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Column 846proportion of one-person operated buses on the London bus routes, which will cause greater congestion and will provide a worse service for the travelling public. Another example is the way in which London Transport has introduced ticket barriers in London Underground stations. Passengers are worried about the safety of those barriers. It is difficult, too, for people carrying heavy bags or wheeling prams to pass through them. Those are issues which London Transport clearly has not considered. On top of those changes, which make travelling worse for my constituents, there have been dramatic fare increases in the past months. Those, of course, are to be supplemented by increases in the rate levy which my constituents must pay on top of those increased fares.
We have small elements of relief in this overall gloomy picture. I am pleased to say that at long last the Government have agreed to provide the funds for the badly needed improvement work at the Angel tube station. That is welcome. However, it is sad that it took years of campaigning, lobbying and requesting for that decision to be made.
Some hopeful signs are also emerging from the central London rail study. I hope that the proposed new line through the Angel and Essex road and out to Hackney will come to fruition. It will be of great benefit to my constituents. However, I hope that Ministers will begin to rethink some of the comments that they have been making about that study which imply that the overall cost of new investment in new tube and rail lines will have to be met largely by passengers. The proper source for such investment in the basic infrastructure of our capital city is the Government rather than dramatically increased fares. Our transport system, especially that in London, has three basic requirements. The first is improved capital investment. The Government make much of their relatively recent awakening to the benefits of capital investment in public transport. I suppose that we must be glad of some of the progress that they have made. But they have not gone anywhere near far enough. We have only to look at the nature of London's Underground system to see that clearly. The Government say that they are putting millions into the upgrading of the Central line. That is welcome, but what about the poor old Northern line? In many ways that is an even worse system than the Central line. Anyone who travels daily on the Northern line is becoming increasingly frustrated by the difficulties that that line poses. The new rolling stock, the new stations and the new work that is needed to improve London's Underground system is very much overdue, and the Government are not going far enough or fast enough in the investment that needs to be made.
Secondly, in addition to more capital investment we need more investment in the revenue running of the system. Year by year since the Government took over responsibility from the GLC for the support of London Regional Transport they have reduced the system's revenue subsidy. That inevitably means higher fares, fewer staff and a worse and less attractive system. That is not the direction in which we should be going.
Thirdly, we need a number of measures to discourage private vehicles from coming into central London. We shall have to look at that in the House in the course of the next few years. At the moment, London is simply clogging up and we cannot allow that to continue unabated.
Column 847In addition to all the problems that I have mentioned, my constituents are now facing British Rail's proposals for King's Cross, for which legislation is shortly to come before the House. I shall not say much about that now because doubtless we shall have the opportunity to debate it at much greater length in due course. But suffice it for me to say that at the moment King's Cross is one of the most congested and overcrowded parts of the entire London traffic system, both above and below ground. If British Rail's proposals go through, King's Cross simply will not be able to cope. British Rail has not seriously considered that and the problems that that entails. It has not looked at a proper strategic over-view of London and the nation's transport system.
Some of my constituents died in the King's Cross fire. Some of the emergency services that responded to that disaster came from my constituency. Many, indeed most, of my constituents use London's transport services day by day, week by week. They know at first hand the problems that face them on that transport system. It is about time that the Government woke up to what is happening, abandoned their complacency and started investing in the measures that are needed to stop our capital city from clogging up. I must sound a warning for the Government. It may already be almost too late for them to start acting properly.
Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley) : I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) spent so much of his speech being negative. For example, he attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) for not being here although he is involved in a Committee.
However, it is right that we should address the problems of congestion and safety. Congestion is becoming a major issue among the public. The Government have no need to take lessons from the Opposition on the roads programme. In the coming financial year there will be 50 per cent. more road construction than before 1979 when it was decimated by the need to go to the IMF.
No Department of Transport forecast of traffic growth anticipated the exceptional rate of increase now taking place, reflecting the economic achievements of recent years. At one point in the past year the increase was four times the high growth forecast used by the Department in planning the road programme. The figures confirm what regular motorway users already know. The roads are carrying traffic far in excess of their design capacity and some motorway sections carry well over 50 per cent. more vehicles per day than the number for which they were planned.
Those who have urged the Government to take careful note of the economic return to be gained from road construction and the economic and competitive disadvantages of failing to provide an adequate road network are now coming to be seen to be fully justified in their views. We are all slowly grasping the point that capital expenditure which produces an immediate and continuing return in terms of reduced congestion and greater industrial efficiency must be considered differently from other spending which does not provide such returns. It is
Column 848that greater industrial efficiency which generates economic growth without which hospials, schools and other social benefits that we all want cannot come about.
The planning process is cumbersome. Far too many roads and other transport infrastructure schemes which were badly needed have been delayed much longer than necessary. Any practical means of ensuring that the right roads and schemes are built in the right places more quickly than would otherwise be the case are to be welcomed. We look forward to the document that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends to publish before long setting out proposals for greater private sector involvement in public sector transport schemes. There are some successful examples. It is encouraging to see a number of cities and regions coming forward with light rail proposals financed as investment projects. In the London Docklands and a number of estuarial crossings there is great scope for bringing forward much-needed infrastructure.
However, we should be cautious about the idea that many major new strategic roads can be financed on a similar basis. There are problems to be considered before we rush headlong towards a regime incorporating roads financed on the basis of tolls. For example, it has been suggested that some bypasses could be built by private firms which would be allowed to charge tolls. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. In order to achieve the maximum environmental benefit, bypasses must attract most of the traffic which previously clogged up the streets of the towns or villages concerned. Anyone who has driven along a relatively deserted Italian autostrada--this may be a response to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill)--while heavy trucks flood along the parallel all-purpose road to save the toll of a few thousand lire will appreciate that the market mechanism does not necessarily produce the most environmentally advantageous outcome. A large proportion of the roads currently being built are bypasses and environmental factors figure high in the justification for their construction.
On strategic routes, some theoretical projects are badly needed to ease congestion, while others are good candidates for toll roads. Unfortunately, the two features do not generally coincide. Take, for example, the proposed east coast motorway that some county councils and other bodies would like to see built to link the M11 with the Humber bridge, and relieve traffic on the existing M1 and A1 roads. It could be a candidate for tolls because the number of entry and exit points could be relatively few. That is because of the general absence of major conurbations along the route. That very fact would be almost bound to lead a potential investor to realise that there would be no hope of achieving an economic return, except possibly in the very long term. Furthermore, it would make economic nonsense to build such a route at very great expense, and then to deter traffic from using it by imposing tolls that did not apply to other routes, including the A1 and M1, for which we can rule them out.
Private finance can play its part in relation to some important and often costly local schemes, such as the new Dartford bridge over the Thames and the second Severn crossing, and new roads to open up derelict areas for development. But we should not get the idea that it can be a magic alternative to major construction by the Government, for which the economic case remains strong.
Column 849Let me say briefly a word about railway overcrowding. In some places overcrowding has become a major problem, and not just in the south-east. On Network SouthEast, standards have been set by the Government for levels of overcrowding, and the Government have approved action to achieve them, including a record level of investment. On Network SouthEast, the target load factor would require that on some trains no more than 10 per cent. of passengers should be required to stand, and on others no more than a quarter. It is time that similar targets were set for provincial services, as several of these provide a service for commuters that is similar to that of Network SouthEast. Indeed, in some cases, the trains go underground in the city centre. It is time to set British Rail targets to reduce congestion on some of its provincial services, not only because people are concerned about safety, but because if passengers have nowhere to sit on trains they are likely to have recourse to overcrowded roads, or not travel at all.
Mr. Adley : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene in his very thoughtful and interesting speech.
Would my hon. Friend agree with me that, while the Government are entitled to claim credit for the capital investment in the railways, it really does seem strange that at the same time the Government are cutting the public service obligation grant, so that we are getting new lines and trains in some places, and overcrowded and dirty trains on the lines that are the heaviest used?
Mr. Waller : It is significant that the Government have not turned down any application by British Rail for a project that is economically desirable. Indeed, my hon. Friend raises some detailed points, to which it would take me a long time to respond. There are also several localities in the provinces for which passenger transport executives also have responsibility, and where overcrowding is becoming a serious problem. In my own area, on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines in west Yorkshire, rail overcrowding has become chronic during peak periods.
If I may return briefly to roads, I wish to deal with the safety aspect about which an announcement was made earlier today. Most people rely on the roads for their transport needs. Sadly, the casualty figures reflect that fact. Road traffic accidents attract relatively little publicity compared with the major disasters, but it is right that we should do everything in our power to reduce the toll of carnage. The Government's response to the North report should be studied with care, and we look forward to the implementation of those proposals that are effective. I say "effective", because that is the only basis on which they should be judged. It is often the undramatic improvements, such as relatively cheap local traffic management and engineering schemes, which have the most significant effects. This criterion should be applied to any changes that are made to deal with, for instance, the menace of drink-driving.
The most effective measures have been taken by brewers, and others, in consultation with my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic, to persuade motorists to take non-alcoholic drinks. Much debate centres on random breath testing, but that ignores the fact that the
Column 850police already have the power to carry out spot checks and to take specimens of breath if there is any reason to believe that a motorist might have been drinking. There is a case, of course, for tidying up the law so that it is more readily understood. However, random checks would require more police manpower to do a less effective job, and we should resist calls to take action that might not work so well. Opposition policies, so far as we can detect them, have remained basically unchanged over the past 20 years. Central transport planning, which was not just a failure but which was so hopeless a concept that it was never really put into effect, is still something they promote. Most transport problems that have been discussed in this debate arise from success. It is increasingly recognised that our transport policies can play a substantial part in contributing to and developing that success.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is coming forward all the time with new ideas, and he will certainly have my support. 6.35 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East) : Whatever may be one's views on the subject that the House is debating this afternoon, and whatever side one takes in the exchanges we have heard so far, I hope that one thing that will unite the House is the acceptance that there is, rightly or wrongly, widespread dissatisfaction with transport services among the travelling public. I hope that I start on a non-controversial note by saying just that.
I listened carefully to the Secretary of State's speech. In the early part of his speech, he dealt with the air disasters at Lockerbie and Kegworth. We shall await the report of the air accident investigation branch into the Kegworth accident. After the Lockerbie tragedy, the House ought to be able to establish unanimity about airline safety.
Criticism has come from Conservative Members during this debate that all that they hear from Opposition Members is a non-stop barrage of criticism about Government policy. That is the penalty of being in government ; indeed, it is what any Opposition is for. Certainly there are differences of opinion and emphasis on transport policy between the two major parties, but on airline safety I hope that we can achieve unanimity.
All of us would agree that airline passengers have a right to expect effective protection from terrorism anywhere in the world. I hope we would all agree that airport security must be upgraded to include tighter controls on carry-on baggage checks, and on transfer bags, with proper passenger screening, baggage reconciliation procedures, properly trained security staff and further research and development into plastic explosive detection.
I should have thought that agreed international standards for all of these matters, with airport spot checks by staff who are appointed by the international Civil Aviation Authority, would meet with general approval in the House. We welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has initiated discussions with other Governments with a view to achieving some of these things.
However, the sensible recommendations of the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport in 1986, including a proposal to restore the security levy, ought to be looked at again. After all, a levy on passengers travelling on all international flights worldwide would raise a large aviation security fund. I know that the right
Column 851hon. Gentleman has some ideological objections to doing that in Britain, but I wonder whether he believes that the recommendations on the matter by the International Federation of Airline Passengers are worth pursuing.
Over the past six years, there have been at least seven fatal civilian aircraft bomb incidents, involving the deaths of more than 850 passengers and crew. It is pointless for the Minister to say repeatedly that British airport security is the best in the world, which it palpably is not. The Government must recognise that international terrorism recognises no boundaries and that all air travellers are at risk, regardless of which airline they choose to fly with, and whatever their airport of departure and arrival. Decisions are also long overdue about the future of British airports. Here, the sense of unanimity that I attempted to bring to the beginning of my speech might fail. I do not believe that the Government can go on pretending that market forces will cure congestion, or ease fears about aviation safety.
It is time for the Department to come clean with people living in southern England, and to tell them that the massive increase in air traffic will inevitably mean a fifth terminal at Heathrow and greater capacity at Gatwick and Stansted, with all the air traffic control and environmental implications that that entails. The Department itself must take advantage of spare capacity in other regions, diverting continental and international flights to regional airports. The Secretary of State's belated decision on greater involvement in Euro-control is welcome, but it is a pity that it takes a summer of chaos at British airports to overcome traditional British chauvinism.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Before my hon. Friend moves on from the subject of air disasters, I wish to make one point concerning the plane crash on the M1. I accept the Secretary of State's observation that much consideration and discussion must follow the publication of the inquiry's report, but certain things ought to be done immediately as lessons begin to be learned. There is, for example, the question of the plane attempting to land at East Midlands airport and whether it would have been more appropriate to attempt a landing elsewhere. There is also the question whether a plane should be expected to land immediately and at the nearest available airport when one engine fails. The nearest available airport does not need to be an international airport, given the length of runway required.
Mr. Snape : Such questions should be answered by the inquiry, though they have properly exercised the interests of many hon. and right hon. Members.
I turn to the right hon. Gentleman's comments concerning the Clapham junction rail disaster and the Hidden inquiry. Without wishing to prejudice its findings, and using only information already in the public domain, may I say that it appears that there is a problem in respect of rail investment levels, reflected in some of the circumstances of the Clapham junction tragedy. Half of the trains travelling through what is the busiest rail junction in the world, proceeding along the old London and South Western line, are served by a signal box that is 50 years old. There is nothing inherently unsafe about that, but in an ideal world Clapham junction "A" signal box, serving the line on which the disaster occurred, would have long since been swept away and replaced--as it is now
Column 852being replaced--by a signalling control centre covering far greater track mileage than that served by the existing signal box. In the south of England in particular, there is a problem of staff shortages. I ask the House to accept that I make that point not on behalf of the National Union of Railwaymen--although, like my father, I am a member of that union--but because there are problems of recruiting and retaining skilled signal and telegraph staff in southern England, resulting from the low wages that have traditionally been paid and the rail industry's dependence, in the south and elsewhere, on overtime payments and on weekend and Sunday rate premiums.
There is, in these days of macho management--partly inspired by the attitude of the present Government--an additional factor for consideration. There are financial penalties on signal and telegraph staff working at Clapham junction and elsewhere, who, if they take time off because of sickness exceeding more than a few days, are liable not to be rostered for any overtime. As a result, staff are tempted to work, and do so, on occasions when they probably should not. Given their responsibilities, that cannot be conducive to a healthy working atmosphere or to passenger safety.
As to response to the Fennell inquiry, we shall study the Government's recommendations, of which there are a considerable number. We do not believe that a debate on the London Regional Transport levy is an adequate substitute for one on Fennell, covering the whole question of the effects of congestion on safety in the London Underground system. The right hon. Gentleman could not resist the temptation to pick out the particular sentence that he did from the Fennell report :
"There was no pressure on management to compromise safety." Those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who read the report were surprised that that sentence was included, particularly as evidence concerning staffing was never heard by the inquiry, as it was ruled out by Mr. Fennell. We await a debate--in Government time, it is to be hoped--on Fennell's recommendations. It is a subject to which we shall certainly return.
As if making a ritual incantation, the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends acknowledge that problems of congestion and safety exist, but say that they are the products of economic growth. They talk about investment levels for road and rail, using statistics that are selective even for this House. The Secretary of State's Private Parliamentary Secretary, as is his duty, laughs. However, when one examines the figures submitted by the Department of Transport to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and finds it stated that investment levels are now at their highest in the history of rail, that is palpably untrue.
Mr. Channon indicated dissent .
Mr. Snape : The Secretary of State suggests that he did not say such a thing. Perhaps the most impartial referee to whom we can turn in resolving this vexed question is John Wells. I should not think that he is the same John Wells who was formerly a Conservative Member of Parliament. I refer to Mr. John Wells of the faculty of economics at Cambridge university. In a letter published in the Financial Times on 16 December, he wrote, on the subject of railway investment :
Column 853"The Secretary of State for Transport's claim that investment in the railways is at an all-time high' is simply not correct,--except in current price terms, which is not of any interest. The graph shows that, following the period 1981-84, in which for four consecutive years, the lowest-ever levels of investment since the Second World War were recorded, there has indeed been a strong recovery in railway investment in recent years."
Mr. Snape : Before the rattles appear and the banners are waved on the Conservative Benches, may I inform the House that Mr. Wells went on to write :
"Nevertheless, railway investment in 1987, (the latest year for which data are available) was considerably below that for the period 1975-79, as well as for 1965-66."
As to the problems posed by success, the Government's own figures for the rate of economic growth in the years since 1979 show that they have by only a single percentage point managed to exceed the rate of economic growth sustained by the last Labour Government in the 1970s. Conservative Back Benchers should not be too impressed by Government propaganda, clever though it may be. The greatest economic growth in this country in recent years--and I had better whisper this softly--occurred under the Administration led by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Conservative Members dare not mention that. Not even the Secretary of State's PPS, who is now doing his duty, is allowed to laugh at that, but it is the reality. The Secretary of State announced welcome proposals for railway investment, and mentioned two schemes that have been given his approval. One of them is the Cambridge to King's Lynn scheme, which is welcome but surprising. [Interruption.] I wish that the Under- Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), would stop waving his pocket watch around. I am sure it is not a present for long service, although, if it is, perhaps somebody is telling him something.
Bearing in mind that the service from Ely to King's Lynn is only every two hours, it is surprising that that criterion can be accepted for an investment proposal, while Manchester-Blackpool's can be rejected.
The investment proposal that the Government have not mentioned and have not yet approved is one that has been knocking around since last August--to alleviate the overcrowding north of the Thames on the AC electrified lines. It has been submitted and resubmitted and was last resubmitted, I understand, at the beginning of January. It is a £40 million proposal for electricial multiple units on the AC electrified lines.
In any event, for the Government to say that the investment proposals are invariably approved is to ignore the fact that they have been sanitised--to use the in word--until they meet the 7 per cent. return on investment criterion. And the Government put up not a penny ; they merely allow British Rail to spend its own cash once they have approved the proposal. This is different, of course, from the way in which they treat proposals generated internally for the road network. Far from welcoming railway investment proposals, the right hon. Gentleman's Department normally tells British Rail to take them away and tickle them up until they meet those established and, in our view, preposterous investment criteria. They
Column 854welcome investment proposals in the same way as Dracula welcomed daylight. "It is inevitable, but do not rush it", ought to be the Department's motto.
There is widespread dissatisfaction with standards right across the transport network. It has taken a somewhat truncated debate today to draw the Government's attention to those problems.
The Select Committee on Transport is meeting at the present time, otherwise my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) would have been present in the Chamber and would have hoped to participate in the debate.
Today, as at other times, the Secretary of State shows complacency about what his Department is doing. As my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) reminded us, the reality for millions of people, particularly millions of women, is imprisonment in their homes or fear every time they use the public transport system. That fear ought to take the debate away from the public school, point-scoring standard to which it all too often descends when the right hon. Gentleman speaks. The right hon. Gentleman has palpably failed to improve the nation's transport lifeline, and I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to demonstrate that failure by voting for the Opposition motion.
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo) : In the few minutes that remain, I will begin where the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) began and confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has indeed taken the lead in calling on the body which exists specifically to bring aviation countries together, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which is to hold a special ministerial meeting in Montreal next week. At that meeting there will be a discussion on recent sabotage attempts, including Lockerbie. My right hon. Friend will be in attendance and will put forward proposals for improving aviation security world wide. I am sure that that will be welcomed by hon. Members. I had a feeling that during this debate we would be discussing investment under this Government, so I thought that it would be useful to examine the investment approved by my right hon. Friend in the very brief period that I have been in the Department. On the railways, we have had 200 EMU vehicles for north of the Thames and Thameslink, 158 Sprinter express vehicles for the provincial services, another 77 vehicles for the Marylebone line as well as the King's Lynn electrification--all in just six months. Across the board, a £720 million modernisation of the Central line on London Underground has been approved, the Angel station reconstruction costing £40 million has been approved, we have given our consent to the £266 million programme of safety measures being implemented by London Underground and in the past week or so we have approved the purchase of a further 10 vehicles for the Docklands light railway.
For London Buses, we have approved investment of more than £12 million.
One very important point which has not, I believe, been mentioned in the debate is that the disabled have been well catered for during this period. The funding that we have approved for Dial-a-Ride in London is £7.27 million for 1989-90--an increase of £1 million on the previous year
Column 855and 70 per cent. higher than when the GLC had charge of these matters. I was extremely proud to be able to announce recently that all taxis licensed in London after 1 February 1989 will have to be wheelchair accessible.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) said, quite apart from all those projects there are very promising light rail projects throughout the country.
I must say to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) that this is not some sort of statistical to and fro, as he described it. We are talking about railways, rolling stock, improved comfort and better services, and these can be provided only by the investment that the Government have been making.
The level of London Regional Transport's investment planned for the coming year is a 94 per cent. increase on the investment in 1983 when it was still under the control of the GLC. Taking the Underground alone, the level of investment planned for the coming year represents a doubling in real terms of the 1984-85 figure. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) should certainly bear that in mind.
I must say to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) that we certainly recognise that crime is of great concern and all the rolling stock that has been approved and to which I have just alluded will help to provide better, more secure conditions for people to travel in. The hon. Member will also be aware of the increases in police numbers on London Underground that we have announced.
I am disappointed that we have not heard more from the Opposition about the central London rail study or our booklet "Transport in London", which were published on the same day. I understand their reticence in talking about these things--they are silent because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his foreword, nails the lie that the Government have no clear policy for transport in London. The study sets out a £1.5 billion programme to upgrade existing lines. That could mean new services, increased station capacity and more trains. It also identifies a case for new railway lines for London--a further £2 billion of investment for the capital. Worst of all for the Opposition, the study was a joint effort by the Department, British Rail and London Underground. There is very little in all that for the Opposition to make political capital. With regard to safety and recent tragic events, the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) raised about the means of informing next of kin is under discussion by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has made some trenchant comments on a number of recent tragic disasters and his manner in doing so has sometimes caused raised eyebrows on this side of the House and even on his own side. If he is entirely sincere in pursuing the subject, I find it extraordinary that in drafting the motion for today's debate he mentioned each of the tragedies which are etched on all our minds but omitted any reference to road deaths. Terrible as those tragedies have been, in terms of numbers killed and lives shattered road accidents are a still more horrendous matter. While at King's Cross 31 died, at Clapham 35, at Lockerbie 270 and at Kegworth 47, the number killed on our roads in the year ended September 1988 was 5,010--a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley made very well. I must tell my right hon. Friend the
Column 856Member for Worthing that governors will be fitted to new coaches from 1 April 1989 and to other coaches in the two years thereafter. The figure of 5,010 was a good one because, if fatalities had risen since 1986 in line with the 10 per cent. increase in road traffic in that period, we could have expected the number to be 910 higher. The reduction has come about largely due to the hard work of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic in setting the objective of reducing casualties by one third by the year 2000, by the stiffer tests for motor cyclists, by the mandatory speed limits at motorway road works and through the battle against drinking and driving. Some of these measures bring no popularity to the Government, but each week 18 people are not killed who without the improvements since 1986 would have been killed. Those people cannot be identified or featured by the press, but the improvement is no less real for that. The more visible and vocal the Opposition support for road safety measures and campaigns, the more we shall believe in their sincerity in addressing all transport safety questions.
I am sure that the House will have seen the response by London Regional Transport and London Underground to the recommendations in the Fennell report. The report was published yesterday, and copies have been placed in the Library. I commend that response to all hon. Members. Nearly all Fennell's recommendations have been accepted. I consider it a serious and responsible response to the King's Cross tragedy, which accepts that matters need to be put right. Many of us have observed the physical measures being taken, such as the stripping out of wood on escalators, but an equally significant amount is being done which cannot be seen. I have in mind the new safety management systems that have been put in place, as well as improved training procedures.
The Government are determined to ensure that the new safety culture continues. To that end, we shall go on receiving regular progress reports and monitoring the progress made by London Regional Transport.
The Opposition are good at complaining about the ills of our transport system--I give them due credit for that--but when it comes to remedies, all they have to offer are the same old ineffective medicines as before. For congestion they prescribe large doses of central planning, sometimes mixed with free travel--as suggested by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) last night. Their cure for safety problems is to turn a blind eye to inefficiency and to dole out ever larger subsidies. The arguments advanced in support of this approach are specious and the motives behind it transparent. The most that the Opposition can claim is that as our transport problems are the result of economic growth under a Labour Government there would have been no growth and thus no problems, but that logic will not commend itself to the House. The remedies proposed by the Opposition are quack remedies. They were inappropriate and ineffective 10 years ago, and age has improved neither their attraction nor their charm.
Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question :--
The House divided : Ayes 210, Noes 305.
Column 857Division No. 79] [7.01 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Beith, A. J.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Cunningham, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Duffy, A. E. P.
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Heffer, Eric S.
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Home Robertson, John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Johnston, Sir Russell
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Macdonald, Calum A.
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)