London Underground

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 25th June 1997.

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Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons 3:30 pm, 25th June 1997

I must inform the House that I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State 4:21 pm, 25th June 1997

I beg to move, That this House welcomes the belated recognition by the Government that the future operation of, and investment in, London Underground can best be carried out by privately-owned companies; and urges the Government to avoid dogma and pursue with vigour ways to maximise private investment in the Underground whilst preserving safeguards for passengers. I will be brief, because the time for the debate has, necessarily, been severely truncated.

The aim of both the Opposition debates is to get some clarity about the Government's position on two important areas of policy. Before I discuss London Underground, I should say that the first time that I spoke from the Opposition Front Bench on transport was 21 years ago. When various commentators urged my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to make up his shadow Cabinet by jumping a generation, I am not sure that they exactly had me in mind. As one unkind commentator has said, it is rather like Alex Ferguson recalling Nobby Stiles. One thing that does slightly improve my morale is that, as a regular traveller on the underground, I have at least so far been spared the ultimate indignity of anyone getting up to offer me his seat.

There is one clear advantage in my position—I can remember the days when I was Secretary of State for Transport. Then, my consistent opponents were the then hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), now Secretary of State for Health, and, above all, the then hon. Member for Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East—now the right hon. Member for Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), the Deputy Prime Minister.

I do not recall that the cause of private investment was uppermost in their minds then. Indeed, I remember how the Deputy Prime Minister opposed the Transport Act 1981, which attracted private investment to the British Transport Docks Board and various subsidiaries of British Rail. So strong was the right hon. Gentleman's commitment to my plans to attract private investment in transport that he concluded his speech with the words: It should be made clear to all who seek to buy shares in these companies that they will not benefit from their action. As soon as the Labour Opposition are returned to power, they will take the quickest means possible to regain control of these sectors".— [Official Report, 13 January 1981; Vol. 996, c. 932.]

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

I am delighted to see the hon. Gentleman, who is probably about the only man on the Government Benches these days who agrees with those words.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

I will be delighted to hear whether the Secretary of State for Transport or the Minister are as enthusiastic. We will await developments.

My view on transport policy has always been that the essential test—the acid test—should be what is in the best interests of the transport user or customer. The London underground is a very good system; it is capable of becoming an excellent system, and that must be the whole aim of policy. We all know one of the problems it faces: over the past five years, there has been £3 billion of public investment in the London Underground system, but, even so, there is a backlog of investment of around £1.2 billion.

No one but a hopeless party bigot believes that the problems of investment have come about in the past 15 years. We only have to look at the evidence given by London Transport to the Select Committee on Transport to understand that that is not true. That evidence shows the picture since 1960—not only the excellent record of the last Conservative Government, but how investment recovered from the capital spending cuts of the last Labour Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, that is one part of the Government's case, as stated in their amendment. They are in a peculiarly weak position to lecture anyone on capital investment, given Labour's record in power on capital investment in health, transport and almost any other area.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

I am deeply grateful to the Minister, who has so much chutzpah I wonder how he manages to get the words out. Would he like to read the evidence that London Underground gave the Select Committee a little bit more carefully? He might find that the evidence made it very clear that London Underground had spelt out to the Conservative Government exactly what damage was being done, but had been faced with consistent and quite swingeing cuts.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

I am grateful for the elevation the hon. Lady has given me, but I am not yet the Minister. However, if she reads the report of the Select Committee on Transport, which I have here, she will see clearly set out the pattern of investment since 1960. She will see clearly how that investment rose during the last period of Conservative Government; she will also see clearly her own party's performance during its last period of power, and, indeed, the period before that. She remembers as well as I do the capital cuts that Labour made. My point is that the Labour Government are in a peculiarly bad position to lecture anyone on capital investment, in the underground or anywhere else.

No one doubts that there is a need for new investment—there is no question about that—and neither does anyone doubt that the present system of public funding will not produce the goods. That is the lesson of the past 20, 30 or 40 years.

No one can seriously complain that the Conservative party has failed to make its policy clear. My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), to whom I pay tribute for his work as Secretary of State for Transport, set out in February three options for the privatisation of the underground. Those options included the sale of London Underground as a single business, or the establishment of a structure similar to the national railways model, with a track authority owning the network and operators running trains on individual lines.

In addition, my right hon. Friend gave 10 commitments to passengers and staff, including commitments to through ticketing, safety, concessionary fares and control on fares generally. Above all, he gave a commitment to investment and to ploughing the proceeds of privatisation back into the underground system. That was a clear statement, and it is there for all to see.

Labour rejected that plan, and, in his response to my right hon. Friend's statement, the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), now the Minister for Employment and Disability Rights, quoted—not once, but three times—what he called a "leaked letter" from my right hon. Friend.

Throughout the election campaign, Labour maintained that hostility to my right hon. Friend's plans. Imagine, then, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the surprise of Labour supporters everywhere when they opened their newspapers on 16 June to find that what appeared to be another U-turn was being conducted. The Guardian, which even Ministers will concede is not exactly a high Tory newspaper, led with the headline: Prescott plans to sell the Tube. Options go well beyond Manifesto commitment. That report and other reports said that among the options being considered by the Government was the option to split the underground into two companies—one responsible for stations and track and the other running the trains. That option would be remarkably similar to that chosen for the privatisation of the railways—universally condemned, as I understand it, by Labour spokesmen.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

Well, we shall find out. I am grateful for the help of the hon. Gentleman—I call him my hon. Friend. We shall see whether Ministers confirm that.

According to the report, another option would be a public-private joint venture for the whole of the underground business, and a further option would be the taking on by companies of individual lines or groups of lines, running track, stations and trains.

The draft letter in which all those options were set out—and which has evidently been seen not only by The Guardian, but by a range of newspapers—described the timing of the decision process as "urgent." It added, in terms which are becoming sadly typical of the Government, that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions would brief selected journalists who are likely to report this story in a positive light.[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Regardless of our opinion about anything else, we do not believe that that is the way to make policy or to make announcements. Such announcements should be made on the Floor of the House of Commons, not to selected friendly journalists. That is basic; it is entirely non-negotiable. I hope that the Minister will say this afternoon that that is his policy—and, moreover, that that is his Department's policy.

This afternoon, the public need to know what is happening. What are the Government up to? What are their plans for the London underground? Above all, what specific options for the future of the London underground are the Government examining?

We have seen this whole process before, in the air traffic control saga. In October 1996, when talking about National Air Traffic Services, the then Labour transport spokesman, the right hon. Member for Oxford, East, declared that Labour was totally opposed to privatisation. He said: Labour will do everything we can to block this sell off. Our air is not for sale. That was in October 1996.

By April 1997, according to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), now President of the Board of Trade, the policy had become: We have always said that we would look at these issues on their merit. A few days later, no less a figure than the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), now the Prime Minister, said that it was to be the subject of—you have guessed it, Mr. Deputy Speaker—a review, which is characteristic of the Government. It is, of course, entirely a coincidence that the right hon. Member for Oxford, East, the then shadow Transport Minister, now pursues his ministerial career in the Department for Education and Employment.

We want to be told on the Floor of the House the Government's policy on London Underground. We want to know that, because the London underground is, by any measure, a vital service for millions of people in the capital and millions of people who come to this city. If we are to make practical sense of persuading people out of their cars in London, it is crucial that London Underground works well.

Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone Labour, Brent East

I am glad that the Opposition spokesman wants the London underground to work well. When I was leader of the GLC and led a deputation to see the Minister responsible for transport at the time—the right hon. Gentleman himself—and asked him to allow the GLC to give London Transport enough funds to tackle the backlog of work and build the Jubilee line, why did the right hon. Gentleman say that no Government funds would be forthcoming? Indeed, he barred the GLC from using its own rates income to restore the fabric of the tube.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

I think that the hon. Gentleman has answered his own question. I can think of no worse advocate for the London underground than he was at the time he came to see me. Given his record of spending money, it would have been a brave Government who gave him any. I respect and understand the hon. Gentleman's views, however.

I believe that the opportunity now exists to take a radical step forward, to improve the service and to move away from the inadequate system of public finance and public control. There is scarcely a commentator or observer who believes that the system is working well or that it cannot be improved. I believe, further, that Conservatives are entitled to say that, when in government, we successfully showed how the policy of privatisation could benefit transport: the ports and docks, freight, the railways, British Airways. No one wants to change those services back—unless the Government are about to undergo a complete change of heart.

Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Liberal Democrat, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

The right hon. Gentleman did not touch on the success or otherwise of bus privatisation and deregulation. Does he really feel that it was a success?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

Yes, it was. The coach deregulation which I carried out was also a great success, although opposed by the Liberal party. In fact, the Liberals have an even worse record than the Labour party of opposing most of these advances in transport.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock

To this list of want-to-knows, I should like to add one more. The fare-paying public received repeated assurances from the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) and from Steve Norris to the effect that the network card and similar concessions would be safeguarded following privatisation.

However, the right hon. Gentleman will have seen that 430,000 people who use the concession on the railways and the underground will face a 50 per cent. increase in fares as a result of franchising and privatisation. The railcard will be able to be used in fewer places; the intention is to kill off the concession altogether. That will increase congestion on the roads, and hit the poorest hardest. It will also diminish the revenue of London Underground.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

No, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. My right hon. Friend's statement about the underground clearly listed 10 commitments. One concerned concessionary fares, another was about fares more generally. I think I am right in saying that such a commitment had never been made by any Government before. The commitment was that, in the coming years, fares would not rise faster than the retail prices index.

The privatisations that we carried out have been highly successful. They have been to the advantage of the staff and companies concerned; most of all, they have been to the advantage of the public. If Labour Members do not believe that, why do they continue to pursue the policy? Labour has done a U-turn, and no longer is there any chance that they will reverse the privatisation policies that we pursued when in office. They know, in short, that we were right.

Privatisation has certainly had the effect of liberating transport companies, whether big or small, from the necessary restraints of the Treasury. That is clear and right, and is undoubtedly one of the advantages of privatisation.

It is important to understand, however, that privatisation is not simply a financial device; it is also about achieving better and more responsive management. One of its great advantages is that it gives freedom to management, allowing them to manage without for ever being second-guessed, and allowing them the opportunity to develop the business. That is what a transport undertaking is all about, and it is what businesses are all about.

There is no joy for a transport undertaking of whatever size to have Ministers and civil servants peering over its shoulders telling it what to do. That was the badge of the 1970s and the years leading up to them. That was the position that, step by step, the Conservative Government successfully reformed.

I said that I would be brief, for the obvious reason that this debate has been truncated. London Underground is the last major transport undertaking still constrained in that old-fashioned way. The challenge for the Government is to take radical action to reform the whole structure of London Underground for the benefit of the travelling public. Sadly, the vacillations of the past few weeks give the Opposition no confidence that that will be the final outcome.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 4:40 pm, 25th June 1997

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: regrets the substantial investment backlog in the London Underground which the Government has inherited; welcomes the Government's rejection of the wholesale privatisation of the London Underground, as proposed by the previous Government; and applauds the Government's swift action on options for public-private partnerships to improve the Underground, safeguard its commitment to the public interest and guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers. I am pleased that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) has taken this chance to debate the future of the London Underground. It is brave of him. I welcome the chance to debate the issue, and to take this early opportunity to affirm that an improved service by London Underground is a high priority for the new Labour Government.

We set out our policy for London Underground clearly in our manifesto, which said: The Conservative plan for the wholesale privatisation of London Underground is not the answer. It would be a poor deal for passenger and taxpayer alike. Yet again, public assets would be sold off at an under-valued rate. Much-needed investment would be delayed. The core public transport responsibilities of the Underground would be threatened. Labour plans a new public-private partnership to improve the Underground, safeguard its commitment to the public interest and guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers. We stand by that. Nothing that we have done or said since is inconsistent with that manifesto commitment. It will continue to be the framework within which our policy develops.

Let us have a bit of history—[Interruption.] I mean history—not the version of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, which did not even carry credibility with Conservative Back Benchers. The London underground has suffered from decades of under-investment. That is widely accepted, and the results are seen and experienced regularly by millions of Londoners and visitors to the capital. The underlying problem has been the level and uncertainty of funding under the previous Government, who delayed the investment needed to improve the network. Their record shows that they had no genuine commitment to the underground network. They increased or reduced funding as a matter of political expediency.

I shall not go back over 18 years of Tory rule; I shall go back just 10 years. The 1987 autumn statement left Government funding for the core network at its lowest level since the Conservatives came to power in 1979. It took the tragic King's Cross fire of November 1987 to produce a re-think of the Tory Government's attitude to London Underground. The Fennell report into the disaster was followed by a separate Monopolies and Mergers Commission report. In the face of that evidence, the Government could not deny the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's conclusion that deficiencies in the levels of service are the result of chronic under-investment in both new capacity and the replacement and renewal of existing assets". In response, the Government increased funding in the 1991 autumn statement, before the general election, but cut it substantially in 1992, after the general election. There was then a small increase in core funding in the 1993 autumn statement, followed by a succession of reductions in successive spending rounds. As a result, investment in the core underground has not been sufficient to remove the underground's backlog. The current investment backlog in the core network is more than £1 billion. According to London Transport's figures, which take into account the previous Government's public spending plans, the investment backlog in three or four years will reach £1.5 billion.

The House will be aware of the problems that London Underground has been experiencing with the Jubilee line extension project, which have resulted in cost overruns of over £300 million. London Underground is responsible for managing the project, but it has had to do so within a budget set by the previous Government. Given the overspends that almost always occur on such major projects, we are entitled to ask whether the contingency which the previous Government allowed in the original budget for the project was adequate.

The effect of those cost overruns is a reduction of more than £300 million in the amount available for investment on the core network. Each pound of overspend on the Jubilee line extension is a pound less for much needed renewals of track, signalling, stations, escalators and structures on the existing network. London Underground's management has advised us that a cut of that magnitude in investment in the core network will, in a few years, inevitably mean even slower journey times and even more disruptions.

During last year's spending round, the Conservatives knew both that existing levels of funding were already below the levels that London Underground said it needed, and that there were substantial Jubilee line cost overruns. What was their response? A cut in funding for the core network of £373 million for the two years, starting next April. There was no transport case for those cuts. They were utterly indefensible.

Against that background of consistent under-investment, a backlog of over £1 billion and further planned cuts of almost £400 million, the Conservatives announced that, if they won the general election, there would be a wholesale privatisation of the underground.

We have only to look at the situation that we have inherited on the national railway network to know what that would have meant. On the railways, taxpayers were robbed, as assets were sold off at knock-down prices. The network has been fragmented, and services have been threatened. That must not be the future for the London underground.

The truth is that we have inherited a wholly unsatisfactory situation with regard to London Underground. I and my colleagues are being bombarded with letters from irate tube users complaining to us about the problems that we inherited from the previous Administration.

We are determined to address the underground's investment needs, so that it can play its full part in a properly integrated public transport network for the capital. Our aim is to secure an affordable, reliable, clean and modern network. Despite the best efforts of its management and workers, the underground's quality of service is below that which passengers can reasonably expect. That also affects the prosperity of London as a city.

However, we cannot simply tax and spend to sort out London Underground's problems. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has therefore asked officials to examine a wide range of options to see which can deliver the world-class underground system that we all want. We have ruled out the Conservatives' plan for the wholesale privatisation of the network, but all other options will be considered.

I am happy to provide the House with details about the review of options that we are undertaking, but I stress that we are at a very early stage in the policy-making process. When we have a preferred option to announce, we shall do so, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall announce it to the House of Commons. However, it is only sensible that we should first study all options, apart from wholesale privatisation, in a calm, considered way.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

The right hon. Gentleman said that he had ruled out privatisation because it would take too long to resolve the problems that he perceives with the network. Will he now announce the timetable for his deliberations, and assure the House that the Government will provide rapid and effective solutions?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

I shall come to that point. It is not just a question of time: we reject the wholesale privatisation of London Underground because it would be a re-run of what has occurred with other privatisations. Assets would be sold off at disgraceful knock-down prices. We cannot produce solutions overnight.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

My right hon. Friend is right to point to the Conservative Government's legacy to London Underground. I have also seen correspondence from London Underground bosses concerning the Jubilee line overspend, which could affect services and investment in the existing network. My right hon. Friend is correct to establish a proper review of all future investment in London Underground. Will he consider also the specific problem caused by the Jubilee line overspend and its effect on the existing network? Will he contemplate short-term solutions to that problem?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My hon. Friend is right: we must address that problem. A crisis is looming on the underground. The Jubilee line cost over-run is so great that it is damaging the basic investment that is required in the fabric of the network.

As I have said, we cannot produce solutions overnight to problems that the Conservatives failed to solve in 18 years in government—indeed, they made the situation worse. We shall appoint financial advisers to help us assess the options. We hope that they will be able to provide valuable advice about potential options. I confirm also that the review of options will be taken forward as quickly as is reasonably practicable. The review will also draw on the views and the expertise of London Transport.

Options for the future of the underground will be advanced in parallel with the work that we are doing on the integrated transport policy White Paper, which will be published next year. We expect the financial advisers' options to be on Ministers' desks within three or four months. In the longer term, an integrated transport policy for London will be the responsibility of the Greater London authority. We shall publish a Green Paper on that authority next month, so that Londoners can have their say. Whatever the future holds for London Underground, the review of options will take full account of our proposals for the Greater London authority and its transport responsibilities.

Whatever options the Government may take up in order to secure greater investment in the underground, I make it clear that our overriding priority will be passenger safety. I believe that London Underground's management give the safety of passengers and staff the highest priority. That is absolutely right. As a result, the underground has had an enviable safety record in recent years.

Whatever happens to London Underground in future, it is vital that safety continues to be of paramount importance and is not compromised in any way. This is a very important issue in our review of options, and we shall ensure that the Health and Safety Executive and Her Majesty's railway inspectorate are fully involved. I pay tribute to London Underground staff, who do a very good job in trying circumstances.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

Before the right hon. Gentleman moves on to another subject, will he set out the options under consideration? He keeps talking about them, but he will not tell us what they are. May we assume that the options published in The Guardian and in other newspapers are among those that he and the Government are considering? Is he considering the option that companies be responsible for the track and, conceivably, that other companies should run the trains on different services?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

The Government have ruled out the option of wholesale privatization—I make that absolutely clear. However, we believe that the private finance initiative option in relation to "Power", for example, has the potential for success. There is also the option of many more private finance initiatives. We have not ruled out the option of a private equity stake in the capital of the underground, but that would be on terms very different from those proposed under the Conservatives with their privatisation measures.

Yes, there is a range of options, and we expect our financial advisers to come up with options that perhaps we had not even contemplated. That is why we are paying them, and we are paying them a good deal less than the Conservative Government paid their advisers, because we shall be using them for only a few months.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but for the last time in this debate. As he has said, many hon. Members wish to speak in a short debate.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

I intervene to help the debate.

Will the Minister confirm that all the options that were set out in the leaked draft letter from the Department of Transport are being considered and are on the table?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Frankly, I do not know anything about the leaked document that the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. I think that The Guardian is an excellent newspaper, but the truth is that there is a range of options, as well as other options that have never been put on paper.

We, the Labour Government, have not been in power for eight weeks, while the Conservative Governments had 18 years. I say to the Conservatives: just hold your horses. If our record at the end of this Parliament is anything like the record of our predecessors, we shall have failed. That can be said for sure.

The fact that we are having to consider public-private partnership options for the future of the underground system is no reflection on the staff, but is due to consistent under-investment in the core network—which we are determined to address—during the terms of office of Conservative Governments.

The Government's approach to the underground is in clear contrast to that of the Conservative party. We are determined to modernise the tube, for the benefit of the people and industry in London and beyond. We are acting now to secure the necessary investment.

The Conservatives, led by dogma, threatened the people of London with their wholesale privatisation plans. Public assets were to be sold off at bargain-basement prices, much-needed investment was to be delayed, and the core public responsibilities of the underground were to be threatened.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

No, I shall not give way again.

On 1 May, the Conservatives' dogmatic wholesale privatisation was given a resounding thumbs down by the people of London.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield no doubt came to the House with the idea of embarrassing the Government over recent disclosures in the media about our plans for London Underground. We have nothing to be embarrassed about. We are trying to find a practical solution to a problem that we inherited from him and others. We are not taking an ideological approach. Instead, we are being open-minded in a search for the best option. We are being entirely consistent with our manifesto commitment.

The London Underground carries as many passengers each year as the entire national rail network. It is the oldest underground railway in the world, and it is still vital both to London's economy and to the millions of people who live and work in London. But we are not getting the full potential from such an enormous national asset. The Government are determined to realise that potential through sensible public-private partnerships, not an ideologically driven wholesale privatisation.

Improving London Underground, modernising the tube and raising this public service is a London priority, but for the new Labour Government it is more than that; it is a UK priority. If London is to be a world-class capital city, it needs a modern and efficient transport system. The new Labour Government are determined to achieve that. It is for that reason that I urge the House to support the amendment and to vote against the motion.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster 4:58 pm, 25th June 1997

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me as the first London Member to speak in the debate.

As one enters St Stephen's entrance to the Palace, on the right-hand wall there is a map of my constituency, which was donated in 1932 by the underground railways, though not in their later stylistic cartography. I have never had a prior opportunity to thank them for it, and I take the opportunity now. As a passenger, I pay tribute to the management and staff of the London underground.

This debate is being held on behalf of all Londoners, and it offers a rare, medium-term opportunity for genuine unity among London Members of Parliament, despite the Minister's speech. I speak as a current denizen of the District and Circle lines and a veteran of the Central and Northern lines. Londoners deserve more from the underground than they receive.

What is needed is well known, and the 750,000 people who work daily in my constituency know what we must achieve if we are to preserve London's competitiveness, quite apart from improving our quality of life. Several years ago, the City corporation funded a pulling together of research into London's transport needs, and London First has followed up that research.

I hope that there is agreement on funding and investment needs. We know what the deficit was 10 years ago, and we know that four sevenths of that deficit have been paid in the past decade, partly through central Government funding and partly through the profitability of the system. Three sevenths of that deficit remain, however, and the unpredictability and oscillation—in this I am critical of the previous Government—of decisions on the funding of investment in the underground has made the removal of the deficit more difficult. The House will know that current desiderata, some of which have been alluded to today, have had to be deferred this year.

I hope that it will not be a matter of controversy if I say that a Greater London council mark 2 will not be a solution, given that the deficit was built up during the GLC mark 1 under both parties. Any GLC would still leave the underground subject to Treasury control. I also hope that it will not be a matter of controversy if I say that the deficit relates to capital investment, which will in turn ease the pressure on fares through improved facilities. The money should not be used for reducing fares in the first instance.

I recognise that the benefits of some of the investment will be invisible to the general public, although constituents in Pimlico will be grateful if inaudibility could be added. Anything that the Minister who replies to the debate can say about the problem of the Pimlico noise will be very welcome.

I hope that there is agreement between hon. Members on both sides of the House on many of these matters. God moves in a mysterious way, and we may be at a crux. Privatisation, as proposed by the Opposition, and private-public arrangements, as proposed by the Government, may offer a sufficient meeting of minds to solve the problem of funding in the interests of all Londoners, although I acknowledge that the Government's amendment is discouraging in that respect.

I take comfort from earlier developments. I am not sure whether the Government's espousal of Conservative policies is matched by an understanding of Conservative principles under which the past informs the future, but the circumstances of the formation of the London passenger transport board encourage me.

In the 1920s, underground railways investment had been heavily funded through the trade facilities legislation, the provisions of which included Treasury guarantees. When Labour came to power in 1929, with the grandfather of the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelison) as Minister of Transport, a whole cornucopia of paradoxes developed. Herbert Morrison's plans for the London passenger transport board specifically excluded representatives of organised labour from sitting on it. In that era, trade unions played a smaller part in Labour transport policy than they do today.

Just as paradoxically, London county council, which was then under Conservative control, resisted the idea of a board, on the ground that there were no places on it for local authorities. When the Labour Government fell in 1931, it was assumed that the Bill would fall with it, but it was carried forward under the National Government. In the 1920s, Herbert Morrison had said before taking office: In the direction of his undertakings, Lord Ashfield"— who was the chairman— had incorporated a considerable degree of public spirit for a capitalist concern. From the narrow point of view of Labour politics, I could almost have wished it were otherwise, for in all the disputations about London passenger transport policy this fact had made it harder to fight the combine. In that context, it is worth remarking that, for all the good that flowed from the London passenger transport board, some of that attributed to it had occurred while the underground was still in the private sector. I refer to Charles Holden' s design for 55 Broadway, and, perhaps even more relevant, his distinguished design for Arnos Grove station. Morden station also dates from as early as 1926. Much of the credit for that distinction must go to Frank Pick, Lord Ashfield's managing director, who belonged to both the public and the private eras and whose personal shyness was matched by a private cultural hinterland that enriched London Underground through its style.

Let me quote a passage from a speech by Lord Ashfield that was quoted in the House of Lords by Lord Banbury in opposing the Bill. I hope that I shall be allowed to quote verbatim from the dead. He said: In recent years, the suburbs have tended to become self-contained. The standard of shops has been improved, and luxurious cinemas have been built, so that there is not the same need or incentive to go to the centre of London for shopping or entertainment. Then the motor car has grown to be an important feature, and there are now well over 200,000 private cars registered in the London traffic area. They carry not only the family, but also neighbours and friends, and therefore withdraw more people from the public means of conveyance than at first sight would seem possible. The parking places and garages in the centre of London are filled with these cars. The theatre traffic, which at one time was carried upon the railways and omnibuses, has now largely passed to the private car. In the context of present transport policy in London, it is worth quoting further the comment made on that speech by Lord Banbury of Southam. He said: How can this public Board alter that? These are factors which remain."—[Official Report, House of Lords, I March 1933; Vol. 86, c. 936.] The historians of London Transport said of that intervention that it was one of the most sensible observations made by any contributor in the whole long course of the detailed, lively and sometimes acrimonious debate that culminated, for the time being, in the establishment of the London Passenger Transport Board. That whole collaborative narrative encourages me to think that we can achieve something similar today. Not for nothing is "underground" one of those rare words which, although not palindromes, feature three opening letters that are the same as the last three. That seems a good omen for the two sides of the House, which approach the subject from opposite directions.

I have one "footnote" question to ask the Minister. Why, in the Government's view, does signaling—which is critical to underground developments—lag behind so many other analogous technologies, to our combined disadvantage? That is a non-partisan question, but, obviously, an industrial one.

Finally, an index that sustains me in my confidence in a sensible and prompt resolution of London Underground's investment shortfall—and the problems of the underground will not be solved unless that shortfall is dealt with—is the knowledge that the attention to environmental quality that Frank Pick initiated in the 1920s and 1930s has been matched in current developments by the commissioning of Sir Norman Foster and Richard MacCormack to design stations on the Jubilee line. I hope that my confidence that London Members of Parliament in all parties will make common cause on behalf of the underground and its passengers is not misplaced.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee 5:08 pm, 25th June 1997

We are debating the motion tabled by the Opposition, and I think that all Labour Members—particularly London Members—welcome the opportunity that they have given us by exercising their choice. I welcome the chance to debate an issue that is crucial to Londoners; in that I join the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke). The underground is vital to the well-being of our capital city, and hence critically important to the strength of Britain as a whole.

I also welcome the debate because it gives us a chance to make clear the miserable state of the legacy that the new Labour Government have inherited. We have inherited not an excellent system, as the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) said, but a system that has suffered from 18 years of neglect and underinvestment. I also welcome the opportunity to discuss some of the options that are open to the Government over the life of this Parliament to put in place effective programmes that will secure what we all want—an affordable, efficient, safe and modern underground system in our capital city.

Building and running a first-class underground system is essential for the building and running of a world-class capital city. It is an essential ingredient in an integrated transport system for the capital. Businesses will stay in the capital and new businesses will invest in London only if their personnel can get around it. Visitors form an increasingly important part of wealth creation and they will come to London only if they can get around it easily; the same applies to those of us who live and work in the capital.

The issue relates not just to London and Londoners but to the United Kingdom as a whole, because, when jobs, tourists and industries come here, they create jobs elsewhere in Britain. London contributes more to the Treasury than it receives from it. It is not a drain on resources: it creates wealth for the rest of the country. What is good for London is good for Britain, but London's competitiveness has been seriously undermined and is at risk because of the inadequacies of its transport system. Businesses have expressed concern about the record of the Conservative Government. We all know about overcrowded trains, delays and cancellations, which make it difficult for businesses to recruit and retain staff. That makes them think about investing outside the capital.

It has been agreed that the millennium celebrations will take place at Greenwich. I welcome that decision, because it will attract more visitors to London and elsewhere. We have to get our public transport system right if we are to cope with the influx of people to London that those celebrations will attract. The Government are rightly looking at the environmental aspects of city living. We all say that we must tackle the growing dependence on the car, but we will change people's habits only by giving them the alternative of reliable public transport.

The problems facing the Government in that regard faced many big cities, but over the past 10 to 20 years most big cities have sought radical and dynamic solutions to the problem. Many of them have invested in new technologies and projects. The Conservative Government failed to do that. In those cities, such projects are often the pride and joy of the capital and the country. An unusual example is Venezuela, the capital of which, Caracas, has an efficient and well-maintained metro of which its citizens are rightly proud. The Conservative Government could have looked at that example in deciding how to run London's underground.

I agree with Opposition Members that we were once proud of our underground. It was once the world's best, but now it is a crumbling wreck and the neglect is not difficult to see. The system has crumbling tunnels and worn-out signalling, and the trains are overcrowded. The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) shakes his head, but I wonder how often he uses the underground. We who use it know the problems, but each year our hopes of a better system were dashed as the situation worsened.

It is not just commuters and tourists who have to put up with shoddy services, because business also suffers costs as a result of the congested and gridlocked city. Business has estimated that the lack of a properly integrated transport system costs it about £20 billion a year. Anyone in London, except perhaps Conservative Members, will say that we need to get London's transport system right.

It is a bit rich for the Opposition to table a motion on the state of the London underground when the Conservative Government showed such complacency on the issue for so long. A former Transport Minister, Mr. John Bowis, said as recently as January that, under the Government, underground services were improving. The voters of Battersea did not believe him, I did not believe him and neither did Londoners. It is no wonder that Battersea now has a Labour Member.

The Opposition motion takes the biscuit. What were the Conservative Government doing for the past 18 years, and how can Conservative Members think that eight weeks in office is enough to change 18 years of neglect? We shall have to sort out the legacy that we have inherited and we must look at some aspects of the mess so that we are under no illusion about the scale of the problem. As the Minister said, the Conservatives have left us with a staggering investment backlog of £1.2 billion. Worse still, they have left the Government with further budget cuts in Government grant of 28 per cent., which the Conservative Government incorporated in their budget for the next three years.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster that the Conservative Government's constant chopping and changing of investment proposals had an appalling effect on London Underground's investment plans. This year, it has been forced to cut its investment programme by £700 million. That money would make a real difference to the network. Those cuts fly in the face of the 1991 Monopolies and Mergers Commission report, which called for investment of £700 million to £750 million a year over 10 years. That advice was given to the Conservative Government in 1991, which makes it impossible for the Opposition to say that they were unaware of the problem, or that their record in government was excellent.

One of the key matters to be understood about the underground is the predicament created by the Conservative Government's failure over the Jubilee line. It is a scandal whose enormity has yet to be properly revealed. That Government allowed development to run wild in docklands without ensuring a proper transport infrastructure to link the development to the rest of London. They had resources to install such infrastructure, but they sold land cheaply and gave capital grants to the private sector and tax concessions to businesses and industries that chose to relocate in docklands.

None of those investors returned anything to the community in terms of transport structure for London. They were supposed to put money into the Jubilee line extension, but I understand that the amount of private sector investment is down to under £400 million. That was supposed to be another model private-public finance initiative undertaken by the Conservative Government, who made no allowance at all for the extra, inevitable costs that arise on such huge projects.

As a result, the extra costs, which will total about £300 million from 1997 to 1999, have had to come out of London Transport's diminished budget. Money that would otherwise have been invested in the rest of the tube network has had to be used to finance the overspend on the Jubilee line extension. To put it another way and to make it clear to the House, during 1996–97, more than £1 billion was invested in the underground system, of which £660 million went on the Jubilee line extension. Only just over £300 million was left to maintain the rest of the network.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar

Does the hon. Lady now feel that the Government should make up that money? Does she believe that the Government should put in £499 million to make up the shortfall?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee

That is not a terribly clever point. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that this Government are having to work within the financial parameters that were laid down by the previous Government. No one can take him seriously if he suddenly pretends that he has no responsibility for decisions that were taken in his name a few months ago and if he tries to put the onus on us.

The funding crisis that we are left with has many graphic examples. Trains are too full to get on, as anyone knows who tries to get on them in the rush hour. Cancellations are commonplace and accidents and power failures are rife. Even today, we read in the Evening Standard about the problems of the escalators at Highgate station, which are 56 years old, are the oldest on the network and have more or less given up the ghost.

Since 1991–92, the number of serious injuries on the tube has more than doubled. In the past year, the number of stations that have been closed for more than 15 minutes—some, I might add, for nearly an hour—has also doubled. Last November, there was a power failure, with 30,000 people stranded in tunnels, some of them for more than two hours. To what was the problem traced back? To the 91-year-old Lotts Road power station. In the same month, 10,000 passengers on the Victoria line suffered serious delay.

The previous Government cannot claim ignorance of those things. Before the last Budget, I, along with some of my Labour colleagues who are in the Chamber today, led a protest to the Treasury to ask the then Chancellor of the Exchequer not to make rumoured cuts in the underground budget. Two weeks later, the cuts were announced and they were roundly condemned by everyone—every newspaper, every pressure group, every section of society and every passenger in London. It was only in the last weeks of the previous Government, when they were scrabbling about for policies to put into a well-worn manifesto, that they decided that something had to be done.

The panacea was privatisation, but there was no coherent package, no proper method of implementation and no real answers. The previous Government assumed that the years of neglect could be solved simply by privatisation, despite the evidence to the contrary—none clearer than the fiasco caused by the British Rail privatisation.

Reference was made to the leaked memo to the then Prime Minister from the former Secretary of State for Transport, who said what would happen if the tube were privatised. It is worth reminding hon. Members of what he said: that, if we privatised the tube, the investment backlog would not start to be dealt with until the next century. As we all know, the underground needs help now, not in several years' time.

Services were also threatened in the leaked memorandum. The former Secretary of State for Transport said: I do not want to set existing service patterns in stone—some services may well be uneconomic. The implication of that is not hard to imagine. In fact, a picture was offered by a Conservative think tank—the Centre for Policy Studies—which suggested that all the stations outside zone 3 could be closed, and that that could be justified on economic grounds.

The previous Government's piecemeal approach has meant that a proper plan for the underground has always been lacking. I shall give just one other example, which I know well. From the autumn, there will be new Northern line trains, financed from the private finance initiative. It took long enough for that to happen, but they will finally run. Unfortunately, the service will not be any faster; in fact, it may be slower because we have not modernised the track, and signalling work has been put back three years because of the previous Government's cuts.

I hope that I have said enough to convince anyone listening who does not already know that the blame for the mess lies at the Government's door [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I mean at the previous Government's door—we have all got to get used to this. It is now up to us to sort out that mess, and that is why we have announced a full-scale review of the underground.

We need a proper strategy, not a piecemeal approach. We need an integrated approach to all transport infrastructure in London, which is why our proposals for a Greater London authority and an elected mayor are essential for proper planning and a proper system in future. However, we have an immediate crisis and we need to tackle that with vigour, imagination and courage. We all recognise the public expenditure constraints that we have inherited and it is nonsense to suggest that bringing finance in to pursue the public interest is the same as privatisation. It simply demonstrates yet again the Opposition's inability to think in new terms for the modern world.

We can effectively use private finance to assist with the investment that we so desperately need. For instance, stations could be modernised with private investment and their potential for retail development exploited, so that the private sector interest could be married with a good public sector outcome. We have the example of the very successful Manchester metro, which was developed by a public-private partnership. Future investment is planned, with money coming from local authorities, Government, Europe and the private sector.

I hope that the Government will consider the proposals that have been made by Tony Travers and Stephen Glaister from the London school of economics. Their proposals found considerable support in the business community in London. They suggested a small, specific levy on the business rates in London to finance specific improvement proposals for the underground.

Clearly, business ratepayers would need to be properly consulted—and it might make a change if we allowed them to vote on whether they wish to go down that road—but, if the proposals were accepted, it could ensure a regular flow of money for investment, and it would mean that transport investment would not have either to compete with investment in hospitals and schools or to count against the public sector borrowing requirement. Most important, that concept has considerable support in the business community.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

In that device, how is the hon. Lady going to overcome the potential resistance of the Treasury, which, if it sees that that money is being provided from another source, will simply reduce the amount that is going to London Underground from central Government?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee

I understand that, if this mechanism were used, there would be no need for it to be considered as counting against the PSBR. That is certainly my understanding of the position.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

I made no reference to the PSBR. I simply asked how the hon. Lady would prevent the Treasury from simply using the business funding as a substitute for central Government funding.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee

That was a trick that the previous Government tended to pursue at every opportunity. I do not think that it is one that we would wish to imitate, because we recognise the importance of increasing investment in the underground system.

Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon

My hon. Friend may be interested to know that, immediately before the election, Westminster city council welcomed the idea of a PH and rejected the concept of privatising London Underground. That, of course, is the council that the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) represents. Perhaps he could explain his views on the policies adopted by his own council.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing that matter to my attention; no doubt the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster will wish to reflect on it.

I have the fullest confidence that Ministers will demonstrate imagination, and pursue the issue with vigour. There is an overwhelming consensus in London in every strata of our very mixed community that something needs to be done. There is enormous good will among the citizens, businesses and representative organisations to work with Government to find a solution to a problem that we all know is not of this Government's making.

We can leave Conservative Members to carp; that is all that they are good for. We can leave them stuck in the past while we start thinking for the future, but I make a plea that we do not leave London's underground system to—if hon. Members will pardon the expression—go down the tube. Londoners would never forgive us for that.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:30 pm, 25th June 1997

I welcome the opportunity to discuss the future of London Underground, a subject close to the heart of Londoners who, according to its annual report, make 2.5 million journeys each day.

I must start by questioning why the Opposition have chosen the tube as the subject of today's debate. I assume that they are not trying to draw attention to their own record while in government because, as every regular commuter knows—I count myself in that category because I have worked in London for 16 years and have used the tube nearly every day during that time—the underground requires £1.2 billion of investment to catch up with the backlog of repairs. Passengers suffer indignity after indignity. At the main interchanges there are often queues to get into the stations, through the ticket barriers, down the escalators and on the platforms, and overcrowded trains await passengers.

According to recent London Transport statistics 22 per cent. of passengers travelling on the Central line, 21 per cent. on the Northern line and 16 per cent. on the Piccadilly line are in overcrowded trains. But the prize for the hardest-pressed commuters goes to the users of the Waterloo and City line, where more than 60 per cent. of commuters travelled in overcrowded trains.

I doubt also whether Conservative Members are seeking to highlight the so-called success of their rail privatisation programme, of which, again, I have considerable experience. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been little, if any, improvement in train punctuality, cleanliness or overcrowding. In fact, quite the contrary, for Connex South Central commuters during the past couple of weeks, of which I am one, or South West Trains commuters earlier in the year.

The promised bonanza in investment has not happened since rail privatisation. Railtrack has been criticised for delivering for its shareholders but not for passengers, and savings have yet to materialise. The private companies are now receivin' double the subsidy that British Rail used to receive. John Swift, the Rail Regulator, is threatening draconian fines if the rail operators do not get their act together and provide a proper public inquiry line.

I am also sceptical about the Opposition's call for the Government to avoid dogma. Was it not the Conservative Government who, but for the timely leak of a letter, would have privatised the underground for £800 million when it had assets of £13 billion? If that is not dogma, I do not know what is.

As hon. Members have said, the Opposition have chosen the subject simply to embarrass the Secretary of State who, absent-mindedly, left some notes at the BBC which have since received extensive publicity. Those papers revealed that the Government are considering a private-public partnership to run the tube where the private sector is the majority shareholder. During the general election campaign the Labour party's proposals for the tube were studiously vague, but if the Government are considering the private sector as a majority shareholder, is that wholesale or partial privatisation? That reports have said that the Department of Transport would brief journalists, which suggests that something needed to be spun. I hope that today's debate will clarify the Government's current plans.

In the words of the Prime Minister's Denver statement, I hope that the Government are committed to an integrated transport policy that makes public transport more attractive and gets traffic flowing more sensibly. I should add that I hope that they will reduce traffic, not simply get it flowing more sensibly.

If the Government are considering splitting the infrastructure with the rail and signalling equipment on one side and the tube services on another, will that help to achieve an integrated transport policy? Such a split may have made sense with British Rail because train operators are required to use the same track—but does it make sense for London Underground, and what are the safety implications of such a split? Unless more detail is forthcoming, I will have to describe the Government's plans as half-baked, a description used by the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) in a debate in February on tube privatisation.

It is worth reminding hon. Members of some of the questions asked by Labour Members during that debate. How much will privatisation, even partial privatisation, cost? What guarantees will there be about maintaining and improving service levels? Will any part of the network be deemed uneconomic and be closed down? How much will be spent on consultants whom we hear the Government will be employing as part of the review? Those are questions that the Government will have to answer. One way in which the Government might consider bringing investment into, say, the Northern line, would be to rename it the Millennium line. That would be a way of guaranteeing investment in it.

No one can deny that there is a crisis and that London Underground is in need of an urgent injection of cash. The incidents of passengers being trapped underground, frequent signal failures and escalators out of operation confirm that. That makes it difficult to appreciate the "charm" of the London underground as recommended by Peter Ford, chairman of London Transport.

Core investment—that needed to keep the system in a steady state—is expected to be £350 million per annum by 2000. As we have heard, the previous Government cut grants by no less than £700 million. The public want improvements. Londoners are crying out for better public transport and for imaginative proposals such as the reopening of the old Lords Metropolitan line station. There would be some difficulty, given that the Hilton hotel is on top of it, but if it were reopened it would provide direct access to Lords cricket ground, London zoo and the central mosque.

The Liberal Democrats would like the Government to consider setting up a public interest company which would be free to borrow money on the markets, and such borrowing would be outside the PSBR. There are some working examples in the States. The establishment of such a public interest company, and possibly others, such as for the Post Office, could form part of a wider-ranging review of the Government's accounting regime. This review could consider using the general Government financial deficit as an accounting regime, as happens in other European countries. This public interest company could receive hypothecated income from a number of possible sources, and I shall outline a few of them.

I hope that the Government will consider the option of a tax on non-residential parking spaces in London. I also hope that they will consider road pricing as one of their options. A simple, low-cost way of implementing road pricing would be to require those driving through central London to display a central zone London Transport ticket on their windscreen.

Another option would be an increase in business taxes, which has been mentioned. There is support for that idea in the business community. The chamber of commerce conducted a poll and found that 84 per cent. of top business men supported some kind of congestion charge. Finally, there might be a possible tax on the users of hotel beds, although I understand that that would not be terribly popular with hoteliers. Such steps would give London Underground the stable financial regime it needs for coherent, long-term planning.

Before the general election, a number of Liberal Democrats had meetings with the management of London Transport. I was appalled to find that, as the end of the financial year approaches, the annual budget cycle means that London Transport scrabbles around for things on which to spend its money. They are not necessarily the best projects, but just projects on which it can spend the money quickly.

The experience of rail privatisation shows that moving London Underground into the private sector is by no means a guarantee of investment in either the short or medium term. We shall therefore vote against the Opposition motion, but I do not feel that we can support the Government's amendment. The amendment asks us to applaud the options being considered for "public-private partnerships" but, until there is more flesh on the bones and until the Government have squared the Circle line, so to speak, we could not support the amendment.

We urge the Minister to consider as one of the options the possibility of setting up a public interest company which could rely on the sources of income that I have described, as well as on public subsidy. That is the only way that we can provide Londoners with a tube to rival Europe's best.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 5:41 pm, 25th June 1997

As someone who has been employed in London's transport industry for the past 11 years, I am delighted to make my maiden speech in this debate and to support the Government's amendment.

My constituency is not served by the London underground. In fact, the London underground has only just discovered the borough of Greenwich, which is where my constituency is. The Jubilee line extension will reach Greenwich in time for the millennium celebrations, bringing the London underground to Greenwich for the first time.

There are only 700 industrial jobs in my constituency; the majority of jobs in the borough are in the service industries. The majority of people who are employed travel to work in central London. London transport services provide vital links between the people of my constituency and their place of work.

Throughout the history of our capital city, transport links with London have helped shape my constituency. Communities have built up around stations such as Eltham Park and Well Hall, which have now been replaced by a new station at Eltham, a New Eltham station, Kidbrooke and Mottingham. These have given rise to a number of estates, each with its own distinct design and character, from Coldharbour in the south to the slopes of Shooters hill in the north.

The Corbett estate, which to this day has a covenant prohibiting any premises being used for the sale of alcohol, is where I live. I live in the middle of an area with no public house for many miles. Fortunately, the good Lord provides, and within the ward where I am a local councillor, the church of St. Barnabas provides a small clubhouse which is a welcome oasis for many local residents. The club is named after one of Eltham's famous sons, Frankie Howerd. I am pleased to say that it has just won the CAMRA award for the club of the year. To celebrate, there was a beer festival last weekend, and I took it to be my duty to attend. The Corbett estate was also home to another famous comedian, Bob Hope, and Eltham's little theatre is named after him.

My constituency also boasts the Progress estate, which was built during the first world war in only 11 months to house workers of the royal arsenal at Woolwich. It has the appearance of a Kent village. One of the houses was home to Herbert Morrison, who eventually moved to another house near to Eltham town centre which, to this day, bears a blue plaque in his honour. Denis Healey also lived in my ward. He was the son of a worker at the royal arsenal and lived in the properties known as the Hutments until the age of 11.

The A20 and the A2 cut through the heart of my constituency and are a reminder of the ancient links between London and Kent. Shooters hill was the old Roman road to Dover. Royalty has also held court in Eltham, and the surviving buildings of the Eltham palace built in the 14th century can still be visited today. There is also a Tudor barn which was built in the 16th century and is now an excellent pub and restaurant. Set in the magnificent surroundings of Pleasance park, it is well worth a visit; I invite all hon. Members to come and enjoy the surroundings. That is all that remains of the mansion built by Will Roper, the son-in-law of Thomas More. It later became the home of Edith Nesbitt, author of "The Railway Children", and her husband, Hubert Bland, one of the founders of the Fabian society.

There is one story which shows that commuting from Eltham to London has always had its hazards. It concerns one Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer was the clerk of works during part of the construction of Eltham palace. One of his tasks was to travel to Westminster to collect the wages. On his way back along the A2 at Hatcham near New Cross, he had the misfortune to be mugged. He was immediately sent back to collect another set of wages and was once again robbed when he reached New Cross. Soon after that, Chaucer's services at the palace were dispensed with and he went on to become a writer, as one would. Some credit his work as the starting point for English literature. People who know London will know that New Cross is very near Millwall football club.

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I must point out the time span between the founding of Millwall and the event that I have just described. As a lifelong Millwall supporter, I have to say that Millwall football club is famous for many things, but not for its influence on English literature.

My constituency is not home to any professional team, but the borough of Greenwich is home to Charlton Athletic. Many of my constituents support Charlton and Millwall, our local teams, and I take this opportunity to wish them both well in the forthcoming season. I look forward to a time when the reds of Charlton and the blues of Millwall compete at the top of the league in the manner of Liverpool and Everton and Manchester United and Manchester City but, this time, with the blues being the most successful team.

In accordance with the protocol of a maiden speech, I should like to pay tribute to my predecessor who is now the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Botitomley). He announced that he would not stay to contest the seat on the grounds that it was marginal and that he was too old for such a task. I assume that his campaign slogan was, "You're Never Too Old for Worthing West". I shall bear that in mind. I shall miss his "Westminster Watch" column in our local newspaper. It was written in a style that only he could manage. He represented Eltham for 22 years and made many friends during that time, and I pay a warm tribute to him.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Mr. Austin), which is a new constituency. He is a former leader of Greenwich council and is very well respected in the area. He has worked hard on behalf of the local community, and I thank him for the assistance that he has given me since I arrived in the House as a new Member. I shall endeavour to represent the people of Plumstead as he has done for the past five years, as they now form part of my Eltham constituency.

London's public transport system is crucial to the future of our capital city. From my vantage point as a worker in the industry, I have witnessed the damaging effects that the lack of investment in the infrastructure has had on people's attitudes to London. People are getting increasingly angry and frustrated about our public transport service. Some people find the underground too uncomfortable or too unsafe and cannot rely on the buses because of the delays caused by traffic congestion. There are also complaints about the congestion caused by too many unnecessary journeys being undertaken by road.

The London underground is vital to the well-being of the capital. Every Londoner wants to improve the environment in which they live. Each recognises the importance of the public transport system in reducing car pollution. The consumer wants safe, affordable, comfortable, reliable public transport—an integrated transport system with through ticketing for all forms of transport, door to door, with facilities for disabled access planned into the system from the start, not a belated addition implemented as costs allow.

I have a plea for all local authorities to be compelled to participate in a London-wide taxi card scheme. I make no apology for making that plea. All fleets of vehicles that are allocated local authority contracts should have wheelchair access.

Road pricing has been mooted as a possible way to combat the increase in road use, which is predicted to grow by 20 per cent. between 1991 and 2011. The number of car journeys is predicted to rise by 27 per cent. and the number of commercial vehicles by 50 per cent. while the number of bus journeys is predicted to fall by 12 per cent. Some people believe that the way to combat that problem is to introduce a pricing regime to charge drivers for using roads. There are various options, some of which have been tried in major conurbations overseas. My view is that it would be unworkable and unpopular—a poll tax on wheels.

London needs a strategic approach to bring together all the providers of transport—bus, train, taxi and the underground. We need clear objectives. How will the success of public transport be measured at the end of each year—by its profitability to a private company or by the increase in the number of train miles travelled by passengers or in the numbers using public transport?

It is impossible to overstate the financial mess that the Government have inherited. Up and down the country, there are schools in desperate need of repair, hospital trusts and health authorities in deficit to the tune of millions of pounds and an investment backlog in vital services such as the London underground. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has said, London Underground estimates that investment backlog will be in the region of £1.5 billion by the end of the century.

London is the portal through which the rest of the world views our country. How we treat our capital city creates the image by which Britain is judged and visitors and investment are attracted. Our performance here has a knock-on effect throughout the country. Since the loss of the Greater London council, London has had no voice. The lack of co-ordination in the planning and delivery of services is apparent to all who wish to see it.

London's underground is in urgent need of investment to meet the challenges ahead as the millennium approaches. Wherever the resources come from, they must not be directed at the behest of the private sector. The needs of the environment and of the people of the capital are too pressing. Experience shows that, when it comes to the environment, the market is too slow to respond, if it responds at all. Investment in the London underground system will be more cost-effective if it is co-ordinated with all other forms of transport. Let us start to invest in our capital city, but let us do it with the needs of the city at the top of our agenda. Let us make London the world's premier city once again.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar 5:53 pm, 25th June 1997

It is a great pleasure to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford). We on the Conservative Benches enjoyed it enormously, particularly his comments about the age of his predecessor. I was interested to hear of the connection with the author of "The Railway Children". For the best part of 17 years, I lived within a few hundred yards of the film location of "The Railway Children". Although I wish the hon. Gentleman a happy stay in this House, I could not help but speculate that, should the time come when the Prime Minister elevates him to another House, he will have quite a tongue twister of a title to take, given his name and the name of his constituency.

As the first member of the old Transport Select Committee to speak in this debate, I congratulate you, on behalf of the other members, on your new position, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish you every success.

I have been disappointed by the Government's response. I had thought that we might hear how the underground system would be financed. All we heard was that they are against wholesale privatisation. I suppose that that means that partial privatisation is okay. We heard some suggestions from the Liberal Democrats about a public interest company. I can think of no better way to sum up that argument than the words of an editorial in The Independent, which said: while this might technically remove the company from the public finances, in truth it doesn't fool anyone. It is just Government borrowing by another name, and expensive to boot. There is an irony in the debate. The tube has suffered from chronic underfunding for the best part of 50 years. The only Government to make a significant impact on the backlog was the last Conservative Government. Even after the cut in the projected expenditure, investment in the underground remains at double the level of the 1970s and 50 per cent. higher than in the 1980s.

We have seen some improvements in the tube. The hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge), who is no longer in her place, asked whether I travel on the tube. I have travelled on the tube since I have been coming to London. It remains one of the fastest ways of getting about the capital. With respect to the hon. Member for Eltham, it is sometimes quicker than a taxi.

The underground has the potential to take care of our transport needs well into the next century. Its operating surplus has risen from nothing to around £200 million, and improvements are planned. It will gradually move on to a self-financing basis, but only to keep itself in a steady state. Without a substantial increase in grant or capital from elsewhere, it will not be able to do anything about the backlog.

The hon. Member for Barking talked about the overspend on the Jubilee line, caused by technical problems at Heathrow. The previous Government put aside £100 million as a contribution. When the Jubilee line extension comes into action, it will add about £499 million extra to the cost of the steady state, and that includes the overspend. That money must come from somewhere—from the proceeds of privatisation, from extra Government grant or from the core service.

The hon. Member for Barking talked lovingly about the Metrolink, which cost around £210 million. When the Select Committee took evidence, it was suggested that, if the same formula were applied to the underground, nearly £4 billion of investment would be needed. The Government will not be able to offer such sums to the tube.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have used the words "private finance initiative" almost like a sword or a wand, as though it will be able to take care of everything. The Minister of Transport talked lovingly about the effects of PFI projects. The new Northern line trains will come soon. There are three other projects on the line; an auto-ticketing project; a project to take care of high-voltage generation; and one to integrate radio access. All of them combined are worth only £600 million. It would be interesting if the Minister would tell us the state of progress on each of those projects.

The private finance initiative is suitable for capital work, but not for taking over main funding. After all, PFI offers a way in which we could finance the tube network, but not any new funding. Funding is the moving over of real resources. The PFI is simply rescheduling of the debt. Someone has to pick up the tab over the period. The tube needs real funding. The experts, Mr. Travers and Mr. Glaister, who have been referred to already, draw a distinction simply between finance and funding. To use the analogy of a house purchase, the building society provides the finance, but the house purchaser provides the funding. Only the purchaser puts in any real resources.

It is unlikely that the private sector will be prepared to fund inherently loss-making activities. The hard truth is that the PFI cannot make any significant contribution to providing new funds for the underground. The hon. Member for Barking said, "Do not worry. All this can be taken care of. We can generate more income from shops around our tube stations." She might have been thinking of Baker Street, Liverpool Street or Bond Street stations, but most of our tube stations are old and cramped and there is no place to put any significant increase in retail development. In the past 10 years, commercial lettings have doubled. A reasonable estimate has been made that, in the next six years, that would probably provide, say, £250 million, but it is not enough. The truth is that salvation of the rail network will not come through a combination of Spud-u-Like and Tie Rack.

The hon. Member for Barking and the Minister of Transport said how important the new strategic authority for London would be. The hon. Lady talked in terms of the London infrastructure fund that has found such favour with London First and the Corporation of the City of London. It involves a levy on the national non-domestic rate in London. She also quoted Glaister and Travers. She talked about a modest increase. Glaister and Travers estimate that a 10 per cent. yield would bring in an extra £300 million to £400 million a year. I am not entirely sure that businesses in London want to pay extra, but whether they do or not, what is beyond debate is the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke)—that such money as was raised would be regarded as part of public expenditure.

When the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced yet another of the Government's fundamental reviews a couple of weeks ago, this time of public spending, I specifically asked him whether he had any intention of changing the rules on the definition of what was and what was not public expenditure, especially in the light of expenditure on local government. He said: So far as changing definitions is concerned, the House will he aware that there are no shortcuts. Fiddling definitions to achieve an end is not justified, and we do not intend to do it."—[Official Report, 11 June 1997; Vol. 295, c. 1152.] The possibility of raising money through a strategic authority or the transport infrastructure fund simply does not arise.

We need action now. We know from evidence taken by the Select Committee that the previous level of investment means that there is a grave risk that we will lose people with engineering expertise from London Underground. Expansion by Railtrack means that contractors and workers will be attracted away to work on the railway network, and gradually they will lose their expertise in dealing with an underground railway.

No Government can come up with the level of investment that is required in the London underground system, because Governments will always be susceptible to competition for resources from schools and hospitals. It has been suggested that, to compensate for the activity brought about by privatisation, the Government would have to come up with about £4 billion. The tube network needs a more stable environment in which Governments do not change their minds about the level of investment. We also need privatisation to tackle the poor industrial relations that have bedevilled the tube network and done so much to damage its reputation.

Privatisation has brought some benefits to the railway, especially in my constituency. We have better services, improved conditions and smarter stations, and we know that Railtrack will invest about £16 billion over the next decade. The Government simply have to take courage and accept that they must do a U-turn. They should not worry about doing a U-turn. It is nothing in comparison with what they will have to face in the not-too-distant future. Whether they are in favour of wholesale privatisation is irrelevant. The only solution comes through privatisation. The Government may tinker about and wonder whether they require a golden share, but in a properly regulated regime they have nothing to fear from privatisation.

We should have pride in the level of services and not be so terribly hung up on who owns them. We should concentrate on matters such as prices, ticket exchange. facilities for the disabled and the renewal of stock. Those are the changes that the customer requires. We should not be so terribly worried about the level of private investment. We have to understand that the only solution is increased private involvement in the tube network. That can come, for the benefit of the customer, only through privatisation. Any other way is a short cut to disaster.

Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone Labour, Brent East 6:07 pm, 25th June 1997

I understand why we have this Opposition motion. It aims at an irresistible target, but it is breathtaking to have the Conservative party now riding forward to the defence of the tube.

This may be one of those stories that are not true, but it sounds so close to the reality of the involvement of many Conservative Members with the tube that I cannot help but repeat it. I recall reading an article when I was the leader of the Greater London council about a junior Minister, who for all I know may now be a member of the shadow Cabinet, who got stuck in a major traffic jam. Unable to get to his meeting with the then Prime Minister—a matter that would strike terror in the heart of anyone in those days—he led his civil servants out and rushed down the nearest tube station, only to discover a rather crowded and unpleasant train coming in. He turned to his civil servants and said, "Let's find the buffet car." The story almost has a touch of the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) about it, but I do not want to provoke him.

I seldom see Conservative Members of Parliament when I travel on the tube. Far too great a reliance on ministerial cars cuts people off from reality. That is something that will afflict my own Front-Bench colleagues. It is all too easy as one swishes along in a ministerial car not to notice the appalling conditions that the vast majority of ordinary London commuters have to put up with on the tube.

For years and years, the previous Government launched attacks on London's public transport. I do not have the slightest disagreement with their complaint that, in the 1960s, it suffered from under-investment; however, when, finally, there was an administration at the Greater London council that wanted to invest in transport, it was prevented from doing so. The previous Government took away that power from the GLC because we were spending too much.

When I intervened earlier, I pointed out that, as leader of the GLC, I lobbied the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), now the Opposition spokesman on transport, and begged that Londoners should be able to manage their own tube network without Government interference. We were prepared to pay for the modernisation and extension of the tube out of the rate base in London. That is what Londoners had voted for. The then Government used their legal powers to prevent us from doing so.

It was not just the Labour administration at the GLC that encountered problems. The previous Tory administration, under the late Sir Horace Cutler, also went to the then Labour Government and asked for extra money for the transport infrastructure. I agree with Conservative Members that the record of the previous Labour Government was lamentable. I heard my hon. Friends protest at that, but they would not have done so if they had been on the receiving end of the delegations that Labour and Tory members of the GLC took to meet Bill Rodgers, when he was Labour's Secretary of State for Transport. He turned them away and denied their request to extend the tube network.

Administrations at the GLC, Labour and Tory, asked Labour and Tory Governments, year on year, for the permission to spend increased amounts of investment on that network. Their requests were refused—not, I suspect, because Transport Ministers were opposed to them, but because of the Treasury's deathly hold on so much of government in this country. The problem for whoever runs the country is that, at the end of the day, the Treasury snuffs out any excellent ideas.

We could have had the Jubilee line operating for the past 10 years if the politicians at county hall, Labour and Conservative, had not met with obstruction from Labour and Tory Governments, and the Treasury. Any new London authority will be doomed to impotence when called on to tackle the problems that confront London if it does not have some independence from the stranglehold of the Treasury.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, because his response to the Tory motion was the most commanding presentation of a dog's breakfast I have ever heard. I know him as an old colleague from his Socialist Campaign Group days. He probably does not believe most of what Ministers have to say these days, and I never recall him complaining about a tax and spend policy at meetings of the group in those golden days of old.

Why do we not let Londoners decide about their transport? Londoners do not want to be told that they do not want a tax and spend policy designed to improve the tube. Why do we not consult them, hurry forward the creation of a new London authority, and let Londoners decide?

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting a special tax for them?

Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone Labour, Brent East

If Londoners vote to pay the money through their council tax and the business rate to get the transport system that London needs, we will all benefit from that.

Since the abolition of the GLC, the big difference in the past 15 years has been the change in the business community's opinion. Once, it bitterly opposed any increase in the rate; now, its representatives often lead the demand for more investment in public transport, because they recognise the impact of a bad, congested London transport system on their profitability and competitiveness. There is an emerging consensus between Londoners and the business community in London that they would be prepared to pay for a transport system that would make living in London a lot better and make trading in London more attractive and a greater source of profits.

I do not want to speak for too long, because I know that another Opposition Member must be called before the winding-up speeches. I have never really understood my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), when he has gone on, year after year, about the West Lothian question. Sometimes that has tried my patience, but as I listened to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who represents a Scottish constituency, announcing that we cannot opt for a policy of tax and spend, irrespective of what Londoners think, I began to understand what my hon. Friend has gone on about. It strikes me as bizarre that a Member representing Scotland can, as Minister of Transport, tell Londoners what they can and cannot have, while Members representing London are about to be denied the right to have any say about the transport policies of Scotland.

My party must quickly work out the solution to that problem, because that type of contradiction will come up again and again. Imagine what unscrupulous, cynical, populist politicians could do with it. They could stir up anger against the Labour Government. Just 20 years ago, the National Front got 5 per cent. of the vote in London. It would be easy to run a campaign arguing that Londoners were denied a voice and that Ministers from outside our city were telling them what they could and could not do.

There is a vital and urgent need to establish an elected authority for London and to pass on to it responsibility for decisions about transport. It would be directly accountable to London and its decisions would not be filtered through Ministers who do not represent London constituencies.

I took part in GLC delegations to members of the previous Labour Government, and we often encountered a strong anti-London feeling. It was felt that it was all so easy down here and that we did not know about the real poverty in Newcastle and Liverpool. In response, the GLC and the London Boroughs Association—it was a cross-party effort—arranged for delegations of councillors from those areas to visit the east end, the most deprived part of London, to see the scale of poverty.

The House and the Government must wake up to the fact that the greatest poverty in the country is found here, in the capital city. This capital city, however, sustains the rest of the country by exporting its wealth. London, with the greatest concentration of poverty in the country, and a disastrous public transport system that is overcrowded and breaking down, is bled dry to sustain other parts of the country. Londoners are denied the right to invest properly in our own city.

I described my right hon. Friend's presentation as commanding, but I do not have the slightest doubt that we are waffling around in the middle. There are just two ways forward: we must either increase revenue from taxation in one form or another to pay for the modernisation of the tube network or privatise the tube network. There is no middle way. Some sort of semi-privatisation may be dressed up in other terms, but I remind those on the Government Front Bench that they printed 1 million leaflets that promised that, on the Friday after the election, the threat of tube privatisation would be lifted. We cannot possibly go back on that commitment.

We could privatise the tube and we could pay for that investment by reducing off-peak services and by greatly increasing fares in the long term. No business man will come along and just give Londoners a massive subsidy to modernise the tube without expecting his money back and a substantial profit on that investment. That is why it would be better to tax and spend. It is bad enough that we heard banal platitudes during the election campaign, when trying to seduce the voters, but they are not worthy of a Government who have responsibility for running a country.

This country is one of the most undertaxed in the western world. Of the 15 members of the European Union, only Portugal taxes less than we do. It is a divisive issue here, because the level of tax on the individual is painful, but corporation tax is virtually voluntary. With the election behind us, we must stop the nonsense and start telling the British people the truth. If one wants a decent tube network, decent hospitals and schools, taxes must be increased to pay for that. I will have a debate about where those taxes should fall, but it is nonsense to deny Londoners the right to choose for themselves how they pay for their public transport system.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood 6:18 pm, 25th June 1997

As I listened to the seductive tones of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) and the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), whom I welcome back to the Opposition Front Bench, I almost believed that the good old days were back. The hon. Member for Brent, East made a speech of candour and intellectual honesty on a subject on which he is an authority. How refreshing that was and how it contrasted with the ersatz performance of the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge), which went on far too long and which turned the debate almost into a soliloquy.

Luckily, we had the pleasant interlude of the distinguished maiden speech of the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford), who clearly does not need to do the knowledge before speaking on transport in London. His cheerful banter pleased everyone in the House, and he manifestly has a sense of history. He was felicitous in his name dropping, as witnessed by his reference to his distinguished predecessor, who did a runner for the coast—undoubtedly agism is not rife in Worthing, West. We are fortunate in having such a knowledgeable and courteous Member of Parliament as the hon. Gentleman.

I speak as the sole Tory survivor in the whole of west London—

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood

I am speaking of the suburbs—they do exist.

In the general election campaign, three issues came up: schools and the quality of education; hospitals and the quality of the national health service; and the future of London Underground and the quality of its services. In its campaign, Labour gave the impression to a somewhat gullible electorate—in which I include even those of my own esteemed electors who, unlike hardened veterans such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) and myself, had not endured periods of socialist administration in their political lifetime—that within a short period education would dramatically improve; hospitals would no longer suffer ward closures, diminution in the number of beds or extension of waiting lists; and, without privatisation, a great deal of extra money would magically go into the London underground system, to the benefit of the long-suffering travelling public.

I remind the House that my own constituents are deeply dependent on the London underground system. There is a rail alternative to which people can turn in the event of a strike on the underground: there are two railway stations on the Chiltern line at West Ruislip and South Ruislip, which run services into Marylebone. Otherwise, one has only one's car, and my constituents who travel by car to London, to me airport or to other places of work have a terrible job getting through the interminable jams. A really efficient London underground system is therefore essential for those in our part of north-west London.

The jury is out on the Labour Government's policy on the matter. Yesterday, after the Prime Minister's statement about the Denver summit, I raised the question of what Labour would do about the London underground. The Prime Minister was promising that, by means of its participation in an integrated transport strategy, the United Kingdom would play its part in the European Union's reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent. by 2010. I suggested that we could therefore expect vastly greater investment in London transport, in order to get more people off the roads and into the tube system. I was promised a review and there is to be a White Paper on the integrated transport strategy, but—to concentrate the Labour Government's mind—I remind the House that by May next year we are to have borough elections in London. The electorate of London will be casting their judgment on the progress that Labour has made in improving, among other things, London transport.

I want to emphasise two projects for the future—both are of great importance to my constituents and of strategic importance. The first and the one that is more familiar to hon. Members is the crossrail project, which is of great importance for London's transport and for transport from beyond London into the centre and out to Essex. One arm comes down from Aylesbury, the other goes eastward from Reading, through Paddington, the City of London and Liverpool Street and on to Stratford and Essex. It would be a new high-speed transport system, which would immeasurably alleviate the problems endured by my constituents.

The project was put on ice by my right hon. and hon. Friends at the end of the previous Parliament. On 2 April 1996, the then Secretary of State for Transport made an announcement on the future of crossrail. He made three points: first, that the Government's commitment to crossrail remained, although there was no funding; secondly, that construction of crossrail was to follow the channel tunnel rail link and the Thameslink 2000 schemes; and, thirdly, that Railtrack was to be invited to express a view on the project. The programme was set out in full in a policy statement, "A Transport Strategy for London", which was published by the Government office for London and the Department of Transport in May 1996.

The document was encouraging, in that the Government emphasised the benefits that crossrail offered. London Underground remains committed to crossrail and believes that promotion of the powers under the Transport and Works Act 1992 should begin next year, to ensure that work on the project begins after the channel tunnel rail link and Thameslink 2000. The alignment of the projected crossrail scheme is protected by a safeguarding directive and it is most important that the Labour Government make a definitive—and, I hope, favourable—announcement at the earliest possible date. Crossrail could transform public transport in London as no other single project could. In addition, the spur to Heathrow will be especially important if the fifth terminal comes into operation, as I hope it will.

On 2 June 1997, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to make a statement on crossrail. The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), responded that the Government will consider the future of Crossrail in the light of both Railtrack's views when received and our own priorities for transport in London."—[Official Report, 2 June 1997; Vol. 295, c. 56.] Crossrail should be of the highest priority.

The second project that, although more local, is important in north-west London is the projected Croxley rail link, which would extend the Metropolitan line all the way to Watford Junction railway station and there join with the main line rail services to the north-west.

Again, London Underground is keen to proceed—all it lacks is the funding. I urge Her Majesty's Government in their projections of funding for London Underground to ensure that sufficient moneys—be they public or private—are available for the Croxley link. Traffic congestion in the Watford/Northwood area is acute, and the link could make an immeasurable difference. Local authorities are consulting and Railtrack is considering the implications, so I urge the Government to take a positive line.

In conclusion, I can only repeat that the electorate of London and my constituents in Ruislip-Northwood will judge the Government very much by how they address the problems of London transport in the near term, not the immediate or longer term. The problems are urgent and need to be addressed soon. I support Her Majesty's loyal Opposition in the motion that they have tabled, and I hope that the Government respond positively.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea 6:29 pm, 25th June 1997

Mr. Deputy Speaker, thank you very much for calling me. I shall address the House briefly, as one of only three remaining Conservative Members of Parliament through whose constituencies underground lines pass. We are in danger of approaching the level of extinction that applies to our former colleagues in more distant parts of the realm.

I pay tribute to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford), which I found witty and informative. I have never listened to a maiden speech without being the wiser afterwards, and in this case the fact that Mr. Frankie Howerd, who did so much to enlighten public perception of the holy Roman empire—and in particular the city of Pompeii—is one of his constituency's favourite sons was news to me, and I appreciated being told it.

The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) suggested that I never travelled on the underground, and he is perfectly right, but I do travel by public transport. The importance of public transport is well illustrated by the No. 19 bus, which leaves literally from the door of my flat and deposits me literally at the door of my constituency office—and very useful it is. On many occasions, it provides me and my constituents with a rolling advice bureau on wheels, which is very congenial to all of us.

All London colleagues will remember the forms that I hold in my hand, which we received in copious quantities during and just before the general election, urging us to do something about the state of the underground. I have not counted them, but in common with everyone in this place who suffered the trauma or elation of the events of the night of 1 May, I was reminded by them of a packet of ballot papers. From a purely visual estimate, I should think that there are at least 300 or 400 there. They urge us to remedy the situation in a way that would require drastic public expenditure.

I fully appreciate the point that was made by the hon. Member for Brent, East that expenditure on an enormous scale is the only remedy for the present condition of the underground. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) pointed out the discrepancies in the speech by the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge). She covered up with the euphemism of "bringing finance in"— whatever that means. I wrote it down because it was such an extraordinary weasel phrase.

In fact, there is no substitute for expenditure on a colossal scale. It is no use pretending that some of the money will come from the private sector by some device or other. The private sector would not go near the idea unless there were Government guarantees, which would have to be of a rate of return that was slightly—perhaps infinitesimally—better than would be achieved on other, equally safe, forms of investment. The rate would have to be equivalent to that on gilt-edged securities or higher. That means that there is concealed in all the plans a colossal measure of additional public expenditure, and there is no way out of that if the solution that is needed is to be arrived at.

I shall not talk for more than another couple of minutes on the subject of travel on the underground, but I shall read into the record the complaints that some of my constituents suffer, not from travel, but from a symptom which illustrates, if anything, the extraordinary scale of capital expenditure that will be needed. They speak of the serious problems affecting the covered way over the line between Kensington High Street Station and Gloucester Road Station", which is the type of thing that must be addressed. It is not what people usually think of when capital expenditure on the underground is mentioned—gnalling, rolling stock, new rails, modern ticketing devices and so on—t major capital expenditure.

Another constituent complains that in our house, everything moveable (windows, radiators, china and glass) rattle and shake when underground trains pass…We are able to recognise some trains as being what can only be described as thumpers because those trains are so worn out that some of the wheels are flat and they have a percussion effect that makes the whole house shake.

I read out those letters because they give an idea of the amount of capital expenditure that is required to cure such complaints. The level of degradation indicated by those complaints shows that a colossal level of public spending is needed—spending that will not be put in by private sector initiatives unless Government guarantees are given. Expenditure on an enormous scale is required and, sooner or later, the Treasury and the House will have to face up to what is needed.

Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Shadow Minister (London) 6:34 pm, 25th June 1997

I start by congratulating the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) on his maiden speech. It was an excellent speech, as we would expect from a London cabbie. Although I am not sure what my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley) would say about his remarks, I am sure that he would appreciate the sentiments that were expressed. The hon. Gentleman spoke about Millwall football club. May I remind him that Crystal Palace got promoted to the premier league this season, not Millwall?

The House and Londoners will be disappointed in the Government's approach to the London underground in this debate. In his opening speech, the Minister offered no hope and no commitment. He initially said nothing about the options that he might or might not be considering, but when, under pressure from my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), he told us about one or two options, and it was then pointed out that all the options were revealed in The Guardian a few weeks ago, he said, remarkably, that he had not read about the leaks.

Let me read the report to him. The Guardian said—this was from a document that the Deputy Prime Minister left in the "Panorama" studio, having accused the BBC of stealing the document—

Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Shadow Minister (London)

Well, the documents were found in the "Panorama" studio.

The Guardian said: the documents disclosed that Labour, which savaged the Conservatives' plans to privatise the tube, is going well beyond its manifesto commitment. Among options being considered by Mr. Prescott are to split the underground into two companies, one responsible for stations and track and the other running the trains. This would be similar to the Conservatives' privatisation of British Rail, with Railtrack and train operating companies taking over the bulk of its activities. The Minister said that he had not read that. The print of the headline is a good couple of inches high. I can only suggest that he gets another press officer in his Department, or that he spends a bit more time reading the stuff that is put in front of him. His statement that he had not read about the letter and that he had not read the articles was the least convincing explanation that I have ever heard from a Cabinet Minister standing at the Dispatch Box.

Old Labour will not allow privatisation, and new Labour will not allow higher spending. We are only six weeks into this Parliament, and already the Government find themselves in a fix. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) said, they have a choice: to fudge it or to admit that we were right.

The Conservative Government invested £7.8 billion in London Transport, which included the tube, and in recent years the underground increased train services to a level not witnessed in 25 years. At the same time, the Conservative Government increased the operating surplus from nothing to about £200 million a year. Only a short distance from the House is Victoria, London's busiest underground station, serving more than 77 million passengers a year.

Despite all that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) pointed out in a superb speech in a totally non-partisan way, much more remains to be done. Our aging network, which in part still relies on Victorian engineering, is under extreme pressure, which can only get worse. The reason is that Britain's economic boom had a greater impact on London than on anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

After years of economic decline, with fewer people living and working in the city, London in the 1980s underwent a remarkable recovery. Employment grew enormously. With each new job came a new passenger who required a reliable service to get to work. And they do not all come from the long-established commuter suburbs such as my constituency. With improved rail links, the travel-to-work area has expanded to the point where people commute from Grantham, Gloucester, Colchester and elsewhere. Demand for transport in the City doubled and then doubled again over the past two decades. The transport system has struggled to keep up with that demand.

The growth in demand will continue. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has just launched a worthy campaign to relieve traffic congestion, but if she is successful in persuading people to leave their cars at home, that will merely add to the pressure on the rest of our transport system. What is more, the Government's environmental agenda, espoused by the Prime Minister, makes it quite possible that motorists will face tax rises of unusual severity in forthcoming Budgets. In that event, will the Chancellor re-invest the extra taxation so that Londoners forced off the roads will have reliable transport links; or is this just another dose of hot air from the Government—bland statements, no commitment, no cash and no hope?

Fare payers cannot be asked for limitless amounts. The taxpayer cannot be asked year on year to foot an ever-increasing bill. Each year £700 million is required to take the underground system forward—an amount which, given other demands on the Treasury, is unlikely to be found.

When in government, we advanced a number of PFIs with London Underground, but now Labour claim to have a new solution: PPPs, or private-public partnerships. But neither PFI nor PPP can be the saviour of London Underground. No Government could have pushed harder or with more enthusiasm for private investment programmes than did the former one. More than £500 million of investment through the PFI is already in place, and another £500 million was under negotiation. But as the chairman of London Underground made quite clear to the Transport Select Committee, much of the work required cannot be undertaken by private finance, however much it is dressed up as something new.

It was the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), who says that he wants to be mayor of London, who let the cat out of the bag when he admitted that the arguments against privatisation were illogical. Privatisation is the only solution. We know that and so do the Government, but they are held to ransom by their statements in opposition, when they lined up to condemn our plans.

The spokesman at the time, the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), said that privatisation of the London underground was a cynical exercise to try and raise money". He added that privatisation would put services at risk. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions went further, suggesting that privatisation was a cold and calculated attempt to defraud the taxpayer", whatever that might mean.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) says, the Government have dug themselves into a hole. Leaving the underground controlled by the public sector would betray the interests of thousands of Londoners. Privatisation would highlight the hypocrisy of a party that says one thing in opposition and then does another when in power.

When they were in opposition, Labour Members continually cried for more investment in the underground. As the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr.Livingstone), who has now left the Chamber, pointed out, now that they are in government they are proposing a fudge that will bring neither the financial benefits nor the freedoms that privatisation would ensure. Their suggestion of public-private investment partnerships, and the irrelevant idea of exploiting retailing opportunities at stations, are quite simply implausible.

The Economist described Labour's proposals as half-baked: The notion that large amounts of private capital can be attracted to publicly owned, inherently loss-making urban transport systems is either naive or dishonest. That is the nub of the argument advanced so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles). For the underground to be able to invest, the private sector would have to have a controlling interest; otherwise any investment or borrowings would count against public expenditure totals, and the financial disciplines of the private sector would be lost. But to allow the private sector a controlling interest is privatisation by the back door—the very plan which the Labour party described as a vision which would threaten the service and fares for millions of Londoners, bringing more transport chaos to the capital". I have some sympathy with Labour Members. In the cold grey light of dawn now that they are in power, they have to support a move which not long ago they vigorously opposed. I challenge the Minister to break away from dogma and fancy language and to admit that privatisation is the best hope for the tube.

Our proposal to privatise the tube network is the forward-thinking, radical step that will guarantee the service into the next century. The proceeds from privatisation would be re-invested to modernise the network over five years; fares would rise by no more than the rate of inflation.

The best hope for the underground was set out not in the Liberal or Labour manifestos but in the Conservative party manifesto, which contains all the sensible policies on the future of the London Underground. I urge the Government to come around to our way of thinking—

Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Shadow Minister (London)

While I welcome the Government's belated support for such a move, by opposing privatisation in February only to support it by another name in June, they have shown themselves in just six weeks to have betrayed the trust of the electorate.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment) 6:46 pm, 25th June 1997

This has been a truly fascinating debate, in which we have watched the bedraggled remnants of yesterday's Government attempt to come to terms with the fact that they are today's Opposition. They have also attempted to convince the House—or perhaps themselves—that they have always had an interest in, a commitment to, and a passionate concern for the future of the London underground.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) on his elevation to the Front Bench.

When I was first informed of the Opposition's intention to hold a debate on this subject—they failed to hold a single one for five long years when in government—my reaction was to think that they might be preparing to use the occasion as an act of contrition. After 18 long years, perhaps they were finally going to apologise to Londoners for the incompetent, wasteful and destructive mismanagement of the underground network that characterised their period in office.

Unfortunately, my optimism was misplaced. Instead we have witnessed the staggering spectacle of Conservative spokesmen attempting to make political capital out of their wholly discredited proposals for the wholesale privatisation of our tube network.

I had hoped that the debate would be used to examine constructively ways of tackling the massive problems facing London Underground. That was what the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) did in a characteristically thoughtful and informed speech. He will forgive me if I write to him about signalling. I understand that the Pimlico noise is caused by worn track vibrating on the Victoria line. London Underground is dealing with the problem.

Meanwhile the right hon. Gentleman's hopes, and mine, do not seem to be in accord with those of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. Their contributions consisted of three increasingly preposterous propositions. The first was that the appalling problems afflicting our underground system are in no way related to the policies of the previous Administration. Secondly, the wholesale privatisation of the tube was an inspirational concept that was foolishly and callously rejected by the people of London. Thirdly, they believe that, on finding ourselves in government, Labour Members have suddenly undergone a damascene conversion. They pretend that we now dramatically recognise the previous Administration's outstanding success, whereas previously all that we perceived was abject failure, and that we intend to embrace their much-maligned and misunderstood policy of wholesale privatisation of the tube, and to claim it as our own.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

Will the Minister explain exactly what she means by "wholesale privatisation"? If the Government were to sell off separately the trains, and then the tracks and stations, would that be wholesale privatisation?

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Our definition of wholesale privatisation is the debacle of rail privatisation, which serves as a lesson to all Administrations for all time on how not to proceed if they are really committed to creating a properly integrated public transport system, as this Government most certainly are.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State

Will the Minister confirm that she has read the report—the Secretary of State apparently has not read it—on the options that the Government are considering? Are the Government considering the options that are set out, including ownership on the British Rail model?

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

The Guardian, not my right hon. Friend, claimed that my right hon. Friend was ignorant of the proposals. As my right hon. Friend said in his speech, the proposals referred to in The Guardian are by no means the only proposals that the Government are pursuing.

While I appreciate that the Conservative party is out of practice in opposition, I do not believe that its contributions this afternoon were the stuff of effective opposition. Conservative Members expressed the concept that London Underground's problems were in no way the result of the previous Administration's inadequacies.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) is no stranger to his present portfolio. He was the first Transport Minister and subsequently Secretary of State for Transport to be appointed by the now ennobled Lady Thatcher, way back in 1979. As he said, 21 years ago he stood at the Dispatch Box, having inherited a transport system from a Government—as we do today—facing criticism for its investment programme.

Some may say that there was some justification for that criticism. Under the previous Labour Administration, core investment had peaked at a mere £197 million. The only new line completed by the Administration, the Jubilee line, was late and over budget, and there were concerns about the age of some of the system's infrastructure.

When the right hon. Gentleman was first appointed to his post back in 1979, he pledged to tackle all those problems. Eighteen years on, as he sits on the Opposition Benches and attempts to attack our proposals, how have he and his colleagues fared? Despite the gallant attempt by the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) to defend investment over the past 18 years, on the proposals that we inherited from the Conservative party, investment in the core network is set to fall from £312 million this year to £197 million next year—precisely the same level of investment as in 1976.

That is what two decades of Conservative Government have managed to achieve for London's underground network. Not only were the previous Government unable to attain the economic growth and sound financial framework necessary to prepare our capital's transport system for a new millennium, but they have taken it back in time, not just to the early 1990s or even to the 1980s, but to the 1970s.

The Conservative party now has the gall to pretend to the people of this country that it represents a fresh start. The Labour Government from whom the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield inherited his portfolio two decades ago completed the Jubilee line, the first new underground line in the capital for a decade. By contrast, after 18 years in government, the Conservative party could not even oversee the completion of an extension to the Jubilee line. My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford), in an informed, informing and highly entertaining maiden speech, revealed that, eventually, the Jubilee line extension will bring the tube to his part of London for the first time.

The core infrastructure, which was criticised when the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield was last in opposition, dates back in some instances not just to the 1970s but to the 1800s. After the events of the past two weeks, I must admit that there is little that the Conservative party could do that would amaze me, but even I am at a lost to understand how the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, who had two decades to tackle the problems facing London Underground, could dare to contemplate lecturing this Government for attempting to bring a fresh approach to the method of financing our underground system.

The Opposition called for details of how our plans for the tube differ from those proposed by yesterday's Government before the last election. According to those whose reluctance to comment on misappropriated Government documents has been somewhat tempered by defeat at the ballot box, they are identical. I find it ironic that Opposition Members have become so keen to claim responsibility for Government policy when they were desperate to avoid it when in office. Getting a Minister of the previous Administration to admit that he or she had any bearing on the affairs of the nation was akin to drawing blood from a stone.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) called for clarification of the Government's proposals, but, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said, we shall not outline in detail our proposals for London Underground at this stage—not because we fear an outraged reaction from the sparsely attended Opposition Benches, but for the simple reason that, when we present our proposals to the House, we intend to ensure that we get them right.

We have seen, through the ramshackle proposals that constituted rail privatisation, just what happens when policies are steamrollered through on the basis of political expediency rather than on the basis of what is right for the country. We do not intend to make the same mess of attempting to revitalise London's tube system as the previous Government made of privatising our nation's rail network. That is why we are not prepared to go into detail at this time about our plans for the tube.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

I can tell Opposition Members hungry for more detail what our proposals will not involve. They will not involve artificially hiking up fares to give a false impression of fare stability after restructuring, as the previous Administration proposed. They will not involve squandering hundreds of millions of pounds on lawyers and ad men, as the previous Administration did, at the expense of investment in the network.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was not aware that the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar Was Attempting to intervene. If he will forgive me, I shall not give way, as I have very little time.

Our plans will be implemented solely on the basis of what we believe is best for taxpayers, commuters and the country at large—not, as the previous Administration did, on the basis of what is most likely to appeal to the disciples of a bankrupt and discredited ideology.

Conservative Members said throughout the debate that they could not see the difference between the policies that we advocate and those that they would have unleashed, had they somehow been able to secure the nightmare of a fifth term in office. That is precisely the point. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) said in her highly informed and detailed speech, they cannot see that it is possible to examine new ways of addressing the funding our tube system without recourse to the twin monoliths of wholesale nationalization and wholesale privatisation. How could they? Their whole administration over the past 18 years was based on attacking the former and worshipping the latter.

That is why the private finance initiative has been such an unmitigated disaster. The only new rolling stock secured for the underground in recent years was obtained after a massive campaign, not just by hon. Members who wanted better public services for their constituents, but by private companies, which were and still are keen to provide them.

That is the problem with the Conservative party. Twenty years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman first sat on these Benches, privatisation was seen as the new way forward. While time has moved on, the right hon. Gentleman and his party are still engaged in the same rhetoric. They are still clinging to the same privatisation ideology, and still trying to persuade others that old-style privatisation is the only way.

When we come to unveil our proposals for London Underground, we will prove to the right hon. Gentleman, to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East and to the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea that there is a new way of securing investment for public services, without hurling those services into the abyss of wholesale privatisation.

The right hon. Gentleman says that we have stolen his party's ideas. We will explore, inquire and search for the ideas that will give the people of London the affordable, modern, efficient tube network that they expect and deserve. I can guarantee that we will not explore, inquire into or search the policies pursued by the Conservative Government between 1979 and 1997. The right hon. Gentleman can rest assured that the days when his party was able to influence the running of London Underground ended on I May. Given what we have heard from him and his colleagues in today's debate, it may be quite a while before their influence is felt again.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 146, Noes 375.

Division No. 39][7 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Amess, DavidCollins, Tim
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelColvin, Michael
Arbuthnot, JamesCormack, Sir Patrick
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Cran, James
Baldry, TonyCurry, Rt Hon David
Bercow, JohnDavis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Beresford, Sir PaulDavies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Boswell, TimDay, Stephen
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaDuncan, Alan
Brady, GrahamDuncan Smith, Iain
Brazier, JulianEmery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterEvans, Nigel
Browning, Mrs AngelaFaber, David
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Fabricant, Michael
Burns, SimonFallon, Michael
Butterfill, JohnFlight, Howard
Cash, WilliamForth, Eric
Chope, ChristopherFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Clappison, JamesFox, Dr Liam
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)Fraser, Christopher
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Gale, Roger
Garnier, EdwardNicholls, Patrick
Gibb, NickNorman, Archie
Gill, ChristopherOttaway, Richard
Gillan, Mrs CherylPage, Richard
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairPaice, James
Gorman, Mrs TeresaPaterson, Owen
Gray, JamesPickles, Eric
Green, DamianPrior, David
Greenway, JohnRedwood, Rt Hon John
Grieve, DominicRobathan, Andrew
Hague, Rt Hon WilliamRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hammond, PhilipRowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Hawkins, NickRuffley, David
Hayes. JohnSt Aubyn, Nick
Heald, OliverSayeed, Jonathan
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon DavidShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasShepherd. Richard (Aldridge)
Horam, JohnSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelSoames, Nicholas
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Hunter, AndrewSpicer, Sir Michael
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelSpring, Richard
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex)Steen, Anthony
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyStreeter, Gary
Key, RobertSwayne, Desmond
Kirkbride, Miss JulieSyms, Robert
Laing, Mrs EleanorTapsell, Sir Peter
Lansley, AndrewTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Leigh, EdwardTemple-Morris, Peter
Letwin, OliverTredinnick, David
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Trend, Michael
Lidington, DavidTyrie, Andrew
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterViggers, Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Walter, Robert
Loughton, TimWardle, Charles
Luff, PeterWells, Bowen
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasWhitney, Sir Raymond
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnWhittingdale, John
MacKay, AndrewWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidWilkinson, John
McLoughlin, PatrickWilletts, David
Madel, Sir DavidWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Malins, HumfreyWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Maples, JohnWoodward, Shaun
Mates, MichaelYeo, Tim
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr BrianTellers for the Ayes:
May, Mrs TheresaMr. Malcolm Moss and
Merchant, PiersMr. Nigel Waterson.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Ainger. NickBell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam)Bennett, Andrew F
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)Benton, Joe
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Bermingham, Gerald
Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)Berry, Roger
Armstrong, Ms HilaryBest, Harold
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyBlackman, Mrs Liz
Ashton, JoeBlizzard, Robert
Atkins, Ms CharlotteBlunkett, Rt Hon David
Baker, NormanBoateng, Paul
Ballard, Mrs JackieBradley, Keith (Withington)
Banks, TonyBradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Barnes, HarryBradshaw, Ben
Barron, KevinBrake, Thomas
Battle, JohnBrand, Dr Peter
Bayley, HughBreed, Colin
Beard, NigelBrinton, Mrs Helen
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretBrown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)
Beith, Rt Hon A JBrown, Rt Hon Nick
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Flint, Ms Caroline
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)Flynn, Paul
Buck, Ms KarenFollett, Ms Barbara
Burden, RichardFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Burgon, ColinFoster, Don (Bath)
Burnett, JohnFoster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Burstow, PaulGalbraith, Sam
Byers, StephenGalloway, George
Cable, Dr VincentGapes, Mike
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Gardiner, Barry
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)George, Andrew (St Ives)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell-Savours, DaleGerrard, Neil
Canavan, DennisGibson, Dr Ian
Cann, JamieGilroy, Mrs Linda
Caplin, IvorGodman, Dr Norman A
Casale, RogerGodsiff, Roger
Cawsey, IanGoggins, Paul
Chaytor, DavidGolding, Mrs Llin
Chisholm, MalcolmGordon, Mrs Eileen
Church, Ms JudithGrant, Bernie
Clapham, MichaelGriffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Grocott, Bruce
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Grogan, John
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Gunnell, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Hain, Peter
Clelland, DavidHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Coaker, VernonHamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cohen, HarryHancock, Mike
Connarty, MichaelHanson, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)Harris, Dr Evan
Cooper, Ms YvetteHarvey, Nick
Corbett, RobinHeal, Mrs Sylvia
Corbyn, JeremyHealey, John
Corston, Ms JeanHeath, David (Somerton)
Cotter, BrianHenderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Cousins, JimHepburn, Stephen
Cranston, RossHeppell, John
Crausby, DavidHewitt, Ms Patricia
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Hill, Keith
Cummings, JohnHinchliffe, David
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Hodge, Ms Margaret
Dalyell, TamHoey, Kate
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairHome Robertson, John
Darvill, KeithHood, Jimmy
Davey, Edward (Kingston)Hoon, Geoffrey
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Hope, Philip
Davidson, IanHopkins, Kelvin
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)Howells, Dr Kim
Dean, Ms JanetHoyle, Lindsay
Denham, JohnHughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Dewar, Rt Hon DonaldHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Dismore, AndrewHughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Dobbin, JimHumble, Mrs Joan
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankHurst, Alan
Donohoe, Brian HHutton, John
Doran, FrankIddon, Brian
Dowd, JimJackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)
Drew, DavidJackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethJamieson, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)
Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)Johnson, Ms Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Edwards, HuwJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Efford, CliveJones, Ms Fiona (Newark)
Ellman, Ms LouiseJones, Helen (Warrington N)
Ennis, JeffJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Fearn, RonnieJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Milburn, Alan
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Mitchell, Austin
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Moffatt, Laura
Jowell, Ms TessaMoonie, Dr Lewis
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldMoore, Michael
Keeble, Ms SallyMoran, Ms Margaret
Keen, Alan (Feltham)Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Keetch, PaulMorley, Elliot
Kemp, FraserMorris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Mudie, George
Khabra, Piara SMullin, Chris
Kidney, DavidMurphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Kilfoyle, PeterMurphy, Paul (Torfaen)
King, Andy (Rugby)Naysmith, Dr Doug
King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)Norris, Dan
Kirkwood, ArchyOaten, Mark
Kumar, Dr AshokO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Ladyman, Dr StephenO'Brien, William (Normanton)
Lepper, DavidO'Hara, Edward
Leslie, ChristopherDiner, Bill
Levitt, TomOpik, Lembit
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Organ, Mrs Diana
Livingstone, KenOsborne, Mrs Sandra
Livsey, RichardPalmer, Dr Nick
Lock, DavidPearson, Ian
Love, AndyPerham, Ms Linda
McAllion, JohnPickthall, Colin
McAvoy, ThomasPike, Peter L
McCabe, StephenPlaskitt, James
McCafferty, Ms ChrisPollard, Kerry
McDonagh, Ms SiobhainPond, Chris
Macdonald, CalumPound, Stephen
McFall, JohnPowell, Sir Raymond
McGuire, Mrs AnnePrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
McIsaac, Ms ShonaPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
McKenna, Ms RosemaryPrimarolo, Dawn
Mackinlay, AndrewProsser, Gwyn
Maclennan, RobertPurchase, Ken
McNulty, TonyQuin, Ms Joyce
MacShane, DenisQuinn, Lawrie
Mactaggart, FionaRadice, Giles
McWalter, TonyRammell, Bill
McWilliam, JohnRapson, Syd
Mahon, Mrs AliceRaynsford, Nick
Mallaber, Ms JudyReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Mandelson, PeterReid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Marek, Dr JohnRendel, David
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Rooker, Jeff
Marshall-Andrews, RobertRooney, Terry
Martlew, EricRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Maxton, JohnRowlands, Ted
Merron, Ms GillianRoy, Frank
Michael, AlunRuane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms JoanThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Timms, Stephen
Ryan, Ms JoanTipping, Paddy
Salter, MartinTonge, Dr Jenny
Sanders, AdrianTouhig, Don
Savidge, MalcolmTrickett, Jon
Sedgemore, BrianTruswell, Paul
Shaw, JonathanTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Singh, MarshaTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Skinner, DennisTyler, Paul
Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)Vaz, Keith
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Vis, Dr Rudi
Smith, John (Glamorgan)Wallace, James
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)Walley, Ms Joan
Snape, PeterWard, Ms Claire
Soley, CliveWatts, David
Southworth, Ms HelenWebb, Steven
Spellar, JohnWhite, Brian
Squire, Ms RachelWicks, Malcolm
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Stevenson, GeorgeWilliams, Dr Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Stewart, David (Inverness E)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Willis, Phil
Stinchcombe, PaulWills. Michael
Stoate, Dr HowardWinnick, David
Stott, RogerWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr GavinWise, Audrey
Straw, Rt Hon JackWood, Mike
Stuart. Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)Woolas, Phil
Stunell. AndrewWorthington, Tony
Sutcliffe, GerryWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Wyatt, Derek
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, David (NW Leics)Mr. Greg Pope and
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)Mr. Clive Betts.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,That this House regrets the substantial investment backlog in the London Underground which the Government has inherited; welcomes the Government's rejection of the wholesale privatisation of the London Underground, as proposed by the previous Government; and applauds the Government's swift action on options for public-private partnerships to improve the Underground, safeguard its commitment to the public interest and guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers.