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Mr. Byers: When that e-mail was drawn to my attention, which, as I think that I said, was on 8 October, there were more important things that I needed to consider about why it had been sent and that concentrated my mind. As the amendment says, it was "horrible, wrong and stupid" and should not have been sent. Given that we all condemn what Jo Moore did, the issue is the punishment that should be imposed on her. I took the view that the appropriate process was for her, as a civil servant, to be dealt with according to the official disciplinary procedure. The permanent secretary conducted that and, as a result, issued her with an official warning. That is the situation.

Mr. Kaufman: The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) hoped that the next director of communications in the Department would not be an ex-Daily Mirror journalist. Will my right hon. Friend guarantee that his next director of communications will not be an ex-journalist from The Guardian, like Bernard Ingham?

Mr. Byers: My right hon. Friend has revealed why it is probably better for Secretaries of State to be kept out of the appointment process.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Byers: No, I have a number of outstanding allegations to which I must reply.

Mr. MacKay rose

Mr. Byers: I have given way extensively; I want to answer the allegations made by the hon. Member for

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Maidenhead and get on to the substance of the real work going on in my Department. She made an allegation about the position of Jonathan Haslam, arguing that he left his appointment as director of communications in the Department for Education and Employment when I was a Minister there. Mr. Haslam himself made his position clear, insisting that he had not quit and saying:

the then Secretary of State—

That is what Jonathan Haslam said on the record about his position.

There is one outstanding allegation—about dirty tricks against Bob Kiley—to which I must reply, and then I will have dealt with all the allegations made by the hon. Member for Maidenhead. I have spent more than 20 minutes going though them and I want to finish with that final allegation before moving to matters of substance.

I want to take hon. Members through the position in relation to Bob Kiley. I have never embarked on any dirty tricks against Bob Kiley, who commissioned from Parsons Brinckerhoff a report on standards and safety in the London underground and the possible impact of the Government's proposals to modernise the system through a public-private partnership. It came to my attention that Mr. Steve Polan, one of Bob Kiley's assistants, had received a draft copy of the independent report and its conclusions. Mr. Polan had marked up changes on the report that he wanted to see. In his covering letter to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Mr. Polan says:

He continues on the independent report:

The report was supposed to be independent. I felt that people had the right to know; no dirty tricks, no attack on Bob Kiley. When Opposition Members read what actually happened, they will wonder who embarked on a dirty-tricks campaign.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Byers: I have addressed all the allegations made by the hon. Member for Maidenhead. If I have missed any, I should be grateful if she would intervene to point out where I have done so. I think that I have comprehensively addressed every single allegation that has been made.

Mrs. May: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Byers: On the allegations, I will give way.

Mrs. May: The Secretary of State has missed the overall allegation of my speech. In failing to act against

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Ms Moore and in keeping her in her post given what she had done, he has brought this Government, politics and politicians into disrepute.

Mr. Byers: The issue was the culture of spin, to which the hon. Lady referred eight times. In her speech, we witnessed spin around allegations that have no substance. We have dealt with each of the allegations that she has made. In relation to Jo Moore, I did what was appropriate. That was that she should be subject to the normal disciplinary procedures of the Department. She is a serving civil servant and deserves to be dealt with as such according to the disciplinary procedures—and, by the permanent secretary, she was.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Byers: Now that we have dealt with all the allegations—specifically, individually and in detail, I hope—made by the hon. Lady, let us move on to the real issue.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Minister has indicated that he is not giving way.

Mr. Byers: The record will show that I have given way on numerous occasions. I want to address the issues that Conservative Members do not want to address: why we took action against Railtrack and what we are doing with our 10-year transport plan, and for regeneration of our communities, for housing, for our regions and for local government. I shall address those issues in the time that is available to me. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. We must have some calm in the Chamber. The Chamber must come to order.

Mr. Byers: First, I shall consider what we think might well replace Railtrack: a company limited by guarantee. As I said during Question Time, it will ultimately be for the administrator to assess and make recommendations on proposals for the transfer of Railtrack's assets out of administration, as a going concern. Under schedule 7 of the Railways Act 1993, I will have to approve any such transfer. However, there is every possibility that there will be more than one proposal before the administrator. The Government and I welcome that. At the same time, however, it would be irresponsible if we did nothing and simply left it to others to work up a viable successor to Railtrack plc. We have therefore developed what we regard as an attractive successor vehicle, and will put a proposal to the administrator for a company limited by guarantee to take over Railtrack plc's railway assets and its role as a network operator. We are confident—

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) rose

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) rose

Mr. Byers: I want to make some progress. I have spent nearly half an hour on the first part of the debate and want to address some of the issues in our amendment.

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We believe that when people have had the opportunity to look at the detail of our proposals for a company limited by guarantee—a detailed written reply has been made available this afternoon—they will realise that there is substance behind them, and most important, that the financial arrangements with the private sector will be in place and successful.

Mr. Redwood: Will the Secretary of State guarantee that a clear amount of funding will be laid out for any potential bidder who is interested in Railtrack plc? Will he confirm that that will be the same for all bidders and that he will not offer certain sums for his preferred option that he will not make available for others? In the interests of the travelling public and Railtrack group shareholders, he needs to offer firm and clear money that will be delivered, unlike last time, and have a proper competition to see who makes the best proposition.

Mr. Byers: If the right hon. Gentleman is saying that we have to put the interests of the travelling public first, he is right. As I said to the hon. Member for Maidenhead at Question Time, we shall issue guidelines in the next few days to address those issues. It is right and proper that when people put together a bid or submission, which might be expensive, they know the terms under which such approaches are made to the administrator.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) rose

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) rose

Mr. Byers: What a choice. I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan) first.

Kevin Brennan: On Railtrack, does not my right hon. Friend's announcement undermine the Opposition's case that the Government have been trying to bury bad news stories? Do not most people think that the Government doing something to sort out the mess of the Tory privatisation of Railtrack is a good news story?

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