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Football Regulator

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe accordingly presented a Bill to establish a regulator for professional football: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 11 June, and to be printed [Bill 95].

5 May 1999 : Column 958

Orders of the Day

Greater London Authority Bill

2nd Allotted Day

As amended in the Standing Committee, further considered.

Clause 144


4.18 pm

The Minister for Transport in London (Ms Glenda Jackson): I beg to move amendment No. 84, in page 76, leave out line 31.

Madam Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 35, in page 76, line 31, at beginning insert

'On the date of the first meeting of the Assembly under section 44(1) above,'.

Government amendments Nos. 85 to 92.

Government new clause 16--Transfers of LRT's property etc to Transport for London.

Government new clause 17--Functions during the transition from LRT to TfL.

Government new clause 18--Fares etc during the transitional period.

Government new clause 19--Continuity: repealed or revoked functions of LRT.

Government new clause 20--Transfer of former functions of London Transport Executive.

Government new clause 21--Dissolution of London Regional Transport.

Government new clause 22--Interpretation of Chapter XIV.

Ms Jackson: The new clauses and amendments provide for a staged transfer of functions and undertakings from London Transport to Transport for London. Mindful of the importance to Londoners of our underground system, the Government's policy will preserve the elements of the existing system that tube users value: a single public sector operating company; unified planning; the integration of services; unified ticketing; and the retention of travelcard in the public sector.

The public-private partnership will address the root cause of most problems with the network--past underfunding and underinvestment--by bringing in substantial private sector funds to improve the services, providing greater reliability; refurbished stations; improved trains; upgraded signalling; faster journey times; and greatly improved access for disabled people. There will be real local democratic accountability via the mayor, who will have ultimate responsibility for the underground.

The Government intend to hand over the underground to the mayor knowing that all those benefits have been secured. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made it clear on Second Reading that once the public-private partnership process was under way,

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the Government would see it through to completion. London Transport will remain in existence under ministerial sponsorship until the PPP contracts are let.

After 3 July 2000, for a transitional period, Transport for London and London Transport will exist in parallel. On completion of the PPP the mayor will be responsible. A full explanatory paper has been provided, setting out what will happen during the transitional period.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Minister said that the Government's proposals ensure full democratic accountability. Is it still the Government's intention that the new governing body for London will have no say in the system for which it will be accountable?

Ms Jackson: I am somewhat perplexed by that question, because I have made it abundantly clear that after the completion of the public-private partnership, responsibility for Transport for London, which will include every aspect of public transport in London, will lie with the mayor. I can think of no greater democratic transparency or credibility than that the individual who will be responsible for London's integrated transport should have been placed in that high office by the people of London.

Mr. Hughes: The Minister is still ducking the question. Will she confirm that it is still the Government's policy that the mayor and the assembly will have no say in the transport system--with the financial arrangements and those between the private and the public sector--for which they will be accountable? They will be told that they have to run it, but they will have had no opportunity to influence the arrangement that has been made.

Ms Jackson: The hon. Gentleman is leaping ahead to amendments that we will debate later. Should the PPP not have reached completion before the mayor is in office, there will clearly have to be close co-operation and consultation with the mayor. If the hon. Gentleman is attempting to refloat the argument that has informed the majority of Liberal Democrat contributions to our debate--that not the mayor but the assembly should be the executive arm of the GLA--let me repeat that it is as hollow today, given our clear commitment to the structure of the GLA, as when it was first voiced in Committee.

We have repeatedly made it clear that the PPP negotiations will not take place against a self-imposed deadline. That would obviously compromise the Government's ability to achieve best value. No one will be surprised to hear that we cannot accept amendment No. 35, which would set an arbitrary date for the dissolution of London Transport. New clauses 16 to 22 and amendments Nos. 84 to 92 will allow us to implement our policies. The new clauses will form a new chapter to part IV of the Bill: chapter XIV.

New clauses 16 and 19 to 22 are intended to replace clauses 144 to 147 in the latest print of the Bill. They allow for the staged transfer of LT's undertaking and functions to TfL. Amendments Nos. 84 to 92 are consequential and would simply remove clauses 144 to 147 and replace any references to them.

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New clause 16 makes it clear that the staged transfer will be implemented under the general transfer powers in part XII of the Bill.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): I am interested in the question of stages. Will the Minister comment on the suggestion in the Evening Standard of Wednesday 28 April that the delay in transferring the semi-privatised, private finance initiative infrastructure of the tube to Transport for London will cost the Treasury so much that fares will have to go up by 30 per cent. to meet the shortfall? Is that figure correct?

Ms Jackson: Neither the story nor the figure is correct. Despite what has appeared not only in the Evening Standard but in other organs of the press, such stories are mere speculation. We have made it abundantly clear that the process--a public-private partnership, not semi- privatisation or, indeed, a private finance initiative, as the hon. Gentleman implied--is on course.

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Jackson: If I may, I shall finish my response to the question of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). The fantastic fares cited in newspapers are absurd.

Mr. Ottaway: The Minister says that the story, which was properly raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), is not correct. The point is that it is not a story; it is a report by Chantrey Vellacott, a well-known and respected firm of accountants, which calculates that if the Government's plans for the PPP continue as they have set out, fares will need to rise by 30 per cent. to pay for them. There is no speculation. That is the opinion of people who know much about the subject--dare I say more than either the Minister or me?

Ms Jackson: I am perfectly prepared to accept that most people know more about this than the hon. Gentleman, but I certainly rebut the idea that I am as ignorant as he claims. It is not for me--or, I presume, the hon. Gentleman--to define a sense of pique that may rest in the bosom of one firm of accountants which had no part in the detailed examination of the proposals that informed the Government's policy on PPP. I repeat that such stories are mere speculation; they are not founded on any sort of fact; they are mere scaremongering. I wish that I were surprised that the official Opposition had participated in such scaremongering stories, but I regret that it is somewhat par for their particular course.

New clause 17 sets up a legal framework in which both London Transport and Transport for London will have the necessary powers and duties that they will need to run their respective public passenger transport services during the period when both are in existence. For the duration of the transition, London Transport, the mayor and Transport for London will also be under a duty to consult and co-operate with each other for the following transitional purposes: ensuring that public passenger transport services are not disrupted, securing the PPP agreement and transferring the property, rights and liabilities of London Transport to Transport for London.

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New clause 18 places a duty on the mayor to have regard to the financial and other interests of London Transport when setting the general level and structure of fares for London Transport, or negotiating the concessionary fares agreement on behalf of LT.

New clause 19 provides for Transport for London to take over LT's legal liabilities. New clause 20 is necessary owing to the eventual repeal of the London Regional Transport Act 1984, in order that Transport for London should inherit certain necessary powers from LT. New clause 21 allows the Secretary of State to dissolve LT by order when all its property, rights and liabilities have been transferred. New clause 22 defines two of the major terms used in new clauses 16 to 21. I commend the new clauses to the House.

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