Is the Minister aware that it is now three years and as many Secretaries of State for Transport since the promise was first made to electrify the east coast main line? Is he further aware that, in those three years, the railway unions have co-operated in the loss of a further 25,000 jobs within the industry? Finally, is he aware that further deceit and delay by the Government will lead to an even further collapse in the relationship between management and the railway unions? Is it not time that the Government fulfilled at least one of their long-outstanding pledges?
It may be three years since the first application was made, but we are expecting the plan from British Rail later this year which will enable us to take a decision.
Whenever my hon. Friend responds to British Rail's proposals for the electrification of the east coast route, will he ask a few searching questions about the lack of proper rolling stock and other shortcomings on the existing electrified commuter lines serving south Essex?
Does my hon. Friend accept that the electrification of the main east coast line is a high priority for the railway industry? Is he willing to tell the chief executive of British Rail that the Government are becoming tired of the delay by the British Railways Board in producing a commercially viable paper which the Government can consider and to which, I hope, they can react favourably?
Is the Minister aware that it is many years since the colossal undertaking of raising all the bridges on the east coast line was put in hand in preparation for electrification? Is he further aware that, but for the intervention of the oil lobby in the House and outside, electrification would have been carried out many years ago? Will the Secretary of State stop procrastinating and give a decision now?
I was not aware of the raising of the bridges and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing that to my attention. With regard to speed, we are waiting for British Rail. As soon as the paper arrives we shall be happy to deal with it.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the views expressed by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) are shared by many Conservative Members? Is he further aware that many new Members hope that the Government will show that they recognise the vital role that the railways have to play in the country's transport infrastructure? As a start, will my hon. Friend at least accept the point that the unions, however reluctantly, have in the past three years taken many of the steps that the Government have urged on them and that the Government should now respond to the report on electrification?
In answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) is the Minister aware that one of the reasons for the continuous vacillation on the proposal for the electrification of the east coast line is the unacceptable conditions that the Government are placing on British Rail? Is the Minister now telling the House that he has not yet received on his desk a submission from British Rail for money to electrify the east coast main line? If he has not yet received that submission, the Minister will be aware that the rolling stock—the diesel locomotive rolling stock—that is currently used on the east coast main line may soon have to be renewed. That is a crucial decision that must be taken by British Rail. Does he agree that the sooner his Department gets off its knees and starts answering questions on this matter, the sooner British Rail will be in a better position to electrify the main line and ensure that further problems do not ensue?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear me say that where British Rail has produced an acceptable plan showing how it will achieve fully commercial operation of its inter-city business we shall be happy to go forward with the proposals on electrification.