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Baroness MacLeod of Borve: My Lords, perhaps I should declare an interest in this Question in that I can drive a double decker or a single decker bus. I can assure the House that any move in the direction of this Question will make it almost impossible for a bus driver to see a motorcyclist behind him. To allow that situation on our roads would be a great disadvantage not only to the bus drivers, but also to the motorcyclists.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I note the comments of the noble Baroness and particularly the expertise from which she draws them. It is important to maintain the credibility of bus lanes for their primary purpose; that is, enhancing bus journeys. That is why we have to look rigorously at the proposals for extending the use of bus lanes to any other vehicles.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am very well aware of the concerns of pedal cyclists about this possibility. They feel as strongly as those who use powered two-wheelers and who feel that this would be an advantage. That is one of the reasons why we have to be careful in this area and make certain that we do not take any steps without having evidence that to allow motorcyclists into bus lanes would be to the advantage of all the travelling public.
Lord Strathcarron: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that motorcycles should be encouraged, particularly in urban areas, because they are efficient, practical and very economical? Furthermore, three motorcycles take up the space of one car. As by the nature of things there have to be three people on three motorcycles, and as there is likely to be one driver in perhaps quite a large car, motorcyclists are doing a service in helping to prevent traffic congestion.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord uncovers a number of interesting areas. The effect that increased motorcycle usage has on congestion and on pollution depends on a number of factors, including how highly powered the two-wheeler is. There is a vast difference between low powered scooter-type vehicles, which can be useful in urban settings, and very highly powered vehicles. It also depends very much on how many people are in the car and whether the motorcyclist is transferring from a car or transferring from walking, cycling or public transport.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I live on the Bath Road in Reading and that we have a bus lane along that road? We are most concerned that, as bus lanes are clear of other traffic, there is a great temptation for motorcyclists to use them as race tracks, which they often do. Since there are side roads off the bus lanes in most cases, the danger to motor vehicles coming from the side roads is very great indeed. I hope my noble friend will utterly reject the proposal that bus lanes should be used by motorcyclists.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I note the comments of my noble friend, again from personal experience. One of the points his comments highlight is the need for proper and effective enforcement regarding the use of bus lanes if they are to carry out their proper purpose.
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, is the Minister aware that no adverse effects were caused by the motorcycles being in those bus lanes and no accidents were caused in the bus lanes in Bristol during that six-month period?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Can he confirm that the Government see this as a constructive step forward and that we should be thinking of someone of the same calibre and quality as the secretary-general of NATO for this appointment? Can he also confirm that the British Government do not see the policy planning unit as something which should be kept as small as possible and as long term as possible but as something which should be adequately staffed to serve its function in assisting the high representative?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I would agree with the noble Lord that this appointment is an important one for the co-ordination within the European Union of common foreign and security policy. As far as concerns the size of the unit, the key issue is its effectiveness rather than the size of its staffing. We are very keen to see an effective unit performing this function.
Lord Garel-Jones: My Lords, given that common foreign and security policy remains an intergovernmental activity, can the Minister assure the House that those who will be manning this secretariat and advising the secretary-general will, as a general principle, be diplomats on secondment from national governments for three to five years rather than full-time functionaries from the European Union?
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will my noble friend consider the question of duplication? The Western European Union's planning cell may be unsung but it does some useful work, involving distinguished contributions from the United Kingdom. Would it not be a mistake if there were excessive duplication in this area?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. A closer relationship between the EU policy-making function and the WEU is envisaged in the Treaty of Amsterdam, and certainly duplication is to be avoided in this area. But the combination should be at its most effective in support of the member states in the council.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that the Government are putting enough effort into securing a common foreign policy? I am thinking not only of Iraq but also of the summit that has just taken place between Chancellor Kohl, President Chirac and the Polish president. A similar one is scheduled with the Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. Did the UK Government seek to be present at those meetings, either as the UK or as the presidency of the EU? It seems to me that they ought to have been present.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the common foreign and security policy exists where the member states of the European Union have a consensus that they wish to pursue a particular line of policy. Bilateral arrangements by other member-states will continue to take place. It is not a matter for the UK, either as the UK Government or as the presidency, to move in on other member states' foreign policies any more than we would expect them to move in on ours. However, the whole point of these changes is to ensure that there are greater areas and better support for those areas where we can agree between the member states on a common policy.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, deeply appreciative as I am of the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, any words from me would hardly improve his candidature for that post.
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