HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 c101
34. Mr. Kidney

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will review the claims-handling procedure in the privatised railway industry. [4697]

Ms Glenda Jackson

The Rail Industry Disputes Resolution Committee is currently reviewing the claims-handling procedures for licensed operators. In addition, the Rail Regulator is reviewing third party liability insurance for vehicles outside the licensing regime.

Mr. Kidney

Does my hon. Friend agree that the first test of the Tory Government's claim scheme for privatised railways came at Stafford in March 1996, when two trains collided, two Royal Mail workers died, more than 20 were injured and one train left the track and struck a row of houses? All the licensed companies had to do was deny liability and the whole scheme collapsed. Some 16 months later, no one has been helped. Will the Minister consider that story and see whether some good can be rescued from it? Will she assure me that the Labour Government will improve the system for handling claims?

Ms Jackson

As my hon. Friend is aware, decisions on liability and compensation following the Stafford accident are matters for the parties involved and, ultimately, the courts. However, I sincerely hope that the railway industry will recognise the suffering that has been experienced by his constituents and settle claims, even though no party admits liability. I intend to write to Railtrack, English, Welsh and Scottish Railways and CAIB UK Ltd. on the issue and I assure my hon. Friend that I shall represent his concerns and his constituents' suffering in the strongest possible terms.