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New Roads (South-east)

15. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister about the implications for plans to build new roads of the proposed housing developments in the south-east. [220416]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): Ministers in the Department work closely with our counterparts in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on the transport implications of the proposed housing development in the south-east.

Sir Teddy Taylor: As Southend-on-Sea already has a serious traffic congestion problem, is the Secretary of
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State aware that the council simply does not want to agree to massive new housing developments until a decision is taken on a ring road, which is desperately important, particularly for Shoeburyness? Could the Departments come together to make sure that the roads are sorted out before exciting new housing developments proceed?

Mr. Darling: We propose to spend about £3.5 billion on major transport schemes in the four growth areas. In relation to the particular ring road that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, I would be happy to arrange for him to meet my colleague the Minister of State so that the issue could be discussed further. I say that without raising his hopes unnecessarily and unjustifiably, but I take the general point that additional housing must have sufficient transport infrastructure to support it. I will arrange for him to see my colleague so that the matter can be discussed further.

Small Ports

16. Tony Cunningham (Workington) (Lab): If he will make a statement on Government support for small ports. [220417]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): The Government recognise that even small ports have the potential to play a significant role in their local and regional economies. Our ports policy provides a basis for all ports to exploit opportunities for development. The Government offices and regional development agencies have a proven track record in working with ports in their regions.

Tony Cunningham: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but what are the Government doing to support small ports in my constituency such as Maryport and Silloth? In particular, what support will be given to the port of Workington in the light of the recent Corus decision, which will have a significant impact on the port and the people of west Cumbria?

Mr. Jamieson: I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising those issues so assiduously in the House and with me when I visited him some time ago. He will know that at Workington, more than £4 million has been earmarked for West Lakes Renaissance for investment in the port, and a feasibility study associated with that is under way. Significant funding has also been committed to the redevelopment of Barrow, Whitehaven and Maryport for the benefit of the local communities. Small ports are important to us, and the importance of Workington to my hon. Friend's constituents is recognised by the Government and the regional development agency.

Passenger/Freight Traffic (River Thames)

20. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) (LD): What plans he has for developing passenger and freight river traffic on the River Thames. [220421]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): The Government are
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keen to see the Thames used—[Hon. Members: "Ah!"] We are a little more prepared today than those on the Opposition Benches. We are keen to see the Thames used for both freight and passenger traffic. Transport for London is responsible for passenger services on the Thames, and patronage has risen by 17 per cent. since 2000–01. TFL has also safeguarded some freight wharves through the London plan process. In addition, my Department can provide grant to encourage freight on the river.

Simon Hughes: The last ones are often the best. I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, but he will be conscious that this question relates not just to the part of the Thames within Greater London but to the stretch that goes beyond London's boundaries. Does he accept that if we can put much more freight on the Thames, that is excellent news for the environment, and if we can put many more commuters and passengers on the Thames, that is excellent news for the environment and users? Will he work with the Greater London authority to make sure that, in the foreseeable future, we get more and better services not just throughout Greater London but right down the Thames estuary?

Mr. Jamieson: I can give the hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance that we will do that. We want more passengers to use the Thames. As for freight, we will shortly announce a grant that will allow about 2 million tonnes of material to be moved from Battersea by river rather than road. That will take many vehicles off the road. We will actively encourage the continuation of that policy for both passengers and freight.


The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was asked—

Government Advertising

21. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): If he will make a statement on his role in the co-ordination of policy across Departments for the elimination of waste in expenditure on the advertising of Government policies. [220422]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Alan Milburn): My hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office has responsibility for the Central Office of Information, whose procurement processes are designed to ensure maximum value for money. It is of course for individual Ministers, who are accountable to the House for the work of their Departments, to decide how much is spent on advertising.

Mr. Bellingham: Is the Chancellor of the Duchy aware that Government expenditure on advertising has risen from £40 million in 1997 to a staggering £194 million last year—an unbelievable fivefold increase—and is set to hit £260 million by 2007? Is he aware that much of that money is being spent not on advertising civil service vacancies, but on promoting Government policy and initiatives? That does nothing to improve public
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services. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it constitutes barely disguised party-political propaganda and an abuse of public funds?

Mr. Milburn: The hon. Gentleman is wrong. He is well aware that part of the advertising money is spent on recruiting members of the armed forces, nurses, teachers and police officers, while part of it is spent on important take-up campaigns. The Government spent £10 million on advertising pension credit, and 3 million pensioners have taken it up.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): It is a mess.

Mr. Milburn: The hon. Lady may say that, but I understand that pensioners are gaining an average of £40 a week. I do not think that they consider it to be a mess.

We also spent £7 million on advertising our tax credits, and 6 million hard-working families are benefiting from that today. We spent £6 million on advertising the new deal, which has helped 1 million people off benefit and into work. I know that the hon. Gentleman opposes that spending, and I suspect that that is because he opposes the programmes.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): Why are we not spending more on advertising the minimum wage? Many people in Pendle do not know that it will rise to £5.05—not a king's ransom—in October, and to £5.35 next year. Why do we not advertise that?

Mr. Milburn: My hon. Friend is doing his best to advertise it, and I commend his efforts. He is right: the minimum wage is rising above £5 an hour for the first time later this year, and will rise still further next year and, I hope, in the years to come.

As my hon. Friend will recall, there was a time when political parties were saying—I think it was said by the Government of the day—that a minimum wage, rising or otherwise, would cost 1 million jobs. Today we have a rising minimum wage and a rising number of people in work—2 million more jobs have been created—but I suppose that that is the difference between a Labour Government and a Tory Government.

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