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Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her interesting reply. I receive many complaints concerning the state of traffic in London. I am impressed also by the Green Paper called, New Leadership for London. That says,

All those problems reduce the quality of life here in London. Can my noble friend say when the White Paper, which I understand is being prepared, will be published so that we may debate the matter further?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those comments. We also receive many complaints about the state of traffic in London. We plan to publish the integrated transport White Paper late next spring. There is an enormous task ahead. There were over 5,000 public responses to the consultation. That illustrates the acceptance and acknowledgement that we cannot go on as we have in the past on transport policy. But we are taking steps in the meantime. My noble friend referred to the issue of emissions from vehicles. The new experimental powers for local authorities to conduct roadside testing for emissions will be a help in that area.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the House may recall that this time last week the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, expressed his unhappiness about the Government's proposals not to re-nationalise the railways in Wales. Can the noble Baroness confirm--I hasten to add that I

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bear no personal animus towards the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn--that their proposals to consider at least the partial privatisation of London Underground are likely to increase the noble Lord's unhappiness?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I would never do anything--nor, I believe, would my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister--to increase the unhappiness of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn. We have completely ruled out the wholesale privatisation of London Underground. But given the history of neglect and under-investment in London Underground, it is essential that we find ways of improving investment. That has to be done by sensible partnership with the private sector.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, will my noble friend--

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, perhaps I may--

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, does the Minister agree--

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I cannot see what goes on behind me, but we have time for my noble friends and the noble Earl. In strict equity, it is probably our turn this time, and then the noble Earl afterwards.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, will my noble friend do all she can to promote cycling in London, in particular by providing more cycle ways? That would surely help to ease congestion. Is she aware of the London Cycling Campaign, which has been in existence for some years now and is developing a number of initiatives to promote cycling?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, my honourable friend the Minister for Transport in London launched consultations in August on a new approach to traffic management and parking in London. That consultation ends at the end of this week. We intend to publish new guidance early next year. We are proposing significant changes to current guidance on parking controls, the aims of the red route network and the development of cycling facilities in London. We are also looking at particular measures regarding buses, and to help pedestrians and people with disabilities. I know that my noble friend shares my interest in road safety. I hope that in encouraging cycling he will also encourage the wearing of cycle helmets.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it was a great mistake a few decades ago to abolish our tram system? Trams are clean, efficient, reliable and user friendly. If she wants evidence of an efficient tram system, will she visit the city of Talin, in Estonia, where she will see in operation an efficient system? She will not only receive a warm welcome but she can also ride on a tram--which she cannot do here.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I can also go to Manchester, which might not take me away from your

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Lordships' House for so long. There are undoubtedly advantages to trams. Implementing light rail systems and tram systems is extremely expensive in terms of investment. We underuse buses. More investment in buses could have a huge impact on improving public transport.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is it not the case that if the Greater London Council had not been abolished we should not be in the present mess so far as concerns traffic in London? But as we are in such a mess, does my noble friend agree that it is necessary to take some immediate steps in preparation for the possibility of the recreation of an authority in London? The matter cannot be left in its present situation.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, no, the situation cannot be left. That is why my honourable friend the Minister for Transport is taking the action that she is; it is why we are supporting initiatives such as the World Squares Initiative and looking at ways of reducing traffic congestion in some parts of central London; it is also why we are making progress on the Bill to hold a referendum on creating a greater london authority.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that a great part of London traffic congestion--not perhaps on the most arterial routes but elsewhere--is caused by vehicles engaged on building operations and in which the police seem totally uninterested? No doubt the vehicles have to be outside buildings, but not double parked, and sometimes triple parked. Could there not be greater control over this?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point on the question of enforcement. In all areas of traffic control, whether it concerns parking or bus lanes, it is essential that we have in place enforcement mechanisms and speed controls to ensure that we do not cause congestion that is avoidable.

Folic Acid

2.55 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to encourage the use of folic acid in order to reduce the incidence of spina bifida and babies with neural tube defects.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the Government are actively encouraging all women of child-bearing age to increase the amount of folic acid they consume through a three-year health promotion campaign, costing £2.3 million, which is being run on our behalf by the Health Education Authority. Since the campaign began, surveys show that 84 per cent. of the women questioned are now aware of folic acid and its importance compared with 51 per cent. at the beginning

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of the campaign. The Department of Health has also set up an expert committee which is considering all aspects of this question and is expected to report early next year.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I am sure the whole House will appreciate those efforts. But is my noble friend aware that the minority are precisely the people who would be at risk--those not involved? Does my noble friend agree that it is a pity not to proceed with legislation as the benefits are so great and the consequences of delay are so terrible, with many children being born with avoidable spina bifida? Should we not follow the example of the United States, where they have legislated on this issue?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, every baby born with a neural tube defect, of which spina bifida is probably the most common, is a great tragedy. However, it is worth noting that the numbers born have fallen from four per thousand births 25 years ago to 0.3 per thousand now. I am aware that the American Food and Drug Administration is implementing statutory control of folic acid. But, as my noble friend may be aware, the amount of folic acid that it is statutorily instructing food manufacturers to put into food is considerably less than the 400 micrograms which are recommended as an extra food supplement by doctors in this country.

Lord Stewartby: My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that folic acid is extremely beneficial for many other conditions and that it would be wise to encourage consumption even though it may mean eating more broccoli and other rather unattractive foodstuffs?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I understand that it is not simply broccoli, because in order to reach the 400 micrograms recommended as an additional food supplement one would have to eat 27 bananas every day. The noble Lord is right. There is mounting evidence that folic acid plays a role in heart disease. Several trials to investigate this issue are going on worldwide, including one that is being co-ordinated by Oxford University. We shall wait to see what the evidence produces on that before making further recommendations.

Health and Safety Executive

2.57 p.m.

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to improve the efficiency and performance of the Health and Safety Executive.

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