HC Deb 27 January 1999 vol 324 cc398-446

[Relevant documents: The Seventh Report from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Session 1997–98, on London Underground (HC 715-1) and the Government's Response thereto (CM 4093).]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

We now come to the debate on the London Underground. The Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.15 pm
Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

I beg to move,

That this House condemns the Government's delay in the financial restructuring of London Underground; calls on it to put forward plans, as soon as possible, for the private finance and operation of the Underground; condemns its handling of the completion of the Jubilee Line; and abhors the abolition of financial support from 2000 with no alternative sources of funding in place. There is widespread and growing concern that London Underground is failing—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Will hon. Members who are not staying for the debate please conduct conversations outside the Chamber?

Mr. Ottaway

There is widespread and growing concern that London Underground is failing to provide the expected quality of service. Despite substantial investment in the core network in the 1980s and 1990s, delays and service interruptions are routinely reported on news bulletins. Complaints regularly feature in newspaper letter columns, and public displays of customer anger and frustration are becoming more frequent.

Under the headline, "The Tube service no one in power cares about", the columnist Simon Jenkins recently wrote in the Evening Standard that London has two tribes: those who travel on the tube and those who do not. He described the former as a tribe of moles, bruised, pasty-faced and lost to the call of the clock. He continued: For millions of working Londoners, the Tube is their only experience of Third World squalor. They may not visit London's prisons, mental hospitals or sweat-shops. They may not frequent the ghettos of Hoxton or the tenements of Walworth. They live in tidy homes, work in neat offices and eat in clean restaurants. But they use the Tube. It is the nastiest thing they do. Notwithstanding the writer's licence to produce a few artistic flourishes, there is a grain of serious truth in those remarks.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that such an article could have been written at any time in the past 18 or 19 years under the Conservative Government?

Mr. Ottaway

Some would say that it could have been written at any time in the past 50 years, but it happens to have been written 18 months into this Government and it had not been written before.

In his statements on the underground last year, the Deputy Prime Minister ignored the level of investment of the past decade, which dwarfs anything that the Government are spending today. Instead, he apportioned blame for the current state of affairs on the former Greater London council and the previous Government. It must be said that one can never invest enough in the underground, as the Minister of Transport is only too aware, but, whatever the merits or otherwise of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement and despite the lack of investment by Governments in the 1960s and 1970s, it is clear that this Government must now shoulder responsibility for the present situation and, in particular, for their failure to provide any hope of improvement in the foreseeable future.

The delay in any policy development is utterly regrettable. After 18 years of Labour preparing its policy in opposition and as we approached the last general election, the then shadow transport spokesman, the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), urged a future Labour Government to get moving straight away with a public-private partnership. Admittedly, that was the same speech in which he said that he would not privatise air traffic control, but he gave the impression that Labour was raring to go with its plans for London Underground.

During the Opposition day debate in June 1997—after the election—the Government moved an amendment applauding their swift action on options for public-private partnership to improve the Underground". The then Minister of Transport kept up a brisk pace, saying that he would not be paying his financial advisers much because, we shall be using them for only a few months".—[Official Report, 25 June 1997; Vol. 296, c. 866-9.] I am sure that he now regrets those words.

In January 1998 the tone changed. There was no talk of "swift action", just a great deal of self-congratulation; but our hopes were raised in March last year when the Deputy Prime Minister announced that he was going to make a statement on London Underground. What did he say after 10 months' of brainstorming on a new policy? Wait for it, Mr. Deputy Speaker—he said that he was going ahead with the public-private partnership for London Underground, and that is all he said. However, our worst fears were realised when he said that it would take him at least until the new Greater London authority was launched in May 2000 to put his plan in place. That is three years after the general election—but it did not stop there.

During the Second Reading of the Greater London Authority Bill, the Deputy Prime Minister caught us all on the hop—he said that he was not going to be rushed. Well, that is one pledge that he has kept. Supported by inspired leaks, he implied that it might be towards the latter part of 2000 before any public-private partnership was in place. Here we go—this is the brave new world for London Underground: not a single step taken by the private sector for three and a half years after Labour came to office, and when anything happens, it will be only a few engineers turning up in Ruislip or Cockfosters. By the next general election, there will be no tangible improvement to the underground.

It is also becoming increasingly apparent that there is a black hole in London Underground's finances. The Minister needs to tackle three fundamental issues. The first is the financial situation in April 2000. The Government's comprehensive spending review makes it clear that all Government grant to London Underground ceases in April 2000. That is just 14 months away, and the House and London Underground are entitled to know what the Government's funding plans are from then on.

The second issue that the Minister has to tackle is the grave doubts about London Underground's ability to be self-financing. In its evidence to the Select Committee, London Underground said that it would need an operating surplus of at least £400 million a year to meet investment requirements and to stop the backlog in investment getting any larger. Based on a surplus last year of £265 million, it said that it believed it could get its surplus up to the required £400 million in three ways: a 13 per cent. volume increase in passengers, a 13 per cent. reduction in unit costs, and annual fare increases of 1 per cent. in real terms. It defies belief for the Government to argue that that is achievable.

A 13 per cent. volume increase in passengers means another 100 million passengers on the tube each year. At the same time, no extra capacity is planned. What does the Minister think the reaction to that would have been in Baker Street, Bond Street and Green Park stations, where last week, passengers were jammed into trains like sardines? At peak times, the tube is already full to capacity—the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) knows that because he was stuck in a tube at the time.

Does the Minister really think that a 13 per cent. reduction in unit costs is achievable, when the Government are having to bribe construction workers on the Jubilee line with bonuses just to do the job that they have been contracted to do? The one thing that we know the Government are capable of doing is putting up fares—they have just increased fares by twice the rate of inflation.

The Minister of Transport (Dr. John Reid)

Is the hon. Gentleman against bonuses in principle? If so, why, during the 18 years that the Tories were in government, did he never once complain when huge bonuses were paid in the City, especially in the privatised utilities? Why is it all right for the fat cats to get bonuses, but no one else?

Mr. Ottaway

If that is all that the right hon. Gentleman can come up with, this is going to be a pretty rum debate. The truth of the matter is that the electricians on the Jubilee line have a contract, but they have been holding the Minister to ransom and he has given in to their demands because they are the union paymasters.

As I was saying, the one thing that the Government have done is to put fares up. Indeed, they have just put them up by twice the level of inflation. It is interesting to compare that with the situation on the railways. On the underground, there are fare increases and break-even investment. On the privatised railways, there are fare cuts and a level of investment that the underground would die for.

The third problem that the Minister has to address is whether London Underground can become self-financing. It is its inability to be self-financing that is undermining the Minister's plans for the public-private partnership.

Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)

The previous Government cut investment in London Underground by £378 million, whereas this Government have reinstated some £365 million. How does the hon. Gentleman square the financial circle without investment and without increasing fares? How would he do it, or is he financially illiterate?

Mr. Ottaway

Before the hon. Gentleman makes an intervention like that, he should take a closer look at the facts. In their last 10 years in office, the Conservative Government invested a total of £7 billion, or £700 million a year, in London Underground, compared with this Government's £500 million a year. Also, I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is looking at the figures in the spending review for 1998–99, which show that the total level of expenditure would be down to £250 million. That earlier investment was state investment; on top of that would have been the money from the privatisation that our party would have got on with by now, recycling funds and adding investment, thus taking it to levels that Labour could never have dreamed of.

Mr. Davies


Mr. Ottaway

The hon. Gentleman is coming back for more.

Mr. Davies

Does the hon. Gentleman have any idea what the projected investment would have been under privatisation, or was the project just pie in the sky and not thought out? What really happened was that the previous Government slashed expenditure in the run-up to the election. Also, there was no private finance initiative or any real partnership with the private sector under the previous Administration, only hot air.

Mr. Ottaway

The hon. Gentleman can be excused because he was not in the House in February 1997, but we made it absolutely clear in a statement on 25 February 1997 that investment would be in the region of three quarters of a billion pounds a year—again topping anything that Labour has tried to do. It is here in the record, in black and white, for everyone to see. Does the hon. Gentleman want to come back for another go?

Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham)

The hon. Gentleman says that privatisation would have improved the underground. Does he believe that his constituents get a good service from the railway network that his Government privatised at a bargain basement price?

Mr. Ottaway

I should have thought that, as an ex-London cabbie, the hon. Gentleman would know that the London underground does not go to Croydon. [Interruption.]

Mr. Efford

I was talking about privatisation of the rail network, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. His hon. Friends are shouting loudly because they do not want to hear the facts. If he can get them to be quiet, perhaps he could answer my question. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that his constituents get a decent service from the rail network that his Government privatised at a bargain basement price?

Mr. Ottaway

I can do no more than quote the Deputy Prime Minister, who said that he did not honestly think that people really cared whether the railway was privately or publicly owned, and that they just wanted a good system.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

Will my hon. Friend invite the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) and all the other Labour Members to Southend-on-Sea where the rail line used to be referred to as the misery line? As a regular traveller, I found that trains were constantly an hour late; the conditions were terrible, the trains were deplorable and there was no investment. Since the service was privatised, the service is vastly improved, and we are getting new rolling stock. If anyone doubts the improvements, let them come to Southend, where they will see that the line is much changed for the better since privatisation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We seem to have been led into a siding. We should get back to the London underground.

Mr. Ottaway

I should hate to be diverted, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) makes a powerful point, as always.

We welcome the Government's decision to involve the private sector in London Underground. There are many forms of private finance initiative. The Government's preferred option is to award long-term contracts for the maintenance of the infrastructure and to leave the operations in the public sector. We do not agree with that format, but we must live with it.

In his statement, the Deputy Prime Minister proudly said that his plans for the private sector were a £7 billion investment programme over the next 15 years. That sounds all very well until one starts to probe the statement. First, the proposed investment compares badly with the £7 billion invested by the previous Government in the 10 years from 1987 to 1997.

Secondly, the present level of investment is about £500 million a year. One does not have to be a genius to work out that, over 15 years, that would come to £7.5 billion, so there will be nothing new or significantly different from the level of cash that is already going into London Underground, except for one highly relevant factor.

Under the Deputy Prime Minister's plans, that money is not a Government grant; it is a private sector investment and the private sector will want it back. Out of London Underground's proceeds, we shall have to pay back the £7 billion, plus interest. A pay-back period of up to 30 years is planned, but that exacerbates the situation. In my judgment, it is virtually impossible to write a 30-year infrastructure contract in an era when technical changes move so rapidly.

Not surprisingly, many of the private companies involved are having serious doubts about the viability of the entire project. It came as no surprise that the much-respected Construction News stated:

Only half the firms bidding for the £11 billion revamp of London's Tube network believe the project will go ahead. Fresh doubts over the future of the scheme have surfaced after London Underground's decision to ditch its original plan to have the deal signed by May 2000. Contractors are concerned that the scheme in its present form fails to stack up financially. The level of scepticism among firms is highlighted in a Construction News survey of the 20 bidders. One angry contracting boss said: 'It's a dog's breakfast.' Another frustrated bidder said: `It concerns me that there is actually any will for this to go ahead.' Even London Underground's former director of civil engineering, David Hornby, admitted: 'The timetables were always very optimistic.' Construction News quizzed senior sources with these firms and only 10 thought the project would definitely go ahead in its current form. None thought the original timetable was realistic. One said: 'They don't know what they want out of it apart from a lot of private cash without ceding any control. Nobody knows what the real risks are.' That quotation goes to the root of the problem. The private sector is making it clear that it is not prepared to carry the unknown risk. If the Government want to keep control, they will have to underwrite the investment. The snag is that, such is the high-risk nature of the project, such a guarantee would inevitably go on to the public sector borrowing requirement. Having just got shot of the subsidy to London Underground, the Treasury is hardly likely to take that on.

The truth of the matter is that the Government's plans are in deep trouble. We have the severest doubts whether the public-private partnership will ever get off the ground. In our view, the concept as currently proposed is doomed, and the only loser will be London's public.

Equally serious is the issue of the transfer of London Underground to the Greater London Authority. Grant will stop next year; a partnership will be put in place in a couple of years; and the whole lot will be handed to the mayor, who will be told, "This is your problem now."

The present state of affairs is unacceptable. We all know that the Deputy Prime Minister is making a pig's ear of the policy, but it is adding insult to injury to expect Londoners to pick up the pieces.

A central feature of the mayoral election will be the candidates' proposals for sorting out London's transport problems. It is unacceptable that the mayoral candidates will have no idea of the nature of the contracts being negotiated. [Interruption.] Perhaps they may have a quiet word with the hon. Member for Brent, East. Perhaps such a facility will be made available to other candidates.

The Government should conclude their negotiations by this autumn, so that all is clear to the candidates involved, or the final negotiations should be concluded by the new mayor, and he should—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Or she."]—he or she should have the final say.

The new authority will have to pay back the private contractors their £7 billion, plus interest. To do that will require at least £750 million a year. London Underground can raise £300 million. The mayor will have to make up the difference. The only tool that the Government are giving him is road user charging.

Notwithstanding the fact that London is almost certainly the worst place in the whole of Great Britain to start the first road-pricing scheme, it is provisionally estimated that road pricing will bring in about £300 million a year, with motorists passing 130 pricing points. That is a shortfall of £150 million for the mayor.

Already 83 per cent. of Londoners travel by public transport, and only 17 per cent. use the private motor car. Of those, many are obliged to do so because they work unsociable hours—for example, nurses, or mothers driving their children to school, or the disabled who rely on their own transport. Why on earth should those people be expected to pay for the Government's dog's breakfast of a public-private partnership?

Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon)

I have been following the hon. Gentleman's speech closely, looking for some sign that he wants the underground to be run in the public interest. Does he accept that public-private partnerships may be in the public interest, or is he still wedded to the discredited philosophy of his party in the 1980s that the public interest can be served only by full privatisation?

Mr. Ottaway

The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. His own deputy leader said that it does not matter whether London Underground is in the public or the private sector. We believe that private sector involvement not only in the management of the infrastructure but in the operation is highly desirable.

Why should the vulnerable of London underwrite a package that the Transport Committee described as a "convoluted compromise"? If I were the first mayor of London, I would stand up for those people and reject any notion of the Government dumping the debt on Londoners. In our opinion, road pricing is not necessarily the best way of raising funds for the underground. Why should the mayor not have the discretion to borrow if he considers it appropriate? Why should he not have the power to raise funds by bond issues, as is the case in New York?

We urge the Government to break out of their anti-motorist mind set, particularly as there is no guarantee that the Treasury will not nab the funds from road pricing and put them in the Consolidated Fund. The Deputy Prime Minister said that the money would be ring-fenced for 10 years. That is not good enough. Any proceeds from road pricing must be spent on transport in perpetuity.

Furthermore, our faith in the Government's ability to make all their proposals work is shaken all the more when we learn that the operational control of the underground is to stay in the public sector. The people who bring us today's hopeless service are the very people who will be doing so tomorrow. They are the management on whom Londoners will be relying to clear the huge debt imposed on them. The Government have shown a complete lack of faith in the present management by bringing in Bechtel to finish the Jubilee line. In the Government's opinion, London Underground does not have the management skills to do the job. Leaving operations in the public sector is the worst of all worlds, and no doubt raises concerns among bidders.

If one really wants to see how the Government run the country, one has only to look at their management of the Jubilee line. In June 1997, the Minister for Transport in London said that construction work was drawing to a close, engineering work was well under way and the line would be open by the end of September 1998. In February 1998, she said that it would open in spring 1999. At the end of June, she confirmed her thinking, saying that a thorough review of the programme has been undertaken and she planned to open the entire line in spring 1999. Then, disaster struck. The Government went away for their summer holidays. They took their eye off the ball and, by October, were saying that the line would not be open fully until late autumn 1999.

Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, more than two years ago, when tunnelling problems increased costs from £1.9 billion to £2.6 billion, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) reduced the Government's contribution to £100 million and told London Transport to find the rest? What commitment to completing the Jubilee line on time did that show?

Mr. Ottaway

Why did the Minister say after the general election that she was confident that the line would open in 1998? She was perfectly happy with the contract and the finance that she was getting. The truth is that she has failed to deliver on her early pledge.

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

In the light of the problems that—I think—both parties have had with the Jubilee line, does the Opposition spokesperson now deeply regret his Government's decision in 1982 to refuse to allow the then Labour Greater London council to build the line? It would now have been operating for eight or nine years. The short-termism and refusal to invest of Mrs. Thatcher' s Government have denied London that functioning line for the past decade.

Mr. Ottaway

If the hon. Gentleman were still running London's transport, we would still be waiting for the Jubilee line. So incompetent was his management of London's transport that, in 1984, we had to take it away from him.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

As the hon. Member who represents areas in which the largest stretch of the Jubilee line extension runs, I say to the hon. Gentleman that, at this stage in the proceedings, it does nobody any good to undermine the almost certain prospect that the Jubilee line will be finished on time. Management, new management, the Government and London Regional Transport have put themselves out to ensure a line worthy of the next century. Talking it down, making it sound as if it will not succeed, when we want people to visit London and use London transport, is the absolute opposite of the approach that we should be taking to the Jubilee line extension.

Mr. Ottaway

The hon. Gentleman is being a little pious. Completion of the line is within the Government's gift to deliver. If he wants something done, and since he is part of a coalition with the Government, he should talk to them about it—unless his intervention was merely part of his leadership campaign.

There is every doubt that the line will not be operational by the end of this year. The millennium dome project was proudly conceived by the previous Conservative Government, but is being messed up by this Government. In 11 months' time, the eyes of the globe will be on Greenwich as we enter the new millennium. We shall be the laughing stock of the world if the Jubilee line is not fully operational and the Minister for Transport in London is bussing people through the Blackwall tunnel as part of her contingency plan.

But then, this Government's management of the London underground is already the laughing stock of the nation. Gone is the previous Government's vision that brought us the docklands light railway, the Jubilee line extension, the Croydon tramlink, modernisation of the East London line and Thameslink 2000. In contrast, this Government have absolutely no plans whatever. London faces fare increases, more overcrowding and less reliability. The Government do not know where the money will come from, they expect Londoners to pick up the tab, and they are waiting for the mayor to solve their problems, as if he were some magician. The public will not buy it.

7.45 pm
The Minister of Transport (Dr. John Reid)

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

notes that the Government inherited a substantial investment backlog in London Underground and that this backlog arose from the previous Government's ideological antipathy to public expenditure and unwillingness to seek genuine and viable partnership between the public and private sectors; welcomes the Government's rejection of the Conservatives' policy of wholesale privatisation and applauds it for its thoroughgoing investigation of a public-private partnership as a means to secure necessary investment funds; notes that by providing additional funding of £365 million and that by bringing forward two Private Finance Initiative deals on ticketing and the power distribution system, the Government has already ensured that the Underground will benefit from around £1 billion of investment over the next two years; and is confident that the present Government's approach to London Underground will secure value for money for passengers and the taxpayer and give Londoners an underground system which meets their needs, is fast, reliable, comfortable and worthy of such a great capital city. I approach the Dispatch Box with trepidation. This is the first occasion on which I have led for the Government as Minister of Transport. Over the weekend, I wondered who would be facing me, because, as the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) knows, there were constant rumours of changes to his transport team. The shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), displayed his confidence in the transport team by suggesting that they should bring in a new recruit who has great insight into the motoring industry. We would be interested in getting together"— presumably in another bonding session. He was referring to none other than Mr. Vroom Vroom himself, Jeremy Clarkson, recently of television's "Top Gear".

Perhaps I put two and two together and made five when I saw that the Tories were thinking of recruiting Mr. Clarkson, because that attempted press-ganging of the reluctant Mr. Clarkson into the Tory team coincided remarkably with a story that the shadow Transport Secretary was about to be sacked. I noticed that that has changed. I hope that it was not only because Mr. Clarkson politely declined the offer extended to him, by saying: The idea of working for the Conservative Party is ridiculous. I have waited a long time to say that I entirely agree with every word of Mr. Jeremy Clarkson.

The first thing that strikes me about the Opposition motion is that it does not once mention the word "passenger". If the underground in London and the London transport system are not about passengers, then they are about nothing. That is the litmus test of the motion.

I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Croydon, South. I heard him speak about the vulnerable and the desperate need to protect those who are deprived and who do not have a car. At one stage, he mentioned the homeless. There are three statements that always stretch my incredulity. The first is, "Your cheque is in the post," the second is, "I will love you all the more for it in the morning," and the third is, "I am a Tory, and deeply concerned about the vulnerable and public transport."

It is noticeable that the Conservative party in opposition has sponsored three debates on the London underground. That stands in marked contrast to its reluctance to debate the London underground when it was in power. In the five years of the previous Parliament, the Conservative party, which is supposedly concerned about the London underground, could not find the time on one single occasion to debate the subject which they are now declaring to be so important. What wisdom the Tories have achieved in hindsight. What commitment they apparently have now that they have neither power nor responsibility. After listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, South, I must also say what self-righteousness they now have in their selective and collective amnesia.

The Government are picking up the pieces after 18 years in which the Conservative party, through its neglect and abandonment of any responsibility for it, allowed the London underground to decay and degenerate. Conservative Members have the gall to criticise a Government who have been in power for 20 months.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)

Thousands of people travel into London from Hertfordshire to work. They arrive at King's Cross and get on the Victoria line. Over the past two years, the underground trains have become more and more packed. The overcrowding is serious, so can the Minister point to a single measure that he has taken, or is going to take, that will ease overcrowding on the Victoria line for my constituents?

Dr. Reid

I will come to that issue later, but a Conservative Member saying, "Put us in charge, because we will make the underground just like Connex trains" will not bring people flocking to the banner of conservatism. Our knowledge that the essence of those problems springs directly from the almost criminal negligence of the previous Government does not in any way diminish our determination to face up to the challenges.

We do not underestimate the seriousness of the tasks that we face in respect of the London underground, and we know that, wherever the blame lies, Londoners are more interested in the problems being rectified than in the buck being passed. We will face up to those challenges, not only because London is a major city, an influential city or a capital city, but because it is a great city. It is pre-eminent in terms of the extent of its boundaries, the size of its population, the wealth that it generates, its importance as a global financial centre and—perhaps above all—the burden of its history and the meaning of that in the history of this country.

London is the most populous city in the European Union, something that creates challenges for the transport system. It has 7 million residents in an area covering 1,578 sq km and it is a massive centre of finance, commerce and industry. London's gross domestic product stood at £93,450 million in 1996, and it has by far the highest GDP per head in the United Kingdom. It accounts for about a quarter of all businesses in the United Kingdom with a turnover of £5 million or more.

With all that, no one could fail to take London's transport system seriously, and such a great city deserves a great transport system. Transport in London represents the arteries of commercial and economic life, social activity and tourism. Although there has been continued growth in the use of the private car in Great Britain over the past 15 years, the number of car journeys in Greater London has fallen.

On an average week day, more than 1 million people come into central London during the morning peak, and more than 80 per cent. of them use public transport. Within London in 1997–98, passenger travel totalled nearly 4.4 billion passenger kilometres on the buses and 6.5 billion passenger kilometres on the underground. That is a massive amount, which is up 5 per cent. on the previous year. Passenger traffic on the docklands light railway has more than trebled since 1992–93.

Those figures alone show that the London public transport system is vital. Within that system, the underground is central.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I do not dissent from anything that the Minister has said so far. Does he accept that, if we are to achieve an underground and a public transport system in London for the next generation, it should be owned by the people who will use it? The logic of that position is that, although the Government are right to be working on getting the system ready, agreement on the system and decisions about financing it should be left to the new London authority. If that does not happen, whoever runs London will be able to say, "It's not our fault. The Government put us in this mess."

Dr. Reid

I agree with the first part of what the hon. Gentleman said, but the second part does not follow from his premise. I believe that Londoners, as well as the Government, want a publicly owned and publicly accountable system, operated in the public interest.

I also believe that we should keep all the operations of the London underground in the public sector—something that we fully intend to do—and make the system even more accountable by putting it under the control of the newly elected mayor of London, rather than take the avenue that the Conservatives propose: a rushed, wholesale privatisation where the underground is sold off at a knockdown price—that is what they did with Railtrack—irrespective of the consequences for either Londoners or the Exchequer.

The route that we are taking will reinforce the control and the effectiveness of the accountability system, which will result in a far better operation by London Underground in the long run.

Mr. Hughes

If I had to choose between the Minister's position and that of his Conservative opponents, I should certainly say that wholesale privatisation is not what Londoners want or what experience suggests is the right way forward.

Will the Minister reflect on the point that we are debating? If he and his colleagues do a deal that locks London Regional Transport and London Underground into a financial package, and that package is handed to the new London authority without it having the right to agree to it, alter it or take part in negotiations until their conclusion, the authority cannot be accountable. Its members will always be able to say, "This deal was done before we had control and therefore we are not to blame—nor are we are taking the blame—for anything that goes wrong."

Dr. Reid

First, waiting several more years before even making a start would let down the people of London. Secondly, we want to start at the earliest possible date, so changing the negotiating partner half way through would, in effect, put any deal off for years because no one would enter those negotiations.

We have said that we will undertake that there will be a publicly accountable, publicly owned operation on the underground, that we will enter into negotiations and that we will complete those negotiations. If a mayor is elected in the course of the negotiations, we will do everything in our power to bring him or her into the consultation process. In the world that we have inherited from the Conservatives, and following almost two decades of neglect, it would be grossly unfair on Londoners to wait any longer before working through and starting negotiations.

We will not proceed unless we can secure best value for Londoners and for people throughout the country. This is an immensely complex task. We could do what the Opposition have asked: set a final date and tell those with whom we are willing to go into partnership, "By the way, we have to finish by next May." I wish that I played poker with the hon. Member for Croydon, South; to declare one's hand at the beginning of negotiations is virtually to hand over control to the other person. That would not be in the interests of either the people of London or the people of this country.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I am most grateful to the Minister, who is extremely courteous in giving way.

The Minister travels hopefully towards the destination of a successful outcome to the tenders for the operation of the infrastructure, but there is a likelihood that he may not arrive at such a successful deal. Can he assure that House that, in that eventuality, he will not close his mind to outright privatisation, which happened with the express train link to Heathrow? That is an extremely good example to follow.

Dr. Reid

No. We have made it plain that we will retain the operations of London Underground in the public sector. It will be publicly accountable to the new mayor of London and to the people of London. That is what Londoners want, and what they are proud of, and it is certainly what the Government want. The Opposition's constant allusions to the happy experience of the privatised railways will not draw people to their cause, whatever frustrations are caused by the present difficulties on the tube.

The hon. Gentleman would do better to admit that the privatised railway system has not been without its difficulties, particularly fragmentation. It is for precisely that reason that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and I have engaged with the privatised companies in an attempt to provide a networkwide and strategic dimension. Those are some of the benefits of a publicly controlled operation, and London Underground will remain in that state for as long as we are the Government.

Mr. Geraint Davies

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Dr. Reid

I must make some progress first.

Although hon. Members may be familiar with the underground system, I want to give them some idea of the sheer immensity of the project. Most of us think merely in terms of the central area, but the full network stretches far beyond that, serving commuters and communities from Amersham, 27 miles from central London, to Upminster, and from Morden to Epping, 18 miles from the centre. It is a massive complex: 243 miles of railway line, 106 miles of which is in tunnels. It serves 269 stations, the busiest of which—Oxford Circus—handles 90 million passengers a year. The underground has 12 lines, and last year its 4,000 carriages carried 832 million passengers. The commuters and communities served by that network need, indeed demand, an underground system that is modern, frequent and reliable.

I am sorry to say that, in facing the challenges, we start with a system that is not modern, frequent and reliable. That, unfortunately, is the inheritance passed to us by the previous Government. Spurred by their antipathy to public expenditure, their distaste for public ownership and their cavalier attitude to public transport—which they have exhibited this evening—the Tories ran the network into the ground. Owing to those years of chronic underfunding, the hard work of London Transport's staff is constantly undermined and passengers are persistently frustrated as worn-out, unreliable kit fails day after day, rush hour after rush hour.

The Conservatives' reaction was actually to cut the grand plan for London Transport. They made sharp cuts in funding, and, partly owing to the overspend on the Jubilee line extension—which, apparently, was not noticed by the hon. Member for Croydon, South in the four years before the general election, but now is—effectively cut London Underground's budget by nearly 50 per cent. There was a decade of Tory neglect.

The hon. Gentleman seems to think that Tory government started in 1987. Every reference that he made to investment related to that year. A decade of Tory neglect, however—from 1979 to 1989—could not be compensated for by a halting and inconsistent investment plan in the 1990s, which helped to create the mountain of difficulties that we must now overcome.

By their last year in government, the Tories had abandoned any hope, let alone intention, of investing in the network. They left us with an investment backlog of no less than £1,200 million. That was the legacy of those who have the gall tonight to criticise a 20-month-old Government.

I must tell Opposition Members that it is no surprise that the people of London, faced with such an abdication of responsibility, rightly told the Tories to go away, leaving them with only 11 MPs in the capital. I must also tell them that, if their current approach to London's transport problems continues, there will soon be as many Tory MPs in London as there are reasons for voting for them: none at all.

Unlike the previous Government, this Government have made a start—I claim no more than that—by tackling some of the problems. Lest anyone imagine that there is an ounce of complacency, let me say immediately that my colleagues in the Department and I realise that we have only begun to scale the foothills of the mountain of problems that we inherited from the previous Government. Indeed, in the short term, some of the remedies that we are applying—for instance, updating signals and escalators—may add another frustrating but necessary impediment to the smooth running of the system: necessary because the scale of the problem cannot be tackled without some disruption, and frustrating because the same problems were apparent during the 18 years in which the Tories were in power but did nothing about them.

I know that it is difficult to ask passengers to continue to be patient while stations and escalators are being refurbished and new trains are being brought into service. I recognise that that causes disruption and generates frustrations, especially when there are teething troubles, but at least the problems arising from progress and investment, in contrast to those arising from the neglect of the previous Government, hold out the prospect of a light at the end of the underground tunnel.

I do not hesitate to acknowledge, for instance, that the service on the Central and Northern lines is not up to the standard that passengers rightly expect. Passengers on the Central line are already travelling on new, larger and better trains, but the service is not yet as reliable as it should be. I accept that London Underground is working hard to resolve problems with a signalling technology that is causing some difficulties. It is new technology, which, when it is fully operational, will enhance train frequency and shorten journey times. The priority is to work towards achieving a reliable service.

That problem is typical of problems associated with new investment, rather than investment neglect. On the Northern line, existing rolling stock is being replaced by a fleet of 106 new trains. That brings its own problems: they are the first new trains on the line since 1972. All too often, old trains have broken down; if there are also teething troubles with new trains, that is no less frustrating for passengers because it is associated with renewal—but at least it heralds the prospect of an enhanced service once we come through the current period. Already, 20 new trains are in service. I have met the contractors to discuss a range of issues, and have raised that specific point with them. I know that they intend to introduce more new trains as quickly as possible. Passengers should be able to enjoy a full service, run entirely with new trains, by autumn this year.

There is a difference between problems that will lead to service enhancements and the problems that resulted from the previous Government's neglect and abandonment of responsibility. The current position is a sign that the Government have made addressing London Underground's problems one of our highest priorities. We are tackling the problems head on. We have restructured and strengthened senior management. Last week, we were delighted to announce the appointment of a new chairman of the London Transport board. Sir Malcolm Bates, who has already worked with us on matters connected with the private finance initiative, will take the helm on 11 February. Derek Smith is due to take over as the new managing director of London Underground on 1 February. Both have proven track records, and I am confident that, with the right senior management team, London Transport will be able to meet the challenges that it faces.

We have secured new private investment in new ticketing technology and the power supply of the underground. In August last year, two private finance initiative deals, "power" and "prestige", were signed. They will bring real improvements for passengers. "Power" is worth more than £1 billion. Under that deal, the private-sector contractor will renew the underground's power distribution network, which will make the system more reliable and improve the underground's already impressive safety record. The "prestige" deal is a major ticketing project worth £1 billion, at the heart of which will be the introduction of smart-card ticketing for the first time on the underground and on London buses. Therefore, we have improved management and secured new deals with the private sector.

Above all, we are putting our money where our mouth is. We are providing London Transport with an extra £365 million over the next two years. That will mean that, including PFI, around £1 billion will be invested in the core network over the two years. That means that projects that include investment in track, escalators, embankments, signalling, rolling stock and stations throughout the network will benefit. Investment in projects such as the JLE and the Croydon tramlink will be in addition to that £1 billion. Our approach is in stark contrast with that of the previous Government, who cut planned expenditure to London Transport by some £380 million over the period that we are investing that £1 billion.

That extra funding is not all. It is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of necessary investment. Our proposals for a public-private partnership for the tube will bring a further £7,000 million over the next decade and a half. That partnership will provide the underground with the investment that it needs to meet our aim of a safe, reliable, affordable and modern network. It will mean what matters: faster journey times, increased train service levels as new signalling is introduced, and refurbished and modernised stations. All those have to be judged by the real litmus test: whether passengers perceive that there has been improvement.

I freely admit that, unlike the previous Administration, we did not want full-scale privatisation. Like passengers, staff and taxpayers, we wanted to keep the underground publicly owned and publicly accountable. However, we realised that both the public and private sectors had much to offer. Our radical approach—a partnership between the two sectors—will secure the investment from the private sector that is necessary to meet our aim of a safe, reliable, affordable and modern network, but keep the underground under the control of the public sector.

Our partnership proposals mean that the infrastructure will transfer to the private sector on the equivalent of a 30-year mortgage, with the public sector taking over the assets again in an improved condition at the end of that period. I stress: the freehold of the network will remain in the public sector throughout the contract.

There has been some criticism by the Opposition over the fact that we are giving that £7 billion project detailed scrutiny. They apparently wish us to declare a deadline. Perhaps they would like us to post the deadline to all possible negotiating partners. If the hon. Member for Croydon, South were asked to form a firing squad, he would have people stand in a circle. I cannot think of anything that is more self-defeating than laying one's hand on the table at a negotiating session and saying to the opposite negotiator, "No matter how hard you bargain, no matter how much I dislike it, I have to tell you that, by next Friday, I will give in." That would unilaterally hand over London Underground infrastructure contracts at a massive loss to the public sector, in exactly the same fashion that the previous Government rushed to judgment on Railtrack, handing assets worth billions of pounds more than they got for them to the private sector. That may be an ideological ideal for the Conservative party. It does not make sense to the people of London or to the taxpayer.

I have made it clear that, in the private-public partnership, the value-for-money proposal will be the criterion against which all our proposals are tested. The Government will not implement a public-private partnership unless we are entirely satisfied that it will secure best value for the taxpayer.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead)

My right hon. Friend is making an impressive speech, as he always does. May I take him back to the issue of current investment levels? I heard what he said about the £1 billion, but my concern is that Treasury has put a cap on the amount that it is prepared to put into the Jubilee line construction and that, as the costs soar above that, London Underground will have to find those additional costs from the amount for running the current network. Is there not a case for the Government to reconsider that point and to ensure that Jubilee line costs do not fall on existing passengers in the rest of the network?

Dr. Reid

The costs of the Jubilee line are kept under constant review by Ministers. They are published from time to time, normally quarterly. Our judgment has to be exercised over that matter and we will continue to scrutinise it, but I assure my hon. Friend that the allocation of funds to London Underground is not being affected detrimentally. We have given some £1 billion over the figure that would have been injected by the Conservative party. If I remember correctly as regards the Jubilee line, at least six delays were announced by the previous Government before we came to power. About £500 million was added to the Jubilee line, so none of us should underestimate the difficulties of a massive project such as that line.

I take only one aspect of it—Westminster station. That is the largest man-made hole in Europe. A third line is being driven between two existing lines on the banks of the Thames, and under and next to Big Ben and the House of Commons. The potential for disaster is obvious. Many people might think that the prospect of the House of Commons disappearing into the largest hole in Europe is not entirely a disaster for the nation, but, seriously, that shows some of the problems of the Jubilee line, with which I shall now deal—I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned it.

I will not belittle the problems that have faced the project and the challenges that remain. There have been delays. Most significantly, in late 1994 and early 1995, major tunnelling work in the project came to a halt for some months. Those related to safety fears over a similar tunnelling method at Heathrow. There was a significant delay. Most people would agree that halting the tunnelling work was the prudent and cautious thing to do because of the safety consideration, but it caused delays and higher costs. In March 1997, before the present Government came to power, London Transport announced that it was not able to meet the original planned opening date of March 1998.

That is the situation that we inherited, but the Government are determined that the new line will open in time for the millennium. In spring last year, we encouraged London Transport to review the project management's arrangements. Bechtel was appointed project manager to drive through the commissioning stage and to help to ensure that the extension was completed in time.

I assure Opposition Members and others that Ministers are sometimes in daily, and always in weekly, contact with London Underground and with Bechtel. My hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London and I both take a keen interest in the project, not just because it is a matter of transport for London and a state-of-the-art, modern and complex underground line of which we should all be proud, but because it is an element of national pride that, at the millennium, the millennium dome, the village and the project should be completed.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South and his friends should be careful on that one because I am sure that Londoners want the project to succeed. The Government want the project to succeed. The nation wants the Jubilee line to succeed. It appears that only one group of people wishes the Jubilee line to fail: Tory Members. As has been said, the Tories should be careful about undermining the efforts of the rest of us to have this modern, state-of-the-art and prestigious symbol of London finished this year. The Government are determined to do it. I hope that what is happening on the Conservative Benches is not becoming wish fulfilment as they run down and undermine the line and hope that it will fail.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

How can the hon. Gentleman possibly say that Conservative Members want the Jubilee line to fail when it was our Government who started the work and put the money there in the first place? Of course we want it to succeed.

Dr. Reid

I hope that the hon. Lady is the exception that proves the rule. I am sure that other hon. Members and those who read this debate in the morning or hear it on the media will have cause to consider whether the Conservative party would glory in something that the rest of the country would regard as a disaster—the non-completion of the Jubilee line.

I would not want the House to underestimate the massive complexity of the task on the Jubilee line or what has been achieved so far. I shall tell the House what has been achieved.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Reid

In a moment.

On the Jubilee line, all the tunnelling is complete, all the track has been laid and all the trains have been delivered. The new stations are structurally complete and, as we speak, trains are being tested under signal control on the line between Stratford and north Greenwich. We are now into the crucial commissioning stage. As I have said, we do not underestimate the task, but we assert the simple fact that, when the Government inherited this project, it needed remedial action. The Government have provided that remedial action.

I have been honest with the House tonight—the Minister for Transport in London has been equally honest on previous occasions—in facing up to the formidable challenge of overcoming our inheritance from the previous Government. Sterling efforts are being made to give this great capital the underground system that it deserves. As a Scotsman, I am proud to be part of that effort because this is the capital city of the United Kingdom, not just of England.

The staff at London Transport are soldiering on. They are coping with the dilapidated infrastructure bequeathed to them. Despite that inheritance, during the last financial year, passenger journeys on London Underground reached record levels. Over 800 million passenger journeys were made last year and, this year, we expect to see a record 860 million journeys.

The Government want those journeys to be something to look forward to, not something to be dreaded. We want passengers to travel in comfort and to have a reliable service. As I have said, the Tory motion does not even mention the word "passenger". I believe that that says a great deal about their attitude to tonight's debate.

It is imperative that we modernise our essential tube system and I am glad to say that, by strengthening the management, bringing in new projects, new technology and new trains and putting in new resources, we have begun to make a successful start on tackling the underground's problems. However, I am the first to acknowledge that we have a long way to go. I hope that we will soon see our proposals for the public-private partnership implemented, but we would rather have them right than have them rushed. When we have them, we can make a real start on improving the infrastructure and, at long last, we will be able to give the citizens of our capital—our premier city—not only the capital investment but the premier performance on the underground that they surely deserve as we enter the new millennium.

8.24 pm
Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)

I have a sense of deja vu tonight as it is exactly a year since the last Tory Opposition day debate on the tube. This is another opportunity to remind Londoners that the Conservative party has primary responsibility for the chaos on the tube today. It was the Tories who organised a fire sale of the tube. They wanted a miserable £800 million for it at a time when it had £13 billion worth of assets. Of course, they hastily dropped that plan when it was leaked to the newspapers. It is the Tories who have left a backlog of repairs—the equivalent of £170 per Londoner.

That is not a partisan view; it is the view of the business community. London First said that the last Government cut public funding for the existing system below the level needed even to sustain it in its present condition, in spite of the fact that they accepted that there was a £1.2 billion backlog. The Confederation of British Industry said that

there has been a serious under-investment for a long time". This is an opportunity to consider the Jubilee line extension project—it has been discussed at length. The Tories condemn the Government for their handling of the completion of the line, but what about their record? A number of hon. Members have referred to that record tonight. In October 1993, the original cost was expected to be £1.9 billion. That had increased to £2.76 billion by 1997. In other words, it was 45 per cent. over budget.

When the Tories claim that the Government's inaction jeopardises reliability on the underground, they are right. Their Government's inaction over nearly two decades has left the underground with record levels of breakdowns and under-investment.

Before Labour Members get too excited about what I have been saying, I must now say that, for the sake of Londoners, I wish that, since the election of the new Government, it had been "all change". I am afraid that under-investment in the tube has not changed. In fact, the Labour Government will have invested, on average, 11 per cent. less over the period 1997–2000—the latter being the last year for which figures are available—than the Tory Government spent on average after the 1992 general election.

I will give the Tories credit for the fact that, between 1992 and 1997, they spent more on investment on the underground than the present Labour Government will have spent. In case anyone wants to challenge them, I can tell the House that I obtained the figures today from London Transport's finance director. The figure is about £494 million for the Tory Government and £440 million for the Labour Government.

One thing has changed and that is the prevailing dogma. The Minister mentioned the Conservative ideological antipathy towards public services, but that has been replaced with Labour's obsession with public-private partnerships—the Government's alternative to wholesale privatisation. In July 1997, the Government commissioned a report into the future of the tube from Price Waterhouse. It looked at the various financing options for the tube and would, therefore, have looked at the public-private partnership. The findings of Price Waterhouse have not been made public, in spite of a request from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Transport Sub-Committee in its seventh report on London Underground, which recommended that the Report from PW, which evaluated the possible financing options for modernising the Underground and the advice submitted by London Transport, should be made public. Why has that report not been made public? According to the Government's response to the Transport Sub-Committee's report it is because it is not in the best interests of the taxpayers and passengers. Is that really the case? Many would argue the exact opposite. It is in the taxpayers' interest that the information be made public immediately. Only then will we be able to judge whether the public-private partnership proposal is best value.

If the Minister answers just one of the points I have raised tonight, I should like him to say at what point the Government will accept that PPP is or is not best value. If the Minister accepts in a year or two that PPP is not best value, four or five years will have elapsed without any further progress on the tube. I hope that the Minister will respond to that point.

Many other people feel that the information should be in the public domain. For example, I suspect that Peter Ford, the old chairman of London Transport, would have liked it in the public domain. He told the Transport Sub-Committee that the Government's method of breaking the infrastructure into between one and three privately managed concessions would cost £1 billion to £3 billion more than retaining a single, publicly owned organisation.

That view is supported by House of Commons Library research, which estimates an extra capital cost of £70 million for every percentage point that the cost of private capital exceeds the cost of public capital. It is easy to arrive at Peter Ford's figure of £1 billion. If we assume that private money costs about 10 per cent. more than public capital—that is not an unreasonable figure; I have information from the National Audit Office on the extra costs of the Skye bridge project—we arrive at an extra cost of £700 million per year.

That figure is valid if all the money is borrowed up front and is spent on day one, but that will not happen—it is impossible to spend £7 billion on day one. If the £7 billion that the Government have referred to is for the duration of the contract, the additional cost of borrowing the money in the private sector will be about £1 billion, according to Library figures.

The Government's response to the Transport Sub-Committee report suggests that a substantial sum will be spent up front: The design of the Public/Private Partnership will be aimed at ensuring that the private sector moves quickly"— not over the duration of the contract, but quickly— to eliminate the backlog and modernise the Underground's infrastructure". It is fair to assume that a high proportion of that £7 billion will be spent in the early stages of the contract.

The Minister must tell us how much extra this will cost. Will it cost £1 billion extra over the duration of the contract, with the spending spread evenly, or will it be £700 million extra, with the £7 billion spent early in the contract? Where does the true figure lie? Londoners would like to know, because that would help them to establish whether the public-private partnership proposal is best value.

The Government's blind faith in public-private partnership and their belief that it is a panacea that will fill all financial gaps is leading towards a financial solution that will cost the taxpayer and Londoners dear—if the PPP proceeds. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) has referred to the story, in Construction News, that half the contractors bidding for the PPP do not believe that it will proceed.

If that were not enough bad news, there are also problems with the Government's timing of the public-private partnership proposals. London's mayor and assembly will be elected in May 2000. They will have had no say over the London Underground contract, so they will be able to hide behind a "Not me, guv" attitude on tube cancellations, delays and overcrowding. The Minister is naive if he thinks that they will not respond like that. When overcrowding continues at current levels—no new lines are going to be built as a result of the PPP proposals—the mayor and assembly will deny all responsibility for the deal if their signatures are not at the bottom of the document.

The public-private partnership proposal is either an expensive or a very expensive means of financing improvements to the underground. It may never see the light of day and it will enable the mayor to pass the buck when things go wrong. The hon. Member for Croydon, South has already quoted from the Transport Sub-Committee's report, but it is worth reminding Labour Members that the Committee said of the PPP proposals: Treasury rules have forced the adoption of this form of Public/Private Partnership, which is rather a convoluted compromise, when other financial solutions might have been more cost-effective. In the meantime, the backlog of repairs grows.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I have one more point to add to my hon. Friend's case. If the new London authority inherits something that it has had no opportunity to influence, the problem will go deeper than the authority being able to wash its hands of the issue; the new authority will be undermined. If the people of London think that their authority cannot influence affairs and has no power over one of the most important public services in London, its credibility will be undermined from the start. That will not be good for the government of London on any issue.

Mr. Brake

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Unfortunately, the situation is even worse, because there are severe doubts about the extent to which the mayor and assembly will be able to influence rail commuter services in London.

In the meantime, the backlog of repairs will grow. The Minister has had the honesty to admit that things are getting worse before they get better. There has been a 20 per cent. increase in signal point failures and rolling stock failures in 1997–98. London Underground is on track for further increases in rolling stock failures this year.

How do we get out of the quagmire? We need to establish a public interest company or trust, with objectives set by the Greater London authority, which would be outside the public sector borrowing requirement. The hon. Member for Croydon, South referred to bonds. This is not an untested model. It is similar to arrangements that work acceptably in New York and San Francisco. The Liberal Democrats would will the means to provide the funds that are needed for the investment programme.

The Government are considering—and probably support—the measures that we propose, although the Conservatives do not. We advocate a levy on non-residential car parking spaces. A rough estimate suggests that £150 million a year could be raised from that. We support road congestion charges, provided that a viable public transport alternative is put in place. The London congestion charging research programme suggested in 1995 than between £95 million and £795 million could be raised through road congestion charges. We have also talked about a small increase in business rates for London's largest businesses, which could raise £150 million per annum.

In return, Londoners would get a transport system that was reliable, safe and affordable. They would get cleaner air, fewer cars on the road and a reduction in pollution-related illnesses such as asthma. The Tory Opposition have no solution other than privatisation. The Liberal Democrats—and Londoners—will not back that. Nor will we support the Government's proposals. I do not believe that the Government can demonstrate, as they suggest in the amendment, that their proposals will deliver best value.

The Liberal Democrat proposal—a public interest company backed by ear-marked revenues—would take the tube into the 21st century and, with the Liberal Democrats, Londoners are guaranteed a smooth and safe ride, in comfort and at an affordable cost.

8.39 pm
Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

It is absolutely monstrous to be lectured by the Conservative party about neglect of the tube. Let us look at the figures that I jotted down while we were being lectured. Back in 1991, after the Conservative Government had been running London Transport since 1984, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission condemned them in a report that said that there was a backlog of maintenance and repair on the tube that would require an investment of £700 million to £750 million a year for 10 years to be cleared.

Initially, under the embarrassment of that report, the Conservative Government came up with £632 million for 1992–93, but, by the time that we got to the last full year of Conservative rule, the figure had been halved, with an investment of only £371 million to clear the backlog. There was additional funding for the Jubilee line, but that was not part or parcel of the MMC report.

It was absolutely monstrous of the Conservatives then to complain when one of the first acts of the Deputy Prime Minister was to put in another £365 million to revive the programme. I welcome that investment, just as I welcome his replacement of Mr. Ford, who had an agenda that was not in the interests of Londoners.

Having said that, I am not yet convinced of the Government's case on the funding arrangements, for all the reasons that we have heard.

Mr. Jenkin

I once went to the Library to try to find out what the capital investment in the London underground was under the Greater London council when the hon. Gentleman was its leader. The Library told me that the GLC accounts were so opaque that it was impossible to tell.

Mr. Livingstone

The accounts were subject to the approval of the district auditor and we never had any complaints about them.

One of the first acts of the Conservative Government when they came to power in 1979 was to pass legislation removing from local authorities any power to determine their own capital programmes. In the early days of Mrs. Thatcher's Administration, we lost the power to buy a bus or a train or to build a council house without the prior approval of the Department of the Environment.

Every year, under both Labour and Conservative leaderships, GLC leaders and their transport chairs had to trek across to beg the Department of the Environment to allow us to invest more in the tube, and every year we were sent away without our requirements being met. Investment in London Transport was determined by the Conservative Government in every year from 1980. They effectively had control of the capital investment programme for the best part of two decades, and they can blame no one but themselves for the chaos that they have left us to sort out.

I have been deeply impressed over the years by the Chancellor's commitment to prudence and to getting value for money. It seems to me that the entire public-private partnership will hinge on a simple bottom-line calculation of what is the cheapest way for Londoners to pay for the modernisation of their tube system.

If the public-private partnership comes up trumps and turns out to be cheaper than the other options that we have heard about from the Liberal Democrats, that would be fine, but it is likely—although I have to confess that this is a wicked calculation by the trade union concerned, the RMT—that the rate of return that the private sector will require for such investment may be between 20 and 25 per cent. Who in his right mind would take out a 30-year mortgage on a house at a rate of interest of 20 to 25 per cent? It is an absolute nightmare.

I strongly suspect that we will have to take a difficult decision at the end of this great exercise and consider how much cheaper it would be if we were allowed to have a bond issue to fund the investment. That works perfectly well in New York. In a sense, the Government have moved a good step in that direction. My dear and right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), before his demise, made the breathtaking, bold and radical left-wing gesture of allowing the Post Office finally to slough off the shackles of the Treasury and start raising funds in the market for a programme of expansion.

If we can do that for the Post Office, why not for London transport? One could even consider a tax increase, although I know that that is horrendously off message. I find remarkable acceptance among major City institutions for an increase in their business rate or a new tax on business in London, provided that it was ring-fenced for the modernisation of the tube. That is a sea change in the attitude of City institutions to taxation. I strongly suspect that, if Londoners were told honestly that an additional sum would be put on the council tax so that the domestic sector could make a contribution—although one that, perhaps, would not match that of the private sector—the money could be raised through taxation.

It would be jarring for Londoners to be told by a Government so dominated by people from other regions of the country what they should and should not be doing with their own money, when there is a willingness among Londoners to pay for the investment. There are many problems to solve before the Government will be able to persuade Londoners. The opinion polls show that Londoners overwhelmingly reject the public-private partnership, and remain committed to the tube remaining completely and utterly within the public sector.

Mr. Brake

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of a report in The Guardian on the public-private partnership in relation to National Air Traffic Services, in which the Civil Aviation Authority expressed concern about the safety implications of the public-private partnership? Does he agree that the Government should reconsider their position on the matter?

Mr. Livingstone

The evidence from the RMT on the old British Rail service—which suggested that probably illegal immigrants from Croatia who did not speak English were responsible for looking after safety equipment on the railways, and were unable to read the instructions on safety equipment—was very worrying. Directly employed people, accountable to the public sector, are much safer than fly-by-night operators, who are often picking people off the corner at busy London junctions and driving them to do cash-in-hand work in vital areas of public safety.

There is one danger that the Government may not have fully anticipated. As the programme has slipped back, we have got to the point where no final decision will be made before the mayor and the assembly are elected. I am a responsible person and, if selected, I shall run on the Labour party policy—heaven forfend that I should do anything else. However, suppose a candidate turned the election into a referendum on the issue of the public-private partnership and called on Londoners to reject it at the ballot box?

What could the Government do if a mayoral candidate were elected on a specific, primary commitment—above everything else in the election—to oppose the introduction of public-private partnership and to put forward other options, such as the bond issue or taxation? Would the Labour Government reject the clearly expressed will of Londoners at the ballot box? I hope that, in the Minister's reply tonight, we will be given some idea about that. As the operation has slipped back, it has offered Londoners the option at the ballot box of expressing an opinion on the issue. The Government need to work out what they will do in those circumstances beforehand, rather than in a panic afterwards.

Mrs. Laing

Following the hon. Gentleman's heartfelt remarks about what he would do for London transport, he received no support from his hon. Friends around him. It is only fair that I and my hon. Friends should give him a little support. We may not agree with what he wishes to do financially or politically, but we wish him luck in terms of being allowed the freedom of speech that everyone should be allowed in this country to put his views to Londoners.

Mr. Livingstone

I am deeply moved by that intervention. I would have liked to hear a bit more like that when the Conservatives were abolishing the GLC. There was no great desire on the part of the Tory party in 1983 that I should continue to be able to put my interesting views before the British people.

We may yet find that it is Londoners who determine what happens with the issue. I suspect that is why many of the companies involved in negotiations are expressing some doubt and uncertainty. The Labour party needs to work out in advance that if we cannot convince the public, we do not have the right to impose on them something that they specifically reject at the ballot box.

8.49 pm
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I wish that the Minister of Transport was still here so that I could wish him well him on his appointment. He may have felt that the Ministry of Defence was an obstacle course, but it was as nothing compared with the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions. At this early stage of his career as a Transport Minister, his sense of humour seems not to have forsaken him, and his allegory of a circular firing squad will have caught the imagination of hon. Members.

What caught my imagination, however, was the fact that he, a Scottish Member of Parliament, delivered a committed speech about London Underground. I wonder whether, before very long, when the Scottish Parliament is up and running and able to increase the income tax by 3p in the pound, the voters of London may not feel, with good reason, that the subsidy for Scotland disbursed at present from London and elsewhere south of the border should cease in favour of better investment in public transport and other public services of great importance to Londoners.

At the general election, two issues predominated—health and public transport. Labour spokesmen told us that things could only get better for both, but for my constituents things have only got worse. I shall not stray out of order by talking about the woeful situation facing Harefield and Mount Vernon hospitals, two centres of excellence. However, my constituency has no fewer than eight underground stations: Northwood and Northwood Hills on the Metropolitan line; Ruislip, Ruislip Manor and Eastcote on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines; and West Ruislip, Ruislip Gardens and South Ruislip on the Central line.

If there is any problem with London Underground, as there so frequently is—particularly when there is what is euphemistically described as industrial action—my constituents face a real problem in getting to work. I imagine that more than half of them travel to work on the underground. The railways offer no effective alternative. There are only two railway stations to the south of my constituency, at South Ruislip and West Ruislip. Just outside the north of my constituency, at Moor Park, the Chiltern line trains no longer stop. If there is a dispute, or other problems, real difficulties arise.

The roads are already hideously congested. One would have imagined that the Government—so committed in their election rhetoric to improving public transport—would have adopted the intelligent approach of improving public transport to encourage people to use it before they clobbered the motorist. In fact, the motorist has been hit by increases in fuel duty well above inflation. If, as Labour plans, the Greater London authority is able to impose charges on motorists going into London, or to impose levies on employers who provide parking spaces, the motorist will be subject to a double whammy.

None of that will clobber those who stay in bed and do not go to work. It will penalise those who make the effort to get to work, or who, as employers, provide opportunities for others to work. This is quite the wrong approach. The Government ought to have improved public transport first to encourage people to use it. They would have had an incentive to do so. Instead, year after year, London Underground fare increases are well above inflation. This year, 4.5 per cent. is the average increase, which is almost double the present rate of inflation.

Many right hon. and hon. Members may have a view of my constituency that derives from "Tropic of Ruislip", by Leslie Thomas, or from the late poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman's vision of "Metroland". It is, perhaps, a vision of genteel tea taken in china cups behind lace curtains and of long, lazy summer evenings playing tennis. The reality is very different. My constituents have a real struggle, financially because the cost of housing in outer London is so high, but above all to get into work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) graphically described the mole-like existence of the London commuter on the underground. Quite honestly, moles have a happier life than many commuters today. At least moles are not jostled and shoved and I think that they have a modicum of certainty about their existence. There is virtually none on London Underground. If the service runs on schedule and there is not some hideous glitch, the commuter regards himself as exceptionally fortunate. This is the exception rather than the rule.

My long-suffering constituents—commuters who are so typical of the many hard-working Londoners—are looking to the Government to find out whether their election rhetoric will bring them a better deal. First, they ask whether the system will be properly financed. There was a debate across the Dispatch Boxes between my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South and the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman took 39 minutes to put his case, which was a bit much in every sense, and the Government amendment ran to 15 lines on the Order Paper.

I thought that the party below the Gangway—the party from south London, which does not have much connection with the tube or anything else—might at least have some academic insight on this subject. However, having listened to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), we were not much the wiser about the benefits that Liberal policy would bring.

The electors ought to know that, if the tender for the infrastructure of London Underground is not a success, the Government have some alternative in mind. There is no mention of that in their public expenditure provisions.

The Government are against privatisation, so I asked the Minister whether their ideological commitment would be forgotten in the interests of providing funding by that means. I cited the example of the Heathrow link to Paddington. The Minister set his face against it. Our constituents and Londoners can only deduce that the issue will be a hot potato that will land in the lap of the mayor and the Greater London authority. How will it cope? It will have no mechanism to do so other than the imposition of road traffic charges and parking levies for workplaces.

The Government may think that the newly elected authority will take all the blame and face all the odium, but they should remember that they failed to face up to the funding realities, so they will have to carry the political can.

Mr. Brake

On funding realities, does the hon. Gentleman recall that the Conservatives were expecting to get £800 million for a privatised tube system? What would he expect the previous or present Government to achieve with that sum?

Mr. Wilkinson

Sadly, we never had the chance to float London Underground and find out what the market price would be. Londoners are looking not only for enhanced investment, but for the enhanced service that the privatised companies would have supplied. That was another aspect of our policy.

The system must be financed properly and be affordable to users. Although the mayor and the authority should not meddle politically with the management of London Underground, we hope that the body that the mayor will appoint to deal with transport for London will encourage London Transport to be more imaginative in its fares structure. I would not wish London Transport to return to the "fares fair" policy which was instituted by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). Although it was well intentioned, it was a financial disaster. Nevertheless, there should be some encouragement for the hard-working Londoner who gets up early and is prepared to go to work before 8 am. Before the rush hour there should be an exceptional discount on fares—an early-bird system. I hope that the mayor will encourage London Underground to introduce just such a scheme.

Mr. Livingstone

In describing the Greater London council's fares policy as disastrous, the hon. Gentleman overlooked one simple fact. Although we cut the fares by roughly 30 per cent., so many more people used the system that we collected 10 per cent. more revenue in fares in real terms, enabling us to cut the rate after just 18 months of the operation of the policy. In my view that it was pretty successful.

Mr. Wilkinson

The difficulty is that the system is already bursting at the seams and there is no spare capacity to cope with the increased throughput which the hon. Gentleman suggests would ensue. That is why I propose a policy directed at the off-peak time before the rush hour with the introduction of early-bird fares.

The Government led Londoners and others to believe that there would be an increase in the network with new lines and the expansion of the system. All those ideas seem to have ground to a complete halt. Perhaps the Government feel too battered and bruised by the Jubilee line experience, so I shall cite three other examples.

First, if the Government have decided that crossrail is dead and that there is no possibility of a high speed east-west link in London, they should say so. It is a matter for the Government to decide. They cannot just pass the buck to the mayor and his authority as the crossrail link would extend far beyond the boundaries of Greater London. The decision to keep the route sacrosanct from development is causing blight, so an early decision is necessary.

My second example is the Croxley link, which would be a modest improvement of potentially immense benefit to my constituents and others in north-west London. It would link the Metropolitan line from Croxley tube station, through Watford high street to Watford Junction railway station. It would represent a modest increase in the system as the track already exists and simply needs to be opened up. I hope that the money will be forthcoming. That is why I pressed the Government to stop the subventions to Scotland when the Scottish Parliament is established in Edinburgh and inject some money here, where it is needed. The Croxley link is just one such example of need. The third example is the Chelsea-Hackney line, which has been anticipated—indeed, eagerly awaited—for some time, but of which there is no sign.

Although the debate is thinly attended and although the Liberals decry it as an annual event and therefore somewhat boring, it is of intense interest to Londoners. They expect the interim period to be used well by Her Majesty's Government and they are not prepared to wait until late summer 2000, when the mayor and his authority enter office: instead, they expect hard decisions to be taken now. They expect the tendering process for the infrastructure to be accelerated and, if it is not to be successfully concluded, they expect the injection of private capital for privatisation.

9.6 pm

Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch)

I represent a constituency containing thousands of people who, like me, travel in and out of London by tube every day. We have all seen the system gradually deteriorate: I remember one occasion when I had to walk from Ladbroke Grove to Euston because a single cable had failed in one part of the system, resulting in the whole system being out of action. That was a direct result of something that the Tories prefer to forget—the running down of investment in the system during the years when they were in office.

The speech made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) was a vacuous whine, which served no useful or constructive purpose either in the debate or generally. We know what the Tories' view of the tube is: their solution is privatisation. Privatisation has only ever served one purpose, which is to put taxpayers' and workers' money into the pockets of wealthy shareholders. That is how it has always worked and how it would always work if the Tories were back in government. They have proved that on various occasions, the most glaring example being the privatisation of the railways, not to mention the coal industry privatisation and every other privatisation that they undertook.

I must admit that I have my doubts about the public-private partnership planned by the Labour Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) pointed out, in its submission to the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union estimated that, from a 15-year contract and a £7 billion investment, a private contractor would look for a return of between 20 and 25 per cent., or about £1.5 billion. Those figures appear to have been accepted by the Committee.

Mr. Brake

For information, the return required on the Skye bridge was 18.4 per cent.

Mr. Cryer

London Underground could borrow money far more cheaply on the market through a bond issue and I can see no reason why it cannot do so, other than the fact that it might affect the public sector borrowing requirement, which might be a factor. However, the company could successfully borrow the money through an issue of debt on the bond market, which would produce a great influx of capital without the need to resort to hiring private contractors, who would demand a return of about £1.5 billion, which would effectively come out of taxpayers' pockets. What would happen if things went slightly wrong and the contracts overran or targets were not met? I should be interested to know what targets would be set and to what incentives and penalties the private contractors or contractor would be subject when the agreements had been finalised.

There is also the question of employees of London Underground and how they would be affected by the new contracts. New employees taken on by the underground after the PPP comes into effect will not be part of the pension scheme. They might join the pension schemes of some of the big contractors, but it is possible that they will end up working for subcontractors or even sub-subcontractors.

RMT representatives told me only a couple of days ago that some of union members who are former British Rail employees are now working for their sixth employer since 1995. When employees are passed on in that way, it is highly likely that they will end up working for some cowboy who will certainly not run a pension scheme and whose terms and conditions will be rock bottom because he undercut all the other cowboys to get the contract with the original contractor. The RMT also made the point that London Underground management has refused to negotiate on whether there will be compulsory redundancies or on terms and conditions.

The bottom line is that we can raise the investment without resorting to a PPP or any kind of privatisation. We can do it by borrowing on the bond market through an issue of debt. We can do it by increasing taxation. There are many options, but the important thing is that I know from my long experience of travelling through London and from the experiences of my constituents, of many people whom I know and of people in the unions that, if the Government are successful in sorting out transport in London, especially the tube, they will be praised to the rafters. The true path to a better transport system is to be found in the public sector through public investment.

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

The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer) will recall that I was present when he made his maiden speech. I am delighted to follow him on this occasion and I congratulate him on the questioning nature of his speech.

When the Minister spoke in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), he said that this was the third debate that the official Opposition had asked for on this subject. When the Deputy Prime Minister made his statement on the London underground, I asked whether, given the complexities that we were being asked to absorb in the brief space of a statement, it would be possible shortly after to have a debate in Government time. I say willingly that the Deputy Prime Minister was not unsympathetic to that idea, although he produced the disclaimer that the matter was not wholly in his hands. It is the official Opposition who have called this third debate and I am delighted that they have done so.

Politicians are divided into healers and warriors. I do not think that even my worst enemy would put me in a category other than the healers. In our first debate on the London underground, to an extent that even my Front-Bench colleagues probably thought was eccentric and idiosyncratic, I offered London Labour Members an olive branch of common cause. It was on that occasion flatly rejected in speeches of assault on the previous Government's record. The same blame for their record has been evinced tonight. I misquote deliberately, in order to avoid personalising the issue, "Methinks they do protest too much."

Both the Government amendment, the length of which was worthy of the length of the tube network without the benefit of a Frank Pick map, and the aggressiveness of the response from Opposition Members, were coloured occasionally by recall of that vignette of a Latin American delegate at the United Nations, in the margin of whose speech were marked the words "Weak point—shout." Certainly between them they revealed a Government on the defensive, by which I was not surprised.

That said, I salute and give credit to the Minister for one statement in the early part of his speech. He said that Londoners were interested in seeing the problems of London underground faced up to. He had a good crack about there being no references to passengers in the five-line motion tabled by the official Opposition. However, the one reference to passengers in the Government's 15-line amendment did not exactly overdo passenger concern. The Minister discreetly omitted from his speech any reference to the criticisms by the Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee of what the Government were about.

As a Londoner, I agree that the Underground has been under siege under Governments of both colours and Greater London councils of both colours. My recollection of the relief of Lucknow is that the first sign of it was a skirl of bagpipes to the tune of "The Campbells are Coming." Londoners might be forgiven if on this occasion they thought that not all the Campbells would necessarily be welcome or of help if media presentation took precedence over solid improvement.

In such presentation as we received today, no reference was made to the Chelsea-Hackney line, phase 2 of the channel tunnel rail link or advanced construction of the new Thameslink station at St. Pancras, let alone crossrail. That silence is not what Londoners expected of new Labour, and on Thameslink 2000 that silence is steadily lengthening.

What do third parties—I refer to those in London, not to those in the House—think of the position? The London chamber of commerce and industry said that the Government have a "can't do mentality". That is very new Labour. It says that 70 per cent. of businesses would oppose road user charges and workplace parking levies if revenues were not fully invested in improving public transport.

London First, to which the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) referred, had a powerful influence on the previous election result in London through its canvassing on the London underground during the campaign, so it is no particular friend of the official Opposition. It has identified 20 transport actions that need to be taken before the setting up of the Greater London authority and 10 new powers that must be given to the authority. When the Minister for Transport in London winds up the debate, it will be interesting to hear how many of those proposals the Government are prepared to accept.

London First also reported that 51 per cent. of respondents in its business survey said that the underground was the most important transport issue for the Greater London authority, against 38 per cent. who said that road congestion was most important.

What about the Government's response, as demonstrated this evening? The reference to the £1.2 billion deficit on infrastructure, which I acknowledge—the figure is agreed throughout the Chamber—gave no credit to the fact that it is much less than half the deficit that the previous Government inherited from the Greater London council. The Minister of Transport claims that the Government have made a start, but he should also acknowledge the progress made by the previous Government, which has been recognised in my constructive conversations with London Transport management.

I am delighted to see the Minister return to the Chamber. I apologise for having referred to him in his absence. He did not refer to the fact that London underground fares are heading in the opposite direction to privatised rail fares. He made no reference to the article by Simon Jenkins, which my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) quoted, or the astronomical charges that the Treasury is thought to be insisting that bidders should pay for access to the network. We were not told how far the absence of a survey for the infrastructure of the underground may be adding to the risks with which bidders are having to cope. The Opposition and those bidders have no idea what uncompetitive work practices the RMT may insist on.

Campbells may be coming—I treat the Minister with good will—but the terrain over which they are advancing remains unpromising. Londoners using the system need, above all, long-term stable policies. It is the task of the official Opposition to continue to man the ramparts of Lucknow. If that means a fourth debate, a fifth debate and a sixth debate, so be it. We shall know that relief is on the way when at last we have a debate in Government time.

9.18 pm
Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham)

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport referred in his opening remarks to the fact that the word "passengers" does not appear in the Conservative motion. He should know that the previous Government gave up using the term "passengers" because it gave the travelling public the impression that they intended to take them somewhere.

As somebody who worked in London's transport system for nearly 12 years, I witnessed the ravages inflicted on that transport by the previous Government. In an attempt to be brief and allow other hon. Members to speak, I shall not respond to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) or cite the catalogue of errors and attacks on public transport made by the previous Government.

I represent a constituency in south-east London and I know that public transport has to be treated as a public service that will always require funding from public money. Leaving it to the ravages of the private sector does not allow it to meet the various needs of the community. Many public transport services are essential but not profitable. Public subsidy will always be required, so public accountability will be necessary.

We have to start to plan, and to make the word "integrated" mean something if we are to tackle the economic environmental problems in London. We have to integrate trains, buses, the tube and the road network. I welcome the measure in the Greater London Authority Bill to combine responsibility for roads and other modes of transport because, for far too long, that lack of integration has been an obstacle to an effective plan for London's overall transport system.

London's traffic is likely to increase by 2 to 11 per cent. by 2000, by 8 to 21 per cent. by 2011, and by 22 to 59 per cent. by 2031. That points to serious problems for the economy and for people's health in London. We need to start addressing those problems, and we need to start now. With all due respect to the Liberal Democrats, we cannot wait to plan until the GLA is in place.

Mr. Brake


Mr. Efford

There is very little time left, and I know that other hon. Members want to speak. The hon. Gentleman has had plenty to say this evening.

Network SouthEast, which serves my constituency, is already running at capacity. There is very little scope for increasing that capacity at peak times, although investment in longer carriages and platforms may result in some improvement. Five of the operating companies are operating in excess of capacity—they carry many persons in excess of capacity every day—and, as I said, south-east London has no tube network.

Investment in London Underground, via the Jubilee line and other schemes, is planned to increase capacity outside of peak times by 25 per cent. by 2002 or 2003, but it is going to take a great deal longer to increase capacity at peak times. There is the potential for a further 20 per cent. increase, according to London Underground's own figures.

The bus is not seen as a suitable alternative by people travelling to London from my constituency or, for that matter, by those travelling through my constituency. People use their cars out of choice. A recent survey in the Evening Standard demonstrated that even a cut in the cost of travelling by public transport would not result in people choosing to give up their cars, so we have to make public transport extremely attractive.

Derek Turner, the Traffic Director for London, was quoted last week in the Evening Standard as saying that we have to take a carrot and stick approach. I very much agree with that. Bus lanes will take out sections of the road but will then offer an opportunity for people to travel more quickly by bus. He regards the bus as being the only solution to the problem of excess demand for transport over the next five years. That is not true in all cases, but in south-east London, where there is no underground network, we certainly need to find other ways to expand our links to the underground.

We have the prospect of road pricing in London, which will fund investment in public transport networks. If people in south-east London are contributing through road pricing to investment in public transport, it is only right that that investment goes into modes of transport that will benefit them in the absence of the underground in their area. I hope that the Minister will take that point on board.

I have stressed the fact many times in the House that there is no underground network in south-east London. Other than the bus network and the over-subscribed Network SouthEast, there are no alternatives to the car for people travelling to central London. Unless we use our road network and turn sections of our roads over to guided bus links or other modes of transport of that sort, we shall have difficulty in getting people out of their cars and on to public transport in south-east London.

Let us consider the cost of extending rail links. The Jubilee line costs £172.5 million per km, and the Croydon tramlink costs £7.1 million per km. Guided bus links are considerably cheaper than that. The schemes in cities such as Ipswich and Leeds have succeeded in bringing people on to those forms of transport. The March edition of Local Transport Today contains articles about those schemes. Surveys demonstrate that few new journeys are made as a result of the schemes, but that significant numbers of people switch from their cars to public transport. That is the way forward for London.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said that he wanted the bus to become a racehorse, not a workhorse. I echo that. We must change people's attitudes to buses and other forms of public transport. We must improve links between existing modes of transport. People should view switching from a bus to the underground, or from a bus to the rail network, no differently from the way in which someone travelling on the London underground views changing from the Bakerloo line, for example, to the Central line.

By changing people's attitudes to public transport, we can start to address the growing problem of traffic levels in London. That would help to address the problems that my constituents face daily, with two of London's major arterial routes dissecting my constituency. I welcome the opening remarks of my hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, and I hope that in her summing up, my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London will take my comments on board.

9.26 pm
Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

Labour and Liberal Members are wrong to suggest, as they have been doing all evening, that Conservative Members of Parliament do not care about standards on the underground. We do. We all want the best possible service for the passengers on the London underground.

I care particularly because the underground is extremely important to those who live in my constituency. However, I was pleased to hear the Minister say—I entirely agree with him—that the underground is also important because London is the capital city, not just of England, but of the United Kingdom. That is why hon. Members in all parts of the House and people in all parts of the country should care about London Underground.

Before the election, the Government made promises, as they did on many subjects, that they would wave a magic wand and make the underground, like many other parts of our national life, better. However, they have done nothing about it. They have been delaying all this time. I should point out to Ministers that, when our party was in government, we privatised the entire British Rail network in 18 months—[Interruption.] Hon. Members should not say that we did it wrongly. We did not.

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)


Mrs. Laing

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

Those who have scrutinised the financial affairs of British Rail and the way in which it was privatised have criticised certain aspects of it, but not the whole of it. Hon. Members should think what British Rail was like before we privatised it, and imagine how much worse the railway would be now, if it did not have the benefit of private sector investment.

Labour Members and Ministers know that the only way to get the capital that is needed for London Underground is to privatise it, but they are so full of dogmatic ideas against privatisation, simply because it was such a great success for the Governments of Margaret Thatcher and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major).

Mr. Love

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way. According to the recent National Audit Office report on the privatisation of Railtrack, the public purse lost between £600 million and £1.4 billion in that privatisation. It should not be forgotten that the National Audit Office is an extremely conservative body. That money could have been used to improve London underground.

Mrs. Laing

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well—the National Audit Office acknowledged this—that privatisation of the railways was conducted in the best possible way at the time, and that the best possible financial and professional advice was accepted and acted on. If we knew in advance what would happen, we would all be rich from playing the markets because we would know where to invest.

Mr. Love

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Laing

No, I do not have time to give way again. The hon. Gentleman knows what point I am making, and he knows that I am right. The railways would be very much worse if they had not had the benefit of privatisation.

Ministers have the problem of a rose by any other name smelling as sweet. They know that they want a privatised underground, but they do not want to privatise it because that is a successful Conservative policy which they cannot bear to acknowledge. In trying to give the rose some other name, they have created this PPP thing—public-private partnership—which simply delays matters. The people of London and of the United Kingdom as a whole would benefit far more if Ministers admitted what must be done and privatised the underground.

For the sake of time, I shall not go into all the detail as I might otherwise have done. I shall concentrate on one important point pertaining especially to my constituency, which is outwith the area to be covered by the proposed Greater London authority, and therefore outwith the area for which the mayor of London will have responsibility. The Minister for Transport in London has politely listened to me making this point before in a different way. I should like to ask her questions on a slightly different aspect of the same point.

After the Greater London authority assumes responsibility for the London underground and the mayor of London becomes accountable to the people of London for its running, who will be responsible to my constituents? Of whom will I be able to ask questions about the underground on behalf of my constituents? They will not have a vote for the mayor of London. If anybody standing for the post of mayor of London had to consider in which part of the underground they would invest and which part they would neglect, would not they propose investment in parts where people were able to vote for them, and neglect the parts for which they would not be responsible?

The Minister has patiently listened to that important point before. I hope that she has done so again. I am looking for assurances on behalf of my constituents that I will be able to continue to ask questions of Transport Ministers in the House about the underground once the mayor of London assumes responsibility for it. [Horn. MEMBERS: "There he is."] We might hope that my hon. Friends are right in referring to the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who has just entered the Chamber. We certainly hope that the hon. Gentleman has a chance to put himself forward if he so wishes, and that the control freaks in his party allow him free speech.

We on the Conservative Benches care about the London underground. I certainly do because it is of prime importance to my constituents. I sincerely hope that the Government will stop shilly-shallying, delaying and depending on their dogmatic principles, and start thinking about what is best for the people who depend on the underground, and get on with the privatisation process as soon as possible.

9.34 pm
Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster)

Upminster is, of course, at the beginning of the District line. Many thousands of my constituents travel on the London underground each day, and many work at the Cranham depot, which supports the District line. Apart from education and health, I think that transport is the most important issue to Londoners. It is just as important to visitors to London, 90 per cent. of whom use the tube when visiting the capital.

There is no doubt that, if any Government failed to tackle the issues of investment and improvement in the underground, they would ultimately fail to secure the support of Londoners. Londoners know that the Conservative party failed miserably in office, and that is one of the many reasons why it remains so unpopular.

In many ways, the underground epitomises good public investment in infrastructure. It is a perfect example of how public investment can help the nation to prosper. What would London have been if that investment had not taken place? Each time that we travel on the underground, we are receiving a dividend from that past investment. I first used the underground in the early 1950s, to travel into central London from Leytonstone on the Central line. People were amazed at the frequency of the service and moved into that part of London because of the quality of that service.

Unfortunately, in the second half of this century, investment has not kept pace with need. If the post-King's Cross disaster investment and the much-belated Jubilee line extension investment are stripped out, the underlying investment over those 18 years has been miserable. Conservative Members should be ashamed at the wording of their motion, and, of course, of their management of the underground over 18 years.

London cannot flourish without higher levels of investment in public transport. In the global economy, cities across the world compete with each other, and our businesses cannot afford to have transport system infrastructure that receives no investment. It is astonishing that London has done so well, despite the decline in investment. However, we all know that the system is cracking under the strain and it will not provide anything like the level of service required without higher, and sustainable, levels of investment.

The recently published "Four World Cities Transport Study" compared four metropolises: London, Paris, New York and Tokyo. It contains lots of interesting statistics, but of most interest to me was the information contrasting Tokyo with London. In London, 64 per cent. of journeys are made by car from Monday to Friday; the figure for Tokyo is 27 per cent. In London, 19 per cent. of journeys are made on the railways and by underground; the figure for Tokyo is 38 per cent.

The study sets out many standards of reliability and punctuality: 98 per cent. of Tokyo's metro trains arrive within a minute of their scheduled time; in London, only 85 per cent. arrive within five minutes of scheduled time. London needs to address its punctuality record.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) will no doubt welcome the study's recommendation on fares. It suggests that London and New York could consider reducing high public transport fares, thus making public transport more affordable.

The Opposition motion makes no mention of their involvement in the decline in investment; no mention of their legacy; no mention of the inheritance that they left to this Government; and no mention of their role in the delayed start for the Jubilee line extension. For those reasons, their motion should be rejected.

9.38 pm
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

We have had an interesting debate, but perhaps its most salient feature is that not a single speaker—apart from the Minister of Transport—defended the proposal for a public-private partnership.

I, however, intend to follow the example of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) and will attempt to be a healer in this debate. That means that we must put behind us language such as that used by the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford), who talked of leaving the system to the "ravages" of the private sector. That is an unfair charge to make. [Interruption.] The Minister of Transport did not use that phrase; the hon. Member for Eltham accused him of leaving the system to the "ravages" of the private sector.

We must move ahead and begin with what the Labour party said at the election, which has certainly raised expectations about what it would deliver. I appreciate that the Minister of Transport did not read the London manifesto, because he was standing elsewhere, but it said: Londoners want a clean, efficient, safe and reliable transport system to get them where they want when they want. We can all agree with that, and we should start from the premise that we all have Londoners' interests close to our hearts and want to improve the system.

The manifesto went on to say: In future, the Greater London Authority, elected by Londoners, will appoint the Board which runs London Transport. That has changed; it will not happen for some time.

Much criticism was levelled at our privatisation proposals. The manifesto was, perhaps, being ironic in stating: Much-needed investment would be delayed. At present, it seems that the public-private sector partnership is leading to the delay of much-needed investment in the underground. Perhaps more extraordinarily, Labour is wedded to the dogma of public ownership to safeguard its commitment to the public interest and guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers. If public accountability had guaranteed value for money and the public interest, we would never have needed to transfer any of the state-owned interests to the private sector. The Labour party has now embraced the practical benefits of privatisation in industry after industry. It has even decided to reverse its position on, for instance, the national air traffic control service, which is now to be privatised.

Dr. Reid


Mr. Jenkin

The right hon. Gentleman is unwise to say that. He told the Select Committee that it was privatisation. Of course, he corrected himself quickly, because it is not linguistically politically correct to use the term "privatisation"; but, if selling 51 per cent. of a business is not privatisation, we did not privatise British Telecom until well after 1984, when we sold 51 per cent. of it. I seem to remember that the right hon. Gentleman opposed that at the time, although he did not know then that a public-private sector partnership was involved.

We need to put aside dogma. We also need to understand that, if we had waited for public support before doing the necessary things, we would not have privatised a single industry. The right hon. Gentleman's party made sure that the public were against us on every one of those privatisations.

Let us compare and contrast the privatised railway with the London underground, which is under state control and enjoying that public accountability and responsiveness to the public interest. At least the privatised railway has an investment programme of £17 billion for Railtrack, and huge new sums for rolling stock. Regulated fares are falling against the rate of inflation, and there have been substantial improvements in performance since privatisation. I think that even the right hon. Gentleman would accept that. The figures have been produced by Railtrack, and are not disputed by his Department.

There is still virtually no investment in London Underground, which is under state control. Fares are rising at well over the rate of inflation, and the service is falling to pieces. Where would the right hon. Gentleman have got £17 billion for rail infrastructure investment if the railways had not been privatised by the last Conservative Government?

New Labour opposed the investment that is now being made in the railways. That is the logic of the position taken by the right hon. Gentleman's party, as my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) so ably demonstrated. It now opposes the same sort of investment in the London underground. It is worth recalling what our policy for the underground was when we were in government. We made 10 commitments. Safety was a top priority; other commitments were to integrated through ticketing, the retention of travelcards, the retention of concessionary fares, shares for employees and passengers enabling them to acquire a real stake in the business, the protection of travel concessions and pensions, guaranteed levels of service, safeguards to keep stations open, controls on fares so that they did not increase above the rate of inflation as they have under the present Government, and, of course, investment. We said that investment should be a priority. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) said earlier, we were planning a privatised underground with reinvestment of at least £750 million a year.

Mr. Gapes

If its transport policy was so good, why has the Conservative party, which used to have a huge number of seats in London, been decimated in the capital?

Mr. Jenkin

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question, because it enables me to say that, had we privatised the system 10 years ago, the benefits of privatisation would have been felt. British Airways is now the world's leading airline; perhaps London Underground would now have been the world's leading underground system.

State ownership does not give public accountability. Under state control, passengers are the last priority. I represent North Essex. My constituents commute to London and use the underground, which is more than can be said for the right hon. Member for Hamilton, North and Bellshill (Dr. Reid). Passengers, who are first and foremost in our mind, are helpless under state ownership. They are herded around like cattle. Their complaints are ignored. The state-owned service is a take-it-or-leave-it service for passengers.

I counsel the Minister of Transport to be cautious about the benefits of changing the management. We changed the management often for London Underground, but the same fundamental problems remain. A state-owned industry, particularly a state-owned monopoly, is run in the interests of producers, not passengers. What is needed is a step-change in the culture and values of the management and staff of London Underground, an infusion of finance, and the discipline and values of the private sector. If that is what his public-private partnership is intended to achieve, bravo, we shall be the first to cheer him on, but, unfortunately, it does not look as though his PPP will deliver those benefits.

Passengers are at the heart of the debate. We did not do enough for the tube—I would be the first to acknowledge that—but the Government's policy means that they are doing even less for the tube because the investment that we were promising has been choked off. The cancellation of Conservative plans means the cancellation of the investment plans that would have flowed through to the benefit of passengers.

Mr. Martin Linton (Battersea)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jenkin

I will not give way. I have little time.

What exactly are the Government's proposals? What does public-private partnership actually mean? It is a "have your cake and eat it" proposal. The problem is that the Government want the advantages and benefits of private capital, without any of the disciplines and loss of control that goes with transfer of ownership. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) is right: the policy is an expensive way in which to run a nationalised industry.

Having decided to go ahead, the Government published their proposals in March last year. Around 20 credible bidders have emerged, but the key issues all concern the uncertainty of the process. In August, the Government effectively asked bidders, "How on earth shall we manage the process?" They will not say when the deadlines are to be. They will not say when the public-private partnership is to happen. It is expensive to bid: it costs each bidder about £20 million. With no certainty of success, it is likely that some of the bidders will fall by the wayside: they will not put up the capital on a purely speculative basis when there is so much uncertainty.

There is a widespread feeling that one bidder is in a privileged position and that the process will be a shoe-in for Railtrack. I think it would be helpful if the Minister for Transport in London made it clear, particularly as there are no financial deadlines, that Railtrack is not getting privileged access because of its special relationship with the Government in view of the utility that it currently runs.

It is a little vain of the Government to protest that they are not negotiating against a deadline. What gives the lie to that is a written answer by the Deputy Prime Minister. It shows the outcome of the public spending review and confirms that the figure for London Transport includes no provision for London Underground from 2000–01, from when a PPP is planned to be in place."—[Official Report, 20 July 1998; Vol. 316, c. 379.] There is a deadline for the PPP. The Government are busy advertising that they are not negotiating against a deadline because they are terrified of the consequences of reaching that deadline without a PPP in place.

Therefore, will the Minister for Transport in London confirm that the pre-qualification will take place in March or April this year, that there will formal invitations to tender by August and that we will have a PPP in place in 2000? Otherwise, the best-value process is nothing but a delay to the investment that the underground badly needs.

What will the subsidy regime be under the public-private partnership? Is there going to be a subsidy? Does the Minister seriously think that it will be possible to run London Underground without a public subsidy, unlike any other public metro system in the world and differently from the way in which we privatised the railway? [Interruption.]

I hope that we will put aside all the past dogmas. The politics of the cold war should be over and the tube should not be the plaything of politicians. There should be a third way—a way of consensus and co-operation for the benefit of Londoners. That third way will not be found if we stick doggedly to the old religion of public ownership and control where there is only one customer—the politicians.

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

I am rather sorry that the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) was urged to sit down by my hon. Friends because he has clearly been converted to the third way, which is inherent within the Labour Government. I had a strong feeling that, if he had been allowed to linger a little longer at the Dispatch Box, he might even have walked across and joined us to confirm that he has accepted what the Labour party has been arguing for a considerable time, which is that there is a third way to tackle the basic and truly important issue of how we provide a first-class public transport system in London. As the Minister of Transport said, the London Underground provides the arteries for this great city.

The Opposition must be regretting their choice of this topic for what is undoubtedly an opportunistic debate. Their amendment does not even mention the word "passenger". Despite the assiduous efforts of the Conservative Whips, only three Opposition Members were found to speak and sit on their Benches for the majority of the debate. The work of the Whips is still going on, and I can now see more Conservative Members in the Chamber, but only as the debate is drawing to a close. Their presence debunks, as powerfully as did my right hon. Friend the Minister, the somewhat pathetic claims by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) that they wanted to debate this issue because they are concerned for the vulnerable people of London.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South attempted to condemn a public-private partnership and demanded to know, as did the hon. Member for North Essex, the timetable for PPP. As my right hon. Friend the Minister said, he would dearly love to play poker with the hon. Member for Croydon, South. The inability to hide one's hand seems to be shared by all Conservative transport spokesmen. The hon. Gentleman ignored the realities that would have resulted from the Conservative Government's proposal for privatisation of the underground. He also ignored the deeply seated opposition felt by Londoners for those proposals.

I must tell the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) that rail privatisation took a great deal longer than 18 months. I believe that it took almost four years. The previous Government said that privatisation of the underground would take at least four years. The costs of rail privatisation were astronomic and many of my hon. Friends have given the figures involved. Privatisation of the underground, which had been proposed by the previous Administration, would have had to be subsidised from the public purse for a considerable time, as has been the case for rail privatisation.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Jackson

Regretfully, I have very little time.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) also talked about the timetabling for PPP. He is someone else who does not know how to play poker. My right hon. Friend the Minister dubbed the hon. Member for Croydon, South's inability to understand how to hide one's cards when one is in—[Interruption.]

Mr. Hughes

Give way now.

Ms Jackson

I would give way if the hon. Gentleman had asked more quietly and had not waved his arms, but I did not believe the request—he overplayed it somewhat.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said that had the hon. Member for Croydon, South been in charge of a firing squad, he would have put it in a circle. Had the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington been in charge of a firing squad, not only would he have asked it to stand in a circle, he would have asked the condemned men to hold the rifles.

Mr. Ottaway

The Minister of Transport talked about a firing squad in a circle and his willingness to play poker with me because he did not want to be up against a deadline. Does the Minister agree that the workers on the Jubilee line are working to the ultimate deadline?

Ms Jackson

The ultimate deadline in 1 January 2000. We have consistently said that the three phases of the Jubilee line extension will deliver the line on time.

There is little doubt from their remarks about the Jubilee line extension this evening that the Conservatives are not just uncommitted to this excellent example of what is best in British civil engineering, delivering a wonderful service to the capital city, but are looking for it to fail. Let the record show that, in this area, as in so many others, the official Opposition are busy talking the country down.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) suggested that the RMT was not happy with the public-private partnership. It argued strongly to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister that such a system should be used on the Tyne and Wear metro. The PPP has certainly not slipped back.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer) raised justifiable concerns about London Underground staff in relation to the PPP. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has written to all members of the union assuring them that there will be no change in their terms and conditions of service. They will be able to be members of the pension scheme. Only last week, he met union representatives to discuss their concerns and reassure them about what is being proposed.

The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) gave one of his usual fascinating contributions. However, we are talking about modernising. I was rather nonplussed by his analogies involving Lucknow—part of an empire that this nation has long since lost—and relief. I was expecting the word Mafeking to appear. I have no doubt that he will use such an analogy on another occasion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) highlighted the need for an integrated transport system. He reminded us that, despite 18 years of Conservative rule, there are no underground services running south of the river. We believe that our creation of a mayor and assembly, with an overarching policy for integrating transport in London, will have a major part to play.

I must point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East, and the hon. Members for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and for Carshalton and Wallington that the creation of a PPP—a Government policy that the Government will complete—will not leave the mayor and assembly in a position to throw up their hands and say "Not me, guv" or regard the issue as a hot potato, because they will be responsible for delivering the services.

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

The House divided: Ayes 130, Noes 335.

Division No. 50] [9.59 pm
Amess, David Flight, Howard
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Fox, Dr Liam
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fraser, Christopher
Baldry, Tony Gale, Roger
Beggs, Roy Garnier, Edward
Bercow, John Gibb, Nick
Beresford, Sir Paul Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Blunt, Crispin Gray, James
Boswell, Tim Green, Damian
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Greenway, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Gummer, Rt Hon John
Brady, Graham Hague, Rt Hon William
Brazier, Julian Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hammond, Philip
Browning, Mrs Angela Hawkins, Nick
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hayes, John
Burns, Simon Heald, Oliver
Butterfill, John Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Cash, William Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Chope, Christopher Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Clappison, James Hunter, Andrew
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Key, Robert
Collins, Tim King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Cran, James Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Curry, Rt Hon David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Lansley, Andrew
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Leigh, Edward
Donaldson, Jeffrey Letwin, Oliver
Duncan, Alan Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Duncan Smith, Iain Lidington, David
Evans, Nigel Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Faber, David Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Fabricant, Michael Luff, Peter
Fallon, Michael Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spring, Richard
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Steen, Anthony
McLoughlin, Patrick Streeter, Gary
Major, Rt Hon John Swayne, Desmond
Malins, Humfrey Syms, Robert
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
May, Mrs Theresa Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Moss, Malcolm Taylor, Sir Teddy
Nicholls, Patrick Tredinnick, David
Ottaway, Richard Trend, Michael
Paice, James Tyrie, Andrew
Paterson,owen Viggers, Peter
Pickles, Eric Walter, Robert
Prior, David Wardle, Charles
Randall, John Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Redwood, Rt Hon John Whittingdale, John
Robathan, Andrew Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Wilkinson, John
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Willetts David
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Ruffley, David Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
St Aubyn, Nick Woodward, Shaun
Sayeed, Jonathan Yeo, Tim
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Tellers for the Ayes:
Soames, Nicholas Mr. Stephen Day and
Spicer, Sir Michael Mrs. Caroline Spelman.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Cann, Jamie
Ainger, Nick Caplin, Ivor
Allan, Richard Casale, Roger
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Caton, Martin
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Ashton, Joe Chaytor, David
Austin, John Chidgey, David
Baker, Norman Chisholm, Malcolm
Ballard, Jackie Clapham, Michael
Barnes, Harry Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Barron, Kevin Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Begg, Miss Anne Clelland, David
Beith, Rt Hon A J Clwyd, Ann
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Coaker, Vermon
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Coffey, Ms Ann
Bennett, Andrew F Cohen, Harry
Bermingham, Gerald Coleman, Iain
Berry, Roger Colman, Tony
Best, Harold Connarty, Michael
Betts, Clive Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Blackman, Liz Cooper, Yvette
Blizzard, Bob Corbett, Robin
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Corbyn, Jeremy
Boateng, Paul Cousins, Jim
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Crausby, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Bradshaw, Ben Cummings, John
Brake, Tom Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Burden, Richard Dafis, Cynog
Burnett, John Dalyell, Tam
Burstow, Paul Darvill, Keith
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Caborn, Richard Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Davidson, Ian
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Campbell—Savours, Dale Dawson, Hilton
Canavan, Dennis Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dobbin, Jim Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Donohoe, Brian H Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Doran, Frank Keeble, Ms Sally
Dowd, Jim Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Drown, Ms Julia Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Kelly, Ms Ruth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Kemp, Fraser
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Edwards, Huw Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Efford, Clive Khabra, Piara S
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kidney, David
Ennis, Jeff Kilfoyle, Peter
Fearn, Ronnie King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Field, Rt Hon Frank Kirkwood, Archy
Fitzsimons, Loma Kumar, Dr Ashok
Flint, Caroline Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Follett, Barbara Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Laxton, Bob
Foster, Don (Bath) Leslie, Christopher
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Levitt, Tom
Gapes, Mike Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Gardiner, Barry Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Linton, Martin
George, Bruce (Walsall S) Livingstone, Ken
Gibson, Dr Ian Livsey, Richard
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Godman, Dr Norman A Lock, David
Godsiff, Roger Love, Andrew
Goggins, Paul McAllion, John
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McAvoy, Thomas
Gorrie, Donald McCabe, Steve
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McDonagh, Siobhain
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McDonnell, John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McFall, John
Grocott, Bruce McIsaac, Shona
Grogan, John McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Gunnell, John McLeish, Henry
Hain, Peter McNulty, Tony
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) MacShane, Denis
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Mactaggart, Fiona
Hanson, David McWalter, Tony
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet McWilliam, John
Harris, Dr Evan Mahon, Mrs Alice
Harvey, Nick Mallaber, Judy
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Healey, John Marek, Dr John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Heppell, John Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hesford, Stephen Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hill, Keith Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Hinchliffe, David Marshall—Andrews, Robert
Hodge, Ms Margaret Martlew, Eric
Home Robertson, John Maxton, John
Hoon, Geoffrey Meale, Alan
Hope, Phil Merron, Gillian
Hopkins, Kelvin Michael, Alun
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Howells, Dr Kim Milburn, Alan
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Miller, Andrew
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Mitchell, Austin
Humble, Mrs Joan Moffatt, Laura
Hurst, Alan Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hutton, John Moore, Michael
Iddon, Dr Brian Moran, Ms Margaret
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Jamieson, David Morley, Elliot
Jenkins, Brian Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Mountford, Kali
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Oaten, Mark Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Soley, Clive
Öpik, Lembit Southworth, Ms Helen
Organ, Mrs Diana Squire, Ms Rachel
Palmer, Dr Nick Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Pearson, Ian Stevenson, George
Pendry, Tom Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Perham, Ms Linda Stinchcombe, Paul
Pickthall, Colin Stoate, Dr Howard
Pike, Peter L Stott, Roger
Plaskitt, James Stringer, Graham
Pollard, Kerry Stuart, Ms Gisela
Pond, Chris Stunell, Andrew
Pope, Greg Sutcliffe, Gerry
Pound, Stephen Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Primarolo, Dawn Temple—Morris, Peter
Purchase, Ken Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Quinn Lawrie Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Radice, Giles Timms, Stephen
Rammell, Bill Tipping, Paddy
Rapson, Syd Touhig, Don
Raynsford, Nick Trickett, Jon
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Rendel, David Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Rooker, Jeff Wareing, Robert N
Rooney, Terry Watts, David
Ruane, Chris Webb, Steve
Ruddock, Ms Joan Whitehead, Dr Alan
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Wicks, Malcolm
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sanders, Adrian Willis, Phil
Savidge, Malcolm Winnick, David
Sawford, Phil Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Sedgemore, Brian Wise, Audrey
Shaw, Jonathan Wood, Mike
Sheerman, Barry Woolas, Phil
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Worthington, Tony
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Singh, Marsha Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Skinner, Dennis Wyatt, Derek
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingle negatived.

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

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 159.

Division No. 51] [10.13 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Beggs, Roy
Ainger, Nick Bennett, Andrew F
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Bermingham, Gerald
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Berry, Roger
Ashton, Joe Best, Harold
Barnes, Harry Betts, Clive
Barron, Kevin Blackman, Liz
Battle, John Blizzard, Bob
Bayley, Hugh Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Boateng, Paul
Begg, Miss Anne Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Godsiff, Roger
Bradshaw, Ben Goggins, Paul
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Burden, Richard Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caborn, Richard Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Grogan, John
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gunnell, John
Campbell—Savours, Dale Hain, Peter
Cann, Jamie Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Caplin, Ivor Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Casale, Roger Hanson, David
Caton, Martin Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Chaytor, David Healey, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clapham, Michael Heppell, John
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hesford, Stephen
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Home Robertson, John
Clelland, David Hoon, Geoffrey
Clwyd, Ann Hope, Phil
Coaker, Vernon Hopkins, Kelvin
Coffey, Ms Ann Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cohen, Harry Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Coleman, Iain Howells, Dr Kim
Colman, Tony Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Connarty, Michael Humble, Mrs Joan
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hurst, Alan
Cooper, Yvette Hutton, John
Corbett, Robin Iddon, Dr Brian
Cousins, Jim Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Crausby, David Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Jamieson, David
Cummings, John Jenkins, Brian
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland) Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Darvill, Keith Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Keeble, Ms Sally
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly) Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Dawson, Hilton Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dean, Mrs Janet Kelly, Ms Ruth
Denham, John Kemp, Fraser
Dobbin, Jim Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Khabra, Piara S
Donaldson, Jeffrey Kidney, David
Donohoe, Brian H Kilfoyle, Peter
Doran, Frank King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Dowd, Jim Kumar, Dr Ashok
Drown, Ms Julia Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Laxton, Bob
Edwards, Huw Leslie, Christopher
Efford, Clive Levitt, Tom
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Ennis, Jeff Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Field, Rt Hon Frank Linton, Martin
Fitzsimons, Lorna Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Flint, Caroline Lock, David
Follett, Barbara Love, Andrew
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McAllion, John
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) McAvoy, Thomas
Gapes, Mike McCabe, Steve
Gardiner, Barry McDonagh, Siobhain
George, Bruce (Walsall S) McFall, John
Gibson, Dr Ian McIsaac, Shona
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McLeish, Henry
Godman, Dr Norman A McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis Ruane, Chris
Mactaggart, Fiona Ruddock, Ms Joan
McWalter, Tony Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McWilliam, John Ryan, Ms Joan
Mahon, Mrs Alice Savidge, Malcolm
Mallaber, Judy Sawford, Phil
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Sedgemore, Brian
Marek, Dr John Shaw, Jonathan
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Sheerman, Barry
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Singh, Marsha
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Skinner, Dennis
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Martlew, Eric Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Maxton, John Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Meale, Alan Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Merron, Gillian Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Michael, Alun Soley, Clive
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Southworth, Ms Helen
Milburn, Alan Squire, Ms Rachel
Miller, Andrew Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Mitchell, Austin Stevenson, George
Moffatt, Laura Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stinchcombe, Paul
Moran, Ms Margaret Stoate, Dr Howard
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Stott, Roger
Morley, Elliot Stringer, Graham
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mountford, Kali Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Temple—Morris, Peter
Norris, Dan Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Organ, Mrs Diana Timms, Stephen
Palmer, Dr Nick Tipping, Paddy
Pearson, Ian Touhig, Don
Pendry, Tom Trickett, Jon
Perham, Ms Linda Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Pickthall, Colin Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Pike, Peter L Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Plaskitt, James Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Pollard, Kerry Walley, Ms Joan
Pond, Chris Ward, Ms Claire
Pope, Greg Watts, David
Pound, Stephen Whitehead, Dr Alan
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Wicks, Malcolm
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn Winnick, David
Purchase, Ken Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Quinn, Lawrie Wise, Audrey
Radice, Giles Wood, Mike
Rammell, Bill Woolas, Phil
Rapson, Syd Worthington, Tony
Raynsford, Nick Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Wyatt, Derek
Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Tellers for the Ayes:
Rooker, Jeff Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Rooney, Terry Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Allan, Richard Blunt, Crispin
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Brady, Graham
Baker, Norman Brake, Tom
Baldry, Tony Brazier, Julian
Ballard, Jackie Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Beith, Rt Hon A J Browning, Mrs Angela
Bercow, John Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Beresford, Sir Paul Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John Kirkwood, Archy
Burns, Simon Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Burstow, Paul Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Butterfill, John Lansley, Andrew
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Leigh, Edward
Cash, William Letwin, Oliver
Chidgey, David Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Chope, Christopher Lidington, David
Clappison, James Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Luff, Peter
Collins, Tim Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Cormack, Sir Patrick MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Cran, James MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Curry, Rt Hon David McLoughlin, Patrick
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Major, Rt Hon John
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Malins, Humfrey
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Duncan, Alan Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Duncan Smith, Iain May, Mrs Theresa
Evans, Nigel Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Faber, David Moore, Michael
Fabricant, Michael Moss, Malcolm
Fallon, Michael Nicholls, Patrick
Fearn, Ronnie Oaten, Mark
Flight, Howard Ottaway, Richard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Paice, James
Foster, Don (Bath) Paterson, Owen
Fox, Dr Liam Pickles, Eric
Fraser, Christopher Prior, David
Gale, Roger Randall, John
Garnier, Edward Redwood, Rt Hon John
George, Andrew (St Ives) Rendel, David
Gibb, Nick Robathan, Andrew
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Gorrie, Donald Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Gray, James Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Green, Damian Ruffley, David
Greenway, John Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Gummer, Rt Hon John St Aubyn, Nick
Hague, Rt Hon William Sanders, Adrian
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Sayeed, Jonathan
Hammond, Philip Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Harris, Dr Evan Shepherd, Richard
Harvey, Nick Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Hawkins, Nick Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Hayes, John Soames, Nicholas
Heald, Oliver Spicer, Sir Michael
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David Spring, Richard
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Steen, Anthony
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Streeter, Gary
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Stunell, Andrew
Hunter, Andrew Swayne, Desmond
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Syms, Robert
Jenkin, Bernard Tapsell, Sir Peter
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye) Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Key, Robert Taylor, John M (Solihull)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David Willetts, David
Trend, Michael Willis, Phil
Tyrie, Andrew Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Walter, Robert Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wardle, Charles Woodward, Shaun
Waterson, Nigel Yeo, Tim
Webb, Steve Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Wells, Bowen
Whittingdale, John Tellers for the Noes:
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann Mr. Stephen Day and
Wilkinson, John Mrs. Caroline Spelman.

Question accordingly agreed to.

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

Resolved, That this House notes that the Government inherited a substantial investment backlog in London Underground and that this backlog arose from the previous Government's ideological antipathy to public expenditure and unwillingness to seek genuine and viable partnership between the public and private sectors; welcomes the Government's rejection of the Conservatives' policy of wholesale privatisation and applauds it for its thoroughgoing investigation of a public-private partnership as a means to secure necessary investment funds; notes that by providing additional funding of £365 million and that by bringing forward two Private Finance Initiative deals on ticketing and the power distribution system, the Government has already ensured that the Underground will benefit from around £1 billion of investment over the next two years; and is confident that the present Government's approach to London Underground will secure value for money for passengers and the taxpayer and give Londoners an underground system which meets their needs, is fast, reliable, comfortable and worthy of such a great capital city.