HC Deb 09 November 1999 vol 337 cc869-70
3. Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)

If he will make a statement on the role of the UK Government in improving railway safety in Scotland. [96347]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Dr. John Reid)

The Government are committed to ensuring that passengers can travel safely and with confidence on Britain's railways.

Mr. Hood

I draw to my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that in Scotland the confidential incident reporting and analysis system has been in use for some time. Will he pass that information on to our right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions?

I look forward to the day when I can come to the House and discuss rail safety on the Larkhall line. Safety concerns on that line have become greater since last week's bad news from Marks and Spencer. Can I tempt my right hon. Friend to join me in condemning that company for betraying the people of Larkhall with that disgraceful decision?

Dr. Reid

My hon. Friend can tempt me, but I rarely succumb to temptation—from hon. Gentlemen anyway. However, I deeply regret the difficulties in which Daks in his constituency has been placed. I know that he met my hon. Friend the Minister of State this morning to discuss the issue, and we will try to do anything that we can in these difficult circumstances.

My hon. Friend is correct about rail safety. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has taken a lead on that. It is a tragedy that Paddington had to highlight this problem again. Let us hope that some good can come out of that awful situation. As my right hon. Friend said, the tragedy of Paddington has underlined the lack of confidence that many people have in safety on the railways. I am sure that the measures that he has driven forward since then, including a review of the standards of driver training, the accelerated implementation of the train protection warning system and an investigation into Railtrack's safety responsibilities will reap enormous safety benefits.

On a lighter note, the House will be pleased to hear that the safety record of railways in Scotland has been improving, despite an increasing number of trains on the Scottish network. That is not a reason for complacency. The railway industry must improve its safety record, and I am sure that that sentiment will be echoed by many outside this House, as well as by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood).

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