HL Deb 21 December 1988 vol 502 cc1360-1

2.42 p.m.

Lord Jay asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they propose to amend the financial targets imposed on London Regional Transport so that it can carry out the recommendations on safety in the London Underground contained in the report by Mr. Desmond Fennell, Q.C.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, the Government have increased London Regional Transport's external finance limit for the current year by £54 million to £275 million. Part of this increase is to allow for additional expenditure on safety measures following the tragic fire at King's Cross. The Government's public expenditure plans for the next three years include an extra £266 million for the implementation of the Fennell Report.

Lord Jay

My Lords, is it a fact, as reported, that British Rail, faced with privatisation, is now considering a plan to make a cut of nearly £1 million a year in expenditure on signal maintenance?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is a quite different question from one concerning London Regional Transport. However, it is the first I have heard of it.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, it is encouraging to learn from the Minister that additional money will be provided to London Underground to carry out the recommendations of the Fennell Report. Are we to understand that London Underground has made a full assessment of all moneys required to carry out all recommendations of the Fennell Report? I know that LRT has set up its own audit system, but will the department carefully monitor what is happening in case additional money is required?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, yes. Obviously we shall monitor the progress of the safety audit on LRT. The £266 million to which I referred in my original Answer was for the specific safety measures so far identified. As I said in the debate on the Fennell Report, finance will not be a barrier to implementing the Fennell recommendations.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, because of the effect upon public morale should not all efforts be made to kill the suggestion that British Rail is deliberately not carrying out its duty to provide the maximum safety because of the possibility of privatisation?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we shall be debating the subject of the possible privatisation of British Rail later this afternoon. I can say in advance of that that we have no present plans to privatise British Rail. If we do, it certainly will not be within the lifetime of this Parliament.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, as regards the cost of the Fennell Report, does the noble Lord remember that I asked him during our debate whether Prodorite had been reimbursed for the cost of counsel in order to be represented at the inquiry? I am still waiting for a reply and I wonder whether the Minister is yet in a position to reply to that question.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I believe that I have written to the noble Lord. I have certainly seen a draft of the letter that I propose to write to the noble Lord, which will explain the situation to him.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, is the Minister prepared to put in the Library a statement as regards this subsidy and the other subsidies paid to the South-East per head of the population, compared with the rest of the country?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, if the noble Lord is willing to put down a Question to that effect I shall attempt to answer it.