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Points of Order

3.30 pm

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Prime Minister's Questions, I have become increasingly worried about the Government's practice of stationing a Government Whip at your right hand. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) stands at your right hand, Mr. Speaker, and nods approval at everything that the Prime Minister says. If he were wearing a wig, it would look as though you were nodding approval. I know your views, Mr. Speaker, so I think that you should deal with this matter.

Mr. Speaker : I take instructions from no one.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you have seen the advertisement in The House Magazine in which an hon. Member offers himself for hire as a consultant. It states :

"Hard working Back Bench Tory MP of 10 years standing seeks consultancy in order to widen his range of activities. Please contact Richard Alexander at the House of Commons".

You will no doubt wish to deprecate such a practice, Mr. Speaker. It is not the way that a Member of Parliament should conduct himself. Will you, from your Chair today, deprecate that practice?

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw) : Further to the point of order--

Mr. Speaker : Order. No, that is not a matter for me. If any hon. Member wishes to widen his experience, he has a perfect opportunity to do so through the Industry and Parliament Trust.

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Mr. Ashton : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to draw your attention to the fact that in the 1970s I wrote an article in Labour Weekly stating that a tiny number of Members of Parliament were available for hire. The House had me up before the Privileges Committee and I was severely censured for contempt of the House, even though it was proved at a later date that three Members had offered their services for hire. I received no pardon or apology. It appears that if a Member writes an article such as mine, he is up before the Privileges Committee for contempt, but when it is proved later, he gets no recompense.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : Is it on the same matter?

Mr. Bennett : It is further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours).

Mr. Speaker : All right, I will take it.

Mr. Bennett : You may have noticed an advertisement in The House Magazine two weeks ago, Mr. Speaker, offering £8,000 for a secretary to work a 40-hour week, the advertiser having previously offered £6, 000 and failed. Applicants were asked to contact "Simon". As Simon is the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), will he now explain why a member of a party that believes in putting up pay should offer such low pay for a secretary?

Mr. Speaker : I believe that we should move on to the debate on teacher shortages, but before doing so there is a Ten-Minute rule motion.

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Waterloo to City Line (Privatisation)

3.34 pm

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to privatise the Waterloo to City Line.

On behalf of my constituents, I regret today's absurd disruption of British Rail by the National Union of Railwaymen which may overshadow the specific matter which this Bill addresses. I shall not attempt to comment further on the strike. Later, I shall make critical comments about the management of British Rail. I am not now trying to raise the issue of long-term restructuring of British Rail. The intention of my Bill is to draw the attention of the House-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman should have a fair hearing.

Mr. Taylor : The intention of the Bill is to draw the attention of the House to the plight of a particular group of commuters, including many of my constituents, for whom travelling on a certain stretch of British Rail line is a daily, as opposed to an occasional, misery. I refer to the estimated 19,000 people who travel every working day from Waterloo to Bank stations on British Rail's underground Waterloo to City line, which is commonly and appropriately known by those who use it as "the Drain". As one of my constituents said, the passengers sometimes travel in conditions which would not be tolerated for animals by the RSPCA.

The Drain provides a vital rail link, carrying as it does those who have journeyed to Waterloo from all over the south-east to reach their places of work in the City. As this country's financial district has assumed ever- growing importance, so too has the Drain. Since the big bang, the number of passengers arriving at Bank station daily has risen by nearly 5,000. Yet the decline in service over the same period gives little credibility to British Rail's forward planners. [Interruption.]

For those lucky enough not to be familiar with the Drain, I shall give some details to the House. The line was built in 1898. The current rolling stock is only the second generation to operate on this route. It is of pre-war design and has been in use for nearly 50 years.

British Rail admits that the problems of running safely a railway with equipment dating back to the last war or beyond can temporarily overwhelm its capacity to cope. It says "temporarily", but in March this year peak hour services were cancelled for three weeks, when two of the four trains were out of action. When the service does work--between the constant delays, restrictions and cancellations--the trains run every four to six minutes and the journey time takes five minutes. Platform overcrowding at peak times is dangerous and leads to the necessary placing of large warning notices. The line has also variously suffered from flooding, fire, staff shortages and other mechanical problems. One of my constituents has written complaining that the Drain is an accident waiting to happen.

As the director of British Rail's Network SouthEast said in a letter to me only last week :

"We are only too conscious of our failure to provide an acceptable quality of service on this line in recent months."

However, the problem has not arisen merely in recent months ; it goes back years. For British Rail, the line is

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both embarrassing and an embarrassment. However, British Rail intends to seek investment authority from the Secretary of State this summer for new equipment compatible with London Underground's Central line. Why not before? Because, British Rail claims, it is impossible within the constraints of a uniform fare structure in central London to earn an acceptable rate of financial return on the necessary investment, and it is only the use of cost-benefit criteria which permits the proposed application to proceed.

It might help British Rail's analysis if tickets were checked and collected. At Bank station yesterday, the two automatic ticket machines demanded "exact money only" for the single-fare 60p ticket. I purchased mine, but several others around me gave up. My ticket was never collected, and I retain it as a souvenir of British Rail's inefficiency. [Interruption.]

The deputy chairman of the London Regional Passengers Committee urged me in a letter to The Times recently to put pressure on the Treasury to allow British Rail's latest submission for capital expenditure for the Drain to go ahead. But I have little confidence that British Rail is the right organisation to control the investment or to manage the line. It is time that attitudes to, and management and ownership of, the line changed. Major new investment is needed and a strategic plan for the line is required urgently.

For example, can a new station be built at Blackfriars, midway along the line, so that it joins up with the British Rail station and the Circle and District lines? Can the line be extended to link up with the separate underground line between Moorgate station and Finsbury Park? How can the line cope effectively with Channel tunnel passengers arriving at Waterloo in increasing numbers from 1993? How will the line's use contribute to helping the east London transport study, whose conclusions are awaited?

The problems of privatisation of this line cannot be

under-estimated. [Interruption] The onus lies on those who stand to benefit from the modernisation and extension of the line--the banks and City institutions whose staff use it, the docklands developers who are worried about access from various points in the docklands and the City of London corporation, which is interested in acting as a sponsor and has told me that it might consider acting also as a financial investor.

I challenge these groups to put to British Rail a proposal that it cannot refuse, even if it means British Rail handing over the line for a nominal sum. [Interruption.] British Rail must go further than being

"quite willing to discuss further outside participation in the line"--

as if a bit more advertising is all that is necessary. Those who use the Drain call it "tarting up" in acknowledgment of the name of the advertiser on the outside of the train.

After all, if the line has proper investment, is extended despite technical problems and becomes reliable for the commuter, British Rail may attract more people into Waterloo, increasing its revenue. British Rail must not give the impression of operating the delaying tactics that some accuse it of doing in working with the private sector in respect of contracts for the Folkestone line, which will become an issue later this year.

This is a great opportunity. How it is structured is for others to decide. I hope that this enabling Bill will provoke an urgent debate and solutions. It is highly significant that there has been a constant barrage from Labour Benches to

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what I have been saying. That shows a lack of concern for the commuters. Some 19,000 commuters travel from Waterloo to Bank every day. The Labour party cares not a jot for them, which is why the Labour party supports the NUR and its disruption of the services today. My Bill goes some way to alleviating the position of the weary commuter who is trying to earn his and the nation's bread. If that happens, and if the City institutions and others respond, my Bill will have been part of a worthy cause. I urge the House to support it.

3.43 pm

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) rose --

Mr. Speaker : Does the hon. Gentleman wish to oppose the Bill?

Mr. Banks : Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do.

It is easy for the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) to make cheap attacks on the railway workers. I remind him that the sort of wages that railway workers get are hardly likely to attract Conservative Members to seek a job on the railways. Conservative Members, particularly those who have a number of well-rewarded consultancy posts, should bear that in mind. I know that the hon. Gentleman gets a fairly sizeable chunk of his income from such positions. He is fairly open about it.

He is to be congratulated on moving the motion, and we are glad to have him with us. Judging by the list of outside jobs that he has, I am surprised that he has the time to be here. The list makes it clear that he should have declared some of the positions, because he will get some special benefit if the Bill were to be passed. He is involved in a number of consultancies which are involved in transportation work. At least he could offer his hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) some good advice, because he clearly did not have to advertise in The House Magazine to obtain all those consultancies.

The hon. Gentleman said that the Drain, as it is called--the Waterloo and City line--is in a fairly bad state, and I agree. But we do not need any lectures from him or from any other Conservative Member about the appalling lack of investment not only in the Waterloo and City line but in British Rail and London Transport generally in recent years, certainly since 1979. We want to see more investment in the Waterloo and City line and in London Transport generally.

For those who travel around London, travelling on public transport is dirtier and more crowded and expensive than on any other urban transportation system in Europe. That is not mere coincidence ; nor is the fact that we spend less on capital investment and less on revenue support on our urban transportation system than any other comparable European city. The problems are the direct result of the Government's policies.

The rolling stock on the Drain dates back to 1940. With the exception of the Isle of Wight, it is the oldest fleet of British Rail rolling stock still operating. The additional safety precautions installed after the Moorgate accident, which ensured that trains approached the terminus at Bank slowly, together with increasing train failures, mean a more restricted service than used to be the case, and

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service suspensions are happening all too frequently. We agree that that is the case, but the answer is not privatisation ; it is more investment.

The hon. Gentleman must know that Network SouthEast is actively developing proposals to renew the trains and the signalling equipment to a common specification to that provided by London Underground's new tube stock. That would avoid the costs and problems associated with commissioning a special build of rolling stock to a unique profile, and make the provision of spares and maintenance easier. However, it ties the time scale for re- equipping the line to that for the new trains being designed for the Central line, and British Rail intends to seek financial authority from the Secretary of State for Transport this summer with delivery of new trains planned for the summer of 1992.

When the hon. Gentleman voiced his constituents' complaints, he did not once plead with the Secretary of State to hasten that investment on the Drain. That is the way to deal with the problems of his constituents who use the Waterloo and City line, not an attempt by the Arthur Daley tendency of the Tory party to get its sticky hands on some more public assets.

If the line were privatised, it would effectively be taken out of London Underground's central zone 1 tariff, and there would be premium fares, because many fairly well-heeled people and business people use that line. They probably could afford to pay the new fares that a private owner would demand, but many low-paid City workers such as clerks and cleaners also use that line, and they would be forced on to the Northern line because they would not be able to afford those new fares. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, with all his consultancies and all his experience, did not ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for some more investment on the Northern line.

The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. He has chosen this occasion for some fairly cheap publicity at the expense of over-worked and underpaid railway workers and commuters exploited by the Government, who have failed to invest properly in our public transport system. I want my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the Drain to stay in public ownership, so that the only thing that will go down the drain will be the hon. Gentleman's ten- minute Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business) :

The House divided : Ayes 141, Noes 169.

Division No. 305] [3.49 pm


Amery, Rt Hon Julian

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Ashby, David

Baldry, Tony

Beaumont-Dark, Anthony

Bellingham, Henry

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Bevan, David Gilroy

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Boswell, Tim

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Brazier, Julian

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buck, Sir Antony

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carrington, Matthew

Cash, William

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Curry, David

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Devlin, Tim

Dickens, Geoffrey

Dunn, Bob

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)

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Evennett, David

Favell, Tony

Fishburn, John Dudley

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Fry, Peter

Gale, Roger

Gardiner, George

Gill, Christopher

Glyn, Dr Alan

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Hague, William

Hannam, John

Haselhurst, Alan

Hayes, Jerry

Heddle, John

Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael

Hind, Kenneth

Holt, Richard

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Jessel, Toby

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)

Latham, Michael

Lawrence, Ivan

Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)

McCrindle, Robert

Macfarlane, Sir Neil

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

McLoughlin, Patrick

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Marshall, John (Hendon S)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Miller, Sir Hal

Montgomery, Sir Fergus

Moss, Malcolm

Mudd, David

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Norris, Steve

Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Page, Richard

Patnick, Irvine

Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Pawsey, James

Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth

Porter, David (Waveney)

Powell, William (Corby)

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Rathbone, Tim

Redwood, John

Rhodes James, Robert

Riddick, Graham

Ridsdale, Sir Julian

Rost, Peter

Rowe, Andrew

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)

Shersby, Michael

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Speed, Keith

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steen, Anthony

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Stokes, Sir John

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Sumberg, David

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thornton, Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Trotter, Neville

Twinn, Dr Ian

Walden, George

Ward, John

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Wells, Bowen

Wheeler, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wilkinson, John

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Young, Sir George (Acton)

Tellers for the Ayes

Mr. Michael Brown and

Mr. Roger Knapman.


Adams, Allen (Paisley N)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashley, Rt Hon Jack

Ashton, Joe

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Barron, Kevin

Beith, A. J.

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bidwell, Sydney

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Cartwright, John

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clay, Bob

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

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