HL Deb 11 June 1992 vol 537 cc1361-2

3.22 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they propose for the extension of the Jubilee Line.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, the position has not changed. Unless and until private sector contributions are assured, we see no prospect of authorising the start of construction. We therefore continue to look to the private sector to make its contribution so that the line can proceed.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, will the Minister indicate what contingency plans the Government have if the contribution from the private sector is not forthcoming? Is he aware that there are many other important transport projects which ought to be undertaken in London and which should not be left on hold? What lessons have the Government learnt from this appalling débâcle?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, there is no débâcle. It is simply a matter of joining the private sector and the public sector. I can understand that the noble Lord wishes the taxpayer to pay for everything. People who support that view now are few and far between.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, can the Minister say what is the cost to London Transport of retaining its highly skilled engineering and planning staff who are all ready for the operation? Will there be a time limit put on how long that skilled group can be retained ready to do the work? Does that put pressure on the private individuals who are required to produce the money?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we have made a contribution of about £100 million in order to help LUL do the necessary preparatory work. The answer to my noble friend's question depends very much on the speed with which the administrator can deal with the problem. We can then proceed as quickly as possible.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware of the similar developments which arose in Paris in the La Défense area? There the government made full provision for transport, and that is now an additional and thriving part of Paris? Does he feel it desirable that the present impasse and difficulties in Docklands should be resolved in that way?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, Docklands is thriving considerably more than it was 10 years ago. Perhaps the noble Lord would like to know that in 1981 there were 39,500 residents and there are now 62,000. There were 27,000 people employed and there are now 60,000. And the figure of 5 per cent. home ownership is now 40 per cent.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the Minister complained about making the taxpayer pay for everything. Is he aware of a widespread feeling that there is a tendency to make business pay for everything? Is there any good reason why business should pay for this project other than that the Government do not want to do so?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord is fully au fait with the fact that the Government are putting in £1.5 billion.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, will the Minister now kindly answer one of the questions I put to him which he avoided with a rather feeble answer? If the private sector is not forthcoming with the £400 million contribution required, what do the Government propose to do? Do they intend to embark with some speed on other urgent projects?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I replied in my original Answer to the question that the noble Lord has again put to me. His question about other schemes in London is wide of the Question on the Order Paper.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, having given an answer to my noble friend which was very wide of the question, will the Minister now answer the question of what contingency plans the Government have for the Jubilee Line if the private sector does not come up with its share of the money?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I answered that question in my first Answer.