HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 cc106-8
41. Sir Sydney Chapman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement about the funding of London Underground. [4704]

Mr. Prescott

The hon. Gentleman's party left us with a legacy of reductions in Government funding for London Underground and cost overruns on the Jubilee line extension. Together, they total more than £700 million. Those reductions were made to funding levels which were already below what London Underground needed. Against that background, we are looking urgently at the options for public-private partnerships to increase investment in the core underground network.

Sir Sydney Chapman

As the right hon. Gentleman adopts that attitude, perhaps he would like to confirm that annual investment in London Underground, excluding special projects such as the Jubilee line extension, has averaged more than £500 million a year during the 1990s. That compares with an average annual investment of less than £50 million in the 1970s. On reflection, does he agree that commendable progress has been made, that the problem facing London Underground is the chronic under-investment of the 1960s and 1970s, and that the best way forward would be privatisation, using the receipts for the necessary investment?

Mr. Prescott

I could bandy figures with the hon. Gentleman about the past but, in reality, last year's investment figures are similar to those for 1979, when the last Government came to power. Whatever the case, London Underground has insufficient resources to meet the investment requirements of a modernised system. That is the situation which I inherited from the Conservative party. I intend to meet investment requirements through the study that we are doing on public-private partnerships. While the last Government talked about full privatisation of the underground, which we totally reject, there was no guarantee that the moneys from its sale would have gone towards investment in London Underground.