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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that if the congestion charging achieves a 15 per cent reduction in traffic congestion in central London and raises £200 million for public transport, that will be a prize well worth winning?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. One has to look at the scheme and see whether it aims to achieve that. We obviously think in principle that such schemes could achieve that; otherwise we would not have given powers to local authorities, the GLA and the mayor to produce such schemes.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, what consideration have the Government given to the impact of such a charge on the workings of the House of Commons and of this House? Have the Government thought about that? Have they any plans as to how it might be dealt with?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as I understand the proposal made by the mayor, it will cost drivers £5 to come into central London. Should Members wish to come by car to the House of Commons or the House of Lords where there are car-parking arrangements, they might have to pay £5. I am

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not sure that that would necessarily impact adversely on the workings of this House--unless the noble Lord has some other view in relation to that.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that the mayor of London has already caused a great deal of traffic congestion in central London by blocking up and making one-way streets in the middle of London so that it is almost impossible for a taxi to come from Euston, King's Cross or St Pancras down to Westminster?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it would be unwise for me to comment on the road schemes of the mayor. I have seen taxis arrive from Euston and King's Cross so the journey is not completely impossible. But I think that complaints about that should be taken up with the mayor rather than me.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, first I shall quickly declare an interest as chair of the Greater London Assembly. Does the Minister agree that this is a charge rather than a tax, and that the charge will be ring-fenced so that it is used to improve public transport? If that laudable aim is to be achieved, does he agree that, on reflection, government support for the companies likely to be running the Tube is correct, given that they will be conferred "equal priority"--to use his words--to improve stations as well as lines and trains? However, it must be a matter of common sense that what passengers need is for the trains to work and to be able to move swiftly through to their destinations.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I shall answer the first part of the question put by the noble Baroness, but not the second part. This Question does not concern the Tube; it is a Question about congestion charging. Yes, I agree that we are referring here to a charge and not to a tax.

My noble friend Lord McIntosh has just whispered in my ear, and I have received confirmation by a note, that the mayor and the GLA do not determine where one-way streets should be sited around Euston and King's Cross stations, it is the London Borough of Camden. Perhaps I may redirect the inquiries of the noble Baroness to that local authority.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, bearing in mind the fact that company car drivers will be able to reclaim their £5 a day, that commercial traffic will recoup the sum by charging higher prices, and that the rich will be affected hardly at all because they have got plenty of money anyway, is it not only the poor who will be disbarred from central London, and thereby be disadvantaged by the scheme?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, my noble friend has made points which it may well be appropriate to submit to the consultation on the detail of the scheme. Once all the points have been

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considered in that consultation, it will then be for the mayor and the GLA to decide what they will do in relation to the scheme.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord will be able to give some comfort to those of us who are anxious that Ministers should not suffer any inconvenience or the burden of personal expenditure when they bring their cars to this place? We understand that the rest of your Lordships are not a matter of any importance to the Government.

While I am on my feet, perhaps I may echo what was said by my noble friend about holes in the road. They are caused and occupied by arrogant people who care not a curse for the convenience of the public. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that it is time that Ministers spoke to them fairly sharply?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, first, perhaps I may express my profound thanks to the noble Lord, who has sought to look after my interests in every single way over the past four years. I do not know what is the position in relation to Ministers, just as I do not know what is the position in relation to noble Lords. No doubt, if a group either of noble Lords or Members of the other place wishes to make representations to the mayor and the GLA on this issue, they will do so.

So far as concerns holes in the road, perhaps I may say how enthusiastically I endorse the proposal that holes in the road should be kept to a minimum and that such holes should be dealt with in a manner most efficient for the travelling public. That is a point on which I believe all noble Lords would agree.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I appreciate that the Minister may not wish to respond to questions put to him as regards the Tube. However, does he agree that, were the Government's proposals as regards the Tube to be as unfortunate as everyone other than the Government expects, they would have an effect on the congestion charge which might be described as "knock-on" in more senses than one?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the congestion charge seeks to reduce congestion in central London. During the course of the consultation, it is for individuals and groups to decide whether they will do so or whether they will not. Having refused to respond to the question put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, as regards the Tube, it would be churlish of me to answer the noble Earl, Lord Russell.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, during the passage of the Transport Bill 2000 the noble and learned Lord's predecessor made much of the need to improve the public transport system before a congestion charge was introduced. Can the noble and learned Lord tell the House what improvements have been made to London's transport infrastructure now that the system for congestion charging is being introduced?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I accept entirely and support the proposition that before a

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congestion charge is introduced, improvements have to be made to public transport. That has always been a part of the Government's position. In their transport strategy, the mayor and the GLA accept the same approach. They have proposed improvements to various kinds of transport. No doubt, in the course of the consultation, that issue will be considered.

Peers' Register of Interests: Consent for Entries

3.5 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether the Register of Interests now to be prepared is to be made available for public comment; and whether entries relating to spouses, relatives or friends are to be made without written consent of those concerned.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the new register will be a public document, as is the current register. Written consent will not be a requirement for entries relating to spouses, relatives and friends, but I suggest that it would be a normal courtesy to inform any persons before entering details about them in the register.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, in thanking the noble and learned Lord for that reply, may I ask how our courts will restrain unjustified comment or unauthorised entries into a register that will be available worldwide on the Internet and to the press? As probity is not in issue, perhaps I may also ask whether the mandatory disclosure of the interests of spouses, relatives and friends is not incompatible with the convention as a want of respect for private and family life? Why do we not implement the suggestion put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, and reach a joint decision as to registration which affects so many private rights?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it is difficult for me to contemplate the notion of an unauthorised entry into the register because, plainly, only noble Lords will be entitled to place any entries on to it. I think that the registrar would be able to recognise any interloper.

As regards the courts, the noble Lord knows that the normal rules of defamation would apply. If defamatory material is disseminated, then any citizen has the right to institute proceedings in the libel courts.

With regard to Article 8 of the convention, which covers the right to private and family life, again, the noble Lord will know that a balancing is introduced in the second part of that article on--I shall paraphrase

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generally here--public interest grounds. I believe, and the House endorsed this, that these disclosures are in the public interest.


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