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Lord Ezra: My Lords, with regard to the issue of safety, to which noble Lord, Lord Peyton, referred at the end of his question, is the noble Lord satisfied that all measures have been taken to ensure that full safety will be achieved under these new arrangements? Is he aware, for example, that yesterday an incident of poor maintenance of track involving a private contractor was reported from Wembley Park?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the issue of safety is paramount but it is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive, which will report shortly on the safety aspects of the public/private partnership. If it makes recommendations for changes, those changes will have to take place. As for the incident—or lack of incident because the defects were discovered before any incident took place—at Wembley Park, is it not rather a good thing that that discovery took place first?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, did my noble friend see the editorial in the Independent on Sunday which listed winners and losers and described who did well and badly during the Jubilee celebrations? The clear winner was London Underground. The newspaper said that, when put to the test, it showed how it can handle large events because 1 million passengers used the Underground in an hour at the height of the celebrations. Would it not be a good idea if we spent a little time praising London

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Underground when it does well, as clearly it did last week, rather than griping endlessly in the way that Fleet Street wants us to do?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Faulkner about what happened last week. But, of course, the change goes far wider than the events of a single week. The figure for train kilometres run—in other words, the capacity available for passengers—has been increasing yearly since 1999. Last year's figure was nearly 65.5 million as compared with just over 63 million in 1999-2000. Those are real increases in capacity.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, perhaps I may suggest to the noble Lord that the safety issues have not really been satisfied. The RMT, which has 9,000 members among London Underground staff, is holding a ballot on whether to strike in protest at key safety issues. The incident at Wembley Park on the Jubilee Line, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, came to light only because of a leaked e-mail from a manager at London Underground. Will the Minister assure us that the department will take up the matter with London Underground so that it addresses these key safety issues and, in particular, those relating to the incident at Wembley Park?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as I made entirely clear, the issue of safety is a matter for the Health and Safety Executive. The Government will not lean on the Health and Safety Executive in any way. It is responsible for ensuring safety on the Underground. If it says something has to be done, it will be done.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, has the Minister or his officials given attention to the signalling problem on London Underground? I am a regular traveller, and trains sit in tunnels for hours, which is always due to the signalling breaking down. Why is the signalling on London Underground so inadequate?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I served on the GLC transport committee for a number of years and am well aware of the financing difficulties of London Transport and London Underground over a considerable number of years. There are serious defects in signalling. There are also serious defects in the quality of the rolling stock and the track. That is why there will be 16 billion of investment over the next 15 years; nearly 8.5 billion on trains and signalling; nearly 4 billion on track and around 3.5 billion on stations. Nothing of that scale has been undertaken before.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, did I hear the Minister correctly when he said that the same consultants were being used by the Government and the Mayor? Does not that seem quaint, if I am right, bearing in mind the profound differences between the two organisations?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it must be my fault that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, misheard

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me. I did not say that the same consultants were being used by the Government and the Mayor; I said by the Government and London Transport. The Mayor's organisation is Transport for London.

House of Lords: Elected Members

2.51 p.m.

Lord Lucas asked the Leader of the House:

    What accommodation, staff and other facilities will be offered to elected Members of the House.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, this is a hypothetical question, and none the worse for that. We do not know whether there will be any elected Members. The Government have asked Parliament to consider further reform of the House of Lords. The terms of reference of the Joint Committee ask it to consider and report on a full range of options for composition. Therefore, the facilities available to new Members would be a matter for the House to decide.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. Does the noble and learned Lord, whose energy in reforming this House and in making it a more effective place is second to none, consider that matters would be greatly improved if research assistants were available, at least to the Front Bench, to enable it properly to prepare and execute its duties in Committee and at other stages of Bills in this House?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is a reasonable point. Those matters are kept constantly under review.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble and learned Lord why he thinks that that is a hypothetical Question. Is he unaware of the fact that there are already elected Members in this House?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I thought they were the elite of God, not elected.

Sexual Offences

2.54 p.m.

Baroness Young asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the law which makes it an offence for girls under the age of 16 to have sexual intercourse with men is working satisfactorily.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, as with all criminal charges, successful prosecution depends on the evidence that is brought before the courts. Tackling sexual offending is a top priority for this Government. We are currently reviewing the sex offence laws and considering a range of proposed new offences in relation to sexual activity

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with children of both sexes under the age of 16. We intend to introduce modernised and strengthened legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Baroness Young: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that Answer. He will be aware of the recent case of a girl of 12 and a man of 22. Is he aware that the numbers of reported cases of intercourse with girls under the age of 16 in 1988 were some 2,552, and that that has fallen, 20 years later, to 1,133, and that the number of convictions has fallen from 339 in 1988 to 225 today? Does not that suggest that the law is not being enforced? Is not that a serious matter? Similar statistics apply in the case of girls under the age of 13, and I understand that in that case the offence qualifies as rape.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, first, I am aware of the case to which the noble Baroness referred. It would be wrong for me to comment on the details of that case. However, it is ultimately for the prosecuting authorities to decide whether or not a prosecution will be brought. That must be decided on an objective analysis of the evidence. It would not be in the interests of any child for a prosecution to be brought which the prosecuting authorities thought would fail. One should leave such decisions to the prosecuting authorities.

As regards the second point, I am aware of the figures to which the noble Baroness referred. It would not be useful for me to speculate on the reasons, but I do not think that they are just to do with the law not being enforced in the same way as it has been in the past. I think that it has quite a lot to do with a change in social attitudes. However, I reiterate that this Government take the view that protecting people under 16 is a vital aspect of the criminal law. We shall bring forward proposals in relation to that later.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, first, given that the sex offences review team published its recommendations for consultation nearly two years ago, can the Minister give the House a timetable for when new legislation will be brought before Parliament? Secondly, given the Government's commitment to joined-up government; the extremely high level of teenage pregnancy in this country, second only to the United States; and the increasing incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among young people, how will the noble and learned Lord's department liaise with the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills in order to approach this raft of inter-related issues in an integrated way?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as regards timing, I cannot go beyond saying that we intend to introduce strengthened legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows. I cannot go further than that from where I stand at present. I agree with the proposition underlying the second part of the question asked by the noble Baroness. There must be very close liaison between the Home Office, the Department of

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Health and other departments, in particular the Department for Education and Skills, in relation to all the issues to which the noble Baroness referred. I also refer to the fact that there was a Social Exclusion Unit report in relation to teenage pregnancies. We strive to join up as much as we can in relation to those issues.


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