that will help London and improve our transport system. I repeat that the Government are following a balanced transport policy for London, and that means better tubes, massive investment, better Network SouthEast, better airports, better bus routes and the red routes. We are systematically improving all aspects of London's transport arrangements simultaneously, and Londoners will have the choice that they deserve in the years ahead.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham) : My right hon. Friend referred to airports and road traffic between central London, the west end and the City and Heathrow. In view of the probable general increase in road traffic, as mentioned in the White Paper, reflecting the general level of national prosperity, may I ask whether he is aware that it would be totally wrong for the Government to accept that as an argument to justify any increase in the number of helicopters travelling between central London and Heathrow? Helicopters make a peculiarly and particularly loud and unpleasant whirring noise which would be detrimental not only to the well-being of my constituents but to the work of the Palace of Westminster.

Mr. Parkinson : There is unlikely to be any substantial increase in the number of helicopter flights as a result of anything that I have said today.

Next Section

  Home Page