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Lord Broers: My Lords, I am grateful to be the fourth Member of this House today to have the opportunity to address your Lordships for the first time and to thank your Lordships and the loyal staff of this House for my generous welcome. I thank especially the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for his particular welcome.
I warmly commend the commitment of Her Majesty's Government, expressed in the gracious Speech, and elaborated upon by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, today, to streamline the organisation of our national rail system and to improve performance.
The path that led me to this House today was a varied one, beginning in Calcutta, taking me to school in England and Australia, then to universityfirst in Melbourne and then in Cambridge, then at length into a 20-year career in research and development for IBM in the United States. Following that, I returned to Cambridge, some 20 years ago now, to Trinity College and to be professor of electrical engineering. I wanted to get back to basic research, to my life-long interest in electronics, and especially to discovering new ways in which to fabricate nanoelectronic devices. I also wanted to try my hand at teaching, although I assure your Lordships that the considerable anxiety that I have felt about speaking to this august body was nothing compared to the prospect of first lecturing to a very large class of undergraduates on a gloomy Monday morning.
After 10 years of frontline academic life, I took on other responsibilitiesand, following a rewarding time as master of Churchill College and head of the engineering department at Cambridge, I eventually served for seven years as the university's vice-chancellor. I now have the privilege to be the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and to have time to return to my industrial and business interests. The fellows of the academy regard as one of their main responsibilities that of enhancing national capabilities. There is no more important capability than that of our transport system.
Transport is the lifeblood of the nation; all our other achievements, in science, medicine and the arts, are diminished if people cannot gain access to them. Rudyard Kipling even wrote that transport "is" civilisation. It is well established that there is a strong link between the increase in movement of people and
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goods and the growth of GDP. Over the past 50 years, the number of road vehicles in Britain has grown almost sevenfold, and traffic by a factor of eight. Today there are around 8,500 kilometres of road traffic per capita, and because we have not planned adequately for that volume, Britain's roads are probably the most congested in Europe, which costs us an estimated £15 billion a year, a sum that is likely to double in the next decade.
Perhaps more serious is the consequent increase in the emission of CO2 and its impact on global warming. Transport already accounts for 28 per cent of all CO2 emissions in the UK. In addition, it is sadly the case than an average of over 100 people are killed or seriously injured on our roadways each weekday. Britain can be proud of its record in reducing road accidents compared to other industrialised countries, but we must all welcome Her Majesty's Government's proposal to legislate in order further to reduce injuries and fatalities.
Rail transport can provide solutions to these problems, and there has been a significant growth in rail trafficfor example, 46 billion passenger kilometres in 2002but rail still represents only 7 per cent of total travel and a further increase in traffic to rail is hampered by lack of railway capacity. We are already close to saturation.
Solutions to our transport problems will not be simple. It is inevitably difficult to balance people's desire for personal mobility with the wider benefit in reduced pollution and congestion. To rebuild our infrastructure while services are in operation necessarily causes long-term inconvenience, and that will be nowhere more apparent than in the long-delayed rehabilitation of London's Underground. But creative engineering can provide the solutions and our engineers do a superb job when they are empowered to do so. Take for example the completion of phase II of the Channel Tunnel Rail LinkCTRLwhich is expected to open on time in 2007 and the record performance of tilting trains on the re-engineered London-to-Manchester line.
For Eurostar the opening of phase I of CTRL has contributed to a 17 per cent growth in traffic. Market share is now 68 per cent of all London/Paris trips, a substantial increase over 2003. Completion of CTRL II in 2007 will further cut the journey time to Paris to two hours 15 minutes. That will be an engineering triumph of which we will be proudBritain's first ligne à grande vitesse and the first new main line for a century.
However, with the completion of CTRL and of the West Coast Main Line upgrade, no further major improvements are in prospect. There appears to be no incremental plan, no rolling programme for improving the quality and capacity of our railways. For engineering designers and suppliers that is a disaster. They cannot maintain expert and skilled teams on the uncertain prospect of future work. The pace will be lost; the cost of restarting will be higher.
In the crucial area of railway rolling stock, the end is in sight for manufacturers in the UK. The order for CTRL trains has gone to Japan. There are very few further orders, apart from London Underground, and
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they may also go overseas. I understand that the year 200607 is expected to see no new trains delivered for our national rail system.
Having said that, it is especially gratifying that the Government propose the construction of the long-delayed Crossrail project which is so essential to London's future competitiveness. Let us hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, have already expressed, that in addition to the planning and engineering proposals, the financial framework for this large and essential project is also put in place.
Those achievements and plans are surely good news, as is much that is in the White Paper, but they fall far short of what is required. We need to develop an overall transport strategy and plan and let our engineers put it in place. It is the experts, in many cases the engineers, who need to be involved in the early planning and not brought in after the mistakes have been made and there are problems to fix.
Everything in our society depends on transportschools, hospitals, retail, the supply of industry's goods to and from our ports and airports, culture, entertainment and sport. There is virtually nothing in our society that cannot be harmed or enhanced by transport. If we do not wake up to the need for a coherent plan and ensure that it is put in place, we will not be able to meet the severe international competition referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. I, as an engineer, will do what I can to help with this task.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, told me that he had unfortunately to leave and would not be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Broers, I was much taken abackfirst, because I always welcome listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has to say. I also believe that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, would join me in agreeing entirely with the content of the maiden speech that we have just heard.
Secondly, looking at the details I was given of the noble Lord's career, I did not see where there was much overlap on which I could fix. I do not really understand engineering. However, I am always filled with admiration and awe when I come across Fellows of the Royal Society, particularly when they have been vice-chancellors of Cambridge.
Listening to the noble Lord's speech, I was reassured, as I say, to find that I agreed with almost everything that he said. Those who follow a maiden speech always say how good the speech was, but they are not always able to do so quite as wholeheartedly as I am. I can see that, in future debates in your Lordships' House, the noble Lord and I will find ourselves in agreement on many subjects.
I welcome also the noble Lord's mastership of Churchill College. I had the great honour and pleasure, at the instance of Hugh Montefiore, later Bishop of Birmingham, to give a chapel as a present to Churchill. I was very pleased and proud to do so. I established an enormous affection and respect for
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Sir John Cockcroft, who was at that time the master and was president of the Liberal Party, a job which I persuaded him to take on.
I should also like to say a brief word about the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. My mother came from Durham. She was a Pease of the Quaker family there, who rapidly joined the higher parts of the Church of England. I have great respect for the Bishops who hold that particular see. I had the pleasure of serving under both Michael Ramsey and Ian Ramsey. I thought that they were both very great men. I very much look forward to the contributions of the present Bishop.
My contribution and that of the Green Party today will be mainly on the subject of transport, both on what is in the gracious Speech and what should be but is not. My party's contribution, of course, could be considerably more if the Government would get themselves organised and see that more Members of your Lordships' House were members of the Green Party. Judging by the representation that we get, for example, in London and in Europe, when there are fair methods of election, we deserve at least one speaker for every day of the debate on the gracious Speech, instead of which I have to choose one particular subject and one particular day on which to speak.
First, I have a major complaint and some rather mixed bouquets, some of them containing a few sprigs of stinkweed. The major complaint is the relegation of the most important matter for our country todaythat we are in the middle of a war which many of us think to be illegalto three lines in the penultimate paragraph of the gracious Speech, which talks of providing "security and stability" for Iraq, but which in practice seems to consist of assisting the United States in its now monotonous strategy of bombing the hell out of everything and killing everybody: "They make a desert and they call it peace".
I, of course, welcome a Bill for animal welfare, though I have considerable doubts about its scope, as I think it highly unlikely that it will do anything for battery and broiler hens or for ducks, to whose inhumane treatment I once again hope to draw your Lordships' attention in this Session. I do not think that we can expect much in an animal welfare Bill from a Government who have just forced through a Bill which will ensure the destruction of a great many dogs and horses and make the relatively humane control of the fox population virtually impossible.
To turn to transport, I am delighted that there will be a Bill to help to reduce the number of those killed or injured on the roads. However, the sole sign that the Government recognise that the only serious way of doing it is by getting cars off the roads is the Bill for the authorisation of Crossrail, which we warmly welcome.
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We hope that they will give some thought to the financing of the same. The Government have not shown real determination in this field.
I will not waste my breath urging the Government to combine their policies for planning and transport so that journeys become naturally less lengthy owing to people living near their work, as I know that they will say that they already do so. However, I do not see much sign of that. Nor do I see any sign that the Government are paying any attention to the problem of air transport, the concreting over of the countryside, often attended by the destruction of habitats, and the pollution and destruction of the ozone layer caused by emissions and the refusal to consider ways of tackling these activities.
What about the necessity of tackling bus services outside London? Bus usage is rising in London, and that is a very good thing, but that is largely because bus services in London are sensible and are regulated. However, bus usage is falling badly outside London and that could easily be rectified if it were regulated.
I will continue my efforts to try to make the Government face up to the squalor, hardship and misery caused to many individuals by their refusal even to gather central information about unadopted roads. I also very much welcome all that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said about school transport.
In conclusion, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will seize the opportunity of the visit of their Majesties the King and Queen of Norway to learn of the manifest advantages of not being members of the European Union. I must dissociate my party from that last remark as, incurable optimists as its members are, they still regard the EU as being reformable, although the EU persists in trying to reform itself in the opposite direction from what they want. I also welcome the chance we will have to register our views in a referendum. While, of course, I join in praying that the blessings of almighty God will rest upon our counsels, I beg leave to doubt whether this Government are giving Him much assistance.
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