Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
60. How are you going to compare value for money
between various schemes, for example the West Midlands area study
has suggested expenditure of £9.7 billion over 30 years whilst
the South West Yorkshire study recommends £700 million with
further unspecified expenditure on local transport. How are you
going to work out priorities between these two regions?
(Mr McMillan) A key way of working out priorities
and working out in which order to fund things is to look at what
the delivery agencies tell us about the affordability of the implementation
of these schemes and the extent to which they help government
meets its targets and deal with the local problems. I am not sure
there is a very simple answer to the question you raise, but there
is a process which is in train which will give ministers a balanced
way of taking those decisions.
61. So the agencies will not be overridden.
If one of the studies suggests that the M6 should have an average
speed of more than 50 miles an hour at all times, that decision
is not going to be taken by the Highways Agency, it is one of
the suggestions in the scheme. Are you telling us that kind of
decision would still be taken on the basis of what the Highways
Agency thought was useful for the whole country, not on the fact
that there is a specific recommendation in a particular area which
is based on the needs of that area?
(Mr McMillan) The process going forward from the recommendations
from studies to ministerial endorsement of packages of measures
for an area is one which will involve ministers taking advice
from delivery agencies and that advice from delivery agencies
will deal with both the local factors which have emerged and have
driven the local studies, but will also put on a national overlay
of a coherence of networks overall, of a level of national funding
which is available and so on. Once that position is taken, that
will be the basis on which ministers will evaluate things going
62. Would I be unfair if I said it looks to
me as though you are saying the delivery agencies will have the
right to second-guess everything in the studies.
(Mr McMillan) When the studies were set up, there
was no absolute commitment that everything which they proposed
and suggested would be funded and implemented.
63. No, I am not suggesting every detail, every
stage. What I am saying to you is if the delivery agencies are
going to second-guess everything in the studies, why did they
not do the studies in the first place themselves?
(Mr McMillan) The delivery agencies were all associated
with the studies as the studies were developed and going forward.
They had opportunities.
64. What you are telling us is that after it
is all done, if the delivery agencies come back and say, they
have looked at this particular study and it will not deliver what
they want because it does not fit in with their funding or their
overall decisions in terms of national policy, that will take
(Mr McMillan) What I am saying is that when ministers
take decisions about the packages which flow from the multi-modal
studies, they will do so on the basis that they have these recommendations,
these recommendations have come forward from the study teams,
they have been endorsed locally, the delivery agencies have had
a role in developing those schemes, so I wonder how many times
they will be saying something which is markedly different. We
shall see as time goes on; we shall see. Then ministers will take
the advice of the delivery agencies so as to ensure that the schemes
and packages which they endorse are things which hang together
coherently, both for the local area and for the national interest
and national strategy.
65. It all sounds very beautifully dovetailed.
No-one will forget the areas outside the study areas when they
are talking about expenditure, will they?
(Mr McMillan) No.
66. That is going to be something which is of
considerable importance to you because there are great gaps, are
(Mr McMillan) That is right. One of the things to
remember is that there was no presumption that the multi-modal
studies would have a budget within the ten-year plan. What ministers
have been clear about throughout is that they would produce schemes
and ideas for dealing with some of the most difficult problems
which are out there on the network, so clearly they will be important
in ministers' minds, but they will want to weigh the priorities
emerging there with other activities in other parts of the transport
network and come up with a coherent view of the whole, not just
67. If I précis what is happening and
say that multi-modal studies are meant to bring up a great deal
of research, point up the difficulties in your own area, lay down
a series of policies which they think will have a direct impact,
but basically they will still be open to second-guessing by all
the delivery agencies which could wipe out the whole purpose of
their planning, would I be being unfair?
(Mr McMillan) I am not sure I would use the word "second-guessing".
What they are open to is further review and advice on their policies
so the ministers can take an informed view.
68. You might call it further review and I might
call it second-guessing, but the reality is the same, is it not?
(Mr McMillan) The reality is that these are schemes
which are proposed and ministers will be considering and they
will take advice before they reach their decisions.
Chairman: On that helpful note, may I thank
you very much for coming with your colleagues.