§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
I advise the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
I beg to move,That this House condemns the Government's approach to British Rail and London Underground that has produced the poorest quality rail and tube services and the highest fares in Western Europe, and has left Britain's transport system unable to cope with the challenges posed by the Channel Tunnel and the Single European Market; believes that Britain's transport crisis is now so severe that it is doing severe economic and environmental damage to the whole nation; deplores the low pay and long hours which typify the average working period of railway workers; recognises the need to set tougher quality of service standards to ensure that real passengers enjoy a safer, more reliable and efficient service at a fairer price and have greater powers to demand redress when those standards are not met; believes that compared to the railway systems of other developed nations, British Rail deserves greater financial support from public funds; and resolves that these problems can only be solved by adopting a co-ordinated approach to transport policy, increasing the level of public service obligation and other grants paid to British Rail and London Regional Transport, and adopting a new approach to investment to ensure that all plans are judged on a common basis, taking full account of environmental, economic and social benefits for both users and non-users.This is the first proper transport debate since the new Secretary of State's appointment. Today, the Opposition will express the anger of millions of passengers who, after 10 years of cuts in subsidy and moves towards privatisation, are fed up with paying the highest fares in Europe for a dirty, unreliable and overcrowded railway service. The amendment paints a picture that is a million miles from the daily experience of millions of people who travel on our railway system today. The Government fail to understand that transport has become a major political issue, not only because the Opposition have chosen to make it so but because people feel helpless and frustrated at the scale of our transport crisis.
The facts of a poor quality service are well documented and are available for all hon. Members to see in the various reports. A dossier of shame has been compiled. It shows that one in six InterCity trains—that is, more than 300 trains per day—are at least 10 minutes late, that 112 trains on Network SouthEast are cancelled every day because of staff shortages, and that more than 800 trains on Network SouthEast are more than five minutes late every day. The position on provincial services is even worse.
Despite the fact that the number of passengers has increased by 10 per cent.—almost 70 million passengers—since 1983, there are 676 fewer carriages, which is about 50,000 seats, and 2,500 fewer locomotives in the railway system. With the increasing number of passengers on our rail system and with less seating capacity, it is hardly surprising that overcrowding has become so bad on Network SouthEast that on journeys lasting more than 20 minutes there must be at least one third of passengers standing before British Rail will put on an extra train—provided, of course, that there is one available and there are staff to man it.
On London Underground, one in three escalators are out of order on any given day. Also, 551 tube stations were closed for all or part of a day in the past six months 323 because there were not enough staff to keep them open. An increasing number of stations are being closed at certain times because of dangerous overcrowding on platforms.
The question for the House and for the country is why that has happened. Instead of having arguments about policy differences, it is fair to draw a comparison with the European experience. Other European countries have transport systems which move millions of people around, they have trains and buses, and it is fair to see how their Governments manage to provide a far better system. That is why many people in this country are increasingly angry. They go abroad and see the systems there, and they know that there is no need for the standard of service that they get in Britain to continue.
Undoubtedly, one of the key differences is the financial framework. The level of Government grant in European countries is far higher and it maintains a better quality system. Almost uniquely in Europe, the present British Government have pursued a policy of reducing public subsidy. In 1983 it was more than £1 billion, but it has been reduced to £560 million this year and there is to be a further cut of £340 million by 1992. The Treasury has saved nearly £2 billion compared with the 1983 levels of support. British Rail now receives only one third to one half of average European financial support.
The only way in which British Rail could compensate for such a massive loss of income is to pursue a policy of massive redundancies with the loss of more than 40,000 jobs, which has affected the quality of service. British Rail has also had to sell off assets—some very cheaply, as we recently saw in the British Rail Engineering Ltd. case about the sale of land, which is quite usual in privatisation programmes. Fares have risen by 24 per cent. in real terms in the past 10 years. That makes our fares the most expensive in Europe. An average 10 km journey costs twice as much in London as in other capital cities in Europe. That problem can be solved only by a very different policy.
The Secretary of State inherited a major problem, and it was hoped by many that his different approach might produce an entirely different policy. Opposition Members believe that a different policy is needed. As I shadowed the right hon. Gentleman on energy matters, I am bound to say that I did not believe that there would be any change in policy. He is a great man for explaining why things ought to be working and giving out the message, "It's the way I tell them."
That is not good enough because the Government's policies are wrong. They are going in for presentation. That is always the Tory approach to problems. They regularly argue that there is nothing wrong with their policies, simply that the presentation is wrong. In this case, the Secretary of State, who has earned himself a name for presenting matters in a better way than his predecessor, has done his best to go in for better presentation.
When the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) was replaced by the present Secretary of State—known as the Prime Minister's trouble shooter—I thought that a fresh mind was being brought to the urgent problems of the railways and that, as the right hon. Gentleman is good at PR, he might recognise, on studying the problems, that presentation and PR are not enough on this occasion. I regret to say that the right hon. Gentleman was brought in not to solve Britain's transport crisis but to improve the presentation and interpretation of Tory policies.
324 When Sir Bob Reid said that his job was not to run a service that was desirable but to run one that was profitable—he was talking about the Channel tunnel services—the Secretary of State explained to the House that he had been misunderstood. When Sir Bob warned that Britain's future as the transport hub of Europe was threatened by a lack of investment, the Secretary of State claimed that his speech had been widely misinterpreted.
When I warned in a statement on rail fares that the downturn in the economy, with the slump in the property market, meant that British Rail would have to cut its investment programme by up to £500 million, the Secretary of State told "The World At One" that there had been a misunderstanding of the figures. His office asked for a copy of my press release, which highlighted the figures and he must have studied them in detail. The right hon. Gentleman with his background as an accountant presumably understands figures better than most, although that is not obvious from the presentation of his policies.
Does the right hon. Gentleman deny, as I predicted a couple of weeks ago in regard to the corporate review and the Government's financial statement, that we shall be underfunded in the proposed £3.7 billion investment programme? I predicted cuts. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny the story in The Guardian this morning that trains are to be shortened and services scrapped? Is that another misunderstanding? I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that when he speaks in the debate.
Such cuts have been happening throughout the system for a long time. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that the electrification of the King's Lynn and Uckfield lines has been delayed, that station modernisation schemes have been shelved and that park 'n' ride schemes have been scrapped? Does he appreciate that British Rail's investment programme assumes a rate of economic growth that is twice the Treasury's prediction?
The Secretary of State has assumed that the programme of investment will be protected and will not be cut. He said that in an interview that he gave to The Financial Times. If that is so, how is it to be financed? If the programme is to be maintained and not cut, who will pay for it? Can passengers expect a higher level of fares, or will more jobs on the railways be lost? Will the Government sell more railway assets? Or are the Government prepared to protect the railway system and provide more financial support?
If the Government genuinely wish to support the railways—not claim that there has been another misunderstanding or misinterpretation—they will have to review the corporate plan that has just been announced by British Rail and the financial framework that has been announced to Parliament. I call on the Secretary of State to review that corporate plan. If he is to provide the investment that he and we wish to see in the British Rail system, that is vital.
The Secretary of State claimed in an article in the Financial Times that the problem with me—and, I assume, many others—was that I did not understand the figures.It's not my fault John's not an accountant",he said. That is true, though I have met many creative accountants who have been paid to present different positions on the same figures. The Secretary of State is a past master at doing that.
The right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of accountancy did not do him much good when it came to electricity 325 privatisation because he constantly said in the House that there would not be any price increases. That claim was blown apart with the statement in the House last week, and particularly with what has happened over electricity privatisation and nuclear plants.
§ The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Cecil Parkinson)
§ Mr. Prescott
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman disagrees with me. The record proves the correctness of what I say, including statements made by the right hon. Gentleman to the House and on television. I shall be only too pleased to provide him with the details of that record. His reputation on figures was not good in that respect, which is no doubt why he moved to the Department of Transport.
§ Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)
Does the hon. Gentleman have an opinion about creative returns to the Customs and Excise by people coming through with cameras accompanied by false receipts.
§ Mr. Prescott
I shall not enter into that issue. I would be prepared to discuss it with the hon. Lady, and I assure her that I felt as aggrieved as anybody else about that matter. Hon. Members will accept my reputation as one who has never entered into personal slights, and I regret that the hon. Lady has done so on this occasion. She will find that the House does not admire Members who get involved in that kind of slagging, on either side of the Chamber. Professional politicians are better occupied dealing with the substances of politics.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is not giving way. If that is the case, the hon. Lady must resume her seat.
§ Mr. Prescott
The country has not gained in the past from interventions by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie). I cannot see that anything would be gained by my giving way to her now.
§ Mrs. Currie
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Surely it is not in order for an Opposition Front Bench spokesman to be so rude and personal about Members on the Government side when we simply wish to ask questions about the railway service and know the views of Opposition Members on that subject. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to refuse to give way on that basis? If so, it is thoroughly bad manners on his part.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. There are no Standing Orders to that effect. The hon. Gentleman made it clear that he was not giving way to the hon. Lady, so I cannot allow her at this stage to intervene.
§ Mr. Prescott
No doubt the hon. Lady feels that she has said her television piece. People in glasshouses should not throw eggs.
When it comes to judging estimates relating to prices, the Secretary of State does not have a good reputation. The House may recall an exchange that took place about the London road assessment figures and the judgement that rail prices would increase by 40 per cent. in real terms. That was contested by the Secretary of State at the time, supported by other Conservative Members.
I have now seen the correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) and it is clear that the right hon. Gentleman has had to concede that, judged in terms of GNP or price increases, our predictions are right. I have since checked my facts with the Library, and if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to deal with that in his speech, I shall be delighted.
The Secretary of State's judgment is so faulty that he is making fundamental mistakes in his transport policy. Not only is there a fundamental difference between the two sides of the House about how we should approach the whole issue of transport, but there is that difference between all parties in the Opposition vis-a-vis the views of the Secretary of State.
When discussing these issues with the Council of Ministers in Europe, the right hon. Gentleman must find himself isolated in the policy that he is pursuing. As we heard on Monday, the right hon. Gentleman is fond of talking about the situation in eastern Europe, especially on matters of intervention, integration and co-ordination. Every other country in Europe is pursuing policies different from his.
The only crumb of comfort he seemed to gather was that the subsidies being put into their transport system by the Germans did not meet with his approval. But whether or not the right hon. Gentleman is proud of what is happening in Germany, the Germans have a far superior system to ours. That is the crux of the matter, especially as in Germany they are not talking about reducing their subsidies.
The British Government are isolated in their transport policy. If it is a question of disagreement between the two sides of the House, I call in aid—to show that it goes deeper than just disagreement—some of the editorials that are now appearing in the press about the Government's policy in general and the Secretary of State in particular. For example, readers of The Daily Telegraph were told to be "wary of misunderstandings" and that the Secretary of State was takingA pitifully myopic approach to our desperate transport problems.Presumably the writer meant to say that he was doing a wonderful job. The same newspaper claimed that theluckless Transport Secretary" was inpossibly his last Cabinet post.The right hon. Gentleman no doubt interpreted that to mean that he was heading for the top—[Interruption.] Conservative Back Benchers need have no fear because I am now coming to them, and in particular to the hon. 327 Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark). After all, Back Benchers travel on the trains. I extended to the hon. Member for Selly Oak the courtesy of informing him that I would be referring to him. He said:You get the feeling that Mr. Parkinson wants the Tories to lose the next election".He said that to tell inter-city commuters that they are getting travel too cheap was bizarre nonsense and that the Secretary of State was living in cloud-cuckoo-land. I am sure that the Secretary of State will say that, on careful reading of his hon. Friend's remarks, he is sure that he was widely misunderstood. I do not take that view. It is a clear and categorical statement about the Conservative party's policy on transport, particularly with regard to fares. As I have been told to keep to transport, I shall say that as an influential Back Bencher—[HON. MEMBERS: "Senior."]—yes, a senior Back Bencher or Front Back Bencher, whatever the hon. Gentleman's position is called, he made a trenchant criticism of the Government's transport policy.
The Secretary of State is finding out that all the clever messages and nice images are not the way to solve major problems. I shall tell him why his message will have no effect on the electorate. The daily experience of British people is so bad—they know what they are experiencing—that they will not listen to such blandishments and messages. We could all give many examples, but I shall give the Secretary of State my experience on the railway yesterday.
I had to go to Manchester to address a CLES conference on the future of British Rail. I joined one of BR's flagships, the Manchester pullman, at 8 am. The toilets did not work, the brakes were faulty, a boiler had failed and there were staff shortages. The train stopped and I looked out of the window and saw that we had been connected to the other British Rail flagship, the 7.50 Liverpool pullman, and were pushing it into Nuneaton. We arrived 40 minutes late.
I returned on the 3 pm train, which had worn-out shabby coaches and brake problems and was an hour late arriving in London. I then joined the London Underground Victoria line system, but we were informed that it would not be stopping at Victoria. I bailed out at Green Park and got on to the Jubilee line, which the Secretary of State intends to abolish in one of his new proposals for cross-London links, but found that the escalators were not working. I managed to arrive at Charing Cross on the good old Northern line—as soon as the doors open, one always faces a wall of bodies through which one has to fight one's way on to the train—and took the Circle line to Westminster and was informed that there would be delays and cancellations because of shortages of staff.
That tragedy of a journey was by no means exceptional. It is the daily experience of many people in Britain. We know that the Secretary of State"s experiences are somewhat limited. He told the Daily Mail when he took the job:When all the fuss dies down I must get myself on a bus or train, I haven't been on either for years.In another interview we were told that he intends to travel incognito on the trains and tubes. I do not blame him for that. If he is recognised while travelling on a train or Underground, he will be in trouble. If he had been on the InterCity trains yesterday to and from Manchester and 328 people had seen him, he would certainly have been in trouble. Actually, of course, they did see him—on the front of the InterCity propaganda magazine which stated:Parkinson's mission is to produce a balanced alternative.I wish that he had been on the train yesterday to explain the balanced alternative to interested commuters. I agreed that I would pass on their message. I would never use strong language, but I think that the Secretary of State gets my meaning.
If the policy is wrong, what needs to be done? If we are to learn anything from the European experience, it is that the transport system needs more money. Whatever the argument—politicians cannot buck this—the Government must find more resources for the British Rail system. They cannot sack more people, sell more assets or put the fares up any more. More money has to be found. That is the reality and none of us can duck it.
Whether it is expressed as a proportion of GDP or in the amounts of money involved, we give only a fraction of what other European countries give to their rail systems. The problems cannot be solved by real fare increases. The Secretary of State puts up the argument that long distance passengers are subsidised and should pay a great deal more. The answer to that argument came strongly from his hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak, as I said earlier.
The Confederation of British Industry estimates that road congestion costs us £20 billion. Not many years ago social costing justified putting more money into the railway system. What is so terrible in this country is that we do not judge rail and road investment in the same way. We make rail investment require an 8 per cent. return. For roads, we estimate how many accidents are likely to happen and the time that can be saved and justify millions of pounds of expenditure. A social cost approach for rail is essential.
§ Mr. Prescott
The Secretary of State shakes his head. In a letter to The Guardian his hon. Friend the Minister said that there was no difference between the assessment for road and rail investment. I was surprised to hear that remark. It has always been generally accepted that there is a difference. I heard a speech in Manchester. Major-General Lennox Napier, the chairman of TCCC, the passenger consultative body, has always made it clear that the cuts in the public service obligation have affected the quality of services. That is what the passengers say and what the body set up to make the judgment says. He went on to make another point on cost-benefit analysis. He said:I find myself an inspector of public enquiries on roads.He does both things:I find myself presented with a cost-benefit analysis for road building which measures all the costs and all the benefits which accrue to society at large as a result of public investment over a 30-year period.I am surprised that until now no equivalent cost-benefit analysis has been applied to rail investment. The cost-benefit analysis system should be applied in determining investment and investments should be made in British Rail.
I should like the Secretary of State to tell us who is right in that argument. Are his hon. Friends right? Is there a difference? If there is a difference, as most of us believe and most of the authorities have always said, would he 329 reconsider his position so that we can have a fair comparison when judging the investment criteria of the two Departments?
§ Mr. Prescott
No, I have a problem with time. In the last debate I took an awfully long time.
On subsidies, it is clear that there is a link between subsidies and the quality of service. I have given the authority for saying that and quoted my own direct experience. The Secretary of State argues, "Why should we subsidise services that are overcrowded?" We have a pricing policy which seems to be geared to driving people off the trains and on to our congested roads. We know the consequences and cost to the economy of congestion. We know the environmental cost of exhaust emissions of more people going by car. It must be desirable to subsidise rail services. Network South East will soon be the only urban rail network in Europe and North America which operates without any public subsidy.
§ Mr. Prescott
The hon. Gentleman says, "Hear, hear." I note that he is from a midlands constituency. There is not much hear-hearing from people in the Network South East area.
It is generally accepted that our fares are too high. In railway transportation it is not possible to secure all the operating and investment costs from the fare box and it is nonsense to attempt to do so. No other country has achieved that. Investment is absolutely crucial. There has been chronic underfunding throughout the 1980s. In both Labour and Tory Governments the Treasury's influence was such that the Government took a short-term view of long-term investment.
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo)
So the hon. Gentleman accepts that.
§ Mr. Prescott
I have said it constantly. The Minister should look at the record. The last bulge in investment was in 1955. In various Governments, the Treasury has taken the view that investment could be put off and trains could be made to last longer. Now we have the bunching of investment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Investment is crucial and necessary but it means that we did not have a sustained level of investment in British Rail over a long period. [Interruption.] Yes, it is bunching. We are investing today because of a bunching of investment requirements. I cannot argue with the fact that there is an investment programme. I fully accept it. It is hard to deny that a £3.5 billion investment programme is going on. [Interruption.] Of course there is investment. The engines and coaches are 25 and 30 years old. They cannot go any longer. Investment has to be made. Before Conservative Members start cheering I shall tell them the problem with the programme. Does any Conservative Member know of any industry that tries to cover a 30-year replacement programme in a few years and obtain all the money from the fare box? It is nonsense. It is not done anywhere. It puts the penalties on the passengers.
France, Germany and Holland are investing far more in the railway revolution that is sweeping through Europe.
330 Throughout the 1980s, the French have invested heavily in developing the TGV and suburban networks. Some 30 per cent. of the cost of TGV and electrification schemes are met by Government grants. The Governments give capital as well as revenue grants to the railway system. We should recognise that the same is critical for our system.
If we are to have a railway system that is modern and meets the freight requirements of our industry and travelling public we shall have to find more investment for it—and larger sums than those available at present.
§ The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Atkins)
Does the hon. Gentleman talk to his hon. Friends in the Labour finance team?
§ Mr. Prescott
Yes, I do.
There are different ways and different priorities in financing such measures. We would not follow the crazy road programme that the Government have embarked upon—[Interruption.] Yes, it is crazy because all that it has done is to transfer the money that has been saved from the public service obligation for railways across to the road programme. The Government have doubled the road programme at the expense of the rail passengers at the very time when we want people to come out of their cars and to use the railway system. That is the craziness of the Government's policy.
At the same time, the Government have ignored passenger accountability. Passengers feel helpless and the quality of the service is declining. I note that the Secretary of State is talking about a "passenger service charter". I am glad to see that he is pinching some of the ideas of the Labour policy document that we sent to the Secretary of State. That is not the first idea that he has pinched from Labour's transport programme and it will not be the last. However, we welcome that because it means an improvement.
If the Secretary of State really wants to help the passengers he will have to do something about the fares and about greater public financial support for the railways. I give him another bit of advice—he should establish an independent body so that passengers can complain about what is happening. We shall set one up under the auspices of a public interest commissioner, who will have the Power to investigate British Rail independently, allow passengers to make complaints, award compensation against British Rail for its failures, and give passengers a real chance to exercise their grievances.
A modern railway system needs additional public financial support, and such a system is absolutely crucial if we are to relieve the congestion that is a major cost to our economy and to do anything about environmental problems. That is not an eastern European solution. It is a good, sensible solution that has been adopted by most western European countries, which have far better transport systems than we have.
§ The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Cecil Parkinson)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:'congratulates the Government on developing a balanced transport policy which recognises the economic importance to the United Kingdom of its rail, road and air network; welcomes the biggest programme of investment in British Rail for 25 years and the massive increase in investment in London Underground which will relieve congestion and meet the increased demand which is the result of the economic success 331 of the United Kingdom; welcomes the demanding quality of service objectives set by the Government; welcomes the £1 billion which will be spent to ensure Britain's rail infrastructure is in place to service the Channel Tunnel when it opens in 1993; applauds the high priority that the Government gives to all matters of safety on transport; and welcomes its recognition of the importance of the environment in transport policy.'.We heard the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, (Mr. Prescott) at his characteristic worst, full of bluster and wild promises. He may not have read the speech made yesterday by his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in which she said that the Opposition were determined to avoid any commitments to any major public expenditure programmes. She subsequently said that transport was one of a number of priorities—I repeat, "one of".
In the past 24 hours, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has promised to repeal section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987, and has said that a Labour Government would underwrite the cross-Channel link. I hope that he cleared that with Sam McCluskie, who will find out today that his favourite son is planning to subsidise the competitors of the ferries and hovercraft on which his members depend for their living—[Interruption.] As I said, I hope that the hon. Gentleman cleared that with his friend Sam; otherwise, he might find tomorrow that he is no longer sponsored, which would be a terrible, terrible shock. The hon. Gentleman also made a series of wild remarks, implying that the subsidy under Labour is bound to increase enormously and that it will be centrally funded.
Over and over again, we hear the hon. Gentleman whingeing. It is not for nothing that he is called the prince of whingers in his time. It is not for nothing that he is universally distrusted and, if I may say so, fairly widely disliked. It is not for nothing that neither we nor the country take him seriously.
The hon. Gentleman made a modest claim tonight. He said that it was as a result of the Labour party's efforts that transport has suddenly become an important subject. I shall tell him why transport is an important subject—
§ Mr. Parkinson
The hon. Gentleman should check Hansard.
Transport has become an important subject because, under a Conservative Government, this country has enjoyed 10 years of substantial economic growth. On the personal level, the net result is that 5 million more motor cars are now on the roads; two thirds of families in this country now own a family car, and 20 per cent. own more than one.
There has been a huge increase in economic activity, which has resulted in a great increase in the movement of freight and commercial traffic around our country. In London alone, there has been a 30 per cent. increase in the use of light commercial vans. I do not know of any plans—even by the hon. Gentleman—for getting light commercial vehicles on to buses, which seems to be the hon. Gentleman's answer to pretty well everything else. There has also been a huge increase in the number of people travelling by rail, air and road as the country has become more prosperous.
Another factor is that the Government have been determined to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors, 332 who set out on ambitious programmes that they could not sustain, running the country into an economic mess and subsequently slashing all the capital investment programmes on which they had embarked. We were determined that that would not happen. As the country has become more prosperous, so the investment programmes, right across the whole spectrum of the infrastructure, have been improved.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
The Secretary of State has made great play of the importance of those economic benefits to the whole community. Will he therefore tell me why there is such deep concern in my part of the country, where there is no clear investment programme on either the roads or the railways that would ensure that we in the north-east and in the highlands and islands of Scotland can benefit from 1992? What are his Government's direct plans for Scotland to ensure that we have the road and rail network that we merit?
§ Mr. Parkinson
As the hon. Lady knows, roads in Scotland are the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, the train system in Scotland is my responsibility and a substantial investment programme is planned for ScotRail. A huge subsidy is being spent to maintain the rail system. The Government accept the need to maintain that system—
§ Mr. Parkinson
No, I want to get on with my speech.
As a result of the country's increased prosperity—I am glad that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, started to admit that—there has been a huge increase in investment across the whole spectrum of our infrastructure. Our road programmes are running at a high level. Investment in the Underground, at £400 million per year, is at twice the level when the Labour party controlled it through the Greater London council. Next year, that figure will increase to 3.5 times the amount that was spent in 1984–85. We are also investing the highest amount for over 25 years on the rail network. The investment programme for the past three years represents a 26 per cent. increase over the previous three years and, as I have said, 1989–90 represents a record level of investment in British Rail.
§ Mr. Foulkes
Is the Secretary of State aware that, in spite of active representations from an all-party delegation, which included his hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), his right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), several of my hon. Friends, and hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland, British Rail is to go ahead with cutting the last sleeper service between Northern Ireland and south-west Scotland and Euston?
That has tremendous political implications for Northern Ireland and south-west Scotland. The local authorities have come up with some resources to advertise and promote the service, and there is a great possibility that it will be made economic. Will the Secretary of State 333 intervene personally, look at the case, and talk to the chairman of British Rail to see whether that vital service can be saved? If he does, he will gain a great deal of good will from hon. Members of all parties.
§ Mr. Parkinson
I am aware of that problem, and the hon. Gentleman knows that the service was withdrawn because it was under-used. That is an operational day-to-day matter for British Rail.
§ Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I am so glad that InterCity is profitable. However, should it remove one of the last rail links between London and Ireland just because it is the least profitable of British Rail services? British Rail has a duty to keep the main InterCity routes going.
§ Mr. Parkinson
The service was withdrawn because it was not being used. I have never known what benefit it is to the public to keep a service going when the public do not want to use it. Running empty trains up and down the railway may give some people satisfaction, but I cannot see what good it does the public or the railways.
The Government's policy on transport is straightforward and clear. It is to develop a balanced policy to improve all aspects of our transport arrangements. We have steadily built up two substantial programmes across the spectrum. For example, as a result of the "Roads for Prosperity" White Paper, the Government have recognised the need to improve the national road system. In spite of predictions from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and others about our lack of success in negotiations with the Treasury, this year we won a roads programme of £5.7 billion over the next three years—a 50 per cent. increase in real terms, which gives us a major programme.
Hon. Members talk about the Channel tunnel and getting freight on to rail, but the Channel tunnel will be capable of handling only about 3 per cent. of our exports—97 per cent. of our exports will still have to leave this country by the traditional routes of ports and airports. The road system connecting those ports is a vital part of maintaining Britain's prosperity.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has at last admitted that the Government have approved the biggest ever investment programme for British Rail—£3.7 billion over the next three years—and £2.2 billion for the Underground. Other major public transport investment will be made. We have a record programme for the improvement of airports. Our air traffic control system will have £600 million invested in it to improve the capacity of our airways.
Right across the spectrum, the Government are showing, in a controlled and sensible way, that they recognise the nation's transport problems and are making the investment to deal with them. We differ from the Opposition because we do not believe that strategic planners, drawing up strategic transport plans, are the people to determine the future of our transport system. They have an almost unenviable record of getting it consistently wrong. If the transport system is modernised, the public will be capable of making the choice about which transport method best suits it.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
As my right hon. Friend has discussed road and rail, I shall continue the Scottish symphony. When there were bad floods in Inverness a year or so ago—
§ Mr. Adley
Let us not discuss the weather in Scotland.
When there were floods a year ago and the Inverness rail bridge was washed away, the damage done to the roads in that area was paid for by the taxpayer. However, British Rail was expected to pay from its own revenue for the repair of the railway bridge. Is that a fair and equal comparison between road and rail?
§ Mr. Parkinson
I shall not give way, because the hon. Gentleman will have the chance to make his own usual boring say towards the end of the debate. I do not see why I should make way for him now.
§ Mr. Parkinson
I shall deal with the argument about the lack of public contribution to investment. ScotRail receives a subsidy that represents more than 70 per cent. of the costs. The passengers on ScotRail contribute less than 30 per cent. Therefore, the taxpayer is making a substantial contribution to ScotRail.
§ Mr. Parkinson
I have just given the answer, but the hon. Lady did not understand it.
Opposition Members have been making great play about the level of this year's fare increases. The fare increases on British Rail are 8 to 8.5 per cent. and on London Regional Transport they are just over 9 per cent. There is one record that no Government will wrest from the Labour party. In 1975, the Labour Government increased fares by 50 per cent. in a single year. In no year under the Labour Government was any fares increase less than double figures—except, for some reason, the one that took place two months before the 1979 general election. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has suddently become the great friend of the long-distance commuter, who pays about 40 per cent. of the standard fare to travel at peak hours. He pays less than the cheapest off-peak fare. That was regarded as unsatisfactory by British Rail, and last year it proposed that, over a three-year period, the discount should be reduced—not eliminated—from about 60 to 40 per cent.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is unfair to the rest of the travelling public to have heavily subsidised fares for people travelling in peak hours.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, in his normal wide-awake fashion, cottoned on to this two years late. It was announced two years ago, but it took him by surprise when the second stage was announced this week.
The long-distance commuter, of whom there are 18,000, will still receive a substantial discount, but it will be smaller. His fares increase this year will be about 13.75 per cent. Another advantage for long-distance commuters is that they can choose when to pay the increase. Most of them, having more sense than the hon. Gentleman, trade in their season tickets a day before the fares go up, and 335 travel for an extra year at the lower rate. If the hon. Gentleman has no group to worry about than that one, he is a lucky man.
Through the whole of the hon. Gentleman's argument runs the theme that fares should not have gone up. That would have meant that British Rail's losses would be increased, because it does not make a profit. If the fares had not gone up but the expenses had, the losses would have gone up, and therefore the taxpayers' contribution would have gone up because there are only two sources of revenue. The hon. Gentleman backs every wage claim that is made. and wages represent 60 per cent. of the expenditure.
I shall quote a remark made by a more enlightened Labour Transport Secretary who had some experience of Government and running an organisation. The following statement was issued by the Labour Government in a Command Paper in 1977:subsidies transfer the cost of a service from the traveller to the taxpayer or the ratepayer, and the traveller is often a taxpayer or ratepayer himself. To use subsidies to disguise from people the cost of the services they are paying for is pointless, and to subsidise richer people at the expense of poorer is perverse.
§ Mr. Parkinson
It was the Labour Government. If the hon. Gentleman knew anything about government, he would know that White Papers are issued in the name of the Government collectively. That was presumably the voice of the Labour Government. At the time, the hon. Gentleman was scrubbing around on the Back Benches, and many people think that he was at his best in those days.
§ Mr. Parkinson
The hon. Gentleman devoted his speech to attacking my professional qualifications. I do not know what his are, if he has any. None of us knows what he did before he came here.
Increasing British Rail's losses, increasing its subsidy at the taxpayers' expense or cutting investment would not be a sensible way forward. British Rail's services need to be improved, and the farepayers should make a contribution. There should be massive investment programmes. They are in place and they are being sustained. They will produce a better service, because British Rail will have better equipment at its disposal. We have set it service objectives that are designed to ensure that the passenger has a better deal—better punctuality, more cleanliness and more regular services.
I found it objectionable that the hon. Gentleman should complain about the decline in British Rail's standards and its record last year. In the four previous years, British Rail had a record of improved punctuality and service.
§ Mr. Parkinson
There was no fiddle. The hon. Gentleman should try to remember what happened in 1989, when there was an unnecessary, mindless and 336 wasteful strike that ruined British Rail's reputation, cost British Rail £70 million and put at risk investment and jobs. The hon. Gentleman tacitly supported that strike throughout. The hon. Gentleman complains about an effect, the cause of which he supported.
§ Mr. Parkinson
We listened to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East with no surprise but with a growing marvel at his nerve. He represented a Government who presided over British Rail's decline, who increased its losses, reduced its investment and saw the number of passengers go down.
§ Mr. Parkinson
Check the figures. They are there for all to see. British Rail's investment programme was slashed, and many believed that British Rail was in a state of terminal decline.
It is under a Conservative Government that investment has gone in, performance standards have been set, new equipment has been bought, new signalling systems installed and stations modernised and lengthened. We shall preside over an improvement in a system over whose decline the Labour Government presided and which many believe they sponsored. I invite the House to reject the Opposition's insolent, ill-informed and aggressive motion, and to support the Government's amendment.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) on initiating the debate, which comes at a particularly opportune time to consider the bleak future facing Britain's rail passengers and railway workers. I also congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent exposure of the failure of the Government's transport policies in general and railway policy in particular.
The Government's amendment is a huge joke to any regular traveller. The Government want to be congratulated on developing a balanced transport policy, but what they have developed is balanced chaos in our rail, road and air networks. Passengers are crammed in like sardines on London Regional Transport's Underground and on many British Rail routes, paying ever-increasing fares which are arguably the dearest in the world, and worrying more and more about safety on trains and platforms—especially on platforms which are unmanned in order to save money.
§ Sir David Mitchell (Hampshire, North-West)
When the hon. Gentleman speaks about overcrowding on the London Underground, should he not take into account the fact that we have the largest number of people in work in our history and we cannot have that without a massive increase in the number of passengers? That is what is causing the overcrowding, not a reduction in the number of trains or inactivity by LRT. It is congested because many more people are travelling.
§ Mr. Marshall
The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly valid point, but the Government are doing nothing to cope with the problem—quite the reverse.
Congestion on our roads is bringing many of our city centres and many lengths of our motorway system to a 337 grinding halt, at a cost of billions of pounds. Perhaps the Secretary of State will say how many billions of pounds congestion on our roads costs the nation.
We also have overcrowded airports. Heathrow has insufficient terminal capacity to meet the demand and the delays caused by air traffic control problems which resulted from a lack of investment in air travel control infrastructure between 1979 and 1987. I defy the Secretary of State to deny that that is the case. He cannot do so.
§ Mr. Bermingham
The Secretary of State would not give way to me, but my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity to intervene while he is still here. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Secretary of State, who talks of balance, shows no balance when considering the charges for the Mersey tunnel? Apparently, the Humber bridge's debts are to be written off by the Government because they must not fall on the local community charge payers, many of whom live in Tory constituencies. However, the cost of the Mersey tunnel will fall on the Merseyside community charge payers at a cost of £8 per head per year. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Secretary of State shows a complete lack of balance?
§ Mr. Marshall
Of course. I would go even further and say that there is an unanswerable case for the removal of charges on all estuarial crossings and toll bridges in Britain. I look forward to the day when such tolls are removed.
The present investment programme in British Rail is welcome, but the tragedy is that there was no such programme between 1979 and 1987. There was nothing like the accelerated programme of the past two years. During those previous years, many of today's and tomorrow's problems were created as a result of the Government's deliberate lack of investment.
§ Sir David Mitchell
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that during the years to which he is referring British Rail was given consent for the biggest investment programme since steam gave way to diesel? Can he deny that? If that is true, does it not make nonsense of the point that he is trying to make?
§ Mr. Marshall
No, I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's point. The Government underinvested in public transport, particularly in the railways, during those years. It is only now, because of the huge public concern about transport safety and the realisation that votes may be lost on transport issues, that the Government are committing those resources and additional investment to the railways.
The public expenditure White Paper shows that the growth in passengers on LRT has almost completely tailed off over the past three years. That growth was largely generated by travelcards, sales of which have now evened off.
On 7 June 1989 the chairman and chief executive of LRT and his chief officials appeared before the Select Committee on Transport, which I have the privilege to chair. The Committee was astonished to be told that the Underground in central London was so near to an intolerable level of overcrowding that fares would have to be increased to curb growth in passenger demand.
338 That is the exact opposite of what public transport should be about. It was also made clear to the Committee that there could be no major expansion of capacity until well into the mid-1990s or late 1990s. If that is not an abject admission of the failure of the policies of the past 10 years, I do not know what is. The Committee was so concerned about the position that it took the unusual step of publishing a report after that single sitting.
When the Secretary of State appeared before the Select Committee recently, he was very dismissive of road pricing, which could take some cars off the road and compel people to use public transport. The right hon. Gentleman felt that that was a highly unattractive option. Why is a policy of pricing people off public transport, such as London Underground proposes to cope with overcrowding, seen as an attractive option? Such a policy can only lead to people being forced to use already overcrowded roads. Why should one option be unattractive to the Secretary of State but a comparable policy, apparently attractive to LRT's chairman, be deemed attractive?
§ Mr. Parkinson
It is not part of Government policy to drive people either off the roads on to the Underground, or off the Underground on to the roads. If the hon. Gentleman will study Underground fares, he will see that that is the case, because they have not been increased in real terms for 10 years. They have on British Rail but not on the Underground. I repeat, it is no part of our policy to price people off the Underground.
§ Mr. Marshall
I do not agree with the Secretary of State, and nor does my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody).
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
The Secretary of State was the person who appointed the new head of London Regional Transport—
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
The right hon. Gentleman's Department made that appointment. That chairman then told the Select Committee that LRT could not cope with the increase in the number of passengers and would price them off the Underground. When he was asked to reveal with which financial theory such a policy accorded, he was unable to answer, so we assumed that the source of that policy was the Department.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point much more succintly than I could have done. I invite the Secretary of State and other Government Members to read the Committee's second report of last year.
Following that meeting of the Select Committee, on 12 June, in a parliamentary reply the former Secretary of State said that he would have to hear convincing arguments from LRT before agreeing to pricing the public off the Underground. Is that the present Secretary of State's policy? Does it apply also to British Rail? In some ways the right hon. Gentleman answered those questions with his earlier intervention. Perhaps the Secretary of State or the Minister for Public Transport, when he winds up, will give an example of what he considers to be a convincing argument. Is it not the case that there will be a 33 per cent. cut in InterCity's subsidy by 1992–93, and that consultants considering public transport alternatives to 339 new roads in London were instructed by the Department's officials to assume a massive 46 per cent. real increase in fares by the year 2001? A report to that effect appears in this month's Railway Gazette International. How does that figure compare with the increased cost of private car use, which is estimated at only 9 per cent. by the year 2000? Is the increase linked to the removal of public service obligation subsidy completely? Will the Secretary of State come clean and tell the House what are his intentions?
The Secretary of State's policy is to allow InterCity to operate as a private company, which means that it could take certain business decisions that were very much against the public interest—such as doubling long-distance commuter fares. Even if half InterCity's passengers were lost, revenues would be maintained while rolling stock levels would be reduced. Would the Government stand aside and allow that to happen? I would not put it past them.
I return to the scandalous withdrawal of the Stranraer-London sleeper services to which my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) referred earlier—as did the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who was apparently brashly dismissed by the Secretary of State. Despite all-party opposition from Members of Parliament representing constituences in south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland, no one in British Rail seems to give a damn what happens. Local authorities and other interested organisations are willing to commit themselves financially to helping the services, yet they are still to be withdrawn. Does that signal the beginning of the end of sleeper services between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Oban, and perhaps even between Edinburgh and Glasgow? Will the Secretary of State agree not to withdraw those sleeper services and personally to examine the Stranraer service—and not hide behind the argument that that matter is entirely for InterCity to decide?
Everyone knows that the Government are not very popular in Scotland because of their policies. Perhaps the Secretary of State can build up a little good will by giving a categorical assurance that no more Scottish services will be withdrawn, especially in rural areas. Will he consider the electrification of the east coast line north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen? Can he guarantee that Channel tunnel passengers from Scotland will have direct inter-line facilities in London, without having to change stations, from the day the Channel tunnel comes into operation? There is a strong suspicion that Scotland will not benefit, and nor will other areas, and that not all the necessary infrastructure will be in place when the tunnel opens. There is no such suspicion attached to the French operation. I for one am not in the least reassured by the Secretary of State's promise that everything will be all right on the night. I do not believe that we will be ready for the opening of the Channel tunnel.
Most railway workers do a first-class job in all kinds of weather, working long and unsocial hours for low pay. Last year, they had to fight very hard for an 8.8 per cent. pay increase, yet the salary of British Rail's new chairman will increase from £92,000 to £200,000 per annum. Any Government, regardless of their policies, must acknowledge that the best way of improving services is to provide more financial support for infrastructure, and to pay railway workers decent wages and provide them with good working conditions.
340 The nation needs a properly planned, co-ordinated and integrated transport system. I make no apology for reiterating a longstanding trade union and Labour party transport argument. The nation needs a system that will take into account economic, environmental and social benefits for users and non-users alike. The Government will not provide such a system, but the next Labour Government will.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (Kincardine and Deeside)
One would have more respect for the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) and by his hon. Friends if they at least acknowledged some of the achievements of our transport system over recent years. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State acknowledged that many improvements need to be made, but one must acknowledge also those that have already been made.
If I may say so in her absence, the intervention of the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) could not have been more wide of the mark. Roads in Scotland, of course, are the ultimate responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I remind the hon. Member for Moray that the part of Scotland that I represent as well as the hon. Lady has seen road dualling between Perth and Aberdeen nearly completed, but she made no mention of that. In the last nine months, my right hon. Friend has committed himself to major improvements to the road between Aberdeen and Inverness, in the hon. Lady's own constituency.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I would rather not give way, as this is a short debate and I want to finish fairly quickly.
I welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment to investment in British Rail, and to its continuation. Investment has increased in recent years.
I want to concentrate on the concern in my part of Scotland about current plans to finish the electrification of the east coast line at Edinburgh and not to continue it to Aberdeen. The hon. Member for Shettleston mentioned this.
We certainly appreciate that some £400 million has been invested in the east coast route. It has been the biggest single investment that British Rail has carried out in its electrification programme, and we are grateful for it, but it is only logical that it should be continued beyond Edinburgh to Aberdeen. I ask my right hon. Friend to do all that he can to ensure that it is completed.
I know that I am talking about a further investment of some £80 million, but when one compares that with the hundreds of millions spent on the Channel tunnel, and the £200 million or more which is projected for the Heathrow link, it is no wonder that there is anxiety in our part of Scotland.
People in areas north of Edinburgh are worried that British Rail has said that electrification is not justified. We welcome British Rail's commitment to consider the matter again.
Why are we so concerned? The people in the north of Scotland want to take advantage of the Channel tunnel, as do other areas, and we want to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the integrated European market after 1992.
341 Under the present arrangements, the east coast main line is part of the integrated United Kingdom InterCity network. If electrification ends at Edinburgh, locomotives will have to be changed, and that makes many people think, rightly or wrongly, that the area north of Edinburgh will become peripheral. We will not share in the advantages offered by the improved journey time from London to Edinburgh. That journey is to be cut by 35 minutes, but the journey to Aberdeen, after allowing for the change of locomotives, will increase by 20 to 30 minutes. We do not count that as progress. We ask for our share in the 35-minute improvement in journey time that Edinburgh will get.
Freightliner's terminals are being closed in Scotland, and four British Rail area manager's offices are closing. Therefore, my right hon. Friend should not be surprised at the kind of fears that I have expressed. They are genuine fears, and we do not want to see the north of Scotland become peripheral.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
No, I would rather not give way, because of the time.
The Grampian region has a population of more than half a million. Tayside has 400,000 and Fife some 350,000, so we are not talking about peripheral areas. They have a large population and it is growing, which is a reverse of the national trend in Scotland. It is also an area of high economic and industrial activity. My right hon. Friend used to be at the Department of Energy, and he should not need persuading about the importance of that part of Scotland because of North sea oil.
Would the investment be justified? British Rail says that its figures show that it would not, but the figures are only a little short of viability. I welcome the fact that they are going to re-examine the figures, and I hope that something positive will result.
I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) that this should be costed in socio-economic terms and not just economic terms. We want a full cost-benefit analysis, showing the benefit to travellers, the time saved, the reduced congestion on roads and other economic and social benefits to the local areas served by the line. I understand that that is how road investment studies are carried out, and how investment in harbours and ports is assessed. We ask for similar treatment for this line. The issue has real relevance in regional development terms, particularly if the whole of the United Kingdom is to benefit from the Channel tunnel.
I remind my right hon. Friend that this kind of project is appropriate for external funding. Some 40 per cent. of the line goes through assisted areas. The inquiries that have been made of the European development fund show that it could be used. One of its purposes is to correct regional imbalance. Therefore, a considerable amount of funding could come from Europe, and I hope that advantage will be taken of that.
More recently, a number of individuals and bodies have come up with the suggestion of private funding. Some of my hon. Friends have criticised the amount of money that 342 Scotland gets. However, people in Scotland are prepared to put money into a project such as this, and the chairman of British Rail is considering proposals at the moment.
I ask my right hon. Friend to keep pressing British Rail about the project, and to facilitate it in every way that he can. We want an integrated transport system. The Scottish Office has improved roads in north-east Scotland beyond recognition in the past 10 years under the Conservative Government. Aberdeen airport is one of the busiest airports in Britain, and a lot of money and investment has been put into it. We want choice and competition in transport services, so we want the rail system to be improved, not hindered, so that it shares in the competition and offers choice to the user. That makes sense for regional development.
I ask my right hon. Friend and the House not to forget that the area concerned services the generation of all the revenues from the North sea. We simply ask for a little of it back.
§ Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)
St. Valentine's day is an appropriate day to discuss rail services. I am certain that the majority of the British public, and those who travel on British Rail and London Underground, have a love-hate relationship with the managements of those companies, and would rather put them in the stocks.
The public know that the management are not the real culprits because their hands are tied, and they have no alternative but to do what the Government order. They know that profit and loss has to take priority over quality and service.
§ Mr. Fearn
I shall give way in a moment.
The recent astronomical fares increases are symptomatic of the Government's attitude towards anything that can be even remotely considered a public service. The ideology is to apply market forces, but in this case I do not think that that is going to work. Britain needs a comprehensive public transport system to meet the economic and trade needs of the 1990s, and the social and environmental needs of today and beyond.
On Monday, during questions, the Secretary of State chose to give my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) a tongue-in-cheek response to his question about the need for an integrated transport system. Is the Minister aware that we are probably the only country in Europe that ignores the social and environmental public interest aspects of our public transport system, and probably the only country that does not view public transport as a public service, but thinks that its profitability, when it is run as a commercial organisation, is the only evidence that it is operating in the best public interest?
The Secretary of State also said in his response that his Department was pursuing a balanced policy, with record levels of investment to improve all aspects of the transport system. He made it sound as though the Government had performed a great service, and that we should give them a pat on the back.
Yet we know that the share of total capital invested in the railways today which comes from the Treasury is minimal. We also know that, in France, capital investment plans announced this year show that they are investing in 343 their railways at well over twice the rate of investment in Britain, and theirs is already a well-funded system. The cost of travelling on French railways will be cheaper. The French have seen the opportunities of 1992 and of the Channel tunnel, and have reached out to grasp them. We have not done that; our transport policy will hang around our necks like a millstone for the rest of time.
What is required is planning, along with co-ordination, investment and financial support. Part of our policy should be a recognition that—properly developed and fully exploited, and with the dedicated reserved routes that they control—the railways can carry far more passengers and goods than the roads, using much less space, ensuring greater safety and causing less environmental pollution.
What the system does not need is a massive fares increase, which will deter passengers and return them to the roads. In September 1978, the price of a standard return ticket from London to Brighton was £5.65; in September 1989, it was £16.20. Following the latest increase, the fare is 200 per cent. higher than it was when the present Government came to power.
Hon. Members will want to know how inflation affects those calculations. Rail fares are rising faster than the inflation rate: the rise in the retail prices index over the same period was only 115 per cent.—which, of course, is nothing to be proud of. Passengers are being priced off the rails. Our roads are becoming more congested, with all the social, economic and environmental disadvantages that that creates. It is madness to build more roads in the mistaken belief that they will relieve congestion: the more roads that are built, the more cars there will be to fill them. It is nonsense for us to pursue policies that will inevitably bring our major towns to a halt.
London Regional Transport's declared policy is to deter passengers, at least during peak hours. British Rail claims that it has never been part of its policy to turn passengers away, but the current fares increases will do just that. Today's press reports that British Rail is to make further cuts in services, and to shorten trains on Network SouthEast and the rural provincial lines, seem to confirm that its policy is to reduce capacity rather than increase it.
Both groups point to the increased number of people they transport to dispute that fact, and to justify claims that services have been improved. The number of passengers has undoubtedly increased over the years, but that is probably due less to efforts to improve services than to the nature of today's society. More people are on the move: as communities break up, they travel further to work, do the shopping and engage in leisure activities.
Many people have moved further afield to be able to afford their own homes. They have been hit hardest, especially in the present climate of high interest rates. The recent fares increases are the final blow, and many people may have to consider moving again or even leaving the home ownership market altogether. Moreover, those on low incomes who cannot afford to buy cars increasingly cannot afford to travel on public transport either. They are in danger of becoming isolated from the services they need, and of being unable to participate in the life around them.
I referred earlier to the policy of encouraging off-peak travel. Of course, if LRT's attempts were entirely successful, the "off-peak" period would become the new rush hour. More to the point, there is a limit to the amount of off-peak travelling that is possible: flexible hours may have some advantages, but they too are limited—not only from a business point of view, but because they can be very 344 destructive to family life. As a frequent traveller on British Rail and London Underground, I am always rather sceptical when I hear talk of "off-peak hours", because the trains are always crowded when I travel on them, whatever the time.
I have not said much about the quality of service on the railways. Certainly the astronomical price of tickets should warrant excellent service, but more often than not it does not approach such a standard. Trains are cancelled, run late, do not contain the advertised buffet car and are poorly maintained, and in some cases passengers have no idea what is happening.
On my latest trip from the north, my train was an hour and a half late. When I questioned a member of staff, he said that the driver was ill and had not turned up in time. When I asked another member of staff who happened to be passing—admittedly he was on the catering side—he said that the train had not come out of the siding in time. Later, someone on one of the platforms said that the delay was definitely due to a landslide in Scotland. As it happened, none of the excuses was correct.
Even when efforts are made to inform passengers, it is virtually impossible to hear, because the tannoy system does not work.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
Clearly a good deal of creativity is involved in the production of so many good excuses. If we privatised the railway service and gave it its head, it would improve considerably, as does any service in which British industry and enterprise are involved.
§ Mr. Fearn
The hon. Gentleman has a point, but I think that the number of excuses would be reduced only if staff were paid a proper rate for the job. If British Rail had more employees, the service would be better. The problems are all symptomatic of a system that has been cut to the bone in the interests of cost efficiency, and that is not a good way in which to run a public transport system.
I have mentioned the Secretary of State's reference to his Department's balanced policy. Last Monday, at Transport Question Time, he said that in the next three years the Government's roads programme would amount to £5.7 billion, and the rail, Underground and other public transport programmes to £6 billion. Does he really consider that a good, balanced policy? Spending on more roads has been justified through cost-benefit assessments, but no form of rail investment has been seen to bring such benefits.
I note that it is now part of British Rail's objectives to undertake cost-benefit analysis to enable Government to justify capital grant for investment. I also understand that the payment of capital grant for non-user benefits has, in theory, been Government policy since 1987, but that policy has not been followed through in practice.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
The hon. Gentleman's constituency and mine adjoin each other and we have common problems, caused mainly by traffic flow. Bypasses are needed to relieve the pressure on the villages in the area. A bypass has already been built in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, on the edge of Southport, adjacent to the new hospital that owes its existence to this forward-thinking Government. In the villages, however, and in and around Ormskirk and Southport, the public are asking for the traffic flow to be relieved. Surely it is only right for the Government to give that a high priority.
§ Mr. Fearn
The hon. Gentleman and I agree on that, and we are both working towards the new road system leading to Southport. If the Minister had agreed to open the Burscough Curves, a flow of traffic from Scotland and the north would have opened up the north-west, and I hope that that will still be a rider. We know that the local authorities must get together, but Government money is needed as well.
When does the Minister expect the first capital grant for non-user benefit to be made under the new objective? How does that fit in with the requirement for British Rail to operate in a commercial manner to ensure a return on investment of at least 8 per cent.? It is clear that transport costs should be reduced. To achieve this, we must invest in our railways.
Investment in the railways could have a proportionately greater effect than investment in roads, and it could have greater environmental and social benefits. Other nations in Europe have seen that. Other nations have invested at a far greater rate than has Britain. Proportionately, they have invested more public money. It is time that we did the same. If we are to compete, if we are to benefit from 1992 and from the Channel tunnel, we must invest in our infrastructure. The railways and London Underground are part of that infrastructure.
§ Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)
The only thing more depressing than the simplistic motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition was the somewhat negative speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott)—a characteristic performance with nothing but dubious criticism. The hon. Gentleman tried to scale the heights, but did not quite get there. We heard nothing constuctive. Nor—and this is more important—did the hon. Gentleman's speech tell us anything precise about what the Labour party proposes to do about rail transport, or about where the money to pay for the very vague ideas spluttered out would come from. I remind the hon. Gentleman that in 1984 another politician—Fritz Mondale—went round the country criticising his political opponents but failing to come up with any detailed, constructive proposals of his own. People turned to him and said, "Where's the beef'?" I say to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, "Where's the beef, Giovanni?" The British electorate want to know the precise details of the policy. We do not want simplistic solutions and flowery expressions in an attempt to con the electorate.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his admirable speech, not everything that British Rail is doing is now completely up to scratch. There is a good reason for that. Our railways were neglected in the late 1960s and the 1970s. There was under-investment and gross over-subsidisation. Opposition Members call for the investment of more taxpayers' money. That would not improve the service one iota; it would lead to inefficiency. The use of taxpayers' money leads to lethargy and to a total refusal to meet the demands or satisfy the needs of the customer. That is what British Rail has been suffering from, and that is why, until recently, British Rail was not providing anything like as good a service as its customers deserve and should have been getting.
§ Mr. Burns
Once again the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) seeks to intervene from a sedentary position. Many people regard the hon. Gentleman as the unthinking man's Alf Garnett. If he listened a little more in quiet, he might learn something and increase his knowledge of the subject.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, I would say that it is too easy, too glib, to make comparisons between subsidisation in Britain and subsidisation in Europe. The railway debts that the British Government have written off have not been written off in Europe. That is why the subsidisation figures there are far higher than they are in this country.
§ Mr. Burns
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. Other hon. Members want to speak, and I am pushed for time.
I would point out to my right hon. Friend that Chelmsford is one of the largest commuter towns in the south of England. I, too, have been a commuter, and I can say that the service lacks a number of elements. For example, the cleanliness of trains, despite the target, is not good enough. Neither is time-keeping.
§ Mr. Burns
Not at all. Before the hon. Gentleman gets carried away I shall explain that, despite those criticisms, there is investment pouring into British Rail and it is being reflected in the service. But because there is so much catching up to do, as a consequence of neglect in the 1970s, it is not possible to do everything overnight.
Those lines in which there has been investment have seen the benefits of remarkably improved service. The Liverpool Street to Chelmsford line is not so good as it should be, but one can see that the investment there is beginning to bear fruit. New and additional trains are being introduced. Outdated rolling stock is being replaced with new carriages. More than £1 billion is being invested in Liverpool Street station. Of course, because of the building work, that station has been a nightmare for commuters in the last three years. The rebuilding is extensive, and when the station is up and running it will be a showpiece for London and will bring benefits for commuters.
Within the last three years there has been a major rebuilding programme at Chelmsford station. My constituents will be delighted at my right hon. Friend's announcement at Question Time on Monday that a new signalling programme on the Shenfield to Chelmsford to Colchester line, costing more than £19 million, is to start early next year. That will bring real benefits to commuters and to the line when it is in operation in 1993.
The crux of the matter is investment. What is needed is investment. That is why I welcome the fact that since 1983 the Government and BR have invested more than £3 billion in British Rail. [Interruption.] The Government and BR have invested more than £3 billion in British Rail, and during the next three years more than £3.7 billion will 347 be invested to improve the service. That is the way forward. That is the way in which we will get a better service. And we shall continue.
My constituents accept that the fare increases that they have had to put up with over a number of years have been above the rate of inflation. But they are saying "Thank God we did not have the 50 per cent. increase in fares that was experienced during the time of the last Labour Government." Thank God, as a result of some of the increases in fares, they have seen improvements in the service. I remind the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East that they were less than amused when their fares went up again this month to pay for the strike last year that the hon. Gentleman endorsed and encouraged. That is the answer on fares.
Perhaps the most powerful argument against the whole case for subsidisation comes from the Labour party consultation paper of 1977, which said:Social, environmental and economic considerations do not seem to justify the large subsidy which railway users now receive, hearing in mind in particular that the generality of railway subsidies are regressive in effect.That is the truth of the matter. That is why it is right that there should not be further subsidisation just to cushion inefficiency. We cannot have a system of meddling and blanket subsidies; that benefits the rich far more than the poor. What we need is more investment. It is time that that was recognised by the Opposition. We should not con the electorate with subsidies. We should provide real benefit. We should improve the service through investment. That is the way in which British Rail is proceeding.
In conclusion, I say to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East that the motion that he and his hon. Friends have asked the House to support should be rejected. It shows that the Opposition have learnt nothing, and that they propose to do nothing in the future if they ever get into power. The House should reject the motion and treat it with the contempt that it so richly deserves.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
Nothing delights me more than to hear a Conservative Member of Parliament say, with great fervour, that we must never allow the rich to subsidise the poor. From a party that has just introduced the poll tax, the effrontery is so amazing we can only sit and gawp. Almost every other European country has spent more on state assistance to its national railways than we have. We spend 0.22 per cent. of our GDP on state assistance to our railways. Luxembourg, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and even little Portugal, with its rundown system, spend more on their railways.
We are told that British Rail is responding to the performance target set for it by the Government and that it will be able to introduce a much better service. The reality is quite different. Using 1989–90 prices, when the Conservative party took power in 1979 investment in British Rail was £518 million. In 1988–89, that figure has risen to £600 million. We are not talking about a tremendously impressive increase in investment. The Government decided, for dogmatic reasons, that they would not invest in British Rail and that they would reduce the passenger service grant. That led to considerable discomfort for passengers, although fares increased and services grew much worse.
348 I spoke last week to a member of the French Assembly who had been asked to produce a detailed report on transport for 1992. Shortly before that, I spoke to members of the German Parliament about their transport plans. A French Government transport official says:For us the TGV is an Airbus on rails. It is competitive with air up to 500 kilometres. It gets cars off the road and it is clean.If other nations are prepared to spend more money on improving their services, why do we suffer from constantly increasing fares and constantly declining services? The reason is simple. The Government boast that they have allowed British Rail to increase its investment, but they have never said that they expect all that investment to be provided directly by passengers, through increased fares. They never refer to the fact that people who have had to move out of city centres to find somewhere to live have already had to bear considerable fare increases.
We desperately need a Government who are prepared to face up to reality. The Government's transport policy takes no account of the fact that our road system is incapable of carrying all passengers and freight and that it has become bogged down to such an extent that even industry, when it is realistic, can put a figure on what the Government's policy is costing it. If asked, industry would make it plain to the Government that it wants a rail system that will provide a good alternative to our overcrowded roads.
London's transport system is almost breaking down. Crisis management has led to the stopping of escalators on London Underground and people cannot get to the platforms. Passengers find it difficult to go from place to place at particular times of the day. They are forced to endure conditions on London Underground that are unacceptable in this day and age.
The Government should not perpetuate their confidence trick by saying that they are investing more in the system when what they really mean is that they are prepared to allow British Rail to borrow more money, provided that passengers will put up with lower standards of service and higher fares. The Government say that they are committed to improving the transport system. The reality is quite the reverse. The passenger is paying, in every sense of the word. If Conservative Members of Parliament do not accept that fact, at the next general election they will be shown clearly what their constituents think of the Government's commitment, or lack of it, to a public transport system.
§ Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)
I intend to speak briefly about the railway line problems in my constituency and then to compare the United Kingdom network with those that are developing rapidly in Europe. The comparison is not favourable to this country.
There are three railway lines in Sevenoaks. Year after year the Uckfield line has been unreliable and has continued to lose passengers. Electrification is essential if the line is to provide the service that passengers can reasonably expect. The north-west Kent lines run from Maidstone to Swanley, and the high-speed Channel tunnel link will feed into those lines. We shall debate that matter in more detail on another occasion. However, those lines, which run into south-west London, are already overloaded. British Rail has said that its Channel tunnel 349 link services will not be detrimental to existing services. All of us who represent constituents in that area have difficulty believing that, but we shall hold British Rail to it.
I also have in my constituency the Sevenoaks to Orpington line which runs from Tonbridge and Hastings into London. The service there, although better than on the other two, still leaves much to be desired in punctuality, reliability and, above all, cleanliness.
I do not argue that just throwing money at the problem will solve it. Good management by British Rail is the key, but there is also an essential need for a strategy and for increased funding. I have a specific question for my right hon. and hon. Friends on management. Am I correct in understanding that the new chairman of British Rail, Mr. Bob Reid, will not take up his job fully until September or October and that there will be an interregnum between the departure of Sir Bob Reid and the taking of full control by his successor? If true, that is extremely disturbing in that all the consultation on the detail of the high-speed link, before the legislation is deposited in Parliament, will take place between British Rail and Trafalgar House when there is no full-time chairman in post. It is extraordinary that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State could not arrange for Mr. Robert Reid to take over the job when his predecessor leaves in the spring. I cannot believe that Shell, with its strength of management, could not have done without its current chief for a further three months.
I shall concentrate on the unfavourable comparison between the British Rail network and the European network of the future. On which European railway lines have my right hon. and hon. Friends travelled during the past six months? What is their impression of them, and how did they view Britain's rail network as of now and, more importantly, as of the next decade in comparison with the networks of France, West Germany, Italy and Switzerland?
I recently had the opportunity, with my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) and others from both sides of the House, to travel on the newest TGV line from Brittany to Paris. We saw new marshalling yards, new rolling stock, and brand-new and extremely efficient train sets, as they are described. The track out of Paris follows an old route unused since the first world war, but not sold off; it was kept with an eye to the future. The line has been well barriered for noise and a large part of it is in a cut-and-cover tunnel. Landscaping has been carried out over the top to a very high standard, with local authorities being involved in the project.
§ Mr. Adley
I support everything my hon. Friend has said. Will he join me and, I am sure, other hon. Members in pleading yet again with the Government to stop immediately the policy of successive Governments of selling off redundant railway track? There may be a case for closing some services but there can never be a case for destroying part of our transport heritage.
§ Mr. Wolfson
I thank my hon. Friend for his comment. I cannot go as far as he does about never selling unused track because there may be places where, taking even the longest view, there would appear to be no future use for it. However, the example I have described makes strongly the case that he is arguing.
350 The line from Paris has been superbly landscaped. New houses have been built alongside it, enhancing the environment, and the value of houses on each side of the track has increased considerably. Suburbs that were previously regarded as being on the wrong side of the track are now attractive. The improvement is the result of a long-term strategy and long-term planning for the railways.
The speed, design, quality and performance of the new train are better than those of the newest trains in Britain. There is no vibration or noise when one moves from one coach to another. I take up the point of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) that train will be the way to travel in Europe for distances between, say, 200 and 1,000 km rather than making the change from bus to plane to bus. No less a person than Lord Young of Graffham, when Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said off the cuff that Europe will travel by train in the future, not as now by plane. At that time he was spearheading the campaign to bring Britain up to date with the opportunities of 1992. Unless we build a rail infrastructure to meet that challenge, we shall not meet it effectively.
§ Sir David Mitchell
My hon. Friend refers to the scope for travel within the continent and to journeys between 200 and 1,000 km as the major front for rail travel in future. Does he accept that journeys of those distances, which exist throughout the continent, can make a railway network pay in a way that could never be achieved with the shorter distances in Britain?
§ Mr. Wolfson
My hon. Friend makes the point that it may be easier to do that on the continent, but in the Standing Committee considering the Channel Tunnel Bill, he argued that the Channel tunnel provided British Rail with the greatest opportunity for more than 100 years. I agree with him that the Channel tunnel will link us into the long-distance network, but the Government need to demonstrate a greater commitment and give a higher priority to the railways than they have in the past. Funding is required to build an infrastructure.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) pleaded for national support, as well as arguing that support would come from the private sector, for his area of Scotland as part of a regional development policy. That is exactly what the French have done in building the TGV for the Atlantic coast. They took the view that Brittany and the south-west of France needed the stimulus of a high-grade modern rail service, from which growth will follow. That argument applies exactly to the case that my right hon. Friend was making for Scotland. It is no surprise that a number of hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies have spoken tonight. They have said they want the benefits of the Channel tunnel in Scotland. In Kent we are concerned about having too much growth, because it is not needed in all parts of the county. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) is in a different position. He could do with the stimulus—[Laughter.] I do not wish to be misunderstood. My hon. Friend's constituency will benefit from the stimulus. An effective rail link is crucial to bring the benefits of the Channel tunnel to the midlands, the north and, above all, to Scotland.
§ Mr. Wolfson
I do not suggest that when the Labour party was in government it had a satisfactory record of investment in the railways. It did not. I certainly cannot support the Opposition's motion today as I have no confidence that they would be able to deliver.
I look to the Government to provide a larger proportion of public investment, as capital subsidy and as continuing subsidy to running costs if we are to get the full benefits of the rail system that I believe this country deserves.
Finally, I wish to refer to the political relevance of all this. It is of real concern to rail travellers throughout Britain when they are travelling in cattle truck conditions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made the perfectly sensible point that lines had closed and the sleeper service was suspended because they were not being used effectively. He did not say that some lines are used so effectively that people travel in cattle truck conditions. After 10 years of Conservative government, people expect the service to be better, whatever the Government's capital investment in British Rail. My concern is for the British economy in the future. I am not satisfied that our stategy is correct. It is flawed and I shall therefore abstain in the vote.
§ Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak after the Secretary of State. I have never heard so much codswallop about transport policy. He said that everything in the transport industry on the rail side was hunky-dory. Has he forgotten the simple facts throughout 10 years of Conservative Government? We have had worsening services on all railway routes, lack of investment and one of the most major strikes ever to confront the industry; and recently we heard that railway lines three times the length of the Channel tunnel were to be put underground in Kent because the work infringed on some of the constituents of Conservative Members.
The Secretary of State said that the Government were spending more than any other Government. He had the audacity to accuse the Labour Government of not investing in the railways. The Labour Government invested in people—80,000 more rail workers were employed to serve the community which needed rail links, but they have been left languishing in the dole queues, at the cost of services.
A few Conservative Members are smiling. If they are in any doubt about what happens, they should have the courage of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) and ask people whether they are happy about the fares increases forced upon them. Some have to pay more than some of our constituents in the east midlands, the north and Scotland earn in a week from their part-time jobs, the only ones that they can get.
It gives me great pleasure to follow the ridiculous speech by the Secretary of State and to commend the Opposition amendment, which refers to the excellent argument that is always used in transport debates. The amendment states:problems can only be solved by adopting a co-ordinated approach to transport policy".The argument is not simply about rail services but about the co-ordinated approach that all our constituents are supposed to want.
The debate gives me an opportunity to raise an important local matter involving industrial relations. Yet 352 again, because of the Government's policy, services have been disrupted in my constituency and the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) and for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). Severe problems have arisen because of legislation to end the so-called monopoly of the bus companies that service the railway network, by selling the public services to the private sector.
Amazing problems have been caused because of a new monopoly being created in the bus industry. In my area, the East Midlands Motor Services Co. supplies bus services to railway stations. In my case, the nearest railway station is 15 miles away. Eight hundred constituents a re facing the most horrific circumstances because of the policy of selling off companies. That cannot be allowed to happen. It is not right for the Government to talk about freedom of expression in eastern Europe without acknowledging that people who adopt democratic practices in their workplaces—[Interruption] If the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) wishes to speak, he may do so when I conclude my speech, or he could do what he has done earlier in the debate, and pop up and down during other hon. Members' contributions.
The Government cannot argue about freedom and democracy in eastern Europe without recognising that, when transport workers follow legislative requirements to conduct ballots and so on, a new employer will often say, "If you carry out the results of ballots, you will be sacked on the spot." There have already been two such occasions. Already, in the East Midlands Motor Services Co. trade union representatives have been sacked simply because they wanted to maintain services.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
The case that my hon. Friend is discussing also involves rail and road transport connections. The trade union concerned is the National Union of Railwaymen. That demonstrates that the workers know something about the integrated nature of the services. Problems were initially created by the dismissal of Dave Edinbrough, who is one of my constituents and lives at Tupton, near the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Dave Edinbrough was sacked merely for involving himself in trade union activities. He is a good trade unionist and a good worker. The company took action to get rid of him. That has exacerbated the situation and led to further problems and the dismissal of other trade unionists.
§ Mr. Meale
I agree with my hon. Friend. Among other things, Dave Edinbrough was accused of telling bus drivers to report safety faults that were a danger to the travelling public. It is a disgrace. He was required by law to do that. The amendmentapplauds the high priority that the Government gives to all matters of safety on transport".Government legislation allowed private monopolies suddenly to take over from public monopolies. At least with public monopolies the public's health and safety were protected.
I regret that the Secretary of State is not in his place—I trust that he will return before the end of the debate—because I wish to pay tribute to him over what happened in that case. When the company was privatised, there was another company in the wings wishing to buy it, and the right hon. Gentleman stepped in and sorted the issue out. 353 But unfortunately the management buy-out team then sold the company to a new entrepreneur, a Mr. Suter, who is taking steps against the work force, who are anxious to maintain a high level of service.
Guarantees were given in Tory legislation that workers in a public company that was privatised would receive shares in the firm and would then be able to purchase additional shares. Despite repeated attempts by the workers to buy into their firm, the present and previous owners have prevented them from doing so. I trust that the Minister will investigate the case, because it seems that the present and previous owners are in breach of the law.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I have the impression that Tory Members feel that my hon. Friend should not be discussing the issue that he has raised and the way in which the company in general, and Mr. Suter in particular, are trying to destroy trade union participation in what used to be called the East Midlands Motor Services Co. but what is now known as Stagecoach.
My hon. Friend is drawing attention to the fact that, when there are no railways and we have only a bus monopoly—in this case, a bus monopoly 100 miles wide stretching from the east coast to the west coast—not only do fares go up but, in this case, the company sacked two leading directors and managers with 28 years' service.
Now the bus drivers are being threatened into not reporting defects on buses. They are frightened to death of losing their jobs. That is what can happen when the railways shut, and Tory Members should understand it.
§ Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I rise simply to point out that, if the matter which the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) is raising is of such importance to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), perhaps the latter should have been in the Chamber for the whole of the debate.
§ Mr. Meale
Thank you for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In any event, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has been present for most of the debate. When he has not been present, he has been flitting back and forth delivering messages to my hon. Friends and me regarding the sort of issues that should be raised.
We have every right to raise these issues because the communities of north Derbyshire, Bolsover, Mansfield and Ashfield rely on bus services to reach the rail network, and I congratulate the Secretary of State—who I regret is still not in his place—on intervening and trying to get a rail network in the area.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes
My hon. Friend need not apologise for raising this matter, because in addition to the motion standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and others, the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister and other leading Conservative Members 354 welcomes what is being done by the Government in terms of the rail-road network. We are dealing with that very point.
§ Mr. Meale
Yet again, I agree with every sentiment that my hon. Friend has expressed.
The Front Bench spokesmen and the Ministers are looking at the clock. They wish to put express views before the Division. I ask the Minister to take note of some of the points that I have raised tonight about events in the company to which I referred, which have been caused by legislation enacted by his Government and the guarantees that were given. I do not apologise for doing so. Conservative Members come to the House to represent the people who give them the greatest support. I come here to fight for my class, and I am pleased to do so.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
The speech that we have just heard was rather sad. Perhaps the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) would have done better if he had reminded the House that Barbara Castle closed the railway lines in his constituency. It was my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport who took the historic decision not to close the Settle to Carlisle line. That was a landmark in terms of railway closure policy. It is one of the few things on which I intend to congratulate my hon. Friend.
The Opposition motion is long on words and short on memory, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out. However, the Government amendment describes a public transport scenario which I do not recognise. The Government's policy on railways fails to recognise their proper role in a modern industrialised nation.
The Labour policy, as described in the motion, sounds good, but experience teaches us that Labour economic policies lead to a failing economy, reductions in public expenditure and, so often, the abandonment of many well-meant plans.
The question of investment and subsidy has been raised. In a press release sent out by his Department two days ago, my hon. Friend the Minister said that the revitalised economy had led to a dramatic increase in rail travel. There has been welcome economic growth as a result of the Government's policies. That has led to more cars on the road and, in turn, to more congestion. My conclusion is that we need more support for the railway system, particularly at its pressure points and in those areas where the railway is the only sane way of coping with the movement of large numbers of people in and out of cities in peak hours. Separation as between investment and subsidy may be a finely drawn argument for book-keepers but it does not seem to me the only way for politicians to grapple with the serious transport problems that we face.
We must give credit to the Government for enabling British Rail to invest its own money in the east coast main line, the electrification of East Anglian services, and the Windsor link in Manchester. I shall not weary the House by repeating all the examples. There has been a great deal of investment, not of the Government's money but mainly of British Rail's money, which it has earned from its customers, in the "new" railway, but as the Government have cut the public service obligation grant we have found 355 that much of the existing railway is seriously and sadly declining into the dirt, delays and other faults that Opposition Members have highlighted.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) referred to the recent visit to France by Conservative and Opposition Members. The French have a completely different attitude to their railways. A 30 per cent. grant is available to the SNCF from the French Government. To summarise the position succinctly, I can do no better than refer to an article in the Glasgow Herald today by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), who was with us on the trip. Referring to the cancellation of the 6.15 am express service from Victoria to Gatwick, he said:It was a fitting start to a day devoted to comparing and contrasting British and French railways; not just the quality of rolling-stock or services, but the whole national philosophy which underlies them. It is a short, sharp educational experience which I commend to anyone who is concerned about the future quality of life in our own country.Perhaps when my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport replies, he will answer on behalf of himself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the question that was posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks: "When did any Ministers last travel on any French, West German, Italian or Swiss trains and what were their impressions of that experience?"
Many of my hon. Friends do not like the frequent comparisons with France. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) got quite irate and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State got very irate when I mentioned West Germany. Although my right hon. Friend has given up attacking my figures, in response to my question on Monday about the levels of investment in the German railways, he said:I have not met any German transport Minister who is proud of the subsidy. They think that it is an outrage that the German taxpayer is forking out £3 billion a year to subsidise the railways."—[Official Report, 12 February 1990; Vol. 167, c. 9.]I do not know my right hon. Friend's source for that, but I have with me a press release that I received recently from the German embassy. It is headed:Railway system on the right lines for 1992".It states:The railways need more public subsidy-and they will get it.I do not know whether the person who wrote that on behalf of the German Government ever talks to the person whom my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was quoting when he said that the Minister concerned objected to the subsidy that the West Germans have in their railway system. The press release also states:In 1989 alone, 3,000 new personnel are being taken on",and refers to the fact thatPromoting competitiveness of the railway system by making sure that other means of transport do not acquire artificial advantage by back-door subsidiesis also part of the West German transport policy. We are not talking about a Socialist Valhalla. We are talking about the West German Christian Democratic Government.
I must therefore ask my hon. Friends, some of whom blanch at the words "subsidies" and "public investment", which comes first—economic progress or infrastructure investment'? One reason why the West Germans have such a successful economy is that they are investing millions and millions of pounds in their transport infrastructure. Deutsche Bundesbahn receives a subsidy to encourage 356 heavy lorries in transit across West Germany to move on to the "rolende landstrasse", which I have written in capitals in my notes for the benefit of Hansard. Like the SNCF, the Deutsche Bundesbahn has a "social tariff structure", which means a subsidy to keep fares down.
§ Mr. Adley
My hon. Friend says that we are stopping the subsidy, but we are also stopping the trains and overcrowding them. There is a direct equation. I recognise that with his road interests my hon. Friend likes to advocate such a policy, but it does not appeal to me.
I take up another point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford. In the information kindly provided by the Government in the Whips' Office for this debate, we are told that accurate comparisons are impossible, given the differences in networks, accounting methods and organisation. However, the next paragraph states that huge amounts of BR debt have been written off, amounting to more than £1.5 billion in cash terms since 1962.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford kindly gave way to me in his speech to allow me to ask him his view of the West German subsidy. I think that the record will show that he said that the West Germans have not written off their railway's debts. However, I must advise him that British Rail has written off £1.5 billion and that Deutsche Bundesbahn has written off £4.2 billion. I am sorry to confuse my hon. Friends with some of the facts and I apologise if those facts interfere with their political prejudices.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State has previously chided me on the question of Government investment in the railways. My hon. Friends rightly welcome all the investment that is going into our railways, but they should be aware that in 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1987 British Rail had absolutely no recourse to borrowing from the national loans fund and in 1984 and 1988 it had little recourse to the fund. The investment money has come from British Rail's own resources.
§ Mr. Adley
I shall continue with my speech as I do not want to go on indefinitely.
In the United States, that great paradise of private enterprise, in 1987 Amtrak took 65 per cent. of its revenue from fares. In 1990, the figure is planned to be 70 per cent. British Rail's figures for the two years 1987 and 1990 are 75 per cent. and 82 per cent., and on InterCity 89 per cent. and more than 100 per cent. However, the passenger journeys completed by Amtrak in 1987 were 20 million, while the figure for British Rail was 727.2 million. By any stretch of the imagination, this country's record with its nationalised railway system is infinitely better than anything in the United States.
Before some of my hon. Friends clamour for privatisation, I suggest that they ask themselves what the following railway systems, which include the best passenger railways in the world, have in common—I refer to the West German, French, Italian and Swiss railways. The answer is, of course, that they are all nationalised. Which country has the worst passenger railway system of the industrialised nations? The answer is probably the United States. If I were setting an A-level paper, I would ask what conclusions could be drawn from that.
357 The sad fact is that public transport and party politics make uneasy bedfellows. I am also sorry to say to some of my hon. Friends—
§ Mr. Adley
If I am going on too long, I will finish by commending to the House the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her advocacy of Victorian values. Can any hon. Member imagine what public transport in any of our cities would be like if our Victorian and Edwardian forebears had not built the railway lines and underground systems that we enjoy in this country?
§ Mr. Adley
It was indeed. The construction that has taken place on new underground railway lines in London in the past 15 or 16 years, however, has been restricted to certain sections of the Jubilee line. London's congestion problems can be solved only by new underground railways. The first priority is the Paddington-Liverpool Street line, the second is the Chelsea-Hackney line and the third, which the Government have chosen, is the Jubilee line extension.
The internal combustion engine once threatened the railway systems of the industrialised world with extinction. That very internal combustion engine is now choking the nation to death. The railway is the last means of civilised transport open to man. Until all parties in the House swallow their political dogma, eradicate prejudices and follow the French and German example, misery will remain our lot.
§ Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South)
In the last few minutes of this debate I shall quote the western region of the Transport Users Consultative Committee which is chaired by the Conservative leader of Bristol city council. That organisation is known for its support of the Government's policies. It describes the railways in the south-west as follows: the Cotswold line as the "railway of denial"; the Falmouth line as the "railway of dilapidation"; the Gloucester-Bristol line as the "railway of decimation"; and the Swindon-Bristol line as the "railway of deprivation".
This evening's debate has been about the lack of investment. According to Hansard, since 1981 there has been a 60 per cent. reduction in investment in real terms by the Government. The debate has been about the way that our European counterparts consistently invest in the railway. We have discussed overcrowding and its safety problems, and congested roads and the environmental difficulties that they bring. We have discussed the problems that transport users face. How much longer do we need to discuss them before the Government invest properly in our rail network?
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
The debate, albeit truncated, has been interesting in some ways. Most Conservative Members appear to have swallowed the Department of Transport's propaganda that investment in our railway system has never been higher. It took the hon. 358 Members for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) and for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) to point out that that investment is paid for almost entirely by the passengers out of higher fares.
§ Mr. Snape
I will come to the Secretary of State's speech, but he provokes me to comment now. I have for some time been seeking detailed information about who pays for investment in our railway network. So far, my questions having been shuffled between the Treasury and the Department of Transport, of the £3.7 billion of investment about which the right hon. Gentleman boasted tonight, we have been able to isolate only £100 million that has come from the Government. The right hon. Gentleman boasted about his accountancy prowess. He or the Minister for Public Transport will be able to tell us what percentage of that £3.7 billion came from the Government.
Over and over again hon. Members on both sides of the House, but particularly Conservative Members, have asked the Secretary of State how many journeys he has made on railways in other parts of the world.
§ Mr. Snape
Some of us are more concerned that he should make one or two journeys in the United Kingdom to see the squalor that many passengers have to put up with daily. Conservative Members say "Come off it," but the amendment that the Government have had the temerity to table bears no resemblance to the reality of daily life for commuters or for long-distance passengers on our railway network.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) talked about his problems in getting to and from Manchester yesterday. I do not want to provide anecdotal evidence about how bad some of our railway journeys are. Hon. Members on both sides of the House must agree, at least privately, that the delays on InterCity, on other provincial services and on Network SouthEast have never been so great. Perhaps because some of my hon. Friends recall that I used to work in the railways industry, I receive many of their complaints. I have never received so many complaints about the railway system as I have under the Secretary of State's stewardship, and he has been there for only five minutes.
However, let us be fair. The Secretary of State, accountant to the last, has done something about punctuality on British Rail. He has moved the goalposts of a five-minute late arrival to a 10-minute late arrival.
§ Mr. Snape
That shows how much the right hon. Gentleman knows about the playing field about which he talks. He has moved the goalposts.
Before the right hon. Gentleman shouts too loudly, let me say that we were all a little concerned about his display earlier. His red face looming over the Dispatch Box is a pretty terrifying sight. I was not sure at one stage whether it was indignation, claret or a faulty sun lamp that made the right hon. Gentleman look like that, but whatever it was, it was worrying.
The Government's amendment insults the intelligence of the House. It certainly insults the intelligence of the hon. Members for Sevenoaks and for Christchurch because 359 they do not believe it. Does the Secretary of State appreciate the contribution of those much scoffed-at people who operate British Rail's services? The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made a contribution—I had better be kind about it—apparently based more on enthusiasm than on ignorance. He accused Opposition Members of supporting every railway dispute. Having spent some years working for the pretty rotten wages that British Rail traditionally pays, I had a lot of sympathy for the railway staff in their dispute last year. I remind the House that every opinion poll showed that the British public did so, too, as did those who eventually sat in arbitration on that claim.
I say to the hon. Member for Chelmsford and to others that if railway staff continue to be paid as inadequately as they are now, and if we insist on that staff working the kind of hours that they do now, the circumstances that surrounded the Clapham junction accident will recur.
§ Mr. Snape
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but if he reads the contributions to the inquiry of Mr. Stanley Hall, the British Rail board's director of safety, he will find that Mr. Hall commented that if staff are forced to work 12 hours a day, six months at a time, to pay their mortgages—anyone with the Abbey National will be even worse off from tomorrow—one must expect that their contribution to safety standards will inevitably slip.
The amendment does not recognise that problem, nor does it acknowledge that the railway network is being run into the ground. The days are past when engineers decided rolling stock standards and railway operations. It is the accountants who run the railways these days.
The Secretary of State talks about ideology. The ideology of privatisation for the sake of it ensured that the Sprinter multiple diesel units ordered as the flagship of British Rail's provincial services are running so late that the next timetable is being completely recast. The ideology of insistence on privatisation meant that the earliest Sprinters had their electronic door controls set outside the train, so they let in water. That meant that the whole fleet had to be returned to the makers for repair. The ideology of privatisation gave us Pacer trains that break down all over the network, and whose replacement gear boxes must be obtained from Germany. We did not get the gearboxes from a nationalised industry. The Secretary of State never knows what is going on.
§ Mr. Roger King
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to mislead the House? He knows better than anyone else that when 360 the modernisation programme of the mid-1950s was brought forward by a nationalised system, none of the rolling stock worked.
§ Mr. Snape
The Minister for Public Transport will have to pay for that puerile intervention by the hon. Member for Northfield; that must be a matter between the two of them.
The amendment mentions the infrastructure that will be needed for Channel tunnel services. Day after day, we hear Conservative Members ask what contribution will be made, where the infrastructure is, and what will happen to their constituents when the tunnel opens. Only the right hon. Gentleman knows where he drew up the amendment.
The Secretary of State spoke earlier of safety. He sometimes accuses the Opposition of exploiting that subject, but arising directly from the Hidden report on the Clapham junction inquiry will be a great deal of expenditure, to say the least. The introduction of automatic train protection will be extremely expensive and will require additional staff to install and maintain it. The installation of black boxes in cabs, particularly on Network SouthEast, will be extremely expensive, but we are told that Network SouthEast must break even within the next two or three years. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to provide any public money for those much-needed safety measures? We are eagerly waiting for some replies, but they are not usually forthcoming and I do not suppose that they will be tonight.
For all the torrents of abuse that we got from the Secretary of State at the Dispatch Box earlier, his speech was very thin on content, like most of his speeches. The Daily Telegraph sums up the right hon. Gentleman pretty well. Its editorial of 29 December sums up the right hon. Gentleman, the Government's approach to the railway system, and his future prospects, saying:Mr. Parkinson has taken a course that will damage the environment, increase costs to business and inconvenience the public. It is a pitifully myopic approach to our desperate transport problems, and ill becomes a Government that wants to help business expand.The article concludes:Ultimate blame, though, lies with Mr. Parkinson. He must start thinking realistically about transport needs, even if he has to spend"—
§ Mr. Snape
Not this bit—even if he has to spend taxpayers' money to satisfy them.That is from The Daily Telegraph—from Max Hastings. It continues:Failure will lead to chaos, and chaos cannot be an option.That is what our motion is about tonight.
I hope that Conservative Members who spoke so bravely about the railway system and its needs will vote in the Opposition Lobby tonight. Tomorrow's opinion polls, the voters in the Mid-Staffordshire by-election and the electorate, including commuters who are temporarily represented by Conservative Members, will decide that they are fed up with public squalor and fed up with the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo)
I shall begin uncontroversially, I hope, by saying what a pleasure it was to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) making a characteristically fair speech. He paid tribute to the biggest single electrification which has occurred—on the east coast main line. I know that he is right, and that British Rail is in discussion with groups such as CREATE about electrifying the railway line north of Edinburgh. I remind him that British Rail is going to put 90 mph diesels with air conditioning—I am not sure whether that is necessary in Scotland—on that line. The InterCity 125s are the fastest diesels in the world. None the less, I shall draw his remarks to the attention of British Rail.
I notice my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) in his place. I am sure that we all sympathise with his constituents, whose railway line has been cut off by floods, and we look forward to that service being restored.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made a realistic speech, as well he might have, because he knows that there has been £100 million worth of investment at Liverpool Street and in the new station at Chelmsford. He has seen the work going on. He also knows that, since 1987, 428 new coaches costing about £150 million have been approved for the Anglia and Great Eastern Services. Therefore, despite the complaints that he has made on behalf of his constituents, he knows that the investment is going in.
I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) was less fair. He might have mentioned the fact that the Uckfield line has just been resignalled, saving his constituents 10 minutes on their journey time. He also might have mentioned the fact that we have ordered 676 coaches for the inner suburban services in Kent—that has been approved or agreed in principle—that platform lengthening is under way and more orders for the outer suburban services will come through shortly. Mentioning those facts would have given a fairer impression of what is going on.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
When my hon. Friend next speaks to the chairman of British Rail, will he convey to him that commuters on the north Kent line would have been much happier if the fares had increased after the promises had been fulfilled, rather than now?
§ Mr. Portillo
My hon. Friend has been a lion roaring on behalf of his constituents. He has been to see me and I know how seriously he takes the matter.
In reply to the hon. Members for Southport (Mr. Fearn) and for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), and my hon. Friends the Members for Sevenoaks and for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), who talked about foreign comparisons, I must point out that the subsidy per route kilometre in the last figures we have was £49,000 in the United Kingdom and £47,000 in France, which is less. I have always said to my hon. Friends that what matters is not subsidy but investment. Let me give the figures for that. Last year we invested £67,000 per km, while France invested £49,000.
362 I was asked whether we would use cost-benefit analysis. It was used to justify the Thameslink services, the Manchester Metrolink and the Jubilee line, which will do so much to open up docklands, a new area of London.
There was great rejoicing at part of the speech by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). Although he will deny it, I believe that this is the first time that he has acknowledged that investment is at a record level. Before tonight I had the impression that he had the greatest difficulty distinguishing between subsidy and investment, but he has now put on record his recognition of the facts. I am sorry that he was unable to convince the hon. Members for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) and for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), who still seem to doubt the truth.
I was also asked what was our commitment to investment in the railway. I am pleased to be able to announce an increase of £220 million in British Rail's external finance limit for 1989–90. This year's EFL goes up from £415 million—after taking account of grants from the European Community—to £635 million. That large increase will enable BR to press ahead with its investment programme, including plans for the Channel tunnel rail services and the new trains for those services which we authorised in December.
Investment in British Rail will be £3.7 billion over the next three years. The chairman of British Rail has described that as being about as much as "we can physically manage". It will be financed not just by passengers but by asset sales, the higher revenues that are available, huge amounts of borrowing made available by the Government at preferential rates from the national loans fund and some very small reductions in grant. Today 60 per cent. of the provincial sector's costs are met by the taxpayer, and the passenger pays only 40p in the pound.
On the London Underground, the enormous increases in investment are directly attributable to an increase in Government grant: it will increase by 115 per cent. over the next three years. The result—if we take LRT and Network SouthEast together—will be a rise in subsidy for public transport in the south-east from £387 million at today's prices to £669 million in 1992–93. Investment in London Underground has doubled over the past five years, since we wrested control from the GLC, and it will double again over the next three years.
No wonder the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East referred to the role of the Treasury under various Governments. Let me quote from the Labour Government's consultation document of 1976:For the time being, the decision to stabilise rail investment at present levels should form a basic input to railway planning. This level is lower than that envisaged in … 1973 … But the 1973 programme was criticised in the Socialist Commentary Report as being too high … In our present … circumstances".said the Labour Government,we … cannot afford more than this.Although rail fares had doubled in the previous two years, said Labour,in the present situation … further increases in fares must form part of the long-term strategy. There can be no question of a general increase in Government subsidy".That was the Labour party in office. That would be the Labour party again. The fact is that the Labour party has no place in this debate. If it had remained in power the railways would not have the opportunities that they have today. Opportunities derive from economic prosperity. I 363 admit that, under Labour's failing economic policies, congestion might be less severe than it is today. But congestion is also the product of economic success. Under this Government the problem of congestion can be tackled by vast new—
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 212, Noes 259.366
|Division No. 75]||[10 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)|
|Allen, Graham||Fatchett, Derek|
|Alton, David||Faulds, Andrew|
|Anderson, Donald||Fearn, Ronald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Fisher, Mark|
|Ashton, Joe||Flannery, Martin|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Flynn, Paul|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Barron, Kevin||Foster, Derek|
|Battle, John||Foulkes, George|
|Beckett, Margaret||Fraser, John|
|Beith, A. J.||Fyfe, Maria|
|Bell, Stuart||Galloway, George|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Blunkett, David||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Boateng, Paul||Gordon, Mildred|
|Boyes, Roland||Gould, Bryan|
|Bradley, Keith||Graham, Thomas|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Hardy, Peter|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Buchan, Norman||Haynes, Frank|
|Buckley, George J.||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Caborn, Richard||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Callaghan, Jim||Henderson, Doug|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hinchliffe, David|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Home Robertson, John|
|Clay, Bob||Hood, Jimmy|
|Clelland, David||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cohen, Harry||Howells, Geraint|
|Coleman, Donald||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Hoyle, Doug|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Cousins, Jim||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Crowther, Stan||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Cryer, Bob||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Cummings, John||Illsley, Eric|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Janner, Greville|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Darling, Alistair||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Dewar, Donald||Lambie, David|
|Dixon, Don||Lamond, James|
|Dobson, Frank||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Doran, Frank||Leighton, Ron|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Lewis, Terry|
|Eadie, Alexander||Litherland, Robert|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Livingstone, Ken|
|Livsey, Richard||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Richardson, Jo|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Loyden, Eddie||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McAllion, John||Rowlands, Ted|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Ruddock, Joan|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Salmond, Alex|
|McFall, John||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McKelvey, William||Sheerman, Barry|
|McLeish, Henry||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McWilliam, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Madden, Max||Short, Clare|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Skinner, Dennis|
|Marek, Dr John||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|Martlew, Eric||Snape, Peter|
|Maxton, John||Soley, Clive|
|Meacher, Michael||Spearing, Nigel|
|Meale, Alan||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Michael, Alun||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Stott, Roger|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Strang, Gavin|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Straw, Jack|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Turner, Dennis|
|Morley, Elliot||Vaz, Keith|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Wall, Pat|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wallace, James|
|Mullin, Chris||Walley, Joan|
|Murphy, Paul||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Nellist, Dave||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|O'Brien, William||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Patchett, Terry||Wilson, Brian|
|Pike, Peter L.||Winnick, David|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Prescott, John||Worthington, Tony|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Wray, Jimmy|
|Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Radice, Giles||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Randall, Stuart||Mr. Ken Eastham and Mr. Allen McKay.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Brazier, Julian|
|Alexander, Richard||Bright, Graham|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Amess, David||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Amos, Alan||Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Budgen, Nicholas|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Burns, Simon|
|Ashby, David||Burt, Alistair|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Butler, Chris|
|Atkins, Robert||Butterfill, John|
|Atkinson, David||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Carrington, Matthew|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Carttiss, Michael|
|Batiste, Spencer||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Bellingham, Henry||Chope, Christopher|
|Bendall, Vivian||Churchill, Mr|
|Benyon, W.||Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Body, Sir Richard||Conway, Derek|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Boswell, Tim||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Cormack, Patrick|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Couchman, James|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Cran, James|
|Bowis, John||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Curry, David|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Day, Stephen||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Devlin, Tim||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Dover, Den||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Dunn, Bob||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Durant, Tony||Hunter, Andrew|
|Dykes, Hugh||Irvine, Michael|
|Eggar, Tim||Jack, Michael|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Jessel, Toby|
|Evennett, David||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Fallon, Michael||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Favell, Tony||Key, Robert|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Kilfedder, James|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Knox, David|
|Forman, Nigel||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Forth, Eric||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Lilley, Peter|
|French, Douglas||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Gale, Roger||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Gardiner, George||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gill, Christopher||Madel, David|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Mans, Keith|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Maples, John|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gow, Ian||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Mills, Iain|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Mitchell, Sir David|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Grist, Ian||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Grylls, Michael||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Hague, William||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mudd, David|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hannam, John||Needham, Richard|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Harris, David||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Norris, Steve|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Hayes, Jerry||Page, Richard|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Paice, James|
|Hayward, Robert||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hill, James||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Hind, Kenneth||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Portillo, Michael|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Price, Sir David|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Redwood, John||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Thorne, Neil|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Tredinnick, David|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Trippier, David|
|Rost, Peter||Trotter, Neville|
|Rowe, Andrew||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Sainsbury, Hon Tim||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Walden, George|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Waller, Gary|
|Shelton, Sir William||Ward, John|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Watts, John|
|Sims, Roger||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Whitney, Ray|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Speller, Tony||Wilkinson, John|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wilshire, David|
|Squire, Robin||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Wood, Timothy|
|Steen, Anthony||Yeo, Tim|
|Stevens, Lewis||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)||Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Sydney Chapman.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.
§ MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House congratulates the Government on developing a balanced transport policy which recognises the economic importance to the United Kingdom of its rail, road and air network; welcomes the biggest programme of investment in British Rail for 25 years and the massive increase in investment in London Underground which will relieve congestion and meet the increased demand which is the result of the economic success of the United Kingdom; welcomes the demanding quality of service objectives set by the Government; welcomes the £1 billion which will be spent to ensure Britain's rail infrastructure is in place to service the Channel Tunnel when it opens in 1993; applauds the high priority that the Government gives to all matters of safety on transport; and welcomes its recognition of the importance of the environment in transport policy.