HC Deb 09 July 1991 vol 194 cc835-71

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

7.25 pm
Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

London Regional Transport has a general duty to provide or secure the provision of public passenger transport services for Greater London. It must pay due regard to the current transport needs of Greater London, and to the efficiency, economy and safety of the operation.

Unfortunately, millions of pounds are being lost every year because of fare evasion. It is important that the people who use the system and pay for its services should not suffer the total cost, leaving many others to get away without paying.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman so early in his speech, but he said something interesting. He said that there had been fare evasion every year. Can he give us a run of figures, and tell us how much has been lost each year, going back as far as he wants to go?

Mr. Thorne

I shall come to the current figures later in my speech, and no doubt later in the debate hon. Members will allow me to respond to the questions that arise. I shall do my best to obtain the further information that the hon. Gentleman requests.

According to the annual survey, it has been calculated that no less than £12 million a year is currently being lost on the underground and a further £17 million on the buses. As a direct result of measures recently taken on the underground, fare evasion has been reduced. Nevertheless, the losses are still far too big to be satisfactory. Further measures are therefore needed. That is why the Bill is being introduced. It is similar to the measure passed in 1989, which gave penalty fare powers to British Rail, and whose implementation on the London to Tilbury and Southend line has succeeded in substantially reducing the number of people travelling without tickets.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

The hon. Gentleman spoke of millions of pounds being lost through fare evasion. Where does he get those figures? Does he simply get them from London Regional Transport? How were they substantiated? There is not a shred of evidence. The Bill has been before the House several times, and those figures have not been substantiated, yet they keep being repeated. How does the hon. Gentleman know the figures if they are not collected?

Mr. Thorne

There are firms that carry out surveys which have been found to be accurate in the past. It is not possible to state a precise figure, but nevertheless, in general terms, the surveys have been very accurate. I am confident that the figures are correct and are as near accurate as can be arrived at.

Before the measure can be introduced, the Secretary of State must be satisfied on a number of points—adequate staffing, adequacy of ticket machines, arrangements for monitoring defective machines and for ensuring that ticket inspectors are properly trained. The scheme must also be adequately advertised before it is introduced, and there must be disputes and appeals procedures. All these important matters will be carefully and diligently examined by the Secretary of State. It would be wrong to assume that he is uncritical about the standards that must be achieved before he gives his consent.

It is at last possible to produce extremely reliable and effective ticket machines, and they are available at all underground stations: they are available 99.9 per cent. of the time and they will give change. There are never less than two machines at any station and there are many more at busy stations. With this in mind, we can take advantage of modern technology and thereby reduce the volume of evasion and fraud in the system.

It is not possible for tickets to be collected on underground trains in the same way as they are checked on British Rail. The present maximum fare on London Regional Transport is £3.10 and a penalty of £10 in relation to that is appropriate. The penalty on the docklands light railway or the buses is £5. It has been specifically geared to take account of the lower charges on the light railway and on the buses.

Validation of tickets has been a major problem on the docklands light railway, so the system has been replaced so that tickets are now validated on issue—but it has become impossible to check tickets at peak periods because the railway is so busy.

Staff involvement is essential to the success of penalty fares and staff will be fully consulted before implementation. Although fraud has always been a factor, it has greatly increased in recent years. It would be quite wrong to allow those who want to indulge in fraud to get away with it any longer than can be avoided. At the same time, it is important to ensure that genuine travellers who are not trying to evade fares can call in aid an excuse.

A passenger will not be liable to pay a penalty fare if there is no facility available for ticket sale at the station from which he started his journey. If he transfers to London Underground or to the docklands light railway from British Rail, and the British Rail station from which he departed has no facilities for the sale of tickets; and if a notice is displayed at the station from which he started his journey—whether a British Rail, an underground or a docklands light railway station—stating that it is permissible for passengers to travel from that station without a ticket, or if an authorised person in uniform informs the passenger to that effect, he will not be liable to pay the penalty.

Mr. Cohen

The hon. Gentleman said that inspectors would not collect penalty fares on the docklands light railway because it is so busy and because it gets overcrowded at certain times, but so do many other lines. The Central line to my constituency is immensely overcrowded at rush hour, and so are many other lines. So why will inspectors be on very busy tube lines in the rush hour but not on the docklands light railway? is this discrimination?

Mr. Thorne

The hon. Gentleman seems to have the wrong end of the stick. There are captains, not drivers, on the docklands light railway, and one of the responsibilities of such captains is to check tickets—but they do not do so through busy periods. Checking tickets in the rush hour is always a problem. Passengers are responsible for having their tickets checked when they leave the station, and will therefore be responsible for paying penalty fares when appropriate.

If a person is asked for his ticket or authority by the London Underground or by a docklands light railway authorised official and states that he could not obtain one for one or more of these reasons, it is for the underground or the light railway to prove that that reason is not correct—the onus is on them. If a passenger wants to offer one of these reasons later, he has 21 days from the day of the completion of his journey in which to do so. Only then comes the transfer of the burden of proof. If a passenger does not provide an explanation in these terms on the spot or within 21 days, he has to prove that one of the defences applies. That seems an effective and sensible way to proceed.

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) was the only Member to approach me about this Bill. He has expressed two anxieties. The first concerns bus services to his constituency, in particular bus routes 38 and 55, which were significantly altered on 24 February last year. The changes were made to improve the reliability of the services. Lea Bridge road suffers from bad traffic congestion, which led to severe disruption of services into the west end. Most passengers using services in Lea Bridge road did so only as far as Islington. Most people using the 38 and 55 bus routes into central London started their journeys in Islington. Only 8 per cent. of travellers used the service from Leyton through to central London.

By changing the structure of the bus network, LRT has been able greatly to improve reliability, which has brought benefits to far more passengers than those affected by having their links broken. Following the changes, Lea Bridge road is served by routes 48 and 56. Route 48 still runs into the city and 56 covers the old 38 route as far as Islington—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me how what he is saying relates to the collection and imposition of penalty fares?

Mr. Thorne

I think that hon. Members have a right to know how their constituencies will be affected by changes in transport facilities, and how penalty fares relate to them. If you feel, Sir, that I am going into too much detail, I shall pass immediately on.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Yes, I should like the hon. Gentleman to pass on to the subject of penalty fares.

Mr. Thorne

It is important to introduce this measure as soon as possible to ensure that the fare-paying public are not left making a substantial contribution to providing free transport facilities for those who are defrauding their fellow passengers. A reduction in the amount of fraud will lead directly to a fall in fares for everyone else. I therefore urge the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

7.37 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I listened with rapt attention to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne). I hope that he will now answer the questions that he was unable to answer earlier. I asked him to provide a run of figures on fare evasion. We need to know when the problem first arose and when it assumed the critical proportions which he now describes and which have brought about the introduction of this Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) asked an equally pertinent question. On what basis were the figures that appear in the statement on behalf of the promoters—showing that fare evasion is estimated at £12 million a year on the underground and at £17 million a year on the buses—arrived at? I understand that estimates are made of the amount of money not paid in tax—by a fairly hit-and-miss method—and I should like to know the methodology that London Regional Transport employs to arrive at those figures.

The hon. Gentleman has suggested that they are produced by firms of reliable opinion pollsters. If I had decided to evade paying my fare—the House will understand that the thought would not cross my mind in normal circumstances—and I was asked by someone who clearly did not work for LRT whether I was a valid fare payer, I would be stupid to admit that I was not. It may be that the figures given by the Bill's sponsor understate the case, but if the House is to be persuaded of the need for such legislation, it ought to be provided with an accurate assessment of the level of fare evasion and information on how it was arrived at.

I was intrigued by the hon. Gentleman's claim that ticket machines are available 99.9 per cent. of the time. That sounded like a Stalinist electoral turnout figure. Most of us took such claims with a large pinch of salt and we must do the same in respect of the sponsor's statistics. He scarcely bears any resemblance to Stalin, either in terms of his appearance or his ways, but he attempts to employ Stalin's techniques. The hon. Gentleman may have been telling the absolute truth. If so, I wonder why I am so unlucky so often—because I frequently find myself among those who try to use ticket machines during the 0.1 per cent. of the time when they are not working properly.

Incidentally, I recently attempted to travel on the District line from Upton Park, and when I put money into the ticket machine, I received in my change what appeared to be a 50p coin, but which was in fact a 10p piece that one of my constructive and adept constituents had somehow converted. I understand that that happens a lot. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can say what attempts LRT is making to thwart those who doctor coins to use in ticket machines. I relate that fascinating anecdote to illustrate that even machines that work 99.9 per cent. of the time are not always used by people who are honest 99.9 per cent. of the time.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of the problems of ticket inspection at peak times, particularly on the docklands light railway. My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton asked about ticket inspection on the Central line, which passes through his constituency. We in Newham dream about travelling on the Central line in the style that one can from Leyton. One can well imagine how crowded the trains are by the time that they reach Stratford. When the Central line is working well, it works very well and provides a regular service. However, if trains are cancelled, those remaining in service become very crowded, and that is true on many other London Underground services.

It is futile to suggest that inspectors could operate at peak periods. It is difficult enough to breathe on a tube train during the rush hour. For inspectors to squeeze their way through crowded carriages may prove a very exciting experience for some, but it would be a slow operation— and I doubt that an inspector could proceed very far along a carriage. In any event, the furore that such an attempt would create would allow many a fare evader to nip off the train before being asked to produce a ticket.

When we have accurate figures on fare evasion and details of the methodology used to calculate them, we can make a better assessment of the need for the Bill. We ought to ask ourselves if there is a high level of fare evasion, why that is so. London has the highest urban transport fares in the world. I would not mind so much if it also had the most efficient urban transportation system, when such high fares would be commensurate with the benefits. However, anyone who uses LRT's buses or tube trains knows that they are not part of the most efficient urban transportation system in the world.

Its shortcomings cannot be blamed on the inefficiency of the staff. I would not want to work on LRT. Every day of the year, irate passengers turn up at bus stops and underground stations to seek out uniformed staff on whom they can expiate their annoyance. It is quite a dangerous job working for LRT, and on behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends—including my hon. Friends the Members for Leyton and for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape)—I pay tribute to all LRT's hard-working staff, who are badly served by the Government and their own senior management.

When one realises the lack of capital and revenue investment in LRT in recent years, it is clear why its service is so bad. The Minister for Public Transport, for whom I have a lot of time and who has visited my constituency on many occasions, may argue that the Government recently announced various schemes for large-scale capital investment. That is true, and I pay tribute to him for those improvements, but it took the Government a long time to make them. The Government belatedly realised what an appalling mess they had on their hands, particularly in respect of the level of fare evasion. If they are now punching some money into LRT, it is only because they realise what a big issue the capital's public transport system will be in the coming general election. Nevertheless, past years of neglect have contributed to the service's inefficiency.

That inefficiency is another reason why some people are not inclined to pay their fares. Although I could not possibly condone law-breaking, one can understand people growing so annoyed at the awful service that LRT provides that they become determined not to pay their fares. They almost seem to anticipate the Prime Minister's charter of rights, which will apparently allow us to sue everyone who fails to deliver a proper service. I hope that we will also be able to sue the Government for having delivered a crappy service to the country as a whole, but I will let that pass.

It appears that people are taking the law into their own hands and saying, "If London Regional Transport treats me so badly on a regular basis, why the hell should I pay my fare? If I can get out of this system without putting a penny piece into it, that is exactly what I shall do." When, in the past, Londoners had to pay a levy anyway, they could also say, "I am already making a contribution, so why should I also have to pay inflated fares?" The reasons for fare evasion can sometimes be fairly sophisticated. It is not always a case of someone wanting literally a free ride.

We must give consideration to changing to a flat-fare system, such as operates in most of Europe, whereby travellers could purchase books of tickets at newsagents or kiosks, as they can in Paris. That is the kind of system that the Greater London council tried to pioneer all those years ago. I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, remember the GLC. It is soon to re-emerge as the Greater London authority—though I hasten to add that it will be not the son of GLC, but a completely new, slimline body, as members of my Front Bench constantly remind everyone. When the GLC ran London's transport system, it thought that a flat-fare system was needed.

Some argue that the best way of defeating fare evasion is to provide a free transport system. That makes a great deal of sense, because the more people one can get to use a public transport system, who therefore do not use their private vehicles on the roads, the better the industry and commerce of a city can operate.

I am convinced that, if one were to go into the social cost of accounting for a genuinely free fare system in London, one would find that it would benefit everyone enormously in economic and social terms. Although I do not expect the Government to go for such a system, I hope that one day when we have a progressive Government, with a Department of Transport led by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East, we shall think in terms of having a free fare system.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Banks

I give way to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Snape

I do not need promotion to the Privy Council. If one of the terms of my employment as Secretary of State for Transport were that I should introduce free travel in London, I would regretfully have to decline the post.

Mr. Banks

If travel were free, it would not make any difference whether my hon. Friend declined or accepted. There would be no deprivation.

I thought that my hon. Friend was going to make the valid point that a free fare system would mean the loss of jobs, as the unions have always said it would. However, that should not be so under a good progressive transport policy led by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East, for the simple reason that service would be stressed. That is how other modes of transportation are sold. Airlines are sold by virtue of the fact not that everything is done on a shoestring and a prayer, but that there is good service and there are people to look after the passenger when he gets on the plane. Why should there not be people to look after passengers as they get on to a bus or an underground train, whether or not they have paid the fare? I am assuming that we have a wholly free fare system.

Let us move away from that policy, which is for a future Labour Government to implement. Let us concentrate on fare evasion, although we do not accurately know at what level it occurs. Another reason for it is that there are not enough uniformed staff at stations or on buses to ensure that people pay when they travel. The movement towards one-person-operated trains and buses has exacerbated fare evasion.

There is a recession and many people are unemployed. I have already said, and there is no gainsaying it, that we have the most expensive transportation system in the world. It is not surprising that people fall foul of temptation and save themselves 40p or 50p, not because they are natural crooks but because that money can be spent on something else that is just as essential as travelling. I am not condoning that, but I would at least understand the rationale behind it. That problem would not arise if we had low or free fares.

Equally, temptation would not arise if there were more staff around because people would feel that, even if they could not afford the monstrously high fares imposed on LRT by the Government's economic policies and imposed on the traveller by the unfeeling management at 55 Broadway, they would have to pay, because if they did not, their collar would be felt.

The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Banks

I see that my collar is about to be felt, so I shall give way.

Mr. Freeman

I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's cogent argument. I am sure that the House would be grateful if he could explain why, if his main concern is the level of fares, he opposes a measure that will allow LRT to recover more revenue and therefore to reduce the average level of fares.

Mr. Banks

That is a good point. If we knew accurately —we are taking it on say-so at the moment—what the level of fare evasion was, the Minister's argument would be enhanced. If the Minister is saying that the recovery of the full amount lost—the £12 million on the underground and the £17 million on the buses—will be directly applied to the reduction of fares, I can see a point for supporting the Bill. I shall be honest with the Minister, as I hope that he is always honest with me, and say that I am not opposed to the Bill. I object to what has been happening with public transport. If we had done this differently, we might not have those problems. We need to examine the reasons for the level of fare evasion, before we deal with it.

I am trying to pose a few possible ways to make sure that these problems will not arise in future. I have suggested a low flat fare or a free fare system. I am not opposed to the Bill, but the Minister and the hon. Member for Ilford, South owe the House an explanation why LRT feels that it is necessary to introduce the Bill. We are told that it is because of fare evasion, but why is that so prevalent? We need to explore the reasons.

Mr. Cohen

My hon. Friend is making some excellent points, but will he turn his mind to the Government's attitude to those they call criminals? Do not the Government have a strange attitude in that they regard people who do not pay their fares as wicked criminals, however much money they have in their pocket or have to live on for a week, yet Gerald Ronson, a crook who was in prison, yesterday shook hands with the Queen Mother at the Royal Opera house? He seems to be acceptable in society and to the establishment, but he is a criminal.

Mr. Banks

My hon. Friend points out the hypocrisy that surrounds this issue. Yesterday, I asked the Attorney-General a question about the level of white collar crime and I said that I did not think that the Government took it seriously. I was aghast at the picture of the criminal Gerald Ronson shaking hands with the Queen Mother. Did she know that her hand was being shaken by this dasterdly, evil, wicked, wretched man who had robbed decent, honest people of £5 million? I do not know, but I felt for her. It was scandalous.

Mr. Snape

My hon. Friend may be able to help us by telling us whether Mr. Gerald Ronson had committed another dasterdly crime. Did he pay his fare on the underground on his way to the opera?

Mr. Banks

To judge from Mr. Gerald Ronson's track record, I doubt whether he did, but then I doubt whether he used the underground. He is not the sort of person one bumps into on the Central line with a, "Hello, Gerald, I see that they let you out already." Many of my constituents can be met in such circumstances, but not Mr. Gerald Ronson.

I do not often say this, but my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton has got this slightly wrong. Many of those who go in for fare evasion are not the sort of people I was describing—people at the sharp end of the recession, caught out by the Government's inept and malign economic and social policies. Often, they are fairly affluent. Some people who turn up in court for evading fares are lawyers. That should not surprise any of us, because lawyers are quick to charge and slow to pay. Some well-heeled people practise fare evasion, and most of them probably vote Tory. The offence is not limited to people who cannot afford to pay; those who can clearly refuse to do so. I am all for such people being dealt with in an exemplary way.

The diminution in staffing is one of the most obvious reasons for fare evasion. I regularly travel on the London underground and Network SouthEast and I have a fairly convoluted journey from the House to Forest Gate. When the Jubilee line is extended I shall have a much easier journey because I shall be able to go from Westminster to Stratford and from there to Forest Gate. Often when I arrive at Forest Gate there are no station staff, although it depends on the time at which one travels. All the staff at Forest Gate station are good acquaintances of mine.

There are problems when changing from London Regional Transport to Network SouthEast at stations such as Stratford because of the requirement for people to put their tickets into the machines—the automatic rottweilers, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton described them. There are no such machines at Forest Gate and no staff either. In many ways you are encouraging people to evade fares. I do not mean you personally, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If you turned up as an inspector on the Central line, I would willingly show you my ticket, with some surprise.

If there is no mechanism for checking tickets on the London underground when people move from the underground to British Rail, it is almost encouraging them not to bother with a ticket because no one will ask for it. When they arrive at Forest Gate, there will be no one there anyway. The hon. Member for Ilford, South should tell us whether LRT plans to put more uniformed staff at stations, especially after about 6 o'clock in the evening, because after that time, one is surprised to see British Rail or LRT inspectors at outlying stations.

I am suggesting methods that LRT could use to minimise fare evasion. LRT is guilty of complicity in its own downfall because its policies, which have been encouraged or demanded by the Government, have led to an easy ride for fare evaders, who aggravate the frustration of regular travellers. They are frustrated not just because the service does not operate properly, but because they see people evading fares, which makes them feel like mugs. They say, "Why should I pay my fare for this rotten, lousy service when other people are not paying?"

The Bill is worthy of more critical examination. We should not simply accept it from the hon. Member for Ilford, South on behalf of the promoters that this is the way to solve the problem. As good legislators, we must always ask how the situation arose in the first place, who is responsible for it and how will it be dealt with. Rather than dealing with symptoms, we must deal with causes. When we do that, we address the genuine problem rather than its manifestation, which in this instance is fare evasion.

Earlier, I spoke about service levels. I hate one-person-operated buses, which constitute one of the biggest reasons for fare evasion. I have seen people getting on and off at the exit door. What can the bus driver do about that? Does he stop the bus and walk back to the exit door? Of course not. He or she just drives on because one-person-operated buses already cause enough congestion on London's roads without the driver adding to the problem in that way.

I again blame LRT and the Government for their insistence on OPO buses and OPO trains. The same problems do not arise with trains, which is probably why the amount lost on the buses is much higher than the amount lost each year on the underground, even though more people use the underground. The opportunity for fare evasion on the buses is greater because of OPO. When the GLC was responsible for LRT, it warned the Government and LRT about that, but LRT and the Government were determined to have OPO buses.

Travellers do not like OPO buses and the people who travel behind them do not like them either, as anyone who has been stuck behind such a bus in a congested road will testify. The Government are not interested in what the consumer wants, and I do not think that the management of LRT are interested either. If it were, it would not have insisted on OPO buses.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South should explain why fare evasion on buses is so much greater than it is on the underground even though more people use the underground than use the buses. I say that it is because of OPO buses, but if I have got that wrong, I will apologise to the hon. Gentleman and to the Minister. I suspect that, on this occasion at least, I have got it right. London's transportation system is being sold on a low level of service, whereas other transport systems opt for a high level of service. InterCity rightly opts for service. It is expensive, but it is a good way to travel.

The airlines go for service for broke and compete on the basis of the service that they provide. No regular air traveller would be happy to climb the stairs of a Jumbo and find that it was one-person operated. He would not like to be welcomed by the captain who would show him to his seat and come round with a hot towel and a barber's shop and say, "I have to go to the front row now because we are about to take off. If you want something to eat during the journey, come along and have a word with me." We know that that is absurd.

It is mainly working-class people who use London's buses. If business executives used them, there would be waiters and people summoning passengers to their seats. It is probably apocryphal, but it is well rumoured that, when the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) was Secretary of State for Transport, he threw a tantrum on the Central line when he found out that the train did not have a restaurant car. That is the sort of attitude we expect from Ministers, because they are not in touch with reality. They take the view, that since working-class Londoners use buses, one-person operation is suitable, and that if the passengers dodge on and off without paying, what the hell.

On the docklands light railway, the conductors are called captains. I do not know why that term was chosen. We have Captain Soames, although that is probably not a good advertisement for the rank. I was always told that anyone who made only captain in the army was a bit of a failure, but that is another matter. I do not know why the conductors are not called train brigadiers or generals. We could at least do something better for our buses than give the staff fancy names.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton spoke about the many people who use the buses. I use them and I am no toff. [Interruption.] Snappy dresser, yes; toff, no.

The docklands light railway is used by many business people. Notwithstanding that it is a new investment, that is one reason why the service is better. There is a class aspect to the Bill and to the proposals that come from the Government. One-person-operated buses are part of the class-based approach to transportation in London. I know that the Minister would hardly agree with me, but my assertion is held to be self-evident on the Opposition Benches. If we were talking about different people, we would be talking about a different service.

If this evening the Minister were to announce that the Government were prepared to reconsider the use of OPO buses, which are condemned throughout London by those who have to use them and by those in other vehicles who have to queue behind them, he would be able to deal with fare evasion at a stroke. I am sure that OPO buses have led to a great deal of alleged fare evasion. We do not know the exact figures, but it would seem that fare evasion on the buses is greater than that on the underground system.

Flat, reasonable fares are wanted. If we had an efficient LRT service and adequate staffing levels on buses and at stations, fare evasion would dwindle to almost nothing and there would be no need for the Bill. I am prepared to support the Bill, but it is an admission of failure by the Government and by LRT. I deplore the fact that it is in front of us. I hope that the Minister will take to heart some of the lessons that I have outlined.

8.11 pm
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)

It might be helpful to the House if at this stage I briefly set out the Government's attitude to the Bill, a measure which my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) has described clearly, succinctly and efficiently.

The Government support the Bill, as they have supported London Regional Transport's previous Bills. It is surely right that those who travel on London Transport's services without paying the correct fare should be discouraged from doing so. We have heard that fare evasion is estimated to cost LT about £12 million on the underground system and about £17 million on the buses. I fully accept, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South would, that those figures are estimates. How can we know the figures unless the fares are collected? Nevertheless, the estimates are based upon professional advice, and the total sum is about £29 million—call it £30 million—in lost revenue. That is a huge burden, which has to be carried by honest passengers and by taxpayers, who in this financial year will contribute £722 million in grant to the costs of London Transport.

London Regional Transport already has powers to operate penalty fares under the London Regional Transport Act 1984, and specifically on the docklands light railway under the London Docklands Railways Acts of 1984, 1985 and 1986. As there was some dissatisfaction with the powers, the Government established a working group on penalty fares in May 1986 to review the principles that should apply to penalty fares schemes on public transport and to look at the existing provisions concerning LT services. The Bill has been closely based on the recommendations of the working group. The Bill benefits also from the considerable scrutiny to which the first LRT penalty fares Bill was subjected in another place.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for showing his characteristic courtesy in allowing me to intervene. As someone who represents a constituency about 420 miles north-north-west of the Piccadilly line, I hesitated before intervening. However, I travel occasionally between Heathrow and Westminster underground station by way of the Piccadilly and District lines. On that basis, I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the sanctions that will be introduced by way of the Bill will not lead in any way to an increase in instances of assaults upon members of London Regional Transport.

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman's constituents, as United Kingdom taxpayers, have an interest in the Bill, because they are subsidising through grant each year the operations of LRT. Therefore, his constituents have a direct interest in ensuring that revenue is maximised.

I should like to reflect on what the hon. Gentleman said and write subsequently. I can tell him, however, that British Rail has powers similar to those that are sought by means of the Bill, and they are using them with the Secretary of State's agreement on the London to Tilbury and Southend service. The evidence that is so far available to me—I shall check it again—is that about 90 per cent. of fare evasion has been eliminated on that service. I am not aware of any evidence of assaults on British Transport police or assaults or acts of violence involving other passengers. I shall check the figures and write to the hon. Gentleman.

The House will know that other Bills with penalty fare provisions have been approved by Parliament and received Royal Assent. I have in mind what was the British Rail (Penalty Fares) Bill and also what were Bills from the South Yorkshire passenger transport executive in respect of the South Yorkshire supertram and from the West Midlands passenger transport executive in respect of the Midland Metro. The House will rightly be concerned to ensure that the principles of a fair and reasonable penalty system are properly reflected in the Bill that is before it and that honest passengers are fully protected.

The promoters will respond to specific comments that are made about the Bill this evening. There will be an opportunity for further consideration in Committee. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South has already said, there is a very important aspect of the penalty fares system which the House should keep in mind, and I ask it to do so. An activating order issued by the Secretary of State for Transport will be required to bring the powers in the Bill into effect, and I must stress that no activating order will be issued unless the scheme that is proposed is fair and workable. It will be for London Transport to convince us of that.

Before any activating order is made, we shall wish to ensure that all the necessary arrangements are in place to operate the scheme and to protect honest passengers from being penalised if no opportunity to buy a ticket has been provided. The Secretary of State will also need to be satisfied that there are adequate publicity arrangements to inform passengers about the rules, and that procedures for disputes and appeals are in place. I understand that some concerns have been expressed by the Transport Users Consultative Committee about how the trial scheme has worked on the London to Tilbury and Southend service, and I shall be interested to read its comments. I understand that, while there are no major problems, the association has suggestions that it claims would enable the operation to be carried out more smoothly.

In addition, the Secretary of State will need to be assured that satisfactory arrangements exist for staffing ticket offices and for monitoring and repairing ticket machines. It will be necessary that he be assured also that ticket inspectors are properly trained to operate the scheme, that they are deployed appropriately and that they have proper identification. One of the great advantages of the scheme—I think that the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) will agree with this—is that, on the London-Tilbury-Southend line, British Rail and British Transport police have deployed staff on the trains and at the intermediate stations between the two termini. Rather than have staff standing at ticket gates, and therefore having nothing to do between trains, more staff have been deployed where the passengers are. That is good for safety and for reducing fare evasion.

As I have said, the experience gained from the pilot scheme on British Rail will be taken into account. It would be a curious situation, and one that would be difficult to justify to passengers and to taxpayers, if this latest penalty fares Bill from London Regional Transport were to be blocked when Parliament has approved similar provisions for other operators. Tomorrow, with the hon. Member for Vauxall (Ms. Hoey), I shall be visiting the underground stations of Stockwell and Oval in her constituency. I venture to suggest that, if I were to ask a random sample of tube passengers whether they supported the principle of the Bill, I would find that an overwhelming majority were prepared to do so. Honest passengers are not prepared to pay for the fare dodger, and I hope the House will support the Bill tonight.

8.18 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

I too will be brief. The Opposition have traditionally cast a jaundiced eye on penalty fare Bills, particularly those which first came before us five or six years ago. Since then, there have been some signs that British Rail and London Underground management have been more prepared to listen to the views of hon. Members and the trade unions representing those who are responsible for collecting fares. At least in this Bill passengers travelling without a ticket have up to 21 days to pay the penalty. That is an important move away from the original concept when no ticket meant an on-the-spot fine, which, understandably, led to concerns among those responsible for ticket collection and examination that the sort of situation outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) might arise.

At various times in my railway career, I have collected tickets, and it is not the easiest of jobs on a Saturday night. I listend with interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) who entertained us in his customary manner, as he is wont to do. A couple of late Saturday stints at various suburban stations might make him slightly less idealistic—if I can put it that way—about the motivation of some of those who travel on public transport without a ticket.

However, I agree with what my hon. Friend said about the somewhat cavalier attitude to fare collection by the management of London Buses and London Underground in recent years. I feel strongly that, all too often, when these Bills have been introduced, the burden of collecting fares has been placed on either the lowest-paid within the railway industry or those hon. Members who take an interest in these matters.

Dr. Godman

In my observations to the Minister, I failed to say that the tube sevice between Heathrow and Westminster is a disgrace, especially for visitors to the United Kingdom. In his examination of the problem of fare evasion, has my hon. Friend seen any comparative evidence from other systems? I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) will agree that there is little fare evasion on the Glasgow subway system. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) knows, the Glasgow subway system is tiny compared with the London system. It could be put in one corner of the circle line. Nevertheless, there is little or no fare evasion in Glasgow. That may be due to the innate honesty of the Glasgow traveller.

Mr. Snape

That innate honesty is renowned worldwide. I am interested to hear my hon. Friend's experience on the Glasgow underground. It was a Glasgow underground railwayman who once passed on to me the best excuse that he had ever heard for fare evasion. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Glasgow underground is a small version of the Circle line. When asked why he was travelling with a three-day old ticket, an astute railway passenger claimed that he was waiting to get to the terminus—an excuse that did not go down too well with those responsible for collecting the fare. However, that was before the days of penalty fares.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Snape

My hon. Friend is about to entertain us once more, so, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall allow him to do just that.

Mr. Banks

It is sweet of my hon. Friend to say such a nice thing about me. I am glad that my hon. Friend reminded us of his distinguished former career as a ticket collector. I understand that he was a world famous ticket collector; a veritable Pavarotti of ticket collectors. But he is wrong to assume that I do not know the problems of travelling late on Saturday coming back in a carriage full of vomit and empty beer cans, with various yobbos hanging around.

Mr. Snape

My hon. Friend is a Chelsea supporter.

Mr. Banks

My hon. Friend is right to point out that I am a Chelsea supporter, but that is almost a way of life in my area of east London. I have almost come to love it. Swimming through vomit is another skill that I have acquired during my years in this House. However, the presence of more uniformed officers, British Transport police and underground staff on those trains at that tune of night is surely the best way of ensuring that we all travel safely and vomit-free.

Mr. Snape

I think that we would all agree with that. I was merely trying to point out that, both as a booking clerk and as a railway guard—two jobs which, despite what my hon. Friend said, I held with complete lack of distinction throughout my long and undistinguished railway career—I was probably more apt to come into contact with the sort of undesirable characters that my hon. Friend mentioned than I would have been had I been the assistant general secretary of the Association of Broadcasting and Allied Staffs, which I think was one of my hon. Friend's more distinguished earlier occupations.

Before I was so politely interrupted, I was talking about the cavalier attitude of London Underground and London Buses management to fare collection. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West mentioned the difficulties of the one-person operation of buses. There is no doubt that the fact that Britain's transport systems, particularly those in London, have fallen into the hands of accountants rather than operators has led to the sort of decline in service about which he and other hon. Members frequently complain. The ability to balance budgets, although it is not practised by London Underground management in particular at present, appears to be of far more value and importance when it comes to installing people in top jobs than the ability to properly run a transport system.

Twice before during debates on the Bill—I said that London Underground has tried to introduce a similar Bill —hon. Members have regaled us with stories about how difficult it is to purchase a ticket or to hand it in at the completion of a journey when travelling on London Underground late at night. That made me inquire from staff at the sharp end why that should be so. The view among many of those responsible for that job is that the current management of London Underground would rather leave stations unstaffed and ticket barriers wide open than pay the premium payments for the overtime necessary to staff the stations adequately.

We are being asked to pass this legislation without hearing from the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), who represents the promoters, exactly what London Underground is prepared to do to see that adequate staff are provided. He said that, where people transfer from British Rail to London Underground, providing that a board was exhibited saying that it was impossible to purchase a ticket and so on at the commencement of the journey, the penalty fare would not be payable. But that overlooks the reality of late night travel.

If there are any staff at all on stations, whether on British Rail or London Underground, it is usually a small number, and if they are called away for any other purpose in connection with their duties and responsibilities, there is often no opportunity to purchase a ticket. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, in those circumstances with no board exhibited, the passengers—the customers, as we are laughably known as these days—are still liable to the penalty payment? If so, Opposition Members will be extremely concerned.

We heard from the hon. Gentleman about the efficiency of London Underground and its new ticket machines, but by all accounts they are not efficient enough to take 50p pieces, and about £250,000—one of the rough estimates given in these circumstances—has already been lost as a result of the passion for such machines. The more adroit non-payers in our society have been clever enough to work out that a coin of another denomination and a piece of silver paper does the job at least as well as, if not better than, the authentic Bank of England 50p piece.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend has raised an important point. Clearly, anyone who boards a train without a ticket at an unstaffed station which, however, contains ticket machines will be deemed to be liable for the penalty: he will be told that he should have used one of the machines. What if the machines are not working?

At Forest Gate station, I recently tried desperately to feed a pound note into one of the machines, which simply refused to accept it. I was not prepared to stand there all day feeding a pound note into the machine, which the machine would then return; after all, my train was about to arrive.

Although the ticket was valid, had I got on the train without a ticket I would presumably have been liable for the penalty. What I should like to know—my hon. Friend may not be able to enlighten me, but perhaps he will redirect my question to those who can—is whether the inspectors will accept the fact that a machine was not working as a reason for travelling without a ticket. The fact that 99.9 per cent. of the machines may work will not help the person who happens to have encountered the 0.1 per cent.

Mr. Snape

If my hon. Friend really tried to purchase a ticket with a pound note, I am not surprised that he experienced some difficulty. As far as I am aware, pound notes are no longer legal tender.

Dr. Godman

Except Scottish pound notes.

Mr. Banks

Well, a five-pound note, then.

Mr. Snape

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is beginning to confuse his denominations.

Mr. Banks

Obviously I meant a five-pound note. Inflation had left me breathless. It should have been a one-pound note, but it was a five-pound note.

Mr. Snape

I hope that the Accountant is not listening, and will pay my hon. Friend's salary in the equivalent currency at the end of this month.

Although I would not for a moment cast doubt on the scenario outlined so graphically by my hon. Friend, another scenario strikes me as likely to occur rather more often. The ticket machines of which the hon. Member for Ilford, South spoke in such glowing terms frequently bear the legend "Exact money only". Not long ago, at Euston, eight out of nine or 10 machines bore that legend, and only one appeared to be working. Would declining the opportunity to wait for 15 minutes in a growing queue —including, perhaps, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West, waving a pound note—be considered a valid reason for failing to purchase a ticket, and for subsequently refusing to pay the penalty? All too often, a touching faith is displayed in those machines; given the standard of their performance, that faith is generally not merited.

Mr. Cohen

Earlier, my hon. Friend raised a good point about staffing levels on the underground, especially late at night. Could not this be yet another instance of the inadequacy of the fare evasion figures? Much of the evasion probably takes place late at night in unstaffed stations. Unless a good many inspectors are introduced in such stations, violence will increase at such times. London Regional Transport has not thought out the Bill properly: there could be a massive surge of violence.

Mr. Snape

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West is not sure how the statistics—£12 million a year on the underground and £17 million a year on the buses—were arrived at; I am not sure either, and I do not think anyone else is. By its very nature, quantifying fare evasion is an inexact science. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ilford, South can exercise his customary diligence and thoroughness to give us the answer, and tell us whether my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) is right about the times at which the bulk of fare evasion takes place.

In my view, the Bill is much better than it was. Clause 8 of the statement on behalf of the promoters not only states that the Bill has the support of the Department of Transport", but adds the welcome phrase: there has been consultation with the Unions representing those who would have to implement the penalty fares scheme; further discussions will be held if the Bill is enacted. That is certainly an advance. No such promise was made in respect of earlier Bills, which led to understandable expressions of concern and outrage on the part of those responsible for collecting penalty fares—or, at least, for cautioning the passenger-customer who travels without a ticket.

I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South will be able to answer some of our questions. If he cannot do so tonight, I trust that he will ensure that many of the justifiable fears expressed by Opposition Members are answered properly in Committee.

8.35 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Some interesting points have been raised, especially by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). He made some perceptive remarks—not least that he is a snappy dresser, although he also made it clear that the Bill was a case of the emperor's new clothes. It cannot be justified in any way that will stand up to interrogation.

My hon. Friend also went into the psychology of fare evasion. Of course no hon. Member supports such behaviour, but my hon. Friend contrasted it effectively with the naive simplicity of London Regional Transport that lies behind the Bill. As he pointed out, the level of fare evasion in this country is the highest in Europe, but he rightly added that we should tackle the causes rather than the symptoms.

My hon. Friend made a good point about one-person operation. He asked why the so-called estimate of the amount of fare evasion was higher for buses than for trains, given that more people travel on trains than on buses and that fares are higher on the underground. He concluded that one-person operation was the reason.

We can extend the psychological argument. An inspector will get on to a bus, fine the individual concerned —shaming him in front of the other passengers—and then leave the bus. The fare evader, however, will remain on the bus, fuming and, perhaps, eventually taking out his anger on the other passengers—or, more likely, on the poor old bus driver. Of course, the same kind of thing could happen on the tube, but that would merely result in more vandalism. On a one-person-operated bus, it might result in violence.

As I said earlier in an intervention on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), London Regional Transport has done no work to establish at what times and in what circumstances fare evasion takes place and who is responsible. I believe that it takes place mostly at night in unmanned stations.

London Transport is keen to cut costs and I suspect that, apart from not wanting to pay overtime, it will not employ inspectors in the first place. Therefore the Bill will have no impact on the level of fare evasion at night. If LT decided to employ those inspectors, many would be needed to collect the fares because I suspect that gangs of youths would travel without paying their fares. If those inspectors confronted such gangs late at night in unmanned stations, I am sure that it would lead to violence.

The Bill has come before the House in the past, and the issue of increased violence has been raised many times by myself and my colleagues. It has always been left unanswered. No work has been done on the Bill from one Session of Parliament to the next. LT may throw up an estimate of fare evasion, but it is unable to provide an estimate of the likelihood of violence.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), who speaks for LT, made a brief speech of 11 minutes in which he offered little justification for the Bill.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Cohen

I agree. The only reason why the hon. Member for Ilford, South spoke for 11 minutes was three telling interventions, but each time he failed to come up with an answer. The first intervention came from my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West, who asked about the trend of fare evasion on the bus and tube over the years. He asked whether it was possible to compare levels of evasion. It is important to know that answer because I believe that there may be a correlation between the level of fares charged and fare evasion. The necessary figures should be produced so that we can make an informed assessment.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the short speech made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South. That reminds me of the occasion when Mr. Canning was asked by someone whether he liked his speech. Mr. Canning replied that that person's speech was short, to which the person replied, "Yes. You know I don't like to be tedious." Mr. Canning replied, "Yes, but it was tedious." I am sure that the hon. Member for Ilford, South would have made a much longer speech had he been allowed to tell us more about the bus route through my hon. Friend's constituency. I know that my hon. Friend wants to be fair and I am sure that he will recall that the hon. Member for Ilford, South was cut off in his veritable prime.

Mr. Cohen

I accept that, but the hon. Member for Ilford, South was not ruled out of order. However, his brief comments on the bus routes were wrong. He said that the No. 38 and No. 55 buses no longer stopped on Lea Bridge road because of traffic congestion. That is the line put out by LT, but when has it been its policy not to run public transport because of traffic congestion? Surely the object is to get cars off heavily congested roads. Surely that means that LT should run more buses on the roads instead of cutting services.

Only yesterday, I received a letter from LT about the Bill, which mentioned the No. 38 and No. 55 buses. Therefore it should be legitimate to mention those routes in this debate. According to LT figures, 8 per cent. of people in the catchment area use those buses to get to central London. That is a heck of a lot of people—it runs into thousands—and they are now denied those routes.

I accept that those bus routes do not represent the central point of the Bill, but my constituents have been treated in a disgracefully shabby way by the Government. LT consulted me about the Bill because it wanted to know whether I would give it decent treatment. I always give such treatment, but how about a bit of decent treatment for my constituents? I asked LT to give them their buses back, but my request was treated in a cursory and derisory fashion.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South made three incredible statements in the first few minutes of his speech after being challenged. First, he said that he did not know the trend of fare evasion and that he knew the current figures only. That was a pretty poor admission, but in some ways it is not the hon. Gentleman's fault. He does this work because—

Mr. Tony Banks

He is paid a lot of money.

Mr. Cohen

The hon. Gentleman claims that LT does not pay him a lot of money. I believe that he just gets his direct expenses. I think that he is doing the work for a knighthood for services to LT.

We are told that everything comes down to finding money for public services and I have no doubt that it could be found from the salaries of the bosses. However, those bosses could not even be bothered to give the hon. Gentleman a decent briefing. The hon. Gentleman's failure to answer the questions is not his fault, but the fault of those highly paid managers at LT who gave him such a poor briefing.

I should have thought that the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West was obvious and sensible. Surely a sensible person attempting to guess what questions would be asked would have thought of that one. Similarly, I should have thought that my question about the breakdown of LT figures would be anticipated. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Ilford, South was unable to provide the methodology behind those figures. It appears that they are plucked out of the blue.

The Minister said that the figures were based on the professional advice received by LT, but I suspect that those figures were provided by LT itself. I remind the House that this is not the first time that such a question has been asked because a Bill of this nature has been before the House on numerous occasions—this is the fifth one. Each Bill is the subject of several debates on several occasions and each time LT has been asked to substantiate the figures for fraud losses. Each time it has failed to provide the answer. All that the hon. Member for Ilford, South could say was that the figures were based on some sort of survey. What survey? Who did that survey? Again, I suspect that it was conducted by LT.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South said that inspectors would not impose penalties on the docklands light railway trains because they are too busy. However, there is enormous overcrowding on the rest of the underground network. If it is all right for inspectors not to impose fines when that line is busy, why are other lines being singled out?

The Minister was not much better briefed than the hon. Member for Ilford, South. He did not seem to know much about the London-Tilbury to Southend line. He said that fare evasion had been reduced by 90 per cent., but he did not know the exact figure. How can he claim that it has been reduced by 90 per cent. when the figures are not known? He failed to say how that figure was arrived at. I suspect that it was plucked out of the air by London Transport. He did not seem to know that that reduction was achieved over only a three-month period. I suspect that it will start to climb again.

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman is always extremely succinct, logical and clear in his argument, and I have listened to him with much interest. I am sure that the House would like to know whether he opposes the Bill and, if so, on what grounds he does so. So far, he has not disclosed his position or advanced any arguments.

Mr. Cohen

I shall disclose my arguments clearly. I am dealing with the arguments that have been advanced, which is a perfectly legitimate tactic.

The Minister made the interesting point that the collection of penalty fares presents opportunities for new fraud. People will be able to claim to be inspectors and to diddle people out of money. Will authorised inspectors wear a uniform and carry identification? There is absolutely nothing in the Bill about that.

I should like to mention the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who is concerned about the Bill but is unable to be here tonight.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), because he and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) are having a meeting in a W Room about the opting-out proposals for Newham. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) knows well, we must split our resources. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South is in the Palace but is dealing with other business. He is as assiduous as ever in passing his views to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton.

Mr. Cohen

The note from his office says that he is unable to make the meeting tonight because he has an important health meeting to attend, but that he may be able to attend later in the evening. He saw me in the Lobby and told me that it was a meeting on an NHS trust and privatisation of health services in Newham, which is of enormous concern. We all know that the Government are about to privatise the buses, but the immediate issue of concern to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South is the health service.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South would like to point out that he was unsatisfied with the replies that he received from London Regional Transport to his suggestions. He is not happy with the idea that London Regional Transport will take money from people who have not paid the correct fare—spot fines—instead of taking their names and addresses. He thinks that that will cause trouble and says that London Regional Transport did not give him a satisfactory response when he raised the matter. That is typical of LRT, which has been negligent in responding to issues in the past.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South says that London Regional Transport has no plans to install ticket machines at stations where the booking office may be closed. He feels that it is in its own interest to do that and to provide a machine that produces tickets showing where a passenger boarded in order to prevent fraud. At present, an inspector has no way of knowing where a passenger began his journey. LRT's response to that was unsatisfactory. It is a crucial point, because people who bought tickets at a different station may be accused of fraud, but that point has not been considered by LRT.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South says that when he telephoned London Regional Transport yesterday he was told that the gentleman who knew about the matter would not be in until tomorrow. My hon. Friend said that that shows how much they care about their Bill. That is on a par with how LRT has treated the House tonight and how it has treated the hon. Member for Ilford, South by not giving him a proper briefing to answer basic questions.

LRT could have dealt with the issues that have been raised and Conservative Members would not have had to stay here until 10 pm. However, they know that the payroll vote will ensure the passage of the measure.

LRT's inept management has treated the House, including Conservative Members, with contempt. The Government are being forced to do LRT's dirty work when the problem could have been resolved even without this debate taking place; there are bound to be subsequent debates. Whatever the payroll vote does tonight to force the measure through, we will ensure that the issue is raised in future.

In addition to the ineptitude of LRT's management, the burden of the Bill on Parliament and so on must have resulted in considerable cost to the taxpayer. After all, this is about the fifth time that the measure has come before the House. All that could have been avoided had the management answered our questions and sorted out the various issues. Instead, the Bill has been blocked whenever it has come up for approval.

When I asked the Minister what the cost was, apart from LRT's expenditure on the Bill, I received the reply that I expected, which was that it was nothing to do with him because private Bills were not his responsibility. Did he really mean to say that all the cuts that he had made were of no consequence? Is he not aware that, when he cuts off the money, services are reduced and fares are increased?

Mr. Freeman

The record should show clearly what is the position this year. I am glad to inform the hon. Gentleman that in 1991–92, the Government have increased the amount of cash grant available to LRT by £50 million. That has occurred in the middle of the financial year. It is a sign of the tremendous support that the Government have given to LRT in difficult financial circumstances.

Mr. Cohen

It is also a sign of the Government's desperation pending the forthcoming general election. The people of London know precisely what a shambles the Government have made of their transport system—how they have neglected it and run it down. The Government are desperate—as they are with unemployment and everything else—and are fiddling the figures, because the bulk of the money that has been put into London Transport has been spent on the Jubilee line. That, too, has been to get the Government out of the mess they have created over docklands by not planning in advance. Office blocks went up, but there was no infrastructure to enable people to get to and from the area. Now the taxpayer is having to pay dearly to create some infrastructure there. It is costing more than would have been the case had there been some planning.

On 6 June this year, the Financial Times commented on the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on London Underground, published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office at a price of £24. It said that the report blamed inadequate funding, by successive Governments, for the poor performance of London Underground train services, and it went on to give key figures, on which the Minister should comment, if not today then in due course. The paper said that London Underground, the company which is responsible for the service, calculates that, at today's prices, it needs to spend £750 million a year. Of this, £250 million a year is just to halt the further deterioration of existing assets, another £250 million a year is to rectify the consequences of underspending in earlier years, £150 million a year is to increase the capacity of existing lines, and £100 million a year is for safety improvements following King's Cross and the death of 31 people in the fire there.

By comparison, actual investment over the past five years averaged £290 million a year at today's prices. The Financial Times went on to say that, in an attempt to defend the Government's record on investment in London Underground, the public transport minister said investment spending would be £442 million this year and more than £500 million in 1991–92"— as I pointed out, pending the forthcoming election—but still a long way from the £750 million that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission said was needed.

The paper continued: These figures include sums for the new Jubilee Line extension. The commission's report for next year's spending is £384 million—barely half what London Underground says it needs. That gives the lie to the boasting statements that we hear time and again from the Minister about the Government's so-called investment in London Transport. Even the increases that the Government are making, pending the general election, leave LRT a long way short of what is needed to get our underground system into a decent state.

In an endeavour to discover the true cost of the Bill, the Minister having shifted the responsibility to LRT, I took the matter to that quarter. I received a reply on 5 March from the chairman, Mr. Newton, who said—this is the key point: It would not, therefore, be possible to give you a clear simple answer to the question you have asked without the expenditure of very considerable time and cost. He has clearly taken a leaf out of the Minister's book because he cannot state the cost of promoting such Bills. The chairman then gave examples of the cheapest and of the most expensive. He said that the cost of the Jubilee Line Extension (No. 2) Bill is currently £5.7 million. I have asked him for more details about that figure. I asked him at the beginning of April, but I have not yet had a reply about how that money is made up. The Government do not provide a grant for that. The bill is met by Londoners through their fares and through other contributions because money is removed from the poll tax grant to local authorities.

The chairman also stated that the cheapest Bill was that which dealt with the Angel because it went through unopposed. Even so, it probably cost about £75,000. How much has this Bill cost? It has been before the House five times, so one can imagine that it has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds—probably nearly £1 million. It has failed year after year to be passed, because people such as the hon. Member for Ilford, South have not been properly briefed and the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West and other colleagues have not been answered. It is inept management not only to keep the Tories here until late at night, but to incur costs of about £1 million trying to promote the Bill and doing so in such an incompetent fashion.

I now deal with the substance of the Bill because time is short. I met members of the board of London Regional Transport to discuss what it has done to my constituents' buses, but I received no change. I also met members of the board to discuss the unfair levels of fares. Again, they were not interested. I cannot remember many Yiddish words—my parents would know a lot more—but at that meeting the members acted like shysters, which means con men. They enticed me to the meeting on the grounds that they had something to offer. When I got there they had nothing to offer. When I argued reasonably about what was needed to make the Bill acceptable, they turned my ideas down flat. I got the impression that the only reason they wanted to meet me was to get the briefing for the hon. Member for Ilford, South. That was the act of a group of shysters who are also inept.

I spoke to the board about fare levels. The point of trying to implement penalty fares is, allegedly, to tackle fare evasion. I told the board that there was a correlation between the high fares charged and the amount of fare evasion. The board said that there was not—it had not done any research and was not interested, but nevertheless stated that there was no correlation. I suspect that that is why it will not introduce the trends suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West.

We have the highest fares in Europe for what is, incidentally, a deteriorating service. The Evening Standard of 22 April stated: London gets the worst fare deal in Europe". The article said: London's suffering commuters' crammed into overcrowded trams, Tubes and buses, had their suspicions confirmed today—they get the worst deal in Europe. A new survey reveals that the fares they pay are the highest in Europe—nearly double those in Amsterdam or Frankfurt, almost four times as high as Rome and five times as high as Paris and Athens. The message will embarrass Transport Secretary Malcolm Rifkind … The average travel-to-work journey in London costs £1.40, according to the figures from the Association of London Authorities. The cost in the next most expensive city, Copenhagen, is £1.18, followed by Dublin, where the average fare sinks to 85p. At the bottom end of the scale are Rome, 36p, and Paris and Athens on 32p. London Transport's 'Bargain' season tickets are an even worse deal. At £13.80, its three-zone travel card costs a third more than the next most expensive in Dublin and five and a half times that of Madrid's £2.44. The average commuter fare in the 10 European cities surveyed is only 71p. The article went on to quote people's views. The Evening Standard always gets Conservative Members to say how disgraceful things are, when in fact the Government are implementing the disgraceful measures.

The Independent, under the headline "London Transport fares the most expensive in the EC", quotes the cost of commuting in Europe. The 10 km journey fares are: Athens, 30p; Paris, 32p; Rome, 36p; Madrid, 49p; Brussels, 65p; Amsterdam, 74p; Frankfurt, 80p; Dublin, 85p; Copenhagen, £1.18p; and London, £1.40p, set against an average fare of 71p. The costs of a weekly 10-journey card are: Madrid, £2.44; Rome, 2.48; Athens, £3; Paris, £3.08; Brussels, £4.06; Copenhagen, £6.98; Frankfurt, £7.36; Amsterdam, £7.40; Dublin, £10.27; and London, £13.80, set against an average of £6.09. London's fares, for a deteriorating service, are shameful. There is a correlation between increasing fare evasion and high fares.

It is not surprising that fares are high. When other London Labour Members and I met the chairman and board of London Regional Transport, the manager of London Underground—which contributes to the high fares—said over the dinner table, "So what? These travellers are all from the A and B1 classes, the highest classes in social surveys. They can afford those fares so we can charge what we like. It is best to charge what we like." The manager was merely reiterating the comments of the LRT chairman, Mr. Newton. At an earlier Prime Minister's Question Time, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to those comments. In effect, the chairman said, We are pricing people off the tube. It is already overcrowded.lf we can increase prices, we can price people off it. The statement refers to deterring people from travelling. That is what the fares policy seeks to do. The chairman and board of London Underground do not want poor people to travel on the tube. That is why the fares are so high, and the penalty fares are being introduced to target poor people. It is the old philosophy of the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who thinks that the unemployed should get on their bikes. He certainly cannot tell them to get on public transport to go and look for jobs, because they are being priced off by management appointed by the Government. Those managers have paid themselves enormous sums; I shall speak about that issue later.

I have already mentioned the serious point about high fares and penalties causing increased violence. That will occur especially late at night and on one-person-operated buses, which means that the poor old bus driver will bear the brunt of that problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South and I are most unhappy about the arrangements for on-the-spot fines.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Does my hon. Friend have any background information on fare dodging on Routemasters? The Bill's powers cover all London Regional Transport—rail and buses. London Routemasters are a fleet of 750 conductor-operated buses that are extremely welcome on high density routes. The Bill is based on a number of guesses made by a firm of consultants and paid for by London Regional Transport. That firm had no better way to make those guesses than anyone else but has now earned several thousand pounds as a result of being engaged by London Regional Transport. Is there a difference between fare dodging on one-person-operated buses and on Routemasters? Clearly, conductors have far more scrutiny of whether passengers have paid their fares.

Mr. Cohen

I cannot provide any figures. Those questions were asked when this Bill was before the House in the past, and we should have had answers from the hon. Member for Ilford, South, who speaks on behalf of London Regional Transport.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: the Bill has been introduced to continue to facilitate the sacking of conductors and to push on with the introduction of one-person-operated buses. The effects of that policy on fare evasion should have been assessed. I bet anything that, other circumstances being equal, there is less fare evasion on conductor-operated buses, because conductors go around collecting the fares.

Mr. Cryer

Does my hon. Friend agree that there has been a desperate policy to get rid of as many employees as possible, but that it would be cheaper to employ people than buy complicated buses? The ordinary rear-entrance Routemasters are much cheaper than those buses that have doors operated from the front. In general, it would be far better to employ people to prevent fare dodging than support the principle of the Bill, which puts an onus on people to ensure that they have a ticket. In effect, it says that people are guilty if they do not have a ticket and tells them that they can either pay up within 21 days or face court action. Does not my hon. Friend agree that prevention is usually far better than an attempted cure?

Mr. Cohen

The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South makes is absolutely genuine.

One reason I oppose the Bill is because the buses in Leyton that go down the Lea Bridge road were savagely cut and thousands of my constituents were treated in an appalling way. I do not disguise from the House that that is one reason why I oppose the Bill; I want those buses back on the Lea Bridge road and I want the No. 38 to run to central London again.

However, I also oppose the Bill in principle because of the class discrimination that results from it, which was referred to briefly by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West. It will act as a deterrent to stop poor people travelling. If I were to give the Bill a smoother passage, I should want a differentation in the fines imposed on those on income support and those who are hooray Henries. It is no good the Minister and others implying that, because we oppose the Bill, we are in favour of fare evasion, which is absolute nonsense. There must be proper staffing and fares set at a decent level if we are to reduce fare evasion. Those points must be taken into account.

At the meeting I also said that we should increase the penalty fare for hooray Henrys and those who can afford to pay. I would be happy for the fares to be increased for those who can afford to pay, but there should be a much lower penalty for the poor who are already being penalised with high fares. But my suggestion was rejected out of hand. London Underground wrote me a most cursory response at the last minute, which stated: We do not accept your contention that low income groups and the unemployed will be particularly penalised nor will they be targeted as a section of society, as you believe. Therefore, we do not propose to make any changes to the Bill. That was all it said in response to my point that there should be a differentiation in penalty fares.

Mr. Cryer

What my hon. Friend is saying is surprising in view of the fact that, if cases finish up in a magistrates court, as opposed to the summary jurisdiction that the London Transport board is seeking to obtain from Parliament, the magistrate is bound to take into account the financial circumstances of a defendant. Therefore, it appears that London Transport wants one set of rules for its own application of the measures that is quite different and separate from, and in my view inferior to, the set of rules that apply when someone is prosecuted before a magistrates court. That seems to be an unfair set of double standards.

Mr. Cohen

I absolutely agree—that is where we will find class discrimination. When an inspector goes on a tube or bus and fines someone on the spot, the hooray Henries and the A1 and B1 groups referred to by the chairman of London Underground will pay on the spot. They will take out their credit cards to pay. We do not know whether there are arrangements in the Bill for payment by credit card—that is another question to which there was no answer. It is merely stated that appropriate commercial and financial arrangements will be made, but I bet my bottom dollar that there will be a facility to allow people to pay by credit card and cheque. Those who can afford it will be able to get rid of the fine then and there, if that is what they choose to do, but those without money will not be able to do so and will be put through the mill.

In the statement sent to hon. Members, London Transport states that it wants civil proceedings to be used. It says that the penalty will be payable on the spot, or within 21 days but, if the passenger refuses to pay the penalty, the Corporation could and do intend to institute civil, rather than criminal, proceedings for recovery, except in the cases involving flagrant dishonesty when prosecutions will be brought. All fare evasion could be seen as flagrant dishonesty. What reason is there for the distinction except that poorer people who cannot pay on the spot will be put through the mill of the criminal process.

So much money would not have been spent on adverts telling people to get a ticket, not a criminal record, if that were not the intention. The millions of pounds that were probably spent on those adverts would have gone down the drain otherwise, so it is a safe bet that criminal proceedings and criminal records will be kept for the poor. What follows from that but humiliation before the courts, and even vetting?

The Home Office has published a scrutiny report saying that many more people will be vetted when they apply for jobs. A poor person caught out under these procedures will find later that he cannot get a job. He will be discriminated against because his criminal record will show up, whereas a hooray Henry will have paid up right away with his credit card.

That is discrimination; that is the whiff of hypocrisy referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West. Gerald Ronson gets feted and shakes hands with the Queen, while the Government regard the poor as the worst of all criminals because of some petty offence.

The sums of money involved are crucial. A London underground travel pass costs £2.70 a day from Leytonstone to central London, and the most expensive pass costs £3.10. An unemployed man looking for a job might have to follow the advice of the right hon. Member for Chingford and travel around to try to find a job. Even someone who is not looking for a job is entitled to travel round London and make something of his life rather than letting the gloom of unemployment take it over. Such a man will have to spend £2.70 on a travel pass every day. If he buys five a week, one for every working day, it will cost £13.50.

How does that price compare with benefit rates? The Library tells me that a single person aged 16 to 17 entitled to income support may get either £23.65 or £31.15, depending on his circumstances. Someone aged 18 to 24 will get £31.15, and someone aged 25 or older will get £39.65. That could be all that such people receive, yet they are expected to spend £13.50 on travel passes. More than one third of their weekly income would be spent on fares.

We all know what has happened to poor people in the past year. Extra burdens have been imposed on them by the poll tax, fuel costs and other housing costs—rents have been going through the roof—and inflation has been high. Yet even if they buy cheap tickets, poor people can spend more than one third of their income on fares.

I could give many other examples. Someone of state pension age—which is 60 for women and 65 for men—may get as little as £52 a week to live on. People below pension age receive unemployment benefit of £41.40. So these poor people have to spend on ludicrously high fares a third of the money that they are given to live on. London Regional Transport, and the Minister, and the hon. Member for Ilford, South, and the 100 Members on the payroll vote who will troop through the Lobby tonight, all say how reasonable and justified the Bill is.

They are not prepared to allow a lower fine for the unwaged. They argue that most fare evaders are As and B1s. They do not believe in charging hooray Henries more and imposing a lower penalty on the unemployed and on 16 and 17-year-olds. The unwaged are charged less for entrance to many- other events because their economic circumstances are recognised. It is not that LRT and the Government do not recognise these circumstances—they do not care. LRT is increasing fines to price the unwaged off the tubes and the buses.

The chairman of London Underground, Mr. Tunnicliffe, does not only say that all travellers are As and B1s: he wants them to be only As and B1s. He does not want others to be allowed to travel. On-the-spot fines are a facility to enable hooray Henries to get off the hook easily, but they will constitute yet another means of oppression and repression of the poor who dare to travel on our public transport. They are their punishment for daring to do so.

LRT was not afraid to squander about £200 million on the ticket barriers described by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West as automatic rottweilers. LRT does not care about their safety implications. They are fine in places such as Paris, where the stations have wide concourses, but many of the London stations are narrow, so ticket barriers represent an enormous safety risk.

Londoners are fortunate not to have suffered another disaster like King's Cross, but when there is another one —as there will be because of the squalor and under-investment to which I have referred—probably in the next decade, the ticket barriers will contribute to the loss of life. Neither the management nor the Minister cares about that; they hope that they will not be in place when it occurs, so they think it acceptable to employ this risk strategy.

The approach has everything to do with reducing staff numbers. Many stations have no staff after 6 pm, which is when a lot of fare evasion takes place. LRT is desperate to reduce staff numbers and is keen to impose many more cuts to which I shall refer if I have the time. but decent staffing levels might provide the answer. Proper staffing levels would also provide a guarantee of safety for women and other passengers that they do not enjoy now.

Those arguments are at the heart of my opposition to the Bill, and I made them to LRT's representatives when they eventually came to see me. I have a letter in which LRT stated that it would be willing to consult right from the beginning. I asked its representatives to come to see me when they had something to offer and could discuss the matter properly—but they turned up only last week.

Only today, I was given official figures showing that unemployment in Leyton and London has risen 60 per cent. over the past 12 months. Those are the people who will be caught by the Bill. LRT's response to my plea for differential fare levels was this: We do not accept your contention that low income groups and the unemployed will be particularly penalised. Nor will they be targeted as a section of society as you believe. Therefore, we do not propose to make any changes to the Bill. LRT, the Minister, and the hon. Member for Ilford, South—who presented the Bill is such peremptory fashion—behave as though the case for differential fares does not exist, but it does.

Even if the differential that I seek is adopted, it will not solve the underlying problem of high fare levels that force the unwaged off the public transport network. In due course, that aspect will have to be addressed by Ministers. It will not be the Ministers who currently hold office, because the Government's rundown of the public transport system is one reason why they will be thrown out at the next general election. However, their successors will have to tackle the issue of fare and income levels, so that poor people can ride.

When, at the beginning of my remarks, I referred to the comments of other hon. Members, the Minister was quick to rise to his feet to ask when I would get to the heart of my speech. Now he sits quietly, because he is not interested. He does not want to tackle the issue of fare levels being more than half the amount that 16 and 17-year olds receive in income support. It seems that he declines responsibility for fare levels, even though he is the Minister for Public Transport—and the secret hand behind the Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Ilford, South.

I and my constituents are wondering whether there will be a bus service left on which penalty fares can be applied. I wish that I had more time, because I could say a great deal about deregulation. I have already raised the matter in the House and spoken about the great concerns of many organisations and constituents, who fear that deregulation and privatisation will mean that bus services will be slashed to ribbons. With privatisation, companies will want to go for the profitable routes at profitable times, and other routes will not run.

Recently, I wrote to LRT on behalf of local doctors and asked whether it could send one of the hoppers that it claims make such massive improvements to the new Langthorne health centre where there is great demand. I was told that LRT could not do that. It was not interested in providing a public service. With privatisation, public service will go out of the window. Routes will be run for profit. What use are penalty fares if there are no bus services?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is being very good about keeping in order, but he is just beginning to stray from the substance of the Bill.

Mr. Cohen

I accept that rebuke, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point was that other priorities should be dealt with before the House deals with this Bill.

We are worried that buses will not be operating because of the policies adopted by LRT and the problems that it has not tackled while it has been busy wasting £1 million on the Bill. For example, I have a letter from the leader of Hackney council saying that he is concerned about the Chelsea to Hackney route. Unfortunately, LRT has not drafted a Bill to implement this much-needed route.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South discussed the matter with me briefly and used what I can only call coercion, although it was not from him. He said that LRT would not introduce the Chelsea to Hackney Bill until the penalty fares Bill went through. That argument was used to try to bounce the Bill through. However, LRT has not even drafted the Bill on the Chelsea to Hackney route, let alone put it before the House. So far, it has introduced five Bills, but the one that should have priority has not been introduced. All the established transport and passenger organisations say that such a Bill should have priority even over that for the Jubilee line.

Clearly, the game that the management are up to is trying to bounce through this Bill—which has not been properly thought out or defended and on which it has not briefed the House, or even the hon. Member for Ilford, South—by using the argument that other measures are behind it in the queue and will not be introduced until this Bill is passed. That is scandalous.

Mr. Thorne

The hon. Gentleman is talking a certain amount of rubbish. I discussed the matter with him and explained that, if LRT was losing £29 million a year because of fare evasion, it could not use this money for worthwhile projects such as that which he mentioned. In the interests of the fare-paying passenger, the sooner that an improved public transport system is introduced, the better.

Mr. Cohen

The hon. Gentleman makes an argument for London Transport management getting their finger out and solving the problems that have been mentioned by the objectors to the Bill.

The price that I ask is not excessive. I want the No. 38 bus reinstated on the Lea Bridge road/west end route. That is not a great deal to ask. When London Transport cut a bus on the Wandsworth route, the Tories protested and it was reinstated. I want the same treatment for Leyton. Penalty fares should be increased for hooray Henry types and reduced for those who are unemployed or on income support. The intervention by the hon. Member for Ilford, South showed that London Transport should have made a deal and acted reasonably. London Transport came to me last week merely to find out my arguments so that it could brief the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am sorry that I missed a short portion of my hon. Friend's speech. I went outside for some fresh air and someone forced me to drink a pint of beer. I am following his argument, but he should tell the House that he does not object to the Bill simply because of the way in which he was treated about his local bus route. There are objections in principle, but my hon. Friend's present argument might lead him to be accused of opposing the Bill for understandable but not necessarily acceptable reasons. He has advanced a good case—that the Bill should be opposed because of its terms on fare evasion, which attempt merely to address the symptoms.

Mr. Cohen

I hope that someone will force my hand to lift a pint of beer. It is legitimate to raise the issue of the No. 38 bus. The private Bill system is not good, but that is the way it operates.

I do not ask for anything special but for the reinstatement of a London Transport cut. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West said that I should object in principle to the Bill. While he was out, I dealt with that at length. If the Government Whip is willing to waive the 10 o'clock rule, I shall explain it again and raise many more issues. I have spoken in great detail about the level of fares and the treatment of my poorer constituents. They are being treated shabbily and will suffer class discrimination because of the way that the system will operate. They will get criminal records.

The cost of presenting the Bill probably approaches £1 million—certainly more than the £75,000 of the cheapest private Bill. Because LRT management are so inept, they have taken up the time of hon. Members with a Bill that does not deal with a serious potential strike in my area brought about by Government policies on tendering. The Government are provoking a strike and hope to sack workers and disband the trade unions that defend them.

If that happens, there will be no buses on which to impose penalty fares. If there is tendering and private companies provide services, we shall be giving them a blank cheque. Are we giving a cowboy operator the power to impose penalty fares? What commercial and financial arrangements will be made to ensure that the moneys do not go into the cowboy operator's pocket?

The management of London Transport at the Forest Gate branch are trying to force its workers to work longer hours. They are, of course, highly skilled workers. London Transport is good at producing glossy brochures, and I have one of them. It refers to LT's wonderfully skilled drivers. They are even extremely good at collecting fares. The management are trying to force the Forest Gate men to accept a pay freeze and to work up to 20 per cent. more hours.

Management are trying to impose a 48-hour week, which is the maximum that the European social charter states that any employee should work. Of course, the charter is being blocked by the Government. The Secretary of State for Employment wants workers to work even longer hours. It is disgraceful that the Forest Gate management should be asking their employees to accept a pay freeze and to work longer hours. In my opinion there will be a strike. An enormous dispute is building up, and it has been provoked by London Transport.

Mr. Tony Banks

I wish only to underline how skilled the drivers and conductors are, and always have been. Indeed, the Prime Minister was refused a job as a conductor when he applied. Imagine how many better Prime Ministers manqué are now working on the buses.

Mr. Cohen

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Prime Minister will have it on his record that he was rejected as a potential conductor and rejected by the electorate, as he will be after the next general election.

Mr. Banks

We shall clip his ticket, do not worry.

Mr. Cohen

The Prime Minister will certainly pay the penalty, if not the fare.

The letters that I have received from a representative of the Transport and General Workers Union about the Forest Gate management and the potential strike will result in questions being tabled. He asks why access was allowed to competitors' tenders. He wants to know why tenders were so low that wages were reduced. What a farce. The Government always proclaim the introduction of competitive tendering, yet in this instance it was a fraud. It was phoney. The result is that the management are seeking to make drivers pay by increasing their working hours by 20 per cent. for no additional pay.

Competitive tendering is a farce when one party is allowed to see the other tenders. Of course a strike is being provoked. The TGWU representative wants to know why management sought to lengthen the working week, and why routes were retained in the absence of a consenting work force. These issues relate to penalty fares. A strike is being provoked, and services will be cut as a consequence.

Threatening letters have been sent to bus drivers in my constituency. Subsequently, the management will bring in hatchet men to reduce services. That will have a consequential effect on penalty fares. The buses will not be there to run. Therefore the estimate that was given is nonsense.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

The hon. Gentleman is clearly scrabbling around for extra material just to fill up the time, so perhaps I can help by asking a question. He and the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) have delayed the Bill for up to two years. Has he calculated the cost of that delay and how much it has cost the fare-paying public on London Transport?

Mr. Cohen

I wish that we could cost the delay and that we had some decent figures. If the hon. Gentleman had been here at the start of the debate, indeed throughout the debate, he would know that one of the points that has been made over and over again is that we have not had any decent substantiated figures throughout the Bill's progress.

However, hundreds of my constituents have suffered as a result of the cuts on the 38 and 55 bus routes down the Lea Bridge road. That has been substantiated by the Save our Buses Committee. If London Transport had done a deal on that, whatever costs had been incurred would not have been incurred. The fault lies at the door of inept management appointed by the Government.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) was not here at the beginning of the debate, when pertinent points were being made to the hon. Member for Ilford, South, who spoke on behalf of the promoters. We do not have an accurate figure for fare evasion—that is the whole point —but if we are to use the figures that have been provided in the promoters' explanatory statement in support of the Bill, we must estimate that the two-year delay to the Bill has cost about £58 million—a not inconsiderable amount of money.

Mr. Cohen

If that is the true cost, London Transport could have run my bus down the Lea Bridge road and made the concession for which I asked with millions of pounds in hand. That must be inept management on an enormous scale.

Mr. Sayeed

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cohen

No, I shall not give way now, because there is only a few minutes to go. I am not scratching around for material. I have tonnes of material. I could go on for another 10 hours.

It is the job of management that should be put out for competitive tendering, not the jobs of those who work on the buses. The chairman's salary increased from £73,286 in 1987–88 to £108,343 in 1989–90, and it rose by a further 25 per cent. to £130,000 a year in 1990–91. But the Minister will not say by how much his salary will be increased next year. If the other privatised industries are anything to go by, he will get another huge whack. The Minister should come clean on what he will pay the chairman.

In 1987–88, 61 members of management received more than £30,000 per year. In 1989–90, it was 366. The number has rocketed and I bet that that trend will continue. The inept management revealed by the Bill has cost millions of pounds. The time of the House has been wasted. Conservative Members who are drifting in now have all had their time wasted tonight by that inept management—

Mr. Thorne

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 190, Noes 60.

Division No. 201] [10 pm
Adley, Robert Atkins, Robert
Alexander, Richard Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Amos, Alan Baldry, Tony
Arbuthnot, James Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Beith, A. J.
Aspinwall, Jack Bellingham, Henry
Bellotti, David Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Bendall, Vivian Howells, Geraint
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Bevan, David Gilroy Jack, Michael
Blackburn, Dr John G. Jackson, Robert
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Janman, Tim
Boscawen, Hon Robert Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Boswell, Tim Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bottomley, Peter Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Kilfedder, James
Bowis, John King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Kirkhope, Timothy
Brazier, Julian Knapman, Roger
Bright, Graham Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Knowles, Michael
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Lawrence, Ivan
Burns, Simon Lee, John (Pendle)
Butterfill, John Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lightbown, David
Carr, Michael Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Carrington, Matthew Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Cash, William Lord, Michael
Chapman, Sydney MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Chope, Christopher Maclean, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) McLoughlin, Patrick
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Mans, Keith
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Mates, Michael
Couchman, James Maude, Hon Francis
Cran, James Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Currie, Mrs Edwina Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Davis, David (Boothferry) Miller, Sir Hal
Day, Stephen Mills, Iain
Dorrell, Stephen Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Moate, Roger
Durant, Sir Anthony Monro, Sir Hector
Eggar, Tim Nelson, Anthony
Emery, Sir Peter Neubert, Sir Michael
Evennett, David Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Nicholls, Patrick
Fallon, Michael Norris, Steve
Farr, Sir John Paice, James
Favell, Tony Patnick, Irvine
Fearn, Ronald Patten, Rt Hon John
Fenner, Dame Peggy Pawsey, James
Fookes, Dame Janet Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Forman, Nigel Porter, David (Waveney)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Portillo, Michael
Forth, Eric Raffan, Keith
Fox, Sir Marcus Redwood, John
Franks, Cecil Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Freeman, Roger Ross, William (Londonderry E)
French, Douglas Sackville, Hon Tom
Gale, Roger Shaw, David (Dover)
Gill, Christopher Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Goodlad, Alastair Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Shersby, Michael
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Sims, Roger
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Speller, Tony
Gregory, Conal Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Steen, Anthony
Grist, Ian Stern, Michael
Ground, Patrick Stevens, Lewis
Hague, William Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Harris, David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hawkins, Christopher Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Hayes, Jerry Temple-Morris, Peter
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Thorne, Neil
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Thurnham, Peter
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Tracey, Richard
Tredinnick, David Wiggin, Jerry
Trippier, David Wilkinson, John
Trotter, Neville Wilshire, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Wolfson, Mark
Walker, Bill (T'side North) Wood, Timothy
Waller, Gary Yeo, Tim
Ward, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Watts, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Wheeler, Sir John Mr. Jonathan Sayeed and
Widdecombe, Ann Mr. David Evans.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Ashton, Joe Lamond, James
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Leighton, Ron
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Lewis, Terry
Boyes, Roland Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Campbell-Savours, D. N. McAvoy, Thomas
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Cox, Tom McMaster, Gordon
Cryer, Bob Mahon, Mrs Alice
Cunliffe, Lawrence Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Maxton, John
Dewar, Donald Michael, Alun
Dixon, Don Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dunnachie, Jimmy O'Brien, William
Faulds, Andrew Parry, Robert
Flynn, Paul Patchett, Terry
Foster, Derek Pike, Peter L.
Foulkes, George Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
George, Bruce Primarolo, Dawn
Godman, Dr Norman A. Skinner, Dennis
Golding, Mrs Llin Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Gordon, Mildred Soley, Clive
Grocott, Bruce Spearing, Nigel
Haynes, Frank Steinberg, Gerry
Home Robertson, John Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Wareing, Robert N.
Hoyle, Doug Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Illsley, Eric Wise, Mrs Audrey
Ingram, Adam
Janner, Greville Tellers for the Noes:
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Mr. Tony Banks and
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Mr. Harry Cohen.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 186, Noes 49.

Division No. 202] [10.12 pm
Adley, Robert Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Alexander, Richard Burns, Simon
Amos, Alan Burt, Alistair
Arbuthnot, James Buttertill, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Aspinwall, Jack Carr, Michael
Atkins, Robert Carrington, Matthew
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Cash, William
Baldry, Tony Chapman, Sydney
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Chope, Christopher
Beggs, Roy Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Beith, A. J. Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Bellingham, Henry Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bellotti, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Bevan, David Gilroy Couchman, James
Blackburn, Dr John G. Cran, James
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Currie, Mrs Edwina
Boscawen, Hon Robert Davis, David (Boothferry)
Boswell, Tim Day, Stephen
Bottomley, Peter Dorrell, Stephen
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bowis, John Durant, Sir Anthony
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Eggar, Tim
Brazier, Julian Emery, Sir Peter
Bright, Graham Evennett, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Fallon, Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Farr, Sir John Miller, Sir Hal
Favell, Tony Mills, Iain
Fearn, Ronald Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Moate, Roger
Fookes, Dame Janet Monro, Sir Hector
Forman, Nigel Neubert, Sir Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Nicholls, Patrick
Forth, Eric Norris, Steve
Fox, Sir Marcus Paice, James
Fraser, John Patnick, Irvine
Freeman, Roger Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
French, Douglas Patten, Rt Hon John
Gale, Roger Pawsey, James
Gill, Christopher Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Goodlad, Alastair Porter, David (Waveney)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Portillo, Michael
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Raffan, Keith
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Redwood, John
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Grist, Ian Sackville, Hon Tom
Ground, Patrick Shaw, David (Dover)
Hague, William Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Shersby, Michael
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Sims, Roger
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Harris, David Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Hayes, Jerry Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Steen, Anthony
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Stern, Michael
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Stevens, Lewis
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Howells, Geraint Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Jack, Michael Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Jackson, Robert Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Janman, Tim Temple-Morris, Peter
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Thorne, Neil
Kilfedder, James Thurnham, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Tracey, Richard
Kirkhope, Timothy Tredinnick, David
Kirkwood, Archy Trippier, David
Knapman, Roger Twinn, Dr Ian
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Wallace, James
Knowles, Michael Waller, Gary
Lawrence, Ivan Ward, John
Lee, John (Pendle) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Watts, John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Wheeler, Sir John
Lightbown, David Widdecombe, Ann
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wilkinson, John
Lord, Michael Wilshire, David
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Wolfson, Mark
McLoughlin, Patrick Wood, Timothy
Mans, Keith Yeo, Tim
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Mates, Michael Tellers for the Ayes
Maude, Hon Francis Mr. Jonathan Sayeed and
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Mr. David Evans.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Ashton, Joe Eastham, Ken
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Faulds, Andrew
Boyes, Roland Flynn, Paul
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Foulkes, George
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Cox, Tom Golding, Mrs Llin
Cryer, Bob Gordon, Mildred
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Haynes, Frank
Dixon, Don Home Robertson, John
Illsley, Eric Patchett, Terry
Janner, Greville Pike, Peter L.
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Primarolo, Dawn
Lamond, James Rooney, Terence
Leighton, Ron Skinner, Dennis
Lewis, Terry Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Soley, Clive
McAvoy, Thomas Spearing, Nigel
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Steinberg, Gerry
McMaster, Gordon Wareing, Robert N.
Mahon, Mrs Alice Wise, Mrs Audrey
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Michael, Alun Tellers for the Noes:
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Mr. Harry Cohen and
O'Brien, William Mr. Harry Barnes.
Parry, Robert

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.

Mr. Cryer

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that the business motion which comes next on the Order Paper is not debatable but that, if the motion had been taken yesterday and not withdrawn by the Government, we could have 'debated it for at least an hour yesterday? Are not the Government deliberately gagging Parliament by tabling this motion?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member is correct. The motion is not debatable.

Motion made, and Question put, That, at this day's sitting, the Arms Control and Disarmament (Inspections) Bill [Lords] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour, and the Motion in the name of Mr. John MacGregor relating to Sittings of the House may be proceeded with, though opposed, until half-past Eleven o'clock or for one and a half hours after it has been entered upon, whichever is the later.—[Mr. Greg Knight.]

The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 54.

Division No. 293] [10.25 pm
Adley, Robert Carr, Michael
Alexander, Richard Carrington, Matthew
Amos, Alan Cash, William
Arbuthnot, James Chapman, Sydney
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Chope, Christopher
Ashby, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Atkins, Robert Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Colvin, Michael
Baldry, Tony Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Beith, A. J. Cran, James
Bellingham, Henry Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bellotti, David Davis, David (Boothterry)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Day, Stephen
Bevan, David Gilroy Dorrell, Stephen
Blackburn, Dr John G. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Durant, Sir Anthony
Boscawen, Hon Robert Eggar, Tim
Boswell, Tim Emery, Sir Peter
Bottomley, Peter Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fallon, Michael
Bowis, John Favell, Tony
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fearn, Ronald
Brazier, Julian Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bright, Graham Fookes, Dame Janet
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Forman, Nigel
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Burns, Simon Forth, Eric
Burt, Alistair Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Butterfill, John Fox, Sir Marcus
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Freeman, Roger
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) French, Douglas
Gill, Christopher Moate, Roger
Goodhart, Sir Philip Monro, Sir Hector
Goodlad, Alastair Moss, Malcolm
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Nelson, Anthony
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Neubert, Sir Michael
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Nicholls, Patrick
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Norris, Steve
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Paice, James
Grist, Ian Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Ground, Patrick Patten, Rt Hon John
Hague, William Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Portillo, Michael
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Raffan, Keith
Harris, David Redwood, John
Heathcoat-Amory, David Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Sackville, Hon Tom
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Shersby, Michael
Howells, Geraint Sims, Roger
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Jack, Michael Steen, Anthony
Jackson, Robert Stern, Michael
Janman, Tim Stevens, Lewis
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Kilfedder, James Taylor, Ian (Esher)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Kirkhope, Timothy Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Kirkwood, Archy Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Knapman, Roger Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Thorne, Neil
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Thurnham, Peter
Knowles, Michael Townend, John (Bridlington)
Lawrence, Ivan Tredinnick, David
Lee, John (Pendle) Twinn, Dr Ian
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Wallace, James
Lightbown, David Waller, Gary
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Ward, John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Lord, Michael Watts, John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Wheeler, Sir John
Maclean, David Widdecombe, Ann
McLoughlin, Patrick Wiggin, Jerry
Mans, Keith Wilkinson, John
Maples, John Wolfson, Mark
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Yeo, Tim
Maude, Hon Francis Young, Sir George (Acton)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tellers for the Ayes:
Miller, Sir Hal Mr. Irvine Patrick and
Mills, Iain Mr. Timothy Wood.
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Anderson, Donald Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Ashton, Joe Lamond, James
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Leighton, Ron
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Lewis, Terry
Beggs, Roy Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Boyes, Roland McAvoy, Thomas
Campbell-Savours, D. N. McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Cohen, Harry McMaster, Gordon
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) McWilliam, John
Cox, Tom Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dewar, Donald Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dixon, Don Maxton, John
Dunnachie, Jimmy Michael, Alun
Foulkes, George Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Godman, Dr Norman A. O'Brien, William
Golding, Mrs Llin Parry, Robert
Grocott, Bruce Patchett, Terry
Harman, Ms Harriet Pike, Peter L.
Haynes, Frank Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hoyle, Doug Primarolo, Dawn
Illsley, Eric Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Skinner, Dennis Wareing, Robert N.
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Soley, Clive Wise, Mrs Audrey
Spearing, Nigel
Steinberg, Gerry Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford) Mr. Bob Cryer and
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Mr. Paul Flynn.

Question accordingly agreed to.