HL Deb 30 October 1997 vol 582 cc1195-218

7.40 p.m.

Lord Luke

asked Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to improve the potential for tourism on the River Thames in and near London.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as this is an Unstarred Question debate, I should like to start by thanking all those who will speak later. In particular, I should like to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, who is to make his maiden speech. We very much look forward to hearing what he has to say. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lady Wilcox, who has come down from Scotland this afternoon to take part in the debate. I should like to thank too all those who have helped me learn about the subject, in particular the research department of your Lordships' Library which started me off on the right track. I should like to thank the Port of London Authority, whose help was essential and whose hospitality was most welcome. The London Tourist Board too provided a lot of useful information. Finally, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who has been most encouraging and enthusiastic.

Many great cities have come into existence beside waterways and have flourished because of them. That is very true of London, which was probably first settled some few hundred years before the advent of the Romans. Under their rule, it became a leading port and trading centre and has remained so ever since.

However, this debate is not about the port of London as a commercial port but about the use of the Thames itself for tourism. Why is it the case that every casual mention of the Thames seems to provoke a response that it is under-used and unappreciated? I think that response is at least partly based on the perception that in central London there is not much visible activity other than the rather unsightly rubbish barges and a rather motley collection of passenger vessels, each one announcing that it is, of course, the official sightseeing boat.

It is clear that there are few individual users of the river through the City and central London. It is only further upstream, where the river becomes more residential and recreational in character, that one sees some rowers, sailors and motorboats, and that mainly at weekends. Perhaps the advent of river taxis and water buses may correct this, I think somewhat false, impression.

London welcomes some 26 million visitors during the year, roughly half of them from abroad. Most of them depend on coaches. Only about 2 million go on the Thames. Very few indeed come to London with the primary object of a trip on the Thames. And yet some of the most popular sites for visits are associated with the river—for example, Greenwich, the Tower, St. Paul's, the Globe Theatre, the Festival Hall, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, Windsor and even Oxford. How many visitors set out to "do" all or many of these by water?

One of the most important factors for a tourist visiting London is that there should be plenty of photo opportunities. Surely the best ones for most of the prime sites are from the river. Londoners, and those who come to work in London, dislike tourists, mainly because their coaches clutter up the roads adjacent to the main tourist attractions. Would it not be possible to direct coaches onto a "line of route" to major new car parks and encourage tourists to take boats to visit these sites?

Another idea might be to follow what is a growing activity on the Seine, the Rhine, the Rhône, the Danube, the Elbe and the Loire etc., where tourists use large, powered barges to move up and down waterways—in other words, as floating hotels—to visit attractions beside the river, also using coaches for excursions further afield.

Possibly bridges are too low on the Thames and the locks too small. Certainly most canals are much too narrow. But I am sure that these problems could be overcome with imagination, innovation and, above all, the will to co-operate of the private and public sectors.

There are two major obstacles to greater use of the Thames: the tidal ebb and flow and access. The difference between high and low water at Tower Bridge is seven metres. I am surprised that this was not, it seems, adequately considered when the flood barrier was built. Surely it could have been designed with a dual purpose in mind: to retain the flow as well as to prevent flooding?

The PLA is right to be constantly concerned with safety. We had an excellent example of an unfortunate accident in the fog earlier this week when a heavy barge crashed into the barrier. There are strong currents, low bridges and mud which can be very slippery and sticky and can swallow people if they walk in the wrong places. I must mention the large number of derelict jetties and piers, particularly below Greenwich. Not only are they potential hazards but they also contribute to the general air of tattiness which pervades the lower river and takes away from the great, prosperous enterprises which are such a feature of that part of the river.

In the past year some 20,000 visitors arrived in London by cruise liner, disembarking at the cruise port of Tilbury and at the Pool. We must do all we can to encourage these visits. We should make it easy, comfortable and a rewarding experience to come to the centre of London by river.

Access to the river is the most important and difficult problem. Piers, and particularly new piers, are most welcome. But London man and London woman have stood, and stand now, figuratively with their backs to the Thames. It is there, but it is not part of their lives; they cross it and drive alongside it; but they do not include it in their conscious plans. They cannot bring their cars to the Thames, park and go for a trip. They have to come by train and/or bus, and many do so. If they could bring their cars, I am sure that many more would come more often. If we can get Londoners to appreciate and use the river more, it will be all the easier to persuade visitors to do so.

The millennium exhibition at Greenwich is, of course, the catalyst for much optimism and new thinking about the Thames. New piers, the dome, new car parks at Barking and Thamesmead, revived water buses, improved bridges, water taxis etc. all need enthusiastic support. I am glad to say that the Deputy Prime Minister is giving a welcome lead in this area.

I have also been agreeably surprised at the energy and dedication that officials at the Port of London Authority show in their approach to the many challenges that they are meeting. For instance, there is a plan to flood the moat and re-open Traitors' Gate at the Tower. That should be another way of persuading tourists to visit the tower by water. There are also plans to recreate one of the many multi-oared barges which were such a feature of the city in the 17th and 18th centuries. That is to be done by some of the livery companies in the City and will be a very exciting project.

Why not go further and consider building a brand new pier between the two Houses of Parliament? It could bring in tourists on a new line of route, massively relieving congestion in and around Parliament Square. It could also be used for state visits. It would surely be a better place than Victoria Station for the Queen to greet her guests.

I look forward to the time when, as a result of the extremely good news on the fish situation in the Thames, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and I may be together on the new pier catching fish for one of the restaurants—it sounds like a nice idea. Another good start might be if the very unattractive mooring barges opposite your Lordships' House were cleaned up and given a coat or two of paint.

I look at the time and see that I have gone on for far too long; it is late. But, after all, the Thames is a liquid and living history. It is always changing. It will still be rolling along down to the mighty sea whatever we do or say.

7.50 p.m.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane

My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not think it presumptuous of me to rise and address the House so soon after my introduction to this Chamber only two days ago. My natural diffidence—I feel more than a little diffident, which is entirely proper in these somewhat awe-inspiring surroundings—has been overcome partly by my enthusiasm for the subject which the noble Lord raised, but also, and much more importantly, by your Lordships' already high reputation for courtesy and kindness which has been far surpassed by my experience in the past two days. I thank your Lordships for that. I also congratulate the Officers of the House for their almost intuitive sense of when I was totally lost, no matter how purposefully I may have appeared to be walking in one direction or another.

It has been reassuring to see quite a few familiar faces from my previous career, first, as a presenter of political programmes on Scottish Television 30 years ago. Some at that time had not yet graduated from another House. But more recently I have been running a local radio station in Glasgow and, more recently still, have been chairman of a company running a group of radio stations. It has also been a delightful and indeed rejuvenating experience to find so many of my contemporaries at Glasgow University in such fine form and to see the Glasgow University mafia—or "Scotia Nostra" as we sometimes called it—still in good operating order.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, for raising this Unstarred Question, which gives me the opportunity to make my maiden speech on tourism and, in particular, on its effects on a great river. It will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that I am a Scot, and I should perhaps open by allaying any fears that my intervention on a debate on the Thames might produce that I have some territorial aggrandisement proposals to bring before the House at a later stage, even though my first names are James Stuart. Even Bonnie Prince Charlie stopped at Derby.

I regard the Government's proposals for the better governance of Scotland as essentially removing an irritant which was in danger of destabilising the Union and in no way as Scotland turning its back on the rest of the UK. I am glad to intervene in a debate on tourism on the Thames because tourism is one of the issues which affects the whole of the UK. A bad experience in a London hotel or a Highland croft equally will leave a nasty taste in the mouths of our visitors.

The previous Government were kind enough to appoint me to the Scottish Tourist Board earlier this year, so I am still very much on a learning curve. However, I hope to make it one of my special interests in this House. It will not surprise the noble Lord, Lord Luke, to learn that many of the subjects he raised in regard to the Thames have preoccupied the citizens of other great cities—Glasgow and the Clyde and so forth. I have no doubt that there will always be legitimate differences of opinion as to the use of our great rivers as an industrial artery or a leisure facility. But I hope that they will not be thought of as incompatible.

I know that the Thames in its upper reaches has a beautiful, tranquil, leisurely appearance to it. But there is also excitement for tourists and Londoners alike in seeing great ships berthed at working docks. There is a certain drama about them—not as beautiful as stately galleons in a bygone age perhaps, but they are a reminder to the credit card carrying citizens of a centrally-heated metropolis that we are a great trading nation and that the food chain does not start at the local supermarket depot.

It is important to see attention focused once again on the positive aspects of the rivers running through our city centres. I share the regret of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, that for too long they were regarded as unfortunate obstacles to be bridged over or tunnelled under. In some cases—not rivers perhaps, but canals—they were even filled in, now making the job of reopening them (which is the current fashion) even more expensive. It is significant that the people who built the Houses of Parliament built the terraces facing the river. I believe that cities which do not have rivers will create artificial watercourses in the centre to provide an attraction simply because flowing water is attractive to look at.

The rediscovery of the pleasures of cruising, to which the noble Lord referred, is another important aspect of tourism because it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourist industry. There will be an important role for rivers which are fortunate to be navigable as far as city centres. It will heighten the experience of visiting tourists if boats can be berthed close to the sights of a great city.

It is important that London, however rich it is in pageantry and history, is never complacent. A share of the world's tourism market does not come automatically. Competition is increasing all the time from other destinations. Fortunately, so is the size of the market. Indeed, by the turn of the century tourism will be the biggest industry in the world and it is vitally important for all of us that we fight to ensure that the UK gets a bigger share of that market.

An unfortunate by-product of the renaming of the Department of National Heritage as the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was the omission of the word "tourism". Obviously it would have meant a telephone directory title if we had included all its functions. But tourist boards can only do so much. They can market destinations, and do so very well. They can persuade rather than regulate the practitioners in the industry into providing a better quality of service. But, at the end of the day, the visitor's experience depends on links in the chain much further down and they are entirely independent operators, whether it is large hotels or small bed and breakfast concerns; whether it is taxi owners or the providers of mass transportation.

The noble Lord, Lord Luke, referred to converting Londoners into seeing the Thames differently. I could not agree more. We must convince the citizens of all our cities and countryside that tourism is in their best interest. After all, tourism amortises the cost of living in an area over a much wider population base than its native residents. The Society of West End Theatre estimated that if tourism disappeared half the London theatres would shut. Tourism earns foreign currency as surely as any manufactured exports. It provides one in five new jobs and they are more likely to be permanent jobs than in some other sectors. Any attempt to increase pay and improve training will only heighten the reputation of tourism. It is also friendly to the environment.

But most important of all is not the revenue returns or the jobs it provides, but the pride it engenders in the citizens of the host country. As we show visitors the attractions of our cities or our countryside, we heighten our own appreciation of them. That pride—not in any way chauvinistic or jingoistic—reminds us all that we in our lifetimes are only trustees of our environment, our historic buildings and our fine traditions. It makes us all the more grateful for being fortunate enough to live in this country. That feeling of legitimate pride can only be good for society as a whole.

I thank the noble Lord for raising this Question and your Lordships for allowing me to address the House this evening.

7.59 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, on behalf of the whole House it is my pleasurable duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, on his excellent and fluent maiden speech in which he brought his experience of the Clyde to help us solve the problem of the Thames. He comes as a leading authority on radio and with a wide career in public service. As he told us, he was educated at Glasgow University in the company of other distinguished members of his party. We look forward to hearing him frequently in this House. I note that he lists geniality among his recreations, for which he will doubtless find ample opportunity for study in your Lordships' Chamber.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Luke, on initiating this debate. Although well aware that I lack the special qualifications of several other speakers, I feel impelled to participate as the author of two walking guide books to the Thames.

From the humble point of view of a pedestrian, it is fair to say that the enjoyment of the Thames, as implied in the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, has already achieved its full potential in the Thames Path, from source to barrier, which, in most of its tidal reaches extends along both sides of the river and is now virtually completed.

In considering first that tranquil stretch of the tidal Thames from Kew up to Teddington and the non-tidal river from there to Windsor, my main concern is lest the Thames should be overrun by excessive tourism. I am relieved that the Millennium Commission rejected the idea of a string of intrusive tourist centres between Kew and Hampton. I am apprehensive about the concept of a cycle route, as predicated by the Government earlier this year; a surfaced route running parallel to the tow path would severely detract from the rural scenery in those stretches of the river.

Also, I am concerned about the plethora of motor launches, whose speed restriction of 8 km an hour is so generally flouted. Motor cruising stands out against other leisure uses because of its damage to the environment, because it is mechanical, visually and audibly intrusive and conflicts with the interests of all the active aquatic recreations. I should like to see the Environment Agency gradually increasing the fees and charges, so as to reduce over time that dominant usage of the tidal river.

Turning to the more central issues of this debate, we certainly live in exciting times. We have recently witnessed the opening of important new riverside attractions—the London Aquarium, the Globe and the Golden Hinde—and we now await such marvels as the Battersea Entertainment Complex, the Ferris Wheel, the National Theatre development, the Bankside Tate Gallery and, last but not least, the Millennium Experience, formerly referred to as the Millennium Dome. That promises to be a truly amazing experience, even though, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Fawsley, informed this House, it is not truly a dome in the traditional sense. Thereby, it is altogether different from another millennium dome—fortunately never built—planned in Berlin in the early part of the war for the inauguration of the so-called 1000 year Reich.

Together with all London's famous existing monuments along the river, those attractions have been compared to a row of pearls, a row which includes many much smaller gems. Here, I declare an interest as I am president of one of the smallest—the Brunel Exhibition on the embankment at Rotherhithe, describing the construction of the original Thames Tunnel.

So, there are pearls aplenty, loosely strung along the river. The problem, as I see it, relates not to a shortage of gems, but to the string: how to make use of the river as a highway? The Thames 2000 initiative is welcome and timely. We can all hope that, despite previous failures, regular passenger services will be established between central London and Greenwich. But obviously there are formidable hurdles for private operators considering investment in such services. Prominent among those are the conflict of interest between dedicated services and stopping services; and the transitory nature of the special demand in the year 2000.

All are dependent on the provision and quality of piers and the convenience of their links with the London transport system. The Port of London Authority's new Charing Cross pier will admirably fulfil those requirements. But several others involve awkward transits, thus limiting the potential for mass tourism on the river, about which one has to be realistic. One area where growth seems to be assured is in the demand for cruise ships coming up the Thames to London, and the proposed new liner terminal at Greenwich Reach would greatly increase that potential.

Grandiose schemes for creating a linear park are surely misconceived. The facts of geography will inevitably prevent the line of the Thames in London from ever becoming the busy, bustling centre of the surrounding urbanisation. Nor is it really a single entity, being so diverse in size, usage and architecture. That disparity is, of course, true of London as a whole, in notable contrast to Paris, where the entire city comprises an architectural entity and where the Seine from the Ile de la Cité to the Eiffel Tower does indeed comprise a kind of linear park.

The other great contrast between London and Paris is that our river is tidal. I am certainly among those who want to see it kept that way. I should deplore its conversion to a lagoon by means of closing the Thames Barrier, other than when necessary to prevent flooding, although that might well assist tourism. Even if at first confined to high days and holidays, the practice would probably increase insidiously. The tidal foreshore is a precious habitat for fish, birds and molluscs, all of them increasing in numbers and species now that the river has so admirably been cleaned. To block the tide would serve to emasculate the hoary Thames and deprive London of its twice daily penetration by untamed nature.

Incidentally, some will recall the remarkable exploit of the late Lord Noel-Buxton, who, in 1952, walked at low tide across the river bed just here without getting his head wet, to the general admiration of his fellow parliamentarians assembled on the Terrace, in order to prove that there had once been a ford. If any very tall Member of this House would like to follow in his steps, I have no doubt that it would be an excellent tourist draw.

The foreshore is, anyway, under constant pressure from development schemes which encroach upon it, although the creative designs around the millennium site provide an admirable example of how to preserve and, indeed, enhance the river bank.

Many are the great architectural and engineering projects that have arisen beside the Thames in London. One of the most notable was Brunel's "Great Eastern" steamship, the largest ship in the world for 40 years. Unfortunately, there were terrible problems in launching it, which almost doubled its cost and caused the death of its creator. I only hope that all our newly impending projects will be launched without such dire trouble.

8.7 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Luke for raising this interesting—perhaps I may say enchanting—subject. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane. I believe he is a member of the Scottish Tourist Board; I very much hope that we do not cross swords in the future and that we fight shoulder to shoulder for the greater interests of the tourist business.

The river, like London's buses, is one of our great under-utilised resources in transport terms. It is under-utilised by residents because it twists, turns, bobs and weaves; and it is also under-used by tourists, whom I should very much like to see making more use of it. But, if one thinks of the Thames and transport, one must remember that there are very few instances in this world where tourism provides the bread. If there is to be transport on the Thames, it must be the residents of London who make use of it and the tourists will then ride on its back. They are the icing on the cake.

It is the same with the buses. Neither London Transport buses nor indeed London Underground run very much specifically for tourists. Indeed, the Underground runs nothing for tourists. In the old days, pre-franchising, London Transport buses ran the Round London Sights Tour and the Airbus. But it made £40 million or £50 million a year from tourist revenue, using facilities which were already there for the residents, particularly in the off-peak hours.

As some noble Lords will remember, there was a river bus service. I believe that it used to go up and down from London Docklands to Chelsea Harbour. It ran a 15-minute service each way each day. But if noble Lords had sat on the Terrace or in the Guest Room, they would have seen that those utterly reliable vessels were absolutely empty, except on one or two days when both London Underground and London Buses went on strike. So the river bus became the line of last resort.

Why did it die? It died on cost grounds. Its fares were too high and could not be integrated into the GLC/London Transport fares system. It died on convenience grounds. I cite one example; namely, Whitehall-bound passengers. Whitehall is not a residential area. People going to Whitehall come in in the morning to work and go out to home in the evening. Unfortunately, at that time they had to get off in Lambeth. If you are heading for Whitehall, you will not use a boat that sets you down in Lambeth. You might as well take the Underground, the bus or anything else that is available.

How then do we make residents more keen on using the Thames? We have to make the use of it as a transport medium more attractive to Londoners. If the service is provided for Londoners, the tourists will then use it. They become marginal revenue and profit, which is very important if we go to the private sector. The first thing we have to do is address the fares structure. The river bus was always much dearer than the services provided by London Transport.

We have to look also at the factor of frequent stops. I mentioned the fact that the many thousands of people who worked in Whitehall did not have access to Whitehall and Westminster. They had to get off on the other side of the river. We need convenience stops. We need a frequent service. But which comes first: the chicken or the egg? If the service is good, more people will use it. If the service is bad, they will stick to their old habits—the car, the tube or the bus. We need a convenient service. I almost come back to my remark about piers. We need services that take people from where they want to go to where they want to reach.

The only way to make a riverbus run on the basis of more frequent stops, more convenient stops, more frequent services and more convenient services would be to provide those four things. If you did that, you would justify higher fares. Noble Lords will know that I work the transport scene quite hard. I cannot see that you can make the river attractive as it does not fit into the fare zones. It will always be more expensive. Therefore, you have to make it more attractive, as I say, by means of frequent stops, convenient stops, frequent services and more convenient services.

There is an option which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who is to reply, might just pass on to his colleagues. A car use tax would make the river more attractive. We could have a travelcard variant. Although it has not been done here, it has been done elsewhere. I think in particular of Stockholm, where I spent a number of years in my youth. The county of Stockholm had a county-wide travel card, which is what the GLC brought us in the early 1980s. The GLC did a great deal for public transport and a great deal to take traffic off the roads. Public transport was made attractive on price grounds.

Stockholm is a city between lakes, which are fresh water, and the Baltic, which is modestly tidal—so modestly so that when I was promoting tourism to Britain in Stockholm we got a charter operator to go to Jersey and Guernsey, and there the tidal variant at certain times of the year is 50 feet. The people from Stockholm had never seen a tide like that. They went for the English speaking, the cheap shopping and all kinds of other things, but they actually held parties on hotel terraces in order to watch the water go up and down.

Stockholm ices up seriously at about this time of the year and stays iced up until April or May. In May people want to commute to the lakes. That is where their second homes are. They want to commute out to the archipelago, which runs up to 30 or 40 miles. The county of Stockholm produced one travel card, which cost the equivalent of, say, £5 per month. In the summer there was a £9 travel card which gave access to the boats.

That might be the route whereby we get the residents to accept that the Thames is a viable and attractive transport means. If we do that, we can take the tourists with us. I am not aware of any place in the world where tourism provides the water-borne transport. But if the residents provide it, the tourists will provide the profits.

8.15 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part for once in an apolitical/non-political debate in your Lordships' House. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Luke, for introducing this Unstarred Question. I salute him on his appointment to the Front Bench. It will add ballast to that slightly leaky ship. He inspired me to speak in this debate. It happened in May in, of all places, the Salisbury Room where I work. The noble Lord also works there. I sit with my back to the Thames. That is not lèse majesté to a majestic river. It is simply that if I look towards the Thames I do no work and I spend my life looking at the water. One day in May, around eleven o'clock, the noble Lord got up, walked across the room, looked at the Thames, and said amusingly, "I do not see any tourist boats." He was right.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, on his maiden speech. We have not previously met. I owe him a debt. For one year I lived at Strathclyde Graduate Business School. I enjoyed it. Ten years previously I walked from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. That, as the noble Lord will know—the thirty eight and-a-half miles—is the Antonine Wall. The place was a mess. The canals and the great River Clyde were very polluted. Ten years later it had improved. I say with certainty that the noble Lord made a magnificent contribution to that improvement. We look forward to hearing from him often, and we hope that a man who has cleaned up the River Clyde can give your Lordships great advice on how to improve the Thames for tourism.

I salute the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, who is not in his place. I was brought up at various schools and academies alongside the Thames. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, was my history master at Eton College. Among his many duties, he taught me history. Occasionally, I was not an apt pupil. I would take what was called French leave and row up the River Thames—on one occasion from Windsor to Marlow. It is, I think noble Lords will agree, one of the most beautiful stretches of the Thames. I use that—my first introduction to the river—to say that the Thames must be considered an entity, from its source to a great estuary and on into the ocean. I hope noble Lords will realise that what happens at one point in the Thames affects other parts of the Thames, and vice versa.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is in his place. He is the successor of another very great Londoner. I refer to one of his predecessors, the late Lord Morrison of Lambeth. He was a Londoner. I call him a Labour statesman. I am wrong—he was a national statesman. He did an enormous amount for London. He cleaned up London. He was of course the Home Secretary during the Blitz. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is not in his place, but he is the biographer of Lord Morrison. I think I am right in saying that such was Lord Morrison's love for London and for the River Thames that he asked for his ashes to be scattered in the Thames. I wish the noble Lord every success in overseeing the work that will have to be carried out on the Thames.

Noble Lords will remember that the noble Lord replied to a debate on Stonehenge earlier this year. I regret that I did not speak. Noble Lords referred to the point that Stonehenge is our oldest national monument. Yes, noble Lords are right. It is indeed the oldest man-made national monument. I suspect, however, that noble Lords will agree with me when I say that the Thames is our oldest natural national monument. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I have recently read in the newspapers that already ministries are moving to restore Stonehenge to its great glory. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who gave that commitment in the earlier debate, had something to do with that. I hope that at the end of this debate he will give a commitment from the Government to co-ordinate the work on the Thames.

I hope that we shall see bold and imaginative measures to increase and improve tourism on the river. I looked carefully at the Question put down by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. It says "on the Thames". So far so good. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, said in my history report—because I spent so much time on the Thames—"Not good enough". I suggest that we should also consider "Along the Thames"; pathways up and down the Thames from source to estuary; and "under the Thames" for snorkelling and marine life. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned Brunel, as he did in his maiden speech. The noble Lord has written a book for tourists about the Thames. I suggest that in many ways he has made as valuable a contribution as his great ancestor did.

I wish to focus on one thing called "Over the Thames". Noble Lords will remember two incidents which occurred in London during the summer. One was very tragic. Noble Lords will know what I mean. There was a national funeral where we expressed certain emotions. The other incident was very exhilarating. I believe that it was on 14th September that two enterprising, highly skilful, risk-taking gentlemen, Mr. Didier Pasquette and Mr. Jade Kindar-Martin, crossed this great river from the Savoy hotel to the Oxo building on a tightrope. Journalists pointed out that 10,000 people watched the event. But that is only half right. I was in the Baltic states at the time and I know that the world looked on with fascination at what was happening over the Thames. I mentioned that the event was bold, imaginative and skilful. I hope that any future plans and ideas for the Thames will be bold, imaginative and skilfully carried out.

I shall add one other word—safety. Up and down the Thames, in the churches and public places, there are monuments to those who, through misfortune or carelessness or through other people's carelessness, lost their lives on the river. Noble Lords may have visited Southwark Cathedral and will have seen the most moving monument to the victims of the "Marchioness" disaster and tragedy. So I implore those who are responsible for leisure and pleasure on the Thames to first consider safety.

I look forward to the noble Lord's reply. I congratulate all those who publicise the future for tourism on the Thames and I wish all those involved well in their projects.

8.25 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I should first tell the House that for nearly 10 years I have been a member of the board of the London Docklands Development Corporation. The corporation was established in 1981 to try to regenerate the East End of London. It had not only suffered through the closure of the dock industry, which employed about 60,000 workers, because of the change to container traffic, but it also suffered substantially during the Blitz when the German Luftwaffe pilots followed the Thames as a silver arrow pointing into the heart of the East End of London on their night raids.

There was a lot of work for us to do, but throughout this time we made it our business to try to make the Thames more effective and attractive. Indeed, we preserved a number of the water features because we stopped the in-filling of the large dock basins which was in progress, and we have preserved those and made them accessible. We have refurbished locks, and the larger ones are now available to ships. We have also tried to use the river as much as possible, requiring developers to bring in materials by barge and boat wherever possible and to get rid of spoil in the same way in order not only to use the river but to make sure that the surrounding road system is not loaded down with heavy lorries.

We have also established marinas in the Surrey Docks and Limehouse, which one can see from the light railway as one goes through. We have restored slipways for leisure craft, although I must say that, in my capacity as chairman of safety in Docklands, I sometimes wonder about the swimming which takes place without official sanction during hot weather. We wonder whether we have done the right thing. We have also funded and supported water sports in Millwall and Surrey Docks. There will be substantial developments in the Royal Docks, where there is going to be an Olympic-size rowing course in due course.

The question of passenger services on the river is a vexed one. I plead guilty to having been chairman of the Docklands Use of the River Group for some years. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, that we have spent a great deal of time trying to save the river bus and to encourage Londoners to use the service. But unfortunately what he said is absolutely true. When there were difficulties with the regular transport on the Tubes and buses, people flocked onto the river bus, but as soon as things improved they went back to their old habits. It was impossible to change their travelling habits. So whoever tries to do that will face a difficult job. The truth of the matter is that some form of public subsidy is required to make the service viable. But public subsidies are not a popular topic at the moment.

The anomaly is that the subject on which we get most publicity and favourable comment in Docklands concerns the bird rafts which we have floated out into the main dock areas. These are extremely attractive, popular and successful. We are getting birds back into the area now which disappeared a long time ago. We are also getting substantial stocks of fish. In fact, my committee had to deal with a case of poaching—is that the right word for fish?

Noble Lords


Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

Someone was laying out substantial nets and rather overdoing it. That is a little different from just slinging out a line and hoping for the best. That is enough anecdotal evidence.

The corporation has tried extremely hard to make the riverside attractive to people. In that context we have provided whole stretches of landscaped riverside paths for pedestrians and cyclists. Where possible in new developments we have tried to create a strategic Thames path. On the planning committee we are meticulous in that where permission is applied for we insist that the riverside pathway is incorporated as part of the development. There have been one or two incidents where people have tried unilaterally to block off the path. We have had to be fairly firm with them. In fact, we have always kept it open, but after a bit of trouble, sometimes.

We have built bridges over some areas. Noble Lords probably know Limekiln Dock, Limehouse and St. Saviour's Dock, Bermondsey, so that we have a continuous path. Some of the bridges have won awards. So we are really trying down there. We have signposted riverside walks so people going through the streets can see where they can get easy access. Noble Lords will know that we have promoted the refurbishment of the warehouses. We have preserved them to keep the history of the river alive and to turn them into accommodation.

Anybody who visits Canary Wharf now during the day will note the activity there because the project is now almost entirely let and the riverside cafés and restaurants are bustling. It is a great pleasure to visit the area. If noble Lords have not been there recently, I suggest that they do go because the whole place is vibrant. That is bound to reflect on the river, its use and value as a tourist attraction. Hotels are also being developed at Canary Wharf and Surrey Docks. There are also to be substantial hotels at the Royal Docks.

Perhaps I may mention also "TourEast London" which is a partnership for tourism led by the London Docklands Development Corporation and chaired by our energetic marketing director, Sunny Crouch. Together with colleagues and other organisations, she is promoting the use of the River Thames as something which unites, rather than divides, the whole of the area. The project is attempting, in all sorts of ways, to attract people down here not only because the River Thames is an enjoyable feature in itself, but because, without being immodest, the corporation has done a remarkable job there. Its work is well worth seeing.

8.31 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble kinsman Lord Luke for having introduced this most topical debate. It is a great pleasure for me to refer to "my noble kinsman" and this is the first time that I have been able to do so in this House. My noble kinsman was right when he said that there is a perception that the Thames is under-used and not fully appreciated. I certainly welcome his call for more co-operation between the public and private sectors with regard to the commercial and tourist opportunities that the river offers. At the outset, I must also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, on his outstanding maiden speech. I agree with his warning that London should not be complacent about tourism.

It is easy in a debate of this nature to get bogged down by the raft of statistics from the London Tourist Board, the Joint London Tourist Forum, the Port of London Authority and other bodies on the numbers of tourists and the benefits to the local economy. What I did find of interest, however, is the statistic that 30 per cent. of visits to London attractions are to facilities, venues and galleries at riverside locations. My noble kinsman mentioned that 26 million tourists visit London every year, but only 2 million take a trip on the Thames, of whom 55 per cent. come from overseas.

There is no doubt that there is huge potential for using the river as a linking device as well as for the expansion of river trips in their own right. As my noble kinsman pointed out, there has been a rapid expansion in the activity, holiday and leisure market on the Thames, with an increasing number of sports such as sailing, windsurfing, rowing and water skiing. All of these attractions have created visual interest and activity on the river, attracting additional visitors to the riverside.

Many of those interested in the development of tourist and commercial activities on the Thames welcomed the previous government's initiative earlier this year when John Gummer launched a planning guidance for the river which, in his words, was aimed at bringing the Thames "back to life" and providing a coherent planning framework to maximise the potential of the river. It was therefore heartening that the Deputy Prime Minister in July this year spearheaded the Thames 2000 initiative to boost river transport and upgrade the piers and moorings at key places to enable tourists to travel by river to London's main historic and cultural riverside landmarks as well as to promote more commercial freight transport along the Thames.

Reports such as the LTB's Tourism Strategy for London and BTA's Overseas Visitors to London report in 1993 suggested that London as a whole and the Thames itself did not necessarily require more visitor attractions. They believed that what was required was an improvement in quality and standards of service as well as visitor management and marketing to match visitors' constantly rising expectations. There have been many criticism about the shabby appearance of many of the sites along the Thames as well as about many of the "unsightly rubbish barges", to use the words of my noble kinsman.

It is therefore most encouraging that the Deputy Prime Minister has promoted an integrated river transport system for the Thames which should address the concerns of the London Tourist Board that many activities on the Thames which are tourist-orientated have been fragmented due to no overall strategy and very limited co-operation and co-ordination between the tourism businesses and local government.

As noble Lords will have noticed, over the past few years there has been an array of high profile developments and refurbishment of buildings along the Thames. These were discussed in an excellent article in the Sunday Times of 6th April 1997 which highlighted 13 ambitious schemes from the proposed £500 million entertainment and leisure centre to be built at Battersea power station to the Millennium exhibition in Greenwich. These should potentially transform the Thames into a gigantic playground. I warmly welcome the 180-mile Thames path. I am sure that my noble friends will be pleased to know about that. I welcome also the opening of the Thames cycle route. I am a cyclist, a rambler and a runner so I have an interest in all such developments and I am pleased that we, as Londoners, now have more opportunities to make the most of the paths along the Thames.

The potential for utilising the Thames to offset the transport headaches of London are enormous. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, made some extremely interesting suggestions about that. There is a commonly held view that the Thames is London's most under-utilised transport asset. It is therefore most encouraging that the Thames 2000 initiative has focused on boosting river transport for both tourism and commercial freight transportation. It will certainly be a major environmental benefit.

As the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, also mentioned, there have unfortunately been a number of failed scheduled river commuter services. It is hoped that future proposed ferry services, if properly promoted to London's residents, will be much more commercially viable. Perhaps the Minister will comment on the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Cocks—I see that he is now seated on the Woolsack—for a public subsidy. I hope that the Minister will comment also on the concern of my noble kinsman that there is currently poor public access to the Thames. Will there be any improvement in that regard? Can the Minister also comment on what plans are afoot to build new bridges across the Thames and on any plans for repairing Hammersmith Bridge?

In conclusion, there is no doubt that there are excellent opportunities for sustainable tourism through the revitalisation of the Thames as well as for increasing the huge transport potential along the river. I hope that this debate will highlight not just the potential benefits of the river, but also the benefits of an integrated strategy for the Thames.

8.38 p.m.

Baroness Wilcox

My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, on his most entertaining and informed maiden speech. My own maiden speech is fairly recent in my memory, so I know how pleased the noble Lord must be feeling to have got it out of the way. That means that we can now look forward to him springing up on all sorts of occasions because he is now free to speak in your Lordships' House whenever he chooses. So, congratulations and welcome!

I must declare three interests in the debate. First, I am a tourist. I am not a Londoner, so for part of this winter, to keep fit, I am walking the Thames path from its source deep in the Cotswolds in a field one mile from Cricklade Station to the mouth of this mighty river, some 180 miles downstream, taking the Thames Barrier as the finishing point. I shall check later to see whether I am using the book written by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I am sure that it would be enormously useful to me.

Next Sunday I shall reach Oxford, where the river suddenly becomes the Isis. I cannot work out whether it is a tributary there or not, but it becomes the Isis. I am becoming very aware that The Wind in the Willows country river of Ratty and Moley, of reeds and ducks, and of match fishermen has already changed. As I have walked, it has changed into an ordered set of locks, barges and motor cruisers. It is about to move on serenely to punts and picnics before it arrives at Teddington where the tidal Thames starts to transform itself into the play place of the rowers and sailors before we come to the tripper boats and cruisers and it then gets down to the serious business of being the country's busiest commercial port. It transships and transports over 50 million tonnes of cargo a year. Massive quantities of oil, forest products, sugar, food, aggregates, sand, refuse, cement and much else travel right into the heart of our city on this very fast tidal river. The river runs at three knots, which is faster than you or I can walk, and dips down and up by seven metres. It rises and falls by 22 feet on a tide.

I declare my second interest. I serve on the board of the Port of London Authority, whose statutory duty is to be the conservancy and navigation authority of the Port of London and the tidal Thames all the way to Teddington Lock. I know that the chief executive and crew of the "Royal Nore" were delighted to transport my noble friend Lord Luke both up and down the full reach of the Thames. They were delighted that so much interest was being shown in the subject. They very much look forward to reading the report of today's proceedings.

While this mighty river flows up and down at such speed all of the working traffic upon it proceeds from east to west. That traffic must cope with other tourist boats which nip across from north to south. That can be a very dangerous procedure.

There is no doubt that people see the commercial and industrial activity. That is why London turns away from the river. It is a mucky river. That is what a working river should look like. People try to compare the Thames with all kinds of rivers. It is not right to compare it with the river that runs through Paris. If one is to make a comparison it should be between Paris and Oxford. London should be compared with Rouen because that is where the heavy work is carried out. Certainly, the work is not done in pretty Paris.

People try to turn the Thames into something else. Of course, Venice is a lagoon. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has expressed concern at the suggestion by the Port of London Authority that the Thames barrier should be raised in order to make a lagoon for just one day, or just 18 hours, for the purposes of the millennium. That suggestion has been met with an intake of breath on all sides and great worries by bird lovers and conservationists, of whom the noble Lord is obviously one. That suggestion has received no response as yet from the Deputy Prime Minister, who will be the one to decide on what will be possibly the greatest tourist venture of the century on our mighty river. My noble friend Lord Luke, in his splendidly informed speech, said that each year two million people took a river trip. He would like a lot more people to do that. That concerns me.

I declare my third interest. I am president of the National Federation of Consumer Groups. In this case they are consumers of tourist facilities. Tourists have six requirements: choice, access, information, safety, fairness, and redress. From what we have heard, choice is improving. Access is not so good. My noble friend Lord Luke has said that parking is very bad and that the piers could do with a little help. More bridges are being built but it is all a very slow process. Noble Lords also heard from the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, about safety, quite rightly.

There are rules of the rivers, but not everyone abides by them. Not all boats are registered. At the moment any one can buy a motor boat, yacht or rowing boat and take it out on the river without a single lesson, any registration or anything else. He can go right down the Thames and out into the wide open sea. If we are to make greater use of our working river as a playground the Government must be encouraged to look at proper registration and forms of testing before people are allowed to take boats out on to the river. At the moment accidents are prevented because many other boat owners are aware that there is a danger and take avoiding action.

As to equity, is there value for money on the river? How does one compare like for like on the basis of what is being charged? Noble Lords may be interested to know that in Henry VIII's time when there was only one bridge on the river there was a good deal of trouble. The lightermen and watermen, of whom there were thousands, were brought into order by one price being set by the King and his Council. As to the question of redress, I do not believe that there is a regulator or ombudsman. I apologise if what I have just said is incorrect. A sea and a shore appear to be two very different matters.

I believe that if the proposed GLA is set up correctly the Government have the opportunity to provide co-ordination and better regulation of river services. Like my noble friend Lord Mountevans, I believe that if there is to be a new and integrated transport system for London there must be a public subsidy to make that happen. Not only will we have to subsidise the actual journeys but a good deal more access points must be built.

My noble friend Lord Luke is to be congratulated on tabling this Question at a time when London and its life and governance are under serious consideration. The River Thames is a main artery to the heart of London. It is big, fast and powerful, and at least once a week someone dies in it. People earn their living from it, are fed by it and play on it. The river is already a magnet for tourists. My noble friend Lord Luke wants a lot more. Given good governance, planning and generosity on the part of the Government, the future tourist potential is enormous.

I should like to finish with a warning. Much of my life has been spent in docks or afloat on ships, because I come from the fishing industry. Fast-moving water is a dangerous highway. Slippery steps and missed footings can kill and injure. People understand the dangers of other highways. As far as concerns road-borne traffic, people understand their rights and responsibilities as pedestrians and car owners, but afloat that is not the case. I urge the Government to take time to carry out a consultation exercise which brings together the port authorities, riparian councils and consumer, health, safety and tourist representatives before they raise the expectations of tourists to our tidal Thames and its environment.

8.48 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Luke, for introducing such an enormous subject. It is not a subject to which one can possibly do justice in the hour and a half that has been allotted to it. It is not one subject but two. Further, this debate gives the House the opportunity to hear the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane. It is conventional to say how interesting and informative are maiden speeches. But I learned a good deal this evening about matters that I did not expect to hear. I congratulate the noble Lord.

Both the Thames and tourism have many aspects. In preparing for this evening it appears to me that perhaps, like other topics, they break down into three headings: strategy, sustainability and mechanisms to deal with various issues. I should also declare an interest. I am a councillor of a London borough which is a riparian borough. Apart from Docklands, my borough is the only London borough on both banks of the Thames. If I refer to Kew and Hampton Court noble Lords will understand my interest in tourism and the interconnection of the Thames with my own borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. I am also very lucky to be able to live on the Thames. My little stretch of the Thames is not typical of others. The river is by no means homogenous. I am able to observe daily some of its uses and, I am afraid to say, some of its abuses. Irresponsible movements by boat owners is something about which I feel strongly.

Tourism, as noble Lords have said, on and around the Thames is not just an issue for central London. We have heard of the rural stretches upstream. Downstream there are enormous opportunities for regeneration; for instance, new conference facilities. I dare say that that will be one of the developments which may be in the minds of those who look at further development in that area. We have new bodies which will be taking these matters on board. They are strategic issues, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, rightly said.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, referred to the new greater London authority. I, too, look forward with great expectation to its involvement in this big issue and to that of the London Development Agency, which I hope will quickly come under the aegis of the new authority. I am sure that those bodies will look at the river, as the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, said, not as a dividing line or boundary but as a focal point. We are apt to look at rivers as though they are geographical boundaries. River basins of course are not. People look towards the river and not away from it.

We have talked about the use of the river for tourism. Comments about day visitors—Londoners visiting their own river—are well made. The noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, said that showing visitors around heightens one's own awareness. That is a telling point. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, made a similar point.

There is also tourist-related employment. Here there is an issue of sustainability, not in the environmental but in the social sense. We are all aware that employment in the tourist sector is often low paid. There are then all the issues related to the wider economy.

I talk about sustainability in the social sense, but there is also sustainability in terms of location, land uses and movements. I was fascinated by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. We must be wary of totally demand-led development. I am thinking especially of hotels, but they are only one example. There is undoubtedly a demand in London for more hotel beds, but indiscriminate building could do a great deal of harm, depending on its location. We must not destroy what is so precious to our city. It is precious in so many ways, including its industrial heritage and trading character. I welcome every move to conserve and enhance them.

We must consider the whole quality of the built environment as well as the natural environment; the setting and quality of buildings. I include bridges. When I chaired a committee in Richmond upon Thames, I was much involved with a major development on the river there. The most gratifying aspect was seeing the public enjoying access to the river in an urban setting. There were different views about whether the building was of the right type. I should have liked to have seen a modern building. It would be good to see more up-to-date buildings on the river. The public were able to enjoy the facilities of an interesting setting and the river all in one.

Tourism is essentially not a sustainable activity because it encourages travel. Many comments have been made about transport. I shall add one about tourist boats and the noise that they create. It is not the noise of their movements but the noises that comes from them. It sounds as if I am being rather a kill-joy, and in fact I am a kill-joy about this because disco noise—I can hardly call it music—as it is heard from the river bank is more intrusive than social.

I turn now to mechanisms and resources. I end by commending to noble Lords and to those who are involved in such matters the Thames landscape strategy—the work in the area from Hampton to Kew—which was a partnership of local authorities, supported by a number of organisations. I do so because it is an interesting piece of work and one which is continuing. The policies it identifies indicate to me how important it is to be detailed and specific about one's ideas for taking forward what is important. It includes policies such as—I pick these almost at random—identifying areas where fishing is not in conflict with nature conservation and the integration of jogging routes in path circuits.

The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, is a jogger, walker and cyclist in one. With cycling along the Thames, detailed waymarking is required. There are different modes of transport which need piers and other forms of access to the river in the right places. Other aspects of the strategy include promoting river tourist transport services, improving publicity and, where appropriate, rebuilding piers and jetties to increase access and linking services into the existing public transport and car parking network, controlling tourist boat noise and wash levels to minimise impact. That is a tiny selection of the policies which illustrates the balance that needs to be struck when considering the issues that your Lordships have been debating.

8.58 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Luke, has rightly been congratulated on introducing this debate. Those congratulations are not due just to him but to the other well-informed speeches that have been made, notably that of my noble friend Lord Gordon of Strathblane who did not sound as if he was making a maiden speech. It was a speech of great command and enormous interest.

I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, prepared for the debate by travelling on PLA vessels up and down the Thames. When I served on the GLC, I do not remember that being offered, except in the form of visits to the estuary on sludge vessels. I am told that any possible unpleasantness from the sludge was mitigated by a plentiful supply of alcohol which was internalised, shall we say, as the voyage to and from the dumping grounds proceeded. I never went on those trips, but I am, and have been, an admirer and lover of the Thames all my life. I have benefited greatly in knowledge and understanding from the speeches this evening.

The Government are in no doubt about the importance of tourism on the Thames. Tourism in London is of great importance to the economy, not just of London but the whole country. After all, 54 per cent. of overseas visitors to this country spend some time in London. The numbers last year were a record. The statistics show that £7.5 billion was spent by visitors to London. So far as concerns the London economy, that represents 7 per cent. of our GDP. So, as I say, we do not underestimate its importance.

I was challenged by the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, to make a commitment to co-ordinate work on the Thames. He is right; I do not know whether I can give him a clear and unequivocal answer. However, I hope that my comments about some of the aspects of tourism on the Thames will give him encouragement.

Perhaps I may first talk about new riverside attractions. The point about attractions on the side of the Thames—the phrase "string of pearls" has been used to describe what has been done and what is being proposed—is not only what they do for themselves (I am talking about galleries, museums, sports attractions and so forth) but the way in which they act as a catalyst for other developments, provide jobs and contribute to the surrounding communities.

A remarkable number of attractions have opened during the past 25 years. I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his reference to Brunel. More are planned. There is to be a multi-purpose entertainment centre at Battersea, a Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich, a Docklands Museum at Canary Wharf, a wonderful proposal for the Tate Gallery of Modern Art at Bankside and, above all, the new Millennium Experience. Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to that in tonight's debate. It is not only that the new Millennium Experience will exist for a year or however long some of the facilities can be kept open but that there will be permanent development—what has laughingly been called "Presserville" after the Deputy Prime Minister—alongside the Millennium Dome, which will provide an ecologically sound community of 1,000 homes for a long time after the dome is no longer with us.

A number of noble Lords referred to the river links and we recognise their importance. From my experience on the GLC, I recall the problems with the river buses, which were referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Mountevans and Lord Gladwyn. It is true that more could be done for river transport if there were more piers. Indeed, more piers are proposed and there is to be a new footbridge from Charing Cross to the South Bank. Furthermore, the more attractions there are on the river the more likelihood that river buses will be successful.

I take seriously the warning of the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, about the problem of regular commuter traffic. I am afraid that that will not be eased because the Jubilee Line and the Docklands light railway extension to Lewisham will provide effective competition to what could otherwise be river bus traffic. Therefore, emphasis is likely to be on the infrastructure rather than on subsidising river bus services. Of course, there will be a huge boost from the millennium because it is planned that of the 12 million visitors 1 million will go from central London by river bus and 600,000 could use downstream park and sail facilities. Perhaps from that investment in infrastructure there could be a spin-off which will continue.

A number of noble Lords, notably the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord St. John, referred to the need for better access to the Thames, and my noble friend Lord Cocks gave a very encouraging account of the work of the London Docklands Development Corporation, which has certainly contributed greatly to access to the Thames and to use of the Thames in the area of the London Docklands.

I was asked about piers. The new Millennium Experience Company and the Cross River Partnership have proposals which are still in preparation for new piers. We are confident that there will be new piers at least at Blackfriars and Waterloo and that they will have Underground and rail links.

A number of noble Lords, notably the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Wilcox, and the noble Lord, Lord St. John, referred to the need for co-ordination and a simpler structure of authority. Of course, that is what is planned for the London mayor and the greater London authority. The consultation document raises the question of whether the London transport authority which is to be set up should have the power or the duty to promote river transport.

If one looks at the Government Office for London's strategic planning guidance for the River Thames, many of the ideas are good but the recommendations all say that planning authorities should give consideration to this or that. That is not very powerful. The document from Thames 2000 is excellent in many ways but it is a wide range of bodies which is supposed to take action and it does not seem to me to be a recipe for co-ordination.

In the very short time available to me, I shall refer briefly to specific points made by noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Gordon referred to the need for a working river and not just a tourist river. I take that issue very seriously. He said that it is important to persuade Londoners to value their river because it is a pride of Londoners. I know that the Government agree with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred to work on the Thames path and my noble friend Lord Cocks made the same point. There was some disagreement between my noble friend Lord Cocks and the noble Lord, Lord Luke, about the desirability of turning the Thames into a non-tidal pool. I rather sympathised with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. Perhaps it is worth experimenting with just for the millennium, but I do not think that it would be the Thames that we know and love if we used the barrier in that way.

In dealing with the various issues, I have dealt with most of the points raised, except that made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, when she referred to the need for standards and safety standards in particular. That is further evidence of the need for a greater London authority which could take over control of those matters.

In the 30 seconds which I have left, I repeat my thanks to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I assure them that their suggestions, comments and opinions will be taken seriously by government.

House adjourned at nine minutes past nine o'clock.