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Lord McNally: My Lords, I am sorry to delay the proceedings, but this is the second time that the Minister has rather skidded over the problems that may arise from this legislation in regard to small and medium-sized enterprises. I hope that he and his colleagues will be left in no doubt as to the concern felt in this sector and the need for reassurances from Ministers.
I shall not deal with agricultural co-operatives. I have been reminded by the Chief Whip that time is rapidly moving on, that this is a Thursday and that we have other business to transact. He is entitled to make all those points.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Turner raised questions about mergers. The Bill is targeted at those areas where competition law reform is most urgently needed. We certainly cannot set about reforming every aspect. I believe that I dealt with the essential points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain.
We take note of the points made by my noble friend Lord Borrie. The contribution that he has made over so many years in this field is greatly appreciated. But we do have to consider such questions as adequacy of resources. It is not easy to deal with all these points. I thank my noble friend for being so supportive of the purposes of the Bill and take note of the criticisms he made in so far as they are criticisms at all.
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, the prohibition of abuse is a general prohibition. Specific abuses such as predatory pricing will therefore be covered. I shall refrain from going into the specific cases raised by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. It would not be right to do so in the context of this winding-up speech or in our deliberations on the Bill as a whole. However, I thank my noble friend for mentioning matters that are of great concern.
The noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin, made a most useful intervention. I can only hope that he will be greatly encouraging the days when, in cricket terms, we shall regain a dominant position. I do not care about abuse after that. Again, his points were detailed and are more appropriate for the Committee and Report stages.
I note the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and my noble friend Lord Cocks. Effectively, their point is that prohibition should not be operated by the OFT. I dealt with that issue in part. It is right to say at this stage that we do not wholly agree with the conclusions that they reached. We shall return to the matter at a later stage.
I wish to conclude on a point about consumers. The consumer needs to have a clear voice under the new regime. The Bill ensures that that will be the case. The Office of Fair Trading will be the primary enforcer of the new regime. The outward objective of the work of the Office of Fair Trading as a competition authority is to benefit consumers. That is essentially what it is about. The Director General of Fair Trading has to take full account of the impact on consumers in assessing whether behaviour is anti-competitive.
We believe that it is an essential part of a fair and transparent system that there should be recourse to effective appeal. We have extended that right under the Bill to consumers. That is the most effective way of recognising the rights of consumers. We have ensured that third parties with a sufficient interest and organisations representing such people will be able to
It is time for the proceedings to move on. I thank noble Lords for the contributions they have made. We have clearly benefited from them. I look forward to the Committee stage, which will start quite shortly. I hope that as a result of these deliberations we shall be in a position to emerge with a better Bill. It is a good Bill, but there is room for improvement. I commend it to the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, as this is an Unstarred Question debate, I should like to start by thanking all those who will speak later. In particular, I should like to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, who is to make his maiden speech. We very much look forward to hearing what he has to say. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lady Wilcox, who has come down from Scotland this afternoon to take part in the debate. I should like to thank too all those who have helped me learn about the subject, in particular the research department of your Lordships' Library which started me off on the right track. I should like to thank the Port of London Authority, whose help was essential and whose hospitality was most welcome. The London Tourist Board too provided a lot of useful information. Finally, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who has been most encouraging and enthusiastic.
Many great cities have come into existence beside waterways and have flourished because of them. That is very true of London, which was probably first settled some few hundred years before the advent of the Romans. Under their rule, it became a leading port and trading centre and has remained so ever since.
However, this debate is not about the port of London as a commercial port but about the use of the Thames itself for tourism. Why is it the case that every casual mention of the Thames seems to provoke a response that it is under-used and unappreciated? I think that response is at least partly based on the perception that in central London there is not much visible activity other than the rather unsightly rubbish barges and a rather motley collection of passenger vessels, each one announcing that it is, of course, the official sightseeing boat.
It is clear that there are few individual users of the river through the City and central London. It is only further upstream, where the river becomes more residential and recreational in character, that one sees some rowers, sailors and motorboats, and that mainly at
London welcomes some 26 million visitors during the year, roughly half of them from abroad. Most of them depend on coaches. Only about 2 million go on the Thames. Very few indeed come to London with the primary object of a trip on the Thames. And yet some of the most popular sites for visits are associated with the river--for example, Greenwich, the Tower, St. Paul's, the Globe Theatre, the Festival Hall, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, Windsor and even Oxford. How many visitors set out to "do" all or many of these by water?
One of the most important factors for a tourist visiting London is that there should be plenty of photo opportunities. Surely the best ones for most of the prime sites are from the river. Londoners, and those who come to work in London, dislike tourists, mainly because their coaches clutter up the roads adjacent to the main tourist attractions. Would it not be possible to direct coaches onto a "line of route" to major new car parks and encourage tourists to take boats to visit these sites?
Another idea might be to follow what is a growing activity on the Seine, the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube, the Elbe and the Loire etc., where tourists use large, powered barges to move up and down waterways--in other words, as floating hotels--to visit attractions beside the river, also using coaches for excursions further afield.
Possibly bridges are too low on the Thames and the locks too small. Certainly most canals are much too narrow. But I am sure that these problems could be overcome with imagination, innovation and, above all, the will to co-operate of the private and public sectors.
There are two major obstacles to greater use of the Thames: the tidal ebb and flow and access. The difference between high and low water at Tower Bridge is seven metres. I am surprised that this was not, it seems, adequately considered when the flood barrier was built. Surely it could have been designed with a dual purpose in mind: to retain the flow as well as to prevent flooding?
The PLA is right to be constantly concerned with safety. We had an excellent example of an unfortunate accident in the fog earlier this week when a heavy barge crashed into the barrier. There are strong currents, low bridges and mud which can be very slippery and sticky and can swallow people if they walk in the wrong places. I must mention the large number of derelict jetties and piers, particularly below Greenwich. Not only are they potential hazards but they also contribute to the general air of tattiness which pervades the lower river and takes away from the great, prosperous enterprises which are such a feature of that part of the river.
In the past year some 20,000 visitors arrived in London by cruise liner, disembarking at the cruise port of Tilbury and at the Pool. We must do all we can to encourage these visits. We should make it easy, comfortable and a rewarding experience to come to the centre of London by river.
Access to the river is the most important and difficult problem. Piers, and particularly new piers, are most welcome. But London man and London woman have stood, and stand now, figuratively with their backs to the Thames. It is there, but it is not part of their lives; they cross it and drive alongside it; but they do not include it in their conscious plans. They cannot bring their cars to the Thames, park and go for a trip. They have to come by train and/or bus, and many do so. If they could bring their cars, I am sure that many more would come more often. If we can get Londoners to appreciate and use the river more, it will be all the easier to persuade visitors to do so.
The millennium exhibition at Greenwich is, of course, the catalyst for much optimism and new thinking about the Thames. New piers, the dome, new car parks at Barking and Thamesmead, revived water buses, improved bridges, water taxis etc. all need enthusiastic support. I am glad to say that the Deputy Prime Minister is giving a welcome lead in this area.
I have also been agreeably surprised at the energy and dedication that officials at the Port of London Authority show in their approach to the many challenges that they are meeting. For instance, there is a plan to flood the moat and re-open Traitors' Gate at the Tower. That should be another way of persuading tourists to visit the tower by water. There are also plans to recreate one of the many multi-oared barges which were such a feature of the city in the 17th and 18th centuries. That is to be done by some of the livery companies in the City and will be a very exciting project.
Why not go further and consider building a brand new pier between the two Houses of Parliament? It could bring in tourists on a new line of route, massively relieving congestion in and around Parliament Square. It could also be used for state visits. It would surely be a better place than Victoria Station for the Queen to greet her guests.
I look forward to the time when, as a result of the extremely good news on the fish situation in the Thames, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and I may be together on the new pier catching fish for one of the restaurants--it sounds like a nice idea. Another good start might be if the very unattractive mooring barges opposite your Lordships' House were cleaned up and given a coat or two of paint.
I look at the time and see that I have gone on for far too long; it is late. But, after all, the Thames is a liquid and living history. It is always changing. It will still be rolling along down to the mighty sea whatever we do or say.
Lord Gordon of Strathblane: My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not think it presumptuous of me to rise and address the House so soon after my introduction to this Chamber only two days ago. My natural diffidence--I feel more than a little diffident, which is entirely proper in these somewhat awe-inspiring surroundings--has been overcome partly by my enthusiasm for the subject which the noble Lord raised,
It has been reassuring to see quite a few familiar faces from my previous career, first, as a presenter of political programmes on Scottish Television 30 years ago. Some at that time had not yet graduated from another House. But more recently I have been running a local radio station in Glasgow and, more recently still, have been chairman of a company running a group of radio stations. It has also been a delightful and indeed rejuvenating experience to find so many of my contemporaries at Glasgow University in such fine form and to see the Glasgow University mafia--or "Scotia Nostra" as we sometimes called it--still in good operating order.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, for raising this Unstarred Question, which gives me the opportunity to make my maiden speech on tourism and, in particular, on its effects on a great river. It will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that I am a Scot, and I should perhaps open by allaying any fears that my intervention on a debate on the Thames might produce that I have some territorial aggrandisement proposals to bring before the House at a later stage, even though my first names are James Stuart. Even Bonnie Prince Charlie stopped at Derby.
I regard the Government's proposals for the better governance of Scotland as essentially removing an irritant which was in danger of destabilising the Union and in no way as Scotland turning its back on the rest of the UK. I am glad to intervene in a debate on tourism on the Thames because tourism is one of the issues which affects the whole of the UK. A bad experience in a London hotel or a Highland croft equally will leave a nasty taste in the mouths of our visitors.
The previous Government were kind enough to appoint me to the Scottish Tourist Board earlier this year, so I am still very much on a learning curve. However, I hope to make it one of my special interests in this House. It will not surprise the noble Lord, Lord Luke, to learn that many of the subjects he raised in regard to the Thames have preoccupied the citizens of other great cities--Glasgow and the Clyde and so forth. I have no doubt that there will always be legitimate differences of opinion as to the use of our great rivers as an industrial artery or a leisure facility. But I hope that they will not be thought of as incompatible.
I know that the Thames in its upper reaches has a beautiful, tranquil, leisurely appearance to it. But there is also excitement for tourists and Londoners alike in seeing great ships berthed at working docks. There is a certain drama about them--not as beautiful as stately galleons in a bygone age perhaps, but they are a reminder to the credit card carrying citizens of a
It is important to see attention focused once again on the positive aspects of the rivers running through our city centres. I share the regret of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, that for too long they were regarded as unfortunate obstacles to be bridged over or tunnelled under. In some cases--not rivers perhaps, but canals--they were even filled in, now making the job of reopening them (which is the current fashion) even more expensive. It is significant that the people who built the Houses of Parliament built the terraces facing the river. I believe that cities which do not have rivers will create artificial watercourses in the centre to provide an attraction simply because flowing water is attractive to look at.
The rediscovery of the pleasures of cruising, to which the noble Lord referred, is another important aspect of tourism because it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourist industry. There will be an important role for rivers which are fortunate to be navigable as far as city centres. It will heighten the experience of visiting tourists if boats can be berthed close to the sights of a great city.
It is important that London, however rich it is in pageantry and history, is never complacent. A share of the world's tourism market does not come automatically. Competition is increasing all the time from other destinations. Fortunately, so is the size of the market. Indeed, by the turn of the century tourism will be the biggest industry in the world and it is vitally important for all of us that we fight to ensure that the UK gets a bigger share of that market.
An unfortunate by-product of the renaming of the Department of National Heritage as the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was the omission of the word "tourism". Obviously it would have meant a telephone directory title if we had included all its functions. But tourist boards can only do so much. They can market destinations, and do so very well. They can persuade rather than regulate the practitioners in the industry into providing a better quality of service. But, at the end of the day, the visitor's experience depends on links in the chain much further down and they are entirely independent operators, whether it is large hotels or small bed and breakfast concerns; whether it is taxi owners or the providers of mass transportation.
The noble Lord, Lord Luke, referred to converting Londoners into seeing the Thames differently. I could not agree more. We must convince the citizens of all our cities and countryside that tourism is in their best interest. After all, tourism amortises the cost of living in an area over a much wider population base than its native residents. The Society of West End Theatre estimated that if tourism disappeared half the London theatres would shut. Tourism earns foreign currency as surely as any manufactured exports. It provides one in five new jobs and they are more likely to be permanent jobs than in some other sectors. Any attempt to increase pay and improve training will only heighten the reputation of tourism. It is also friendly to the environment.
But most important of all is not the revenue returns or the jobs it provides, but the pride it engenders in the citizens of the host country. As we show visitors the attractions of our cities or our countryside, we heighten our own appreciation of them. That pride--not in any way chauvinistic or jingoistic--reminds us all that we in our lifetimes are only trustees of our environment, our historic buildings and our fine traditions. It makes us all the more grateful for being fortunate enough to live in this country. That feeling of legitimate pride can only be good for society as a whole.
Lord Gladwyn: My Lords, on behalf of the whole House it is my pleasurable duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, on his excellent and fluent maiden speech in which he brought his experience of the Clyde to help us solve the problem of the Thames. He comes as a leading authority on radio and with a wide career in public service. As he told us, he was educated at Glasgow University in the company of other distinguished members of his party. We look forward to hearing him frequently in this House. I note that he lists geniality among his recreations, for which he will doubtless find ample opportunity for study in your Lordships' Chamber.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Luke, on initiating this debate. Although well aware that I lack the special qualifications of several other speakers, I feel impelled to participate as the author of two walking guide books to the Thames.
From the humble point of view of a pedestrian, it is fair to say that the enjoyment of the Thames, as implied in the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, has already achieved its full potential in the Thames Path, from source to barrier, which, in most of its tidal reaches extends along both sides of the river and is now virtually completed.
In considering first that tranquil stretch of the tidal Thames from Kew up to Teddington and the non-tidal river from there to Windsor, my main concern is lest the Thames should be overrun by excessive tourism. I am relieved that the Millennium Commission rejected the idea of a string of intrusive tourist centres between Kew and Hampton. I am apprehensive about the concept of a cycle route, as predicated by the Government earlier this year; a surfaced route running parallel to the tow path would severely detract from the rural scenery in those stretches of the river.
Also, I am concerned about the plethora of motor launches, whose speed restriction of 8 km an hour is so generally flouted. Motor cruising stands out against other leisure uses because of its damage to the environment, because it is mechanical, visually and audibly intrusive and conflicts with the interests of all the active aquatic recreations. I should like to see the Environment Agency gradually increasing the fees and charges, so as to reduce over time that dominant usage of the tidal river.
Turning to the more central issues of this debate, we certainly live in exciting times. We have recently witnessed the opening of important new riverside attractions--the London Aquarium, the Globe and the Golden Hinde--and we now await such marvels as the Battersea Entertainment Complex, the Ferris Wheel, the National Theatre development, the Bankside Tate Gallery and, last but not least, the Millennium Experience, formerly referred to as the Millennium Dome. That promises to be a truly amazing experience, even though, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Fawsley, informed this House, it is not truly a dome in the traditional sense. Thereby, it is altogether different from another millennium dome--fortunately never built--planned in Berlin in the early part of the war for the inauguration of the so-called 1000 year Reich.
Together with all London's famous existing monuments along the river, those attractions have been compared to a row of pearls, a row which includes many much smaller gems. Here, I declare an interest as I am president of one of the smallest--the Brunel Exhibition on the embankment at Rotherhithe, describing the construction of the original Thames Tunnel.
So, there are pearls aplenty, loosely strung along the river. The problem, as I see it, relates not to a shortage of gems, but to the string: how to make use of the river as a highway? The Thames 2000 initiative is welcome and timely. We can all hope that, despite previous failures, regular passenger services will be established between central London and Greenwich. But obviously there are formidable hurdles for private operators considering investment in such services. Prominent among those are the conflict of interest between dedicated services and stopping services; and the transitory nature of the special demand in the year 2000.
All are dependent on the provision and quality of piers and the convenience of their links with the London transport system. The Port of London Authority's new Charing Cross pier will admirably fulfil those requirements. But several others involve awkward transits, thus limiting the potential for mass tourism on the river, about which one has to be realistic. One area where growth seems to be assured is in the demand for cruise ships coming up the Thames to London, and the proposed new liner terminal at Greenwich Reach would greatly increase that potential.
Grandiose schemes for creating a linear park are surely misconceived. The facts of geography will inevitably prevent the line of the Thames in London from ever becoming the busy, bustling centre of the surrounding urbanisation. Nor is it really a single entity, being so diverse in size, usage and architecture. That disparity is, of course, true of London as a whole, in notable contrast to Paris, where the entire city comprises an architectural entity and where the Seine from the Ile de la Cite to the Eiffel Tower does indeed comprise a kind of linear park.
The other great contrast between London and Paris is that our river is tidal. I am certainly among those who want to see it kept that way. I should deplore its conversion to a lagoon by means of closing the Thames
Incidentally, some will recall the remarkable exploit of the late Lord Noel-Buxton, who, in 1952, walked at low tide across the river bed just here without getting his head wet, to the general admiration of his fellow parliamentarians assembled on the Terrace, in order to prove that there had once been a ford. If any very tall Member of this House would like to follow in his steps, I have no doubt that it would be an excellent tourist draw.
The foreshore is, anyway, under constant pressure from development schemes which encroach upon it, although the creative designs around the millennium site provide an admirable example of how to preserve and, indeed, enhance the river bank.
Many are the great architectural and engineering projects that have arisen beside the Thames in London. One of the most notable was Brunel's "Great Eastern" steamship, the largest ship in the world for 40 years. Unfortunately, there were terrible problems in launching it, which almost doubled its cost and caused the death of its creator. I only hope that all our newly impending projects will be launched without such dire trouble.
Lord Mountevans: My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Luke for raising this interesting--perhaps I may say enchanting--subject. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane. I believe he is a member of the Scottish Tourist Board; I very much hope that we do not cross swords in the future and that we fight shoulder to shoulder for the greater interests of the tourist business.
The river, like London's buses, is one of our great under-utilised resources in transport terms. It is under-utilised by residents because it twists, turns, bobs and weaves; and it is also under-used by tourists, whom I should very much like to see making more use of it. But, if one thinks of the Thames and transport, one must remember that there are very few instances in this world where tourism provides the bread. If there is to be transport on the Thames, it must be the residents of London who make use of it and the tourists will then ride on its back. They are the icing on the cake.
It is the same with the buses. Neither London Transport buses nor indeed London Underground run very much specifically for tourists. Indeed, the Underground runs nothing for tourists. In the old days, pre-franchising, London Transport buses ran the Round London Sights Tour and the Airbus. But it made £40 million or £50 million a year from tourist revenue, using facilities which were already there for the residents, particularly in the off-peak hours.
As some noble Lords will remember, there was a river bus service. I believe that it used to go up and down from London Docklands to Chelsea Harbour. It ran a 15-minute service each way each day. But if noble Lords had sat on the Terrace or in the Guest Room, they would have seen that those utterly reliable vessels were absolutely empty, except on one or two days when both London Underground and London Buses went on strike. So the river bus became the line of last resort.
Why did it die? It died on cost grounds. Its fares were too high and could not be integrated into the GLC/London Transport fares system. It died on convenience grounds. I cite one example; namely, Whitehall-bound passengers. Whitehall is not a residential area. People going to Whitehall come in in the morning to work and go out to home in the evening. Unfortunately, at that time they had to get off in Lambeth. If you are heading for Whitehall, you will not use a boat that sets you down in Lambeth. You might as well take the Underground, the bus or anything else that is available.
How then do we make residents more keen on using the Thames? We have to make the use of it as a transport medium more attractive to Londoners. If the service is provided for Londoners, the tourists will then use it. They become marginal revenue and profit, which is very important if we go to the private sector. The first thing we have to do is address the fares structure. The river bus was always much dearer than the services provided by London Transport.
We have to look also at the factor of frequent stops. I mentioned the fact that the many thousands of people who worked in Whitehall did not have access to Whitehall and Westminster. They had to get off on the other side of the river. We need convenience stops. We need a frequent service. But which comes first: the chicken or the egg? If the service is good, more people will use it. If the service is bad, they will stick to their old habits--the car, the tube or the bus. We need a convenient service. I almost come back to my remark about piers. We need services that take people from where they want to go to where they want to reach.
The only way to make a riverbus run on the basis of more frequent stops, more convenient stops, more frequent services and more convenient services would be to provide those four things. If you did that, you would justify higher fares. Noble Lords will know that I work the transport scene quite hard. I cannot see that you can make the river attractive as it does not fit into the fare zones. It will always be more expensive. Therefore, you have to make it more attractive, as I say, by means of frequent stops, convenient stops, frequent services and more convenient services.
There is an option which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who is to reply, might just pass on to his colleagues. A car use tax would make the river more attractive. We could have a travelcard variant. Although it has not been done here, it has been done elsewhere. I think in particular of Stockholm, where I spent a number of years in my youth. The county of Stockholm had a county-wide travel card, which is what the GLC brought us in the early 1980s. The GLC did a great deal
Stockholm is a city between lakes, which are fresh water, and the Baltic, which is modestly tidal--so modestly so that when I was promoting tourism to Britain in Stockholm we got a charter operator to go to Jersey and Guernsey, and there the tidal variant at certain times of the year is 50 feet. The people from Stockholm had never seen a tide like that. They went for the English speaking, the cheap shopping and all kinds of other things, but they actually held parties on hotel terraces in order to watch the water go up and down.
Stockholm ices up seriously at about this time of the year and stays iced up until April or May. In May people want to commute to the lakes. That is where their second homes are. They want to commute out to the archipelago, which runs up to 30 or 40 miles. The county of Stockholm produced one travel card, which cost the equivalent of, say, £5 per month. In the summer there was a £9 travel card which gave access to the boats.
That might be the route whereby we get the residents to accept that the Thames is a viable and attractive transport means. If we do that, we can take the tourists with us. I am not aware of any place in the world where tourism provides the water-borne transport. But if the residents provide it, the tourists will provide the profits.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part for once in an apolitical/non-political debate in your Lordships' House. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Luke, for introducing this Unstarred Question. I salute him on his appointment to the Front Bench. It will add ballast to that slightly leaky ship. He inspired me to speak in this debate. It happened in May in, of all places, the Salisbury Room where I work. The noble Lord also works there. I sit with my back to the Thames. That is not lese majeste to a majestic river. It is simply that if I look towards the Thames I do no work and I spend my life looking at the water. One day in May, around eleven o'clock, the noble Lord got up, walked across the room, looked at the Thames, and said amusingly, "I do not see any tourist boats." He was right.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, on his maiden speech. We have not previously met. I owe him a debt. For one year I lived at Strathclyde Graduate Business School. I enjoyed it. Ten years previously I walked from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. That, as the noble Lord will know--the thirty eight and-a-half miles--is the Antonine Wall. The place was a mess. The canals and the great River Clyde were very polluted. Ten years later it had improved. I say with certainty that the noble Lord made a magnificent contribution to that improvement. We look forward to hearing from him often, and we hope that a man who has cleaned up the River Clyde can give your Lordships great advice on how to improve the Thames for tourism.
I salute the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, who is not in his place. I was brought up at various schools and academies alongside the Thames. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, was my history master at Eton College. Among his many duties, he taught me history. Occasionally, I was not an apt pupil. I would take what was called French leave and row up the River Thames--on one occasion from Windsor to Marlow. It is, I think noble Lords will agree, one of the most beautiful stretches of the Thames. I use that--my first introduction to the river--to say that the Thames must be considered an entity, from its source to a great estuary and on into the ocean. I hope noble Lords will realise that what happens at one point in the Thames affects other parts of the Thames, and vice versa.
I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is in his place. He is the successor of another very great Londoner. I refer to one of his predecessors, the late Lord Morrison of Lambeth. He was a Londoner. I call him a Labour statesman. I am wrong--he was a national statesman. He did an enormous amount for London. He cleaned up London. He was of course the Home Secretary during the Blitz. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is not in his place, but he is the biographer of Lord Morrison. I think I am right in saying that such was Lord Morrison's love for London and for the River Thames that he asked for his ashes to be scattered in the Thames. I wish the noble Lord every success in overseeing the work that will have to be carried out on the Thames.
Noble Lords will remember that the noble Lord replied to a debate on Stonehenge earlier this year. I regret that I did not speak. Noble Lords referred to the point that Stonehenge is our oldest national monument. Yes, noble Lords are right. It is indeed the oldest man-made national monument. I suspect, however, that noble Lords will agree with me when I say that the Thames is our oldest natural national monument. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I have recently read in the newspapers that already ministries are moving to restore Stonehenge to its great glory. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who gave that commitment in the earlier debate, had something to do with that. I hope that at the end of this debate he will give a commitment from the Government to co-ordinate the work on the Thames.
I hope that we shall see bold and imaginative measures to increase and improve tourism on the river. I looked carefully at the Question put down by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. It says "on the Thames". So far so good. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, said in my history report--because I spent so much time on the Thames--"Not good enough". I suggest that we should also consider "Along the Thames"; pathways up and down the Thames from source to estuary; and "under the Thames" for snorkelling and marine life. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned Brunel, as he did in his maiden speech. The noble Lord has written a book for tourists about the Thames. I suggest that in many ways he has made as valuable a contribution as his great ancestor did.
I wish to focus on one thing called "Over the Thames". Noble Lords will remember two incidents which occurred in London during the summer. One was very tragic. Noble Lords will know what I mean. There was a national funeral where we expressed certain emotions. The other incident was very exhilarating. I believe that it was on 14th September that two enterprising, highly skilful, risk-taking gentlemen, Mr. Didier Pasquette and Mr. Jade Kindar-Martin, crossed this great river from the Savoy hotel to the Oxo building on a tightrope. Journalists pointed out that 10,000 people watched the event. But that is only half right. I was in the Baltic states at the time and I know that the world looked on with fascination at what was happening over the Thames. I mentioned that the event was bold, imaginative and skilful. I hope that any future plans and ideas for the Thames will be bold, imaginative and skilfully carried out.
I shall add one other word--safety. Up and down the Thames, in the churches and public places, there are monuments to those who, through misfortune or carelessness or through other people's carelessness, lost their lives on the river. Noble Lords may have visited Southwark Cathedral and will have seen the most moving monument to the victims of the "Marchioness" disaster and tragedy. So I implore those who are responsible for leisure and pleasure on the Thames to first consider safety.
Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, I should first tell the House that for nearly 10 years I have been a member of the board of the London Docklands Development Corporation. The corporation was established in 1981 to try to regenerate the East End of London. It had not only suffered through the closure of the dock industry, which employed about 60,000 workers, because of the change to container traffic, but it also suffered substantially during the Blitz when the German Luftwaffe pilots followed the Thames as a silver arrow pointing into the heart of the East End of London on their night raids.
There was a lot of work for us to do, but throughout this time we made it our business to try to make the Thames more effective and attractive. Indeed, we preserved a number of the water features because we stopped the in-filling of the large dock basins which was in progress, and we have preserved those and made them accessible. We have refurbished locks, and the larger ones are now available to ships. We have also tried to use the river as much as possible, requiring developers to bring in materials by barge and boat wherever possible and to get rid of spoil in the same way in order not only to use the river but to make sure that the surrounding road system is not loaded down with heavy lorries.
The question of passenger services on the river is a vexed one. I plead guilty to having been chairman of the Docklands Use of the River Group for some years. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, that we have spent a great deal of time trying to save the river bus and to encourage Londoners to use the service. But unfortunately what he said is absolutely true. When there were difficulties with the regular transport on the Tubes and buses, people flocked onto the river bus, but as soon as things improved they went back to their old habits. It was impossible to change their travelling habits. So whoever tries to do that will face a difficult job. The truth of the matter is that some form of public subsidy is required to make the service viable. But public subsidies are not a popular topic at the moment.
The anomaly is that the subject on which we get most publicity and favourable comment in Docklands concerns the bird rafts which we have floated out into the main dock areas. These are extremely attractive, popular and successful. We are getting birds back into the area now which disappeared a long time ago. We are also getting substantial stocks of fish. In fact, my committee had to deal with a case of poaching--is that the right word for fish?
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