§ 2.44 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government the number of public inquiries ordered by the Minister of Transport under the Transport Act, 1919, and subsequent Transport Acts, and separately the number of public inquiries ordered under Section 90 of the Transport Act, 1962, and whether they will state the circumstances under which this section will be used.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM)
My Lords, I regret that in the two working days since the noble Lord put down his Question I have been unable to research into the number of inquiries ordered in the 45 years of the Ministry of Transport's existence. It is unlikely, in fact, that this information is available. No public inquiries have yet been ordered by my right honourable friend under Section 90 of the Transport Act, 1962. He would no doubt do so if he considered it useful and appropriate for the purposes of any of his powers under the Act.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, does the noble Lord think that the real reason why he has been unable to find that any inquiries have been made under this section is that there have, indeed, been none in the 45 years? With regard to the second part of his Answer, is the noble Lord aware that a number of local authorities have submitted applications to his right honourable friend for public inquiries which appear to be in line with what he has just said, but they have been refused? Would he have a look at the 6 request which has now been made by local authorities in the Conway Valley for a public inquiry under Section 90 of the Act?
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I think that in saying that the noble Lord does the Department for which I answer less than justice. There is no central registry from which I can obtain the details of such inquiries, many of which, over the years, have probably been discarded from the files. I think that what remains relating to the rest of the time would involve an entirely disproportionate and not very progressive amount of work to try to supply the answer to the noble Lord. So far as the specific inquiry to which the noble Lord has referred is concerned, at the moment I do not know what is the subject of this application. I will look at it, but I can add no more on what is in the original Question, the hypothetical part of it, than say that my right honourable friend will no doubt start an inquiry if he thinks it useful and appropriate.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that I always do his Department far more than justice. It was because I had myself undertaken some research to find out whether there had been any of these public inquiries since 1919, and had been unable to discover any, that I tabled the Question to find out whether he had been more successful; and that seems very reasonable, having regard to the fact that this power has been continued in successive Acts since 1919.