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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is unusual for the Benches opposite to propose France as the model that we should follow. I do not agree with the noble Lord. I believe that the essential components of our National Health Service--a service that is free mostly at the point of delivery and funded out of general taxation--is the right one. I do not accept the points that the noble Lord makes about our stewardship of the NHS. We are bringing in extra staff; we are building many new hospitals; and under the NHS Plan we shall make the service truly great again, underpinned by the enormous extra resources that we are committing to it.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, following the Question posed by my noble friend, what happened to the European health card which was intended to facilitate the reciprocal arrangements throughout the European Union?
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, there were proposals for a health card, a smartcard, that could be used throughout the European Union. It would enable people to be recognised as having particular health conditions and it would make for easier understanding of the system in the countries concerned.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation. I am not aware of progress in relation to a smartcard, but I shall certainly find out whether any progress has been made. However, I am certain that generally the arrangements between countries in the EU are working fairly well in relation to reciprocal healthcare. Where there are problems, for example, with the administration of E111 forms, this Government are always prepared to take up individual cases with the country concerned.
Our rail policies are founded on increased investment to maintain, renew and enhance passenger and freight services and will be delivered inside the frameworks approved only recently by Parliament in the Transport Act 2000. We shall, of course, make adjustments as necessary to ensure that we carry out safety recommendations arising out of the inquiry currently being conducted by Lord Cullen.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I welcome the thrust of the noble Lord's reply and the Government's announcement this morning of further spending that will help in the longer term. However, we have a more immediate problem. As the train delays are to continue until Easter, and possibly beyond, and as increasing numbers of hard-pressed people are having to switch from rail to the airways and to road travel, will the noble Lord take every step--we have great faith in him--to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the chaotic situation on the railways in our airports and on the motorways?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, we shall try to ensure that there is no repetition of the situation on the railways. In some sense, that situation is unique because it has been caused by a phenomenon known as Xgauge corner cracking" and a rate of propagation that was quite unexpected by the engineers. Be assured, we are doing everything in our power to try to support Railtrack in its attempts to deal with the problem. At a Rail Recovery Action Group meeting this week I was assured by Railtrack that by the end of January 85 per cent of services will be returned to normal.
We have brought the Rail Recovery Action Group together because we believe that having the Health and Safety Executive, the DETR, the Rail Passengers' Council, the Strategic Rail Authority and Railtrack round the same table will not only give the Railtrack bosses the confidence that they need to proceed, but it will also lessen the distractions on their valuable time. Their priority must be to get the railways running again.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the sheer scale of the present problem is without precedent not only in this country but also in any other major railway passenger system? Does he also agree that the fragmentation of the post-privatisation management structure is a major part of that problem? Is it not time that we considered returning to a more logical structure, while retaining a mixture of public and private finance? We must not simply try to patch it up and continue with the present system.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that much of the splintering of the railways is a result of the privatisation caused by the previous government which his 10-year plan is supposed to put right? Does he agree with the report of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs in another place, published yesterday, that Railtrack's management has been guilty of systematic, often-repeated failings, and that radical changes should be made to the way that the company is managed.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I believe that the Railtrack board itself has accepted that it may have done better in the past. It is a company that emerged from public ownership only a few years ago. I believe that it is still in the process of finding the right kind of balance and expertise that it needs to manage such a complicated system. I do not believe that it is necessary to intervene in the ways suggested, such as government shareholdings in the railways. The shareholders, through the board, should ensure that they have the right management in place. If the right management is not in place, the board can take action; if the board does not take that action, the shareholders can take action and ultimately the market can deal with it by a takeover of that company if it does not perform as the shareholders want. I suggest also that within the structures that have been created, we shall be able to help it to manage better.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, does the noble Lord still say, as he did in the famous New Statesman article, that, XThere is no rail crisis", or does he agree with the Prime Minister who said earlier this week that travelling on the railways is absolute hell?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am grateful for that question. In the unlikely event that the noble Lord opposite is a subscriber to the New Statesman, he will see in it today a letter from me which puts on the record that my reply to the question of, XIs there a crisis on the railways?", was, XI think that there is a crisis and that crisis must be managed". I then went on to talk about other crises of investment, confidence and political control. I agree that what is happening on
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make further provision in relation to the safety of sports grounds and the arrangements to be made for or in connection with spectators at certain football matches; to make further provision in relation to the regulation of Royal Parks and the functions of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England; to make further provision in relation to culture, films, libraries, museums and galleries; to make further provision in relation to the Osborne Estate, public statues in Greater London, and certain bodies established by the Development of Tourism Act 1969; to make provision relating to the Superannuation Act 1972 in connection with culture or recreation; and for connected purposes.