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Mersey Tunnels

4. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): If he will make a statement on the policing of Mersey Tunnels. [112570]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): Responsibility—including the funding—for the policing of the Mersey tunnels rests with the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority, Merseytravel, under provisions in the County of Merseyside Act 1980.

As Merseytravel is primarily responsible for the safe operation of the Mersey tunnels, it falls on it to ensure that the law enforcement officers it appoints are trained to a standard that protects both the officers involved and users of the tunnels and to provide such facilities necessary for the officers to carry out their duties in a safe and proper manner.

Mr. Chapman : My hon. Friend reflects the situation as it is, not as it should be. Does he recall that the Liverpool coroner recently said that Mersey Tunnels police were not operating in a way that the general public would recognise as the behaviour of a normal police force? While I welcome the review that the Department and the Home Office are undertaking in relation to the role of the Mersey Tunnels police, a review of the separate police fiefdoms more generally is long overdue. Many of them are in the transport sector and all of them are of dubious accountability. Will he consider the situation with a view to bringing those

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forces into mainstream policing arrangements, with all that that implies for accountability, funding, standards, benchmarks and practices?

Mr. Jamieson: Addressing the issue of the capability of the Mersey Tunnels police is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Merseyside passenger transport authority and the democratically elected bodies that make up its constituent parts. My hon. Friend referred to the dreadful and tragic accident in March last year, and we all regret the circumstances in which two young teenagers lost their lives. I cannot comment on what the coroner said, because it is open to legal challenge. At the moment, the Police Complaints Authority has no remit for the Mersey Tunnels police, but under section 78 of the Police Act 1996 the Home Secretary can direct that such a relationship be affirmed. Perhaps my hon. Friend should take that point up with the Home Secretary. I appreciate the concerns that have arisen from that particular incident and we and the Home Office will consider carefully the reports of the investigations and decide what further action needs to be taken.


5. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): If he will make a statement on the progress of the consultation on airport provision for south-east England. [112571]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): The national consultation ends on 30 June. We have already received tens of thousands of responses from across the UK, and we expect to receive many more. All responses will be considered carefully before decisions are set out in the White Paper, which we intend to publish later this year.

Andrew Mackinlay: Does my hon. Friend sense that there is a growing irritation among hon. Members at BAA's disproportionate clout and influence on aviation policy and airport capacity? My hon. Friend was in the House when I said in prophetic terms, in relation to terminal 5, that BAA would perform its usual stunt and say, once it had got a runway, that it now needed a terminal. I was wrong in one sense, however: now that BAA has got terminal 5, it wants not one more runway, but three. Is it not time to blow the whistle on BAA, and say that enough is enough? We want all the regional airports that can serve London to be expanded, and there must be a more sensible policy to decide how we meet our aviation capacity shortfall—in the interests of the UK, not of BAA.

Mr. Jamieson: I thank my hon. Friend for those views, which were expressed, as ever, in an understated way. Of course, BAA is a big player in the provision of air services; that it should make a contribution to the consultation is totally to be expected, but its contribution to the consultation is no more than that. Other views will be expressed, in both agreement and disagreement, and it will be up to the Government to weigh those matters very carefully at the end of the consultation period. It is probably fortuitous that BAA

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should have published its views now, as it allows people the opportunity to form possibly contrary views during the consultation process.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): I welcome the downgrading of the proposals for expansion of Luton airport from an assumption to an option, but will the Minister confirm that he is not now considering different options, such as the building of taxiways? Such options have not been included in the consultation document, and my constituents have not been asked to give their views on them.

Mr. Jamieson: I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that no decisions have been made, and that none will be made until the end of the consultation period. He will appreciate that it is not only the options put forward by the Government in the consultation document that have been commented on, and that many contributors to the consultation produced ideas that did not appear in the consultation document. Those ideas will have to be considered very carefully, and weighed against each other. There are very wide-ranging views on all these matters, and we must consider them all very carefully after the end of June.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford): I want to say, in support of BAA, that its rejection of a proposed airport at Cliffe is absolutely correct. That proposal should be ruled out, on both commercial and environmental grounds. Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to support BAA in this instance, and announce that Cliffe will not be an option in the White Paper?

Mr. Jamieson: Tempting though it may be to pre-empt the consultation, I am unfortunately unable to give my hon. Friend that undertaking today. The Cliffe option is still very much part of the consultation. Some very strong views have been expressed against it, not least by my hon. Friend's constituents, and by people in neighbouring constituencies. However, other views very much in favour of the Cliffe option have also been expressed. We have to weigh those up very carefully at the end of the month. I am sure that the comments that my hon. Friend has made, very robustly, on behalf of his constituents will be taken into consideration at that time.

Roads (North-West)

6. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): If he will make a statement on investment in the trunk road infrastructure in the north-west of England. [112572]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): The Highways Agency is planning to spend around £135 million this year on maintaining the motorway and trunk road infrastructure in the north-west. A further £30 million will be spent on small schemes aimed at tackling safety and congestion. In addition to that, the Highways Agency's programme

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includes seven major capital schemes to the value of around £400 million, which will be delivered over the next 5 years.

Sir Nicholas Winterton : I thank the Secretary of State for that detailed response. Does he accept that adequate roads are vital to a successful transport infrastructure? I am concerned that the proposals of the south-east Manchester multi-modal study are totally inadequate in respect of the roads going from Macclesfield to the north. We have a wonderful silk road that sweeps out of the centre of Macclesfield to the north, but it turns into a very inadequate single-carriageway road. Will the Secretary of State look at the provision of a dual carriageway road from the end of the silk road to connect with the Poynton bypass? We need a dual-carriageway road so that large companies such as Astra Zeneca, which employs more than 7,000 people, can adequately connect to the motorway network and Manchester international airport?

Mr. Darling: I agree that a transport policy must be balanced and that we need adequate road and rail infrastructure. I am aware of the problem that the hon. Gentleman raises, particularly as regards the connection with the A523, which was the subject of the multi-modal study on which my predecessor announced his conclusions in March 2002. As I understand it, the consultants recommended, and the study concluded, that there ought to be a single-carriageway road. That proposal is being worked up by Cheshire county council, in consultation with Macclesfield borough council.

I know the hon. Gentleman's views on the matter. I had a brief opportunity this morning to look into its history, and I can see that there are differences of opinion at various levels. It is for Cheshire county council to decide what is appropriate for the road, and its view at the moment, as I understand it, is that a single carriageway, perhaps realigned, would be the right thing. The hon. Gentleman's representations ought, in the first instance, to be made to Cheshire county council.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): My right hon. Friend will recognise that investment in motorways and trunk roads is essential for securing jobs and investment in Burnley and east Lancashire. He will know that the M65 going east ends in Colne, in the Pendle constituency. I have always wanted it to go east into Yorkshire, but since that is not going to happen, will he ensure that the necessary bypasses are built on A and trunk roads from Pendle into Yorkshire to ensure that communications are better on that side of the country? The M62 is too far south and makes a long diversion for much of our industrial traffic.

Mr. Darling: I understand the problem. We shall spend something like £13 billion over 10 years on new construction that is necessary to improve access and help industry, as my hon. Friend said, in various parts of the country. Choices must be made, however, and it is not possible to do all the things that everybody wants. I am aware of the general problem because my honourable friend has talked to me about it before. I

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cannot give any particular undertaking, but if he wants to come to me with specific proposals, I shall be happy to speak to him.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale): Given that the Secretary of State has performed a welcome U-turn in dropping the Government's original presumption against new road building, will he review, and if necessary reverse, the decision to de-trunk many roads in the north-west, including the A595 in Cumbria, the A570 in Lancashire and the A500 in Cheshire?

Mr. Darling: On the hon. Gentleman's first point, the 10-year plan envisaged substantial new construction, where necessary, to tackle congestion, involving widening roads and so on. My announcement before Christmas simply implemented what the Government had said we would do. However, I am grateful for his welcome, such as it was.

De-trunking has taken place in the north-west and other areas with the agreement of local authorities. It makes sense for the Government to be responsible, through the Highways Agency, for the strategic road network, but where roads are an integral part of local transport, it makes sense for local authorities to be responsible for them. That policy is right, and I am not aware of any great clamour to reverse it.

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