Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Earl Ferrers: My Lords, if one is a Minister and one is going to set up a blind trust, can one have one's wife, mother or son as trustees?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as the noble Earl will know, the arrangements must be such that they genuinely blind you from what is going on in relation to the trust.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, does the Minister consider that his success with the Dome means that he may yet end up as Leader of the House? As he will know, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, as a trustee of the Labour Leader's Office fund, which was a blind trust, I gather, broke the confidentiality of the fund to make it clear that Mr Geoffrey Robinson was not a contributor. Will the Minister go further and say whether any Member of either House was a contributor to that or any of the other blind trusts which existed before the election? Indeed, would it not be in the interests of openness and freedom of information for the names of all those who have contributed to blind trusts now to be made public?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the reference which the noble Lord made is not to a ministerial blind

9 Dec 1999 : Column 1385

trust but to the blind trust in relation to the then Leader of the Opposition's Office. The reason for the blind trust in that case is completely different from the reason which I identified previously; namely, that the contributors should not be known to the Leader of the Opposition. That has now been wound up. In exceptional circumstances, my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal identified one contributor. That seems to me entirely appropriate and it seems to me equally appropriate that any contributions which have been made to Conservative Party funds should be made fully and frankly available.

London Underground: Financing Methods

3.18 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a scheme similar to the public bond issue for the New York subway should be introduced for the London Underground.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I refer noble Lords to the excellent speech made by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister in another place yesterday. Our private public partnership proposals will bring over £8 billion investment into the Tube system. That is much better value for money than public bonds. The PricewaterhouseCoopers paper, a copy of which was placed in the Library yesterday, shows how the PPP could save £4.5 billion compared with the issue of public bonds.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for reminding us of the important speech made recently. None the less, is the Minister aware of the considerable success achieved by the New York subway. Since 1982, when the renovation plan was introduced, exactly £8 billion--the sum involved in our case--has been raised on the public bond market. The bulk of the lines and signalling has been improved, air-conditioned coaches have replaced former rolling stock, passenger mileage has increased by 40 per cent, and the reliability of the network has doubled. In those circumstances, as it is important to consider all the alternatives for such an important venture, at this late stage will the Government look at the situation again, bearing in mind that raising bonds in such a way would certainly be cheaper than if the money were raised by the private sector.At the same time, the engineering work could be contracted out to the private sector.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, none of us would dispute that the New York system has improved significantly since the new system of financing has been in place. Nevertheless, that finance is guaranteed against future revenue in terms of both fares and tax subventions from public authorities. The benefit of the PPP is not only that we shall raise substantial funds of money, but also that we shall bring the application of the most up-to-date management techniques to the provision of the infrastructure for the London Underground. That analysis is underlined by the Pricewaterhouse report to

9 Dec 1999 : Column 1386

which I referred, which shows a £4.5 billion advantage. I recognise that all forms of raising private sector money will be debated during the mayoral elections. However, I believe that the Pricewaterhouse report indicates that our scheme is probably the best way forward.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the PricewaterhouseCoopers report should be required reading for all candidates who aspire to be mayor of London, particularly in view of the misleading comments that some of them have made on the issue? This morning I had a brief opportunity to read the report. It is evident that the Jubilee Line extension would have cost £1.5 billion more had we gone down the bond route rather than down the public private partnership route. Will my noble friend comment on that?

Lord Whitty: Yes, my Lords. I trust that throughout the coming mayoral election, which is of such importance to the future of London, the facts will be addressed by all who aspire to be mayor and that this report will be part of their required reading. On the Jubilee Line extension, the benefit for any similar future undertaking would not only be the cost of borrowing, but also the fact that from the word go private sector management expertise could be brought to bear in a case that clearly was not well managed, such as the Jubilee Line extension.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for placing the Pricewaterhouse report in the Library. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, on the importance of it being widely read. Is that report now not merely in the Library but also published? Has the Minister yet been quoted out of context enough times to realise how important that request is?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have spent most of my life being quoted out of context, like many other noble Lords. However, the report is published in the sense that it has been released to the press. Therefore, it probably meets the normal criteria and is available to Members of this House and another place.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, now that the proposals for Railtrack to take over the subsurface lines have been shelved in rather humiliating fashion by the Government, apparently because neither of the two mayoral candidates of the Labour Party could put their names to them, and on a day when the Evening Standard reports,


    "Tube 'at death's door' as delays rise to record rate",

can the Minister tell the House whether there is any chance that Londoners will see any improvement in the Tube before the next election or shall we go through the whole Parliament without seeing anything on the subject?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe there are already benefits from the higher level of investment in which this Government have engaged for the London

9 Dec 1999 : Column 1387

Underground than the last few years of the past regime. We have provided £800 billion. That will be built upon by the beginning of the private public partnership towards the end of this Parliament.

I want to reject the idea that the Railtrack proposition was rejected for the reasons suggested by the noble Lord. The fact is that the proposals from Railtrack at that point did not match up to what was required in terms of integration of the surface railway with the subsurface lines of the Underground. It was felt by all concerned--London Underground, Railtrack and the Government--that it was best to move to a PPP on the same basis as the rest of the London Underground.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, in the light of the conclusion reached by Pricewaterhouse that under all circumstances projects of this complexity would be 20 per cent cheaper if conducted by the private sector rather than by the public sector, does the Minister feel that the experience of the Channel Tunnel allows him to have that degree of confidence in such complex projects?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, every project needs to be assessed on its own terms. Clearly, there is benefit in applying private sector management in this context. That may not be the case in other contexts. The Channel Tunnel was different as the Government bear only a small proportion of the risk. However, I agree with Pricewaterhouse that the general approach we are taking will deliver efficiency as well as better finance.

Lord Elton: My Lords, as one who emerges, blinking, fairly often from the shabbier reaches of the Underground system into the magnificence which is now being revealed as the new Westminster station, will the Minister say whether priority can be given to providing greater comfort and capacity in the rolling stock and smoother track rather than glorifying the approaches to Westminster Palace?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in relation to London Underground and other parts of the rail system, it is important that access to the railway is attractive, safe and efficient. So stations do matter. The rolling stock also matters. Part of the PPP will be the supply of the rolling stock that will be put on a more effective basis under this arrangement than has pertained in regard to rolling stock in the past. However, it is true that under the past regime, the orders for rolling stock in terms of surface railways and in terms of London Underground were seriously curtailed and we have to live with the consequences.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page