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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the point behind the noble Countess's question is extremely important. We have detailed discussions with those countries that are perhaps responsible for generating some of the problems which we then receive. Those complex and detailed discussions need to be carefully thought through so what we can maintain a rational approach. That is what we are trying to do with Sri Lanka in particular.

Finance Bill

3.30 p.m.

Brought from the Commons endorsed with the certificate of the Speaker that the Bill is a Money Bill; read a first time, and to be printed.

Carers and Disabled Children Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Transport: 10-year Plan

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on the 10-year plan for transport that has been made in

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another place by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

    "Transport is a subject that has been close to my heart for all my working life. But for decades it has been in decline, dogged by stop-go funding and a short-term approach. On Tuesday the Chancellor set out how we can now begin to invest properly in our public services. He was able to do that because we have dealt with debt and sorted out the public finances. This meant we had to stick to the depressed Tory spending figures we inherited. We continued the previous government's fuel duty escalator both to limit greenhouse gas emissions and restore the public finances. That was not easy. It was not popular. But it was the right thing to do. Now we can build and invest for the future.

    "Decades of under-investment and the lack of strategic planning had left us with a transport system in crisis. That is already changing. In three years, we have made real improvements: we have begun to tackle the road maintenance backlog; the overall decline in bus passengers has been halted and in many areas passenger numbers are rising; and rail passengers have increased by 17 per cent and rail freight by 22 per cent since the general election.

    "Transport is now a growth industry, and many of the problems it faces are of expansion, not decline. We have laid the foundations for the long term. We needed to integrate the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport; we have done that. We needed a new strategy; we have done that. We needed radical new legislation; we have done that. We needed new forms of finance; we have done that. And today I am announcing the new resources to bring about a step-change in transport.

    "These are new ideas, new powers, new resources-- a new approach for a new century. It is on these foundations that we are building today's 10-year programme. It is based on long-term investment by government and business to modernise the country's transport system. It is vital for our economic success, and for the quality of our lives. It is excellent news for manufacturers and the construction sector which will be able to plan for the long term.

    "On Tuesday the Chancellor announced that in the next three years public spending on transport will rise from £5 billion to more than £9 billion. Capital investment will double in real terms. This was widely welcomed. The Automobile Association said it was,

    "a welcome change from decades of penny-pinching and under-investment".

It also said:

    "There's no doubt that this represents the most serious attempt to tackle our transport crisis in years".

    The rail users' committee said the announcement was,

    "good news for rail passengers and for the country".

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    The CBI also welcomed it. The CBI chair, Digby Jones, said on the "Today" programme this morning that what is needed is a 10-year programme providing substantial public and private investment, up to £180 billion. My department's modelling, analysis and consultation come to a similar conclusion. Our analysis is published in a document available in the Library.

    "There is now a broad consensus about what is needed to reduce congestion, provide a bigger, better and safer railway and real choice in public transport. With public investment keeping pace with economic growth after 2004, total spending over the 10 years-- public and private--will be £180 billion; £132 billion of that--almost three-quarters--will come from the public purse.

    "This is not all new money. But even if we maintained this year's spending as the norm, that means more than £50 billion of extra public expenditure. So capital investment by government and business together will be 75 per cent more in real terms than over the past decade. The plan addresses the issues in a realistic and businesslike way. No frills, no promises of a rosy, traffic-free future. Just our best judgments, based on detailed analysis of what the new resources will deliver.

    "We are securing long-term investment through long-term partnership contracts: new rail franchises lasting up to 20 years, 30-year contracts for roads and 30-year contracts for the London Underground. But let me make it absolutely clear; if we put in public money, we expect rail and bus companies, and local authorities, to deliver the goods: more investment and better services for the travelling public, on budget and on time.

    "The policy we inherited on the railways planned for decline and reduced public support. Our programme includes £60 billion for a bigger, better, safer railway--the biggest investment in railways for generations. We will deliver better quality for the travelling public, lower regulated fares, 50 per cent more passengers and 80 per cent more rail freight; a new Strategic Rail Authority with a new rail modernisation fund of £7 billion to help deliver those goals.

    "So we will deliver a railway system which is better for passengers, better for freight, better for the economy, better for the environment; a good deal all round. Our programme includes £59 billion for modernising local transport in every region throughout the country; increasing bus use by 10 per cent, with guided buses, priority routes, park-and-ride and a modern fleet--building on the £400 million of private investment that has already taken place.

    "Light rail can transform our cities. Manchester and other cities have already shown what a difference it can make. So we are going to provide the resources for up to 25 new projects in our major cities. We will create greater social justice with: more accessible buses, trains and taxis for disabled people; cut-price fares for pensioners and disabled

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    people. And for the first time we are recognising the problems of people who live in poorly-served, deprived urban areas, cut off from jobs and services. They can look to help from a new urban bus challenge fund to provide new links to their communities. Our successful rural transport fund, which has already secured 2,000 extra services, will rise from £60 million to £95 million a year with a rural transport partnership established in every county. Both urban and rural communities will benefit from an extension to fuel duty rebate for community transport.

    "Small-scale, local improvements can make a big difference to people's lives, such as schemes to make walking and cycling safer and easier and 20 mph zones, especially where children are most at risk. We will increase funding for these schemes.

    "In London, our great capital city, we inherited a creaking transport system, congested roads and overcrowded trains. We have already made major investments in the capital, with the Jubilee Line and the Docklands Light Railway extensions and other projects. But our programme goes much further.

    "The Mayor of London asked for £3 billion over the next three years. London will receive £3.2 billion. Over the next 10 years our programme provides £25 billion to support the London Transport strategy, with better buses, less crowded trains and less congestion on the roads. This will be enough to produce a step change in bus services, town centre improvements and safer walking and cycling.

    "The public/private partnership will secure investment in the existing Underground, and we have made provision for new links; an orbital London railway and longer-term projects such as a new east-west rail link and East Thames crossings. We are determined to use refranchising to get better, more reliable rail services for commuters.

    "These major improvements in public transport throughout the country will help to reduce congestion and pollution. Sensible land-use planning and new technology can make a difference, but we also need to make better use of our road network. We have already set up studies into our busiest transport corridors to find solutions that involve all types of transport. The first conclusions will emerge over the next few months and we are providing the resources to implement the results.

    "The programme includes £21 billion for the strategic road network. This is enough to widen 360 miles of the most congested roads, such as the A1 and the M6; to invest in 'electronic motorways' to manage traffic better and to keep drivers informed. There will be 100 new bypasses to take traffic out of hard-pressed villages and towns; schemes to tackle congestion and safety hotspots; and low noise surfaces on 60 per cent of the trunk road network, including all concrete roads.

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    "We have already dealt with the backlog of trunk road repairs. We will enable local authorities to get rid of the backlog on our local roads with a £30 billion maintenance programme.

    "Without the measures in the plan, congestion is forecast to grow by 28 per cent on inter-urban trunk roads and by 15 per cent in larger urban areas. With the plan, we will not only eliminate this forecast growth, we will actually reduce congestion to below current levels by 2010. Our proposals will produce savings in greenhouse gas emissions, helping to achieve our Kyoto targets and more. We will improve air quality, with new resources to encourage cleaner fuels and vehicles.

    "Safety is fundamental to our plan. The terrible accidents at Ladbroke Grove and Southall, and over 3,000 deaths on our roads every year, are vivid reminders that we can never afford to be complacent. We will ensure the installation of train protection systems, as recommended by Sir David Davies. I have repeatedly stressed that we will not pre-empt Lord Cullen's Inquiry, but I also give a categorical assurance that the Plan will deliver any further measures arising from Lord Cullen's Inquiry. Safety will always come first in my priorities.

    "Our roads are already among the safest in Europe. Over the next decade we are determined to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents by 40 per cent, and by 50 per cent for children. We are providing the resources to enable government, the Highways Agency and local authorities to play their part in achieving these targets.

    "It has often been the role of Labour governments to modernise this country's infrastructure. That is what we are doing again with our 10-year plan: long-term investment and public/private partnerships to increase choice and cut congestion. The Opposition have no plans to cut congestion, only to cut public spending. The public will ask them to declare where they would make their cuts in our programme.

    "This is a Labour Government working with business to deliver the long-term investment needed to rebuild our infrastructure, cut congestion, improve public transport and give people choice. Modernising the transport system will take time. New roads and railways are not built overnight, but with sustained government investment and the backing of business, we will make year-on-year improvements to get the job done.

    "This plan will get Britain moving and give the people of this country a transport system they can rely on. The British people have waited decades for a long-term approach like this. It is what the people of Britain deserve and I commend it to the House."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

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3.44 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, perhaps I may thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister in another place. We have waited three years for this Statement. During that time, expenditure on transport has in fact gone down rather than up. Having said that, there is much in the Statement and in the plan that we can welcome.

I should like to endorse the part of the Statement that deals with safety, both on the railways and on the roads, in particular the target for the reduction in child casualties. As the Statement said, we have a very good record on road safety in this country, built up largely by measures taken over the years by successive governments. However, there is no room for complacency and we must always strive for improvements.

Turning to specific items in the Statement, can the Minister confirm that the figure of £180 billion of total spending pales into insignificance when compared with the £423 billion in transport taxes that the Government will collect from road users over the same period? That represents £18,000 per household, and that is before allowing for any revenues to be raised by congestion and parking taxes. Can the Minister say what are the estimated revenues from those two new taxes over the 10-year period?

When the Statement said that the Government continued the last government's fuel duty escalator, is that not a little misleading? In fact, they raised it. Then, having decided that they wanted to climb off the escalator, they then proceeded to raise petrol taxes by an inflation rate three times higher than that used for old age pensions.

We welcome the £60 billion to be invested in the railways, of which the vast proportion will come from the private sector. What a benefit privatisation has been, despite being vilified at the time by the then Opposition. Can the Minister clarify one particular point? How will the £7 billion rail modernisation fund work? How will it be allocated and to whom? Furthermore, of the £60 billion that was mentioned, how much of that has already been announced, for example, as regards the East and West Coast main lines?

I note that the Government have set a target of 50 per cent more passengers and 80 per cent more railfreight, but once we heard a promise that railfreight would be trebled. What has happened to that?

I note that the part of the Statement dealing with London takes credit for the Jubilee Line extension and the Docklands Light Railway. Perhaps I may gently remind the Minister that both projects were started off by the previous government. Can the Minister say what the Government have started up from new in London during the three years that they have been in power?

I welcome in particular the Government's complete U-turn on road building. Having virtually scrapped the programme three years ago, I am pleased that they are now planning to build 100 new bypasses and widen 360 miles of trunk roads and motorways. Can I ask the

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Minister whether that includes the M25? I can remember remarks made by the then Opposition which were completely opposed to any widening of the M25. Can we see a list of what is to be included in the bypass and motorway widening programme?

I note the plans for 25 new light rail systems in our major cities. However, in October 1998, the Deputy Prime Minister said that light rail systems are an extremely expensive way of dealing with congestion. That represents another U-turn. How many of these schemes can we expect to see completed, or even started, in the 10-year period, given the long length of time it takes to complete feasibility studies and planning inquiries? Can the Minister say whether those feasibility studies will attract funding from the Government as a preliminary part of this process?

We shall need time to study in detail the documents, of which there are several to add to the long list of glossy documents that have been produced by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions over the past three years. However, as I have said, welcome measures have been proposed. We have waited three years for this. Now we want to see the Government deliver on their promises for a better transport system.

3.49 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I thank the Minister for making the Statement. I regard it not as a set of measures but as a way of encapsulating a whole programme of activity in transport. We on these Benches very much welcome that change in government thinking. Considering that we are talking about a 10-year programme, I hope that it will mean not just more funding, but a consistency of funding to an extent that has not been achieved over many years. In the past, every time there was a problem in the economy, any kind of capital programme was cut, and road or rail transport programmes were the easiest to cut. I hope that we shall see the programme announced in the Statement carried out and the general approach of setting targets for a reduction in congestion and of working in a practical, consistent and cost-effective way to achieve those targets carried forward by this Government--and, it is to be hoped, by any successor government.

The question arises as to whether a reduction in congestion can be achieved. I believe that it can. This 10-year programme is merely the start in terms of what needs to be done. I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that among many of our European neighbours, this kind of programme was started not this year, not five or 10 years ago, but nearly 20 years ago. We must make real efforts to achieve what has been laid down.

There are couple of important items in the Statement which we support. Obviously, increased capital investment is a key part of the programme. The lengthening of rail franchises is also extremely important: it enables the franchisees to invest in their services, whereas the original ridiculous and highly criticised seven-year franchises did not succeed in

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achieving that, as forecast. I also welcome the £60 billion for a bigger, better, safer railway. We do not know all the details, but I welcome also the £59 billion set aside for road investment--particularly if it is to be used in relation to smaller projects and where it will enable better use to be made of the existing road network.

I shall not query the "new old money". That cannot be done without knowing much more detail than is available in the transport paper. I understand the general figures to be £60 billion for rail, £59 billion for local transport, and £21 billion for the strategic road network. Is the £25 billion for London in addition to those figures? Or is it London's share of that general programme?

Like the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, I welcome the emphasis on safety, particularly when it is to be carried forward to the road and rail system. I welcome in particular the promise regarding the installation of train protection systems, as recommended by Sir David Davies.

There are many minor pieces of good news in the Statement. The low-noise road surfaces on the trunk road network, for example, will bring environmental benefits to people living near trunk roads. One should not forget that many trunk roads go through built-up areas.

The programme for new bypasses is presently not known to us, but a couple of major items were left over or abandoned when the Government came into office. In particular, there is the highly controversial Salisbury bypass, and the less controversial but extremely expensive tunnel bypass at Hindhead. Are those included in the programme announced in the Statement? Perhaps I may remind the Minister that "Swampy" is said to be "re-grouping", as someone said to me recently. I hope that the Minister has borne that in mind!

Finally, I hope that as the programme is carried forward, the twin themes of integration and sustainability will continue throughout as a major part of everything that is done.

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