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Lord Hylton: My Lords, is it not the case that Saddam Hussein has organised large payments to the families of dead suicide bombers? Is that not a singularly unhelpful action?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords. At last I can answer something unequivocally. Iraq has a long record of support for Palestinian rejectionist organisations including, for example, the Palestine Liberation Front. It makes regular payments to the families of suicide bombers, and we have evidence of that.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, to keep up her track record, can the noble Baroness at least answer my question about the Prime Minister's explicit call for the removal of Saddam? Is that now the policy? It is important to know.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Prime Minister has said throughout that it would be highly desirable to see the back of Saddam Hussein. What he has not done is say that it would be an objective of military action. There is no equivocation, shifting or moving of the goalposts. I understand that it is important to be clear about such issues, but I am bound to tell the noble Lord that trying to find the edges at which to chivvy away is not always as helpful as I know that he would wish to be on the subject.
The fact is that the Prime Minister wishes to see the back of Saddam Hussein. I wish to see the back of Saddam Hussein, and I am sure that the Opposition do. The issue is whether it would be an objective of military action. It would be a very welcome side benefit of military action but military action, should it take place, would be about weapons of mass destruction.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have made an unprecedented long-term grant commitment to London Underground, averaging £1 billion a year over the period of the 10-year plan. In addition, London Underground Ltd is forecasting fare revenues averaging £1.2 billion a year over the same period. That funding, together with private sector financing, will permit the substantial
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, the Government seem to be living in the future tense. Is the Minister aware that the impression given by the Government is that they have been caught in the web of their own very complicated organisation, that their schemes and plans are so involved and intricate that no one can trace their outlines and that the only people who have benefited thus far are consultants, who are not noted as an under-nourished section of the community? The Government are fond of singing the mournful dirge that it is all their predecessors' fault. If the situation that they inherited was anything like as bad as they suggest, then why in the name of conscience have they wasted so much time before taking anything that can possibly be called action?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my Answer was in the future tense because the Question was in the future tense. If noble Lords look at the Question, they will see that that is the case. I am not making claims about individual administrations. I believe that the neglect of investment in London transport goes back over 20 or 30 years at least, and that covers more than one administration. There is no particular party-political point there.
As to the delays in putting matters right, which is now happeningas I said in my first Answer, one contract has already been letyes, it has taken far too long. Part of the reason for that has been the complication of reaching agreement on the details of how to do it; part of it relates to financing. But it has also partly been caused by the uncertainty brought to the matter by the Mayor of London in seeking two expensive and time-consuming judicial reviews and attempting to undermine the state-aid applications which were necessary. But it is not all their fault; we are all at fault in this.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, will the noble Lord comment on the prospect of private sector investment in London's major infrastructure projects? Is he aware that private companies are dismayed at the lack of government leadership on major projects such as Thameslink, CrossRail and Airtrack and that, frankly, they do not have any confidence in the future of their investment in transport projects?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not aware of that. If the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, has evidence to give to me about those who are dismayed, I have no doubt that she will do so. Again, serious delays have occurred in many of the major transport infrastructure projects. From the second part of her question, I take it that she is talking about transport projects. CrossRail, for example, was originally to be undertaken through the private Bill procedure. When
Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that projects such as CrossRail form a crucial part of the totality of the London plan? If there is uncertainty over those, then a major question mark hangs over the plan in total, which amounts to £115 billion sterling.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, refers to when he talks of the "London plan", unless he means the 10-year plan for transport for the whole country. I do not believe that he is going back to Sir Patrick Abercrombie. Of course, projects such as CrossRail and Thameslink 2000 are essential parts of any 10-year planning. I believe that the Government should be congratulated on the fact that we have made this commitment over a 10-year period. I do not believe that any previous government have ever given the assurances that we have to future funding for public investment projects.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House the total cost of the dispute between the Government and the Mayor over the Tube PPP, including both sides' legal costs? Secondly, can he tell the House exactly how far behind the original schedule the Tube modernisation is now?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No, my Lords, I cannot give an answer to either of those questions. Clearly, when there were delays, for example, during the period of judicial review, that period was not entirely fallow; other work was being done. Therefore, it is difficult to identify a number of months or even years which can be attributed unequivocally to the Mayor's actions. The same applies to much of the expenditure involved in defending the Government against the threat of legal action or the threat of action under state-aid policies.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, does the Minister share my concern about the effect on transport in London of the closure of the Central and Waterloo & City lines? Will he give the House an assurance that, when the period of closure has ended, a proper inquiry will take place into why the delay has been so long? When similar things occurred on British Railserious incidents such as axle failures in a class of locomotiveit was possible, using ultrasonic means, quickly to weed out the trains which did not work and to restore the service within a day or two.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, will be pleased to know that the Waterloo & City line opened again an hour-and-a-half ago. An investigation is being undertaken by London Underground and the Health and Safety Executive about the causes of the derailment on the Central line.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the first four years of his Government's period of office spending on the Tube actually fell? When can we finally see some results of this new agreement between the Government and the Mayor?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I wondered whether anyone would get round to asking about what was implicit in the original Question of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. Indeed, under the first two years' regime of this Government, investment projects of the kind that we are discussing had a long lead-in period. I do not deny that in the first two years or so we were still working on previous government policies. I am sorry if the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, does not like that, but we are stuck with it. If the noble Lord wants to know the elements of the 15-year plan, which has now started, we are talking about £16 billion over a 15-year period: £8.5 billion expenditure on trains and signalling; £4 billion on track; and £3.5 billion on stations. If I had time, I could go into what that will produce in terms of reduced delays, new trains, new track and improved safety.
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