Speeches and parliamentary questions in the House of Commons in the 2006-7 sessionWhile speaking in the chamber of the House is a high profile activity for an MP, much other work is done elsewhere, in committee, as well as a large casework load for constituents.
29/10/07 Rolling Stock: Age
11/10/07 Northern Rock
19/07/07 House of Lords Reform
17/07/07 Economic Reform
11/07/07 Dormant Funds for Carers?
05/06/07 Concessionary Bus Travel Bill (Committee Stage)
14/05/07 Concessionary Bus Travel Bill
25/04/07 Concessionary Bus Fares
23/04/07 Prostate Cancer
17/04/07 Western By Pass
16/04/07 Cancer: Urinary System
16/04/07 2012 Olympics (Lottery Costs)
29/03/07 Prostate Cancer: NICE
27/03/07 Prostate Cancer
23/03/07 Prostate Cancer
07/03/07 Reform of the House of Lords
07/03/07 Voting on Lords Reform
07/03/07 Elected Second Chamber
06/03/07 Hybrid Upper House
19/02/07 House of Lords Reform
07/02/07 Metro Modernisation
30/01/07 Concessionary Fares
25/01/07 Tyne Wear Metro
19/12/06 Dualling the A1
06/12/06 Pre-Budget Report
29/11/06 Carers' Allowance
28/11/06 Local Government Finance Settlement
23/11/06 Lottery Spending
21/11/06 Road Pricing
15/11/06 Queen's Speech 2006
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge):To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average age is of rolling stock fleet allocated to (a) each of the current rail franchises and (b) the Tyne and Wear Metro; and what the expected average age is of such rolling stock by 2013 in each case. 
Mr. Tom Harris, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport: Details of the current average age of the UK rolling stock fleet by sector are published by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) in 'National Rail Trends' and available on the ORR website (www.rail-reg.gov.uk). Equivalent figures for 2013 are not available although the Department intends shortly to publish a rolling stock plan. Information about the Tyne and Wear Metro is a matter for Nexus.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): As a long-standing customer of Northern Rock - I suppose that I should declare an interest in the usual way in that regard - I assure my right hon. Friend that savers are very grateful to the Government for the support afforded at a difficult time. Our concern, however, has now turned to the future. What can the Government do to help to ensure the continuation of Northern Rock as an independent North-East based company? Will he take on board the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) and assure the House that the Government will help to protect the security of employment of thousands of Northern Rock staff in the North-East, and to protect the Northern Rock Foundation, which supports arts and culture, young people, children in need and other disadvantaged groups across our region?
Mr. Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer: On that last point, as my hon. Friend knows, the Northern Rock Foundation has given grants of more than £28 million, and that is one of the reasons why the Northern Rock bank has much popular support in the North-East, along with the fact that it is a major source of good-quality employment. The most significant thing that the Government can do is to continue to provide the support that we have offered to Northern Rock, and to give it time to consider its strategic options. We stand ready to do whatever is appropriate as and when the bank decides what the best option is.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): My right hon. Friend is hardly in a position to criticise the Leader of the Opposition for making House of Lords reform a third-term issue, given that, under our Government, it has become a fourth-term issue. Does he agree that the Bill that will come before the House of Lords tomorrow largely satisfies the commitments made in the Labour party's manifesto for the last election, and will he confirm that the Government will support the Bill? Will he also confirm that although the House voted for a wholly elected second Chamber, it was not clear what form the elections would take, who would qualify to stand for election, or who the electorate would be?
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I cannot confirm my hon. Friend's statement. We said that there would be free votes on the issues, and there have been free votes; the House has spoken. I know that he disagrees with its decision, but the majorities in favour of 100 per cent. and 80 per cent. elected were overwhelming.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I welcome my hon. Friend's statement. The changes he has announced have the potential to provide a stimulus to encourage renewed regional co-ordination and activity, and will be welcomed in the North-East if they provide the clarity and the new vision that they promise.
The regional assemblies brought together local government, business, voluntary organisations and trade unions. Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the new structure he has announced will preserve the best of that inclusiveness, while also improving accountability and effectiveness at regional level? What powers will localities have over bodies such as the Highways Agency?
The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): I am satisfied that the Government have set out the right principles and the right direction for the reforms that are necessary to ensure that the work of RDAs and other agencies at regional level is held to account to a greater extent both in the House and in the regions. If I were not, I would not have announced them today. We are ready to consult on precisely how best to implement the arrangements, and will do so later in the year.
As my hon. Friend will appreciate, the appropriate arrangements for local authority leaders in particular to exercise their role in scrutinising RDAs' work and approving regional strategies in his area will differ from those in the South-East, where there are 74 separate councils. It clearly makes sense to identify, through detailed discussion and consultation, the arrangements that best suit the circumstances of each region.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): When he was in his previous job, I drew my right hon. Friend's attention to some of the problems faced by carers, and work is still outstanding on that subject. Last Friday, I met Gateshead Alzheimer's Society and we discussed these and other issues. The society raised with me the Government's proposals for the use of dormant funds under the unclaimed assets Bill. The society put it to me that as it was likely that those funds belong or belonged to elderly people, it would only be reasonable for some, if not most, to be used to support carers. Is that an argument that my right hon. Friend finds persuasive?
The Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown: Any argument that comes from my hon. Friend is a persuasive one. We have set up a review into what we can do to help carers more. We are trying to provide more respite care, more training, more help and more support. I will take on board what he says specifically about Alzheimer's and the particular problems that carers and families face in relation to that. I hope that he will find that he can feed into the review, and that the report, when it is eventually done, will be to his satisfaction.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many clinical nurse specialists are working with prostate cancer patients in the NHS. 
Ms Rosie Winterton, Minister of State, Department of Health: This information is not collected centrally.
Specialist cancer nurses are not separately identified in the census from the rest of the nursing workforce.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): The last time that there was any major investment in the Gateshead A1 western bypass, which runs - or should I say crawls - through my constituency, was more than 20 years ago. When can we expect further investment to bring that important artery up to national standards?
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): Once again, significant investment in road improvements is being made in the North-East, but my hon. Friend must work with local stakeholders to achieve priority for schemes that he wants in his area. We are trying our best to stick as closely as possible to priorities recommended to us by the local regions, and we will continue to do our best to stick to those priorities.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment she has made of the progress of cancer networks in implementing the Improving Outcomes guidance for urological cancers; 
(2) what mechanisms she has put in place to ensure that service providers commissioned by her Department are meeting the Improving Outcomes guidance for urological cancers in relation to (a) multi-disciplinary team working and (a) access to specialist nurses. 
Ms Rosie Winterton, Minister of State, Department of Health: Strategic health authorities were asked to submit action plans to demonstrate how they will implement the guidance on Improving Outcomes in urological cancers. Progress against these action plans is monitored by the Department and the Healthcare Commission. The majority of cancer networks reported at December 2006 that the guidance would be fully implemented by December 2007.
The guidance has also been translated into a series of measures for inclusion in the Manual of Cancer Services 2004. All cancer networks in England have now been peer reviewed against these measures, which include measures about urological cancer multi-disciplinary teams including urology nurse specialists. Reports of the local peer review visits for each cancer network can be found on the Cancer Quality Improvement Network System (CQuINS) database at www.cquins.nhs.uk. A national summary will also be produced and is expected to be available in the summer.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I hear what my right hon. Friend says about lottery-funded schemes, but will she comment on the suggestion that Sport England is to divert £26 million from the sort of schemes mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn) into the Olympics? Can she give us the same sort of reassurance on that front?
Rt Hon Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport: Yes, I can give my hon. Friend the same sort of reassurance. I do not recognise the figure that he mentioned, but as ever, I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend or help him to meet the chairman of Sport England in order to put his mind at rest about that.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made by the NHS in making available National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence approved treatments for prostate cancer. 
Minister of State, Department of Health, Ms Rosie Winterton: In June 2006, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidance for the national health service on the use of docetaxel for the treatment of prostate cancer. NICE recommended the use of this treatment for particular groups of patients.
NICE technology appraisals are covered by a three-month funding direction. PCTs have a legal obligation to provide funding for treatments recommended by NICE within three months of the guidance being issued.
NICE guidance is also included in "Standards for Better Health", which sets out the Government's high-level expectations for the health service. Adherence to NICE technology appraisals is one of the core standards against which NHS organisations are assessed in the Healthcare Commission's annual health check.
In July 2006, Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director, published a review report examining the uptake of NICE approved cancer drugs. Although the report did not include docetaxel for prostate cancer as its guidance had only just been finalised, the report found that approval of a cancer drug by NICE led to increased use of that drug by the NHS and a reduction in variation in use.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average number was of people on waiting lists for (a) radiotherapy, (b) chemotherapy and (c) other treatments for prostate cancer in the latest period for which figures are available; and what the average waiting time was in the same period. 
Ms Rosie Winterton, Minister of State, Department of Health: Statistics on average waiting times for cancer patients and average waiting times for different types of cancer treatment are not collected centrally. Cancer waiting times' standards of a maximum wait of 31 days from diagnosis to first cancer treatment, and a maximum wait of 62 days from urgent referral for suspected cancer to first cancer treatment were introduced for all cancer patients from December 2005. In the last quarter (October to December 2006) performance against these standards was 99.6 per cent. and 96.3 per cent. respectively.
Mr. Clelland: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to ensure that men with prostate cancer receive equal treatment regardless of ethnic background. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Developing policy which benefits all sectors of the community is absolutely central to the role of the Department, and we have a strong commitment to promoting race equality. The Department welcomed the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action's report, "Tackling Prostate Cancer in Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Groups", published in September 2006. We know that men of African origin are more at risk of developing prostate cancer, and the Department funded two of the key studies featured in the report, the successful African Caribbean Awareness Project and the Prostate Cancer in Ethnic Subgroups research study.
Good progress has been made in considering the recommendations of the report. The recommendations were included for consideration in the cancer equality action plan, which fed into the Department action plan to support the publication of the single equality scheme on 4 December 2006.
With specific reference to treatment, the cancer action team (CAT) have appointed to the post of Associate Director: Patient Experience. This post is being funded by the National Audit Office, and the postholder begins work on 1 April 2007. Responsibilities will cover equality issues for cancer, including prostate cancer, as follows:
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking (a) to facilitate and (b) to monitor the implementation of the Prostate Cancer Equality Action Plan. 
Ms Rosie Winterton, Minister of State, Department of Health: Good progress has been made in considering the recommendations of the prostate cancer charter for action's tackling prostate cancer in black and minority ethnic (BME) groups report. The recommendations were included for consideration in the cancer equality action plan, which fed into the Department action plan to support the publication of the Single Equality Scheme on 4 December 2006. Specifically:
The Department's cancer policy team are facilitating and monitoring the implementation of the tackling prostate cancer in BME groups report, and the other recommendations will be considered with the cancer action team Associate Director - Patient Experience in due course.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what procedures she has put in place to ensure that men with prostate cancer are given information on (a) local support groups and (b) national charities involved with prostate cancer; 
(2) what steps she is taking to ensure that men have an informed choice when making decisions about their treatment for prostate cancer. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published "Improving Outcomes in Urological Cancers", including prostate cancer, in September 2002. The guidance recommends that the treatment each patient receives should be tailored to fit his individual values and situation, so it is essential that patients are actively involved in decision-making. This requires that they receive adequate and accurate information, both through meetings with members of the multi-disciplinary team, and in published forms so that they can study at home. Patients should be given sufficient time to consider all the options available to them.
To support this, a number of initiatives are under way:
Patient information and decision support are also being taken forward by the patient experience working group as part of the development of the cancer reform strategy.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to raise awareness of prostate cancer. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Raising the awareness of prostate cancer is a key challenge. We want men to know what their prostate is, what it does, and what can go wrong with it. However, we have to raise awareness in a responsible way so as not to cause undue anxiety and worry. That is why we teamed up with the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action to fund a pilot public awareness programme of the prostate, and that is why we are also making raising awareness a key strand of the new Cancer Reform Strategy.
The pilot public awareness programme on the prostate and its function took place in Coventry in October 2006, and an independent evaluation is now assessing the effectiveness of the messages used in the pilot, the interventions used to promote the messages, and the impact the pilot has had on national health service services. Draft reports of the evaluation are being considered by the Prostate Cancer Advisory Group's (PCAG) public awareness working group, who will advise the main PCAG on implementation of the findings in June 2007.
The Department provided £100,000 towards the pilot and the evaluation, with signatories to the Charter providing a further £50,000 towards the pilot.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to revise the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme; and what the timescale is for the revision. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The formal evaluation of the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme (PCRMP) was undertaken between 2004 and 2006 by the Cancer Research UK Primary Care Education Research Group. Based on the results of the evaluation, the group has now begun work on revising the PCRMP materials. The group are looking to appoint to a dedicated post to continue the revision, and will begin work shortly on an update of the formal literature review that informed the original PCRMP packs. We are also ensuring that revisions to the PCRMP are consistent with the development of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's Clinical Guide on the Diagnosis and Management of Prostate Cancer.
The review will also involve discussions with key stakeholders in the voluntary sector. We are committed to involving key stakeholders in policy development. That is why the Prostate Cancer Advisory Group (PCAG), chaired by Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director, has representation from signatories to the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action, including the Prostate Cancer Charity.
A consultation on the revised PCRMP materials will take place in autumn 2007, with a re-launch of the packs in March 2008.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether her Department's (a) 31 and (b) 62 day waiting time target for prostate cancer was met in Newcastle and Gateshead in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Data collected centrally by the Department to monitor cancer waiting times does not separately identify those patients diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, for the period October to December 2006, data for the Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust shows that they achieved 100 per cent. and 99.6 per cent. respectively for the all cancer 31 day diagnosis to treatment standard. For the same period, these trusts achieved 96.6 per cent. and 96.1 per cent. respectively for the 62 day referral to treatment standard for all cancers.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): If the monitors are going to indicate which motion we are voting on, that will be very helpful to Members. However, can we be assured that, when reference is made on the monitors to "the appointed House", the word "reformed" will be included?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): The title given on the monitors will explain exactly what each motion is on. I hope that the situation will be sufficiently clear, but I am sure that there will be plenty of Members in the Chamber and elsewhere guiding their friends and colleagues into the Lobby.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): The White Paper on House of Lords reform lists several countries that have wholly or partly elected second Chambers. In the Prime Minister's view, which of them is governed better than the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister: For obvious reasons, I do not think that I would accept that any could be better governed than the United Kingdom, though that might be open to some dispute. However, I said at the time of the election, and our manifesto stated, that we would try to seek a consensus on House of Lords reform. The purpose of the vote later today is to ascertain whether we can do that. We said that we would facilitate that; that is precisely what we shall try to do.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): If we had a hybrid House - the worst of all possible options - would my right hon. Friend care to speculate which group of Members would have the greatest legitimacy: the elected or the appointed?
Mr. Straw: I will deal with that point. I know that my hon. Friend has read the royal commission report and the other two reports, so he will recognise that a great deal of effort and work was put into ensuring that, by the means of election and by the fact that such individuals would sit for a single term, without the prospect of re-election for a long term, their relationship with those who had elected them and with their peers - literally - would be a different one. The truth is that there are partly appointed, partly elected Chambers elsewhere in the world, and the evidence suggests that whether or not they work satisfactorily depends on the other ground rules that are established alongside them. In the end, it will be for this House, because it does have primacy, to decide those ground rules. I do not think that we have anything to fear in that regard.
David makes his point on a vote for Lords Reform
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge):I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on today's statement, and I thank him for listening to those of us who had grave concerns about his proposals. As he is in a listening mood, has he had the opportunity to reflect on the point that I put to him in business questions last week? Given that the introduction of elected mayors, regional government and devolved assemblies were all preceded by referendums, if the House votes for a substantial elected element in the House of Lords, that ought to be put to the people in a referendum.
Mr. Straw: I have indeed reflected on that, but I ask my hon. Friend to spare me. It is hard enough getting the House to reach a decision on a preferred alternative for the future of the House of Lords. For myself, I happen to believe that this is the kind of change that is the responsibility of Parliament, and we have adequate procedures. We are, after all, a representative democracy.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): May we have an early debate on the appropriate use of referendums? Given that both major Opposition parties said in their last manifestos that they would introduce a directly elected element into the House of Lords, and lost, while the Labour party did not mention direct elections, and won, surely we cannot take the kind of radical action that my right hon. Friend proposes without a referendum of the people. Let the question be: "Do you want another 270 elected politicians - yes or no?"
Mr. Straw: We said in our manifesto that we wanted a reformed House of Lords that was more representative. It is arguable, to say the least, whether it can be more representative without there being a democratic elected element. We did not promise a referendum, and there is no suggestion that we should do so. When we have a Bill, my hon. Friend will no doubt wish to table an amendment, and then we shall see.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, unlike humans, who can remain fit for purpose for many decades, mechanical devices do not? Will he ensure the speedy passage through the House and the sympathetic support of the Government for the refurbishment and modernisation of the 26-year-old Tyne and Wear metro system, the business case for which was submitted last week, so that we on Tyneside may continue to pursue Government policies for reducing congestion, stimulating local economies, fighting climate change and improving social mobility?
The Prime Minister: I can assure my hon. Friend that we will look closely at the proposals for the refurbishment of the metro, which would ensure that it continues to do its excellent work for the people of Newcastle and Gateshead. Fortunately, the proposals come in the context of the fact that we have been able to double investment in transport in the past 10 years, and further investments will come on line over the next few years. I cannot give him a definitive answer as yet, but we will look at the matter very closely.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): The Minister will be aware that one area with the highest take-up of concessionary fares is Tyne and Wear. She will also know that it cost the passenger transport executive £5.4 million to introduce the scheme last year, and it will cost a further £2.6 million to continue the scheme over the next financial year. Are there any measures that can be brought in to compensate Tyne and Wear PTE for that £8 million loss, so that when the national scheme is rolled out we will start from a level playing field?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Gillian Merron): The Department for Communities and Local Government and my Department continue to work on the matter. We are considering a number of options for distributing the existing funding. I have spoken to my hon. Friend and others about the matter. It is in the interest of us all to ensure that local authorities are adequately funded for providing the statutory concession. As I said, the Government will spend about £1 billion a year on concessionary travel from April 2008.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Does my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House know that the business plan for the refurbishment and renewal of the 26-year-old Tyne and Wear metro system has been submitted to the Government this week? The metro contributes to social mobility, economic development, the relief of traffic congestion and the fight against climate change. May we have an early debate on the value of light rail systems such as the metro and their contribution to our citizens' quality of life?
Mr. Straw: I know the contribution that the metro - a great achievement of the previous Labour Government - makes to the vibrancy of the economy and society on Tyneside. I shall discuss my hon. Friend's suggestion with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
Dr. Ladyman: I naturally noticed the Prime Minister's interest in the scheme, but one of the things about my job is that I often have to say no to very important people. The simple fact of the matter, as the Prime Minister pointed out, is that we have to set priorities. There is not a huge amount of money available to fund every possible scheme. We asked the local people in the region for their advice on the scheme, which was that it should not be a priority and that we should stop moving forward with it.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Will my hon. Friend look again at the answer that he has just given? If he does, he will find that the region did not say that the dualling of the A1 was not a priority. It said that any funds for that scheme would eat up all the funds available for the rest of the transport systems in the region. Therefore, it is not that the scheme is not a priority; it is just that there are insufficient funds for it.
Dr. Ladyman: The simple fact of the matter is that we identified a sum of money that it was reasonable to spend in each region of the country and we asked the regions to prioritise that. My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that the region came up with other priorities, including many that he has supported and which are moving ahead on a faster time scale than the dualling of the A1. We have asked the region to look at its priorities again in two years. If it has got things wrong, it can prioritise the dualling of the A1 over some of the other schemes, but I suspect that my hon. Friend will be back complaining about that, because it will mean that some of the schemes that he supports will sink down the priority list.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): In tackling climate change, will my right hon. Friend look at what seems to be a nonsensical position whereby employees who are given travel concessions by their employer to use public transport have that taxed as a benefit, whereas the provision of free car-parking places at places of work is not taxed in that way? Will he look at the anomaly that has arisen as a result of the otherwise welcome increase in the minimum wage, whereby many working carers are losing up to £46 a week because the minimum wage has taken them marginally above the £84 earnings threshold?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): My hon. Friend makes two important points. I will look at each of them in detail in the run-up to the Budget. On the tax relief issue, I will arrange a meeting with him and Treasury officials. On carers, we will look carefully at the interaction of the minimum wage and tax credits.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Is my right hon. Friend aware that carers, whose earnings are limited because they have to look after people who are elderly, disabled or terminally ill, lose all of their £46 carers allowance if their earnings rise even marginally above £84 a week? Is he further aware that the latest increase in the minimum wage has put many carers in just that position, and that those people are now thousands of pounds a year worse off? Does he agree that the minimum wage was never intended to cause that problem, and will he look into it as a matter of urgency, so that carers are given a fair deal?
The Deputy Prime Minister: This Government can claim to be concerned about giving carers a fair deal, as we were the first to introduce a payment for them. The minimum wage has played an important part, but my hon. Friend refers to the difficulties experienced by people on the margins. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will take note of what he has said and that the matter will be discussed further.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): How can the Minister describe as a significant boost a settlement that gives a council such as Gateshead, which is often held up by Ministers as an example of good local government, 2.7 per cent. - some 30 per cent. below the English average - and that gives the North-East a settlement below the English average even though it is widely acknowledged that its needs are higher than that? Under this settlement, what prospect does Tyne and Wear passenger transport authority have of clawing back some of the £7.2 million that it cost us to introduce the Government's free travel scheme; and how on earth is it supposed to finance that scheme next year, given the inadequate system of local government finance?
Mr. Woolas: I congratulate my hon. Friend on continuing his important campaign on behalf of bus users in Tyne and Wear. As he knows, the Government provided £350 million last year, and £367 million this year, for the concessionary fare scheme. In addition, there has been an uplift across the board in grants provided to local authorities. Having looked particularly at regional distribution, I can confirm to my hon. Friend that over the past 10 years the North-East has not been at the bottom of the league on a regional basis as regards the allocation of grant funding. We are in discussions with him about this important matter.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): The national lottery living landmarks fund has shortlisted 29 schemes for consideration, not one of which is in the North-East but eight of which are in the South-West. May we have an early debate on the fund's operation to explain why no schemes in the North-East were considered to be good enough or to meet the criteria, particularly bearing in mind the spend on lottery tickets in the region?
Mr. Straw: That is an interesting point. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is also concerned that there should be a proper spread across the regions, not least bearing in mind the different levels of spend on the lottery by my hon. Friend's constituents and mine, for example. I will draw her attention to my hon. Friend's comments.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): In metropolitan areas, if road pricing is not to end up being just another unpopular tax, it must be preceded by attractive, affordable and efficient public transport alternatives to the car. What plans does the Secretary of State have to provide such services?
Mr. Alexander: I fully agree that, if local schemes are to be successful, it is essential that they be partnered by the sort of improvements in public transports for which my hon. Friend has campaigned for many years. I believe that the transport innovation fund offers real potential to achieve local solutions to local problems. A key element of tackling those problems will be improvement in the public transport offerings in those communities.
Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO
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