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Mr. Tony Banks : Has my hon. Friend noticed the way in which the public address system on the London Underground always seems to start up just as the doors are closed? As the train is moving out of the station, one can just hear that there is a station further down the line where the lifts are out of action, causing delays. They do not seem to be able to get such messages announced on board the trains ; they simply make the announcements at the stations, and it is very frustrating. Has my hon. Friend ever experienced that frustration?

Mr. Cohen : Yes, I have experienced it personally, and I have been told all sorts of horror stories about the public address system. Worst of all, a lot of the stories have been told to me after the Fennell report on the King's Cross disaster. It seems that that lesson has not been learnt.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I realise that the hon. Member has been led astray. I am sure he is going to come back to the question of the penalty fares.

Mr. Cohen : I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing myself to be led astray. The question that was

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raised was the automatic exit barriers, which, of course, is directly relevant to the penalty fares aspect. I am strongly opposed to the automatic exit barriers. As hon. Members will know, I have put down an early-day motion on that matter.

I think that automatic barriers are a danger in the event of a fire. They could result in more loss of life. A fire on the Underground is not just a one-off event ; King's Cross is not a one-off affair. Tonight's "World in Action" reported that in a seven-week period between October and December there were 125 fires on the London Underground. Any one of those could have had fatal consequences, as could these barriers.

In this respect Fennell certainly has not been implemented. Many of the Fennell recommendations have not been implemented, yet these barriers are being put in place and creating problems.

Mr. Tony Banks : I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the great work that he is doing in drawing attention to the shortcomings of this new automatic ticket gate system. Has he seen tonight's Evening Standard which says :

"Fire chiefs demand Tube gate changes

Fire chiefs have ordered modifications to London Underground's controversial automatic gates".

They consider that they are unsafe and they would not allow speedy evacuation of a station in--God forbid--another King's Cross type disaster.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. We cannot have a general debate on this Bill dealing with the London Underground. It is a fairly narrow Bill restricted to penalty fares, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will address himself to the Bill.

Mr. A. F. Bennett : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Hon. Members will be aware that in the letter that we have had from the London Underground specific mention is made of the automatic ticket barriers and the new system of issuing and collecting tickets, to illustrate that it is improving collection. Surely, if it is reasonable for the promoters of the Bill to refer to the new ticketing machines and barriers as part of the build-up to the Bill, it is perfectly reasonable for hon. Members to make mention of them.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : The promoters, of course, do not decide what is in order in the House of Commons. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will direct his remarks to the Bill.

Mr. Cohen : I will endeavour to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The key point, of course, is that penalty fares and the automatic exit barriers are part of a joint package from LRT in relation to fare evasion. I am not in favour of either, particularly the automatic exit barriers, which I think are dangerous. They affect each other, so I think that it is in order for me to mention them. Others have concentrated on the subject.

I pay tribute to the Evening Standard for trying to expose the dangers. On "World in Action" tonight, Mr. Richard Warburton, director general of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, described barriers as an obstruction, especially where there is heat and smoke.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West mentioned the article in the Evening Standard . I recently

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tabled a parliamentary question about LRT and London Underground Ltd. not publishing the fire brigade reports. I asked the Minister about

"all relevant correspondence, reports and documentation communicated between themselves and the fire authorities for London about the consequences for safety of automatic exit barriers installed at London underground stations ; and if he will make a statement."

The Minister answered :

"It is for London Regional Transport, London Underground Ltd. and the London fire and civil defence authority to consider whether to make available such exchanges."--[ Official Report, 1 February 1989 ; Vol. 146, c. 210. ]

That is a negation of the Minister's responsibility, yet there is so much anxiety about the matter. They should publish what the fire brigade has to say about the subject.

The travelling public of London have a right to know if the fire brigade says that barriers are unsafe of if any station is unsafe. London Underground is going in the opposite direction. That must be stopped. It is up to the Minister to take more positive action. These barriers are a danger when there are large crowds. They run counter to the operation of London's underground. I shall consider fare evasion later--the unsafe implications of the barriers far outweigh any considerations about collecting fares. There is a far better way in which to collect fares-- having proper staffing levels.

I know that we are short of time, so I shall not make a long speech. I could read any number of letters from women with children and passengers with luggage or shopping who find the barriers immensely inconvenient. Even commuting office workers with an umbrella in one hand and a briefcase in the other have written to me saying that they have only two hands and asking how they are supposed to get the ticket into the machine. I have letters from elderly people who are worried about the machines and from people who have paid for expensive season tickets which they put into the machine but do not get back. This is a thoroughly unpopular system which creates congestion and danger.

The machines do not even work. A fit youth can easily hop over them. In "World in Action", the reporter showed the immense congestion and how inconvenient the exit barriers are. He then said that he was travelling on a child's ticket and the machines did not spot it. They are not even effective. They should be withdrawn and no concourses should be closed off, especially after the King's Cross disaster. Hon. Members referred to the Paris metro, but the stations and the concourses there are usually much wider and do not have the safety problems that exist in stations in London. As has been said, the Paris metro operates a much cheaper fares policy so there is not such a great problem of fare evasion. We should be moving towards such a system. The real solution to fare evasion is not automatic barriers or penalty fares but more staff.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : Hon. Members are pointing out quite rightly that the priorities being used at present accentuate the problem of fare evasion, but are disregarding the real problem within London Regional Transport. My hon. Friend is making a very good case. Does he agree that London's becoming the most congested and run-down transport system of all the capital cities in Europe?

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Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds to that intervention, I am finding it difficult to relate some of his remarks to the Bill. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me that his remarks relate to the Bill and identify the particular clause in the Bill to which his remarks relate.

Mr. Cohen : I can give you that assurance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am told that my remarks relate to my interpretation of clause 2. The problem is how to tackle fare evasion. London Regional Transport has proposed a package of automatic exit barriers and penalty fares. The alternative, which I think is much better, is a cheap fares policy and increased staffing to collect fares and protect the travelling public. Many women find travelling on the tube an absolute nightmare, a descent into hell. Certainly many women fear taking that risk.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth) : Does my hon. Friend recall that during a recent debate on London Transport I mentioned the long delay in the repairs to the Pimlico escalator, extending over many months, since last May or June? It meant that many ladies and old and disabled people found negotiating that long stairway so difficult and demanding that they probably felt like evading the fare. Will my hon. Friend take note that when the matter was raised in the other place I am advised that Lord Brabazon immediately replied to the noble Lord who raised the issue? However, no Member of the House of Commons has had the courtesy of any comment from London Transport, although I understand that the escalator may well be in operation in another month or two.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I realise that the hon. Gentleman came in fairly recently, but the Chair allowed a fairly wide debate on the first Bill on condition that the debate on the second Bill would be related strictly to the Bill now before us. It would be an abuse of our procedures, and very unfair to hon. Members who have business after this, to have a wide debate. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will respond to what I have now said on a number of occasions.

Mr. Cohen : I shall do that, and therefore I shall not respond to the point about escalators, although my hon. Friend will know that at any particular time one in four escalators on the London Underground does not work. However, I shall not respond to that point because of your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

A better way forward would be increased staffing, a proper railways inspectorate, and for more people to be employed on the London Underground for fare collection, to look after the travelling public and to assist them, with courtesy. The way forward chosen by London Underground, London Regional Transport and the Government will lead to chaos. London will become known as a black spot among European capitals. That is what it has become under the Government. Penalty fares and blocking the way out of stations will simply make congestion and safety problems worse.

The barriers are not cheap--they cost well over £3 million. What a waste of money, especially when London Transport intends to hammer London ratepayers with a 50

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per cent. increase in the levy order which the House will be discussing in the future. Therefore, they are a waste of money in addition to all the other problems.

The real way to stop fare evasion is a cheaper fares policy. I appreciate that that would create problems. There is already overcrowding and some might say that cheaper fares would make the overcrowding worse. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West said, that has to be tackled by capital investment. New lines and new rolling stock should be introduced. Some of the rolling stock being introduced now means that more people will have to stand up because--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman does not appear to be taking any notice of the appeals I have made to him. He must restrict his remarks to the Bill and not widen the debate. I have told him on more than one occasion and I must repeat to him that there is other business after this. He can talk for as long as he likes provided he stays in order but at present he persists in being out of order. This is the last occasion on which I am prepared to appeal to the hon. Gentleman in that regard.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I am addressing the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen).

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? If a check on fare evasion is to be carried out on the trains, which is what I understand the Bill provides, why is it not relevant for my hon. Friend to refer to the rolling stock--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I was addressing my remarks to the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) and I am sure that he will take notice of what I have said to him.

Mr. Cohen : I certainly will. I do not intend to evade the important issues and I do not want to filibuster. The points I want to make are too important for me to filibuster and concern the interests of the London travelling public. I am coming to the end of my remarks.

Instead of penalty fares and automatic barriers, which just make everything worse, we need a cheaper fares policy. We need more public investment and cheap, efficient and safe travel. We need a co-ordinated transport system that covers all modes of transport and helps ease the problems of overcrowding. We need a change of direction in investment with more money spent on the tube and less on the roads. We need democracy so that the people who run London Underground and London Regional Transport are subject to the democratic pressures of the travelling public and the people of London. If they were subject to that democratic pressure, I do not believe that they would introduce such penalty fares or the automatic ticket barriers. They would have to argue their case if they were electable. Democracy must be restored to our London transport system if we are to solve some of the problems.

Everyone who uses London Underground cares and worries about the safety implications. They do not want to travel in pig-sty or unsafe conditions ; they want an efficient and proper system. They pay enough for it, so they deserve it. They care passionately about having a good London transport system. It is the Government who

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do not care and show that they do not care. They have a contempt for the travelling public for which they should be exposed. 10.55 pm

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham) : I shall be brief, because some of my points have already been made. I agree with the points made by hon. Members about what is wrong with London Regional Transport. It is, however, necessary to make some points as the two Bills are separate.

I admit that in relation to the previous Bill efforts were made to consult British Rail unions, and I understand that consultations are continuing. However, I am not sure that there have been any consultations with the unions about this Bill. If there were any consultations they were perfunctory. It is a pity that, whichever board or company is concerned, it does not gain the support of its employees in the first place. If there were a spirit of consensus, I am sure that many of our debates would be much shorter.

I know that many London Regional Transport employees are extremely worried about the provisions in this Bill. They do not appear to be consulted by London Regional Transport, London Underground Ltd. or by London Buses. As we are all in favour of cutting the number of fare evasions, it is a great pity that unions are not taken into partnership with the board--in this case London Regional Transport--so that a mutually agreed system can be put forward for the House to consider.

The number of assaults on staff on the London Underground in 1983 was 300 ; in 1984, 286 ; in 1985, 364 ; in 1986, 378 ; and in 1987, 409. I shall not go into why there is an increase in the number of assaults on staff, but I merely say that it is because of the society in which we live and those who are responsible for that society. I am sceptical that one or two guards, conductors or ticket inspectors will be able to deal with the average late night incident on the Underground when trying to exact a £10 penalty fare from a passenger. As we know, some passengers will have had more drink than is good for them, others will be argumentative and others will respond with violence at the drop of a hat. We know only too well what happens day in and day out on the London Underground. I do not believe that it is good enough that civilians or employees should have to exact the £10 penalty fare from people at the risk of physical harm.

If, of course, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) will say that there would be British Transport police on every train or accompanying every penalty fare collector, I may modify my views. It is a sad historical fact that the number of London Underground police has been dropping, until recently, for reasons completely extraneous to London Regional Transport. If more police were employed, the public and employees would be more confident that violence would not occur. I fear, however, that such violence will increase as a result of the Bill.

I shall not dwell on the subject of barriers, which has been well covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), but I am concerned about the servicing of the fare machines. I am not confident in LRT's ability to operate machines that do not break down and that will always give change. As a result of poor servicing I fear that such machines will soon run out of change and will demand exact fare money only. If one is at a tube

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station where the machines are either broken or taking exact fare only, I have no confidence that the booking office will be open. If it is, there is bound to be a queue.

The public do not want the guarantee that for 80 per cent. of the time all stations will be functioning from 5.30 am until 12.30 at night. The public want to know that for 98 per cent. of the time all stations will be functioning. I do not believe that that is sufficient and I believe that that guarantee should stand for 99.9 per cent. of the time.

There are about four fare machines at Westminster and LRT should be able to guarantee within 0.01 per cent. that at least one of those machines will work all the time. I do not believe that such a gurarantee can be given. I do not believe that LRT has the will to fulfil that commitment. In common with British Rail, LRT is trying to get machines to take the place of people. That will not work. Has the board of LRT estimated how much it would cost to employ a couple of people at every underground station? There are 200 or more stations. It is easy to calculate how much it would cost to have three shifts of two staff at each station--1,200 staff would cost between £10 million and £12 million. The revenue lost as a result of evasion is put at £26 million and I would not be surprised if the employment of additional staff resulted in a £12 million reduction, if not more, in the cost of evasion. We should not give the Bill a Second Reading unless some estimate has been made of the cost and implications of such additional employment.

If extra staff were employed not only would fare evasion be reduced, but violence and vandalism. We would also have cleaner stations and help could be given to mothers and children. It seems that LRT is not worried about any of those extra benefits ; all that it is concerned about is making people unemployed and putting machines in their place. I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South will deal with that later.

The Bill is not written in the same style as the British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill and I believe that it is a little more authoritarian. Clause 5(1) on penalty fares on trains says : "Subject to subsection (2) below, if a person travelling on a train service fails to produce a fare ticket or a general travel authority on being required to do so by an authorised person, he shall be liable to pay a penalty fare if required to do so by an authorised person."

Both Bills contain similar provisions. Clause 5 (2)(a) says : "A person (other than one falling within paragraph (b) below) shall not be liable to pay a penalty fare under this section if at the time when and the station where he started to travel on the train service there were no facilities available for the sale of the necessary fare ticket for his journey."

The clause specifically says that there must be facilities for the sale of the necessary ticket. That means that if such facilities exist the person travelling will be deemed to be in default and liable for the penalty fare even if there is a mile-long queue outside the booking office with many people waiting to buy tickets to other destinations. The Bill does not say that such a queue can be an exception. Clause 5(2)(b) gives an exception because it talks about a person transferring to a service.

Clause 5(2)(c)(i) says that the penalty fare is not payable if "there was displayed a notice (however expressed) indicating that it was permissible for passengers beginning a journey at that station."

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Clause 5(2)(c)(ii) says that a person would not have to pay the penalty fare if

"an authorised person in uniform gave permission to the same effect."

In terms of legalities I am a layman, and on a layman's reading of the Bill it seems that it will make the innocent person guilty and put him into a worse position in terms of proving his innocence. I gave a specific example of a booking point that is open and has a long queue. As far as I can see from the Bill, a passenger will be liable for the penalty fare unless he waits for a long time in the ticket queue.

The Bill does not deserve a Second Reading. It is worse than the British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill that we discussed earlier, and that is because of the questions that it raises about assault and civil liberties, and because the management of London Regional Transport seems to have made no effort to talk to the unions and employees concerned. I hope that the Bill will be roundly defeated. 11.7 pm

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : I have some specific and short questions for the Minister. First, what is the position on deferred fare authorities? Will he tell us whether they are intended for use only on the Underground system when they have been issued at a British Rail station or is it intended to make them available at all London Underground stations where for some reason machines are not working?

How will the ticket barriers work? Perhaps the Minister could give some guidance about how to proceed through a barrier when one is pushing a pram. I am told that it is extremely difficult to get both the pram and the adult pushing or pulling it through the barrier without either the pram or the adult being snapped at by the closing gates. What happens if a passenger inserts a ticket and the green light comes on, indicating that for some reason or other the ticket is not accepted, especially when many people standing behind are impatient to get out of the station?

The other day I saw a person put in a ticket. The green light came on but before the passenger could read the message he was pushed forward by the person behind him who put in his ticket and the two people came out through the gate. I do not know whether that happened because the gate was not functioning properly or whether it was supposed to happen, but it is fairly frightening when one is at the front of the queue with many people behind and for some reason a perfectly valid ticket is thrown out by the machine.

Will the Minister tell us what is to happen to the monthly, weekly and even daily tickets which are made of fairly flimsy material? They are placed in a plastic wallet and have to be shown on the way out of the station. That suggests that the material of which they will be made will have to be one that the machine will be able to read easily after repeated use.

We hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) will be able to reassure us on these points. He should try to ensure that, if the Bill gets a Second Reading, it spends as long as possible in Committee. I am certain that the mood of people in London and of hon. Members is that the Bill should not become law until the new ticketing system on London Underground has worked out all its teething troubles, if that is possible. It would be

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criminal for the House to give London Regional Transport the authority to carry out a penalty fare system when it cannot operate efficiently the system of collecting fares.

11.10 pm

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : I have a number of specific questions about compulsory ticket areas. These are defined in clause 2, which says :

"A compulsory ticket area' means that part of a station which, under the byelaws of the person providing a train service to which this Act applies, passengers are not permitted to enter without a fare ticket, general travel authority or platform ticket". What instructions will be given to staff regarding compulsory ticket areas in an emergency? Ticket inspection staff will be operating in these areas, and they will be trying to check on people going into them. When there is an emergency, they will have to direct people through those areas, so the compulsory ticket area will have to be waived. What sort of instructions is LRT giving about what should happen in an emergency? We do not want compulsory ticket areas in which staff are operating being used as a barrier to people moving. In an emergency, such areas must merge in with the thoroughfares.

My hon. Friends have mentioned ticket barriers for leaving stations and the difficulties of inserting tickets and getting the gates to open. What pressure is required to use those barriers in emergencies? I am staggered that these automatic ticket barriers are being installed so soon after the dreadful King's Cross fire. I know that questions have been raised time and again about installing such ticket barriers when the lessons of the King's Cross fire show that there has to be rapid escape from a fire to get away from what is, in effect, the top of a chimney. What sort of pressure is involved? Could, for example, a slightly built woman move the barriers to one side, bearing in mind that she might have a couple of toddlers with her? If there is smoke, panic and fumes, could she move the barrier to one side, as LRT claims?

11.13 pm

Mr. Thorne : With the leave of the House, I shall reply. We have had an interesting debate and some important points have been made. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was not the only person to mention employment. We must be concerned about that important issue. If people have given their life to an industry, it would be wrong to cast them aside without looking after them. The hon. Gentleman mentioned his journey from East Ham this morning, and the difficulty that he had because of the long queue of people waiting for tickets. One of the important aspects of the Bill is that the Secretary of State has to be satisfied before he agrees to the implementation of the scheme that there will be adequate facilities for automatic ticket dispensing machines to be available. At about the same time as the hon. Member for Newham, North-West was dodging a queue and boarding a train without a ticket, which he admitted, I was feeding my money into an efficient machine at Ilford station, which dispensed a ticket without any problem. There were more ticket machines than people who wanted to use them. There was a hiccup on the network line as some of the overhead cables had malfunctioned at Bethnal Green, but the Underground was able to relieve the pressure from Stratford and the system worked efficiently and effectively.

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Mr. Tony Banks : I ask the hon. Gentleman to complete the story about my travel on the Underground this morning. I paid when I reached Westminster, and I want that to be on record.

Mr. Thorne : I would not dream of suggesting that any hon. Member did not pay the full fare on reaching his destination. That goes without saying. I accept that there must be a sufficient number of adequate ticket machines installed at East Ham station before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be satisfied that he can allow their introduction.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West mentioned the reduction of staffing at stations and suggested that it would amount to one sixth of the Underground staff. I hope that one of the main advantages of such a scheme will be to enable the system to redeploy staff. Several hon. Members have mentioned their concern about safety on the Underground system. As recent events have shown, the public require more British Transport police to be present within the system. Undertakings have been given that over the next 12 months additional personnel will be deployed. I am sure that everyone will agree that with the advantages of new technology we should take the opportunity that is presented to us and redeploy staff where they are most needed.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West and others talked about the breakdown of ticket barriers and the need for comfort and safety. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the ticket barriers will be of an adequate standard and will not break down, thus causing a gross inconvenience to passengers. Considerable experience with the machines has already been gained in other parts of the world. We can learn from the experience of others, and I trust that we shall have as reliable a system in Britain as they have in Hong Kong and various other countries, where it works extremely efficiently.

I agree that special attention must be given to comfort and safety. It must be understood that the ticket-issuing clerk and the ticket collector will occupy important positions and will both be on duty at all times when the stations are open. They will have access to a button to neutralise the automatic barriers and allow a free flow. That important safety measure will be required.

Mr. Cohen : I have received much correspondence about ticket barriers, and a section of it relates to an explosion--perhaps a bomb--in the Underground system. If the staff could not press the so-called magic button, the gates would remain locked. Is that a possibility?

Mr. Thorne : Anything is possible, but I do not think that that is likely to happen. There are special provisions that we must examine for smoke detection, for example. If any smoke is generated from an explosion, it would be noticed. The staff who would be on duty at all times would be present to take care of those situations. I am confident that the staff that we expect to be employed on the Underground will be of such a standard that they will be able to cope with those eventualities.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) was particularly concerned about employment. I hope that his fears are unfounded and that we will be able to redeploy staff in the system more effectively and efficiently. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) criticised the Minister for the shortness of his statement. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Leyton was in

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the Chamber when the British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill was debated, but my hon. Friend the Minister gave a longer explanation then. He also explained that he was not the promoter of this Bill and was adopting a neutral position. He was not replying to the debate. That is my job, with the permission of the House.

The danger to staff when collecting penalty fares is a very important and worrying point. I hope that more transport police will be involved and that it will be possible to protect staff who might be in danger. We must bear in mind that there is an undertaking that staff will at least work in pairs. Undoubtedly late at night, after drinking hours, we should expect them to work in threes and fours. In the very near future, possibly before this scheme is implemented, we hope that it will be possible to introduce radios on the system that can work underground. Therefore, a call could be made requesting police to be available at the next station, should that need arise. Staff safety is paramount and it would be wrong to try to introduce a system which put the staff at risk. That would not work.

The hon. Member for Leyton also referred to exits. Where automatic barriers are neutralised to allow free passage, it is possible for between 50 and 60 passengers a minute to pass through each barrier. We must remember that the space allocated for exiting is greater with automatic barriers than with manned. The constriction is greater with manned barriers than with a number of exit points. It should be possible to exit much quicker where automatic barriers are in position.

The hon. Member for Leyton also said that automatic barriers were unpopular. I hope that, like many things, they will become more popular as people become more familiar with them. He also asked about someone using a child's ticket. When a child's ticket is inserted in the machine, it is supposed to switch on a light to show that a child is passing through. One of the duties of the ticket collector is to ensure that the light does not come on when adults are passing through. His attention may have been distracted at that moment, but that is the intention.

The hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) mentioned the absence of union consultations. Such consultations have taken place at a very basic level. Now that the process has been started, we hope that it will develop during the passage of the Bill. I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading and once it goes into Committee I hope that it will be possible to deal with some of the union fears in more detail and more positively. We should get these matters into perspective. If the proposals had been introduced a year or two ago, they would have been out of date now and we would have had to go through the whole matter again. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Member for Wrexham on that point.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke of assaults on staff by passengers who have been drinking, which I have covered, and expressed concern about mechanical breakdowns. The Secretary of State must be satisfied that there is an effective system for dealing with malfunctioning apparatus. I understand that a control panel will indicate which apparatus is malfunctioning, so that the area supervisor will be able immediately to know if an unacceptable number of machines are faulty and when to send help.

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Dr. Marek : Is the hon. Gentleman saying that there will be an area supervisor at every London Underground station? I cannot see that happening.

Mr. Thorne : My understanding is that the machinery at a number of stations will be monitored at one particular location. Signals will be sent from the barriers at each station to a central control point. There will not be a supervisor or mechanics at every station, but if an unacceptable number of machines at any one station malfunction, assistance will be sent as soon as possible.

If long queues form, the staff on duty must indicate that there is an emergency and that passengers will be allowed through. The inspecting staff will be given notice that a number of

ticket-dispensing machines have broken down. That will be part of the human input at the station concerned--it will be the responsibility of the staff there to take that decision. Provided a sufficient number of machines are working, such a thing should rarely, if ever, happen.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) mentioned inoperative machinery and I have answered that point. Passengers pushing prams will be able to pass through the manned barrier.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that there will always be an alternative to using the mechanical ticket barriers?

Mr. Thorne : The intention is that there will always be that option available.

I suppose that two people could pass through the barrier together, but, as the machinery becomes more sophisticated, perhaps that abuse will be defeated. Season tickets, like many other items, can be magnetically read. That can help prevent them from becoming tatty, in the same way that a credit card does not become tatty. I accept that the Bill's Committee stage will be important. All the questions that have been raised must be sorted out then.

The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) asked what instructions will be given to staff regarding compulsory exits in ticket areas in an emergency. In most cases, two points will be manned by staff, who will have the ability to neutralise the automatic barriers to permit free exit. The manned barrier will also be in operation, but the intention is that passengers, other than those pushing prams or in invalid chairs, will pass quickly through the opened mechanical barriers.

I hope that those replies deal with all the points that have been raised, and that the Bill will be given a Second Reading, so that its provisions may be further clarified in Committee.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time : The House divided : Ayes 66, Noes 37.

Division No. 77] [11.29 pm


Alexander, Richard

Amess, David

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Bevan, David Gilroy

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Brazier, Julian

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Chapman, Sydney

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Durant, Tony

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