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Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, the Minister has taken great credit for the Jubilee line and given a confident forecast about CrossRail. Is the noble Lord aware that Mr Livingstone's office has expressed very strong views saying that the mayor will now have to pick up the very substantial costs of the large overrun on the Jubilee line and, as a consequence, it will not be possible to start CrossRail in the foreseeable future?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I take no credit for the great delay in the building of the Jubilee Line. I certainly want to take no credit for the contracts put in place under the previous administration that led us to pay in the end £3.5 billion. However, the tail end of the budgeting for the Jubilee Line runs into little more than £100 million. If that is taken in context with the £3.2 billion about which we are talking over the next three years, I do not think that noble Lords should share the dismay--if that has been expressed--of the mayor.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I pursue that expression of dismay, although I welcome the total package. Anyone ambitious for London can see the scope for spending more. Can the Minister confirm that the package for London has been backloaded to years two and three requiring, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said, the completion of the Jubilee Line to be paid for out of year one, a matter of which I understand the mayor was unaware until yesterday, leaving only something of the order of £100 million for new investment in what the Minister rightly describes as London's creaking transport system? Work on items such as the river crossings will therefore be delayed.
Will the noble Lord take back to his ministerial colleagues and the Treasury a request to reconsider the phasing? I do not refer to the total amount of money. For instance, could an extra £50 million out of year two and £50 million out of year three be brought forward to year one in order that London can get on with investment in its creaking transport system?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, when the noble Baroness implies an underfunded year, we talk of a year which was in fact the backloaded year of the last CSR settlement. Yes, indeed the package progresses steeply across years two and three to
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, knowing the Minister as I do, it came as no surprise to me to hear his emphasis today on new help for disabled people. Am I right in assuming that all this extra spending will be available on the strictly non-negotiable condition that it must take fully into account the rightful claims of disabled people and that full access for them will be central to the development of all new projects?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I mentioned that our roads were among the safest in Europe. We can also take credit for doing more for access and transportation of disabled people in this country than any other country in Europe. My noble friend will know that we have put provision in the Transport Bill now going through your Lordships' House for the £50 million-worth of concessionary fares for disabled people. Noble Lords may be assured that as regards every investment we shall try to make it clear that those engaged in it must take account of the needs of the disabled.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I welcome the general package which is long overdue and highly desirable. I concentrate my questions to the Minister on the London Underground to which he referred. As he will be aware, it has been a controversial issue for some time. First, what progress is being made in putting in place the public/private partnership? How late is that progress compared with the original intentions? Secondly, due to the delay in implementing the scheme can we be assured that in the meantime the funding of the London Underground will be adequate and that for those who regularly use the London Underground particular attention will be paid to its faulty signalling system?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I assure the House that there have been strong expressions of interest by various consortia in running the London Underground system under our public/private partnership plans. I assure noble Lords that those plans are on time and on course for a conclusion early next year. I also assure noble Lords that, just as we have put very adequate funding over the past two years into London Underground, we shall continue to ensure that its needs are met until the PPP is in place.
Secondly, there will be a great sigh of relief that for the first time for many years we have long-term planning on transport. We must stick to a 10-year cycle not only because of the time it takes to plan a project--the Minister referred to this--but also for confidence at every level of industry and local government that the economic, parliamentary and town and country planning cycles can be aligned. The package will not work if there is no confidence in those cycles. The Statement contains a new commitment to ensure those long-term cycles. We need consensus in the House which goes beyond general elections that the plan will be adhered to, giving confidence to industry, local government and everyone concerned with transport.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am delighted to have that reaction from the noble Lord, Lord Lea, with his background with the Trades Union Congress. I am delighted, too, that the TUC has lined up today with the Confederation of British Industry to welcome this plan. It will indeed be a great boost for our manufacturing industry if it takes advantage of the opportunities there. I am told that some 3,000 people are working on the West Coast Main Line project alone. From advanced telematic skills needed for smarter road networks to the building of viaducts and laying of tracks, there are tens of thousands of new jobs in prospect. We have to ensure that business and industry are able to give us the skills required to take advantage of that opportunity. I am sure that we can put the finance in place but we have to consider where any resource constraints might come from inside the planning cycles referred to.
There is no doubt that a 10-year plan gives the horizon necessary for the projects in this area with which noble Lords will be familiar, some of which may take five, 10 or more years to complete. I am pleased that the transportation sector will receive such a major boost from this plan.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, when the Minister's right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his Statement it was perhaps fortunate for the Government that the latest minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England had not then been published. I hope that it is no more than coincidence that those minutes are reported today.
Those minutes reveal that the public may well have to pay twice for these announcements. My noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara mentioned the direct cost through taxation. However, perhaps I may paraphrase the minutes. They say that, looking forward, given the likely increases in public spending over the next few years, private sector spending will be required to slow further if the inflation target is to be met. At the very least that implies probably higher interest rates. It implies also a lower or smaller private sector. I accept
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that the Chancellor has the economic implications of transport very much in mind with all the spending that he has approved, and that it is also a very high priority with my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister. Access to jobs, the transportation improvements in regeneration areas, the fact that we can ease the congestion in the strategic network for our road haulage industry are all things that are very important to the Chancellor. I believe that they will help to sustain the very strong and steady economic growth that he has helped to create.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I am generally very supportive of what I see in this document and the statements about a quantum leap, particularly in the resources that will be available for public transport.
Without detracting from the many people in this place who are concerned about the needs of London and its environs, perhaps I may make the following point. Particularly in the PTE areas, the metropolitan areas and those places around them, it seems to me that there is a significant opportunity for investment to help the transport needs in rail, with new stations, new lines and so forth. Would the Minister agree with that and say whether there will be resources available for these metropolitan areas which have deep problems? Quite frankly, for many people, they are just as important as this city of London.
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