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Baroness Barker: I similarly begin by dealing with this group of amendments in reverse. I was very encouraged by the response of the noble Baroness to the point of the noble Earl, Lord Howe. It is extremely helpful and welcome that the Minister will make those clarifications in the codes of practice.
I was also relieved to hear what the noble Baroness said, particularly in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman. I believe that the big areas of concern for many of us are those forms and types of
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communication which take time, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, and where interpretation is a key factor to understanding.
I did not think that the Minister's response to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, was quite good enough. The opposite of "complex" is not "general". An explanation can be simple and specificI am taking the Minister on as regards semantics. The drafting of Clause 3(2) is not good enough. The point of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, was right: it is possible to give a simple, specific explanation to somebody; it is not good enough to give them a general explanation. The Minister is wrong and the Government should look again at the drafting of that paragraph to address the concerns of the noble Baroness.
Baroness Greengross: The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, has said more or less what I was going to say, except I ask the Minister if she could think of another word"general" is the wrong word. While I am happy not to take this any further now, we have not had a satisfactory answer. There is something wrong there which needs to be thought about further. I would like to put a marker down and return to it later.
Baroness Barker: I go back to the illustration that I gave at Second Reading about explaining injections to people who have learning disabilities. There are different ways in which one can communicate what an injection is, which are quite specific but are delivered in different ways so that different people can gain an understanding of them.
I take what the Minister said about Amendments Nos. 6 and 8. I am heartened by what the noble Baroness said about training. Earlier on in our debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about funding for communication being in silos. I think I talked about best practice being in silos. In some departments you find good practice in communication. Often where there is the biggest need for communication and training, it is in general areas such as primary care. It is the people who do not on a day-by-day basis have to deal with people who lack capacity who are the ones who need to have the training and to build up the best practice. That is the case not just within health but is found more widely.
It would be good to know from the Minister exactly what the thrust and emphasis of the deployment of those resources are, because it is more effective to concentrate them in other areas. But I welcome many of the Minister's statements and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, as it is not customary for somebody introducing a debate of this sort to speak at the end of it, may I thank those noble Lords who are going to speak in anticipation of what they will say?
I will not hold the Minister personally responsible for the apologies of delays and inaction which he will utter. I do not suppose that he knows this road. He is a spokesman for his department and the Highways Agency, and the fact that he does not know this road will mean that his chances of living to a ripe old age are greatly increased, as this is the most dangerous road in southern England of its type. In the last 10 years 21 people have been killed on this road and 103 seriously injured. There have been many other serious accidents involving light injuries.
It was only last year that I read in the local press of an accident in which the driver got three years in gaol. He was tailgating, came out, overtook dangerously and crashed into a taxicab, and the taxicab driver was killed. In the taxicab were four children with special educational needs. One boy had his pelvis broken, and a girl had serious back injuries. These gruesome details of accidents, alas, are all too common in our local newspaper, and it really is very distressing. This is a dangerous road, and the level of accidents is totally and utterly unacceptable.
We lived in this part of the world more than 30 years ago; we came back to live in it 10 years ago, and in that time, virtually nothing has been done of a significant nature to improve the road between Lewes and Eastbourne. This is the road I wish to concentrate on this evening.
There should be a dual carriageway between Lewes and Eastbourne. There was not one 30 years ago and there is not one now. Why is this road so dangerous? First, it is narrow, so drivers become impatient. That, I am afraid, is human nature, and you cannot change that. Secondly, it is hillythere are lots of blind hills and curving bends. The junctions are dangerous for all the various villages. The Selmerston junction, when you come to the A27, is completely blind for 30 yardsit is on the crest of a hill. When you look the other side, cars are speeding up because they have about 200 yards of straight road, and to go out from that junction is to take your life in your hands. Two years ago, two girls were killed at that junction.
There are several dangerous junctions. The Middle Farm complex is a popular shopping centre and local farm. To turn out from that on to the A27 is highly dangerous. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, hoped to speak in this debate, but he has flu. He asked me to tell the House that he had an accident coming out of that turning. A car ran into him and caused over £4,000 worth of damage to his car.
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Thirdly, the A27 is dangerous because it is very busy. Some 30,000 vehicles use it a day, rising by about 1,000 vehicles a year. It is the main coastal road along the south coast of our countrythe main east-west road. The next east-west road is the M25, 40 miles away. Over the years, this road has received various patchwork jobs, which were quite helpful in some respects.
In the 1970s, the Lewes bypass was built. I remember how many people opposed it then, but thank heavens it was built. In the 1980s, the Brighton bypass was built. That was strongly opposed, but it is blessing to all the residents in the area. Two years ago, the Eastbourne bypass was built. The gap in between lies between Lewes and Eastbourne.
This is a very beautiful part of the world, an area of outstanding natural beauty. That is why so many ex- parliamentarians go to live there. The residences of a former Labour Prime Minister and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer are very near to the road, and several people who will be speaking in the debate live close to it.
The first consideration in improving the road is safety. The second is commerce. This is a busy commercial road. At the Eastbourne end, the local Member of Parliament, Mr Waterson, told me the other day that he was very concerned at the number of businesses leaving Eastbourne because of the transport infrastructure. It is just not up to it. That view was reinforced when I spoke last week to the planning officer of the Wealden District Council. It is in receipt of conflicting advice from the Minister's department or, rather, the department he is answering for tonightMr Prescott's department. The housing part of Mr Prescott said to Wealden, "Please build 3,300 more houses and some light commercial development". The transport part of Mr Prescott said, "I am sorry, you can't do that because the transport infrastructure is inadequate". So there are two very conflicting views from the department. It is not a question just of two Jags but of two mouths. So what does Wealden do? It cannot build the houses because this road is utterly inadequate.
In 1996, there was a proposal for a dual carriageway. That was withdrawn, unfortunately just before the election in 1997. As a result, the Government asked the South Coast Corridor Multi-Modal study, which they set up, to examine this and make recommendations. It made three recommendations: there should be a bypass to Selmerston, a bypass to Wilmington and a dual carriageway over the railway crossing at Beddingham. We have had no news about the Selmerston and Wilmington bypasses for the past seven years, which is disgraceful.
As regards the Beddingham flyover, the proposal made by the study was for a dual carriageway over the railway. There was public consultation, and 58 per cent of local people approved of the dual carriageway. In a later survey, carried out only last year, that figure had risen to 95 per cent. So there is strong local support for a dual carriageway over the level crossing. Sure enough, the Government produced plans. Suddenly, they changed, and there was no dual carriageway but
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a most extraordinary road, with two lanes going one way and one lane the other way. I did not think we built roads like that in this day and age. There are two lanes going up the hill and one lane down. It might have been better to have two lanes down the hill and one lane up, but much better to have had four lanes.
My question to the Ministerand his officials had better start scribbling the answeris who made the decision to change from four lanes to three? That is what we would like to know. Was there local pressure? It certainly did not come from the populace locally. Was it because of cost? The extra cost is £27 million. Hardly anything has been spent on this road in the past 40 years, and an extra £27 million would improve the crossing enormously.
Why is it important to improve the crossing? This is the main road to the port of Newhaven. Since the proposal was withdrawn, it is possible that the East Sussex incinerator will be sited at Newhaven. In that case, there will be a huge increase in traffic of dumper lorries, hour by hour, day by day and week by week, on this already congested road. This section of the road is already 25 per cent above the trigger in the Highways Agency for a dual carriageway.
Why did the number of lanes go from four to three? If the Minister says it was because of environmental considerations, let him consider that answer very carefully. The Highways Agency owns land and may make it a dual carriageway. I hope that the Minister will not give the reason as environmental considerations, because what is the difference between a three-lane road and a four-lane road, environmentally, over a level crossing? It must be marginal. I very much hope, even at this late hour, that there will be a change of heart and we will have a dual carriageway over the level crossing.
Similarly, I hope that we will have proposals for a dual carriageway bypassing Selmerston and one bypassing Wilmington, because that really needs doing. If the Minister says, as I am sure he will, that this will take some time, let him seek out what the public really think. From time to time, the Government have had a touching fondness for democracy and have introduced the practice of holding referendums. I suggest that he conducts a referendum of Wealden District Council, Lewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council and asks one simple question: should there be a motorway between Lewes and Eastbourne? Let us really test what local people think about this. I am fairly convinced that if a referendum was held, there would be a resounding "Yes" to the idea of a dual carriageway, because it would mean a safer road.
This is a very beautiful area, and there must be careful planning to ensure that the environment is not scarred. But people said that about the Brighton bypass. No one can say that the Brighton bypass scars the South Downs, no one can say that the Eastbourne bypass scars the plains to the north of Eastbourne, and no one can say that about the Lewes bypass, so I am sure that a solution can be found.
I wrote to the Minister in the Commons in July 2003. He said that proposals were pending, and would be issued fairly soon, on bypasses to Selmerston,
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Wilmington, Arundel and Worthing. I have not touched much on the road to the west, which runs from the end of the Brighton bypass to Chichester. It is really scandalous that nothing is done about thatthat there is no bypass to Arundel or Worthing. In the summer months, the congestion on that road is quite intolerable.
My real purpose in holding this debate tonight is to focus ministerial interest on this road. There is no ministerial interest in this road whatever; there are no Labour Members of Parliament around. If this road had been in the north of England, in an area of unique outstanding beauty, we would have had a dual carriageway 40 years ago. It has lacked champions; it has a champion in Eastbourne but I am afraid that in Lewes it does not have a champion. The Member of Parliament for Lewes has been very consistent through his political life: he has resisted any major improvements to the road, saying that there should be safety measures. Safety measures? What does he meanthat people should drive at 20 miles per hour and that there should be chicanes on a road that takes 30,000 vehicles a day? That is unrealistic. The only realistic answer is to have a dual carriageway. I hope that the debate this evening will move that possibility a little bit further.
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