HC Deb 16 May 1988 vol 133 c672
12. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the cost to public funds so far of the inquiry into the King's Cross fire.

Mr. David Mitchell

The cost to my Department has so far been £498,000. In addition, the Treasury Solicitor is responsible for payment of fees to counsel for the investigation.

Mr. Banks

Why did the Secretary of State, through the Treasury Solicitor, refuse to cover the legal costs of the Association of London Authorities, which wished to give evidence to the inquiry? Was it because the ALA intended to raise some serious matters about safety and the Government's position in terms of the investment requirements that they impose on London Regional Transport? While the hon. Gentleman is considering the response to that part of the question, will he tell the House whether the Secretary of State intends to insist on a 7 per cent. return on capital investment from LRT—which effectively rules out many investment schemes with a direct safety aspect—or does he make a capital return calculation on dead bodies?

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman must be well aware that those offensive remarks are wholly unjustified. I emphatically reject any suggestion that any question that should have been asked has not been asked. No one who has followed these matters can conceivably accuse counsel for the inquiry of having used kid gloves. In any case, the inspectors said that, on the evidence so far, the presence of the ALA has been of marginal assistance to the investigation. It did not appear to us, therefore, that it was warranted to incur those charges on the public purse.