HC Deb 21 April 1994 vol 241 cc1055-146
Madam Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. I have had to limit speeches to 10 minutes between 7 pm and 9 pm.

4.18 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the Government's transport policies which are failing Britain and which, if continued, will leave the country with a transport system unfit to meet the needs of the people of Britain in the twenty-first century.

I must first declare an interest—I am proud to remind the House that I am sponsored as a Labour candidate by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, formerly the National Union of Railwaymen, which tries to serve the interests of so many people who live and work in my constituency. It was the union of which both my father and grandfather were members, and I am proud to continue that link. I receive no personal financial assistance from that arrangement.

Over their period of office, the Tory Government have abandoned to market forces many of the strategic and regulatory duties carried out by previous Governments, and still carried out by most Governments in the developed world. Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the transport sector. The Government have tried to hand their responsibilities over to the private sector.

The trouble with that free market approach to transport is that it does not work. One reason is that most important transport projects are large in scale, require enormous amounts of investment and take a long time to complete, so it can be a long time before investors have any return on their investment.

That fact applies whether it is a railway, a tunnel, an airport or a road. As a result, would-be investors often want some guarantee of income, or a monopoly, or both. That is where the free market approach breaks down, because a guaranteed income or a lawful monopoly can be achieved only with the help of taxpayers and government, whether local, regional or national.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)


Mr. Dobson

I shall not give way for a moment.

That is not the only problem faced by those who would rely on market forces. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Give way."' I will give way when I have made a little progress with my speech. If hon. Members opposite persist in interrupting, I can assure them that I will not give way to them.

That is not the only problem faced by people who would rely on market forces in transport. Free market forces will not secure safety or protect individuals and communities from the danger, nuisance and environmental damage caused by various forms of transport. Government, whether local, regional or national, has to set and enforce limits and standards for noise, safety, engine emissions, or the skill and character of taxi drivers. In short, to ensure a decent transport system, we need a strategy, and we need regulation. The present Government have abandoned both, and the results are obvious.

Traffic congestion is estimated to cost businesses £15 billion per year—and that takes no account of the frustration faced by the human beings involved. Parts of the railway system are a national disgrace. Business is hampered by the difficulties of shifting freight, and passengers are hampered by the unavailability of fast, regular and reliable public transport.

Nowhere is the Government's failure to discharge their strategic duties more obvious than in the scandal of the channel tunnel rail link, and the failure to upgrade the west coast main line. The Government decided that the private sector should build the channel tunnel link. No public money was to be invested—they even passed a law against it.

But what has happened? While the 186-mile fast link from the channel to Paris has been built and is ready, not a yard of the link between the channel tunnel and London has been built, although that is a distance of only 67 miles. As a result, the British link may not be in place until 10 years after the French connection is in operation. Trains from Paris will travel to the channel at 185 miles an hour, will go through the tunnel at 85 miles an hour and will then trundle though Kent at about 50 miles an hour. Could anything better epitomise what is wrong with Britain?

The Secretary of State has boasted in the House that it will take only three hours to get from London to Paris on the train. So it will, but he can take no credit for that. If the train were to travel through France at the speed at which it travels through Britain, the journey would take not three hours but five and a half.

Then there is the Secretary of State's outrageous treatment of people on the route. He is still resisting the reasonable requests of the people at Pepper Hill in Gravesham. But the situation is worse than that after the route crosses the Thames.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)


Mr. Dobson

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.

In Barking, before entering the tunnel running to my constituency, the Eurotrains will thunder past the houses of thousands of local people. I have met a woman whose house is just 12 in from the fence at the side of where the channel tunnel link will run. The trains through Barking will pass far closer to people's homes than was ever suggested anywhere in Kent. The people of Barking demand the same treatment as the people of Kent. They are right to demand it, and we support their demand.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Does the hon. Gentleman remember twitting the Secretary of State for not making a decision on Pepper Hill? Had the Secretary of State made that decision, the line would have gone under the houses of my constituents, and we would not have had the opportunity to try for an alternative.

Mr. Dobson

I was objecting to the years of indecision and stupidity on the part of the Government, which have left the people of Kent still feeling very uncertain and blighted. They are not yet convinced that the route has been fixed. It is sensible of the Government to adjust the route at Pepper Hill in line with what people want. They could have done that years ago if they had had the wit to get on with it.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)


Mr. Dobson

The failure to build the channel tunnel link is bad for London and the south-east, but it is a disaster for other parts of the country, which will be denied fast, regular and reliable connections with the European rail network for a decade or more. People in south Wales need the north downs railway line from Reading to Redhill to be upgraded. That would provide a direct rail link from Wales to the channel tunnel, avoiding congested routes through inner London, and it could place Cardiff within little more than four hours of Paris. But the Government do not propose to do that.

Nowhere is the Government's failure more obvious than on the west of Britain, served—if that is the right word—by the west coast main line. That line, which links the major conurbations of Greater London, the west midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Glasgow, is a national disgrace. As we approach the 21st century, one of the signal boxes on the west coast main line contains working equipment placed there in 1890, 104 years ago.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

The west coast main line covers my area too, and I too want it improved. The one way I see that happening is if private investment comes in to finance the line. As the hon. Gentleman also wants improvements to the line, may I ask him whether he has changed his attitude since September 1992, when, talking about entrepreneurs who will be looking to invest in our railways, he was quoted in a national newspaper as saying: Yes, this is the politics of envy. We are envious of their wealth. These people are stinking, lousy, thieving, incompetent scum.

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman's quotation is accurate, but misapplied. I am proud to repeat what I said; I was talking about people who enriched themselves at the expense of others on poverty wages: they are thieving scum. I believed it then and I believe it now. As far as I know, my remarks do not apply to anyone who intends investing in the west coast main line—unless, under privatisation, it is intended that rail workers be paid poverty wages. In that case, my comments will apply.

Mr. Michael Bates (Langbaurgh)


Mr. Dobson


What do the Government have against the people who rely on the west coast main line, and who depend on it to serve their industry and commerce? Eighteen million people and 2 million manufacturing jobs depend on the line.

Let us compare it with the east coast main line. King's Cross to Edinburgh takes four hours and six minutes on the best journey. Euston to Glasgow takes five hours and 22 minutes. Admittedly, the Glasgow journey is eight miles longer, but I do not think that can account for a difference of one hour and 16 minutes. The difference is accounted for by the inferior track, signalling, power supply and rolling stock.

The average speed from King's Cross to York on the east coast main line is 94 mph. The average speed from Euston to Preston is 78 mph. There is just no comparison —and all the Government can say is that they are trying to attract private sector funding. Even that, however, is intended to be used only as far as Crewe. No one is even thinking of improving the line north of Crewe. That is a grotesque betrayal of all the people north of Crewe who depend on the line.

So what have the Government been doing? The answer is: not very much, except privatising and deregulating buses, and preparing to privatise the railways. What cock-eyed priorities they have.

All over the country, buses have been deregulated and privatised. As a result, many services have disappeared. Many staff have had their pay cut and working conditions worsened. What is more disturbing is the increasing incidence of fiddling by employers, which increases drivers' working time and reduces their rest periods.

I suspect that right hon. and hon. Members will be surprised to discover that, with the approval of the Government, drivers have been told by their employers that the time when they are collecting fares can be counted as part of their statutory rest period, because the limitation on hours applies only to the period when they are actually driving.

Mr. Oppenheim

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson


I heard recently that a driver who finishes work at 1 am is knowingly employed by another part of the same company to drive a school bus, commencing work at 7.30 am. That cannot be safe for the driver, other people on the road or, above all, the schoolchildren in the bus. All over the country, safety is being sacrificed in the name of deregulation—and there is more to come. Most regulation is necessary to protect passengers, staff, other road users and the environment. Deregulation imperils all that.

I remind Conservative Members that the late Lord Ridley, then Mr. Nicholas Ridley, told the bus operators that, as a result of the changes he was making, they would be able to operate their undertakings without a social conscience, and they are certainly doing so. They have no social conscience towards the staff, the passengers or the communities they serve.

Mr. Oppenheim

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson


Mr. Oppenheim


Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know the rules.

Mr. Dobson

It is costing a fortune to privatise the railways. Official figures from the Department of Transport and British Rail show that at least £446 million has been squandered on rail privatisation. Not a penny of that £446 million will be spent on new track, new coaches or the new signalling that is needed all around the country. Most of it will be poured into the pockets of accountants, brokers, merchant bankers, PR advisers and management consultants—£446 million, to provide outdoor relief for the advisory classes.

We should consider where that money could have been invested instead. That £446 million would meet more than half the cost of modernising the west coast main line; £446 million would pay 10 times over for the Government's share of the cost of building the midland metro, the supertram from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, but £40 million is not being found. That money would pay seven times over for the extra tunnelling needed to give the same environmental protection to the people of Barking as has been given to the people in Kent. It would cover four times the cost of electrifying the midland main line from Bedford to Sheffield or extending electrification from Edinburgh to Aberdeen.

It would pay three times over for the cost of electrifying the trans-Pennine link from Liverpool to Hull; it would pay eight times over for the cost of electrifying and resignalling the line from Leeds to Bradford. That £446 million would pay for 29 new InterCity trains or 130 Network SouthEast units or eight or nine major resignalling schemes, but instead the Government are frittering it away.

The improvement schemes I have listed are all sensible ideas supported by local people and local businesses because they would help the economy of all the areas affected by them.

Mr. Oppenheim

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson


I challenge the Secretary of State, and I challenge him now—

Mr. Oppenheim


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. It is quite clear that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) is not giving way. That is his prerogative, and the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

Mr. Dobson

I challenge the Secretary of State now to ask people in the west midlands or the north-west, in Strathclyde or Lothian or Tayside or Grampian, in Liverpool or Hull, in Bradford or Sheffield, whether they think that he has his priorities right; whether he should invest money in their area, or bung money instead to Tory supporters in the City of London. That is what Labour will be asking up and down the country. We are asking it here and now, and we shall be asking it in the local and Euro-elections in every part of Britain: have the Government got their priorities right?

What is the money going on? Some of the £446 million is going on top people's pay. At one time, just one person was responsible for major decisions—the boss of British Rail. There is still one of them, but half his job is now being done by the boss of Railtrack, another part of his job is being done by the rail regulator, and another part of his job is being done by the franchising director; and they are all being paid more than £100,000 a year.

That apparently is the new Tory idea of efficiency—top job shares. Split the job into four and give them all a top salary. As the managers multiply and mutate, the salaries go up, and the staff they manage come down. Since 1990, the number of blue-collar employees on the railways has come down by more than 20,000, while the total doing white-collar jobs has risen by more than 9,000. There is a marked resemblance there to what has happened as a result of the so-called health service reforms.

What else are the new appointees up to? Well, Railtrack has announced that it wants to cut its investment in maintenance by one third over the next three years. That must be wrong. I do not know whether I am blind, but I cannot think of anywhere where one looks out of a window on the railway and sees somewhere that looks as though it could do with less maintenance. Everywhere I look out looks as though it could do with a lot more.

On top of that—this is a serious matter to which I ask Conservative Members to listen—Railtrack has said that it will no longer fund centrally the national school liaison programme, previously run jointly with the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen and the British Transport police, to warn children of the perils of trespassing and vandalism on the railways.

One can see what sort of priorities the new people who have been brought in have. One can see what priority they are giving to safety—no money for the kids' education programme, and less money for maintenance.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)


Mr. Bates


Mr. Dobson

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates) in a moment.

On top of that, consultants have now predicted that, to save money, the separated train operators will have their rolling stock brought in for maintenance after every 400,000 miles, rather than the present limit of 250,000 miles. That will not just be bad for safety and reliability: it will also be bad for jobs, particularly in Eastleigh, which relies on such work.

Mr. Bates

Although the hon. Gentleman was endorsing the remarks he made in 1992, when he said that company directors were stinking, lousy, thieving, incompetent scum, he then said that that did not apply to potential investors on the west coast main line, but that it did apply to other companies which exploited people on low wages. The hon. Gentleman clearly has a company in mind. Will he name that company and put it on the record?

Mr. Dobson

Some Conservative Members may need to declare an interest in their shareholding in such companies. All I can say is, if the cap fits, wear it. If they could not be bothered to ask me questions when I was responsible for employment matters, I shall certainly not answer in detail now. But I will mention some industries.

Then I challenge Conservative Members to go away and see which people from those industries are making major contributions to. Tory party funds. They should go and look at wages in the catering and hotel industries, then go and see how the people running those industries are ripping off their employees and bunging money to the Tory party—to ensure, for instance, that wages councils were abolished, so that they could pay even lower wages.

I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I was diverted from the matter of the debate. But it will also be bad for jobs if the amount of maintenance is reduced. There has already been a falling off of maintenance orders at the Eastleigh works, and at other works, and the chances are that worse is to come.

Throughout the country, people are sick to death of the Government's costly obsession with privatisation and deregulation. Throughout the country, local people are looking for something better. They are looking to Labour to speak up for them and promote their interests.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Dobson

I do not wish to give way at the moment. I have made that quite clear, so hon. Members should sit down.

I have time for only a few examples of initiatives that have been taken by Labour and which have benefited people. In Grampian region, the Labour party pushed through a scheme to allow pensioners to travel on a bus anywhere in the region for just 10p. That scheme is now at risk of being overturned unless Labour increases its representation in Grampian region in the elections on 5 May. Even if we succeed in doing that—I hope we will —the scheme is unlikely to survive the break-up of Grampian region that will follow the Government's gerrymandering reorganisation of local government in Scotland.

Also in Scotland, Labour-led Strathclyde has led the battle against Railtrack's doubling of access charges for the use of the track and has forced it to try to justify its figures; it is finding it very difficult.

In the north-west, Labour has led calls for the M62 relief road to be abandoned. The main trans-Pennine motorway—

Mr. Brandreth

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman might not know it, but he is not directly affected by the M62 relief road.

The relief road scheme will cost £320 million, just to provide 11 miles of road through Bury and Bolton. The Tories could attract passenger and freight traffic off the M62 by electrifying the trans-Pennine rail link at a cost of only £120 million, yet they persist in the M62 relief road madness.

Mr. Brandreth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because in fact I do use the roads. I have a balanced approach to transport. I use public transport a great deal, but also the roads, as do people in my constituency.

The hon. Gentleman has talked a great deal about priorities and strategy, but has delivered neither. Given that the Government currently spend more than 40 per cent. of the transport budget on public transport, will he explain to us what is his priority, particularly in relation to roads?

He described the Government's roads programme as "over-bloated". Does that include the Christleton bypass in my constituency? What are his priorities? What is his balance—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. [Interruption.] Order. Is the hon. Gentleman deaf? I do not expect to have to call "Order" more than once. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be seeking to catch my eye too soon, because he may have a long wait.

Mr. Dobson

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, every time that I have spoken about the roads programme, 1 have said that parts of it are vital, are right and would be popular.

Mr. Brandreth

Give examples.

Mr. Dobson

I have given examples. I will give them again, if the hon. Gentleman likes. I have said all along that there are examples that are right and popular, but for some bizarre reason the Government will not go ahead with them. They insist on going ahead with those that are wrong and unpopular. One would have thought that they might have adjusted their policies in the light of their present circumstances.

In Sheffield and Manchester, Labour initiatives led to the building of the Manchester metro and the Sheffield supertram, in the face of Government delay and prevarication. In Bristol, the Labour party led calls for the introduction of a light rapid transit system for the city. That would help relieve congestion and reduce pollution in Bristol, where levels of car pollution regularly exceed European Union limits. But the Government have refused to provide any support, and still the Tory Government will not help Bristol.

But, in fairness, I have to say that it is not just the Tories who try to block new schemes such as this. It is also the Liberal Democrats. In Sheffield, it was against the opposition of the two-faced Liberal Democrats, who voted against the supertram project no fewer than eight times. In view of that, I find it hard to take them seriously when their "Pocket Guide to Environmental Policy" pledges them to encourage new schemes, using light railways and trams in cities.

To vote against something eight times is a novel way of encouraging it.

That brings me to London.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson

No, I will not.

Nowhere in Britain better illustrates the inadequacy of Tory transport policy and their lack of an overall strategy to maintain the existing transport system and develop it to meet the needs of the 21st century than what is happening in London. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) will deal with a large number of matters to do with transport in London, the Government's plans for London's buses, and the threat that the Government's plans pose to people's pensions.

But we are all entitled to ask, where is the Government's strategy for developing the railway system, underground and overground in London? They do not have one. It is a collection of piecemeal developments. They gave top priority to the Jubilee line extension, but it does not include the crucial station in north Greenwich. Then there is the Heathrow express, coming into Paddington, where it has poor connections with the rest of central London. Next there is crossrail—basically a good scheme, but only if it includes a connection with the channel tunnel link at Stratford and possibly at St. Pancras.

That brings me to the Northern line. Asea Brown Boveri, the Derby train makers, put forward their proposition for a leasing scheme for new trains for the Northern line as a follow-on order from the new trains for the Central line. That was delayed and obstructed by the Government, and by the right hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo) in particular. He said that it was a bad bargain for the taxpayer.

Now, under pressure, the Government have allowed London Underground to invite tenders for negotiated contracts, but it is far from certain that the scheme will go ahead, because there is still the crackpot suggestion from the Treasury that ABB should take part of the revenue risks of operating trains. The Secretary of State for Transport should remember Winston Churchill's summary of the Treasury's attitude to anything new, which he described as "like inverted Micawbers waiting for something to turn down". The Treasury will turn it down if it can. All that is delaying getting new trains on the Northern line and is threatening jobs in Derby, where the trains will be made. One of the things that deters people, especially women, from using public transport is their fear of assaults while travelling on bus, train or tube, and even more so when they have to walk home from the station or bus stop.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He seems to be under the impression that there is nowhere west of Cardiff. He has not mentioned Wales much, and has not referred either to Plaid Cymru.

Does he agree that it is very important that Plaid Cymru's ideas about the development of freight transport, connecting the Irish Republic with the channel tunnel, be developed, and that the current study of pilot actions for combined transport be followed by action to upgrade the track so that we can get connections between western Wales and the European continent?

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman kindly acknowledged that I had mentioned Cardiff. I am aware that there are parts of Wales both north and west of Cardiff, but I simply did not have time to mention them all. I do not claim any familiarity with the transport policies of Plaid Cymru. I apologise for that.

London Underground and the British Transport police have made a tremendous and successful effort to cut assaults on people on the tube, but it still remains a problem, and the Government have been doing little or nothing. The initiative has been left to people such as my hon. Friends the Members for Dulwich (Ms Jowell) and for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice), both of whom have drawn attention to the problem of assaults.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich has persuaded Network SouthEast to provide a £40,000 grant, in addition to the significant contribution from Labour-controlled Southwark council, to improve safety at four of the eight stations in Dulwich. [Interruption.] Let me answer the churlish inquiry about the whereabouts of my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich. She is in hospital in my constituency, because she is ill.

One of the factors that have contributed to the rise in violence and vandalism is the reduction of staff on buses and trains, and in stations and station car parks.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to refer to a churlish inquiry if there never was one?

Madam Deputy Speaker

The Chair is not responsible for the accuracy of points made by hon. Members—and a very good thing too.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I crave your indulgence for just two seconds? There is clearly an organised Conservative campaign to disrupt the speech from the Opposition Front Bench; I assume that, if Opposition Members intervene equally energetically during the speech of the Secretary of State for Transport, they will be allowed the level playing field that Conservative Members seem to think necessary.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I think that I may be safely left to judge whether noise or interruptions go beyond what is reasonable, and I think that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras is well able to take care of himself.

Mr. Dobson

Perish the thought, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Dunn

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker—for the fifth time. Conservative Members are entitled to resent the point of order of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). The truth is that there is no organised Conservative campaign against the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor, and it is clear that there is no organised Opposition campaign in his support.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I have already made my views clear. I think that it would be for the good of the debate if everyone settled down a little more quietly.

Mr. Dobson

And I shall try to speak more quietly, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Having people around in uniform deters crime. The introduction of more and more automatic ticket machines may save on wages, but they have their disadvantages: there is still no recorded case in history of a ticket machine coming to the aid of a passenger being assaulted by a drunken lout.

All over the country, Labour people and Labour councils have been taking initiatives similar to those that I have mentioned. In Lancashire, the Labour-controlled county council has been funding part of the cost of raising station platforms to make it easier for pensioners, and everyone else, to board the newer trains whose doors are further from the ground. Now the money has run out, but the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall) may be paying off: British Rail has initiated talks on improvements to other stations.

Of course, not only transport services are suffering under the present Government. The staff have been badgered from pillar to post, and forced to accept lower pay and poorer working conditions to avoid being thrown out of work. Worse still, pension arrangements are threatened. People who thought that, whatever else happened, their pensions were secure are now not so sure. All over the country, existing railway and bus pensioners are getting jittery about what is happening to their pension funds, and they are right to be concerned.

The Government still have not presented the House with the pension proposals they promised. Until they do, railway pensioners in Eastleigh, York, Crewe and Derby —indeed, throughout the country—will not feel secure. At the very least, the Government should sort out the pension issue: they owe it to all the people concerned. They must not do a Maxwell by Act of Parliament.

Throughout our transport system, the lack of any long-term strategy is obvious. In recent times, the Government seem to have had little or no strategy for British merchant shipping, other than to make its life harder than that of its competitors by ending roll-over tax relief in 1985. I understand that today, having for years resisted and voted down Labour's amendments to secure roll-over relief, introduce capital allowances and secure other concessions to help British shipping, they have at long last announced that they will do something about roll-over relief.

We have taken our campaign out to towns and communities the length and breadth of the country—from Dover to Liverpool, from Southampton to Hull and from South Shields to Aberdeen. In maritime communities, people have asked how a Government could sit back and watch the number of United Kingdom seafaring jobs fall from 40,000 in 1984 to fewer than 20,000 today.

The Government somehow give the impression that sending goods around the world by ship is no longer fashionable. That is not true: more goods are being carried by ship today than ever before. If today—in response to pressure from my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley)—the Government have finally acceded to Labour's call for roll-over tax relief, it is no credit to them; the credit belongs to those who have campaigned on the issue for so long.

Little or no strategy is discernible for the aviation industry. The development of regional airports is being deliberately held back, and we now hear that another madcap privatisation is on the cards—the privatisation of air traffic control. That should send a shiver down the spine of any sensible passenger. Just imagine the exchanges between cockpit and control tower: "Zebra Alpha to Group 4: are you receiving me?", or "Zebra Alpha: we cannot speak to you now. This is an answering machine. There is no one here to take your call at the moment. We are having a meeting with the receivers"—like the privatised Astra Training Services.

It is, however, in railway transport that the lack of strategy and investment is most obvious. Investment in the railways has declined as money has been diverted to investment related to the channel tunnel. Orders for traction equipment and rolling stock have almost dried up: just 164 vehicles have been ordered this year, compared with 841 in 1990–91.

Current British Rail orders run out this year, and no further domestic orders from British Rail or any of its successors are on the books of any British train builder. That is bad for rail users, but it is disastrous for both companies and work forces in Crewe, Derby, Eastleigh, Doncaster, Glasgow and Milton Keynes, and for Metro-Cammell in Birmingham.

The trouble is that the Government never consider the industrial consequences of their policies. We have a railway system denied new investment in rolling stock, without a fast link to the channel tunnel, with a decrepit west coast main line, and with an inadequate plan for European freight depots around the country. Getting those things right was the Government's responsibility, and they got them wrong. They have tried to shift responsibility on to the private sector, and it has not worked.

When the Government—a Tory Government; in a sense, this Tory Government—still accepted responsibility for major railway projects, the east coast main line was uprated; now, the west coast main line is left in limbo. For years, Labour said that the Government should raise money from the private sector—or allow British Rail to do so—to invest in the system. The Government refused. They used to mock my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) when he suggested it. Instead, they did nothing.

Now they say that they want private sector investment: it could be the answer to all their problems. They still cannot manage it, however. They have not a single penny piece of private money invested in the relatively straightforward channel tunnel link—so what are their chances of succeeding with the infinitely more complex west coast main line?

It is all so slow. It took Robert Stephenson just three years to build and start operating the line from London to Birmingham; on the Government's best estimates, it will take them 10 years to uprate it. That is why we say that their incompetence is not just bad for Britain now: its consequences will be with us well into the new century.

At every stage in its economic development, a society needs a transport system that meets the current needs of industry and commerce and allows individuals to get around easily so that they can enjoy its benefits. A good transport system is a prerequisite for a civilised and economically developed society. By those standards, the Government are failing the nation.

Unless they change their policies, our country and our children will be left with a transport system incapable of meeting the needs of the new century. I remind the House that that new century is just six years away.

4.59 pm
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John MacGregor)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'strongly supports the Government's transport policies which are providing more efficient and effective delivery for all users, in particular through the programme of privatisation and liberalisation in transport which allows the market to provide the transport services users want rather than the services which central planners dictate they should have; believes that the Government's rail reforms will build on the improvements in passenger service quality already achieved under the Citizen's Charter and offer the best opportunity to transfer freight from road to rail; noting the increased levels of public investment in rail, road and London Transport infrastructure, welcomes also the innovative means of financing new transport infrastructure developed in the Private Finance Initiative; supports the initiatives taken by the Government in the European Union to deal with sub-standard shipping; and applauds the Government's drive to liberalise aviation in the European Third Aviation Package and elsewhere.'.

I am delighted that we are having this debate, because it is revealing in all its stark emptiness the poverty and paucity of the Labour party's transport policy. I have rarely read such an unimaginative Opposition motion. It is totally lacking in content and analysis and wholly negative—qualities matched only by the speech of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), who clearly does not know the facts. The hon. Gentleman accused us of lack of investment. I will show later that investment under this Government has been a great deal higher throughout than under the last Labour Government—particularly in relation to London Transport.

The hon. Gentleman does not understand either that our private finance operations are progressing extremely well and have received a tremendous response from the private sector. I will also demonstrate that. He accused us of neglecting safety. Yesterday, I announced the best road safety figures ever: there were fewer road fatalities than since records began, despite a fourteenfold increase in traffic. That was brought about by a heavy emphasis on all sorts of safety programmes. The same is true of rail, and I will refer later to our rail safety plans.

The hon. Gentleman's speech lacked consistency. At the beginning of it, he accused us of not making any investment in the channel tunnel rail links but towards the end complained that we were not investing elsewhere in the railways because we have been diverting public funds to the channel tunnel rail links. The hon. Gentleman is right on his second point, because we have spent £1.4 billion already on the channel tunnel rail links infrastructure. I suppose he does not think that that is very much money.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Secretary of State confirm that not one penny piece has yet been invested by the Government in the channel tunnel fast rail link?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman talks about the channel tunnel link. He must understand that we have invested—[Hon. Members: "Answer."] I am answering the question. We have invested £1.4 billion already in the channel tunnel rail links and the infrastructure, including nine freight terminals throughout the country—some £450 million invested—to capitalise on the channel tunnel. Those big sums have been invested already. The second channel tunnel rail link will meet the capacity available at the beginning of the next century, and we will have that capacity in place because that scheme is going well. The hon. Gentleman does not understand that a Bill must pass through the House before we can start incurring expenditure. Above all, the hon. Gentleman missed the point that a substantial amount of money has already been spent on the link.

Mr. Arnold

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituents are delighted that he invested time and money investigating an alternative route at Pepper Hill from which they could benefit? Had my right hon. Friend taken the advice of the Opposition's transport spokesman, a line would have been bulldozed under houses at Pepper Hill.

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I decided to re-examine the situation at Pepper Hill and Ashford, but the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras accused me of ignoring the needs of the community. In fact, the community and the councils asked me to take a further look, and I did so in their interests. The hon. Gentleman was wrong about that, too.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) is not present. I thought that he would be, and apologise for not giving notice of my intention to refer to him. His contribution and that of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras over the past week show up the sterility and triviality of their thoughts. They attacked the salaries of the chairman of Railtrack, the Franchising Director and the Rail Regulator. They fail to understand that if one is appointing people to top jobs that involve huge responsibilities, it is important to go for high quality.

I want Railtrack to be the most efficient and effective provider of track and signals possible. That is in the interests not only of all who use the railways but of those who work on them. If the management does well, the employees will do well. I want high quality and the best skills for the challenging and important post of Franchising Director, because it matters to passengers that he gets it right. The Rail Regulator will be there to ensure fair competition and to protect the consumer. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras lives in an old-fashioned, outdated world. If one wants high quality and the best skills, one must pay for them. That does not mean a big increase in cost—only a tiny increase. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that that is wrong, he cannot want the best management for the railways and the best skills for the jobs.

Privatisation costs for British Rail and Railtrack this year will be about £88 million, some £30 million of which will be valuable new investment, including investment financial and information systems. That is a tiny proportion of their costs. If one improves management and systems and achieves greater efficiency, one yields substantial savings.

British Rail's operating costs are expected to fall considerably in the year just ended, with something like a 7 per cent. reduction in operating costs because of improved efficiency. The costs of restructuring the railway system in one year are, proportionally, a good deal less than the savings that BR has already achieved this year, and which the rail system will continue to achieve as a result of the new management and systems. The hon. Gentleman got that completely wrong, too.

The other big contribution made by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North in the past few days was to table an early-day motion—early-day motion 1040—on child safety in coaches and minibuses. It deplores the fact that the Secretary of State turned down this offer"— of a meeting with the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras— saying 'it would not be wise to consider making further regulations in this area'.

From that, right hon. and hon. Members would take it that I do not intend ever to make further regulations. In fact, my letter to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras dated 21 January, from which he quoted—and that shows how up-to-date he is in getting around to tabling his early-day motion—stated: However, as you may know we are currently reviewing the full technical and cost implications of seat belts in these vehicles. Until this review is complete and we have full reports of the tragic accidents which occurred last year, we feel that it would not be wise to consider making further regulations in this area.

That statement has been turned into an early-day motion that implies that I did not think it would be wise to make further regulations. That is the most disgraceful way of carving up a single sentence and is grossly misleading to the House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will apologise.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

The Secretary of State spoke of attracting top people. Is it true that the person appointed as chairman of Railtrack, and paid £120,000 for a three-day week, is the only BP chairman in that company's history to take it into a loss, and that he was forced out by the unanimous vote of BP's other directors? Is that the right hon. Gentleman's idea of a top person?

Mr. MacGregor

The chairman is an outstanding business man who is well regarded in the business community. Everyone in the business community knows that he is doing an extremely good job and is well worth the salary that he is paid.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)


Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)


Mr. MacGregor

Very well, but then I must make progress—I have already given way three times.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the Secretary of State, who is courteous in these matters. In replying to the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold), he mentioned the Union Rail route. Is he aware that the Bill that he mentioned will contain a provision for the tunnels to run underneath many hundreds of homes in Newham, instead of below the existing railway—which it does for part of the route? Is not that asking for trouble? Will the right hon. Gentleman examine that matter, because the Bill will surely be held up unless the route is changed to run below the existing line rather than underneath houses?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman makes a point that has completely escaped the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras. To ensure the most effective route and one that takes account of local communities—and obviously it is not possible to meet everyone's requirements—an enormous amount of time and resources were spent and there were huge public consultations. A hybrid Bill will also be required to be passed by the House, and that will clearly take a great deal of time. The hon. Gentleman thinks that somehow or other we can do it just like that and we will have the railway system in place tomorrow. He completely ignores the two to three years that are involved in the process. That is the point at which some of the issues can be examined.

Mr. Heald

Before my right hon. Friend leaves his point about the early-day motion, and given that motion's clear inaccuracy, will he give the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) the opportunity to withdraw his comment which is false?

Mr. MacGregor

I have made the position clear to the House. I have read out exactly what I wrote to the hon. Gentleman and I hope that he will now withdraw his comment.

My charge relates to matters much more serious than the trivial and misleading episodes to which I have referred so far—although the hon. Gentleman's speech contained a lot of other examples. My charge is both that he has no policy and that he is still attempting to mislead the country into thinking that he has. He spent almost his entire speech criticising our levels of investment, despite the fact that we have invested a great deal more than the previous Government.

The implication of that criticism—there was a complete roll-call which we will be studying carefully—is that a Labour Government would be engaging in all those programmes and carrying out all that investment. Recently, the shadow Chancellor said that the Labour party's so-called spending commitments simply do not exist—that there are no manifesto commitments to public spending at this stage.

Let me ask the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras some questions. Has he secured from the shadow Chancellor an increase in the overall transport investment programme? He has already put forward the most enormous range of criticisms of spending and therefore, by implication, clearly expects changes to be made, and made quickly; he has complained about the speed of such changes. He ignored the fact that we have invested huge sums in the east coast main line; the west coast main line is the next priority. He seemed to think that both of them should have been done at once. There is a clear implication—

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

No, I am addressing the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, who expects a big increase in the transport programme. We shall simply cost the range of proposals that he has put forward today and be clear about what they are. If he does not have an increase in the programme, where will he make cuts?

The hon. Gentleman said little about the roads programme. In the House the other day, he described it as bloated—despite the fact that, as he knows, a large number of his colleagues on the Back Benches were urging me to get on with road projects in their areas. I assume that the hon. Gentleman will make savage cuts in the roads programme. He should therefore tell us exactly where he will make the big cuts.

He must then face this point.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

I am still on the same paragraph. Even if overall passenger rail traffic could be increased by 50 per cent. as a result of the massive investment that the hon. Gentleman claims he would make, it would cut passenger road traffic by only some 3 per cent.—less than one year's growth at present. It would be a totally silly use of resources to cut the road programme savagely and switch over. That would add a great deal to what we are already spending. We are spending 40 per cent. of our programme on public transport for 10 per cent. of the traffic. The hon. Gentleman wants to make the big switch to spend 60 per cent. or 80 per cent. of his total programme on public transport. That would not only be a bad use of resources; it would disappoint a lot of communities around the country.

During our exchanges on the road review, the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) was at least honest. He said that he was not sure which way he wanted to go on my decision about the A167 western bypass at Durham: he said that he was sitting on the fence. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said that he was on the roundabout, going nowhere but round and round. At least the hon. Member for City of Durham was honest in saying that he was sitting on the fence.

The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Harvey) does not even admit that he sits on the fence. He has been extremely critical of the roads programme. Recently at the Liberal Democrat party conference, a resolution was passed drawing attention to the urgent need to shift the emphasis from road building to public transport.

The hon. Gentleman undoubtedly knows that almost all his colleagues keep fawning on my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic urging him to get their road schemes through as quickly as possible. He knows that in different parts of the country his colleagues are saying that they want their roads urgently—he criticised the Government for not producing them. Those hon. Members want schemes cut back in different parts of the country, where other hon. Members are saying that they want their road schemes and that they want cuts made elsewhere. It is absolutely typical of the Liberal Democrats to be saying different things in different places. They have not made up their minds and are all at sea.

Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon)

When we have debated the roads programme on previous occasions I have, indeed, taken a hostile stance on the majority of that programme. The Secretary of State said, in a tone of astonishment, that I seem to be for some roads and against others. I put it to him that there is not one hon. Member in the House who is either in favour of or against all roads. We have said consistently that we want a moratorium on motorway widening and a review of the roads programme. Clearly, local schemes can go ahead within that. It is the motorways with 14 lanes that we speak against, and we have done so consistently.

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman because at last we have flushed him out: he is hostile to the majority of the roads programme. We will now tell all Liberal councils and councillors across the country, who call for increased and more rapidly spent money on the roads programme—in Newbury and in lots of other places —what the hon. Gentleman said. He cannot get away with saying that we must simply avoid widening the motorways. He must face the fact that the business congestion costs about which he complained are mainly concentrated on motorways. Ordinary motorists who want to journey around the country are being held up mainly on motorways.

If the hon. Gentleman does not propose to do anything about the motorways, we shall remind the country that in 10 years' time it will be the Liberal Democrats' policy to have our motorways as parking lots for cars with their engines running. That is entirely what the hon. Gentleman's policy means.

If this debate has achieved one thing, it is that it has shown us the transport policies of the Liberal Democrats. Now we know what those policies are and we will let the country know.

Several hon. Members


Mr. MacGregor

No, I must get on.

My final point relates to the charge in the motion of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras that we have failed the country. That charge is defeated not only by the fact that we have greatly increased spending, and by the other things that I shall mention in a moment, but by surveys of informed overseas business men and companies.

I have in front of me a survey of European senior executives that was undertaken by Healey and Baker in connection with more than 18 capitals around the world. The questions in the survey related to the best cities in terms of external transport links and the best cities in terms of transport infrastructure. In each case, London came second out of the large range. That does not suggest that London is regarded as not having good links.

In a recent survey of foreign-owned companies operating in the United Kingdom, KPMG said: The UK's infrastructure and transport were highly rated with closeness to key markets, road, air and rail access all exceeding expectations.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras always tries to shout down and talk down our transport infrastructure. Those who have experience of it regard it as one of our great assets. That is why the hon. Gentleman's motion completely fails.

The hon. Gentleman criticised the levels of capital investment. London Transport capital investment is nearly three times larger now in real terms than under the Labour Government and the GLC in 1978–79. The total investment in London Transport between 1974 and 1979 was less in real terms than capital investment this year. That is what we are doing now. It is no wonder that the hon. Gentleman does not like it. We are spending more now in real terms than was spent throughout the whole period of the Labour Government. Capital investment in the rail industry—[Interruption.] It is no wonder that Labour Members are trying to drown me out; they do not like to hear the facts.

Capital investment in the rail industry now is 50 per cent. higher in real terms than it was 10 or 11 years ago and is at among the highest levels for 30 years. Capital investment in national motorways and trunk roads is 87 per cent. higher in real terms than in 1978, yet the hon. Gentleman has the gall to say that we are not investing in our transport infrastructure.

I shall turn to other aspects of transport, not only the investment in infrastructure. Our transport industries are not only investing a lot in infrastructure; they are much more efficient and competitive. Compared with the completely public sector-oriented policy that the Labour party is pursuing—

Mr. Foulkes

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

No, I will not.

Mr. Foulkes

I have been sitting here all through the debate.

Mr. MacGregor

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will have to sit for a bit longer.

On long-distance coaches, our changes have multiplied choice and lowered fares. The deregulation of buses has produced an increase in bus mileage and has made services more flexible. There are more operators, and subsidies have been halved. There are good returns for those who were previously providing subsidies.

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. MacGregor

As a result of privatisation, British Airways is now one of the most efficient, competitive and profitable airlines in the world. It is highly regarded.

Mr. Foulkes


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I make the point to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), as I did to an hon. Member from the Government Benches: if a Minister, or anybody else who has the Floor, does not choose to give way, hon. Members must resume their seats.

Mr. MacGregor

I have given way a good deal more than the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras did.

Our ports have been modernised, and they are attracting business again because of privatisation and the abolition of the dock labour scheme. That is the kind of transport policy to which the hon. Gentleman wants us to return. He complained about privatisation and deregulation, but they have worked in practice to increase investment and to provide greater choice and, in many cases, lower fares. The policy has worked and that is why the Opposition are now by and large refusing to reverse it.

What did the Labour party do? It failed to get investment and to reduce inefficiency, overmanning and restrictive practices in the transport industries, so failing the consumer. The Labour party opposed each and every one of the policies that I have just described, which brought such massive improvements. That is why I totally reject the motion on the Order Paper, and that is why the Government do not think that the hon. Gentleman has made his case.

Turning to the future, let me begin with rail. Everyone realises that there is a need for change and improvement on the railways. The system that existed before 31 March on British Rail had been ossified for too long. As a monolithic, nationalised industry, BR was not responsive enough to what its users needed. At the heart of our reforms are the interests of the users—the passengers and the freight industry.

I fully acknowledge that much improvement has taken place in recent years under Sir Robert and Sir Bob Reid, and their boards. The programme "Organising for Quality" and the impetus given by the passengers charter undoubtedly produced big improvements in the standard of service. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras laughs, but standards of improvement are coming through and that clearly motivates staff.

For example, the latest results show that, on average during the past year, 13 out of 15 commuter routes in the south-east were meeting or exceeding the punctuality standards set by the passengers charter. The London, Tilbury and Southend line has seen a performance turn-around, and it is one of the most punctual of all. That shows what can be done by changed systems, the targets of passengers charter and better management.

All of that took place before the large-scale investment. There has been a big turnaround, and major investment is now in hand. Work on a £83 million resignalling project is now under way.

Mr. Hugh Bayley (York)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. MacGregor

I must get on. I have given way a great deal.

The franchising of passenger services is one of the key elements in our plans. The franchising targets which I set for the franchising director last month are ambitious, but achievable. They are based on my desire to see that railway passenger services in Great Britain are provided under the franchise agreements as soon as is reasonably practicable. It is through franchising that we will see an overall improvement in the quality of services that are available to railway passengers.

Today, the franchising director published his timetable for the programme. He sets out how he intends to meet those targets by awarding the first six franchises by the end of 1995 and by franchising over half of BR's current passenger services by April 1996. I am confident that franchising and competition will attract keen interest from the private sector from companies with experience of the transport sector, companies looking to diversify and from BR management-employee buy-out teams.

Since November, when the Railways Act received Royal Assent—it is only a short time ago—we have achieved, with the full co-operation of BR and Railtrack, a massive restructuring of the railway industry to get it into shape for our reforms. It is the most far-reaching reform of the industry in half a century. Railtrack is now a fully independent company, and passenger and freight-operating companies have begun to operate as units within the board. Those will emerge as separate companies in the next year or so.

The infrastructure maintenance [...]as been put together under one management, and we are already seeing the benefits of greater management focus and transparency of accounting. Better decisions will be made that way, and that is a point that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras completely fails to understand. Passenger services in particular are beginning to demonstrate new creative ideas about the services that customers want. All this is happening well before the franchising and other privatisations get under way.

Mr. Dobson

Does the Secretary of State welcome the initiative from the new management of what is now called North London Railway artificially to re-zone Hampstead Heath station from zone 2 to zone 3, so that they can put up the prices by 36 per cent.? Does the right hon. Gentleman welcome that sort of initiative?

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands that when some zoning areas are out of line with the rest, they must be adjusted. That happened under the previous system: there have been a number of occasions on which it has taken place. I must tell him that that has nothing to do with our reforms.

Railtrack is another clear example of why our reforms will produce better management and better decisions. As the chairman, Bob Horton, made clear, Railtrack believes that a public service business must behave like every other modern business. I agree with that. Costs must be transparently sourced, and it is on that basis that Railtrack has derived the cost of running the network and apportioned it into access charges.

It is not in Railtrack's interests—nor is it in the interest of the public or the railways system—to make unrealistic charges. Railtrack has divided up the entire cost of running the network at around £2 billion. We are discovering—as a result of the efforts and resources about which the hon. Gentleman complained—where the costs lie and the ways in which they can be put right.

Railtrack has allocated around £2 billion according to the use made by particular operators. For the first time, users of the infrastructure will bear the true cost of running the network. The advantage is that they will see where the true costs lie, and that is the key to real management control.

There are other advantages. The arrangement enables depreciation to be covered, and track investment can be given a priority that it has not always had. At the same time, Railtrack has been set challenging targets to get efficiency gains, and also to get its costs down and to give a realistic return to invest in the development of its asset base.

On pensions, once again the hon. Gentleman made outrageous charges which, if they have any effect outside the House, can only frighten people and lead them in completely the wrong direction. For a start, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. We have made our proposals following discussions with the British Rail pension trustees, as we have said. We have put our proposals out for consultation and the hon. Gentleman indicated that he would like to see them. I must tell him that copies have been in the Library for some time, and are therefore available there.

Of course, the moment we finish consultation we will make our proposals to the House in the way that we have always been expected to. I expect orders to be laid in this House and in the other place in May. That is in time to enable us to have them in places before the arrangements come into operation in October. I must make an important point to the hon. Gentleman. We have agreed with the trustees on all the absolutely key issues, and I am therefore confident that there are few issues—and they are not substantial ones—which remain unresolved. If there are any, they will be put to the House. The way in which the hon. Gentleman once again accused us of purloining funds was quite outrageous.

I want to mention the new regime of rail safety to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Railway accidents are rare, and rail remains one of the safest modes of transport. Building on that, the Government, Railtrack and British Rail are committed to maintaining and improving our enviable safety record. Both boards have my full support in ensuring that safety remains a top priority during the significant organisational changes to the industry.

This year's safety plan for the rail industry is published today, and sets out strategic safety objectives for BR and Railtrack for the coming year. There are also detailed arrangements for managing safety and reports on BR's safety performance in 1993–94. The safety plan is a comprehensive and forward-looking document which fully meets, and in some respects exceeds, current safety performance. It demonstrates a high level of commitment and resources which are being devoted throughout the industry to running a safe railway. The hon. Gentleman should have the grace to acknowledge that fact.

Mr. Dobson

What contribution to the improvement of safety does the Secretary of State think has resulted from Railtrack saying that it is unwilling to finance centrally the advisory service for children to keep them off the railway?

Mr. MacGregor

I understand that that is the responsibility of British Rail, not Railtrack. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would focus on the substantial funds that are being deployed to ens[...]re that we have safe railways. If he looks at the safety plan, he will see that that is the case.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. MacGregor

I must turn to roads. I shall be brief because we debated roads in March and the roads review has been published. I simply wish to make a few key points which are important in a debate on transport policy.

The roads review was one of the scheme priorities. There was a clear managerial need to establish priorities. To progress all the schemes in the programme with the same effort and often at much the same pace did not make the best use of resources. It wasted money and time and created uncertainty.

Mr. Dobson

The right hon. Gentleman says, apparently having been advised by his colleague—another expert on these matters—that responsibility for the anti-trespass and vandalism scheme is the responsibility of British Rail. Robert Horton, the chairman of Railtrack, wrote to the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen saying that the scheme was the responsibility of Railtrack and that Railtrack did not intend to discharge it centrally and would delegate it to individual managers. At least that is my understanding of the letter.

Mr. MacGregor

Perhaps we can clarify this comparatively small point. I am happy to clarify for the hon. Gentleman where the responsibility lies. I think—I shall have to check—that the responsibility lies with the British Transport police, of which British Rail is the employer. However, it is extremely important that the hon. Gentleman withdraws his accusation about lack of attention to safety on the railways. That is the key issue.

I was saying that the aim of the roads review was the better use of resources. The review has resulted in savings of up to £100 million a year which would otherwise have been committed to preparation and holding inquiries too early. That money could be better spent elsewhere in the roads programme. I should also make it clear that there is a high level of road building. Even with that, it was clear that some schemes would not have entered the construction frame for a very long time. So I felt that it was realistic to withdraw some of the schemes. I understand the concerns of those who have complained about the withdrawal of schemes, but it was clear that construction was a long way away.

For all the schemes which remain in the programme —the vast bulk—the review has not resulted in delays. The priorities assigned to the schemes made public what would have happened in practice. I took the opportunity of the review to consider an up-to-date assessment of the balance between the different environmental and economic considerations. That is why I decided to withdraw some schemes such as the M12 and the trans-European network from Stansted to Oxford.

In addition to the roads programme review, many other effective, important and often radical policies are being pursued. That, again, is why the hon. Gentleman's motion is so wrong. First, the delivery of the roads programme is being speeded up. We have set up the Highways Agency, which will certainly ensure better delivery. I have already referred to road safety. I strongly attack the hon. Gentleman for suggesting that we have not devoted resources or a great deal of attention to road safety. The evidence is all there in the results.

All our policies reflect the importance that we attach to getting the balance right for the environment. To give one example, the Government have recently published planning guidance which seeks to reduce the need to travel. Our sustainable development strategy published in January sets out our thinking on how to reconcile society's need for access to an ever wider range of goods and services with our ability to sustain the quality of life for future generations.

Then there are the initiatives on electronic motorway tolling and the design, build, finance and operate programmes, the next stage of which I have taken forward in the past month. That leads me to another important point.

Mr. Foulkes

While the right hon. Gentleman is shuffling his papers, will he give way?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not want to go on for too long so I am throwing away some of my notes. I prefer to concentrate on the important points. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras misunderstands the nature of the private finance initiative. He suggests that the Labour party has invented the idea of bringing private finance into the system. However, he gave the game away in his criticism of the Northern line proposals and of what Asea Brown Boveri and the other tenderers in that competition are being asked to do when he said that it was wrong that they should take on some of the risk. It is clear that the Labour party's idea of private finance is not to transfer the risk but simply to engage in off-balance-sheet financing to get round public expenditure controls. That is another way in which the hon. Gentleman simply piles up expenditure on the public expenditure programme. That is also why his policies for the future simply do not add up.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall not give way because the hon. Gentleman took a long time.

To accuse us of not getting on with the private finance initiatives is a gross travesty of what is happening. have here a list of schemes that are already being constructed under the private finance initiative. They include the Jubilee line, the Dartford-Thurrock bridge, the second Severn bridge, the Heathrow express rail link. The hon. Gentleman clearly does not realise that a £400 million private sector contribution has been made to the Jubilee line.

Mr. Dobson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall not give way.

In order to get the initial feasibility study under way, Railtrack launched the west coast main line competition. More than 40 organisations responded and Railtrack has appointed the winner. That is the first stage of the project. It has created tremendous interest and it is going ahead.

We are taking forward the second channel tunnel rail link and crossrail as joint ventures. I hope that the Private Bill Committee which is considering the Crossrail Bill will get through the House. It has the Government's full support. We can then get on with that project. We are moving fast on the competition to find a private sector promoter to design and build the second channel tunnel rail link and to operate the international services on it; 74 organisations have already responded and requested the pre-qualification documents. We shall move ahead with issuing the full tenders in June. Many other private finance projects are in the pipeline. Those projects also show where the Government's policies are working.

I want to speak briefly about shipping. I agree with the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras about the importance of shipping. We are pursuing five specific measures to assist the industry. I hope to announce them in greater detail more publicly but I shall outline them quickly now. First, I announced a package of measures to the House on 15 December. It was targeted specifically at the competitiveness of United Kingdom shipping and included new regulations which are now in force. The regulations simplify ship registration law and enable ships on bareboat charter to be brought on to the United Kingdom register for the first time.

Secondly, I announced consultations on changes to the officer nationality requirements for United Kingdom vessels. Those changes should be in place by autumn. My announcement came shortly after the Baltic Exchange approached me with a proposal for a British open register. After carefully considering the proposal, I decided not to proceed with it for the present. I am worried about the impact that opening the new register would have on the existing United Kingdom shipping register. It would be better to assess the effectiveness of our new, much freer regime for the existing register over a reasonable period before considering whether to go further.

The third measure is connected wi[...]h the important subject of seafarer trading. The 15 December package included proposals to extend the financial assistance for that.

Fourthly, we have made it clear on several occasions that it would not be in the best interests of the industry, the consumer or the taxpayer to offer blanket financial assistance to shipping. Nevertheless, we recognise that British shipping can be at a disadvantage when competing with foreign shipowners who benefit from various fiscal measures.

As the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said, after careful consideration, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced today that he proposes to introduce a provision which will allow capital allowances, being balancing charges for ships, to be rolled over for up to three years: that is, roll-over relief. We estimate that the measure will benefit the shipping industry by up to £20 million per annum in a full year. Subject to our obligation to notify the Commission, my right hon. and learned Friend will introduce the necessary legislation in next year's Finance Bill with retrospective effect from today.

The fifth important matter to which we have given close attention is substandard shipping. I have focused strongly on that matter since I became Secretary of State for Transport. We have encouraged the European Commission and the Council of Ministers to do likewise. I am delighted that we are making real progress on it in the European Union, where action on the subject has been positive.

We welcome and support the International Maritime Organisation's efforts to improve flag state control and to ensure that all states apply and enforce the agreed international standards. However, until all states meet their international responsibilities, we shall have to concentrate on enhancing our own port state control measures. We inspect more than 30 per cent. of the foreign flag ships that visit our ports. Last year 6 per cent. of the 2,000 ships inspected—some 120 vessels—were detained.

There will be a meeting of European Ministers later this year to discuss improvements to the regional port state control system. I have spent much time on the matter with European Union representatives because it is important for a variety of reasons. We shall work to bring all initiatives together in the coming months, to ensure that our actions and those of our international partners together increasingly deter substandard ships from using our waters and that those that continue to do so are identified, inspected and dealt with effectively.

That five-point programme contains nearly all the points on which the shipping industry has urged us to take action and I am happy to announce them as a complete package.

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the British open register proposed by the Baltic Exchange, which I advise, was not designed to help not the British shipping industry but maritime London and its institutions, such as the Baltic, Lloyd's and so forth? I hope that my right hon. Friend does not rule out reconsidering that proposal.

Mr. MacGregor

I said that I was prepared to review it after a time and I well understood that that was the point of the proposal. Having talked to many people about it, the evidence showing whether it would have such an effect was slim and it could have caused problems for the existing register. In addition, the changes that I announced in December could well meet some of the objectives of the Baltic Exchange proposal. We must therefore wait and see whether they have that effect. My hon. Friend will know that many people at the Chamber of Shipping were extremely doubtful about the proposal and worried about it. If the changes do not have the desired effect in wider areas we must consider the criticisms. I made it clear that I am prepared to review the situation, but we have considered the matter carefully.

On aviation, we have been guided by privatisation of airlines and airports and liberalisation of aviation systems in the European Union and beyond. There can be no doubt that our privatisations of British Airways and the British Airports Authority had tremendously positive results. As a result, BA is one of the world's most profitable, successful and competitive airlines. At the Transport Council in Luxembourg this week one of my colleagues complimented us on what we did and clearly implied that he wished that his country had acted to restructure and privatise the aviation industry when we did that with British Airways; he recognises that we have realised the benefits.

As for the BAA, there has been a much greater increase in investment than would have taken place if it had remained in the public sector and a sharpening-up of services for all those who use the BAA airports as a result of dynamic enterprise.

On liberalisation, the United Kingdom has played a leading part in securing the third aviation package to open up the skies in Europe. It is important to ensure that that package is implemented in two ways: first to ensure that there are no transgressions of the package; secondly, to ensure that there are no unfair state aids, or that they are phased out as quickly as possible. I have spent much of my time during the past few months dealing with both, and that is a formidable task.

We have secured that package, which has great benefits for all air passengers, and it is important that we continue on that course. I assure the House that I will be very vigilant about any transgressions of the third aviation package and will pursue them and the state aid question with the Commission and in the Council.

On aviation and the United States-United Kingdom negotiations, we remain committed to liberalising transatlantic air services. We tabled a wide-ranging liberalisation offer last December. Liberalisation tends to be viewed differently in this country and in the United States. For the United States, increased access for its airlines to Heathrow is the important issue. For us, it is opening up the United States domestic market to access to other airlines so that competition can be fair. For that reason, we have emphasised the British Airways-United States air deal. Approval for that deal was one of our key objectives in the negotiations.

I am very glad about another development—the recent proposed deal between Virgin and Delta, which involves closer co-operation in several areas, in particular code-sharing on Virgin's flights to Heathrow. We and the United States Administration are examining the proposal, which appears to show an increasing acceptance of the realities of capacity constraints at Heathrow. As I told the House, I very much regret the fact that the talks with the United States have stalled and I am trying to get them going again. The proposed deal between Virgin and Delta gives us another opportunity to do so.

I shall be responding shortly to the Select Committee on Transport about regional airports. Under this Government such airports have prospered and expanded dramatically. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras will also know that, in my proposals to the United States, I gave prominence—I put them right up front—to granting access to regional airports, because I understand the importance of that.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

What about Stansted?

Mr. MacGregor

As well as to Stansted. I am constantly trying to find out whether we can make a mini-deal that involves regional airports and Stansted, even if we cannot get the full deal quickly.

I apologise for the fact that I have taken some time, but I have given way to—

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. MacGregor

I have given way to many interventions and I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

My summary shows that we have a co-ordinated and coherent transport policy—a policy that depends on getting the infrastructure that we require for the 21st century; giving transport users the opportunity to respond to market forces; and enabling our industries to be among the most competitive, in some cases in the world and certainly in Europe—for example, the road haulage and coach industries.

Mr. Dobson

What about the railways?

Mr. MacGregor

And the railways. Under our reforms railways will be increasingly competitive. The taxpayer will not be burdened with the colossal burdens that German and French taxpayers have to bear because of their railways. Our policies are doing the same for aviation and shipping. We have many measures contained in a substantial programme. Our policy is full of measures—many radical—to ensure that we are up to date.

We heard from the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras about a transport policy that is rooted in the past. He pretends that the cost will be met by a significant increase in public expenditure. In the months ahead we will probe to find out how much his colleagues would support him to carry through the substantial extra investment that he was urging. We know that he cannot count on their support, which is why he is putting a bogus prospectus before us. That is why I totally reject the Opposition's transport policy, such as it is, and the motion.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. During the opening part of the Secretary of State's speech, he said that he would say something about London Transport. I heard one general sentence about investment, but then he moved on. He did not speak about London Transport, so that was a dishonest statement.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I have already explained that the occupant of the Chair is not responsible for the contents of Members' speeches.

Mr. Michael Bates (Langbaurgh)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter of procedure. Is it the case, as outlined in "Erskine May", that when a Member criticises another Member through an early-day motion and it can be proved that he or she knew that the criticism was inaccurate, under the Standing Orders the Speaker is vested with the power to amend the early-day motion or to insist that it be withdrawn?

Madam Deputy Speaker

I advise the hon. Member that if he has a grievance he should discuss it with the Clerks at the Table.

Mr. Heald

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker—

Madam Deputy Speaker

There are no further points of order on that subject. If the hon. Gentleman has a different point of order I will hear it.

Mr. Heald

Page 325 of "Erskine May" deals with early-day motions and makes it clear that a matter concerning the conduct of an hon. Member can be dealt with only through a substantive motion, which allows for a distinct decision of the House. In the early-day motion in question—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have issued guidance on that matter and I expect hon. Members to take it.

As many hon. Members have said that they want to speak and Madam Speaker has already announced a 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 pm and 9 pm, unless hon. Members exercise considerable self-restraint before that time, many Members will be disappointed this evening.

5.49 pm
Ms Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

I am delighted to be called so early—what have I done to deserve it?

I want to say a little about an aspect of transport in London that has not been mentioned today—the use of the River Thames and river transport. London has one of the widest highways in Britain—a highway which is extremely under-used for freight and passenger transport, as becomes apparent when we consider the ways in which other European cities with equally important rivers make use of their rivers.

The Minister for Transport in London, whom I am pleased to see sitting here today, announced in 1992 a new working group to encourage freight and passenger traffic to use the Thames. I welcomed that announcement, as I welcomed the subsequent work of the group, and since then he and I have entered into some conversations about certain aspects of river usage and we had a meeting about the subject. I know that the group has received many responses to its consultation exercise.

It is disappointing that there was not one mention in the Secretary of State's speech today about the river, the initiative and its progress. When the Minister replies to the debate, he should say what is happening to the working group. It seems that since the launch of the initiative very little has happened and there has been very little progress.

Following the launch of the working group, one of the first things that happened was that the river bus service in London collapsed—I am sure that it was nothing to do with the setting up of the working group. That was disappointing because the river bus was just beginning to turn around and to attract passengers and to work up to being a reliable and regular service and it was greatly of use not only for commuters but for tourists and for people who wanted to travel in and through London without using the roads.

If we consider freight transport, about 23 million road miles are saved by the Thames barges that take away our domestic rubbish. Cereals, sugar, paper, steel, wood, oil products and even coal are still brought into London by river. Although I am sure that everyone, including the Minister, would wish that that traffic could be doubled, why do not the Government more seriously consider measures to bring that about? The Government are not adverse to dictating which heavy goods vehicles can use which roads at which times. Surely the logical extension of that would be to integrate those considerations with alternative options for use of the Thames.

The problem is that the Government's approach to the Thames is a mass of contrasts. There is no overall co-ordination. Although there may be some commitment to getting the Thames used more, the enthusiasm among some of the Ministers has not been passed on to the Department and some of the agencies involved.

There is a great contrast between what happens in London and what happens in other major river-based cities. I know of an example of a firm with headquarters in Bombay, which wanted to find a place along the river front here to import rice. The firm was considering three areas in the Greenwich part of the river. One site in which it was interested was owned by British Gas, which wanted a huge amount for it—between £400,000 and £500,000 per acre. That meant that it was out of the question. The firm immediately went to Rotterdam, obtained support, received help from the Government and was able to locate there.

Surely we should be able to make it more attractive for companies to set up operations here. A grant is available to attract businesses such as the one that I have just mentioned, but in that case the process took six months from when the firm first applied and it had to negotiate so many different bits of bureaucracy that, by the time that it got anywhere near the end, it had already been offered the base in Rotterdam. Therefore, we lost another opportunity to bring the river more into use.

Let us consider commuter and passenger transport. Let us remember—it is worth remembering—that in 1905 the former London county council set up a river steamboat service for commuters travelling between Greenwich and Westminster. In 1906, it carried about 3 million passengers. Sadly, the service was closed, but in 1948 a new service was established between Kew and Greenwich. At its height, before closing in 1962, it still carried 2.25 million passengers a year.

Mr. Tony Banks

Who closed it?

Ms Hoey

Does my hon. Friend wish to intervene?

Mr. Banks

Yes, I do. I was hoping that my hon. Friend would complete the story, because that successful river bus service was closed down by the newly elected Conservatives on the Greater London council.

Ms Hoey

My hon. Friend is always very clear and he is quite right in this case.

The London river bus service could have continued operating if more support had been given by the Government. Subsequent ventures in 1963, 1972, 1973, 1974 and the most recent river bus partnership all suffered similar fates, due in large part to financial constraints, a matter which I want to discuss. The start-up costs for such new businesses are prohibitive and the running costs can prove crippling.

I know that the Minister knows that I am not an opponent of the private sector being used properly to get new initiatives going, but I hope that the Government will accept the basic principle that that form of public transport on the river should receive equal consideration for public subsidy with rail, London Underground and bus services. The river bus failed because it did not receive even the basic subsidy. The travel pass could not be used on the river bus so people who used the London underground and the bus could not simply convert to the river. Overall, no one was responsible for promoting the river as an asset.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)


Ms Hoey

I will not give way. I think that the hon. Lady wants to make a speech, as does every hon. Member. I will carry on.

River-borne transportation has definite environmental advantages. One million tonnes of London's rubbish shipped from Wandsworth and the City of London by river to Thurrock takes 4.2 million lorry miles off London roads. No transport network is better placed to deliver the construction materials to developments in the east Thames corridor or to remove construction debris in an environmentally friendly manner than that on the Thames. We should do more. It is a question not only of resources and of sustained effort. It is important that there is co-ordination but, most important of all, there must be some faith, some conviction and some will.

As a result of the way in which the responsibility for the river is fragmented between the Port of London authority and various organisations, no one has overall responsibility. That brings me back to the fact that, from whatever angle one considers transport in London, one cannot fail to recognise that London still suffers from the lack of a strategic authority. Economic regeneration, business development, commuter transport, tourism and leisure, the environment, planning permission and even policing are all handled by diverse agencies or are simply not handled.

Although many organisations do their best to promote the river, the London Rivers Association produced a wonderful document called "The Working Thames: an Agenda for Action". Every single bit of that document, if adopted by the Government, could get our river used, and not only for transport and freight. With the right use of imagination, we could do that.

Finally, I pay tribute to the work of the Thames river police because they play a tremendous role in policing the river. Members might not be aware, or may have noticed, that as a result of the continued security alerts, which we are now so used to, a good proportion of the available personnel is occupied on the river round this area at any given moment and there are always river police there. Could extra resources be given to the river police for their additional work?

The widest highway in Britain runs through the centre of its capital—never mind the proposed 14-lane M25 motorway—and it is virtually traffic-free. That is crazy, and the Government should do much more to get people to use the river and give everyone an opportunity to travel as they wish—in a pleasant manner on the river.

5.59 pm
Sir Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)

It is important that, in a debate on transport, something is said about motorway development. I shall make my points as briefly as possible because many other hon. Members want to speak.

I declare an interest as a car driver and frequent user of motorways, so I am not anti-motorway or anti-motor car. I recognise that congestion occurs and must be dealt with. Many hon. Members have cherished projects for bypass schemes in towns and villages throughout the country and they have often been successful in relieving congestion. I wish all those hon. Members success in their projects.

My constituency, however, already has the benefit of the M25, which is expanding to two four-lane highways, making it an eight-lane motorway. The Department of Transport plans shortly to extent it further to 14 lanes. Although many of my constituents have written and, in the next few weeks, will write again in their thousands to the Department of Transport to express their views on those proposals, it is not just a local issue. Obviously, it is a local issue for those whose houses will disappear but the national question is whether our motorway provision should head in that direction.

Clearly, nobody wants a motorway at the bottom of his or her garden, whether it is a six, eight or 14-lane motorway. However, I have been impressed in recent weeks by the number of people who have written to me from all over the country, who are not directly impacted by the loss of property or by noise. Naturally, I do not knock people who complain about those matters, but there is now a widespread feeling of unease, and a belief that we should not go in the general direction in which [...]uch a proposal takes us.

The Department of the Environment's "UK Sustainability" report says: If people continue to exercise their choices as they are at present and there are no other significant changes, the resulting traffic growth would have unacceptable consequences for both the environment and the economy, and could be very difficult to reconcile with overall sustainable development goals.

The Government realise that their problem is how to reconcile people's ability to move around with their desire for peaceful environment and a sensible quality of life. When we leave this place tonight, we shall all want to jump into our cars and use the motorways but, with our other hats on, we do not want to destroy the countryside in the process.

Germany has a more sensible approach. Germans have greater car ownership than people in the United Kingdom, but they use their cars less. They appear to have found a way of providing and costing transport opportunities so that people can work out a better and more sensible way to get around.

The fundamental point, which the Department of Transport has not yet conceded although it understands it well enough, is that new provision always attracts more cars to take it up. That has been proved time and again, and the M25 is a good example. It was conceived as an orbital road around London to take traffic from the Channel ports away from London and it has worked well in that sense. It was not realised that people would take jobs at extraordinary distances. We have all met people who work in Guildford but live in amazing places like Braintree—[Interruption.] Whichever town one chooses, the journey would have been unachievable before the motorway was constructed.

Many people are now tempted to drive, so more traffic is dragged in. That major question must be considered for the future. The 14-lane link road proposal will work in exactly the same way. If it is built—I hope that it is not —we shall have traffic jams on it in 2006, or whenever it may be.

On 24 January, Runnymede borough council, which is responsible for the area in which the first widening scheme will take place, produced a package of alternative proposals. I shall not go through it in detail, but it includes such proposals as high occupancy vehicle lanes, certain elements of road pricing, speed cameras, speed controls and better junction and carriage way management. All those measures are, to an extent, palliatives but the Department is trying them in various places.

The high occupancy vehicle lane proposals have been used in the United States and Holland. Will the Department recognise, if not in this debate then soon, please, that it should not automatically assume that the only way to meet congestion is by laying more concrete, although it may be right to do so in many cases? If the Minister says in winding up that that is the right approach, I shall be delighted. People outside have the clear impression that it is not how the Department deals with the problem.

I hope that, when the public inquiry takes place into the widening of the M25, Runnymede borough council's proposals will be properly assessed and sanity will then prevail. Those measures are worth trying before one indulges in the colossal environmental damage of laying more concrete and I hope that that will be the outcome of the public inquiry. It is a long time to wait but I am prepared to have a side bet with the Secretary of State that the achievement of the proposals will never see the light of day.

6.7 pm

Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon)

I, too, welcome an opportunity to debate the issue but regret that it has not been in Government time. In the two years that I have been in the House, the Government have not provided time for a comprehensive debate on transport issues across the board because, while they undoubtedly have some piecemeal transport policies, they lack an overall vision or objective for the transport sector as a whole.

I wish that the Government had issued a Green Paper or White Paper on their transport policy, as that could have lead to debate in the nation and in the House, but they resisted the opportunity to explain their overall transport policy. During the passage of the Railways Bill, the point was made that Britain was the only European country not to have an overall railways policy. The Government resisted any effort to develop one, saying that they did not want some glossy document. Whenever somebody tried to move amendments to broaden the terms of reference of the Secretary of State, the Rail Regulator or the Franchising Director to look at the overall part which the railways should play in our society, environment or economy, they were resisted by the Government.

I am not suggesting that the Government can do everything in the transport sector, but they should be willing to lead, to take the initiative, to plan ahead and, crucially, to set targets and stimulate investment. Public investment and private enterprise in tandem can deliver what the public want. The theme should be that of enabling and giving people the tools, opportunities and support to make the most of their life and enjoy the best possible standard of living. All we seem to get from the Government is blind worship of the unfettered market and an over-enthusiastic devotion to road building. The market, unaided, cannot deliver a transport network.

I shall suggest some long-term targets that could be set for road development, rail and bus services, as well as suggesting how they might be financed. Nothing so typifies the Government's approach to our railways as the saga of the channel tunnel high-speed link. Seven years after the deal was struck and the plans made, we are effectively back to square one. Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been wasted on options that have subsequently been discarded.

I accept that the interests of communities alongside any of the proposed routes should rightly and properly have been looked at in great detail, but the country that led the world in steam locomotion has only just reached the point of agreeing a route. The fact that the link will not be open and running until the year 2002 at the earliest is not so much a disappointment as a disgrace.

During the privatisation debate the Government offered only the fond belief that the private sector would modernise and make good the years of under-investment in the railways. All the marketing skill in the world will not make an inherently expensive service attractive to the private sector. Evidence of that can be seen in the excessively high charges that Railtrack is to charge any company wanting to come on to the rail network.

The Government should set a target—I would suggest doubling the number of rail passengers in the next 10 years. Another objective could be to double the amount of long-distance freight haul at the same time. To achieve that, we need a national network of road-to-rail depots. For a relative pittance—by comparison with the money going into the roads programme—it would be possible to reconnect every town with a population of 23,000 or more to the rail network.

Setting such targets would set the scene to boost investment. They would prove the Government's commitment to the environment and quality of life.

Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Harvey

No, I shall not give way as Madam Speaker has urged everyone to keep their remarks short and I intend to stick to her guidance.

The Government remain firmly committed to a policy of building more roads. The Department of Transport has finally recognised that more roads will lead to more traffic. The big challenge confronting us is the projected doubling in road traffic by the year 2025.

Lady Olga Maitland

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Harvey

I shall not give way.

Towns are congested and the growing evidence of pollution leading to asthma and other health problems presents us with a challenge that we must meet. We must develop a response. Should we simply pander to the fact that traffic is set to double or should we say that enough is enough and we must put a stop to the increase in traffic? One does not have to be anti-car or anti-road to regard the figures as unsustainable and to say that the decisions that we make now will determine whether we reach that statistic by the year 2025.

We should freeze the motorway widening programme and conduct a comprehensive review of the roads programme. We should proceed with roads only where there is no public sector transport alternative. We need a switch of the funds that would otherwise go into road-widening programmes.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Harvey

No, for the reason that I have given, I shall not give way.

We need to switch some funds from the roads programme into public transport. If Liberal Democrats from around the country write to the Minister for Roads and Traffic asking for 14-lane motorways in their constituency or for road programmes where the Department of Transport is willing to fund a public transport alternative, I hope that the Department will write back reminding the authors of the letters of Liberal Democrat policy. If the Department cares to let me know about such letters, I shall gladly do the same.

The Secretary of State mentioned the possible congestion on our motorways in 10 years. If the Government are willing to freeze the motorway programme and switch the money to public transport alternatives, I shall happily return in 10 years and have that debate with them. If they will not, we should return in future to consider the growth in car usage figu[...]es. That is the challenge that, together, we must face.

I do not believe that the Government have carried out a comprehensive review of the roads programme. I think that they have had a change of heart on one or two schemes because Conservative Members such as the right hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) have made clear how unacceptable the road programme is to their constituents, once the implications of it at a more local level are understood.

The Government have been rattled by seeing protests on their television screens, not from the sort of people whom they are accustomed to seeing protesting but from retired military folk of the country districts who are traditionally Conservative voters. The time has come to say that enough is enough. The Government should listen to the views of the Confederation of British Industry, the business community and the private sector in general, all of whom are urging that public transport should be improved.

Buses are the most cost-effective and flexible, the cheapest and quickest way to improve public transport. The contrast between the state of the bus service in London and that in the rest of the country proves what a disaster has been the total deregulation of buses in the countryside. Passenger journeys have gone down—in Wales by 18 per cent., in Scotland by 15 per cent. and in shire England by 16 per cent. But in London, where there is still some strategic planning and a passenger authority effectively buying services on behalf of the travelling passenger, there has been a rise in passenger journeys of 10 per cent. When we allow liberalisation, but within a regulated framework, we see a model for successful bus services throughout the country. At the same time, costs have been driven down by 30 per cent.

Instead, in the countryside there is a free market hotch-potch of jumbled journeys. A sensible objective to map out in the bus industry would be to return to 1985 levels of usage by the end of the century. The Government should establish targets for a comprehensive bus priority system in every town, for grants to modernise the bus fleets, for increased revenue support grants for comprehensive service networks in every area—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about finance?"] I am coming to the question of finance. There should be modern information systems and user-friendly terminals throughout.

I wish to mention the light rapid transit system. I was surprised that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) referred specifically to the city of Sheffield. He knows as well as I do that everyone in local government is restricted by the financial straitjacket imposed by central Government. The Liberal Democrats in Sheffield are, of course, committed to public transport, but they are also committed to every other public service. They have to battle for their financial priorities within the straitjacket imposed by central Government. I find it as surprising as it is disappointing that the Labour Front-Bench team hide behind the Tories' handling of local government finance to score a political point.

As Conservative Members have been saying, the policies to which I have referred cost money. I recognise that the transport budget has grown. Whichever party holds office in the next few years, pots of public money will not be available to spend on public transport. We clearly need private money to be invested—but the market alone will not deliver it. The Government say that they regard privatisation as freeing British Rail and the new operators from the dead hand of the Treasury. The point has to be made that the Government make Treasury rules—they are not made by act of God.

Although the Secretary of State tried to score a point at the expense of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras by referring to his suggestion for the new Northern line train system as an accounting device, I rather agreed with the Secretary of State that there should be some transfer of risk. But even the accounting device which he accused the hon. Gentleman of using would be better than absolutely nothing at all.

The Government should look at the way in which other countries are financing their public transport. I think that they will see some obvious solutions to the financial conundrum in which we find ourselves. I have already referred to some possible solutions, such as switching money from the road programme and using revenue from road pricing. The Government should explain exactly where the revenue from road pricing will go. They should examine some models from abroad, as they would find that there are policy alternatives.

For example, in America bonds are frequently issued for infrastructure projects. In San Francisco a business rate supplement to be used for transport improvement was widely accepted by the business community. In France there is a generally accepted payroll tax for the improvement of urban public transport. Sir Alistair Morton, the chairman of Eurotunnel, has called for the establishment of a transport investment fund to be paid for by a pollution tax. Of course, there is still the relatively unexplored area of taxation hypothecation. The public might be prepared to pay more if they were convinced that as a result there would be an improvement in public transport networks.

The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris)

The hon. Gentleman is in important territory, although he is meandering a little in getting there. Given that the most popular routes in London, according to passengers, are those operated on tendered routes by private companies and given that the most obvious way of injecting private capital into bus services is to sell the nationalised bus companies—which are an anachronism, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman acknowledges—do I take it that the Liberal Democrats support the privatisation of the London bus subsidiaries?

Mr. Harvey

I am happy to confirm that the Liberal Democrats would support the privatisation of the London bus subsidiaries.

Mr. Snape

Unless it proves to be unpopular.

Mr. Harvey

Bus deregulation has been the cause of the disaster; without that, the question of who owns the buses is of much lesser importance.

Mr. Martlew

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Harvey

No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench but, on the basis of what Madam Speaker has said, I will not give way now.

We need a public transport system that is clean, reliable, safe and cheap. For all the Government's big schemes and for all the fun that they have had announcing again and again that some of them would go ahead, absolutely nothing has happened. The picks and shovels lie dormant. There is no movement, there are no jobs and nothing is being put in place for the future.

The market cannot deliver unaided the transport network that we need. The Government need to have an overall vision and plan. A combination of public investment and private enterprise could build a network that would be the envy of Europe and a pleasure to use.

6.22 pm
Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

I listened with some incredulity to the speech by the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) and I will pick up one point he made. He said that all towns with a population in excess of 23,000 should have the right to be linked automatically to the national mainline railway route.

Mr. Harvey

It could be done.

Mr. Dunn

Is that the hon. Gentleman's policy or is it the policy of his party? In this place, we are used to hearing Liberal Members of Parliament making statements which are then denied by the party.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell me how many towns in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with populations in excess of 23,000 would have to be connected automatically to the main line? What would happen if a town with a population in excess of 23,000 which did not enjoy a connection to the main route was surrounded by an area of outstanding natural beauty, such as the Peak district, parts of Yorkshire, or parts of East Anglia, which are represented by my colleagues on this side of the House? Would the link go through irrespective of the wishes of the local people, if population were the only trigger?

I think that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) was right when he said that it would happen unless it proved to be unpopular. It will be a very expensive proposition, not only in financial terms but in terms of the environment, public accountability and democracy, but the point is that it is the official policy of the Liberal party.

The Liberal party is also in favour of an energy tax, which would increase the price of petrol. Petrol charges are important for a variety of reasons well known to us all. The rural dweller—perhaps someone from north Devon—needs a motor car perhaps more than the urban dweller, who has easier access to shops, schools and places of leisure. But the policy of the Liberal party is to increase the energy tax, and therefore increase the cost of motoring for the country dweller. The Labour party spokesman, who is no longer in the Chamber, declared his personal interest in transport.

Mr. Streeter

Before my hon. Friend moves from the contribution of the hon. Member for North Devon, is he aware that the hon. Member not only would trample on his constituents by introducing an energy tax which would increase their fuel costs, but also has called for the closure of major road programmes—despite the fact that north Devon has benefited from the north Devon link road, which has brought untold inward investment to his constituency? Is that not a double standard?

Mr. Dunn

My hon. Friend is right. We are sick and tired of Liberal spokesmen, of whatever level, saying one thing in this place and another thing back home; one thing in the council chamber and another thing in a different village; and one thing in one street and something different in the next street. The policy of the Liberal Democrats is "all things to all men".

Mr. Waterson

Will my hon. Friend comment on a document that was recently released by the East Sussex county council, which is currently controlled by a Lib-Lab pact? The document is entitled "Time is Short", and has the temerity to criticise the Government over the slowness of their trunk road improvement programme in East Sussex.

Mr. Dunn

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point, to which I am sure he will return when he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, later in the debate.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) rightly and properly declared an interest in the debate. He said that he is a member of the Transport and General Workers Union, and was proud to be a member, as were his father and grandfather before him.

We know that the Labour party represents the monopoly interest—the supplier/provider interest. I, too, want to declare an interest: I declare that I represent the people of Dartford, and I represent the commuters of Dartford who have suffered at the hands of monopoly providers for decades. My constituents, along with those of many of my colleagues, look forward to the full impact of the Government's privatisation policies in breaking the monopoly control over transport.

I have looked forward to debating the motion proposed by the official Opposition on their Supply day, but when the shadow Cabinet meet to discuss their success or otherwise in today's debate, they will have to consider it a failure. There are 39 words in the Opposition's motion, but it says nothing. The speech by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras also said nothing. The motion says nothing, it does nothing and, quite frankly, it is nothing.

I turn to a number of aspects of Government policy. Over the years, we have seen the effect of massive liberalisation on a number of transport institutions. One example is the port of Felixstowe, which was set free in 1988 and has gone from success to success since then. In 1967 the number of fixed container units moved through Felixstowe was 18,522. By 1993, the figure had increased out of all recognition, to 1,137,947. The success of the port continues.

I ask the Government, however, to ensure, in the Council of Ministers, that the unfair subsidies that European port authorities receive are terminated. In Rotterdam, about $28 billion of public money is to be spent on infrastructure, plus $4 billion or $5 billion of private money. That is an unfair, unwarranted and probably illegal subsidy—yet all the advances that are to be made at Felixstowe will be financed by the port itself. There are a number of other successful examples across the UK.

I should like to remind the Minister of the success of the Dartford river crossing. Some time ago, legislation was introduced to this House to allow the private sector to develop, build, run and finance the Queen Elizabeth II bridge. Since it was opened, the bridge has been a huge success for Greater London and the home counties. The project was completed and opened on time and within budget, to the benefit of the road and commercial users of the south-east.

Equally, the success of the Government's policy of introducing Networker trains on the Kent lines is proving of immeasurable benefit to the people I represent. As more and more Networker trains are introduced across the southern region, many of our constituents who have had to suffer a poor and unreliable service for many years will benefit.

I want to pick up a point made by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey), who referred to the need for a new Greater London council. I believe that it is now the official policy of the Labour party that such a council should be set up again. [HON. MEMBERS: "You are behind the times, Bob."] Well, it was announced in the newspaper today, as part of Labour's London election campaign, that the Leader of the Opposition now backs such a council.

Lady Olga Maitland

What will it cost?

Mr. Dunn

Not only that: what will it do? When I was a Minister in the Department of Education and Science I was involved in the abolition of the GLC, and I personally abolished the Inner London education authority. [Interruption.] These events took place a long time ago; let us just say that there was a difference of opinion—and I am still here.

I should like to ask the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) some questions which be may answer when he winds up the debate. He is a courteous and well informed man, if philosophically wrong, but I am sure that he will do his best to answer my questions.

What will a new GLC cost; what will it do; and, significantly for the people of Kent, where will its boundaries be? We all know that the old GLC boundaries extended to Bexley, and Kent extended from Dartford thereafter—

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

Why does not the hon. Gentleman talk about transport?

Mr. Dunn

I am talking about it in the context of the GLC, which would be a transport body, and I want to know about the boundaries. Will they come down at the M25, meaning that half my constituency will be under the GLC and the other half not? Will it extend further, to Maidstone; or will there be a super new regional authority, ending at Boulogne? I should like answers to these questions.

To return to the Liberal party: I am sorry for the hon. Member for North Devon, who has had to be here alone all day today—

Lady Olga Maitland

Where are they all?

Mr. Dunn

Perhaps it is indelicate to ask. The truth is that the Liberal party is becoming a hokey-cokey party. I am sure we all remember the old children's game: "Put your right arm in, your right arm out; in, out, in, out, shake it all about. You do the hokey cokey and you turn around: that's what it's all about." Or perhaps the Liberals are the zig-zag party—they seem to have different ideas on each succeeding day.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St.Pancras—to return to the Labour party—talked about the problem of car congestion in London. As with much of the rest of his speech, he defined some problems, made some rhetorical statements and huffed and puffed in the way we know, love and have to cope with, but he did not tell us what the Labour party is going to do about the problem—he made no suggestions about what the Government should do to ease car congestion.

There are, of course, many ideas—park-and-ride facilities, enhancing public transport, perhaps making better use of the Thames, as the hon. Member for Vauxhall rightly suggested. But what would Labour actually do, given its contempt for red routes and other useful measures that are already in full force? The answer is that Labour Members want to tax the motorist.

Interestingly, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras mentioned a number of by-election constituencies, but he failed to mention Dagenham. Why? Because the policies of the Labour party do not sit well in Dagenham, because Dagenham is the centre of the Ford Motor Company. The workers in Dagenham do not want to hear about policies that would affect the sale and manufacture of motor cars, because they would mean fewer jobs.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

I shall answer some of the hon. Gentleman's questions later, but to help him out of his suspense and agony, I had better put him right on one thing now. The Labour party will be fighting a number of by-elections in the seats of hon. Members who have died. We do not regard a significant number of them as contests into which we need to put an enormous amount of effort, because they are Labour-held seats. We are, however, putting an enormous amount of effort into Eastleigh, and we intend to win it.

Mr. Dunn

I look forward to getting my answers later. The point of an Opposition Supply day, surely, is to highlight what they perceive as weaknesses in Government policy and to give the Opposition a chance to set out their own wares. They have singularly failed to do the latter today.

Finally—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I might, however, go on—I should like to end on a constituency note. The Minister knows that both I and my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) are extremely attached to the need for a new international station at Ebbsfleet. It would have an enormous impact on the region that I represent. It would regenerate rundown areas and provide opportunities for commuters from west Kent to enter London more conveniently. I hope that it will not be too long before we have a response to the Minister's undertaking of a while ago that he will announce which of the sites he intends to endorse for the international railway station.

I have been disappointed with the quality of the speeches by Opposition Members this evening—we have learnt little from them, but that is hardly surprising. Our policies are working in transport as elsewhere, and I commend them to the House.

6.39 pm
Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

It will come as no surprise to Ministers that I shall confine my remarks to the M62 bypass, which was proposed a long time ago. I also want to draw attention to the duplicity of Ministers and officials in the way the whole affair has been conducted so far.

It started life as the Greater Manchester western and northern relief route, which appeared first in the 1989 White Paper which, as most White Papers do, first saw the light of day at the end of July, just before the summer recess. It was not until the end of that year that I had time to have a close look at the White Paper, and realised that my constituency and neighbouring constituencies in the trans-Pennine corridor would be afflicted with yet another motorway.

It was always going to be a major motorway development—in fact, a new motorway—but the duplicity of Ministers came about when, piecemeal, they dripped out three stages of different motorways, which were to become one big motorway. They talked about the A580 bypass, which was to be phase 1, the M56-M62 relief road, which was phase 2, and the M62-M66 relief road, which was phase 3. Taken together, the three phases meant one huge new motorway where one already exists.

A subsequent Minister promised that the whole project would be put together and not be in three parts, following pressure from myself and other hon. Members. The Government subsequently reneged on that promise, and we were left with two sections of the Greater Manchester western and northern relief route to be taken together.

Ministers argued throughout that the route from the M6 to the M66 was vital. However, when the second part of the route was treated separately—this is where Ministers made fools of themselves—it was dropped, ostensibly because there were 6,000 objections. The original concept had gone, so they had to find a new title for what has turned out to be a 14-lane highway through the village of Worsley in my constituency and through the constituencies of other hon. Members, resulting in the destruction of about 500 houses and blight on properties throughout the Greater Manchester conurbation.

What sticks in my craw about the whole business is that Ministers and Departments do not seem to talk to each other. The whole justification for a 14-lane highway going through a picturesque village is that the Department of Transport insists that there will be 140 per cent. growth in road traffic between now and 2010. Contributing to that growth, the same Ministers have granted permission for a sub-regional shopping centre at Dumplington, which is three miles south of junction 13 of the M62, with 14,000 car parking places.

Even Ministers in this Government will realise that, if there are 14,000 parking spaces, silly people will drive cars to park on them, and then they will go back again. It is my contention, and that of anybody who uses the roads in the area, that the current congestion is caused not by commuter traffic from Hull to Liverpool or by people using the motorway to get to Manchester airport; it is local commuter traffic.

I drive 35,000 to 40,000 miles a year. I use the motorways, but most of my journeys are short hops from one part of my constituency to another, or to go shopping locally in adjoining towns. Local traffic causes the problem. The Government and Ministers are increasing the problem by allowing the Manchester Ship Canal Company, which happens to fist money to the Tory party, to build a sub-regional shopping centre that nobody wants —not local authorities or the people who inhabit the area.

In addition, three miles north, the same Manchester Ship Canal Company, through a subsidiary, plans to build two 18-hole golf courses to replicate the Belfry in the midlands, with international golf tournaments that would draw people in from all over the world.

The proposed 14-lane highway will need to be a 20-lane highway before I retire—I am absolutely sure of that. Those are the inconsistencies. The planning system has gone mad when Ministers cannot recognise that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy to say there will be a sufficient increase in traffic in the area to justify the building of a 14-lane highway.

On the question of the amenities in the area which would be devastated by the building of such a highway, let us talk briefly about pollution. It is my view, corroborated by people who know more about these things than I do, that European limits on pollution are already exceeded by the traffic on the M62.

There are already enormous asthma problems. At one school alongside the existing motorway, the incidence of asthma far exceeds that which one would expect in an inner-city school. I am talking about what is by and large a country area. It would be irresponsible in the extreme for Ministers to ignore that.

I should like to pay tribute to Salford city council, which, despite the fact that it has been crucified by the Government in terms of what it can spend ratepayers' money on, recently invested in a very expensive laboratory system which matches any monitoring and analysis carried out by the Department of Transport. If it comes to a public inquiry, I can assure Ministers that the weight of evidence that will be produced on pollution will be at least as powerful as anything the Department of Transport can produce.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is my hon. Friend aware that pollution is not the only danger? A recent road check of vehicles carrying hazardous materials on the M62 revealed that 60 per cent. of the vehicles were breaking the law, and one was carrying 22 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate.

Mr. Lewis

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. I was about to mention some of the difficulties that I have experienced in following those loads on the M62. That takes me nicely on to the other problem of congestion in the Irwell valley.

When the vehicles to which my hon. Friend referred reach the Irwell valley, congestion is caused as soon as they get onto the gradient. It is no good talking about crawler lanes, as there are far too many vehicles to be accommodated in that way. As soon as they get onto the gradient, everything else is backed up behind them. What is the solution—another six lanes on the same gradient? Instead of having eight lanes with heavy vehicles causing back-ups, the same problem will be replicated in another six lanes.

The cost of all that is £29 million a mile. According to Ministers, 11 miles of motorway will solve all the problems of congestion on the M62. It is a pity that the Secretary of State is no longer in the Chamber. He asked where the money would come from for Labour party policies. The answer is simple. I will save the Minister £320 million now—mind you, I would not mind giving lengthy odds that it will be very much more than £320 million before it is actually built, if it ever is built.

If that £320 million were spent on other projects to take people such as me off the motorway, it would be money far more sensibly spent. That is the debate we want, but that is the debate that Ministers are avoiding, and they do so by using the rhetoric that the Secretary of State used this afternoon.

Let me talk about one of the alternatives. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) mentioned the Manchester metrolink. In its first year, that saved 1.5 million car journeys from Bury and Altrincham into Manchester—two of the main commuter routes to Manchester from the surrounding towns. Those people left their cars in Bury and Altrincham. Their wives or husbands took them to the station and they travelled to work and back on the metrolink.

If the Minister wants proof of that, I invite him to go to the multi-storey car park at the Chorlton street bus station, where three years ago one did not even look for a space but drove straight up the ramp to the top because it was full. If one goes now at any time during the day, one can park on the second floor; that is because people have chosen to leave their cars at home.

Local bypasses are a good idea. The Irlam bypass, the second phase of which has again been stalled by the Government, could easily, for an insubstantial amount of money, result in fewer journeys.

As I have said, a section of the Government's intended road was dropped because of the weight of objections. Answers to questions that I have tabled in the past week reveal that the scheme has attracted the second highest number of objections of any scheme at any time in the country. The M6-M1 link in Yorkshire attracted the most, and this one has attracted no fewer than 18,500 objections to date.

In addition, well-established organisations oppose the scheme, including Residents Against the Motorway in my constituency, which has objected to it for four years, even before its details were known, because we knew that its effects would be devastating. I suspect that Ministers will not have proper regard to those, as they have been so determined all along, come what may, to develop the arguments in favour of the road.

The failures in Conservative transport policy are manifest in our area. The deregulation of buses has clearly put more people into cars on the road. The Government have failed to recognise the merits of metrolink, and the need to extend metrolink to other towns in the area such as Bolton, Wigan, Leigh and Salford should be taken on board, but I cannot see Ministers doing that.

Those failures have been manifest during the past few weeks, when the Conservative party has found it difficult to raise a candidate in the safest Conservative ward in the whole of Salford, which happens to be in my constituency. It was only two days before the election that one was found. I can see that you are getting restless, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I shall stay on the point.

That may have been because Conservative activists do not need to be elected these days; they simply have to be appointed to quangos. But the Government's problems in Salford have more to do with their loony transport policies and the threat to put a 14-lane highway through what still remains a picturesque part of the Greater Manchester conurbation.

I urge Ministers to rethink. Do not let us have to go through the trauma of a public inquiry. The road is not wanted, the weight of opinion is against it, and if Ministers were democrats, they would drop the scheme now.

6.54 pm
Sir Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

I hope that the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) will not mind if I do not follow him through the intricacies of the M62. In the time available we should consider the wider transport issues.

I welcome the Opposition's choice of subject today, but I do not welcome much that has come from the Opposition Front or Back Benches. It is incredible that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) could table a motion for a debate on transport and speak for about 40 minutes without mentioning the means of transport used by an overwhelming number of people in Britain—the motor car. It is incredible and alarming.

At least the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) was honest about the Liberal Democrats being anti-car. I suspect that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras is equally anti-car, but perhaps he is not quite so naive as the Liberal Democrats and intends to keep that fact well away from the electors during the next few weeks.

The Opposition's motion does not deserve much consideration. One need only consider transport as a whole to realise the enormous advances that have been made in recent years. For example, we should be proud that our airlines receive no subsidy. British Airways is a much smaller airline than the three great airlines in the United States, yet it can compete and cause the American airlines considerable problems, as a result of which, fares across the Atlantic are probably the lowest that they have ever been in real terms. Many of our fellow members of the European Union would be glad if they could say that their airlines did not need any further Government subsidy.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London, where the red routes have been highly successful in speeding up traffic and reducing emissions, and they have been a great advantage to the travelling public. With regard to the channel tunnel, let us not underestimate the importance and significance of the fact that we have been able to finance the one great civil engineering project of the end of the 20th century without the expenditure of public money. That is very much to the credit of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Let us not forget the great movement for those people who are - not so well off. It was the Government who revolutionised coach traffic in Britain, enabling people with modest means to travel much further much more often and much more reasonably than ever before. Despite the fact that the number of bus passengers has dropped, more route miles are being served now and the public has a better service than it has had for many years in many parts of the country.

Another delight of the Opposition is the light rail system, and the Government deserve credit for the start of light rail systems in certain cities. But above all, the Government have recognised that the British people have voted not with their feet but with their steering wheels. They want to use their motor cars. It is the Government who say that we must live with the motor car. Our policies are designed so that the British people have the choice. But we are taking action on matters such as the use of lead in petrol, exhaust emissions and ways in which to control rather than prevent the undue use of the motor car.

Over the years I have made a number of contributions to these debates. During that time I have seen many Secretaries of State for Transport and Opposition spokesmen, and I have put forward one or two ideas which I have been rather surprised and pleased to see accepted.

For example, I suggested many years ago, first, that we divide the operation of the rail track from the running of services. I am delighted that that is now Government policy. Secondly, at the end of the bus Bill, I suggested that many areas should have a kind of franchised competitive tendering. I believe that it is as a result of the Government adopting that policy in London that London buses are so successful now and will be in future.

Thirdly, I suggested that we should introduce shadow tolls on our motorways. I remember a debate with my right hon. Friend the present Chief Secretary to the Treasury in which he did not think very much of the idea. I am delighted now to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State say that it is part of Government policy. I do not mention those things to boast—

Mr. Snape


Sir Peter Fry

No. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am not like that. I mention it because I believe that these debates provide Back Benchers with the opportunity to suggest some new ideas, which, hopefully, will be considered by Ministers and might well form part of future policy. I believe that to be the function of Back Benchers, not to make snide and personal remarks across the Floor of the House.

Before I sit down, I shall make one or two suggestions for consideration. The Government's amendment to the Opposition motion calls for more efficient and effective delivery for all users and says that that should be the key for transport policy in this country.

We all know what the problem with aviation is at the moment—too many operators want to come into Heathrow and there is a shortage of slots. The much delayed forecast that all the aircraft that would be landing would be 747s and, therefore, that one could reduce the distance and time between aircraft of different types, has not come about. Some years ago, I witnessed the cross-runway operations at a number of US Air Force bases. I believe that, with increased efficiency of air traffic control, we could look at that again to see whether that could be a relief for Heathrow.

Secondly, we should look also at the possible use of Northolt airport for general aviation, which would reduce a considerable number of slots and help to solve some of the disputes that are taking place nationally and internationally over civil aviation.

I have long been aware that the problem of rail financing in this country, certainly in terms of revenue support, is not InterCity, or even Network SouthEast, but the cross country regional routes, which, except in a few cases, are so very expensive and costly to the taxpayer. I suggest to my right hon. Friends that perhaps the time has come to see whether responsibility for the more local rail routes should follow the responsibility that already exists for bus routes, or be devolved to local authorities.

If local people want the survival of those branch lines, I fail to see why the rest of the taxpayers and the rest of the country should necessarily justify it. If the argument is that those lines are feeder routes into the new main lines, for the first time those people who are operating the new routes will be able to see whether that is a worthwhile contribution and whether they should put any money into the pot to subsidise the purely local lines.

Thirdly, let us look at light rail. I believe that only a limited number of projects can come forward, but we are running into some problems with financing. For a while, I acted as a consultant to south Yorkshire passenger transport executive. The problem there is that, although the Government guarantee the original capital investment, at a later stage, moneys have to be paid in by component councils, and often the choice is whether they make their full contribution, or whether, perhaps, they make a teacher redundant, or take on an extra crossing patrol. I suggest that, in those cases, where we are dealing with a large project, perhaps the expenditure on those light rail schemes should be ring fenced.

The biggest area of concern, as I said earlier, is urban congestion and the use of the private car. Most people in this country are not aware that we are still well behind many other countries in the number of cars per thousand that we own. We are way behind the United States, and are still behind Germany, France and Italy—just to mention three more; and that at a time when the number of people travelling on our railways has remained static for some 30 years and the number of people travelling on our buses, despite the extra route miles, is dropping.

I believe that any transport policy that does not recognise the desire of the mass of our people to have their own personal form of transport and be able to use it will be doomed to failure. That is why I welcome the Government's road programme. It is realistic. The widening of the motorways means that not only are we serving the economic causes of this country but we are enabling people to get about it in a fairly easy manner. I reject the arguments that we should not widen the motorways. It seems to me that, in the long run, the only alternative is new motorways driven across open country. Most people do not want that. There are one or two things, however, that the Government should do. In the urban context, we should avoid, at all costs, bullying the motorist. Before we think about road pricing, we should examine every other option to make public transport more attractive to the motorist. Park and ride has been suggested, but in London it would be exceedingly expensive to implement. One would need extra slip roads off the motorways, large areas for parking, many car parks would have to be built and a high degree of security would be necessary. Let us not underestimate the cost of what is needed, but that would make a very great contribution.

I regret to say that one of the areas in which money is still wasted is that we still cannot get the Treasury to agree the projected traffic flows of a road rather than those that it maintains are there at the moment, and what it will finance. I shall cite two cases. On the A45, in my constituency, a separated junction had to be built three years after it was made a dual carriageway road because of the high number of accidents. The dualling of Higham Ferrers bypass will now go-ahead in the next year thanks to my hon. Friends, but which should have been dualled in the first place.

But perhaps the most significant case is that which affects my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), who will reply to the debate, and myself—the A1-M1 link, the A14, for which he had to fight tooth and nail to get dualled in the first instance. Originally, it was to be a single traffic road with passing places. I suggest that by looking a bit further ahead and by the Treasury being more realistic, we could save public money and, indeed, have a better public transport system.

I do not want to delay the House any further. I am aware of the large number of people wishing to speak, but I hope that I have put forward one or two ideas that my right hon. Friends might consider. I believe that the job of Ministers is to be prepared to listen to new ideas, be willing to be original —they have shown that in many respects in recent years—at the same time show concern for the needs of the economy and, above all, for what the people of this country want.

Those are the basics for the right kind of transport policy. From all that we have heard this afternoon, I have no confidence in the Opposition parties being able to supply that and every confidence that my right hon. and hon. Friends will fulfil those conditions. Therefore, I have great pleasure in supporting the Government's amendment.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. I remind hon. Members that from the present time until 9 pm, speeches will be limited to 10 minutes.

7.8 pm

Mr. Keith Hill (Streatham)

It might charitably be said that the tenor of the speech of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Sir P. Fry) was one of premature super-optimism, given his description of the triumphs of the Government's transport record in recent years. He congratulated them on the success of their red routes programme in London; he will clearly be surprised to discover that only one pilot red route is in existence, and that the remainder will not come on stream for another two years. I rather doubt whether they will prove quite the success that the hon. Gentleman imagines. He was right, however, to draw attention to the problem of urban congestion—although his conclusions were wrong.

After 15 years of Tory rule, the defects of our transport system are still draining the nation's economy of a ruinous £15 billion a year in congestion costs. That estimate was published by the Confederation of British Industry three or four years ago and, as far as I am aware, the Department of Transport has never seriously challenged it. In real terms, the figure is doubtless higher now. The transport system is in a mess and it is getting worse.

Since bus deregulation in 1985, travel by bus in cities has declined by 25 per cent. In many cities, travel by bike represents fewer than 6 per cent. of all journeys, which reflects the appalling lack of facilities and the risks faced by cyclists. It has been observed that nowadays travel by bus and train in any combination requires military-style planning and perseverance; and, for the vast majority of women, public transport outside peak hours is a no-go area because of the loss of staff offering security and surveillance.

Our children are effectively denied the option of walking or cycling to school because of the unacceptably high levels of traffic danger to which they are now routinely exposed. The crazy consequence of that is that at least 25 per cent. of traffic on urban roads during the morning peak hour consists of cars taking children to school. It is a vicious circle and, given current indications, it can only get worse.

It is all very well for the Secretary of State for the Environment to launch his famous planning policy guidance 13 initiative against the "great car economy". The Department of Transport is still persisting with its forecast of an increase of between 83 and 142 per cent. in traffic growth by the year 2025. There is no sign of a change of heart and every sign that the Department is still stuffed full of "old believers"; given the evidence so far, some of them are sitting on the Government Front Bench. Traffic growth on that scale will spell disaster for our great cities, not least London.

Two years ago, in my maiden speech—which I am sure hon. Members well recall—I noted the logjam in infrastructure developments in London. Since then, we have seen a faltering start on the docklands extension of the Jubilee line—the scheme, incidentally, with the lowest cost-benefit assessment in the central London rail study. There is still no progress on Thameslink 2000—which had the highest cost-benefit assessment—or on the east London line, and we are now receiving ominous signals about the future of crossrail. If the Government use traffic forecasts as an excuse to scupper that scheme, it will constitute an enormous vote of no confidence in the future of London's economy and an enormous blow to commuters.

Paris is about to embark on its fifth cross-regional railway. The French take the view that investment in the public transport infrastructure is a positive and creative contribution to the economy. We should adopt the same approach. In any case, all the evidence points to the fact that new transport infrastructure generates its own traffic. Look at the M25—if you can bear it. What is true for the M25 will also be true for crossrail. The Government should get on with it straight away.

My constituency needs those priority central London schemes. We want them on stream, so that a start can finally be made on the extension of the Northern line to Streatham which the people of Streatham were first promised in 1926. The truth is that there is a vast need for more investment in public transport and bike and pedestrian facilities in London and elsewhere, which is simply not being met.

Of course, the Government will throw up their hands in protest and claim that they are spending loads of money on public transport in London and elsewhere. According to the famous statistic of the Minister for Transport in London, for every £1 spent on roads in London, £3 is spent on public transport. What the Minister omitted to say was that the £1 does not include local council spending on roads and that the £3 includes all spending on Network SouthEast from Peterborough to Exeter. That is a nonsensical statistic.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Minister should get on his feet and answer that.

Mr. Hill

No, I have no time to give way.

Then there is the Secretary of State's claim, made three weeks ago in the House when he announced his trunk road review, that real spending on London Underground is six times greater now than it was in 1979. He amended that claim this evening, stating that it was three times greater: I always observe a certain shakiness in the right hon. Gentleman's approach to statistics.

Mr. Banks

And the Tories were in county hall in 1979.

Mr. Hill

My hon. Friend is right: the Secretary of State was comparing the present position with what was happening at a time when the Conservatives were in charge of London's public transport spending.

Capital, the transport campaign for London, has made a careful analysis of spending on the London underground in the 14 years since 1979. That analysis reveals that the real increase is 10 per cent., not the 600 per cent. claimed by the Secretary of State. That is peanuts in the context of the needs of an aging London underground system: the Northern line has had no new fleet since the second world war.

Mr. Norris

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hill

Very briefly.

Mr. Norris

Will the hon. Gentleman simply specify how much more money he is committing his party to spend in London this year, next year and the year after that? I am sure that the House would be grateful if he could tell us.

Mr. Hill

That is a perfectly reasonable question for the Minister to put to me, and to other Opposition Members. Given that we want to increase spending on public transport, it is entirely reasonable to ask how we would pay for it. I rather think that I am reflecting the views of those on my Front Bench when I say that, under a Labour Government, spending on the roads programme must be subjected to greater scrutiny than has been applied over the past 15 years.

The truth is that, notwithstanding the trunk roads review announced by the Secretary of State on 30 March, road-building expenditure will remain at £2 billion over the next three years. There is still £20 billion in the overall roads programme. Indeed, the Secretary of State was rather proud of that: I very much hope that he squared it with the Secretary of State for the Environment.

The Government justify their road-building programme on the basis that it is a way of cutting industry's costs; yet road building is extremely poor value for money. Transit costs typically amount to only 2 per cent. of industry's output costs. The lack of importance of road building to British business was reflected in a 1992 survey carried out by the British Institute of Management, which found that only 15 per cent. of managers in this country supported extra public expenditure on the building of new motorways.

As a job creator, road building is certainly poor value for money: pound for pound, it creates far fewer jobs than spending on, for instance, housing and public transport. The Government may make wide-ranging claims for the economic benefits of road building, but in reality they make no effort to discover whether such benefits exist.

Dr. Jeremy Vanke, author of a major study on the road-building programme, wrote to the Department of Transport asking about the economic implications of the completion of the M25, apart from the number of construction jobs created. His letter attracted the following illuminating response from the Department: The statement made by the Secretary of State referred only to jobs created in construction work. I regret that I cannot answer the other questions you raise as the Department does not keep any information of this type. I am sorry that I cannot be of more help.

That is scarcely the most persuasive case in favour of the economic benefits of the road-building programme. The programme is enormously costly in its own right—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Time is up.

7.18 pm
Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

It is evident from every Opposition speech, not least that of the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), that the Opposition are all about spending money. It is no coincidence that the debate was inspired by the Opposition shortly before local government elections. Even the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) pleaded for greater expenditure, but no clear impression was given of where the money is to come from, unless from an attack on the roads programme.

Listening to the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey), we were even more baffled about alternative policies. The hon. Gentleman demonstrated that the Liberal Democrats do not know what they want or to which audience they are playing. In 1991, a Liberal Democrat policy document stated that they wanted to reduce the need for transport. By 1993, the Liberal Democrats called, in another policy document, for substantial investment in local public transport, additional electrification of various rail routes and more transport in rural areas.

Today, we heard from the hon. Member for North Devon that for a mere pittance, to use his expression, every town with a population of more than 23,000 could be connected to the rail network. I should like that spelled out in detail. The hon. Gentleman suggested additional taxes, such as more business rates and a payroll tax. I suspect that the Liberal Democrats face every which way. They are suspicious of road projects in general, but in favour of every one that is put to them.

Recently, a Liberal Democrat luminary in my constituency wrote to me that it was time that the Department of Transport stopped acting as a lobby for the road construction and haulage industries and put a halt on further road construction. Not far from where that gentleman lives, local Liberal Democrats are agitating for road expenditure on the new Al20 to be speeded up. Liberal Democrats hold totally different views within the same constituency and local authority area.

Much nonsense has been talked about road and rail. The contradiction that I described exemplifies the ghastly over-simplification that one can simply halt expenditure on roads and spend it all on the railways. The rail network does not present a choice in many parts of the country, whether in terms of industry wanting to move freight or the private individual's personal travel. That was true even before Dr. Beeching. The idea that one can have an alternative rail network throughout the country to match the road network is absolute moonshine. Neither Opposition party can demonstrate how that could be achieved.

There is no evidence that the public would be enthusiastic about new rail routes and connections, because they have shown that they are as often disturbed about the environmental impact of new railways as about new roads. There are serious questions to be asked about car usage and its growth, but we must face the fact that few of the people we represent are yet aware of grave difficulties in future. They are strongly in favour of the freedom to use their motor cars, and they cherish that most.

It is not a question of no public transport alternative being available. The public prize highly the freedom that car ownership brings. There are no circumstances in which Essex or East Anglia are likely to be criss-crossed with railway lines that would make car or long road journeys unnecessary. It would require the most improbable number of bus routes and frequency of services for the public to abandon their cars.

Goodness knows what would have to be spent to achieve the utopian society described by the hon. Member for North Devon. Perhaps he wants to revive the scheme abandoned in Cambridge for providing free bicycles. Perhaps that is the Liberal Democrat vision of the future.

Opposition Members must get real and understand that it is all about freedom of choice, which is why the Government's approach is infinitely more sensible. Many people, as citizens rather than as car owners, want more roads, where they would bypass towns and villages. Letters that I receive from constituents vilifying over-emphasis on road construction are far outnumbered by those demanding new and better roads.

In some parts of the country, however, there is a sensible choice and, in those circumstances, it is right to influence the situation in favour of public transport. If it becomes more expensive to use the roads and the railway appears more efficient and reliable, the public will make decisions accordingly. But they will do so for themselves. That is the better approach, rather than Labour's proposal to ram public transport down people's throats as the only form of transport that they should have.

I conclude by concentrating on the last two words in the Government amendment, "and elsewhere", in the context of air transport policy. The Government have given a positive lead towards achieving liberalisation of air services in Europe—even Opposition Members might acknowledge that. Outside Europe, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has played a good hand in trying to improve the liberalisation of air services with the United States, in the current bilateral talks. It is not his fault that they have become stuck for the moment.

Part of the problem overshadowing those negotiations is our airports policy, which does not fit with the Government's desire for greater liberalisation and competition in the provision of air services. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a statement on the trunk road programme review on 30 March, he said: It is no part of the Government's policies to tell people when and how to travel."—[Official Report, 30 March 1994; Vol. 240, c. 929.]

When it comes to providing airport capacity, the Government are dangerously close to contradicting that admirable sentiment. There is no doubt from any analysis, such as that made recently by the Select Committee on Transport, that a heavy preponderance of people travelling to and from London by air want to use Heathrow. Equally, there is no doubt that people in East Anglia, albeit in smaller numbers, would like to travel to the United States from Stansted, and that there is undoubtedly a market for more transatlantic business based on Manchester and Birmingham.

The key to liberalisation of air services with the United States and, I suspect, with other countries that want more rights in the UK, is to find the answer to the Heathrow conundrum. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Sir P. Fry) in commending to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the Northolt option. It is right to explore the opportunities for extending the capacity of Heathrow using Northolt. I do not believe that it is part of the answer to expect the three existing London airports to accept more and more night flights. I cannot believe that that is the right approach.

It is hard to get that part of our air transport system ready for the 21st century and it is small wonder that the Liberal Democrats are ducking that issue. Their official policy is to expand airports outside the south-east while freezing further development at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. That has not percolated down to Thaxted, where Liberal Democrats stated in a recent issue of Focus that, if another runway is required, it should certainly be located at Heathrow or Gatwick.

Official Liberal Democrat policy flies in the face of both the Civil Aviation Authority and the RUCATSE group, which concluded the scale and location of demand are such that regional airports cannot be an effective substitute for more south-eastern capacity.

We must face the problem of Heathrow and how it might be extended in a way that does not offend the people who live nearby.

Neither the Labour party nor the Liberal Democrats offer an effective substitute for Government transport policies, and the absurd Opposition motion should be defeated.

7.28 pm
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

Because transport has such a major effect on people's lives, the Government should do more than merely hand everything over to the private sector. Their philosophy is based on the mistaken belief that competition will automatically result in efficiency.

Transport policy should ensure that the various forms of transport complement each other rather than compete. That would be real efficiency. Planning policy should ensure that the transport implications of development are also fully considered.

A classic example is the development of the Metro shopping centre in Gateshead. Although it is undoubtedly a huge commercial success and popular with the public, it has brought massive transport problems for the nearby community. The Department of Transport's answer to that is to propose a bypass to a bypass, cutting a huge swathe through some of the finest greenbelt land in the area, demolishing homes and condemning thousands of people to live on a traffic island. This is the simplest—although suprisingly for this Government, not the cheapest—option, and a classic example of the Government's failure to look at the total situation.

As Gateshead council has suggested, the way to deal with the congestion problem on the A 1 western bypass caused principally by the. Metro shopping centre is to introduce a combination of improvements to the existing road network and various traffic management initiatives. One longer-term measure to assist with this problem would be to link the Metro centre up to the metro light rail system serving the Tyneside conurbation.

The efficient and popular metro transport system provided by local Labour councils was opened in 1980 and was an immediate success—so much so that, within a year of its opening, the pressure on car parks at various stations meant that they had to be enlarged and, in at least one case, doubled in capacity, proving the theory that people will get out of their cars and use public transport if it is right. The system was recently extended to Newcastle airport and a few weeks ago, a ceremony took place to mark the beginning of plans to extend it to the city of Sunderland. The region would benefit enormously from further extensions to the system.

The biggest blow to the efficiency of the system came with the deregulation and privatisation of local bus services. That separated the operation of bus services from the operation of metro services. At a stroke, the integrated system that had been initiated when the service opened, and for which it was designed, was brought to an end. Buses now run alongside metro trains, duplicating services, competing with the metro and competing with each other. There is little evidence of any huge benefit to passengers as a result. What we have is hugely increased congestion and the consequential deterioration in the environment.

Queues of buses line our high streets, holding up traffic and belching out fumes from diesel engines. It is now recognised that they are much more harmful to health and the environment than traditional petrol engines which are fitted with catalytic converters.

When the late Lord Ridley was Secretary of State for Transport, he told me in an exchange in the Chamber that, as a result of deregulation, buses were queueing for people, rather than people queueing for buses. That is the sort of flippant remark for which he was noted, but it is hardly an example of efficient transport policy where co-ordination, rather than competition, is surely the key to efficiency.

The people who have clearly benefited from privatisation are senior company executives whose salaries escalated while the wages of workers were cut and fares were increased. Now, the Go-Ahead Group, which was bought from the public sector for £2.9 million, is to be floated on the stock market for an estimated £40 million. After the payment of debt, that will leave the tidy sum of about £20 million almost entirely in the control of only three men.

For weeks now, the local press has speculated that the three directors who were part of the original management buy-out would become millionaires overnight as a result, thus repeating the pattern that we have become used to with privatisations, where the most obvious change is that a few people are made richer. It is little wonder that the managing director was one of those who wrote to local newspapers during the general election campaign advising people to vote Tory.

In a gesture of generosity, we have been told that the three directors have set up charitable trusts, the details of which they would prefer to keep secret. We have also been told that a new bonus system will be introduced for staff, the details of which have yet to emerge. However, the pressure that has been put on the three directors by local newspapers, trade unions and politicians may have brought about a change in thinking, as hints of sweeteners have begun to emerge recently.

Some benefit to the community certainly could be possible if the directors are genuinely looking for transport-related, useful ways to invest moneys generated from the flotation in the region. Perhaps they might talk to the Tyne and Wear passenger transport authority, which is looking for private support for financing the metro extension to Sunderland. That important line will cost about £46 million and under current conditions will have to be funded by a combination of the private and public sectors.

Public sector funding, including European funds, will be heavily influenced by the Government. I hope that the Minister can tell us that, even though it is early days yet, at least the Government have sympathy with the scheme and will co-operate in trying to find financing. That in itself would be an enormous encouragement to the private sector.

Last week, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) asked the Prime Minister what his Government have against pensioners. Of course, her question arose from the rationing of health services on an age basis, but it also applies in transport. The Labour-controlled authorities in Tyne and Wear were among the last in the country to be forced by the Government's restrictive policies to abandon free fares for pensioners—a policy which helped to fill empty buses during off-peak periods. More importantly, it brought a new freedom of movement to thousands of people.

Even though the standard 15p fare which has been introduced could be considered small, for every journey there is a return journey, so the standard in reality is 30p. Once a charge is levied, we know that the pressure will be on to increase it. I look forward to the day when we might seriously consider reinstating the free service to our senior citizens.

As has been said, transport includes our regional airports. I draw the Minister's attention to early-day motion 662 which calls for the urgent granting of rights for additional United States airline services to regional airports. Newcastle international airport in particular is an example of successful local enterprise through public ownership and investment. The airport was built from virtually nothing to a thriving international terminal by north-east local authorities. It has overtaken Luton in passenger throughput, having passed the 2 million mark, and recent independent forecasts see that number rising to 3.5 million by the year 2002 and 4.5 million five years later.

Extensions to the passenger terminal are currently under way, but much more needs to be done to meet the forecast demand. However, Government borrowing restrictions mean that all major capital works must be financed from reserves. That is yet another example of how the dead hand of Whitehall and Government dogma restrict the ability of public services to meet the demands placed on them.

The policies and priorities of any Government, especially this one, are not always the same as those that are aspired to in the regions. That is why I am a believer in regional government and the devolution of powers from the centre. Transport is one of the key areas that would be most appropriately devolved to regional and local levels.

A regional government for the north would give priority to improving the Al north of Newcastle to Scotland and coast-to-coast routes by the A66 and the A69, which would open up links between east and west ports. It would be a powerful lobby for accelerating the provision of a direct rail route around London to the channel tunnel, improving the regional rail network and promoting and improving our regional airports.

There is a great deal of good will and co-operation across the region and a determination to work together in the interests of the region and its people. Our manufacturers are working hard to improve performance. The manufacturing challenge, as part of the drive to double the productive base of the regional economy, aims to treble manufacturing exports over the next 10 years. It was observed in a feature on regional exports in the Newcastle Journal this week: Without the best (transport) links, manufacturers will suffer a disadvantage over other regions of Europe because of our geographical peripherality.

Under this Government, we are peripheral not only to Europe but to Whitehall as well.

Our transport priorities are different from those of the Government, yet we must live with the consequences of their decisions. That is not good enough. There should be more flexibility and more variety within our democratic system. That is why a Labour Government would introduce elected regional government into the English regions, an elected authority for Greater London and national governments in Scotland and Wales. One of the areas of public policy which would be an immediate beneficiary of such a change in our constitution is transport.

7.38 pm
Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

I shall comment briefly on the speech of the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland). I would have thought that the last thing the north-west needed was another layer of government. I can think of no time in my seven years as a Member of Parliament—I am honoured and privileged to serve the Cheadle constituency—that I have ever been approached by anyone asking me for another layer of government; if anything, quite the reverse.

First, I shall mention something that relates specifically to my constituency. I see that my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic is on the Front Bench; the matter relates to his brief. Within my constituency, there is a road scheme which has been awaited for some 20 or 30 years. It has massive public support. Initial work has just started on the central section.

The road to which I refer is the M56 to A6 link, known locally as the Manchester airport eastern link road, or MAELR. The central section of the road has been built in advance of the rest, and the whole scheme is not being built together. In Woodford road in my constituency, there is a junction where no junction was supposed to be, and a road that was supposed to be of benefit to my constituents will initially cause problems, particularly for the villages of Bramhall and Woodford.

My question to my hon. Friend is, when can we except a firm date for completion of that road? I appreciate that it may be linked with the A6(M), but if he could comment now I would welcome his intervention.

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Key)

I can reassure my hon. Friend that only yesterday I discussed MAELR with the chief executive of Manchester airport and the chief executive of the Highways Agency. I shall be in Manchester next week looking at transport in that part of the country, and I can assure him that the road has a high priority and my close attention. I cannot at this stage give him a definite date, but I hope that it will not be long.

Mr. Day

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. [Interruption.] I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), but, as usual, I shall ignore him.

I raise my other point in my capacity as co-chair of the west coast main line group. Hon. Members of all parties have a keen interest in the west coast main line. It is vital throughout the west of country, the west of Scotland, the north-west, the midlands and elsewhere. The Government recognise its priority, and I would like to pay my compliments and give thanks to the Minister for Public Transport for the way in which he has always responded to requests from the group to meet us. He has been co-operative in that regard.

A problem has been drawn to my attention which I have been asked to bring into the debate, particularly by those hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies. I am told that, on 31 March, a contract was lost by Railfreight to carry 100,000 tonnes of steel per year, which was to be distributed for the whole of Ireland via the west coast main line and through Stranraer.

I understand that that contract has now gone to road hauliers, and the steel will be shipped through Heysham. I appreciate that it is a commercial decision, and I would not wish the Minister to intervene directly—indeed, he does not have the power to intervene. I will just make the point to my hon. Friend that it emphasises the importance of the west coast main line.

If we lose contracts such as that, obviously the whole viability of that important line could be put in doubt. I hope that my hon. Friend will make himself aware of the situation, and will find out the reasons why that came about. I also hope that he will make sure that it has nothing to do with the viability of the west coast main line itself. It will be of great concern to many hon. Members if it has.

I regret the tone of the speech by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), and his comments about the west coast main line. The hon. Gentleman had nothing constructive to say. The Government have made great strides on the matter, and it is their top priority.

Government Back Benchers wish the Government well in their efforts to secure finance from the private sector. I believe that the private sector will come forward with the necessary finance for that line. I do not believe that it helps the Government if doubt is cast upon the scheme by somebody who would wish to be a Minister one day. God forbid that the hon. Gentleman is ever in that position.

I would like to point out to the hon. Gentleman that I have never heard anybody in the all-party group question the need for the scheme to succeed in the way in which the Government have proposed it. Most hon. Members who have an interest in the west coast main line do not much care where the money comes from, as long as we get it. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras has found it necessary to make the issue a political football —for the first time, in my experience.

It serves nobody's interests whatsoever, and the west coast main line group has never dealt with it in that way. We have no intention of allowing the hon. Gentleman to make it a political issue, which would destroy the unity of the all-party group. If anybody will bring pressure to get success for the west coast main line, it will be the all-party group and not the Opposition Front Bench.

The hon. Gentleman seemed unclear what he was telling the House about the Opposition's approach to transport. I could not make out whether he was in favour of private investment or not. The Labour party recently boasted that it thought that there was a role for private investment in roads and in rail. However, the hon. Gentleman seemed to carp at every proposal which the Government made to achieve objectives which I would have thought we all shared.

That also suggests to me that, as usual, the Labour party has only one solution to the problems of transport—to throw more money at them. That is the same solution as it has for every issue. It never tells us where the money is coming from, but it is easy—it is other people's money, so it does not matter. I find incredible the idea that the Labour party has changed its spots since the election.

There were tax increases in the Budget. However, if the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) was in charge of the finances of 'this nation, people would be facing not only tax increases to pay for the Budget deficit, but the £35 billion of extra spending which the Labour party promised before the last election. In addition, they would have to pay for all the other promises which the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras has made on transport.

The Labour party must get its act together on what it is telling the country. Of course, that is the last thing that the Labour party will do. The Government's policies on transport are quite clear, and they will have my support in the Lobby tonight.

7.46 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

The west coast main line is having money spent on it. Of course, it is not being spent on improving the line. Of course, it is not being spent on re-signalling. It is certainly not being spent on improving facilities for the passengers. It is being spent on the setting up of a competition for people to look at ways of introducing private finance into one of the most vital railways in the United Kingdom.

It is becoming clear that the Government have a clear transport policy, and it is in effect one of double taxation. When they are asked whether they understand the economic implications of providing a first-class infrastructure for both the economic and political life of this country, they say, "Of course, but it is vital that we should have a partnership between private industry and the state." Their definition of a partnership is similar to that of the medical profession many years ago, when the senior partner got all the money and the junior partner did all the work.

It is quite revealing that today we have been given, in addition to a number of questions about rail privatisation, very little clear idea of what the three-day chairmen of the various quangos will do to bring in this great new surge of investment into the railway system. Mr. Robert Horton, when giving evidence to the Select Committee on Transport, said that he saw his role as generating interest among opinion-formers. He said that he wanted to convince people like me that investment was needed in the west coast main line.

I must say that, while I do not have an overweening idea of my own importance, I would have thought that even Mr. Horton would have noted that one or two Opposition Members were asking for investment in the west coast main line when Mr. Horton was still trying to make money out of fossil fuels. I find that difficult to understand, but I find it particularly difficult to understand when I look at some of the answers we get from the Secretary of State for Transport and his Ministers.

I asked if he would list the percentage of public funding to British Rail that has been used for restructuring of British Rail in preparation for privatisation".

I also asked what was his estimate for next year and what funds were made available to British Rail for reorganisation. The Minister answered: In 1992–93 British Rail reported that around £10 million was spent on reorganisation. In 1993–94, we understand that British Rail expects to spend around £56 million. In 1994–95 British Rail and Railtrack have estimated that they will require an additional £50 million for running costs and up to £30 million for expenditure on new equipment and systems in support of reorganisation."—[Official Report. 21 March 1994; Vol.240, c.100.]

The Minister says that it is because of the Government and reorganisation that not only greater efficiency but new information systems and an improvement in management techniques have come about. I do not know where the Minister has been.

The reorganisation of British Rail has happened not once but consistently, long before any suggestion that Railtrack would be created. The improvement in the use of information technology has been led by people in British Rail, whose only fault was that they did not have enough common sense to tell the United Kingdom what a marvellous job the men and women in that industry were doing. In case anyone has any concern, yes, I am a sponsored Member. I am proud to be a member sponsored by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. I want to make that clear.

The Government are seeking to isolate expenditure on transport in a particular way. Interestingly enough, they are doing so not only for railways. It is clear from what has been said today that Railtrack will see as its function not only to apply what the Secretary of State said was a proper overhead sum to its economics. The right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted transparency, and wanted people to understand how much their services cost.

Let us have no doubt what that means. The Government will put in place a sophisticated game. First, they will put up the cost. Then they will say that everyone should know what a particular rail service costs. Then they will say that it is too expensive, and it would be much cheaper to run alternative services such as privatised coaches.

In case anyone has any doubt about the efficiency of privatised coaches, let us consider what is happening with the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill. The Government are removing restrictions which protect health and safety in road transport. The Minister does not seem to know. Let me help him.

When the legislation was being debated, local authorities expressed anxiety about the removal of the right of traffic commissioners to prevent the use of operating centres with planning permission. They pointed out that ordinary people would have considerable difficulty in the future. Everyone in the industry pointed out that, if there were continuous licensing, members of the public would find it difficult to question those who ran public service vehicles. It is not a small problem. Once there is continuing licensing, how will we monitor those who drive school buses and coaches, who have many lives in their hands?

It is clear that, in many traffic areas, public service vehicles do not reach the required standards. Let us take the traffic commissioner's annual report for the north-eastern traffic area. Some 30 per cent. of all public service vehicles failed the initial MOT test. In the west midlands, the number of PSV cases brought for public inquiry for disciplinary matters, which include maintenance and a wide range of points that would affect any woman using a bus driven, perhaps, by someone who was not 100 per cent. in control, increased by 500 per cent. between 1991–92 and 1992–93.

In south Wales, the number of PSV companies called to inquiry increased by 90 per cent. The overall total of operators of PSVs called for disciplinary action increased from 362 to 412—an overall increase of 14 per cent. The public do not realise that deregulation means that they face a deteriorating service, and certainly deteriorating controls on those involved.

I asked a series of questions about what the Ministry did about checking whether people who were granted PSV licences had any convictions. I was told that, because of the lack of resources, Department of Transport staff did not check the declarations given by applicants. If an applicant ticks a box stating that he or she has no criminal convictions, no check is made. A total of 17,922 objections were received to goods vehicle operator licences.

The Transport Select Committee highlighted in its report the dangers of privatisation of the Department of Transport agency work. The Department is doing two things. It is setting up independent quangos that will use the taxpayers' money supposedly to attract investment from private funds outside. In order to do that, they will use the taxpayers' money again to hand over considerable sweeteners. There will be no control over those people or over the quality of the transport provided. Increasingly, there will be no real investment in the infrastructure that is not in the form of double taxation.

Not one Conservative Member today has said that it is the intention of the Government to go for road pricing in the form of either shadow tolls or more direct forms of tolling on motorways, and perhaps even on urban roads. The Government know how to make money out of the transport infrastructure, but they are not prepared to put it back. They are happy to commit the taxpayers' money at every level, preferably twice, but they are not prepared to come to the House and announce that they will put money into creating a first-class transport system.

We need the west coast main line. We shall have an emergency by the end of the year, because we know that the machinery and infrastructure will cease—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I call Mr. John Carlisle.

7.56 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

I am grateful to be called in what has been a strange and mixed debate. Listening to some of the whinges and whines from the Opposition Benches, one would think that we ground to a halt every time that we left this place and that we did not have motorways which were relatively unclogged most of the time and did not have an excellent rail and air system within Britain.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson)—probably hinting at what I might say to him —made an extraordinary speech in what should be a serious debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Sir P. Fry) said, the debate should be on a wide range of subjects, but inevitably comes down to constituency interests. So I promise the House that I shall speed through my remarks, as a Vauxhall Cavalier would through the highways and byways of this country, so that other hon. Members can participate in the debate.

It is inevitable that transport policy in Britain, as the Government's amendment suggests, should be market led. It is nonsense for Opposition parties to try to force people on to forms of transport that they do not want and which, by their own volition and choice, they have avoided. I become extremely cross at the anti-car policies pursued by hon. Members from both major Opposition parties. As I represent Luton, I have a constituency interest in ensuring that that great town continues to thrive and boom. Its greatest industry, Vauxhall Motors, is very much part of that.

I remember being asked by one or two people when I was first elected what constituency I represented. I must admit that when I said that I represented Luton, some people's faces fell. Some said, "I have been through it." I suppose that, to an extent, that is what Luton is all about. We can boast probably some of the best systems and examples of what the Government have done in terms of transport facilities and structures in the 15 years since they were returned to office.

The country's major motorway runs through the middle of my constituency. We also have a thriving airport. Although it has recently been surpassed by Newcastle—the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) gave the numbers—once it gets into private hands it will continue to expand. I assure my hon. Friend the Minister that I would support legislation that forced Luton borough council to sell the airport into private hands to ensure that it continues to expand and is better used.

Luton airport has a great future and might go some way to relieving the problems that my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) mentioned in connection with Heathrow, when he discussed Northolt and Stansted.

Luton also has excellent rail links, with passenger trains to London every 10 minutes at peak times and in some cases even more frequently. The old British Rail invested money in much better facilities, and we are proud of our facilities in Luton.

Good transport is one reason why the town is beginning to boom again and why people are coming to our part of the world. Obviously, links to London are good and, as our closest large centre of population, London was always familiar territory, but links are also good to the north and to other parts of the country. If Opposition Members want to visit a place where transport is working and which epitomises the best of Government transport policy they should come 30 miles up the M1 to see us.

It ill befits the Opposition to continue their extraordinary anti-car policy and it exasperates many car manufacturers and people in the motor trade. Significantly, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras mentioned the constituency of Eastleigh several times, but he did not mention that of Dagenham. I wonder whether he would have made quite the same speech if he had visited Dagenham or Luton and described his policies to Vauxhall workers.

Mr. Raynsford

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carlisle

I shall not give way because the hon. Gentleman knows, and I know, that it will not be worth my while to do so.

The Opposition, supported in most cases by the Liberals, continue to propose an incredible policy, but it will not go down well in a town that relies heavily on the motor car and the motor trade.

About 10,500 workers in and around my constituency are employed by General Motors. The company is a success story partly because it has been encouraged by the Government's excellent road-building projects during the past few years. It is a success story which has also brought enormous benefits in terms of car quality to its customers. General Motors has espoused a sensitive policy on the environment, pollution, noise control and so forth and has been in the forefront of such developments.

As other hon. Members have said, we must accept that our people should have the freedom to have a motor car if they so wish. It ill befits Opposition Members to deny them that privilege. Since I came to this place about 15 years ago, the car park, which was relatively empty then, has become full to bursting mainly because Opposition Members—including many London Members, some of whom are sitting opposite at this very moment—come here in their cars. They enjoy owning motor cars, but would deny ownership to others.

I crave your indulgence for a few minutes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to put a word in the ear of my hon. Friend the Minister about widening the Ml. As he knows, I fully accept the need for widening, and welcome it. The M1 is our major trunk road and carries about 100,000 vehicles a day through the heart of my constituency. Road widening is necessary and to be welcomed, but I must bring several matters to his attention which he may wish to deal with tonight or by post at a later date.

There is talk of the road widening being delayed by about 12 months for all sorts of reasons. The worry, nuisance and concern that widening is causing people who live near the motorway is such that they would rather that we got on with the work and got it out of the way as quickly as possible. I know that that would be my hon. Friend's intention, provided that the public inquiry agrees. I hope that there will be no further slippage in time. I am not blaming anyone for it, but now that the road has been widened to junction 9, it is important for widening to continue as far as junctions 10 to 12 as quickly as possible, although I understand that my hon. Friend and his colleagues must go through the diplomatic process.

The second problem is noise pollution and I make no apologies for mentioning that subject, because it is extremely important. My hon. Friend the Minister may not have seen a recent letter that I wrote about people who have lived near the motorway from the start and were there before it was built about 30 years ago. At that time, they were not given grants for noise insulation, because, when the M1 was built it had virtually no traffic on it. Some hon. Members may have seen pictures of it.

An anomaly exists whereby grants for noise insulation can be given only to people for whom the level of noise will be reduced when the motorway is completed. I am not talking about many homes—probably about 100 or even fewer—but under the 1975 noise regulations, about which we have corresponded, there is an anomaly. Some of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) will be affected and will not get compensation even though the noise levels that they are suffering are totally out of proportion to the levels existing when their houses were built more than 30 years ago.

My plea to my hon. Friend the Minister is that, when he receives my letter, he should look at it carefully and possibly come back to me with a somewhat kinder reply than he gave a month ago. That would help those poor people, who are genuinely caught in a trap that only my hon. Friend can alter, possibly through a statutory regulation.

Having said that, it gives me enormous pleasure to support the Government and their policy and to condemn the attitude of the Opposition parties, which has been remarkable this afternoon. The motor car is here to stay and the trunk road should receive—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. I call Mr. Peter Snape.

8.6 pm

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

My only comment on the speech by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) is that it is typical of the present Conservative party. Having seen all their policies collapse around them, all Conservative Members can do is to use their usual scaremongering tactics and say that other parties are anti-car. Most Opposition Members drive motor cars. The unrestricted use of private cars at certain times of the day is the cause of major congestion throughout the country, however, and Government transport policy should be directed towards curing that congestion and not to the sort of silly yah-booing that we have heard from so many Conservative Members.

In the short time available, I must mention two points, but must first declare an interest as a member of the RMT, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and as a non-executive director of the employee-owned West Midlands Travel. The railway industry is my first concern, especially the locomotive and rolling stock manufacturing industry. Recently, we have heard much about the acquisition of British companies by European firms, but not much about the acquisition of British rolling stock and locomotive manufacturers by European concerns.

The former British Rail Engineering was privatised and was taken over by Swedish-based ABB Transportation. Our other major manufacturer, GEC Alsthom, is a largely French concern. Certainly, for Birmingham-based MetroCammell—part of the latter group—times are tough, although at least the Washwood Heath factory in the city of Birmingham is involved in work on channel tunnel Eurostar trains as well as those for the Jubilee line extension. However, like firms in other parts of the country, it has no work for British Rail, or the core British Rail business, beyond the end of this year.

May I draw the attention of the Minister for Public Transport to an article in the Birmingham Post of 29 March in which the deputy business editor reported on an industry in danger of going off the rails".

Under the heading, "Locomotive industry rolls nearer to cliff edge of BR privatisation", Mr. Barber points out that that venerable industry now faces one of the worst crises in its illustrious history.

He leaves his readers in no doubt who is to blame and writes: The prime culprit behind the current plight is rail privatisation.

He sets out starkly that order books have dried up as uncertainty over privatisation casts a virtual freeze on investment in Britain's railways.

The article quotes a spokesman for the Railway Industry Association, who stated: the bleak outlook is hitting not only the big manufacturers but also specialist subcontractors and general engineering companies,

throughout the country, but especially in the midlands. Total employment, for example, at ABB's works in Derby, Crewe and York has been slashed from 8,500 in 1989 to just over 5,000 today.

We have heard a great deal during the debate about the need for investment in the west coast main line. I remind the House that that line lost out in its bid for £150 million of Government money last year to lease 15 new InterCity 225 trains. The more cynical among us were not surprised when that order went instead to Network SouthEast for new rolling stock on the London-Kent commuter services. We in the midlands did not only lose out on the benefits of railway modernisation. Metro-Cammell, for example, lost out, as it would no doubt have manufactured those new trains.

The article from which I quoted earlier is a gloomy one and points out that the Railway Industry Association is quick to dispel hope that the private sector will come to the industry's rescue by ordering gleaming new rolling stock for the newly privatised railways. I know of no operators wishing to acquire franchises, and we still wait to hear from the Government of any who do. I am willing to bet money that no franchisee, with a seven, 10 or even 15-year franchise, will make the huge investment necessary in new rolling stock. The concluding words of the spokesman from the Railway Industry Association in the article are: It is difficult to come up with an encouraging scenario.

With the opening of the channel tunnel shortly, the future for Britain's rolling stock manufacturing industry could well become much worse. Given that what is left of the industry is in foreign hands, the tunnel will make it much easier for the French to use the French arm of GEC Alsthom to meet any new British rolling stock requirements in the years to come. What can the Minister say tonight to give us some hope that that vital sector of British industry, especially in the midlands, has a future?

During the debate on the Finance Bill a couple of days ago, I drew to the House's attention the need for the go-ahead for the midland metro, especially as it affects the west midlands region. I reiterate that plea today, for if we are to begin to tackle congestion in the Wolverhampton-West Bromwich-Birmingham corridor, a fast, modern metro system is, in our view, the only way to tempt motorists out of their cars.

I emphasise to the Minister for Public Transport, who has made supportive noises, although has not come up with the cash, that the agreement with the private sector, which was so applauded by the Government, expires in 1996. Given the long delay, it will not be surprising if, at that time—if the go-ahead has not been given—the private sector walks away from it on the basis that the Government have no real interest in the project going ahead.

With or without the metro system, the bus will continue to play a major role in moving large numbers of people around the conurbation. We are all familiar with the decline in the industry that has taken place since deregulation in 1986. In spite of some of the nonsensical comments that we hear from Ministers, fares have increased countrywide and bus fares and timetables change with bewildering rapidity. The average age of vehicles has increased remarkably and the British bus-building industry has all but collapsed.

We now learn that what the Ministers used to call "the benefits of deregulation" are to be denied Londoners. Lucky old them, in the view of many of us on the Opposition Benches. May I inquire of the Minister why the rest of the country is forced to suffer from the ideological nonsense that is deregulation while the capital escapes? I am sure that it is not that ministerial limousines are considered too important to be delayed by the congestion that deregulation has brought to busy routes in the west midlands and other parts of the country.

No reputable operator in the bus industry objects to competition, provided it is competition that can be seen to be fair. However, in the west midlands, for example, where things have been reasonably stable in recent years, we are now witnessing an influx of smaller operators who buy clapped-out, high-mileage vehicles from other regions, repaint them and run them up and down the busier routes of the conurbation between 7 am and 7 pm. They do not operate late at night or early in the morning unless specifically paid to do so by the transport authority; nor do they operate on Sundays.

Those people are not competitive—they are parasites. By undermining the profitability of major network operators, they make those operators' marginal services less competitive and less profitable. If that type of conduct is not to be allowed in London, where the more sensible route franchising system is to operate, why is it encouraged in areas such as the west midlands and other parts of the country?

Needless to say, those companies are not known for the enlightened nature of their working hours, conditions of service or rates of pay. I have here a contract from one of those small companies for its bus drivers. It speaks about remuneration: You will be paid for each duty worked at the rate for the duty (a standard duty of approximately 12 hours is paid at the rate of £50, shorter duties pro rata).

It speaks about holidays—that is a brief part of the contract: During the first year of employment—Nil During the second year of employment—2 weeks (ie 10 days if employed to work 5 duties per week, otherwise pro rata)… No payment will be made for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Bank Holidays or Public Holidays unless required to work.

Ebenezer Scrooge, where are you today? He would be proud of companies such as that.

Under the column, "Deductions from wages", any damage to the vehicle due to an accident, however caused, means a deduction of up to £100 from the driver's wages, in any one month limited to 10 per cent. of that month's gross pay—so there is a bit of heart there. The balance of any difference between cash paid in and the amount shown as due by the ticket machine is deducted from the driver's wages. Those are the type of people who have been attracted into the industry, yet are being specifically kept out of London because deregulation is not to apply here.

The Department of Transport should acknowledge the real contribution that the bus can, and does, make to the reduction in urban congestion, and work with local authorities and passenger transport authorities to fund bus priority measures, guided bus systems and natural gas-powered vehicles.

As we have seen for many years in the west midlands conurbation, people will not tolerate massive urban road building any longer. If we are to avoid complete gridlock, some of the money that the Department throws at the road building sector—that £20 billion referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), for example —must be diverted to fund the type of bus priority measures and public transport improvements demanded for many years by the Opposition. Only when that type of common-sense decision is taken will we make some progress to alleviating congestion throughout the country, and only then will the Government be able to say that they have a transport policy.

8.16 pm
Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) pointed out that motor car ownership was now a blessing and a curse.

Car ownership has brought about a democratisation of the freedom to travel when and where one wants—which, until comparatively recently, was only available to a small, wealthy elite. The value of car ownership is well known to any parent who has had to struggle to travel, not only with a small child, but with the nappies, potties and pushchair that go along with being a parent of a small child.

Nevertheless, the car and its growing use have brought noise, pollution and the destruction of large areas of countryside to make space in which those greater numbers of vehicles can travel.

It is obviously a cause for concern that present forecasts are that private vehicle ownership is on course to double between now and 2020 or 2025. If that trend is realised, no amount of good environmental policy, no number of catalytic converters or lean-burn engines, will stop the sheer number of vehicles on the roads from overwhelming the Government's correct attempts to implement important international commitments about limits on vehicle and other emissions.

The Government have rightly said that they will not try to build sufficient roads to accommodate all the traffic that is forecast. Therefore, if that greater number of vehicles is manufactured, bought and used at present rates, we shall experience increased congestion, with all the additional burdens and costs which that means to British industry.

We cannot disinvent the car, but we have to find ways in which that growth can be checked. I do not believe that it can be stopped, and that means finding ways in which we can discourage unnecessary journeys, especially short journeys, by motor vehicle. It is worth pointing out that about a quarter of vehicle emissions come from the first four to five miles of a car journey, when the engine is cold. Therefore, we should try to deter those journeys which will have the greatest impact on vehicle emissions.

As hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, good public transport is one way to achieve that objective. I welcomed the Government's private finance initiative to try to get the resources that are needed for public transport.

The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), who is no longer in his place, complained that his constituents had been promised an extension of the Northern line since 1926. That illustrates the problem of keeping public transport capital spending entirely in the public sector.

Each year, the Minister for Transport must go to the Treasury and argue the case for public spending on transport. In doing so, he is competing with his colleagues who are asking for money for hospitals, schools and pensions. In the bargaining on public expenditure, the amounts allocated for transport are often settled by means of a compromise based on horse trading, rather than a proper business assessment of the capital that is needed and can be commercially justified.

I especially welcomed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's reiteration of the Government's support for the crossrail project, in which I have a particular interest. I hope that the reason for the absence from the Chamber now of the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) is that he has nipped out to telephone Liberal Democrat-controlled Tower Hamlets council and ask it to drop its campaign of opposition to the crossrail project, which is using up a lot of time and costing local council tax payers many thousands of pounds in expensive barristers' fees.

It is appalling but not surprising that Liberal Democrat spokesmen should champion a public transport project in the House of Commons when Liberal Democrats outside are leading opposition to the project in practice.

Better public transport will not be a panacea. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out that an increase of 50 per cent. in rail passenger traffic would cut road passenger journeys by only some 3 per cent., so we should look to other policy measures as well. Those include ensuring that transport policy is integrated with land use planning.

That is why I strongly welcomed the issuing of planning policy guidance note 13 earlier this year, with its firm advice to local authorities that they should use their local regulatory and planning powers to ensure a sensible balance in their localities of different modes of transport. They could be achieved through traffic management schemes, traffic calming measures and park-and-ride schemes. It is right that the Government should require those systems of traffic management to be driven according to local circumstances, rather than impose a nationally drafted blueprint that would not be appropriate in all parts of the country.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton said, the Government should look with an open mind at-the use of national regulations to discourage unnecessary road journeys. They could include the use of speed limits to ensure a better use of the existing roads, and designating lanes for commercial traffic, public service vehicles or cars with more than one occupant. I am, however, well aware that such proposals entail enormous opportunities for avoidance and difficulties of enforcement. I only hope that my hon. Friends are prepared to look with an open mind at some of those suggestions.

I hope that the Government will push forward with their policies on road pricing and taxation, even though they will not be popular. The Government have been right in recent Budgets to shift the tax burden from car ownership to fuel consumption, a policy that should be maintained. They are also right to look to the introduction of road pricing. I agree with the suggestion by an Opposition Member that road pricing could be appropriate not only on motorways and trunk roads but in certain urban areas, although the decision must be taken in the light of local circumstances.

Politicians must be clear and honest about the consequences of road pricing. A wealthy car owner will be able to afford the extra charges; somebody driving a company car could probably be reimbursed; and a commercial company could pass the charge on to customers. But relatively poor car users will be most affected. That is why, before pursuing such a policy, it is important to look carefully at its practical consequences and why, for road pricing to become publicly acceptable, the Government must ensure that the revenues from it go not only into road maintenance and building but into other forms of transport.

There is no single solution to the challenge posed by the exponential growth in car ownership, but a judicious mix of the measures that I have suggested might enable us, over the next couple of decades, to strike the right balance between personal freedom and the need to ensure for all our citizens a pleasant and civilised environment in which to live.

8.25 pm
Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East)

Like the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), I accept the need to achieve a balance. Having listened to the debate, however, I believe that the chances of the Government achieving a balance or coming up with a coherent transport policy are seriously hampered by two things. First, as a number of hon. Members have already mentioned, they are hampered by the dead hand of the Treasury. The Government's transport policy is dictated more by the Treasury than by Ministers responsible for transport.

A good example is the roads programme. The reason for the Government's cutting the roads programme was not, as some hon. Members may think, because of environmental concerns or as a result of a real assessment of the programme. I have talked to people in my regional office of the Department of Transport, who say that they found out about the cuts in the review by reading about them in the newspapers. Official confirmation arrived a few days later.

Nor is the reason for the cut in the roads programme to give priority to genuine bypass schemes, or to divert money from the roads programme into public transport. It is simply because the Treasury wants to take money back. That is the only reason that I can find.

Secondly, the Government are hampered by their obsession with and blinkered approach to privatisation, which seems to be their answer to everything. They are so inept that they save £500 million on the roads programme and spend £500 million on privatisation. That money is frittered away, when it could be used in many other areas. Examples have already been given of how it could have been spent: 220 new locomotives or 29 new InterCity trains could have been bought with the money that has been spent in preparation for privatisation.

That is important in the context of what the Central Transport Consultative Committee says. The CTC chairman, Lennox Napier, said: I share the grave concern of the RIA"—

the Railway Industry Association— that apart from the £150 million worth of leased Networkers ordered in 1993, no further orders for rolling stock have been placed since 1992, and as far as we know are unlikely to be placed in the near future. The railways in this country are facing a double problem—if new orders are not placed soon, many thousands of passengers will be condemned to travel in trains that are already well past their 'use by' date with the resulting unreliability. At the same time, we face the real prospect of this country's railway manufacturing industry becoming so run-down that we might well lose the capacity for building trains in Britain.

That is of particular importance to places such as Eastleigh, as my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) mentioned. The rail workers in the works at Eastleigh want to see orders coming in, and think that the Government should be prepared to give them orders.

The Secretary of State told my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras that the pensions issue was finished, and there was no problem. I know that the Secretary of State met people about railway pensions today —or it may have been the Minister—

The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)

indicated assent.

Mr. Heppell

The Minister met the trade unions today, and I understand that he met the trustees this afternoon. I understand that the Government will introduce statutory instruments towards the end of May.

It seems strange that, after two years of prevarication and an inability to resolve the pensions issue, all of a sudden, just before a by-election in Eastleigh—where many workers are employed by the railways and are worried about their pensions—the problem is solved. That typifies what the Government are all about.

We see nothing about transport, but we see press releases and publications. The Government may have organised the demise of BR, but they have certainly not organised the demise of PR. Instead of public transport, they are concerned with public relations. Glossy brochures are produced on rail privatisation, the Highway Agency and the Marine Safety Agency, to which I shall refer later, if I have time.

The Government have less time for transport than any other Government in the past. Spending through the 1980s was at least £2 billion less than spending through the 1970s. The public service obligation—which is not a subsidy—to try to ensure that we keep the 11,000 miles of track we now have, has fallen steadily. Some £3 billion has gone from the public service obligation since 1983. The Government have bragged about the fact that they now give less money to keep open socially beneficial lines.

I know that the Minister will come forward with statistics to show how much investment the Government have put into the railways, and how much money they have spent on trying to retain the viability of public transport. That will not wash with the people in Nottingham any more. When Ministers say that they think that it is justifiable to lie to Parliament some of the time—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman might wish to rephrase that.

Mr. Heppell

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was not suggesting that the Government would lie to Parliament; I was saying that a Minister in another place has made that allegation—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman could avoid getting into difficulty if he used a different word. We do not want the word "lie" being banded about.

Mr. Heppell


Mr. Snape

What about "inaccuracy"?

Mr. Heppell

Yes, inaccuracy—if a Minister is prepared to give inaccuracies to Parliament some of the time, people realise that the Government are prepared to give them inaccuracies all the time.

The public see what is happening in the transport sector, and see that no investment is being made in the railways. People no longer refer to Nottingham station, but to Nottingham sidings. They see that less money is being spent in that area. It is no longer one of the InterCity stations. Every time that a new timetable comes out, we see that another train has disappeared. Tonight, I would have been able to catch the 10.30 pm train back to Nottingham, but it has disappeared from the timetable, and I shall have to catch the later one at 11.30 pm.

I do not want to dwell too much on the railways, as I recognise that there are many other sorts of transport. Buses are still the cheapest and most reliable way of providing public transport in this country.

I owe my credibility to the Minister and the Government. During the mid-1980s, I campaigned to try to stop bus deregulation, and I was called a scaremonger. I said what would happen—I said that there would be leapfrogging of buses, congestion and problems in the streets. Unfortunately, after deregulation, none of that happened—it was easy, and there were no problems. But since then, the bus wars have begun in Nottingham, and there are headlines in the papers such as Bus stopper! 'War' could hit services".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The clock system is not working quite as it should. I shall be fair and check exactly what is happening. Speeches are still limited by the 10-minute rule. I call Mr. Nigel Waterson.

8.35 pm
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in today's important debate. I begin by welcoming the announcement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State earlier today on measures to help the shipping industry, which will go a long way to deal with the concerns that many of us have had over a number of years. I also declare an interest as a maritime lawyer. I am sure that those important measures will be widely welcomed in the British shipping industry.

The Government are to be congratulated on their roads policy for various reasons—principally two. First, they had the courage to produce a prioritisation statement and dropped 49 schemes. Secondly, they have proposed measures to improve and streamline planning procedures. It is a scandal in this country that it can take up to thirteen and a half years from the original proposal to the opening of a new road.

I wish to dwell particularly on the roads policy of the Liberal Democrats. We are all aware of their eccentric approach to policy-making. It seems to boil down to knocking on doors and asking the first person what they want and believe, and saying that that is what they too want and believe. It does not matter if the person next door takes a different view, as that is also what the Liberal Democrats say they want and believe. It is not merely that their views and policies differ from one part of the country to another: they can differ from one part of the same constituency to another. Nowhere is that more true than in relation to roads.

Earlier, the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) spoke of the Liberal Democrats' relentless hostility at national level to road improvement schemes. He came out with the immortal comment that he was hostile to the majority of the Government's roads programme—a view that he backed up eloquently in his speech. Nationally, the. Liberal Democrats oppose roads, but they never say to which part or majority of the roads programme they are hostile. But that attitude is not always carried through locally.

The hon. Member for North Devon was reported in the Mid Devon District Star as saying: Unfortunately, at its"—

the north Devon link road's— inception, wiser voices calling for a dual carriageway were overruled".

I assume that those wiser voices included that of the hon. Member for North Devon.

We have to decide what the national policy of the Liberal Democrats is, and then see whether it is carried through locally. The answer, as on so many other matters, is that it is not. There are some exceptions. The Liberals in Somerset have been doing their bit to fulfil the national policy by cutting £2.6 million from the roads and highways budget. I imagine that they thought they were following party policy. In my next life, I want to be a Liberal Democrat, because it is an easy way of making one's way through the political jungle.

There are important road schemes in my area.

First, the Government have recently announced a transport supplementary grant of £25 million for the A22 new route. I am very grateful for that decision, especially in the midst of a tough spending round. There were many representations from local politicians, authorities, businesses and people in favour of the scheme, and I led a delegation to meet my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic. A member of the delegation was Councillor Skinner, the chairman of the management and finance sub-committee of East Sussex county council—which, for the moment at least, is controlled by a Lib-Lab pact. The council gave its enthusiastic support to the scheme.

It is an important scheme for Eastbourne. It will cure much congestion and improve the environment. It will assist tourism, including the Sovereign Harbour development, and in due course it will help with access to the channel tunnel. The scheme will provide more access for business and industry in my constituency. It has been estimated that some 2,000 jobs have been lost over the years because of poor access. It is the last piece in a jigsaw of important road schemes in our area.

A second very important scheme is the Polegate bypass. I am chased regularly by Liberal Democrat councillors who ask why the scheme is not proceeding. However, I am pleased to say that it is on the reserve list for a start in 1994–95. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there is the A27 Lewes-Polegate road improvement. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) has been a doughty campaigner for that scheme.

The link is vital for all of East Sussex. However, views about its importance do differ—not least among Liberal Democrats in different parts of the county. In a recent letter to the Coastal Leader, Councillor David Rogers, the Liberal Democrat leader of East Sussex, said: The County Council supports the proposed trunk road improvements, and wishes them to be constructed as soon as possible. Poor trunk roads discourage inward investment and are a severe handicap to many existing businesses".

I could not agree more. But Councillor Rogers wrote the letter in answer to comments by Councillor Norman Baker, who is in fact the Liberal Democrat leader of Lewes district council.

Councillor Baker has a rather different view of the scheme. In a press release, he expressed "severe uncertainty" about its impact, and said that the route will have a "devastating effect". He continued: It will also have an adverse effect on the whole of the South Downs between Lewes and Polegate and many of our local communities.

That is a typical piece of Liberal democracy—a real example of leading from behind.

Councillor Baker said: we will continue to support whatever action the public wants us to take over the preferred route proposal.

That is a very courageous and clear-cut political lead from Councillor Baker.

But the scheme is a vital link in the road network in our part of East Sussex. It is remarkable that there are almost as many views—whether general or specific—about road programmes as there are Liberal Democrats. There is a national policy, about which we have heard already this evening, and then there are local policies. The county councils seem to favour the road schemes, but then the Liberal Democrats in Lewes take the opposite view.

Finally, I turn to the Labour party. The Labour party spokesman said very little about roads. Labour is also hypocritical on roads issues. Labour Members oppose roads programmes in general, but are in favour of them in particular.

I ask the spokesmen for the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party simply to do what the Government have done —publish a list of the road schemes that they wish to see discontinued, axed or scaled down. That is all I ask; it seems a very reasonable request, in the real world of planning and transport policy. Then we and our constituents can know exactly what their policies on roads are. I am very pleased to oppose the motion.

8.44 pm
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

I begin by declaring a personal interest in the debate, as I am the sole Member of Parliament sponsored by the rail union, ASLEF—a sponsorship which I carry with some pride. I also declare a special interest in the debate. As is not the case with previous speakers from Tory Benches, 56 per cent. of the people who live within my local authority have no access—nor will they ever have any access—to private transport. Therefore, public transport is a major issue for my constituents. I have no doubt that, given recent events in my constituency, they will be delighted by the timing of this debate on transport.

Hon. Members will remember that on 1 April—a date which says as much about the Government's presentational skills as it does about their transport policy—Britain's railways were privatised. On 8 April I received a letter from the newly created North London Railways train operating unit informing me and my constituents that, from the beginning of May, Hampstead Heath station, which under British Rail had been classified a zone 2 station for travelcard purposes, would be classified a zone 3 station.

The effect of that move has been to increase fares for commuters using Hampstead Heath station by £168 a year—an increase of more than 30 per cent. Presumably this is what the Secretary of State for Transport meant in his statement of 28 March when he welcomed what he called a "new era" on the railways and pledged: franchises will seek to attract new passengers by creating new standards of care at competitive prices.

I would be interested to know how a fare increase by 12 times the rate of inflation will attract new passengers and by which criteria a price rise of 30 per cent. can be judged to be competitive.

I should add that North London Railways, under its new guise as a train operating unit, is making great efforts and some progress in improving the quality of the service that it delivers to its passengers. However, it is being hampered in its efforts by a new operating regime that places the need for a commercial profit above the needs of the passenger.

Sadly, the railway within my constituency is not the only system to have suffered in recent days from the Government's disdain for the public transport network. Yesterday, the lift shaft at Hampstead tube station, which at 181 ft is the deepest on the network, suffered a mechanical failure which resulted in 19 passengers being stuck within a lift for more than one and a half hours. They were rescued only when the lift was winched manually back to ground level, after which two people required oxygen from the emergency services. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries, but what is happening on our underground system when lift breakdowns, power failures and electrical short circuits start to become not isolated but monthly and almost weekly occurrences?

On 25 March an article appeared in my local newspaper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express, which revealed that London Underground did not have the necessary resources to replace the wooden escalators at Highgate and Swiss Cottage underground stations as recommended by the Fennell report into the King's Cross fire, which was in 1987.

Seven years later, with the underground approaching the 21st century, how can it be that the world's largest tube network does not receive sufficient finance to replace wooden escalators with escalators that do not represent a fire threat to the travelling public? Putting aside the safety implications, do the Government have no sense of shame? That is a rhetorical question because I can answer it myself: no, they do not.

Is there not even an ounce of contrition among those on the Government Front Bench about the fact that the nation's capital city—a city that the Secretary of State for the Environment recently described as a beacon that attracts investment and visitors and competes directly with Paris, New York and Tokyo—cannot even afford a tube system in which elevators do not trap passengers for hours on end and in which escalators are not under constant threat from a carelessly discarded match?

Yesterday I read the debate on the Government's response to the Fennell inquiry in 1987. The debate was concluded for the Government by the then Minister responsible for public transport, the right hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo). On that day, the right hon. Gentleman boasted of the increased investment that London Underground had received and praised London Underground for its remarkable response to the Fennell report. Seven years on, the Chief Secretary no longer praises London Underground but attempts to bury it under financial restrictions.

The Government's attacks on our capital's public transport infrastructure do not stop at allowing sky-high fares to jostle with rock-bottom investment. As anyone who has been following the progress of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will be aware, while the travelling public are denied the opportunity easily and Speedily to travel in their own capital city, heavy goods vehicles are about to be given the run of London, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thanks to Government proposals to abolish the London lorry-ban permit system.

Last week my constituents were given a reminder of the cost of that proposal when I received a copy of a letter from Mr. Brian Marsh, chair of the London Boroughs Transport Committee, addressed to the Minister for Transport in London. That letter, which describes the Minister as possessing a striking dearth of understanding of the operation of the permit system, goes on to warn: It is patently obvious that London's environment is not your first concern and that proposals to abolish the permit system reveal that your Department would find acceptable a substantially reduced level of environmental protection for Londoners.

That, in a nutshell, is the Government's transport policy lorries on the loose, tubes on the blink, train fares up, investment down. For my constituents whose homes lie in the path of those lorries, whose trips to work are delayed by mechanical breakdowns on an aging tube network and whose household budgets continually dwindle as a result of rising fares, that is an unacceptable state of affairs.

Ministers are fond of telling the House that there is no such thing as Government money, only the people's money. Well, the transport system of the capital also belongs to the people. Their money paid for the railway services that are now being sold off at knockdown prices to private investors. Their money paid for the buses that constantly adorn our roadsides with their bonnets up and their "not in service" signs displayed and for the tubes that have difficulty making it from one station to another without hour-long pauses.

Having paid for those things, the people of London have a right to see them work. If Ministers fail to maintain, invest in and modernise our transport system, making it one that Londoners can look on with pride rather than trepidation, then they will find themselves paying as heavy a price as those who do battle with the transport system every single working day.

8.52 pm
Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

It is not just because I am an adviser to the Chamber of Shipping that I want to begin by warmly welcoming what the Secretary of State had to say today about changes to the taxation regime for roll-over relief for shipping companies. On both sides of the House there is a strong consensus that the importance of shipping to the United Kingdom economy cannot be overstated—not simply because of the 90 per cent. of our foreign trade that it carries to and from our shores but because of the 26 per cent. of domestic trade that shipping companies carry in this country.

It is a shame that this debate, like so many others on transport, has understated the importance of shipping to the United Kingdom by overstating the importance of road freight, not making allowance for the fact that more than one quarter of all domestic freight is carried by sea. Besides this direct contribution to our transport, the shipping industry makes its contribution to the marine equipment industries that supply it and it underpins the City of London and all the marine services there.

I think that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) would have been more impressive in his rather brief and peremptory remarks about shipping if he had praised not just the role of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley). I freely admit that she has played an interested role in the debate about the future of our shipping, but it would have been helpful if the hon. Gentleman had also praised my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) and my hon. Friends the Members for Pudsey (Sir G. Shaw), for Shipley (Sir M. Fox), for Dover (Mr. Shaw), for Slough (Mr. Watts), for Bridlington (Mr. Townend), for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) and for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill)—not to mention my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. They have all consistently and convincingly argued the case for British shipping.

The measure announced today to the House will help some sectors more than others, but it will still help the whole industry. It is part of a series of measures that the Government have taken which will have an important cumulative effect on the fortunes of the British shipping industry. I now ask my right hon. Friend to conduct with the utmost vigour his battle against state aids in the rest of Europe. Although the playing field may have been somewhat levelled, there is still quite an imbalance. I particularly ask my right hon. Friend to deal with the attempt by the French Government to provide £1 billion-worth of subsidy to Compagnie Generale Maritime—a classic example of subsidy if ever there was one.

In this debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State demolished a number of the myths that are often peddled about public transport. He demolished the myth that it is possible to remove the need for new road building by increasing the use of rail. The startling figure that a 50 per cent. increase in rail traffic would lead to only a 3 per cent. reduction in road traffic speaks volumes about that myth. My right hon. Friend also demolished most effectively the myth that the Government do not fund public transport adequately. With 90 per cent. of United Kingdom traffic going by road and 40 per cent. of his budget spent on public transport, it is clear that that argument cannot be sustained either.

I was slightly surprised, however, that one myth did not surface in the debate—the myth that it is possible to achieve the chimera of an integrated transport policy. Had anyone referred to the need for that, I would have happily referred him to the famous episode of "Yes, Minister", in which Jim Hacker is charged with the task of bringing about an integrated transport policy—described by the Cabinet Secretary in his diary as a bed of nails, a crown of thorns, a booby trap".

In the event the Minister falls for it.

The reason why such a policy is a crown of thorns is later revealed by Sir Humphrey, who says: Formulating policy means making choices. Once you make a choice you please the people you favour but you infuriate everyone else. This is liable to end up as one vote gained, ten lost. If you give a job to the road services, the Rail Board and unions will scream. If you give it to the railways, the road lobby will massacre you.

It is perhaps this fear that lies behind the total inability of the Opposition parties to make any reasonable choices about the future of transport in this country. The Government face up to those choices, and I believe that they consistently take the right ones.

There was a previous attempt to provide an integrated transport system, but unfortunately we had to repeal it in the Railways Act 1993. My friend Robert Adley, then the Member for Christchurch, and I were saddened by the repeal of the four Railway Road Transport Acts of 1928 and the four Air Transport Acts of 1929. The rail companies fought hard for those eight Acts, which gave them powers to co-ordinate road and rail transport and to take cross-shareholdings and other transport interests. The Great Western Railway took shareholdings in many bus companies and reduced its own operations. As a result of its experience, it began to experiment with diesel multiple units and produced the first diesel railcars.

Those Acts of Parliament were delivering co-ordinated transport through market forces and that process should have been allowed to continue, with proper scrutiny by the competition authorities. War, recession and the motor car all made the railways' task more difficult. It was the Labour party that finished the process off, with its ideology and dogma and its nationalisation of the railways.

That ugly monster, the British Transport Commission, created on 1 January 1948, was to blame. As a result of the Transport Act 1947, it had the duty to provide an integrated system of transport in Britain. However, as "The Great Western Railway History" published in 1984—the official history—reveals: Sir Cyril Hurcomb, Chairman of the BTC, … made the mistake of organising rail, road and water in five separate Executives and … selected incompatible people for the Railway Executive, which left him with no hope of integrating road with rail, and no chance of integrating the four railways.

Nationalisation finally destroyed the proper hopes of an integrated public transport system in Britain. However, we should be seeking not an integrated system but a balanced one. In my constituency of Worcester I am happy to report that the combination of Government policy and market forces has achieved precisely that and enormous benefit is now flowing to our local economy as a result.

The widening of the M5, completed on schedule and within budget last year, has made an enormous contribution to relieving local road bottlenecks. I am appalled to hear that the Liberal party wants a moratorium on such widening. What do the Liberals think that failure to widen the M5 would have done for communications from the south-west to the midlands and north of our country?

Investment in rail is also proceeding. The Cotswold Line Promotion Group, in its winter 1993–94 newsletter, described the effect of £3 million of investment in new rolling stock: The new service of modern Class 165 and 166 Turbo trains through to and from Paddington is now beginning to pay handsome dividends. Mike Haigh, District Manager for Regional Railways (Central) has recently told the Group that passenger numbers, since the introduction of the trains in May 1993, are 25 per cent. up and revenue is 32 per cent. up on the same period last year".

That is Government money.

I am glad to report that we have good private sector bus services. Deregulation of bus services in my constituency has not produced any of the dire consequences predicted by the Labour party. Since the liberalisation of air services, Birmingham international airport is steadily expanding its range of international services, making the area attractive to inward investment.

In my constituency, there is clear evidence that the Government's policy is delivering a balanced transport policy in the interests of all my constituents. A number of my hon. Friends have spoken about the democratic imperative of having good transport policies. Freedom of movement for all—those with cars and without cars—is almost as important in the modern world as another great democratic freedom—freedom of speech—and we are achieving it.

9 pm

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

Transport is central to people's lives and, understandably, it is high on the political agenda. It should be looked at in its entirety, not piecemeal. For instance, we need a transport system that gives access to people without cars: that means bus or rail, and deregulating bus services did not help. The cost of privatising British Rail is enormous, as my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) pointed out.

Money should be spent on electrification, rolling stock and upgrading lines. Instead, the Government are lining the pockets of consultants, advisers, merchant bankers and brokers in the City. How wasteful and irrelevant is the Government's action in relation to Britain's real transport needs. Money can be frittered away in that manner, yet in my constituency of Newport, East we cannot get the pittance to provide a simple rail halt at Magor, which could do so much for the transport needs of the area.

A look at public transport as a whole reveals 15 years of underspending on infrastructure, despite all the revenue from North sea oil and the massive receipts from the sale of public assets. The Government are hostile to public investment, subsidies and planning. Profit is the principal objective and consequently Britain is left with probably the worst transport system in western Europe.

I should be the first to recognise that we need a transport system to meet our economic needs. Goods have to be transported quickly and efficiently so that we can compete in world markets. Likewise, we should recognise the need to spread economic growth throughout the country instead of confining it to the south-east of England.

We must face reality. Where would south Wales be today without the M4 motorway and the Severn bridge? It would be an industrial wasteland. All the pits have gone and steel has suffered massive cuts in manpower. Our manufacturing sector tends to be based on motor components: Ford engines in Bridgend; Lucas Girling in Cwmbran; Bosch, the major German company, in the Vale of Glamorgan, and many more besides. Without a modern road network, none of those firms would now be based in south Wales.

We need to get as much freight as possible on to the railways. With the channel tunnel, British Rail has the opportunity to prove that it can move long-distance freight expeditiously and competitively. At present, 89 per cent. of freight miles are travelled by road. If we succeeded in doubling the volume of freight that goes by rail—an enormous task—it would make little impact on the tonnage travelling by road.

In the retail sector, people have become accustomed to fresh produce, wide choice and full shelves in stores and supermarkets. The requirement is for huge amounts of stock at the point of sale and at the right moment. In reality it is only the lorry that can give that flexibility. For short-distance deliveries, for service calls, for trips with multiple destinations, the choice is invariably the car or van.

Some 90 per cent. of passenger miles are travelled by road. Compared with other countries of western Europe, Britain has a relatively low level of car ownership, but the proportion of travel by car in the United Kingdom is the highest in Europe. Germany has far more cars per head of the population, but their owners use them less and travel is far less car-dominated. The Government therefore have a clear duty to encourage commuters and those travelling in urban areas to use cars less and thereby cut congestion on our roads. They could help, too, by providing better public transport.

People are understandably concerned about the environment but some go over the top on that subject and are misleading many sincere people. The claim has even been put about that Britain is being concreted over. In fact, all roads cover only 1.5 per cent. of land. Even if the full road programme were completed, it would cover only 1.6 per cent. of land. The largest part of land is taken up by roads that have been part of the landscape since Roman times or the middle ages. They have been added to by road widening and the bypasses that are so helpful to the environment.

Nevertheless, I agree that we should all be concerned to minimise the intrusion into the countryside. People today value their mobility. A motor car provides the personal transport that was once the prerogative of the rich. The prosperous countries of the world—led by the United States followed by Germany—have the highest rate of car ownership. By comparison, Poland has the lowest rate, and we all appreciate the depth of economic depression in that country.

I am one of those who regularly use public transport. In London I travel daily by bus. Down in south Wales I use the train frequently; it is a most agreeable form of transport. I end where I began. Transport should not be treated in a piecemeal fashion. The Government's free market dogma has not helped. Likewise, it is no answer to throw out the roads programme. Our competitors, Germany, France and the Netherlands, are investing heavily in their road networks. Despite Jim Hacker, we need an integrated transport system linking road and rail in the public and private sectors. That is the way to a sound economy and the road to prosperity.

9.8 pm

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) started on what I thought would be a well-considered discussion of the various transport issues facing us today. For a while, I was not disappointed, because he began to make an attack on the Liberal Democrat party—indeed, he made a vitriolic and excoriating attack on it. I thought that I could agree with much of what he said, but then I thought a little more about what he had said and realised that he was perhaps being unfair. In the few moments that are left before those on the Front Benches wind up, let me explain why I think that, by drawing attention to what has been going on in my county of Leicestershire and what the Opposition parties have been doing about it.

In my constituency there is a road called the A427, which goes from Market Harborough and crosses into the constituency of Blaby at a village called Kilworth. On its way there, it passes through villages such as Lubenham, Theddingworth and Husbands Bosworth. There is a crash nearly every day on that road. Either a lorry goes into someone's garden or house, or a car crashes into another car and endangers the life of one of my constituents. It is a county council road, not a Department of Transport road, and thus comes under the auspices of those on the county council transport committee, which, I regret to say, is run by the Labour party and the Liberal Democrat party. They are in an unholy alliance on the council.

That is why I think that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras was being just a touch unfair to the Liberal Democrats: outside the House, in my county, the Labour party is in alliance with the Liberal Democrats—

Mr. Dunn

And in Kent.

Mr. Garnier

It may well be in my hon. Friend's constituency, too.

When the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made his terrible attack on the Liberal Democrats, he was clearly not advised by those who write his speeches for him that, not so very far away from the House—just 100 miles north of here—a county council is running a transport system and a road system that fall into the trap that he has set himself. The county council has refused to place the A427 at the top of its list of priorities for road improvement. Every time I write to complain, it uses, day in and day out, the mantra, "We are waiting for the completion of the A14—the Al-M1 link."

The A1-M1 link is much needed and will soon be completed. It goes from just west of Huntingdon across to the MI just south and west of my constituency. I am happy to say that the Department of Transport has made sure that the funding for it is there and that the project will shortly be completed. The road will make a tremendous difference to the economic well-being of my constituency, where, only yesterday, it was announced that the unemployment figure is now as low as 1,937—a reduction of nearly 29 per cent. from this time last year.

One of the reasons why the unemployment picture in my constituency is so good is that the Government's transport policies have ensured that the Government's end of the transport system in my constituency is well looked after. The fact that communications are good attracts business and investment and allows people in my constituency to do business and trade and therefore increase employment. The Liberal Democrats and the Labour party on the county council refuse to improve the A427, however, so, until they are removed from the county council, we will have to carry on listening to the lorries and the cars crashing about on that road.

What else have the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats done in my constituency to improve the public transport or road infrastructure? They have failed to complete the eastern district distributor road, which goes around the city of Leicester. It is all but complete. The bit that is not complete is the two to three-mile section in my constituency. I am sure that it is a coincidence that my constituency is represented by a Conservative Member of Parliament, while the city council is run entirely by Labour and the county council is run by Labour and the Liberal Democrats; doubtless that is not the reason for the councils' failure to complete the road but it is a fact, and one about which the House should know. Two much-demanded public transport schemes have thus been neglected by the Opposition parties, which makes the vitriolic and excoriating attack made by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras on his allies in my county doubly unfair.

Hon. Members may ask whether I would like to compare that record with the Government's policies, which have produced good transport developments in my constituency. The Market Harborough bypass, for instance, was opened by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport 18 months or two years ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "How exciting."] It is exciting. I am sorry that it embarrasses Opposition Members, who have nothing useful or constructive to say about the issue.

The Market Harborough bypass is of great value to my constituents. Not only does it serve a useful transport purpose; it is environmentally beneficial. A huge number of trees have been planted alongside it, and Market Harborough itself has gained tremendously from the absence of smoking lorries queueing up in the high street and destroying the infrastructure, buildings and general pleasantness of an ancient market town. Would that Labour and the Liberal Democrats would do the same, and improve the A427.

The other Government-sponsored road in my constituency is the A47, the Leicester to Peterborough road. It, too, has had the benefit of Government money, and I am happy to say that it is another of the many roads throughout the country that have been greatly improved by the Government. It is a pity that the Opposition's friends in county hall, be they Liberal or Labour, have not had the foresight to organise their priorities to the benefit of the constituents whom I have the honour to represent. I say that it is a pity, but perhaps it is not surprising: most Liberal and Labour county councillors live in the city or represent wards in it, and most Conservative wards are outside the city. All the money is therefore sucked into the city, and none of it is spent in the county.

My rural villages are being denied the bypass at Theddingworth that is so desperately needed. As I said earlier, the people of Theddingworth are daily having to deal with the detritus of car crashes; the health service is daily having to send out ambulances, and the police service is daily having to send out policemen to deal with the accidents. The cost benefits that would result from a bypass are so obvious as hardly to require analysis.

I have had the honour to represent my constituency for two years. In that time, I have seen great improvements in its economy—brought about, as I have said, by the transport benefits conferred by the present Government. I often look in my local newspaper to see what the Liberals are doing at county hall; I look across at them in the Chamber, and wonder what on earth they think they are doing.

I used to believe that rotation was something to do with the management of crops, but I have now concluded that it is nothing other than the policy stance of the Liberal county council, which changes day in, day out, week in, week out. What the Liberals say in the House is different from what they say in the county council; that is different from what they say in the borough council; what they say differs from street to street. I think that that is the experience of other Conservative Members.

I should like the Government to warn the members of the county council in my constituency that, unless the A427 is improved and placed higher on the list of priorities when the council applies next year for transport supplementary grant, it will be denied further funding for projects outside the southern half of Leicestershire. For too long, Government money has been going into the city and near-city without any benefit to my constituency. Those whom I represent have just about had enough.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras opened the debate by attempting to criticise the Government; he spent 40 minutes saying an awful lot but exuding more heat than light. I have no doubt that we shall hear something of interest from my right hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport when he winds up. I hope that he will take on board my concerns about the A427 and will ensure that its improvement goes ahead.

9.20 pm
Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

This debate has exposed the inadequacy of Government transport thinking and highlighted the alarming absence of any coherent policy. We heard the continuing neanderthal voices of those Conservative Members who believe that more and more road building, irrespective of the social and environmental consequences, is the Department of Transport's only purpose. We heard in excellent speeches from my hon. Friends example after example of the decay and rundown of public transport services because of lack of investment and failed Government policies.

We have witnessed at first hand the Government's confused and bungling approach to Britain's transport needs. There is no vision, strategy or sense of direction. We get only a jumble of unco-ordinated ad hoc responses to short-term crises. We have seen also sad attempts to put into practice some of the barmiest ideas ever to emerge from the intellectual morass of right-wing think tanks.

Nowhere is that lack of strategy more evident and damaging than in London and the south east. When we highlight transport problems in Scotland, Wales, the north-east, Manchester, Birmingham and many other parts of the country, most Conservative Members show little or no interest. They probably switch off because they have little or no experience of those areas transport needs.

They cannot, however, ignore the transport needs of London and the south-east. Whether they are stuck in a car or taxi in a traffic jam, delayed because their train to London is late, trying to survive a power failure on London Underground, stuck waiting in the rain for a bus that shows no sign of arriving and generally experience the day-to-day horrors of transport in London, Conservative Members know what a mess the Government have made of London's housing policy. [Laughter.] I mean, London's transport policy. They certainly made a mess of London's housing policy, but also of transport policy.

What a different prospectus existed when the Government, in their characteristic high-handed fashion, took control of London's public transport from the Greater London council. Moving the Second Reading of the London Regional Transport Bill in December 1983, the then Secretary of State for Transport, the late Nicholas Ridley, did not mince his words: The purpose of the Bill is to enable us to provide the most convenient, attractive and efficient service possible for London's travelling public."—[Official Report, 13 December 1983; Vol. 50, c. 865.]

That was the Government's promise more than 10 years ago. We know their unenviable reputation for wildly misleading election promises, that their forecasting is—to put it mildly—rather wide of the mark and their predilection is for being economical with the actualité. Given that, yesterday, the Palace of Westminster was yet again surrounded by Evening Standard billboards proclaiming "Thousands hit by tube chaos", it is difficult to imagine any other field of activity in which people who so manifestly failed to deliver their promises would not have been hounded from office years ago.

I am pleased to say that the people of London will be voting in two weeks' time. In doing so, they will undoubtedly be casting a richly deserved verdict on the representatives of the Tory party. That is the party which took away from London its right to determine its own future through a democratically elected citywide authority. It is the party which arrogantly claimed that it knew best how to run London's services. It is the party which promised that it would deliver, the most convenient, attractive and efficient service possible for London's travelling public".

Let us look at the reality. Yesterday's further disruption on the underground, which was caused by a derailment on the much-troubled Central line, was only the latest in a long series of incidents, the most serious of which effectively shut down the eastern section of the Central line for a whole week last November.

The catalogue of failure is depressing. There were more than 2,000 incidents on the London Underground last year which resulted in passengers having to wait for more than 20 minutes. On average, just under 10 per cent. of London Underground escalators were out of action during 1993 and on some lines the figures are much worse; more than 15 per cent. were out of action on the Piccadilly line.

In an excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) rightly highlighted the horrifying experience of her constituents who were trapped yesterday in the lift at one of the stations on the underground. In 1993, nearly 1,500 stations were closed for more than 20 minutes, more than 100 were closed for more than one month, and Mornington Crescent station was closed throughout the year—and it remains closed now.

I sometimes suspect that the Government have a vendetta against those who live in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). My hon. Friend's constituents must suffer the continued closure of their station at Mornington Crescent; my constituents suffer a slightly more cruel form of torture. As we have no underground lines to Greenwich at present, Ministers cannot close down any of the stations. However, they have found a more subtle way of going about it—they are refusing to build the stations that they promised on the Jubilee line.

North Greenwich station—proudly announced by the Minister and his colleagues in the past—will not be built at the moment because they are still haggling with British Gas over the price that British Gas is expected to pay for the station. If the Minister wants to announce that the station is going ahead, I will be happy to give way—I hope that the Ministr will give that assurance.

Mr. Norris

The Minister would announce that no one is talking about deleting stations on the Jubilee line extension except the hon. Gentleman. There is absolutely no reason why the negotiations between the owners of the land and London Underground will not result in that station being built. It is only the hon. Gentleman who consistently talks the system down in his constituency and, indeed, all over London.

Mr. Raynsford

Hon. Members will note clearly the Minister's failure to give the pledge that I asked him to give—that the station at North Greenwich will go ahead. He knows that London Underground has not been able to sign the contract for the station.

Mr. Norris

Tough negotiators.

Mr. Raynsford

Tough negotiators. Eighteen months after the scheme was due to begin, London Underground still has not signed the contract, because the Government are incompetent negotiators and cannot construct a proper underground line.

Like so many of the problems of London Underground, the episodes that I have highlighted emphasise the extent to which the service is chronically underfunded. The Minister for Transport in London admitted it candidly on Budget day when he said: It's perfectly obvious to a blind man that more money needs to be spent than we have got at the moment.

That might seem to be refreshingly honest if it had not come from the Government who, before the last general election, promised London Underground £3.5 billion for investment over the next three years, only to abandon that pledge at the first opportunity that they could after the election—the autumn statement in 1992.

The decently modern metro—a rather less ambitious target than the most convenient, attractive and efficient service possible",

which was promised eight years earlier—will remain a pipe dream or be postponed yet again to the first decade of the next century as London Underground is able to invest no more than £475 million in its core business in the current year, compared with the £750 million which is required and which the Tory party promised before the last election. That was an election pledge which, like so many others, they have broken.

If breaking election promises is one characteristic of the Government, spitefulness towards anyone who has the temerity to remind them of it is another. Hence the fiasco last month when Sir Wilfred Newton had to postpone his retirement from London Transport because his deputy, Dr. Alan Watkins—whom everyone expected to take over and who was eminently qualified to do so—was turned down for having had the temerity to tell the truth about the Government's failure to honour their election pledges.

If London's ailing underground system is one monument to the Government's funding failure, London's buses are victims equally of the Tories' ideological fixation on deregulation and privatisation. The prospect of deregulation which hung over London until last autumn has now been mercifully abandoned. There are many other parts of the country where the problems of deregulation sadly are all too evident.

We heard clearly from my hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) and for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell) about some of the problems. I am thinking in particular of the horrendous example of the exploitative conditions imposed by an employer whom my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras would rightly describe as scum. That employer's exploitation of the work force in a most unscrupulous way was rightly highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East.

That horror of deregulation, exploitation and near-slave labour conditions has been withdrawn from London in the short term. That is unofficially, of course, until after the next general election. It has, of course, been withdrawn full stop, because it will not happen after the next election as the Conservative party will not be sitting on the Government Benches.

Privatisation is proceeding in the meantime for the usual tawdry Tory reasons. Public assets are being flogged off at knockdown prices and pension funds are being eyed by latter-day Maxwells as suitable opportunities for plunder. There is no concern whatsoever for the public interest and no thought for the impact on London Transport. Instead of a coherent and integrated transport scheme, we have the prospect of fragmentation, deteriorating services and increased prices.

The Government's preoccupation is to drive down and eliminate subsidy, whatever the impact on the number and quality of services and whatever the impact on fares. One interesting issue is the travelcard. How long will the travelcard—by unanimous agreement, one of the few success stories of London Transport in recent years—survive this fragmentation?

Ministers rush to promise that the travelcard will continue, because they know how popular it is with the travelling public. How much value can we place on their assurances? We know their lamentable record of broken promises on investment in London transport, tax, VAT and so many other things. But what is one to make of the Minister for Transport in London, who categorically assured the House last year that the travelcard would continue in form and in substance in terms of price and in real terms?

The Minister knew that, just one month later, the travelcard would increase in price by more than 6 per cent.—far greater than the rate of inflation—and, on the lower bands, it would increase by some 9 per cent. [Interruption.] I gave the Minister the quote and the reference. He promised that the travelcard would remain at the same price in real terms, and the pledge was broken within one month. That is an indication of how much trust one should place in the promises which are made by the Minister for transport in London.

To add insult to injury, users of the Northern line have been stung by a shifty redesignation of their zones, which leaves some facing a rise of £168 a year in their travel costs. I know that it is fairly common practice for Government Members to shoot themselves in the foot, but, by pledging that there would be no increase in real terms in the cost of the travelcard when he was fully aware that his own policy would involve the price increasing within a month, the present Minister for Transport in London is rivalling the Prime Minister for incompetence and ineptitude.

If the Government's stewardship of London Transport is found wanting in almost every count, their record with British Rail is equally deplorable. Many hon. Members rightly highlighted the concerns about the way in which the rail service was being broken up in deference to the ideological prejudices of the right-wing think tanks. Ministers will continue bleating unconvincingly about increasing efficiency, but no one will believe them. The only growth that we can expect is in the number of separate bureaucracies spawned by the botched privatisation, which, as we all know, did not command the support even of the late Lord Ridley.

As train operator units, leasing companies, track authorities, regulators and other quangos proliferate, each backed up by its own small army of public relations advisers, logo and uniform designers, image consultants, accountants, administrators and parliamentary lobbyists, the day fast approaches when the serried ranks of the rail quangocracy brought into existence by the Government will far exceed the number of train drivers, the number of trains operated and the number of passengers on the network.

While all this is being done supposedly in the interests of efficiency, the facts tell a different story. In an interesting and revealing article in February's journal of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a man called Michael Asteris concedes that in efficiency terms, BR compares fairly well with many of its continental counterparts. The productivity of the workforce is among the highest of any European railway.

He goes on to give the game away. He says that the true test of the privatisation of BR will be how many jobs it sheds and how many lines it closes. Of course, he was not referring to members of the quangocracy—the highly paid salary earners brought into post by the Government's privatisation.

He holds out as good examples British Gas, which cut its work force by 17 per cent., British Steel, which cut its work force by 28 per cent. and British Telecom, which cut its work force by 32 per cent. Then he spells out exactly what the future holds for passengers in any area in which the service does not cover its costs. He says: Once a clear system of track charging is in place, the costs of running a network will become more transparent than they have ever been. Attention will therefore tend to focus on whether the external benefits of heavily loss-making lines are sufficiently large as to justify the costs of retaining them. In other words transparency will bring to the fore a question which was last highlighted by the Beeching Report more than 30 years ago. How large a rail network should Britain have?

Mr. Luff

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Raynsford

No, I will not give way.

That quotation is a pretty clear indication from a pretty authoritative source of exactly what the Government's game is. It shows the scorched earth policy that we are likely to get from them. We shall have a country littered with abandoned and overgrown railway lines, closed stations, redundant railway workers and abandoned passengers who, in consequence, will be forced to travel by road and in so doing add to the already severe problems of congestion and pollution from which we suffer. There can be few clearer examples of the nonsense of the current public transport policy, in which fragmentation is the order of the day and no one thinks long term about how to provide properly for the transport needs of the 21st century.

Only the incurably foolish could believe that there is any sense in concreting over acre after acre of green belt land around London to provide ever more lanes of the M25. I was pleased to see that the right hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie), and the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) both made that point in speeches which were interestingly at variance with many of the other speeches by Conservative Members.

It is well known that the Government have been obsessed with road building for the past 15 years, despite mounting public outrage at the desecration of the countryside at Twyford Down and the threatened destruction of Oxleas wood, and despite ever more persuasive evidence of the damage being caused to the environment and to people's health by rising levels of toxic emissions. Yet still the Government cling to the discredited belief that traffic and transport problems can be solved by ever more road building. They are simply wrong.

We shall begin to tackle effectively the acute problems of congestion only if we achieve a significant and sustained shift in the mode of transport from the private car to public transport. As we all know, car ownership is expected to continue to grow substantially in the years ahead. That is not in itself a bad thing if it extends the benefits of travel opportunity to people whose options have been restricted in the past, but it is a very bad thing indeed if it simply facilitates an ever-increasing volume of motor cars on already severely congested roads. The key has to be to discourage unnecessary car use and encourage the alternatives. Far-reaching changes in policy are required to achieve that.

We have to be more determined to give public transport priority and to ensure the necessary investment to improve the quality, attractiveness and reliability of public transport services. We have to be imaginative and develop new transport systems such as better use of the river, as my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) argued so effectively.

We have to ensure that projects such as crossrail, which are vital to London's future, proceed rather than being left in limbo by a Government who say that they support it but have never been prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

We know only too well that the Government's policies are short-sighted and do not provide a solution to Britain's needs. Instead of vision, the Government offer only the stale old nostrums of the discredited right-wing think tanks. Instead of decisiveness, they offer only dither and delay. Instead of purpose, they offer us only the humiliating spectacle of Ministers being pushed, kicking and screaming, into projects that they should have advocated years before.

Instead of a transport strategy, the Government offer only fragmentation and chaos. They have failed lamentably, and it is time they went.

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

About 20 Back-Bench Members have spoken during this long debate, and my ministerial colleagues listened carefully to some of the more detailed questions, which I will not have time to answer. I will ensure that I or my colleagues reply to the questions that I do not cover.

It would be helpful if I concentrated on answering some of the questions raised by my right hon. and hon. Friends and, especially, commented on the speeches of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. I have sat through virtually all the debate. It is fair to say that the contributions made by the hon. Members for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) were negative, ignorant of basic transport policies and, most important, very expensive.

First, why was the policy of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras negative? The Opposition Front-Bench team have voted for the past 14 years against every sensible transport policy put before the House [Interruption.] Let us go through them [HON. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I am going to.

Let us start with the abolition of the dock labour scheme. Every one of my hon. Friends will know of the great improvements in the efficiency of our port system and the investment in it. Those Opposition Members voted against abolition of the dock labour scheme. They are also the politicians who voted against the privatisation of British Airways and the British Airports Authority and against the deregulation of our long-distance coach industry. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Sir P. Fry) who pointed out the tremendous advances in that industry, which took place in the face of opposition from the Labour party, which is also the party that voted against improvements in our rail reforms.

The Labour party believes in the maintenance of state socialism and is totally opposed to change. The Government have persistently pursued a constructive policy. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport dealt comprehensively in his opening speech with some of the new initiatives in our road programme. There have been no new ideas from the Opposition.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outlined our policy on motorway charging to help improve the motorway system, but we heard no such ideas from the Opposition. My right hon. Friend also outlined our ideas on congestion charging in our major cities, to apportion the true cost of motoring in urban areas. One option is to recycle the proceeds back into improving public transport—something that hon. Members on both sides of the House would welcome. My right hon. Friend also spoke about initiatives on road building to introduce the concept of design, build, maintain and operate roads.

Mr. Lewis

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Freeman

No; I will not give way. I am seeking to answer the debate. I will mention the contribution of the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) later.

By private sector road building, via either shadow tolling or real tolling of roads, we can add to the total road building programme that the public sector can afford. We also have advanced policies about the use of the private sector to finance specifically the second rail link to the channel tunnel. That will help commuters as much as it will help international passangers. I am glad to tell the House that already six consortia are interested in bidding for the construction of the second channel tunnel rail link.

I am grateful for the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) about the west coast main line. That represents a new idea to bring private sector finance into the construction of infrastructure. I can tell the House and the Opposition Members who mentioned the west coast main line, but are not in their places, that we expect a contract to be let, around the turn of the year, for the construction of the necessary infrastructure modernisation on the west coast main line, and work to start next summer. That is real progress.

We have also believed in the importance of introducing reforms to our railways. The franchising programme will commence in 1995. It is important that it is done properly. That is why it is being done in stages. I can tell the House — [Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) laughs, but I shall be happy to debate with him at the next general election, when he will notice some lower fares, new services and an improvement in the quality of our rail services.

Mr. Snape


Mr. Freeman

If the hon. Gentleman is going to ask me about fares, what about British Telecom charges, down 30 per cent? What about gas prices? I remember the hon. Gentleman's criticism of the privatisation of British Telecom and British Gas, but prices have come down.

Mr. Snape


Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman asked me a question, and I will answer it now. He asked about procurement of new rolling stock and especially the work load of ABB and GEC. He is right to do so. I have met both companies in recent weeks. I encouraged them to come forward with propositions for building new rolling stock. They will have to be in the form of an operating lease. I am certain that there is need, especially on Network SouthEast, perhaps in Kent, and I look forward to those two companies bringing forward sensible propositions. I will work with them to ensure that such orders are placed.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East also asked me about the midland metro. We have made it plain that we will consider the financing of that scheme at the time of the unified Budget later this year. The Government, on behalf of the taxpayer, have provided the finance for the Manchester metro and the South Yorkshire supertram—not the local authorities; the taxpayer. I look forward to considering the midland metro scheme in due course.

The second aspect of the contributions from hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench that I wish to criticise is their plain ignorance—their ignorance about what we have achieved in terms of public transportation. I heard no recognition of the fact that, in the past five years, we have changed the prioritisation in our expenditure so that 40 per cent. of our budget is now spent on public transportation, but public transportation only carries 10 per cent. of all domestic passenger and freight journeys. That is a clear demonstration of the importance that we place on public transport.

When the hon. Member for Greenwich spoke about transport policies in London, especially public transport, he failed to mention, first, the Heathrow express, now under construction, and the Jubilee line, £1.9 billion-worth, now under construction. He failed to mention the Central line—£700 million of improvements on the London underground. He failed to mention the Northern line. His hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras did so, and I will say something about that in a moment.

As for crossrail, let me make it plain that the Government support it—I see my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), a member of the Select Committee, in his place—and we look forward to the House of Commons Select Committee reporting the crossrail Bill for further consideration.

Of course, the Jubilee line and crossrail cannot be built at the same time. We have made it plain that, once the Jubilee line is finished and the main part of the construction expenditure is over, we shall consider the timing of the construction of crossrail. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) for his strong support for crossrail, because it will benefit his constituents.

The hon. Member for Greenwich did not mention the channel tunnel rail link, which will greatly benefit Londoners. He was supposed to be dealing with issues in London and the rail link will help domestic commuters into London as much as international passengers.

Mr. Raynsford


Mr. Freeman

We are getting on with the process. We have begun the competition to select the private sector consortium to build the line. Six major consortia are interested in building it.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) for his comments about Networkers. That programme has cost some £800 million to improve the rail services on the Kent link.

Mr. Raynsford

What about reliability?

Mr. Freeman

They will improve. Their reliability is the responsibility not of the Government but of the manufacturers. Once they work, those who use Network SouthEast will see a great improvement in the quality of service.

The hon. Member for Greenwich asked about travelcards. We have every intention of ensuring that the travelcard is retained. It is extremely important to all those who commute in London. A multi-modal card, not only for London but for other great cities, is of great benefit to the travelling public and we do not wish to undermine the travelcard in any way.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London, who I thought was going to take the debate at one stage—he made some effective interventions—will privatise London buses this year and we shall come to the deregulation of London buses in due course. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras laughs. Deregulation of the bus industry has brought about more bus mileage and a reduction in bus costs. That is a fact. Patronage has declined, but that is not a function of the availability of buses. It represents an understandable preference by the travelling public outside London to use the motor car.

We must ensure that the bus industry is profitable enough, and I welcome the privatisation of Greater Manchester buses, which will help provide a more efficient and effective service there. We cannot attract more people back on the buses as the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) suggested. I am glad that he has now been joined by the other representative of the Liberal Democratic party.

For the benefit of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne), I shall describe briefly in a moment the Liberal Democrats' polices. We learned tonight that one of them is to double bus patronage in 10 years. That is what the hon. Member for North Devon said. How will he do that? It is no good setting targets unless he has a comprehensive policy to achieve them. On deregulation, the Conservative party does not fall into the trap of setting, in an integrated transport policy, targets that are pious hopes. We believe in providing flexibility of transport and freedom of choice.

The third aspect of Opposition Front-Bench Members' contributions to the debate was the expensive nature of their policies. We kept a check list. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, for the benefit of hon. Members, I shall run through the spending commitments made today.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said that under a Labour Government the public sector would finance the west coast main line, the Avon metro, the Northern line and the channel tunnel rail link—a total of £4.1 billion. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) added to that list the docklands light railway extension, the east London line and Thameslink 2000—another £1 billion. That makes a total of £5.1 billion. Does the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras seek to correct me? [Interruption.] No?

Mr. Dobson

Yes. The Minister knows that I was suggesting that the £446 million that the Government are pouring into the process of privatisation—most of it into the City of London—would have been better spent on railway projects all over this country.

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman's figures are wrong. It is not £460 million—[interruption.]—£446 million. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport made it plain that the figure is £50 million—£50 million well spent—less than 2 per cent. of British Rail's total turnover. My right hon. Friend also said that British Rail had achieved a 7 per cent. improvement in efficiency in the past year. What one can get for spending 2 per cent. on reorganising British Rail leads one to the conclusion that those efficiency gains will continue.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras did not answer my question. Commitments have been made from the Opposition Front-Bench team today totalling £4.1 billion over five years—I shall be generous to the hon. Gentleman—£800 million a year. From where is the money to come? It will not come from savings on the roads programme, because the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) said that he did not want the M62 relief road and would spend the £360 million on improving Manchester metro. There would be no road scheme savings.

The money will come from the taxpayer or higher borrowing. Another source would be borrowing from the private sector. If a Labour Government borrow from the private sector in the name of British Rail, that scores as public expenditure. It is no use the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras suggesting that he will obtain money under the private finance initiative, because, given his attitude towards the private sector—during the debate he described some company directors as scum—I cannot imagine the private sector wishing to co-operate with a Labour Government.

I must, in all fairness, mention the Liberal Democrats. I shall explain to the only Liberal Democrat other than the hon. Member for North Devon who has turned up today, what that party's policies are. First, the Liberal Democrats are in favour of the privatisation of London buses. Secondly, the hon. Member for North Devon, setting policy for the Liberal Democrats, is in favour of stopping the widening of all our motorways. Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman favours cutting the roads programme in general, but nowhere in particular. We have been given no examples of any road programme that the hon. Gentleman, as spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, would be prepared to cut.

The difference between the Conservative party and all the Opposition parties is that they—particularly the Labour party—have advocated the continuation of state socialism—state control of our public sector utilities. Opening the debate, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras spoke for 43 minutes and mentioned the passenger not once. He mentioned the unions five times, but did not mention the passenger at all. [Interruption.] I listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I am happy to acknowledge that he has now whispered the word "passenger". It is extremely important that the House understands the difference between freedom of choice for the passenger and state socialism as proposed by the Opposition. I commend the Government's amendment to the House.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 243, Noes 292.

Division No. 217] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Barnes, Harry
Adams, Mrs Irene Battle, John
Ainger, Nick Bayley, Hugh
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Allen, Graham Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Alton, David Bell, Stuart
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Bennett, Andrew F.
Armstrong, Hilary Benton, Joe
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bermingham, Gerald
Ashton, Joe Berry, Roger
Austin-Walker, John Blair, Tony
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Boateng, Paul
Boyes, Roland Hall, Mike
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hanson, David
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Hardy, Peter
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Harman, Ms Harriet
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Harvey, Nick
Burden, Richard Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Byers, Stephen Heppell, John
Caborn, Richard Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Callaghan, Jim Hoey, Kate
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Home Robertson, John
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hood, Jimmy
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hoon, Geoffrey
Cann, Jamie Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hoyle, Doug
Clapham, Michael Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hutton, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Illsley, Eric
Clelland, David Ingram, Adam
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Coffey, Ann Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Cohen, Harry Jamieson, David
Connarty, Michael Janner, Greville
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Corbett, Robin Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Corbyn, Jeremy Keen, Alan
Corston, Ms Jean Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Cousins, Jim Kilfoyle, Peter
Cox, Tom Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Cummings, John Kirkwood, Archy
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Lewis, Terry
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Litherland, Robert
Dafis, Cynog Livingstone, Ken
Darling, Alistair Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davidson, Ian Llwyd, Elfyn
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Loyden, Eddie
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lynne, Ms Liz
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McAllion, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) McAvoy, Thomas
Denham, John McFall, John
Dewar, Donald McKelvey, William
Dixon, Don Mackinlay, Andrew
Dobson, Frank McMaster, Gordon
Donohoe, Brian H. McNamara, Kevin
Dowd, Jim McWilliam, John
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Madden, Max
Eagle, Ms Angela Maddock, Mrs Diana
Eastham, Ken Mahon, Alice
Enright, Derek Mandelson, Peter
Etherington, Bill Marek, Dr John
Evans, John (St Helens N) Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Faulds, Andrew Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Martlew, Eric
Fisher, Mark Maxton, John
Flynn, Paul Meacher, Michael
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Michael, Alun
Foster, Don (Bath) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Foulkes, George Milburn, Alan
Fraser, John Miller, Andrew
Fyfe, Maria Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Galbraith, Sam Moonie, Dr Lewis
Galloway, George Morgan, Rhodri
Garrett, John Morley, Elliot
George, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Gerrard, Neil Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Mowlam, Marjorie
Godsiff, Roger Mudie, George
Golding, Mrs Llin Mullin, Chris
Gordon, Mildred Murphy, Paul
Graham, Thomas O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) O'Hara, Edward
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Olner, William
Gunnell, John O'Neill, Martin
Hain, Peter Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Parry, Robert Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Patchett, Terry Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Pickthall, Colin Snape, Peter
Pike, Peter L. Soley, Clive
Pope, Greg Spearing, Nigel
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Steinberg, Gerry
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Stevenson, George
Purchase, Ken Strang, Dr. Gavin
Quin, Ms Joyce Straw, Jack
Radice, Giles Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Randall, Stuart Turner, Dennis
Raynsford, Nick Tyler, Paul
Rendel, David Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Walley, Joan
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Roche, Mrs. Barbara Watson, Mike
Rogers, Allan Wicks, Malcolm
Rooker, Jeff Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Rowlands, Ted Wilson, Brian
Ruddock, Joan Winnick, David
Salmond, Alex Wise, Audrey
Sedgemore, Brian Worthington, Tony
Sheerman, Barry Wright, Dr Tony
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Young, David (Bolton SE)
Short, Clare
Simpson, Alan Tellers for the Ayes:
Skinner, Dennis Mr. Alan Meale and
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Mr. John Spellar.
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Alexander, Richard Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Coe, Sebastian
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Congdon, David
Amess, David Conway, Derek
Ancram, Michael Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Arbuthnot, James Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Ashby, David Cormack, Patrick
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Couchman, James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cran, James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Baldry, Tony Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Bates, Michael Davis, David (Boothferry)
Batiste, Spencer Day, Stephen
Beggs, Roy Deva, Nirj Joseph
Bellingham, Henry Devlin, Tim
Beresford, Sir Paul Dickens, Geoffrey
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dicks, Terry
Blackburn, Dr John G. Dorrell, Stephen
Body, Sir Richard Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dover, Den
Booth, Hartley Duncan, Alan
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Dunn, Bob
Bowden, Andrew Durant, Sir Anthony
Bowis, John Dykes, Hugh
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Eggar, Tim
Brandreth, Gyles Elletson, Harold
Brazier, Julian Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bright, Graham Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Evennett, David
Budgen, Nicholas Faber, David
Burns, Simon Fabricant, Michael
Burt, Alistair Fenner, Dame Peggy
Butler, Peter Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Fishburn, Dudley
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Forman, Nigel
Carrington, Matthew Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Carttiss, Michael Forth, Eric
Churchill, Mr Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Clappison, James Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
French, Douglas Madel, Sir David
Fry, Sir Peter Maitland, Lady Olga
Gale, Roger Malone, Gerald
Gallie, Phil Mans, Keith
Gardiner, Sir George Marland, Paul
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Marlow, Tony
Garnier, Edward Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gill, Christopher Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gillan, Cheryl Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Mates, Michael
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gorst, John Mellor, Rt Hon David
Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW) Merchant, Piers
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mills, Iain
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Grylls, Sir Michael Moate, Sir Roger
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Monro, Sir Hector
Hague, William Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Moss, Malcolm
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Needham, Richard
Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Sir Michael
Hannam, Sir John Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hargreaves, Andrew Nicholls, Patrick
Haselhurst, Alan Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hawkins, Nick Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hawksley, Warren Norris, Steve
Hayes, Jerry Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Heald, Oliver Oppenheim, Phillip
Hendry, Charles Ottaway, Richard
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Page, Richard
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Paice, James
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Patnick, Irvine
Horam, John Patten, Rt Hon John
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Pickles, Eric
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, Andrew Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rathbone, Tim
Jack, Michael Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jenkin, Bernard Richards, Rod
Jessel, Toby Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Robathan, Andrew
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Key, Robert Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Kilfedder, Sir James Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
King, Rt Hon Tom Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Kirkhope, Timothy Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knapman, Roger Sackville, Tom
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knox, Sir David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Sims, Roger
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Soames, Nicholas
Legg, Barry Speed, Sir Keith
Leigh, Edward Spencer, Sir Derek
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lidington, David Spink, Dr Robert
Lightbown, David Spring, Richard
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Sproat, Iain
Lord, Michael Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Luff, Peter Steen, Anthony
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Stephen, Michael
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stewart, Allan
MacKay, Andrew Streeter, Gary
Maclean, David Sweeney, Walter
McLoughlin, Patrick Sykes, John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Ward, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Waterson, Nigel
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Watts, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Wells, Bowen
Thomason, Roy Whitney, Ray
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Whittingdale, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Widdecombe, Ann
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Thurnham, Peter Wilkinson, John
Townend, John (Bridlington) Willetts, David
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Wilshire, David
Tracey, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Tredinnick, David Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Trend, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Trotter, Neville Yeo, Tim
Twinn, Dr Ian Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Viggers, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Waller, Gary Mr. Timothy Wood.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MADAM SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House strongly supports the Government's transport policies which are providing more efficient and effective delivery for all users, in particular through the programme of privatisation and liberalisation in transport which allows the market to provide the transport services users want rather than the services which central planners dictate they should have; believes that the Government's rail reforms will build on the improvements in passenger service quality already achieved under the Citizen's Charter and offer the best opportunity to transfer freight from road to rail; noting the increased levels of public investment in rail, road and London Transport infrastructure, welcomes also the innovative means of financing new transport infrastructure developed in the Private Finance Initiative; supports the initiatives taken by the Government in the European Union to deal with sub-standard shipping; and applauds the Government's drive to liberalise aviation in the European Third Aviation Package and elsewhere.

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