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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I agree that they are one of the arteries of the nation. There are other modes of transport as well and we have an integrated approach to transport under this Government. The estimates by the Institution of Civil Engineers and by the LGA by various different means give us the figure of £5 billion to which my noble friend referred. The Government would have some problem in agreeing to that figure, but we would accept that there is a substantial backlog which reflects the decline in maintenance provided by the previous government since the early 1990s. The figures I have indicated show that we are beginning to reverse that decline both on trunk roads and local authority roads.
Lord Geddes: My Lords, have the Government carried out an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the construction of new roads on the one hand versus the cost of maintenance of existing roads on the other, bearing in mind that the construction of new roads will reduce the need for maintenance on existing roads?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there are somewhat wider issues involved here. The Government have made it clear that we will engage in the construction of new roads only as a last resort measure. We believe in shifting resources to improve the flow of traffic on our existing roads. We have shifted substantial resources into the maintenance of our trunk roads in particular, in part to tackle this backlog.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is true that under the standard spending assessment, as has been the case for a number of years, local authorities have some discretion. However, we have established that current road maintenance should be a priority within local transport plans under the much tougher system of local transport planning that we are introducing. In addition, central government will be providing support for capital projects: an increase of over 40 per cent. in terms of major road maintenance works and 28 per cent. in relation to bridges for local authorities.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, the noble Lord referred rather coyly to an integrated transport system. Many people have been talking about such a system for many years. Will he say what he means by it?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I was not coy at all. I was absolutely blatant. We do believe in an integrated transport policy. The White Paper that we published last year, the legislation that we shall introduce, for example, in relation to London, and the provisions that we shall bring to bear on the railways are all part of an integrated approach which covers all modes, not simply roads. Road building will not resolve our transport problems in this country.
Lord Islwyn: My Lords, may I draw the Minister's attention to the recent report by the World Bank, which seems to indicate that we are spending only half the recommended amount on road maintenance? Is that not a serious cause for concern?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not entirely conversant with what the World Bank is saying. Clearly, different formulae apply to different kinds of roads. We are developing new maintenance techniques and are providing substantial additional resources for maintenance in all road sectors, in both national and local authorities. We are beginning to tackle a serious problem.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, where roads are re-surfaced, the new surface frequently breaks down after only a few weeks? What steps are the Government taking to make certain that roads are maintained to a higher standard, so that in the long run they are cheaper to maintain?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, we are taking two steps. It is clear that some of the new materials have not performed as well as was anticipated. However, many of the new techniques have substantially improved the driving conditions on roads and the maintenance standards. We are also examining a "whole life" maintenance approach rather than waiting until there is
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the main street in Clandon was beautifully repaired, and that for the first time in 40 years it was like driving down a billiard table? Within three weeks of the repair, men appeared with pneumatic drills and they dug a hole in the surface to put in new services. Will the Government give an undertaking that, the moment a road is repaired, someone else does not come and dig it up again so that we have to start all over again?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, regrettably, at this stage of our integrated approach I can give no immediate commitment to that effect. Local authorities and the Highways Agency need to co-ordinate matters with the utilities rather better than has been the case in the past. We will draw their attention to that point.
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply, although I am rather surprised as it conflicts with information I received from the Swedish Embassy. Is the noble Lord aware of a report on family viewing, published in September by the Parenting Forum and the NSPCC, stating that 78 per cent. of respondents asked for some controls on advertising targeted at children? Does the noble Lord agree that the culture of expectation developed by advertising targeted at children impacts on the poorest families and children from the most disadvantaged families, often causing them to be bullied at school, and that they are the children who can least cope with bullying?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, so far as we are aware, the last action by the Swedish Government was in the run-up to the establishment of the Television Without Frontiers Directive in 1989. We are not aware that they have taken a position since then.
I have read the report referred to by the noble Lord. As a researcher, I am doubtful about the methods--a questionnaire published in Family Circle received only 220 responses. That does not give me great confidence. The only relevant recommendation that the report makes to government is that advertising regulations should take account of the age of the likely child audience. Advertising regulations by the ITC, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Radio Authority do just that.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, when this matter is under discussion, will my noble friend look into the related question of the growing use of children as sales people on television? Does he agree that childhood is a time for learning rather than earning?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it would be unfortunate if children's education were seriously interrupted by taking part in advertisements. However, the use of child actors, for example, and child singers is an important part of our culture. We should not be opposed to it wholesale.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that advertising is, a fortiori, a question of subsidiarity in European politics? Consequently, is the Minister satisfied that the rules relating specifically to children under the Advertising Standards Authority's British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion already provides sufficient regulation for advertisers targeting children, and therefore a ban on such advertising is not necessary?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know about a fortiori, but I certainly agree with the noble Lord. It is the Government's view that self-regulation by the ITC, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Radio Authority is the right approach. The codes of practice are extremely detailed. I think some noble Lords would be surprised by the extent to which they restrict advertising, including advertising that is potentially damaging to children.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is very difficult to distinguish between advertising on television targeted at children and that which is targeted at anyone watching television commercials?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree up to a point. I should have thought that very little toy advertising, for example, is generally targeted at adults.
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