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House of Lords

Monday, 16th November 1998.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Blackburn.

Earl Waldegrave --Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.

Millennium Dome: Transport Facilities

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contingency plans are in place for transport to and from the Millennium Dome in the event of the Jubilee Line extension not opening on schedule.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Government welcome London Transport's proposed strategy for phased opening of the Jubilee Line extension project and its confirmation that it will be open in good time for the Millennium Experience. Nevertheless, it would be irresponsible not to put in place contingency arrangements to manage possible problems on any of the main transport links to the Millennium site, including any major failure of the Jubilee Line.

Lord Luke: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware of the recent total chaos in the Greenwich area caused by the shutting of the Rotherhithe tunnel for repair? What would happen to visitors to the Dome should any disruption be caused to the smooth running of the Jubilee Line, even if it is completed in time?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I repeat that we are confident that the Jubilee Line will be completed in time. Nevertheless, there could be disruption as the noble Lord suggests, and my honourable friend Glenda Jackson heads a task force looking at alternative access in the event of such failures. We believe that, using all the modes of transport to Greenwich, we can ensure that an adequate number of people reach the Millennium Dome. As regards the traffic disruption around Greenwich following the simultaneous closure of Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels, we will avoid that during the period of opening of the Millennium Dome.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, is it true that the Jubilee Line is now running £1 billion over budget? If so, from which part of the Minister's budget is that to come?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the figure of £1 billion is not correct. The estimated total cost of the Jubilee Line project is now £2.85 billion. Clearly it is a substantial project which has been matched mainly from London

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Transport resources. The Government have now taken steps with London Transport to ensure that it will be delivered on time.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, is the Minister aware that this is not simply a question of anxieties concerning the Millennium Dome? There is widespread anxiety in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets regarding up to 20,000 new jobs which may be created following building in and around the Canary Wharf area. There is a need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to enable people to travel safely to and from the area. Is the Minister aware of the concerns in particular about the stresses and strains on the Dockland Light Railway, where the platforms are often extremely congested? Is he looking at ways in which that situation might be eased?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am well aware that the Jubilee Line is not there simply for the Millennium Dome and I hope that nobody has ever given that impression. It is to help the development of that part of London. The opening of the Jubilee Line will help to take some of the strain off the Docklands Light Railway.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the vast majority of people attempting to reach the Millennium Dome ought to be carried on the Jubilee Line? The Minister suggested that an "adequate" number of people could reach the Millennium Dome, which is a peculiar expression. I do not know what he means by that; "adequate" for what? Can the Minister tell the House what other arrangements are being made? My understanding is that in theory the Jubilee Line will be working, but not under the optimum arrangements originally anticipated. Also, is not the access by river at risk?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there is no reason to suppose that access by river is at risk in these circumstances. I was speaking solely of a failure in relation to the Jubilee Line and the contingency provision in the event of that failure. I repeat that we expect the Jubilee Line to be able to deliver the full 35,000 people per session, of whom 60 per cent. will travel on the Jubilee Line. Nevertheless, it is right that we should have contingencies and the contingency in the event of a failure would be covered by road, rail and other tube lines.

Baroness Gardner of Parks: My Lords, is it not a fact that the Jubilee Line extension is an amazing engineering achievement? One hundred years ago there was no way an underground system could have been built south of the river. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, mentioned safety concerns and it is important that the new line should be built safely and produce something of which we can be proud for the next 100 years.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for those comments. It is the case that even less than 100 years ago we were told that, geologically, south London could not have a tube line. The methods of

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construction therefore have had to be particularly careful. When doubt was expressed about them that was the major cause for delay on the Jubilee Line, whatever other stories noble Lords may have heard. Indeed, we had to have an underground line crossing an area not previously served by the tube and of which we can be proud.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, does the Minister have any figures as to what proportion of the Millennium Dome visitors will travel by bus? Does he have any plans for a wider bus lane network to accommodate them?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it depends on the noble Lord's definition of "bus". An estimated 12 per cent. of visitors will be arriving by coach and a further 4 per cent. by millennium transit bus from the Charlton station and 3 per cent. by other buses. The provision of access by coach will require some priority to be given to those coaches and, indeed, to the millennium transit bus.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, can the Minister--

Lord Tebbit: My Lords--

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I think it should be for the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, to ask his question first. Then it will be the turn of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving me precedence over her coalition partner. Can the noble Lord say why he chose not to answer my noble friend's questions? If he recollects, he was asked two questions: first, if the overcost is not £1 billion, what is it? Secondly, he was asked where that extra money, whatever it is, will be found.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I chose not to reply because this is primarily a cost which will fall on the London Transport investment programme. The total cost is now £2.85 billion. That represents an overrun on the original estimated cost, caused largely by time delays. I shall let the noble Lord know in writing the latest precise estimate for that figure.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the Government will make up that shortfall in London Transport's budget? The fact is that other tube lines are suffering as a result. If London Transport is forced to overspend on the Jubilee line--and the Jubilee line may be a good thing--other tube lines will suffer. Will the Government pledge to make up that shortfall in London Transport's investment budget?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not believe that that is the correct question--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Whitty: Indeed, my Lords; far be it from me to define what the question should be. Nevertheless, the

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answer that I wish to give will be slightly different--namely, that the needs of the other lines are being addressed in a very systematic way by London Transport and the Government at present. We are looking for a PPP package to meet all the needs on the other lines. Therefore, there is no effect of the overrun on the Jubilee Line on present requirements. We are looking for new and innovative ways which will mobilise some private capital to meet the requirements of the other lines on the Underground network.

Schoolchildren: Nutritional Standards

2.45 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are in place to monitor the standards of health and nutrition of children at school; and whether any deterioration in such standards has been noted since changes were made in the arrangements for school meals in the 1980s.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Health (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, the health and growth of children have been monitored since 1972 by national surveys. These have shown consistently that all population groups of English and Scottish primary schoolchildren are growing taller and heavier than before and that some are getting fatter. Field work for another survey of four to 18 year-olds was completed in January 1998. Results are now emerging which should demonstrate any variations in diet and nutritional status of schoolchildren.

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