HC Deb 07 February 1995 vol 254 cc201-51
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Before we start the debate I remind the House that there will be a continued limit of 10 minutes on Back-Bench speeches, and that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.15 pm
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

I beg to move, That this House calls on the Government to fulfil its repeated promises that Passenger Train Services would only be franchised on the basis of current time tables. I am sure that I have the House with me when I send our condolences to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish), who would normally have wound up the debate tonight.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

The Government side of the House wishes to be associated with those condolences.

Mr. Meacher

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that, and I am sure that he shares our concern and our feeling for my hon. Friend at this time.

This is the second major debate on the consequences of rail privatisation, and if the Government continue with their trail of broken promises on how services will be improved, I do not think that it will be the last. Until now, the Government's position on the franchising of passenger services has at least had the merit of being clear and unequivocal.

In the Committee that considered the Bill that became the Railways Act 1993, Ministers fell over themselves to state, and then to reiterate, that franchising would be based on the existing level of service. On Second Reading, the then Minister for Public Transport, now the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, who was to take the Bill through Committee, said unambiguously: I wish to make it absolutely clear that we intend the franchising director, when he is appointed, to start franchising with the existing timetable and existing services. The then Secretary of State had earlier said the same, telling the House: we expect the franchises—indeed, it will be the case—to be on the basis of the present timetable".—[Official Report, 2 February 1993; Vol. 218, c. 159–244.] Those are not isolated references. So far I have counted at least 17 occasions, either in the House or in another place, on which Ministers gave assurances in terms that the franchises would be based on the current timetables and the existing level of services. A week ago, the franchising director produced his first set of service specifications for four of the franchises. As the House well knows, the minimum standards set represent a cut of about 20 per cent. below the level of existing services overall and a cut of about 45 per cent. for the Gatwick Express.

The most significant aspect of those extensive cuts in minimum standards is the fact that, unlike the Rail Regulator, over whom the Secretary of State has no control, the franchising director is, in the words of the Minister in Committee, a "creature" of the Secretary of State. So to that extent it is clear that the Secretary of State knew about, and assented to, those minimum standards. In any case, his fixing of the franchising director's budget means that he has indirect control over how far cuts are enforced and to what extent improvements are allowed for. The Secretary of State is therefore charged with flatly breaking every ministerial promise that the base for franchising would be the current timetable. There is nothing particularly remarkable in that—it is his stock-in-trade. Indeed, given the right hon. Gentleman's record, one might say that he rates as a serial promise-breaker.

The Secretary of State's predecessor promised that through-ticketing stations would be fully maintained; this Secretary of State is set to cut them by 80 per cent. His predecessor promised that tickets would be fully inter-available between lines run by different train operators; this Secretary of State is presiding over the crumbling of that facility. His predecessor promised that there would be no investment hiatus due to privatisation; last year, under this Secretary of State, no new orders were issued for rolling stock for the first time since the war. His predecessor said after Lockerbie that airport security would be stepped up and that money was not an issue, and this Secretary of State told the House a week ago that he took channel tunnel security very seriously. We now know that, only four days previously, he had authorised a cut of 30 per cent. in the security division of his Department.

The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor promised repeatedly in 1993–94 that Railtrack would remain in the public sector for the foreseeable future; this Secretary of State has offered it for sale first, simply to provide money for tax cuts at the next election. The Secretary of State gave a clear understanding to Asea and Brown Boveri that it would get a follow-on order for 40 additional Networker trains for the Kent services. Yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman peremptorily cancelled that order, and put 750 jobs and the very survival of the carriage works at York at risk.

The Secretary of State will say anything, promise anything and give any commitment, so long as he is not required to deliver. Can anyone believe a word that the right hon. Gentleman says? He has raised used-car salesmanship to a new art form. Reading the small print simply is not enough. It is not so much a case of "read my lips" as take every statement that he makes with a pinch of salt. However, like all persistent delinquents, this old lag has a string of excuses as long as your arm.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Do you feel that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) is using parliamentary language with regard to the Secretary of State? I suggest that he should retract what he has said.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I presumed that the hon. Gentleman's words were said with a certain lightness of touch. If that were so, I think what he said was acceptable. If it were put in a different way or with a different tone, I might take a different view.

Mr. Meacher

I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker. My remarks were meant in that vein, and I am glad that you saw it that way. We have heard a string of excuses, most of which have been trotted out tonight in the Government's amendment. The first excuse in the amendment is that the franchising director's report for the first time, introduces guarantees of service for passengers". That simply is not true. British Rail has been contracted for many years to provide services as a condition of its public service obligation grant, in accordance with the 1988 timetable.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

The hon. Gentleman is speaking about guarantees of service. Could he be specific about the guarantees that he would provide in terms of service timetabling? Is he providing a guarantee that he would renationalise the railways in due course? He spoke about cuts in investment. What investment would the hon. Gentleman like to see?

Mr. Meacher

We were content with the contractual arrangements that have existed with British Rail. I have repeatedly made it clear that we believe in increased investment in the rail infrastructure by comparison with that of the present Government. If increased investment in the channel tunnel is stripped out, investment in the rest of the network has steadily deteriorated year after year. We would never have allowed that to happen.

The next excuse is a real old offender's gambit. The Government amendment supports the Government in its determination not to freeze the existing timetable". Of course, no one ever asked for that. We were demanding that there should not be cuts, and that existing services should be the basis on which to build improvements.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the whole purpose of bringing in the private sector is precisely to allow the private sector to offer more services than are offered by the current timetable? Opposition Members do not understand the private sector because almost none of them has any experience of it, and they do not realise that the whole basis of the scheme is to improve customer services by increasing services beyond the current timetable.

Mr. Meacher

The hon. Gentleman should perhaps contain himself. If he really believes that, frankly he will believe anything. I would simply say to him that if, as he believes, the private sector will restore the current level of services, why has not the Secretary of State guaranteed it in the first place as a basis for the franchises?

Another excuse is rolled out in the Government amendment, which makes the same point as the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins). The amendment states that the Government are determined to create space for the private sector to develop new and additional services". Frankly, that is pure fantasy. I do not deny that, in some cases, there may be some improvement on the reduced standards, but surely the key point is that private operators cannot be made to produce those improvements in any case at all. If the right hon. Gentleman seriously believes that existing service levels will be restored, what is the point in reducing standards by 20 per cent. in the first place?

Never at a loss for another wheeze, the Secretary of State advanced another non-sequitur this week. He said that there would be no problem in keeping to the current timetables, because the shadow franchise operators had assured him that they would continue to run the existing level of services and improve on it. Surely even the right hon. Gentleman can see that that is a pointless claim. The shadow franchise operators are still subsidiaries of British Rail and they have a sense of public service. The question is not what will happen when the services are run by British Rail, but what will happen when they are run by private operators who are guided purely by commercial self-interest. The Secretary of State ought to address himself to that.

We now come to the biggest whopper from the Secretary of State in his vain attempt to defend the indefensible. The Government amendment states said proposals will develop new and additional services based on current timetables"— that is patently not true which are more attuned to the needs of passengers". That claim simply does not stand up to examination, and I shall explain why.

Great Western Railways is one of the flagship franchises being offered for sale. On the London to Cardiff run in 1979, there were 26 trains per day, with a mean journey time of 1 hour 43 minutes. This year, there are 19 trains per day, with a mean journey time of exactly two hours. Under the passenger service requirement, the franchising director—for which read the Government—is proposing a minimum of 12 trains a day, with a mean journey time of 2 hours 5 minutes. Is that attuned to the needs of passengers?

That is not an exceptional case, and in fact it is typical of the timetables that are now being proposed. Let us take, for example, the London to Plymouth run. In 1981, there were 16 trains a day, with a first arrival from London at 10.49 am. This year, there are 12 trains a day, with a first arrival from London at 11.21 am. Under the passenger service requirements, the Government now propose a minimum of nine trains a day, the first of which will arrive from London by 12 noon. Is that more attuned to the needs of passengers"?

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Meacher

I hope that hon. Gentleman will answer my question, because it was addressed to the Secretary of State. Do Conservative Members believe that those substantial cuts are attuned to the needs of passengers",

Mr. Key

The answer is probably yes, because in the days when I lived down in that part of the world there was no motorway to London, nor an airline operating a daily service to Heathrow. So that probably was the pattern of service on the railway. It may well be attuned to the needs of passengers", but we need privatisation to take much more account of present-day needs, instead of British Rail running a railway to suit itself.

Mr. Meacher

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that significant cuts on the rail system can simply be justified by saying that there has been an upgrading of the roads and an improvement in air travel, I suggest that he tries to convince his constituents, who I believe will be extremely angry when they realise the extensive cuts involved in that passenger service requirement.

Mr. Hawkins

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Meacher

No, I shall not give way again to the hon. Gentleman.

Exactly the same picture emerges, whatever the major line, such as the London to Penzance line or the important service from Newbury to London. Furthermore, an important point that has not been brought out is the fact that the Great Western passenger service requirements link all major stations to London but not to each other. It would therefore be perfectly possible, apart from in peak hours, to meet the specification laid down with no service between Bristol Parkway and Swindon, and no service between Swindon and Reading. Is that more attuned to the needs of passengers"? The Secretary of State does not offer a response because the answer is clear. I shall address my next remarks to the Minister for Railways and Roads. Perhaps the person who drew up the Great Western passenger service requirement believes that Sir John Betjeman's "friendly bombs" have already dropped on Slough. For, according to the specification, despite the fact that it has four InterCity services, it needs none in future. Is that more attuned to the needs of the electorate of Slough? They must wonder what is the point of having a Minister for Railways and Roads to represent the constituency if he cannot even get the trains to stop at his station.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Now that the Minister has his present job, perhaps he does not need a train anyway.

Mr. Meacher

Perhaps he needs a one-way ticket, and it may not be long before he gets one.

The passenger service requirement is supposed to protect services, yet it cuts the very services that are least viable. In those, I include the limited Slough stops, as well as extensions to the Carmarthen route once a day, and the Fishguard boat-trains, for example. Those are being omitted, leaving only the "fat" services protected. The changes will be attuned not to the needs of passengers but to the profits of commercial operators. The cavalier disregard of passengers' needs is summed up—there are many examples of it—by the Dawlish specification, which says that it must have at least 1 train a day, departing London at or after 9.45 am and arriving Dawlish at or before 8 pm.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

Perhaps it goes via Peterborough.

Mr. Meacher

I did not check on that, but it may be compatible to go via Peterborough. As the journey time is well under three hours, that allows departure from London at any time from 9.45 am to 5 pm, so the poor Dawlish residents will have no say on whether their one train suits their day-travel market or simply the needs of those visiting Dawlish from London.

Curiously, the South West Trains passenger service requirement is exactly the opposite. I wonder how that comes about. It is over-precise rather than vague, but is still not to the advantage of passengers. For instance, on the London to Weymouth line, a faster train is specified every hour to Weymouth but with higher frequencies at main stops and protected frequencies at smaller places. I understand from those operating the service that the trouble is that because the passenger service requirement spells out that the fast train to Weymouth must stop at all those stations, thereby preventing the service from being speeded up, and because the passenger service requirement does not allow those smaller stations to be served by restored local train services, the franchising director specification does not allow for—indeed, it prevents—any improvement. Is that attuned to the needs of passengers"? This is only the start of the cuts that privatisation will bring. The passenger service requirements that we are debating exclude any Great Western InterCity services west of Swansea, any through services from Swansea via Winchester to Reading, despite the fact that the journey goes through eight Tory constituencies—I wonder what the effect will be there—and any 15-minute service, as at present, on the Gatwick Express. Indeed, they exclude any service whatever from Gatwick after 7 pm. That is only the beginning. Today we have seen the scalpel; in future, we shall certainly see the axe as the Motorail service is chopped, sleeper services to Fort William are ended, and off-peak, late-night, early-morning and weekend services are eroded everywhere.

Moreover, the wording of the Secretary of State's objectives, instructions and guidance document for the franchising directors is as ominous as it is clear. Paragraph 18 says: For the initial letting of franchises, your specification of minimum service levels for railway passenger services is to be based on that being provided by BR immediately prior to franchising". If what we have seen today is supposed to be based on current timetables, what cuts will future lettings of franchises open up?

Those passenger service requirements are not a step towards improving services for passengers; they are a step towards protecting the commercially most profitable routes in order to make franchises that nobody wants to buy just a bit more saleable. It is a policy driven by dogma, fuelled by endless broken promises and marked by almost universal opposition in the country. If it continues to be pursued, we shall ensure that it plays a major role in bringing about the Government's downfall.

7.37 pm
The Secretary of State for Transport (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: welcomes the Franchising Director's consultation document on Passenger Service Requirements which, for the first time, introduces guarantees of service for passengers; supports the Government in its determination not to freeze the existing timetable but to create space for the private sector to develop new and additional services based on current timetables which are more attuned to the needs of passengers; supports the Government in its determination to halt the decline in railway use by both passengers and freight customers; and condemns Her Majesty's Opposition for continuing to rely on scare tactics as a substitute for a policy which would enhance passenger services. In all my years in the House, I have never before been accused of being a systematic liar. Perhaps, Madam Deputy Speaker, you will not allow me to use that word, even about myself. So perhaps I should say a systematic purveyor of terminological inexactitudes. Taken from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), it is a privilege and honour that I shall cherish, particularly in the light of the speech that he has just made. His talking about "cuts" demonstrates that he has not the beginning of an understanding of the privatisation process. He talked about new timetables being proposed, when on no occasion did the franchising director mention—much less propose—a timetable. As for Cardiff, in case he wants an argument I have the proof before me to show that he was factually wrong on both counts. Interestingly, the word "consultation", which is what the franchising director is about, including statutory consultations with rail users' committees and local authorities, never passed the hon. Gentleman's lips. If, in those terms, I am a purveyor of terminological inexactitudes, I am delighted to be so labelled by the hon. Member for Oldham, West. Let us now get on with the debate.

Since 1948, when it was nationalised, British Rail has invested £54 billion in the network only to see its share of passenger travel slashed from 17 per cent. to just 5 per cent. During that time BR has had almost unlimited freedom to alter services with little or no reference to the passenger and too often to the disadvantage of those who pay.

Unlike the Labour party, I am determined to reverse that sad decline and to see our railways revitalised; delivering the services that the passenger wants rather than what the network chooses to provide.

We can do this only by changing BR's bureaucratic, nationalised structure—by providing private finance, investment and management skills; and, especially, the private sector's sensitivity to the customer. I realise that that is an unfortunate fact that the hon. Member for Oldham, West does not like, but those private sector skills, investments and sensitivities have transformed other transport undertakings such as British Airways and the long-distance coach industry. I am confident they will do the same for the railways. The hon. Gentleman has not produced a single argument to suggest otherwise.

Passengers and those who work on the railways should have confidence and pride in the service—secure in the knowledge that private train operators will be tailoring their services to what the traveller wants. Operators have real commercial incentives to do so. I understand why the hon. Member for Oldham, West has difficulty with the concept of the private sector, but let me repeat slowly—perhaps it will help the hon. Gentleman—that operators have a real commercial incentive in tailoring their services to what the traveller wants. Just like other private businesses—from supermarkets to car makers—those operators will want to retain existing customers and attract new ones. The key to doing that is to provide passengers with trains at the time they want to travel.

The stimulus is there. Extra trains may cost operators not much more than the price of the electricity or diesel to power them and the wages of the staff to operate them. That gives a commercially minded railwayman a powerful motive for creating new services and new demand. But if we want a railway which is more responsive to passengers, we need a much clearer way of determining the pattern of passenger services. That is where passenger service requirements come in. For the first time, they will provide a guaranteed level of service for passengers, which operators will be contractually obliged to meet.

I must repeat to the hon. Member for Oldham, West—that I shall keep on doing so until he grasps that salient fact—that PSRs are not timetables. They specify the service pattern that operators will be required to provide in terms of frequency of services, maximum journey times, first and last trains, weekend services and, where appropriate, levels of crowding—all for the first time.

There is no need for PSRs to specify services in detail in the way that they appear in a timetable; indeed to do so would simply fossilise services, making them completely unresponsive to changes in passenger demand. The PSRs that have been announced, however, are based on the existing timetable, exactly as we have always promised. I endorse what the hon. Member for Oldham, West quoted from my predecessor who said: I have made that clear … we expect the franchises … to be on the basis of the present timetable."—[Official Report, 2 February 1993; Vol. 218, c. 159.] He did not say that they would be identical to the present timetable, but "on the basis of". I stand by that.

In cases where services are heavily dependent on subsidy—incidentally hon. Members will have noted that the hon. Member for Oldham, West did not mention anything to do with that—that subsidy will continue and PSRs will require the operator to run services which, to all intents and purposes, match the present level of services very closely.

For services which are commercially viable, we can afford to allow the operator greater flexibility to respond to market demands. Even in those cases, the PSR—the guaranteed requirement—for such services takes as a yardstick the services specified in the existing timetable. Moreover the combined effect of the PSR and the commercial incentive can be expected to deliver services that are just as comprehensive as those operated by BR at present—possibly more so.

That is not just wishful thinking. The evidence is there in the track access contracts which the operators have agreed with Railtrack. For each of the four train operating units whose PSRs were announced last week, the access agreements give the operators both sufficient train paths to provide the existing services, and extra paths to provide additional services. The operators could have negotiated those rights only in the expectation that they want to provide services in excess of existing services.

Do not take my word for it. Listen to those operating the services at present. I realise that it is embarrassing for the hon. Member for Oldham, West, but the managing director of South West Trains said: We firmly believe that the route to success lies in attracting more people to our services and this means more, not less trains. We plan further new services this May. The managing director of Great Western Trains said: The current timetable provides more services than the minimum requirement, in line with customer demand and commercial justification. The timetable plan for May 1995 maintains the current level of services and consideration is being given to the introduction of additional ones." The managing director of Gatwick Express said: We … have no plans to reduce our service frequency." The managing director of London-Tilbury-Southend line said: LTS Rail introduced additional off-peak trains in May 1994. No significant changes are envisaged for May 1995. Completion of the £150 million LTS resignalling project in 1996 will provide further opportunities to encourage car users to switch to LTS Rail. We have negotiated a track access contract which provides scope for this.

Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)

Since my right hon. Friend is talking about the railway line that runs to my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), does he agree that, in the past 20 years, that line has become famous as the misery line? What is now suggested offers, for once, the hope of resignalling; eventually new rolling stock and a better service with more off-peak and perhaps even peak services. It will therefore offer a better deal to the people of Southend.

Dr. Mawhinney

My right hon. Friend is exactly right. It seems clear to everyone except the Labour party that if British Rail sees opportunities, the private sector will see even more opportunities, because that is its characteristic. The Labour party fails to understand that.

Mr. Meacher

It appears, unfortunately, that the right hon. Gentleman has read out a section of his speech that was prepared before he listened to mine. He has not taken into account my central point that all the managers from whom he has quoted are employees of British Rail. They, of course, have a commitment to expansion and public service. What he must address is the likely attitude of private operators, who are motivated purely by commercial self-interest.

Dr. Mawhinney

Not only did I take that point into consideration, I dismissed it, as I just told my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West. The problem with the hon. Member for Oldham, West is that he has no understanding of how the private sector works. It is interested in delivering more services and attracting new customers at marginal cost, because that is at the heart of commercial incentive. That incentive is good for the passengers, good for the operators and, incidentally, good for the taxpayer as well.

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Mawhinney

No, I want to make progress. This is a short debate and I will follow the example of the hon. Member for Oldham, West.

Mr. Meacher

I gave way.

Dr. Mawhinney

And so have I. [Interruption.] I can understand why Opposition Members may dismiss their spokesman, the hon. Member for Oldham, West, but I just gave way to him, too.

No one can seriously doubt our commitment to ensuring that services in future are broadly based on the services run by BR at present. Indeed, just last week, the franchising director said: I am determined to achieve the best possible service for passengers, and I will take into account commitments by bidders to improve on existing timetables when evaluating bids for these franchises. The PSRs offer passengers more than the simple freezing of the existing timetable. I turn again to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West because I have even better news for him, and indeed for the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay).

Take commuters on the London-Tilbury-Southend line, for example. Because the passenger service requirement specifies maximum load factors for peak services, they will receive a guarantee that the operator will have to put on extra trains if demand for services increases, instead of simply cramming more people into existing trains. That is exactly why for years that line has been called the misery line; the misery is at an end.

Secondly, PSRs allow the private operator space to develop commercially viable services in line with passenger demand, in addition to the guaranteed requirement. Specifying the existing timetable, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West would have us do, would reduce the scope for such initiative and deprive passengers of the very benefits that privatisation is designed to bring. The difference between us is that Conservative Members understand the way in which the private sector works and he does not—but, given his background, that is probably understandable.

Matching services to what customers want is precisely what the private sector does best. That is clearly demonstrated by previous privatisations and there is every reason to expect the same logic to apply to the railways. It is a logic that the Opposition have always denied—I acknowledge that they have the virtue of consistency—and they have always been proved wrong.

Let me correct one misapprehension that obviously afflicts the Labour party. To hear its members talk, one would think that the passenger service requirements had been decided and cast in stone. As I said earlier, that is not so, although the hon. Member for Oldham, West failed to recognise it. The announcement last week was of the start of a consultation process. Indeed, the hon. Member for Oldham, West will have to become used to the fact that that is how we do business nowadays. Instead of the centralised bureaucratic decision making so beloved of the Labour party, whereby the hon. Member for Oldham, West would sit on the Front Bench and determine the time, speed and location of every train in the nation, users of the railway are being consulted about what they want to happen. Passenger power is returning to the railways.

Mr. Mackinlay

On that narrow point, can the Secretary of State tell us how the member of the public who feels aggrieved can complain, and know to whom to complain, bearing in mind the multiplicity of franchises and the interests of Railtrack? Who will run that one-stop shop where he can complain about the diminished rail service and obtain a remedy?

Dr. Mawhinney

The responsibility to respond to a complaint will lie with the specific company that runs the service.

Mr. Mackinlay

How will he know?

Dr. Mawhinney

I think that we shall be able to help the hon. Gentleman in time. He needs to be patient.

Mr. Mackinlay

Ah. [Laughter]

Dr. Mawhinney

I hope that my hon. Friends will safely log that bout of laughter as the privatisation process develops.

Of course, the hon. Member for Oldham, West does not recognise any of that. He is too busy playing the tired old Opposition game—the tactic that they have used before every privatisation. He is trying to scare people. He will bemoan a job worry here, threaten a service cut there; anything to put at risk the service that he claims to support. With friends like him, the railways will always be in big trouble.

Still, the Opposition have always been wrong before. Privatisation has brought new services, better standards and more choice. They will be wrong again.

I drew attention in our previous debate to the endearing admission by the Leader of the Opposition that the British people do not trust Labour. How true; how very true. Tonight the hon. Member for Oldham, West has simply dug his party into an even deeper hole. His leader will be cross—perhaps I should say "crosser"—with him. The British people will compare his rhetoric—for we shall remind them—with the reality of the new railway, and they will trust Labour even less.

Our plans for the railways offer something new for passengers; they offer guarantees. For the first time there will be an absolute guarantee of service levels. No Labour Government ever offered passengers such an assurance, and the hon. Member for Oldham, West refused to do so this evening. No Liberal appears even to understand it. On 27 January, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) warned that if the minimum service requirements for the rail network are at any less than those we experienced before privatisation, then the Government has betrayed the travelling public". There were no passenger service guarantees before privatisation.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West issued an even sillier press release on the same day. As he has demonstrated again tonight, he simply does not understand how the market economy works. He said: The Secretary of State's appeal to the train operators to provide more than they are contracted to do is whistling in the wind". He asked: What operator in their right mind would take the risk of providing more than a bare minimum of services for which they will get no subsidy? The operators have replied with a stinging rebuke. They want more services and, unlike the hon. Member for Oldham, West, they both know what they are talking about and can deliver. At least they understand the elementary basis on which the private sector works.

Operators are aware of the commercial opportunities that privatisation will bring. They recognise the incentives in the new system to provide services above passenger service requirement levels. They know that they will make more money if they can attract more passengers on to rail. They realise that most of their costs will be covered by the guaranteed level of services. Therefore, additional services will be possible on the basis of marginal costs.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West simply does not understand any of that. He is out of touch and out of tune. This evening, the hon. Gentleman gave us his synthetic rage rendition, but we all noticed what he did not say. There was no mention of nationalisation, not a word about whether a Labour Government would return the railways to state control, no mention of any policy to reverse 50 years of decline, not a word about what a Labour Government would do to encourage more use of the railways. There was no mention of how Labour would fund investment; not a word about guaranteeing services.

I offer the hon. Member for Oldham, West the sympathy of the whole House, but he and his leader must simply soldier on in silence until the union leaders tell him what is the deal that they must accept for clause IV. Then he can tell us what he really thinks he has been told to think.

As I sat listening to the hon. Member for Oldham, West, I had a feeling that he reminded me of someone. Just before he sat down, it occurred to me who he reminded me of; it was one of those old-fashioned British Rail station announcers. Hon. Members will remember the people who used to make a muffled sound—like this—full of noise, but with nothing intelligible coming out. The Labour party has no policy and no intelligent thought, and says nothing intelligible on behalf of passengers. There is no chance that the House will support the hon. Gentleman tonight. The House will support the amendment.

7.58 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

I always enjoy the Secretary of State's performances. He reminds me of a small boy banging a dustbin lid in the dark to drive away the ghosties. He does it with such panache; there is no factual basis, but a lot of panache, and I do admire that.

The Secretary of State and the Conservative party do not represent the passengers and are not at all interested in them. It is important that the House should admit that. The Conservatives are interested in the movement of money. That is what interests them—not the provision of services but the movement of money, and the ability of private financiers or private companies to cream off from state assets that which will improve their own finances. On 14 December British Rail announced the service cuts that it would be forced to make because it was required to improve its financial position by 10 per cent. this year. That announcement so frightened the Secretary of State that, as soon as it became public, he rushed out a statement to say that of course he did not want cuts and that he favoured the line that he has pushed tonight.

British Rail told the truth: it was required to cut its finances by 10 per cent. which would directly affect its current operations. Because the Secretary of State made a great fuss and said that there would be no cuts, that the existing timetable would continue and that all would be well, it became very clear that he had to act.

Between 14 December and today there has been a considerable amount of straightforward and hard-nosed negotiation and, somehow or other, British Rail's external financing limit has been expanded by £64 million. That has made the difference, and British Rail is now able to confirm that it will maintain its existing services and withdraw its threats of 14 December to cut services.

It is important to describe the money-go-round in considerable detail. Sir Alfred Sherman said recently that he could not see any point in denationalising or selling off any industry that did not make money. He could not see the logic behind the Government's decision to privatise the railways.

For the past five years the Government have pushed British Rail to change its work patterns and to undertake considerable reorganisation and modernisation. If, at the end of that period, British Rail was unable to demonstrate increased profits—indeed, even climb back to the small increases that it had made on some lines in the early 1980s—it would be clear that it would not be able to make enormous profits in the future.

The reality is that heavy subsidies will be provided. The regulator has said that track access charges will be reduced and the railways will earn 8 per cent. on the new assets. The Secretary of State has not explained to the House how the system will fragment British Rail. Calculating assets at a different rate will mean that the taxpayer will pay a great deal more in subsidies in the future. The Secretary of State has assured us, "Don't worry, that money will go around the system. It will be recirculated and it will return to the Treasury when there is a profit."

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

The hon. Lady will know that, under Treasury rules, a subsidy can be guaranteed for a socially necessary service for only three years. Is that correct?

Mrs. Dunwoody

The passenger service obligation is very important, as is what will happen to the passenger transport executives which have had direct input into the services that they thought were important. They cannot guarantee the future of those passenger services which the Secretary of State talked about tonight because they do not know what the level of funding will be or what extra expenses they will face.

Fragmentation of the service continues apace and the cost of privatisation—which will be borne almost entirely by the taxpayer—is boosted by totally unnecessary expenditure. The British Rail Business Systems Bureau Services currently leases systems software which is used to control the mainframe computers at Crewe and Nottingham.

Two products are leased from Computer Associates, an American software supplier, and there is a licence fee for each package—only two fees in all. Due to the fragmentation of the specialist systems, that company is saying that, following privatisation, it will require a licence fee for each package for each company. There will be at least 80 companies, so it does not take long to work out what the cost will be for new software—that is before we add the expense of computers and the reorganisation that we have heard so much about.

British Rail has invested £1.5 billion in the new Eurostar in the past few years. The Government intend to carve up those assets and to offer them free of charge to the private sector. They have done that before in the privatisation process and undoubtedly they will do it again here. They will not use the assets to improve facilities throughout the British Rail system or to provide the extra services that the Secretary of State makes so much play about.

I do not know who will build all those wonderful new trains, but I do know that they will not be built by British companies or by British workers. However, the money will come from British taxpayers—that will be our only future involvement in the new trains.

The Secretary of State and his colleagues are proposing a three-card trick of monumental effrontery which will take large sums of money from the railway system and which will generate large sums of money for the private sector—not only the transport element, but the estate agents, lawyers and accountants who are presently working in the system—at great cost to the passengers.

What is happening to British Rail is outrageous. It has undergone enormous change in the past five years and it needs a period of stability. It needs an opportunity to develop in order to meet the challenges posed by other forms of transport. Rail competes with road and air transport, but the Government have not made clear the challenges that British Rail faces.

I am afraid that we may be seeing the end of the railway system in this country. However, we will not see an end to asset stripping because, whichever way one looks at it, privatisation is a giant asset-stripping process. It is a very efficient way of taking money out of taxpayers' pockets, and the cost in social need and increased pollution, apart from the finance involved, will be stupendous.

8.7 pm

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in the debate. This is the first speech that I have made about rail privatisation since I served on the Standing Committee which considered the Railways Bill 18 months ago. What a joy that was—I see one or two friendly, and not so friendly, faces on the Opposition Benches.

During the Committee's consideration—when I was parliamentary private secretary to the then Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor)—I wondered whether it would be better to break up British Rail and recreate some of the old regional companies, such as LNER, the Great Western and so on, that existed before nationalisation.

Privatisation by franchise will provide opportunities for new companies and entrepreneurs to enter the railways market. I am confident that British Rail's managers who have transferred to some of the new companies will contribute to an enhanced rail performance. Rail passengers will benefit from the greater degree of autonomy and commercial freedom within the system. It is important that the Rail Regulator does not shackle the new companies to such an extent that they are unable to innovate, introduce new and different services and try new pricing arrangements.

When we privatised British Airways, we did not insist that the company should ensure that through-ticketing arrangements for flights were available in every city and town. Of course, in practice, they are so available, because it is in British Airways' commercial interests to ensure that potential air travellers deal with a customer-friendly business and can get tickets easily. So, too, is it in the interests of all the rail operating companies to ensure that it is easy for passengers to buy rail tickets, which is why, under the new arrangements, far from there being fewer outlets from which to buy tickets, I would expect there to be more.

Similarly, far from simply operating the minimum number of services as specified by the franchising director, the train operating companies will be looking to get more people on to the railways and to run more services for passengers. As my right hon. Friend has said before now, the early feedback we are getting from operators is that that is exactly what they want to do; they want to run more services. That is what private enterprise is all about.

The hostility of Opposition Members to rail privatisation simply illustrates that they do not understand private enterprise and demonstrates once again that, despite the flowery, reassuring words that the Leader of the Opposition might offer the middle classes, the Labour party has not changed its spots. It still dislikes and distrusts private enterprise and free markets. Of course, the reason why the Labour party is able to get away with its scaremongering tactics at the moment is that privatisation has not yet come about and the positive developments which I believe will occur have not yet taken place.

I have come across an extremely interesting development that I shall relate to the House. For a few years the Green party has been running excursions in Yorkshire—a number of them have travelled on the Settle to Carlisle line. Last year, members of the Green party came to me with some concern about the track access charges which had been quoted by Railtrack and I took it up on their behalf. I was also concerned about the effect that privatisation might have on steam-hauled excursion trips.

I am a life member of the A4 Locomotive Society. Along with two others, my father bought the Sir Nigel Gresley from British Railways back in 1966. He is now president of the A4 Locomotive Society. I was concerned about whether the new regime might lead to fewer trips being available for steam engines on the new privatised railways—not a bit of it.

The March edition of The Railway Magazine contains two interesting articles. The first tells how Flying Scotsman Railways is taking over the operation of BR's special trains unit and will be running charter operations including steam trips similar to those run by BR. The second article relates the emergence of a new company called Days Out, which is run by an individual called Mel Chamberlain and has a whole trainload of ideas for railtours during 1995. Days Out is planning to run around 60 steam excursions, some hauled by the Sir Nigel Gresley, and The Railway Magazine has described the company's programme for 1995 as "formidable". I shall quote directly from the article: The package and diversity of tours planned is impressive and with improved customer facilities, and lower ticket prices, Days Out may well succeed. If Mel Chamberlain does not manage to persuade the long-lost tourer back, it won't be through lack of trying. That is only the tip of the iceberg. New people will come to the railways and new ideas will be introduced. Competition is already being introduced into one sector of the railways. At the end of the day, the key question for Days Out is whether it can sell the seats. There will be a significant number of new seats and I hope that Days Out can do just that.

In the private sector the existing management of the gas, telecommunications and electricity companies, the existing management has always managed to improve the performance of once-sleepy nationalised industries. The privatised industries suddenly started to pay more attention to the needs of their customers rather than to the needs of the providers of their subsidies—the politicians and civil servants. They started to tackle the inefficiencies and restrictive practices which kept costs—and therefore prices—too high. That, along with tough regulation, is why telephone charges have fallen by 30 per cent. since 1984, gas prices have fallen by 23 per cent. since 1986 and the prices charged by local electricity companies such as Yorkshire Electricity have fallen by 15 per cent. since privatisation in 1990.

In the days when I had a proper job as a sales manager in industry, I spent a great deal of time travelling around the north of England and Scotland and, because I was not grand enough to have a mobile telephone, I had to use public phone boxes. It was an absolute nightmare finding one, and when I did, it usually did not work—in contrast to what happens today.

At the time of the privatisation of British Telecom, the Labour party said that public telephones would disappear from the streets and roads of Britain. In fact, there are more public phone boxes in existence today than ever before. There were 77,000 in 1984 and there are 127,000 today—and, what is more, they work. In those days it used to take six months to get a telephone installed in one's home; now it takes seven days.

Privatisation has led to improved services. Despite all the negative gloom and doom-mongering by the Opposition, it is just possible that we are on the verge of a new and exciting era when the railways can reverse the trend of decades of fewer passengers travelling by train. Nationalisation failed to reverse that trend; private enterprise now has the opportunity to achieve it by introducing new ideas, new capital and new services. I very much hope that it succeeds.

8.17 pm
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

The speech of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) and that of the Secretary of State will go down in the annals of history as a categorical triumph of hope over experience. If, in later years, we want to measure the words that have been uttered in the House tonight, I suspect that the balance of prediction will lie more accurately with those of us opposed to the entire process than with those who are advocating it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), at a meeting with the rail franchising director—one of the many hobgoblin figures created by the legislation—reminded Mr. Salmon and the rest of us that when Frankenstein was first created it was a benevolent idea and it was only subsequently that things went wrong and the monster developed a life of its own. That applies to the process of privatisation generally. The fragmentation is debilitating not just the existing rail network but the capacity of Transport Ministers to exercise the degree of ministerial direction that is now required.

I shall be specific and limited in referring to two decisions taken in December by the franchising director: first, that the sleeper services to Carlisle and Fort William respectively, and Motorail services generally, would not be included in the franchise that will be awarded in due course to ScotRail; and, secondly, what will happen beyond March to May this year in regard to direct links between London and the north of Scotland. I do so in the terms of the motion because I would argue that there has been a grotesque breach of faith and a downright breach of categorical assurances that were given to the House and to representatives of the highlands.

Let us take the phrase "based on" the passenger rail timetable of May 1994. I accept one of the points that the Minister made. I am not here tonight to argue—I draw a slight distinction with the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher)—for an exact replica of May 1994. It is reasonable to anticipate that "based on" can mean, for example, the existing three passenger services a day between Glasgow and Oban, but that they might run at different times. That can be debated, but it is a reasonable distinction to draw.

But that is quantifiably different from saying that passenger services to, for example, Fort William will be based on the May 1994 timetable but with the exception that there will be no sleeper or Motorail services. That is of a different degree and is a categorical breach of faith.

On 17 February 1993, in a letter to Councillor Duncan McPherson, the convenor of Highland regional council, the then Minister for Public Transport said: I assured you that the franchise"— the one to which I have referred— will be based on British Rail's 1994 timetable. By 15 April 1993, the Minister was even more categorical. He told the Standing Committee that there would not be picking and choosing by the franchising director and that all the services then running would be franchised—"then" being May 1994. That is not the case. There has been picking and choosing by the franchising director and he has decided not to include the sleeper and Motorail services to which I referred.

On 25 May, the former Minister said that the franchising director would consult the appropriate local authorities. He has not done so. It is not just the franchising director who has not consulted local authorities, but the Ministers themselves who are not even willing to meet and listen to the local authority representatives who are travelling on a block booking from Fort William on the sleeper service to lobby the Scottish Grand Committee tomorrow.

The Minister for Railways and Roads (Mr. John Watts)


Mr. Kennedy

I shall happily give way to the Minister because so far his silence and unwillingness even to respond to the request has spoken volumes.

Mr. Watts

The hon. Gentleman will understand that Mr. Salmon has given an early indication of the approach that he is minded to take towards the sleeper services and Motorail, but the hon. Gentleman will know that he has not yet published a passenger service requirement covering those services. He will do so later in the year and that will be the opportunity for those towards whom he has an obligation to consult to say what they think about what is and is not included in the proposals. Anything that happens in advance of that will be decisions made by British Rail under the present arrangements of the protected nationalised railway system.

Mr. Kennedy

The Minister has not been in his present position very long and it shows from that intervention. He clearly does not understand what is involved. I shall quote directly Mr. Salmon's words in a letter of 2 February to the convenor of Highland regional council.

Incidentally, yesterday, the Minister's Department denied that it had ever received an approach from Highland regional council in a letter dated 21 December. That is strange because the first sentence of the letter from the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising begins: Thank you for your letter of 21 December to the Secretary of State for Transport. Someone in the Department must have received it because it was quickly handed on to the director for him to reply. However, yesterday the Department denied any such receipt. The Minister might like to find out what is going on inside his Department before he lectures the rest of us.

What Mr. Salmon says stands in stark contrast to the blandishments that we have just heard. First, he acknowledges that, exceptionally, the announcement of 14 December was made in advance of the start of the consultation on ScotRail and west coast services. He continues: Clearly, if British Rail proceed with the proposed changes in the May timetable, then these services will be withdrawn before OPRAF starts its consultation process. We would not, in such circumstances, include these particular services in the PSR consultation. I repeat: We would not, in such circumstances, include these services in the PSR consultation. The Minister has just advised us that the services would be part of the PSR consultation, so who is right—the Minister or the director of franchising? What is said in the letter dated 2 February stands contradicts completely what the Minister has just said at the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Watts

The hon. Gentleman quoted Mr. Salmon's letter in which he explained that if services were withdrawn before he starts his consultation on the passenger service requirements he would not be including those services in his passenger service requirement. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is nothing to stop local authorities or rail users consultative councils, or right hon. and hon. Members, putting forward whatever views they have on inclusions in or exclusions from the PSR. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will avail himself of that opportunity if the hypothetical circumstances that he outlined pertain at the time.

Mr. Kennedy

Well, well, we have already moved our ground in the course of the past five minutes at the Dispatch Box. Let us be clear about one thing. There is a world of difference between consulting over a proposed level of service in a proposed timetable and consulting over a service that does not even feature in the timetable. There is light years' difference in that. Such retrospective consultation makes little sense.

Secondly, the body which, under the legislation, is charged with having the biggest say in the consultation is the rail users consultative committee. What does Major General Lennox Napier, the chairman of the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee, say? He has written to Mr. Salmon, our dear friend, in the following terms: By making a separate announcement about sleeper services and Motorail prior to releasing details of any of the PSRs, you appear to have pre-empted the consultation process on a highly controversial aspect of your proposals … Therefore, to allow time for a proper consultation process to take place, I am writing to request you:

  1. (a) to consult the relevant consultative committees about your decision … and,
  2. (b), not to permit the operators to discontinue any of the relevant services until your consultation with the consultative committees is complete and you have considered their representations on the subject."
That is the chairman of the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee, set up under the legislation by the Government, speaking on behalf of that body. Does the Minister endorse and support those sentiments? If so, that would send a useful signal to our friend Mr. Salmon on what he should do. Will the Minister clarify that? Does he support that expression? The Minister is uncharacteristically reticent. That tells us all we need to know.

The person to whom we shall be looking with regard to this disgraceful abuse of the guidelines that were laid down by the legislation and the contempt that has been shown for the consultative process has to be the Rail Regulator. I and my hon. Friends had a useful meeting with Mr. Swift last week when he made it clear that where evidence was forthcoming that suggested a breach of faith or irregular procedures he would want to consider that. I express the strong hope that he will do so. Because the great difference between the four franchises announced for consultation last week and the forthcoming one that affects Scotland is that in England and Wales there will be a proper public opportunity to be consulted and to express views through the legislation about everything, but in Scotland there will not. The Minister must face up to that.

Therefore, on the wider aspect, in conclusion, clearly the Minister does not have an answer, but his civil servants might be able to dredge one up for him at the end of the debate.

I simply say that when it is environmental policy to try to move more people off the roads on to rail, when it is agreed tourism policy for the Scottish economy that we want to develop our existing links to the south, and when we have just opened a channel tunnel which physically plugs us on to the rail network and infrastructure of the continent of Europe, to be cancelling all UK Motorail services and sleepers to Carlisle and Fort Williarn is a retrograde step of some considerable madness. When that is accompanied by bad faith and bad practice, the House should vote to condemn it at 10 o'clock tonight.

8.30 pm
Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

When I hear the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) speaking with such authority about rail privatisation, my mind goes back to the debate in which the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), who is now the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, spoke about gas privatisation. He said proudly: 16 million British Gas consumers can expect only one result—to pay increased gas prices, higher than the rate of inflation, for years to come."—[Official Report, 10 December 1985; Vol. 88, c. 793.] How history has proved him wrong. I believe that it will prove the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye wrong on this occasion.

Listening to the Opposition, one would believe that they were experts. Yet they know that state ownership in this country has failed. Across the world, country after country has followed the example of the Conservative Government and introduced privatisation. In 1979, the nationalised industries were costing the taxpayer £50 million a week. Today, they earn £60 million a week. Even the Labour party has now lost the will to fight on the issue, and that is typified in its debate about the future of clause IV. The reason why it has changed its mind is that it knows that it has got it wrong in the past. The Government have invested billions in British Rail, and since the war some £54 billion has been invested in the railways. In 1953, some 17 per cent. of journeys were by train, and 24 per cent. of goods. Today, both figures are nearer 5 per cent. and falling.

The concept of state ownership is bankrupt. Why? In my constituency, I have no fewer than 12 railway stations, and rail privatisation is always a lively issue. The service from Purley, in the heart of my constituency, to Victoria is not bad at all. There are four trains an hour, and a cheap-day return costs something like £3.20—not a lot of money. Those trains are empty. Yet the A23 through Streatham is jammed full with cars. Why? It is because the railways are perceived to be unreliable and inconvenient. In the peak hours, commuters pay £7.20. They need to use the train, but are faced with crowded, unreliable, unpunctual and, often, dirty trains.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ottaway

I am sorry, but unless I am given injury time, I cannot give way.

Those customers are dissatisfied. They have no way to complain. Is not that typical of all the old nationalised industries—a centralised bureaucracy funded by taxpayers' money, concerned more with supply than with what the market demands? Why do we not have fewer trains in the daytime and more in the rush hour? The reason is that the railways are stuck on the old requirements to supply services. It astonishes me that Opposition Members—indeed, members of the public—want us to continue that.

This is where the whole ethos of privatisation comes into the matter. Nationalisation was a central feature of post-war Labour Governments, but few people today deny that it imposed intolerable burdens on the national economy. Labour naively believed that control of the railways would be vested in the people. In reality, power was transferred to monopoly providers and monopoly producer unions. The real power was exercised by civil servants, who became the protector and confidant of the industry's self-interest and, indeed, on occasions, the politicians in power.

Privatisation is now copied throughout the world. I had the good fortune last week to go to Japan, with the President of the Board of Trade, and went on the privatised railway from Tokyo to Nagoya. In a recent report, the transport correspondent of The Times said: Japan is demonstrating that privatised railway companies can be not only efficient and profitable but also popular with investors. As I sat on that comfortable high-speed train, knowing that it was run by private money, I knew precisely what he meant.

I welcome the passenger service requirements, because they will provide a customer safeguard of a minimum level of service. We all know that the expected level of service will be considerably higher, because the incentive to provide more services is there. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher)—unfortunately, he is not here now—rather played around with the possibility that the service between Dawlish and the west country may go via Peterborough. What he completely ignored—this shows his ignorance of the workings of capitalism—is that if there was a demand for more services, the operators would provide them.

In future, the customer will be able to rely on two components: a guaranteed minimum service, and a commercially responsive addition to that service. The first operators have already been announced. We have seen the reaction. I do not know how many hon. Members have received the brochure from Great Western Railways, entitled "Business First". It starts with the comforting headline: Cruise in comfort at an altitude of 61 feet". It says: now, as a dynamic company with a brand new look and a stronger than ever commitment to customer service, we can offer you the standard of travel that truly meets your demands". It has brand new staff … Each is a highly trained professional". It will provide high quality refreshments and even, on selected services, video and audio entertainment during your journey". One can also choose various price structures.

We are talking about the old British Rail, but we live in a new world. When the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said that she feared the demise of the old British Rail, she was absolutely right. We have a new railway coming and a new type of service.

Why do the Opposition continue their opposition to privatisation and make the same old arguments of doom and gloom? They were wrong about every other privatisation. They will be wrong about this one. One has only to look at some of the quotations that they have come up with in recent years to see that. The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), when shadow energy spokesman, said about electricity privatisation: It strikes me that a minimum estimate of the cost of privatisation to the consumer in terms of price increases is 20 per cent"—[Official Report, 12 December 1988; Vol. 143, c. 723.] He was wrong.

The hon. Member for Gordon, whom I quoted earlier, said that electricity privatisation will result in higher prices for the whole population".—[Official Report, 10 April 1989; Vol. 150, c. 585.] He was wrong.

The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), when shadow energy spokesman, said on the privatisation of British Gas: There is no evidence that the Bill will improve efficiency, provide a better service, produce cheaper gas or, least of all, create competition."—[Official Report, 10 December 1985; Vol. 88, c. 780.] How wrong he was.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said of the privatisation of British Steel that it was a shoddy measure which promises destabilising uncertainty. It is totally irrelevant to the real interests of the industry"—[Official Report, 23 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 238.] The fact is that British Steel, having made losses of £1.7 million, made profits of £733 million.

The late John Smith, who was then the right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North and who was not often wrong, said that privatising British Airways is a bad deal for the airline and for the British taxpayer". Let us go back to the hon. Member for Garscadden, who is constantly putting his foot in it. He said that British Airways will be the pantomime horse of capitalism if it is anything at all."—[Official Report, 19 November 1979; Vol. 974, c. 53, 125.] The fact is that British Airways has run up a profit of more than £2.7 billion.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The debate is on rail passenger services. The fact is that the Tory central office briefs do not stretch to a word on rail services.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Ottaway

It is not a Conservative central office brief, but a pamphlet that I wrote. The hon. Gentleman is free to read it any time he likes.

The point that I am trying to make is that the Labour party's forecasts about the future of privatisation have been wrong. There is no reason why we should listen to it this time any more than we have in the past.

Every privatisation has brought increased investment and service to the customer. This privatisation should be no different. Its dependence on public funding has let down British Rail in the past, and the Government now want to put it on a sound financial footing. Not only is Labour incapable of reforming public services, but it remains unsure whether to cling to the past and call for renationalisation or whether to try to push for a pale imitation of Conservative policy—a rose by any other name. While the Labour party ties itself up in arguments about clause IV, the rest of the world has had the debate and reached a conclusion. Privatisation has worked and has been copied throughout the world. Let us allow the benefits to be felt by the railways.

8.38 pm
Mr. Brian H. Donohoe (Cunninghame, South)

I thought that we were here this evening to speak about passenger services under rail privatisation, not to be given some quotations about other utilities that have been privatised. Let us stick to the subject itself.

I have three areas of doubt that I want to bring to the attention of the Government: first, from a Scottish perspective, the funding situation; secondly, the infrastructure; and thirdly, the withdrawal of services. I want to give practical reasons for my doubts on whether, under privatisation, passenger services will be improved. First, let me deal with funding.

Over the past 15 to 20 years, the funding of British Rail in Scotland has relied almost exclusively on the passenger transport executive in Strathclyde region. Since 1975, some £400 million has been invested in Strathclyde's railways—about £30 million a year. We are told that, because of changes in the franchising system, the sum will be increased to a staggering £112 million next year—three times the amount expected from the local PTE. We are also told that, although the money will come from the Government in the first year, there is no guarantee that it will continue to do so.

At the same time, new unitary authorities are being introduced in Scotland. Can hon. Members imagine small unitary authorities being able to go on financing the railways to the tune of £112 million? How will they apportion the cost? They will start to fight among themselves.

At present, there is only one train from Argyll to Helensburgh; Cunninghame—the area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) and me, which will become the North Ayrshire unitary authority—has some 10 stations, with trains running the length and breadth of both our constituencies. How can the Government expect funding to continue in the same way when two local authorities have been merged into, as it were, a central bank?

Unless assurances are given, the whole network will suffer. There must be funding either from the top downwards or from the local authorities upwards, and we clearly cannot expect funding from the bottom up to continue. The Scottish Office and the Department of Transport must become involved. None of the changes will be clear to those who will become responsible for most of the funding, and the figures must be stated in a way that they can understand.

I am also doubtful about the continuation of high standards in infrastructure. The Forth bridge, which is described internationally as the eighth wonder of the world, was built to standards that we in Scotland know as "Clyde class", but it is now badly corroded. Earlier this year, I visited the bridge with my hon. Friends the Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke). Although we went on the say-so of Railtrack, it was clear to us as we went underneath the bridge in a boat that the cross-members were corroded. The Scottish Office says that the problems are purely cosmetic, but the failure to paint the bridge during the past couple of years has obviously resulted in terminal damage. Railtrack, which owns it, has failed in its duty to maintain the eighth wonder of the world; meanwhile, it is taking some £170 million a year from ScotRail.

I am told that stocks are now at their lowest-ever level, and that no rail clips have been ordered in the past few months. That will obviously affect passengers in the future. Last month, for the first time, ScotRail failed to meet the standards of the much-hailed passenger charter in either its eastern or its central section. How can it be held reponsible, when most of the failures that have been identified are Railtrack's responsibility? This is the beginning of what will result from full-scale privatisation of the railways.

Signalling and infrastructure faults have been identified as Railtrack's problem. I understand that the signalling system at Haymarket remains incomplete even now, some nine months after its inception, and that a further £1 million needs to be spent if delays are not to continue. It is nonsensical to split responsibilities. Earlier, someone asked who would be responsible for explaining why a train was late. It is clear that there will be more difficulties than ever. Only this week, my train to Glasgow Central was delayed; faulty signals were blamed, and Railtrack was said to be the source of the problem. There is, however, no suggestion that ScotRail will be compensated, and again passengers will suffer.

Fortunately, much of what I was going to say about the withdrawal of services has already been said by the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy), but the Government must answer our concerns about the threat to sleeper services in Scotland. I am told that the regulator proposes a cut from five to two. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the problems caused by the restriction to 16 coaches at Euston. I do not know how the services will be run with split trains; perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us. We have already heard about the problems involved in the withdrawal of Motorail.

That is all the tip of the iceberg. Given that every route in Scotland is currently subsidised, how can those routes be maintained in the private sector? It is nonsensical; it is a joke. The Government's snide remarks show how seriously they treat the problem. This week we have seen perhaps the most ludicrous aspect of rail travel as it now is. A picture in the local press today shows a railway carriage being taken down the road for repair. Perhaps the Government want that to happen to all railway carriages.

The late Robert Adley, who chaired the Transport Select Committee, called rail privatisation the poll tax on wheels. Unfortunately, there will be no wheels to tax.

8.48 pm
Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

The hon. Member for Cunningham, South (Mr. Donohoe) put a forceful argument for privatisation. He said that things were pretty bad, and would become worse with privatisation. I believe that they will become better.

The west country has been mentioned a fair amount this evening. In my experience, rail services there have become progressively worse, especially in the past two years. The new timetable considerably lengthens the journey time to Totnes, one of the two British Rail stations in my constituency. I think that part of British Rail's programme is to make the journeys slower so that when trains arrive late it need not pay so much compensation under the passengers charter. If my experience is anything to go by, the situation has got worse and I hope that privatisation will make it better.

British Rail uses a raft of excuses—"BR-speak," as I call it. For example, slugs on the line stop heavyweight carriages dead in their tracks; bridges are in a perpetual state of repairs; floods always cover the line between Taunton and Exeter, not to mention the cursed sea at Dawlish, which is always going over the tracks just beyond that town. Freak thunderstorms cause power failures in Cornwall; not only does that county seem to be in permanent darkness, but the trains are always shunted on to sidings and fleets of buses take people from one station to another to connect with other trains. Then there is the ubiquitous phantom of Westbury—the cow that is so regularly seen on the line. Whenever the train is on time, the driver stops dead because he says that there is a cow on the line. One always hears at Paddington that the delay has been caused by a cow—it is more like Bombay or Delhi than Westbury—and if there is no cow on the line, then signals, points and crossings will do the trick.

For the past three months, no train to Totnes or Ivybridge that I have been on has been on time. That is borne out by a parliamentary answer that I received in July last year, when the then Minister said that in 1991 only 62.6 per cent. of trains arrived in Plymouth on time, in 1992 only 61.2 per cent. arrived on time, and in 1993 only 61.9 per cent. arrived on time. Fewer than two thirds of trains arrived according to the timetable time.

The one exception is the sleeper. Here I should like to take a little credit; one does not get much credit in this place, and I never get the credit, but I played a part in stopping the Government, with BR, taking off the sleeper service to Penzance. When I was in Liverpool, I had a reputation for preventing BR from taking off sleeper services to the north-west, although it did just that as soon as I was transferred to South Hams. My hon. Friend the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the sleeper service is to be included in the franchise document, so it is safe for the next two or three years, although it will have to be used more if it is to be saved.

I said that the sleeper always arrives on time, but that is not quite true. A few months ago, I was waiting in Exeter station for the sleeper at 1 o'clock. I waited until 2.30 in the morning, but no sleeper arrived, though I pay tribute to BR for providing free cups of tea and blankets.

The problem with west country services is not only that the timetable has slipped but that trains arrive progressively later than the timetable time, with a difference of some 15 or 20 minutes, which produces growing anxiety in the minds of travellers that they will arrive late if they go by rail. More people are taking to the road, which is the last thing that we want as our west country roads are already saturated with cars which I suspect are driven by people who would have gone by rail but for the feeling that rail services are unreliable.

Rail travel is also expensive. It is more expensive to travel first class from London to Plymouth than to travel Apex from London to Gibraltar by plane—1200 miles by air is cheaper than 227 miles by train—and it takes longer to go to Plymouth by train than to go to Paris or Brussels. No wonder we in the west country feel somewhat discriminated against—like some sort of outpost of Europe, with Cornwall feeling that even more than Devon.

The problem of delays and the slowness of trains to Totnes is even worse on Sundays, when it is virtually impossible to travel from Totnes to London in under four hours. The other day it took me five and a half hours because of cows on the line at Westbury. We tend to get diverted on Sundays via Yeovil and Chippenham. Although both are beautiful parts of the country, many of us do not appreciate that unscheduled guided tour of the region.

One of the problems with BR is overmanning. I do not know whether this is correct, but I am told that there have to be two men in the cab in trains travelling between London and Reading because the train goes at 125 mph. If it goes at 110 mph, only one is needed. The unions have insisted on doubling the staff by putting an extra man in the cab. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will tell me whether there are two men in the cab when trains go through Slough at 125 mph even though only one is actually doing anything.

Mr. Watts

I must confess that I have not counted the number of men in the cab when trains go through Slough at 125 mph—or, indeed, when they stop at Slough, as they do and will continue to do.

Mr. Steen

That is helpful. The Minister will no doubt find that out, but I am told that it is the case.

On the journey from London to Totnes, every few seconds someone clips one's ticket. Every time the train stops, another man clips the ticket. My ticket looks like one of the sheets in my passport because there are so many ticket collectors. They are good and nice, and they add a certain presence on the train, but we do not need so many of them. The restrictive practices involved in overmanning are well illustrated by the number of ticket collectors. I hope that that will not happen after privatisation.

Trains have been so late that I have been using the charter. I have collected so many vouchers that every time I go to Totnes I can now dine royally in the BR restaurant car. The only snag is that the restaurant cars are being taken up. I am sure that there will be a great improvement after privatisation.

I am a great railway enthusiast and I am well known for the support that I have given to BR and InterCity. The managing director of rail services in the west country does an excellent job, but the problem is that the service is in decline. To entice people back on to railways, we need faster and cheaper railways, and more reliable services.

On summer weekends, a train travels from Paddington to Totnes in just under two and a half hours. It is an exhilarating journey. The train is always full to the gunnels, with people hanging out of the windows, egging the driver on. One would like to see more of that. In winter, the trains are full of depressed passengers, paying through the nose, having their tickets clipped incessantly, and drowning their sorrows in powdered coffee and tea from the buffet, or in French water and wine. Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, expect to find English wine or water on SNCF trains in France? Can you imagine the French serving exclusively English wine or water on SNCF? Of course not—only French wine and French water would be served. When the service is privatised, I hope that British goods, and not all that European stuff, will be served on trains because British goods are not served on French trains.

The final reason why we should give privatisation a throw is that it may give the Government the opportunity to put some of the money that they invest in railways into building new railways. I want more money to be spent on new railway lines. I do not see why we could not have new railway lines if the money given in subsidy to British Rail were released and used for new lines between, for example, Exeter and Plymouth. That is what everyone wants. In Italy and France, new lines and motorways are built in minutes, so why not in this country?

I am all for the service in my region being privatised. It cannot be worse than it is now. The region is crying out for improved infrastructure and if privatisation will provide that, I am all for it.

8.58 pm
Mr. Keith Hill (Streatham)

You will be pleased to hear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I intend to speak with exemplary brevity and, somewhat unusually in this debate, about rail passenger services.

As a member of the Select Committee on Transport, I sat through about 150 hours of its inquiry into the Government's rail privatisation plans. As a member of the Standing Committee which debated the Railways Act 1993, I sat through about 100 hours of debate on the detail of the privatisation programme. I can also say in all honesty that I have attended every debate in the House on rail privatisation since April 1992. Throughout that dauntingly long process, Ministers have repeated like a mantra the notion that franchises would be based on the existing timetable. In his opening speech, my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Transport provided irrefutable proof of that proposition.

Even when Ministers have referred to minimum service requirements, which I am bound to say has not been very often, not once have they said—again, this is a matter of record—that the minimum service requirements would be less than the existing timetable. If words mean anything—we are entitled to take them at face value—Ministers have led Parliament to understand that they were not envisaging any reduction in services. Now, however, we know that they are. However Ministers may duck and dive, the blunt truth is that the passenger service requirements represent the only level of services to which franchisees are contractually committed. If that is all that a franchisee wants to run, that is all that he will run and no amount of weasel words can disguise that simple fact. It might be said that we have heard enough such words during the long debate on rail privatisation.

The rabbit out of the hat—the deus ex machina—for the Secretary of State is the fact that the rail passenger has never had guaranteed services before. He said today that for the first time there would be an absolute guarantee of services. If we had a Government committed to a decent public transport system and prepared to invest in the railways at the same level as our European partners, we might not need a guarantee anyway.

We heard a great deal from Conservative Members about the benefits of privatisation, but they very often drew comparisons with the excellent services—and the speed with which new services could be introduced—in countries such as Italy and France, where railways are run on a nationalised basis. As Lord Marsh, who is no ally of the Labour party, told the Transport Select Committee, the railway industry was the one industry whose problems could be solved only by throwing money at it. That is a fact.

It is worth noting that the so-called guarantee will in the foreseeable future apply only to that small portion of the railway on which the franchises will operate. There are no guarantees of any description for the rest of the railway system, and certainly not for the branch lines about which we hear so frequently from the Secretary of State when he is trying to justify his policies on the radio.

Given that a disproportionate amount of subsidy will be dished out to the franchises to make them attractive to the private sector, the rest of the network is likely to remain a Cinderella for the indefinite future. There will be no fairy godmother to whisk the rest of British Rail off to the ball or to any golden high-speed future in the sky. While the Conservatives are in power, the prospects are grim indeed for passengers on most parts of the network.

What is the quality of the so-called guarantee that is on offer? There is a clear implication in everything that has been said that a guaranteed minimum means that a franchisee will not be able to run services below that level. But that is not so, and I will explain why.

On 15 December 1993, the Select Committee on Transport took evidence from the newly appointed franchising director, Mr. Roger Salmon. In the course of the interview, I asked him what would happen if the Treasury decided to cut the subsidy to the franchised railway. It had happened plenty of times to British Rail, so why not to the franchisees? Interestingly, the franchising director did not dismiss the possibility out of hand. On the contrary, he answered my question with admirable candour and I will quote his reply in extenso. It is reported on page 11 of the Committee's minutes of evidence, entitled "Arrangements for Railway Privatisation", printed on 15 December 1993. About the Government, Mr. Salmon said: It will have ability to change those subsidies under certain circumstances … If there is a shortage of money, one of the ways British Rail tends to react, at the moment, is by cutting investment or putting up fares. The Franchising Director, by and large, will have similar options regarding existing franchises that have been let. He will be able to change minimum specifications. He will be able to change fare levels and thereby ask the franchisee to save money and pass those savings …. back to the Exchequer. In the words of the franchising director, speaking of his own powers in relation to minimum service guarantees, He will be able to change minimum specifications. There is no guaranteed minimum. It can always he lowered—we have it from the mouth of the man who can do it.

Members of Parliament and the public have allowed themselves to be led up the garden path for too long in the belief that there would be no reduction in service levels under privatisation. One thing is entirely clear: we should be under no illusions that there are any guarantees about minimum levels of service.

9.5 pm

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

I shall have no hesitation in voting against the Labour party's motion and voting in favour of my right hon. Friend's amendment, which is entirely sensible and practical.

I allow myself a little chuckle as we debate a very serious issue when I think of the year that I spent very happily as Minister for Roads and Traffic. I became almost exclusively associated with roads and motor cars, which was to me a great irony, as I shall explain. My loss is the gain of my hon. Friend the Minister, and I wish him well. I suspect that he will find life easier being Minister for Railways and Roads than I ever did as Minister responsible for roads alone.

I have a confession to make: I love trains. I started early with my Hornby 00 gauge and continued by building up my son's collection of rather splendid electric trains. While some hon. Members may have catalogued their visits to New York and Tokyo according to sights, mine were catalogued by visits to train shops.

However, my experience of real-world trains, and passenger services on them throughout my life, has been a little different. I grew up with the steam age on my local railway line through Salisbury. I also had the excitement of family holidays to the west coast of Scotland, when I travelled, often overnight, from King's Cross to Mallaig or Kyle of Lochalsh on the sleeper trains and, occasionally on the Motorail. Indeed, this debate will have done a great service to such routes. The consultation process seems to be going rather well if tonight's debate is anything to go by. Mr. Salmon will have plenty of heavy reading to do, as well as thinking.

In the days of my trips to Scotland, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), when I first came across him, was the radical editor of the West Highland Free Press; an excellent document. I find it difficult to understand why the hon. Gentleman has become such a reactionary and I have become the radical.

My other memory was of the branch lines for passenger services throughout the south and west, the old push-me pull-you between Salisbury and Downton or Newton Abbot and Teigngrace. In Devon, I explored the old granite tramways from Haytor to the coast and Brunel's hydraulic railway along the coast from Starcross, where the pump house still stands. I have also extensively used trains in Germany, which, incidentally, are not all that they are cracked up to be, and I have worried my American friends by insisting on travelling by train rather than by air, for example when I undertook a 17-hour journey from Portland to San Francisco on the Starlight Express. I also saw the future on the bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo.

However, railway nostalgia alone simply will not do. I fear that the Opposition parties—I notice that not one Liberal Democrat is gracing the Opposition Benches—have given train spotters a bad name in this debate. The future is now with us in the superb Eurostar trains running through the channel tunnel and the journey has been transformed by facing up to the reality of railway infrastructure finance. I have been taught that railways adapt or die; they serve their passengers or they meet the Rev. Awdry in the happy, shunting yard upstairs.

The issue is not simply money. Successive Governments have spent on railways more than £1 billion for every year that I have been on this planet. And for what? For a decade and more my constituents have complained week in, week out about the service that they were receiving from British Rail.

Admittedly, there has been some good management at the top, but it has been impossible for those people to make an impact on the vast spongy bureaucracy and inertia that is British Rail. Sometimes there has been spasmodic investment. For example, we were promised some second-hand trains; they did not come. We were promised a painted station; that did happen. We were promised, and got, a loop line at Tisbury, and there has been talk of reopening stations at Wilton and Porton.

However, the timetable was always enormously inflexible. At weekends—the time when most people want to travel to London, for functions, for sport or for some other kind of leisure, and to come home again late at night—the timetable was reduced, because otherwise it would not have suited British Rail. The cry was always that that was the time when all the engineering was done.

When I was a Minister with responsibility for tourism, I visited Cornwall at the invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), who has done more than anyone in Cornwall to champion the cause of railways. His constituents told me that BR simply would not listen to what they said about their needs, and about the patterns and cycles of holiday bookings in the south-west.

Then the Government made a commitment to privatisation. All of a sudden, British Rail started to react. Suddenly, we had our new trains and a more flexible timetable. British Rail was starting to wake up, but it was too late. I became a late convert to the Government's policy of rail privatisation.

As the Secretary of State said, what the franchising director has produced is not a timetable but a consultation exercise—the first-ever consultation on our railways. I believe that there are issues more important than the timetable. None the less, when I compare my existing timetable with the South West Trains passenger service requirement, I realise why the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) totally failed to mention the main line from Waterloo through Salisbury to Exeter. If he had done the homework on that line that I have done, he would have discovered that the passenger requirement follows the present timetable closely, and that does not suit the Labour party's argument. The two are similar in terms of level of service, but for the first time there is a guaranteed minimum, and now there is every incentive for running additional, marginally costed revenue-raising passenger services.

The great old regional companies certainly served their purpose—sometimes there were regional monopolies; sometimes there was cut-throat competition—but we must move on from those days. The early privatisations of gas and telecommunications were a success, but of course both have had to be modified. I warmly support the present exciting concept of separating the capital investment in the infrastructure of the railways from the services that provide revenue flows. In the international context, that is the most important thing that has happened to investment in railway systems for half a century.

Until now, there has been little incentive for British Rail to listen to the passenger, but now the franchisees will have every incentive not only to run a timetable to match existing loading but to generate the new markets in rail travel that are there for the picking.

My last observation is that British Rail has had a people problem. When I get on a train from my constituency and travel from Salisbury to Waterloo the journey, on good railway rolling stock, is now a real pleasure. More often than not the train is on time, and not only the trains but the people are a pleasure. There is the friendly guard, or the senior conductor, as I should call him; even the people pushing the tea trolleys seem to be enjoying themselves—something that could rarely be said of staff under the old regime. It is a happy transformation that the people now running the railway services seem to be realising that it is in their interests, too, to do a good job of work and to welcome their passengers—or, as I rather regret that they now call us, their customers.

However, that does not always happen. In the light of other great privatisations and transitions, it is important for the new railway companies and franchisees to understand that the period of transition is a difficult one for their work force. In the case of British Airways, there was real resentment among its staff, and much the same applies in the ambulance services. The success of the Nothumbrian ambulance service when compared with the London service shows that, however much capital equipment is put into a service, it will not work unless the people who are running the services are working with the system that is introduced.

Privatisation is not just about the timetable, nor is it even just about infrastructure investment. Passengers also need to feel that all railway staff from the top downwards arc having a change of heart. British Airways, British Gas, British Steel, the power companies and the water companies are all now world-beating companies, and undoubtedly a better use has been made of the taxpayers' original investment. I am absolutely confident that the same can be true of the railways.

9.14 pm
Mr. Hugh Bayley (York)

In denigrating British Rail, the hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) asked whether it was conceivable that one would be able to buy English water or wine on a French train. If the hon. Gentleman went to France, he might find that he was riding on a British-built train, as the new tram for Strasbourg was built in my constituency at ABB carriage works in York.

York is a railway town. Eighteen months ago, 4,700 people in York worked for the railway—one in 12 of the work force. In the past 18 months, that number has fallen to 3,500, a drop of 1,200. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) may talk of jolly tea trolley pushers on trains, but there are also thousands of people who have lost their jobs.

One might ask what effect those job losses will have on the passenger. Let me refer to two problems which we have in York. The first is that the 170 employees of Interlogic Control Engineering have been told that they will lose their jobs. The second is that 750 employees of ABB carriage works in York fear that they will be told soon that they will lose their jobs if, in the next seven or eight weeks, the company does not get a further order of the type of trains that it builds.

Signalling is the life-blood of the safety system for the railways, and if 170 signalling engineers are sacked, one builds up problems for the railways. The lack of new rolling stock is something that I do not need to explain, as other Members on both sides of the House have called for investment in new rolling stock.

Since this is a short debate, I must confine myself to two examples. The cause of most—not all—of the fatal railway accidents that have occurred recently is found to be in a signalling fault. One thinks of Clapham, and also—although the reports are not yet out—of the Cowden crash. Last week's crash on the Carlisle to Settle line was another example. In each case, it appears as though a signalling fault or a failure to provide an adequate signalling system was responsible.

Following the Clapham crash, the British Railways Board commissioned the Hesketh report, which identified a huge backlog of investment in signalling. That led to the creation of the British Rail signalling project group, and to the employment of some 1,500 additional skilled signalling engineers. As part of the preparation for privatisation, the signalling project group split into two separate companies—Interlogic Control Engineering and Signal Control UK. As I have mentioned, Interlogic has decided to close its York office with the loss of all 170 of its employees.

The decision was taken—I am told—to make the company viable for sale to the private sector. The managing director, Dr. Geoffrey Cowley, who himself is planning to lead a management buy-out took that decision. He is putting the redundancy costs on to British Rail to produce a company that will suit him when he puts in his management buy-out bid. I met Dr. Cowley last week, and he said that the job losses were inevitable because the company's business plan anticipated that the company would be designing schemes worth £180 million in the current year. It has won design work for schemes worth £105 million, because Railtrack has cut investment in signalling.

Such cuts have a direct effect on the public, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe) said. The collapse of Haymarket interlocking, the signal box, has resulted in months and months of delays for travellers from Glasgow to London, and we heard this evening that those delays continue.

In a Wednesday morning debate two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to debate the job losses at ABB carriage works in York, so I shall not go over that ground again. I simply say that new carriages are badly needed by passengers on the Kent coast services. They are needed to improve the service's reliability, comfort and safety. Despite the fact that those carriages have been promised for five years, in statement after statement from British Rail managers and Transport Ministers, the carriages will not be ordered in the foreseeable future because British Rail says that it will delay replacement until 1999.

I learnt at the end of last year that British Rail was keen to provide a service to customers by ordering those new carriages, but it cannot do so for financial reasons. Sir Bob Reid wrote to me on 21 November last year and said: At present, we have no plans to place orders for new trains, nor do the newly formed rolling stock leasing companies. The financial position this year is extremely difficult … There is insufficient headroom to take on any additional commitments this year, and next year is also likely to be tight. The cause of the problems at both Interlogic and ABB, and for passengers, is lack of investment. I asked the House of Commons Library to dig out the investment figures for me. Those show that in 1992–93, £1,556 million was invested in the railways. The following year, the figure fell to £1,263 million. The Department of Transport's press release on Budget day last November said that the Government intended to put only £750 million of taxpayers' money into the railways next year.

Unlike many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I have set up and run a business, so I know that if one invests, one improves the product and gains a market share whereas if one does not invest, the business goes into a spiral of decline.

Will the Minister now give me an answer to my written question on signalling? Will he place in the Library a copy of the Hesketh report so that we can see what was recommended? What future does he hold out for the 170 signalling engineers in my constituency who have been told that they will be made redundant? What prospect is there that the British Railways Board will decide to place a follow-on order with ABB carriage works within the next seven weeks, ahead of its threat of closing the York carriage works?

9.23 pm
Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

Even in the remaining few moments of the debate, I do not believe that it can take place without reference to our late colleague, Robert Adley. He certainly would have been in his place tonight and producing some trenchant thoughts. In all probability they would not have been entirely in support of the Government, as they seldom were. I am sorry that he is not here.

Like Robert Adley, I have been entirely in favour of the denationalisation of British Rail; my only qualms relate to the Government's method and their approach. All the arguments from the Opposition have been met by the statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who has said that they are curable through the process of denationalisation. Soon may it come.

I believe in the infinite capacity of entrepreneurial activity to meet the requirements of any public user of a service. That is the case equally for the services of British Rail. My goodness, gracious me, such improvements to present services are needed in spades on Network SouthCentral, which travels down through my constituency, beginning with the Brighton line, on to Lewes, along to Eastbourne or down to the coast at Newhaven and Seaford. Passengers on that service have suffered from a diminishing service and a lessening of quality rolling stock for too long. They deserve better. For that reason I shall support the Government's amendment.

My one remaining qualm has to do with timing. The trouble with the plans as presented is that they will take a little time to execute. The trouble with that is that people who will benefit from improved services will not necessarily do so quickly enough to appreciate that the Government's plans are correct. [Interruption.] I hear cackles from the Opposition, but that just shows how little they care about improvements in service. They obviously consider that a worry about bringing those improvements in quickly enough is merely worthy of a cackle. I hope that the Minister will take note of my concern.

I hope that the Government will be able to introduce the improvements in services as a result of the denationalisation in time so that my constituents and others like them will benefit. The qualms that have been raised have been well identified in the final two lines of the Government's amendment, which condemns Her Majesty's Opposition for continuing to rely on scare tactics as a substitute for policy which would enhance passenger services. Those scare tactics have begun to stick not only from the Front Benches but from the Liberal Democrat Benches. There is a hardly a Liberal Democrat local council which has not sent up flak about worsening British Rail services, but the Liberals have no plans to improve them.

I promise the Government my support in the Lobby. My continuing hope is that the Government's plan for denationalisation will work, but that it is carried out with urgency.

9.27 pm
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

Last week, the publication of the passenger service requirement by the franchising director was hailed by the Secretary of State for Transport as the first great advance for the passenger. He said: Satisfying the aspirations of train passengers should be the heart of any policy for the railways. It is the PSR that is supposed to satisfy those aspirations with contractual obligations to provide in certain instances less than a third of the services currently provided; a cut of 70 per cent. in some peak morning services and contracts which will allow operators to miss out services to stations currently served and make other stations optional.

No sooner had the PSR been published than the Secretary of State attempted to distance himself from it, as he did again tonight. He said that the PSR did not represent a timetable and the actual services to be provided.

The Government cannot have it both ways; either the PSR is the answer to rail passengers' prayers or it is not. Either the services that are contained within it are those that will actually be offered, or they are not. If they are, they represent the most savage attack on Britain's rail services since Beeching; if they are not, how on earth can they be described as a great advance for the rail passenger?

As the impact on services becomes apparent, Ministers attempt to reassure with warm, cosy words about every rail passenger's benevolent uncles, the rail regulator and the franchising director. We are reminded that their obligation to protect the interests of rail passengers are enshrined in statute. Yet every time the Rail Regulator or the franchising director makes a pronouncement, such as on minimum service levels or through ticketing, it is suddenly matched by a mad rush from Ministers to tell us that our benevolent uncles are proposing what will never actually happen. Indeed, in the case of the public service requirement, the Secretary of State disowned the proposals in the same speech in which he welcomed them. He added: It is not for me, as Secretary of State, or even Roger Salmon, as the franchising director, to dictate the future timetable. That is for operators and Rai1track". That is the bottom line of rail privatisation. Whatever assurances Ministers give, whatever safeguards they pledge to build into the system, the operators—or rather the market—will decide the level of service.

Despite what we have heard from the Conservative Benches about Labour scaremongering, I give Ministers the opportunity to put a stop to those scares once and for all. Will they guarantee that no rail service will be reduced to the limit outlined in the public service requirement? Will they guarantee that every station described as "optional" in the PSR document will continue to receive the level of service that it does currently? Above all, will they guarantee that the level of service provided nationally following privatisation will not be below that provided by the current timetable?

If Ministers cannot give those guarantees, rail passengers will continue to be scared by their privatisation proposals, and rightly so.

9.30 pm
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

First, I associate myself with what my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) said at the start of his speech about the very sad circumstances that lead to my being in this position tonight, and I know that the thoughts of all of us are with the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLcish), who otherwise would have been here.

The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) is really too modest when he gives the Opposition all the credit for alerting people throughout the country to what is going on in the railways, and for the fact that millions of people—85 per cent. of the population, according to the latest opinion polls—do not wish their madcap scheme to be proceeded with. Of course the hon. Member for Lewes, 12 months or so ago, was one of those so-called Tory rebels who contributed greatly to that mood of awareness.

The tragedy is that the hon. Gentleman gave in. He did not obtain a single concession; the scheme that is going through now is as bad as, or worse than, what he opposed. Even the issue on which he supposedly took the Government to the line, the so-called "Peyton amendment" tabled in the House of Lords, which would give British Rail the right to compete to operate services—the minimum concession that the hon. Gentleman was prepared to vote for at the time—is now being denied by that creature, the franchising director, who has been created by the privatisation process.

The hon. Gentleman may have given in. He may now be starting to defend the proposals to his constituents, but he is too late, and I am delighted to say that to some extent his own handiwork has contributed to that.

Various hon. Members have spoken—those who read out Central Office briefs and those who read out their own important works of literature, such as the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway)—of all the wonderful successes of other privatisations. Most of that is nonsense. If we examined those claims in turn, they could be tested and found wanting.

However, Conservative Members do not understand or will not accept that, in one key respect, railway privatisation is different from every other industry that they have tried to privatise. The key respect is that the railways alone rely for their profitability on political decisions about the level of subsidy. If an industry is profitable, or capable of being made profitable, as all the others were, one might say that entrepreneurial flair can win the day, and we could argue about whether that has been true. However, the railways are different because, as in every other country, they depend on political decisions about subsidy.

That is why I believe that, ultimately, the whole enterprise is doomed to failure. The Government, in their last days, will be unable to give the assurances that any investor needs. That is why the process of debate is so important; it is to inform public opinion, to inform investor opinion and to make it absolutely clear that anyone who puts their money into the railways is putting it into a loser. That process is proceeding very satisfactorily.

What do we hear from Conservative Members tonight? They are right back where they started. The debate has passed them by. All they can do, with their little scripts, is stand up and denigrate British Rail. They did it when the White Paper came out; they did it on Second Reading; they did it in Committee; they have done it in every debate on the railways that has taken place when I have been in the House. Where does it leave them? It leaves them with 85 per cent. of public opinion opposed to railway privatisation. It leaves them with a better informed electorate, and a massive electoral millstone around their neck. Our message to the Government is: carry on. The Government will not manage to privatise the railways but, day after day, people learn what is happening to the railways and they attribute it not just to privatisation, but to the fragmentation of the rail system and the absurdities that have been created in the name of political dogma. The electorate will punish the Government accordingly.

I stood at the Dispatch Box once before and said the same thing about another piece of legislation: the poll tax. The late Robert Adley made that very good analogy. Ultimately, the Government will have to abandon their privatisation plans or pay the political price. That is the choice that they faced over the poll tax and they will face it with the railways as well.

There have been a number of cameos tonight. The hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) is not, I fear, a potential member of Mensa. He seemed to believe that a different ticket collector inspected his ticket each time and that ticket collectors leaped on to overstaffed trains at every station. The hon. Gentleman is not with us at this stage of the evening, but his hon. Friends who are present might suggest gently that it was the same ticket collector.

The hon. Member for South Hams was very concerned—as all Tories are in these Eurosceptical days—about the fact that French wine and French water are served on the trains which speed their way to South Hams. In contrast, he cares nothing about the fact that thousands of jobs will be sacrificed in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Bayley) or that another great British industry is being driven to the wall because, as a result of the Government's railway privatisation policy, we will soon lose the capacity to build trains in this country.

The Secretary of State for Transport has joined us and he shakes his head. Does he deny that 5,000 jobs were lost last year in the railway manufacturing industry as a result of the blight created by the Government's privatisation programme? He can argue with the captains of industry who manufacture trains and with ABB Transportation, which was brought into the country under false pretences. He can argue with the 5,000 workers who lost their jobs and with the 20,000 workers whose jobs are threatened. Despite all the warnings, the Government have not lifted a finger to ensure continuity of orders. That is why the railway manufacturing industry is on its knees.

The Tories care about French wine on British trains; we care about British jobs, British manufacturing and British potential to build trains. In future when the hon. Member for South Hams rides on trains which have been built in Korea or America instead of Britain I suppose that he will worry about the wine, but I hope that he will not be travelling on a Member of Parliament's rail warrant.

The real victims of the privatisation process include the 5,000 people who have lost their jobs in the manufacturing industry. They also include the many workers in York—that great centre of British manufacturing—who fear for their jobs because of the Government's policies and their privatisation programme.

To a large extent, we have talked about hypotheticals tonight; we have talked about what might or might not happen. Let us now talk about what has happened already. Perhaps the Minister who will reply to the debate will tell us about the abolition of the Motorail service. Although they pay lip service to environmental considerations, in 1995 the Government propose to abolish the motorail service.

Let us talk about the rail sleeper service—only two trains will be left out of the six which operate currently. Let us talk about the total loss of overnight passenger services. While Members of Parliament may travel south from Scotland in sleepers, tens of thousands of people pay a modest fare to travel in the passenger carriages at the back of the train. That service will be abolished; there is nothing hypothetical about that.

Let us address the realities and the question of consultation. Throughout the process, the Minister has talked about consultation as a precursor to service cuts. He has confirmed that that is correct, so I will move on to discuss consultation. The consultation takes the form of a press release from Mr. Salmon, stating that the services are to be withdrawn. He states: I do not intend to include sleeper services from London to Carlisle and Fort William. I do not intend to include the Plymouth to Glasgow and Edinburgh sleeper services. It is not intended to include Motorail in the passenger service requirement. Where is the consultation? The subsidy is being withdrawn from the services in May 1995.

In the Secretary of State's absence we found out a little more. As an exercise in duplicity, it rates pretty high, even by the Government's standards. The Minister's reply to the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) was that the services will be withdrawn in May because the subsidy has been taken away.

Dr. Mawhinney


Mr. Wilson

Oh yes, that is what Mr. Salmon says. There is no subsidy. I wish that the Secretary of State would intervene and tell us they are not going to be withdrawn and, if so, why they are not going to be withdrawn in May. There is no point in sitting there smugly saying no if he cannot give us the information.

The intention is that the subsidies will be withdrawn in May, so the services will be withdrawn in May. However, the consultation process will be based on the minimum service specifications which will not be produced until after May. According to the correspondence quoted by the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye, because the services have already been withdrawn, they will not form part of the specifications on which consultation will take place.

The services will not exist, therefore there will be no consultation on them. If that trick is being used to get rid of these rural services, it can be used to get rid of every rural service in Britain.

The message will go out from tonight's debate that that is the trick and the form of duplicity being entered into, and that if it can be used to destroy those services, it can be used on every other service.

I now understand why, in answer to questions tabled for reply today in which I asked Secretary of State in a very precise form of words if he will instruct the Director of Rail Franchising to consult with the rail users' consultative committees, prior to withdrawal of subsidy in respect of Motorail services.". I asked the same question in respect of those sleeper services that are to be withdrawn. It was a straightforward question—will he or will he not do that? His reply was: I will answer these questions shortly. Will he answer them now? Will there or will there not be consultation before the services are withdrawn? If there will not, every word that has been spoken about consultation is worthless and that message will go out to every rural area of Britain where the same tricks can be played.

I want to turn to the interesting reply given yesterday to hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye by the Secretary of State for Transport in regard to the sleeper service to Fort William. It is a specific question, but the principle is universal. He stated: I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the taxpayers' subsidy per person for a sleeper berth on the trip to Fort William, excluding the infrastructure cost, is £180. I do not believe that for a moment. The figure is rigged and if I had time I could tell the House why. Then comes the really interesting bit: If one adds the cost of the infrastructure"— that is the access charges to Railtrack— the subsidy becomes £540."—[Official Report, 6 February 1995; Vol. 254, c. 12.] According to even the Government's figures, everything else costs £180, but the access charges to Railtrack cost £360 per person.

There is no point in the Secretary of State shaking his head. If he is right tonight he was wrong yesterday. Those are the figures he gave. It is an interesting figure because the marginal cost of operating the services for Railtrack is virtually nil, yet they are imposing such a scale of charges upon those services as to make them ludicrously uneconomic. Again the message goes out and anyone who remembers the Beeching era will understand the message, that if figures can be rigged in this way for sleeper services, they will be rigged in future for every other service that they want rid of.

I challenge the Minister on another figure. If there are to be two sleeper services a night instead of six in each direction and at present the access charge for rail services is £17.5 million, one might imagine that the figure would be divided into three and that the access charges would be £5 million or £6 million. That is not so.

Can the Minister confirm that the access charges for two sleeper services as opposed to six will be £16.5 million? In other words, there is no saving to the operators. The access charges are to remain the same. The only difference is that those access charges will be spread over fewer trains and users so, as night follows day, in months or a couple of years from now, equally ludicrous figures will be produced in order to prove the impossibility of keeping such services going. Those are the tricks that are being played and the constituents of Conservative Members will know about it just as we do.

The ludicrous little booklet which contains a speech by the Secretary of State in which he tried to pre-empt public reaction on the passenger service requirement did not work because every journalist who looked at it saw through it and realised that nothing was being given but a great deal was being taken away.

How do we summarise the passenger service requirements? There will be 45 per cent. of the existing timetabled Gatwick express service but no early morning or late night services guaranteed. The current service of 46 trains from Swindon to London daily and 45 from London compares with a PSR of 36 trains to London and 30 from London. Who will speak for Swindon? The current service of 55 trains from Reading to London and 58 from London compares with a PSR of 17 trains each way. Who will speak for Reading? The current service of six trains daily from Penzance to London compares with a PSR of four trains daily. Who will speak for Cornwall?

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)


Mr. Wilson

I am sorry, I cannot give way. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will speak for Cornwall. The Labour party will speak for Cornwall, but there is no Tory Member here tonight to speak for Cornwall or to defend its services against these cuts. The current service of five fast trains an hour in the peak period from Basingstoke to London and three fast trains an hour off peak compares with a PSR of two fast trains an hour to London. Who will speak for Basingstoke?

Basildon—where is the little man who usually jumps up when Basildon is mentioned? The current service of six trains an hour in the peak period from Basildon to London and four trains an hour off peak compares with a PSR of three trains an hour in the peak period and two trains off peak. Who will speak for Basildon? We will speak for Basildon and for every other community that is affected by these cuts.

Public opinion is against the policy. The natural majority in the House is against it. The more people understand it, the more they are opposed to it. It is a madcap scheme. According to the Government's own predictions, it allows from 1997–98 onwards a £600 million profit for the private sector. That goes to the question of what Labour would do. While support for the railway system drops consistently, £600 million is to be creamed off by private operators. The question is not whether we renationalise the railways but whether the country can afford a privatised railway service, and the answer is that it cannot.

9.47 pm
The Minister for Railways and Roads (Mr. John Watts)

The House will have noted that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) did not answer the question whether the Labour party, if it were ever in Government, would wish to renationalise the railway system.

I am surprised and disappointed that, despite the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my own, Opposition Members have neither learnt their lessons well nor done their homework properly. Faced with the simple question, "What is a passenger service requirement?" they resort to the schoolboy's answer, "Not taught yet." Let me try again.

A passenger service requirement is not a timetable. It is based on the existing timetable, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), the former Minister for Public Transport, explained at the end of the Second Reading debate on the Railways Bill two years and five days ago. A PSR is a guaranteed level of service for rail passengers and a contractual obligation on a train operator to provide at least that level of service.

A PSR ensures that every route and every destination is covered. The greater the commercial viability of a service, the more likely the obligation will be specified to maximise the scope to respond to passengers' needs. The greater the social need for a service and the more it is dependent on subsidy, the more closely the specification will follow the levels of service in the current timetable.

The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) is simply wrong in his assertion that non-franchise services, those that are still waiting to be franchised at any time, will be starved of funds.

The principles that I have outlined are, of course, reflected in the first four PSRs announced by the franchising director last week. Opposition Members are transfixed by minima. The hon. Member for Streatham was a good example of that. They cannot believe that anyone in the private sector would choose to do more than the bare minimum that he or she is obliged to do. I understand their dilemma. It stems from their political philosophy. The Labour party is the party of the lowest common denominator. All that it understands is levelling down. The work-to-rule mentality of its trade union mentors permeates of its thinking.

My difficulty is that we do not yet have private sector operators of passenger train networks, although, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) was right to draw attention to the increasing role of charter operators. We do, of course, have evidence of the attitudes of the directors of the British Rail train operating units, who have adapted with great enthusiasm to the greater freedoms that restructuring has already provided. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) commented on that. As he said, railway nostalgia will not do. Those who are running the railways are looking forward, not backwards, and are developing services to meet the needs of their customers.

Mr. Home Robertson

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Watts

I have very little time, and there are many points that I wish to cover, so I am afraid that I cannot give way.

Each of the train operating units has negotiated track access rights to operate more services than those that are included even in the current timetable. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley was absolutely right: British Airways does not need to be forced to run services or offer inter-available tickets. It does those things because it makes commercial sense. It is a way in which it can make money. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) cited other instances of privatisation bringing improved services. Why should privatisation of the railways have any different outcome?

The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) referred to the position of Scottish sleeper services, as did the hon. Members for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) and for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe). They spoke as though there had been no consultation whatever. Yet if they have seen the letter from Mr. Salmon to the convener of Highland regional council, they will know—[Interruption.] I have a copy of it here. The letter explains: Following meetings in Scotland with local conveners, the rail users consultative committee for Scotland and the convention of Scottish local authorities, I decided that the best course of action was for OPRAF to be as open as possible about our policy intentions at the earliest opportunity. To delay an announcement until the consultation process for ScotRail was under way would have meant many months of further uncertainty.

Mr. Charles Kennedy

I thank the Minister for giving way and would like to give him an opportunity, which I gave earlier but which he did not take up, to clarify his thinking and that of the Secretary of State on the adverse comments by the chairman of the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee. Does the Minister back the plea made to Mr. Salmon by the chairman of the RUCC?

Mr. Watts

The chairman of the RUCC is making his views known. That is part of the consultation process. The House established those consultative committees to fulfil that role.

It will be perfectly clear that the allegation that there has been no consultation is false. As I explained earlier, in an intervention—

Mr. Wilson

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Watts

No. I cannot now. I have seven minutes left.

Mr. Wilson


Mr. Watts

I am not giving way, Madam Speaker. [Interruption.] As I explained to the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye, the publication of the PSR for ScotRail will provide an opportunity for consultation in the formal sense between the local authorities and all those other bodies. The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North, in winding up—

Mr. Wilson

Will the Minister give way?

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Madam Speaker

Order. I shall deal with this matter. Is the Minister giving way?

Mr. Watts

No, Madam Speaker.

The hon. Gentleman, when winding up, referred to services to Reading. I appreciate the difficulty that Opposition Members—and, indeed, some journalists—have in understanding the PSR for services to Reading. It is couched in terms similar to those of an 11-plus verbal reasoning test question—the sort in which John is younger than Margaret but wiser than Tony; hon. Members will know the sort of question that I mean.

The PSR specifies an hourly service with at least 17 trains daily and 10 arrivals at Paddington between 7.30 am and 9.15 am. Elementary arithmetic leads us to the conclusion that at least 25 trains will be needed to meet that minimum requirement. In fact, Great Western Trains is likely to maintain a much more substantial service, not for reasons of altruism but to make money—yes, to make a profit.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and others posed a question that has been posed many times before: why not make the current timetable the passenger service requirement? If he listened to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, he will now know the pattern of services and the way in which it is to be specified in the PSR.

PSRs for commuter services on London-TilburySouthend trains, and on south-west trains, do not allow services to be decimated, as has been alleged, but will oblige operators to run at least 90 per cent. of trains on the current timetable to meet the frequency requirements, as well as additional trains in peak periods to limit overcrowding. Those two elements provide a much better guarantee of a decent service than the fossilisation of the current timetable that "old Labour" wants.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) mentioned rumours of heavy cuts in services this May. They are rumours—just that—with no foundation in fact. Opposition Members should not believe everything they read in newspapers, especially stories that seek to gain credibility by claiming to be leaks of confidential documents. The directors of the four train operating units whose PSRs were announced last week have made it clear that they intend no reduction in services; on the contrary, they are looking for opportunities to expand services further.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) made an excellent speech, painting a graphic word picture of services in the west country. He does not want to preserve current services; his expectation, which I share, is that the private sector will improve services rather than impairing them. He was also able to claim some credit for scotching the evil rumour that the Penzance sleeper service was under attack.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) asked whether the benefits would come quickly enough. He will know that Network SouthCentral is likely to be included in the next tranche of franchises to be announced later this year, and I assure him that we shall try to ensure that the benefits of franchising are introduced as rapidly as possible.

I confessed earlier that I was unable to give an example of private operators running passenger train networks, but I can give another example of the benefits of transport privatisation. The National Express coach is a familiar sight on our motorways. National Express was a subsidiary of the National Bus Company created by a Labour Government in 1968; in March 1988 it was privatised by sale to its management. Since privatisation, it has expanded its network to 180 routes, serving 1,200 destinations and carrying 10.5 million passengers. It did not achieve that success by paring down its services or ignoring the needs of its passengers.

On 24 November last year I went to Liverpool to open a new purpose-built coach station. National Express had noticed that its business in Liverpool had declined since the closure of the old coach station. Some of its customers, including the Merseyside pensioners' association, had mounted a vigorous campaign for a new coach station. It was in response to customers' demands that the new coach station was planned and built, and I had the pleasure of opening it. I understand that passenger numbers increased, even in expectation that the station would be built.

Perhaps Opposition Members will now understand why I have confidence in the ability of the private sector to respond to passengers' needs, and why I believe that private rail operators will build their businesses by extending their services, not by cutting them.

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

The House divided: Ayes 265, Noes 302.

Division No. 66] [10.00 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ainger, Nick Armstrong, Hilary
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Allen, Graham Ashton, Joe
Alton, David Austin-Walker, John
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry Fyfe, Maria
Barron, Kevin Galbraith, Sam
Battle, John Galloway, George
Bayley, Hugh Gapes, Mike
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret George, Bruce
Beith, Rt Hon A J Gerrard, Neil
Bell, Stuart Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Godman, Dr Norman A
Bennett, Andrew F Godsiff, Roger
Bermingham, Gerald Golding, Mrs Llin
Berry, Roger Gordon, Mildred
Betts, Clive Grant Bernie (Tottenham)
Blunkett, David Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Boateng, Paul Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boyes, Roland Grocott, Bruce
Bradley, Keith Gunned, John
Bray, Dr Jererny Hall, Mike
Brown, Gordon (Dunfemline E) Hanson, David
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hardy, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Harman, Ms Harriet
Burden, Richard Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Byers, Stephen Henderson, Doug
Caborn, Richard Heppell, John
Callaghan, Jim Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hodge, Margaret
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hoey, Kate
Campbell-Savours, D N Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Caravan, Dennis Home Robertson, John
Cann, Jamie Hood, Jimmy
Chidgey, David Hoon, Geoffrey
Chisholm, Malcolm Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Church, Judith Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clapham, Michael Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clelland, David Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hutton, John
Coffey, Ann Illsley, Eric
Cohen, Harry Ingram, Adam
Connarty, Michael Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Corbett, Robin Jackson, Helen (Sheild, H)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jamieson, David
Corston, Jean Janner, Grevile
Cousins, Jim Johnston, Sir Russell
Cox, Tom Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cummings, John Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jones, Martyn (Ctwyd, SW)
Dalyell, Tarn Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Darling, Alistair Jowel, Tessa
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Keen, Alan
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Denham, John Khabra, Piara S
Dewar, Donald Kilfoyle, Peter
Dixon, Don Kirkwood, Archy
Dobson, Frank Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Donohoe, Brian H Lewis, Terry
Dowd, Jim Liddell, Mrs Helen
Dunnachie, Jimmy Litherland, Robert
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Livingstone, Ken
Eagle, Ms Angela Lloyd, Tony (Stratford)
Eastham, Ken Llwyd, Elfyn
Enright, Derek Loyden, Eddie
Etherington, Bill Lynne, Ms Liz
Evans, John (St Helens N) McAllion, John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret McAvoy, Thomas
Fatchett, Derek McCartney, Ian
field, Frank (Birkenhead) Macdonald, Calum
Fisher, Mark McFall,John
Flynn, Paul McKelvey, William
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Mackinlay, Andrew
Foster, Don (Bath) McMaster, Gordon
Fraser, John McNamara, Kevin
MacShane, Denis Rooker, Jeff
McWilliam.John Rooney, Terry
Madden, Max Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Maddock, Diana Rowlands, Ted
Mahon, Alice Ruddock, Joan
Mandelson, Peter Sedgemore, Brian
Marek, DrJohn Sheerman, Barry
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Short, Clare
Martlew, Eric Simpson, Alan
Maxton, John Skinner, Dennis
Meacher, Michael Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Meale, Alan Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Michael, Alun Smith, Liew (Blaenau Gwent)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Snape, Peter
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Soley, Clive
Milburn, Alan Spearing, Nigel
Miller, Andrew Spellar, John
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Steinberg, Gerry
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Stevenson, George
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Stott, Roger
Mudie, George Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mullin, Chris Straw, Jack
Oakes. Rt Hon Gordon Sutcliffe, Gerry
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
olner Bill Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Neill, Martin Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Timms, Stephen
Parry, Robert Tipping, Paddy
Turner, Dennis
Patchett, Terry Tyler Paul
Pearson, Ian Vaz, Keith
Pendry, Tom Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Pickthall, Colin Wallace, James
Pike, Peter L Walley, Joan
Pope, Greg Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wareing, Robert N
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Wicks, Malcolm
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wigley, Dafydd
Prescott, Rt Hon John Williams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)
Primarolo, Dawn Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Quin, Ms Joyce Wilson, Brian
Raynsford, Nick Wise, Audrey
Redmond, Martin Worthington, Tony
Reid, Dr John Wray, Jimmy
Rendel, David Young, David (Bolton SE)
Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Tellers for the Ayes:
Roche, Mrs Barbara Mr. Joe Benton and Mr. Eric Clarke.
Rogers, Allan
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Bendall, Vivian
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Beresford, Sir Paul
Alexander, Richard Body, Sir Richard
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Booth, Hartley
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Ancram, Michael Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Arbuthnot, James Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bowden, Sir Andrew
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bowis, John
Ashby, David Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Atkins, Robert Brandreth, Gyles
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Brazier, Julian
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bright, Sir Graham
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Baldry, Tony Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Browning, Mrs Angela
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Bates, Michael Budgen, Nicholas
Batiste, Spencer Burns, Simon
Bellingham, Henry Burt, Altstair
Butcher, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Butler, Peter Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Butterfill, John Hannam, Sir John
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hargreaves, Andrew
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Harris, David
Carrington, Matthew Haselhurst, Alan
Carttiss, Michael Hawkins, Nick
Cash.William Hawksley, Warren
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayes, Jerry
Churchill, Mr Heald, Oliver
clappison, James Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Hendry, Charles
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hicks, Robert
Colvin, Michael Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Congdon, David Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Conway, Derek Horam.John
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Couchman, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cran, James Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunter, Andrew
Day, Stephen Jack, Michael
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Dicks, Terry Jenkin, Bernard
Dorrel, Rt Hon Stephen Jessel, Toby
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dover, Den Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Duncan, Alan Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Duncan Smith, Iain Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dunn, Bob Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Durant, Sir Anthony Key, Robert
Dykes, Hugh Kilfedder, Sir James
Elletson, Harold King, Rt Hon Tom
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knapman, Roger
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knight Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Knox, Sir David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Faber, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Fabricant, Michael Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Fishburn, Dudley Legg, Barry
Forman, Nigel Leigh, Edward
Forth, Eric Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lidington, David
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Lightbown, David
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
French, Douglas Lord, Michael
Fry, Sir Peter Luff, Peter
Gale, Roger Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Gallie, Phil MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan MacKay, Andrew
Garnier, Edward Maclean, David
Gill, Christopher McLoughlin, Patrick
Gillan, Cheryl McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Madel, Sir David
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Maitland, Lady Olga
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Malone, Gerald
Gorst, Sir John Mans, Keith
Grant,Sir A (SW Cambs) Marland, Paul
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Marlow, Tony
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Grylls, Sir Michael Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mates, Michael
Hague, William Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Merchant, Piers
Mills, Iain Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedlling) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Spring, Richard
Moate, Sir Roger Sproat Iain
Monro, Sir Hector Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Nelson, Anthony Steen, Anthony
Neubert, Sir Michael Stephen, Michael
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stern, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Allan
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Streeter, Gary
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Sumberg, David
Norris, Steve Sweeney, Walter
Onslow, Rt Hon SirCranley Tapsell, Sir Peter
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Page, Richard Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Paice, James Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Patnick, Sir Irvine Temple-Morris, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon John Thomason, Roy
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Pawsey, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thurnham, Peter
Pickles, Eric Townend, John (Bridlington)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Porter, David (Waveney) Tracey, Richard
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tredirnnick, David
Powell, William (Corby) Trend, Michael
Rathbone,Tim Trotter, Neville
Redwood, Rt Hon John Twinn, Dr Ian
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Richards, Rod Viggers, Peter
Riddick, Graham Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Walden, George
Robathan, Andrew Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Waller, Gary
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Ward, John
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Waterson, Nigel
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Watts, John
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wells, Bowen
Sackville, Tom Whitney, Ray
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Whittingdale, John
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Widdecombe, Ann
Shaw, David (Dover) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Willetts, David
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Wilshire, David
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Shersby, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Sims, Roger Wood, Timothy
Skeet, Sir Trevor Yeo, Tim
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Soames, Nicholas Tellers for the Noes:
Speed, Sir Keith Mr. Sidney Chapman and Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.
Spencer, Sir Derek

Question accordingly negatived.

Question,That the proposed words be there added,put forthwith pursuand to Standing Order No.30(Questions on amendments):-

The House divided:Ayes 295,Noes 263.

Division No. 67] [10.15 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Day, Stephen
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Deva, Nirj Joseph
Alexander, Richard Dicks, Terry
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Amess, David Dover, Den
Ancram, Michael Duncan, Alan
Arbuthnot, James Duncan Smith, Iain
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dunn, Bob
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Durant, Sir Anthony
Ashby, David Dykes, Hugh
Atkins, Robert Elletson, Harold
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Baldry, Tony Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Evennett, David
Bates, Michael Faber, David
Batiste, Spencer Fabricant, Michael
Bellingham, Henry Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bendall, Vivian Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Beresford, Sir Paul Fishburn, Dudley
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Forman, Nigel
Booth, Hartley Forth, Eric
Boswell, Tim Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Bowden, Sir Andrew French, Douglas
Bowis, John Fry, Sir Peter
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gale, Roger
Brandreth, Gyles Gallie, Phil
Brazier, Julian GarelJones, Rt Hon Tristan
Bright Sir Graham Garnier, Edward
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gill, Christopher
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Gillan, Cheryl
Browning, Mrs Angela Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bruce, Ian (Dorset) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Budgen, Nicholas Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Burns, Simon Gorst, Sir John
Burt, Alistair Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)
Butcher, John Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butler, Peter Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, William
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Cash, William Hampson.Dr Keith
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Chapman, Sydney Hannam, Sir John
Churchill, Mr Hargreaves, Andrew
Clappison, James Harris, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Haselhurst Alan
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Hawkins, Nick
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hawksley, Warren
Congdon, David Hayes, Jerry
Conway, Derek Heald, Oliver
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hendry, Charles
Couchman, James Hicks, Robert
Cran, James Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'byire) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Horam, John
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Davis, David (Boothferry) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pickles, Eric
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunter, Andrew Rathbone, Tim
Jack, Michael Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jenkin, Bernard Richards, Rod
Jessel, Toby Riddick, Graham
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Robathan, Andrew
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Key, Robert Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Kilfedder, Sir James Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
King, Rt Hon Tom Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knapman, Roger Sackville, Tom
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Knox, Sir David Shaw, David (Dover)
Kynoch, George (Khcardine) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shersby, Michael
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Sims, Roger
Legg, Barry Skeet, Sir Trevor
Leigh, Edward Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Soames, Nicholas
Lidington, David Speed, Sir Keith
Lightbown, David Spencer, Sir Derek
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lord, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Luff, Peter Spring, Richard
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Sproat, Iain
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Squire, Robin (Homchurch)
MacKay, Andrew Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Maclean, David Steen, Anthony
McLoughlin, Patrick Stephen, Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stern, Michael
Madel, Sir David Stewart, Allan
Maitland, Lady Olga Streeter, Gary
Malone, Gerald Sumberg, David
Mans, Keith Sweeney, Walter
Marland, Paul Tapsell, Sir Peter
Marlow, Tony Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Temple-Morris, Peter
Mates, Michael Thomason, Roy
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Merchant Piers Thurnham, Peter
Mills, Iain Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mitchel, Andrew (Gedling) Townsend, Cyril D (Baxl'yh'th)
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Tracey, Richard
Moate, Sir Roger Trednnick, David
Monro, Sir Hector Trend, Michael
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Trotter, Neville
Nelson, Anthony Twim, Dr Ian
Neubert, Sir Michael Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Viggers, Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Waldegrave. Rt Hon William
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Walden, George
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Norris, Steve Waller, Gary
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Ward, John
Ottaway, Richard Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Page, Richard Waterson, Nigel
Paice, James Watts, John
Patnick, Sir Irvine Wells, Bowen
Patten, Rt Hon John Whitney, Ray
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Whittingdale, John
Pawsey, James Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, Sir Jerry Wood, Timothy
Willetts, David Yeo,Tim
Wilshire, David Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld) Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and Dr. Llam Fox.
Wolfson, Mark
Abbott, Ms Diane Denham, John
Ainger, Nick Dewar, Donald
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dixon, Don
Allen, Graham Dobson, Frank
Alton, David Donohoe, Brian H
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dowd, Jim
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Armstrong, Hilary Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Eagle, Ms Angela
Ashton,Joe Eastham, Ken
Austin-Walker, John Enright, Derek
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Etherington, Bill
Barnes, Harry Evans, John (St Helens N)
Barron, Kevin Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Battle, John Fatchett, Derek
Bayley.Hugh Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Fisher, Mark
Beith, Rt Hon A J Flynn, Paul
Bell, Stuart Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Foster, Don (Bath)
Bennett, Andrew F Fraser.John
Bermingham, Gerald Fyfe, Maria
Berry, Roger Galbraith, Sam
Betts, Clive Galloway, George
Blunkett, David Gapes, Mike
Boateng, Paul George, Bruce
Boyes, Roland Gerrard, Neil
Bradley, Keith Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Godman, Dr Norman A
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Godsiff, Roger
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Golding, Mrs Llin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gordon, Mildred
Burden, Richard Grant Bernie (Tottenham)
Byers, Stephen Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caborn, Richard Grocott, Bruce
Callaghan, Jim Gunnell, John
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hall, Mike
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hanson, David
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hardy, Peter
Campbell-Savours, D N Harman, Ms Harriet
Canavan, Dennis Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cann, Jamie Henderson, Doug
Chidgey, David Heppell, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Church, Judith Hinchliffe, David
Clapham, Michael Hodge, Margaret
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hogg, Norman (Cumbemauld)
Clelland, David Home Robertson, John
Ctwyd, Mrs Ann Hood, Jimmy
Coffey, Ann Hoon, Geoffrey
Cohen, Harry Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Connarty, Michael Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cox, Tom Hutton,John
Cummings, John Illsley, Eric
Cunliffe, Lawrence Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Dalyell, Tarn Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Darling, Alistair Jamieson, David
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Janner, Greville
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Johnston, Sir Russell
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Hdge H'I) Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Pope, Greg
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jowell, Tessa Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Prescott, Rt Hon John
Keen, Alan Primarolo, Dawn
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Quin, Ms Joyce
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Raynsford, Nick
Khabra, Piara S Redmond, Martin
Kilfoyle, Peter Reid, Dr John
Kirkwood, Archy Rendel, David
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Lewis, Terry Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Liddell, Mrs Helen Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lithertand, Robert Rogers, Allan
Livingstone, Ken Rooker, Jeff
Lloyd, Tony (Stratford) Rooney, Terry
Llwyd, Elfyn Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Loyden, Eddie Rowlands, Ted
Lynne, Ms Liz Ruddock, Joan
McAllion, John Sedgemore, Brian
McAvoy, Thomas Sheerman, Barry
McCartney, Ian Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Macdonald, Calum Short, Clare
McFall, John Simpson, Alan
McKelvey, William Skinner, Dennis
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McMaster, Gordon Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
MacShane, Denis Snape, Peter
McWilliam, John Soley.Clive
Madden, Max Spearing, Nigel
Maddock, Diana Spellar, John
Mahon, Alice Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Mandelson, Peter Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Marek,DrJohn Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall, David (Shettleeston) Stevenson, George
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Stott, Roger
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Martlew, Eric Straw, Jack
Maxton, John Sutcliffe, Gerry
Meacher, Michael Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Meale,Alan Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Michael, Alun Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Timms, Stephen
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Tipping, Paddy
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Turner, Dennis
Milburn, Alan Tyler, Paul
Miller, Andrew Vaz, Keith
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Walley, Joan
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Wareing, Robert N
Mudie, George Wicks, Malcolm
Mulin, Chris Wigley, Dafydd
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Williams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Wiliams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Olner, Bill Wilson, Brian
O'Neil, Martin Wise, Audrey
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Worthington, Tony
Parry, Robert Wray, Jimmy
Patchett, Terry Young, David (Botton SE)
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom Tellers for the Noes:
Pickthall, Colin Mr. Joe Benton and Mr. Eric Clarke.
Pike, Peter L

Question accordingly agreed to.

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

Resolved, That this House welcomes the Franchising Director's consultation document on Passenger Service Requirements which, for the first time, introduces guarantees of service for passengers; supports the Government in its determination not to freeze the existing timetable but to create space for the private sector to develop new and additional services based on current timetables which are more attuned to the needs of passengers; supports the Government in its determination to halt the decline in railway use by both passengers and freight customers; and condemns Her Majesty's Opposition for continuing to rely on scare tactics as a substitute for a policy which would enhance passenger services.

  2. c251