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(1) If a Local Commissioner completes an investigation of a matter, he shall prepare a report of the results of the investigation and send a copy to each of the persons concerned (subject to subsection (1A)).
(d) any other authority or person who is alleged in the complaint, or who otherwise appears to the Local Commissioner, to have taken or authorised the action which is or would be the subject of the investigation.
(8) In subsection (7), for the interests of the complainant and of persons other than the complainant substitute the interests of the complainant (if any) and of other persons.. [Mr. Alan Campbell.]
(2BA) Where the report relates to a failure in, or to provide, a service which it was the function of the authority to provide, those recommendations are recommendations with respect to action which, in the Local Commissioners opinion, the authority concerned should take
2A A Local Commissioner shall be disqualified for being appointed to a paid office by an authority to which Part 3 of this Act applies
of the Local Government Act 1974 (c. 7).
Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Have you received any notice from the Secretary of State for Health that she intends to come to the House to make a statement to correct the record in the light of the statement made to the High Court today by Nicholas Greenfield, an official at the Department of Health, in the judicial review proceedings on the medical training application service, to the effect that one of the primary causes for the abandonment of the system for appointing junior doctors was that the IT system could not be relied upon to deal with appointments properly or effectively? In other wordsthe Department had no alternative but to abandon the scheme. That is a highly embarrassing fact and a key point that she omitted to mention in her written statement and in her response to this weeks urgent question.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but it is not something for the Chair to rule on. I have certainly not been made aware that any Minister wishes to come to the House on that matter.
That the draft Lord Chancellor (Modification of Functions) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 16th April, be approved.
That the draft Representation of the People (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2007, which were laid before this House on 29th March, be approved. [Mr. Alan Campbell.]
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 6192/07 and the UK response to the European Commissions Green Paper on Diplomatic and consular protection of Union citizens in third countries submitted to the Commission on 26th March 2007; joins the Government in welcoming the Commissions contribution to the ongoing debate on how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the consular assistance provided by Member States to one anothers nationals; but notes the legal, political and practical difficulties to many of the proposals; and agrees with the Governments approach as laid out in its written response to the Commission. [Mr. Alan Campbell.]
Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise this important issue in the House. Perhaps I can briefly set out a little of the background. For 29 years, a contraflow system has operated during the morning peak hour in the Blackwall tunnel. That means that there are three lanes of traffic going northbound from south-east London and Kent into London, and one lane of traffic going south. That sensibly reflects the demands of the traffic at that time of the day. On 20 April, Transport for London, which took over responsibility for the Blackwall tunnel in 2000, with the creation of the Greater London authority, terminated that contraflow operation at something less than 48 hours notice. The effect of that was to reduce the capacity on the principal arterial route from south-east London, Kent and even the channel ports into London by one third at the busiest time of day.
Mr. John Horam (Orpington) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way so early in his speech. I do not want to interrupt his flow, as Transport for London has interrupted the flow in the Blackwall tunnel. My constituents are extremely concernedas I know his areabout the situation, and I am delighted that he has been able to bring it to the attention of the House so swiftly after the terrible event.
Robert Neill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend; he makes an important point. The issue has caused huge concern among residents in our part of south-east London. Both he and I, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett), who is in his place, have received a huge number of letters and e-mails about the matter. Importantly, the issue also affects the strategic national road networkthe A2, the A20 and, potentially, the Dartford crossing. It has significant implications.
Approach roads to the Blackwall Tunnel have been in absolute chaos this week after a...priority scheme was scrapped...As early as 6am, drivers have been left fuming in tailbacks...Queues have tailed back three miles to the South Circular Road.
Having looked at the scene on a number of occasions, I can verify that. The change has brought chaos to the area and there have been frequent reports that it has added anything up to an hour extra to the journeys of people coming in through that key entry point to central London.
Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): I can reinforce my hon. Friends point by saying that constituents of mine who live 40 miles from the Blackwall tunnel are having their businesses seriously damaged by the delays. This is not just a disaster for south-east London; it is a disaster all over Kent. It is particularly hurtful to those people, because they have no chance to choose the Mayor of London, who runs Transport for London. Their lives are being severely damaged and they have no say over the person who is damaging them.
Robert Neill: My hon. Friend makes two important points: first, that the issue goes well beyond the London boundary, which is why I am raising it with the Minister tonight; and secondly, that it is not just a matter of inconvenience for commuters, but does economic harm and harm to business. He also draws attention to the fact that the people who use the Blackwall tunnel at that time of day do not do so for the sake of their health, despite the rather extraordinary comment of a Transport for London official, who said that many of the people using the tunnel could choose to do otherwise. They do it because they have no alternative. That is why the issue is so important.
That importance has been reflected in correspondence and in a number of website petitions. The decision has been condemned by the AA, by the RAC Foundation, by the Association of British Drivers, by London Councils, on behalf of all the London boroughs on a cross-party basis, and by other local authorities.
Two issues arise: first, the justification for the decision itself, and secondly, the complete lack of consultation, debate or any assessment of alternatives. That second point goes to the heart of the lack of accountability of Transport for London to Londoners and their elected representatives.
Ostensibly, the decision is said to have been made on the advice of the Metropolitan police because there had been an increasing number of near misses and there was a road safety hazard. Obviously, that is something that we want to look into, but we have to remember that the scheme has been operating for the better part of 30 years, while volumes of traffic have increased, which is not likely to have happened overnight.
Very little evidence has been released by TFL to justify the decision, and such as there is is, frankly, flimsy. The material that we have so fargetting information out of TFL is like drawing teethindicates that there have been 99 accidents in the area of the tunnel over the last three years. I am not aware of any fatalities, or of the seriousness of any of the accidents. When we look further, however, we find that only six of them occurred during the period that the tidal flow is in operation. That is an average of two a yearhardly a significant figure, given the volume of traffic on that road. It probably compares pretty well with the figures for many of the routes coming into London at that time of day. That is a wholly inadequate evidential basis for taking such a major step.
The evidence raises a number of other questions. There is closed circuit television in the tunnel. TFL relied on evidence of near misses. As the RAC legitimately points out, if some peoplea minority of driversare driving badly, the first thing that TFL and the police should do is prosecute those people, because they have the footage to do so. We have no evidence of any prosecutions being mounted. It is wrong to use the misbehaviour of a minority to cancel a scheme that benefits the vast law-abiding majority.
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