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Nottingham Express Transport System

10. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): When he intends to visit Nottingham to travel on the Nottingham express transport system. [159439]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty): My hon. Friend's skill at tabling questions is unsurpassed, as he is both timely and prescient, given that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited Nottingham yesterday to open the Nottingham express transit line 1 and had the opportunity to meet local authority officials to discuss local transport issues and their successes in Nottingham.

Paddy Tipping : Clearly, the Secretary of State is ahead of the time, given that fee-paying passengers were not able to use the tram until 5.58 this morning. The Minister will be aware that the local authorities, Nottingham city council and Nottinghamshire county council, have worked for many years to open line 1, and want to create a network—lines 2 and 3. Will the Department work closely with the local authorities to ensure that we have a network to meet customer needs across Nottinghamshire?

Mr. McNulty: My hon. Friend will know that we expect the first line to attract an estimated 11 million-plus passengers and to be a real boon to Nottingham, not simply in transport terms but as a catalyst for regeneration. We always work closely with local authorities as and when they determine plans for future additions to networks, and we look forward to receiving Nottingham's subsequent plans eventually. Nottingham will base that on a very strong record in terms of local transport planning, in both county and city, which is to be commended.

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): Having been at the launch with the Secretary of State yesterday, may I say for the record what an elegant figure he cut?

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It was almost as stylish and sophisticated as the trams. People at the launch were almost as complimentary about the Secretary of State as they were about my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping), who was at the initial meeting 15 or 16 years ago that started the process of establishing line 1.

May I repeat the requests of my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood? The excitement yesterday was that Nottingham Members wanted the Secretary to State to be able to travel from Bulwell in the north of Nottingham to Clifton in the south of Nottingham. To do that, however, the second or third line would have to be in place. Will the Minister assure us that it will not take another 16 years to get lines 2 and 3?

Mr. McNulty: My hon. Friend will appreciate that for 10 of those 16 years the matter was in another party's hands. I expect any analysis of the bids as and when they are received to be done swiftly. The important point is that, following all that has been done so far by the authorities, both city and council, there has been a significant increase in public transport patronage. We want that to continue in a broader context.


11. Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): If he will make a statement on his Department's policy regarding who pays for the cost of security at small airports. [159440]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty): Government policy is that the aviation industry should cover all its operating costs, including those incurred in the implementation of security requirements. It is free to choose how to comply with the standards required, and how it wishes to pass the costs on to its customers.

Mr. Reid : May I draw the Minister's attention to the impact of the policy in the highlands and islands? In April, passengers for Tiree will be forced to pay a £20 surcharge, and those for Campbeltown will have to pay £12. Those extra charges will have a devastating effect on the economies of small islands and remote communities on the mainland. Will the Government reconsider the policy, and cover the cost of security at small airports? It could be funded from air passenger duty. The cost of security could be spread across all air passengers, rather than the brunt being borne by those using small, remote airports.

Mr. McNulty: We do not want an aircraft travelling from Barra, Campbeltown or Tiree to a major city airport such as Glasgow to be subject to less security than an aircraft operating from any other UK airport. We propose, however, to introduce a regime tailored for smaller and lighter aircraft and the airports from which they operate, commensurate with the nature of such operations and the risk that they pose. We shall consult the industry shortly. We simply cannot compromise on security, although I take the hon. Gentleman's point, which is a fair one.

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12. Mr. Nigel Beard (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the importance of Crossrail to (a) London businesses and (b) the development of the Thames gateway. [159441]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty): All those issues were covered in Cross London Rail Links Ltd.'s Crossrail business case, the recent review of which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering. He will make an announcement on the future of the business case in due course.

Mr. Beard : Does my hon. Friend agree that Crossrail's impact on the Thames gateway depends on the continuation of the line from the Isle of Dogs to the channel tunnel rail link at Ebbsfleet via the south bank? Does not the realisation of that potential in turn depend on confidence among private investors that the line will be built according to a credible timetable?

Mr. McNulty: As my hon. Friend will know, the Government said last July that, in principle, Crossrail would be a very good thing for London and its transport network. I trust that he will forgive me for not going into detail about specific parts of specific lines, given that I received the Montague report only about two weeks ago. It is currently being analysed, and a report is soon to be produced.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the long-awaited Crossrail project is vital to the regeneration of the east end? Many people in London are waiting for a positive sign from the Government.

Mr. McNulty: As the Government said last summer, Crossrail is indeed an important project for London, but we must not put all our eggs in one basket. We must give due weight to the myriad transport and other schemes that are already regenerating east London. East London, and its regeneration, need not wait for the green light to be given for Crossrail.


13. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): If he will make a statement on the administration of the infrastructure of the rural railway network. [159442]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Kim Howells): Responsibility for the infrastructure of the rural railway network rests with Network Rail.

Miss McIntosh : I am grateful for that full reply. Will the Minister comment on the Strategic Rail Authority's consultation document, and in particular on the alarming implication that local authorities such as North Yorkshire county council may have to pay for some rural railway networks in future? Will he also confirm that the rolling stock that is to be passed to voluntary groups and local authorities will be in the best

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possible state, and that the speed limit that is set will ensure that the structure will not be inferior to other parts of the network?

Dr. Howells: As the hon. Lady knows, the document that the Strategic Rail Authority has published is a consultation document. I should remind her that, in general, community rail lines are typically local or rural in character, have a speed limit of 75 mph or less, run a service that is of an hourly or lesser frequency, and have a single operator or one franchise operator plus freight, so there is a lot of leeway. This is not about closures or loading new costs on to local authorities, but it certainly is about trying to tap the existing potential for perhaps running some community railways better.


The Minister for the Cabinet Office was asked—

Public Appointments

20. Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South) (Lab): What steps the Government take to ensure that people appointed to public bodies are representative of the society they serve. [159449]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The Government want boards of public bodies to be both appointed on merit and representative of society as a whole. On 17 December 2003, we published "Delivering Diversity in Public Appointments 2003". This document explains the action being taken across government to increase diversity on the boards of our public bodies, and the targets that Departments have set for 2006.

Mr. Tynan : I thank my hon. Friend for that response. Given that the Government rightly believe that the best decisions are taken by boards that best reflect local society, will he agree to add to the seven Nolan principles a further committed principle for the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments: that public bodies should reflect local communities and society in general?

Mr. Alexander: I know of my hon. Friend's considerable interest in this matter. The Government acknowledged the importance of the Nolan principles of public life when they were published. Of course, they were produced by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which was established at that time. Its work continues under Sir Nigel Wicks, and I shall certainly consider whether this matter would be better directed towards it. I should none the less add that we are keen to encourage people to involve themselves in public bodies at a local level in the first instance. That is why, for example, such work has been taken forward in relation to school boards.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): As the Minister's reply to me of 3 March shows, the number of appointments and reappointments to public bodies over the past three years demonstrates that four

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times as many Labour party appointments have been made as Conservative—or, indeed, Liberal Democrat—ones. This Government now wish to impose that system on judges. Can we expect similar results, and is that another reason why the Government are so frightened of the Constitutional Reform Bill being sent to a Select Committee of the House of Lords for proper scrutiny?

Mr. Alexander: That seems a good effort, but it is important to start with some of the facts. More than 80 per cent. of those appointed to public bodies over the past five years were not themselves politically active. When a Labour Government are in power, it is only natural that a number of Labour supporters are keen to offer themselves for appointment to public bodies. But as I said, it is important that decisions be made on the basis of merit, and we want public bodies to be representative of society as a whole. In that regard, the hon. Gentleman might do better to direct his attention towards the supporters of other political parties, and to encourage them to participate in public bodies.

Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware of the innovation of the lottery boards? They have found new members by a process of lot, or random selection, which has led to the appointment of people who would not otherwise have been found for these posts. Will he embrace this innovation and encourage other public bodies to see how it could be developed?

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): For judges?

Mr. Alexander: As the sedentary comment of my hon. Friend suggests, one has to be careful about the question of the particular public bodies that adopt this approach. It is clear that we are looking for a high level of expertise for certain public bodies, so although I am interested in the example that my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Tony Wright) cites, we need to consider the capabilities of those offering themselves for service, rather than simply making a random selection.

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