HC Deb 27 January 1998 vol 305 cc214-52
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. Although there is no 10-minutes rule on this debate, I appeal for short speeches, so that as many hon. Members as possible can get into the debate.

7.46 pm
Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

I beg to move,

That this House condemns the delay of the Government in bringing forward proposals for private investment to develop London Underground; believes that such delay is against the interests of both those working for London Underground and the travelling public; and calls on the Government to bring forward urgently plans that will both sustain adequate investment in the system and improve operation. We last raised the issue of London Underground more than seven months ago, in June. We did so because we wanted some clarity about the Government's position. In government, we set out our policies for bringing private investment to the underground. We did that in 1996 and, especially, in the statement made by the then Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), in February 1997.

Those policies were rejected by the Labour party, and when it came to power it committed itself to what it termed a public-private partnership. The heads of London Underground were summoned to an urgent meeting with Ministers, literally within days of the Labour Government taking over, and the message went out from the Deputy Prime Minister that immediate action was wanted.

The Government's amendment to our Supply day motion in June asked the House to applaud the Government's swift action on options for public-private partnerships to improve the Underground".—[Official Report, 25 June 1997; Vol. 296, c. 866.] The phrase "swift action" does not appear in the Government's amendment today. A lot of words appear, but not those; and for very good reason.

Seven months later, in January 1998, we have a better criterion for judging the Government's swift action on the London underground: nothing has happened; the Government train is lost in a tunnel; and, far from there being a sense of urgency, we know neither what their policy is or even what their concept of public-private partnership is. We know that there has been an argument between the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Treasury.

We know that the Paymaster General has resisted some of the wackier ideas coming from Transport Ministers about private investment; but while he sits contemplating his offshore trusts, the management of London Underground and, above all, the passengers, wait and wait for some glimmer of policy from Ministers.

That is not the only transport project held up by Ministers; others have similarly disappeared, as the Department has become the Bermuda triangle of Whitehall.

If we take National Air Traffic Services, for example, there is a clear need for investment. It is self-financing and part of a growth business. It would make complete sense to take it out of the public sector borrowing requirement and enable it to make use of commercial sources of finance. But the Government continue to delay, prevented by the statements that they made in opposition from pursuing common-sense solutions in government. The same is true of the Government's policy on the underground. The policy has been brought to a halt on political grounds and not for any sound reason of transport policy.

No one doubts the importance of the London underground system. There are almost 800 million passenger journeys a year on the system. It is central to any policy to make public transport in London more attractive. No one doubts the potential of the system. If the regularity, reliability and quality can be improved—as they can—even more passengers can be attracted to the underground, with environmental and other benefits. The system is central to any policy to persuade more commuters to switch from car to public transport.

There is one other fact. We all know that only private investment can achieve the full potential of the system—that has been established beyond any doubt. It is the way forward, set out by the last Conservative Government. It is the way forward which Labour Ministers are reluctantly seeking to come to terms with.

Over the past 35 years, there has been substantial public investment in the underground system. In February 1997, the Transport Select Committee printed the evidence from London Transport on underground investment. This showed that since 1960, core investment—including renewals—has averaged £250 million a year at 1997–98 prices. That average was not brought down by the last Conservative Government—it was brought up. At no period during previous Labour Governments did their investment programme come up to £250 million—not once in the years that they were in power.

What brought the average up was the investment programme of the last Conservative Government—particularly from the mid-1980s onwards. In the 1990s, we invested £3 billion in the underground. Even earlier than that—at the time I took over as Secretary of State for Transport—we managed substantially to improve the investment programme left by the previous Labour Government. We take no lessons from the Labour party on capital investment. Anyone who can remember anything about politics will remember the capital cuts imposed by the last Labour Government. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) would like to correct any of the figures that I have given, I will gladly give way.

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow)

indicated dissent.

Sir Norman Fowler

I am sure that the hon. Lady will take part in the debate with her usual skill.

As virtually every commentator now agrees, the future lies with private investment. What is more, given the right plan, there is no reason why private investment cannot be attracted to London Underground for the infrastructure and the rolling stock. Given the right policies, we could be standing on the verge of the most exciting modernisation programme for London Underground since the war.

What are the Government waiting for? We all know one reason for the delay. They know that private investment is the only way forward, but they cannot bring themselves to set out a policy which could be called privatisation. Their heart is not in private investment. Let us take the voyage of discovery of the Deputy Prime Minister as an example. Back in 1981—when I was Secretary of State for Transport—when we were denationalising the ports of the British Transport Docks Board and some of the subsidiaries of British Rail, such as the hotels, in the Transport Bill of that year, no one could have been more hostile than the Deputy Prime Minister.

In the Second Reading debate, the Deputy Prime Minister wound up for the Opposition and said: Nationalised industries have been disadvantaged by successive Governments over the past few years. They have not received sufficient money for investment. That is the unpalatable fact. That was because of Treasury rules on the amount of investment … It should be made clear to all who seek to buy shares in these companies that they will not benefit from their action. As soon as the Labour Opposition are returned to power, they will take the quickest means possible to regain control of these sectors and to withdraw the obstacles that have prevented their development in the past."—[Official Report, 13 January 1981; Vol. 996, c. 932.] We are still waiting for that action. That shows the authentic voice of the Deputy Prime Minister. He wants to see the Treasury rules relaxed, the continuation of public ownership and the expansion of public investment. That is a perfectly legitimate position. It was, after all, the position of the Labour party for most of its period in opposition. There was nothing about private investment in Labour's speeches—that came very late on the scene.

The only trouble with that traditional Labour party view is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not agree with it. As the Chancellor is, according to his own account, the real Prime Minister—with only a vague President figure above him—the Chancellor's will prevails. The result is that Transport Ministers have been desperately trying to find some half-way house between privatisation and the present public ownership system. That is a fact. Yet as they work, examples of successful private investment come in to mock their efforts.

On Friday, I was at Heathrow airport, looking at the transport infrastructure there. The British Airports Authority—itself privatised—is now on the verge of opening the brand new Heathrow Express service all the way into the airport. The cost of £440 million will be borne by the company—that is the investment. A privatised company setting up and financing an entirely new railways service; that would never have happened in the public sector. There is no doubt about that.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman was on the inaugural journey, when the train broke down.

Sir Norman Fowler

I wish I had not given way to the hon. Gentleman. I shall try to get him to concentrate on this point. It is true that customers have to be taken on by coach, but, over the next month, we will have a service which goes right through to the terminal. I would have thought that anyone interested in transport, London and the travelling public would welcome that. Yet a trivial point is raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. McDonnell

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Norman Fowler

I will not give way. The intervention was so trivial the first time that I cannot bear to hear it the second time.

Railtrack plans to spend more than £10 billion over the next 10 years renewing and developing the rail network. Let us take the joint investment programme to transform the west coast main line—my local line back to Birmingham, about which the Minister conceivably knows a little. Some £2.1 billion has been invested by Railtrack and £750 million by the Virgin rail group for new trains. That would not have been achieved in the public sector. There is no doubt about that. Local Members of Parliament pressed British Rail to do that year after year, but it was not done.

More frequent and reliable trains will result in the journey time to Manchester being cut eventually to one hour 45 minutes, and the journey time to Birmingham being cut to under one hour 15 minutes. By any standards, those are dramatic improvements. However, rather than taking the obvious course of privatisation, Labour Ministers go round and round the course again, seeking other options.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman, and much of what he says about the past investment record is true. Just to ensure that the record is clear for this debate, does the Conservative party now argue that London Underground should in future have no public investment—that it should be entirely privatised and all its funding raised by the private sector in the private market?

Sir Norman Fowler

I shall come to that point and to our proposed solution; it is integral to the argument that I am developing. First, however, let me draw attention to the fact that, by any standards, the privatisation of the railway system has led to tremendous gains for investment in the system. Of course we have not seen the full product yet. It would be unrealistic to say that we had done so or that we could do so in the next year or two, but I do not doubt that in the next three, four or five years it will become obvious that the system is in the process of being transformed.

With that evidence, and with that proof, I find it curious that Labour Ministers, instead of taking the obvious course of privatisation—the obvious course of private investment—seek other options, which become progressively more complex and which, in the end, in my view, are unlikely to serve the interests of the public. For the purposes of this transport debate, we must decide whose side we are on. We are not on the side of the providers. We are not on the side of the unions. The criterion is the interests of the travelling public.

Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon)

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the obvious course of privatisation. If it is such an obvious course, I wonder whether he can name a single major city in the European Union with an underground system that has seen the light and followed the course of privatisation.

Sir Norman Fowler

One could have said that about any of the privatisations that successive Conservative Governments initiated from 1979 onwards. I can remember it—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wishes, I shall tell him that his intervention was very similar to the argument used by the present Deputy Prime Minister when he opposed the denationalisation of the British Transport Docks Board. "How many ports have been in private ownership?" asked Labour Members at the time. Well, we denationalised the ports and it has been a remarkable success. That does not constitute an argument.

An option that the Government are now examining—many say their favourite—is to divide the infrastructure company from the operating company and to keep the operating company in public ownership while giving, say, 30-year leases to two or three infrastructure companies. By any standards, that is a fairly complex proposal, but basically, the objections to it are twofold. First, it is obviously fundamentally different from the Railtrack solution, because in that case both infrastructure provider and operator are in the private sector and have similar interests in developing the business.

It is no secret that the management of London Underground does not want the system to be broken up; it has made that clear. However, I can think of few worse ways of dividing the system than to keep the operator in the public sector and divide the infrastructure by granting three private leases. There is unlimited potential for dispute in such a system. That option might please one or two unions, but it will not benefit the travelling public in London.

Secondly, and even more fundamentally, we object to the idea that the operating company stays in so-called public ownership. Experience has shown that the advantages of privatisation go far beyond giving companies investment freedom. That is only part of the case for privatisation. The other part is that it gives management more freedom to manage. All too often, public ownership means management interference from civil servants and Ministers—people who have never experienced running a business. That is the management case for privatisation.

The most remarkable feature of successful privatisation has been that the success of privatised companies has been achieved, not by importing shoals of new managers into the company, but by empowering existing management. I mentioned the British Transport Docks Board. Its success as Associated British Ports and as one of the top 200 British companies has been achieved by many of the managers and staff who worked for it before privatisation—the vast majority.

I shall now answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). In my view, the real options for London Underground are the three options that were set out by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire when he was Transport Secretary in February 1997. The three options were the sale of London Underground as a single business; the sale or franchising of, let us say, three vertically integrated lines or groups of lines, under which a single operator would also be responsible for track and the stations; or a structure, like the national railway, with a private sector track authority and private sector operator.

I would prefer three vertically integrated companies. However, whatever form such a privatisation took, the 10 commitments that my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire gave to passengers under the previous Government would obviously continue—commitments such as safety, through-ticketing and concessionary fares.

I emphasise two other commitments. In my view, employee ownership would be much preferable to so-called public ownership; it would be much better to give those working for the underground a real stake in its success. Secondly, the proceeds of such a privatisation should be ploughed back into the system, not into the Treasury, as we said before the general election.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman has only partly answered my question. Can he confirm that none of the options that he described would require extra public investment—that the only public investment, so to speak, would be the recycled profit on the private operation, which would be ring-fenced and put back into the system?

Sir Norman Fowler

The proceeds would obviously go back into the system. One can visualise—just as one can in the case of the railways—that a service or part of the system might be uneconomic at some time, but obviously the aim would be to make it self-sufficient. It would be foolish to close all doors.

The Conservatives have consistently proposed a way forward for the underground—a way which benefits passengers, involves staff and gives freedom to management. The Labour party has criticised that, but has come up with precisely nothing in the way of policy in its place. We wait, as do underground passengers, until the issue reaches the top of the Deputy Prime Minister's in-tray.

Mr. Casale

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. He said that in February 1997, the Transport Secretary was left with little option but to privatise the London underground system. Surely that was because the November Budget of 1996 had drastically cut public investment to London Transport. I received a letter in February 1997 from Denis Tunnicliffe, managing director of London Underground Ltd, who spoke of the "crushing blow" dealt to London Underground's investment plans as a result of the overall London Transport funding settlement in the last Tory Budget of November 1996. Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on that? The Transport Secretary in 1997 had few other options open to him.

Sir Norman Fowler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making a speech in the middle of mine, and I shall seek to respond to it. I did not say that our Transport Secretary was forced into a position where he had to choose privatisation; that is not my argument. I have already covered the investment situation, and I emphasise again that Conservative Governments' record on investing in London Underground is infinitely better than that of any Labour Government that we have had since 1960. That is the position and the Minister knows it. Everyone knows that that is the position.

The advantage of privatisation is not to do with one year's public spending or another year's public spending, it is that we can bring the underground to the position where it can be developed and realise its full potential. That is the case that I am putting. We have consistently said that that is the way forward. The Government have consistently opposed and criticised that, but have come up with no policy. We wait and underground passengers wait until that issue arrives at the top of the Deputy Prime Minister's in-tray.

Let us make no mistake. I have to say in all courtesy that no one speaking from the Treasury Bench this evening is in any position to make a decision. Even the sparkling good humour of the Minister for Transport in London cannot disguise the fact that the organ grinder is employed elsewhere trying to sort out another problem of Government, and, without the organ grinder, we are left with the assistants.

There is a fundamental point here which goes to the heart of the new giant Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions which the Government have created. I am old enough to remember that the last time Labour was in power, it took credit for doing exactly the opposite of what this Government have done. At that stage, the Labour Government separated transport and the environment into two Departments, saying that it showed the importance that they placed on transport. That was their case. They set it out and took credit for it. They went round the country saying how clever they had been in separating out environment and transport matters. Now they have put them together again and, in an altogether typical way, have gone round the country claiming credit for yet another U-turn of policy.

The Conservative Government continued with the previous model—the separation of the two Departments—I believe correctly. Under the present structure in Whitehall, decision making is a slow and cumbersome process. The issues pile up, but no one, apart from the Deputy Prime Minister, has the power to act. That is no way to run transport matters, and it is certainly no way to develop the underground.

The people who matter most in the debate are the travelling public. They have been badly served by the Government's undoubted delay. No one can seriously deny the delay that has taken place. Even worse, they now face the prospect that the Government will produce a half-baked scheme that will satisfy no one. The tragedy is that the Government are set to miss an outstanding opportunity to develop the underground to its full potential, and it is for that reason that I ask the House to support our motion.

8.12 pm
The Minister of Transport (Dr. Gavin Strang)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

wants to see a modern, efficient, affordable and reliable Underground system, worthy of the people of London, and accountable to the people of London; deplores the substantial investment backlog in the London Underground which this Government inherited from the previous administration; applauds the Government's rejection of the wholesale privatisation of the London Underground, as proposed by the previous Government; and welcomes the Government's action to explore options for a public-private partnership for the London Underground, which will safeguard its commitment to the public interest, guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers, and secure the resources necessary to ensure Londoners and visitors to the capital city have the modern Underground system they deserve.". I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) for again raising the important issue of the future of London Underground. It is seven months since we last debated this important issue in the House. Contrary to the picture painted by the right hon. Gentleman, we have been far from idle during those seven months. I am happy to report that we have made good progress, and I expect that we shall be in a position soon to set out our proposals.

The challenge facing us, which I fully recognise, is to get on with finding a solution to London Underground's funding problems, and to make sure that we find the right solution. We know that the underground is crucial to London's success. It is far too important and valuable an asset for us to take chances or to rush into a snap decision. Nor are we approaching this from an ideological standpoint which says that all that is public is good and all that is private is bad. That distinguishes our approach to the matter and other major transport issues from that of the previous Administration.

Labour Members know full well that both the public and private sectors have a part to play in Britain's success. That is why we talk of the need to develop a public-private partnership for the underground—a new model that will see us harness the best that the public and private sectors have to offer.

I am happy to say again that wholesale privatisation is simply not an option for us. For decades, investment in the underground has been below that needed properly to maintain the system. For 18 years, the Conservative Government failed to tackle the problem. It is preposterous for the right hon. Gentleman to present that wholly fictional, rosy account of investment in the underground under the Conservative Government. He knows perfectly well of the failure to make provision for the overrun in the Jubilee line and the huge investment backlog which the Government have inherited from the previous Administration.

After years of neglect, the previous Government, in their last few months in office, effectively attempted to abdicate their responsibility by taking an axe to the underground's grant in the 1996 Budget, as has been pointed out, and also announcing their discredited and rightly unpopular plans for wholesale privatisation.

That was the Labour Government's inheritance. The right hon. Gentleman now has the effrontery to criticise the Government for not yet having brought forward their modernising plan. I remind him that, under the previous Government's ill-prepared scheme for wholesale privatisation, action on the investment backlog would not have begun until 2001. The right hon. Gentleman and the House know that.

Many hon. Members are familiar with the leaked memorandum which I have in my hand from the then Secretary of State for Transport to the Prime Minister, clearly showing that their plans for wholesale privatisation had not been worked out in any substance, and confirming that there would be no question of the privatisation leading to any addressing of the huge investment backlog until 2001 at the earliest.

It ill becomes the Conservative party to tell the Government that, after nine months, we are somehow letting Londoners down because we have not yet produced our detailed plans, which we shall produce shortly for rescuing London Underground from years of neglect.

Sir Norman Fowler

The hon. Gentleman said several times that he is against the wholesale privatisation of London Underground. What exactly does he mean by that? Does he mean that the operating company will remain in public hands? Can he confirm that that is the position?

Dr. Strang

I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman what I mean by wholesale privatisation. I mean what was referred to in the memorandum. After a cursory discussion of what might be received from the privatisation of London Underground, which was about £600 million—it goes on to suggest that people might have to be paid to take it away—it states: This is a very basic analysis, undertaken before we have chosen a structural option for the privatised underground, before we have fully considered restructuring costs, before we have discussed the details with London Underground and several years in advance of privatisation. That is wholesale privatisation. That is what the Government had in mind for the underground. Of course we reject that absolutely.

Sir Norman Fowler

But what does the hon. Gentleman mean by it?

Dr. Strang

I shall come to that.

There have been three main strands to our work on the issue, all of which are now coming together. Let me dispose first of all the hearsay that the right hon. Gentleman peddled yet-again that there is some sort of disagreement between the Treasury and Transport Ministers on the issue. On the contrary, I can tell him that there is tremendous expertise in the Treasury on the issue of public-private partnerships. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London and I value very much the help and advice that we are receiving from the Treasury on public-private partnership. That is the position and the right hon. Gentleman should recognise it, rather than just quote some tittle-tattle and hearsay from the newspapers.

Let me outline the work that we are doing. On the underground, last July we appointed Price Waterhouse to advise us on the structural options most likely to meet our objectives. The terms of reference that we set for that exercise, in accordance with our manifesto policy, were, first, to safeguard and improve London Underground's service to passengers, with agreed safety standards; secondly, to ensure that London Underground contributes towards an integrated transport strategy for London; thirdly, quickly to reduce or eliminate the underground's investment backlog; fourthly, to provide value for money for the taxpayer; and, fifthly, to attract private sector investment. We encouraged Price Waterhouse to explore any option or permutation it thought would meet those objectives.

We have already set out the various approaches that Price Waterhouse considered. Those included debt funding, with continued public ownership; various partnership structures, including full and partial concessions and joint ventures; and new operational structures, including various ways of dividing London Underground into separate businesses. Price Waterhouse reported back to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister last October.

I stress that in all our considerations safety must be our top priority. It is impossible to think about safety without remembering the terrible tragedy at King's Cross 10 years ago.

Sir Norman Fowler

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister has quoted from the Price Waterhouse report at some length. Does not that mean that the report must now be placed in the Library of the House of Commons?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is for Ministers to decide whether to place in the Library documents on which they comment at the Dispatch Box, unless they are official documents.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The document is an official study, sponsored by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the Minister is relying on it for his arguments to the House. The custom has always been that such documentation should be available to the whole House, so that it may judge whether the Minister's interpretation of it has been selective or bowdlerised. We need to have access to the document. I insist that that has been our practice.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

My understanding is that it is an external report, which has been provided for the Minister's benefit. If it is not and it is an official document, the Minister will have heard the comments that have been made.

Dr. Strang

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but if I show a little hesitation, it is because I resent those wholly bogus points of order, particularly from an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield knows perfectly well the rules of the House. I did not quote from the document, but simply set out the criteria. You and I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the point of order is bogus, and it ill behoves the right hon. Gentleman to waste the time of the House in such a short debate.

Much has been done to improve safety on the underground since the King's Cross tragedy, and valuable lessons have been learnt. We are very clear in our commitment that safety will be an integral part of the public-private partnership that we are developing. We consulted the Health and Safety Commission as part of the process of developing our proposals. The commission will continue to be fully involved in ensuring that passengers and workers have adequate protection.

Price Waterhouse's analysis has been most valuable, and has been central to our deliberations. However, we have sought to bring London Transport and London Underground into the process, drawing on their considerable expertise and knowledge. I am extremely grateful for their helpful and co-operative attitude, from board level downwards. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the hard work that London Underground staff put into running services every day, in the face of crumbling infrastructure. This year, London Underground is set to run a record number of train kilometres—more than 62 million—and passenger numbers have risen by 7 per cent. this year.

Thus, we have Price Waterhouse's work and London Transport's analysis, and we have received a number of useful submissions and representations from other sources: the trade unions, the London Passenger Watchdog Committee and London First, to name but a few. We are now close to reaching decisions on the way forward. In reaching those decisions, we want to take account of all the views we have heard.

We have in mind the two other initiatives to which I referred earlier: our plans for the governance of London; and our development of an integrated transport policy.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I have listened to what the Minister has said and dissent from none of it. The report has been with the Government for three months, and wholesale privatisation has been ruled out. Will there be a majority public sector stake in London Underground, or is it still the case, even after nine months, that nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out?

Dr. Strang

I cannot pre-empt our announcement to the extent that the hon. Gentleman seeks. I understand his wish for that, but, at this stage, while we can rule out wholesale privatisation—we did so in our manifesto and continue to do so—the nature of the public-private partnership is yet to be decided. There are several permutations. To be fair to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, he referred to several theoretical options, some of which could be wholly in the private sector and some of which could be partially in the private sector.

We set out our proposals for an elected mayor and an assembly for London in a Green Paper last July, since when we have received a great many responses. One of the key messages to come through—this will come as no surprise to London Members of Parliament—is the importance of transport for London. London Transport and London Underground provide many of the services that are the lifeblood of London.

Last year, for the third year running, Healey and Baker's annual survey of European cities rated London the best city in which to locate a business. Communications and access to markets are cited as the dominant factors in determining where to locate. London is regarded as offering excellent access to markets, and ranks first in terms of external and internal transport services.

Let me state unequivocally that we know London's importance as a world city, and we are committed to safeguarding and promoting that role, because the whole country benefits from London's pre-eminent position. We also know that, for many people—probably for many of us in this Chamber—London is defined in terms of Frank Pick's famous tube map. It is a symbol of London, which is known throughout the world. London is the capital of the United Kingdom. Modernising its transport system is a London priority, but it is also a UK priority.

We have been working hard, since the consultation period on our London Green Paper ended in October, on the details of our proposals. The Green Paper posed more than 60 questions, and we have considered carefully all the views that we received. We will publish a White Paper in March, in good time for hon. Members and the people of London to digest before the referendum in May.

That does not mean that we shall leave Londoners waiting for the next two years and more before the underground's problems are addressed. London deserves better than that. Subject to the outcome of the referendum, we shall introduce a Bill in the autumn to establish a Greater London authority. The Bill will make London Transport more accountable to the people of London. It is surely right that London Transport should be accountable to Londoners. The Bill will also include the provisions necessary to enable a public-private partnership for London Underground to be implemented.

In the meantime, given all the options that we are considering, London Underground will be able to make substantial progress in implementing a public-private partnership before the Greater London Authority Bill is enacted. That could start immediately after we announce our plans to the House. One of the main elements of the White Paper will be our proposals for establishing a better approach to the delivery of transport services for London.

The new London assembly will have responsibility for buses and the tube. It will have influence over the development of rail services and responsibility for roads, strategic planning and land use. For all those reasons, London will have the opportunity to develop fully integrated transport systems for the benefit of Londoners.

Last August, we published a consultation document on developing an integrated transport policy for the whole country. Around 6,500 people took the time and trouble to respond. Around two thirds of the responses were from individuals, the rest from businesses, lobby groups and transport academics. We have been impressed by the effort that has obviously been put into them.

Many responses highlighted the need to improve public transport, in particular by ensuring more reliable services, better timetabling information and better interchange facilities with other modes. Our work on a public-private partnership for London Underground must address those concerns. We are working towards publication of a White Paper on an integrated transport policy this spring. We are determined to develop an integrated approach to transport planning and investment that enables us to make the best use of the infrastructure we already have and to plan our investment strategy to target resources where they are most needed.

Good communications are central to our overall aim of a lasting improvement in everyone's quality of life. London already has a higher than average proportion of public transport trips, but we cannot sustain and build on that with a crumbling infrastructure. As we have been debating these matters, many Londoners have had to make their way home through shabby stations and walk-down escalators and waited too long for overcrowded trains. That must end. Londoners deserve a modern transport system of which they can be proud. This Government are determined to provide them with just that.

8.30 pm
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

What a pleasure it was to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler). Unlike any Labour Member, he is a former Transport Minister with a successful record. He was a notable moderniser in his day. He has come back refreshed from his sabbatical term with his family to give a magisterial critique as Opposition Front-Bench spokesman of the Government's rambling and vacuous amendment to our motion.

We heard no concrete substantive proposals from Labour. All we know is that the Labour party had 18 long years to think how to run the London Transport underground system better, but, at the end of all that time, it has had to go to Price Waterhouse. We are not vouchsafed a glimpse or a genuine quote, let alone the document itself, to study. Perhaps it is a good thing we cannot see it, because I suspect that Labour will ignore any sensible advice when its predilection has always been to follow its ideological predispositions.

My constituents, as the Minister described when he was trying to tug at our heart strings, genuinely suffer considerable inconvenience in getting to work. They are reliant on three lines: the Metropolitan, Piccadilly and Central lines. The London Transport underground system is crucial to many of them in getting to and from their work. Since the Labour Government came to power—one must remember that they came to power on effusive promises to improve the London transport system—nothing has happened, except a substantial increase, way above inflation, in underground rail fares.

One should in justice record the background. My constituents at the same time have to pay considerable extra mortgage payments. Mortgage interest rates have gone up five times. If they take to their cars, traffic jams are as bad as ever they were, but fuel duty has gone up. Their pensions will probably be less good at the end of their working lives, because of the abolition of dividend interest tax relief.

In every way, their living standards and quality of life are being squeezed. They are getting more and more resentful, because, as with health, so in transport, they see with every day that passes that all the rhetoric of the Labour party at the general election was no more than that: pure rhetoric. Labour has yet to come up with any satisfactory, concrete proposals for improving the system.

The Labour party is effusive in its criticism of our proposals, but privatisation, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield rightly said, has worked in transport as in so many other areas. We all have our own model, but I prefer privatisation of the whole system. Like him, I think that the key to privatisation success for the underground would be not only a public subscription of shares but a share issue on very preferential terms for those who work in the London Transport underground.

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North)

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the benefits of privatisation. Last evening, a young east European tourist was raped and left for dead in the lavatory of a Connex South Eastern train. She was not found until the train was on its way back to the south coast. Does he consider that a glowing example of the benefits of privatisation?

Mr. Wilkinson

No. That has nothing to do with privatisation. Anti-social, criminal behaviour has taken place on British Rail rolling stock as it did in the tragic incident last night. The hon. Gentleman is letting his understandable emotion at that heinous crime get the better of his political judgment.

It is crucial that there should be additional investment, and fast. The model proposed by the Labour party is a recipe for confusion, even more delay and uncertain delivery of service. I do not understand how Labour can believe that leaving the running of the rolling stock and the operation of the system in the public sector, with some of the track networks hived off on shortish leases to the private sector, could work. The Minister would have done the House a service had he explained his view of those suggestions, because, from what we read in the press, they appear to be the ones most favoured by the Labour Government at present.

The manifesto for London that the Labour party produced at the general election says that, in privatisation, public assets would be sold off cheap. Much-needed investment would be delayed. The delay in investment is clear from the indecision of the Labour party in government.

Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich)

My constituents and commuters who live in Harwich and Clacton are suffering the consequences of rail privatisation on their lines: delays, derailments and all sorts of other things. Does the hon. Gentleman seriously believe that they need advice from someone who wrecked not only the railways, but, through deregulation, bus services? They need no lessons from Conservative Members.

Mr. Wilkinson

No one is seeking to deliver lessons. Serious-minded Members are trying to come up with solutions that will meet the vexatious problem of public transport in London. London's transport infrastructure has been in need of further investment for far too long. The Treasury is clearly unable to provide adequate funding. It certainly did not in the Labour party's period in office, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield said.

It is interesting that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) is not here. He was perhaps the most interested in the London transport system. The hon. Member was a pioneer of low fares, but he found that low fares, if discounted to an excessive degree, only produced a further deficit, and gravely damaged the financial strength of London Transport Underground. It is only since LTU introduced more realistic pricing that its finances have been restored to a semblance of order and balance.

LTU cannot always be reliant on the Treasury, and, in current circumstances, it is plain that even the Labour Government recognise it. What is required is an incentive for everybody in LTU to perform to the best of their ability and to have an opportunity thereby to build up profits for themselves and for the system. I can see no model other than privatisation which would be able to achieve it.

Mr. McDonnell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wilkinson

I wish to make one final point before giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

Any model, be it a public-private partnership or wholesale privatisation, will require a regulator, but I do not believe that the mayor of London and his authority are the people to provide that function. We shall need a regulator set up with the very strictest statutory obligation to be independent of politics. The worst thing for LTU's future would be for the management of the system to be second-guessed or interfered with by the Greater London authority and/or the mayor.

It is also instructive to note that the Labour Government do not even propose that constituency representatives should sit on the GLA. My constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), who are so dependent on the efficiency of the system for their commuting, will have no certainty that sitting on that authority will be a representative with those interests in mind, because there will be no geographical connection between constituencies and representation on the authority.

Mr. McDonnell

I rise in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), whose name has been mentioned. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the critical issue relating to London Transport in the 1980s was the lack of infrastructure investment? Such investment was controlled by the House through a money Bill procedure, whereby the GLC submitted an annual money Bill to be voted on by the House. Each year, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues voted against that money Bill, and so started the erosion of infrastructure investment, against the wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East and others of us who served on the GLC.

Mr. Wilkinson

The facts speak for themselves and are vividly displayed in the pillargram on page 2 of the minutes of evidence to the Select Committee on Transport's study of London transport, which was produced in the last Session of Parliament. It can easily be seen that investment shot up in the latter years of the Conservative Administration, and that Labour' s performance during its term in office was never even remotely comparable. Those are the facts.

I do have some sympathy with the approach taken by the hon. Member for Brent, East in that I believe that LTU could be more imaginative in its fares structure. I would advocate, for example, an early-bird discounted fare to encourage people to get on the tube before the rush hour. At present, the travelcard comes in at 9.30 am, but people should be encouraged to get on the tube really early with a tempting discounted fare.

There should also be a night-owl travelcard to discourage people from using their cars to go to the theatre in the evening, just as the early-bird fare might discourage people from taking to their cars and making the morning rush hour worse. There is a great deal to be done in fares policy, but that is the sort of thing which a privatised LTU system would have all the commercial incentive to do.

I was struck by the Minister's claim to be a moderniser as, in the current Administration, it has little credibility—he has many qualities, but I do not regard him as a moderniser. I had hoped—perhaps vainly and wholly futilely—that the Minister would come up with some ideas for how the LTU network could be improved and extended in future. He cannot do so, because, even with public-private partnerships, the system would continue to be heavily reliant on funding from the Exchequer, and he cannot surmise what would be available. If the network were in private hands, there would be much more chance that some of the exciting projects we need would come off.

Those projects include the Croxley link, which would extend the Metropolitan line through Watford high street to Watford Junction railway station, where it would join up with the west coast railway line to the north-west. It could be built at relatively small cost. The Jubilee line extension could be accelerated. Last but not least, a project that has been on ice for far too long for lack of funding—crossrail—could get off the ground. It genuinely is the high-speed rail link we need for the next century.

8.46 pm
Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North)

I support the amendment tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I welcome the debate and I am pleased that the Opposition are so concerned about the future of the London underground that they have chosen it again as the subject of one of their precious Opposition day debates, seven months after the first on 25 June 1997.

Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)

They have no imagination.

Ms Perham

It demonstrates to me, to other hon. Members and to the public at large that, as my hon. Friend says, they have no imagination or no shame—perhaps neither. Perhaps they think that the Labour Government are doing so well that there is nothing else worth talking about.

I have travelled on the underground for many years, and my constituency contains eight Central line stations. The underground has always been my preferred mode of travel to work and, when I lived in south-east London, where I was born, I often envied the residents of other parts of London with easier access to the underground. When I moved to live in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), in 1969 under a Labour Government, the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines that conveyed me to County hall, where I worked in the Greater London council research library, provided an invariably reliable service.

When I married, several years later, my husband and I decided that we wanted to live not more than five minutes' walk from an underground station, which is how we came to settle in Hainault in the Ilford, North constituency at the eastern end of the Central line. Unfortunately, in the 25 years we have lived in the constituency, we have seen that once excellent service deteriorate. In the November 1996 Budget, the Conservative Government demonstrated in an obvious and cynical way their lack of commitment to that vital public transport service, by slashing London Transport's core funding grant and landing London Underground with an estimated £480 million overspend on the Jubilee line extension. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) drew attention to that in his intervention.

That happened despite the document "A Transport Strategy for London", which the Department of Transport published in April 1996. It stated: The Government would hope to maintain London Underground investment at broadly the current level until the investment backlog has been eliminated. Opposition Members may try in vain to defend the Conservative Government's investment record, but, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London said in her reply to the debate on 25 June, the Tory planned investment was

set to fall from £312 million this year to £197 million next year … the same level of investment as in 1976."—[Official Report, 25 June 1997; Vol. 296, c. 898.] For my constituents, fares have risen steadily since the great "fares fair" initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) in the early 1980s, and the service has declined. When I chaired the highways committee of the London borough of Redbridge in 1995–96, I also chaired the London Transport liaison group, whose meetings—then, as now—were regularly attended by the general manager of the Central line, Geoff Thackwray. That long-suffering, honest individual bravely defended his service, listened to complaints and made improvements where possible. His patience and helpfulness are much appreciated by elected representatives and residents alike.

Because of the provision of so many Central line stations in Ilford, North, many working people choose employment in the City, central London and even west London, as my husband and I have over the years. In fact, more than 60 per cent. of Redbridge residents travel to work outside the borough, the majority using the underground. I am convinced from the feedback that we received before and after the general election in May that the problems of London Underground, and dissatisfaction with Conservative policies on London's public transport, played a significant part in the determination of the people of Ilford, North and other London constituencies to rid themselves of the previous Government. North-east London saw huge swings to Labour in May; apart from my swing of 17.3 per cent., my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard), for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer) and for Upminster (Mr. Darvill)— representing users of the Victoria and District lines—achieved swings of 17.9, 16 and 15.4 per cent. respectively.

A month before the general election, on 2 April 1997, the Evening Standard—which is hardly a consistent supporter of Labour, old or new—featured a full-page editorial entitled, "Our tube system—the Tory shame". It stated:

Over the last five years, this vital public service has been betrayed and short-changed by a Government which has often seemed resentful of its very existence. The result is that the Tube, despite the best efforts of London Underground management, is gradually breaking down. That editorial went on to cite massive power failures, signalling problems—Central line commuters like me know all about those—mechanical and infrastructure problems, an increase in crime and reductions in staff. All those problems stemmed from a single cause, said the Evening Standard: this Government's gradual withdrawal of funding from London Underground. The editorial concluded:

As the Tories seek London's votes on 1 May, the first charge they should be asked to answer on their record of the past 18 years is that of betraying the vital services of Britain's capital. And what minister will lack the shame to blush and hide his face when the question is put? People in London delivered their verdict and voted in their thousands, because they wanted action to be taken to provide Londoners with a proper transport service: a service to get them to work on time, to take them for their leisure to our great theatres, museums and other sights of London—buildings such as this very place—and to send visitors away at the end of their stay with a good impression of travelling in the capital. Those people did not want a service with ever rising fares, struggling to survive, its investment programme savaged, consigned to being run down and sold off. The new Labour Government came to office pledged to a clean, efficient, safe and reliable transport system for London, promising a new public-private partnership to improve the underground, run in the public interest and providing value for money.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Hull, East (Mr. Prescott)—the Deputy Prime Minister and organ grinder—and his team have been working hard in the months since the election to find the right solution for the funding of the underground. Opposition Members could not get that right in 18 years, but they accuse us of delay in the short time for which we have been in office. In the end, pathetically, they offered up only wholesale privatisation. This Government will deliver a London underground service with an integrated transport system for a London returned to democratic accountability: a capital service for the greatest city in the world.

8.54 pm
Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)

I welcome the debate, but I am surprised—as I was on 25 June, when the Tories last tabled the subject for debate—that they have chosen to highlight the sorry state of the tube system, thereby drawing attention to their own poor record in their last year of office.

I know that a week is a long time in politics. Eight months is obviously long enough for collective amnesia and, perhaps, for DOR syndrome—denial of responsibility syndrome—to set in on the Tory Benches. The first signs of that syndrome emerged in the earlier debate about developments in the countryside, during which members of the official Opposition came out as born-again Swampys. If you can believe that, you can believe anything.

Let no one forget that it was the Tories who tried to flog off the tube for the paltry sum of £600 million—a plan which they hastily dropped when it was leaked to Londoners—when it had property assets valued at up to £13 billion. The Tories must take the lion's share of the blame for leaving the tube with a backlog of repairs equivalent to no less than £170 per Londoner, a delayed Tory tax bombshell which will hit Londoners sooner or later. That is the legacy of the previous Government's "heavy investment programme".

The business community supports the view that the previous Government failed London. London First has said that the last Government cut public funding for the existing system below the level needed even to sustain it in its present condition, in spite of the fact that they accepted that there was a £1.2 billion backlog"— a backlog of repairs, that is. The Confederation of British Industry has said that

there has been serious under-investment for a long time". With a record such as theirs on the tube, Conservative Members should mind the credibility gap. They praise railway privatisation to the heavens, but conveniently forget the increased subsidy that has gone to the privatised railways—a subsidy of £2 billion—and the declining services provided by the train operating companies. Conservative Members should be a little more circumspect in their praise of railway privatisation. Moreover, they have completely fallen down the credibility gap by attacking this Government's proposals on the basis of their complexity, and the communication difficulties that might arise if the system were split. That is rich, coming from a Government who introduced a host of communication difficulties by privatising the railways.

What of the new Government's record? We know that before the election and since, they have ruled out wholesale privatisation. In July, they commissioned a report on the future of the tube. In late September or early October, Price Waterhouse delivered its findings. Since then, not much has happened. A series of leaks have appeared in various papers, and extracts from the Price Waterhouse report have been read to us tonight.

The Times reported on 24 September: Tony Blair is to back controversial recommendations to privatise London Underground by splitting it into as many as four parts and selling up to 51 per cent. of the businesses". The Financial Times stated on 16 January:

Ministers were yesterday moving close to a deal… under which the infrastructure would be split from train operations and leased to the private sector in two or three parts". Those two options are not entirely consistent, and there seems to be a difference of opinion within the Government about which way to go forward. It is certain that neither of those positions is consistent with the stance taken by the Minister for Transport in London before the election. I understand, although I did not see it myself, that she appeared on television with a pair of scissors and a map of the tube, saying that she would not allow the tube to be cut in half through privatisation. However, what she did not make clear at the time was that she proposed cutting the tube four ways, not just in half.

In the meantime, the backlog of repairs grows. We are now eight months into the new Government. What does London First say about the new Government's performance?

Eight months on from the Election… we still await the outlines of a solution. The Minister's speech has not added to my understanding of the Government's proposals. It has merely reinforced the confusion that there was about Government proposals in June. I feel sorry that the Minister has not clarified the Government's plans. I look forward to his announcement soon, as he put it—in due course.

The Liberal Democrat position is that the Government must have in mind some objectives, although not necessarily a structure. We want the tube to be an integrated system with through-ticketing. Fare structures will need to be regulated. We want responsibility for running the tube to be clearly identified with a particular person or organisation. We want the financial means to deal with the backlog of repairs and to build new lines. Changes should not delay investment.

Tube passengers have suffered enough stop-go on the Central line and overcrowding at Oxford Circus station. They do not need another reorganisation. They want a tube that runs on time, not trains that stop unannounced in tunnels.

Our proposal for a public interest company with public sector objectives and ethos would meet those objectives. It would ensure that the tube remained an integrated transport system with through-ticketing. The fare structures would be regulated, probably through the Greater London authority, and there would be clear responsibility for running the tube. It is not an untested model: similar models operate in New York and San Francisco.

We shall will the means. Whatever model is adopted and however it is dressed up, the investment programme will cost money. Whether it comes as a subsidy to the private sector or through any other route, more money is needed for that programme. We have offered three concrete proposals—so far in the debate, we have heard few of those.

Our proposals are, first, a charge on non-residential car parking spaces, which London First estimates would raise about £150 million a year; secondly, road congestion charges which, it was suggested by the London congestion charging research programme in 1995, could raise anything from £95 million to £795 million a year; and thirdly, a temporary increase in business rates for London's largest businesses, which could raise £150 million—a view supported by some, but not all, London First members. Incidentally, those measures would also help the Secretary of State to meet his targets for CO2 reduction.

Our proposals would give Londoners a transport system to match that of any of our European partners. They would get cleaner air, less congestion, fewer pollution-related illnesses such as asthma and the possibility of cheaper fares.

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

And a Conservative Government.

Mr. Brake

I doubt whether they will get a Conservative Government for a very long time. The Tory Opposition have no solution. Over the past eight months, they have been getting rid of facts with relief, to adapt a quotation from Sir James Barrie—facts such as their responsibility for the daily delays that passengers experience on the tube.

We shall not support the Conservative motion, but we should have liked to modify the Government's amendment, because it is full of promises but rather silent on solutions. Our proposal for a public interest company backed by earmarked revenues—the key is the source of the revenue—would take the tube into the 21st century. I urge the Government to take on board our proposal.

9.4 pm

Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in the debate.

I represent Upminster, which is at the start of the District line. As well as being the eastern terminus of the District line, it is the easternmost point of the underground system. Upminster station serves both the underground and the London, Tilbury and Southend line. Many of my constituents who commute into London use the London underground system. A large number of my constituents are employees of London Transport and do a fine job, working at the Cranham depot, which is also in my constituency.

I use the underground myself most days when Parliament is sitting, commuting to Westminster from my home. The underground is an essential part of London life. It has contributed so much to our great capital city, yet, instead of nurturing it, we have consistently under-invested in it, particularly in recent years, putting at risk that important transport infrastructure.

Transport is essential to London's competitiveness as a world city. It is crucial to the efficiency of business. London needs a safe, affordable and reliable underground as part of an integrated public transport system. It is of critical importance to those who live, work and invest in the capital, as well as for our visitors. Some 2.5 million journeys are made by tube every working day, about half of them by commuters; the others are made by people going to school, shopping or visiting London.

It is not surprising to me that our communities are becoming impatient at the delay in delivering the investment that is so essential. Business groups, such as London First, as well as passenger user groups, such as the London regional passenger committee, recognise the dangers of continual delay.

Most of the criticism is properly directed at the Opposition, who had the audacity to table their critical motion, for it is the Conservatives who are chiefly to blame for the current crisis. The previous Government failed to invest adequately. They failed miserably during their terms in office and left a £1.2 billion investment backlog. They have a deplorable record, particularly if one takes into consideration the investment that was forced on them by the King's Cross disaster in 1987, and the funding of the Jubilee line.

It is not as if the Opposition, when in government, failed to acknowledge by their statements and words what was needed. In a document entitled, "A Transport Strategy for London", published by the Department of Transport in April 1996, the previous Government stated: Improving the existing London Underground service contributes most directly to our primary goal of promoting the competitiveness of London as a World City. In the same document, they said: The priority for London Underground is to improve the quality of the existing network through investment.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

If the hon. Gentleman considers that more money should have gone into the underground over the past 10 years or so, where would he have obtained the funds—from the education budget, the health budget? Or would he have raised taxes?

Mr. Darvill

The Government's proposals, which I shall deal with in the rest of my speech, are quite clear. We have our priorities. Indeed, we have priorities for London Transport, as will be seen.

As I said, the previous Government stated: The priority for London Underground is to improve the quality of the existing network through investment. That was true in 1996, and it is true today, for investment is at the heart of the problem. Because of its age, size and intensive use, the underground needs a minimum level of investment year in, year out, to keep pace with wear and tear and to prevent the service from deteriorating.

Under successive Governments, the minimum recognised level of investment has not been reached. Investment is required not only for the future of the London economy but to shift the emphasis away from the car towards a more integrated transport system, with greater use of public transport. That is, of course, consistent with the Government's approach as detailed in the Green Paper, "New Leadership for London" and the consultation paper, "Developing an Integrated Transport Policy". It is also consistent with the Government's aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposal to create a London Transport authority to deliver the new citywide authority's sustainable transport strategy will flow from the creation of the Greater London authority. Since the abolition of the GLC in 1986, transport planning in London has been carried out by a number of organisations, in the absence of an effective co-ordinating body. Strategic planning has been haphazard and almost non-existent. Transport is increasingly recognised as an acute socio-economic and environmental problem. New organisations have been formed on an ad hoc basis in an attempt to find solutions, resulting in a collection of organisations with no apparent strategic or co-ordinating role.

Integrated transport can be developed and planned effectively only if there is a single co-ordinating body. The multitude of organisations that the Opposition helped to create and sustain could not in a month of Sundays deliver an integrated transport policy. The Government's policies for London, for transport and for the environment are widely welcomed. The Opposition's failure in that respect during their long—many would say too long—administration let down the people and businesses of London and might have been one factor in their punishment by the electorate last May.

Those of us who use the underground regularly witness its underfunding. In many ways, its deterioration is a testament to the previous Government. The new Labour Government must find a way of retaining a publicly owned and accountable underground system, and work in partnership with the private sector to raise the additional investment that is required. We made a manifesto commitment to reject wholesale privatisation and develop a partnership with the private sector.

Progress has been made and I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions will soon be able to make an announcement about the precise nature of the public-private partnership that the Government propose, to bring in the resources necessary to provide a modern underground system for 2000 and beyond, which will benefit all Londoners, including my constituents and visitors to London. It follows that the House should reject the Opposition's motion.

9.11 pm
Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill). We have heard plenty of speeches by hon. Members representing outer London constituencies. I am the first central London Member to speak. I shall be extremely brief.

More underground trains pass under my constituency than under any other in Greater London. In opening the debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) was very tough on transport Ministers, and I understand his exacerbation. Personally, I feel sympathy for them. The Secretary of State has seen his Department downsized in standing and the Minister for Transport in London has been given more jobs than is fair, even for a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of her talents. I realise that the decisions were taken elsewhere in Government. I am sorry, too, for the civil servants who have been transferred to the Government office for London, who show some evidence of being overwhelmed by the number of transport initiatives in London with which they are being asked to cope.

The downsizing of the Department and its London interests reflects the Government's attitude towards London, which was also apparent in the recent rate support grant announcements. The consequences, however, fall on Londoners. For example, those in my constituency affected by blight by the projected Chelsea-Hackney line were given to believe a year ago by London Transport that early decisions would be taken to resolve that blight. A year later they are still waiting. The argument for crossrail, which was sharpened by the steadily approaching imminence of the Heathrow express, has been revisited by the crossrail team and transformed by the City corporation's business case for crossrail into a wholly privately funded operation, but the Government office for London still rests on the Montagu report of March 1996.

The Minister of Transport for London is familiar with the problems inherent in Railtrack's tactical plans for Thameslink 2000 in the heart of the capital, involving the closure of the Thameslink Moorgate branch and the diversion of passengers from Blackfriars to Victoria and Elephant and Castle.

The idea that there could be 24 trains per hour, which has never been tested anywhere in Britain for heavy rail, has invited scepticism, and 12-coach trains will be too long for suburban platforms. I gather that it is all part of an integrated policy, but the separate parts must interact.

Seven months ago, in a debate to which other hon. Members have referred, we agreed on the parameters of the problem. The ingredients of the solution were clear, once the Government had gone back on their arteriosclerotic pre-election prejudice against privatisation and shown their willingness to contemplate a private element in London Transport's future.

Seven months ago, in that same debate, I said that London Back Benchers on both sides of the House were willing to work together in the new circumstances to find a solution that Londoners could applaud. I was followed by the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge), who has carried some responsibility for the leadership of London Labour Members. She is not present tonight, and I make no complaint about that. I do not think that, if she were here, she would disagree with my analysis of her speech in that debate as not wholly embracing my invitation. If, on behalf of Londoners, she has faith that the Government will deliver without help from Opposition Members, I only hope that they will get a move on.

Like other hon. Members, I have sensed the impatience of London First, to which the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) referred. London First can, in the eyes of the Government, claim some neutral objectivity after their contribution to the swing towards Labour in the general election by their activity in underground stations during that contest. In the Evening Standard last week, that considerable Londoner, Simon Jenkins, made remarks about the Government's plans for the London underground that filled me with foreboding. Despite Labour's disclaimer, the Evening Standard has latterly been friendly to the Government.

I recall a Sherlock Holmes story about the underground that involved a corpse and some very complicated technical plans. The name Bruce Partington comes to mind. I shall regard the present vacuum as Operation Bruce Partington until the Government pull themselves together, make some decisions that do not earn the scorn of the Evening Standard, and take action to implement them. I do not currently blame Londoners for losing faith and patience.

9.16 pm
Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)

The Opposition are scraping the barrel with this dreary motion. What a cheek! After 18 years, we are confronted with this proposition. There was not enough funding for the underground until the horror of the King's Cross fire. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) tore the heart out of the funding for London Transport, and did not provide a strategic framework for the future. This proposition has been cobbled together to fill in time because the Opposition have nothing better to think about.

The future of the London underground should be included in an integrated transport plan for London, and for the economic sustainability of Britain in a global marketplace. That context has been set in the consultation document on an integrated transport plan, which will later emerge as a White Paper. It is important to set London's needs in that wider context.

It is a bit rich that, after 18 years of drift and decay, we have this sudden demand for action. People in the business community, in the Confederation of British Industry, and in London First are getting slightly hot under the collar, but we must get it right. We must bridge the funding gap, and establish a strategically secure footing for the future. That is what the Government are in the midst of doing.

We do not need the fiscal foresight of Old Mother Hubbard showed by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe, who generated this crisis. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the accounts of London Underground knows that it needs £400 million a year to stand still on repairs and maintenance, and that there is a £1.25 billion backlog of repairs. The right hon. and learned Member reduced external funding from £373 million to £250 million next year, and to £130 million the year after, while charging to that budget £250 million of Jubilee line costs that should have been outside revenue costs.

All I can say is that it is a good thing that, unlike other transport and underground systems elsewhere in the world, London Transport and London Underground are making positive gross margins—of £225 million this year and next year, and probably £260 million in the following year. The Paris system, for example, makes absolutely no contribution towards overheads.

As my hon. Friend the Minister said, in London, passenger volumes are up 7 per cent., to about 860 million passengers. He mentioned also that, this year, annual train kilometres will total 62 million—compared to 52 million in 1993–94—and that, at the turn of the century, they will reach 70 million. Over seven years, therefore—because of more journeys and a more extensive system—London Underground will have had a 40 per cent. increase in train kilometres. Satisfaction levels also have increased.

Those increases have been achieved despite drains on funding and an unfortunate repair backlog accumulated during the previous Government's time in office. Those matters are set within the wider context of the £420 billion public sector deficit, which is the previous incompetent Government's unfortunate legacy.

Labour Members have listened to the demands of Conservative Members—who studied in the Arthur Daley school of management—for immediate action, although, in 18 years, they did nothing. The Government know which strategic route they must take in achieving a public-private partnership—but the matter is not as simple as saying, "Let's get on with it and let's do it." There must be some caution.

I tell Ministers that we need contract flexibility if we are to guard against unforeseen circumstances. If we have guided buses and a new light rail system, they will have to be integrated into the underground system. Moreover, if we have new technology for road pricing, for example, we will have to ensure that London Underground can absorb the extra volume. Therefore, contracts cannot be over-specified. We must also resist pressure to rush recklessly forwards.

Before the May referendum on a Greater London authority—which will take command of the London underground strategy—the Government will deliver proposals on an accountable modernised and funded system. The Government will deliver those proposals and will make it crystal clear how we will deliver that system. The Opposition will simply have to wait for the good news.

9.21 pm
Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

I apologise to the House if I am not as audible as I usually am. When I previously asked the Minister for Transport in London a parliamentary question on the underground, she suggested that I might be suffering from a fever to the brain, but I was not. Today, however, if she were to suggest that I am suffering from a fever to the throat, she would be absolutely right.

A point on which the Minister and I agree concerns a small part of the underground network that is about to be privatised—the Epping-Ongar branch of the Central line. I will not ask her to comment on her decision on that matter, because I fully appreciate that it has yet to be finalised. However, I should like to ask her for an assurance that, whatever decision she takes on the Epping-Ongar line, the land on which that railway lies will be preserved in perpetuity as railway land. I agree with her in wanting to ensure that, should we wish to do so, the opportunity will be available on the Epping-Ongar line to expand the underground system after it has been privatised.

It is becoming obvious that the Government are snookered by a language problem in the controversial underground privatisation. Ministers have said that they do not want to privatise, but they know that it has to be done. The problem is what Ministers will call privatisation when they do it.

The Deputy Prime Minister—for all his life, so far as we know—has opposed privatisation. He opposed every action that the previous Conservative Government took on privatisation, but he was wrong to do so. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) eloquently explained earlier, there have been a series of very successful privatisations. The problem that the Government are facing is that the Deputy Prime Minister is simply too stubborn to privatise the underground—when we all know that that must be done. He is stuck in the old socialist dogma of state ownership of means of transport. The Government have tacitly admitted that rail privatisation was right. If they are not admitting that it was right, why are they not reversing it, now that they have the power to do so?

Not only was rail privatisation right, but it was brought in speedily and efficiently by the previous Government. The Railways Bill was published within seven months of the 1992 general election. It was a far more complicated piece of legislation than we could expect from the present Government, who are simply delaying and prevaricating. What is right for British Airways, what was right for British Rail, what has brought success and new investment to many companies in the transport sector has been privatisation. If it was right for all those companies, why is not it right for London Underground?

We know that the underground has to be privatised. In the end, it does not really matter what the Government call the privatisation. My constituents simply want them to get on with it.

9.25 pm
Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch)

I shall be brief—because I have no choice.

The performance of the London underground system over the past few years has been one of the most remarkable of any rail system in the world. Cuts implemented by the previous Government, plus the sheer inconsistency of Government funding, have caused immense problems.

In 1995–96 for instance, core funding to the tube was £350 million. In the following year, it was £359 million, and for 1997–98, it was cut drastically by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke)—who had half an eye on the Maastricht criteria—to £323 million. That is against the background of a report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1991, which put the standard level of funding at—probably£750 million. As a result, there have been unprecedented cuts in staff, for instance. Over the past six years, 25 per cent. of staff have lost their jobs. Funding cuts have led to the abandonment of major and necessary schemes. In my constituency, there are three District line stations. Along with many other projects, the new District line control room, which was desperately needed, has been axed.

The combined pressures have led, as my constituents know very well, to almost daily cancellations and delays, which are inevitable during the downward spiral that the previous Government introduced. During the general election campaign, complaints about public transport—complaints about the tube were most prominent among them—were raised frequently on the doorstep. I suspect that other hon. Members experienced that, too. Many people from Hornchurch who work in the City or the west end, for instance, have to leave for work half an hour or 40 minutes earlier than they should because they have to allow for delays and cancellations.

London Transport's 1996–97 annual report showed a 37 per cent. increase in profits, which were attributed in the report to cost cutting, rising passenger volumes and increases in ticket fares. The tube requires not only higher levels of funding but consistently higher levels of funding. Any senior London Underground manager will tell anybody who asks that one of the big problems is not the cuts but the inconsistency in the previous Government's funding.

Privatisation of the London underground would have meant—and will always mean—a pattern similar to that followed by the railways: worse services, cuts in staffing and services, and demands from private operators for more subsidies. For instance, South West Trains sacked drivers, and then had to cut services, for which it was subsequently fined by the regulator. Connex SouthCentral, which—sadly—I use a lot, tore away layers of managers and supervisors who made the network work. As a result, it started to grind to a halt and was fined for its abysmal record in the final three months of 1977.

The idea that privatisation would provide the required investment in the underground is entirely illusory. The required investment is huge, amounting to probably £7 billion. Any railway system is best and most efficiently run as an integrated network under public ownership. As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out on 3 December, the Greater London council ran the tube much better than the Tory Government, which had no belief in—indeed, a considerable contempt for—public services. I look forward to the underground coming under the control of the new Greater London authority and being run with an efficiency and a devotion to public services that were absent from the Conservatives.

9.29 pm
Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

This has been a timely debate, which has, as expected, exposed the Government's uncertainty. They have been in office for nine entertaining months. What have they decided to do about London's underground? Nothing. The delay is becoming an embarrassment.

The Minister of Transport made a remarkable speech. I thought that it was the privilege of the Opposition not to make policy statements. He did not make any. He told us that he would make a statement on the underground, but it came out rather slowly. First, he said that he would set out a solution soon. As he warmed up, he said that he was close to making a decision. Finally, he said that there would be an announcement in March.

In an excellent and thoughtful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) said that London Underground cannot rely on the Treasury for funding. The hon. Members for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) and for Eltham (Mr. Efford) drew attention to the lack of core investment in the underground in the 1980s.

Mr. McDonnell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ottaway

I shall not give way at the moment.

I have a graph showing the investment made by the Conservative Government in the 1980s.

Mr. McDonnell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ottaway

I am replying to the hon. Gentleman's contribution.

Mr. McDonnell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ottaway

I shall not give way.

I was surprised that the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Ms Perham) said that the debate was a waste of time. She made me wonder why she was here.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) gave us the usual Liberal coalition speech—or at least I thought that he was starting off down that route. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) gallantly declined to describe the Minister for Transport in London as a monkey. I felt that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington was a cloned monkey, although I could not come up with a better name for him than a Dolly monkey.

Mr. Brake

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ottaway

I shall not give way. I am replying to the hon. Gentleman's contribution. He displayed his—

Mr. McDonnell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it appropriate for an hon. Member to refuse to give way to another hon. Member whom he has named?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Regardless of whether it is appropriate, it is not a matter of order.

Mr. Ottaway

We can show our usual contempt for bogus points of order.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington said in June that the Liberal Democrats were showing their anti-car credentials by proposing congestion charges and parking charges. I am sure that that will reinforce support for them in outer London.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) urged the Government to get a move on and spoke about Thameslink 2000, which is an important project. It has led to dispute between the Corporation of London and Railtrack, which he and I ought to stay out of.

My constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies), who seems to have left the Chamber already, said that we had to get it right, and that secure funding was needed. He also implied that the Labour Government would introduce road pricing. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) rightly drew attention to the success of privatisation.

The Deputy Prime Minister has been described as the Pooh-Bah of the Blair Government. He is in charge of everything. When not abolishing the green belt or setting up regional commissars, he is responsible for London Transport. That is precisely the problem that his Department faces. He is simply too busy deciding which bit of green belt to carve up next, when he should be channelling all his formidable talents into taking a firm decision on the future of London's underground.

It is a sad reflection on the Government's sense of priorities that they will not put the issue higher up the political agenda. They cannot do that, because the Deputy Prime Minister is at loggerheads over privatisation not only with the Chancellor of the Exchequer but with the Prime Minister. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are also at loggerheads with each other. After all, why should the Deputy Prime Minister work with someone whom No. 10 has described as "psychologically flawed"?

Instead, the proposal that the Minister of Transport says will come out in March, when the Government eventually announce it, will be a compromise—a compromise to keep the peace between the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Deputy Prime Minister, a compromise designed not to rock the boat. It will be a compromise for short-term expediency, designed to keep the Cabinet and the rest of the Labour party quiet. It will have nothing to do with the long-term needs of the underground.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster drew the attention of the House to an article in Friday's Evening Standard by the excellent columnist Simon Jenkins, who has sometimes been rather critical of the Conservative party. Mr. Jenkins wrote: they should privatise by simply floating the Tube, lock, stop and barrel, on the Stock Market … flotation as a single business is better than hacking the Tube system up, down and sideways merely to appease some slaves to outdated ideology". He was absolutely right.

Our case is that privatisation of the underground is the best way to raise the necessary funds for investment. There is now no argument about the fact that privatisation is a fundamental philosophy accepted by all political parties not only in this country but in the rest of the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest said, privatisation is the only way to ensure that the underground gets the money that it so badly needs.

We should plough the proceeds raised by the sale back into the tube system and give London Underground the early injection of cash that it so badly needs. We should also keep through-ticketing and travel cards.

There is no question raised, even by the Labour party, about the possibility of either party reversing any of the privatisations that have taken place since 1979. Gone are the days when the present Secretary of State for Scotland predicted, for example, that British Airways would be the "pantomime horse of capitalism", if it was anything at all. Even the right hon. Gentleman would now concede that he was wrong, and if anyone looks like the pantomime horse of capitalism now, it is him. British Airways is a world beater and the whole House will admit that the right hon. Gentleman's approach was wrong.

Mr. Casale

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ottaway

I shall not give way.

Despite having been wrong before, the Government have made it emphatically clear that they oppose wholesale privatisation. In the run-up to the general election, the Labour party rejected outright any suggestion of privatisation and argued that public-private partnerships were the way forward. The approach has evolved piecemeal, and shows a strong commitment to the public part of the public-private partnerships.

Back in March 1996, the then Opposition were busy attacking private finance initiatives. The present Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office, who was then Labour transport spokesman, said:

All the experience of the PFI so far shows that public-private partnerships happen only when the ultimate commitment to the project remains in the public sector". The present Minister for Transport in London, later in the same debate, said:

The PFI, as devised and structured by the Government, is the Government's way of opening the back door to privatising a service which I believe must remain in the public sector".—[Official Report, 13 March 1996; Vol. 273, c. 1013–48.] There we have the PFI eliminated and a strong commitment to public-private partnership in the public sector; but what on earth does it mean? Can anyone in the House give me a clear definition of a public-private partnership in the public sector? The Treasury website says that PPPs are all about negotiating deals that are good for both sides. On that definition, contracting out a hospital's laundry service is a public-private partnership. Would hiring a private security firm to protect Government property be a public-private partnership?

There is nothing wrong with those views except that, in defining a specific policy for the future of the underground, it is fairly meaningless to those of us who are trying to understand the implications. So confident were Ministers in their quotations and remarks that it was safe to assume that they knew what they meant.

In February 1997, in response to our proposals to privatise London Underground, the then shadow Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), said: Would it not be far better to get moving straight away with public-private partnerships as Labour has proposed?"—[Official Report, 25 February 1997; Vol. 291, c. 153.] Nothing could be clearer than the words, "get moving straight away". Labour knew what it was doing, where it wanted to go and how it intended to achieve its objectives.

Full of conviction, the Labour manifesto said: Labour plans a new public-private partnership to improve the Underground. Now we know the truth: Labour had no more idea of what a public-private partnership was than we did. The situation is now becoming a farce.

Ministers met the chairman of London Transport only three days after the general election, which suggested that the issue was being taken seriously, and in July management consultants were commissioned to consider the future of the network; but then the hesitation set in. The Deputy Prime Minister left some documents lying around the "Panorama" studio that made it clear that privatisation was under consideration.

Then Treasury stuck its oar in: in October, the Financial Times reported:

A senior Government Minister has said that Mr Brown has refused the use of public funds for the investment programme. But as Labour's manifesto precludes only 'wholesale privatisation', the Chancellor is believed to favour a majority stake. Then the Prime Minister joined in: again the Financial Times reported the leaks coming out of No. 10. It said:

close associates of the Prime Minister and Chancellor are convinced a majority stake in LU's network or infrastructure has to be sold to the private sector if the investment is to be made. Then the Deputy Prime Minister struck back: his spin doctors went to work and a further report in the Financial Times said: ministers were yesterday talking about the infrastructure business as a private/public partnership, with the private sector having the upper hand". That is interesting. Whatever happened to the line from the Minister and from the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) that the service must stay in the public sector?

Then we had the ultimate spin. The arbiter of the dispute, the Paymaster General, who is responsible for public-private partnerships, among other things, has been advised, according to The Independent, to

split the Underground infrastructure into three companies and franchise them and the train operators—such as the Victoria line—to the private sector. Unbelievably, the Paymaster General's compromise seems to have the upper hand. The latest leaks were reported in the Evening Standard at the end of last week. It said: The plan is likely to see the Underground's infrastructure—tracks, tunnels and stations—split into two or three parts and auctioned off on leases of up to 30 years … The operation of the services, however, would remain in public sector hands with heavily unionised staff likely to remain as public employees. If that is true, it at least explains one thing: at last October's Labour party conference in Brighton, the Deputy Prime Minister saw off moves to renationalise Railtrack, but the price was to concede a motion to the transport unions that stated:

the conference is totally opposed to the introduction of private capital which would lead to private companies owning and/or operating parts of London Underground. The problem with that proposal is that the money needed to overhaul the underground network would absorb most of the income from tickets, leaving nothing for profits. As the Evening Standard said: This is the fundamental problem which we always return to in terms of getting private investors involved to fund investment in an operation which barely breaks even. That says it all. The Government do not know whom to upset—the public or the trade unions. The Deputy Prime Minister began his article in The Times yesterday boldly, saying when we say as a Labour Government that we won't run away from difficult decisions, we mean it. Some of us would be only too pleased if he made any decision—even if he did not mean it—to progress the debate and to get things rolling.

The Government were elected on a promise that things can only get better. For London Underground, things have only got worse. All the Government have offered tube users since the election are inflationary fare rises and delay, delay, delay. I believe that London deserves better than that, and I commend the motion to the House.

9.44 pm
The Minister for Transport in London (Ms Glenda Jackson)

The Leader of the Opposition will be deeply depressed if he takes the trouble to read this evening's debate. Despite the energy that he has reportedly put into castigating his party and highlighting, for its benefit, the reasons why it was so lamentable in government, why it was so crushingly defeated at the most recent general election and why it has signally failed to organise itself into any form of effective Opposition—based on overweening arrogance and a failure to listen—his message clearly has not penetrated to those Opposition Members in the Chamber tonight.

The Opposition's contribution ended as it began. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler)—like, indeed, all Tory Members—based his speech on two simple arguments. The first was that this Government have lamentably failed to deal with the difficulties facing London Underground in the nine months that we have been in government. The previous 18 years, when the Conservative party had stewardship of London Underground—which saw the Conservatives' total failure to take the needs of London and Londoners seriously and their failure to invest in the core funding of London Underground— were dismissed and sidelined.

The second argument is that our apparent inaction has been highlighted by the fact that we have not produced what the Conservatives believe is still the only answer to the problems of the underground—privatisation. They have made much play of underlining the value of privatisation, but did not mention the damage that they inflicted on the integrated railway system in this country by that very process.

If one had listened closely to some Opposition speeches—it was, on occasion, extremely difficult so to do, because of the paucity of the contributions from Opposition Members—one might have believed that rail privatisation was up and running and effective in a period infinitely less than the nine months that this party has been in government, during which time Opposition Members believe that we should have brought into being a policy which we have consistently stated—publicly, privately and in our manifestos—is not the way we believe that the problems of the underground can be tackled and solved—the policy of privatisation.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield underlined his accusation of inaction on the part of the present Government by referring to the incorporation of the Department of Transport into the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. I should point out to the House that, when the Conservative party was in government, the only sign of action from the Department of Transport was the annual changing of the Secretary of State. It was not pass the parcel, but pass the brief. As is to be expected, there were some excellent contributions by my hon. Friends, not least because so many of them are lifelong users of the underground.

In an excellent contribution, my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Ms Perham) said that she and her husband chose their domicile because of its close proximity to an underground station. She highlighted her experience, during the 18 years of Conservative misrule, of the deterioration of a service that is so important to London and to Londoners. That argument was made—in their individual ways—by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) and by my hon. Friends the Members for Upminster (Mr. Darvill), for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) and for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer).

I say to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), regarding the line that she mentioned, that, as yet, my consent has not been sought for the proposed sale. I am delighted that she is as keen as we are to ensure that railway land is preserved. She obviously believes, as do Labour Members, that the expansion of the railways is vital for a properly integrated public transport system, which the Government intend to introduce.

However, we must not forget why the underground is in its current position, which made it necessary for the House to debate its future tonight. As I have said, and as many hon. Members have said, it is due in no small part to the underfunding that characterised the years when the Conservatives were in government.

The 1996 Budget, combined with cost overruns on the Jubilee line extension, was a disaster for the underground's finances. It meant that about half the money that London Underground was planning to invest in the existing network during the next three years was no longer available to them. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said, the amount of core funding in London Underground when the Conservative party left office was precisely the same as it had been when it took office, almost 20 years earlier.

London Transport has actually managed to increase its operating surplus for each of the past seven years, so that more than £200 million a year of its resources now goes towards investment in the underground. Therefore, obviously we need look no further than the Conservative party for the underground's current funding crisis—and the Conservatives have the temerity to say that we are being too slow in finding a solution to the problem that they created.

The Government believe that there is no alternative to a well-funded, efficient underground system for London. About 800 million underground journeys are made each year, more than 700,000 of which take place during the morning peak on each working day. The underground is vital to the economic well-being of London and to the quality of life of people who live in and around London. One of the interesting trends in recent years has been the growth in the use of the underground during the inter-peak periods, in the evenings and at weekends, and we want that trend to continue. Surface rail, despite the depredations of privatisation, is vital.

South of the river, London is very poorly served by the tube. The bus is often unfairly regarded as the Cinderella of public transport, but the number of bus journeys made in London each year easily exceeds the number of tube journeys—by about half as much again—and we believe that it is vital that more people are attracted to using that mode of transport, because it is cheap and especially flexible.

However, despite investment with the aim of providing one of the most comprehensive and efficient metropolitan bus networks in the world, bus travel will always have limitations, especially for commuter journeys into central London, and even with the best bus network, an efficient, reliable tube network is essential for existing users and for future growth in patronage.

Therefore, the Government recognise the importance of the underground for London, and we are determined to address its investment needs so that it can play its full part in a properly integrated public transport network for this great capital city. We are determined to improve the quality of the underground as quickly as possible by a public-private partnership.

We want to find practical solutions to the underground's problems, and to modernise its key assets such as track, signalling, bridges and embankments. Because of the links between those assets, the network may be improved significantly only by tackling them all together.

The aim is to secure an affordable, reliable, clean and modern network. We are making progress on that work as a matter of urgency, given the level of funding available to London Underground, which we inherited from the previous Government.

I cannot tell the House today our detailed plans for the future of the London Underground, but I can say something about the principles that are guiding our thinking.

First, it should go without saying that safety is of paramount concern. In the 10 years since the tragedy of the King's Cross fire, when 31 people died, safety on the underground has improved dramatically. The risk of fires and flooding in particular are now greatly reduced, and a number of projects are currently aimed at improving other areas of safety, most notably trying to reduce the risk of accidents when people are getting on and off trains. It is right that we should pay tribute to London Underground's management and staff who deserve a great deal of credit for those improvements.

I can assure the House that safety will remain the top priority under a public-private partnership. The Health and Safety Commission is being fully consulted as we develop our plans. The option we choose will ensure that safety standards on the underground are maintained, and the commission's advice will be sought on the safety regime that will be required to ensure that that commitment is put into practice.

We also want to safeguard the core public responsibilities of the underground. We are not in the business of wholesale privatisation—that was the dogmatic approach of the Conservative party, and much good it did it, the tube and London. As our manifesto said:

The Conservative plan for the wholesale privatisation of London Underground is not the answer. It would be a poor deal for passenger and taxpayer alike … Labour plans a new public-private partnership to improve the Underground, safeguard its commitment to the public interest and guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers. A public-private partnership for the underground is particularly appropriate. The first underground railway in the world started operating when the Metropolitan Railway opened a line between Paddington and Farringdon in 1863. That line, and much of the current London underground network, was developed by private enterprise. But in 1933, the underground came under public ownership, with the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board, popularly known as London Transport. The network then enjoyed another period of expansion, and it was under public ownership that many of the features of the underground that passengers value were first developed—the underground map, the logo, the fully integrated ticketing system and the travelcard.

We want to build on the best elements of private sector enterprise and the public sector service ethos. The way to do that is through a public-private partnership.

I have already referred to the investment backlog on the existing underground network which London Underground estimates at £1.2 billion and rising rapidly. London Underground also estimates that, simply to stop the network deteriorating further, it needs to spend on average more than £350 million a year. Quite simply, there is no way in which the public sector can afford those sums and modernise the network in anything like a reasonable period, so we must consider ways of bringing in private sector money.

If we can bring private sector ideas and innovation as well, without cutting corners or compromising quality of service, we will do that, too. London underground is already one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world. I acknowledge the efforts of the management and staff in achieving that. But if we can promote even greater efficiency in the underground, and ensure even better value for money, we shall do so.

However, we must never forget that the London underground is a public service and must be publicly accountable. We are mindful of the need to safeguard a real role for the mayor of London and assembly which, subject to the referendum which should take place in May, we hope will be elected in 2000.

That does not mean that we shall leave Londoners waiting for the next two years and more before the underground's problems are addressed. London deserves better than that. Subject to the outcome of the referendum, we shall introduce a Bill in the autumn to establish the Greater London authority. That Bill will make London Transport more accountable to the people of London and will include the provisions necessary to enable a public-private partnership for London Underground to be implemented.

In the meantime, we believe that, for all the options that we are now considering, it would be possible for London Underground to make substantial progress in implementing a public-private partnership.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire)

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

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

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

The House divided: Ayes 134, Noes 345.

Division No. 140] [7.30 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Allan, Richard Beggs, Roy
Amess, David Beith, Rt Hon A J
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Bercow, John
Arbuthnot, James Beresford, Sir Paul
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Body, Sir Richard
Baker, Norman Boswell, Tim
Baldry, Tony Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Brady, Graham Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Brake, Tom Kirkwood, Archy
Brand, Dr Peter Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Brazier, Julian Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Breed, Colin Lansley, Andrew
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Leigh, Edward
Browning, Mrs Angela Letwin, Oliver
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Lidington, David
Burns, Simon Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Burstow, Paul Livsey, Richard
Cable, Dr Vincent Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Cash, William Loughton, Tim
Chidgey, David Luff, Peter
Chope, Christopher Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Clappison, James MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) McIntosh, Miss Anne
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) MacKay, Andrew
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Madel, Sir David
Collins, Tim Malins, Humfrey
Cotter, Brian Maples, John
Cran, James Mates, Michael
Curry, Rt Hon David Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Dafis, Cynog May, Mrs Theresa
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Moore, Michael
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Moss, Malcolm
Duncan, Alan Nicholls, Patrick
Duncan Smith, Iain Norman, Archie
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Öpik, Lembit
Evans, Nigel Ottaway, Richard
Faber, David Page, Richard
Fallon, Michael Prior, David
Fearn, Ronnie Randall, John
Flight, Howard Rendel, David
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Robathan, Andrew
Foster, Don (Bath) Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Fox, Dr Liam Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Fraser, Christopher Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Gale, Roger Ruffley, David
Garnier, Edward Russell, Bob (Colchester)
George, Andrew (St Ives) St Aubyn, Nick
Gibb, Nick Sanders, Adrian
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Sayeed, Jonathan
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair Shepherd, Richard
Gorrie, Donald Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Green, Damian Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Greenway, John Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Grieve, Dominic Soames, Nicholas
Gummer, Rt Hon John Spicer, Sir Michael
Hague, Rt Hon William Spring, Richard
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Hammond, Philip Steen, Anthony
Harris, Dr Evan Streeter, Gary
Hawkins, Nick Stunell, Andrew
Hayes, John Swayne, Desmond
Heald, Oliver Syms, Robert
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Horam, John Taylor, Sir Teddy
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Thompson, William
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Tredinnick, David
Hunter, Andrew Trend, Michael
Jenkin, Bernard Tyler, Paul
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Wallace, James
Keetch, Paul Wardle, Charles
Key, Robert Waterson, Nigel
Webb, Steve Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wells, Bowen Woodward, Shaun
Whitney, Sir Raymond Yeo, Tim
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Willis, Phil Mr. Stephen Day and
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton) Mr. John Whittingdale.
Ainger, Nick Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Allen, Graham Dalyell, Tam
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Darvill, Keith
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Davidson, Ian
Ashton, Joe Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Atherton, Ms Candy Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Atkins, Charlotte Dawson, Hilton
Austin, John Denham, John
Barron, Kevin Dismore, Andrew
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Dobbin, Jim
Begg, Miss Anne Donohoe, Brian H
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Doran, Frank
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Drew, David
Benton, Joe Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bermingham, Gerald Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Berry, Roger Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Best, Harold Edwards, Huw
Betts, Clive Efford, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel Ellman, Mrs Louise
Blizzard, Bob Ennis, Jeff
Boateng, Paul Fatchett, Derek
Borrow, David Field, Rt Hon Frank
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Fisher, Mark
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bradshaw, Ben Fitzsimons, Lorna
Brinton, Mrs Helen Follett, Barbara
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Foulkes, George
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Galloway, George
Browne, Desmond Gardiner, Barry
Buck, Ms Karen Gerrard, Neil
Burden, Richard Gibson, Dr Ian
Burgon, Colin Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Butler, Mrs Christine Godman, Norman A
Byers, Stephen Godsiff, Roger
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Campbell-Savours, Dale Grant, Bernie
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Casale, Roger Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Caton, Martin Grocott, Bruce
Cawsey, Ian Grogan, John
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hain, Peter
Chisholm, Malcolm Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clapham, Michael Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hanson, David
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Healey, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Heppell, John
Clwyd, Ann Hill, Keith
Coaker, Vernon Hinchliffe, David
Coffey, Ms Ann Hodge, Ms Margaret
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hoey, Kate
Cooper, Yvette Home Robertson, John
Corbett, Robin Hoon, Geoffrey
Corston, Ms Jean Hope, Phil
Cousins, Jim Hopkins, Kelvin
Cranston, Ross Howells, Dr Kim
Crausby, David Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan Osborne, Ms Sandra
Hutton, John Palmer, Dr Nick
Iddon, Dr Brian Pearson, Ian
Illsley, Eric Perham, Ms Linda
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Pickthall, Colin
Jamieson, David Pike, Peter L
Jenkins, Brian Plaskitt, James
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Pollard, Kerry
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Pound, Stephen
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Prescott, Rt Hon John
Keeble, Ms Sally Primarolo, Dawn
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Purchase, Ken
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Quin, Ms Joyce
Khabra, Piara S Quinn, Lawrie
Kidney, David Radice, Giles
Kilfoyle, Peter Raynsford, Nick
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Kingham, Ms Tess Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Laxton, Bob Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lepper, David Rogers, Allan
Leslie, Christopher Rooker, Jeff
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Rooney, Terry
Liddell, Mrs Helen Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Livingstone, Ken Rowlands, Ted
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Ruane, Chris
Lock, David Ruddock, Ms Joan
Love, Andrew Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McAvoy, Thomas Ryan, Ms Joan
McCabe, Steve Salter, Martin
McDonagh, Siobhain Savidge, Malcolm
Macdonald, Calum Sedgemore, Brian
McDonnell, John Sheerman, Barry
McGuire, Mrs Anne Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McIsaac, Shona Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Singh, Marsha
McLeish, Henry Skinner, Dennis
McNulty, Tony Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mactaggart, Fiona Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McWalter, Tony Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Mallaber, Judy Soley, Clive
Mandelson, Peter Southworth, Ms Helen
Marek, Dr John Spellar, John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Squire, Ms Rachel
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Stevenson, George
Maxton, John Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Meale, Alan Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Merron, Gillian Stinchcombe, Paul
Michael, Alun Stoate, Dr Howard
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Milburn, Alan Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Miller, Andrew Stringer, Graham
Mitchell, Austin Sutcliffe, Gerry
Moonie, Dr Lewis Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Mountford, Kali Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Mudie, George Timms, Stephen
Mullin, Chris Tipping, Paddy
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Touhig, Don
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Trickett, Jon
Norris, Dan Truswell, Paul
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Olner, Bill Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
O'Neill, Martin Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield) Wilson, Brian
Walley, Ms Joan Winnick, David
Ward, Ms Claire Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wareing, Robert N Wise, Audrey
Watts, David Wood, Mike
White, Brian Woolas, Phil
Whitehead, Dr Alan Worthington, Tony
Williams Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W) Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen) Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy) Mr. David Clelland.
Division No. 141] [10 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Body, Sir Richard
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Arbuthnot, James Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Brady, Graham
Baldry, Tony Brazier, Julian
Beggs, Roy Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Bercow, John Browning, Mrs Angela
Beresford, Sir Paul Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon Maclean, Rt Hon David
Cash, William McLoughlin, Patrick
Chope, Christopher Madel, Sir David
Clappison, James Maginnis, Ken
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) Malins, Humfrey
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Maples, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey May, Mrs Theresa
Collins, Tim Moss, Malcolm
Cran, James Norman, Archie
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Ottaway, Richard
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Page, Richard
Donaldson, Jeffrey Prior, David
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Randall, John
Duncan, Alan Redwood, Rt Hon John
Duncan Smith, Iain Robathan, Andrew
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Evans, Nigel Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Faber, David Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Fallon, Michael Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Flight, Howard Ruffley, David
Forth, Rt Hon Eric St Aubyn, Nick
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Sayeed, Jonathan
Fox, Dr Liam Shepherd, Richard
Fraser, Christopher Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gale, Roger Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Garnier, Edward Soames, Nicholas
Gibb, Nick Spicer, Sir Michael
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Spring, Richard
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Green, Damian Steen, Anthony
Greenway, John Streeter, Gary
Grieve, Dominic Swayne, Desmond
Gummer, Rt Hon John Syms, Robert
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hammond, Philip Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Hawkins, Nick Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Thompson, William
Horam, John Tredinnick, David
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Trend, Michael
Hunter, Andrew Trimble, Rt Hon David
Jenkin, Bernard Tyrie, Andrew
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Viggers, Peter
Wardle, Charles
Key, Robert Waterson, Nigel
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Wells, Bowen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Whittingdale, John
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Lansley, Andrew Wilkinson, John
Leigh, Edward Willetts, David
Letwin, Oliver Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Lidington, David Woodward, Shaun
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Yeo, Tim
Loughton, Tim Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Tellers for the Ayes:
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Mr. Oliver Heald and
McIntosh, Miss Anne Mr. Stephen Day.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Baker, Norman
Ainger, Nick Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Banks, Tony
Alexander, Douglas Barnes, Harry
Allan, Richard Barron, Kevin
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Beard, Nigel
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Begg, Miss Anne
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Beith, Rt Hon A J
Ashton, Joe Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Atherton, Ms Candy Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Atkins, Charlotte Benton, Joe
Austin, John Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Best, Harold Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Betts, Clive Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Blears, Ms Hazel Edwards, Huw
Blizzard, Bob Efford, Clive
Boateng, Paul Ellman, Mrs Louise
Borrow, David Ennis, Jeff
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Fatchett, Derek
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Fearn, Ronnie
Bradshaw, Ben Field, Rt Hon Frank
Brake, Tom Fitzsimons, Lorna
Brinton, Mrs Helen Follett, Barbara
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Foster, Don (Bath)
Browne, Desmond Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Buck, Ms Karen Foulkes, George
Burden, Richard Galloway, George
Burgon, Colin Gardiner, Barry
Burnett, John Gibson, Dr Ian
Burstow, Paul Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Butler, Mrs Christine Godman, Norman A
Byers, Stephen Godsiff, Roger
Cable, Dr Vincent Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gorrie, Donald
Campbell-Savours, Dale Grant, Bernie
Canavan, Dennis Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Casale, Roger Grocott, Bruce
Caton, Martin Grogan, John
Cawsey, Ian Hain, Peter
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Chidgey, David Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Church, Ms Judith Hanson, David
Clapham, Michael Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Harris, Dr Evan
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Harvey, Nick
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Healey, John
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Clelland, David Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clwyd, Ann Heppell, John
Coaker, Vernon Hill, Keith
Coffey, Ms Ann Hinchliffe, David
Colman, Tony Hodge, Ms Margaret
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hoey, Kate
Cooper, Yvette Home Robertson, John
Corbett, Robin Hoon, Geoffrey
Corbyn, Jeremy Hope, Phil
Corston, Ms Jean Hopkins, Kelvin
Cotter, Brian Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cranston, Ross Howells, Dr Kim
Crausby, David Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland) Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Hurst, Alan
Dafis, Cynog Hutton, John
Dalyell, Tam Iddon, Dr Brian
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Illsley, Eric
Darvill, Keith Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Davidson, Ian Jenkins, Brian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Denham, John Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dismore, Andrew Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dobbin, Jim Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Donohoe, Brian H Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Doran, Frank Keeble, Ms Sally
Dowd, Jim Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Drew, David Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S Pope, Greg
Kidney, David Pound, Stephen
Kilfoyle, Peter Powell, Sir Raymond
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kingham, Ms Tess Prescott, Rt Hon John
Kirkwood, Archy Primarolo, Dawn
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Purchase, Ken
Lawrence, Ms Jackie Quin, Ms Joyce
Laxton, Bob Quinn, Lawrie
Lepper, David Radice, Giles
Leslie, Christopher Raynsford, Nick
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Liddell, Mrs Helen Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Livingstone, Ken Rendel, David
Livsey, Richard Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David Roche, Mrs Barbara
Love, Andrew Rogers, Allan
McAllion, John Rooker, Jeff
McAvoy, Thomas Rooney, Terry
McCabe, Steve Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield) Rowlands, Ted
McDonagh, Siobhain Ruane, Chris
Macdonald, Calum Ruddock, Ms Joan
McDonnell, John Russell, Bob (Colchester)
McFall, John Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Ryan, Ms Joan
McIsaac, Shona Salter, Martin
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Sanders, Adrian
McLeish, Henry Savidge, Malcolm
McNulty, Tony Sedgemore, Brian
Mactaggart, Fiona Sheerman, Barry
McWalter, Tony Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mahon, Mrs Alice Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Mallaber, Judy Singh, Marsha
Mandelson, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Marek, Dr John Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Maxton, John Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Meale, Alan Soley, Clive
Merron, Gillian Southworth, Ms Helen
Michael, Alun Spellar, John
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Squire, Ms Rachel
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Steinberg, Gerry
Milburn, Alan Stevenson, George
Miller, Andrew Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Mitchell, Austin Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stinchcombe, Paul
Moore, Michael Stoate, Dr Howard
Moran, Ms Margaret Stott, Roger
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Morley, Elliot Stringer, Graham
Mountford, Kali Stunell, Andrew
Mudie, George Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Norris, Dan Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Olner, Bill Timms, Stephen
O'Neill, Martin Tipping, Paddy
Öpik, Lembit Tonge, Dr Jenny
Osborne, Ms Sandra Touhig, Don
Palmer, Dr Nick Trickett, Jon
Pearson, Ian Truswell, Paul
Perham, Ms Linda Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Pickthall, Colin Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Pike, Peter L Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Plaskitt, James Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Pollard, Kerry Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Pond, Chris Tyler, Paul
Wallace, James Willis, Phil
Walley, Ms Joan Wilson, Brian
Ward, Ms Claire Winnick, David
Wareing, Robert N Wise, Audrey
Watts, David Wood, Mike
Webb, Steve Woolas, Phil
White, Brian Worthington, Tony
Whitehead, Dr Alan Wyatt, Derek
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen) Mr. David Jamieson and
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy) Mr. Graham Allen.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

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

Resolved, That this House wants to see a modern, efficient, affordable and reliable Underground system, worthy of the people of London, and accountable to the people of London; deplores the substantial investment backlog in the London Underground which this Government inherited from the previous administration; applauds the Government's rejection of the wholesale privatisation of the London Underground, as proposed by the previous Government; and welcomes the Government's action to explore options for a public-private partnership for the London Underground, which will safeguard its commitment to the public interest, guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers, and secure the resources necessary to ensure Londoners and visitors to the capital city have the modern Underground system they deserve.