Orders of the Day — London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill (By Order)

– in the House of Commons at 6:55 pm on 10th May 1990.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo , Bristol South

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It relates to the judge's announcement today that the poll tax capping of Bristol, Basildon and Doncaster cannot continue until the result of the judicial review of the appealing authorities. Has the Minister given notice that he will come to the House to make a statement on the serious chaos and disarray of the poll tax legislation and on the destruction of local authority services as a result of that legislation?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

I have not received requests for a statement on this or any other matter.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will remember that a Bill similar, if not identical, to this Bill was tabled last Session and in previous Sessions. The title was certainly the same. You will also know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the sponsor of a Bill, if certain hon. Members have objections, usually tries to see those hon. Members to see whether an accommodation can be reached. On previous occasions when the Bill was before the House, as far as the Opposition are aware, no such approaches were made by the sponsor. The Bill is here in almost exactly the same form for yet another Session. When there is such a long list of private Bills, why has this Bill been given precedence, when it should have been at the end of the queue?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

In accordance with past practice and precedents, many factors have to be taken into account in determining which Bills shall be brought before the House for debated proceedings. The Bill has been treated no differently from any other. The hon. Gentleman's first point is a matter for debate rather than a point of order for the Chair.

Photo of Matthew Taylor Matthew Taylor Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education), Chair of Communications, Liberal Democrat Party

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It may have come to your attention that Ministers announced this afternoon at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that infections related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy have been found in a domestic cat. That information was available to Ministers earlier, so they could have come to the House to make a statement. It is clear that all the assurances that we have had on mad cow disease no longer hold. Have Ministers made an approach to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for permission to make a statement in the House? This is a matter of serious public concern.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

I have not received a request on this or any other matter. I am sure that what has been said will have been heard on the Treasury Bench.

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South 7:16 pm, 10th May 1990

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

London Regional Transport has a general duty to provide or secure the provision of public passenger transport services for Greater London. It must pay due regard to the current transport needs of Greater London and to the efficiency, economy and safety of the operation. Millions of pounds are being lost each year because the system lacks security. It is important that those who use the system and who pay for its service should not suffer the cost while leaving many to get away without paying. According to the annual survey, it is calculated that no less than £26 million a year is currently lost on the underground and £15 million a year on the buses. That loss is far too big to be acceptable.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Inevitably, it is difficult to calculate losses because as the money has already been lost, it is hard to say how much it was. What is the basis of the calculations and figures, bearing in mind that they must be an estimate based on a notional loss each day or each week?

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South

The hon. Gentleman is right. The figures are estimated and calculated by people who specialise in such work. They calculate how many people travel on different modes of transport and they establish visually those who pay and those who do not. They are thus able to take a record. They are professionals and we rely on their expertise.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman so early in his speech. Following the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), will the hon. Gentleman tell us for how many years the losses have been taking place and why over those years London Regional Transport, which the hon. Gentleman represents tonight, has not taken on adequate staff to prevent those losses?

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) should know far more about the subject than most of us because of his previous experience. He will know, therefore, of the difficulty in assessing tickets as they pass through the barrer and of the difficulty in seeing whether they are in order. We are beholden to take advantage of the modern technology currently available to us. I do not think that there is any suggestion that fewer staff should be employed; it is merely suggested that they should be deployed differently. That is only sensible. It would be silly of us to try to rely upon the systems that were in operation when the hon. Gentleman was collecting tickets on the railway many years ago.

A proper system for reducing that discrepancy is needed, and that is why the Bill has been introduced. It is similar to a measure passed last Session to give penalty fare powers to British Rail. There are many conditions of which the Secretary of State has to be satisfied before the measure can be introduced. He has to be satisfied that there is adequate staffing, that sufficient machines are available, that the arrangements for monitoring defective machines are adequate and that ticket inspectors are properly trained. There must be adequate publicity about the introduction of the system and there must be a disputes and appeals procedure. The Secretary of State must examine those important matters carefully and diligently. It would be wrong to assume that the Secretary of State was uncritical about standards——

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is already a criminal offence not to pay one's fare? Can he explain why we need to introduce the Bill, which would impose a smaller penalty than would at the moment be imposed on a person convicted of dodging his fare? Will he confirm that London underground is looking for a much lower standard of proof, as opposed to increasing the penalties and tackling the problem properly?

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South

I cannot accept that. I am afraid that the present system for prosecuting people who evade their fares is extremely complicated. Such prosecutions require a great deal of legal preparation; they have to go through the courts, which is an extremely time-consuming procedure. These days, it is much more usual to have standard penalties and they have come to be accepted for many small road traffic offences. If people are travelling on the underground system, it is right and proper that they should obtain a ticket before they start on their journey, and it is quite wrong that the majority of passengers who pay their fares should be expected to carry this additional burden. I cannot, therefore, accept that the old method is right or proper.

Most of us have suffered the inconvenience of using machines that are not up to standard. In the past, many justifiable criticisms have been made of ticket machines, especially those that are required to give change. Technology, however, has moved quickly, and it is now possible to produce extremely reliable and effective machines at underground stations. Ticket machines are now available 99·9 per cent. of the time and can give change. In addition to the booking office, there are never fewer than two machines at any station, and at busy stations there are many more. With that in mind, we must grasp the opportunity to take advantage of modern technology, thereby reducing the volume of evasion and fraud in the system.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, late at night, unstaffed underground stations represent a considerable peril to old people and women? If ticket and change machines are available instead of staff, fewer people will want to travel late at night and people in difficulties will not be able to find anyone to give them assistance. If one is in danger of being mugged, a ticket machine is not much help.

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. The stations to which I am referring usually have at least one person in the ticket office and one on the barrier. If those people are not on duty, the gates have to be left open. That affords much better protection than can be given in stations that operate an open system which does not require ticket delivery and collection on the spot but relies instead upon tickets being checked during the journey.

Questions will be asked about the security of the system. On the London underground the volume of traffic is such that it is not possible for tickets to be checked on trains as they are checked on British Rail. The present maximum fare on LRT is £2·90 and a penalty of £10 is appropriate. On the docklands light railway, and on the buses, the penalty is £5. That represents a major difference between the present proposal and any system proposed for British Rail. The present proposal takes account of the lower charges on the docklands light railway and the buses. The penalty has to be geared accordingly.

Validation of tickets has been a major problem on the docklands light railway, and the system has therefore been replaced so that tickets are now validated on issue. The checking of tickets at peak periods has become impossible because the railway is so busy. Staff can do much, and they should be much more involved in the success of the operation. Staff will be fully consulted before implementation.

Although fraud has always been a factor, it has substantially increased in recent years. That is unacceptable, especially for genuine, honest fare-paying members of the public, who represent the majority of those who use public transport. It would be wrong to allow those who wish to indulge in fraud to get away with it for any longer than can be avoided.

It is important that we realise that there will be major provisions to ensure that travellers who are not trying to evade their fare will be able to call in aid an excuse. Passengers will not be liable to pay a penalty fare if no facilities for ticket sales were available at the station at which the journey started. If the passenger transfers to the London underground or to the docklands light railway from British Rail and the British Rail station at which he started his journey had no facilities for the sale of tickets, or if a notice was displayed at the station at which he started his journey—whether a British Rail, underground, or docklands light railway station—stating that it was permissible for passengers to travel without a ticket, or if an authorised person in uniform informed the passenger to that effect, he will not be liable to pay the penalty.

If a person is asked for his ticket or authority by a London underground or docklands light railway authorised official, and says that he could not obtain it for one or more of those reasons, it is for London underground or the docklands light railway authorities to prove that his reason is not correct. The onus is on them. If a passenger wishes to invoke one of the reasons later, he has 21 days to do so from the day after the completion of the journey. Only then comes the transfer of the burden of proof. If the passenger does not provide an explanation in such terms on the spot or within 21 days, he has to prove that one of the defences applies. That seems to be an effective and sensible way in which to conduct the arrangements.

It is important that we should introduce the measure as early as possible so that we may take advantage of the available modern technology and substantially reduce the number of people who are defrauding their fellow passengers—a number that is likely to increase if we do not take firm steps against such practice.

When a measure similar to the present Bill was debated last Session, hon. Members referred to the automatic ticket gates. Technically, the gates form no part of the arrangements provided in the Bill, as it is possible to have penalty fares without the gates and vice versa. But the two matters are inter-related to the extent that the automatic gates will act as a check on up to 80 per cent. of journeys, as that is the number of journeys that end or begin in the central area.

The gates have been in operation for two years now and London underground has considerable experience of them. In spite of the campaign of vilification against them, the gates are safe and they work. They were reviewed by the railway inspectorate and an independent firm of consultants and—with the exception of some matters of detail—given a clean bill of health. They work, by which I mean that they check tickets very well, and they are safe. So far from being the safety hazard that people predicted they would be, the gates increase the area available for evacuation in an emergency because there are far more gates than there were narrow exits in the days when tickets were collected manually. The gates are normally attended, and when they are not, they are left open, so there is no risk to the public. Because the gates are staffed, they pose no problem for the handicapped or for people with children or shopping because they can be let through a wider gate, although it is the general rule that passengers should go through the normal gates whenever possible.

The real test of the gates is passenger acceptance. That has been achieved to a large extent. Criticism has reduced to only a low level and there is no evidence that passengers are having any difficulties with the gates. Even now London Underground is considering other improvements. An experiment is being carried out at three stations—Victoria, Green Park and St. James's Park—to test a touch-and-pass system. Under that system the ticket is simply touched on a pad on the gate. It does not have to be fed through the machine. The experiment has been running for only a short time but seems to be doing well.

We must acknowledge that the sums of £26 million per year for London Underground and £15 million per year for buses are large. They must be made up by the honest fare-paying passenger. It is entirely wrong that fare-paying passengers pay more than they need to, particularly at a time when we are anxious that the general public should use public transport as much as possible to relieve congestion on the roads. The House should be encouraged to vote the Bill into law at the earliest opportunity.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton 7:30 pm, 10th May 1990

With two of my hon. Friends, I have tabled a blocking motion to the Bill. It says: On Second Reading of the London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill to move, That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months. In fact, I do not want the Bill to be read a Second time today, in six months or at any time in the future. The wording of the motion is such that we have to say that we wish it to be read in six months' time. Parliamentary language often confuses people. The purpose of the motion is to block the Bill. I wholly oppose the Bill.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Certainly—my hon. Friend is an expert on parliamentary language.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

We do not want the back of the hon. Gentleman's head.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) is a Whip.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Yes, he is getting ready for Friday. He comes in on Fridays and shouts "Object" to all the Bills, including Bills to give more money to pensioners and abolish standing charges. He is there to stop things like that—he has a cruel job. I do not know what the people in Sheffield think, but I keep drawing their attention to it.

To come back to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), will he explain to the public—especially the people in the Strangers' Gallery, although we are not supposed to refer to them—what a blocking motion is? There are not many times in parliamentary procedural life when one can do a job for the general public. The textbooks explain what a blocking motion is. People write books and tell us what it is all about, but when we get them it is different. My hon. Friend should explain slowly what a blocking motion is. He might get on telly—indeed, I will bet diamonds that he will be on the Parliament programme tomorrow.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I do not know whether I will get on the television, mainly because my explanation is not likely to be particularly good or erudite. I am not so great an expert on these matters as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). If an item is chosen for the television, I hope that it will be the joke that I am about to tell about London Regional Transport. Run by the present lot in charge, with the backing of the Tory Government, it is a bit like a cocktail—a long slow queue. Increasingly, there are long slow queues at the bus stops. That is my joke for the telly.

I am not an expert on blocking motions. The promoter, London Regional Transport, is trying to jump the queue and bounce the Bill through the House without proper discussion. That is why points of order were raised at the beginning of the debate. The Bill is the equivalent of a Bill introduced in the last Session of this Parliament. It was blocked on that occasion and went no further. It was not allowed to be carried over into this Session. London Regional Transport still wants it to jump ahead of all the other Bills, but it will not get away with that. My hon. Friends and I are alert to that game. We have put down our names as objectors to force this debate and we hope to force the Bill out. The blocking motion means that the whole thing will be put off for six months.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I did not think that my hon. Friend's joke was very good. If he wants to get himself on television, he would do better by explaining the blocking motion. Will he confirm that the whole idea of blocking the Bill for six months is so that the promoter can talk to the people who object to the Bill and attempt to find a compromise to meet their objections? I have been approached by London Regional Transport about the Bill. My hon. Friend's name is the first on the blocking motion. Has he been approached by or had any discussions with London Regional Transport?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is an excellent point. As my hon. Friend says, the purpose of the blocking motion is to allow the promoter of the Bill to meet the hon. Member whose name is on it to see whether the objectors' fears can be allayed. I objected to the Bill in the last Session of Parliament and in the Session before that. In all that time, the promoter has not come to discuss my objections to the Bill.

I recently received a letter from some public relations person or manager at British Rail. Unfortunately, I do not have the letter with me. It was remiss of me not to bring it. If some hon. Member wants to keep talking while I run across to my office for it I could read it out to the House. As that is not feasible, we shall have to forgo that. I received the letter just two days before this debate, asking whether I wanted to meet the person who wrote it. We have been busy recently in the House. Members of Parliament are busy people. I have had a series of meetings on vitally important issues this week. I have an Adjournment debate on the Health Service tomorrow. I was looking forward to debating the subject with the former Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), but he has been moved sideways—or promoted, I do not know which—by the Prime Minister. I now have to face a new Minister who has no idea about the Health Service. I also had to brief myself for this debate. How could I find time to meet a representative of British Rail at one day's notice?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

My hon. Friend had to read an article as well.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is right. I had to read the article by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) about his attitude to current political issues.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I shall not respond to that as I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will not allow it.

If local authorities should be accountable, so should LRT. It should stand for election every year, especially when it wants to introduce a Bill that will cost the public more money.

My hon. Friend asked about the Henley formula for local authority elections. He wants that formula to operate according to a level set by the Government of what a council's spending should be. If a council spent in excess of that level it would have to hold an election. That is politically manipulative. Only Labour authorities would have to have elections every year. I will not mind the system because when a Labour Government returns to power we shall set the level for Conservative councils so low that they will have to hold an election every year. The Labour councils will not have to hold an election every year. If the Government play political games with the level of spending and the poll tax, we should do the same. Unelected quangos should also face an election.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. If London Regional Transport were still under the democratic accountability to which it was subject when the Greater London Council was responsible for transport, issues such as that presented by the Bill would have been thrashed out in an open forum. There would have been consultation with all involved, including people with interests such as that of my hon. Friend.

Would my hon. Friend join me in utterly condemning the decision that has just been made in the House of Lords to uphold the Secretary of State's decision to allow county hall, from where we used to exercise democratic control over London Regional Transport, to be turned into a hotel? Does he not agree that that is an insult and Labour party spokesmen must pledge tonight the Labour party will take county hall back by compulsory purchase when it forms the next Government?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I realise that the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) is still on his preamble and getting warmed up, but I am sure that he will resist the temptation put to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) which would be quite out of order in this debate.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I shall resist that temptation and say only that I agree that it is an absolute disgrace and scandal that London is the only capital in the western world without its own democratic regional government. The result is the chaos that we see all around London, in all services, including transport. That is why Bills such as this one come before the House—Bills which are ill thought out, badly backed up by statistics and about which no one has been consulted. Such Bills are bad for London. We need to get a democratic forum back into London.

In an earlier intervention my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) talked about what consultation we had had, and, as I said, I received a letter in the past two days, which was derisory. In today's post I received a statement on behalf of the promoters in support of the Bill's Second Reading. I have glanced through it to see what points I could raise in the debate and found two straight away. First, the corporation claims that fare evasion is currently estimated at £26 million per year on the underground and £15 million per year on the buses. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) talked about those figures, but where is the proof? Such figures were mentioned in our previous debate on the subject, and the one before that. Automatic ticket barriers were put in, allegedly to try to reduce those figures. Some £.150 million was spent on trying to reduce the figures, and yet the same figures are brought out yet again in support of the Bill without a scrap of evidence to back them up. I do not believe them.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

Does my hon. Friend recall that when the powers-that-be decided to inflict on this city and others throughout the United Kingdom the system of operating buses with only one person, many of us warned that such a system would lead to widespread fare evasion for obvious reasons? We were ignored then and the Bill is a belated attempt to patch up that gap which, particularly in this city, should be taken care of by the provision of buses operated by two people. That would help not only to reduce fare evasion, but would considerably reduce traffic congestion, not only in London, but elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I agree that there is a level of fare evasion that runs into millions of pounds during the course of a year. As my hon. Friend said, that is made worse by one-person operation and every time the fares rise higher than the inflation level. That has been the case year after year as the Government have taken away the subsidies. However, I do not believe that those are the figures quoted in the statement. They might be, but where is the evidence and proof? There is none whatever.

Secondly, the statement says: the level of penalty fares payable would be—

  1. (a) in respect of any bus journey or any journey solely on the Docklands Railway £5; and
  2. (b) in respect of any other train journey, £10."
In my view, £10 is much too much—it is a punitive fine. Why is the docklands light railway getting favourable discrimination? Yet again, the Government are pumping money into the docklands at the cost of the rest of London, and giving those people in the docklands privileged treatment.

I put down a parliamentary question about how much the Government had spent solely on publicity and advertising for the docklands corporation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover will be interested in this point because he is always interested when money is misused. I found out that the Government gave the docklands corporation—just for publicity and advertising, nothing else—£17 million in the past eight and a half years. That is due to go up another £10 million in the next three years—£27 million in 11½ years. That money could have been much better spent on public transport throughout London. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has good ideas about how that sort of money could be spent. There is discrimination in favour of docklands travellers, and we are given no reason why that is included in the statement. We can only conclude that it is part of the discrimination against the rest of London and the rest of the country.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Yes; he is one of the Limehouse founders.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I should not say this, and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) advises me not to do so, but I will just say that I am sure that Dr. Death pays his fares when travelling on public transport. In fact, I doubt whether he travels on it at all. When he was in government he got into the habit of going around in chauffeured cars, and I bet that that is what he still does. Ironically, that is also what the board members of London Regional Transport do—they rarely use the public transport that they inflict on the rest of London, but go around in chauffeured cars.

I was on the Committee which set up the London Regional Transport quango when the GLC was abolished and democratic control and democratic public input were taken away. There was a clause in the Bill allowing money to be spent on the board going around in chauffeured cars. I raised that in Committee.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

We were not told, but I suspect that if they had the chance they would have Rolls-Royces because they are happy to waste public money, as we have seen with the automatic ticket barriers. The statement raises more problems than it solves, and we have received it on the very day that the Bill is debated in the House. Such a consultation process is desultory.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

I do not want to divert my hon. Friend, but has he considered the possibility that, as a quid pro quo for penalty fares, a penalty in the reverse direction should be imposed on London Regional Transport, perhaps by way of a fare refund to passengers who repeatedly have to endure the lack of escalators when they are out of order for months and months? We are not getting the service that we are paying for. As people who pay our fares and use London Regional Transport a great deal—although we are provincial Members of Parliament, we have to use London transport—we do not get the service for which we are paying. The escalators simply do not work.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That point was well made by my hon. Friend. I support the idea of reverse penalties, which should apply when lifts are not working. I know that in Walthamstow Central the lifts were not working for six to eight months. The last time I was there they were working, but last year they were out of action for six to eight months. If LRT had to pay all the passengers because of that, it would soon get the lifts back in order.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Many elerly women passengers—there are more elderly women than elderly men—are prevented from travelling at all if escalators are out of order. Women with infants and babies find that transport in London is beyond their reach if an escalator is not working.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I agree with my hon. Friend. Such deficiencies mean that people cannot use the public transport on which they rely. Because of the way the brain functions, when one steps on an escalator that is not working the brain thinks that it is. I am sure that we have all experienced that. It is a normal brain pattern to make allowances for moving escalators. One could easily fall down the stairs and suffer severe injuries.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

It is even more dangerous for a woman carrying a toddler.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is right. Earlier I spoke about the docklands light railway. I used that railway to go to a concert with my foster lad. It was a very good concert given by "Simply Red". Being a socialist, I was pleased to see "Simply Red' giving an excellent concert.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

It plays sort of jazz and pop. My foster lad and I and everyone in the audience enjoyed the concert immensely. It was easy to get to on the docklands light railway because one almost falls out of the station—I forget which one it was—and into the concert hall. Just before the concert started, it was announced that the docklands light railway was not running back because the electricity had been cut off. The hall was packed with people and they were virtually stranded in the middle of nowhere on the Isle of Dogs. My foster lad and I had to walk back in pouring rain. Such breakdowns happen regularly because the Government, with the help of LRT, carried out a shoddy and rotten job on the railway. A shovel being pushed into the ground is enough to stop the tube. The Queen got trapped in a train.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

The Queen does not travel on the tube. The docklands light railway is overland and passengers can get a view of the Thames and see all the building work that is going on. Apparently the Queen was travelling on that railway and some fellow put a shovel in the ground, which interfered with the electricity and the Queen was trapped in the train. The system is quite appalling, and because it was made on the cheap we are getting all these problems.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

His comment might have had some bearing on that, but I do not blame him becase he would not want his wife—I would not want to see anybody's wife— trapped on a train for a long time.

All those people, myself included, were stranded on an appallingly wet evening and the situation was potentially quite dangerous. LRT should have paid fines to the people whom it had lumbered in that way. It put on a couple of buses, but they were small, cheap buses.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I do not know whether LRT laid on a bus for the Queen. I think that it was a Rolls-Royce. One of the directors had to stay in his office that day and could not go out for his expensive lunch at Claridges because his car was being used to carry the Queen. I think that that was the case, but I am not sure. He probably had two lunches the next day at the taxpayer's expense.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I think that it was just the Queen putting on a public relations show, and in many respects she does that very well.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am trying to listen to the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), but it is exceedingly difficult to do so when there is a running commentary going on.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover spoke about the monarch not paying any poll tax. She gets away with not having to put up any money to finance London Regional Transport even though she used it on that occasion. If I was stuck in a train, I would not want to put up any money for London Regional Transport. Many Londoners are packed in like sardines—it is worse every morning and they pay dearly for it in fares and taxes. Now they have to fork out poll tax as well. I shall have more to say about that later.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I travelled on the tube this morning to come here. I had to stand with my hands down in my fraction of space and almost all the other passengers in my section could not move. How will the people checking fares move through such a compartment?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

It will create chaos. I have been on the tube four times today already. It was crowded at midday, well after the rush hour. Three inspectors got on one of the trains on which I travelled, but in the cramped conditions that my hon. Friend describes it will be impossible for even one inspector to do his job.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

It is a relief to come to this place—there is plenty of space here.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Yes, it is a blessing. There are not many hon. Members here for the debate. There are not many Conservatives here because they do not care about London Regional Transport. They do not travel on it. We rarely have a debate on LRT. Yet on one of these rare occasions, Conservative Members do not have the decency to turn up. I get a couple of letters every week from constituents complaining about bus and train services. Conservative Members must receive such letters, too. This is a rare chance to debate the matter, but they cannot be bothered to turn up.

There is a silver lining, however. Having travelled on the tube today and been caught in the congestion, it is a pleasure to come here to a relatively quiet House and to have a bit of walking space to make a speech or to shuffle up and down the Benches. That is quite an advantage. There is little opportunity to debate London Regional Transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) served on the Committee that considered the Bill that set up LRT'. He did sterling work in raising issue after issue of concern to Londoners. The then Ministers derided my hon. Friend's concern about congestion, lack of investment and all the other problems. Of course, he has now been proved right.

When LRT took over from the Greater London council —the democratically elected transport authority for London—the Government pledged that, because there would be no democratic debate in LRT's board—its members were appointed, not elected—Members of Parliament would fulfil the role of elected councillors. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West argued that, because of problems with time and because Members of Parliament must consider national issues, they could not do such a good job as the elected local councillors had done.

Nevertheless, the Government pledged that there would be an annual debate on LRT, under the umbrella of the levy order. Because of the introduction of poll tax, the levy order has been dropped. Londoners still pay towards LRT. The Government have reduced the grant to London local authorities, so poll tax bills are higher than they should be. We can no longer have the annual debate because the levy order has been dropped, so democratically accountable Members of Parliament cannot raise issues on behalf of their constituents.

I wrote to the Leader of the House and complained bitterly about that, but he said that it did not matter. He said that there would be many other opportunities for hon. Members to raise points about LRT, such as during questions.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is right. Question Time is no substitute for a proper debate. If an hon. Member does not have a question in the top 10, he is unlikely to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. Many other national transport issues are involved.

Having received that reply from the Leader of the House, I assumed that he meant that we could raise points in debates such as this. Perhaps that is why this Bill from LRT has jumped the queue. It is a conspiracy. The Leader of the House is trying to help me by allowing LRT to jump the queue. That is no way to deal with these matters. We are discussing a specific item about penalty fares, so London hon. Members probably do not know that they can raise other issues to do with LRT. Perhaps that is why they are not here. I had it on the good authority of the Leader of the House that we can raise other matters, and I shall do just that.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

My hon. Friend mentioned democratic accountability. Is he aware of the good work of the GLC in making the then London Transport more accountable? Even more should have been done, and the GLC should have had a tighter grip on London Transport. My hon. Friend may not be aware of the many important changes for the benefit of women and, indeed, for the continuing good business of London Transport.

For example, the then chair of the GLC women's committee, as an elected councillor speaking on behalf of the women of London, approached London Transport with the full facts and figures about the obnoxious advertising that was a positive danger and that caused great distress to women. She prevailed on the then board of London Transport to alter its policy and to show more respect for women. She pointed out that women were afraid to travel because of the feelings aroused by those advertisements. She was able to do that because there was democratic accountability. All that valuable work has now been cut off.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am sure that hon. Members will recollect that we are dealing with penalty fares.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I certainly recollect that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Of course, we are talking about fines. If deeply offensive advertisements appear on tubes and buses, LRT should be made to pay compensation to those who find them distressing.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

London Regional Transport has not dared to revert to London Transport's policy. That democratic accountability still has a ripple effect. However, the longer that London is without a democracy the greater the danger that the gains will be lost.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. She referred to the chair of the GLC women's committee. I can reveal that it was none other than Councillor Valerie Wise, my hon. Friend's daughter. She was well trained in democratic accountability and good policies for women and for London's passengers in general. Of course, Dave Wexall also did excellent work. He has a fantastic record. If we compare how transport was run under the GLC and how it is run by the new lot, Dave Wexall comes out with flying colours. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West contributed a great deal to the improved policies and democratic accountability. The former leader of the GLC, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), played an important part.

I sense that you are about to stop me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, we could do with a higher political profile in London. Someone like my hon. Friend——

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I must stop the hon. Gentleman. I realise that he is being tempted by some very tempting interventions, but I am sure he will direct his remarks to the Bill.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

The point about accountability is important. London Regional Transport has its hands on the money. Under this Bill, it will also have its hands on the penalty fares. It is already abusing the system with all the cuts in services. There are declining conditions—filthy stations and congestion.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The £26 million to which reference has been made is a flea bite compared with the £6 billion-worth of fraud that took place in the Common Market and which the Tories voted to permit. Let us not forget that, after a debate in which my hon. Friends and I said that we did not like the idea of £6 billion-worth of fraud occurring in the EC, the Tories, led by the Prime Minister, voted, in effect saying, "That's okay, because it's the Common Market."

It is clear that we are talking about fraud, in this case said to be worth £26 million. In view of my hon. Friend's knowledge of this subject, he should explain clearly what is likely to happen to that £26 million. I have come into the Chamber to listen to my hon. Friend, whose knowledge of this subject I respect. Will he say what the new model Labour plan is for London Regional Transport? Will he throw out a few ideas about what the future holds for LRT, without our needing to potter about with private Bills?

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) will contribute to the debate later. Meanwhile, I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) to encourage him by being forthright. Let us have a little adventure and imagination.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am all for adventure, so long as it is within the context of the Bill.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I agree with money being spent on the tubes and buses for the benefit of Londoners and passengers generally. I fear that, if we pass the Bill and LRT gets its hands on the money, it will go straight to the Treasury, which will then further reduce the subsidy to LRT, which has been cut already. We know what the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will do with the money——

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Build bigger gates at the entrance to Downing street.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Exactly—provide bigger gates to No. 10. In that context, I can reveal that there is a secret underground railway system from the Ministry of Defence, No. 10 and other Government Departments to certain destinations. I would like to bet that penalty fares will not be imposed on that tube line. I want the sponsor of the Bill to say whether its provisions will apply to the Prime Minister when she jumps on the secret tube that operates from No. 10 Downing street and takes her out into the country when there is a revolution. Will a penalty fare be imposed on her if she does not pay her fare? Do inspectors exist with authority to go on that secret line?

We must have answers to those questions because, while my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover may be right to say that the additional money will go on bigger gates at the entrance to Downing street, some of it may go on improving that secret underground system, so enabling the Prime Minister, bureaucrats and top civil servants to enjoy it. Whatever happens, the public will not get the benefit of the money.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I hope that my hon. Friend is not dodging the question of what will happen to the £26 million. I understood that the case for the Bill last year was that £26 million was being lost. That was claimed before the automatic gates were introduced. Was not the idea of the automatic gates—apart from chopping people up—to stop that fraud? How much fraud is going on now, and how much is likely to be saved as a result of the Bill?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend is right to say that the excuse for introducing these mechanical rottweilers, as the automatic ticket barriers can be described—let us not forget that people have been badly injured when the gates have closed on them—was to reduce the £26 million of evasion. There was no proof last year that that was the loss. But now, the mechanical rottweilers having been introduced at many stations, we are told that £26 million is still being lost. As a result, LRT is apparently introducing what is described as a touch-and-pass system.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

It is for the sponsor to answer my hon. Friend's question. I believe that it will operate on tickets the way in which goods are passed over a magic eye at Sainsburys. A photographic eye will open the barrier, I gather, although we have yet to be told whether barriers will be associated with the new machinery. The fact that LRT is moving to a new system so quickly, having spent £150 million installing ticket barriers, is an admission that there has been an appalling waste of money by the unaccountable, Government-appointed board of LRT.

Let us compare that expenditure of £150 million with the £26 million that it is claimed is being lost through evasion. It is said, "The Conservatives cost you less." What a waste we have witnessed already. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover was right to speak of the waste that has occurred in the Common Market. We could also refer to the fraud at Harrods——

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Worth millions, as my hon. Friend points out. There has not been a glimmer of action from the Government on that. We do not see any private Bills on that subject. What about the Johnson Matthey fraud?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That involved millions, as my hon. Friend says.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. Sedentary interruptions are putting the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) off his stride. They are most unfair.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Thank you for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Only last week, a mugger snatched a suitcase from somebody in the street and made off with Treasury bonds, which are apparently exchangeable for cash, worth £292 million. Frankly, something stinks over that. I do not believe that an individual could have got away with a crime such as that. Organised people must have been behind it.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

He probably made off on the tube, having paid his fare. Apparently no inspector was in evidence to ask him to open his suitcase, as will happen to others on the tube.

As I explained, the money that is raised will go to the Treasury and be wasted, as it has wasted £83 billion of North sea oil revenues. This will be a drop in the ocean by comparison. It will be used as a bribe at the next general election and, when that is over, it will finance huge tax cuts for the rich. In other words, somebody who has not paid his fare will be caught and the money raised by that means will go to the rich, rather than to LRT to run a better service for its passengers.

The railway inspectorate's report on one-man operated trains has been censored. We do not know how dangerous such trains will be—for example, they may have to stop deep in tunnels—but when they are introduced, fare evasion will increase, just as it did on the buses.

High fares also mean greater fare evasion. When fares go up way above the rate of inflation, as they have done, more people cannot afford them and so are encouraged to try to avoid paying. There should be better ticket facilities at every station—not just machines but ticket offices with staff. At the moment, with one person at each ticket office there are big queues, and that encourages people in a hurry to dodge a queue and not pay their fares. They are desperate to get into work, yet they see train after train going. They are afraid that the boss will fine them—not London Regional Transport—by docking their wages if they do not get to work on time. Staffing is a key element.

In line with Government policy, LRT can spend as much money as it wants on white elephants such as ticket barriers—just like the channel tunnel and other such projects—but the purpose is to cut staff; to put people out of work who would otherwise be doing a good job and playing a role in safety. The Government do not care how much money they spend on throwing people out of work. They see that as weakening trade unions.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Is my hon. Friend aware of another hazard that arises from the introduction of machines which accept £5 notes? If a machine goes wrong, because of the lack of staff, a passenger must wait and wait. It is embarrassing to have to elbow a queue aside for attention, but people simply cannot afford to leave their £5 note in the machine. That illustrates the need for more staff to help in the issuing of tickets, which in turn will reduce fare evasion.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Taking £5 for a fare is taking an arm and a leg.

My hon. Friend the Member for Preston makes heir point well. Lack of staff could lead to terrific disruption and perhaps even a punch-up. People who cannot get their change to see them through the day could cause a fuss while lots of other people are waiting in the queue. I do not have a narrow mouth, as witnessed by my long speech, but many station entrances do, and that makes the automatic ticket barriers dangerous.

The frustration created by not being able to obtain change or by waiting in a queue could lead to a serious punch-up and even loss of life. When that happens, LRT and its board will disclaim all responsibility. They will say that it was nothing to do with them because they were not there, and they will not have been there because their staff will not have been there.

I have said where the money from such penalty fares will go under this Government, but under a Labour Government it would go towards improving the service for passengers. We had a voluminous report on the terrible tragedy at King's Cross, but many of its recommendations have not been carried out. LRT has only just got round to banning smoking on the underground, but it has not banned the shops on the stations from selling cigarettes. Many other recommendations have not been implemented. Safety drills have not been implemented. Again, staffing is crucial to safety procedures. I am sad to have to say that the lessons of the King's Cross fire have not been learnt.

Often, when I travel on the tube, I can see that something has been going on. Too many people are waiting, or a platform is empty, and one knows that something has happened. A couple of weeks ago, I was travelling home by car after a late vote in the House when I saw fire engines outside the Embankment station. Luckily, it was late at night, but if it had been the rush hour, the station would have been very busy, because many people, even Members of Parliament, change lines there. There could have been a terrible accident. Fires are still occurring.

The lessons of King's Cross have not been learnt, and one reason for that is that there is no money to improve safety measures and to clean up stations. Stations and trains are squalid and dirty. The seats on the train that I travelled on today were falling off; they were uncomfort-able and filthy. Many cleaning staff have been cut. It is most unpleasant for Londoners to travel in such conditions. Even when a train is relatively uncongested, it is most unpleasant to have to sit in such filth and squalor.

The Labour party has said that it will move in the right direction, but I hope that we will put money into safety, into a big clean-up of the underground and into reversing the cuts on the buses. Many pensioners make great use of the free bus pass which my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West and I were instrumental in winning, with the assistance of all London's pensioners. But what is the good of having a pass without the buses?

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson

I take this opportunity to make it clear from the Front Bench on behalf of the Labour party that, when we form the next Government, one of the prime responsibilities of the new London council, which a Labour Government will install through elections in London, will be for transport and transport planning, and many of the good points which my hon. Friend is making in his excellent speech tonight will, I am sure, be embodied in future Government policy.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will return to the Bill.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

We are talking about a £10 penalty and, given the level of fare evasion, that will be a lot of money.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

The fines last year were £10 and £5. I understand that, in the past 12 months, there has been a certain measure of inflation. My pensioners reckon that it is about 15 or 16 per cent. I gather that the Government will announce an inflation figure of 9·9 per cent. tomorrow as a fantastic triumph. If there has been 10 per cent. inflation, should not the penalties be £11 and £5·50? Does my hon. Friend accept that, in the Bill, the Secretary of State has power, by order, to increase the figure? Will he inquire of the Minister whether he intends to increase the penalties some time within the next couple of years?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend has made some telling points. First, he asked why the level of the proposed fine would not take inflation into account. That is because London Regional Transport has given no justification for wanting a particular level of fine: the figure has been plucked out of the air. The point about the Minister being able to alter the fine at random, and without the House debating it properly, is associated with what I said earlier about the rights of debate being taken away from London hon. Members.

That is another reason why we should reject the Bill tonight: it is a blank cheque. Notwithstanding the £5 or £10 specified in the explanatory statement, the day after the Bill was passed, the Minister could say that the Government were increasing that figure to £25 or £50. The House would have no control over that.

I am not convinced that we should go along the route of penalty fines, but money spent by a future Labour Government would be spent on improved safety, improved services, keeping fares down, better staffing and better cleaning on our buses and in our stations. That is what the people want.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Does my hon. Friend agree that any penalty or punishment is effective only if people are caught? The elaborate arrangement of barriers is extremely effective —I fear, too effective: I am nervous in case there is a fire. Even with that effective barrier system, if people continue to evade fares, how can they be caught in the future?

The imposition of a penalty in a Bill is not the same as imposing it on a person. LRT has said that as it will take fewer criminal prosecutions. Does that make it less likely that people will be caught, and more likely that people will take the risk of a £10 fine, rather than the disgrace of a prosecution? Surely that would work against LRT.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. I shall refer to on-the-spot fines later, and whether they will lead to a criminal record.

In my opinion, the barriers have not worked. The problem is that LRT seems to be putting its efforts into what could be a violent campaign. If the inspectors—such as the three that I saw this morning—cannot get their fare, presumably there will be a punch-up if people try to escape without paying. I can envisage a "Rambo of the LRT": there will be films about "The Bill"—the "Transport Bill" along the lines of "Starsky and Hutch" and "Miami Vice". There is only a small amount of fare evasion, but a would-be script writer for the BBC, the IBA or Sky Television could perhaps create a series called "Tottenham Court Road Vice".

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Has my hon. Friend read clause 5 (2)(a) of the Bill? It excludes from penalty anyone who finds that, when he started to travel, there were no facilities available for the sale of the necessary fare ticket for his journey. Is my hon. Friend aware that that is quite a common occurrence? I can envisage much nervousness being engendered in passengers who are forced to travel without a fare, and may have to argue the toss about whether they are travelling illegally, or whether that had been thrust on them. Although the Bill excludes them, I can envisage some unpleasant incidents. Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be better to have staff to issue the tickets in the first place, instead of thrusting apparent evasion upon people?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that clause. Apart from the nervousness caused to passengers who could not obtain a ticket, trying to prove that there were no facilities available at the station where they boarded will be almost impossible, especially when they are surrounded by three burly inspectors. In many cases, I suspect that the money will be forced out of people by intimidation. There should be an absolute guarantee that staff will be available to issue tickets at stations every minute of the day, but there is nothing along those lines in the Bill.

There has been virtually no consultation. LRT has imposed many cuts—for example, on the 38 and 55 bus services that used to run from Leyton garage. That cut was arbitrary. I tabled early-day motion 630, which says: That this House condemns London Regional Transport for cutting the 38 and 55 bus routes from Leyton; notes that this is not only means a reduced service to the public enforcing upon them bus changes, longer waits, extra cost and less safety but also a threat to the jobs at Leyton Bus Garage; and is further angry at the unaccountable way in which London Regional Transport made this decision effectively ignoring hundreds of letters and a thousand plus signed petition opposing the cuts. Now the number is approaching 2,000.

I received a copy of a letter from Mr. Le Jeune, who is a public relations officer at LRT. It was addressed to the second sponsor of my motion, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). The letter said that there had been consultation before the cuts to the 38 and 55 buses were made: it was a public relations diatribe.

LRT did indeed consult; the reply from 1,800 people was that they did not want the cuts. However, it went ahead with them. It was nonsense to say that people were consulted. It is no good consulting people and then not taking any notice of what they say. There has been chicanery on the part of the public relations people in LRT.

In March, London Labour Members of Parliament received a letter from the chairman of LRT. He said that the other system of consultation with Members had not been working—I did not know that there was one—and that he would arrange a one-off dinner for London Labour Members. A dinner is a poor substitute for a democratic input of information, but we were to have a dinner. I intended to raise at it the cuts in the Nos. 38 and 55 bus services and the objections of the 1,800 people. Surprise, surprise—the dinner was cancelled. LRT is not interested in an input from the people. Now the dinner has been set up for late July. That is the consultation that is to take place with London Labour Members. It is absolutely derisory.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman is wandering away from the Bill; I am sure that he will come back to it.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I was setting the scene in regard to consultation about the Bill. I have already mentioned the short letter we got from the sponsors and the statement we got today in the post. That statement is full of holes. There has not been proper consultation with hon. Members or with councillors. I do not think that there has been any consultation with London councillors. I do not think that there has even been consultation with trade unions. Why does not the statement tell us what the trade unions think about the Bill? When the Bill was before us last Session, I asked what the trade unions had to say because their members may suffer violence as a result of the Bill. Yet again it comes before us, with not a word about what the trade unions think. If they have been consulted, the consultation has not been of much use.

What consultation has there been with the public? Have there been any advertisements in the underground to let people know that the Bill is going through Parliament and that they have a right to make suggestions to LRT or to their Members of Parliament? I have not seen any advertisements. I suspect that most of the public have no idea that we are discussing the matter, because LRT is not interested in telling the public about its plans.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Does my hon. Friend accept that it is not just a London matter but that the transport arrangements in the capital affect people who travel to London for many purposes from all parts of the country? Even if there had been excellent consultation arrangements for London Members, it would be grossly inadequate if Members generally were not consulted. It is the concern of all hon. Members.

Does my hon. Friend further accept that it was probably a great service to him that LRT cancelled the consultation dinner, because many of his constituents might have misunderstood it if he had gone to a dinner with LRT when their bus services were being cut? My recommendation would be to insist that LRT consults properly at meetings which are held for the purpose and which are open to the public.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I agree with my hon. Friend, but when there is no other opportunity to raise the concern of my constituents, I have to take whatever opportunities I can. It is not for need of a dinner that I would go—I probably go to fewer dinners than other hon. Members—but it would be a rare opportunity to raise the concern of my constituents.

I intended to co-ordinate the March dinner with the handing in of postcards signed by many objectors in my constituency. When the dinner was cancelled, we went along with the postcards and the petition against the cuts in services. LRT refused to accept the petition. I was forced to send it to the then Minister, even though I knew what response I would get from him. That is a joke as well. All he said was, "Thank you for the petition, but it is a matter for LRT."

I suspect that the new Minister will say the same when he has got his feet properly under the table, because that is what he did in regard to the Health Service. Previously, I raised with him the budget deficits and the chronic and life-threatening underfunding of local health authorities. He replied that it was a matter not for him but for the local health authority——

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. We are not dealing with the Health Service; that is miles away from the Bill.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I am talking not about the Health Service but about the pattern of Minister's behaviour when they get petitions.

When there are protests over the working of the legislation, passengers may be beaten up by inspectors, or an innocent bystander may be caught in a terrible fracas. As a result, relatives may write to their Member. If the Member tries to take the matter up with LRT, it will say that it is not accountable. If the Member passes the complaint to the Minister for Public Transport, he will say that it has nothing to do with him but is a matter for LRT.

My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish was right to point out in an earlier intervention that penalty fares will be an opportunity for the application of a lower standard of proof. That was pooh-poohed by the sponsor, the hon. Member for Ilford, South, but I cannot see how there can be anything but lower standards. An inspector will tell the passenger to pay up because the law says that he must do so. The passenger may say that he was not disobeying the law because there were no facilities to buy a ticket at the station where he got on the train. He may even quote the provision to which my hon. Friend the Member for Preston has referred, but the inspector will tell him that, if he does not pay up, he will go to court and get a criminal record.

I foresee an additional problem. I am not straying from the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but just this week I read in a newspaper about two people impersonating social workers in an attempt to get access to children. That was a shocking case, and I hope that they are caught and dealt with. Impersonation takes place. I can envisage impersonation on trains.

All someone needs is a uniform; some poor London Transport inspector may even be mugged for his uniform. Someone impersonating an inspector will be free to roam up and down every train, collecting penalty fares. There is nothing in the Bill to say how that will be stopped. LRT may say that it has transport police, but the problem of impersonation has not been covered. Some people will stop at nothing to make a few bob. Desperate individuals will see it as an easy way of conning the public.

There is no mention in LRT's statement of whether a person will get a criminal record under the new system. Paragraph 5 of LRT's statement confirms: This penalty would be payable on the spot or within 21 days but, if the passenger refuses to pay the penalty, the Corporation could, and do intend to, institute civil, rather than criminal, proceedings for recovery, except in cases involving flagrant dishonesty when prosecutions will be brought. It is all very well saying that, but advert after advert warns that people must buy a ticket if they are not to get a criminal record. We must be clear whether a person risks a criminal record following the implementation of this legislation.

What will happen to the information about a person's name and address, which must be given when the spot fine is paid? Data are already exchanged between Government Departments and provided to other organisations that should not receive them. Information provided in connection with the poll tax ends up with all kinds of credit agencies and senders of junk mail.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Can my hon. Friend explain how the inspector can be sure that he has been given the right name and address? Is there not a danger that individuals will give false information, so that a person who was never involved ends up with a criminal record? Also, how will payment within 21 days be enforced if the information is false?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend makes two excellent points. If false information is given, the fine cannot be enforced. That implies that inspectors will really have to lean on the individual, demanding to see proper identification. If it is not produced, all kinds of heavy tactics might come into play. A person who happens not to be carrying any identification may find himself taken to the police station and criminalised.

It is even possible that people will maliciously give the name and address of a person they do not like—perhaps a neighbour. The Government are currently into a campaign of encouraging people to snitch on their neighbour. That is how the poll tax will develop. When the Government start running anti-scrounger campaigns, they will say, "Snitch on your neighbour. Who lives with your neighbour and should be paying poll tax?" The Government will encourage the public to snitch under this Bill as well.

In these days of modern data transfer, there now exist minicomputers and microcomputers. Within a few years, inspectors could be walking around carrying a micro-computer into which they will be able to enter the name and address of the fine payer, which information will then be transferred on to a large database at Broadway, or wherever the offices are. An innocent person could find that his name has been entered into the records, yet he will have no chance to have it deleted. His first problem will arise when he is brought before the court and denies that he was the individual concerned. The magistrate may say, "I don't believe you. You are fined anyway." That individual's good character will be besmirched.

Under the Data Protection Act 1984, the public cannot have access to police records to see whether any information that they contain is incorrect and to have it corrected. Both the police and the security services have exemption from the provisions of that legislation. Some poor individual named by another as a fare dodger may find his name entered into the police records, with no opportunity to have a correction made. The advertisements warn "Get a ticket, not a criminal record." They feature a man who has a respectable job in the City and who is likely to lose it because of his criminal record for fare dodging. An innocent person could find himself in the same situation because of the Bill.

The sponsor referred to a dispute and appeals procedure. Come off it. How will that work in reality? The dispute procedure will be a blooming great punch-up.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Paragraph (2) of the preamble, on page 1 of the Bill, states: It is the general duty of London Regional Transport pursuant to section 2 of the said Act of 1984, in accordance with principles from time to time approved by the Secretary of State and in conjunction with the British Railways Board, to provide or secure the provision of public passenger transport services for Greater London and in carrying out that duty London Regional Transport shall have due regard to (a) the transport needs for the time being of Greater London and (b) efficiency, economy and safety of operation". Later, it is stated that it is in pursuance of those objectives that LRT is presenting the Bill. Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the current state of London's transport services, and given the duty placed on LRT to ensure efficiency, economy and safety of operation and that the capital's transport needs are met, it is extraordinary that the only measure that LRT has seen fit to put before the House is one dealing with fare penalties?

Does not my hon. Friend agree that LRT should concern itself more with a great many other matters? If fare penalties were but one aspect of a comprehensive programme of improving London's transport, the House might look with more favour upon the Bill. In the circumstances, is it not extraordinary that LRT can state its general duties but then go on to present the provisions that are in the Bill?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend is right. The Bill by no means represents part of a comprehensive package covering the capital's transport needs as a whole, or in respect only of LRT's efficiency, economy and safety of operation". It is the only measure that LRT has put before the House. We have never been asked to consider fare levels, congestion, or the filth and squalor that are all part of the same issue.

"London in Need", a report by the London Boroughs Grants Committee and the London Research Centre, states: Recent events such as major accidents on both the Underground and British Rail have led to a loss of confidence in the safety of London's transport systems. Safety was one of the items referred to in the Bill. The report goes on to criticise ticket barriers and says that: The cost of travel by public transport in London is high. According to the Association of London Authorities, fares are higher than any other city in the EC. That creates particular problems for people on low incomes, who may be unable to afford a car and are reliant on public transport. That is a good point well made. Such people will be encumbered with penalties as well.

I have here the latest edition of the "Capital Transport Bulletin"—no, not the latest, but the March-April edition. I have not seen a May edition yet. It is probably the latest edition. It contains an index of public transport fares for 1987 which shows that London was well ahead of Oslo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Dusseldorf, Helsinki, Zurich, Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, Tokyo, Geneva, Brussels, New York, Chicago, Luxembourg, Los Angeles, Toronto, Sydney, Paris, Montreal, Lisbon, Houston, Milan, Nicosia and Athens. Fares in some of those cities cost half or a third as much as fares in London. In 1987 the only city with higher fares was Stockholm, which has a small and wealthy population compared with London.

Since 1987 there have been fare rises well above the rate of inflation. It would not surprise me if we did not have the highest fares now.

The "London in Need" report also says: Women have less access to private transport than men and, because many are carers of young children, elderly people and people with disabilities, they tend to suffer more from the inaccessibility of transport systems and irregular services. I should have thought that that would have been covered by a comprehensive package in the part of the Bill which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston. It mentions economy, efficiency, safety and the transport needs of London travellers.

Personal safety is a major anxiety for Londoners when they walk or use public transport. The report continues: While overcrowding is a problem during peak hours, deserted trains and stations are also a problem, particularly late at night. When questioned about travelling by public transport at night, female respondents to a survey by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in March 1989, said they were most uneasy about travelling by underground, followed by British Rail, and were least worried about travelling by bus. There is a need for more staff and better lighting at stations at night. The need for better lighting has not so far been mentioned. London Regional Transport has given no sign that it would spend the money which it intends to raise by penalty fares on such things as better lighting. I doubt if it will.

London Regional Transport has had a vast amount of money passing through its coffers. Fares have increased substantially over the period that it has been in control, but the money has not gone on lighting or safety. In the Bill all we get is a small part of a package about penalty fares and not the comprehensive improvement that it needs.

The "London in Need" report also said: Two women-only taxi services are currently operating in Hammersmith and Lambeth; there is a need for similar schemes to be set up in other areas. London Regional Transport is not interested in that but it is supposed to provide public transport, to work for the public.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Does my hon. Friend accept—and he may dwell on this for a little while—that LRT's investment in ticket machines is in contrast to the large number of escalators which are supposed to carry thousands of people every day but are out of use, being repaired in many underground stations? That leads to congestion, danger and difficulty for thousands of people. Surely LRT's first concern should be the thousands of people travelling on its services, but they would appear to be its last concern.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is a good point, and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston mentioned it earlier. I shall repeat what I said to her. There should be penalty fines in reverse. British Telecom has set up such a system, although it is pretty weak. I am not sure that it has ever paid out under the system, but it claims to pay if it does not provide a good service. London Regional Transport should do that. However, if that were enacted, as LRT is run so incompetently at the moment it would never stop paying out. LRT would not be able to run a transport service because it would be continually paying out. It is incompetent and makes vicious cuts that are against the public interest, such as those to the 38 and 55 bus routes in my constituency.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Has my hon. Friend thought about the peculiarity of the Bill's long title? It states that the Bill empowers the charging of penalty fares, but it goes on "and for related purposes". I have looked through the Bill and I cannot find any related purposes. I can find only provisions relating to penalty fares and that is why I am so critical of the Bill. Could it be that LRT has some plan to introduce other clauses that have not yet been disclosed if the Bill receives a Second Reading and reaches Committee? Otherwise, why should those drafting the Bill take the precaution of including the phrase "and for related purposes"? Has my hon. Friend any ideas about what those related purposes could possibly be?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is a good point. We have already heard that the Minister has powers to make regulations to increase fines at will without telling the House. There have been a couple of private Members' Bills, including the one last Friday that was diluted somewhat by my amendment —it was the best I could do in the circumstances. The Computer Misuse Bill was brought to the Floor of the House without police powers, but when it reached Committee it suddenly included some stringent search powers. The Sexual Offences Bill about kerb crawling is to be debated tomorrow. I admit that there needs to be legislation to deal with men who kerb crawl, but all of a sudden inserted into that Bill are considerable police powers, which I suspect will be aimed more at women than at men. If the Bill receives a Second Reading tonight, I wonder whether strong police powers will be inserted into it backed by the Metropolitan police and London Regional Transport. The Bill is about collecting fares, but in my view it is also about increasing violence and intimidation. LRT will need those powers if it is to use such methods.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I would not want my hon. Friend to mislead the House. There are some stringent rules that apply to private Bills which cannot grow in scope because of the rights of people to petition from outside. The Bill can be only narrowed in scope.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I appreciate that and bow to my hon. Friend's expertise, but I am worried about the Bill's related purposes. I remind my hon. Friend what happened when automatic ticket barriers were first introduced. I cannot remember all the details, but we had specific assurances that their use would be strictly limited, that other entrances would be open at all times and that they would be staffed to assist people who had problems using the automatic ticket barriers. But within a short time the alternative entrances had been blocked off and people were forced to use the automatic barriers. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish raised the matter and pointed out that it was a breach of the undertakings that had been given at the time.

I am worried that the Bill provides for related purposes as LRT will latch on to that to breach any undertakings that are given or say that any breach is covered by that phrase. I understand my hon. Friend's point that the Bill can be only narrowed in scope, but I wonder why the phrase was used in the first place.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

It may well be that LRT has some order-making powers. Previous private Bills that have become Acts grant order-making powers in the form of byelaws to such bodies as LRT. It may well be that the idea is that, once the Bill is enacted, it will be possible to produce more bylaws within the framework of the Bill and to say that they are related to the legislation which has the authority of Parliament. I say that because it is amazing that Parliament has granted so many powers to so many people over the years.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is a good point. I must bow to the great expertise of my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for Denton and Reddish, who have a wealth of experience from Committees about the procedures and workings of the House. Their points are especially relevant.

It is likely not only that regulations can be made to substantially increase the fines—and perhaps for other, unknown purposes—but that there may be byelaws, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South suggested. Everything hinges on the phrase "and related purposes". We do not know what we are buying, if that is the correct word, if we pass the Bill on that basis.

The Bill refers to the "transport needs" of London. Penalty fares are allegedly a part of London Regional Transport working for London's transport needs as a whole. What about the disabled? The report by the London Research Centre for the London Boroughs Grants Committee says: People with disabilities have limited access to transport in London; this restricts their access to employment, education, leisure and other opportunities. The absence of lifts at most Underground stations, a lack of staff at stations and a lack of information about the ability to interchange from one mode of transport to another, inhibits the ability of people with disabilities to travel in the capital. While the number of Dial-a-Ride journeys made in 1988/89 rose to over 540,000, a condition of LRT funding only allows them to be short ie to no more than one mile outside borough boundaries."— a ridiculous restriction Greater operational integration between the various types of transport service in London is needed and Dial-a-Ride should be able to provide longer journeys. I agree. There is nothing about that in the Bill although it talks about the "transport needs" of London, and about "efficiency, economy and safety". If disabled people cannot get to their place of employment, that does little for London's economy and discriminates against the disabled. There is nothing in the Bill for the disabled.

The position for the disabled is becoming worse. I have heard enormous protests from those concerned with dial-a-ride and from the disabled about the regionalisation plans of London Regional Transport. I see that you are becoming anxious, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I do not know why. I am talking about the transport needs of London as a whole.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I am becoming anxious because the Bill is about the penalty fares of those travelling without valid tickets. The hon. Gentleman's remarks seem to have little to do with that.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I was wondering whether penalty fares would apply to disabled people travelling on the system as a whole. There is already great discrimination against disabled people travelling on the system. They have to seek permission before they can travel on the tube and the buses are appalling as well. I referred to the booklet "Capital Transport Bulletin" of the Capital Transport Campaign. The campaign has drawn up a petition which says: Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House take necessary legislative action to require that all new buses and coaches purchased from 1992 by operators in the United Kingdom be accessible to all people with disabilities including all wheelchair users. That petition will come to the House and I hope that it has a great horde of signatures.

Presumably, a disabled person who tries to use the underground without permission could find himself having to pay a penalty fare. Let us suppose that a disabled person went up to the ticket office and said, "I should like permission to travel on the tube" and the member of staff concerned said, "Nothing to do with me, guy; I don't know what the rules are." That disabled person could then find when he had boarded the train that an inspector came along and asked him, "Where is your permission? Penalty fare imposed!" That could happen. I do not know whether it will, but it certainly could and, if it does, the disabled will be discriminated against once more.

Let us suppose that disabled people use the dial-a-ride services. Will penalty fares apply on dial-a-ride? I should not think so, but it must be said that there is a dispute between the dial-a-ride committees and LRT at the moment, and a huge row about the regionalisation proposals. I could read the House some of the letters that I have received. Presumably, if LRT does not get its way, it will punish the dial-a-ride associations, and penalty fares may be one way of doing that.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Would my hon. Friend care to comment on circumstances in which a disabled person obtains access but does not have a ticket because there is too much of a hurry or because he is busy handling a wheelchair? Is it not likely that if he is accused of not paying his fare and is therefore subject to a penalty fare, he will seek to avoid further action? Clause 9(1)(a) provides that no action is to be taken if the passenger has paid the penalty fare to the person providing the service. The disabled person might well feel that the easiest way out is to pay the fare and get the authorities off his back. The Bill thus allows for a potential intimidation of disabled people who already face great difficulties in life without having such obligations thrust upon them.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Yes, I think that there is an element of intimidation. I have given some examples already. I think that the Bill will lead to the intimidation of able-bodied people—let alone disabled people, always supposing that they can gain access to the transport system in the first place, which a lot of them cannot because LRT has been slow to improve access to buses and train services.

As I said, there are many problems with the dial-a-ride system. One local resident in Waltham Forest, Mr. Docking of the Walthamstow Older Persons Forum, complained about it. He said that the regionalisation—I presume that he also means the penalty fares or other penalties imposed by LRT on disabled people— will take away all local control. Should this change come about it will affect the most vulnerable persons in our community, the old and impaired, and those who suffer from some disability and cannot always use public transport. Also, there are many of our older community who are afraid to use a normal bus service at night when they wish to make a visit. The more difficult it becomes to obtain a Dial-a-Ride bus the more people become homebound. This change, should it come, could cause a number of things to happen—fewer buses to cope with a greater number of people. A complete breakdown of the system unable to cope with the already unsatisfactory booking system. and shorter journeys. Dial-a-Ride has already suffered by a shortage of buses. Are we now beginning to see the end? Is this what London Transport would like to see? When are we going to be consulted on the changes that affect our way of life—or are we just to settle for a cup of tea and a chat and accept what we are given? They do not even get a cup of tea and a chat but they are certainly being told that they must accept what they have been given.

We have not had satisfactory answers from LRT about its plans for the regionalisation of dial-a-ride. These matters are related to the Bill, and I make no apology for referring to the state of the underground or the cuts in the 38 and 55 bus routes for the very reason that I gave at the beginning of my speech. We have been refused the opportunity to debate LRT issues in the House and the system entails no local democratic accountability.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is puzzling that London Regional Transport preferred to take the time of the House to introduce this measure on penalty fares rather than deal with some of the serious issues to which he referred? Would it not have been far better if it had not introduced a Bill such as this but suggested to the Government that, if we need a system of penalties, it should be introduced across the whole country, not on a local basis? It would have been far better to introduce a Bill to improve London transport along the lines that my hon. Friend suggested.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is the case. We are still waiting for a comprehensive set of proposals for London Regional Transport on which the London public can be fully consulted and can have an input in decision-making. We need proposals that will make a significant improvement in the transport system. My hon. Friend is right that penalty fares should not be a small part of a piecemeal package for London—the rest of the package is non-existent—which does not apply to the rest of the country.

The Government should have said to LRT, "Go to the back of the queue on the penalty fares issue. First, we want to extend to the rest of the country the system introduced by the GLC of free travel for pensioners." That should have had a higher priority than penalty fares.

It is not simply a matter of fare dodging in London. There is a lot more to the matter, such as safety, cleaning up the tube and introducing lower fares. Those points should also have come higher.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

My hon. Friend has rightly dealt extensively with the system. I refer him to the original cause of the Bill, which is the entirely unsubstantiated claim on which we have received a trivial and meretricious document from the promoters—who receive large sums of money for doing very little—about the amounts that are lost through fare dodging. We do not support fare dodging. LRT should have known that the cost would be dwelt on because it has been dwelt on before. Will my hon. Friend explain that there are still fare dodgers on conductor-operated buses —Routemaster buses on central routes and one-man or one-woman operated buses on other routes? Does he agree that the expensive ticket equipment that is supposed to work superbly, which was installed at a cost of many millions of pounds, was supposed to stop people getting on trains without a ticket anyway?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is right and it was touched on in the earlier part of the debate. The figures presented in the statement by LRT were completely unsubstantiated. LRT failed to come to any conclusions about the impact of the ticket barriers on fare dodging. It has simply churned out the same figures again. If the figures have not changed, automatic ticket barriers were a complete waste of millions and millions of pounds. The people responsible should be sacked for wasting public money.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Does my hon. Friend agree that the old argument about sacking incompetent managers is long gone? They should be transferred to repairing the escalators at the same rates of pay as the people who usually do the work.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. Let us keep to penalty fares.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

The point has been made and I shall take Mr. Deputy Speaker's advice and not dwell on that matter, but clearly high salaries are being paid. I expect that high salaries will not be paid to the inspectors. I saw three inspectors on the train this morning. They were women, put in the front line of potential violence. It may be that the fact that they are women will mean that violence will not take place. Their gender might help to stop violence in some cases. But it is typical of LRT to put women in the front line of the potential risk. I bet anything that those women are not highly paid but low paid for the risk that they take.

We should discuss in the House whether it will be the policy for inspectors to go round in threes to collect the penalty fare. A much better job for them would be looking after women's safety, rather than collecting the penalty fares. There should be good intercom systems so that if women are employed in the job—I do not begrudge them being employed in protecting other passengers because they do a good job and there are, quite rightly, women police officers—there must be a rapid back-up available.

In this discussion on penalty fares we have not heard what back-up inspectors will have. Will there be any? A train operated by one person might stop in a deep tunnel and there might be violence due to a dispute over a penalty fare. What sort of back-up would there be for inspectors in the middle of a dangerous fracas? We have not heard a word about that in all the various times that the Bill has come before the House, which is quite scandalous.

No penalty fines will be imposed on those using the 38 and 55 buses because those buses have been cut. If they were reinstituted, I would be prepared to consider curtailing my speech, not raise so many issues and perhaps give the Bill a fairer wind. But we have heard nothing from the Government or LRT. They will not take our representations properly into account so the cuts are in place, despite public opposition to them in Leyton.

There could be a severe threat to jobs at Leyton garage because of the cuts on those two popular and useful bus services. I am informed that already an extra 500 people who use those buses to get to the west end and St. Bartholomew's hospital—who pay their fares regularly, would never get a penalty fare if such a system operated because they are model passengers and are only too keen to pay and use good local bus services—will now have to use the tube system that is already chronically overcrowded.

I invite the sponsor and LRT managers to come on the Central line to Walthamstow Central and Leytonstone tube stations in the rush hour. They should get out of their Rolls-Royces and chauffeur-driven cars, and come in the rush hour to see how overcrowded those tube stations are. They are forcing people in the Lea Bridge area of Leyton to join those terrible overcrowded trains. They should come along with some of those residents. Lea Bridge road is a couple of miles away from those tube stations and when the bus is not operating residents have to walk or change buses, which entails long waits. That places an enormous burden on those people who have never collected a penalty fare. However, LRT is punishing them by cutting the local bus service.

The demand for buses is increasing but LRT's reaction is to reduce the service. It has even decided to reduce bus services because it claims that the roads are too congested. What a cockeyed and about-turn way to look at things. LRT should be pressuring the Government to restrict private cars and increase bus lanes and public transport on the routes along the Lea Bridge road so that people will get out of their cars and use public transport. We have heard crazy notions from the board of LRT, which has no idea of the real problems or how to deal with them. The board had abdicated its responsibility for what the Bill calls the transport needs for the time being of Greater London and (b) efficiency, economy and safety of operation;". The feeble and pathetic little measure before the House will impose penalty fares for which no good reason has been given. The purpose is to raise a small amount of income for LRT, but the money will not be spent on the system—it will go into the Treasury coffers and the Government will use it for other wider political services. In the meantime, London passengers are badly treated with late, filthy trains and buses, long delays, dirty stations and poor standards of safety.

I oppose the Bill. I have a file full of representations from constituents who are bitterly angry about cuts in the No. 38 and No. 55 bus services. They are also bitterly angry at the response of LRT, which has not taken their protests into account.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend, but he does not seem to have described two crimes which I encountered recently in connection with the new gates on the underground. Someone who looks a bit dozy enters the tube station followed by another person who puts a ticket into the machine. The first person, who is obviously without a ticket, takes the ticket of the second person, nips through the gates and on to the platform leaving the genuine ticket holder without a ticket.

The second situation relates to someone leaving the station. He puts a single journey ticket into the machine and is followed by a person who puts in a ticket that is either for several journeys that day or a season ticket. The single journey ticket does not come out of the machine and the person who inserted it lingers long enough to snatch the ticket of the person who is following. I suspect that those two crimes are developing on the underground. Will the penalty system work or will it deter inspectors from chasing that sort of crime?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend raises two important matters which have been raised before in the House. I have a thick file here, and another in my office, containing letters protesting against the cuts on the No. 38 and No. 55 bus routes. Those files are as big as the ones that I have full of letters from people protesting about the automatic ticket barriers. They gave the same sort of examples as those cited by my hon. Friend of people losing their season tickets. The cost of a season ticket can run into four figures, and will probably go even higher under this Government. The shortage of staff at stations means that criminals know that they can easily get away with that sort of crime. There is nothing in the Bill to tackle that.

Will the Minister put pressure on LRT to spell out its intentions for the automatic ticket barriers? It is introducing a touch-and-pass scheme. What will be the cost of that? It appears that LRT has endless amounts of money to spend on all sorts of ideas that have not been properly thought out and without having consulted. That lack of consultation and democracy lead to appalling schemes which waste vast sums of money. How much will the touch-and-pass scheme cost? Will there be a ticket barrier removal programme? If not, why not?

Will the two schemes run at the same time? What about the safety implications of the ticket barriers? In narrow-necked tube stations they are a tremendous safety problem. The Government and LRT have been let off lightly because we have not had another King's Cross. I am very pleased about that, but there have been a number of fires. The automatic ticket barriers are part of a package to catch the fare evader. Penalty fares are another part of that package. London Regional Transport has concentrated on that to the exclusion of all the other problems faced by London passengers, and it cannot even get that policy right, despite having spent millions of pounds on it.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

My hon. Friend mentioned cuts in two bus routes in his constituency—apparently for the curious reason that LRT wants to take the buses off the road because they cause congestion. Clause 3 makes it clear that the Bill applies to any bus or train service. When in operation, one or two people will go around checking tickets. If there is a confrontation on a one-man operated bus, the bus will have to stop while it is sorted out. The money will be demanded and the penalty fare will be imposed. If the inspectors operate frequently, buses will be at the side of the road during any altercations. That works against the argument that LRT used when it withdrew the bus routes.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I remember a standard joke when one-man-operated buses were introduced. It was about the bus that crashed. When the driver was asked what happened, he replied, "I was upstairs collecting the fares at the time." I fear that there will be a similar running joke as a result of this measure. Following an accident, when a driver is asked what happened he will reply, "I don't know—I was inside the bus trying to collect penalty fares."

We do not know the trade union view of the Bill. If I am right and it is likely to lead to more altercations, assaults and violence, bus drivers and conductors and train drivers and guards will bear the brunt of that. Already, horrendous cases have occurred and staff have been killed by passengers following altercations. Immense anger is rightly created among staff at such incidents. Workers at many bus garages in London have gone on strike after colleagues have been severely assaulted or even killed. I recall a funeral procession from Leyton bus garage following the death of a worker due to violence. I fear that the Bill could increase such risks, mainly for inspectors, which is no doubt why they go round in threes. Before long they will be going round in fours and fives, although one wonders how they will make their way through congested trains.

We should have been given the workers' view of the Bill, but the Government hate the workers—they are not interested in the workers and will impose any conditions on them. That is why people have been killed building the Channel tunnel and on building sites——

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. Will the hon. Member stick to the subject of LRT penalty fares, please?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I am not leaving the subject, Mr. Deputy Speaker. London Regional Transport inspectors, who are workers, will he at risk. Imagine an inspector collecting penalty fares suddenly meeting a guy determined to get away with it—a fight ensues, out comes a knife and loss of life could result. That is not an unreal scenario.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Is my hon. Friend aware of two problems that will face the staff? First, there is the possibility of an altercation when someone refuses to give his name. Secondly, some fines will be collected on the spot, so inspectors will be carrying largish sums of money and there may he a temptation to take the money off them.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

My hon. Friend makes two excellent points. The inspector carrying money will himself or herself become a target. That is all the more reason why, before long, they will be going round in fours and fives. The situation late at night will be particularly dangerous, given that much fare evasion occurs late at night and not just in the rush hours. Is LRT making arrangements, and is there anything in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill about this, to provide banking facilities at each station where money can be deposited?

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

It is important for LRT to answer that question clearly. Perhaps the sponsor will intervene to explain the position. If the general public can be convinced that inspectors will not be carrying much money because they will have ample opportunity to bank any money that they collect, people will be dissuaded from assaulting them.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I do not know whether there will be banking points on every station. If there were, LRT would incur considerable capital expenditure because they would have to be secure and staffed. It would be like a Securicor van delivering cash to a bank. An inspector making For such a banking point could become a target for a mugger. There are many serious implications. We have not heard a whisper from LRT about whether there will be a banking point on every station. I doubt whether there will be. If there is not, inspectors will be put at severe risk.

A £10 fine one week could be increased to £20 the next and could shortly become £50. The inspector would only have to collect one or two fines before he was walking around with £200—an attractive target for a mugger. Attacks on inspectors would increase substantially, but LRT has not given the first thought to that. It has not even started to think about the implications.

I do not mind the idea of a bank on every station. The Government like to privatise everything under the sun. Perhaps we should have banks on every station from which people can obtain cash. That might have other implications, however—I should not put ideas into the Minister's head—sbut that should not come before the security of the inspectorate, which is my priority.

It is scandalous that trade unions were not consulted. At any rate, we have not been told of their response. LRT cannot be bothered even to put out a statement discussing the issues. Many issues have been raised during the debate, not just by me but in interventions. LRT has been trying to get the Bill through since 1986, but every time it reaches the Floor of the House the same points are raised. A management worth its salt would look at past debates in Hansard and consider its response to the points made. But on every occasion the Bill is introduced in exactly the same form, with unsubstantiated figures and fines plucked out of the blue. None of the important issues about which Members have expressed concern in the past are addressed. That says something about the lack of quality in LRT management.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Will my hon. Friend comment on the order-making powers in the Bill? Clause 3 gives power to the Secretary of State to make orders containing such supplementary, incidental and consequential provisions (including transitional provisions) as may appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient. That means that the penalties will be introduced by a statutory instrument under clause 10. It appears that such a statutory instrument will not have to come to the House. The Secretary of State will simply make an order which will come into effect. He has a wide range of powers because the only order required under the negative procedure, which does not have to be debated, is the amount of penalty fares to be described by order subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. That is contained in clause 6(2). Could the Secretary of State not therefore set the process in train—to coin a phrase—without any further reference to the House?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

As I have said before, my hon. Friend has terrific expertise in these matters. He is Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, and his knowledge of the procedures and workings of the House, and of the wording of Bills, statutory instruments and other regulations, is second to none. His points must be taken seriously. He says that under the Bill orders can be made by a Minister, who will not have to come to Parliament to justify what he is doing. That is serious and it is yet another factor working against the Bill.

Earlier we talked about the docklands transport system. It is a woefully inadequate system, and it is pathetic that no proper infrastructure was set up before the development. That is what happens when there are unaccountable planning authorities and also unaccountable transport authorities.

It has been said that there will be lower fines on the docklands light railway than on the buses and tubes in the capital, but what about the docklands riverbus? From what I can gather, it is used infrequently, mainly because it has not been properly developed for the maximum convenience of Londoners, who could make use of it if it had proper stops along the Thames. That is not to say that public money has not gone into it—a vast amount has, yet the fares are astronomical. It is more than £1 to travel one stop. When will Londoners get some value for their money? When will the riverbus be made more accessible to Londoners? Whenever I see it, it is empty—the money might as well be poured straight into the Thames. If someone stows away on the riverbus, will there be an inspector to charge a penalty fare? If so, will it be the £10 which applies to London buses and trains, or the £5 which applies on the docklands light railway? We should have answers to those questions.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I am sorry to intervene as I know that my hon. Friend is pressed for time and is trying to curtail his remarks and to speak as succinctly as possible. Clause 3(1) of the Bill refers to any bus or train service". Clearly the riverbus service could come within the ambit of the proposals.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is a key question. It may be argued that it is a private service and that the Bill does not apply. It is Government policy to hand out millions of pounds of public money to private companies, so public money was involved. Presumably the principle of penalty fares should apply if public money is being defrauded.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I draw the attention of my hon. Friend to clause 3, under which the provisions apply to any other service provided in pursuance of an agreement with the Corporation by virtue of section 3(2) of the 1984 Act". What staggers me, and no doubt my hon. Friend, is that the point was not clarified beyond peradventure, as the lawyers say, by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr Thorne) when he was elaborating on why we should pass the Bill. He failed to do that.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

That is a fair point. If the Government support the principle of penalty fares, presumably they should have introduced a Bill to bring in penalty fares for the riverbus service. We have spent nearly three hours on the Bill, but if that is a private riverbus service, the Bill becomes—what do they call it?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Yes, it may be a hybrid Bill. If the riverbus service is excluded because it is private, although public money went into it, and if the Government intend later to bring in regulations to apply the legislation to the riverbus service, surely that would make the Bill hybrid. The hon. Member for Ilford, South and I should have been called to order at the beginning of the debate. Perhaps the debate should have been stopped because this may be a hybrid Bill. I am shocked that we have spent three hours of precious parliamentary time on what may be a hybrid Bill.

Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone , Brent East

Having just come into the House, I am fascinated. I was watching the debate on television and I assumed that at some point my hon. Friend would give up the struggle against the reactionaries who run London Regional Transport. Instead of wasting hours of parliamentary time—we can assure the lackeys from London Regional Transport who are here that the debate will go on—the best way of tackling the problem would be to return to the policy adopted by the Labour-controlled GLC in 1981 and cut fares. When we did that, the new fares brought dramatic results. People were happy to pay reasonable fares to a socially-conscious authority, but they do not like paying exorbitant fares to the lickspittles of a Tory Government running London Regional Transport.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

The record of my hon. Friend's administration in running London transport services was miles better than that of the quango. It was the Tories and their allies who took that administration to court when it wanted cheap fares. It was the Tories who wanted high fares, and they have had their way ever since. At the recent local government election there was propaganda about Conservatives costing less. That should be set beside their action when they took the GLC to court on its low fares policy. The Conservatives cost people more. They cost the people in my area more when the Nos. 38 and 55 bus services were cut. My constituents have enormous problems in getting to work, and they are furious about it. They were not consulted. There was only nominal consultation. About 1,800 people said that they did not want the bus services to be cut——

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 62, Noes 25.

Division No. 201][10 pm
AYES
Arbuthnot, JamesGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Gregory, Conal
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Buck, Sir AntonyHague, William
Butterfill, JohnHampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Harris, David
Chapman, SydneyHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Irvine, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Jack, Michael
Cormack, PatrickJanman, Tim
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Knapman, Roger
Fishburn, John DudleyLightbown, David
Forman, NigelLilley, Peter
Forth, EricMaclean, David
Fox, Sir MarcusMans, Keith
Freeman, RogerMiller, Sir Hal
Garel-Jones, TristanNeale, Gerrard
Gill, ChristopherNeubert, Michael
Nicholls, PatrickThorne, Neil
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Thurnham, Peter
Paice, JamesTwinn, Dr Ian
Patnick, IrvineWaller, Gary
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWatts, John
Riddick, GrahamWells, Bowen
Sainsbury, Hon TimWheeler, Sir John
Shaw, David (Dover)Widdecombe, Ann
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Wood, Timothy
Sims, Roger
Squire, RobinTellers for the Ayes:
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnMr. Roger Gale and
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Mr. Lewis Stevens.
NOES
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Maclennan, Robert
Benn, Rt Hon TonyNellist, Dave
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Pike, Peter L.
Boateng, PaulPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Skinner, Dennis
Cryer, BobSnape, Peter
Foster, DerekTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Galloway, GeorgeWareing, Robert N.
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Haynes, FrankYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Home Robertson, John
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Tellers for the Noes:
Kennedy, CharlesMr. Harry Cohen and
Livsey, RichardMr. Ken Livingstone.
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

Whereupon MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 36 (Majority for Closure).

Debate to be resumed upon Thursday 17 May.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is a serious matter when the Government are unable to maintain 100 Members in the House, particularly when they have an overall majority of 110, yet they are so disorganised, dismayed and defeated by the local government elections, particularly in Bradford——

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order.

Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone , Brent East

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am raising not a party political point, but the position of LRT's management. This is a vote of censure by the whole House of Commons.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman should know that if he raises such points of order, I am bound in all fairness to allow points to be made to the contrary, and then we would be re-embarking on the debate that has just concluded.