Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence



Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)

MONDAY 9 APRIL 2001

SIR RICHARD MOTTRAM, KCB, MR ROBERT HOLDEN, MR STEVEN MARSHALL, and MS LOUISE HART

  80. And what considerations are weighing on you in respect of that?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Whether they are economic.

  81. Right, simple?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It would be a cost/benefit analysis, as for the other services, but there is doubt about whether even taking into account the non-financial benefits these services would be justified.

  82. And what has changed in the thinking since Section 40 of the Act which I think during the debates in Parliament spelt out the strong desire of Parliament to see the benefits of Eurostar services extended?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) And indeed—and I absolutely accept of course what you say—there have been discussions in Parliament since because there are a number of people who think those services are strongly merited for all sorts of reasons which I entirely understand. The position of the Government is that we have not yet established that they can make sense on a cost/benefit basis.

  83. Can we just have a look at the paper that you have circulated to us[1]. There seem to be a number of conclusions: "No change to appraisal required. No change to appraisal required. Accept inclusion of 100 million. No change proposed. Agree figure should be a present value of 140 million. No change proposed." This seems to agree with what the NAO was suggesting. You gave us to believe that this document—


  (Sir Richard Mottram) You have the benefit that I have not because I have not got a copy of this document. None of us has got a copy of it because we gave you the only one.

  84. I would give you mine but I have only had it for a few seconds.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

Mr Williams

  85. I suggest we pause for a few moments to allow everyone to look at it.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Do you want me to say something about this, Mr Williams?

  86. You can say something and then we will ask the NAO to comment.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes. I have not gone through this myself, perhaps I should have done. I would just like to bring out two points. One is there is a discussion about time savings and the benefits related to Waterloo and St Pancras where I think our position was that we did not accept that we had got that incorrect. There is, for example, on the last page an example again where we do not accept the NAO's point which is about Thameslink. We are querying some of the detail that is all I am saying, Mr Williams.

  87. You are querying some of the detail?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, some of the detail because some of it we accept.

  88. Now we are in a predicament of not knowing precisely as we go on without cross-referring which is which.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

  89. Does the NAO have any observations to make?
  (Mr Burr) On the first page of the paper the savings from use of the Waterloo Terminal are indeed given as 20 minutes, as you see there 19.75 minutes. Over the page at the foot of the second page, it appears to say—in the comment in plain type—that the Department: "Agree. In fact this should be a present value of 170 million . . ." which is the figure which is reflected in the report.

  90. Yes.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Over the page, Mr Williams, it says we did not accept the 100 million for Thameslink. We can go through this.

  91. The 170 million was the figure that Mr Griffiths raised with you.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

  92. You challenged it.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) What I said, Mr Williams, was that our current view is 170 million is not the right number.

  93. That is slightly different. How current is this view?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) The work we have been doing recently, Mr Williams.

  Mr Williams: You see we have wasted a quarter of an hour at least on a matter which should have been resolved before this Committee met today. It is the very point of having agreement. It is utterly unsatisfactory. It has put Mr Griffiths in a difficult position in that he has not been able to follow the line of questioning he intended to because you have been refuting a fact that now you agree is accurate. I put it back to you, Mr Griffiths, if you want to pursue that again, please do so.

Mr Griffiths

  94. If I can ask two or three more questions on 3.35 (a), (b) and (c). In particular your response was that you disputed the 170 million figure but that is not now true?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) What I am saying, Mr Williams, is that our current view is that 100 million would be appropriate.

Mr Williams

  95. Can we therefore have a note explaining how you arrive at this volte-face in your statistical assessment.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Absolutely, Mr Williams. We can do that[2].

  Mr Williams: Urgently.

Mr Griffiths

  96. Give me the new figure.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) 100 million.

  97. Why does the National Audit Office not agree that figure?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I think that is an argument about you ascribe the cost of the King's Cross Underground Station between CTRL and non- CTRL related benefits.

  98. Let me ask a further question. What has changed between the time this memo was sent, what has changed in your calculations? What new facts have emerged?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) We were looking again at the appraisal in relation to Section 2.

  99. You have new information?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) What we did, Mr Williams, was we went through the whole appraisal looking again at each element of it, including drawing on the comments of the NAO, in the context of reaching a decision about Section 2, whether it had a positive cost benefit. We can set all this out for you, Mr Williams.

  Mr Williams: Can I just say, Sir Richard, this has been with the Committee since 28 March. You had figures which you knew were contrary to what was otherwise an agreed report. You should have submitted them to the Committee as well as to the NAO so that Members had a chance to consider them. We will not pursue the matter further now because we are going to waste even more time. Mr Griffiths, any more questions?

  Mr Griffiths: I will allow other colleagues to come in.

 


1   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 24 (PAC 175). Back

2   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 2, page 27 (PAC 00-01/164). Back

 
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