Railway Manufacture

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd November 1992.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York 12:00 am, 23rd November 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take measures to ensure the continued possibility of the manufacture of railway locomotives and rolling stock in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, The Secretary of State for Transport, Chair, Privileges Committee

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have already taken such measures. In his autumn statement last week, my right hon. Friend announced, in addition to further substantial external financing limits for British Rail, new leasing arrangements which would allow British Rail to order an extra £150 million of new rolling stock in the run-up to privatisation.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

I welcome that change. The Government are welcome to plunder the Labour party manifesto for many more of our proposals. Will the Secretary of State ensure that British Rail has the revenue to pay the leasing costs? Will he specifically seek to obtain the Chancellor of the Exchequer's approval to reverse the £40 million cut in British Rail's finances announced in the autumn statement the week before last? Will he also seek to ensure that British Rail's budget is not cut to £1,500 million in the following year and to £1,080 million in 18 months' time? Is the Minister aware that when his colleague the Minister for Public Transport was in York on Thursday last week he described as "bunkum" my fear that job losses would result from the under-financing of British Rail—just hours before the British Railways Board announced 5,000 redundancies? Or was the Minister for Public Transport not aware that those redundancies were coming? Did the Secretary of State not tell him?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, The Secretary of State for Transport, Chair, Privileges Committee

I cannot answer all the hon. Gentleman's questions or I should be here for 20 minutes, but I will answer some of them. The announcement that British Rail made last week on voluntary redundancies—a commercial decision that it reached—had nothing to do with privatisation or anything announced in the autumn statement. Like any company with falling revenue and rising costs, it took action to deal with that. The redundancies will be voluntary, and British Rail has an extremely good record for so managing staff reductions over many years. As a result of the autumn statement, compared with the 1970s and 1980s British Rail will be able to make record capital investment of about £1 billion over the next three years. Part of the graph of the external financing limit reflects the fact that, this year and in the forthcoming year, we shall peak on rolling stock for the channel tunnel.