§ [Relevant documents: Seventh Report from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Session 1997–98, on London Underground (HC 715-I) and the Government's response thereto (Cm 4093); Ninth Report from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Session 1998–99, on the Integrated Transport White Paper (HC 32-I) and the Government's response thereto (HC 708).]
§ Madam Speaker
I have to notify the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)
I beg to move,That this House regrets the Government's failure to raise private investment for the London Underground; condemns the cuts in investment in the Underground since they took office and the way their failure has squeezed other parts of the transport budget; recommends dropping the failed public private partnership, seeking more private money in another way; and calls on the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to take the necessary action now to expand all types of British transport capacity, including the Tube, so people are able to travel more easily and businesses can move their goods around efficiently; condemns the Secretary of State's failure to make crucial decisions to expand the mainline railway; regrets his decision to make the motorist a whipping boy for his own failure; urges him to follow planning policies which lessen the North South divide rather than worsen it, and which will encourage more people to live near town centres and their points of access to trains and buses rather than on greenfield developments; and concludes that the experiment in so-called joined-up Government between environment, transport and the regions has under this Secretary of State comprehensively failed.I have declared my interests in the register—including the fact that my wife works for British Airways—but I am not here to speak on behalf of those interests today. I am here to draw attention to the chaos and crisis that is the Government's transport policy.
In the past two days, as I lay on my sick bed—[HON. Members: "Oh!"] I am glad that there is so much sympathy. As I lay on my sick bed, with a temperature as overheated as Labour's south-east plans and a chest as congested as Labour's road network, I had the one comfort of knowing that my headache was likely to pass in a couple of days, whereas the huge headache caused to the Government by their transport plans will not only be with us for a very long time, but will get worse and worse. The Government's transport policy is not working, cannot work and will never work. They said that all that they had to do was to tax and hound motorists off the road and they would then go by tube or train instead. After two and a half years of that ridiculous policy, there are more cars on the road, trying to make more journeys, and the policy now looks at if it is in complete chaos.
The Government's transport policy has recently been given some go-faster stripes by the No. 10 Downing street spin doctors, but it is still stuck in standstill Britain—still caught in the same old traffic jam that the Government have deliberately created.
829 The Deputy Prime Minister has been forced to admit that traffic volumes cannot be cut when the economy is growing, so why did he come to office saying that he would do exactly that? Why does he persist in saying that there is an easy answer to get the motorist off the road, while doing nothing to provide that vital alternative that might give the motorist a better way of getting somewhere? It was a great Labour lie that the new Government would improve public transport. Two and a half years on, we see a group of Ministers wedded to their chauffeur-driven cars, busily slashing investment in the tube. Ministers may laugh, but they will not even answer my questions on how often they go to the office by tube or bus. We all know that they will not answer because the answer is never. The Secretary of State is wedded to his car and the Prime Minister is so wedded to his that he even uses the bus lane in it.
§ Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)
How many members of the Conservative Government used to take the tube or bus to work regularly?
§ Mr. Redwood
I used to walk to the office every time that I was in London. I have not seen the Secretary of State doing that.
The Government are slashing investment in the tube and dodging all the important decisions on the railways. The Deputy Prime Minister has shown himself well able to arrange a chauffeured car to go just 250 yd downhill at Bournemouth. Will he try his organising skills on securing more investment in the tube so that Londoners can move around as easily? He has shown himself adept at planning a diving trip to the Maldives. Could he use some of that energy to expand the capacity of the Welwyn viaduct so that more people could come to London by train from the north? After his recent passage to India, could he do something to relieve the worst stretches of congested highway nearer to home? I wonder what India had done so to upset the Government that the Deputy Prime Minister was sent there to talk to them about how to run a transport system.
§ Mr. Michael J. Foster (Worcester)
As a former cricketer, I shall try to bowl the right hon. Gentleman a nice slow one. Will he confirm a quotation from him in November 1996? He said:We have gridlock. In many parts of the south-east the traffic queue from one junction runs into the queue for the next. The M25 regularly seizes up. Everyone tells me that something should be done.Given his other reputation as being not of this planet, will he tell NASA what he has done with its space probe?
§ Mr. Redwood
I see that Walworth road has been working overtime with the hon. Gentleman. He clearly would not have thought of an intervention of his own. Labour cannot claim to have invented traffic jams, but it is clear that the Government have deliberately made them worse, longer lasting and more frequent on important stretches of road. The outgoing Government had road schemes that would have tackled those congestion problems, but this Government cancelled them. The outgoing Government had plans to bring in private capital for the tube and the railways, but this Government have put a spanner in the works. That is why they, not the previous Government, are to blame. Is it not about time 830 that the Government recognised that they are governing the country, two and a half years into their period of office?
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)
My right hon. Friend will know that a scheme in Weymouth was ready, with planning permission and everything else dealt with and approved by Labour and Liberal Democrat councils, and could have gone straight ahead under the private finance initiative when the Government came to power. After two and a half years, we are still waiting to know whether the scheme will go ahead. In the mean time, when Ministers have come, they have had to sit in traffic jams trying to get into Weymouth.
§ Mr. Redwood
My hon. Friend makes his point powerfully, underlining my point that the Government have made the chaos far worse, creating problems and then having the audacity to blame someone else.
§ Mr. Redwood
No, I must make a little progress, because many people wish to speak.
Only six miles out of every 100 travelled are journeys by train. If the Government woke up and decided to implement the 50 per cent. increase in railway capacity that is being suggested by the privatised industry, it would take care of only two years' growth in travel requirements. That is worth doing, and we recommend it, but it will not solve the problem of congestion. They need to sort out the road system as well as the railway system.
The Deputy Prime Minister has had proposals from Railtrack sitting on his desk for two years now. They involve paying more for new facilities and less for what is already available. Why can he not make up his mind? Why will he not sit down with Railtrack and negotiate a satisfactory package? Does he not realise that he has become the chief obstacle to expanding the railway network?
Many train travellers would like the Government to get on with the job and to make it easier for companies to run more trains. Will the Secretary of State tell us when there will be action on the Welwyn viaduct and when Paddington will be restored to capacity?
§ Mr. Redwood
Does the Secretary of State accept that important engineering works are needed for the safe running of more trains into many of the main London terminuses? The Opposition recommend that the Government do a deal with Railtrack to ensure that the main bottlenecks in the network are dealt with by investment in extra track and signals. We urge the Government to let others into the network, building sidings and branch lines to give more businesses a rail freight option. It has started to happen thanks to privatisation; it now needs some encouragement from the Government. That is the common-sense approach.
§ Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that, on this crucial issue, 831 politicians should be judged by not what they say now but what they did when they were in government. Does he recall an article by Anatole Kaletsky, who writes for The Times and is hardly a friend of the Labour party, in the weeks before the general election saying that one of the issues that would force him to consider voting against the Conservative party was its complete contempt for the public interest in transport? Why does he think that Anatole Kaletsky wrote those words?
§ Mr. Redwood
I do not agree with Mr. Kaletsky's judgment on that issue, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman lives up to his fine words. He signed the early-day motion against the Government's half-baked idea of selling off the National Air Traffic Services on the cheap. I trust that he will vote with his conscience, and then I will give him more credence.
§ Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, while some Labour Members have a little local difficulty over the National Air Traffic Services, it is nothing that cannot be sorted out over some good old-fashioned beer and sandwiches? Does he acknowledge that what unites Labour Members is our determination to expose the appalling record of his Government, who scrapped schemes such as crossrail, made a hash of the channel tunnel rail link and deregulated our bus services with a resulting decline in bus usage? Does he accept that the best thing that he could do this afternoon is apologise for the record of his Government?
§ Mr. Redwood
The Opposition are setting out some bold and innovative ideas which will make a real difference to the railway and road systems and to transport generally. Again, I look forward to the hon. Gentleman joining us in the Lobby when the issue of NATS is decided. We have strong objections to Labour's proposals. Some Labour Members, for different reasons, are equally strongly against them. We trust that they will do the right thing. I should be very surprised, however, if beer and sandwiches were on offer these days. I think it is Italian fare only for Tony's cronies at No. 10.
§ Mr. Redwood
I must now make some progress.
The Deputy Prime Minister's attitude to Railtrack has perplexed and angered many an observer. First, he blamed Railtrack for the problems of the railway and then he made it the preferred single bidder to take over the Circle and District lines. Finally, he completed the summersault and stopped Railtrack bidding for those lines.
It was never a good idea to burden Railtrack with responsibility for the tube. We warned the Deputy Prime Minister against it when he first thought of it. Railtrack will be stretched enough to raise all the money that it needs to improve the main line railway. The tube needs billions of pounds of investment in its own right. The Deputy Prime Minister's public-private partnership is two and a half years late, ruinously expensive and already a laughing stock.
832 A public-private partnership lies at the intersection of new and old Labour. The Deputy Prime Minister will point to the public part of it; he naively sees it as a way of spending public money without having the Treasury breathing down his neck. The Blairites point to the private part of it, stressing how new and third way it will be. As a result of the rows between the two schools of thought, nothing ever advances or gets better. Tube travellers have to put up with higher fares and an unreliable service. When it comes to transport investment, third way has so far meant no way.
The two public-private partnerships on the Secretary of State's agenda—NATS and the tube—are causing endless rows between himself, No. 10 and the parliamentary Labour party, which supports him or the Prime Minister from time to time.
The Deputy Prime Minister attracts more friendly fire than anyone in the Government, and that is saying quite a lot. I dislike the snobbish disdain that the teenage scribblers at the centre of this Government often seem to show for the Deputy Prime Minister. It does not make his difficult task any easier. I hope that Labour Members support me in this.
We learn that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is eyeing up the Deputy Prime Minister's job. We hear that No. 10 is wild about the way in which the Deputy Prime Minister has upset the motorist. We hear of growing impatience about the lack of results from anything the Deputy Prime Minister touches. We are told by a trade union leader—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Redwood
We are told by a trade union leader that the Deputy Prime Minister is in the evening of his political career and, by sources close to the Prime Minister, that he is not up to the job.
§ Mr. Redwood
Not at the moment.
Labour promised us joined-up government, which would be easier to achieve in a mega-Ministry. The Ministry could, for example, use its planning powers to ensure that more new homes were built in cities and towns, near to train and bus stations, rather than out on green fields near motorways and bypasses. That, in the Government's terms, would be joined-up government. Instead, we have broken-down government. They decide that more homes should be built as far away as possible from the Victorian pattern of railway lines and stations serving the main industrial towns and cities.
The Government could use their planning policies to encourage a northern renaissance and to limit development in the south. That would remove some of the extra strain that will otherwise come on to trains, buses and tubes in the south. That would be joined-up government. Instead, we have broken-down government. They decide to plough on with more development in the south, even though there is not enough capacity at the moment to transport people who are already there.
The Government could grasp that people do not use their cars out of malice or spite, but because often there is no alternative. It would be joined-up government to 833 have people drive to a station or bus stop and be able to park there. It is broken-down government to do absolutely nothing to make it easier for people to park and ride.
§ Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)
Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that it is the greatest possible compliment to his continuing parliamentary effectiveness that, every time he leads a debate, the pre-programmed robots on the Labour Back Benches seek to destabilise him? Does he agree that it is an absolute disgrace that, last year alone, the Secretary of State clobbered the road user to the tune of £32 billion and spent less than a fifth of that sum on transport?
§ Madam Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman must be allowed to answer one intervention before he can take another.
§ Mr. Redwood
My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is absolutely right. One of the main reasons why this Government are in such chaos over transport is that they are robbing the motorist, but are not spending enough on transport industries. They either have to raise money from the private sector or they have to spend taxpayers' money. They cannot make up their minds, and they end up spending nothing.
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no investment. What does he say to constituents in Salford who have seen the Government support the introduction of the metrolink?
§ Mr. Redwood
One swallow does not make a summer, and there are occasional investments even from this mean Government. However, if one looks at the overall impact, it is simply too little, too late.
§ Ms Ward
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. If he is so concerned about passengers on the railways, will he explain to the House why he is opposed to the introduction of the Strategic Rail Authority, which would ensure that there were tougher regulations on the rail companies and that the consumer got a better deal, with improved safety on our railways?
§ Mr. Redwood
We oppose more bureaucracy, and we think that the railways need some decisions from this Government, so that the railway industry can get on and invest the massive sums that are clearly needed. The hon. Lady was so busy trying to intervene that she was not listening, but I have already said that there are crucial decisions that only the Secretary of State can take. Once they are taken, billions of pounds of new investment can be brought into the railway industry. However, the franchises need to be renegotiated with the train companies and Railtrack needs a better system of revenue so that there is a fairer balance between new and old capacity, which would make a big difference to its investment plans.
834 It is broken-down Government to stop people getting around. Indeed, in many cases, the Government make it much more difficult to park and ride, because in many towns and cities now one cannot drive easily into town even to park at the railway station. The Government tell us that they want an integrated transport policy. Perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister could tell us today whether we yet have one, two and a half years into a Labour Government who said that it was one of their most important policies. Or is that integrated transport policy as delayed as the tube public-private partnership? His idea of an integrated transport policy seems to be a lay-by on the A1 where he can swap Jaguars as he speeds south.
Today's news from the Rowntree Foundation that the gap between rich and poor has started growing again under this Labour Government is further proof that Labour is not working. We were promised a year of delivery. Labour told us that it would make things fairer by helping the less well-off into work. Instead, it has followed policies that have decimated jobs in northern manufacturing areas and stimulated jobs in the southern service economy. That has made its transport problems so much the worse.
The Government have become expert only at making rhetorical U-turns. Clobbering the motorist proved unpopular, so now we are told that they are the motorist's friend. Meanwhile, the Government still pile on extra taxes and make it much more difficult to drive around. If the Opposition had not stood up for the motorist, would we ever have been told that a change of language was needed? If the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph had not championed the motorist's cause, would we now be hearing warmer words about the car? Cutting all the bypasses and road improvements the Government inherited proved so unpopular that we are now promised a review. Which of the 103 bypasses and road improvement schemes that the Deputy Prime Minister scrapped will he now definitely reinstate?
Today it is time for the Deputy Prime Minister to give us some answers. He has created standstill Britain and it is time that he found ways to get us back on the move.
§ Mr. Redwood
I shall not take any interventions for the next section of my speech. I hope that the House will listen carefully, because I am sure that the Deputy Prime Minister would like to hear my questions. The nation will regard those questions as fair, and the press and the wider public deserve answers. Let us see how we get on.
When does the Deputy Prime Minister expect to reach agreement on his latest version of the public-private partnership for the tube? How much money is he planning to make available in the meantime to improve the tube? When will investment on the tube get back up to the levels of the last few years of the Conservative Government, and why has he cut it so much? Will his private-public partnership make air-conditioning available on trains as our Londoners tube scheme would have done? Will his public-private partnership enable him to build the Chelsea-Hackney line, as our Londoners tube scheme would have done? As it is unlikely to do any of those things, why does not the Deputy Prime Minister adopt our scheme, which would deliver much-needed large increases in investment at no cost to the public accounts?
835 What is the Deputy Prime Minister's estimate of the fees and charges he has incurred, and will incur, putting together his public-private partnership? Has he apologised to Railtrack for wasting £20 million of its much-needed money on preparing a bid for the tube, which he has now deliberately blocked? Does he realise that our Londoners tube scheme, which would sell shares and give free shares to all Londoners, could be allied to a bond issue by the new companies that would raise large sums for the tube? Will he rule out bond issues for his version of the public-private partnership? Would he confirm that, because he is not selling a majority of the shares in the tube, any bond issue he wanted would count as public spending and the Treasury would continue to block him from doing that?
On the railways, will the Deputy Prime Minister tell us when he intends to meet Railtrack to respond to the company's plans for incentive payments to provide more capacity? How long will it take to negotiate new franchises with all the train operating companies so that they can get on with the important task of investing in more and newer trains?
When will the right hon. Gentleman take seriously the question of car parking arrangements at rail and tube stations? Does he understand that better car parking is crucial to persuading more people to get out of their cars? When will he start to remove the many impediments placed in the way of drivers trying to get into town and city centres, some of whom want to get into town so that they can park at the station?
When will the Deputy Prime Minister announce that building 550,000 new homes on the green fields of the south-east would be wrong from every point of view—wrong on grounds of transport and of planning, and wrong because it would make the north-south divide worse?
Will the right hon. Gentleman today rule out the possibility of a foreign company, especially one influenced or controlled by a foreign Government, buying our air traffic services on the cheap for a knock-down price? [Interruption.]
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I have a lot of good will, and especially at this time of year, but some hon. Members are making great nuisances of themselves. If they persist, I shall have to name them. I know exactly who they are, and I now ask for proper order in the House.
§ Mr. Redwood
When will the Deputy Prime Minister be able to announce some signed contracts for new road schemes? How much extra money is he making available for roads over the next two years, in view of the big cuts that he has made so far and the U-turn that was announced for him by No. 10? Will he explain why, after two and half years, investment in public transport is down, while the volume of traffic is up, and congestion and taxes have risen?
The Government have failed to provide the public transport that we need so that we can have a choice. They have presided over an opening up of the north-south gap. They watch helpless as thousands of dynamic and talented people come south, and all the Prime Minister can do is tell us on the radio from Merseyside that there are a few rich places in the north as well.
836 The Prime Minister and his deputy show how one can go from Jags to riches by coming south. When will they do something to help the people whom they are paid to represent? Their transport policy is rip-off Britain. The motorist is fleeced at the pump, the British haulier is taxed off the road, the tube traveller has to pay ever-higher fares, and less than one fifth of the money collected from road users is spent on transport.
The Government are the biggest rip-off merchants in Britain. They are the masters of stealth taxes and the muggers of the motorist. We need a big expansion of capacity in transport. We have shown how private money can modernise the tube and expand the railway, while at the same time leaving us cash to spend on bypasses and road improvements.
When will the Government realise that they must take action now to avoid total gridlock in the years ahead? That requires big new money, which must come either from free enterprise or from the taxpayer. The third way is much delayed: it is in grave danger of being completely cancelled.
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:welcomes the Government's approach for an Integrated Transport Strategy; deplores the previous Government's record of under-investment in transport, fragmentation of bus and rail services and encouragement of ill-planned out-of-town development; in particular condemns their erratic investment in London Underground, which left a £1.2 billion backlog; welcomes the Government's long-term strategy to secure over £8 billion investment for upgrading London Underground over the next 15 years; deplores the official Opposition's plans to privatise London Underground; and welcomes the Government's commitment to an extra £1.8 billion for public transport and local transport plans, improving road maintenance, reducing pollution, and encouraging the major investment needed to widen transport choice.".I do not think that that speech was worth coming back for. Have I come all this way to hear a vote of no confidence based on a speech of such poor quality? I should have stayed in India.
In passing, I note that the Leader of the Opposition has chosen to make some remarks about India. I thought that they were rather insulting to the largest democracy in the world, and to its people. Discussions of climate change problems are the big picture where transport is concerned. We have nothing but respect for the Government of India. The remarks made by the Opposition are terrible and should be withdrawn.
My expert advisers tell me that, of all the trees in the world, the densest is the redwood. The speech by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) certainly lived up to that reputation.
When this debate was announced, the right hon. Gentleman toured the studios and briefed the newspapers, saying that he would table a vote of no confidence. As there is no such vote in the motion, I assume that he did not have the support of the Leader of the Opposition. Or perhaps he examined the record and bottled out: he realised that he could not justify a vote of no confidence. Nothing in his speech today could justify the motion. There was an awful lot in it comparing records, and I intend to address that.
837 In July, The Times described the right hon. Gentleman's new transport policy asa blast of stale air.It referred to muddled thinking, uncosted plans, contradictory statements and "cheap populism". Five months later, the same judgment can be applied to the right hon. Gentleman's speech today. The phrase "shameless opportunism" sums it up. The right hon. Gentleman's opportunism is not just limited to transport—on the day I heard him on the radio accusing the Government of betraying the coal industry, I really learned the meaning of the word. And playing party politics with the Paddington tragedy was beneath contempt. Thankfully, that was rejected by the Leader of the Opposition. Today's motion is another example of opportunism and hypocrisy.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government have done nothing to improve transport. Let us compare the record of the Tory Administration, in office for 18 years, with that of this Government, who have been in office for two and a half years. The Opposition's last spending plans, published in their Red Book, would have cut almost £1 billion from transport expenditure over the past two years. In 18 years, the Tories fragmented our national railway system in a cut-price privatisation that planned for stagnation, and then sold the system off cheap. They introduced competition and left us with deteriorating services heading for decline. That is the common judgment on the privatisation of the railway system. The previous Government also failed to take a decision on train protection systems in the nine years after Clapham. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Prescott
In other words, shut up and listen.
Just two and a half years into a Labour Government, more than 1,000 extra train services run each day. We have taken a decision on train protection and created the Strategic Rail Authority to look after the public interest and lever in the investment that the right hon. Gentleman talks about. And we have appointed a regulator with a bite as well as a bark, by providing extra powers to ensure that the promises made by Railtrack and other bodies are carried out. The regulator told me that he did not have those powers before, and that is why I made those changes.
§ Mr. Prescott
In a second. The Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs, rail users, train companies and everyone else all welcome the Strategic Rail Authority—except the right hon. Gentleman, who has apparently dragged his party along with him, Conservative Members on the Select Committee having previously supported our proposition. The right hon. Gentleman wants to know about crucial decisions on main line railways. How many times—
§ Mr. Prescott
Sit down and listen to the record. The Tories have accused the Labour Government of doing nothing.
§ Madam Speaker
As I understand it, the Secretary of State is saying that he wishes to make some progress and will give way later.
§ Mr. Prescott
Thank you, Madam Speaker. The Select Committee's record is there for all to see. I intend to continue to explore the record on the charges made against us.
Investment in the railways has been mentioned. How many times did the Tories announce the start of the west coast main line renewal during their 18 years in office? How many times did they do nothing? That renewal is happening now. Railtrack has let contracts worth nearly £800 million for the first phase of the upgrade. The right hon. Member for Wokingham asked why I had not agreed that. This afternoon, the European investment bank has announced a £400 million loan to help finance it.
§ Mr. Prescott
No. The Tories are going to hear about their record. They may not like it, but they are going to get it.
In 18 years, the Tories—
§ Mr. Prescott
Just listen. The Opposition have a lot to learn. In their 18 years, the Tories deregulated buses.
§ Mr. Prescott
They are going to hear it this time.
839 Under the Tories, many villages lost their bus services; in just two and a half years, Labour has reversed the decline and created 1,800 new and improved rural services. In their 18 years, the Tories spent more than £70 billion on roads, but car per mile usage rose from 70 to 100—a 40 per cent. rise. Yet the right hon. Member for Wokingham has the audacity to talk about congestion.
§ Mr. Prescott
I am giving nothing.
The official roads survey of 1997 found that the condition of Britain's roads was the worst since records began in the 1970s. So after the Tories had spent £70 billion on them, the roads were at their worst since records began. Their legacy was potholes and disinvestment. There was one innovation of course—they gave us the cones hotline.
In only two and a half years, Labour has increased spending on road maintenance by 20 per cent. The shadow Secretary of State claims to be the motorist's friend, and says that we have imposed a tax on the motorist. But his Administration introduced the automatic fuel duty escalator from 1993. The Labour Government, in only two and a half years, has ended the fuel duty escalator.
§ Mr. Prescott
In a second.
In addition, any future real increase from fuel duty will be hypothecated to roads and public transport for the first time. No other Government have done that, and I hear nothing from the Opposition about it. Would they adopt such hypothecation?
§ Mr. Jenkin
I wish to place on the record my contempt for the Secretary of State's remarks about my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who has never sought to bring safety into party politics. It was the Secretary of State's remarks that lowered the tone of the debate on rail safety.
The Conservative Government invested far more in roads than the present Government are investing.
If the right hon. Gentleman is claiming to have stopped the automatic fuel duty escalator, will he now promise, on behalf of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor, that, in the next Budget, there will be no fuel duty increases over and above inflation?
§ Mr. Prescott
In relation to safety, it was the right hon. Member for Wokingham who appeared on television, within hours of the crash, suggesting that the issue was one for Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am afraid that it is a matter of record. I do not want to betray confidences, but the right hon. Gentleman knows what I am saying to be true.
§ Mr. Prescott
It is also a matter of fact—the record is available for all to see—that the previous Administration admitted that the introduction of train protection was a cost consideration.
§ Mr. Jenkin
The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that the Government mounted an incredible media operation to dump the blame for the crash on Railtrack. [Interruption.] Everybody in the rail industry knows that he was keen to shift the blame. Let us put that behind us and ensure that rail safety is discussed in a level-headed and calm fashion, as I know that he and I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham would want.
§ Mr. Prescott
It was not me who undermined Railtrack; it was the report of the Health and Safety Commission, which suggested that there was a conflict of interest in Railtrack dealing with safety as well as providing and operating the rest of the railway service. That was also the conclusion—I believe that it was unanimous—of the Transport Sub-Committee which also concluded that there was a conflict of interest. The previous Government were warned about this by the then Opposition, but they took no notice—I am now trying to correct that fatal mistake on safety. I shall take no lectures on safety from the Opposition.
The Opposition's claim to be the friend of the motorist is certainly not borne out. To answer the question about fuel duty increases put by the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin)—[Interruption.] Opposition Members should recall the Chancellor's statement to the House. My right hon. Friend said that he would end the automatic fuel duty escalator; that is our position. However, my right hon. Friend offered the proposition that, if there was an agreement to increase that tax above the rate of inflation, that money—[Interruption.] As I understand it, for years, most of the motoring organisations have been asking why the money raised from the duty does not go into transport. The Chancellor has offered another opportunity—if the demand is there—for that money to be hypothecated for roads and public transport. That is what my right hon. Friend has done and it is clear—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Prescott
When money comes up, it certainly brings them up. I want to make some progress; I have given way enough—I have certainly given way more than the right hon. Member for Wokingham did.
After 18 years of Government, the Tories published a Green Paper in which they supported congestion charging. They produced a reasonable analysis of transport and, in our White Paper, I incorporated the consultations reported in their Green Paper. There was a consensus that we needed to improve the quality of public transport, because we simply could not build our way out of the problem. The Green Paper made it clear that congestion charging and parking charges should be considered. The Tories did 841 not say that they would introduce the charges—they did not have the courage to do that—but they suggested them as a possibility.
I am prepared to accept that the previous Administration realised that spending £70 billion on the roads did not reduce congestion, but increased it by 40 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are you doing?"] We are switching priorities to make public transport more attractive, so that people will make it their choice instead of using private cars.
Those were the conclusions reached by the Tories. In two and half years, the Labour Government have grasped the issue, legislated for it and brought about a radical change—one that is now supported by every leading candidate for the mayor of London, including one possible Tory one—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)
I, too, do not think that the Deputy Prime Minister needed to come back for this debate.
Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that there is a huge consensus, not just among mayoral candidates but among the general public and the business community, in support of the congestion charge that he has described to the House and for which he will legislate? There is a concern, however, that, as the congestion charge is introduced, somebody in the Treasury may take a chance to reduce the transport grant to London. Could my right hon. Friend set those fears at rest by giving a categorical undertaking that that will not happen?
§ Mr. Prescott
We have made it clear that there will not be a reduction in other grants and we have made it clear that any congestion charging has to be transparent and directed towards public transport improvements. That is written into the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and it will be written into the Bill that I shall bring before the House. It is additionality, and I think very important additionality.
Where I disagree with my colleague on this matter is that he seems to believe that such charging can be introduced in a year or two. Reports suggest that it cannot be done for three or four years, but things might move faster if my hon. Friend became the mayor of London—I do not know. I suspect that charging has more to do with filling that old gap in the public financing of the London underground.
All the mayoral candidates agree about the charge. Every one of them, from the Liberal Democrat candidate to my colleagues who are standing in the election, has chosen congestion charging because it will provide an extra source of income to make up the difference in the London underground system. We will have some debates about that as the process goes on.
§ Mr. Redwood
Can we just check a little more on this promise, which has been half given to the House? Will the Secretary of State tell us how much money he is guaranteeing from public funds from his budget for the London underground for the years 2000–01 and 2001–02?
§ Mr. Prescott
I will give a statement on that at the appropriate time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There is nothing clever in that. We are putting our public expenditure in place over three years and we are in the process of 842 negotiating the second round of that. It is then that we shall make a decision about resources; there is nothing new about that.
§ Mr. Redwood
Does that not prove the point that there is no guarantee at all? It is not even written on a worthless piece of paper. The Secretary of State does not even know whether he has got any money to let the London underground have in the next two years. We cannot believe a word of the claim that the hypothecated money will make all the difference. It is quite obvious that the right hon. Gentleman will be stitched up by the Treasury.
§ Mr. Prescott
The right hon. Gentleman seems to forget that we are negotiating the whole public-private partnership for the underground, which will bring investment in on a more sustained level over a longer period than any other Government of either party has been able to achieve. It is a bit much for the right hon. Gentleman to talk about investment in the underground when the sum that he had in his Red Book was £161 million even though £700 million a year was supposed to be available for investment in the underground. I shall come to the right hon. Gentleman's other point in a second.
The right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind a number of times since he became the Conservative party's spokesman on the subject. On congestion charging—
§ Mr. Prescott
The hon. Gentleman should fight his election campaign outside the House.
The right hon. Member for Wokingham does not think that it is right for people to pay charges that will finance public transport and better roads. To be fair, he has made that clear in the House and in the debate. However, from what I hear of his statement, he is apparently quite happy for people to pay tolls on private roads. That money will go into private pockets, and he thinks that he can build roads quickly.
I was interested in the remark, "Going private will get it all speeding along and will open up the business." May I give the right hon. Gentleman a good example of what the Opposition did when they were in government and embarked upon the private sector fast-track for the Birmingham northern relief road? It was Tory Government in a nutshell.
The project saw the light of day in 1980, just after the Tories had come to office. First, it was in the public sector, but they took it out of that because, they said, they were putting it on the fast track. Then it was put in the private sector, and not an inch of the road had been built by the time they left office in 1997. Seventeen years is a fast track for the private financing of roads—cor blimey!
I will give the right hon. Gentleman fast track: it took me less than three months to decide to get on with it, and we will begin building the road next year. That is in the first two and a half years of a Labour Government. [Interruption.] The Tories' charges are totally untrue.
I turn now to something that is near to my heart—the shipping industry. In 18 years, the Tories decimated the British shipping industry. We were an island nation with barely a British-registered fleet. We lost more than 1,000 ships. In two years, Labour has reversed the decline 843 through the tonnage tax proposals and shown what can be done. All types of ship—including containers, cruise liners and tankers—are coming back to the British flag, and, with a doubling of the fleet tonnage in 12 months, the red duster now flies with pride. We told the right hon. Member for Wokingham that we could do it, and we have done it.
Instead of the cuts in transport spending by the previous Administration, we have provided an extra £1.8 billion for public transport and roads, including £700 million for the local transport plans, £300 million more for buses, £300 million more for railways on top of the annual subsidy of £1 billion, and £400 million extra for roads.
The best vote of confidence in the Government's transport strategy has come from the transport industry itself. It realises that Labour is here for a long time and that it has a long-term strategy. Rail companies have increased their private investment by one third, to nearly £2 billion a year. Bus companies have doubled their investment to £400 million a year; and overall private sector investment is up to £4.4 billion, compared with £3 billion three years ago. We can make public-private partnerships work—and the industry welcomes them—even though they failed under the previous Administration.
On planning, I am staggered when I hear some of the charges made by the right hon. Member for Wokingham. I am surprised that he wants to drag planning policy into the Opposition motion. He made a quick reference to that and moved on, and I was not surprised. In 18 years, the Tories allowed an explosion of out-of-town shopping centres. The number rose from 450 in 1986 to 1,000 in 1997. Who was in the Department of the Environment during that period? It was the right hon. Member for Wokingham. If ever there was a case for combining the Department of the Environment with the Department of Transport, the Tories' planning decisions on out-of-town development prove it singlehandedly.
The right hon. Member for Wokingham's remarks about the north-south divide were opportunist. They are the latest example of such opportunism. The Tories invented the divide between the north and south to which he referred. The right hon. Gentleman is now showing concern for the disparity that his party created and then widened in its 18 years in government.
In two years, Labour has introduced regional development agencies. [Interruption.] Hang on and listen. The Opposition now want to abolish them—is that right?
§ Mr. Prescott
Good. They would deny the English regions all the advantages that development agencies have given Scotland and Wales, which have enabled them to reduce the disparity between them and the English regions. The right hon. Gentleman would deny that opportunity to the English regions. I hope that he will make that very clear come the election.
The right hon. Gentleman made the point that more money should be available for London. Let us look at the Tory record on London. After 18 years, the Tories left London Underground with massive under-investment, a £1.2 billion backlog and a hopeless contract for the 844 Jubilee line extension which starved the rest of the system of investment. The crazy contract for the Jubilee line which was negotiated by the previous Administration means that the project is now two years overdue and £1.23 billion over budget. We had to correct that crazy judgment.
In 1989, the Tories produced the central London rail study. I thought that it was quite a good study and would lead to something. Eight years later, when they left office, what did we have? The Chelsea-Hackney line was just a line on the map, and the right hon. Member for Wokingham is asking me why I have not finished it in two and a half years. Crossrail is in the long grass. The Jubilee line extension is a shambles, and Thameslink 2000 is going nowhere.
After two years, Labour has established the Strategic Rail Authority, which is already beginning to have an effect and getting a firm grip on all the complexities of integrating the national rail system and the underground system. We have rescued the Jubilee line and the collapsing channel tunnel rail link. When I took office, I was told, "You will have to pay £1 billion more as we are giving in the keys." I said, "Leave them on the table. I will not be exploited and I will not ask for £1 billion more." I renegotiated the contract and we did not pay the extra £1 billion. The scheme is now on budget, on time and with Railtrack. I am grateful for any good job that is done. When in government, the right hon. Member for Wokingham did not make a proper decision and put a lousy contract together. Labour has rescued the project in two and a half years.
I shall announce tomorrow that the Thameslink 2000 project, which was delayed for many years by the Tories, is ready to go before a public inquiry. We can now get on with that. We have launched the process of public-private partnership to modernise the tube. That is the legacy that we shall leave for London in the coming elections. We have invested more than £5.5 billion, which the London mayor will inherit. We are proud to pass that legacy to the people of London. We are to be contrasted with a Government who stole control of their transport system. [Interruption.] What we are doing is better than giving the money to shareholders, and it reflects good judgment as regards public accountability.
The Conservative Government chopped and changed London Underground investment grant year by year. Each year, they announced funding plans for the next three years, but London Transport hardly ever received what the Tories promised. The result was predictable: the massive £1.2 billion backlog in tube investment that we face today. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission—
§ Mr. Prescott
Let me deal with the point.
The MMC, which was set up by the Conservative Government in 1991, examined London Underground financing, recognised the decline in services and ordered an inquiry. It said that £7 billion was needed over the next 10 years and at least £700 million a year in core investment. That is not for the Jubilee line but for core investment. What did the Tories do? After one year of 845 increased spending during 1993-94, they cut support to £200 million and continued the disinvestment. The previous chairman of London Transport, who was appointed by the Conservative Government, said:Vital investment in the Underground will have to be put on hold because of a one third cut in Government grant … The cuts mean that hundreds of modernisation schemes have been placed in jeopardy.That is precisely what I inherited and the difficulties that have to be dealt with now stem from that.
§ Mr. Ottaway
When the right hon. Gentleman has his public-private partnership in place, will he still need Government subsidy or will the operating profit cover the cost of the investment of the PPP?
§ Mr. Prescott
That is a reasonable question. I shall make an announcement about a report in a moment or two. The hon. Gentleman will be able to see the Price Waterhouse report. This is an important matter and we want more information about the public debate. I intend to provide that information today. The hon. Gentleman was the Opposition's spokesman when the Greater London Authority Bill was being considered in Committee. He had the honesty to admit that insufficient resources were going into London Underground and that something had to be done. That is a reflection of the previous Administration's record. However, the hon. Gentleman is not on his own in that respect. Even the hon. Member for North Essex was moved to confess:We did not do enough for the tube—I would be the first to acknowledge that".—[Official Report, 27 January 1999; Vol. 324, c. 436.][Interruption.] We can argue about what we are doing now, but not enough was done by the previous Administration.
§ Mr. Jenkin
Our plan is to release capital into the tube by putting it into the private sector. In the last three years of the Conservative Government, we invested £3 billion in the tube. In the right hon. Gentleman's first three years, he will have invested slightly more than half that sum.
§ Mr. Prescott
That is not true. The hon. Gentleman is using a calculation of public and private investment. He seeks to differ from me on public and private and then 846 amalgamates the figures. He admitted in January that the previous Administration did not do enough. The point about disinvestment is right, and that is what I have to deal with. We can argue about the best way of raising the money and whether to privatise the tube. Looking back at the privatisation of rail, the sale of rolling stock companies—ROSCOs—and the sale of our assets at a loss of billions of pounds to the taxpayer, I do not have great hopes of anything that the Conservatives would sell if they came to power.
We know exactly what the Conservatives were planning from their Red Book—a cut to £161 million this year.
§ Mr. Prescott
No. The previous Administration proposed £161 million this year for tube investment. We are providing £760 million—four times as much—in investment in the tube for the year of comparison.
§ Mr. Prescott
I must move on—my time is almost up.
Just as important, we have levered in an extra £170 million investment through the private finance initiative this year, bringing the committed total to more than £1 billion. We need a stable long-term investment programme, which our public-private partnership will provide.
I hope that both sides of the House will agree with one point: the Treasury rules that apply to the funding of our public sector industry do not guarantee long-term financing. That is one of the major critiques of financing by the state. At times, public sector industry competes with schools and hospitals for funding, and I believe that education and health should take priority. It is a public expenditure priority problem. A contract for investment, rather than a decision taken by politicians, will ensure investment over a longer period. To avoid disastrous consequences for the long-term development of the underground, I want it to cease to be a political football.
There are various choices for funding the underground. We can leave it as it is, with public sector financing. That creates serious difficulties. There is the public bond option, which is currently the subject of debate and unites several candidates for mayor.
There is no magic in bonds. I have used them in certain cases. Private bonds were used in the case of the channel tunnel, and on the London docklands. A judgment must be made as to whether bond financing would suit the circumstances of the underground. It is a matter of how much can be earned on the income stream and how much investment can be obtained. To assist the House, the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which has just been published, is available in the Library, so hon. Members can study the arguments.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, if bonds had been used to fund the Jubilee line extension, we would have been faced with a bill of £1.5 billion to meet the cost overrun. The report makes interesting reading, and I invite hon. Members to read it carefully.
Ultimately, as the House knows, the judgment must be made against the public sector comparator. That is what we are required to do. The PricewaterhouseCoopers 847 document informs the debate and gives a clear steer that the PPP is the right choice. It would save £4.5 billion, which could be spent on education, health and other priority needs. That is the public expenditure priority problem.
What PPP really stands for is: publicly owned, in which I have always believed, publicly run and properly financed. Once the assets have been modernised by the private sector, they will be returned to the public sector as a fully publicly owned and operated facility.
§ Mr. Prescott
I cannot give way. I am taking up the time of the House.
In conclusion, in place of 18 years of Tory indecision, underinvestment, fragmentation and a declining public transport system, we are fundamentally changing its direction.
§ Mr. Prescott
In our White Paper, the first for 20 years, we set out our vision, with legislation—now before the House—to provide new powers, radical new forms of finance, a new framework for public transport and accountability to the public.
§ Mr. Prescott
Doing nothing is not an option. I am not promising the quick fixes that the House has heard from time to time. I am offering and delivering long-term solutions and making decisions, controversial as they are. We will have a transport system that is well worth supporting. I will not offer quick fixes, as did successive Secretaries of State for Transport, who for years ducked the controversial issues and refused to face up to them. A transport revolution, to build a fully integrated transport system of the quality that this country needs and deserves, is what I shall be offering to the people.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Wokingham will reflect that, in marching up the hill with his confidence vote and climbing down again in humiliation, he has exposed the shameless opportunism and lack of judgment that the Opposition show in so many areas.
§ Mr. Michael Portillo (Kensington and Chelsea)
It is only in politics that one has the opportunity to be a maiden twice over. I first entered this House following a by-election just before Christmas in 1984 in the wake of the death of a Conservative Member. I enter it again today in very similar circumstances. I have to be acutely aware that I am here today only because of the untimely death of Alan Clark.
Alan Clark is greatly missed in Kensington and Chelsea, where he had many friends and was regarded as a very fastidious Member of Parliament. He is also very much missed in the House. We are told that, these days, the public like their politicians to have a hinterland, and Alan Clark had acres of that. He shocked and entertained 848 millions of people by writing about that hinterland in his diaries. Those diaries became best-sellers, and Alan Clark became a national figure.
In the diaries, there emerged a picture of a man who was frank, outspoken, sure of himself and candid. He came to the House to do what we are elected to do; he thought for himself and spoke up. The sympathy of the whole House goes to his widow, Jane, for her very untimely loss.
I have a very demanding constituency; I have no doubt about that. It is home to many of the movers and shakers in our nation, particularly in business, media and arts. It also has some of this country's great institutions. It has the museums of south Kensington, the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, the Royal Marsden and the Royal Brompton hospitals—great national institutions indeed. The constituency is also one of villages and communities, where people live among wonderful heritage. They are determined to work and fight for the retention of their way of life and the character of their community.
Many of the statistics on Kensington and Chelsea would lead one to believe that it is a very affluent area, but it also has its range of problems. We certainly have a fair number of refugees living in bed-sitting rooms along the Cromwell road; we certainly have a number of homeless people. I am here as the representative of all those people, too.
We also have many elderly people living in leasehold property who are struggling against unscrupulous landlords. Many are facing the expiry of their lease and demands from freeholders for sums of money that they cannot possibly afford. They are living in great anxiety. Those people were promised a great deal by this Government, and they have been duped by this Government. No legislation on the subject of leasehold reform has been forthcoming. I shall fight in this House to ensure that the Government are shamed into acting on their promises.
What can my constituents expect from me? I have here an item that has been brought to me from Australia. It is an inflatable cushion, which is known simply as "Portillo". The House might be interested in some of its characteristics.
Portillo for unrivalled comfort … Portillo for ease and convenience … Portillo has 1001 usesand some advice for the Government—Grab Portillo in the palm of right hand, inserting thumb into opening and grip firmly".Perhaps that advice was intended for those on this side of the House. The instructions contain a warning to hon. Members:The rolled-up Portillo is simple to have bounce back to its full size and shape.I want to speak about transport, and I declare an interest because I am an adviser to two energy companies. All the candidates in the by-election discovered that it was almost impossible to find voters at home and that the only way of finding them was by going to the underground in the morning during the rush hour and catching a blurred glimpse of commuters as they rushed past. My constituency is full of underground stations and commuters. Those people have been deceived by the Labour party. As I shall demonstrate, there has been no extra investment in the underground; indeed, the Labour Government have invested less in it. Although the system is crowded, there are no proposals for new additions to it.
849 People become especially indignant when Ministers are completely out of touch with commuters' daily experience. Ministers talk about driving people out of their cars as though the public transport system were running empty. They talk as if people were driving cars out of sheer bloody-mindedness. That is not so. Many drive because the public transport system is crowded and unreliable, yet the Labour Government have not proposed any additional capacity.
The Government's only achievement is the creation of a privilege lane on the M4. I call it that because commuters who are stuck in a jam every morning see plutocrats—perhaps donors to new Labour—whizzing by in taxis. The bus lane is misnamed; a bus is hardly ever seen in it. Anyone who believes Government statistics that claim to show that traffic is moving on the M4 should be put into a home for people who believe the Government's statistics. I am keeping an eye on the bus lane, which is currently for "buses and taxis only", and awaiting the day when it is for "buses, taxis and ministerial cars only".
I was Transport Minister for two years. [Interruption.] Oh yes, and I am extremely proud of the previous Government's record. We ordered the Jubilee line extension, and we built the docklands light railway, which we extended to Lewisham and Tower Hill. We put the trams into Manchester, Sheffield and Croydon, and extended the railway system to Stansted and Heathrow airports. We electrified the east coast main line, and caused the channel tunnel to be built. The Government have not made a single public transport announcement. That is a disgrace.
We had a vision for London. We planned to relieve the congestion in the west of London and on the M4 corridor by building new rail and road links to the east. We built many new river crossings across the Thames in the east so that we could bring prosperity to east London. Yet, with all those new rail links, Ministers will travel to the dome on new year's eve by car—another snub to the public transport user. What is the Deputy Prime Minister's vision for London? The Government have no such vision.
Government investment in the underground has been lower than in any year under the Conservative Government. The Deputy Prime Minister tried to shrug that off by talking about the money that went into the Jubilee line, as if our investment in it was worthy of condemnation. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman will listen, I can tell him that, even excluding the money that we invested in the Jubilee line, in every recent year bar one, our investment in the core of the underground was greater than that of the present Government.
The Deputy Prime Minister's hopes for the future are only hopes because he has put them all in the idea that the public-private partnership will produce the investment that is necessary for the underground. When I was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, our officials reckoned that they could recognise those Ministers who were suckers. I think that the Treasury saw him coming, because it persuaded him that, with a public-private partnership, there was no need to put any money at all in the Government public spending plans for investment in the underground. I can imagine the scene when it said to him, "Don't worry, John. We'll see you all right if the thing goes wrong." The thing has gone badly wrong. He 850 was then given another £365 million to spend over two years. What has happened to that? It has gone into the black hole of the Jubilee line extension.
§ Mr. Portillo
The right hon. Gentleman does not deny it. That money has gone into the black hole of the Jubilee line extension; it is not available to fund the core of the underground. He ought to be concerned about that, because I heard the Prime Minister say that he was investing more in London underground than the previous Government. That is not true, and I have proved it. Now the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that what little money there is, is going not into the core, but into the black hole of the Jubilee line extension.
The right hon. Gentleman finds himself with no money—the cupboard is bare—and he is quite wrong to put all his hopes in the public-private partnership because I do not believe for a minute that those bidders will come forward with anything other than a demand that they should continue to receive public subsidy. Some mayoral candidates are in the Chamber, so may I ask in their presence whether the right hon. Gentleman now proposes that all those decisions should become subject to the authority of the mayor of London, since they will slip into the middle distance and be taken during the mayor's period in office? He is in a hopeless position: having sacked Railtrack, what will he do about the sub-surface lines? He has no plans for that whatever. I listened carefully to his speech and list of achievements, but all that the Government have done is establish structures, commission reports and integrate things. My constituents want some railway lines to be built, but he has not provided any new capacity.
At one stage, it was suggested that the Opposition should table a motion proposing a cut in the right hon. Gentleman's salary, but I am pleased that my right hon. Friends decided, in their wisdom, not to pursue that—first, because he is the fall guy in this situation—perhaps a naive fall guy—and, secondly, because it is so painfully obvious that the Prime Minister intends to cut his deputy's salary to zero. The only question is on which date that will happen.
§ Mr. Portillo
The skilful briefing from Downing street has set the vultures of Fleet street hovering around the right hon. Gentleman's corpse, and he knows it. The only question for Londoners is whether the change of Secretary of State will at last mean that they will get a change of policy and the policies that they need and so rightly deserve.
§ Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)
I thought that the speech made from the Conservative Front Bench was a record effort, but it is clear that the rejuvenated retread—the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo)—outdoes even the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) when it comes to barefaced cheek.
This country had to put up with years of neglect, particularly of public transport, by a Government who were clearly governing without due care and attention. 851 Worse than that, their policies were stupid and fragmented the public transport system, leaving all sorts of places outside the major conurbations—rural areas, in which the Opposition claim so much interest—virtually bereft of the bus service that they were used to and breaking up our railway system in an extremely damaging way. The situation here in London is unique in its history: the roads are absolutely choked, which is damaging business severely; the Confederation of British Industry estimates that the delays are costing business in London £21 billion a year; those delays are seriously inconveniencing people who want to get about in London; and the fumes caused by the traffic are seriously damaging the health of Londoners, particularly old and young people.
§ Mr. Dobson
No, I shall not. [Interruption.]
Because of the blockages on the roads, buses provide an extremely unreliable, slow and inefficient service. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but there is an outbreak of sedentary comments. Far too many are being made, and the right hon. Gentleman should be heard with more respect.
§ Mr. Dobson
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Worst of all, the Government inherited no sensible plans to improve the service to Londoners. Having come a poor second to Lord Archer the first time that the Tories chose a candidate for London mayor, Steve Norris is now apparently the chosen person. He was the Minister for Transport in London and we are living with the consequences of his negligence.
However, when it comes to negligence, Steve Norris's record does not compare with the adverse impact on Londoners of the record of the newly elected right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea, who started damaging London's transport system even before he became Transport Secretary. As Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for almost a year he obstructed the proposals of ABB in Derby to provide new rolling stock for the Northern line, and insisted on a different contract, which went to another company. Because the Conservative Government was behind that contract, it was a stupid, ridiculous, incompetent contract, and the rolling stock still has not been fully delivered. We are still living with that inheritance.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to claim credit for the Jubilee line and to discredit the present Secretary of State for having to meet the excessive costs of the ludicrous contract for which he was responsible. One of the big problems for London has not only been that the tube has been starved of investment, but that the huge sums of money made available for investment have been misused and wasted.
§ Mr. Dobson
No, I shall not give way.
852 The Jubilee line extension is but the latest example of scandalous waste in major investment projects in London underground. They have all been characterised by huge delays and vast cost overruns. The cost overrun for the Jubilee line of £1,400 million is robbing Londoners twice. The money going into that project would have totally rehabilitated the Northern line. That sort of money is not available to rehabilitate the Northern line, so that scheme is 18 months late. The former Secretary of State for Transport is proudly claiming that he was responsible for that contract. Thank God he is not in government any longer.
§ Mr. Portillo
Merely so that the House may judge the accuracy of anything that the right hon. Gentleman says, I should tell him that I was never Secretary of State for Transport. The position that I held in transport I held prior to my position as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In almost every particular, the right hon. Gentleman has got his facts wrong. Heaven help us if that is the best quality on offer as the Labour candidate for London. Poor old London.
§ Mr. Dobson
The right hon. Gentleman claimed credit for the contract, but I do not know whether he did so as a former Transport Minister, as a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury or for that matter as a former Secretary of State for Defence. He certainly claimed credit for it. I do not know whether he thought that he was putting a tactical nuclear weapon in south-east London.
§ Mr. Portillo
I realise that the right hon. Gentleman has not been well recently, so I do not want to trespass on him. He very courteously sent me a note telling me in advance that he intended to mention me in his speech, so his remarks were obviously premeditated. The idea that I took him by surprise when I mentioned that I had been Transport Minister is wholly erroneous.
The right hon. Gentleman got all his facts wrong, including the basic data about which posts I held at which time. That demonstrates the extent of his veracity, and the credence that we should attach to every word that he utters in his speech.
§ Mr. Dobson
Before the right hon. Gentleman reminded me of his miserable record as a Transport Minister, I was simply going to refer to the adverse effect that he had on Londoners when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Unless my ears deceived me, he claimed credit for the existence of tram systems all over the country. I recall that, when he was Chief Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman did his best to foul up the tram system which, despite his worst efforts, has now been established between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. The Tory newspapers in Birmingham—whose editor-in-chief has, I understand, just been adopted as a Tory candidate in that city—commented that the last Government were so stupid that they could not make up their mind about whether to finance a tram system in "Brum", as they described it. The right hon. Gentleman interfered, and fouled up that proposition too.
We need more investment in the tube system—
§ Mr. Dobson
853 We need more investment in the tube system, but we need a change in the system to prevent the scandalous delays and cost overruns that we have experienced before. I believe that any solution must be subject to three conditions—conditions that would not apply under the Tories, because they want to privatise the underground wholesale. First, no arrangement should be made that does not leave every operational aspect of the tube in the hands and within the responsibility of the publicly owned and publicly accountable London Underground. Secondly, any arrangements that are made should be vetted at every stage by the Health and Safety Executive, and cleared by it for the purpose of either maintaining or improving current safety levels. Thirdly, whatever arrangements are made should give value for money.
I think that, subject to those conditions, it is wholly proper and reasonable for my right hon. and good Friend the Secretary of State to investigate the possibility of public-private partnerships. There is a very good example of public-private partnerships in London's transport system: the public-private partnership that has built the docklands light railway extension to south London on time and to price. That contrasts with the scandalous waste and delays that have affected the Jubilee line extension. If we are sensible and try to live and learn, we must learn from the example of the docklands light railway, and seek to apply it to any arrangements that we make for the tube.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Given the three preconditions for the public-private partnership that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, if a successful bidder were not found, would he favour a fully public-sector solution? If so, how much investment should be pumped into the tube?
§ Mr. Dobson
I am fairly confident that reasonable bids meeting all three of my preconditions will be found for at least some of the projects. We must look for a way of tying the sources of finance with some responsibility for the successful conclusion of the construction projects that they are funding. We should at least try to place a duty on those who have raised the money for the construction to organise the construction, and then to maintain the plant that they have supplied for a period of years, as a general contract. That would mean that, for the first time in the history of such contracts, the sources of finance would have a vested interest in delivering what had been promised. That would mean that, if the project were late, they would not get paid until it was done. If there were a cost overrun, of which there have been so many, private sector sources of finance would pick up the tab. They have never had to do that, in the past; the public have had to pick it up. The PPP-PFI approach is one way of achieving that.
One thing is privatised through that approach: the risks and the cost overruns. If people who have entered into arrangements to find the finance, to do the construction and to provide the maintenance fail to deliver, they will pay the price and no one else will. We should apply that approach, if we can, to the renewal of the tube.
It has been suggested that an alternative method of finance would be a bonds issue for the whole underground.
§ Mr. Dobson
I will not give way at the moment.
One of the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) in favour of a bonds issue is that it would cost less—he thinks—to raise some of the money, but people would be willing to take a lower return on their investment because, through a bonds issue, they take not a scintilla of risk; the public and passengers take the risk. Therefore, as I say, we have to come up with a system where private sector suppliers of finance take the risk. If we have just a bonds issue, they will get their money, whether every project is five months or five years late, whether there is a cost overrun of 5 per cent. or 500 per cent.—it is risk-free investment. Therefore, they will take a lower return. I do not think that that is the best way of proceeding.
§ Mr. Dobson
No, I shall not for the time being.
As I say, we have the example of the success of the docklands light railway. We also have—I refer to my previous incarnation a few months ago as Secretary of State for Health—the example of the private finance initiative for hospitals, which has financed the start of work on 19 major hospital projects in just about as many months. That is working.
Uniquely in the history of the health service, instead of hospitals being six months, a year or two years late, some hospital managements face a unique challenge as a result of PFI: they may have to take over some of the hospitals that have been built before the original scheduled date. That shows that, if we can tie in the sources of finance with the risk of the construction, they will ensure, in a way that no one has ever done by placing a public sector contract with the private sector, that they deliver what they promised. That is why I support that approach.
§ Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)
I am following my right hon. Friend's remarks and I think that he is going down the right road. Does he agree that, although there may be a case for issuing bonds in certain circumstances, there can be no case for issuing bonds of £7.5 billion at the same time as imposing a fares freeze for four years, there by making it impossible for there to be an income stream to pay back the bonds? People in the City may be stupid, but they are also greedy. It is inconceivable that they could agree to such a programme. Does he agree that London Transport's current profit, or surplus, of some £300 million per annum would be wiped out by a fares freeze and that it would be impossible to finance the thing at all?
§ Mr. Dobson
There is much truth in what my hon. Friend says.
I make another point before sitting down and giving other hon. Members the opportunity to speak. Even when the existing underground system has been fully renewed—I think that it is likely to happen under the Secretary of State's proposals—all that will do is provide the people of London with a decent, reliable ride on the existing system.
We also require additional capacity. That is why I strongly support the crossrail project, for which the City has put together a package. I welcome that package, but deplore the fact that, when the previous crossrail project was proposed, Conservative Members—who were then in government—did not lift a finger to help it. If they had supported the project—in their capacity as Transport Minister, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury or just as an oddball Cabinet member—and put their backs behind it, crossrail would now be well on its way to being built, rather than having to be started almost from scratch.
Many people who live in one part of outer London work in another part of outer London, and they find it almost impossible to get to work by public transport. I believe, therefore, that we need to have something like an outer Circle line, which will probably be a surface railway. Furthermore, some of the line could be provided fairly quickly—by connecting parts of the current system, making the system more systematic, and making a real effort to encourage people to use such a system.
In the long run—I admit that I am now engaged in describing only a wish list, rather than firm plans—there is scope in London for an outer, outer Circle line, joining up the outer boroughs, Heathrow and channel tunnel connections and increasing people's capacity to reach Gatwick and Stansted, so that we have a modern system that genuinely meets the needs of Londoners. We need a new approach to transport in London—an approach that moulds the system to meet the needs of Londoners, rather than forcing Londoners to fit in with our currently ill-shaped and outdated system.
In the short term, however, we shall not be able to make those improvements, as they all depend on long-term projects that will involve digging holes in the ground and improving the current tube system. In the short term, we shall have to make the bus system work far more effectively. We shall have not only seriously to enforce current restrictions on bus lanes and red routes, but to extend those restrictions, to give priority at junctions to buses. If we really want people to move in buses, buses will have to have advantages over other forms of road travel.
Such proposals will upset some people, but—there we are—they will have to be upset. I think that the bulk of people in London will welcome the proposals.
The Government have provided in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 for the introduction of congestion charging, which has been welcomed by almost all sensible people. Such charging will have to be done sensitively. Although it will also take time to introduce a properly effective system, when we do, it will raise money to spend on public transport.
On that matter, I differ slightly from my colleagues on the Treasury bench. We cannot introduce a congestion charge and say to people, "This is part of an effort to get you out of your car and on to better public transport", 856 unless better public transport is already available. Ultimately, therefore—so that work will be done early, and people will benefit straight away from that work—the Greater London Authority will have to be able to borrow against future income from congestion charging. Providing that we take those approaches, we shall be able to make some progress.
I commend the activities and hard work done by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and the Ministers in his team. They have been subjected to shameful and disreputable attacks, for which most of the attackers should be deeply ashamed.
§ 5.9 pm
§ Mr. Don Foster (Bath)
I welcome the conversion of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) to Liberal Democrat policy on congestion charging and the need to have up-front improvements in public transport before its introduction. However, I hope that he will not object if I do not immediately refer to some of his other comments. I shall come to them later. I very much hope that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) will shortly catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that we shall have an opportunity to compare the speeches of two protagonists in the forthcoming battle for the mayoralty of London.
There can be little doubt about the outcome of the battle between the Front Benches today. I was amazed to hear an intervention on the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) from a Conservative Back Bencher who referred to his continuing parliamentary effectiveness. I saw little sign of that during his speech. The Deputy Prime Minister rightly questioned whether it had been worth his while coming back from India. I may not agree with everything that he said, but I agree with his conclusion that it was not worth his while. With the customary generosity that the House affords to hon. Members on both sides, I am sure that we are prepared to acknowledge the current illness of the right hon. Member for Wokingham and put his damp squib of a speech down to it. The Deputy Prime Minister has had a bad press over the past couple of weeks, but many of us expect tomorrow's headlines to read, "Prescott wins on points," or, even more likely, "Redwood saves Prescott's job." I fear that that will be the abiding memory of today's debate.
The right hon. Member for Wokingham's speech was bad not just because of what he said, but for what he did not say. There was not a scintilla of apology or humility in it. Not once did he acknowledge that much of the mess in our transport system is due to the actions of the Conservative Government. The record is clear. In each of the Conservatives' 18 years in office, traffic levels went up, despite the biggest building programme since the Romans. During those 18 years, buses were deregulated and, as a result, the number of people travelling on our buses went down. That correlation is proved by the example of London, where the same deregulation did not take place and the number of people using the buses went up. The Conservatives also presided over the disastrous sale of our railways and the fragmentation of the system into 100 parts. Despite all that we heard from the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo), when the Conservatives left office, there was a £1 billion backlog of repair and maintenance work for the tube system.
857 That was the Conservatives' record. What did they offer for the future? The right hon. Member for Wokingham told us that they were offering bold and innovative ideas—their so-called common-sense revolution. In my book it is not common sense to have policies that will leave motorists in even longer traffic jams. It is not common sense to propose removing traffic calming measures and speed cameras. It is not common sense to suggest that we can build our way out of the current road chaos.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way as I am a little worried about his last sentence. Only yesterday, I presented him with a document from Weymouth and Portland borough council backing the Liberal Democrat county council's bid for a new road in Weymouth. Is he saying that the Liberal Democrats do not want that road? It is certainly the first priority of Liberal Democrat-controlled Dorset county council.
§ Mr. Foster
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. If he examines the record, he will see that, for example, I supported the building of a bypass that was much needed to improve the living environment of many of my constituents. I am not aware that the Deputy Prime Minister has suggested that there should be no further road building; the question is whether the main policy for solving the current crisis on our roads is one of continually building more roads or one of a much more selective programme of road building backed by more effective investment in public transport.
In a sense, I was generous to the Deputy Prime Minister when I compared his speech with that of the right hon. Member for Wokingham but I hope that that will not lead him to believe that we consider all that he is offering as sweetness and light. Increasingly, we have come to the view that his grand vision of an efficient, integrated transport system is a mirage. Many people have growing concerns about whether the Labour Government really will be capable of delivering. An opinion poll carried out by NOP was published today, showing that only 13 per cent. of respondents believe that public transport has improved under the Labour Government. Although a further 7 per cent. believe that things may improve in the near future, 51 per cent. believe that, under the Government's current policies, things will never improve.
The problem is that the Government have oversold their policies. Like so many other Departments, DETR has been guilty of over-hyping. The Deputy Prime Minister is not the only one at fault. The Department for Education and Employment promised to reduce class sizes, but it has delivered only for the few; for the many, class sizes are rising.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Labour Government have created 700,000 new jobs, so 700,000 more people are on the move every day? The Government's success in that respect may be ahead of their transport policy, so people's perceptions are wrong. Investment in transport is for the long term and we have every confidence that we shall succeed.
§ Mr. Foster
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman referred to investment in public transport. In just a few moments I shall return to that subject and link it to the point that he raised.
858 Many Departments—from the Department of Health making promises about waiting lists, to the Treasury attempting to persuade people that taxes are falling when in fact they are rising, to the Home Office promising 5,000 additional police officers that are unlikely to materialise—have been guilty of over-hyping, and that is leading to significant problems. It is certainly true in respect of DETR. We need only a few specific examples to illustrate that. In terms of rail funding, for example, almost every commentator now accepts that there needs to be a significant increase in investment in our railways if we are to meet the expected rise in the number of passengers and bring about general improvements, particularly in safety. Yet, under their current proposals, the Government's subsidies to our railways are set to fall significantly—by somewhere in the region of £900 million. Given the Deputy Prime Minister's new-found enthusiasm for hypothecation, the real question is what will now happen to that £900 million saving. Can we at least have an assurance that the money will go into improving at least some other aspect of public transport, or will it simply end up in Treasury coffers?
§ Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
The hon. Gentleman seems to forget about the other moneys going into the railways. Does he accept that Virgin is putting in £1 billion for 55 new tilting trains for the west coast main line? My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said that Railtrack had signed up for £800 million already, and will have to spend billions more. The commitment is there to upgrade the west coast main line.
§ Mr. Foster
The hon. Gentleman misses the key point that the Deputy Prime Minister made earlier. The right hon. Gentleman sought to take credit for the fact that, when road pricing is introduced, there would be "additionality"—additional money coming into the overall system. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there will be increased investment from the private sector. No one could deny that, or say that it is not welcome. However, the figures in the Red Book from the Government's own comprehensive spending review say that, while private sector investment will be increasing, the Government's contribution to public transport is falling—despite what the Prime Minister said during Prime Minister's questions today.
§ Mr. Prescott
The hon. Gentleman refers to subsidies in contracts that are presently being renegotiated. He knows that the seven-year franchises were too short to guarantee investment—that has been the complaint by the industry. We are renegotiating the franchises. Companies will receive a great deal more income from a 15 per cent. increase in traffic, and will take a longer view of rail investment. The question of how much the state gives—or of the savings achieved—is a matters for the negotiations.
§ Mr. Foster
I am glad to hear what the Deputy Prime Minister says. There is considerable confusion over how much money the Government will put in as a result of the outcome of the renegotiations of the franchises. If the right hon. Gentleman is now saying that there is a real possibility that Government investment will significantly increase, to be matched by increased investment from the private 859 sector, at least we will begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, with the possibility that the huge gap in funding that every commentator has identified may be filled.
§ Mr. Prescott
The subsidy to which the hon. Gentleman refers is a revenue subsidy, not a capital subsidy. The fact that we will get more investment does not mean that the Government have to give any more money. The gap may be made up by the growth in the numbers of passengers on the railways. That is an issue for negotiation—it is not to do with investment.
§ Mr. Foster
The Deputy Prime Minister has seen the figures. Certainly, he will have seen that all of the indications from the BBC programmes last week—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman laughs, yet he was seen on television accepting that, in orders of magnitude, the figures were of the right order. That is crucial. There is a huge gap, and there is considerable confusion in the Government over where we are going with this.
§ Dr. Peter Brand (Isle of Wight)
Is my hon. Friend aware that, under an early privatisation, ferries within England—and certainly those to the Isle of Wight—did not receive any subsidy? If a franchise is long enough, investments can be made and an efficient service provided. However, that results in having probably the most expensive ferry crossing in the world in distance travelled for each pound in charges. Is there not a fear that, if the Government adopt a hands-off approach on rail travel, we may have an efficient railway system that no one will be able to afford to use?
§ Mr. Foster
My hon. Friend makes his point in his own eloquent way. However, to suggest that the Deputy Prime Minister will adopt a hands-off approach is perhaps taking matters a little far.
I was suggesting that there has been an element of over-hype by the Government, and I sought to give one example. Another example—in a smaller, but important, area—is pensioner bus passes. In July 1998, we were told by the Government that pensioners could expect Government-funded subsidies for travel. Despite all the credit the Government have sought to claim for that, they made it clear in a parliamentary written answer I received today that that money will not be forthcoming until 2001–02. That is another example of over-hyping.
§ Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Deputy Prime Minister once again illustrated how wrong he is when he suggested that increased revenue would come from increased passenger usage? He fails to understand that increased passenger usage will not materialise until there is a service that people want to use. That will happen only when the Government are prepared to put their money where their mouth is.
§ Mr. Foster
My hon. Friend makes his point well. Other areas of concern include the direction of the Labour 860 party. Before the general election, Labour made it clear that our airspace was not for sale, but now it has made a U-turn and proposed the privatisation of NATS. On road traffic reduction, we all remember the Deputy Prime Minister saying that he would have failed if, in five years, there were not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. He urged us to hold him to that, but only last week, at the motoring summit, he said:I have never thought that a national year on year reduction in traffic is possible in the real world.
§ Mr. Foster
The right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that he has changed his position, but that has led to much confusion. As I said earlier, there is confusion about the Government's stance on Government funding of public transport. Only today in this Chamber, we heard the Prime Minister claim that the Government were investing more in public transport, but that simply is not the case. Over the five-year period of the comprehensive spending review—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman may wave his figures at me, but I got mine from the Library and I hope that he will not challenge them. They are from the Red Book and they demonstrate that the Government will spend £270 million less on public transport during the five-year period than was spent under the previous Administration.
§ Mr. Foster
No, because I want to make some progress and many other hon. Members wish to speak.
My other concern is the way in which Government policies sometimes appear to be made for the wrong reason. Much has been made of the decision not to go ahead with Railtrack in the proposals for the tube. I am concerned that—whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue—the reason for that decision was purely political. The evidence is clear. On 19 June, the Deputy Prime Minister first announced a possible partnership between the Government and Railtrack. On 30 September—and only then—heads of agreement were signed by the two parties. Those heads of agreement made it clear that the deadline for Railtrack's submission was January 2000. On 8 November, the hon. Member for Brent, East launched his attack on the Government's policies for the tube. On 16 November, an ICM poll showed that the hon. Gentleman was way ahead of all the other candidates. On 19 November the Labour party allowed the hon. Gentleman on to the shortlist, despite all the criticisms he had made of Railtrack's involvement. Although Railtrack was not required to submit its proposal until the end of January, on 22 November, the Government suggested that the Railtrack deal might not be certain. Then, on 30 November, it was ditched by the Government.
§ Mr. Prescott
This is an important point. When the heads of agreement were signed, one of them was that there should be integration east and west, and north and south. I received a letter from the Strategic Rail Authority, which is handling matters of integration, informing me that it would not be possible to conclude a deal east and west from Paddington. I had told Railtrack that it could have an exclusive contract if it could provide me with the 861 integration plans. It could not do that: in those circumstances, I ended the agreement and put it out to open contract.
§ Mr. Foster
I am grateful to the Deputy Prime Minister, who has pointed out that the Strategic Rail Authority advised him that the integration was not possible. However, the reality is that Railtrack was not due to bring forward a proposal—
§ Mr. Foster
If the right hon. Gentleman is going to intervene, I hope that he will state that he was told categorically by Railtrack, before the date that I have specified, that it was incapable of delivering the programme.
§ Mr. Prescott
Yes, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that Railtrack informed me the next day that it was not able to carry out the contract for the integration with the Paddington link in the way that it had suggested. It proposed a two-stage deal, which I did not consider acceptable as it went against what I had agreed. That is why I took the action that I did. Both Railtrack and the Strategic Rail Authority agreed that the contract could not be completed to that timetable.
§ Mr. Foster
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for putting that clear statement on the record. However, as I said earlier, it is clear to me that the opportunity for Railtrack to see what it could do extended until the end of January. I do not know whether the company would have been able to deliver on the contract, but I am left with the belief that party politics played a large role in the decision, especially in respect of the hon. Member for Brent, East.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman with this. Railtrack would have been perfectly capable of completing the private finance initiative arrangements for the whole of the sub-surface of the tube and for the north-south integration project. The east-west integration was a relatively minor part of the scheme, and the Deputy Prime Minister used it as an excuse to drop Railtrack like a hot brick.
§ Mr. Foster
I may not agree with everything that the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) said about transport, and I do not even agree with his proposals for solving the problems of the tube, but, when it comes to an analysis of what has happened, he and I are as one.
§ Mr. Foster
It is clear that the Government have over-hyped what they are capable of doing to improve public transport and solve this country's transport problems. In that respect, they have failed the country. We cannot therefore support the Government's amendment.
Equally, however, we are extremely disappointed that Conservative Members have not offered an ounce of admission that the previous Government were responsible 862 for the vast majority of the current problems. As a result, we shall go into the Lobby and vote against both the motion and the amendment.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
The House of Commons is an amazing place. At 3.30 this afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister was under siege. An hour and a half later, he has triumphed in the House and the whole agenda has changed.
The future role of my right hon. Friend started out as the subject under discussion, but now it is the question of leadership challenges in the Conservative party. Will the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) be a challenger some time in the future? On today's performance, I think not, so perhaps it will be the retread who has just returned to the House, the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo). In addition, there is the side issue among Labour Members of who will be our mayoral candidate.
In a sense, it is almost a pity to go back to the opening speech, about which I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). The right hon. Member for Wokingham displayed bare-faced cheek in coming to the House and making no apology for the 18 years under the previous Conservative Government during which problems got worse, and in offering no policy proposals for the future.
What exactly happened during those 18 years? I shall deal first with bus deregulation. Before that, in almost everywhere in my constituency a bus ran until at least 10 o'clock at night, and often later. Pensioners come to me now worried that they will have to give up their driving licences because they are too old to drive a car safely. They say to me, "What can we do? The last bus back to the estate is at 8 o'clock at night. There is no regular service back." For many of those pensioners, bus deregulation destroyed public transport
§ Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich)
Has my hon. Friend been told by his constituents how pleased they are with the Government's investment in rural transport? In my area, 130,000 passenger journeys have been made on the Essex village link since the Government invested that money. One customer commented:It would seem that these buses are used by regulars. People who would otherwise be housebound have a new dimension for enjoyment. I shall use it again (and probably again)".I have one more quote.
§ Mr. Bennett
I certainly appreciate my hon. Friend's comments. It would be unfair of me to claim that a large part of Denton and Reddish has rural bus services. The point is that many people are not able to drive, because they are too old, too young or disabled. They have to rely on the buses, and the bus service was destroyed by deregulation.
The previous Government claimed that the bus services in Manchester needed more competition, leading to the privatisation of the old municipal services. There is no more competition now than there was before, but we have 863 a far worse service. Wage rates for drivers have been substantially reduced, there are some driver shortages and buses do not always turn up.
As for rail privatisation, one has only to stand on Stockport station to see six different rail companies jostling to get their trains on to platform 2. If a train is a couple of minutes late, the situation snowballs. People want to know where the blame lies, but it is extremely difficult to apportion blame.
The previous Government promised that the new Swanwick centre for National Air Traffic Services would be up and running first one year, then the next, and then the next. They never gave the management the opportunity to make it work. The way in which that contract was left was a tragedy. There was no guarantee under the previous Government that, if a project went wrong, the contractor, rather than the public, would meet the cost. The Jubilee line is another example.
I want to refer to the positive aspects of transport. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, in arguing strongly for a new Department, recognised a major fault in that the previous Government did not join up pollution, planning and transport. They all go together so any problems must be dealt with across the board, not piecemeal. Of course, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is big, and doing that is difficult. I sit on the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs and, although I appreciate the extent of the Department's problems, I also appreciate the extent of my right hon. Friend's success.
When the Labour party came to office, the failure of the water companies was an issue. Leakage was a problem, as was the amount of water unnecessarily flushed down the toilet. Huge amounts of sewage were dumped in the sea and on land. My right hon. Friend got the water companies together and laid down the law. The leakage rate reduced dramatically and water conservation has improved marvellously. My right hon. Friend also got on to the regulator and achieved an environmental settlement and a price cut for consumers. Our water supply and sewage treatment will be first class, something that is long overdue. When they privatised the water industry the previous Government claimed that we would enjoy those benefits, but all that happened was that profits were ripped off.
My right hon. Friend went to Kyoto and fought vigorously for an agreement. I accept that there is a long way to go, and from his opening remarks it seems that it is a question of persuading many developing countries, as well as countries such as the United States, to go along with such an agreement. However, at least he has pushed the agenda along so that people are now talking about those issues. He can take a great deal of credit for raising that issue at home and around the world.
Little things can make a tremendous difference. Local authorities were being crippled by compulsory competitive tendering, so my right hon. Friend has pushed through a best value regime, which will soon be in legislation and which will make a great difference to many things that ordinary people take for granted.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's praise for the Secretary of State; I am sure 864 that his job will soon be in the post. Yesterday, I met people from Westminster who are concerned about a planning application to floodlight the Labour party headquarters at Millbank tower. That sounds very un-Kyoto to me. Can the hon. Gentleman influence the Labour party to stop that happening?
§ Mr. Bennett
Personally, I would say no to the proposal, but some people like a lot of floodlighting. That is not really the key issue before us. It would make a minuscule difference—the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues could do more just by turning off one or two lights at home.
I was disappointed to hear the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea complain about leasehold. Plainly, he has not read the Queen's Speech. As I look at the Ministers on the Government Front Bench, I feel some sympathy for them because they will spend so much time in Committee dealing with Bills that were announced in the Queen's Speech—and the one on leasehold reform is another triumph.
Having praised my right hon. Friend—justifiably; I would praise him only if he came up with the goods—I have to turn to Greater Manchester's metro system. The Prime Minister was in the north on Monday, and I thought it a little unfair that the Deputy Prime Minister could not be there to drive the tram out of Piccadilly and up to Salford. However, another part of the system—the third—is now in place, and we have planning approval for the other eight lines required in the area. The local authorities are committed, and work-based parking charges of about 49p per space could raise the revenue to pay for the system. All we need is the Government's approval. That would make it easier for people to leave their cars at home and journey across Manchester.
I plead only that we should get such schemes off the ground soon, although I know that solving transport problems cannot be done quickly. I can say "Well done" to my right hon. Friend after an excellent two and a half years, but, by the time the next election comes, we in Greater Manchester would like to see some bulldozers moving earth and the imminent arrival of a 10-line tram network in the conurbation.
§ Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)
I am always intrigued by speeches from the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), which tend to be off-beat and interesting. However, if he thought that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions had a triumph today, I should like to know what he would judge to be a failure. The Secretary of State's speech was, as ever, muddled, and he failed to answer the serious questions. He is good at the knockabout and he can thump the table, but when it came to serious questions from Front-Bench or Back-Bench Members, he was woefully lacking.
As we approach the end of the millennium, there is no doubt that London is the centre of Europe, a city and a capital of which we can be proud. All eyes will be on projects such as the dome, the London eye, the Croydon tram link and the Jubilee line extension. We are right to be proud of those projects, but my hon. Friends and I are proud of the fact that they were instigated by a Conservative Government—a Conservative Government had the vision to promote them. We are nervous lest the Labour Government mess them up.
865 Under the surface, all is not well. There is no doubt that the tube is suffering—all parties agree about that. Parts of the tube are excellent, but parts of it are squalid. Escalators are static; stations are grubby and squalid. For many people, tube travel is the nastiest of activities. The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a note that was widely circulated, stated thatpassengers have had to endure a year of misery with strikes, line closures, escalator failures and summer temperatures that are so high that to carry livestock would be illegal.That is what London's commuters have to put up with but, in response, the Government can only blame the previous Conservative Government. However, the Government cannot get away from the fact that breakdowns and delays are getting worse on the underground, and investment is down.
Speaker after speaker—including the Minister for Housing and Planning, when we both served on the Committee considering the Greater London Authority Bill earlier in the year—has pointed out that investment has risen under the Labour Government. However, we have only to read the figures for total investment expenditure during the 10 years until 1997, given in the evidence of London Transport to the Transport Sub-Committee, to realise that the average amount per annum in cash terms, without adjustment for inflation, was £700 million. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said that, viewed from any angle, it was clear that investment in the underground has gone down under the Government.
When Labour Back Benchers grab their research department briefings, they refer to the Conservative spending planned beyond 1997 as proof that expenditure would have gone down. However, they know that, in addition to those projected figures, we would have invested the proceeds of the privatisation of London underground. That would have made up the shortfall and would have kept the figures high—way above anything proposed by the Labour Government.
There is no doubt that more investment is needed in the underground, as the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out today. However, we also need action. The Government give us words, words, words—but no action. After the general election, the early talk was of swift action on the underground. In June 1997, during an Opposition Day debate, the then Minister of Transport, the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh (Dr. Strang), tabled an amendment applauding the Government' sswift action on options for public-private partnerships to improve the Underground".The right hon. Gentleman referred to the financial advisers who had been retained to advise the Government on PPP. He said thatwe shall be using them for only a few months".—[Official Report, 25 June 1997; Vol. 296, c. 869.]The Government thought that they would crack the problem in a few months. The swift action has been nothing but talk.
However, the Deputy Prime Minister began to get the message. During Second Reading of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, he said that he would not be rushed. Today, he told us that there was no quick fix and that he would take his time. That is probably the only pledge on London underground that he has been able to keep.
§ Mr. Gray
Is my hon. Friend aware that "Consensus for Change", the Labour party's pre-election manifesto 866 document stated that a Labour Government would bring "immediate benefits" to the travelling public? In that context, is he aware that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions plans to announce a 10-year plan for the improvement of transport? Does that not demonstrate that the Government are well aware that they cannot provide immediate benefits to the travelling public?
§ Mr. Ottaway
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. The Government say one thing and do another in all policy matters.
The delay in dealing with the underground has now become a scandal. It is clear that no public-private partnership will be ready when the mayor takes office in July 2000 after his two-month period of grace following the election.
During the Secretary of State's time in office, there has been the debacle of Railtrack being excluded from the bidding process for the underground. It is being unfairly blamed before the inquiries into the Paddington crash have been properly completed but, at the same time, the Government think that it is good enough to run the channel tunnel rail link; they are happy to take its money when it suits them. However, under pressure from the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), the Government have backed down on Railtrack's involvement in the public-private partnership for the underground. The resulting delay will add hugely to the burden of the new mayor. He will have a big enough job as it is, because the Government have raised expectations about his role to such a level that the Archangel Gabriel himself would not be able to meet them. They do absolutely nothing to assist.
What a mess the Government are getting into over future funding. The Liberal Democrats and the hon. Member for Brent, East want a wholly publicly run London underground backed by bonds; the Government want a partial privatisation; and Conservative Members want a whole privatisation. The 'Liberal Democrats and the Government miss the essential point that a pound is a pound, whether it comes from the bank, a bond or the Treasury. The important decision is how that money is managed when managers have their hands on it. What counts is how it is spent.
The Government admit that the present management of the London Underground is not up to it. At Prime Minister's Question Time last week, the Prime Minister said that one needed private sector involvement in running the underground. Today, the Deputy Prime Minister described the Jubilee line contract as crazy, but who entered into that contract? The present management of London Underground negotiated it. That is why Bechtel had to be brought in; the present management of London Underground were simply not up to the job. We all know that the Croydon tramlink is a completely private sector project.
The Government advocate a system that will retain the very managers who run London Underground, so that they will continue to run it. The very weakness of London Underground—the people who will not stand up to the Spanish practices of the trade unions—is the present management. It is nuts for the Liberal Democrats, the Government and the hon. Member for Brent, East to argue that those managers are the right people to take the underground into the future.
867 Such proposals will not work, and commentators have rightly condemned the plans. Simon Jenkins, who is no fool when it comes to talking about London, wrote in the Evening Standard that the Governmentshould privatise by simply floating the Tube, lock, stock 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.I could not put it better myself.
The Economist also knows what it is talking about. It said:The government's plans for the London Underground make no sense … Labour's self-financing plan for renewing the capital's crumbling tube network is seriously flawed.Such commentators are not foolish, so it is high time that the Government recognised that their plans are flawed. They should respond to what everyone outside the bunker in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions says.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead)
The hon. Gentleman quoted with approval the article in the Evening Standard that said that the tube should be privatised "lock, stock and barrel". Does he also agree that the people who would subsequently have control of the tube could do exactly what they like with fares?
§ Mr. Ottaway
I do not think that that is so. The mayor will integrate with the new privatised sector. I have no doubt that the success of every privatisation is largely dependent on the role of the regulator. The mayor could be the regulator in the Conservative party's proposals.
The public-private partnership will be a ball and chain around the ankle of the new mayor of London. It was interesting that, when I asked the Deputy Prime Minister whether the operating profit would cover the costs and the investment of the PPP, he said that he would answer that question, but did not do so. I am pretty sure that the PPP will not cover all the costs of the London Underground, so I hope that any future mayor of London will send the bill to the Government.
There is no doubt that all tube and public tramway systems need subsidy. That is why, when we announced our privatisation policy, we said that the proceeds from the sale would be reinvested as our subsidy. I have to tell the Liberal Democrats and the hon. Member for Brent, East that the principle behind the idea of bonds is distinctly flawed. In New York, on top of the sums raised by the bonds, there has had to be a government subsidy of ․1.7 billion in just the past year.
I ask the Under—Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), who has responsibility for transport in London, to answer the question that I put to the Deputy Prime Minister. When the PPP is in place, will the operating profit cover the cost and the investment, or will subsidies still be necessary in addition to the PPP?
Where is the vision for the London underground? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) said in his excellent second maiden speech, the previous Government had the vision to introduce the docklands light railway, the Jubilee line extension, the Croydon tramlink, modernisation of the 868 east London line, Thameslink 2000, the Paddington express and the link to Stansted. That was the vision of a Government who know where they were going on transport policy. Passenger numbers on public transport systems are now up by 20 per cent. but no increase in capacity is planned.
Fares are increasing, there is more overcrowding and public transport is less reliable. The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) is not in the Chamber now, but his proposal for an outer Circle line sounds great. However, where will the money come from to pay for it? If God forbid, the right hon. Gentleman becomes the next mayor of London, he will not have the money to build an outer Circle line around London. That is more talk from the Labour party, without any action. The public will know where the blame lies.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
I wish to make two points. First, will not the Croydon tramlink, which will not be a radial line, be a test of whether PPP can survive in the private sector and fund some of the link? Secondly, under the Conservative party's privatisation plan, if the people running the tube could not make a profit unless they jacked up fares beyond what the mayor would allow, how would the hon. Gentleman solve that problem?
§ Mr. Ottaway
The hon. Gentleman represents a neighbouring constituency to mine, so I shall not be too tough on him. However, I would have thought that he knew that the Croydon tramlink is not a PPP; it is a private finance initiative built by the private sector and it will be run by the private sector. It will have no public sector involvement whatever. The previous Government had the vision to introduce it—
§ Mr. Ottaway
I shall not give way again. About £200 million have gone into the project, of which £140 million came from the previous Government and £60 million came from the private sector. However, there will be no public sector involvement in the management of the project.
The Government seem to think that congestion charging is the answer to the traffic problems that face London. The Deputy Prime Minister referred to a Green Paper, which was produced in the mid-1990s and said that there was a presumption that congestion charging would be introduced. All presumptions are rebuttable. If the right hon. Gentleman did not know, a Green Paper is a consultation document. That proposal did not appear in any manifesto or White Paper published by the previous Conservative Government.
I have no doubt that the reduction of congestion is a desirable objective, but I am not convinced that it is achievable. I certainly am convinced that a congestion tax is not the answer. The problem is that people like using their cars. Ministers will be well aware of the pilot schemes that have been carried out to find out how effective a congestion tax will be, and they know that, in London, it will take charges of £8 to £10 to deter someone from making a trip.
If, for example, the borough of Croydon were to introduce a congestion tax, all the shoppers would boycott Croydon and go to Bluewater, which has just opened 869 down the road and which has free parking. I am well aware that the Croydon chamber of commerce is most concerned about Labour-controlled Croydon council's proposals to introduce a congestion charge.
§ Mr. Ottaway
I will not give way.
The problem with the congestion charge is that it discriminates against the mother who is going to collect her children from school, the nurse on her way to night duty and the elderly and disabled who want to use their car to get to the shops. It is, in effect, a stealth tax, and it is not an effective way to tackle congestion.
The people who will be most affected by a congestion tax are those on low incomes, and that proposal comes from a Labour Government. We must question the very point of the Labour party when a Labour Government are introducing a flat tax that will hit those on low incomes the hardest. It is ironic that it should be left to one-nation Conservatives to defend such people from the Labour party. When that happens, it is a sure sign that the Government have lost touch with the people who elected them in the first place.
§ 6.1 pm
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
If anything demonstrates that the Conservative party has lost touch with reality, it is the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway). This is the only legislature in the world that would be having the sort of debate that we are having today. In sensible, grown-up democracies, the argument for a decent public transport system is irrefutable, and in other parts of the world even right-wing parties like the Conservative party accept the necessity for decent basic public transport. Instead, we got the usual tirade.
I shall not comment on the speech by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), because I think that private grief is best left private, but the hon. Member for Croydon, South had to pursue the argument that the congestion charge is an attack on the lowest paid. I have to tell him that the lowest earners do not drive motor cars, so, whatever happens with congestion charges, they will not usually be the people who have to pay them. I agree with colleagues who have said that, before we can introduce congestion charges, we have to make sure that there is proper public transport provision, particularly in our towns and cities.
There are those who advocate freezing or reducing tube fares. I shall make only one comment about the tube. As someone who has lived in London during at least part of the week for a quarter of a century, I hope that, if tube fares are reduced or frozen, someone will tell us how the extra passengers are to be carried because, in my experience, there is not much spare capacity. Until long-term improvements to the tube are carried out, the congestion that we see every day, for most of the day, on London's tube service will continue regardless of the level of fares.
§ Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster, Central)
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is up to local authorities to decide whether congestion charging is appropriate for their area? We are handing back the power to local authorities to 870 make those decisions, and to do so on the basis of what works in their area. My hon. Friend referred to people who do not have access to a car and, in areas such as mine, where 40 per cent. of the population do not have access to a car, people need improvements to public transport so that they can travel to work and get about.
§ Mr. Snape
Yes, I could not agree more.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South said that the Bluewater development would have an enormous impact on Croydon if congestion charges were introduced. Obviously, I do not know that part of the world as well as the hon. Gentleman does, but I would hazard a guess that the Bluewater development will have a pretty significant impact on shopping in Croydon regardless of congestion charges. There are no congestion charges in the west midlands, but the Merry Hill shopping complex has wreaked havoc in many of the small towns in the immediate area. Such out-of-town shopping areas, as approved by the previous Government—Merry Hill is, incidentally, part of an enterprise zone—have an impact well before we start even to talk about implementing congestion charging. The hon. Gentleman should not, therefore, pursue that argument.
There is no point in Members on opposite sides of the House blaming each other for the situation in which we now find ourselves. Nobody seriously thinks that two and a half years into a Labour Government, some of the major transport construction schemes that are needed could have been carried out already. Let me make it plain—many of the congestion problems that have arisen in the past 20 years would have come about regardless of the political hue of the Government of the day, because, as people become more affluent, they travel more. There are more cars on our roads. There were more cars on the road by the end of the nearly 20 years that the Conservatives were in office, and a few more have been added to that total since 1 May 1997. All that will have an impact on congestion.
Some of my colleagues apparently believe that the privatisation of the railway industry can somehow be reversed, but I do not think that it can. None of us would have started from this particular point, but this is the point that we are at.
I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) talk about the number of different rail companies whose trains want to enter Stockport and the delays that they cause. I hope that he is not for a moment suggesting that my former colleagues in the signal box should let them all into the platform at the same time. [Interruption.] I shall give way to him in a moment if he likes. As an occasional, if unofficial, visitor to that signal box, I have to tell him that there are many more passenger trains going through Stockport than when I worked there. There are far fewer freight trains but, as they say, there are swings and roundabouts.
We should be trying to get investment into the railway industry from any source. I find it fascinating that the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), talked about the need for the Government to pump in more money. He appeared to be suggesting that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister should tear up the agreement with franchisees—who freely negotiated rail franchises, knowing full well that the 871 amount of subsidy would decline year by year—and give them the money anyway. That might be the Liberals' idea of a sensible way to use resources.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that it is not for you to remind colleagues about when they should make a declaration of interest but, on a general point, if an hon. Member has clearly declared that he is the director of a transport company, is it appropriate that he should remind the House of his pecuniary interest in that industry at the beginning of his speech?
§ Mr. Snape
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should have declared an interest at the beginning of my speech. I am of course a chairman of Britain's biggest urban bus company, which is part of the National Express Group, and I am a member of the RMT. I chose to start my speech by referring to the speech made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South, but I should perhaps have declared my interest first.
That point of order, however, is the usual cheap shot from the Conservative party. I would have got round to declaring my interest eventually, as I always do, for the simple reason that it is far too easy to point the finger. If the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) is ever clever enough to be appointed to a similar post, I will be the first to congratulate him but, given his usual performance in the Chamber, that is pretty unlikely, and let me make it plain that I myself would not give him a job.
I return to the 20 years of Toryism. During that period, the proportion of freight carried on our congested roads grew by 66 per cent. I am not blaming anybody for that; it happens to be a fact. Yet, in two and a half years, there has already been a substantial increase in rail freight carried by English, Welsh and Scottish Railway. I think—I hope that I carry the House on this point—that the increase is largely due to the encouragement that the rail freight industry is getting from the Government.
I hope that my Front-Bench colleagues will bear it in mind that the road haulage industry will continue to press for bigger, heavier lorries in the United Kingdom, and that those lorries impact directly on rail freight. Incidentally, I do not have any interest in rail freight to declare, other than my membership of a railway union, but I hope that most of us who care about such matters are pleased about the increase in rail freight and want the trend to continue in the near future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish mentioned bus deregulation and the patchy service in the Manchester area. That is true of some parts of the country, but in other parts a great deal of investment is going into 872 the bus industry. In arranging the bus summit a couple of weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister did his best to encourage the bus industry generally to invest money in new vehicles so that we can make bus travel more attractive than it is at present. Of course, that needs extra support from local authorities. I hasten to tell the Liberals that that is not financial support. It involves not a greater subsidy from local authorities but the provision of bus priority measures and the enforcement of those measures to prevent, for example, lorries being loaded and unloaded in bus lanes, or drivers taking short cuts in bus lanes when the rest of us—I drive a car—are waiting at traffic lights.
In London, the Evening Standard has been extraordinarily supportive of public transport, for example by running a campaign against those who block bus lanes. Alas, the reverse is true in the west midlands, where the main regional morning newspaper, The Birmingham Post carries out what I can only describe as an hysterical campaign against any sort of bus priority provision. It regularly carries articles attacking the company of which I am chairman and other bus companies in the west midlands. At least there has been a change of editor. The previous editor left to be the Conservative candidate at Edgbaston. Given his far-right views, he would be quite at home in the present-day Conservative party. I wish that The Birmingham Post would emulate the Evening Standard and be rather more supportive of what those who work in the bus industry are trying to do to attract passengers back to buses.
Make no mistake about it, the bus will be the major people mover outside London. The west midlands are not fortunate enough to have a tube system. However, we have a fairly short metro system, which runs from Wolverhampton to Birmingham through my constituency. Before the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) consults the "Register of Members' Interests" again, let me tell the House that the company of which I am chair has the operating contract to run the system. It is not a publicly owned system. Travel Midland Metro, a subsidiary of a company of which I am chair, operates it.
We would like to see the system extended. One of the problems with light railway systems is that they are chronically expensive when compared to alternative systems. Where there are steel wheels on steel rails, every safety precaution must be built in. No one, not even ex-railway men, felt the consequences of the Paddington accident more than I did. However, there are three Paddingtons on our roads every week, and people apparently accept that. We have a drive-on-sight tram system for much of the Midland metro route between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. As there is a short stretch of single line into Snow Hill station, all the trams are equipped with automatic train protection. That makes them even more expensive than they are to start with.
If we are to have belt-and-braces safety procedures whenever we try to open a light rail line, our friends in the Treasury, under any Government, will say that, on the basis of straight comparisons, that is not an economic way of moving people around. Our friends in the Treasury, regardless of a Government's political hue, have watched transport expenditure with enormous care and diligence over the years. Some of us might feel that they have exercised too much care and diligence. However, getting money for public transport projects, particularly railway projects when the railway was in the public sector, was never an easy task.
873 I have bored the House with this before but I shall bore it again by pointing out to hon. Members that they can still see Edgeley junction No. 2 signal box just outside Stockport when they take a train to Manchester. Although many promises have been made by various Governments, the Treasury has never found the money to modernise signalling along that stretch of line. There are still Victorian signal boxes from Cheadle Hulme to Heaton Norris junction. That is great for the guys who work in them because they are labour intensive. However, signal boxes built in the 1880s surely do not have any part to play in signalling trains in the last few weeks of the 20th century.
I am told that modernisation will take place in July next year. I will believe that when I see it. As was once said, we used to have a press conference every other week under the Conservative Government to announce the modernisation of the west coast main line. At last, however, investment cash is going into that line, including the stretch through Birmingham and the west midlands and that towards Manchester.
I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), who intervened earlier, that Virgin trains is very good at talking up what it is doing. I must correct my hon. Friend because it is not spending £1 billion on tilting trains. The trains are worth £1 billion, but Mr. Branson is leasing them.
§ Mr. Snape
That is slightly different. I am not being pedantic, but claims are made about the amount of money that is being spent on railway modernisation that are not always justified. The trains in question are extremely expensive. We have been to see them, and very good they are, too. They will be leased by Virgin trains and it is to be hoped that they will provide a better service for my hon. Friend's constituents and for mine. Many years have passed and it is still taking a great deal of time to bring the line up to the standard that we expect and would demand. It was regarded as the premier line.
I have detained the House long enough. However, if we are to have a grown-up debate on transport, the Conservative party must move part of the way. We cannot have an Opposition Front-Bench team who say, "We shall sweep away the paraphernalia of traffic cameras, road safety procedures and traffic lights", as the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) said. One of his predecessors, Nicholas Ridley, used to say the same. I had a great deal of time for him. We secondary modern boys and old Etonians always get on well because we all had deprived childhoods. However, I did not agree with him on sweeping away controls. I certainly cannot agree with the right hon. Member for Wokingham, the Opposition transport spokesman, that switching off traffic lights and removing street furniture will suddenly lead to traffic flowing far more quickly. The Conservative party must grow up. It can start by changing its transport spokesman.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
I instinctively warm to colleagues who do not forget their roots. It was endearing of the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) to remind us of his early days in the signal box. Perhaps the best part of the Deputy Prime Minister's speech was when he was harking back to his early days before the mast with P&O and talking about his achievements for the shipping industry. I applaud that. It has to be said that the new tax regime is better; it is to the good of the country. As for the rest of his speech, it was rather like the earth before the creation, being without form and void. It was a flat earth at that. To be candid, we were given very little information about how the integrated transport strategy will work.
I have been sceptical for many a month about the merits of a London mayor, as I think probably two thirds of Londoners have been, inasmuch as they did not bother to vote in the referendum. However, having heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech on transport, I have become a convert. The role of the mayor in putting London's transport to rights has perhaps been fully vindicated. The right hon. Gentleman's transport strategy has not improved the lot of the travelling public in our capital.
I appreciated too—I must be more generous—the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has come back from India. He foreshortened his passage to the sub-continent and returned to the Dispatch Box. Obviously, his time out east had some influence on him—he said that climate change is the big picture for transport. That may be so for the right hon. Gentleman, having flown back from the Himalayas, but for my constituents who are strap-hanging their way into London along the Metropolitan line in sweaty, steamy, heaving, smelly carriages which are typical of the underground today, the picture is very different. It may not be the big picture, but it is a real and unpleasant picture. They have to endure purgatorial conditions that are unjustifiable and unnecessary.
My constituents are served by no fewer than eight tube stations and three tube lines. The London underground system is essential to them, as it is to so many Londoners, to get to work and to fulfil their daily obligations.
In an arresting and welcome second maiden speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) made some telling points. He stressed the importance of quality of life to his constituents. That is crucial to Londoners, and a great many of them do not have a high quality of life, not least because of the misery that they have to endure because of congestion on the roads and the appalling state of London underground.
What makes Londoners' life worth while is their sense of community and of belonging, and the sense of heritage of those communities. I was pleased when my right hon. Friend brought that out in his speech. He made a moving tribute to his predecessor, the late and right hon. Alan Clark. He spoke lightheartedly about Alan's hinterland. I am sure that he was referring to Alan's castle and the land down at Saltwood which he loved so dearly.
The hinterland for central London is, of course, outer London and the ring of the home counties around it, from which so many people commute and to which they return relieved at the end of a long, stressful, tiring day. I was disappointed, therefore, that the Government's amendment to the motion tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), which 875 is—rightly—highly critical of the lack of investment in the tube, was so inadequate and recognised so little the stresses and strains that commuters must endure.
That was the case, too, with the speech of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). He has overcome his depression at no longer being Secretary of State, but sad to say, he has returned to his characteristically ungenerous and unconvincing self. He had little to offer for the improvement of commuting and the London transport system.
I shall make some simple and straightforward points. The first is that, of course, investment is crucial. The trouble is that we are getting the worst of both worlds. We have not had the public-private partnership. It is stillborn. We do not know when it will come to fruition. Because it has been so long delayed, Londoners are not only suffering inconvenience, congestion and uncomfortable travelling conditions, but are paying an awful lot more for the privilege. Every year, London underground fares go up way above inflation, as they will next year as well.
Furthermore, the Treasury has to pick up the shortfall, to the tune of £517 million over a two-year period. This was not anticipated, because the Government presumed that there would be moneys coming in from the public-private partnership and the sale of the leases for the infrastructure of the tube.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, if he were mayor of London, which he may be, he would ensure that fares would not rise above inflation, even though, under his scheme, the tube would be privatised? Can he give that guarantee? I do not think so.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
I can guarantee to provide leadership for London and a sense of direction. The mayor will have, above all, to choose the appropriate team and to put in place a chief executive and board of Transport for London to integrate the city's transport.
The tragedy is that the Government had to announce during the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill that the Transport for London organisation, which is central to their plans to integrate transport in the capital, and rightly so, will not come into being until some undefined date in the future, which they cannot yet specify, even half way through their term of office. It is a monumental failure: a catastrophic failure for Londoners.
With regard to fares, the management of the underground system should be commercial. Appropriate fares should be set at an incentive level to bring in passengers, to get a good return and to provide the revenue stream to generate new rolling stock and to overcome the congestion problems. Without that commercial management, I do not believe that there will be much improvement in conditions for the travelling public on the underground.
I hope that that answers the question from the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies), which was largely answered earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), who correctly said that the regulator would have a crucial role in ensuring that an appropriate fare level was set.
876 I was struck by the omissions from the Government amendment. There is no mention of the public-private partnership. Perhaps the Government think that, if they do not mention it, no one will notice that it has not come about. There is no mention of the extra £517 million to which I referred. There is no mention of Transport for London—understandably so, as it does not exist, but it was in their manifesto and all their early speeches. There is no mention of the fare increases that Londoners endure.
Interestingly, there is also no mention of the other burdens that will be placed on the travelling public in London—the road user charges and the workplace parking taxes. For my constituents in outer London, the concept of road user charges is anathema, for two reasons. First, they have to go into central London by car, because public transport is so inadequate. Clearly, public transport must be put right before such charges can be considered. Secondly, the inner circle within which road user charges are to be levied will be a barrier. People will park in outer London to avoid having to pay the impost.
Anyway, a workplace parking tax is a tax on going to work. A mayor who wants to make London the free enterprise capital of the world is not in the business of taxing Londoners more, nor should he be in the business of imposing workplace charges. Employers in London face enough taxation already. Why should they—especially small businesses—face yet another tax?
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
Has my hon. Friend noticed that analysis of a number of park and ride schemes shows that drivers often drive further before getting on a bus to go into the town centre than they would if they drove directly to a town centre car park? Very often, such schemes do not reduce pollution, even if they occasionally reduce congestion.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is an expert in these matters. He has brought out new arguments that I would otherwise have overlooked.
The key point about investment is that it will give the opportunity for new lines to be created. For my constituents, that is crucial. Investment need not be substantial. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), whom I see on the Benches beside me, has long been an advocate, rightly, of extending the Central line from South Ruislip or West Ruislip in my constituency to Uxbridge—a modest increase in the length of the line, which is potentially of considerable benefit to the travelling public from Uxbridge, who could also link on to the Chiltern line and go westwards, beyond West Ruislip.
Another good example is the Croxley link, which would extend the Metropolitan line out to Watford junction, which would be invaluable for people in Northwood and in northern parts of my constituency. A further interesting example is the difficulty of getting from north-west London directly to Heathrow.
Good precedents have been set by the private sector. The Heathrow rail link, which is now in operation and is invaluable, was initiated by the Conservative Government, as has been pointed out. It was financed by British Airports Authority plc, British Airways plc and Rai1track. New links are planned from the airport to the south-east, towards Waterloo. I hope that yet another link will be built—certainly when the fifth terminal comes into operation—to the north-west and west, joining the main west line towards Reading.
877 If the tube is under commercial management that has flair, vision and a desire to serve London people better, it will have a marketing strategy that is infinitely more imaginative than the present one. I advocate early-bird fares to get people on the network early at a discounted rate, and night-owl fares for people who would otherwise take their cars into London for the theatre, cinema or other entertainment. Those are both imaginative proposals, although I am sure there will be many more.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) on initiating this debate. I am glad that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions came back to this country for it. Even though his speech was a bit of a flat-earth one, it was fun while it lasted. I doubt that he will make many more in his present appointment.
§ Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)
It beggars belief that we should be lectured on the neglect of transport spending and infrastructure by the Conservative party. Over 18 years, with all the money that was coming in from north sea oil, we could have transformed Britain's transport infrastructure into something typical of, say, Germany today. The then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had a deep antipathy to public transport in virtually all its forms. Let us not forget that, for 11 years as Prime Minister, she maintained a record as a point of principle of never once travelling on a train—no doubt because they are driven by filthy trade unionists.
We also saw delay in the construction of the channel tunnel. Why? Because of Mrs. Thatcher's complete antipathy to the idea of dependence on trains driven by trade unionists. She hung on to the very end to the idea that we should build a bridge instead of a tunnel, until civil servants managed to persuade her that the winds across the channel would blow most cars off such a bridge. We saw a consistent pattern of neglect and often a quite malignant approach to public transport spending.
I regret that we did not have the Transport Bill in the first year of a Labour Government. The trouble was that there were far too many demands, such as for Scottish and Welsh devolution. However, the Bill is on stream now. I am very pleased that the Deputy Prime Minister managed to have stipulated in the Act that established the Greater London Authority powers for the mayor to tackle transport problems in London, including the ability to use the congestion charge, which I, unlike the Conservatives, think is central to the task.
We also know of the tremendous backlog of investment in the London underground. When I heard that retread, the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo), lecture us on how he wants new tube lines in his constituency, I remembered the fact that, for 20 years, Labour and Conservative Administrations of the Greater London Council trudged over Westminster bridge to try to persuade successive Governments—primarily those of Mrs. Thatcher and her successor—to allow the GLC to extend the Jubilee line to docklands and to build the Chelsea-Hackney link. If the GLC had been given that permission nearly 20 years ago, the Jubilee line extension would have been working for the past decade, and we 878 would most probably have already completed the Chelsea-Hackney tube line, which was of course to go well beyond Chelsea and Hackney.
§ Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)
I know that the hon. Gentleman is a man of great integrity and political honesty. Perhaps he will take the opportunity, while talking about the London underground, to correct the information that the Prime Minister gave earlier in answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister said that his Government have invested more in London underground since they came to office than the previous Conservative Government. Figures from the House of Commons Library show that spending during the last three or four years of the Conservative Administration, as measured against the first two years of this Administration and projected spending for the next two years, was greater. The previous Government invested more in the tube than this one. Will the hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to correct—
§ Mr. Livingstone
I would love to be able to help the hon. Gentleman, but one of the undertakings that I had to make to get through Labour's vetting panel was never again to criticise the Prime Minister.
As somebody who for five years was leader of the GLC, I remember every year trying to negotiate with the Government for money to modernise the tube and invest, yet, year after year, spending was cut. Some people think that the record of problems stems only from when the GLC was abolished and the Government took over London Transport, but it goes back to the mid-1970s, during which consecutive Governments, dependent on Treasury advice, turned down Labour and Tory GLC Administration proposals for increased investment. We have that problem to resolve.
I give credit to both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for beginning to mobilise resources. Nobody denies that there is a debate about the best way in which to raise such money—whether it should be through public-private partnership or bonds—but at least we are having the debate. I suspect that it will be concluded soon—certainly if I have anything to do with it, because I am standing for the Labour nomination on a clear commitment to keep the tube in the public sector and raise financing through bonds. I assume that, if I win, that will be the end of the matter.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
Will my hon. Friend explain why, on Third Reading of the Greater London Authority Bill, he voted against the Liberal Democrat amendment, which would have empowered the mayor to raise bonds for the tube, and for the public-private partnership?
§ Mr. Livingstone
I did so for exactly the same reason as my hon. Friend tends to vote with the Government: because the Whips told me to. I decided over a long period that one should vote against one's party only when every other avenue has been exhausted. Given that public-private partnership is a meaninglessly wide and vague term that can cover a multitude of sins, it seemed rather pointless to make a great row out of the matter. 879 I think that the Labour party was wrong; it should have accepted the Liberal Democrat amendment to allow the mayor to raise bonds. I suspect that we shall return to that matter again and again, whoever is mayor.
§ Mr. Don Foster
Does the hon. Gentleman at least take comfort from the knowledge that the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) only three weeks ago was quoted as saying:I would not rule out financing things by bonds for individual projects and schemes"?
§ Mr. Livingstone
I find that there is virtually no disagreement among the Labour candidates. Any mayor who looks at the need for infrastructure works in London must be attracted to issuing bonds, if only because of the success of the New York system.
Much disinformation has been put about, comparing and confusing the disaster of New York's issuing bonds to pay the wages of teachers at the end of the 1960s and in the early 1970s—that could not happen here because it would be illegal for local government to borrow money in any form for revenue spending—and the state of New York's beginning, in 1981, to issue bonds through the metropolitan transit authority in order to transform the underground system.
I can remember everybody in New York telling me in 1978—all tourists were told—not to use the underground because I might never come out again; it was too dangerous and unreliable. At one disastrous point, a third of all rolling stock was out of commission. Now, the New York underground is world class. It has been transformed by the consistent use of bonds, which have raised $14 billion.
§ Mr. Ottaway
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in addition to bonds—I made this point in my speech—the Metropolitan Transit Authority required a $1.7 billion subsidy? Where does he think such money would come from? Is he saying that the bond issue would still have to be backed by Government subsidy?
§ Mr. Livingstone
New York's metropolitan transit authority had a sum of money to raise. It raised it in different component parts. It got what it needed from the markets and found the rest through public subsidy. There is nothing to prevent a Labour Government deciding to pay for the modernisation of the tube by issuing bonds and by raising some of the rest from fares—as well as, perhaps, from congestion charges. One would consider all sources of revenue streams in order to raise the total sum. Let us not forget that the metropolitan transit authority has done much more than simply modernise New York's underground.
§ Mr. Ottaway
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the Greater London Authority Act does not allow the underground to be subsidised through a congestion charge?
§ Mr. Livingstone
A series of revenue streams comes into a British local authority—the Greater London Authority is such an authority—and, under British local 880 government law, the first call on the budget of a local authority is the repayment of debt. That is why British local government has such a good credit rating. Even when Derek Hatton ran Liverpool, that local authority never missed a debt payment to the moneylenders. That fact was not regularly spread around Militant at the time, but the authority always paid up. No British local authority has ever defaulted on debt. If the Government did not want the Treasury to raise the bonds, there would be no problem in giving the mayor and the Assembly the power to issue them.
It is bizarre that the debate was intended to censure the Deputy Prime Minister. That was forgotten a couple hours ago in view of Conservative Members' lacklustre performance. There has been much gossip in the press, suggesting a conflict between the Deputy Prime Minister and the policy unit at No. 10. It is said that the Deputy Prime Minister has been scaring the policy wonks with his desire to introduce congestion charging and his pro-public transport policies. In any conflict on those issues between the Deputy Prime Minister and the pinheads in the policy unit, the former has the overwhelming backing of the majority of Labour Members. His commitment to public transport is the first such commitment for 20 years. He will be backed solidly by Labour Members in proceeding with the programme that he has unleashed. We shall do everything possible to encourage it to progress more rapidly.
There has been much disinformation about bonds. I begin with a briefing note for Members of Parliament produced by the Labour party, called "Working for London". It makes several points to try to show that bonds will not work. It states:income from fares is simply not sufficient to underwrite the borrowing.That is nonsense. London Underground currently spends approximately £300 million a year on maintaining the track and improvement works.
When people talk about borrowing £7 billion to catch up with the backlog, they refer to work that is going on from day to day. It includes work that should have been done years ago, as well as work scheduled for the end of the 15-year period. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) claimed that the markets would not raise £7 billion, but we must remember that that sum is to be spent over 15 years. The whole sum would not be granted at the same time, kept in a piggybank and doled out over 15 years for a maintenance programme. It would be allocated in a series of tranches.
The second point that the document makes is thatbonds would count as borrowingand would reduce the money available for health and education. Yet again, that is an arbitrary decision by the Treasury. In the western world, only this country would consider that an investment programme in the infrastructure of transport should count against the public sector borrowing requirement, or whatever we now call it. That is nonsense, and means that we take a shortsighted approach to the infrastructure work that Britain needs.
I sometimes wonder whether the Treasury is on Britain's side, because it has consistently displayed short-term thinking about the programme of public investment that we need to create a modern society. Yet members of the London business community say that the 881 worst problem that they face is doing business in a city where roads and public transport are in such a disgraceful state. That is a major hindrance to their ability to make a profit, to employ people and generate wealth. We must start to impose our priorities on the Treasury.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
Does my hon. Friend believe that there should be any limit in principle on borrowing to invest in public sector infrastructure in a given year, or does he believe that there should be no ceiling on it in spite of the need for macro-economic prudence and stability?
§ Mr. Livingstone
That is the most remarkably stupid question that I have ever been asked, and people have to go some to get that record. Of course, I accept that someone has to set a limit somewhere. We are arguing about where to set it. The Treasury has been unduly restrictive and largely responsible for the parlous state of much of the public sector in Britain. We were originally told that too much public sector investment would squeeze out private sector investment. There is no evidence to sustain that. However, we have been under-investing disgracefully in the public sector for more than 20 years. A huge backlog now exists, and we have to set priorities.
I have a copy of London First's advice, which, I assume, was sent to all Members of Parliament. It mentions a £25 billion programme of investment in transport in London. It points out that that figure would constitute 2.5 per cent. of London's contribution to gross domestic product over a decade. That is achievable, if we decide that it is important. There have been complaints from the business sector, whose members encounter appalling delays week after week when they try to move from a meeting in the City to a meeting in the west end. The business community knows that the state of transport in London is a major disincentive to people to stay in London and to new work and wealth creation in London. Getting transport infrastructure in London right must be a top priority for the mayor.
The last real claim in "Working for London"—although it is made four or five times—is that, if we go for PPP, the private sector will accept the risk. My right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) also made that point. It is argued that, under a bond system, the risk would remain in the public sector. That is true, but it is why the sums of money vary so much. The document points out that the cost overrun on the Jubilee line is almost 100 per cent.
When we consider the different costs of raising the money, we must bear in mind the fact that Treasury bonds would be issued at 4.5 per cent., whereas, under the private finance initiative—the PPP is effectively that—the charge would be 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. Even if we could persuade firms to do the work at 10 per cent., we would double the cost of raising the money through issuing bonds. The private sector is not stupid; it does not take on the risk for nothing. It doubles the initial cost of the project, and that is at only 10 per cent. Many of the private finance initiative schemes that the Department of Health conducted when building hospitals came in at more than 15 per cent.—200 per cent. more than the initial cost. The private sector takes on the risk, but it charges more than if one had taken the risk oneself.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Is it not the case that almost anything is better than the PPP? Bonds have an advantage in terms 882 of a competitive interest rate. However, the genuine denationalisation of the tube system would allow it to run commercially and without a premium, which the PPP would involve. The PPP, with very short leases and the uncertain risks that the private sector has to accept in a management divided between the infrastructure companies in the private sector and the operating companies in the public sector, is the worst of all worlds.
§ Mr. Livingstone
I take on board the complaints of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras that the current leadership of London Underground has handled the Jubilee line unsatisfactorily. Nobody suggests that the money raised should simply be given to the current management of London Transport to repeat the errors that it made on the Jubilee line. The method is clear: we raise the money as cheaply as possible, bring in a contractor to do the work on a contract for a fixed price and at a fixed time. That is the norm in such operations all over the world. Part of the risk is transferred to the private sector, but we would have to pay for that in the initial cost.
§ Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the public are grateful that he has opened the debate on financing the improvements to the infrastructure of the London underground? Everyone agrees that we have to make those improvements. It is unfortunate if the dictates of internal party discipline mean that we cannot have that debate. Does he also agree that the balance of opinion—professional, informed and academic—is in favour of some sort of bond issue and against the proposal for a public-private partnership that we have been presented with?
§ Mr. Livingstone
The row about the public-private partnership and the bonds issue is interesting—it is a sign of how good the mayoral system might turn out to be. The candidates have provoked the debate, there has been some adjustment of Government policy—they have been forced into a serious debate, which we have not been having—and there has been a brouhaha about the candidates and personalities, or lack of them. Behind all that, there has been a serious debate in the media about bonds versus PPP. I think that the bonds side has won it, although I almost dropped dead when I saw that The Economist had said "Ken Livingstone is right" on the bonds issue.
I do not want to be cruel to anyone in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, but there was a wonderful moment last Monday when the Evening Standard rang DETR and asked whether it could name a single independent expert who supported its case on the PPP. The only one it could come up with was Deutsche Bank, which of course is not independent—it is advising the Government on the whole affair. There is no independent support for its position, so I think that the PPP will be adjusted to reflect the political realities.
§ Mr. Cohen
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way so that I can make one print before we leave the issue of 883 risk. It has been claimed that there will be no risk to the public sector if a PPP is used, but is it not likely that that will not be the case? Is it not almost certain that any PPP contract will say that any major risks such as flooding or disaster would be dealt with by the state?
§ Mr. Livingstone
I am happy to confirm what my hon. Friend says. I understand that Lord Macdonald, the Minister for Transport, spent an entertaining couple of hours with members of the London Labour group of MPs and made it absolutely clear that major elements of risk such as flooding and disaster would still be dealt with by the Government. No firm would sign a completely open-ended contract without such a commitment.
Let me conclude by dealing with congestion charges. Although there are debates in the Labour party over PPP versus bonds they will be resolved by the selection of a Labour, candidate; but coming into focus is the issue that divides the parties—the congestion tax. Unless the Conservative party moves back to the much more sensible position of supporting congestion charging, which it used to hold, it will have no policy to tackle the problems being experienced on our roads. Today's rush hour lasts all day, and extends to Saturdays and Sundays, and London's streets are clogged seven days a week, virtually from dawn until dusk—they are becoming a nightmare.
Let us not forget that congestion charging is not some wicked Marxist scheme; it comes from the Chicago school of economics and is one of Milton Friedman's little ideas. Many Labour Members have been reluctant to accept it because we would rather have had a congestion charge under which great big expensive cars paid more—that would have put a progressive element into the charge—but we have not been allowed that.
All the studies show, however, that a reasonable congestion charge could reduce the number of cars driving into central London by 15 per cent., thus freeing up the roads, allowing traffic to move and increasing traffic speed. Resources would also be freed for investment in public transport. A charge of £5 a day to travel into a small congestion zone has been suggested by London First, the business organisation. A small central zone—running between Park lane and the City and between south of Euston road and north of the River Thames—with each car being charged £5 to enter it, Monday to Friday, would produce £250 million. That is where we should look for the money to buy new buses, to hire conductors to speed them up and to get the buses properly cleaned again.
I know that some of my hon. Friends are unhappy about my commitment to freeze fares for four years, but I must point out that transport policies and patterns change dramatically and quickly. When the Labour GLC cut fares the second time—by 24 per cent., with the permission of the Law Lords in 1983—there was a 70 per cent. increase in ridership on public transport. We got 110 per cent. of our original fare levels in; we cut fares, but still made more income. Although many Members have forgotten this, the following year we were able to cut the rates in London by 7.5 per cent. because that extra money was flowing in.
Once Londoners realise that they have a Labour mayor, backed by a Labour Government, who is committed to a long-term investment strategy for the underground, 884 bringing back more buses, enforcing the bus lane rules and using the congestion charge, travel patterns will begin to change. We will lock ourselves into an improving spiral: the better it gets, the more people will leave their cars at home and in a year or two we will most probably be making money. We will be able to use the increased fare income to start a much bigger expansion of the system.
The Government's policy is absolutely right. They have tabled an amendment that unites my party—it unites all our candidates, at any rate—and draws attention to the clear and obvious choice facing London: a Tory party that is simply banging the drum to whip up hysteria and pretending that we are anti-car, or a Labour party with a coherent package of policies that will make this city a fit and comfortable place to live in once again.
§ Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
I have enjoyed taking part in the mayoral hustings which this debate has been for most of the evening, although it has not been particularly enlightening. It has been nice to listen to the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), but they have reconfirmed my view that I would prefer, by 100 per cent., my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) as mayor. I wonder where on earth the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) is this evening and why she has chosen not to take part in this important debate on transport in London. Perhaps the press will ask her that question in the days ahead.
I was particularly unhappy about one remark made by the hon. Member for Brent, East.
§ Mr. Gray
Well, as always, I was unhappy with everything he had to say, although he speaks in such a personable and charming way that it is difficult to disagree with him. I disagreed in particular when he referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) as a retread. Suppose the hon. Gentleman were to be elected mayor of London; who could possibly be more of a tired old retread as leader of local government in London than him?
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
My hon. Friend will also recall the great honesty with which the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) began his speech. He said that he had spent 20 years coming across to Parliament to try to get money, so I do not know what he thinks the new mayor will get. If he gets the job and a Labour Government are in power, there will be no chance of him ever getting any money.
§ Mr. Gray
My hon. Friend makes a good point. As an outside observer, I find it absolutely astonishing that anybody should possibly want the relatively worthless post of mayor of London. It seems to come with no money, no powers and no status at all, so I am baffled that so many people are falling over themselves to gain it, although it takes all sorts.
The British display a curious trait in conversation. When we get together, we like to complain; indeed, we are great complainers. As we all know, we like to 885 complain in particular about the weather—it is only natural, and we all do it. We like to complain about sport, particularly cricket, and the awful performances of the England team are a constant source of amusement to us.
§ Mr. Gray
From a sedentary position, the hon. Gentleman picks me up on the precise point that I was about to make. Since the second world war, we have particularly enjoyed complaining about the awfulness of our transport. We love to say how dirty it is, what delays we have experienced, how desperate the system is and what an awful time we have had reaching our destination. When we arrive, people say, "Oh dear, have you had a terrible journey?" We expect the trains to be late and expect to be held up at airports, but it is interesting to consider the statistics: delays on trains are less than a quarter of those experienced during air travel. We all expect to be delayed when we travel by plane, but are surprised to be delayed when we travel by train.
We love to talk about British Rail in particular—its awful sandwiches, the awful carriages, the wet platforms, the lateness of the trains, the rudeness of the staff and the fact that there were not enough trains, although they went to the wrong place anyway—and say, "Wasn't Mr. Beeching dreadful to have abolished all those lines?" We love complaining about transport. Within that inherent British characteristic lies the appalling tragedy—the irony—of the appointment of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to take charge of transport: no matter what he does, he will not solve the problems of British transport. Nobody will do that, because they are far too deep and far too intractable to be solved. Even if they were solved, we would still complain.
We will certainly not solve the difficult, intractable problems of British transport by soundbites, launches, aspirations and glossy brochures, which is all that we have had so far from the right hon. Gentleman. I had the honour to serve on the Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. When the Minister for Housing and Planning appeared before the Committee, we had occasion to comment that the Government suffered from a lack of any policy on transport that was worth talking about, apart from aspirations and glossy brochures.
The tendency to launch things all the time and talk about hopes and aspirations for the future is typified by the integrated transport White Paper, which was launched with such tremendous acclaim by the Government about two years ago. The Government said that they would produce nine so-called daughter documents, but they have produced only seven. It is typical of the Government that, two and a half years after they came to power, they have not done what they said they were going to do. They produced a huge, glossy paper and seven daughter documents.
The Government have now gone on from that to the Transport Bill, and what an empty Bill it is, despite its 235 clauses and 26 schedules. The Strategic Rail Authority is yet another new Labour quango—yet another committee which has been designed to solve our problems, but which will do little worth talking about. It is interesting to read the explanatory memorandum to the Bill, which shows that the total take from the 48 per cent. 886 privatisation of National Air Traffic Services will be £345 million. NATS has £300 million of debt, which leaves £45 million. The cost of the privatisation will be £35 million, which leaves the sum total of £10 million to £15 million net take. That is hardly a dramatic and fantastic policy. The Bill also contains proposals on road traffic charging and workplace charging.
After two and a half years in which we had the integrated transport White Paper and the seven daughter documents that the Government got round to producing, we now have this empty little Bill that does little other than to set up another quango. One of the two daughter documents that has not yet appeared is about the Government's action plan to encourage walking. On 29 March, the Secretary of State announced:The Government will also this summer be issuing its action plan to encourage walking."—[Official Report, 29 March 1999; Vol. 328, c. 470W.]Perhaps it is just as well that it has not been produced, given his bad hair day during the Labour party conference—which we observed with amusement—when he himself ignored the Government's action plan to encourage walking.
We have heard plenty about London but, in a spirit of helpfulness, I shall address the other half of our motion, which refers to transport in general. The tube has been discussed by right hon. and hon. Friends whose London credentials are better than mine. The central flaw in the Secretary of State's proposals in the White Paper is that he has slipped back into an old Labour way of thinking about transport planning. No longer are we proposing to provide services that people wish to buy and that allow the market to work. No longer are we proposing that we should make British Airways the best airline in the world, so that people will fly on it and the company will make a profit. No longer are we arguing that we should privatise British Airports Authority and make it the best airport authority in the world, so that it offers the best service and people will want to use it. No longer are we proposing to privatise British Rail—of which I am a passionate supporter—in the hope that business men will move in and through the profit motive will improve the railways.
The Government are now saying, "We clever fellows in London and the civil service in Whitehall know what is best about transport. We are going to have an integrated transport White Paper. Aren't we frightfully clever?" Integrated transport—what a marvellous thing, what a great expression. The commentators in the north London wine bars, the transport lobbyists and the green lobbyists threw their hats in the air and said, "Isn't that marvellous. Integrated transport—just what we've always wanted." Anyone who knows anything about centralised planning in eastern Europe knows that integrated transport is a figment of the Secretary of State's imagination. It does not exist—there is no such thing. It is an easy soundbite—a throw-away line.
The only way to improve transport—whether on the roads, in the air or on trains—is by using the market. Labour Members do not like that: they like central planning. They want the Government to be in charge and to tell people what is best for them. I shall show how the market could be used better to improve transport. It may seem odd, but I shall use the example of roads policy.
Presumably, the only purpose of congestion charging is to reduce congestion. All Members are committed to reducing congestion where we can. It is terrible to be 887 stuck in a traffic jam. Any sensible politician of any party wants to reduce congestion, but who wants us to reduce congestion on the roads by congestion charging? It is the people who are rich enough to pay the taxes so that they can drive unhindered on the roads. No one ever says, "Fine, bring in congestion and workplace charging and motorist taxation because I can't afford it. If you introduce those measures, I shall volunteer to put my car in the garage and walk to work." Of course no one says that. The only people interested in the motorist taxation that the Government have proposed are those who are rich enough to have the luxury of saying, "Get all those other people off the road, so that I can drive to work safely."
Let us take an extreme example. The hon. Member for Brent, East suggested a congestion charge for entry into London of £5, and others have referred to a charge of up to £10 a day.
§ Mr. Gray
In a moment.
Who is prepared to pay £10 a day, £50 a week, or £3,500 a year for congestion charging and £2,000 for workplace parking—which is £6,000 of taxed income—for the privilege of bringing their car into London? It is the stockbroker who wants to come in from Surbiton to the City of London. He does not mind the charges. He puts them down to his company and it pays the £5,000 or £10,000 a year. Who cares anyway? He will just say, "That's great, thank you very much." It is a fat cats charter.
What about people on a low wage, old people, young mothers who are dependent on their motor car not only in London but throughout the nation? To those people, £5,000 or £10,000 a year is a lot. If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene, perhaps he will deal with that point.
§ Mr. Davies
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why, if he is in favour of using market systems alongside policy, he is not in favour of congestion charges? The nature of a market is to ration consumption on the basis of price. He may be against charges for moral reasons, but he cannot at the same time be in favour of using markets. After all, there are public transport choices.
§ Mr. Gray
I thought that I was explaining quite well why I believe that congestion charging is not a terribly good thing for ordinary road users. The point that I was 888 about to make, if the hon. Gentleman had given me a second, was that the greater the congestion in London, the greater the incentive for people to use public transport.
I could come to the House from Chippenham, in my constituency, by car. Given the travel allowance system in the House, it would be slightly to my financial advantage to come by car, but I would no more consider driving into London from Chippenham than fly. I always park my car at Chippenham station and come by train. That is by far the most convenient way to travel, because it would take me far longer to come into town by car because of London congestion.
Congestion charging operates against the market, because it fiddles with the market. My approach is to use the market, but congestion charging interferes with it. I am keen to hear what the hon. Member for Brent, East has to say on the subject.
§ Mr. Livingstone
The hon. Gentleman asked about the two taxes that the Government propose for the use of the mayor. There is an overwhelming consensus in the business community in favour of the congestion charge, and overwhelming opposition to a workplace car-parking tax. My view, and the undertaking that I have given, is that we should proceed with the congestion charge and put the workplace car-parking tax on hold. If we are to make changes like this, we need to carry business and the wider London community with us.
I accept that it is a question of pricing. Going to a film at a cinema in Leicester square will cost £9, whereas seeing the same film at Staples corner will cost £4.50. Why should we assume that driving in the most congested and expensive bit of real estate in Europe should cost the same as driving elsewhere?
§ Mr. Gray
The hon. Gentleman says that the business community is especially keen on congestion charging. That was exactly my point. Of course the business community is keen; of course the banks in the City—I used to work in one—are delighted. They do not care about paying £10. Indeed, they would pay £100 a day to convey their chairmen to the City of London in a quarter of an hour.
What I want to know is this. What consultations has the Labour party had with groups of disabled people? What consultations has it had with the unions in regard to low wage earners? What consultations has it had with old people—people who need their motor cars, and who will be taxed off the road if the charges are to work? If the Government say that that is not their intention, and that such people will not be taxed off the road, I put it to them that there is no chance that their congestion charge will work. It is certain that the fat cats will not be taxed off the road. If the Government find a way of allowing housewives, young mothers, disabled people or members of the other categories that I have mentioned to stay on the road, the amount of congestion will not be reduced, and all that we shall have is a revenue raiser for the mayor.
As is clear from the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the tax is for only 10 years, at least here in London. That speaks for itself. The Government are a great one for talking about hypothecation, and how important it is for taxes such as this to go towards improving public transport: they love talking about that. But hypothecation works only if several 889 conditions are met. First, a congestion charge must be permanent, and every penny earned through it must go towards improving public transport. However, as the Act makes clear, after 10 years, the money will go to the mayor for him to spend as he wishes.
Secondly, the charge must be additional. It must not let the Government off the hook, and allow them not to do things that should properly be financed by taxation; it must be confined to public transport projects that the Government would not otherwise initiate. That principle of additionality, which is terribly important, has already been breached in the context of the national lottery. The Government's introduction of the new opportunities fund breaches it fundamentally. Hypothecation must be both permanent and additional, but the Government's proposals adhere to neither of those principles.
The Government are determined to drive the proud motorist off the road. That may work in the case of certain categories, such as friends of new Labour in their Jaguars, but it will not work for my constituents. It is all very easy for the Government to talk about public transport, to say how important it is to approve of it, and to say that they will use motoring taxes for that purpose. That, of course, is fine for those who have the great good fortune to live in towns or cities, but most people in Britain, who live in the country or in market towns—there is an increasing move from cities into market towns—cannot imagine a form of public transport that could replace the motor car.
Let us consider Mr. and Mrs. Average in Cepen Park south or Monkton Park in Chippenham, in my constituency. Mr. Average drives to work in his car: he has to, because he works in Swindon, which is 10 or 15 miles away. There is no other method of getting to Swindon, because the station is some distance from where they live. Mrs. Average takes her children to school, goes to Safeway, travels to her job as a primary school teacher in the town, picks up her son on the way back and takes him to football, takes her daughter to ballet, comes home in the evening and then goes out herself. That could not be done without a motor car. No other form of transport could possibly meet Mr. and Mrs. Average's daily transport needs.
The Government blithely say that they will raise petrol prices to a level higher than anywhere else in Europe—that they will drive them through the roof.
§ Mr. Gray
I may do so in a moment, but I am being rather generous in taking interventions.
The Government say that they will drive petrol prices through the roof, and bung on parking charges and workplace taxes. They say that they will use those charges to pay for public transport. That is fine and hunky-dory for those who happen to live in London.
§ Mr. Davies
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he would cut the price of petrol consumption by cutting tax, and would not introduce congestion charges? Would that not cause gridlock in the City of London, and lead to an economic turndown?
§ Mr. Paterson
May I return to my hon. Friend's point about those who live in rural areas? Where I live, two thirds of people drive to work. A congestion charge, or an excessive petrol duty, is a pure tax that will hit the lowest paid. The money—which in my hon. Friend's case will be levied by an authority in Swindon, and in mine by an authority in Telford—will be spent on public transport, and will be of no benefit to those living in outlying villages.
§ Mr. Gray
My hon. Friend has made a telling point. As I have said many times, we will certainly vote against the introduction of any congestion charge now or in the future. It would be to the disadvantage of my constituents in North Wiltshire, irrespective of what is felt by the friends of the hon. Member for Croydon, Central in the City of London. I am amazed to hear him speak up for them.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether we would abolish the fuel escalator if we were in power. I was puzzled by what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to say in his pre-Budget statement in recent weeks. He said that the automatic escalator—the automatic increase in petrol prices above inflation—would not necessarily occur, although he was careful not to say that it would not occur. Table B9, on page 154 of the pre-Budget report, shows an increase in fuel duties from £21.6 billion last year to £22.5 billion this year, and to £23.5 billion next year. That means a 4.6 per cent. increase in the Treasury's next tax take in fuel duties.
If the report is to be believed—given that it was produced by civil servants rather than politicians, I am certain that it is to be believed—it shows that the Government have every intention of increasing petrol duties by more than inflation for at least two years. We will scrutinise the corresponding page in the Red Book next year, to discover whether the Government plan to do the same.
§ Mr. Bercow
Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the Government are serious about hypothecation, they ought to tell us tonight for what proportion of the proceeds of taxes on road users public expenditure on transport should account by the end of the current Parliament?
§ Mr. Gray
Indeed they should, but I suspect that they are reluctant to do so, for the very good reason given by none other than Mr. Lloyd George, the then Prime Minister, in 1909, when he introduced vehicle excise duty. He said, in this place,It is clear that our present system of roads and of road-making is inadequate … the State has for a long period done nothing at all for our roads … both the general public and motorists are crying out for something to be done and we propose to make a real start.New Labour language, in 1909!
Lloyd George continued:my proposal is that the whole of the money raised … should go to the improvement of roads.That was hypothecation in 1909, and hypothecation in 1999 is precisely the same. It is very hypothetical. The Government may give lip service to it for a day or two— 891 for 10 years, in the case of London—but the possibility that the extra money taken from the motorist's pocket will be used for transport for all time is extremely remote.
§ Mr. Gray
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not. I have been a little generous to him, and I am not certain that either of his earlier interventions justified my generosity.
Neither the proposals in the integrated transport White Paper nor the Bill that we shall shortly consider will lead to an improvement in our transport system. In fact, we have a standstill Britain, a gridlocked Britain, a Britain waiting in a bus queue in the pouring rain. Incidentally, my researcher tells me that recently he could not use the new Jubilee line extension, which had been closed for a day, and had to stand in the pouring rain waiting for bus in the east end of London—for no less a reason than that the Deputy Prime Minister was going to open the Jubilee line extension, which therefore had to be closed in the meantime.
This is a Britain standing in a bus queue in the pouring rain; a Britain crammed into a filthy, overheated underground. Nothing that the Deputy Prime Minister has said today, in the integrated transport White Paper or in his Bill will make any difference to those realities.
It is not necessary for us to knock the Deputy Prime Minister because there are plenty of his detractors on the Government Benches. If I were him, I would find most worrying about the debate the warmth with which some Labour Members welcomed his appearance, saying how unassailable is his position. It is interesting that, in The Times this morning, the Prime Minister's official spokesman described the Deputy Prime Minister asan excellent man doing an excellent job".I suspect that that is Campbell-speak for, "He's on his way." If he is not on his way, I rather enjoyed the Private Eye front page today. It has a picture of the Deputy Prime Minister standing in a station. The announcement over the loudspeaker says:I regret to announce that my departure has been delayed.
§ Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
I was disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray). It seems that, even on an Opposition day, Conservative Members have to filibuster because not enough of them want to speak. I shall try to be brief as I know that many Labour Members wish to speak.
I have no wish to speak about the tube. I have no wish to be the mayor of London, but I want to talk about something that is important to that city, as it is to the rest of country: the west coast main line, which starts in Euston, not Glasgow; history tells us that. It is 550 miles long. It is the busiest rail link in Europe. It carries more than 2,000 passenger and freight trains every day. I want to contrast what happened under the Conservative Government with what is happening under a Labour Government.
The west coast main line was upgraded and electrified in the 1960s. Privatisation did not do that. It was done under British Rail; it was probably British Railways in the 1960s. It was done under a Labour Government.
892 The east coast main line was upgraded to a high standard under the previous Government, but the west coast main line had a major problem. No money was put in for many years. As has been mentioned, one of the reasons was that Mrs. Thatcher did not like railways.
Those of us who go past Crewe station every week when we travel from our constituencies see in the museum the advanced passenger train. It was a tilting train that was designed and built in Britain. It is the predecessor of all the tilting trains that are running in Europe. That train was cancelled by the Conservative Government.
Mrs. Thatcher did not like the train. An attempt was made to put it in service too quickly. A group of journalists were taken to Glasgow. I am afraid that they overindulged there and returned on the tilting train. As the tilt was not quite right, it made them ill. The train got a bad press and was thrown out.
I have been to parts of Europe where tilting trains are successfully run and built. People have adapted the technology from the APT and run it in their country. Unfortunately, the UK has to buy that technology back.
From that time, things started to go downhill on the west coast main line. Hon. Members may remember that there was going to be a train called West Coast 250. It was an advanced version of what runs on the east coast main line. In the early 1990s, the Conservative Government cancelled that train and left us with no plans to upgrade the west coast main line. At that point, I founded the all-party group on the west coast main line. I have co-chaired it ever since with the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day).
The west coast main line went through many false dawns under the previous Government. As has been said, a press conference was held every other week on its upgrading. We pressured one Chancellor of the Exchequer so much that he announced in the Budget that £500 million would be made available. When I spoke to the Minister with responsibility for transport at the time, Mr. Roger Freeman, I found that there was no money.
Then, a little money was made available: enough for 13 train sets on the west coast main line—[Interruption.] They are called train sets, as any puffer nutter will confirm. The choice was between those trains and more commuter trains in the south-east. Of course, the Government of the time picked the trains for the south-east and we lost out.
Then, we had privatisation. Everything stopped for privatisation. In fact, on the west coast main line, many of the trains stopped because maintenance was not carried out. Timetables were reduced. The number of trains was decreased because the trains were not reliable. Privatisation came along. Richard Branson and Virgin Trains took over the line. The only thing that happened was that his reputation plummeted because the trains did not get better; they got worse. It was not until the Labour Government were elected that things started to happen.
We now have a contract for 55 tilting trains on the west coast main line. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) pointed out, it is not Mr. Branson who owns them. He signed a contract to lease them, but they are owned by a company called Angel Trains. The journey time from Manchester will be reduced to one hour 50 minutes and from Glasgow to under four hours. If I tell hon. Members that it took me 893 five and a half hours last week to get to my constituency in Carlisle, they will realise that that is a major improvement.
A total of £1 billion has been invested in the west coast main line since the Labour Government came to power. Railtrack has put out contracts worth £800 million to help to upgrade the line, but it has deteriorated that much over the years that it is estimated that it will cost £4 billion to upgrade the line. That shows the neglect under the last Conservative Government.
Come 2002, we will see the benefits of the Labour Government's policy on the west coast main line. We will see tilting trains. Come 2005, they will run at 140 mph. Under the Conservatives, there was total neglect. We were not in London. We were not important, yet the country's prosperity depends on the west coast main line more than on any other line.
§ Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)
I have to suffer the west coast main line and was two hours late getting into London only last week. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, even though, under the Labour Government, we will get new trains and new rolling stock—I believe Richard Branson when he says that—Railtrack is still the problem? If Railtrack does not improve, we will still have the trains that we have today running late. Tilting trains are very nice—I did not go with the hon. Gentleman to see the tilting trains—but they will not improve the position unless Railtrack improves.
§ Mr. Martlew
The hon. Gentleman is right, but we have in Tom Winsor a rail regulator—the all-party group on the west coast main line had a meeting today—who will insist that Railtrack gets the line right. If it does not, it will pay the penalty, which will be many millions of pounds. Therefore, I am convinced that, under the present Government, we will see advantages.
Some of the criticism of the Government is because the new rolling stock is not yet running and the line has not yet been improved but, come 2001–2002, people will see the difference that the Labour Government have made.
I touch on one more point: the Settle-to-Carlisle railway line. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) is not in his place. His reputation is a bit better in Carlisle than in other parts of the country as he was the transport Minister who saved that line. The only problem was that he did not give us any money, so the line has deteriorated ever since. Only last week, I was there to see the start of work on the line after an extra £18 million was made available because of what the Government are doing.
A renaissance in the railways is not only in progress, but is necessary—as we all know, we shall not be able to build many more roads. The renaissance is also one of the Government's priorities, and we shall soon see the benefits of it.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)
This will be one of my shortest speeches, as my voice will not last very long, and I am grateful to be called to speak so early. Upstairs, in my locker, I have a small bottle of vodka that I have not opened in about three years. I think that, immediately after my speech, I shall do so.
894 It was particularly pleasant to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) make his very welcome speech. Although we have had to wait two and a half years for him to return to the House, I know that his career will continue strongly.
It was also interesting to be present in the Chamber with some of the candidates for the London mayoralty. The candidates, and the official Opposition motion, really highlighted the London aspect of the debate. In many ways, it is very easy to criticise the Deputy Prime Minister for his lack of progress on transport in London, but anyone doing the job would have made a mess of it. The Deputy Prime Minister has certainly not disappointed us in that probability. In many ways, however, the London aspect of the debate is only a distraction.
Transport problems in the rest of the United Kingdom—such as, as the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) was saying, those affecting the west coast main line and cities and towns outside London—could be solved. Not every UK town and city suffers from the same traffic problems afflicting London. As many hon. Members represent London constituencies, and all hon. Members know and suffer from London's traffic problems, our analysis of the traffic problem has been Londoncentric. We shall have to decide on solutions without reference solely to London.
Some interesting statistics have been bandied about in the debate—such as those on how the previous Government, in 18 years, allowed road traffic to increase by 40 per cent. In the past two and a half years, however, road traffic has increased by 13 per cent. Therefore, under the previous Government, traffic increased by 2.25 per cent. annually, whereas, now, it is increasing by 7 per cent. annually. That increase is regarded by some hon. Members as something of which we should be ashamed, but that is nonsense.
The Government should be saying, "Isn't it brilliant—aren't we doing well? Every year, 7 per cent. more people are driving cars—which is 4.75 per cent. more than under the Tories. That increase is possible because the economy is working very well." When one stops to examine how real people are using—and paying to operate—real cars, one realises that they are able to do so only because they are getting jobs. In the past three or four years, unemployment has been declining rapidly, and we should welcome that.
We should welcome the fact that people can afford cars, and develop our policies to deal with that fact. It is nonsense simply to play King Canute and say, "The car is bad. Let's ban cars." However, the Government are beginning, slowly—but, I hope, increasingly rapidly, once the Deputy Prime Minister realises that he is on the skids—to change their anti-car policies.
What have the Government done to deal with road congestion in London? They have done very little to develop policies on overground and underground train transport or on car use. In the past two years, the Greenwich dome and the London Eye have been the Government's real, big policies for London. What are those policies designed to do? Their major purpose is to bring more people into London—the most congested place in the world.
§ Mr. Christopher Leslie (Shipley)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that 70 per cent. of expected visitors to 895 the millennium dome will travel by London underground, and that there are no private car-parking spaces around the dome?
§ Mr. Bruce
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman gave me that information, especially as the intervention allowed me to take a sip of water, so that I might keep speaking that bit longer. I am doubly grateful to him.
If the hon. Gentleman had accompanied us on the countryside march—some Labour Members came along—he would have known what it was like trying to reach the beginning of the march using the underground. Although I know that the Jubilee line will—touch wood—be opening on time to carry passengers to the millennium dome, for the countryside march—which was on a Sunday, not during the week—the underground simply ground to a halt.
If the hon. Gentleman had ever travelled on the underground—from his remarks, I rather suspect that he has not—he would know that it is ludicrous to think that those hundreds of thousands of people will travel to the dome in the off-peak period. The tickets are expensive, and people will want to get their money's worth. At Disneyland, in America and in Paris, for example, people turn up very early in the morning.
I am not a spoilsport, and want such events to be held and a success, but such events do not comprise a policy on the underground.
§ Mr. Bercow
Does my hon. Friend agree that, although his comments on the ability to afford the purchase of a car are entirely justified, in that context, he should properly also note that, between April 1993 and May 1997, the unemployment rate was falling at a faster rate than it has done since the general election?
§ Mr. Bruce
My hon. Friend and I know those facts very well, but I was trying to get Opposition Members on our side—not to remind them that progress has slowed down. As they will know very well, since the new deal for young people was introduced, the situation for young people has become worse. The Labour Government were doing brilliantly until they introduced that policy.
Let us assume that the Government will be successful in that new deal policy, and that all young people will find a job when they leave school. What is the first thing that youngsters want when they find a job, or even before finding a job? They want to go out and buy a car. I have four kids and—I am sorry—I cannot stop any of them from buying a car. I certainly did not pay for any of the cars—
§ Mr. Bruce
Yes. Nevertheless, as their father, I could not stop them from buying a car. They went out and bought their own cars. If I cannot stop such a purchase as a father, I do not think that I shall be able to do so as a politician.
We are constantly being told about technology. We should remember that, of all forms of transport, pollution levels have been reduced only in automobiles. There may be schemes to allow people to reach the dome by public 896 transport and to ensure that there is no public car-parking, but people will still drive—to an underground station, probably in a neighbourhood in London, where they will park—[Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) is shaking his head, but he really should make a speech on the subject later. The fact is that people going to the dome will park across London, clogging up streets in neighbourhoods in which people are trying to go about their ordinary business, before boarding the underground to the dome.
We should also be rejoicing, as there is a silver lining to every problem. People are using their cars more, but road taxes are very high. Even without putting another penny on fuel tax, tax revenue is increasing massively. As we heard earlier in the debate, the Red Book shows massive sums being raised in fuel tax, and I think that the Red Book even underestimates the sums.
The Government are raising massive additional sums from their stealth and direct taxes, and that money should be going, now, to local authorities. I do not believe that local authorities in the type of constituency that I represent will impose congestion charging.
I am speaking in this debate primarily to try to express to the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) what I was trying, in a very short time, to tell him yesterday. Yesterday, I spent 10 minutes talking to him about a road scheme in my constituency, and spent eight of those minutes trying to convince him that his civil servants were wrong to stop him from taking an information package from the leader of the Labour group on my local council, who wanted the Minister to see that information.
When one is talking to a Minister about a specific problem, one often discovers that civil servants have captured that Minister—who simply does not know what is going on. Ministers are cloistered in their headquarters, at the top of Victoria street, and have their own individual cars to bring them to Question Time. I suspect that there are many ministerial cars outside right now. Each minister has a car—the engine of which is usually kept running, just in case the Minister wants to make a fast getaway, or because the chauffeur is trying to keep warm. They are all using a car.
As so many new properties were being built off the main road in my constituency—the Dorchester road—it was decided, 40 years ago, that we should have a relief road. In that 40 years, we have withstood the usual planning inquiries and meetings on route changes.
Twelve years ago, when I arrived in my constituency, I went to the opening of the first part of the Dorchester relief road, which linked the old Dorchester road round the town. The machinery that had been used was still parked there because the authorities thought that they were about to be given permission by the Government to build the rest of the road to Weymouth. Unfortunately, a nature conservation group persuaded the Government to instigate an inquiry. A cetis warbler, which is a common bird in the north of France, had flown across the Channel and set up shop in my constituency. That was such a rare occurrence that we could not have the road. The birds did not nest on the roadside, but they were likely to fly across it once a year or so.
897 We have gone through the whole procedure. We have had two public inquiries and every political party has signed up to the brown route. Just when the Conservatives lost power, the project was ready to go ahead under the private finance initiative. It was on the Minister's desk at the time. It has been sitting there for two and a half years, although the Government have sent the scheme back to the council, asking for plans for an integrated transport system rather than just a road. They wanted car parks, bus lanes and cycle tracks. That has all been done and the project is still sitting on the Minister's desk.
I understand that, on 15 December, the Minister will have a chance to overturn my majority of 77 at one stroke. Most people who voted Labour in my constituency want the brown route to go ahead. Very few road schemes are popular, but this one is. In a poll conducted by the local newspaper recently, 76 per cent. of people said that they wanted it. I appeal to the Minister to make my evening. I have a terrible cold, but I will not need the vodka if he tells us that the brown route will be built. I am very worried, because the civil servants and the Government office for the south-west said that the Government were not going to build any new roads and I could go and whistle for it. They said that the fact that the Government kept asking for more information was just a delaying tactic. The Minister is an honourable and pleasant guy. I hope that he will take his civil servants by the scruff of the neck—or possibly a bit higher up than that—and say "I've got to get this scheme. He's only got a majority of 77. If we can get that road scheme in, we can overturn him at the next general election."
§ Mr. Bercow
Does my hon. Friend agree that it ill behoves the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) to look quite so smug, because an articulate espousal of the Conservatives' effective opposition to the Government's transport policies will be one of the many factors that will enable the admirable Mr. David Senior, the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Shipley, to ditch him at the general election and join the Conservative party in government?
§ Mr. Bruce
I shall give way in a moment. If I attack someone I always let them get their own back. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants to have a go at me or support me. I used to be active in Yorkshire politics—indeed, I still am. I once stood for Yorkshire, West in the European elections and had the good fortune to be able to go around with the then Member of Parliament for Shipley. I know the road problems in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. There is a solution to them, but it requires money and it requires the Government to give the hon. Gentleman his road scheme.
§ Mr. Leslie
The hon. Gentleman talked about his scheme waiting for 40 years. The Bingley relief road project has also been waiting for a long time, but I am delighted to announce that my right hon. Friend the 898 Deputy Prime Minister has given £60 million for it to be completed. Work will start in April 2001 and will finish in 2004. There is no better illustration of delivery in action than that scheme.
§ Mr. Bruce
I am delighted for the hon. Gentleman, his constituents and my many friends in the area. I am also delighted that the Government can be persuaded to spend £60 million for political advantage. I am not asking for as much to make my road in Dorset whole. We are the only county in the United Kingdom with eight Conservative Members and I am the only one vulnerable to the Labour party. I trashed the Liberal Democrats at the election and very nearly allowed Labour to get in instead.
I was worried to read in the newspaper the other day about the possibility of VAT on ferry fares. I hope that the Minister is listening to this important point. We have a private ferry going from Poole to Swanage. Everybody complains about the fares going up already. If they had to go up by 17.5 per cent.—or even a lower VAT rate—it would be disastrous. Instead of taking the short ferry crossing, people would go the long route round, putting even more traffic on the A31, which has not been improved yet in Dorset, or the Sandford bypass. I am straying into other constituencies, but I am sure that my hon. Friends would like me to mention the problems. I was delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) on the Front Bench earlier. I hoped that he was going to be put in charge of London transport, because those of us from Dorset could run it a good deal better than it is being run at the moment.
We have a park-and-ride scheme at Norden that works very well. I think that the Minister knows it.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill)
I opened it, but the hon. Gentleman was not there.
§ Mr. Bruce
I was grateful to the Minister for opening the extension to the Norden park-and-ride scheme. I apologised to him at the time because I could not be there. I did not want to encourage too many people to come out and demonstrate against him as he came along the Sandford bypass. I was surprised that he ever got to the opening, given the number of people who were likely to demonstrate against him. It was good that it was him, because people thought that the Deputy Prime Minister might come and he would never have got to the opening, because people wanted to demonstrate in favour of their bypass.
The Government have introduced a scheme to extend railways. The Swanage railway is the first private railway that has been rebuilt. Most private heritage railways run on existing track. All the track had been ripped up at Swanage, but it has been built again. A small amount of work is needed to link it to the main system. South West Trains has volunteered to bring an hourly service from Bournemouth to Swanage, which would be a great advantage to my constituents and would give the Labour party some credibility by showing that the Government are doing something about transport.
I hope that the Minister will give us some good news on those projects. If he does not, I should certainly like some by 15 December.
§ Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was distracted from reading 899 Horse and Hound in the Library a few moments ago—I was doing some research about the Conservatives—when the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) disturbed me by asking one of her colleagues if he would come and speak in the Chamber because there were not enough Tory Members present. That is an abuse of Parliament. Either we have something to say and should be here or we can go home and let the staff off early.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) has done nothing wrong. What goes on outside the Chamber is nothing to do with me. That is not a point of order and I am sure that the hon. Lady would act honourably at all times.
§ Angela Smith (Basildon)
I must say that I have some sympathy with my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay). When I first heard that the Conservatives were proposing a vote of no confidence in my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, I expected a lively and interesting debate. When the vote of no confidence failed to materialise and the debate was extended to 10 pm, my expectations soared, but there have been times tonight when I have almost lost the will to live, thanks to the filibustering of Conservative Members who scurried to the Chamber with their notes, trying to find something to say. However, they have found so little to criticise in our transport policy that they have been struggling to find enough Members to speak in the debate. Hon. Members may find it hard to believe, but at times there have been more Liberal Democrat Members than Conservative Members in the Chamber. Hon. Members may be shocked by that, but it demonstrates the lack of attendance by Conservative Members during a debate on an important and serious issue.
The debate has underlined the fact that we face extremely serious transport problems and that the Government have to balance the competing needs of commuters, social travellers, car drivers, public transport and the environment, which has received very little attention tonight. Many of my constituents commute to London for work, social activities and tourism. Despite that, I am one of the few Members speaking in tonight's debate who is not standing for election as London's mayor. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Although my colleagues are urging me to stand, I must decline.
The debate has concentrated on London, but I should like to refer to congestion generally. Over a number of years journeys have become longer and more difficult. We do not want a quick-fix solution or a sad attempt at making cheap party political points, such as those we have heard this evening. As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said, we need a serious long-term approach to a difficult problem. We need a transport policy that provides choice and is modern, efficient and safe. As I am the first woman to speak in tonight's debate, apart from an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), I must say that it is a shame that we have not heard more about safety issues.
For a country that used to have pride in balancing a high quality public transport system with the needs of motorists, how did we reach our present predicament? 900 I find the complacency of Opposition Members quite staggering. They speak as though the problems that we now face never existed previously, but, in fact, they have not arisen unexpectedly and caught us unawares. Listening to their speeches, one would think that, until 1997, there had never been a traffic jam, that no one had ever waited for a bus, and that no train had ever been delayed. I do not deny that there are serious problems, but if the Opposition are to have any credibility in their criticisms of the Government, they have to admit that their own failures and actions led us here in the first place.
Like hon. Members on both sides of the House, I am prepared to listen to criticism from members of the public who are frustrated and desperate for a solution, but I take no lectures from Conservative Members who, during their time in government, only made matters worse. Their biggest crime was the loss to the taxpayer of some £895 million in the bargain basement sale of British Rail rolling stock. There has been very little reference to that tonight. We have never had an apology from Conservative Members for that and still no apology is forthcoming. When we consider how that money could have been used to benefit the traveller, and that it now lines the pockets of private business people and is lost to the rail network, it is clearly a public disgrace that we have never had an apology from the Conservatives.
§ Mr. Damian Green (Ashford)
I take the hon. Lady's remarks to mean that she is urging the Government to renationalise. If she is not, surely she is guilty of attacking her own Government as well as the previous Government.
§ Angela Smith
What a sad intervention that was. I had hoped for an apology for what had happened to that £895 million. Yet again, I find the Opposition's complacency absolutely staggering.
We should be used to hearing no apologies from the Conservatives as they never apologised for bus deregulation. Hon. Members will remember the great bus wars, when people would arrive at a bus stop and bus after bus would turn up competing for business. Opposition Members are looking anxiously at the clock to see whether they have sufficient speakers for tonight's debate—
§ Angela Smith
Let me stress that my hon. Friend was referring not to me, but to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait).
The Tories told us that the great bus wars would lead to increased choice and better services and that the competition between existing and new companies would provide better services and more buses. We all know that the result was nothing of the sort.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
I have been listening to Labour Members saying how terrible the buses are and what a disaster railway privatisation has been. Why are they not proposing a return to regulation and nationalisation? I do not understand it.
§ Angela Smith
Conservative Members ask us what we propose to do about that. We are trying, through the integrated Transport Bill, to put policies in place to deal 901 with the problem. The Conservatives wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers' money and we are trying to put the problem right.
I have lost count of the number of constituents who have complained about inadequate and expensive bus services. They are right to complain. Local authorities are trying hard to finance the provision of bus passes to pensioners who complain that there are too few buses.
Some people come to Members' surgeries and complain about the transport system, but others do not complain. Instead, they get into their cars and drive. According to a MORI poll, 49 per cent. of respondents said that they would use their cars less if bus services were better; 51 per cent. said that they would be willing to take a bus even if a car were available, and 60 per cent. agreed that the bus was better environmentally than the car. Yet, despite knowing all that, the Tories deregulated the buses, with the result that passenger numbers fell by one third. We are still waiting for an apology. That is how we arrived at our present position, which results from Tory failure.
The Opposition have accused us of being anti-car. I am certainly not anti-car. I represent many Ford and Visteon workers and I am proud of their contribution to the economy of my constituency, but car manufacturers recognise that the status quo is not an option. The most anti-car policy would be to do absolutely nothing about congestion.
I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) did not refer to his statements when he was previously in the House. He said thatcongested roads are the sign of a city which is alive and flourishing, not a city on its knees."—[Official Report, 5 June 1991; Vol. 192, c. 292.]Opposition Members may think that congestion is the sign of a flourishing city, but most people sitting in their cars on those congested roads would not agree. Nor is it an option to do nothing about the environmental consequences of traffic and the huge economic and social costs of congestion. The pro-car policy is an integrated and effective transport policy that meets the needs of those who have cars and those who do not. I do not accept the theory of Opposition Members that, because the Government have been so successful in reducing unemployment, everyone now has a car. Some people do not have cars because they cannot afford them or because they prefer not to have them.
The problem is not that we have too many cars—other countries have greater car ownership, but less car usage. The average number of kilometres—I much prefer miles, but this is very modem information—travelled by a British car is 17,000 per year. The Dutch travel 16,000 km per year by car; the French 14,000 km; the Germans 13,000 km; the Italians 12,000 km and the Japanese just 9,000 km. Those countries cannot be accused of being anti-car, but they have a more balanced attitude to car use and offer travellers public transport alternatives. In Britain, 71 per cent. of people use their cars to get to work. How many of them would choose to take public transport? The MORI poll and other evidence shows that more than 50 per cent. would choose alternative forms of transport.
I return for a moment to bus deregulation and raise an issue that I would like my hon. Friend the Minister to address. Bus companies often claim that they are unable 902 to cross-subsidise bus services—in other words, they are not allowed to use profitable routes to subsidise unprofitable routes, even within the same company. According to the Library, there is nothing in transport legislation to prevent bus companies from cross-subsidising. However, it may be that the problem lies in company law. I understand that some bus companies do cross-subsidise, but others feel that cross-subsidising routes and using the profitable routes to subsidise the non-profitable routes may be acting against the interests of shareholders, because it does not maximise profits. That is something that we should look at.
It is a quite unpleasant notion that bus companies can choose the profitable routes to run, but come running back to the Government and local councils for help to run non-profitable routes that provide services for people in their area. We need to investigate that and see why profit cannot be channelled into public service. The problem is that, for too long—until this Government were elected—transport was looked at in purely financial terms. The economic costs of congestion are well documented. There is no doubt that businesses suffer from congestion—deliveries can take longer and staff can be delayed. However, all that can be quantified in purely financial terms. Of equal importance are the social and environmental costs.
I am delighted to report that Essex county council's popular Village link bus services have been honoured by the bus industry awards. This innovative transport scheme received the highly commended award for its achievements in improving public transport in rural areas of Essex county.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell)—who has taken a great interest in rural bus services—passed me this quote:I have not used this service yet, but I am looking forward to the summer because I will now be able to travel to Clacton.Clacton is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Henderson). The surprising thing, given that the scheme was opposed by the Conservative party, is that the quote came from a constituent of the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin).
I am not anti-car, and I enjoy driving. I was a member of the House of Commons racing car team last year, with the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce). I saved his skin, because I was last and he was not, so he was not embarrassed. We were conserving fuel and not being too wasteful. We must look at the environmental advances that the car industry has made. I drive a Ford Fiesta, and it would now take 50 of my Ford Fiestas to produce the same exhaust emissions as when the Fiesta was launched. The car companies are playing a role in this area, and I congratulate the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders on the Stop Fuming campaign.
Recently, the Minister for Science, visited Ford in my constituency, and we were able to look at the innovative work being done to improve the environmental impact of the company's cars. Progress is being made in that regard. I have also had the opportunity to test drive a liquid petroleum gas Ford Focus car, and I urge Ministers to look at the opportunities—as well as the tax incentives—to increase the use of LPG, which can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 per cent.
The health implications of carrying on as we are and accepting congestion—so praised by the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea—are frightening. I am sorry 903 that more time has not been spent tonight addressing the health issues. The Department of Health suggests that air pollution accelerates the deaths of between 12,000 and 24,000 vulnerable people each year, and that between 14,000 and 24,000 hospital admissions and readmissions each year may be associated with short-term air pollution. Reported asthma cases have trebled in the past 20 years. The House will agree that those statistics are alarming, and I am appalled that the Conservative party views them so dispassionately. The Opposition's contempt for public safety is well illustrated by their attitude to traffic calming measures. I fully support 20 mph zones outside schools, and I fail to understand how anyone could reject a measure that could save the lives of children.
The Tories' record on transport is disgraceful, and their policies have led us to where we are today. Where we go from here is crucial to the future. Nobody wants to sit in stationary traffic, watching people walking by. If we carry on as we are, we shall grind to a halt. We must provide a decent public transport system that is properly funded and will encourage people to get out of their cars and on to public transport.
There was a joke that we used in my constituency at the last election. It worked for us, and I hope that it will work in this case. It was that there are no problems in life—only challenges and opportunities. The previous Government left us enough challenges and opportunities to pick up and run with. but I have confidence that the Secretary of State can deal with these problems.
§ 8.4 pm
§ Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)
I am pleased that the Deputy Prime Minister has returned to his seat. I hope that he will enjoy what I have to say.
§ Mr. Brake
I am insulted. Perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister will read my speech in Hansard tomorrow.
Over the past few years, the state of the tube in London has rarely been out of the news. Sadly, the Government's answer to this crisis has never looked so misplaced. We are now more than half way through the Parliament, but the Government have yet to make a start on delivering the investment that is needed to expand London's underground and give Londoners a real choice and a chance to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport.
Last week, answers I received from the Minister with responsibility for London showed that, since 1 January 1998, there have been 5,544 delays to passenger services of 15 minutes or more. The combined total for the two years prior to that was 3,554. In 1997, those figures were described by the Capital Transport campaign as a crisis. Delays over these two years have increased by 56 per cent. It is clear that the Government have not only failed to improve the underground service but have presided over a significant deterioration.
The reasons for some of the delays make interesting reading. The usual suspects are there, of course. Leaves on the track accounted for three delays in the past couple of years, so perhaps some progress has been made in this area. However, vomit caused 10 delays. This involuntary 904 action was no doubt induced by reading the leader of the Conservative party's endorsement of the failed Tory mayoral candidate, Lord Archer, as a man of probity and integrity.
One delay was due to a surfer who was, no doubt, riding on the new wave of investment and improvement promised by the Tories in their latest policy document. They are apparently offering a "Londoners' tube". Let us give credit where it is due. The Conservatives have at least realised that there is a tube in London. A "Londoners' tube"—what on earth does that mean?
§ Mr. Green
It means a tube that will be owned by Londoners, in which free shares will be offered to people who live in London, those who work on the tube and those who have season tickets. It is a much better, more practical and more popular policy than the one with which the Government are saddling the tube.
§ Mr. Brake
I suppose I should thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but we contacted Conservative central office to ask what the policy amounted to. It was not able to tell us—perhaps the hon. Gentleman should speak to Conservative central office.
Other reasons for delay included "smell on the train". No doubt, the current Tory front-runner for the job of mayor of London thinks that that is the responsibility of those ghastly people who he believes travel on public transport. The show-stopper among the reasons given has nothing to do with any of the Tory mayoral candidates. Apparently, one of the incidents was "no forward movement" on the train. I can see that that would be a significant problem on a tube train.
The figures contain further delays. Some 500 delays were due to staff being absent or not in position. Another 500 were due to train defects, and another 500 due to track circuit failure. If more evidence of a failing transport system were needed, Members should consider the quality-of-life indicators that have been released. They show that the number of journeys made by car continues to rise—hence, no doubt, the Government's U-turn on their commitment to reduce road traffic.
The Deputy Prime Minister has urged us to hold him to his pledges, and I am happy to repeat his statement of 6 June 1997—although he has since denied that he said it:I will have failed if, in five years time, there are not far fewer journeys made by car.If the right hon. Gentleman survives the next few years in office, I and my colleagues will be happy to remind him of that pledge—which he repeated on 20 October 1998. I questioned him on the matter and he said:I agree to keep to that commitment: judge my performance in five years."—[Official Report, 20 October 1998; Vol. 317, c. 1071.]The bad news is that we are judging him for his performance now, not in five years time.
Before I consider the Government's response to the problems, I shall briefly consider the Conservatives' policy on transport, and in particular on the tube. They have almost as many policies on the tube as they have mayoral candidates. Of course, that is less true as their candidates are disqualified, drop out or are not allowed to pass go. Official Conservative policy, as expressed in the motion that we are debating today, is to seekmore private money in another way".905 That is not very specific. Labour has the third way and the Tories have another way.
Little more information is offered in the Tories' common-sense revolution document, which promises afree share issue to Londoners".The former Member for Epping Forest, Mr. Norris, was reported in the Evening Standard recently as favouring a plan to allow the Government to raise the money needed through the issuing of Treasury bonds. That sounds suspiciously like the proposals made by Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat's mayoral candidate.
The former candidate, Lord Archer, appeared to have a policy on everything except underground funding. However, it has been reported that the Conservatives expect him to pay for his mayoral election campaign—I wonder whether they also expect him to pay personally for improvements to London Underground. They certainly have not identified any other source of funding to provide the investment needed in the tube. Alas, we will never know what the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) would have done with the tube because she has already been blocked from standing, apparently because she is the only Tory mayoral candidate to support the official Tory policy on section 28.
The Conservatives are supposed to be an alternative government. They need to tell the House how they would raise the £7 billion needed to bring the tube up to scratch. How would they fund the long-term infrastructure development plan for the capital that the London chamber of commerce and industry has called for? We all know that the Tories would not recognise an integrated transport policy if they ran over it on one of their impediment-free roads.
It is time to move on to Labour. The public-private partnership is now two and a half years behind schedule, and it is unravelling. Labour's mayoral candidates are all off-message. Just three weeks ago, the Prime Minister claimed at Question Time that the bond issue in New York bankrupted the city and that a bond issue here would cost £150 per Londoner. On the same day, the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) was quoted in the Evening Standard as saying:I would not rule out financing things by bonds for individual projects and schemes.He also said:Any PPP approach will need to be tested to see if it is value for money compared to other ways of financing the system.The Government have never answered the question about what would happen if the public sector comparator test revealed that the PPP would not be the best value. How many more years would we have to wait then for a proper transport system in London?
The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras also spoke about Railtrack's involvement, and said:I am not wildly keen on them and I never have been.Within six days, a press release from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions announced that Rai1track was no longer able to deliver the integration that it had promised.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is also a cylinder short of a V6 engine. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] It is a variation on an Australian saying, "a tinnie short of a six pack." Two weeks ago, at Question Time, the Prime Minister again rubbished the very proposals that the right 906 hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras had said he was willing to consider. The Prime Minister also claimed that the Jubilee line extension was late because its construction was being carried out by the public sector. I have asked London Transport for a list of the contractors involved in construction of the Jubilee line extension and it makes interesting reading. I am sure that hon. Members will be familiar with some of the companies involved, which include Balfour Beatty, John Laing and Tarmac. Everyone knows that they are not public sector companies as the Prime Minister suggested: they are private sector companies. It is clear that the Prime Minister is as incoherent on this issue as his Deputy. The debate is about raising the finance for the underground, not who should be contracted to carry out the construction work.
We are consistently told by the Government that the PPP will be required to deliver best value for Londoners. That is a reasonable point to make and I am sure that all hon. Members would agree. However, every expert who has looked at that matter thinks that a bond issue is at least worthy of consideration. Last week, Maurice Fitzpatrick, head of economics at Chantrey Vellacott, said in a letter to the Evening Standard:The private sector investors will require their investment to be repaid to them, together with an interest rate return far higher than the Government would have paid, had it borrowed the money to invest directly in the tube … PPP is not a free lunch. On the contrary it is likely to prove far more expensive than if the Government had borrowed the money directly to build the tube.The fact is that the risks that have to be accounted for in the private sector are inherently more costly than they would be for the public sector or, indeed, for a bonds issue.
The clear consensus now emerging in London is that the way to bring investment in London's tube is to keep the tube in public hands, where safety is best guaranteed, but to allow money to be raised through bonds, outside the constraints of the public sector borrowing requirement. That is what the Liberal Democrats have been saying for years, and that is what Susan Kramer—the Liberal Democrat candidate and an expert in the financing of transport infrastructure schemes—is saying. When the other parties eventually manage to select candidates, it is a scheme that they will end up accepting as providing the simplest and best value method of investing in the tube.
I welcome the fact that the Government have made the PricewaterhouseCoopers report available in the Library. However, it is a pity that the Deputy Prime Minister has chosen to make that public today instead of a few days ago, because it has been impossible to scrutinise the report before today's debate. Detailed scrutiny would have allowed hon. Members to compare the report's figures with the proposals made by Chantrey Vellacott and the London school of economics. We could have challenged certain assumptions that PricewaterhouseCoopers has made, including the interest rate to be used for the public sector bond issue and the £3 billion that is glibly included as efficiency savings from the PPP, to be achieved through innovation and incentives.
The Government's welcome openness about the PricewaterhouseCoopers report is not matched by openness about the tube task force that the Government set up in July to consider the tube. I asked the Government a written question about the activities of the task force in the past six months, and the response was not 907 very edifying. I was told that it had met once a month but had not produced any research. That was as much of a statement as the Government were prepared to make about the task force and its workings.
Taking part in a transport debate for the Liberal Democrats in this House is a great pleasure. The Tories' track record of under-investment in public transport confronts commuters every day in the form of cancelled trains, broken tracks, poor safety systems, a dilapidated tube network and congested roads.
The Labour Government, on the other hand, are full of good intentions and make all the right noises. However, I am sorry to say that the wheels keep falling off their transport policy. Railtrack's involvement in the London underground has jumped the tracks; the part-privatisation of NATS is hitting turbulence on the Back Benches; and U-turns have been performed on road traffic reduction commitments. The Government's transport policy would never pass its MOT.
To the Conservatives and to Labour, London's commuters say, "A plague o' both your houses!" It is time to make way for a party that understands the problems and has the solutions—the Liberal Democrats and Susan Kramer.
§ Mr. Patrick Hall (Bedford)
I am pleased to participate in this important debate, which has been colourful, varied, and notable for a second maiden speech from the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo). We have also heard something from the hustings for the London mayoral election; in addition there has been the introduction, by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), of vomit into the discussion.
However, the most notable revelation came from my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) who, even before the Freedom of Information Bill is enacted, confessed that he spends his time at home reading Horse and Hound. I suppose that that magazine is connected with transport in some way.
§ Mr. Hall
One of the key political differences between Britain and the other European Union countries over the past 20 or 30 years has been the way in which transport here has become a deeply ideological issue. In the rest of Europe, in contrast, a consensus between the parties has existed for years. That consensus has not been a weakness, nor has it caused European transport to remain unchanged. In fact, it has led to the sustained improvement of, and investment in, public transport by road and rail throughout the continent. As a result, European economies have been much more stable and have performed more strongly than our economy.
It is widely understood in Europe that a national and international consensus on transport matters can bring great benefits to the economy, the environment and the quality of life. None of the progress made in that regard in Europe has ever been considered to be anti-car. That is demonstrated by the fact that, although car ownership is higher in Europe than in Britain, people use their cars 908 less. That is because viable public transport alternatives are available in Europe in a way that is not true of this country.
Britain has suffered badly from the lack of that consensus. Our economy has been the weaker for it. People are stuck for hours in traffic jams. Trains are not comfortable: there is standing room only at peak hours, when carriages are like sardine cans even for people with seats. In addition, increasing pollution affects the health of people young and old, especially in certain parts of our cities.
The cause of the lack of consensus is obvious, and it lies entirely with the Conservative party that emerged from the 1979 general election. As Thatcherism became more confident and entrenched, the prejudice against the public sector and public planning extended to transport policy. There was an obsession with boosting individual car ownership, while at the same time public investment in rail and buses was run down.
An example of the deep harm that that caused our country can be found in the Bedford and Kempston area. The southern bypass at Bedford opened in 1996. That was under the previous Government, and I am grateful. However, the bypass crosses the track bed of the former Bedford to Cambridge railway line at one point, and it does so 1 m too low to allow trains to use the track bed.
The problem was raised when the road was designed, and it was mentioned in the local public inquiry. However, it was dismissed, as the well-established view in Government circles at the time was that rail had no future. It was said that there was no chance that that track bed would ever be needed again.
Three years after the bypass was opened, we have the east-west rail link scheme, a costed and viable plan to reopen and rebuild railway lines. The link will connect the east and west coasts of the country and will run from Bristol through Swindon, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge to Norwich and Ipswich. It will need to go under the section of the Bedford bypass that was built 1 m too low to allow trains through.
The problem can be overcome in a number of ways. The railway line could go over the bypass, which would be extremely expensive and environmentally damaging. The bypass could be propped up by a metre or so—an incredible but possible engineering exercise—or engineers could cut deeper underneath the road. However, the land around is a flood plain, so pumping facilities would be needed. Whatever course is adopted, extra delay and public expense will be incurred. That will be due entirely to the short-term thinking and entrenched anti-rail prejudice of the previous Government.
It is ironic to note that, even as the Bedford southern bypass was being opened in 1996, the then Government were already changing their approach to transport. Even then, they recognised that one cannot build one's way out of congestion. After 16 years of Conservative Government, it seemed that the sensible consensus on transport matters evident in Europe might be achieved here.
The result of the last general election might have reinforced that change, as the Conservatives appeared to have learned that the British people were not impressed with the lack of consensus. However, the Opposition motion before us today makes it clear that the Conservative party believes not at all in consensus. 909 The attitude displayed by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), and the policies—if that is what they can be called—set out by other Conservative Members reveal that consensus is the last thing that the Conservatives want.
Even within the Conservative party, there is no consensus. There are sensible Conservative voices in Parliament and in local councils around the country who want to engage in constructive debate about transport matters and about what is best for the future. That should benefit all of us, but it is not the Opposition's attitude. The Conservative party's cheap populism reveals that it has little to offer.
That is not what my constituents want. People in Bedford and Kempston want such matters to be tackled properly, and are happy for Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour supporters to engage in the process. People want to be able to use their cars, but not necessarily for every journey. They support the building of bypasses where they are of local benefit. I have mentioned the Bedford southern bypass, but there is also support for the programmed Bedford western bypass, the Clapham bypass on the A428 link and the Great Barford bypass.
There is support in my constituency for park-and-ride schemes, which have just started in the Bedford area; for a southern parkway station, and possibly a northern one; and for investment on the midland main line at Bedford station. Some has already been made, and I am pleased about that. There is also support for the east-west rail project going through Bedford, as I have just mentioned, and for proper bus-rail interchange facilities and through ticketing. Those facilities do not yet exist in Bedford but they should and could—however, I am disappointed at progress on that project.
The Government genuinely back all modes of transport—walking, cycling, driving, buses, taxis, trains, ships and planes. All those factors are necessary if we are to work together, where appropriate, to contribute to the strength of the economy, respect the environment and create a better quality of life for all of us. That is what government, of whatever political complexion, should be about. That is what this Government are about. Any political party that wishes to serve the country and contribute to the common good wants that. However, it is clear from the Opposition motion that such a consensual approach is the last thing that the Conservative party is capable of providing.
§ Mr. Nick St. Aubyn Guildford)
I have much enjoyed listening to the debate. It has become clear that, despite the establishment of the Strategic Rail Authority, nothing can rescue the authority of the Deputy Prime Minister. As the confusion at the heart of his policies has become clearer, the right hon. Gentleman has performed more U-turns than a rickshaw driver in a traffic jam in Delhi. He speaks of his hopes for British transport when it is clear that he is responsible for a hoax on transport policy in London. His so-called public-private partnership is not the third way but the third-rate way, offering the worst possible value to Londoners and to taxpayers. It has happened because neither the right hon. Gentleman nor his Government colleagues can bring themselves to admit the dynamism, foresight and success of Conservative transport policy in recent years.
910 It is a fact that, since privatisation, not only the numbers of people using public transport, but the share of transport undertaken by the public sector, has increased. That is a reversal of 40 years of secular decline in the share of journeys taken for both private and freight purposes.
§ Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire)
Among the many successes of the previous Government that the hon. Gentleman is about to list, does he rate their valuation of Railtrack at £1.9 billion, compared with the current value of £8 billion, as a fraud on the British taxpayer?
§ Mr. St. Aubyn
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point, because it was the Labour party's virulent attack and its threat of renationalisation when it came to power that depressed the value of the shares when they were sold. The irresponsible attitude of the Secretary of State for International Development—then Labour's transport spokeswoman—forced the Conservative Government to put a warning on the front of the prospectus. Labour's irresponsibility resulted in a massive loss of taxpayers' money. When the Government came to power, of course, they had to do a U-turn and confront the reality that renationalisation simply was not an option.
I shall happily give way to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) in the hope that his intervention will be more inspiring than the last.
§ Mr. St. Aubyn
We could enter into a lengthy debate about the previous Government's transport policy. My purpose, however, is to remind the House that the Opposition's detailed and well-thought-out motion urges the Deputy Prime Ministerto follow planning policies which lessen the North South divide rather than worsen it, and which will encourage more people to live near town centres and their points of access to trains and buses rather than on greenfield developments".In Guildford, that aspect of the policies pursued by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is of the greatest concern.
I shall speak on two issues: the density of housing development on brownfield sites, on which subject I am happy to remind the House of my declaration in the Register of Members' Interests, which is available to all who wish to see it; and the seismic change that will happen in patterns of transport use as a result of the new technologies and new ways of doing things that we debated last week and shall debate again in times to come.
The Housebuilders Federation believes that it will be necessary to build 1.5 million homes in the south-east alone over the next 15 years or so. That would be the equivalent of building a town the size of Guildford in the south-east every six months. Advisers to the Government have been allowed to perpetrate and promote that staggering threat at the expense of constituents and of people in both north and south.
§ Mr. St. Aubyn
I should like to develop my theme first.
At the same time as we in the south are being threatened with the devastation of our green fields, we read that housing developments are being knocked down 911 and erased by housing associations in northern cities in order to create some value in the remaining housing stock. This is no social trend, but a mass migration from the north to the south of our country because of the woeful imbalance in the economic policies pursued by the new Government. That migration lies at the heart of the threat to our green fields.
We must consider the density of developments. We have all heard horror stories about high-rise developments in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. We all know of the alienation felt by those who lived on those estates. I represented a part of Paddington that had its fair share of high-rise blocks when I was a local councillor, and I can testify to the poor design of some projects.
We also know that high-rise building has been successful in some parts of the United Kingdom and in other parts of the world. Naturally, it appeals to some single households, of which, we are told, there will be many more in the decades to come. In London's docklands, or in New York or many other places, high-rise developments integrate the living requirements of residents with their need for services, shopping and transport. The key to increasing brownfield development in both south and north is to find imaginative ways by which the density of development can be increased.
The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) was my representative on the Greater London council when I was a councillor in Paddington. Indeed, his election had a dramatic effect on our share of the vote, which shot up a year later when Londoners realised what they had voted for. God forbid that they should vote for him again, but the Livingstone effect would undoubtedly work to our advantage once more. None the less, the hon. Gentleman made the valid point that bond finance is an alternative to outright sale of the tube or other transport assets to private finance.
When I went to the United States with the members of the Select Committee on Education and Employment, I was invited by Brett Schundler, the republican mayor of Jersey City, to visit a bond-funded project. Bonds are not a left-wing measure; they are successfully used by right-wing Governments. In Jersey City, the imaginative use of bond finance rescued that city from financial disaster and has regenerated it, under the guidance of the first Republican mayor for 60 years, who is now in his third full term of office.
I mention that example as our objection to bond finance for the tube is because we need the dynamism, imagination and innovation that the private sector can bring to the difficult problem of transport in London, as it is attempting to do for the problems with our trains and buses elsewhere. Indeed, no one objects to the fact that our buses and trains are built by the private sector. In my constituency, the excellent firm, Dennis buses, has been at the forefront of new developments in bus design.
In a rather tasteless contribution—there was one valid point—the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington complained about the poor quality of public transport. If people's perceptions of public transport are that it is so down market, those who might use it will refuse to do so. There are new designs for coaches and buses; for example, Dennis buses has designed a bus that kneels at the kerb so that those who are disabled, or who are 912 carrying shopping or wheeling children in buggies, can more easily get into the bus. Such conscious developments to benefit the users of public transport will promote the idea of its use to a wider market.
In my constituency, a consultancy has developed monorail plans for hundreds of towns and cities. The advantage of modern monorail systems—if they can be successfully introduced—is that the cost of the infrastructure is much lower than that of traditional rail systems. The payback and the cost are among the major attractions of monorail. Furthermore, it has been proved that the modern image and visibility of the monorail attracts more users to such services.
E-commerce also has an effect on transport. In Guildford, our local Tesco allows people to order their weekly shopping on the web and the goods are delivered to their door. That is a return to the local grocery shop concept that was so prevalent decades ago. That type of innovation will reduce traffic. If one van makes deliveries throughout a housing estate, that is much more efficient and requires less road use than if everyone on the estate drove to the local supermarket. We can project to a time when those out-of-town superstores will simply become warehouses and delivery points from which the essentials of daily living can be delivered to the residents of our towns and cities.
We have to consider what will happen to town centres. They are, of course, attractive places in which to live. The social aspects—the shops, cafés, places to browse for a book—are attractive; we can look forward to the revival of our town centres and inner cities as meeting points. In the process, we shall see a reversal of the trend to the countryside on which the predictions for increased housing in the south-east have been founded.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Does my hon. Friend agree that there are hundreds of thousands of small market towns where, at 5 o'clock, everybody disappears because nobody lives above the shops? If we could encourage people back to live in those town centres, there would be less need for commuting and less traffic congestion. The situation would be greatly improved. Does he have any ideas as to how we might develop such a system?
§ Mr. St. Aubyn
I am interested in my hon. Friend's comments. I am sure that the same is true in the Cotswolds as it is in Surrey. We need to encourage more people to live in our town and city centres. That is partly an issue of security. With proper systems of closed circuit television and effective policing, we can ensure people's safety in such areas, and that will make them attractive places in which to live.
Above all, we need sound transport links. I shall mention a final example. Recently, the frequency of the service from Guildford to London was increased from three to four fast trains an hour. Our connections with the centre of London are a valuable component in persuading more people to live in the centre of Guildford.
The examples that I have mentioned do not form one strategic transport policy. They are the result of a range of policies implemented by a range of bodies in the private as well as the public sector. They recognise that diverse opportunities exist and that no single Department—and, I am afraid, certainly not this Deputy Prime Minister—can understand what is going on and can 913 direct what should happen to transport from the top down. That is a doomed policy and we must move away from it as soon as possible.
§ Jane Griffiths (Reading, East)
This debate has been quite fascinating, with a few unfascinating gaps in it from time to time. When I came to the Chamber this afternoon, I thought that there would be, from what I have read in the media, an onslaught on the Deputy Prime Minister and that he would be challenged by the Opposition. There was nothing of the sort.
My heart went out to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who is clearly not well. His constituency neighbours mine, and we often come into contact with each other. I am sorry that he is not feeling well, and I know that his constituents will be, too. He is a very effective constituency Member of Parliament.
I had hoped to hear something positive and constructive from the right hon. Gentleman. Conservative Members say that they have a different view from the Government's on how transport should be dealt with and they say that the Government are doing it all wrong. What would they do? We did not hear anything about that. They are on the road to nowhere.
It is very difficult to hold a debate with Conservative Members. They did not offer anything. They merely said, "Don't do it that way." However, I do not think that even they would suggest that we do nothing and not bother about the problems of increasing congestion on the roads, increasing pollution and an increasing incidence of childhood asthma.
In my constituency, there is much commuting out to London by train and much commuting in from several places in the area, and almost all of that is by car. That gives us a congestion problem only at the morning peak hour. Several solutions and strategies have been suggested, but there is not just one answer to the problems of congestion and pollution. We cannot say, "Do this: bring in congestion charging and workplace parking charging and everything will be fine." It will not be; we need a series of strategies.
If we face congestion problems only at the morning peak hour, that is when we need to take measures. For the rest of the day, we do not need to restrict people's choice. At present, people have too little choice about how they make their journeys. I would like my constituents to be able sometimes to drive into central London, but that is impossible. They go by train, because that is their only choice. Sometimes, I would like them to be able to drive to the theatre or wherever, but they cannot do that either. I would like people to be able to take the bus most of the time, but sometimes to be able to drive if they have heavy things to carry. People do not have that choice.
The Conservative party describes itself as the party of individual freedom and choice, but its policies over 18 years took that choice away. It does not matter whether people have a car or whether they like to drive a car, choices are limited if they are stuck in traffic or cannot make the journeys that they want to make, at the time and with the convenience they want.
I should like to ask one thing of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, if some of our towns and cities are to have congestion charging. My local authority 914 is bidding for pilot status for that scheme, and I commend it for doing so, because it has shown that it wants to take serious action rather than just wringing its hands and blaming the Government. I should like local authorities that are prepared to take that action to be supported.
One way to resolve the problem of the necessity to have visible improvements in public transport before people use their cars less is to set up partnerships between local authorities and other bodies, possibly in the private sector. I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister will give some thought to supporting local authorities that are willing to take the necessary action.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to speak today.
§ Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)
It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate, and a particular pleasure to speak in the same debate as my new right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo), who spoke well and clearly and made penetrating points. I thought that the speech by the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) was lamentable. It was not only bovine and oafish; it was incorrect, and no apology followed.
I want briefly to address planning. I have been here since 2.30 pm, apart from slipping out briefly for something to eat, and nobody has yet spoken about rural areas. The Government have, in many ways, declared war on rural areas, not only by shifting £500 million of central Government funding to inner cities but by coming up with their extraordinary plans to impose excessive numbers of new houses on rural areas without considering whether the necessary government services already exist or what will obviously be the consequences for the environment and transport.
It is proposed to impose 36,000 new houses on Shropshire when indigenous growth requires only 18,000. No one can possibly suggest opposing the building of houses to cope with indigenous growth but, when every single publicly funded service in Shropshire, including education, fire and police, is suffering from underfunding, and when there is a £94 million backlog of expenditure on the roads, it does not seem common sense to build twice the number of houses that are needed.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
Both parties have got their policy for the south-east of England wrong—the area is on overload. I was listening to the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn), who was complaining about the inexorable growth in housebuilding in the south-east. As far as I am aware, Shropshire is not in the south-east. We cannot have it both ways. We have to meet housing need, and a constituency such as North Shropshire could help to spread much more equitably the load caused by the demand for residential properties. From a planning point of view, it would be better if housebuilding were absorbed by such constituencies, taking the pressure off the south-east of England.
§ Mr. Paterson
I am most grateful for that intervention because it demonstrates the problem that we are up against, which is central planning, similar to Gosplan, by civil servants, mainly in the south of England, who do not understand local circumstances elsewhere.
915 The Government have set an admirable target of 60 per cent. of new houses being built on brownfield sites. Even if we include Telford, which is the main urban area in Shropshire, only 40 per cent. of houses could be built on such sites. That figure comes from the county council and the Council for the Protection of Rural England. The figure for Wolverhampton is about 93 per cent., and the figure for the whole midlands conurbation is about 73 per cent. What is the point of bringing people out of conurbations to small market towns in Shropshire so that they have to drive back to the conurbations to their jobs?
That brings me on to the congestion legislation—the parking tax. That is a pure tax on my poorest constituents. In Shropshire, 67 per cent. of people in Shropshire drive to work in towns such as Telford, Wrexham and Newcastle-under-Lyme, each of which has its own local authority. Parking or congestion charges must be significant. The Leicester experiment demonstrated that charges must be £10 if people are to be persuaded to leave their car behind and get the bus. If people in Shropshire pay those charges, the revenue will benefit transport services not in the Oswestry district or the North Shropshire district, but in those smaller urban authorities.
This is a straight hit on my poorest constituents, as is the iniquitous increase in petrol prices. Over the past few weeks, my constituents have seen the price of petrol sail from £3.50 a gallon; it is heading on to £3.60 to £3.70. The Government have been caught out something rotten, because the price of oil has increased from $10 a barrel to about $25, and that cannot be hidden. The last thing people can afford to lose is the use of their cars, because with that they lose their jobs. That is why the intervention of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) was most helpful. It is not sensible to move people out to towns when they have to drive back to other towns where they have jobs.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)
Order. If hon. Members wish to make interventions, they must rise and make them in the conventional way.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
I am extremely sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
When Members advance the argument that is being put forward by the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson), they must offer a solution. Where are we going to put folk? The quality of housebuilding and the quality of life to be found in Shropshire are most attractive and if taken up will help to stop the gravitational pull to the south-east of England, which is unhealthy both economically and socially. Housebuilding in Shropshire is an extremely good idea.
§ Mr. Paterson
I have explained to the hon. Gentleman that we do not have brownfield sites. Telford, for instance, can provide only 40 per cent. of such sites. Why move people out from Wolverhampton, where 93 per cent. brownfield-site building is possible? Is it not more sensible to build there? There is no point in driving up to Shropshire at night and then returning the next day to one's work.
916 Having touched briefly on the problem of fuel duties for my constituents who have cars, and who have been hit by a £900 a year increase in tax since the Government came to power, I move on to the appalling damage that is being done to road haulage, England's main strategic haulage industry is responsible for moving 95 per cent. of Britain's goods. Even if rail investment is doubled, the percentage of goods carried by the main industry will decline to only 90. I raised the issue in an Adjournment debate in November, and I hate to say that all my worst predictions are coming true.
We now have easily the most expensive fuel in western Europe. The Minister is bound to say in his reply that the Conservatives introduced the fuel escalator. We did so when there were only two other countries in Europe with cheaper fuel. The price of fuel in this country is more than twice as much as it is in Spain. It is about 92 per cent. more than the price in Luxembourg. Those are two of our main competitor countries. That is almost entirely the result of the duty. We know that 85 per cent. of the price of diesel is attributable to tax. If we take the average price per litre, duty amounts to 47.4p in this country as against 21.3p in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. This is an entirely counter-productive measure which will not improve the environment.
The figures produced by the Library show that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of foreign-owned trucks since the escalator was increased so sharply. In 1997, United Kingdom trucks made 543,000 movements to mainland Europe. Over the past four quarters, up to the second quarter of 1999, that increased to 558,000. However, movements by foreign-owned trucks have leapt from 597,600 to 804,900 in the same period. It is not surprising that they are mainly trucks from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, where there are far more sensible fuel duty regimes.
Vehicle excise duty has been increased to an incredible £5,750 for a 40-tonne truck in this country, whereas it is £486 in France and £328 in Spain. This has put our truckers at a massive disadvantage, with catastrophic consequences for the industry. However hard one tries to explain the problem, the Government do not understand that there is no environmental gain. The Library figures show that, in 1990, 159 million tonnes of carbon were produced in this country, of which 30 million came from road transport. Freight produced only 16 per cent. Only 5 million tonnes of carbon were produced by the road haulage industry. The Government, however, intend to halve that as part of the national reduction. It is simply unattainable: it will not happen. The load must be carried—95 per cent. of freight must go by road. If the domestic supplier is too expensive, a company will move to a foreign-owned trucker. It is as simple as that. The load must be moved, regardless. There is no option of going by rail, particularly in rural areas.
I had a fax today on the subject of rural transport from Mr. W. M. Griffiths, who runs a successful agricultural distribution company near Ellesmere. He states:Fuel costs are one of the major items that affect all sectors of agriculture. No items consumed on farms and produced by farms are untouched by the cost of fuel. The abolition of the fuel escalator is a belated effort to help beleaguered agriculture and its dependent industries. A retrospective rebate would be a welcome move to help reduce the ever-increasing cost of transport, especially in the rural areas.917 I rang another of my constituents who was in his cab—I am pleased to say that he pulled his truck on to the side of the road—and he sent me his comments. He is Mr. David Yarwood, of Greyroads Ltd. in Oswestry. He writes:Every week I hear of yet more haulage companies and owner-drivers throwing in the towel, either by liquidation or foreclosure by their banks. Fuel companies are now reluctant to supply hauliers due to the high risk of them not receiving payment. Fuel companies who supply us are insisting on prompt payment and in some cases even C.O.D.Over the last 20 years my Company and other hauliers stepped in to carry vital coal deliveries. During both the Rail and Miners' Strikes, we kept the home fires burning, Power Stations going and Hospitals open. We weren't very popular with some people but we were dedicated to our Country.I think that that is at the bottom of the Government's policy. There is no gain to the economy, there is a cost to gross domestic product and to the balance of payments, there is a cost in employment, and there is a cost to every single business in the country. The only explanation is that the policy is a dirty old bone being thrown to old Labour as revenge for what the hauliers did during the miners strike.
§ 9.2 pm
§ Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)
Tonight's debate was called by the Opposition. We might have expected to hear a recognition of the problems that their sad and disastrous 18 years in office created for public transport, and we might have hoped for some apology. We might have expected to hear some solutions to the legacy of decline and destruction that they left. Instead, they seem to have short memories. They remember little of what they did.
The recent speeches from Opposition Members seem deliberately to ignore their record on public transport. By speaking about other issues, they try to divert our attention from what they did. Having initiated the debate, Opposition Members must listen to what we have to say about the result of their disastrous transport policies and what can now be done.
After all, the country cannot and will not forget that it was the previous Government, ideologically driven by distaste for, and dislike of, everything public, and in particular public influence over public transport, who increased congestion on our roads by increasing the number of cars from 70 per mile to 100 per mile. As a result, the CBI estimated that about £15 billion was being charged to our economy because of congestion costs.
The Conservative Government deregulated buses, notably outside London, which resulted in a passenger loss of at least one third and an increase in fares. It was local authorities—mainly Labour local authorities—that came to the rescue of people who needed buses to get to work and to go out at times of the day and night that did not make profits for the commercial concerns. Particularly in rural areas, local authorities—again, mainly Labour ones—ensured that bus services survived. While deregulation was under way, I had the privilege of leading Lancashire county council. That Labour-controlled county council kept rural bus services alive, encouraging diversity and experimentation with community-based, publicly subsidised rural services.
918 Through their public transport policies, the previous Government did more and more environmental damage. For example, they presided over an increase to 66 per cent. of freight carried on our roads and a fall in freight journeys by rail to 5 per cent.
The previous Government's public transport policy virtually destroyed our rail service, cutting it into 100 pieces, with disastrous results. Indeed, hon. Friends have referred to the loss of public funds through the virtual giveaway of public assets, such as rolling stock companies, which has been condemned by the Conservative-chaired Public Accounts Committee. Railtrack, as we know, was sold for £1.9 billion, but is now valued at £8 billion.
I must admit to being bemused every time that I hear a Conservative Member condemn Labour for taxes on motorists. It was the previous Government who increased duty on fuel from 7p a litre to 42p a litre, and it was under their rule that taxes on motorists rose from £4 billion to £21 billion.
§ Mr. Paterson
I remind the hon. Lady again that we introduced the escalator when oil prices were much lower and when only two other countries in Europe had cheaper fuel. Our fuel is now easily the most expensive in western Europe—twice as expensive as in Spain and three times as expensive as in Turkey.
§ Mrs. Ellman
I am very interested to note that the hon. Gentleman did not deny what I said. Indeed, he reaffirmed it. I hope that he remembers that this Government have stopped the automatic fuel escalator and will ensure that any funds raised from it will go to improving road transport. Not one penny of revenue from his Government's policies did so.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
Is my hon. Friend interested to know that, under the Conservatives and their escalator, the tax per litre of petrol rose from '7p to 42p? Does not the intervention of the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) therefore seem a little odd?
§ Mrs. Ellman
I accept my hon. Friend's comments. I note that Opposition Members have nothing whatever to say about such an important subject, which is very strange. Instead, they condemn this Government, who have done far less in attacking any motorist than they did during their long and despicable period in office.
Public transport is of course of great importance to communities and societies; it is important for individuals to be able to move where they wish for work and leisure. Public transport is also important for economic development. I remind Opposition Members, who so foolishly instigated this debate, that they failed to deliver the channel tunnel rail link, and that this Government rescued it by a much more imaginative use of public and private funding, saving the taxpayer more than £1.2 billion in the process.
It is of great importance to note that the public transport policy pursued by the previous Government failed to secure investment in all our regions. I listened with interest to the important contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), who played a large part in the campaign for investment in the west coast main line. It was an excellent campaign that was conducted on an all-party basis, and brought together local 919 authority and private sector interests. Sadly, it was defeated by privatisation. The Government must move forward and try to ensure that investment is made in our regions, including in the west coast main line. If public transport is to play a proper part in developing our economy, it must be based on the interests of people and regions; it cannot be based on short-term financial interest alone.
In my constituency in Liverpool, we have great opportunities for economic development through the expanding trade at the port of Liverpool. Opportunities for trade with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are increasing. That trade can be developed properly to bring full benefit to people across the north-west and, indeed, the northern region only if there is more investment in our dock infrastructure. We also need more investment in our rail services so that transport can be linked with the development of new economic opportunities by moving goods in an environmentally friendly way to the east coast ports and across to northern Europe. We need to invest in that trans-European route so that we can improve the economy and the environment simultaneously. The previous Government ignored that sort of policy because they were concerned not with the public interest, but with short-term, private gain. Such an attitude failed our region as it failed our country.
As the Opposition initiated the debate, we are entitled to ask whether they have learned by their mistakes. They had little to say about what was wrong. Several Opposition Members spoke about the importance of linking transport and the environment; some referred to the importance of considering employment in relation to transport. The Government have, for the first time, introduced a structured process—in which everyone can participate—for achieving that through regional economic strategies that have been put forward by the regional development agencies set up throughout England.
The Opposition not only opposed devising regional economic strategies, but are pledged to abolish the regional development agencies, which have produced the means for creating those strategies. They have learned nothing. They understand the importance of linking transport with the environment and the economy, but oppose the way in which that is being addressed.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware of an article in today's edition of the Financial Times, which reported that the chair of a regional development agency said that, with an extra £250 million, those agencies could generate an extra £2.4 billion of tax through the extra economic growth that they could create. Will she join me in underlining the importance of regional development agencies for regional regeneration and to the north-south issues about which we all know?
§ Mrs. Ellman
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Regional development agencies are essential for bringing together the private, public and voluntary sectors to examine the economic, environmental and transport needs of regions. That is the way in which sustainable, new employment can be developed to fulfil the differing needs of the different regions.
I also note with regret that the Opposition are still against the creation of a Strategic Rail Authority, which they oppose in its shadow form. It is the Government's 920 attempt to start to readdress the issue—indeed, the concept—of public transport working in the interests of the country and its regions.
Many of my hon. Friends have drawn attention to the Government's achievements in ensuring that there has been more investment over the past two years in rail, buses and the movement of freight from the roads on to rail. The Government should also be praised for their other transport policies and for being the first Administration for many years to address the decline in our Merchant Navy. The agreement on a tonnage tax is the first step in the attempt to revive British shipping and our Merchant Navy and we must ensure that, alongside the expansion in British shipping, there is an expansion in ratings' jobs, the development of which is being prevented by the international exploitation of labour. We must address that important issue.
The development of regional air services is another policy for which the Government should be praised. I welcome the additional investment in Liverpool airport, which is helping to boost the Merseyside economy, and look forward to it being linked with investment in Manchester as part of north-west economic development.
The Opposition initiated tonight's debate on transport, but it has failed to live up to the expectations that they tried to fuel. They promised us fireworks, but have produced a damp squib. I can only hope that they learn from the errors made tonight and in 18 years of running down public transport. I hope that they will join Labour Members in supporting our new Transport Bill and promoting and supporting public transport, in the interests of the public and the country.
§ Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)
The debate has certainly brought the Chamber to life in a way that the Government frequently find uncomfortable. I have listened to many interesting contributions.
§ Mr. Jenkin
If I may, I shall make a little progress. The hon. Gentleman is rapidly becoming the jack-in-the-box of the House. He frequently makes interventions from where he sits, and that is where I shall leave him for the moment.
There have been many interesting contributions; I regret that I was absent for some and shall study Hansard carefully. Interestingly, there have been pleas from both sides of the House for road schemes, bypasses and traffic relief schemes. That speaks volumes about the state of the Government's transport policy, but the collapse of their so-called public-private partnership for the London underground prompted us to initiate the debate. The events of the past week are symptomatic of much wider failure: if their transport policy had been an outstanding success, I doubt that we would have had to initiate the debate, nor would the Deputy Prime Minister have had to cut short his visit to India and fly back home amidst an atmosphere of crisis.
The Deputy Prime Minister finds himself floundering because his transport policy is fundamentally misconceived. An increase in state control at the expense of the ordinary citizen in general and increased 921 restrictions and taxation on the motorist in particular are the essence of Government policy and the root cause of their failure.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies
How can the hon. Gentleman reconcile his comments about extra bypasses—the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) mentioned 100 bypasses and new road developments that we have cut—with cuts in taxation for the motorist? How can he square that circle given the comments in "The Common Sense Revolution" on reducing tax?
§ Mr. Jenkin
How does the hon. Gentleman square the rapid increase of taxation on the motorist and the £40 billion of tax increases that the Government have inflicted on the British people with the cuts in transport spending and roads investment? The hon. Gentleman has more explaining to do than I do.
Transport is about freedom and prosperity. The freedom for individuals and families to travel is one of the most fundamental rights of a free society. That is why the car is just about the most successful and sought-after of all modern inventions. The car has become an icon of personal and family freedom and independence, yet the Government have launched the most astonishing attack on millions of ordinary people for whom the car is not a luxury but a necessity.
I do not know why the Deputy Prime Minister much of the time looks so bewildered by people's reaction. [Interruption.] Before the election, the Prime Minister promised that there would be no need to increase taxes. Under Labour, after three tax-raising Budgets, Britain now has by far the highest petrol taxes in Europe: more than 85p in the pound is tax. Although the Chancellor says that he has stopped the automatic Budget increases in petrol and diesel tax, those taxes will still go up. Table B9 in the pre-Budget statement shows an increase in fuel duties well above the rate of inflation. All the Chancellor has done is to replace the fuel duty escalator with a new stealth tax escalator. [Interruption.] His spin last month was just another chapter in the great Labour lie.
§ Mr. Paterson
The Deputy Prime Minister has just made a sedentary comment about it being a Tory tax. Will my hon. Friend ask him to look at the Government's figures, which clearly show that fuel duties will increase from £21.6 billion to £23.5 billion? [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Jenkin
I have asked the Deputy Prime Minister written questions about this issue, but he passes them to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and we do not get an answer. The Government will not say how much of that increase will be for the DETR, and there will be further increases in fuel taxes at the next Budget.
The Transport Bill imposes yet more taxes on car drives—car-parking and congestion taxes. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Could we please have an end to interventions from a sedentary position by Back Benchers and Front Benchers?
§ Mr. Jenkin
What is the point of these tax increases? Before the election, Labour's election website promisedto reduce and then reverse traffic growth".922 That was just another part of the great Labour lie to satisfy the green lobby. If the Deputy Prime Minister really wanted to do something positive to slow down traffic growth, he would stop new housing developments sprawling across the green fields of England and concentrate development near, and within, towns where people can choose to use public transport, cycle or walk instead of taking the car. That point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn).
The truth is that taxes do not stop pollution or reduce congestion, except by forcing the very poorest drivers off the road. The latest traffic figures published by the DETR early in November show that congestion and traffic are growing as fast as ever.
The freedom for business and industry to transport their goods and to provide services to a wide range of customers is essential to the well-being of the economy. That is why the Government's stealth tax assault on the road haulage industry, which employs more than 1 million people, is such a disaster. The highest haulage taxes in Europe do not mean fewer lorries on the road: just fewer British lorries. Foreign-registered trucks on UK roads increased by 31 per cent. last year. My hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) pointed out the disastrous effects.
People and businesses make millions of individual transport choices every day. A successful transport policy must provide for those choices. Freedom of choice is not just another new Labour slogan to be wheeled out to placate public opinion. The only transport policies that will succeed are those that meet the genuine needs and aspirations of consumers.
That is why privatisation is the common-sense solution—[Interruption.] I have enjoyed hearing the litany of propaganda that has issued from Labour Members during the debate. However, the fact is, that, after 50 years of decline in passenger miles on the railway when it was owned and operated by the state, it is privatisation that has finally reversed that decline. In only three years—the three years that have elapsed since the release of the railway from the shackles of state control—passenger volumes have increased by 25 per cent. That is because it is the job of managers and staff on the privatised railway not to please the politicians, but to put more bums on seats in order to turn an honest profit for the shareholders.
The railway still has many failings, but it is privatisation and the profit motive that the Deputy Prime Minister still so despises that is delivering what the right hon. Gentleman actually wants. It is producing huge new investment, and causing people to get out of their cars and on to trains according to their own free choice.
We are in favour of integration, but not as part of another slick Labour slogan that pretends to offer easy answers. No one should deny that transport is an easy challenge, but it was the Labour party that promised before the last election that it would fix everything quickly. The only integration that will work is integration that is customer-led. For instance, Anglia Railways in my constituency offers single bus and train tickets enabling people to get on a bus, get on a train and go to Stansted airport. Those tickets were not invented by some Minister or civil servant in Whitehall.
The state can never hope to provide for such a huge, complex and diverse market, whether by direct provision or by way of some kind of master plan for transport. 923 If too many decisions are made in town halls and Whitehall, choices are removed from ordinary people, and that is why Britain under Labour is grinding to a halt.
The Deputy Prime Minister glibly promised an integrated transport policy; he has delivered a standstill Britain. Before the election, Labour policy documents promised to deliver what they called immediate benefits for the travelling public, but the most fundamental weakness in the right hon. Gentleman's strategy is his neglect of roads. The latest national roads maintenance conditions survey shows that our roads are in the worst condition in which they have been since the last Labour Government, and that the United Kingdom is now investing less in roads than any of our major European competitors. Britain is at the bottom of the roads spending league.
What really takes the breath away is the right hon. Gentleman's hapless public- private partnerships for public transport. Before the election, the present Prime Minister attacked the Conservative party thus:the Government cast around for any hapless part of the public sector to privatise. Air traffic control is floated as a possibility".—[Official Report, 16 November 1994; Vol. 250, c. 15.]That notion was described as crazy, but, last week, the Deputy Prime Minister introduced a Bill including provision for the privatisation of air traffic control. There could never be a more glaring example of Labour saying one thing and doing precisely the opposite.
This is no ordinary privatisation. It is not at all clear how, in this privatisation, the management of NATS will not live in permanent fear of Ministers if the Government remain much the biggest shareholder. It is far from clear how issues of national security can be resolved if control is sold to a foreign bidder. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how he manages to raise so little for investment from the sale? I note that his antics on the railway have helped to halve Railtrack's share price, but to raise only £15 million in net proceeds from the sale of a business that is valued at £800 million suggests an unparalleled degree of commercial incompetence. It is quite simple: the figures relating to the financial and manpower effects of the Bill are given in the notes on clauses. I do not know whether the Secretary of State had the chance to read them on the aeroplane.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I will not have comments from a sedentary position, even from those on the Front Bench.
§ Mr. Jenkin
The notes say that income from the partial sale of NATS to a strategic partner could raise about £350 million. There are outstanding debts of £300 million to be paid. The costs and fees for the deal will be £35 million, so net proceeds will be £15 million. If that is value for money, the Secretary of State has a rather different view from me.
The chaos of the tube public-private partnership underlines that the Secretary of State cannot cope with the demands of his Department. The PPP was to be his pride and joy. It was to demonstrate that the third way is the new hope for new Labour, but it has turned to dust and ashes.
924 I listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), ex-leader of the loony left Camden council of the 1970s and early 1980s, extolling the virtues of the public-private partnership principle. Of course, what he is in favour of is contracting out. That is what the PPP is—it is contracting out. What he does not understand is that it is one thing to contract out a relatively simple project, where the risks are relatively quantifiable—say, a hospital project; he is a recent convert to that—but it is another matter to contract out the unquantifiable risks of deep tube building.
The risks are so unquantifiable that a decision has to be made: what risks will the purchaser take and what risks will the provider take? The more risks that one transfers to the provider, the more the costs will go up. If the Jubilee line had been contracted out, the risks would have made the deal fantastically expensive. It was not a PPP. The state bore the risk. The increase in costs shows how big the risks were.
The Secretary of State's bidding process was meant to be opened formally in autumn last year, but Railtrack's potential bid for all the main parts of the PPP deterred the other bidders from coming forward, so, on 15 June in the House, he announced that Railtrack would be given exclusive rights to bid for the sub-surface lines. He said that the plan would be atrue example of a modern, integrated transport system."—[Official Report, 15 June 1999; Vol. 333, c. 156.]Railtrack was in Labour's good books then. Despite the difficulties and uncertainties created by the terrible accident at Paddington, which would delay a small part of the project, on the instructions of Sir Alastair Morton of the Strategic Rail Authority, Railtrack was still preparing, this time last week, to bid formally on 31 January 2000 with a view to completion in eight weeks. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) is right. He agrees with that chronology.
As the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) mounted an increasingly effective campaign for selection as London's mayoral candidate, Railtrack fast became a political albatross about the Secretary of State's neck, so, on the basis of the least excuse, after I am sure a certain amount of active lobbying by the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, Railtrack was dropped like a hot brick for the Secretary of State's political convenience.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that that has the effect of delaying the PPP for the sub-surface lines for another 12 months? Will he confirm that other bidders such as Taylor Woodrow have gone cold on the deal? He should adopt our common-sense plans for a Londoners' tube.
I heard complaints that we were not making proposals: well, here they are. They include a new tube enterprise, with free shares for Londoners and for season-ticket holders. Management would be free to issue shares and bonds, which are so fashionable these days, particularly with the hon. Member for Brent, East. Management would get the politicians and Treasury out of its hair. Conservatives would support the Londoners' tube, so that it could start new projects for new lines to meet the demands of Londoners. Labour will not do that, however, because Labour is wedded to the dogma of state control.
Where has the Deputy Prime Minister left the tube and its long-suffering passengers? His transport policy has become an open and shut case. He goes round the United 925 Kingdom attending the opening ceremonies of rail infrastructure projects—such as Heathrow Express, the Jubilee line extension and the Croydon tramlink, which are all Conservative achievements—and, then, he comes back to his office and closes the Circle line, the Northern line and various stations, in peak time, because of the danger of overcrowding at mainline stations. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) explained, that situation is a consequence of the current Government investing less in the tube than the previous, Conservative, Government did.
The Deputy Prime Minister's problems are not all of his own making. He has had to put up with some less than full-hearted support from some of his colleagues and from the spin doctors at No. 10 Downing street. His friends—not Opposition Members—started the speculation on his future. Two years ago, the Deputy Prime Minister teased a junior Minister—the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson)—with a crab in a jar. Today, that same man is being spoken of by the Prime Minister's spin doctors as the right hon. Gentleman's successor.
Whisperers in the right hon. Gentleman's own party are out to get him. Now that the Prime Minister has assured everyone thatHe is an excellent man doing an excellent job",we know that the skids are under him. He is going down the tubes with his own public-private partnership.
The great experiment in joined-up Government has failed. The creation of the huge Environment, Transport and the Regions super-ministry is nothing but a triumph of spin over substance. Today, yet another Channel 4 poll has confirmed that 79 per cent. of people think that the Government have failed on transport. It is time for the Prime Minister to act.
The Deputy Prime Minister cannot cope. He must give up some or all of his responsibilities before the standstill in Britain gets ever worse.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill)
Was that it? This was the debate that was supposed to have us reeling on the ropes, but the truth is that it has been an abject failure for the official Opposition, and especially for their Front-Bench spokesmen—to whom I promise to return.
Generally, we have heard many and varied—not to say variable—speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House. We have also heard speeches from almost all of the House's would-be mayoral candidates. Inevitably, rather more of the potential candidates are Labour Members—reflecting both the greater abundance of talent among Labour Members and the fact that at least all of our would-be candidates have been allowed on to the shortlist.
Hon. Members will have heard the speeches of the would-be candidates and come to their own judgment, as they will have done on the speeches of other hon. Members. Unfortunately, time does not permit me to respond in detail to all the speeches, but I shall say this: it was noticeable that, throughout the debate, there were many more Labour than Opposition Members in the Chamber. Although the Opposition have just about maintained their number of speakers, most of them have 926 sounded very much like pressed men. It is perfectly clear that the Labour party takes transport seriously—that is widely appreciated across the country—and, doubtless, we shall be rewarded in due course.
I should say a word about the speeches of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) and of his hapless understrapper, the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin). It is delightful to see the hon. Member in the Chamber after his four-hour absence from the debate; I hope that he is not poorly, too.
The right hon. Member for Wokingham has been obliged to return to his sickbed and is, therefore, unable to be with us for the replies. He began the debate with a speech full of complaint and accusation against the Government. He is responsible for the critical motion before us and for his party's transport policies, such as they are. He must answer for them and it is my duty to address them in my response to the debate.
I remind the House with irony that, only two weeks ago, the right hon. Gentleman was boasting of the "youth and vigour" of his Front-Bench team. It was a ludicrous claim at the time, and that youth and vigour has now been more than a little sapped as a result of a pager message dispatching the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward) to the outer reaches of the Back Benches—a sacrifice on the altar of Tory bigotry, cheered on by the party's erstwhile leader. If what we have heard today represents the best that the Conservative party can offer by way of youth and vigour, the Government can relax for a little while longer and we can sleep peacefully in our beds. If that is the best that the Tories can do, my advice to the Opposition Front Bench is to watch out for those telltale vibrations about the midriff—it will be a pager message coming through.
Today's debate has been a feeble performance by the Opposition. They thought that they had my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on the back foot, but they have failed to press home their attack. My right hon. Friend made a magnificent speech. By contrast, the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen have looked like puppy dogs snapping at his heels—ineffectual underlings in the shadow of a colossus.
The hon. Member for North Essex does his best with the poor lead given by the shadow spokesman. It would be helpful if the right hon. Member for Wokingham knew a little more about the subject. He poses as the friend of the motorist—a former member of a Tory Cabinet that presided over a massive increase in road congestion, promised the motorist a fantasy league of road and motorway improvements that were uncosted, unfunded and undelivered, and increased taxes on the motorist from £4 billion a year to £21 billion a year with not a penny of the increase being paid back. Are the Conservatives not aware that, in 1999, under this Labour Government, the cost of motoring in Britain is at its lowest level for 20 years?
§ Mr. Hill
I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman has not been in the Chamber for the majority of the debate. Most of the Back-Bench speeches have been longer than the time that I have available and I wish to enjoy my day in court. I have much to say and little time in which to say it.
Are not the Conservatives also aware that, this year, we are spending in excess of £400 million more on trunk road maintenance than was spent in the last year of Tory rule? 927 Next year, the figure will be £530 million more. Are they not aware that, this year, we have announced the end of the fuel duty escalator, introduced by the Conservatives, and have promised that every penny raised by any further real increase in fuel duty will go directly to the motorist and public transport—something that the Tories would never do? Where have the Tories been?
Opposition spokesmen ask where the new train and bus services are. Are they not aware that, in 1999, under Labour, 1,000 more trains are being run each day than when the Conservatives lost power in 1997? Are they not aware that rail passenger journeys increased by 11 per cent. in the past two years, and rail freight increased by 15 per cent? Are they not aware that, in the past 12 months, bus passenger journeys have risen for the first time since bus deregulation and privatisation in 1986? Are they not aware of the 1,800 new and enhanced bus services now in operation as a direct result of the Government's rural bus grant initiative—a commitment to the countryside never contemplated by the Tory Government? Where have the Tories been? I can tell hon. Members where the right hon. Member for Wokingham has been—he has been tying himself and his party in knots over congestion charging and wiping out the lessons even the Tories had begun to learn after 18 years of transport failure.
The right hon. Gentleman's sidekick, the hon. Member for North Essex, knows exactly what I mean. Speaking on transport and the environment at no less a body than the Institute of Directors earlier this year, he said that in the previous Government's1996 Green Paper we took the transport debate on … The Conservatives agree with much in"—Labour's—transport white paper … It rightly gives high priority to environmental issues … We do not rule out road charges for infrastructure investment … In short, Conservative objectives for transport are the same as the Government".Well, apparently not now—and the hon. Gentleman will have to make his peace with his boss. I wish him a better fate than the hon. Member for Witney. I have this message for the right hon. Member for Wokingham in his sick bed: in seeking to politicise congestion charging, he is playing a dangerous game. He is breaking what was a growing political consensus, and the country will be the worse for it.
Frankly, it is a failure of leadership, and it compounds other failures, not least in this debate. The right hon. Member for Wokingham cannot help but be aware that there is a new, lean and hungry presence on the Opposition Back Benches—Members who made rather better speeches than he did. We have all heard about his leader's spring reshuffle. I say to him, "Beware the ides of March". In tonight's debate, and in this motion, the Opposition have the temerity to accuse the Government of carrying out cuts in London's underground. On what planet—I am doing the planet joke—have the Tories been living?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already comprehensively assisted them in this matter, but let me reiterate the facts; it will not take long. First, as a result of years of Tory under-investment in the tube, the Government inherited a huge investment backlog of 928 arrears of £1.2 billion. Secondly, what would have been the Tory solution to that crisis? The answer is yet more cuts in spending. To be precise, the Tories planned a grant to London Transport of just £161 million this year which, after coping with the consequences of the poorly planned Jubilee line extension, would have left no support at all for the core underground network.
Thirdly, what has Labour done about it? Last year, we announced an extra £365 million funding for London Transport to reverse the Tory cuts, and, this, summer, we announced a further £500 million for this year and next. Fourthly, as a result, London Transport will be able to invest almost £600 million more than it would have done under the plans of the Tory Government—QED, let us hear no more of this claptrap about cuts in tube investment.
§ Mr. Gray
Is the Minister aware of information produced by the Library which states that, in 1995–96, the Conservatives invested just over £1 billion, and, in 1996–97, just over £1 billion? In 1997–98, investment was £800 million, and the following year, it was £698 million. This year, investment is £278 million. In other words, investment in the underground has gone down massively under Labour.
§ Mr. Hill
The hon. Gentleman fancies himself as an expert on these matters, but we are talking about the Government's core investment in the tube system, not about expenditure in the Jubilee line extension—a system initiated by the Conservative Government, following bad advice, which has proved to be disastrous.
§ Mr. Jenkin
Here are the figures—in the last three years of the Conservative Government, we invested £3 billion in the tube. In the first three years of this Government, they will be investing only £1.7 billion. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) pointed out, that accounts for a lower level of investment in core tube, non-Jubilee line expenditure. That is a cut.
§ Mr. Hill
The Opposition are still talking about the investment required in the Jubilee line extension to compensate for their failures in government to initiate sensible and well-founded tube investment. Thus far, the Government's average investment in London's core network is about £480 million a year. The average over the 18 wasted Tory years was £280 million a year.
The Government's record in providing new and higher investment in London's tube network is excellent, but we cannot simply go on increasing the grant that we give to London Transport. Throwing more and more money at the underground will not solve its problems. It would do nothing to ensure that the money was spent efficiently. It would not prevent the massive cost overruns on construction projects. It would not provide the stable, long-term framework that the underground needs to make the transformation to a modern, reliable service for the next millennium. That we will achieve through the public-private partnership. The Opposition have done their best to rubbish the PPP, and they have failed.
§ Mr. Hill
No. I have been disappointed with the interventions that I have taken so far, and there is a lot more good stuff to come.
929 The Opposition said that there would be no interest from the private sector in the PPP, and they were wrong. Five consortiums of leading firms are competing for the deep tube infrastructure contracts, and the bids are due back in March.
§ Mr. Hill
March. When I say March, I mean March—in the new millennium, that is.
The PPP contracts are sound, and competition for the sub-surface contract will be launched soon. The PPP is on track to provide the step change in the underground that we want. We are not going to be rushed into setting artificial deadlines—we have learned from the mess made over rail privatisation. In good time, we will deliver a solution that offers best value for money.
Of course, there are other options on offer. The Opposition want to privatise the whole lot—break it up and sell it off, against the will of Londoners. The Opposition, like Charles I, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. That plan is a recipe for yet more misery for London's travelling public.
§ Mr. Hill
It is good stuff, is it not? Obviously, the Opposition are fazed by the occasional historical and literary reference. We do not try to impose very much on their intellectual resources, but they ought to be receptive to an occasional bit of education.
Then, of course, we have what might be described as the Weston-super-Mare/Brent-East option: raise the money through bonds, keep the whole operation in the public sector, at—as if by magic—no greater cost to the public purse. That is the black hole approach. Let us be entirely clear. Public bonds are just another form of public borrowing. It is the public sector that carries the risk. If things go wrong, it is the taxpayer or the ratepayer who carries the can. If public bonds had been used to fund the Jubilee line extension, it is London's ratepayers who would have been faced with a bill for almost £2 billion to meet the cost overrun.
By contrast, and this is vital, under the PPP all the risk is shouldered by the private sector—a point made effectively by my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) in his immensely wise and well-informed speech.
§ Mr. Hill
The PPP is about far more than different forms of borrowing. It will bring private sector disciplines to bear on the investment programme. It will go far beyond what has already been done under PFI contracts. I remind the House of the conclusions of the most recently commissioned independent report on the PPP. Despite frequent claims to the contrary, the report found that the 930 PPP would not double the cost of borrowing, but would lead to improvements in efficiency in the order of 20 to 30 per cent., generating massive efficiencies in the tube investment programme over 15 years.
The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, and which has now been placed in the Library, specifically examines the cost to Londoners of the PPP compared with public bonds. The report finds that the PPP would save—I repeat save—£4.5 billion, which could be spent on our national priorities of health and education. Bond financing would not achieve that; privatisation would certainly not achieve that. The sensible, lasting solution to the tube's problems is to secure massive investment, to ensure that the money is well spent, and to have a publicly accountable London Underground that is dedicated to improved services for passengers. Only the PPP—publicly owned, publicly run and properly financed—can achieve all that.
In our 1997 election manifesto, we said that we would introducea new public private partnership to improve the Underground, safeguard its commitment to the public interest, and guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers".That is what we said, and that is what we will deliver. On roads, we said that we would invest in maintenance to rescue our motorway and trunk road network from the worst state it had fallen into since records began. This year, we are spending £765 million on road maintenance, which is 40 per cent. more than in the last year of Tory rule. What we said we would do, we are delivering.
On railways, we said that we would establish a new rail authority to provide a clear, coherent and strategic programme for our railway network. That is why we are bringing in the new Strategic Rail Authority under the Transport Bill. We said that we would encourage more freight on to rail. Rail freight is up by 15 per cent. in the past two years and there are 40 new rail freight terminals. We said that we would encourage more passengers on to rail. Investment in rail is up by a third over the past two years and passenger journeys have increased by 11 per cent. We now have the highest number of rail passenger journeys for 40 years. What we said we would do, we have delivered.
We need no lessons on transport policy from the party which gave us road congestion—
§ 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 144, Noes 369.934
|Division No. 14]||[10 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Bercow, John|
|Amess, David||Beresford, Sir Paul|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Blunt, Crispin|
|Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James||Boswell, Tim|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)|
|Baldry, Tony||Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia|
|Beggs, Roy||Brady, Graham|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Loughton, Tim|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Luff, Peter|
|Burns, Simon||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Butterfill, John||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|Cash, William||MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Chope, Christopher||Madel, Sir David|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Malins, Humfrey|
|Collins, Tim||Mates, Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Cran, James||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Moss, Malcolm|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Day, Stephen||O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Ottaway, Richard|
|Duncan, Alan||Page, Richard|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Paice, James|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Paterson, Owen|
|Evans, Nigel||Pickles, Eric|
|Faber, David||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Fabricant, Michael||Prior, David|
|Fallon, Michael||Randall, John|
|Flight, Howard||Robertson, Laurence|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Ruffley, David|
|Fox, Dr Liam||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Fraser, Christopher||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Gale, Roger||Shepherd, Richard|
|Garnier, Edward||Soames, Nicholas|
|Gibb, Nick||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Gill, Christopher||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Spring, Richard|
|Gray, James||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Green, Damian||Steen, Anthony|
|Greenway, John||Streeter, Gary|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Swayne, Desmond|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Syms, Robert|
|Hammond, Philip||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Hawkins, Nick||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Hayes, John||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Heald, Oliver||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Townend, John|
|Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David||Tredinnick, David|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas||Viggers, Peter|
|Horam, John||Walter, Robert|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Wardle, Charles|
|Hunter, Andrew||Waterson, Nigel|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Whittingdale, John|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Wilkinson, John|
|Key, Robert||Wilshire, David|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Kirkbride, Miss Julie||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Laing, Mrs Eleanor||Woodward, Shaun|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Yeo, Tim|
|Lansley, Andrew||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Lidington, David||Mr. Keith Simpson and|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)|
|Alexander, Douglas||Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary|
|Allan, Richard||Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy|
|Allen, Graham||Ashton, Joe|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Cummings, John|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Austin, John||Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)|
|Ballard, Jackie||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Barnes, Harry||Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire|
|Barron, Kevin||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bayley, Hugh||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Beard, Nigel||Darvill, Keith|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Davey, Edward (Kingston)|
|Berth, Rt Hon A J||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Davidson, Ian|
|Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)||Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)|
|Bennett, Andrew F|
|Benton, Joe||Dawson, Hilton|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Berry, Roger||Denham, John|
|Blackman, Liz||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Blizzard, Bob||Doran, Frank|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Dowd, Jim|
|Borrow, David||Drew, David|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Brake, Tom||Edwards, Huw|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Efford, Clive|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Ennis, Jeff|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Etherington, Bill|
|Browne, Desmond||Fearn, Ronnie|
|Burden, Richard||Fisher, Mark|
|Burgon, Colin||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Burnett, John||Fitzsimons, Loma|
|Burstow, Paul||Flint, Caroline|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Flynn, Paul|
|Byers, Rt Hon Stephen||Follett, Barbara|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Caborn, Rt Hon Richard||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Foulkes, George|
|Campbell—Savours, Dale||Gapes, Mike|
|Cann, Jamie||Gardiner, Barry|
|Caplin, Ivor||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Caton, Martin||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Cawsey, Ian||Gerrard, Neil|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Chaytor, David||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Chidgey, David||Godman, Dr Norman A|
|Clapham, Michael||Godsiff, Roger|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Goggins, Paul|
|Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Gunnell, John|
|Clelland, David||Hain, Peter|
|Coaker, Vernon||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Cohen, Harry||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Coleman, Iain||Hancock, Mike|
|Colman, Tony||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Cooper, Yvette||Harvey, Nick|
|Corbett, Robin||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Cotter, Brian||Healey, John|
|Cousins, Jim||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Cox, Tom||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Cranston, Ross||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Crausby, David||Heppell, John|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Hesford, Stephen|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Hill, Keith||Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||Milburn, Rt Hon Alan|
|Hoey, Kate||Miller, Andrew|
|Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Mitchell, Austin|
|Hope, Phil||Moffatt, Laura|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Moore, Michael|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)||Morley, Elliot|
|Hurst, Alan||Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Mountford, Kali|
|Illsley, Eric||Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Mudie, George|
|Jamieson, David||Mullin, Chris|
|Jenkins, Brian||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)||Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)|
|Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||O'Hara, Eddie|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Olner, Bill|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||O'Neill, Martin|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Öpik, Lembit|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|Keetch, Paul||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Kelly, Ms Ruth||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Kemp, Fraser||Pearson, Ian|
|Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)||Pendry, Tom|
|Perham, Ms Linda|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Pickthall, Colin|
|Kidney, David||Pike, Peter L|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Plaskitt, James|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Pollard, Kerry|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Pond, Chris|
|Laxton, Bob||Pope, Greg|
|Lepper, David||Pound, Stephen|
|Leslie, Christopher||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Levitt, Tom||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Linton, Martin||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Livsey, Richard||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Purchase, Ken|
|Lock, David||Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce|
|Love, Andrew||Quinn, Lawrie|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Radice, Rt Hon Giles|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Rammell, Bill|
|McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)||Rapson, Syd|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Macdonald, Calum||Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|McDonnell, John||Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)|
|McFall, John||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Rogers, Allan|
|McIsaac, Shona||Rooney, Terry|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Rowlands, Ted|
|Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert||Roy, Frank|
|McNamara, Kevin||Ruane, Chris|
|McNulty, Tony||Ruddock, Joan|
|McWilliam, John||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|Mallaber, Judy||Sanders, Adrian|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Sarwar, Mohammad|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Shaw, Jonathan|
|Martlew, Eric||Sheerman, Barry|
|Maxton, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Shipley, Ms Debra|
|Meale, Alan||Short, Rt Hon Clare|
|Merron, Gillian||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Smith, John (Glamorgan)||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Tyler, Paul|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)||Tynan, Bill|
|Snape, Peter||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Soley, Clive||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Southworth, Ms Helen||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Spellar, John||Wareing, Robert N|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Watts, David|
|Stevenson, George||Webb, Steve|
|Stewart, Ian (Eccles)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Stinchcombe, Paul||White, Brian|
|Stoate, Dr Howard||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Stunell, Andrew||Willis, Phil|
|Taylor Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Wills, Michael|
|Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Taylor, Ms Dan (Stockton S)||Wise, Audrey|
|Taylor, David (NW Leics)||Wood, Mike|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Woolas, Phil|
|Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)||Wray, James|
|Timms, Stephen||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Tipping, Paddy||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Todd, Mark||Wyatt, Derek|
|Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Trickett, Jon||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Truswell, Paul||Mr. Clive Betts and|
|Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)||Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):—
The House divided: Ayes 327, Noes 176.938
|Division No. 15]||[10.15 pm|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Brinton, Mrs Helen|
|Alexander, Douglas||Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)|
|Allen, Graham||Brown, Russell (Dumfries)|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Browne, Desmond|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Burden, Richard|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary||Burgon, Colin|
|Ashton, Joe||Butler, Mrs Christine|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Byers, Rt Hon Stephen|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Caborn, Rt Hon Richard|
|Austin, John||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Barnes, Harry||Campbell—Savours, Dale|
|Barren, Kevin||Cann, Jamie|
|Bayley, Hugh||Caplin, Ivor|
|Beard, Nigel||Caton, Martin|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Cawsey, Ian|
|Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)||Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)|
|Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)||Chaytor, David|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)||Clapham, Michael|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)|
|Benton, Joe||Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Berry, Roger||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Blackman, Liz||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Blizzard, Bob||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Borrow, David||Clelland, David|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Coaker, Vemon|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Cohen, Harry||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Coleman, Iain||Heppell, John|
|Colman, Tony||Hesford, Stephen|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Cooper, Yvette||Hill, Keith|
|Corbett, Robin||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cousins, Jim||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Cox, Tom||Hoey, Kate|
|Cranston, Ross||Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Crausby, David||Hope, Phil|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Hoyle, Lindsay|
|Cummings, John||Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)||Hurst, Alan|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire||Illsley, Eric|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Jamieson, David|
|Darvill, Keith||Jenkins, Brian|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)|
|Davidson, Ian||Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)|
|Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Dawson, Hilton||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Dean, Mrs Janet||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Denham, John||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Kelly, Ms Ruth|
|Doran, Frank||Kemp, Fraser|
|Dowd, Jim||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Drew, David||Kidney, David|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Edwards, Huw||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Efford, Clive||Laxton, Bob|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Lepper, David|
|Ennis, Jeff||Leslie, Christopher|
|Etherington, Bill||Levitt, Tom|
|Fisher, Mark||Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||Linton, Martin|
|Fitzsimons, Lorna||Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)|
|Flint, Caroline||Lock, David|
|Flynn, Paul||Love, Andrew|
|Follett, Barbara||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Foulkes, George||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Gapes, Mike||Macdonald, Calum|
|Gardiner, Barry||McDonnell, John|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||McFall, John|
|Gerrard, Neil||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||Mclsaac, Shona|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||McKenna, Mrs Rosemary|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Godsiff, Roger||McNamara, Kevin|
|Goggins, Paul||McNulty, Tony|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||McWilliam, John|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Mallaber, Judy|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Gunnell, John||Marshall—Andrews, Robert|
|Hain, Peter||Martlew, Eric|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Maxton, John|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||Meale, Alan|
|Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet||Merron, Gillian|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)|
|Healey, John||Milburn, Rt Hon Alan|
|Miller, Andrew||Shipley, Ms Debra|
|Mitchell, Austin||Short, Rt Hon Clare|
|Moffatt, Laura||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Morley, Elliot||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Mountford, Kali||Snape, Peter|
|Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie||Soley, Clive|
|Mudie, George||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Mullin, Chris||Spellar, John|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Stevenson, George|
|Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|O'Hara, Eddie||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|Olner, Bill||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|O'Neill, Martin||Stringer, Graham|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Pearson, Ian||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Pendry, Tom||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Pickthall, Colin||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Pike, Peter L||Timms, Stephen|
|Plaskitt, James||Tipping, Paddy|
|Pollard, Kerry||Todd, Mark|
|Pond, Chris||Trickett, Jon|
|Pope, Greg||Truswell, Paul|
|Pound, Stephen||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Powell, Sir Raymond||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Prescott Rt Hon John||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Prosser Gwyn||Tynan, Bill|
|Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Purchase, Ken||Walley Ms Joan|
|Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Wareing, Robert N|
|Radice, Rt Hon Giles||Watts, David|
|Rammell, Bill||White, Brian|
|Rapson, Syd||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Raynsford, Nick||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Wills, Michael|
|Rooney, Terry||Winnick, David|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Wise, Audrey|
|Roy, Frank||Wood, Mike|
|Ruane, Chris||Woolas, Phil|
|Ruddock, Joan||Wray, James|
|Ryan, Ms Joan||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Sarwar, Mohammad||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Savidge, Malcolm||Wyatt, Derek|
|Shaw, Jonathan||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Sheerman, Barry||Mr. Clive Betts and|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Beith, Rt Hon A J|
|Allan, Richard||Bell, Martin (Tatton)|
|Amess, David||Bercow, John|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Beresford, Sir Paul|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Blunt, Crispin|
|Baker, Norman||Boswell, Tim|
|Baldry, Tony||Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)|
|Ballard, Jackie||Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia|
|Beggs, Roy||Brady, Graham|
|Brake, Tom||Hammond, Philip|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Hancock, Mike|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Harvey, Nick|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Burnett, John||Hayes, John|
|Burns, Simon||Heald, Oliver|
|Burstow, Paul||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Butterfill. John||Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Cash, William||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Chidgey, David||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Chope, Christopher||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Collins, Tim||Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Key, Robert|
|Cotter, Brian||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Cran, James||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden)||Lansley, Andrew|
|Day, Stephen||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Lidington, David|
|Duncan, Alan||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Livsey, Richard|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Evans, Nigel||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Faber, David||Loughton, Tim|
|Fabricant, Michael||Luff, Peter|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Flight, Howard||Mclntosh, Miss Anne|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert|
|Fraser, Christopher||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gale, Roger||Madel, Sir David|
|Garnier, Edward||Major, Rt Hon John|
|George, Andrew (St lves)||Malins, Humfrey|
|Gibb, Nick||Maples, John|
|Gill, Christopher||Mates, Michael|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Gray, James||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Green, Damian||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Greenway, John||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Moore, Michael|
|Moss, Malcolm||Syms, Robert|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Norman, Archie||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Oaten, Mark||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Öpik, Lembit||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Ottaway, Richard||Townend, John|
|Page, Richard||Tredinnick, David|
|Paice, James||Tyler, Paul|
|Paterson, Owen||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Pickles, Eric||Viggers, Peter|
|Portillo, Rt Hon Michael||Walter, Robert|
|Prior, David||Wardle, Charles|
|Randall, John||Waterson, Nigel|
|Robertson, Laurence||Webb, Steve|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|St Aubyn, Nick||Whitingdale, John|
|Sanders,Adrian||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Wilkinson, John|
|Shepherd, Richard||Willetts, David|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)||Willis, Phil|
|Soames, Nicholas||Wilshire, David|
|Spelman, Mrs Caroline||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Spicer, Sir Michael||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Spring, Richard||Woodward, Shaun|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Streeter, Gary||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Stunell, Andrew||Mr. Keith Simpson and|
|Swayne, Desmond||Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House welcomes the Government's approach for an Integrated Transport Strategy; deplores the previous Government's record of under-investment in transport, fragmentation of bus and rail services and encouragement of ill-planned out-of-town development; in particular condemns their erratic investment in London Underground, which left a £1.2 billion backlog; welcomes the Government's long-term strategy to secure over £8 billion investment for upgrading London Underground over the next 15 years; deplores the official Opposition's plans to privatise London Underground; and welcomes the Government's commitment to an extra £1.8 billion for public transport and local transport plans, improving road maintenance, reducing pollution, and encouraging the major investment needed to widen transport choice.