§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)
We now come to the next debate. Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Don Foster (Bath)
I beg to move,That this House notes with extreme sadness the recent Paddington rail disaster and the ensuing injuries and loss of life and extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected; congratulates the emergency services on their outstanding work in very difficult conditions: urges the Government not to respond prematurely but to ensure that swift action follows the enquiry into rail safety systems by implementing the key recommendations due in December 1999; condemns past Governments for failing to invest in an effective advanced train protection system; calls on the Government to remove responsibility for the setting of safety standards from Railtrack; further notes the serious concerns that exist over safety in other modes of transport and draws specific attention to the continuing pressure on safety standards in the air transport industry due to the vast rate of growth in journeys; notes the considerable opposition from all sides of the House to the Government's plans to privatise the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and the London Underground and the possible effect this could have on safety standards; urges the Government to re-consider its proposals and instead to make NATS and London Underground public interest companies, ensuring safety remains a core priority; further urges the Government to ensure that maritime safety standards are not compromised by the closure of coastguard stations around the country; and calls on the Government to reduce the possibility of road safety incidents by setting national targets for reducing overall traffic levels and encouraging nationwide implementation of initiatives such as "Safe Routes to School".In this debate on transport safety it is appropriate for me to begin by repeating the sympathies expressed yesterday on all sides of the House for those involved in the tragedy of the Paddington rail crash. I also, as hon. Members rightly did yesterday, extend our congratulations to the emergency services and our thanks to the individuals who were prepared to come and assist at that tragic accident.
I pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) who, as Chairman of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, has made very helpful safety recommendations to the House. Liberal Democrat Members support the Committee's recommendation to establish an independent transport safety body. We hope that the recommendation will be accepted by the Secretary of State and his team. We hope also that if such a body is established, it will include people who not only are experts in transport safety, able to bring independent thinking to the issues, but have the courage to speak out on those issues.
I emphasise how much Liberal Democrat Members support the Deputy Prime Minister's remarks, particularly in the past few days following the Paddington rail crash, about the importance of moving from a culture of blame to a culture of safety. As he has rightly pointed out, a number of inquiries can consider who is to blame, but it is important now to learn the lessons from that tragedy and others so that we can think positively about the future, and I hope that the motion and the debate will contribute to that.
500 The whole House will be aware that concerns about safety on public transport are not confined to rail but extend to all other modes of transport.
§ Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh)
My hon. Friend mentioned his concern that inquiries should be followed through, and I believe that he was echoing the Deputy Prime Minister's view. Does he recall that 10 years ago, after the Clapham rail crash, Mr. Hidden conducted an inquiry and issued an authoritative report that made important recommendations for rail safety, particularly for the removal from the system of the old, slam-door rolling stock and for the introduction of the automatic train protection system? There was general, cross-party acceptance of those recommendations. Does my hon. Friend share my concern that 10 years later, we still have thousands—
§ Mr. Foster
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. He is right to say that we must move quickly to ensure that carriages are safe and to introduce the automatic train protection system. I shall return to that issue.
Many of us will have listened to the Deputy Prime Minister speaking on the "Today" programme this morning and noted his comments about the running of the railways and safety legislation. He said:I don't think it's being done as good as it could be done. There can be changes.I believe that we all accept that changes are needed, and I hope that some of my remarks in this speech will be acted on.
The Deputy Prime Minister and the other Ministers present would probably agree with my next remark, although I suspect that Conservative Members will not agree with it. Many of the problems in the railways have resulted from the way in which privatisation was carried out, especially the confusion between safety and the other aspects of the railway—not least the confusion between safety and profit.
§ Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that there were no unfortunate and tragic accidents on the railways before privatisation?
§ Mr. Foster
No. Of course I am not saying that, and we acknowledge that there were accidents before privatisation. However, several incidents have shown that the confusion that has been created by privatisation has left many people uncertain about who is responsible for the various things that have happened. That is one of our real concerns.
Not the least of our concerns arises from Railtrack' s continuing responsibility for setting and monitoring safety standards. We welcome the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister is minded to separate out those functions. We believe that it would be helpful for him to say immediately that that is his intention, although we acknowledge that he was right to point out the difficulty of deciding where that responsibility should then be located. He is right to wait until he has received advice on that issue. However, in our view, Railtrack, which is a for profit company, must not be 501 judge and jury on rail safety issues and, if we are to regain confidence in our railways, Railtrack must no longer have power to set and monitor safety standards.
Responsibilities are confused in several areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) mentioned automatic train protection. Of course we want a failsafe automatic train protection system to be introduced, but problems arise because responsibility is fragmented.
The House will be aware that ATP has two key aspects—first, an on-board system, and secondly, a system by the side of the track. Some of the problems in the trials have arisen in the interface between those two systems, and it is unclear who is responsible for those interface problems.
There have been other problems with ATP. The tachographs that are attached to the axles, which were intended to have a lifespan of five years, are breaking down after an average of five months because they have to operate on very out-of-date stock and on somewhat bumpy rail lines. We understand that, as recently as last autumn, Great Western Trains was given the right to turn off the trial ATP system because of that old problem of leaves on the track; the wheels were spinning, so the tachographs were giving a false indication of the speed of the train.
It is clear to us that it will be some time before we find a failsafe ATP system, so it is absolutely right that we move ahead with the introduction of the train protection and warning system, as the Deputy Prime Minister is so anxious that we do. So far I have been praising the right hon. Gentleman in this speech but, given his keenness to see TPWS introduced quickly, it is odd that nearly a year passed between the final deadline for comments on the proposal and his giving approval for the go-ahead.
However, given that we are where we are now, I reiterate a concern that I expressed yesterday—that Railtrack has asked the potential contractors to bring forward the date by which they submit their bids for the introduction of TPWS, and yet Railtrack has made no commitment to let that contract sooner. I hope that the Minister will say that he is prepared to discuss that issue with Railtrack, and perhaps to discuss with it another of our concerns—that the trained and skilled personnel may not even be available to introduce TPWS. As a result of the on-off introduction of funding by Railtrack for that type of work, the three main contractors that might be involved in the work have laid off staff in the lean periods, and the majority may not now have sufficient staff to do the work so that TPWS may be introduced in the time scale that the Deputy Prime Minister and we would like.
There is also doubt as to whether sufficient funding will be available for the work to be done in time. We have all heard that Railtrack is to invest £27 billion in the next 10 years. Only £16 billion of that is actually Railtrack's money; the remaining £11 billion will come from various partnership agreements. Much of that £27 billion will be used for routine repair and maintenance, and a lot more of it will be spent on station upgrades. It is unclear whether there is enough money in Railtrack's current budget to provide the sums of money that will be necessary for some of that important safety work.
§ Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)
Obviously, a very important inquiry is under way and we 502 must await the outcome. However, would the hon. Gentleman care to comment on the Health and Safety Commission report, "Review of Arrangements for Standard Setting and Application on the Main Railway Network—Interim Report", published in September 1999, which concludes:We do not see any cause for immediate concern on safety grounds in the way thatRailtrack's safety and standards directoratehas operated its key safety functions"?
In those circumstances, is it right for the hon. Gentleman to be, in a sense, smearing Railtrack and the whole privatisation process, when an independent body says that there is no cause for immediate concern, and when there is an on-going inquiry, which should be given the opportunity to make its findings?
§ Mr. Foster
The Deputy Prime Minister mentioned that report in his remarks yesterday. However, some of us, including Liberal Democrats, believe that, as a matter of principle, the setting and monitoring of safety standards should not take place within a for profit company. That is the key matter of principle.
In other countries, investment in these matters is significantly greater. Germany will spend £27 billion not over 10 years, as Railtrack will, but over three years. In France, twice as much will be spent as in this country. Therefore I very much hope that the Deputy Prime Minister requires Railtrack to include a comprehensive safety strategy policy in its network management statement next year.
As many train operating companies are now seeking an extension of their franchises and will soon be looking to renew them, I very much hope that there will be no opportunity for train operating companies to use what is effectively blackmail on the safety issue. It is vital that no extensions of franchises are granted unless the train operating companies can at the very least show that they are running a safe, efficient and prompt service. There must be no opportunity for blackmail. I note that already Thames Trains says that it will make no further investment unless its franchise is extended. I am sure that that important issue will be taken on board. We hope to hear from the Minister what he is doing on that issue.
Some confusion remains about where funding for some of the safety improvements will come from. The Deputy Prime Minister has said in some comments to the press that when we have the report from Sir David Davies, cost will not be an issue and the Government will find the money; but yesterday, in his response to questions on his statement, he implied that the money for TPWS would come from train operating companies and Railtrack. I hope that we may have clarification as to where the money for those improvements will come.
I shall deal briefly with two other rail issues before I move on to some other areas. I suggest that it would be well worth considering whether there should be a separate and independent rail accident investigation unit. There are such units for maritime and air accidents. We are making 503 no criticism of the work of the British Transport police, but in other areas of public transport we have independent investigation bodies and perhaps such a unit could be part of the new independent body proposed by the Chairman of the Select Committee.
It is increasingly clear that among the 25 train operating companies there are enormous variations in training procedures. I hope very much that the Cullen inquiry will examine this issue and make appropriate recommendations. I hope also that it will examine supervision. It is becoming increasingly clear that since privatisation a number of TOCs have significantly reduced the number of their staff who are involved in supervision. It is vital that that issue is considered.
I shall refer briefly to other areas of transport safety, but I hope very much that my hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) will be able to contribute to the debate and pick up on some of the points with which I have not dealt. Road safety is vital. There have been reductions in the number of road deaths in recent years. We welcome that, but more than 3,500 road deaths in one year is still a significant worry.
It is worth noting that in Oxfordshire, for example, there was one murder over the past 12 months, but 63 people died in road accidents. Although the numbers are reducing and despite the fact that we do better than many of our European counterparts, much work still needs to be done, not least when we analyse the figures and find that perhaps one of the reasons why the number of road deaths is coming down is that fewer and fewer of the most vulnerable road users are using the roads. There has been a significant reduction in the number of people making journeys on foot or by bike. That is all the more reason why we continue to press for road traffic reduction, something that the Minister who is about to respond has professed himself keen to see.
We are totally opposed to the selling off of National Air Traffic Services. That would be an entirely wrong move and one that would run counter to some of the concerns that have been expressed in relation to the Paddington rail crash. We note that 95 per cent. of the staff at NATS are opposed to the proposal. We note also that the pilots are opposed to it. We note especially that 115 Labour Members have signed early-day motion 446 in opposition to the privatisation.
We believe that privatisation is wrong. It could delay the introduction of the air traffic control system at Swanwick.
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)
There was already an overspend and Swanwick was already more than three years late under the existing system.
§ Mr. Foster
The Deputy Prime Minister rightly points out that there have been many delays, and I do not necessarily blame him for some of them. However, the right hon. Gentleman will know that the very staff who will be involved in the work to introduce privatisation should be spending their time getting problems solved. Given that there are alternative ways of bringing money into NATS without an impact on the public sector borrowing requirement, such as the setting up of a 504 not-for-profit public interest company, we urge the Deputy Prime Minister to consider them. We are concerned about maritime safety issues and about the plans for the closure of coastguard services.
I have touched only briefly on some issues. I hope that there will be an opportunity for other hon. Members to pick up on them. As I have said, we welcome the Government's review of transport safety. We are certain that there must be quick action when we are aware of the findings. We must move from a culture of blame to one of safety. We must learn the lessons from the past but we must now look to the future. We want to get more and more people on to public transport, but we shall be able to do so only if the public have confidence in all its different forms. We have initiated this debate to begin the process of improving public confidence in all forms of public transport.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill)
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:notes with extreme sadness the recent Paddington rail disaster and the ensuing injuries and loss of life and extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected; congratulates the emergency services on their outstanding work in very difficult conditions; welcomes the prompt and comprehensive actions taken since the tragedy at Paddington, which demonstrate how serious the Government are about transport safety; notes the Government's continuing determination to take real steps to make transport safer for the public and the workforce; acknowledges the long-term reduction in fatalities on roads, in the air, at sea and on the railways; recognises specific action taken to improve rail, road, marine and air safety; commends the Government for setting up a comprehensive Transport Safety Review to look at how to improve the organisation of transport safety in the United Kingdom and whether there is a case for a single independent authority for transport safety regulation; and further notes that one of the prime aims of the Government's Public Private Partnerships for National Air Traffic Services and the London Underground is the enhancement of safety by securing high and stable levels of future investment, which are essential for safety as travel increases, and that safety regulation will be kept firmly in public hands in both cases.Let me begin by thanking the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) for the way in which he has introduced the debate. I thank him specifically for the supportive remarks that he has made about the response of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister following the terrible events outside Paddington, under the shadow of which we hold this debate.
I am grateful for the opportunity to set out the Government's policies on transport safety. I propose to address myself to the terms of the motion on the Order Paper. However, I share what I am certain is the unanimous feeling of the House that it is tragic that we should be discussing this subject in the context of the nightmare event at Ladbroke Grove junction outside Paddington station two weeks ago.
Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made an important statement about the Ladbroke Grove disaster and the actions that we have taken since it happened, which include the establishment of the Cullen inquiry into the causes of the crash and the inquiry by Sir David Davies into train protection systems and the means of reducing the number of signals passed at danger. I say to the hon. Member for Bath that we shall expect 505 Sir David to report to us on the readiness of the rail industry to implement either the train protection and warning system or other train protection systems. My right hon. Friend announced that he has asked for a weekly report to be sent to him on the number of SPADs. He has arranged for a monthly analysis to be placed in the Library. He confirmed that the chief inspector of railways hopes shortly to produce a second interim report on the Ladbroke Grove crash, following his first interim report issued on Friday 8 October.
My right hon. Friend expressed his full support for the action taken by the independent railway inspectorate—in instructing the train operating companies to improve, among other things, their arrangements for driver training and briefing on suspect signals, in issuing three enforcement notices related to the use of signal SN109 in the approach to Paddington and dealing with other signals with a recent history of having been passed at danger.
§ Mr. Fearn
My intervention will be brief. The Minister has mentioned signals. Following the Paddington tragedy, 10 black spots were highlighted. One of them is in Southport at Birkdale station. The situation is urgent because every 20 minutes a train passes the black spot. Is the Minister saying that we must wait for inquiries and for action, or will action be taken this week on the blackspots?
§ Mr. Hill
I am saying that we have asked the inspectorate to look at precisely that issue, and we expect a report in the near future. We shall certainly be considering all the blackspots, including those in the hon. Gentleman's constituency about which he rightly expresses serious concern. We share that concern and we hope to have a positive result in the nearest possible future.
My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister was able to confirm both that following receipt of the independent Health and Safety Commission's report, which he initiated last year into concerns expressed about the wide range of responsibilities residing in Railtrack's safety and standards directorate, he has requested the HSC to report on necessary follow-up action, and that the Government are minded to transfer those functions out of Railtrack, provided that that does not result in an increase in risk. Finally, my right hon. Friend announced the convening of a rail safety summit for next Monday.
That comprehensive list of actions reflects my right hon. Friend's total commitment to securing the best possible safety regime on our railway network. Concern for transport safety has been a guiding light of his long and distinguished record in public life. He will be expanding on these matters when he appears before the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs tomorrow. It is entirely typical, as well as right and proper, that he should be in his place for this debate.
506 Sadly, we cannot bring back those whose lives were lost in the Ladbroke Grove disaster, but it is my duty as a Minister to make every effort to ensure that avoidable accidents are not repeated, and that we have the safest possible transport system in this country.
§ Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that one of the most harrowing aspects of the Paddington disaster was not knowing for such a long time how many people were in carriage H? Is he aware that there is no numerical limitation on the number of people who can ride across the country in a passenger rail carriage—unlike an aeroplane, bus or any other form of transport? Does he agree that we should examine that as a matter of urgency?
§ Mr. Hill
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. It was, indeed, a source of great concern that we did not know how many people were in that carriage. There is no evidence whatever that the number of people travelling in a carriage contributes to accidents, but it is clear that, when an accident occurs and there are a large number of people in the carriages, it can only exacerbate the situation. That is an important point, which I can assure my hon. Friend we will consider seriously.
There can be no more important matter for a Government—any Government—to address than public safety. That is why issues such as crime reduction, public health, environmental responsibility and effective safety regulation are all central to the work of the Government.
Transport safety is at the very heart of policy making in my Department. Transport is essential for the sustenance of everyday life. We all need transport to get to work, to visit friends and family, and to make our shopping trips. We need transport that provides comfort, convenience, reliability and affordability, but above all else, we want assurances that we can get to our destination safely.
§ Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)
I am grateful to the Minister for his commitment to safety. That matter is extremely important to my constituents, who were shocked by the train crash in my constituency—which fortunately did not result in any loss of life—only two weeks after Paddington. My constituents want to know when the Government will be able to say that a system is in place to prevent trains from passing a red light. That is the question that they have asked me to ask Ministers tonight.
§ Mr. Hill
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the disturbing accident that occurred in his constituency on Monday evening. We await the findings, at the earliest possible moment, of the internal railway industry inquiry into the accident, and also the inquiry being carried out by the Health and Safety Executive. We are anxious to move quickly to the institution of a train protection system that is as safe as possible. That is what we have asked Sir David Davies to look at, and we expect his report before the new year. We also expect to start work on implementing his recommendations at the earliest opportunity. I hope that that will reassure the hon. Gentleman's constituents.
There are a number of key considerations that I believe it is important to keep clearly in focus as we address transport safety. First, all public transport operators, 507 whether privately or publicly owned, need to make safety their first priority. It would be totally unacceptable for financial interests to take precedence over safety.
Another key consideration is that safety standards should be declared and enforced. That means open information, and effective monitoring and enforcement. The safety culture needs to be intrinsic in every organisation, from top to bottom. It is not good enough to try to shift blame or castigate individual workers. It is the clear responsibility of management at all levels to make sure that a working environment does not develop in which accidents can happen.
Finally, the Government will not let cost considerations alone drive decision making on transport safety. Of course, there must be an assessment of cost-effectiveness when major capital expenditure is required, but we are committed to improving transport safety and we will weigh all the factors necessary to reach sane and sensible decisions.
§ Mr. Hill
Let me continue for a moment. May I say, too, that common-sense safety considerations apply to every single person in the country, not just to workers and managers in the transport industries. Putting safety first is a responsibility that we all share.
I shall deal now with some facts. I do so not with callous intent, and certainly not in a spirit of complacency. I cannot stress strongly enough that the Government are not complacent about safety—very far from it. However, we need to have a rational debate if we are to work together in avoiding future tragedies across transport modes.
Since the Ladbroke Grove disaster, a suggestion has crept in that somehow that accident is symptomatic of a decline in transport safety generally. I have even read newspaper commentators suggesting that it proved that we have a third-world transport system. That is simply not so. There are parts of the world where fatalities among bus passengers caused by badly maintained vehicles, speeding or overloading are almost everyday news. In Britain we do not, and will not, tolerate such levels of transport fatalities. Indeed, it is the relative rarity of major disasters that makes accidents such as Ladbroke Grove so shocking for us.
508 In any case, we should not focus exclusively on spectacular disasters; that is a media temptation. The truth is that every transport accident that involves death or serious injury is a disaster for those involved.
Let me illustrate with a few facts and figures the gradual improvement in transport safety. For a start, we live in an ever more mobile society. Between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, the average distance travelled per person per year in Great Britain increased by 27 per cent. That level of mobility inevitably brings with it increased exposure to risk, yet over the same period, the total number of transport fatalities in Great Britain fell—from 5,296 in 1987 to 3,516 in 1996. That is a fall of one third in absolute terms, and an even greater fall in terms of the increasing amount of travel that we all undertake.
Of course the great majority of transport deaths do not occur in rail, air or maritime catastrophes, but in the daily toll on our roads—yet even on the roads the picture has improved significantly in recent years, as personal behaviour, technology and design standards have all improved. Between 1988 and 1998 the number of people killed on Britain's roads fell from 5,052 to 3,421. The number of child pedestrians killed has more than halved, from 282 to 103 per year. That is still far too many, but the trend is in the right direction, and we are determined to keep it that way.
Let me say it again: every one of those deaths is someone's tragedy, but let us not fall into the trap of supposing that travel in this country is becoming more unsafe. It is not. The figures demonstrate as much.
I believe that the House and the wider public understand that however much we regard safety as the first requirement, in practice absolute safety is unattainable. Comments are made about safer systems overseas, but those are not foolproof either. Planes crash in the United States, high-speed trains crash in Germany, and even nuclear installations in Japan can go wrong.
The House will also be aware that, in road safety terms—roads account for the vast majority of fatalities around the world—Britain is just about the safest country in Europe, and probably in the world. Again, I would totally refute any suggestion that the Government are in any way complacent about transport safety. As I have already acknowledged, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister is recognised for his very deep and personal commitment to safety, and we arrived in government determined to take substantive steps to make transport safer for the public and the work force.
That commitment was made absolutely clear in our White Paper on the future of transport in July 1998, which had much to say on the subject of travelling safely, and set out some of the many actions that the Government are taking to improve transport safety.
The list of our initiatives is long, and I will not delay the House by reciting them all, but let me cite a few examples. On the subject of railways, we announced in August the introduction of the train protection and warning system, which is a huge improvement on the existing automatic warning system and would have prevented the Ladbroke Grove junction disaster had it been installed on the Thames Trains commuter service. It was intended that that system would be in place across the entire network by the end of 2003.
509 We have brought forward by two years the removal from the network of all remaining mark I slam-door carriages and launched the secure stations initiative. Last year we commissioned, and have now received, the Health and Safety Commission report on Railtrack' s role in safety and standard setting. We are following up with an urgent review, minded, as we are, to transfer the main functions of the safety and standards directorate out of Railtrack.
We have also launched a review and restructuring of London Underground's safety case. There are few, if any, transport systems more suffused with a safety culture than London Underground. Under the proposed public-private partnership, public sector London Underground Ltd. will continue to have responsibility for the railway safety case for the whole underground, and the PPP will simply not go ahead unless it can be shown to contribute to improved safety.
In the air, we have subjected our aviation safety oversight system to a rigorous audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. We were the first major aviation country to do so, and were pleased to receive an excellent report. We have intensified our programme of ramp checks of foreign aircraft coming into UK airports and a number of actions have been taken against unsatisfactory operators.
Against that background of proactive concern to improve safety, it was absurd for the hon. Member for Bath to suggest, in what I thought was the weakest part of an otherwise good speech, that the Government would be willing to compromise on air safety in pursuit of their proposal for a National Air Traffic Services PPP. I find it bizarre to describe as privatisation a share proposal that will leave the Government and the work force with a majority of shares, with the Government's 49 per cent. shareholding underpinned by golden share powers. That is emphatically not a privatisation. It is a public-private partnership that is designed to lever in from the private sector the vital new capital—£1 billion over 10 years—that is necessary to ensure that NATS maintains the highest standards of safety in a constantly expanding aviation market.
The hon. Member for Bath should also be aware that responsibility for aviation safety does not lie with NATS, which is the service provider, but with the Civil Aviation Authority. To be precise, that responsibility lies with the CAA safety regulation group, which has wide-ranging powers and ample experience in the UK of regulating the safety of private air traffic control services with no suggestion of a problem.
Indeed, as part of the PPP, we propose to reinforce the separation of safety regulation from service provision. That will ensure that those two functions are undertaken in two separate organisations, which is an objective that airspace users, the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee and the former Monopolies and Mergers Commission have long recommended.
Safety in the air will always be the Government's overriding priority. We have placed the same high priority on safety on the seas. We have reopened the investigations into the Derbyshire and Gaul sinkings, merged the former Marine Safety and Coastguard agencies to form a new integrated Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and established the Thames river safety inquiry.
510 On the roads, we have given local authorities the power to impose 20 mph speed limits without recourse to the approval of the Secretary of State, undertaken a major review of speed policy and championed the development of crash testing of cars for consumer information to standards higher than those set by regulation. In addition, we have reviewed our road safety strategy and targets with a view to introducing demanding fatality reduction targets by 2010. We will make a major announcement about our road safety plans shortly.
That is no more than a brief summary of some of our transport safety initiatives. I could offer the House many other examples and I should emphasise that none of the actions I have mentioned is an any way directly related to the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster. These are actions we have been taking ever since we entered office, which demonstrates beyond any question that transport safety is an absolute priority. However, the Ladbroke Grove crash forces us to re-examine everything we have been doing and to redouble our efforts to achieve the safest possible transport systems.
I remind the House that we are investigating wider structural questions in relation to transport safety. We have under way a transport safety review, which was launched at the end of last year in response to recommendations from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. The review, which has undertaken consultations and an analysis of transport safety structures overseas, is nearing completion. It will advise us on whether the structure of transport safety regulation and accident investigation in Britain is balanced correctly.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—my mentor, whose knowledge of and concern for transport safety is unrivalled in the House—is waiting keenly for the review's conclusions. I want to assure her that we are working hard to complete the task by the end of the year and that we will benchmark our conclusions against the lessons from Ladbroke Grove.
I want to pay tribute to people involved in transport safety in this country. The detailed inquiries that we have set up may find fault with the actions or inactions of individuals, but I know that many people in the transport world who have devoted their careers and lives to safety issues will be feeling very bruised by association with the Ladbroke Grove disaster. I emphasise that it is not the intention of the Government to find scapegoats. It is all too easy for politicians and journalists to point the finger when they do not have to take the critical life and death decisions that they are debating. I hope that the House will therefore join me in commending the important safety work done by many people in all sectors of transport, on which we all rely for our safe journey home.
The House will note that, like the hon. Member for Bath, I have sought throughout my speech to refrain from trying to score party political points. That was very much the spirit of the House during yesterday's exchanges, which took place in response to my right hon. Friend's statement, and it was also largely the approach taken by the hon. Gentleman. The safety of the British people is far too serious a matter for petty political squabbles. The whole country expects everyone involved in transport—whether they be company directors or train drivers, politicians or civil servants—to work together to ensure that we have the safest possible transport systems.
511 Safety is far more important than old arguments about ownership. I believe that we can make Britain the safest place in the world to travel, whether for work or pleasure, but sometimes, tragically, we have to learn the hard way. Ladbroke Grove causes us all to reflect on what more we can do to enhance safety and prevent the recurrence of such a terrible tragedy. I trust that every Member of the House will join the Government in working constructively on the ideas and solutions that will save lives now and in the future.
§ Mr. Shaun Woodward (Witney)
All Conservative Members and Members across the House continue to share the sense of appalling loss that the Ladbroke Grove tragedy has created. Nothing can bring back those men and women who perished in the accident and the terrible fire that followed in seconds.
The public are worried about safety on our trains, and I very much want to associate myself with the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). We definitely want, and believe that it is in the public interest, to move away from a culture of blame to one of safety. The Minister's remarks, which paid tribute to those involved in transport safety, were well judged. They do a terrific job—under terrific pressure, sometimes—and we fully acknowledge the role that they play, but we must also recognise that the public want urgent answers to vital questions. They want to know why and how the accident happened and they want to be reassured that such a tragedy will not be allowed to happen again.
The public also want to know whether lessons that all those responsible for rail travel should have learned before 5 October were relevant—lessons that might have meant that the Ladbroke Grove disaster could have been avoided, and obvious lessons in common sense, which might have been drawn without waiting for the conclusion of the Southall inquiry.
An obvious common-sense lesson is how to stop trains going through red lights. People want to know whether enough on that issue was done, not only by the train operating companies, Railtrack—which has received an extraordinary amount of attention in a culture that is apparently not about blame—and the HSE, but by those charged with governmental responsibility for ensuring safety on the rails so that red lights on the track mean that trains stop.
Over the past few weeks, Railtrack has come under close scrutiny. Lord Cullen's inquiry will doubtless produce a verdict on just how much responsibility it should bear. It will not escape the House's attention that, in Railtrack's evidence to the Transport Sub-Committee of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee in March 1998, the company said:We believe Paddington to be the best protected major terminal station anywhere in the world.We shall see whether it is the best protected. Judging by the events of 5 October, it is not protected enough.
Anyone who reads last year's Select Committee report on railway safety, which must include Ministers, will find that such a judgment about Paddington was, at best, in doubt. It does not take more than a cursory glance at the 512 daily diet of our newspapers to recognise that the public feel that action to promote railway safety could, and perhaps should, have been taken many months ago.
Let me deal with the issue of red lights. Information about trains going through red lights is collated by Her Majesty's railway inspectorate, which is part of the Health and Safety Commission. Those figures go to the Government. Figures for trains passing danger signals make alarming reading. They were higher in 1991, when 944 trains went through red lights. Those who have jumped to the hasty and premature conclusion that a railway system in private ownership means that safety will be compromised must acknowledge that, since the railway system passed out of Government ownership, the number of danger signals passed has declined. In 1997–98, the figure had fallen to 593—still, in the judgment of many, far too high.
The Health and Safety Commission report of 2 September 1999 says that, of those incidents, 42 could have hadpotentially severe consequences where the train passed the overlap, and there are connections ahead, over which another train may be passing.
The public are understandably concerned to know that Ministers were told that in 1998–99—figures which we know from Lord Macdonald's recent statement were in the Department's office in August this year, two months before the disaster—the number of trains passing through red lightsno longer followed a downward trend".Last year's figure of 593 had increased to 643. Worse, the number of incidents which the Health and Safety Commission defined ashaving potentially severe consequencesalso rose by 25 per cent. on the previous year to 52.
As Lord Macdonald acknowledged, those incidents "over-ran safety margins". In straightforward terms, once a week, what may well have been the major contributory factor that caused the Ladbroke Grove disaster was, and perhaps still is, being repeated across the country.
I acknowledge the remarks made by the Deputy Prime Minister in his statement yesterday, in which he said that safety was his primary concern. I am sure that safety is the primary concern of every member of this House. We are all concerned about safety, but we must be certain that any changes to those charged with responsibility for safety will improve standards, not imperil them. In the past few weeks, Railtrack has provided an all-too-easy target for that criticism. However, there is concern and we can all understand why. The public want us to be not only concerned about safety but, when safety may be at risk, they want us to take responsibility and action, where and when appropriate. They will not and should not tolerate undue delay or the failure to assume that responsibility.
There certainly should be concern about the length of time taken for the official response following the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee report on 4 March 1998. Nineteen months ago, on 4 March 1998, the Select Committee report on the Strategic Rail Authority first recommended the transfer of the standards and safety directorate out of the hands of Railtrack. Whether that is the right decision is another question; the crucial question was one of safety, which presumably is why that recommendation was in the report. 513 Two weeks after the report was published, the then Minister of Transport asked the Health and Safety Commission to commence the proposed review of railways standards arrangements to include consideration of the extent to which Railtrack' s current role in enforcing standards might be transferred elsewhere. I remind the House that that was 19 months ago.
It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the public have begun to ask why the response seems to have taken so long. Some months after its first report, the Select Committee returned to that issue. It is noteworthy that eight months after that first report in November 1998 it said thatthe present regulatory system gives Railtrack's Safety and Standards Directorate too much responsibility. The directorate needs to be free-standing and should pass to an independent safety authority, as already recommended.The Select Committee said that nearly 12 months ago. What action did the Government take? How did those responsible respond?
The Government asked the Health and Safety Commission to respond. Its response did not, in either timing or substance, indicate a serious or immediate enough concern for the issues raised. Four months after that November report, the Health and Safety Commission produced a four-page special report, which said that the HSEis conducting a thorough review of Railtrack's roleand would be expected to produce a report in the spring for the Minister of Transport containing a range of options. That report did not come in the spring. The report, called the Tansley report, came several months later—this October. That was 19 months after the issue was first raised by the Select Committee.
The Tansley report was not the only report about railway safety that was sitting on Ministers' desks in October. There was another, which was specifically about signals being passed at danger—the so-called "SPAD" incidents. It was published on 2 September and should have alarmed any Minister. It was highly critical of elements of rail safety. As well as reproducing figures about rail safety that showed a rise in SPADs, it made recommendations—22 in all—to deal with the problem of signals passed at danger.
After the rise in SPAD figures, the report should surely have been referred to Ministers. Can the Minister tell the House when officials first saw that report? When did the Secretary of State first see the report on SPADs published in August?
A number of questions arise that concern not only Railtrack, whose role in safety had already been seriously questioned by the Select Committee 19 months ago, but what action was being taken within the Department during that time, who assumed responsibility for it and who did they meet. The public want to know what happened when the HSE figures landed on Ministers' desks in August of this year showing the dramatic rise in figures. Were they referred to Ministers and what action did Ministers take? Following the HSE report on 2 September, which further drew attention to those figures, what action did officials and Ministers take and whom did they consult?
In his statement yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister said that the Tansley interim report reached his office on the day of the Paddington crash. Will he confirm that that was the same day that it reached officials in his Department?
514 The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that the report raisedserious concerns about the rail industry, largely relating to priorities and decisions on safety standards".Undoubtedly, there are questions to be asked not only on the priorities and safety standards but on decisions and priorities in the Health and Safety Executive and the Department itself. The public will want to know whether Ministers think that, 19 months after the Select Committee expressed serious doubts about rail safety, the production of not a full report but only an interim report with no firm conclusions demonstrates that the Government made an appropriate response, especially in the light of the Southall disaster.
Secondly, the public will want to know why, within five days of the publication of the Tansley interim report, the Deputy Prime Minister should make a statement in which he said that he isminded to transfer the main functions of Railtrack's Safety and Standards Directorate",—[Official Report, 19 October 1999; Vol. 336, c. 268-69.]out of Railtrack. That decision is particularly surprising because the Tansley interim report, to which the Deputy Prime Minister referred and for which he had asked, states:any decision on the way forward should be taken in the light of a wider and more formal sounding of views in the industry … we would recommend this as the next step.Therefore, the public will want to know—and indeed have a right to know—why Ministers and the Deputy Prime Minister specifically rejected that advice and with whom the right hon. Gentleman consulted before making his views known on the Saturday following his rail summit with the Prime Minister.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will forgive me, but I am not sure whether he is in favour of an independent safety authority. Would he make that clear?
§ Mr. Woodward
The hon. Lady's point is extremely well made. I am in favour of the Government getting on with the task—[Interruption.] The Deputy Prime Minister does not like it. He delegates responsibility to others to produce a decision, yet when he has to make a decision, he flies in the face of those who advise him otherwise. He may not like to be reminded of his decision, but he made it—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I cannot have hon. Members and, for that matter, right hon. Members shouting across the Chamber.
§ Mr. Woodward
It is not only extraordinary but astounding.
It is odd, is it not, that for 19 months it seemed impossible for the Government to reach any firm view other than to continue calls for further reviews. Suddenly, following the 515 disaster, it seems that a decision can be reached in a few days—even hours—even though that view flies in the face of those independent people who told the Deputy Prime Minister:any decision … should be taken in the light of a wider and more formal sounding of views in the industry.
§ Mr. Prescott
We will answer and respond to many detailed questions in the debate or by letter if they need to be answered. The hon. Gentleman asks when I was concerned about signals passed on red. Yes, I was—not just now, but last year. I ordered the Health and Safety Executive to bring in an automatic train protection system, which the previous Government had put off because they said that they could not afford it.
§ Mr. Woodward
That is not exactly what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying, but perhaps he is now telling us that he took action in August when he had those figures. We would be delighted to hear this evening what action he took this August when he realised that serious incidents had increased by 25 per cent. It seems tragic that it took a rail disaster to force sufficient attention to be paid to the issue, which had been flagged up 19 months before in the Select Committee report.
During those 19 months, great priority was given to the decisions that were required to deal with the Railways Bill, as well as discussions about punctuality, performance and investment levels. That certainly occupied Ministers and officials. During that time, was equal attention given, and by whom, to the serious questions about safety that had been so blatantly flagged up by the Select Committee—the August figures, the HSE report of September and now the Tansley interim report? What was going on in the Department during August and September?
As the Deputy Prime Minister seems so keen to rise to his feet, perhaps he will tell the House at which point he had a meeting to discuss the rise in SPAD figures, about which he would have received notice in August.
Railtrack's role has borne and will continue to bear considerable scrutiny, but others must bear responsibility as well. We now know that both the Health and Safety Commission and Ministers have long been aware of the dangers courted. We need to know, and the public have a right to know, what action the Department and Ministers were taking during the summer when those figures dramatically changed.
The calls for freedom of information have been much heralded by this Government and yet they have been remarkably secretive about information on some aspects of Railtrack. The Government have been conducting negotiations with Railtrack to award it a contract to run a number of London's tube lines. Yet when pressed on the conditions and terms of that contract, the Deputy Prime Minister refuses to make the information public or to put the contract out to tender. Whatever the merits of the case, what is surely clear now is that the Government have a duty to make all that information publicly available—information on Railtrack, including the secret deals that the Deputy Prime Minister has been conducting regarding the future of London Underground.
§ Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich)
Was the hon. Gentleman aware, when the Conservative Government 516 were in control of our railways, that employees in the industry were afraid to speak up about safety concerns because they were afraid of losing their jobs and of being disciplined in an era of job insecurity? During that time, that Government did nothing to allow those people to speak out about their safety concerns in the industry.
§ Mr. Woodward
That is an important point because part of the culture of British Rail was that it was difficult to speak up and there is still a culture in which it is difficult to do so. We welcome the fact that people are speaking up and revealing malpractice—of course, that is right. Whatever the merits of the case, one person we want to speak up is the Deputy Prime Minister. We want him to tell the House and to publish the terms and conditions under which Railtrack will be given the underground lines. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the interests of the House and the country would be better served if the Deputy Prime Minister did not conduct those negotiations in secret, but published the details.
Confidence in transport safety needs to be restored, but it will not be in a climate of secrecy. A culture of safety rather than one of blame, requires—
§ Mr. Woodward
No, I am about to finish. Such a culture requires the Government to be wholly transparent in their dealings with Railtrack and other transport companies. If, as is true of their dealings with the overground, the Government are transparent about the underground, the public will be reassured. Perhaps tonight the Deputy Prime Minister, who seems so keen to intervene from a sedentary position, will agree to publish that information and allow all the public to see his plans for the underground and his secret deals with Railtrack.
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
I must declare an interest as a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and someone who spent his working life in the railway industry. I am also a director of a National Express subsidiary, which is exclusively a bus company.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) on the way in which he introduced the debate. He did it non-controversially and briefly, for which we are grateful in such a short debate. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) to the Dispatch Box. I always thought that I was his mentor, but he has given that job to my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—[Interruption.] Whichever one of us is responsible, we have done a pretty good job, given his performance tonight. He was both lucid and informative, and I am sure that the House looks forward to hearing from him again.
I am afraid that my congratulations end there. This is the second time that I have heard the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward) speak in recent weeks. He and I addressed a meeting of the Railway Development Society a few Saturdays ago here in London. He demonstrated on that occasion the same weakness that he has demonstrated tonight. If one turns up with a pre-prepared speech, it is a bit hard to ad lib. At that meeting, he accused me of 517 saying various things that I had not said because they were on his brief. Tonight he accused the Government of various things that they had not done because they were on his brief.
How would it be possible to conduct negotiations with Railtrack about the future of the London underground—not that this has very much to do with transport safety—in the full glare of publicity? I do not think that the hon. Gentleman knows very much, given his track record, but I presume that he knows enough about business to be aware that a certain confidentiality must be observed. To accuse my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in the way that he did was deplorable—it suggests that the person who prepared his brief does not know any more about business than he does.
As for the other accusation that the hon. Gentleman made, I find myself, like my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich, confused. I am not sure whether he was complaining that my right hon. Friend had spent all the time since the preliminary report first appeared in spring last year not doing anything or that he acted precipitately in making his decision post-Paddington. He did not make clear which of the two things he was complaining about, but perhaps that is not surprising given the confusion of his speech.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned signals passed at danger. He was right to point out that such incidents had increased in the past 12 months. It is fair to point out that the number of trains on Britain's railways increased by about 1,000 a day in the past 12 months. Given those circumstances, perhaps it is not surprising that the number of SPADs has increased.
§ Mr. Snape
I am accused of complacency by the sidekick of the hon. Member for Witney. He is another one I would not trust to wind up a Hornby 00 on the nursery floor. The number of SPADs has always been fairly high. The difference between the old days and the present day is that they are impossible to conceal. Present day signalling sensors produce their version of a black box so if a driver passes a signal by a few yards, it is automatically recorded.
In the days of oil lamps and steam locomotives, we kept these things quiet to avoid reporting each other. Those days are now gone, perhaps happily, and the vast majority of SPADs are comparatively insignificant matters, although the ones to which the hon. Gentleman tried to draw the House's attention may well merit further investigation. SPADs ought to be seen in the context of the number of train miles. The appalling tragedy at Paddington ought to be seen in the context of other modes of transport. We are rightly horrified by what took place at Ladbroke Grove junction, but two and a half Paddingtons take place on our roads every week of the year in terms of fatalities, largely without the hysteria—I choose my words carefully—that greeted the latest accident.
I know that it is not a fashionable thing to say, but I shall risk saying it. I hope that I do not get too much odium for it. The final responsibility for driving a train lies with the driver. Drivers at Paddington, Southall or Lewes do not suddenly come on red lights, whether they 518 are concealed by overhead gantries or whatever. Drivers get a preliminary caution and a caution signal beforehand, both of which must be acknowledged, as must the approach to the red light. Sadly, both the drivers at Paddington paid the ultimate price for whatever went wrong. It appears that the driver of the Thames turbo passed a signal at danger. The fact is that we pay drivers to drive trains.
I took part in various radio programmes following the Paddington accident. One or two former drivers who called in said that they wondered how the present crop of drivers would have handled trains into and out of Paddington in the old days when they were signalled by oil lamps and automatic train control on the Great Western trains. Great Western was more advanced than any of the other train companies. It was operated only on semaphore distance signals. The general view expressed on the radio was that the problem with driving trains today is that it can be seen to be too easy. People become complacent because they sit in the warm environment of a cab pressing the automatic warning system cancellation button in built-up areas all too frequently. Eventually, the inherent weakness of AWS is demonstrated. Drivers press the button approaching a red light, having pressed it passing cautionary signals, whether double yellow or yellow.
The answer is not to rush into spending £1 billion on the advanced form of automatic train protection. The time to spend that money was after the Clapham disaster in 1988. Railway safety and signalling structures and safety measures have moved on since then.
The hon. Member for Witney demonstrated the unfitness of the Conservative party to be in opposition, let alone in government. The Conservatives criticise the Government for what they term their tardy reaction to the Select Committee report. Let me remind the House that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and I were the Opposition transport spokespersons after Clapham in 1988 when Cecil Parkinson, as he then was, pledged as Transport Secretary that £1 billion would be spent and ATP would be provided throughout Britain's railways.
I cannot remember the number of Transport Secretaries between 1988 and 1997.
§ Mr. Woodward
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way; he has demonstrated his maturity in spades by doing so. I draw to his attention the remarks made by the Labour Minister for Transport in another place. He said on only 6 October this year: 519to be fair to the previous administration, they weren't able to take action on introducing new systems because other alternatives weren't available.Does he disagree with the Minister?
§ Mr. Snape
The hon. Gentleman quotes out of context. He makes a clever public school debating point that has no relevance to what took place between 1988 and 1997. That pledge was given publicly and never implemented. There may well be good reasons why it should not be implemented now. I have tried to explain some of them.
Railway signalling and safety practice has moved on considerably since 1988. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but let me tell him that on the west coast main line, when it is ever modernised—someone said that in a good week its modernisation is announced twice and there is a press conference to follow—ATP will not be of any value. For much of the line, the visual signals will presumably be removed. We will have the continental system of signalling in which the maximum speed for that stretch will be shown to the driver, and if he exceeds it, the brakes will come on automatically. But that is not ATP; we have moved on from there.
I hope that Sir David Davies will not seriously say that we should spend £1 billion on yesterday's technology, given the changes that are likely to transform railway signalling practice in the years to come.
§ Ms Claire Ward (Watford)
Is my hon. Friend aware that TCS, the continental train control system to which he referred, is part of the contract for the updating of the west coast main line?
§ Mr. Snape
I am sure that that is the case. Tilting trains will not work to their proper capability without it. In the meantime, we cannot go on, year after year and, in some cases, month after month, having drivers pass signals at danger.
I do not want to prejudge the results of the inquiry into the Lewes accident, but it appears that a driver set off from a platform against a signal at red. That is a pretty common phenomenon in recent years. Mr. Stanley Hall, who was British Rail's safety expert, wrote a book about train accidents in recent years. That phenomenon is known as "ding, ding and away". It happens so often that, on much modern railway stock, including, as I understand it, the Connex South Eastern trains which were involved at Lewes, an additional safety system is fitted—a driver's reminder device—which, if the signal controlling the exit from the platform is at danger, should be applied in the cab to remind the driver not to pull away if the station staff give him the proceed indication. If that was the case on this occasion—my information is that it was, but I do not wish to prejudge the inquiry—spending £1 billion on ATP is not much good if drivers are incapable of doing the basic part of their job, which is what that particular case amounts to.
Some of my hon. Friends believe, as the papers did in their hysterical reaction to Paddington, that the disaster was all down to privatisation. There are some aspects of privatisation and railway safety about which the House should be concerned. The number of interfaces between the various people involved in railway safety is far greater 520 than it ever was with a publicly owned railway system, but it is not in the interests of Railtrack or the train operating companies to have rail accidents. To put it bluntly, they are bad for business. They will not wish such situations to arise.
Those of my hon. Friends who believe that the Treasury would have provided ATP—it did not provide it under a Conservative Government from 1988—should take a train up to Manchester. The hon. Member for Witney heard me recount this story at the Railway Development Society meeting. Before they get to Manchester, they will pass through Stockport where they will see a signal box where I used to work nearly 40 years ago. That was supposed to be removed as part of a modernisation scheme, but it is still there.
Let no one be kidded into believing that the Treasury will provide unlimited funds to modernise Britain's railway system. The privatisation argument is over. We must ensure that there are no further Paddingtons which can be attributed to the number of people who have to be consulted before fairly basic and simple changes are made to the railway network. The fact is that the Treasury never provided for railway safety under successive Governments, Labour and Conservative alike. We are where we are today, and we must go forward on the basis of the private operators and Railtrack.
I hold no particular brief for Mr. Gerald Corbett. I am told that he has lots of share options and has made lots of money, but that does not mean that the press should hang him at dawn because two trains collided outside Paddington. Given some of the hysteria in the press against Ministers and Railtrack bosses, it is no wonder that people are inclined to keep their heads down when anything goes wrong if that is the way in which the press conducts itself following a tragedy on the scale of the one we saw two weeks ago.
My final word concerns my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. In the years that we spent working together, I probably fell out with him more often than any other hon. Member, but I never lost my admiration for the fact that his concern for the railway and for transport safety generally was always paramount. I am confident that the decisions that he has taken so far during his term of office and the decisions that he will take in the years to come will give us a better railway system, something that all three parties represented in the House tonight should want. But, listening to what is laughably called the official Opposition, I sometimes wonder exactly what sort of railway they want and exactly who they want to blame for tragedies such as the one that we are discussing tonight.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)
I start by commiserating with those of my constituents who were in any way involved in the Paddington crash and also with its victims. We hope that they will make a speedy recovery and that everything possible is done to ensure that our railways are safer in the future. That involves some short-term and some long-term measures, but before I go into those I want to nail one or two misconceptions. It is utter nonsense to say that somehow the safety of the railways has been prejudiced by privatisation. It is also 521 utter nonsense to say that the safety of the railways was in any way prejudiced by the current health and safety regime.
In the short term, it is odd that one of the country's leading signal experts should say that there are still signals at Paddington that are partly or totally obscured by metal girders. Such problems should be put right tomorrow, not next week, next month or next year. Some measures could be put in place immediately. It is completely wrong that each year there are 52 serious incidents, one a week, of drivers passing red signals—SPADs. That requires immediate tough action. There should be a proper investigation of every SPAD incident. All drivers involved in such incidents should be properly accountable for them and should be properly trained so that they do not take them as lightly as they have done in the past.
Another common misconception is that somehow the previous Government did not introduce the proper train protection and warning systems, or the ATP system. [Interruption.] It is all very well Labour Members saying that they did not do it, but the ATP system was fitted to this particular train and it is thought to have been on—that will be confirmed by the current investigation—so it does not seem to be the system that was at fault.
Before rushing to conclusions, we should consider the Tansley report, paragraph 46 of which states:We therefore think it important that any decision on the way forward should be taken in the light of a wider and more formal sounding of views in the industry".Those are the short-term measures that should be taken. Meanwhile, apart from the measures that I have outlined, the Government are rightly speeding up the introduction of the train protection and warning system. I welcome that, but it will take four or five years to introduce, so short-term measures must be taken now.
One particular aspect of the Tansley report which has not been referred to this evening, but is worth looking at, relates to the further report of the Select Committee of 9 December last year. Referring to the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, it said:In common with all areas of commercial endeavour, the prime responsibility for ensuring safety on the railway must rest with the party who is in control of the activity.Therefore, whatever the Government do to alter responsibility for ensuring safety standards, safety as such will always be a matter for those involved, and that will be either Railtrack or the train operating companies. We cannot take away that responsibility. The question then is who should set the standards—the British Standards Institute or the Health and Safety Executive—and who should ensure that they are met. One aspect of that must be the proper training and supervision of the drivers. That is a short-term measure that could be taken immediately.
Tonight we have heard a lot about railways, but the Liberal Democrats' motion is wide, so I want now to deal with the possible sale of National Air Traffic Services. I do not care whether the Government call it a public-private partnership or whatever; I shall be delighted if they bring new badly needed investment into Britain's air traffic control system. It is a highly complex matter which needs new investment. Our already hugely overcrowded sky needs the most advanced information technology systems available. In that respect, the sky over Heathrow is, at certain times of the day, and even with the most sophisticated IT systems available, too 522 overcrowded. I urge the Minister to develop a better regional airport structure. There is no reason why we should not make better use of regional airports. Birmingham, for example, is under-utilised at present. In any event, I welcome the Government's proposals to bring badly needed private investment to the air traffic control system.
Mention has been made tonight of road safety. Although the number of deaths on our roads has fallen dramatically—as the Minister has confirmed—2,421 deaths is still too many. The Minister is nodding; that point is, and should be, uncontroversial between us, but the Government propose to cut the road building programme to shreds. We will not get rid of cars and motorists by cutting the road building programme and it will not improve road safety.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Yes, that is part of the solution, but some severe accident black spots still require capital investment. I am grateful for the Minister's intervention because it makes my point. The A417/419 runs through my constituency. It is an arterial road that forms a strategic link between the M4 and the M5 and is a modern dual carriageway that has been upgraded so that one can drive from Sicily to the north of Scotland. However, on one small stretch of the road—the Nettleton Bottom link—in my constituency, the dual carriageway is missing and fatalities have already occurred in that area. The Government say that they cannot afford capital programmes, but how many more fatalities will my constituents have to suffer? How much more misery and congestion will my constituents suffer from the motorists who are funnelled in from every direction to that strategic chicane?
We must get our priorities in order. A senior official from the Highways Agency described that stretch of road as one of the worst bottlenecks in the country. Every fatality on our roads costs £1 million, with the inquest and other procedures. How many more fatalities must we have on that road, with the grief and misery caused by every serious accident? An accident is waiting to happen, because the pub at the bottom of the worst bit of the road holds public functions. It needs only another lorry to shunt a car into that pub and many fatalities will result.
I see the Minister nodding again, and I will write to him on the issue. Last week, we had a public meeting in the village hall, which was full; and people even stood outside to listen at the window. It is a serious issue for my constituency and for the nation, because that road links the north and the south, and London to the midlands because it cuts off the Bristol link. I appeal to Ministers not to slash the roads programme. Instead, roads should be improved to make them safer for motorists—who should not be penalised by severe petrol and diesel increases either; they simply make life a misery for those in rural areas.
Another aspect of transport safety affects schools and schoolchildren. Accidents happen every day involving schoolchildren crossing busy roads, with too many cars driven by a single adult coming to drop off and pick up 523 children. That is environmental nonsense. I wish to suggest to the Minister and to the Deputy Prime Minister, if only he were listening instead of talking, a good scheme that was pioneered in my constituency 15 years ago. The dial-a-ride bus is a good model for the rest of the country. [Interruption.] I wish that the Deputy Prime Minister would listen to what I am saying about a sensible system that works, instead of muttering. A group of mothers could dial up the bus instead of all driving their cars singly. [Interruption.] The Deputy Prime Minister sighs, but I do not know why he is making such a fuss about the suggestion.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
That may be true, but it is a good system and should be extended elsewhere. If the Deputy Prime Minister would provide more than the paltry amount he has allocated for rural buses, perhaps it could be extended. It could reduce school accidents and it would be beneficial for the environment. The Government could do far more for road safety.
§ Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley)
I thank the Liberal Democrat party for devoting its valuable parliamentary time to debating the increasingly important subject of transport safety. My brief contribution will be mainly about the future of safety on our rail network, and I make no apology for narrowing the debate to that issue. We railway enthusiasts must repeat, wherever and whenever possible, that rail is still the safest way to carry people or freight from point A to point B.
When the driver of a local train went through a red signal near Ladbroke Grove junction on 5 October, 30 people were killed and 245 injured in the carnage that ensued. That was bad enough, but the tragedy may have caused thousands of people to move back to using their cars due to services terminating at Ealing Broadway, and the ripples of anxiety extend well beyond the Thames valley. When commuters resort to their cars for travel, their chances of suffering death or injury are 15 times greater.
I therefore welcome wholeheartedly the actions of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. He has speedily put in place a thorough investigation of what went so terribly wrong that fateful morning two weeks ago. He is also determined to put matters right and, where necessary, to make available the money needed for essential improvements to the system. Lord Cullen is to look into the precise causes of the Paddington disaster. His inquiry will go much wider, and examine the safety of our rail network in general. It will also consider whether the privatised industry has the correct safety structure.
It was such a very great pity that the previous Government were so keen to sell off British Rail on the cheap that, through British Rail and Railtrack, they invested £548 million of taxpayer's money in the hiring of accountants, barristers and City experts to promote the sale. I believe that that money could have been invested 524 in the promotion of safety on our railways, possibly through the installation of train protection and warning systems throughout the network.
Sir David Davies, the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, has been asked to assess the efficiency and costs of train protection systems, so that the Government can formulate an action plan to reduce the incidence of signals passed at danger. By that means, it is hoped that future disasters will be avoided.
Apparently, the interim report from the chief inspector of railways, compiled immediately after the Ladbroke Grove crash, suggests that it could have been prevented had the train protection and warning system been installed and functioning, both on the track and on the Thames train.
§ Mr. Snape
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that Sir David Davies bases his conclusions on engineering factors, rather than on financial considerations? As he is acknowledged to be an expert in engineering, will not his conclusions show whether it is sensible to go forward with TPWS, or some alternative system?
§ Mrs. Cryer
Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. Clearly, the matter of cost will have to be considered, but that should be of negligible importance in comparison with considerations of railway safety.
The three enforcement notices that have been issued by the railways inspectorate are welcome, if somewhat belated. One prohibits the use of signal 109 at Paddington; the second requires Railtrack to introduce, within the next three weeks, additional controls at the 21 other signals passed at danger most frequently. The third will reduce risk at all remaining signals with a recent record of being passed at danger.
The Government's policy of getting people out of their cars and on to trains—or buses for short journeys—and of encouraging the movement of goods by rail freight rather than by heavy lorry has my full support, as I believe that it will prevent injuries and loss of life and improve the environment. However, to achieve those changes, passengers and the movers of goods must have confidence that the alternatives being promoted are cheap, reliable and safe.
If any of those three essential elements are lacking, our battle for the hearts and minds of commuters, families on the move and manufacturing industry will be lost, and the carnage of Ladbroke Grove will be repeated time and again on our roads. There may not be the same visual impact but, every day, families will be bereaved and individuals terribly injured. There must be a severe conflict of interest when an organisation is under pressure from shareholders to make profits and yet also has a duty of care for the safety of its passengers. I trust that the measures already announced and the advent of the Strategic Rail Authority will remove the possibility of such a conflict. I also hope that the Government will reconsider—even now—their commitment to the privatisation of national air traffic control in the light of the Paddington tragedy.
§ Ms Claire Ward (Watford)
Like all hon. Members I want to offer my condolences to all those involved in the Paddington rail crash. I was shocked to hear of the crash: just two years after Southall, we were once again faced with a crash that would bring the safety of our railways into question. What dismayed me most was that the tragedy in Watford in 1996 seemed not even to have been taken into account, given what happened at Southall and Paddington. I have been further disappointed by the debate tonight; in all the speeches that I have heard about reports, about signals passed at danger—SPADs—and about safety, there has been not one mention of HM railway inspectorate's report into the Watford accident, a report that makes fascinating reading.
I was working in the constituency when that crash occurred, and I called for a public inquiry. I do not repeat that call; I am well aware that it is no longer realistic. However, I hope that the recommendations made in the Watford report and the circumstances of the Watford crash in August 1996 will be taken into account. I have made representations to the chairman of the Southall inquiry, and I hope that the report will be taken into account in the Paddington inquiry. Any recommendations made after Paddington and Southall should be tested against the circumstances of the Watford crash.
From what we know so far about Paddington, the similarities between that crash and the one in Watford are striking. People whose knowledge is much greater than mine suggest that those similarities are greater than the similarities between Paddington and Southall. Paddington and Watford had in common multiple SPADs—judging from the speculation that we have heard so far about Paddington. On 8 August 1996, a driver passed a red signal on the route from Euston to Crewe. The signal had been passed at danger several times. The crash resulted in the death of one person and injuries to 68 more. How must my constituents and the families of those who were involved in that crash feel about the fact that the subsequent recommendations of the inquiry report have not been acted on?
The report was published in April 1998, and I refer hon. Members—particularly my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions—to its recommendations. One of the issues regarding SPADs was that the British Railways Board group standard was superseded in March 1995 by the Railtrack group standard, which clarified certain duties and obligations that Railtrack and train operators were meant to put in place. That became effective in April 1995.
One of the key changes was a requirement that Railtrack should convene signal siting committees wherever a signal had been passed at danger more than once in 12 months or three or more times in a three-year period. Those circumstances certainly applied in the case of the Watford crash.
I want my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to question whether a signal siting committee was in operation in respect of the Paddington crash and whether previous SPADs reported at that junction had led to the convening of a signal siting committee. If they had, the committee might well have found that the signal was not easily seen by drivers. That was one of the issues that came out of the Watford crash. The report recommended that Railtrack should review its procedures to ensure 526 compliance with its own group standard in respect of the convening of signal siting committees. It was further recommended that the standard itself be reviewed so that following multiple SPAD incidents at any given signal, the SSC could assess all risk factors that could contribute to a SPAD incident. Had that happened after previous SPADs, we might not have got into the situation we now face with Paddington. I cannot overstress my disappointment that the recommendations following the Watford crash do not appear to have been implemented by Railtrack yet.
I want to draw attention to other issues relating to the Watford crash. It was recommended that train drivers who repeatedly passed SPADs should have special training from the train operating company. I would be interested to learn whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State believes that that policy has been adopted by the TOCs since the recommendations were produced.
Her Majesty's inspectorate recommended that the TOCs audit their SPAD management systems to ensure that driving briefings are effective and that signal issues that concern drivers are pursued vigorously with Railtrack to provide satisfactory solutions. Over the past two weeks, several train drivers have said in the media that they have repeatedly reported signals that are difficult to see and where there are continual problems. I am concerned that, yet again, a recommendation that came out of the Watford crash that may well have prevented the Paddington crash has not been implemented. I would be interested to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's views on that.
This is a serious issue for my constituents. They faced the problems of the Watford rail crash and saw the deaths at the Southall and Paddington crashes. They wonder how many times this has to happen. How many reports, how many inquiries, how many different recommendations do we have to hear before something is done? I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been working hard on these issues but I would like a specific answer on this report. If he cannot provide it to the House in his reply, I would like to hear from him in writing. Like most hon. Members, I will have to respond to my constituents, who are concerned that despite the crash in Watford, there are several similarities with the Paddington rail crash that have not yet been dealt with and recommendations that have not been implemented.
Of course, other issues are raised by the Watford rail crash and the report—especially the fact that nobody has been blamed for the crash. The driver was prosecuted and acquitted, but nobody—Railtrack or the train operating companies—has been called to account. The inspectorate made several recommendations, some of which have been implemented by Railtrack and the train operating companies. However, at the end of the day, no one has been held to account for the 68 people who were injured and the one woman who died in that accident.
I want to raise some wider safety issues with my right hon. Friend. During the past two weeks, we have heard much about whether Railtrack should continue to be responsible for safety. Railtrack cannot remain responsible for controlling all safety matters. As a result of the crash, public confidence in Railtrack is low.
I want to make one point about where that responsibility should lie. It has been suggested that it should go to the Health and Safety Executive. I have some 527 concern about that possibility. As we know, even if the HSE were responsible for setting those new safety standards, it would, through the railways inspectorate, investigate the circumstances of a crash. In the event that the safety standards were not fulfilled, the organisation that set them would end up investigating itself. Will my right hon. Friend carefully take that point on board?
So much blame is put on individuals—whether they are train drivers or company management. People who have been involved in crashes want to know two things: what happened and why it happened. Most important, they want to know that it will not happen again. We can blame a range of people—Railtrack or drivers—but we must all work together to ensure that these types of tragedy do not happen again.
I want to raise with my right hon. Friend the safety of our railway tracks and of our trains generally. On Saturday, I was on a train from my constituency to Manchester—unfortunately following Watford football club on its trek to Manchester United and the rather disastrous turn it took there. On the trip to Manchester, the Virgin train was subject to an attack by some mindless idiots who threw something from a bridge, hitting the power cables of the train. In the light of the Paddington rail crash—we did not yet know of the crash in Lewes—hon. Members can imagine the fear that struck the passengers when they heard an almighty crash on the roof of the carriage and one of the power cables smashed into the glass on the side of the carriage.
Unfortunately, we were stranded six miles from Nuneaton for an hour and a half while we waited for a diesel engine to take the train to Nuneaton before we could regain some power. Of course, the people travelling on that train automatically thought about what had happened two weeks before. However, in relation to safety, I am also concerned as to how we secure our lines and trains from those mindless idiots who throw things from bridges. Unfortunately, that is becoming all too common an occurrence—objects thrown at trains or on to railway lines that could derail trains, or the general access to tracks by children in school holidays, who put their own lives at risk as well as those of train travellers. I have written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions on that subject. I urge him and other hon. Members to consider ways in which we can improve security along our railway tracks, for the sake of all concerned.
§ 9.5 pm
§ Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)
I shall confine myself to asking two brief questions of Ministers, the first of which relates to the public-private partnership for London Underground. One of the main criticisms of rail privatisation is that the proliferation of companies involved in providing rail services has led to, for example, communication problems, the culture of blame mentioned several times tonight and to insufficient investment by Railtrack in the rail network. How will the Government ensure that the same communication problems and culture of blame will not arise in an underground system that is split into three separate companies plus one company running the train services, with Railtrack a major player in the system?
528 My second question is about National Air Traffic Services. The Minister stressed repeatedly that safety is paramount and I accept that he believes that that is so, even if many Labour Back Benchers have expressed their concern by signing an early-day motion on the Government's proposals. I seek confirmation that the Government have assessed the impact of NATS' part privatisation in relation to the implementation date for the Swanwick system. The Minister must know that, if that system is further delayed, there will be an impact on safety—there can be no dispute about that.
I want to be reassured that the Government have considered that issue: the Minister must confirm that it will not affect the implementation date and cause it to slip even further. The Deputy Prime Minister has already said that the date has already slipped a long way and I hope that he was not suggesting that it could slip further still. All I seek tonight is reassurance on those two key questions.
§ 9.7 pm
§ Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster, Central)
I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak on an issue that is of great immediate concern following the tragedy of the Paddington rail crash.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), whom I congratulate on his appointment, set out several of the initiatives that the Government are taking to ensure that the highest safety standards are adopted throughout our rail system. We are doing as much as possible to prevent similar accidents from occurring.
There is no doubt that most people living in our modern society expect to be able to travel quickly, easily and safely. There are far greater demands on our transport system than ever before and our economy and businesses depend on good, safe transport to succeed. The development of that transport system has brought greater mobility for individuals, but it carries inherent dangers. Other speakers have referred to the need to improve safety in the rail industry, but, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and my hon. Friend the Minister have said, it is also important to consider what we can do to improve road safety.
I remind the House of some of the statistics on road fatalities. Each year 3,500 people are killed and 150,000 people are injured on our roads. It is not only the cost in terms of human tragedy that could have been avoided; those accidents cost about £11.5 billion in real terms—money that could be saved if we did more to prevent them.
We all welcome the decrease in road accidents in recent years. We now have the lowest rate of road deaths among the main industrialised nations, and that is most welcome, but we must constantly try to find out what we can do to bring those figures down even further.
No doubt reducing speeding could play a vital part in improving safety on our roads, and I welcome the fact that, as the Minister said earlier, the Government are reviewing their speed policy. I know from my constituency experience how strongly people feel about reducing speed limits in residential areas. I am sure that all Members here will have been to meetings at which their constituents complain constantly about the danger to 529 their children caused by speeding in residential areas and outside schools, which causes enormous problems and makes parents worried about their children's safety. The hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) mentioned that subject.
The Minister said that the Government had recently given local authorities the power to introduce 20 mph zones without having to seek the consent of the Secretary of State. That is welcome, especially because a recent Transport Research Laboratory study showed that the average number of accidents in areas in which 20 mph zones had been introduced had been cut by 60 per cent., and the number of accidents involving child pedestrians and cyclists had fallen by 67 per cent.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has estimated that inappropriate speed is a factor in about one third of road accidents, which cause 1,200 deaths a year. We know that the severity of accidents, too, is linked to speed. Five per cent. of pedestrians hit by a vehicle at 20 mph will die, whereas if the vehicle is travelling at 30 mph the proportion of deaths increases to 45 per cent.; 85 per cent. of people hit by a vehicle at 40 mph will die.
The powers granted to local authorities could play a vital part in reducing accidents. Will the Minister tell the House to what extent local authorities are taking up the new powers, and whether there is anything else that he could do, perhaps by encouraging councils to exchange best practice in setting up 20 mph zones? I know from my discussions with local authorities that they would like guidance from the Department about where such zones have been set up to the best effect. They would also like to know whether the Government intend to set targets for local authorities, and monitor the effectiveness of the zones and the reduction in accidents that may result.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
Does my hon. Friend agree that there could be a programme to educate motorway drivers, including those who crawl along in the middle lane and cause bottlenecks, accidents and deaths? Would not that, too, bring about an overall cost saving?
§ Ms Winterton
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. That needs to be considered, and I hope that the Government will include such a programme in their forthcoming safety review.
I now wish to refer to funding for speed cameras. A report by the police research group reveals that serious accidents decrease by 28 per cent. where speed cameras are sited. There are now about 2,000 speed camera sites throughout Britain, but the cost of installing and maintaining them means that some police forces will have perhaps only one in eight of the devices working at any one time. Drivers then begin to realise that if they speed past cameras they are unlikely to be fined or otherwise penalised, which is clearly unsatisfactory.
The police and local authorities have asked the Government to allow them to use a percentage of the money raised from fixed penalty motoring fines or to impose on the fine an additional charge to pay for the cameras. That money could then be diverted to police forces and local authorities to assist them with the cost of installing and maintaining speed cameras. The Government said in their transport White Paper that they were reviewing the funding arrangements for speed 530 cameras. Will the Minister assure me that his Department is pressing for such hypothecation so that the revenue from fines can be returned to the agencies that maintain and install the cameras?
I take this opportunity to address transport safety for blind and partially sighted people. I recently met representatives from the Royal National Institute for the Blind who raised the issue of train travel. It is hard for those of us who do not have sight problems to imagine how difficult it must be for blind and partially sighted people to access public transport, particularly for train travel. The Government should consider the RNIB's suggestion of having announcements on trains about, for example, which side of the train the platform is on, particularly in areas where the old slam-door carriages are used. Announcements could be made also when there is a large gap between the train and the platform, as on the London underground, where there is a "mind the gap" announcement. That would greatly assist blind and partially sighted people and would have the added benefit of encouraging more of them to use public transport.
§ Mr. Brake
Does the hon. Lady agree that one of the key problems is the need to ensure that train operating companies—in my constituency, Connex South Eastern—provide the escort service that they say they will provide to blind and partially sighted passengers? That service would escort passengers from the station to the train and from their destination station to a taxi rank or bus station.
§ Ms Winterton
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. That was another point made by the RNIB. The key is to ensure that there is consistency. The greatest problem is that one company may offer a good service to help passengers off the train and to a taxi or bus or to help them with their luggage, but passengers cannot rely on that help throughout the system, so they cannot have the confidence to make the journey. I hope that my hon. Friends will consider the RNIB's suggestions, because it would be to the advantage of us all to ensure that rail travel was made easier.
I know that the Government are giving the highest priority to improving transport safety, and I very much agree with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) about the personal commitment of the Deputy Prime Minister to doing so. Especially important has been the setting up of the comprehensive transport safety review, mentioned in the Government amendment. However, I hope that Ministers will consider some of the issues that I have raised tonight, so that we may make travel safer and reduce the misery of the deaths and accidents that have afflicted so many people in this country.
§ Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East)
I shall not speak for long, but I thought that, as an ex-railway person and ex-chairman of an airport, some titbits of my personal knowledge might help the debate.
I shall start by trying to put things in context. It is important to recognise that in almost every mode of transport—bus, rail, aviation or the car—safety has improved significantly, not only in the two years since the Government came to office, but since 1987. That improvement cannot be attributed to any one Government. 531 I believe that it results from the fact that people have become more safety-conscious in many respects, and from new technology.
We should always aim to make things safer. When I worked for British Railways, there was what was called the failsafe culture. It was drummed into everyone that safety was the most important thing, which must be kept at the back of one's mind—not timetables or profits, only safety.
Everything had a back-up. Then we had the automatic warning system and the dead man's handle. Now that automatic train protection and the train protection and warning system are being introduced, we should not think of any of those things as exclusive. We should not suppose that any single thing will make trains safe, because it will not. The automatic warning system never made trains completely safe. What was called the dead man's handle—it was actually a foot pedal—never made trains safe although it was supposed to. None of the systems that are to be introduced will ever make trains completely safe.
It is a tragic fact that almost all the changes that have made railways safer have resulted from a major disaster.
§ Mrs. Laing
I do not disagree with anything that the hon. Gentleman has said, but does he agree with his hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), for whose expertise on transport matters I have great respect, who rightly said that it would be pointless for any organisation—public, private or a mixture—to spend a large amount of money on any system unless and until it was proved that that system would certainly work?
§ Mr. Heppell
No system will work 100 per cent., and it is a false economy to decide not to introduce a system because it would prevent only two thirds of accidents. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East is correct; there will always be driver injuries and unforeseen circumstances. Even when we have ATP, there will be a way to isolate that system on every train. It is impossible to have ATP without a way of isolating it. Otherwise, if the system goes wrong, the engine is effectively stranded. If that happens on a main line, an accident will be waiting to happen. It is necessary to get trains off the line if a safety system has failed.
Individual drivers or signalmen will always make mistakes, but that should not rule out the introduction of safety measures. Indeed, we should bring them in as quickly as possible. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in that respect. We do not need a crystal ball, because the record book sets out what has happened. In 1997, my right hon. Friend was calling for the Health and Safety Commission to produce proposals on rail safety. In March 1998, the Government were asking the HSC to accelerate its review of Railtrack' s role in the setting of safety standards. I think that it was in July 1998 that my right hon. Friend signed the orders that will allow mark I stock with slamming doors to be dealt with, and the train protection and warning system to be introduced as soon as possible; I think decisions on those matters were brought forward by two years. We shall have none of the mark I stock in use after 2003. Similarly, TPWS will be in place by 2003.
532 It should be understood that TPWS is not perfect. It will not always be the answer to eliminating disasters. However, if we are to believe the technical advice that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has been given, TPWS could prevent about two thirds of signals passed at danger incidents, which will mean a significant decrease in the number of rail accidents.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking a decision on TPWS. However, it should not stop us examining even more advanced train protection systems. New systems will come on to the market but they will take longer to develop than TPWS. We cannot wait for those systems to be developed. Instead, we must act now and introduce available protection systems. We must then try to ensure that more advanced systems are introduced as they are developed, and as it becomes apparent that they will work. Clearly we do not want to spend public money on things that do not work.
The Government's record on the railways has been exemplary. I am merely stating a fact and not trying to curry favour with my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. However, it would be nice to see a smile from him every now and again.
There are other important issues apart from rail safety. We must recognise that the number of people killed on our roads is still significantly higher than we would like it to be. As has been said already this evening, there are still more people killed on the roads than in railway or aviation accidents. Our roads are still the most dangerous places in transport terms.
I hope that the Opposition will not try to play political games in terms of the pro-car and anti-car debate. I drive a car and so does my right hon. Friend, although my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary does not. Most of us drive cars and we want to be able to continue using them. However, we must recognise that we cannot continue using our cars as we do at present.
A significant point has been made by the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) about people who use their cars to take their children to school. I pass a school every morning on my way to the office in my constituency. If there is going to be an accident, it will be there, outside the school, where cars jockey for position to park right by the school gates. That cannot continue. There are other options, such a dial-a-bus. Some of the alternatives seem daft, but they are feasible. One suggestion is for people to pick up children on the way to school and take a trainload of them to school. All such ideas could help and should not be ruled out.
The real anti-car policy would be to do nothing. It would be bad for the car driver, bad for the pedestrian, bad for my children's lungs and my grandchildren's health—I do not want any of them to suffer because of the pollution being emitted into the air—and bad for the world. Everybody has heard of global warming.
§ Mrs. Laing
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again; it is very kind of him. Will he encourage the Deputy Prime Minister to build roads that make towns and villages safer by building more bypasses to take dangerous trucks, lorries and fast cars out of villages and towns through which they should not pass in the first place? That is what the Deputy Prime Minister should be doing with the transport budget.
§ Mr. Heppell
I shall not take the simplistic view. Building more roads does not mean that people will be safer. In general, building more roads means that more 533 people will be killed because there will be more cars on the roads, but there are areas where bypasses should be built. In some cases it is common sense to build bypasses to protect small villages and make them safer. If my memory serves me well, the Government built more bypasses in one year than the Conservative Government did in the previous seven, so we shall take no lectures from Opposition Members. We are not against bypasses—but I return to the issue of safety.
We cannot continue the Conservative policies of removing obstacles from roads. In 20 mph zones and where there have been sleeping policemen and other real obstacles that have made drivers physically slow down—not just a sign showing a speed limit of 30 mph—there has been a reduction in the number of children killed.
I am quite happy if Opposition Members have to spend another 10 or 20 minutes, half an hour or even two hours on their journeys if that means that children's lives are safe. I do not want to be party political, but I am pleased that the Opposition are returning to the views of the earlier Conservative Government on transport, rather than the views expressed by their shadow Secretary of State in his paper on transport, which were crazy and a recipe for killing children on our roads.
My final point relates to the argument about the National Air Traffic Services. Much of the argument is fuelled by a misunderstanding about how air safety operates. NATS is not responsible for safety. That is the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority. I am quite happy with the suggestion that 46 per cent. of the assets that are currently in NATS should be sold off to the private sector, but control of that body should be retained to ensure that the public interest is protected. The Deputy Prime Minister has given an undertaking that safety will remain with a public body and will not be allowed to go into the private sector.
I think that the same undertaking works for Railtrack. I shall not argue that we should renationalise the railways. Although I have a sneaking fancy to do that at some time—not necessarily in the near future—I recognise that the billions of pounds needed for renationalisation are not available. We can, however, have the same safety measures by ensuring that the safety aspects at present undertaken by Railtrack are carried out by a public body. The same applies to NATS, and we must not confuse the arguments about assets and about safety.
§ Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
Transport safety is clearly of great concern to Members of the House and to the country at large. We have discussed a range of air, sea, road and, in particular, rail issues and, very sadly, we have done that in the context of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. Like many other Members of the House, I extend my condolences to all those who have been directly affected by the crash and the many others who are still injured and suffering as a consequence of it.
The debate has been sombre as well as wide ranging, although the contributions have been extremely encouraging, and the tone in which the majority of it has been conducted is welcomed by Members on the Liberal Democrat Benches. The speeches of the hon. Members for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) and for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell), who have detailed 534 knowledge of the rail safety environment, were clearly informed by their own experiences and concentrated on issues that are of real concern to everybody. The hon. Member for Watford (Ms Ward) made an important contribution about the lessons of the Watford rail accident. Many other speeches, including that of the hon. Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), broadened the discussion and took in important aspects of the debate on road safety.
The essential principles that we have been discussing, which are at the core of all the debates about and different aspects of transport safety concerns, come back to public safety and the need for us to address it seriously. I agree with the Minister's opening comments, which were supported by the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward), about the efforts of the many in all the different sectors of our public and private transport systems who dedicate themselves day after day to maintaining public safety and trying to ensure the highest possible standards.
Closely linked to public safety, however, is public confidence, which routinely takes a battering when tragic events such as the Paddington rail crash occur. We have concerns about safety. Regardless of everybody's best efforts to achieve the highest safety standards, we need to ensure, in all circumstances, that there is public confidence. We have to do that in the context of a rapidly changing world in which the need for modern infrastructure—be it for our airlines, for the railway system, on our roads or on the sea—requires adequate and proper investment and funding. Otherwise, we cannot hope for a properly safe, effective and efficient transport system.
At the root of those concerns, many of which have been expressed this evening, is the matter of where the profit motive and concern for safety come into conflict with one another. Many people recognise that it is not necessarily the first desire of companies such as Railtrack and others to have responsibility for setting and policing standards. My hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) made our party's concerns about the conflict of interest within the way in which Railtrack operates clear at the outset of the debate. We on these Benches do not think that that built-in dilemma and the serious conflicts of interest between the need to generate profit and to establish safety should be maintained.
We welcome the Deputy Prime Minister's comment, which was echoed by his colleague, that he is minded to remove responsibility for safety and setting standards from Railtrack.
However, I should like to reinforce a point that many others have made: although responsibility for setting standards should be removed from Railtrack, we must not develop the notion that Railtrack will have no responsibility for safety. People at all levels, whether they work in the rail service, on airlines, at sea or on the roads, are responsible for safety, and we must develop that culture.
Time and again, we must return to the core issue of funding. The sums discussed ever since the Clapham rail disaster, and many other tragic incidents since, have brought us back to the issue of funding. The Deputy Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions that funding is not an issue, but we need clarity about who will provide 535 that funding. Will it be Railtrack or the train operating companies concerned, or will the Government support developments in safety with further infusions of cash?
We have had a wide-ranging debate and I wish to deal with the issue of the National Air Traffic Services and the dilemma that the Government now face. This is where the need for new infrastructure and the problems of public safety come into sharp contrast. Demands on air services are increasing and new technology is undoubtedly required, but the question of who should fund the expansion then becomes an issue. Is Treasury nervousness about the cost of the new technology driving the whole issue of privatising NATS? The Liberal Democrats have their suspicions, and we have seen little to make us believe otherwise.
Future costs and investment are significant, but the proceeds from the sale of NATS formed a crucial part of earlier Treasury calculations. The most recent calculations and projections, and regular comments from the Government Benches, highlight the fact that the public finances are now in good shape. In the context of a public debate about the future of public safety and other transport issues, it is now time to refocus and reconsider the proposals being put forward.
Few people believe that privatisation, partial or otherwise, of NATS is a good idea. It causes concern to pilots, air traffic controllers and the public. Moreover, despite the Minister's comments about proceeding on a non-partisan basis, I remind him that an early-day motion has been signed by more than 100 of his colleagues, who are very concerned about the proposals. Even today in Prime Minister's questions, the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh (Dr. Strang) raised the issue and urged the Government again to ensure that they do not rush ahead before proper consultation has taken place. If the consultation is as thorough as it should be, I believe that the responses will be overwhelming and the privatisation will go no further.
Demands on the service are growing seriously. We have already seen operational problems in Swanwick, which was due to open in 1996 but was delayed due to a catalogue of problems. However, the question must be asked how privatising the service would help that process, not as a result of funding but, much more seriously, because of the distraction that privatisation would cause to senior managers in the service at a critical time of growing air traffic. There are alternatives. The service does not need to be privatised. The Select Committee chaired by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) proposed some real alternatives, not least the successful Canadian model, where private bond funding has been found. We already know that the cost of the service is recovered from those who use it and we believe that that principle can be extended.
Briefly, on other areas and the sea in particular, Liberal Democrats are greatly concerned that the campaign to preserve coastguard stations, which has been running for many months, has not resulted in a change of Government opinion or approach. Again, public safety is critical to the issue. Surely the safety of seafarers must come first in this debate. Yes, we accept that more has to be done in telecommunications, but closing coastguard stations smacks more of a need to save money and to fund the new technology, rather than to prioritise safety. 536 The National Audit Office said as much in a report in 1997–98. Another report produced by the Transport Sub-Committee pointed out that local knowledge is essential. Coastguard stations and coastguard officers are a fundamental tool in ensuring safety at sea.
This evening, we heard comments about London Underground from my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake). There are concerns. At a time when we are highlighting the fact that the fragmentation of the rail system may be a contributory factor in the worsening conditions on our railways—indeed, it is seen that way by most people—the Government are going ahead with plans similarly to fragment London Underground. That is a matter of serious concern. Surely the Government will now reconsider it.
This is an important debate on public safety. Major concerns have been raised on both sides of the House. As the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister have said on other occasions, it is important that we all look for solutions as swiftly and practically as possible. Once again we point out that, if we do not move from a culture of blame to a culture of safety, we will have failed those involved in Paddington and elsewhere.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Chris Mullin)
On the whole, this has been a serious and thoughtful debate, in keeping with the gravity of the issue. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) struck just the right note when he moved the motion, as did his colleague in replying to the debate. I was disappointed—I put it no higher—that the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward) lowered the tone of the debate somewhat and, perhaps inadvertently, generated more heat than light. I will do my best to deal with some of his questions.
First, I welcome the widespread recognition that there are no simple, knee-jerk solutions to the problems that we face with transport safety. Most of those who spoke acknowledged that fact. Indeed, the chairman of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority, Sir Alastair Morton, rightly warned only today that if we go for quick solutions we may repent at leisure. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said yesterday, if we are to order new safety systems, it is our responsibility to ensure that they work properly.
As everyone understands, there is no scope for complacency. The Government have demonstrated by their actions, both before and after the disaster at Ladbroke Grove, that they are not complacent. Indeed, as a number of those who spoke acknowledged, any fair-minded person would have recognised that my right hon. Friend has a long and honourable record of interest in transport safety, which long precedes his occupation of his present post.
I shall do my best to respond to some of the many points that hon. Members have made. If there is time, I will deal directly with some of the issues in the Opposition motion, some of which were touched on by the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), who opened the debate. Inevitably, I am unlikely to get round to replying to all the points made, so I will look carefully at Hansard in the cold light of day and write to hon. Members about those that I have not answered.
537 First I shall deal with some of the matters raised by the hon. Member for Witney. There have been rather a lot of reports on transport safety one way or another and there is scope for getting one muddled with another or getting the dates confused. It may well be that I shall have to write to him setting out the precise sequence of events. However, I think that I can deal with some of the points that he made. He asked when the SPAD report was seen by officials and then by Ministers. It was seen by officials and Ministers a day or so before publication in August. Lord Macdonald of Tradeston issued a press statement endorsing the actions that the HSE recommended fairly soon after that. The Tansley report was seen by Ministers and officials on the day of the crash.
It grieves me to have to make this point about SPADs because I recognise that the issue is more complex than the cold dates suggest. If we are talking about action and inaction, the previous Government decided in March 1995 not to fit automatic train protection nationwide on the grounds that it was not justified on cost. As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday in his statement, we do not want to make a political issue about that because we recognise that there were other factors, but the hon. Member for Witney raised it in a contentious way.
In August 1997, before any of this became public, my right hon. Friend ordered a safety paper on trains passing through signals at danger. He did so at a time when the number of SPADs was declining. There was no panic on and there was not perceived to be a crisis, but he acted as long ago as August 1997. He started a consultation procedure on the precise action to take in early 1998. The consultation ended in August 1998. Final recommendations were available by December 1998 on the train protection system and slam-door trains.
In July 1999—well before the disaster at Ladbroke Grove—my right hon. Friend signed the regulations to introduce a train protection system by 2003. In doing that, we shall take into account whatever conclusions Sir David Davies arrives at in his study of the technical matters.
§ Mr. Mullin
I am reluctant to do so as I have limited time. Perhaps I will not give way in the light of the hon. Gentleman's earlier comments. I have only eight minutes left and I do not want to get bogged down in who said what to whom when. It does not strike me as all that helpful to the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Ms Ward) asked what happened to the recommendations from the report on the Watford crash. Some have been acted on, but the HSE has commented critically on the way in which some of the recommendations have been followed up by the industry. The HSE's comments are in its report for 2 September 1999—the report on SPADs—and a copy is in the Library. I shall ask the HSE for a report on progress in implementing the recommendations following the Watford crash and pass them on to my hon. Friend as well as place a copy in the Library. She was right to draw that to the attention of the House.
The hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) expressed support for the Government's plan for air traffic control. I welcome that and look forward to his voting with us in the Lobby when the time comes. I acknowledge 538 the good sense of the point that he made about the better use of regional airports. If he was suggesting—perhaps he was not—that we need lots more investment in new roads, I am afraid that I am not entirely with him on that. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said in his intervention, what counts in making roads safe is maintenance and traffic-calming measures.
§ Mr. Mullin
Forgive me, I have only six minutes left.
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) asked about London Underground and wanted to have the Government's position set out. I am grateful to him for giving us an opportunity to put the Government's position on record.
First, we will take account of any lessons learned from the Southall and the Ladbroke Grove disasters. Secondly, there is no question of entertaining any public-private partnership deal which does not contribute to improved safety, and that applies to Railtrack as much as to anyone else. Thirdly, it is vital that London Underground continues to have responsibility for the safety arrangements for the whole of the underground. Fourthly, all the public-private companies will take over existing safety arrangements, as agreed with the railways inspectorate. Finally, I repeat, the public sector London Underground will remain a single guiding mind on safety matters.
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington also asked about the timing of the NATS public-private partnership, and whether that would have any effect on Swanwick. The Government have commissioned studies into the new Swanwick system which confirm that it is a good system which will work. It is on schedule to become operational most probably in the winter of 2001–02, and NATS is meeting all its target milestones along the way. By the time that we are talking to potential strategic partners about the public-private partnership the state of the project will be further advanced, and there is no question of the public-private partnership delaying Swanwick.
My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton) asked about the funding of speed cameras. She was particularly interested in having the revenue hypothecated. The Treasury has accepted the principle that fines be used to fund the operation of speed cameras as long as it improves road safety rather than revenue collection. We are currently working on a mechanism for meeting Treasury criteria. A project group has been formed involving representatives from all interested parties, including the police, local authorities, magistrates courts and the relevant Government Departments, and we expect to appoint a project manager soon. The group's role will be to offer advice on the financial and organisational arrangements which will be necessary to meet Treasury criteria.
My hon. Friend also asked about the take-up by local authorities of the new powers to set 20 mph speed zones. Because local authorities were given those powers only this summer, it is too early to form a view on take-up. Local authorities are required to set casualty reduction targets in their local plans.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell) talked about the need for consensus with regard to the problems caused by cars. I strongly agree 539 with him on that. This is a serious problem which, in some respects, threatens the survival of the planet. About 500,000 people a year are killed worldwide by cars, and it is difficult for one political party to take measures to reduce the use of the car and to contain it and ensure that it is used sensibly if another of the major political parties is pronouncing itself to be the party of the car and appealing for votes on the cheapest possible basis. I hope that it will be possible to reach some sort of consensus.
I echo what others have said during the debate in paying tribute to the work of the emergency services in their response to the terrible event at Ladbroke Grove, and I wish a speedy recovery to all those who have been injured.
§ Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 46, Noes 329.542
|Division No. 275]||[9.59 pm|
|Allan, Richard||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Keetch, Paul|
|Baker, Norman||Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)|
|Ballard, Jackie||Livsey, Richard|
|Beggs, Roy||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Brake, Tom||Moore, Michael|
|Breed, Colin||Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Oaten, Mark|
|Burnett John||Öpik, Lembit|
|Burstow, Paul||Rendel, David|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)||Sanders, Adrian|
|Chidgey, David||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Cotter, Brian||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Tyler, Paul|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Webb, Steve|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Willis, Phil|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Harvey, Nick||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)||Sir Robert Smith and|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)||Mr. Donald Gorrie.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Beard, Nigel|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Begg, Miss Anne|
|Ainger, Nick||Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)|
|Alexander, Douglas||Bennett, Andrew F|
|Allen, Graham||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Berry, Roger|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary||Best, Harold|
|Ashton, Joe||Betts, Clive|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Blears, Ms Hazel|
|Austin, John||Blizzard, Bob|
|Barnes, Harry||Blunkett, Rt Hon David|
|Barron, Kevin||Boateng, Paul|
|Battle, John||Borrow, David|
|Bayley, Hugh||Bradley, Keith (Withington)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Foulkes, George|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Fyfe, Maria|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Galloway, George|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Gapes, Mike|
|Browne, Desmond||Gardiner, Barry|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Gerrard, Neil|
|Burden, Richard||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Burgon, Colin||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Godman, Dr Norman A|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Godsiff, Roger|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Goggins, Paul|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Caplin, Ivor||Grant, Bernie|
|Casale, Roger||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Caton, Martin||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Cawsey, Ian||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Chaytor, David||Grocott, Bruce|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Grogan, John|
|Clapham, Michael||Gunnell, John|
|Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Hanson, David|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Clwyd, Ann||Healey, John|
|Coaker, Vernon||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Coleman, Iain||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Colman, Tony||Heppell, John|
|Connarty, Michael||Hill, Keith|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Corbett, Robin||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hoey, Kate|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hope, Phil|
|Cousins, Jim||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Crausby, David||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Hoyle, Lindsay|
|Cummings, John||Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hurst, Alan|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Hutton, John|
|Darvill, Keith||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Ingram, Rt Hon Adam|
|Davidson, Ian||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Jenkins, Brian|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)||Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)|
|Dawson, Hilton||Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Dismore, Andrew||Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)|
|Dobbin, Jim||Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Doran, Frank||Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)|
|Drew, David||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Edwards, Huw||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Efford, Clive||Kelly, Ms Ruth|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Kemp, Fraser|
|Ennis, Jeff||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Khabra, Piara S|
|Fisher, Mark||Kidney, David|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Fitzsimons, Lorna||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|Flint, Caroline||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Flynn, Paul||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Follett, Barbara||Lawrence, Ms Jackie|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Laxton, Bob|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||Lepper, David|
|Leslie, Christopher||Pickthall, Colin|
|Levitt, Tom||Pike, Peter L|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Plaskitt, James|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||Pollard, Kerry|
|Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen||Pond, Chris|
|Linton, Martin||Pope, Greg|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Pound, Stephen|
|Lock, David||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Love, Andrew||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|McAllion, John||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|McCabe, Steve||Prosser, Gwyn|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Purchase, Ken|
|Macdonald, Calum||Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce|
|McDonnell, John||Quinn, Lawrie|
|McFall, John||Radice, Rt Hon Giles|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Rammell, Bill|
|McIsaac, Shona||Rapson, Syd|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|McNulty, Tony||Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|McWalter, Tony||Rogers, Allan|
|McWilliam, John||Rooker, Jeff|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Rooney, Terry|
|Mallaber, Judy||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter||Roy, Frank|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Ruane, Chris|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Martlew, Eric||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|Maxton, John||Salter, Martin|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Sarwar, Mohammad|
|Meale, Alan||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Merron, Gillian||Sawford, Phil|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Milburn, Rt Hon Alan||Shaw, Jonathan|
|Miller, Andrew||Sheerman, Barry|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Morley, Elliot||Singh, Marsha|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Mudie, George||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Mullin, Chris||Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Norris, Dan||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|O'Hara, Eddie||Snape, Peter|
|Olner, Bill||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|O'Neill, Martin||Spellar, John|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Stevenson, George|
|Pearson, Ian||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Pendry, Tom||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||Wareing, Robert N|
|Stringer, Graham||Watts, David|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||White, Brian|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Timms, Stephen||Wills, Michael|
|Todd, Mark||Winnick, David|
|Touhig, Don||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Trickett, Jon||Woolas, Phil|
|Truswell, Paul||Worthington, Tony|
|Turner, Neil (Wigan)||Wray, James|
|Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Twigg, Derek (Halton)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Tynan, Bill||Mr. David Jamieson and|
|Vis, Dr Rudi||Mr. David Clelland.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.
§ MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House notes with extreme sadness the recent Paddington rail disaster and the ensuing injuries and loss of life and extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected; congratulates the emergency services on their outstanding work in very difficult conditions; welcomes the prompt and comprehensive actions taken since the tragedy at Paddington, which demonstrate how serious the Government are about transport safety; notes the Government's continuing determination to take real steps to make transport safer for the public and the workforce; acknowledges the long-term reduction in fatalities on roads, in the air, at sea and on the railways; recognises specific action taken to improve rail, road, marine and air safety; commends the Government for setting up a comprehensive Transport Safety Review to look at how to improve the organisation of transport safety in the United Kingdom and whether there is a case for a single independent authority for transport safety regulation; and further notes that one of the prime aims of the Government's Public Private Partnerships for National Air Traffic Services and the London Underground is the enhancement of safety by securing high and stable levels of future investment, which are essential for safety as travel increases, and that safety regulation will be kept firmly in public hands in both cases.