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The Earl of Bradford: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that fractionally encouraging response. However, is he aware of how much the timescale has slipped further since my Written Question of March 1995? Estimates of the continual traffic jams through the middle of Birmingham amount to an annual cost of between £200 million and £400 million. Is he aware also of the loss of credibility to the whole of the West Midlands area caused by those continual traffic jams at a time when many people are trying hard to create new jobs to replace those lost in the last two recessions?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the public inquiry took longer than was expected but it was particularly complex. I am well aware, however, of the great importance that is attached to the BNRR project both

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in the West Midlands and in the north west. Of course I recognise the severe traffic problems which the M.6 is currently experiencing. Those matters were taken fully into account during the course of the public inquiry. It is not appropriate for me to comment further on that in view of the role of the Secretaries of State for Transport and the Environment ultimately in determining the application.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the congestion on the M.6 is not unconnected with the poor state of the west coast main line? Will the Minister assure the House that, when considering investment in transport, public transport by rail and trams in Birmingham will be considered as well as the building of roads?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord will be fully aware of the Government's commitment to public transport and, indeed, to the success of the rail privatisation programme, which is aimed at encouraging people onto the railways.

Blood Donations

3.10 p.m.

Lord Marlesford asked the Chairman of Committees whether he will consult with the appropriate authorities with a view to arranging for the National Blood Transfusion Service to hold a blood donor session in the Palace of Westminster.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I have made inquiries with the appropriate authorities as to the practicalities of the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I am happy to say that they would be happy to facilitate a special blood donor session if approached by the National Blood Service. However, I draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that the service holds--and has done so for many years--twice-yearly donor sessions in the Treasury which noble Lords, Members of another place and parliamentary staff are encouraged to attend.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees for that helpful answer. Will he agree with me that there are many people working in the Palace of Westminster who, in this fiftieth anniversary year of the National Blood Service, would wish to join the many citizens of this country who already give 2.3 million pints of good red blood in return for nothing but a cup of tea and a biscuit? That is unlike the French who, I am told, require a beefsteak and a plate of pommes frites.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I wholly agree with the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question. There are many noble Lords, Members of another place, staff of your Lordships' House and of another place and, indeed, people generally who would wish to give blood. However, the

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point on which I might venture to differ slightly from the noble Lord is that I was informed by a very senior officer of your Lordships' House this morning that in Coke's Commentaries it is stated:

    "People's blood runs blue when they become Peers".

I am not sure, therefore, whether your Lordships' House is best placed to assist in these matters. However, I am sure we can try to do so.

I should just add that I am most grateful to Sir Colin Walker, chairman of the National Blood Service, who has been in touch with me, for the background information he has provided. He makes the point that blood donation in the United Kingdom is voluntary, unpaid and, indeed, depends totally on the altruism of people. That is true and it is laudatory.

I must declare an interest. When I joined the Royal Air Force around Christmas 1950 we were offered an extra day's Christmas leave if we gave blood. I duly volunteered, but my blood was not taken because, as a child, I had suffered a mild attack of what we used to call in those days yellow jaundice. Nonetheless, as I had volunteered, I was given the extra day's leave at Christmas. That is the closest I have come in the whole of my life to an award for bravery. If your Lordships will forgive me, I have not quite finished; indeed, there is worse to come. Your Lordships will have appreciated from those circumstances that I have not even been put to the test.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, is not what the noble Lord has just said very sound evidence of the good that can arise from an attack of yellow jaundice? I say that because not many people in this country who have suffered from yellow jaundice finish up being the Lord Chairman of Committees in this House. However, I turn now to the question of blue and red blood. If the requested session can be arranged, will the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees ensure that the reception area is organised in the same manner as Customs and Excise areas at airports? In that case, those with blue blood flowing through their veins would go through the blue channel. Those of us--admittedly a much smaller number--with red blood rushing through our veins would willing go through the red channel.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for the very kind words he used at the beginning of his intervention. However, I think that he probably exaggerates the powers of the Chairman of Committees. I shall of course look into the suggestion that the noble Lord made. Perhaps I may make one practical point that arises out of the noble Lord's questions. If in fact a special session can be arranged here as a result of any consultations which may take place--that is, if we receive an approach from the National Blood Service--I should point out to your Lordships that, especially bearing in mind the facilities already available at the Treasury, it would not be practicable to provide such facilities within the buildings of the Palace itself. Your Lordships are only too familiar with the shortage of space within the Palace of Westminster. It might be possible to provide facilities in the vicinity of Black Rod's garden. I do not know

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whether the extra facilities that the noble Lord would like to see could be accommodated there; I have my doubts.

Viscount Tonypandy: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees bear in mind that a good word from that Dispatch Box to those wonderful people who give blood to save the lives of total strangers is something for which we are all deeply grateful? It is a tribute to our country that so many are willing to step forward and help people whom they never see.

The Chairman of Committees: Indeed, my Lords; I completely agree with the remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. Those people are indeed providing a great service to this country. The National Blood Service has carried out splendid work over the years. However, I know that the service is concerned to continue and, if possible, build up the flow of blood. While people generally respond very well indeed whenever a special appeal is made, it is the regular donations which are so much relied upon. If the number of such donations could be boosted, I am sure, as the noble Viscount suggests, it would be very desirable.

Lord Mottistone: My Lords, is there not an age limit above which blood is not readily accepted, which makes this House rather unsuitable? Can the noble Lord tell us what that age limit is?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, in the first place, I am advised sotto voce that hereditary Peers can make up for any shortcomings there may be. I pass that on as a matter of information. As your Lordships will appreciate, I do not enter into arguments of any kind. However, in answer to the noble Lord's question, I am, mercifully, able to help in that respect having been briefed on the subject. The age limits are 18 to 60, but, provided that it is medically acceptable for you to do so, you can donate up to the age of 65. I have already made one confession this afternoon. I have to tell your Lordships now that I am already passed my "gift-by date".

There is one additional piece of information that I should give your Lordships for the sake of accuracy. As the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will know, the law is different in Scotland. There the age limit is 17 to 60, but I understand that some consultations are taking place and it is possible that the age limit will be lowered to 17 in England and Wales. Whether the Scots are hardier than we are, I would not venture to suggest.


3.18 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the EU Working Time Directive.

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