HC Deb 16 May 1988 vol 133 cc672-3
13. Ms. Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has discussed with the chairman of London Regional Transport the programme of cuts in station staff now being implemented on the London Underground; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Mitchell

No. It is for the boards of London Regional Transport and London Underground Ltd. to decide staffing arrangements in the light of LRT's statutory duty to have due regard to efficiency, economy and safety of operation.

Ms. Ruddock

I thank the Minister for that reply. He must be aware that substantial staff cuts have occurred since the King's Cross fire disaster and that London Underground is embarking on a scheme whereby staff numbers will be reduced by one third by the 1990s. Does the Minister agree that he must be concerned about such matters? Surely the safety of the travelling public depends on staff in uniforms, rather than on machines on walls.

Mr. Mitchell

When we introduce new technology and modern working practices, we often do not need as many staff as there were before. Indeed, that is much of the justification for investment of that sort. Moreover, when new ticketing machines are introduced, fewer ticket-selling staff are needed. That has nothing to do with the safety of the Underground's operations. More effective use of staff, and ensuring that they are available to help the travelling public, are more important ways forward, and LUL is pursuing them.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will my hon. Friend consider the safety of members of the public at London Underground stations and ascertain whether a member of staff or a member of the police force could constantly be at stations, so that the public, particularly the elderly and the young, would always he protected from violence?

Mr. Mitchell

Yes. Indeed, we have already given London Underground Ltd. £15 million for crime fighting. As a result of the activities that it has been pursuing, particularly in respect of alternative ways of policing the southern end of the Northern line, there has been a 25 per cent. reduction in muggings. I am sure that the House will welcome that.

Mr. Spearing

The Minister said that it is the duty of London Regional Transport to conduct its operations with due regard to economy and safety. Is it not a fact that there has been too much regard for economy and too little regard for safety, particularly in respect of personnel on station platforms, and, conceivably, deep-level tube crews? With the new financial objectives that the Secretary of State will give LRT after the King's Cross inquiry, will the Minister pay much more attention to balancing safety with economy, without prejudice to the latter?

Mr. Mitchell

I can only say that London Underground Ltd. and LRT have a statutory duty to have regard to safety. Nothing that we do will in any way damage or inhibit that—

Mr. Spearing

The Minister has done so already.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Minister has cut the subsidy.

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong if he is implying that the Government have in any way denied London Underground Ltd. the resources that it needs to fulfil its statutory duty in regard to safety.