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Mr. Gardiner: Does my hon. Friend agree with the Comptroller and Auditor General, who said that under the PPP the private sector would not have any operational responsibilities on the network but would mainly be responsible for the work that goes on overnight while the

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system is shut down, and that operations, including those of drivers and station staff, and responsibility for safety, would remain in the public sector?

Mr. Robinson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend because I was about to come to those points, particularly safety, but let me clarify where the split in regard to operations takes place. Drivers will be provided by the public sector, which will also set the timetable and service levels. Safety levels are set by the Health and Safety Executive, which has yet to sign off on the contracts, so that safeguard is already built in. They will be controlled by London Underground, which is already subject to them. The same standards will be imposed on the major infrastructure companies and monitored very closely. The safety issue will be emphasised in the new arrangements.

As I have said, the contracts are signed subject to two qualifications. I sincerely hope that the judicial review will find in favour, that Brussels will not interfere, and that the PPP will be able to proceed. However, there is one very nasty storm cloud on the horizon. The Mayor and Mr. Kiley could seek to appeal the decision in Brussels if it is positive to the PPP. That could get us into another legal wrangle, which might, I understand, last up to 14 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich, the Chairman of the Select Committee, said that we had been at it for four years. We have completed it. We are now there, but there is that one last danger: a spanner could be thrown into the works at the last moment.

I sincerely hope that the Mayor will not allow that level of irresponsibility to be reached.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robinson: I will not give way any more.

I urge the Mayor to accept the decision from Brussels and to let us get ahead with this. If there were to be a further delay of that order, all the work that we have done would be thrown in the air.

Mr. Edward Davey: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robinson: I am not giving way.

The private sector would walk. We know the damage that we are having to repair with Railtrack. The investment would not be there and we would really face delay. The only sufferers would be Londoners. Given the success that I am sure the PPP will enjoy, they can look forward to progressive improvements. If we can get ahead with the project now, those benefits will come over the next few years.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. This is a short debate and many hon. Members are hoping to catch my eye, so I hope that contributions will be brief.

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3.31 pm

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South): I note that the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) is continuing the hatchet job on Mr. Kiley that was started by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) yesterday.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) on securing this debate and on the way in which she introduced it. I congratulate the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions on its work and on the two reports that it has produced, which have been very important.

My main concern about the way in which the matter has been handled so far relates to the delay. It was in 1996 that the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) said at the Labour party conference that we had to get on with it as quickly as possible. Mind you, in the same speech, he said that our air was not for sale, so we have to take his comments with a pinch of salt.

The point was then made in the 1997 manifesto. Then in 1997 a motion was debated on the Floor of the House calling for swift action. Then in 1998 the Deputy Prime Minister came to the Dispatch Box with full majesty and said, "I am not going to be rushed." That is one pledge that he has stuck to.

Then in 1999, the right hon. Member for Hamilton, North and Bellshill (Dr. Reid) said that the Government were making steady progress. Then the 2001 manifesto said that the move was

to help the people of London. This year, the Prime Minister said that the Government would proceed when they were ready.

In Hong Kong, a whole airport was built in four and a half years. Land was reclaimed, roads were built, railways were put in place and tunnels were dug, all in the time that the Government have been deciding what to do about the PPP. In the interim, the Government have bumbled along, making do as far as the underground is concerned, providing a patchwork service. The tragedy is that the underground has such potential, but it has been consistently underfunded.

In the last 10 years of the Conservative Government, in cash terms, they put in £7 billion—£700 million a year. Labour Members are keen to say, "If you took out the Jubilee line, we would match the funding." It is not true. If one takes out Jubilee line funding from both Governments, the previous Conservative Government still put in more funding than this Government have done.

Then we had the fiasco in June last year. The then Secretary of State with responsibility for transport proudly announced that the grant had doubled from £267 million a year to £520 million a year, when £775 million had been promised and work had started on that premise.

What about the people of London? What has been happening in the interim? Simon Jenkins wrote in the Evening Standard:

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In the meantime, the Government have been working on the PPP. The right hon. Member for Hamilton, North and Bellshill said at the Dispatch Box in 1999:

So much for that pledge. The manifesto in 2001 repeated it. It said:

During the general election, there was an agreement. Mr. Kiley was appointed chairman of London Transport on 4 May 2001. It is a familiar date. People will recall that the general election was called at that time. On 17 July, with the Government's majority safely in the bag, Mr. Kiley was unceremoniously sacked. In the intervening period, the election took place. I say to the Mayor and Mr. Kiley that accepting that point was probably the dumbest thing that they did. It was probably the smartest thing that the Government did. It was certainly the most cynical thing that they could have done.

When the Greater London Authority Bill went through the House, the Conservative party warned there would be a fractious relationship between the Mayor and the Government, and indeed the Assembly. Labour's London manifesto said in 1997:

When the Mayor is not measuring walls to see how far his neighbour fell the other day, he has not one but two pieces of litigation on which he is embarked. I hardly call that promoting London's transport system. There is litigation over the Deloitte and Touche report, and over the funding gap to which I referred in an intervention earlier. That funding gap is serious.

In the Mayor's letter of 12 June this year, he identified a £1.4 billion shortfall between the Government grant and the authority's funding needs. When I asked the right hon. Member for Tyneside, North (Mr. Byers) when he was Secretary of State how that gap would be filled, and said that the debt would otherwise be dumped on the people of London, he denied that that would happen.

The debt is going to be dumped on the people of London—unless the Minister wants to intervene now to explain how the funding gap is going to be filled. I notice that he has gone rigid in case any movement may be interpreted one way or the other. The truth is that there is a debt, and the people of London are going to have to pay for it. The Minister shakes his head. That is just what the previous Secretary of State did, but an explanation is needed for the people of London.

I turn specifically to the PPP. The Select Committee reports are devastating. The Government's response rejects those reports in language that they will come to regret. The Select Committee has an in-built Government majority. For it to call on the Government to abandon a major plank of their transport policy—indeed, it is at the centre of policy on the nation's capital—is high stakes indeed. Just to give the reason that there will be further

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delay is completely unacceptable, for reasons that were well explained by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) earlier.

In one sense, the PPP is half right. It is right to involve the private sector, which has demonstrated through countless privatisations that it is more efficient, but this particular way of using it is wrong. One of the lessons that we have learned about Railtrack is that horizontal integration, separating railway from the operations of Railtrack, is a key factor in the failure of its operation. We should have vertical integration.

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