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House of Lords

Thursday, 22 January 2015.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Coventry.

Introduction: Lord Lisvane

11.07 am

Sir Robert James Rogers, KCB, having been created Baron Lisvane, of Blakemere in the County of Herefordshire and of Lisvane in the City and County of Cardiff, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Boothroyd and Lord Judge, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Libraries: Funding


11.12 am

Asked by Lord Palmer of Childs Hill

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of changes to local government finances on libraries in the United Kingdom.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport monitors closely all developments relating to proposed changes to library services throughout England. It is for each local authority to determine how best to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service that meets local needs within available resources. Responsibility for libraries in the remainder of the United Kingdom rests with the respective devolved Administrations and relevant local authorities.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer—but the problem lies within it. Government spending cuts have impacted heavily on local authorities. The local authorities to which my noble friend refers are reducing expenditure on the library service by closing or reducing the number of buildings, under the guise of modernising. What will the Government do to dissuade local authorities from reducing the number of library buildings, such as ring-fencing funding? Libraries form the social hub in many areas and are a basic component in promoting literacy and reading. Finally, there is a group seeking to modernise libraries. When will we have its report, and will it be too late?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, my noble friend refers to the library service. There is still a strong library service in England, with over 3,142 public libraries, and local authorities invested £757.3 million in them in the last financial year. William Sieghart’s report was published on 18 December and presents recommendations

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for the Government and local authorities working in partnership. Many local authorities of all political persuasions are making some very interesting innovations in their library services.

Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): My Lords, if the Government reduce resources for local authorities by 30% to 40%, with inevitably larger reductions in available funding for discretionary services, how can local authorities comply with their statutory duty to provide the comprehensive and efficient public library service which he mentioned?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I could take your Lordships through many local authorities where important changes are taking place, such as Devon, which is expanding into community hubs; Newcastle upon Tyne; Northamptonshire, where there are enterprise hubs, partnerships between Northamptonshire libraries and Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership; and Suffolk, where there is an independent organisation with charitable status. All those local authorities of different political persuasions are doing great things with fewer resources. No one is saying that there will be more resources; we all have to deal with the cuts, which all parties now recognise are necessary for the national economy. In the main, however, local authorities are doing a very good job.

Lord Suri (Con): My Lords, it is not good thinking to make any reduction in libraries, which play a very good role in increasing the knowledge of the nation. The economy of the country is doing well, and now, with the reduction of oil prices throughout the world, the British economy will benefit. We should support the libraries financially.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, my noble friend rightly highlights the very important role in our national life that libraries perform. As I say, libraries are changing and innovating. For instance, there is an enormous increase in lending on the e-lending side—from a smallish base, yes; but there has been a 125% increase over the past year.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, the one thing that the Minister did not mention is that the Government have a statutory duty under the libraries Act to ensure that services are maintained—that there are library services. What is the Minister doing to ensure that that obligation is met?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right: under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 there is a duty on the Secretary of State—and, indeed, there are a number of situations where the Secretary of State is taking an interest in what is happening in those local authorities.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, will my noble friend join me in acknowledging the contribution of many local groups all over the country which are managing to keep their libraries open through volunteer work? As an example, Gresford and Marford local

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library, of which I am honoured to be a patron, is working with Wrexham local authority, which provides the books and the computer system, while the community group provides the manpower and raises the money for the utility bills. That works extremely well. That may be second best to having a full local authority-run library, but it does work.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, the first thing to say is that the community libraries and, indeed, the volunteers who are part of it deserve our congratulations. They are doing precisely what is happening in many communities, with communities joining together. They do not replace the extensive network of council-run libraries, but they are very important in providing that additional element of provision, and I congratulate them.

Lord Harrison (Lab): As a former chair of the Cheshire library service, I, too, welcome the examples of innovation that the Minister described. However, given that, will he please answer my noble friend Lord Howarth’s question about applying a statutory service when the funds made available to local councils are diminishing?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I think that local authorities have done extremely well; last year, there was a reduction, I think, of 39 out of the 3,142 libraries. That shows that there is a very strong system. In many cities and small towns, new libraries are opening because there is a refurbishment and the local needs are being identified in that way.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend accept that fundamental to any civilised society is a full network of public libraries, with books in them? E-learning is one thing, but the book is the fundamental foundation stone of the library, and may it long remain so.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I am a keen fan of books myself, but it is important—for young people in particular, and given the fact that so many more people are looking after their lives digitally—that libraries provide that facility as well. That is one of the ways we shall ensure that there are more people visiting libraries.

Baroness Howells of St Davids (Lab): My Lords, I have a special interest in libraries. I was the very first black person to be employed by a public library; I met my husband there, and I made many friends. The most important thing about the library that struck me when I came into the job was the facility provided for people who never spoke to anyone for the whole day, but who would come into the library, sit and read the papers, and have something to discuss. We need the libraries. I am sure the Government think that they are doing their best, but in the borough where I live and have worked, we are noticing the shortage of libraries. Will the Government look again at how they perform their statutory duty? It may not seem like a big thing, and libraries have improved in lots of ways, but all this is being lost now. Both my husband and I worked in a

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library, and that was the first move towards racial equality; I suffered in the beginning, but I was determined. So may I ask the Government to consider that the library has a greater purpose than people just going in there to get the odd book?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, that is precisely why the Government were so keen on William Sieghart’s report on independent libraries, because it provides recommendations for the Government and for local authorities. The Government greatly support that role. The libraries have a huge community role to play, and I am very pleased to hear of the noble Baroness’s experiences.

United Nations Secretary-General: Selection


11.22 am

Asked by Baroness Falkner of Margravine

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the selection procedure for the next United Nations Secretary-General.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, the United Nations Secretary-General must command the greatest possible support from the international community, and the authority to carry out the role effectively. The current system of selection, whereby the Security Council nominates a single candidate to the General Assembly, ensures that the candidate receives maximum support. This process has produced good consensus candidates in the past, and we would not want to see it significantly changed.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, my noble friend will know that last time the decision was effectively made by Bush, Putin and Hu Jintao—not great men of peace. And with eastern Europe in the frame now, it is likely to be just the US and Russia. What discussions are the Government having with all l5 members of the Security Council to ensure that at least two names go forward to the General Assembly—from my perspective, preferably those of two women—and, if there is a veto, to ensure that the appointment is then for a single term only, so that proper reform can be put in place by 2020?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, there are quite a few questions there, but important ones, which I shall answer as briefly as I can. The veto is within the format of the constitution—the rules of the game—so there would have to be a change in the rules for the veto to be abandoned. My noble friend refers to the method of selection last time. Last time, of course, Ban Ki-moon was unopposed for a second term, and it is clear that when he was selected at that stage, China had made it known that it would not accept anybody other than an Asian candidate. The method of selection was across the membership, but clearly the P5 have a crucial role to play. My noble friend is right to point out that it is important for women to be

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considered, too—and with a woman Leader of this House, a woman Leader of the Opposition and a woman on the Woolsack, who would dare think anything else?

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, is it not the case that there are two admirable women in the frame—Helen Clark and Gro Harlem Brundtland? They would not be secretaries; they would be generals.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I always listen with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. He enables me to answer another of the several questions that my noble friend Lady Falkner asked with regard to candidates. Names are, indeed, beginning to be floated. If I may change my analogy, it is almost like a susurration—but, as with all susurrations, the names change as well. The noble Lord may have the latest names; there is quite a little list, I think. We do, indeed, need not only secretaries but generals, too.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that one change which could greatly improve the process and improve its transparency would be if all candidates were asked to set out their ideas for strengthening an organisation which desperately needs strengthening? Will the Government lend their support to that sort of approach, which is a good deal less ambitious than some of the other ideas around but could bring real benefits?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Lord makes a very practical and important proposal. Although, of course, as just one member of the P5, we cannot force and insist on a change in the way that processes go forward, it is clear that from our point of view it would be a great advantage if we were given details by the candidates of how they intended to carry out their leadership skills and, as he indicates, how they would enable the United Nations in these difficult times to get beyond its 70th year, which it celebrates this year, and to go on for another 70. I find his suggestion very helpful indeed.

Lord Dykes (LD): Will the British Government support and encourage whoever becomes the next Secretary-General to modernise the Security Council arrangements and deal with two disputes that have raged for far too long—50 years and more: namely, Cyprus, where too many people still hark back to the past rather than think about the future; and Israel-Palestine, where the United States has constantly allowed Israel to disobey international law via a succession of vetoes?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, with regard to United Nations Security Council reform, I was in New York just before the new year and met various actors at the United Nations. I made it clear that we support administrative and efficiency reforms but also reforms of the Security Council itself and its membership, and that in a changing world since the United Nations was founded 70 years ago, it is right that we should now look at membership for countries such as Brazil, Germany, India, Japan and, indeed, at African representation —although it would be for the African group to decide

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how it approached that. It is important that the United Nations Security Council as a whole works unanimously to resolve some of the most difficult and complex disagreements around the world.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, I am disappointed with the Minister’s answer. No British employer operating an equal opportunities policy would be allowed to get away with the shambolic approach that the United Nations takes to these leading posts. Surely, what we need is something that is not a travesty of an appointments system but that actually ensures that the person who gets the job is the best and most suitable person to do it.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Lord is right to say that the procedure must enable the best person to be appointed. At the FCO, we approach appointments on the basis that women should always on a shortlist. That is the principle at the FCO. I hope that others hear that.

Welsh Government: Fracking


11.28 am

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Welsh Government regarding the devolution of powers over fracking for gas on land.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): My Lords, in November 2014 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales announced a programme of work to seek a political consensus on the way forward for devolution and to provide a stable settlement for Wales. This work is underpinned by discussions with Welsh party leaders, including the First Minister of Wales, the right honourable Carwyn Jones AM.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, may I interpret that Answer as an indication that we can look forward to a Statement being made by the Secretary of State on St David’s Day to indeed confirm a transfer of responsibility for fracking to Wales? Since the Government have their own amendment to the Infrastructure Bill, Amendment 86, on Report in the House of Commons on Monday, removing Scotland from the provisions of that Bill concerning the right to use deep-level land for fracking, why is there not a similar amendment for Wales, if that is indeed the direction in which the Government are going? Will the Minister link up with the department today to see whether it is possible, even at this late stage, to table such an amendment?

Baroness Randerson: The noble Lord should take into account the process that is under way. The Secretary of State has set great store by the fact that he wants to achieve political consensus across the four parties in Wales. The Welsh Government are involved, of course, and they have made it clear what their views are on the

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need to offer powers to the Welsh Government if they have been offered to Scotland. However, what is right for Scotland is not necessarily always right for Wales, and discussions are still ongoing.

Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD): My Lords, within 10 miles of my home in Gresford in north Wales—its second mention this morning—there were in 1866 some 21 shale oil extraction plants, selling petrol at three shillings and four pence per gallon. Two years later it had fallen to 10 pence a gallon and the industry was completely wrecked. Is Welsh shale oil as sound a basis for Welsh independence—which 3% of the people of Wales want, including the noble Lord—as, for example, North Sea oil is for Scotland?

Baroness Randerson: My noble friend illustrates the volatility of energy prices, then as now. From current reports, the potential for significant amounts of shale gas in Wales is unclear. However, I agree with my noble friend: the recent big falls in the oil price have illustrated the shaky financial foundations on which the Scottish independence campaign was based.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, forgive me, but I did not quite follow the first Answer of the noble Baroness. Have there been discussions on the devolution of powers over fracking for gas on land—yes or no?

Baroness Randerson: My Lords, there are four parts to the ongoing discussions. One of them relates to the Smith proposals, and which of those proposals would refer to Wales appropriately. Those discussions include the issue of fracking. In relation to Wales, the conversations are ongoing.

Channel Tunnel


11.32 am

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to minimise rail passenger disruption caused by the recent closure of the Channel Tunnel.

Lord Popat (Con): My Lords, we are closely monitoring the situation, and we expect Eurostar to help passengers to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. Eurostar filled trains up to the maximum to help to resolve the backlog, and provided beverages on board services and in the queues. Eurostar also paid for hotels, taxis and food for some passengers. The repair works are anticipated to take two days. Eurostar is running a full service with delays of around two hours.

Lord Berkeley (Lab): I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group, having spent many years building the tunnel. Eurostar may be running a full service. I came in this morning only two hours late. The tunnel is still partially closed and it has been closed for five days now. Coincidentally, at the same time, our latest political party, led by the Pub Landlord, has suggested that we should brick up the Channel Tunnel. Whether or not that is a good idea, the tunnel should be open; it is a major piece of infrastructure.

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Will the Minister ask the intergovernmental commission on an urgent basis to produce a report on the passenger disruption, just like at King’s Cross, the infrastructure failure and, most important, the cause of the fire—it is the fourth fire caused by a lorry fire—and recommend changes to the safety regime?

Lord Popat: My Lords, I shall address the situation of the passengers on the train and the assistance given to them. All passengers and staff were evacuated from the train to a place of safety in good time, with no injuries or stress. As I said, most passengers were offered tea, coffee, beverages and, in some cases, hotel and train costs. In a situation like this, the first priority is always to ensure that Eurostar is running a safe service. Of course, there are inevitable delays because of the fire damage in the tunnel. It is clear that only one of the tunnels, the southbound tunnel, was affected in this incident.

Lord Bradshaw (LD): My Lords, there have been four fires—actually, I think it is five—affecting lorries being taken through the tunnel on shuttle carriages going from France to England. Those carriages have lattice sides. That means that when they are going forward, any fire or possibility of fire swiftly generates a dangerous fire that causes immense damage and destruction. This would be obviated if the wagons carrying the lorries were enclosed, like those for cars, with built-in fire-extinguishing apparatus. Will he take this to the safety authority responsible for the Channel Tunnel to get something done before we have an even more serious fire and fatalities?

Lord Popat: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct in saying that there have been previous fires. The relevant authorities are constantly reviewing how to limit this risk; in this instance, the situation was helped by the new sprinklers that were installed as a result of the previous situation. This has considerably reduced the amount of time for which the tunnel has been closed. The use of enclosed lorries is an area that has been looked into in the past but, frankly, it would be commercial suicide for the freight companies to have enclosed lorries. The whole purpose of this is to make sure that goods are transported from one end to the other as quickly and economically as possible.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton (Lab): My Lords, surely we should be measuring the temperature as these trucks go into the tunnel. One should easily be able to do that because of the open structure. It is likely that the temperature was rising in this case, but that information was not available on a screen to the people operating the tunnel. That would be quite economical and should certainly be instituted.

Lord Popat: I take the noble Lord’s point but there is an ongoing investigation into this incident and I am sure that we will learn our lessons about what actually went wrong. It should be borne in mind that this incident happened on the French side of the tunnel, not ours.

Noble Lords: Oh!

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Lord Popat: Because it happened on the other side, the onus is on the French authorities to work with us. It is easier for them to investigate the cause of the fire than for us. However, our own fire authority will of course be working with those authorities to discover the cause of the fire. We will learn some lessons from this and see what further improvements we can make to ensure that we limit fires in future.

Lord Mawhinney (Con): My Lords, while I regret the inconvenience and disruption to the passengers caused by the fire, will my noble friend say a word of thanks and appreciation to the staff who so efficiently got everyone out without any damage or distress?

Lord Popat: Yes, my Lords. In fact, I commend all the Eurotunnel staff, who worked very hard. A number of volunteers also came forward at King’s Cross to help passengers, who were served with teas, coffees and beverages and given whatever assistance they could be given. It was regrettable and unfortunate for a large number of passengers that their journeys were delayed. Having said that, this incident was unexpected and they were very understanding about the delay to their journeys.

Lord Dykes (LD): Does my noble friend accept that the prospect of new rolling stock might be one way in which to deal with some of these problems? I declare an interest as a frequent user of the shuttle service, which normally works extremely well and efficiently, not just in the summer but throughout the year.

Lord Popat: My Lords, I take the point about new rolling stock. I am quite aware of the new rolling stock that our train operating companies in the UK will be introducing. This is a private company and, frankly, I am not briefed on whether new rolling stock has been ordered for Eurotunnel and Eurostar.

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, safety regulation is a key responsibility of the binational, British and French, Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission, which has as its statutory independent safety advisory body the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority. The Secretary of State appoints the heads of the British delegations to the intergovernmental commission and the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority, so this issue is not just related to the incident happening on the French side of the tunnel. Bearing in mind that fire is a tunnel’s biggest enemy, and that there have previously been fires in 1996, 2006 and 2008 in the Channel Tunnel, are the Government still satisfied with the safety arrangements and procedures for the carrying of lorries and their loads by rail through the tunnel—yes or no?

Lord Popat: My Lords, I will take the safety aspect. The Channel Tunnel Safety Authority will be looking into the problems last weekend and at whether Eurotunnel needs to make further improvements. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch is also making preliminary inquiries in conjunction with its French counterpart, BEA-TT. We will wait for the report to come out to see what further things we can do. It is important that it is safe to travel, and it is of equal gain to both countries that our lorries travel from one end to the other.

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Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, for many people the major disruption of the Channel Tunnel is that, despite having been able to use it for 10 years now, no one can take a direct service to either Brussels or Amsterdam or anywhere outside France. I do not know whether this is because of competition restrictions on the other side of the channel or difficulties with passport control, but can we please get this fixed ?

Lord Popat: That is for the French Government to comment on. However, I will certainly take it to the department and will write to the noble Lord about what more the French could do to make travelling from Paris easier.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the British people tend to be sailors rather than troglodytes and that we should encourage a strong cross-channel ferry sector?

Lord Popat: I agree with the noble Lord. We should support a strong ferry service across the channel.

Lord Tomlinson (Lab): On at least two occasions, the Minister has pointed in the direction of France. In the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, may I ask him to confirm that there was no culpability on behalf of the European Union?

Lord Popat: This is a matter for the French and the British.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, since the questions are ranging fairly widely on this topic, what progress are Her Majesty’s Government making on turning Stratford International station into a genuinely international station where services through the Channel Tunnel actually stop?

Lord Popat: My Lords, the noble Lord’s question is not that on the Order Paper, but I will certainly investigate and come back to him.

Child Abuse Inquiry


11.42 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, with permission, I will repeat an Answer to an Urgent Question which was made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the House of Commons earlier today:

“Mr Speaker, in July last year I announced the establishment of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. The inquiry will consider whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. As I said when I established the inquiry, it must expose the failures of the past and must make recommendations to prevent them from ever happening again in the future.

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The House is aware that the first two nominees for chairman of the inquiry resigned after it became apparent to them that they did not command the full confidence of survivors. I am clear that the new chairman must be someone who commands that confidence and who has the necessary skills and experience to carry out this vital work. In my work to find that person, as I told the House I would do, I have undertaken a number of meetings with survivors of child abuse and their representative bodies. I have been deeply moved by the candour and the courage they have shown in telling me their harrowing stories and the experiences they have been through. I am absolutely committed to finding them the right chairman to ensure they get the answers they deserve. Not only does this inquiry need the right chairman, it also needs the right powers. That means the ability to compel witnesses and full access to all the necessary evidence.

In December I wrote to panel members to set out the three options which could give the inquiry these powers. I confirmed those options in my evidence that month to the Home Affairs Select Committee. I also confirmed that I would make a decision on the right model for the inquiry and the chairman by the end of January. It remains my intention to make a Statement to the House shortly after I have made that decision, and after the necessary interviews and careful due diligence work have taken place.

It is important that this inquiry can get on with its work but it is also vital that we have the right chairman, the right structures and the full confidence of the people for whom it has been established. We face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expose the truth, to deliver justice to those who have suffered, and to prevent such appalling abuse from ever happening again. That is what the survivors of child abuse deserve and what I remain determined to deliver”.

11.45 am

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the response from the Home Secretary. The Minister will know how serious this inquiry is and how much it means to those who endured awful abuse in childhood, who were not listened to then and who deserve to be listened to and to have the chance for justice now. For the inquiry to stall once is unfortunate but twice is careless and the situation now frankly looks incompetent.

I wonder what is going on. Given the seriousness of this matter, I fear that there is now no choice but to start this inquiry again—properly, with a new chair, full powers and proper consideration of the scope and purpose involving survivors themselves. Other people have set up effective inquiries—for example, Hillsborough, the Northern Ireland inquiry into chid abuse and the Soham inquiry. When will the Home Secretary act decisively?

Lord Bates: We share the general consent to get at the truth of what has been happening and to get on with the work. I have explained some of the reasons for the delays. The suggestion made by the noble Baroness was very much one of the options set out by the Home Secretary in her letter of 17 December 2014

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to panel members. The three options were a royal commission, giving statutory powers to the existing independent panel or starting all over again with a new chairman. Those remain the three options being actively considered.

We also very much share the view about the success of the Hillsborough inquiry in gaining truth. In fact, the model of that inquiry was the original model used to set up the independent panel. However, it proved not to be possible to command the confidence of the survivors’ groups in the structure as it was then. That is why we sought to open it up to a much wider range of people—150 people have applied or have been nominated to be considered—to go through the matter very carefully and, crucially, to keep survivors’ groups informed all the way through. We will continue to do that.

11.47 am

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, the Minister talked about this never happening again but in the work I do it is happening every day, now. We know that this is a problem. Unless we have the right staff on the ground and the right programmes, we do not have a hope of preventing this. Meanwhile, the funding for many groups is being reduced. The funding for the Stop it Now! programme, which had a full preventive programme, has been stopped for two years in England but not in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, where it is doing well. Are the Government really serious in thinking about what is happening now when we have a whole range of inquiries with recommendations that have already taken place? We may need to look at this historical situation, but I ask: how much will that cost and how much will the Government put into present-day schemes which will stop the child being abused today?

Lord Bates: First, I pay tribute to the work that the noble Baroness has done in this important area, not least on the all-party group and its report, which was extremely helpful and informed a lot of our thinking in this area. She made a specific point about funding and pressure that groups are experiencing at present. There is no doubt that with the increased publicity more and more people are coming forward. On one level, that is to be welcomed as an opportunity for justice and to learn lessons, but on another level it puts increasing pressure on those organisations which do tremendous work in caring for and working with victims and survivors. That was one reason why my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced an additional £7 million of funding. Some £2.85 million of this funding will be available to the organisations representing child and adult victims of sexual abuse, and there will also be a child abuse inquiry support fund of £2 million. That fund will open very shortly, and bids will be invited.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, I wholeheartedly endorse the noble Baroness’s call for more prevention work. In my view, we need a statutory inquiry. I hope that the Secretary of State will choose the correct one of the three models, and will come up with that and the right chair as soon as possible. I have two questions.

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My noble friend mentioned additional funding. Could he please reassure us that this funding will both be swiftly available and not be ringed round with a lot of bureaucracy? More people will undoubtedly come forward as these issues are highlighted, and the money needs to get to the groups which support them quickly and without a lot of bureaucracy. Secondly, as more allegations are made, can the Minister assure us that these will be referred swiftly to the police, and preferably to a different police force from the one within which the allegations were made?

Lord Bates: On the last point, of course there is nothing in the delays which we are experiencing with the inquiry which should for one moment stop the prosecution or investigation of these heinous crimes. That should not occur. We now recognise that all three options must have a statutory element, and without doubt the inquiry will have that. Regarding the funding which is available, I have mentioned some special funding. We are also working with the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government to see what additional support can be provided, particularly for those who will be invited to come forward to give evidence to the inquiry.

Lord Pannick (CB): My Lords, have the Government considered that the difficulty in getting this inquiry off the ground is due to its size? Surely nobody could sensibly conduct an inquiry with terms of reference requiring consideration of the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care since 1970. That is an impossible task, and it is surely not surprising that no competent person is able to perform it. I must say to the Minister that if an inquiry of that sort ever did start, the inevitable delays in conducting it would make Sir John Chilcot look like a chairman in a hurry.

Lord Bates: I very much hope that that is not the case. I have to say that in most cases the pressure that we have been under was to extend the terms of reference still wider. I totally understand the noble Lord’s point that the inquiry needs to be sharp and focused, and to get to the heart of the matter. The chair who is appointed to the panel therefore has an incredible responsibility to provide that clarity of focus and speed of deliberation so that we get the answers quickly.

Lord Rogan (UUP): My Lords, the Minister is suggesting that a new panel may be set up. Could its remit be extended into inquiring into the Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast?

Lord Bates: This is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland. An inquiry is ongoing at present, chaired by Sir Anthony Hart. We are of course open to the devolved Administration making approaches, but at the moment this is for England and Wales.

Lord Richard (Lab): My Lords, the Minister said that so far there have been 150 nominations for the post of chair of this inquiry. Could he tell us a little more about this? Is it really going to be decided by nomination?

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Is the chair to be picked from the people who have been nominated? Have they nominated themselves? What organisations nominated them? It seems to me that in an affair of this sort the discretion of the Home Secretary in choosing the chair is extraordinarily important and should not be eaten into.

Lord Bates: We opened this up after the initial appointments of the two chairmen because they did not command confidence. Some people have responded and come forward directly, while a number of representations have been made on behalf of others by Members of your Lordships’ House. We wanted to broaden the net as widely as possible so as to allow people to come forward, and then of course to go through the due diligence aspect of their backgrounds to ensure an appropriate shortlist. Then, most crucially, before the shortlist is made public, the first people to see it will be the survivors’ groups themselves to ensure that we have their confidence in the individuals concerned.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend accept that many of us feel that it was little short of a tragedy that the Home Secretary’s first nomination was not able to continue as chairman? Further, would he bear in mind the importance of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick? Will he also reflect on the Saville inquiry, which went on and on? It is crucial that the remit is clearly defined, not unending in its scope, and that a report is published within a reasonable time.

Lord Bates: I am happy to endorse the views of my noble friend about the previous nominees, who were both genuinely outstanding candidates. That is still our belief. On the approach going forward, we want a system of regular reporting retained in the methodology. Rather than an ongoing inquiry delivering at some point in the future, there will be interim reports. The initial inquiry suggested that there would be a report after six months, but I hope that there will be regular opportunities to produce reports, and that those reports will provide opportunities for noble Lords to discuss and debate the evidence received to date.

Business of the House

Timing of Debates

11.56 am

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

That the debates on the Motions in the names of Lord Adonis and Lord Beecham set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, why is it that we have to wait until late afternoon/early evening to consider the Statement on the document, Scotland in the United Kingdom: An enduring settlement, when it has been all over the newspapers, it has been publicly

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explained through press conferences, and the rest of it? It directly affects the future of the United Kingdom and the interests of many Members who come from Scotland and the north of England and who will be travelling back to their homes on a Thursday night.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I do not doubt the importance of today for the people of Scotland and indeed for the United Kingdom as a whole and I understand the importance of the Statement. It is a busy day in the House today. We have Opposition day debates that will take up five hours of the business. It is one of the courtesies of the House that when a Statement is issued in another place the Opposition and the Government talk about it. The Opposition are given the choice whether to take the Statement and they are also asked whether the timing is convenient for the business of their spokesmen. Accordingly, the time that has been chosen to debate the Statement has been fixed. It is not impossible for the Government to override the wishes of the Opposition, but it is one of the long-standing courtesies of the House that the primary choice rests with the Opposition, and quite rightly so.

Lord Maxton (Lab): My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. Can the Minister tell us whether the delay in producing today’s speakers list was down to the debate that was taking place between the two Front Benches? To be told only at five to 11 when you are to speak in a debate is quite ridiculous.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I understand that, but unfortunately the decisions on this matter were not available to my office in order to print the list at an earlier time. The noble Lord is correct, but he will know that my office works very efficiently in this regard. When a decision had been made, the lists were then made available. I am sorry for any inconvenience that Members of the House may have suffered. I know that many noble Lords expect to be able to go home at a reasonable hour on a Thursday, having considered the business that is of interest to them. However, the interests of one Member may not be the same as those of another. I think that the tradition of the House of working with the Opposition on these matters is an important one to maintain and I hope that it will be understood and continued by noble Lords.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House, but if the Opposition decided to delay the Statement and prevent us from having an early opportunity to discuss it, that may explain why they are so far behind in the opinion polls—behind the SNP—in Scotland. This is a vital matter. These proposals were put forward by the leaders of the parties without any consultation. Indeed, the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland resigned, saying that she had not been consulted. It seems grossly unfair that Parliament has not been given an opportunity at an early stage to debate matters that are vital to the future of the United Kingdom.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I do not wish to prolong this. I merely point out that tomorrow is a sitting Friday. If it were not, I would

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entirely accept that noble Lords would wish to go home to Scotland today. However, as it is a sitting Friday, they may wish to be here tomorrow. I would also point out that, had the Prime Minister gone to Scotland yesterday, the draft clauses would perhaps have been published yesterday. As it is, he has gone today, so I suggest that perhaps it has something to do with the Prime Minister’s diary.

Motion agreed.

National Infrastructure

Motion to Take Note

12.01 pm

Moved by Lord Adonis

To move that this House takes note of the case for improving investment in and planning for the United Kingdom’s national infrastructure.

Lord Adonis (Lab): My Lords, the case for improving investment in and planning for the country’s infrastructure is compelling and I hope that today’s debate will promote consensus in working towards this goal from all sides of the House. Although the value of investing in infrastructure is increasingly understood and supported by politicians and the public alike, we have got to make it happen, and my argument is that it will not happen on the scale required unless it is better planned, better led and better financed. I want to look to the future, but an understanding of past failures is essential to preparing for a better future, so I will highlight three areas of failure.

First, as a country, we have significantly underinvested in infrastructure, and there has been far too much stop-go in public investment, which is just as bad. This has been a problem during the entire post-war period, but the present coalition Government have provided a master class. Public sector net investment more than halved between 2010 and 2014, from £53 billion to £25 billion in constant prices—a decline from 3.3% of GDP to 1.5%. The OBR projects that public sector net investment, as a share of GDP, will fall further to just 1.2% by 2017 under the present Government’s forward spending plans, and it will stay at just 1.2% for the rest of the next Parliament. To put this in context, across the EU as a whole, public sector net investment has declined much less—from 3.6% to 2.9% since 2009. Yet even within this fast-shrinking total there has been damaging and expensive stop-go investment, particularly in the roads programme, which was slashed in 2010, only for a large number of schemes—including the A14, the A21 and the A27—to be reinstated last year.

On top of public investment in public infrastructure there is, of course, privately financed investment. In some of the privatised utilities—notably telecommunications and water—and in port and airports, there have been significant investment programmes, but here, too, there are serious deficiencies. Where is the superfast broadband in rural areas that has been promised for years? What has happened to the super-connected cities programme, only a fraction of which has been implemented? The electricity generation sector, although privately financed, is in a precarious position because of serious

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underinvestment in new generating capacity and long-standing political uncertainty about the most appropriate and cost-effective mix of new energy sources.

This brings me straight to the second long-standing problem. It has proved notoriously hard to forge long-term consensus on key infrastructure priorities and projects. This is not universally true, even of big, initially controversial projects. Crossrail, HS2, the Thames tideway tunnel, the Silvertown tunnel and the nuclear power programme are now progressing with broad consensus. But in all these cases they are progressing years—if not decades—later than they should have done. I hope it will be possible to reach consensus much more rapidly on HS3, linking the major cities of the north with much faster and higher-capacity trains, and we look forward to the Government’s plan, to be published in March.

However, in many vital areas, controversial projects have been stalled, for years if not decades. Airport expansion in the south-east of England, vitally needed bridges across the east Thames, many major new housing developments and new electricity-generating capacity have been stymied not just by understandable differences of opinion but by a protracted inability to resolve these differences at the political level. Heathrow, the Thames Gateway bridge, new nuclear power stations and onshore wind farms, eco-towns and swathes of undeveloped brownfield land in areas of high housing need are all bywords for years, if not decades, of indecision and inability to build consensus.

The third key failure of recent decades is the failure to regard homebuilding as an overriding national and local infrastructure priority, in the face of an escalating housing crisis. There is consensus that we need to be completing between 200,000 and 250,000 new homes a year to meet England’s population and household growth. When housing was a major national priority in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, this level of housebuilding was achieved in most years, reaching a peak of 437,000 new homes in 1968, which also happens to be the year after the state last designated a major new town—Milton Keynes. But it is now 25 years since 250,000 new home completions were achieved in any year. Under this Government the provision of new homes has barely exceeded 100,000 a year, which is not only a policy failure but a cause of acute anxiety and stress to families nationwide, particularly in London and the south-east, where population is booming.

How should we tackle these weaknesses? Partly it is a question of priorities and leadership. To govern is to choose; we need political leaders and government—national and local—choosing to give a higher priority to housing and infrastructure, prioritising funding, and being prepared to take controversial decisions where they cannot or should not be ducked. These will be key issues in the next Parliament. I am particularly glad to see my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside in his place. He has long been making the case for systematic planning for brownfield sites to tackle housing need, particularly in London. This requires planning not just of housing but the transport and other infrastructure required to unlock major sites. The result could be a new generation of city villages. But it simply will not happen without a strong lead and

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systematic support from central government developing its own landholdings, notably in defence and the NHS, mobilising local government too in a new national drive to transform housebuilding.

Institutions have a key role to play in promoting better decision-making in respect of infrastructure, and I want to set out two worthwhile institutional changes which, between them, could transform our national and regional infrastructure planning and delivery: first, devolution to city and county regions; and, secondly, an independent national infrastructure commission.

As a policymaker, I have long believed that R&D often stands for “rob and duplicate”. On devolution, hardly anyone would now dispute that the establishment of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority, with a particular brief to manage London transport and promote better transport infrastructure, has been a notable success. We now need similar institutions in England’s other city regions. As a former Transport Secretary, I can say with near certainty that without the Mayor of London there would be no Crossrail, no Overground, nowhere near as much upgrading of the Tube and bus infrastructure, and, although this is not the direct responsibility of the mayor, there would also have been less commercial development and even less new housing development in the capital. Indeed, a good part of the reason why we are stuck on airports is because the mayor and central government have been at loggerheads on the way forward.

It is also notable that the next most effectively led and cohesive of the city regions after Greater London, Greater Manchester, has been the next most effective in terms of transport infrastructure planning and investment. Witness the growth of the Manchester Metro and Manchester Airport, thanks to significant investment and effective regional planning. We need bold devolution for other city and county regions to enable them to promote infrastructure improvements in a similar fashion. The noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, said this in his excellent report, published two years ago. I urged it too in a report for my party last year. The challenge is to create fit-for-purpose institutions, which means more, and more powerful, combined authorities on the Greater Manchester model and devolving to them serious budgets, tax income and infrastructure planning powers. For London, there needs to be more devolution to the mayor and the boroughs, particularly in respect of housing.

I turn to national institutions. It is essential that we have better institutional machinery for assessing medium-term and long-term requirements for national infrastructure in a non-party fashion, not—I stress this—to replace government and Parliament as decision-takers but to support and strengthen them and to help build consensus. This is the purpose behind my party’s proposal for a national infrastructure commission, as recommended by an independent review led by Sir John Armitt, who, along with the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, played a key role in the planning and delivery of the Olympics. The commission would span a 25 to 30 year planning horizon, updating its assessments at least once a decade.

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At the Report stage of the Infrastructure Bill in November last year, I moved an amendment to establish a national infrastructure commission. I hoped the Government would rob and duplicate the idea, particularly given the consensual way that the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, has gone about his job as infrastructure Minister. Unfortunately, this did not happen, perhaps because the noble Lord himself was not responding for the Government. I am more hopeful today because he is. In responding for the Government last November, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, did not address the key argument for a commission—to promote independent analysis of medium-term and long-term infrastructure requirements in energy, transport, telecoms, water, waste, flood defences and possibly also social infrastructure and major urban extensions, taking account of sustainability, both environmental and financial. In responding, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, simply retreated into an argument about the cost of a commission, although, of course, the Government already employ armies of civil servants and officials within Whitehall and their agencies to work on infrastructure planning. They are just not sufficiently co-ordinated, expert, long-term or independently led. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, also said that a commission,

“would distract from the business of providing the infrastructure that the country needs now and in the future”.—[

Official Report,

05/11/14; col. 1644.]

It could hardly distract from the future, since it is all about the future. It is stark, staring obvious that governments and the state need the capacity both to deliver in the present and to plan for the future. They are not either/or. Indeed, the Government accept this in principle, which is why they now publish an annual national infrastructure plan. The problem is that the plan is not really a plan. It is a catalogue of some projects already under way and many hundreds more in the ether with little overarching needs analysis, rationale or prioritisation. I know this from bitter experience. When I became Transport Minister in 2009, the nation’s forward plan for rail modernisation stopped in 2014, which is why we had no national plan for main-line rail electrification or high-speed rail, both of which take somewhat longer than five years to plan and deliver, and which relate to national needs over the next generation, not the next decade.

It is no surprise, then, that the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 ranks Britain 27th for overall quality of infrastructure—27th for a country with the fifth largest GDP in the world. It is no surprise either that the view of business leaders is that future growth and prosperity prospects are being undermined by weaknesses in planning and delivering major infrastructure. A CBI survey of 443 senior business leaders in November last year showed that 96% felt political uncertainty to be discouraging investment and 89% were supportive of an independent infrastructure commission.

Let me stress that an independent infrastructure commission is not a dangerous innovation. Australia has a successful one, Infrastructure Australia. It applies to infrastructure the principle of systematic, impartial advice and analysis which is taken for granted in other spheres. It is precisely the principle behind the present

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Government’s decision to establish the Office for Budget Responsibility in 2010, to bring independent analysis and advice to bear on fiscal policy, although of course decisions on taxes and spending are a matter for government and Parliament. My party has endorsed the OBR, and it is here to stay. The last Labour Government also set up the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence—NICE—to make recommendations on the funding of NHS medicines and treatments based on evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness. NICE, too, has been sustained and it is clearly here to stay. A national infrastructure commission would play an analogous role. Indeed, the Davies commission, set up by the present Government to recommend a strategy for extra airport runway capacity in south-east England, is precisely such a commission but with a single-issue remit. So I hope that we hear a more positive response from the Minister today.

Let me end on an optimistic note. London 2012, the greatest infrastructure project in Britain since the Victorians, was a model of national purpose, successful planning and effective delivery. If we can make an outstanding success of the Olympics, there is no good reason why we cannot do the same in modernising our transport systems, our utilities and our housing. 2012 was Britain at its best; let’s make it the model for the future. I beg to move.

12.16 pm

Lord Sassoon (Con): My Lords, as the former Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has initiated this debate on infrastructure today. I should note that I am currently the chairman of the China-Britain Business Council.

This is the first infrastructure debate in which I have spoken from the Back Benches and I will start by congratulating my successor, my noble friend the Minister, on the expertise, the energy and the success with which he has driven forward the UK infrastructure agenda in the past two years.

No Government in recent UK history have better understood the case for improving investment in and planning for the United Kingdom’s national infrastructure. This Government have spent more and they have spent better than the last Government ever did.

Let us remember that note which was left by the last Government in the Treasury drawer in May 2012, saying:

“I’m afraid there is no money”.

That was the appalling background against which the easy thing to do would have been to cut infrastructure expenditure—but this Government did the difficult but correct thing of increasing capital spending, initially by up to £2.3 billion a year and then by switching a further £5 billion a year from revenue to capital spend.

Not only was it more expenditure, it was against a plan which the last Government never had: the first ever national infrastructure plan, to set out the challenge and to give transparency to infrastructure investors and contractors. That plan was and is at the heart of this Government’s pro-growth policies, and it is a plan against which the Government have regularly reported progress.

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We also inherited a PFI programme which had been poorly executed by the last Government, with endless cases of inflated costs borne by taxpayers and excessive profits made by investors. This Government have attacked those excessive costs and, by the end of 2012, had exceeded their initial target of saving £1.5 billion.

This Government have not dodged the most difficult infrastructure challenges. As far back as 2003, the last Government published a White Paper on UK runway capacity, but for seven years they did not act on it. But this Government have set up the Davies commission to make a detailed study and recommendations on runways in the south-east. The last Government were frit. This Government have risen to the difficult challenges.

On the international front, the Government have put infrastructure at the heart of our commercial relationship with China—a relationship which had no such dimension under the previous Government. It has led to Chinese investment in our water and in our airport infrastructure, and that is to be welcomed. I would be interested to hear from my noble friend about the even more important prospects for Chinese investment in nuclear power and in high-speed rail.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, referred at some length to the proposal for a new infrastructure commission. The last thing we need is another quango, more paperwork and more layers of bureaucracy. I hope that my noble friend will assure the House that this is neither necessary nor something that the Government will entertain.

I have noted the recent work of the new UK Regulators Network. It seems an excellent example of how well this Government are taking forward the huge and difficult infrastructure challenge, and I commend my noble friend for that initiative.

12.20 pm

Lord Bhattacharyya (Lab): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for securing this vital debate. I meet global business leaders regularly and they all agree that Britain must improve its infrastructure in order to attract inward investment. From China to Holland, they see what good infrastructure achieves.

British business also says that we need to improve. Some 60% believe our roads are poor. Five years ago, the cost of road congestion was £2 billion a year. Yet, after the last election, many road projects were mothballed in the spending review. Capital spending on roads fell by around a half. Now the Government boast of major new investment. I welcome these projects, but all it means is that projects such as the A21 are back on again. It demonstrates that we do not think long term. In fact, our basic weakness in this country—whether it is investment in industry or in infrastructure—is all associated with short-termism. This has consequences. As KPMG has said, foreign investors are frustrated because,

“there aren’t projects to invest in immediately”.

We know there is a better way because we put huge effort into creating long-term consensus on projects such as the Olympics or Crossrail. That needs to be systematised in our approach to all infrastructure planning and is

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why I strongly support my friend Sir John Armitt’s proposed national infrastructure commission. It is, to quote the


, an idea,

“good enough for George Osborne to steal”.

My noble friend has set out how the commission would work. I will make one additional point. Giving an independent body authority to assess infrastructure needs would not reduce the power of elected Governments. Rather, it would give Ministers a power that they do not have already—the power to choose. One of the big problems of the other infrastructure bodies that noble Lords have mentioned is that they become quangos. That does not have to be the case. They become quangos only through the authority given to them by the Government.

Infrastructure assessments would create a better understanding of future needs and lead to stronger medium-term plans under departmental leadership. Ministers would have greater certainty about resources as their party would have been consulted on priorities from the beginning. Now Ministers only have a choice between the plans of their predecessors and further delay. With improved advance planning, Ministers could better set priorities and choose which projects should go ahead. They would get the power to deliver what they need and Parliament would be able to hold them accountable.

Some ideas make us regret that the other lot got there first. Once the National Audit Office, Bank of England independence and the Office for Budget Responsibility were established, they seemed common sense. A national infrastructure commission is the next such proposal. The Government still have time to steal it. I urge the Minister to take this opportunity.

12.29 pm

Baroness Maddock (LD): My Lords, I declare my interests as recorded formally. I particularly draw attention to my vice-presidency of the Local Government Association, because in my remarks this morning I will be drawing on the interim findings of a report commissioned by the LGA into economic growth and the future of public services in non-metropolitan areas, under the chairmanship of Sir John Peace.

There will be no disagreement around the House that good infrastructure forms the backbone of a modern economy and is vital to our economic growth. In coalition, the Liberal Democrats have agreed to prioritise infrastructure as part of our economic strategy. Indeed, by making tough choices, the Government have been able both to reduce the deficit and to increase capital spending on infrastructure—I disagree with the noble Lord’s opening remarks. It is now higher as a percentage of gross domestic product than in the final term of the previous Government.

However, this morning, I want to concentrate my remarks on the challenges that face us now and in future to make sure that the whole of England can benefit from important infrastructure development. One of the main challenges that we face is a highly centralised system of government and financial decision-making. The coalition has taken steps to decentralise, but central government still controls 60% of local government spending in England. What is more, it

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prescribes how much of that can be spent and sets limits on how local government can spend much of the money that it raises locally.

Local authorities are often best placed to understand the needs of their local economies and the challenges and opportunities that they face, which cut across traditional administrative boundaries. Having control over the whole budget would enable local authorities to prioritise according to local needs. Outside London, the non-metropolitan areas—the shires, smaller towns and cities and rural and suburban areas—produce the majority of England’s growth. Although it is vital that cities should be empowered to grow their skills and productivity, it is important not to hold back areas other than the major cities. We need to ensure that transport investment provides infrastructure that better joins those non-metropolitan areas to their urban neighbours and to global trade routes.

No one wants a wholesale reorganisation of local government—I have seen at first hand how difficult and destructive that can be—but that does not mean that we cannot use our existing structures to better effect. At the end of the day, unless we can make cities and non-metropolitan areas more fiscally self-financing, we will continue to be a centralised economy.

As a resident of Berwick-upon-Tweed, I am only too aware of the effects of our centralised system of government and financial control in areas such as rural north Northumberland. The main artery, the A1 from London and Newcastle to Edinburgh, peters out to a single carriageway most of the way north of Morpeth. Morpeth is 50 miles south of Berwick and at present is the home of county hall. I am pleased to say that, after years of lobbying, my right honourable friend Danny Alexander has announced hundreds of millions of pounds to dual the road at least halfway to Berwick. Promises have been made in the past but then forgotten by both Labour and Conservative Ministers. I sincerely hope that, whatever the result of the next election, that will not happen again. We need that strategic road to be upgraded all the way to Berwick if we are to attract businesses and jobs there; it is dualled most of the way the other side to Edinburgh.

We also need good local transport that is affordable to our young people and students. We have one of the lowest take-ups of further and higher education in the country. We have one high school in Berwick; the next nearest is 30 miles away. I am very pleased that we pledge in our manifesto to give two-thirds off public transport fares to young people.

Broadband is very important in our area. The county council has worked with the Government to ensure its rollout. It is vital to every farm and small business in a rural or remote area. Again, the council had to bid for that money.

We want good infrastructure. We need more devolution, to balance the budget and to have a long-term plan for capital expenditure on infrastructure, including housing, so that we can continue to raise the amount of money available in both absolute terms and as a share of our gross domestic product.

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12.29 pm

Lord Freeman (Con): My Lords, in a spirit of consensus, I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said and congratulate him on securing this very important debate. I also associate myself with a number of recommendations that my personal friend, John Armitt, made in his excellent report to the Opposition.

I welcome the policy statement on national networks but I have one problem with it, which is the timescale. Governments of all hues over the years have made the same mistake of not thinking long-term. It seems important that one should be looking at least 30 years ahead, whereas at present the policy statement tends to be looking at a much shorter period. It is over that length of time that policy involving all modes of transport can be properly taken into account.

I will make four simple points. The first is that all modes of transport should have been involved in the policy statement, although I very much welcome it and it is definitely a step forward. Air transport is not included, for example, and it is important that we avoid some of the mistakes made in the past in rail and road planning, forgetting the implications for proposals for national airports. Secondly, and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Heseltine, local authorities up and down the country should play an important role in the planning of infrastructure. The delegation of responsibility to local authorities in this matter, in terms of both policy and finance, is extremely important. Thirdly, the private sector has a role to play in the planning of national infrastructure. I give noble Lords one example: on the west coast main line the franchisee has much responsibility, financially and in planning, in contributing to the improvement of that line running from London to Scotland. I welcome the initiatives already being taken by the Department for Transport to think long-term about improving that line.

Lastly, I will take what some of your Lordships might think a step too far. I think that this House should emulate the other place, the House of Commons, which has an excellent Select Committee on Transport. I see no reason why your Lordships—or the Government, in discussion with the Opposition—should not consider setting up a Select Committee in this House specifically to deal with transport. A lot of your Lordships have a great deal of experience in this field. Bipartisanship and looking long-term, which are both important principles, would be encouraged and developed if we could have a Select Committee, built to be bipartisan between opposition and government on planning infrastructure, devoted to considering this matter over the long term.

12.33 pm

Lord Rogers of Riverside (Lab): My Lords, we live in an urban age. Ten per cent of the world’s population lived in cities 100 years ago; today it is 50%, and in the next 30 years we shall see it at 80%. People are drawn by jobs and the possibility of meeting other people. They are the hearts of our culture and the engines of our wealth.

As part of this we need to invest in the infrastructure of cities, particularly in housing—the infrastructure of the everyday. Some 15 years ago, I chaired the Urban

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Task Force set up by my noble friend Lord Prescott. We said then that we needed 300,000 homes a year. That is more or less what we are saying again, but today we are for the first time building only one-third of this. We were building up to 400,000 after the war. In addition, we have some of the smallest—and in my view, the shoddiest—housing in the world. We need to rediscover our skills in creating cities that everyone wants to live in.

The only form of sustainable city is compact, mixed-use and well designed, using brownfield land, retrofitting and densification, supported by public transport, and has well designed public space—and a lot of it—for walking, cycling and leisure. For example, in the centre of Manhattan 60% of people walk to work—in a city that is known for cars. Such cities must have a mix of uses of living, working and leisure, for poor and rich, and we need to build affordable houses to make cities have a real social mix. We will meet our housing targets only if we make the most of our brownfield land, and England has among the most brownfield land of any country, first, because of a vast Industrial Revolution, which changed it completely; and secondly, because there are still remnants of the war.

That industrial change and its impact give us a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our existing cities. We have enough brownfield land for 1.5 million houses, at a medium density. That is according to government figures, and after the selection of certain areas of brownfield that are easily developable and which would link in with the cities we already have, so it is a low figure that misses out on a lot of things. That supply is constantly being replenished as industrial change continues, so 15 years ago we used lots of it but we still have the same amount. Left derelict, brownfield land is a tear in the urban fabric and a focus for crime and disorder. Intensification and retrofit add much more potential. Somewhere like Croydon, for example, has potential for new development within the urban fabric on the scale of a new town, and already has wonderful infrastructure systems. The centre of Croydon is nearly empty.

Therefore I believe—and I have studied this for many years—that building new towns is not sustainable, either regarding climate change or using already half-empty buildings which are left near those areas. The situation is made worse when the planning and building of new houses is led by volume house builders, whose primary concern is the bottom line—and I am sure they would agree. That would seem crazy anywhere else in western Europe.

I have good examples of urban regeneration, where the people and the local authority take responsibility.

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I remind noble Lords that this is a time-limited debate.

Lord Rogers of Riverside: We need to give elected local authorities the powers and resources to plan for new brownfield development, intensification and retrofit so that they can repair the tears in the urban fabric and build the houses that we need, building on brownfield land before green. With the right infrastructure investment, and the power taken back by local authorities, we will be able to build new towns in our cities, not outside them.

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12.39 pm

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, my first point concerns the cost arguments against HS2—and, for that matter, any other large infrastructure project. My recollection is that we are spending around £3 billion a year on Crossrail. About the time we stop spending large amounts on that, we will move on to the construction phases of HS2. Clearly we can afford these projects, as we are doing so now. Affordability is a red herring used by the opponents of HS2. To put this expenditure into perspective, we spend in the order of £100 billion each year on welfare. I say “spend”, because that is not investment: next year we will have to spend another £100 billion on welfare, if we want to remain a humane and compassionate society—which I suggest we do. The beauty of a railway infrastructure project is that we can enjoy a return for 100 years or more.

My second point concerns the scheduling and sequencing of these large infrastructure projects. The advantage of having an Infrastructure Minister within the Treasury is that there is a much better chance of ensuring that projects are properly sequenced, to avoid feast and famine, and perhaps of providing some predictability for the construction industry. For example, drilling down into the HS2 phase 1 project, I would imagine that in the construction phase all the bridges will be commenced at more or less the same time. Each construction site will require at least one large crane. If we were to build HS2 phases 1 and 2 concurrently rather than sequentially, we would massively increase the demand, and therefore the cost, of the construction equipment—but everyone would know that famine would follow. The same argument would apply to every other capability, including professionals, that we need for HS2 and other projects. It would be much better for my noble friend the Treasury Minister to do his best to ensure a steady flow of work and avoid the stop-go that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned in his excellent introduction. We should therefore do phase 1 of HS2 followed by phase 2, and then I hope by HS3 in due course.

My last point is that we cannot undertake large infrastructure projects without very adversely affecting some of the population. Sadly, an infrastructure commission would not change that. Unhelpfully, those who are adversely affected often do not benefit directly once the project is in operation. There are many inside and outside your Lordships’ House who query the economics of HS2. I sympathise with those adversely affected, and respect the opposing views, but I firmly believe that such projects should be authorised at national level, in Parliament, at the earliest possible point. The paving Bill for HS2 has been approved by Parliament, and it would be very difficult to stop it now, because that would involve writing off hundreds of millions of pounds of public money in sunk costs.

My concern is about the use of judicial review to delay, derail or stop a project. Some of the recent cases involved the HS2 consultation procedure, and claims that the consultation was not done in precisely the right way. It was a case not of no consultation, but of exactly how consultation was done. I am pleased to

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say that most of those claims have been thrown out by the courts, although some minor technical points were upheld.

12.43 pm

Lord McFall of Alcluith (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on generating this debate. I shall focus on three areas: the mindset of the Government, the present strategy, and the consistency or inconsistency of approach. The Government’s mantra has been fiscal consolidation, which is nothing more than a euphemism for cuts in public spending. That view was shared by the IMF, but it changed its tune dramatically in October, in its World Economic Outlook, where it said that there was a need for a substantial increase in public infrastructure investment globally. It asserted that properly designed infrastructure investment would reduce, rather than increase, government debt burdens. In other words, it would pay for itself. There is therefore an overwhelming case for investment now, and on a substantial scale.

The second issue is strategy. The Government’s strategy needs to embrace the entire country. That is mentioned in their document on transport, Rebalancing Britain, but it has to mean what it says.

I note that the Prime Minister is in Scotland today. He has to emphasise that the tools to deliver such projects need to come from the decentralisation proposals which will be implemented in England and the devolution proposals which will be implemented in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The Economic Affairs Committee is looking at HS2 at the moment. I had a revealing exchange recently with Sir David Higgins, who is in charge of that. Sir David is a man of great integrity and impeccable professional credentials. However, I questioned him about his statement that we need an east-west train line in the north of England. He had called for that to be built alongside HS2, at a cost of £15 billion. It was revealing that Sir David replied:

“I do not think we were even talking about east-west six months ago, and as I started spending time with northern politicians, a number of them said, ‘Why do you not at least consider the issues?’ … the more I thought about it the more I thought that this debate needs to be had”.

Under questioning from me on whether the six-month timescale added up to a national strategy, he replied:

“You are right, so it is not a national transport strategy”,

so we are building HS2 without a national strategy. His advice to the committee was that,

“you need to say, ‘There needs to be a national transport strategy’”.

Two conclusions can be drawn from that: first, that we have a London-centric approach; and, secondly, that we have a lack of clear strategic planning. The Public Accounts Committee report published last week was very clear that the Department for Transport is making decisions about which programmes to prioritise for investment on unclear criteria. Indeed, it has still to publish proposals for how Scotland will benefit from HS2, including whether or not the route is extended into Scotland. What goes for transport goes for other areas such as energy, airports and housing, which have been mentioned.

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The third issue is inconsistent government policies. To deliver projects there needs to be public-private collaboration. There was a great initiative a few years ago whereby pension funds were going to invest £25 billion in infrastructure projects. However, for them to do so, they needed to match their investment with long-term liabilities. The Chancellor radically redesigned the pensions landscape in the 2014 Budget. The result will be a net gain to the Treasury in the next four years of £3 billion, and £17 billion a year by 2030 at 2013-14 prices, but uncertainty for pension funds and long-term investment.

There is a case for greater certainty in long-term strategic policy. That can be delivered only by an independent national infrastructure commission, as has been said. Sadly, that task will be left to the next Government, who need to make it a primary responsibility.

12.47 pm

Lord Marland (Con): My Lords, I welcome the debate initiated by the much respected noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I completely concur with other noble Lords that it should be conducted in a bipartisan spirit because, as we all know, infrastructure is for the long term and crosses Governments and Parliaments.

From my experience in government, which ended a year ago, I know that government has a poor history of developing infrastructure. It is not a naturally commercial animal and should avoid carrying out projects at all times, as they often end in overspend and incompetent management. However, government is an enabler. I congratulate the current Government and my noble friends Lord Sassoon and Lord Deighton, who have set about the task of enabling in an extraordinarily energetic and vigorous fashion.

We have had a very poor landscape of infrastructure development. We have had economic failure and the failure of banks to lend, which is fundamental to development. That has led to lack of confidence. Through my noble friends’ initiatives, despite having their hands tied behind their back, we have been able to develop confidence. I have enjoyed working closely with them on projects such as Battersea, Sellafield, when I was a Minister for energy and climate change, the early stages of Hinkley Point and now the Tottenham redevelopment.

What they have established is joined-up government. It is fundamental that across departments we must all share and work for a common aim. They should be further congratulated on setting up a showcase of the infrastructure projects that are available. This is the first time a Government have ever done this.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, quite rightly refers to the regions. He has taken London as a shining example of infrastructure showing the fundamental prosperity of a region. I totally concur with him that if we are to get real infrastructure projects going in this country, we have to empower the regions; we have to let them make the decisions and therefore generate the opportunities.

If one wants to see how that works, as the noble Lord said, one needs look no further than at Boris Johnson’s mayoralty, which has shown London as having travelled so widely. It is now the centre of the world in terms of how people look to see a city prosper and develop. We

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now have an opportunity, surely, because the economic landscape is changing. We have cheap money. We have the availability and the thirst of many investment organisations to invest in long-term projects. We must grasp this opportunity, as noble Lords have said, to develop infrastructure projects for generations to come. Now is the moment when government should act and take those opportunities.

12.51 pm

Lord Hollick (Lab): I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Adonis for securing this debate. All major parties have enthusiastically committed to infrastructure investment, but there are some key differences that have emerged over the level of funding, the process for evaluating projects and whether responsibility should reside in Westminster or increasingly in the nations and regions of the UK.

The Conservatives are clear that they will seek to achieve an overall budget surplus by 2018-19, with investment spending maintained at the current 1.2% share of GDP. Labour has sensibly proposed to unbundle current and capital expenditure and committed to secure a current budget surplus as soon as possible, to reduce the national debt as a share of GDP, but—critically—to increase infrastructure spend as a percentage of GDP back to 1.5%. The difference between the Labour and Conservative plans for infrastructure spend has been independently assessed as being up to £20 billion by the end of the next Parliament. The case for increasing the level of infrastructure spend at a time of record low long-term borrowing rates and when it can sustain and improve the current momentum in the economy is indeed powerful.

Another key difference between the main parties is the process of evaluating and deciding which of the many competing projects to pursue. The coalition published a National Infrastructure Plan, which has been referenced, and has subsequently published updates. This approach is most important. It has focused on delivery, cost control and implementation—all of which are of absolute and vital importance. But we are invariably proceeding without a clearly articulated strategic plan. As my noble friend Lord McFall mentioned, the Economics Affairs Committee is currently reviewing the economic case for HS2. Many of our witnesses have criticised the absence of a comprehensive strategy for HS2. This, they say, has undermined public confidence and stands in the way of a thorough and transparent review of alternative solutions. Professor Overman said that the case for HS2 and the alternatives presented to Parliament was so poorly analysed that it left MPs in a quite hopeless position to make a decision.

This is the crux of the problem: without a clear strategy, how are the Government, let alone the public, to decide what are the most appropriate and cost-effective options, and to prioritise investment? The Treasury carries out rigorous, zero-based capital reviews to determine priorities. But it is HS2 and the Department of Transport which are responsible for providing all of the data and analysis to support this evaluation. There is no independent review and the detailed analysis is not made public. This stifles informed debate and independent analysis.

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The establishment of the national infrastructure commission—described by my noble friend—by the next Labour Government, will allow future Governments the luxury of making their decisions on which infrastructure options to pursue in the light of an overall strategy, and only after rigorous independent, impartial assessment.

The huge regional disparity in infrastructure spend was a very hot topic when our HS2 enquiry took evidence in Manchester from five Midlands and northern city authorities. The cities want to combine into large metro groups and take responsibility for infrastructure planning and implementation. Spending per head on infrastructure in 2013 was £2,595 in London but a meagre £5 in the north-east and only £99 in the north-west. The cities were justified in claiming that they are being short-changed and resented their subservience to Westminster. My noble friend Lord Adonis has made a powerful case to give large metro regions the responsibility for regional infrastructure and devolved budgets to support their projects. The noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, holds similar views, as does the City Growth Commission—chaired by Jim O’Neill, who appeared before our committee—which has called for the power to approve projects and secure finance to be devolved to the regions.

It is interesting to speculate whether, if HS2’s £50 billion budget was available to promote growth and connectivity in the regions, the regional metro authorities would pursue what one economist described as the lowest common denominator solution, or a more focused series of transport initiatives. Only when the regions are freed from the grip of Westminster will we know the answer to that question.

12.56 pm

Baroness O'Cathain (Con): My Lords, this is a brilliant debate, given that we are looking at investment in and planning for the United Kingdom’s national infrastructure. As noble Lords can probably see, I have torn up my speech completely and have scribbled only a few things because almost everything that I had wanted to talk about has been mentioned.

The letter of May 2010 was a fact, although even then we were more infrastructure-minded when looking at plans for 2012. We are now looking at many greater plans for the next five years. It was slightly unfair of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, to castigate the Government, because investment in infrastructure in the five years of this coalition Government was at a higher proportion of GDP than under the last five years of the Labour Government.

Investment is something that we do not have too many worries about. Sovereign wealth funds and individual corporate investors want to invest in this country. Why? They trust us, appreciate our rule of law and the relatively stable political climate, and approve of the established regime of independent regulators. They are all part of a climate that is attractive to investors. Investment is certainly part of our normal business proposition.

However, I am concerned about the future of infrastructure programmes in this country because of the skills shortage. The skills deficit is definitely a fact.

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We have funds, brains, designers, brilliant architects and award-winning engineers. We have a history of excellent research and innovation. What we must do is make skills the most important short and medium-term focus of our education system. I wish that I was convinced that there would be more rapid upskilling than seems to be happening. We need more of the technical academies such as those set up by my noble friend Lord Baker, who I am glad to see is sitting in his place.

I ask my noble friend the Minister if he could use his undoubted influence to resolve the current visa problems of overseas students who graduate from UK research institutes and have to leave the country after graduating. This is crazy; it flies in the face of common sense and sends all the wrong messages to would-be investors. This country is home to four of the top 10 graduate colleges in the world league table for research and innovation—Cambridge, Imperial College, Oxford and UCL. I have deliberately listed them alphabetically. Why do we educate these people to such a high standard in the best colleges in the world and then say, as soon as they have completed their PhD, DPhil or whatever, “You cannot stay. You’ve got to go”?

In conclusion, I firmly believe that we are in a very good place, both to attract investment and to produce great new developments in infrastructure. However, there is a caveat. We cannot put this at risk by allowing political posturing to damage the course we should be taking. We definitely need a national consensus. The leader of the Opposition in the other place certainly did this when he announced that he would insist on a freeze in energy prices if he were leading the Government. The overseas reaction was immediately bad. Investors are not risk-averse but when political whims enter the equation trust is damaged and we all know how hard it is to roll back from that situation.

1 pm

Lord Berkeley (Lab): I very much support and congratulate my noble friend Lord Adonis on this debate. I would definitely support the national infrastructure commission proposed in the excellent report produced by Sir John Armitt. I follow HS2 with a certain amount of interest. When my noble friend was Minister of Transport, and subsequently Secretary of State, he put a vision into the railways and quite a lot of discipline as well. He started the idea of HS2. The noble Lord, Lord Marland, and my noble friend Lord McFall suggested that everything was too London-centric. I remember suggesting to my noble friend Lord Adonis at the time that it might have been better to start in the Manchester and Leeds areas and work south. It would be easier to get across the Chilterns when there was nothing else to do but join them together. Nevertheless, it went well while he was in charge. I am sad that, in the period from then until the present Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin, took office—he is taking a great interest in it and doing very well—I detected a slight rudderlessness in the way HS2 was taken forward at the political level.

Last night I was pleased to be in Brussels with my noble friend Lord Adonis to see him being awarded a very important prize by the European rail supply industry for the vision that he showed in this country

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when he was Secretary of State. He went round many high-speed lines that were being developed across Europe in Germany, Spain, France and Italy to see how they did it. It was quite clear that in all those places they manage to build these lines much more quickly than we do. When it comes to operating their trains they are nothing like as good as we are, but they do the building very well. I suspect that this is something to do with us being a mature democracy—I am not saying that they are not—and listening to people’s complaints a bit more. I remember when I was starting off the Channel Tunnel, my French colleagues used to say to me: “Why is it taking so long to get permission to build this thing? We got permission in six weeks”. In the UK, we took three years. I asked them how they did it and they said: “If you want to drain the swamp, you do not consult the frogs.” That is an interesting way of putting it but it is quite true. One thing they did was related to arguments about compensation for people who owned property or whose businesses might be affected. There is a system in France where it is normal to pay a good 10% over the assessed market value of the business or the house. I hope we take up some of these big projects and wonder whether we should look at that when we do so. I am sure that if people felt they had been given a little bit extra, in addition to their moving and relocation costs, it would help a lot.

We also need to discuss how to get these permissions. The Bill for HS2 is grinding through the Commons. I do not know whether it is going to take three, four or five years. In many ways, it is no more contentious than the Bill for High Speed 1 was, but is that the right process? If it is, what about having a Joint Committee of both Houses to do it? Do we really need to offer people the opportunity to petition on the same subject—and it can be in exactly the same format—to both Houses? I suggested this a few years ago for HS2 but it has not been taken up. Or should we abandon the hybrid Bill process completely and go for the new regime within the Planning Inspectorate? This, of course, is the way the Thames tideway tunnel is being done. I happen to object to that project, but the process is probably going quite well. We need to have this debate; we need to reflect that, being a mature democracy, we have to take a bit longer. We have a long way to go but I welcome my noble friend’s debate today and hope we can take it forward.

1.04 pm

Viscount Ridley (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on securing this debate and on the prize we have just heard about from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I have had huge respect for him ever since his recent very fine report about the north-east of England. I am very sympathetic to much of what he has to say about the future of infrastructure but I will focus my remarks on roads.

Since 1990, France has built 2,700 miles of new motorway. Between 2001 and 2009, under the previous Government, this country built just 46 miles. To use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, himself, this was a “master class” in underinvestment, although admittedly it was before he was Transport Secretary. The UK has half as much motorway per vehicle mile

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as other major EU countries. It is not as if the Labour Government did not know that they were underinvesting in this, because in 2006 they commissioned Sir Rod Eddington to look into the road network and make suggestions. He wanted to tackle a number of bottlenecks, build bypasses, widen roads, improve junctions and so on, and he made a number of recommendations which largely were not acted on.

The Institute for Economic Affairs calculates that, over the last decade or so, we have been cancelling road projects that would have an average benefit to cost ratio of 3.2 to 1 and deferring ones with a benefit to cost ratio of 6.8 to 1. Yet at the same time we have been funding public transport projects with much lower benefit to cost ratios averaging about 1.8 to 1. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, why so little was done to fix the roads when the fiscal sun was shining. Was it just because we were all frit of Swampy in those days? I welcome the fact that, as my noble friend Lord Sassoon said, this Government are planning, under much tougher fiscal conditions, to spend £24 billion on roads between 2010 and 2021 to resurface 80% of national roads, to add 221 lane-miles of motorways and start 52 major road projects. I echo what my noble friend Lady Maddock said about welcoming the dualling of the A1 through Northumberland.

The crucial point is that we need to rethink how we pay for roads. In 2011, the RAC Foundation said that we had fallen behind other nations in the way we fund road building because in both the United States and across Europe contracts to build roads are nearly always, or very frequently, privately financed, often regionally commissioned and invested in by pension funds because there is a capital return through tolls. For example, in the United States, 4,500 miles of new highway infrastructure have been built in this way, using tolls, since the early 1990s. In France, which is hardly a hotbed of free-market economics, they have privatised most of the strategic road network and drivers are now very used to using tolls, particularly because of electronic tolling. That is, of course, why the roads in France are so good and they have been able to build so much more. The RAC Foundation concluded:

“Across continental Europe, toll roads now account for a significant portion of the strategic road network in all of the countries we have reviewed.”

We need to be more radical, open and imaginative if we are to cut congestion, which is a huge drain on business in this country, and boost economic growth.

1.08 pm

Lord Graham of Edmonton (Lab): My Lords, I join many other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on securing this debate. It is impossible to do in four minutes what one wants to do in a debate of this kind but I congratulate the staff of the House of Lords Library who have produced an excellent note, full of facts and figures. I do not intend to knock previous programmes but to remind the House of what has happened to some of them, such as the sale of council housing.

In 1979, there were 6,568,000 council homes. By 2012, this figure had shrunk to 2,096,000, and there one may find some of the seeds of the present problems.

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Of course it was a good policy to sell council houses—we backed it in this Chamber. But the problem was that the Government of the day, because of their political stance, did not allow councils to replace the houses that they had sold. As a consequence, we have the problems that we have today, and that is not very good.

On the disposal of national assets to allow private landlords to amass a portfolio, I should like to put on the record a recent piece from a national newspaper. When houses were allowed to be sold, one assumed that people would own them for the rest of their lives or that they would be inherited by their children. But what has happened? A number of private individuals have made it a business to buy council houses and to rent them. I know of a situation where a man is saying, “If you have more than two children; if you are on a zero hours contract; if granny moves in; or if you are on housing benefit, you will be evicted”. That is what that man is doing. The terrible problem is that nothing can be done about it. He is operating within the law. I should like to ask the Minister, if it is possible to do this in this very busy period, whether there is any move towards examining the manner in which previous assets have been distributed and are now working against us.

Housing is not the only issue. I look at the extent to which water, electricity and other public assets have been distributed. Noble Lords will know the slogan: “Tell Sid”. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon but the shares did not remain in the hands of the individuals. They were bought up by, among others, the Canadian Pension Plan, a consortium in Hong Kong, Australian and Canadian pension funds, Cheung asset management, the Norway central bank, and organisations in China, Malaysia and Singapore.

I am conscious of the time and I do not want the Whip, who is doing her job, to remind me. This has been said in the country and I have said sufficient to indicate that I am in favour of the plans ahead. However, we need to be very careful that the defence of this realm is not put in jeopardy by selling or allowing to be bought the assets that we have inherited from our predecessors. We should be very careful not to allow too much imbalance.

1.13 pm

Lord Bradshaw (LD): My Lords, those of us who work in systems industries are well aware of the fact that when you are using 85% of capacity—whether it is roads, water, electricity or railways—you put yourself in a position where a slight aberration in performance starts to collapse the system. We have to get our priorities right and we have to invest early enough. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will remember that when he was Secretary of State, we persuaded him to order 200 new diesel trains but he was unpersuaded after the OECD notice and I do not know why.

The noble Lord, Lord Deighton, would do well to address the whole issue of the appraisal of schemes and the capturing of the economic effects. Last night’s Evening Standard announced that house prices would rise 54% in Whitechapel because of Crossrail. As far as I know, none of that money accrues to the public purse or is even credited to Crossrail. We create wealth but it is not created for the public purse.

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Air quality and congestion are enormous problems. As at present constructed, business cases do not give enough emphasis to that. In the infrastructure plan, there is a very imaginative scheme for Bath city centre. The local council wants to improve the appalling traffic flow and the huge damage to buildings by relieving the whole pressure of traffic on Bath. However, it is difficult to get the scheme to conform to the appraisal system. While I am on appraisal systems, I do not think there is any economic justification for adding together huge numbers of very small time savings and justifying things on that basis. They have to be credible and realisable time savings to be worth being taken into account.

I am very pleased to say that the railway franchise bidding procedure is at last taking quality into account. That has long needed to be done but the Treasury has shied away from it because it cannot be proved in financial terms. It is very heartening to see that the Stagecoach bid for the east coast and the Abellio bid for the ScotRail franchise have taken these things into account. I ask the Minister to note that the railway franchise system overspecifies the service. Lots of small stops are put into routes. Lincoln to Nottingham could be a very fast service, end to end or stopping at Newark, but it is precluded from that by the passenger service obligation.

I am interested in the idea of an independent infrastructure commission, as advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I am a victim, I suppose, of the Strategic Rail Authority. In the years in which I was involved with it, we had constant fights with government departments as to who was in charge of what. A decision has to be made about who will be in charge—Whitehall or the independent infrastructure commission. There have to be clear lines of demarcation.

I endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, said about training. Training is essential. We need huge numbers of engineers and people to support them. I am very pleased that this Government have at last delivered a great increase in the number of apprentices.

1.17 pm

Lord Liddle (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of Cumbria County Council. My purpose in speaking in this debate is to bring a cold wind of Cumbrian reality to all this chatter about infrastructure. When it comes to infrastructure, London gets most of what it wants—as, probably, as a global city, it should—but the rest of England has to be content with crumbs. These crumbs are from Chancellor Osborne’s table, which his spin doctors try to confect into some imaginary tray of appetising cream cakes. They look tempting and delicious when they are offered but, in the modern world on public health grounds, you are not allowed to get near them.

In Cumbria, we were greatly heartened by the Chancellor’s talk of a northern powerhouse and by the idea of High Speed 3 connecting our great northern cities. But what is the reality? A couple of weeks ago, the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, who is a good man, came to Carlisle. It was one of those visits to marginal constituencies that Ministers have to make at this time in the political cycle. Doubtless, he had

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asked his department to identify what suitable goodies he could announce or perhaps reannounce for Cumbria. However, the cupboard proved very bare. There would be no road improvements to link the centre of Britain’s nuclear industry on the west coast to the M6. Nor would there be improvements in rail connectivity or an improvement in the east-west line from Carlisle to Newcastle. That is a journey of 60 miles, which in the modern world takes 100 minutes but should take 45 minutes. Instead the Transport Secretary came up with the announcement of a single additional early morning train service to take workers from Carlisle to the nuclear site at Sellafield. In my youth, the railway would have described that as a workmen’s special.

This beneficial improvement came out of the recent refranchising of the Northern and TransPennine rail services. What Mr McLoughlin failed to highlight in this announcement was that, as a result of this refranchising, Barrow-in-Furness has lost its direct rail service to Manchester Airport, which used to run every two hours. That service was a crucial lifeline for this isolated town. Why is Barrow losing this service? It is because the TransPeninne units have to be transferred south to tackle overcrowding on the Chiltern line. In other words, there is not so much a northern powerhouse as a southern smash and grab. As a consequence of this shortage of modern rolling stock, in order to provide services in Cumbria, diesels from the freight operator DRS will have to be used to haul old-fashioned coaches that have been retained for steam train excursions.

That is an extraordinary failure and it shows a deeper failure. We in Cumbria were supposed to get the third nuclear power station to be built, but there is no planning for that power station. It is in the national infrastructure plan, but there is no planning whatever. Planning is lacking. That is why I fervently hope that a new Government will implement the proposals made by Sir John Armitt in his excellent paper.

1.22 pm

Lord Flight (Con): My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, both on his speech and on his prize. He is clearly speaking very much to the converted. However, I have some reservations—and need to be convinced—about his argument for a commission. Over the past four years we have not done so badly given the difficult economic climate. Crossrail has gone well and projects have advanced, and the 2014 NIP plan is a big improvement on the 2001 plan.

I will point to some specific issues that other noble Lords have raised. A key problem for major infrastructure projects remains the excessive regulatory, environmental and consultation requirements. These cause delays and costs and eventually lead to indecision, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. There is too much centralisation, and the regions need to be empowered.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Ridley that the biggest inadequacy is in our road network. While I am aware of inadequacies to the north, this applies particularly to southern England. For a long time we have desperately needed a motorway from Dover to Bournemouth, going through the middle of my former parliamentary constituency. There are still ridiculous traffic queues every day at Worthing and Arundel.

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It is slightly wrong to think of infrastructure investment as part of the public sector. The major investor and manager of projects is the private sector, which accounts for something like 70%. Like my noble friend Lord Marland, I have rather greater confidence in the private sector’s ability to manage projects than in that of the public sector, which is not a natural for the purpose. I will add that there is no problem with financing proper projects, and I trust that my noble friend Lord Deighton would support this. If anything, we do not have enough projects lined up for the pension funds, the sovereign wealth funds and economies such as China to finance.

In 2010 I went to hear the shadow Chief Secretary present the infrastructure plan of the time. It consisted of roughly £200 billion of energy investment and £200 billion of communication, transport and digital investment, but with no particular timeframe. Indeed, I asked him when these projects were likely to take effect, and he could not answer. What has actually happened over the last four difficult years has been surprisingly good, in a way. We have averaged £47 billion per annum of investment, making a total approaching £250 billion over the last five years. This is also some 15% more than infrastructure investment in the previous Parliament.

The 2014 NIP is extremely good. There is an organised pipeline of £554 billion of investment, of which £303 billion is in energy and £176 billion in transport. Again, the financing of this is 64% private, 23% public and 13% mixed.

Before I sit down, I refer to the specific point of co-operation with China on infrastructure, which was raised by my noble friend Lord Sassoon. I understand that China has some concerns that the Hinkley joint venture project, which is 49% Chinese and 51% French, is in a state of stalemate. This is partly because the French do not have the funds, and partly because of political problems here about whether the National Security Council views China as a security risk for investment in nuclear energy. I hope that my noble friend Lord Deighton can sort this out, because I believe that it is causing some evaporation of Chinese support.

1.26 pm

Lord Maxton (Lab): My Lords, I join in thanking my noble friend both for obtaining this debate and for the very eloquent way in which he introduced it. Rather like my noble friend Lord Liddle, I will take a slightly different course by saying that we live in a world that is changing very fast indeed. That must be taken into account when we look at the investment and planning of our infrastructure.

A friend from America told me recently, in an e-mail in which he gathered together a lot of information, that the computing power contained on my mobile phone at the present time would have cost me £3.5 million in 1991, only 24 years ago. That is the computing power that I now have on my mobile phone. That is only an example of the way in which the world has changed and is continuing to change. That is the important point. The world is not only changing, but is continuing to do so and is changing faster and faster.

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After all, most of the infrastructure we are talking about deals with transport problems that would not have existed 250 years ago. Yet 250 years is a very short time in the history of mankind, let alone the history of the world. Railways and motor transport did not exist then, so there was no infrastructure as we talk about it at the present time. Having said that, I make the plea that the infrastructure for the internet be considered as part of the essential needs of the people of this country. At the moment, the internet is provided by a variety of individual capitalist companies which, quite rightly, desire to make a profit. However, there are three distinct groups of people who lose out in the present structure.

The first group is the elderly, which I have to say includes some of my noble friends around the House.

A noble Lord: What about yourself?

Lord Maxton: I am elderly, but not in that category. Some people think that I am quite an expert on computers in this place, but I consider myself to be a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. There is some element of truth in that.

The fact is that the elderly often lose out because they do not have computers, and if they do, they do not know how to use them. Even mobile phones can be a bit baffling. The second group is the poor: those who cannot afford to pay for a monthly internet service.

I was tempted to say that the third group is made up of those who live in rural areas, but it is not just them, it is those who do not have a fast internet connection in their home. I want this Government—or any Government, because two out of these three groups would benefit from having a Labour Government—to ensure that the telephone network is part of the infrastructure that we are looking at in terms of planning because it is the main way of providing access to the internet. If we do not do that, we will leave these groups behind. We have already seen in education that children who have access to computers and the internet are benefiting over those who do not. I therefore ask the Government to consider this.

1.31 pm

Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, I rise to make a few points in this debate on what is clearly an extensive subject and one which has a significant impact on our own and our children’s long-term future. I would like to say first that in this debate, whatever our political allegiance, we all essentially want the same outcome, which is an infrastructure that will strengthen our economy and ensure that we remain one of the leading economies of the world. To do that, though, we cannot rely on our Victorian heritage. We must have a long-term vision and the will to make it happen. As the Chancellor said last year:

“We must learn from the past, not be the past. Decide or decline. That is the choice”.

That means not only putting aside our political differences but doing things differently, for clearly, as it stands, the system of decision-making still leaves considerable room for improvement. I welcome Sir John Armitt’s proposals for an independent infrastructure commission because it has sparked a debate and, it is hoped, will lead to the outcome that we all want.

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From a business perspective, there is clearly support for doing things differently. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, quoted the views of the CBI on this. That is not to say that the direction of travel in recent years has not been positive. The publication late last year of the road investment strategy and the forthcoming publication of a digital strategy this year indicate that we are starting to think beyond the immediate future. The innovations in the Infrastructure Bill currently going through the Commons are helping to put in place the building blocks for this. These are less controversial, though, than some of the tough decisions that are still outstanding, and none is more pressing than the key question of the airport capacity that is required if the UK is to remain competitive, and if we are to rebalance our economy and secure longer-term sustainable growth.

The experience of the Airports Commission, currently led by Sir Howard Davies, offers interesting insights upon which we can draw, demonstrating the importance of taking an evidence-based approach. When analysed in the cold hard light of day, the case for new runway capacity in the south-east is clear. With this clarity, it is essential that we as politicians play our part and commit to implementing the proposals when they are published in June, so that we can finally increase our capacity and grow the links to emerging markets that our businesses so desperately need. In the past five years, while we have been reviewing one runway, China has gone from 175 to 230 airports.

Getting value for money is important, although I cannot help but ask the question: did the Victorians rigidly cost-benefit analyse every project they undertook or did they start with a vision of what they wanted to achieve as a country? Where do we want to be: among the top industrial nations of the world or lagging behind because we have made an industry of analysing the detail of the tools we require in order to get there? Indecision on new runway capacity is already impacting on business investment, so we must take action as soon as possible. Business needs clarity, and not just on aviation but on the long-term future of infrastructure across the board, from our energy supplies to our funding for upkeep of the road network. These are key aspects that will promote growth. In all these areas we need to have an adult conversation both with each other and with the public about what we need and when we need it.

For too long, major infrastructure projects have become a painful process which has been hijacked by bureaucracy, electoral cycles and interest groups, despite the fact that we have democratically elected representatives to take these important decisions. It is important that we have a national debate which involves both politicians and the public, but we must also keep the end goal in mind—job growth, prosperity and security for our citizens. Perhaps an independent body made up of experts is the best way to help politicians to achieve this.

1.35 pm

Lord Hunt of Chesterton (Lab): My Lords, I welcome this debate, which was introduced by my noble friend Lord Adonis, and I am pleased to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, who commented on the

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broader considerations of our infrastructure. Of course, when levels of pollution got too bad during the great stink, this Parliament had to abandon the area. Similarly, China has to stop activities when the pollution levels get too high. Sometimes they turn off all the factories in order to have clean days, which are called “APEC blue”.

This debate concerns what we do for everyone’s benefit in both the immediate and the long term by using the space below the ground, the shrinking space we have available at ground level, and the increasing value of the space above the ground—right up to the ionosphere, which is one of the most valuable parts of our infrastructure. The debate has embraced all aspects of our built environment, our engineering structures and our natural resources, which include the vital and invaluable element of radio communications. I found out the other day that “infrastructure” was not in my 1960 edition of the OED, although the French introduced it in 1875. The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, pointed out that the French understand systems. Perhaps that explains the lack of UK investment in the broader infrastructure. In that area, the UK is now ranked 28th in the world, having fallen from 24th place. I declare my interest as an engineer and scientist and as a former head of the Met Office, a very successful government agency that is a world leader. Vis-à-vis the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, and others, it was criticised for generating excess profits.

The UK’s engineers, scientists, architects and landscape architects, of which my wife is a distinguished exemplar, have gained a worldwide reputation and have contributed to some of the world’s greatest infrastructure projects. Although there is some great infrastructure in this country, as my noble friend Lord Adonis said, there are many areas where we have failed. One of the points which other speakers have perhaps not emphasised is the need for an integrated approach. The suspicion of integrated systems mooted in this House by Lord Shackleton in 1976, when the idea of systems thinking in government began to be discussed, was exemplified by the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon. He suggested that any kind of integrated visionary commission would essentially hold things up. I believe that a proper UK system would not necessarily mean adopting a top-down bureaucratic approach, but rather a visionary commission that considers many factors: the environment, climate change, training and many other areas which have been mentioned in the debate. Of course, a visionary commission should also look to its rather unvisionary colleagues in the Treasury, whose job it is to find the money and make sure that it is properly spent. I believe that a commission as envisaged in the Armitt review would be very different from what happens in the Treasury.

The other important point about such a visionary commission is that it must devolve powers to the regions and the cities, to government agencies, and most importantly to industry. That will ensure interconnected planning, particularly for new forms of power, technology and transportation. The remarks of my noble friend Lord Liddle exemplify this point. Such a commission will also link the UK infrastructure system to the network systems in other countries. In Europe, we have an interconnected system for electricity and other

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interconnected systems for other aspects of our power and business, and that is an important role of the visionary commission.

I end by referring noble Lords to the remarkable concepts of Buckminster Fuller, the great visionary engineer, who talked about an electrified interconnection grid developing around the globe. We are now seeing this, for example, in Asia. That is the kind of visionary idea that the commission would be able to have, and I believe that that kind of openness is what we need.

1.40 pm

Lord Cavendish of Furness (Con): My Lords, I am pleased to join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for introducing this important debate. His considerable experience, knowledge and enduring interest in Britain's economic performance were all evident in his eloquent opening remarks. In contributing today I declare my interests, which are quite numerous and varied, so I refer noble Lords to the register.

I wish to make two points. Given that the funding for 64% of our infrastructure projects is met by the private sector, it is worth asking why our national performance has slipped relative to other developed countries. Part of the answer must lie with the fact that our planning system moves at a glacial pace and needs urgently to be more responsive. More importantly—and I am sorry to say it—there seems to be no doubt that confidence is still lacking among the business community. It is not as though the Government have done nothing; on the contrary, as noble Lords have heard, they have done a great deal and in difficult circumstances, and I congratulate them warmly. I have listened to the arguments put forward by the Government against the establishment of an independent infrastructure commission and so doggedly advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, over a long time. I do not feel qualified to challenge those arguments. The rather convincing worry is that 89% of business wants such a body so that well developed infrastructure strategies are less exposed to political cycles, and, in a raft of other areas, business still has misgivings about the future.

One problem is that neither this Government nor any other understand business properly. It is not that we lack clever and committed politicians and officials—there is no shortage of those—but, crucially, not a single Minister, civil servant or public sector officer woke up this morning or any other morning to the reality of risk-taking and being held accountable, and the subtle workings of capital are not understood at all. It is an interesting reflection that barely a handful of noble Lords participating this morning have current experience of constructing a capital budget, or worrying about how they will pay the wages tomorrow morning or how they will cope with the daily tsunami of regulations. Business wants to see the politics of infrastructure change fundamentally in order to improve the perception of the UK as a place to do business. It would help if the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, would perhaps persuade his colleagues to talk less about such things as nationalising the railways.

I will finish by speaking about my own area of south Cumbria. I am more optimistic than the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. As he would agree, in common

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with many other rural areas we have had a varied economic history, but today in the Furness peninsula we are preparing ourselves for the biggest investment in our history. It is estimated that over the next decade some £40 billion will be spent in industries that include civil nuclear, biopharmaceuticals and nuclear submarine building, To put that in perspective, in money terms it is equivalent to one and a half times the Olympics. While it is hard to exaggerate this good fortune, the infrastructure implications are huge. Quite simply, we lack that infrastructure by magnitudes, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said. My major concern is to see that small and medium-sized businesses benefit from this investment and have access to the supply chain. I am out of time, but I simply ask my noble friend to visit and see for himself the scale of the opportunities and the challenges that face us.

1.44 pm

Lord Morris of Handsworth (Lab): My Lords, whatever view we take in this debate, one word concentrates all our minds: capacity. The House will no doubt remember the fire at Didcot power station last October, which resulted in its partial closure. This, added to the planned closure of two more power stations and the decommissioning of others, was a wake-up call.

Last November, the Royal Academy of Engineering published the findings of an investigation into the capacity margin of GB’s electricity system. The investigation was commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology. The report warned that, in the absence of intervention, the capacity margin,

“would present an increasing risk to security of supply”.

The nation’s transport capacity—road, rail and air—is rehearsed daily in our media. Indeed, we consider it regularly in this Chamber. It cannot be ignored much longer. Investment is not something you do tomorrow; its implementation has to be decided on today. The lack of investment throughout our infrastructure leads to misery for many, destitution for some, and a massive cost to both the local and the national economy.

Throughout my industrial and political career, save for the National Economic Development Council, I can recall no overarching body charged with the responsibility for planning or co-ordinating the national infrastructure needs of the nation. It is now, I believe, an idea whose time has come. Last autumn, an article by Dan Lewis, senior adviser on infrastructure policy at the Institute of Directors, summed up the malaise of the nation, saying that until now the UK had somehow “muddled through”. He predicted that this was about to change and that over the next 15 years Britain would face a rolling series of major infrastructure shocks. Coming from the IoD, it was indeed a wake-up call.

I am pleased to say that the wake-up call is being heard loud and clear in this Chamber and in this debate. The Armitt report, which has been discussed, was published last September. It called on the Government to hand over responsibility for identifying the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs to an independent panel, which would monitor, plan and report. We need that debate because we have to reach a consensus. At least we have to convince those from whom we seek investment.

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The call that I hear today is no different from what the Armitt report said. It called for a cross-party political consensus to encourage investment in long-term transport, energy, telecommunications and flood defences. I have heard the call, and I hope that the Government are also listening.

1.49 pm

Lord Horam (Con): My Lords, as others have done, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on introducing this debate. We all respect his great record in transport and education. Equally, I am glad that my noble friend Lord Deighton is answering for the Government because he is the great implementer, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, admitted in his remarks. Indeed, with the two of them together, the House of Lords leads once again over our colleagues in the House of Commons; I do not believe that it could field two such Ministers as we have today leading our debate.

Undoubtedly, infrastructure planning has been a problem for this country for many years, stretching over many different Governments. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said that we were now 27th in the league of international comparisons. I thought it was 24th but, whether it is 24th or 27th, it is far too far down for a country that is fifth overall in the economic league tables. Now we have the annual infrastructure plan, which is an excellent idea and has cleared up some of the chaos that we were left in by the previous Government due to their bad planning over PFI and their penury on the macroeconomic front. That has helped to bring an element of stability to the whole situation but it is not enough.

Urgent attention needs to be paid to two things that I want to stress to the Minister, which I hope he will pay attention to. The first is that we need to get going on fracking. There is an important decision being taken shortly—in the right direction, I hope—by Lancashire County Council. I speak as a Lancastrian who knows the area of Bowland extremely well; it is where I was born. That decision needs to go the right way. If it does not go the right way, I hope that the Government will intervene and overrule the council. We need to make progress on this matter, otherwise we will be left behind in this very important area of energy development.

Secondly, affordable housing was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and in a very important speech by the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside. I agree with both of them: our housing record is appalling. We need between 200,000 and 250,000 houses a year. Even Harold Macmillan in the 1950s was able, from an almost standing start, to get up to 312,000 houses in two years. He was able to do that only by a careful and dynamic plan from the centre, organised by the Government. It will not be enough to rely on private housing providers. They will not build the houses in the right places for the country or for the people who need affordable housing. What is happening in London now is a disgrace in terms of the number of houses and flats that are being built and immediately sold off-plan to foreign buyers and are not available to people who live in London. That must not happen any longer if we can possibly avoid it.

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I therefore say to my noble friend: I want to see in the next Conservative manifesto something very concrete on fracking and something very concrete on affordable housing.

1.52 pm

Lord Rooker (Lab): My Lords, I have agreed with almost every speech that I have heard today. I resented the petty, demeaning, partisan comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, but they were the exception.

I tore up my notes and will use as an aid the Chamber of Commerce note that we all had because I agree with all the points it raises. When I visited an infrastructure project recently—the oldest railway tunnel in the world in daily use, a couple of miles down the road—I thought: what would Brunel think about us today, with our lethargy on infrastructure?

The message I took from the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was crucial: the need for sequential planning to ensure that you can smooth things out and do not have all the cranes at once and then nothing for months afterwards. I think that is really important.

Let’s face it: until this Government came along, the last person to order a nuclear power station in this country was the late Tony Benn. The previous Government missed the post—we know that—with the disastrous 2003 energy White Paper. Between the start of HS2 under the previous Government and it being fully supported by this one, there was a hiatus for about a year when there was a bit of backsliding within my own party, which we had to correct in this House by making it clear that we were fully in support and wanted to buy into it.

That brings me to the point. I do not know too much about the plan for the commission and building it all together, but what is clearly needed is a grand coalition on infrastructure that goes across Parliaments. We cannot go on saying that no Parliament can bind itself; by definition, it has to bind itself on infrastructure planning, otherwise we waste a fortune in money, crash hopes, destroy industry and end up not doing anything. So it requires more than what probably is planned. We need to tie ourselves down. The consensus we have here today shows that that can be done.

On motorways, years ago I was amazed when the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, as Transport Secretary, published a paper showing how small a proportion of the population actually regularly used a motorway—in other words, those who use them should pay for them or pay a contribution. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, that it is not too late to do that. Energy storage was on the list as well. Our gas storage is woefully inadequate and I do not think we have done much about it in the past decade. We are heading for trouble.

The Government own enough land to build 1.5 million houses. Most of it is brownfield, as my noble friend Lord Rogers said. Why are we not using it as a master plan within the Government? I do not worship the green belt like everybody else—most of it is rubbish land. It is not areas of outstanding natural beauty and it is not the national parks—they are quite separate. It is the urban collar around the big cities where the infrastructure is already there to have houses added to.

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That is the key point: we do not have to go for big greenfield new towns any more. It is not necessary. We can use the land we have. As I say, the Government own enough land to build 1.5 million houses on, and basically they ought to get on with it.

I agree that infrastructure should stick with the Treasury. Whatever I might have said about the Treasury in the past, the long-term nature of the Treasury is crucial. The DWP is subcontracted to the Treasury. Every decision that it makes on pensions and benefits has a 30-year to 40-year consequential change, and it is crucial that the Treasury is four-square with that. With infrastructure, it is exactly the same. The Treasury does not have to take the detailed decisions, but rest assured that it has a bigger bite on it than it used to have.

1.56 pm

Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, when I left university in the 1970s, I did not take a gap year; I got in a Morris 1100 with two of my friends and we did something slightly unusual for those days: we drove around eastern Europe. Of course, those were the days of the Soviet empire and central economies, and one thing that particularly struck me was that there was no lack of infrastructure; in fact, plenty of infrastructure got built. The problem was that, first, it was not maintained, and, secondly, when they had failed to maintain it, they failed to repair it. That is one of the issues that I would like to pursue in my few minutes today. There are similar problems in the developing world.

Fast-forward to the United Kingdom in 2015: we have a major area of infrastructure that, when we go home and walk around, we see most often—our homes, our housing stock. One area that we have a problem with is upgrading our housing stock. There are 22 million homes in the United Kingdom, of which 82% do not meet even an energy performance certificate standard of C. That standard is not fantastic, it is merely okay, but the other 82% fall well below that. The previous Government and this one have had a number of schemes—Warm Front, CERT, ECO and the Green Deal—that have tried to tackle this issue. They have been successful to a degree and have been better than a drop in the ocean, but they have far from solved the problem of energy efficiency, fuel poverty and the cost of fuel to the economy and to families trying to keep themselves warm.

I will refer to a report produced by Cambridge Econometrics, among others, called Building the Future: The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Making Homes Energy Efficient. It has set what would be a very reasonable target for any Government—the next Government, I hope—to bring all poor households up to energy performance certificate standard C level and to provide free loans of 0%, as is done in fiscally conservative Germany, for other households that can afford to pay for those changes in order to bring them up to those standards as well. The report estimates the cost of that over the lifetime of a Parliament as something in the order of £13 billion, which is a lot of money. Compare that with what the overall infrastructure spend might be for those five years in the next Parliament, which is estimated to be hundreds of billions. So it is something like 10% of the total infrastructure cost over a five-year term Parliament.

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What are the benefits that come out of that? The estimate, which I see as being reasonable and reasonably conservative, is some £8 billion of energy savings, and that is taking into account what is called, shall we say, “comfort take”—people who are already too cold increasing their energy consumption or bringing up their temperatures after that. It reduces carbon emissions, of course, and increases energy security. The other area, which people like myself who deal with energy and climate change do not always take into account, is the huge benefit that there would also be to the National Health Service. In this country we have some 30,000 excess winter deaths, of which 30% to 50% occur because of cold homes. That is something that we can solve, something that is really important to us.

The cost of all that would be something like £13 billion, but every year we pay £2 billion worth of winter fuel payments to everyone universally. Over the same parliamentary period, that would be £10 billion. I suggest to my noble friend the Minister that this is an area where we could move on from Soviet and developing-world models, invest in our housing infrastructure and be of real benefit and cost benefit for our country in the future.

2.01 pm

Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, I think my noble friend Lord Adonis was right to put the proposal for a national infrastructure plan at the centre of his speech, and I think this debate has rather brought that out. We need a mechanism whereby we have an overall prioritisation; an overall allocation of resources; an effective form of scheduling, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said; a consistency of project assessment, as my noble friend Lord Hollick implied; and something therefore that investors of all sorts can have confidence in, so that they can avoid the tendency to short-termism and to knee-jerk political or financial reaction.

The investors include the Treasury, but they also include the corporate headquarters of multinational companies, the banking system, the finance markets and institutions such as the pension funds. At the moment they can have virtually no confidence. For those who say that a national infrastructure commission would simply be a bureaucracy and produce all sorts of favours, I refer to all the papers emanating from several different government departments and agencies that we should have read if we were to be properly informed on this debate, as recommended by the Library. We need an overall plan. The glossy that the Government produced on the national infrastructure plan in the past month is very helpful but incomplete; it does not give its basis or, in most regards, its timescale.

I shall concentrate my remarks on areas that are not in there: energy efficiency, which is hardly there apart from a brief reference to smart meters, and housing, which is hardly there at all. Had I had longer, I would have liked to have talked about transport and flood defence, but not in four minutes. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, if I may depart briefly from my bipartisan approach to this, that the areas that the Government cut when they came in were exactly those: housing, energy efficiency, roads and flood defence. That was a ridiculous short-term

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decision, but luckily the Government have recovered from it. I hope that therefore we have a basis for bipartisanship in future.

On energy efficiency, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has spelt out the need for investment in energy efficiency at the point of use, and I echo virtually all his remarks. There is also energy efficiency in the system itself. We lose the bulk of our energy before it gets to the point of use. We need to look at improving the transmission and distribution of energy, at decentralised energy, at CHP and at carbon capture and storage, which is mentioned there but only briefly. That should all be part of an investment and infrastructure plan, and should be assessed on the same basis as, if you like, the sexier parts of the agenda, which relate to big roads and big airports. At the moment the process of assessment of such projects is very differential and, if you like, politically and subjectively charged, depending on which area you are looking at.

The same applies to housing. In a sense, the noble Lord, Lord Horam, must be right that this is the biggest lack of infrastructure failure of successive Governments in the past 30 years. Housing for our people must be a central part of the infrastructure agenda. At the moment it is not in the December document, and it ought to be. I hope that we can rectify this as we go forward. I hope that we can do so on a consensual basis, but I think we also have to recognise that we need new structures in order to be able to do so. Sir John Armitt’s report is a very good basis for starting.