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Mr. Byers: The House will be aware that the information was provided by way of a written reply at 2.45 pm when copies of the Ernst and Young report were placed in the Vote Office. We are having the statement now because this was the soonest that I could come to the House to make a statement. Business managers will know that very well.
On the specific points raised by the hon. Gentlemanof which there were manyhe said that there would be a long delay before new trains were put on the Jubilee line. That revealed the fact that the hon. Gentleman is not a frequent user of the line. If he would like to go over the road and into Westminster station, he can travel on the Jubilee line. He will see that all the rolling stock is new. It would be rather foolish to try to replace it in five or 10 years' time.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that there would be no extra capacity on the Jubilee line to meet the increased demand. What he has not seenbecause he has not yet looked at the papersis that there will be a
The HSE has no timetable for its report on whether the safety case has been met. The HSE is independent of Secretaries of State. It will take as long as it needs to decide whether the safety case has been met. There is no deadline. No one has laid down a timetable. The HSE will take its time and will arrive at a conclusion when it is ready to do so.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the role of the National Audit Office. That is an important point. We in the House respect the work undertaken by the NAO. However, the view of the NAO is clear: it did not want to publish a report at this stage of the process as to do so would involve it too closely in the decision-making process. In the view of the NAO, that would make it impossible for it to carry out an independent value-for-money assessment after the decisions had been taken. That was the NAO's position. It would have made my job in reaching a decision an awful lot easier if the NAO had been prepared to make a clear recommendation on value for money, but that was not the case.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the capping of liability and where risk would be transferred. Because we are publishing the Ernst and Young report and because London Transport will publish details in due course, people will be able to see those details. The important point in the contract is that liability for the issues that worry the travelling public will be transferred to the private sector.
I shall give the House three examples. If a train breaks down for 10 minutes during the rush hour at Victoria, the private company will be fined £21,000. If an escalator at Oxford Circus is out of action for a month, the private company will be fined £45,000. If a signal on the Jubilee line is out of action for a day, the private-sector company will be fined £300,000. Those are the penalties that will be imposed if the companies do not perform as they should.
I was disappointed by the hon. Gentleman's response. However, it shows that the Conservatives are thoroughly divided on their approach to the public-private partnership. Steve Norris, the Tory candidate for Mayor of London last yearand probably the Conservative who knows most about transportsaid that the public-private partnership was, in reality, the only game in town and that to imply that we can just go back and have another negotiation was naive.
So that is the reality[Interruption.] Opposition Members do not like it when I reveal that their candidate for mayor holds a completely different view. We did not hear a word from the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) about the Conservative approach to the underground, but we know what it is, because it is on the record. The Conservatives have said, "We should transfer the underground into the private sector"[Hon. Members: "Where?"] In "The Common Sense Revolution".
We have ensured that we shall put investment into the London underground. The system has been denied investment for generations. The time has now come. If one talks to people travelling on the underground, they do not want political argumentsthey want money to go into the system. This Government will deliver the investment of which the underground has been starved for far too long.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): My right hon. Friend will know that London, as a capital city, is desperately in need of a modern and efficient transport system, and that its underground has been neglected for many years. Could he tell me, in fairly simple terms, why he is persisting with a scheme that is manifestly unworkable, when there is a volume of evidence that says that it is not value for money, that there is no control on the costs after seven and a half years, and that what he is doing is opening up the viper's nest of exactly the contractual problems that destroyed Railtrack? Frankly, it seems to many of us that, although his intentions are excellent, the result of today's decision will be more delay, more confusion andvery sadly for all of usa system that will be indefensibly incompetent.
Mr. Byers: I read with great interest the report of the Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regionswhich my hon. Friend chairedthat was published on Tuesday. That obviously will have informed our thinking and will inform the thinking during the consultation period that has just begun.
It is worth noting that this is not just the largest public-private partnership that the Government have entered into; it will also be the most open and transparent, because the public will be able to see in detail the basis on which we have arrived at our decision and there will then be a real debate during the consultation period about the merits or otherwise.
On the specifics that my hon. Friend raised, she is right to point out that there are 30-year contracts with a periodic review after seven and a half years. I believe that that strikes the right balance between introducing a degree of flexibility into the contractual arrangements and having some long-term certainty. London Underground and London Transport will have the opportunity, in that periodic review, to address issues such as capacity on individual lines, because that will be a real priority as far as they are concerned.
However, I have to saythis is a crucial issuethat I, of all Ministers, am not going to repeat the mistakes of Railtrack and the railway system. The crucial difference is that London Underground will remain publicly owned and publicly accountable. There will be no shareholders in London Underground. The priority for London Underground will be ticket holders, not shareholders. That means that it must concentrate on ensuring that the private sector delivers as far as the ticket holders are concerned. There will not be a great fragmentation of the system, because there will be a unified structure, and that unified structure will be London Underground. There will be three private contractors working for London Underground, but the unified structure will be provided by London Underground itself.
Therefore I do not believe that this is a repetition of the mistakes that the Conservative party imposed on the railway network. Instead it is a new way of securing private investment while ensuring that London Underground remains in the public sector.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I thank the Secretary of State for giving me an advance copy of the statement, although I doubt that, when I received it, it contained anything that I did not know already, given that he had announced its contents yesterday and earlier today.
The right hon. Gentleman's statement does prompt some questions. First, does he stand by the Deputy Prime Minister's figure of £4.5 billion-worth of savings, and why is he so confident that this represents value for money? He has himself said that the criteria are subjective. Ernst and Young has said that they are subjective. His statement has said that the PPP is likely to represent value for money. Mr. Wilkes, who is a PFI expert, has said that what tends to happen in this sort of deal is that extra costs are loaded on to the public sector model simply to tip the balance in favour of PPP.
What has happened to the reputational externalities that have been referred to in the past? There is only one reference to those in the Ernst and Young report, and that is in the glossary. There is no other reference to them throughout the document. Those were supposed to show that £700 million extra was going to be loaded on to the public sector model. Where have those gone to?
Can the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that the consultation to which he refers will be genuine? Perhaps he will allow Labour Members the opportunity of a free vote to express what they feel about the proposals.
Finally, on the Health and Safety Executive, the right hon. Gentleman says that there is no given date by which the report must be delivered, but will he guarantee that if there is any uncertainty about whether the safety case is valid he will throw out the PPP? There is clearly uncertainty about whether the PPP represents value for money, yet he is proceeding with it. Will he do so if there is any doubt about the safety case? I believe that this PPP represents the Labour party's poll tax on wheels, and that it will haunt them for 30 years.