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Sir Sydney Chapman: All I ask the Minister to do when she returns to her Department is check out the facts. In the 1970s, the average investment in London Transport as a whole--90 or 95 per cent. of which went on the London underground--was under £50 million a year. The Conservative Government brought that figure up, from 1979 to the 1990s, to £500 million a year or more. Indeed,

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the figure was about £750 million when we left office. Does she remember that? If she is disparaging what she calls the "lamentable" performance of the previous Government--that beggars belief--what on earth would be her epitaph for the previous Labour Government?

Will the Minister remember one other thing?She condemns the way in which we privatised the railways, but does she admit that, thanks to privatisation, the fares of the railway companies are less in real terms than they were before privatisation? The fares on the London underground have gone up way beyond inflation.

Ms Jackson: The most recent fare rise on the London underground was not way above inflation. I believe that it was 3 per cent., which is a marked contrast to the fare increases under the previous Administration. From 1986 to 1996, fares rose by an astronomical 38 per cent. in real terms.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the investment made by the previous Government; the core funding figures from 1994 to 1997 show £399 million, £462 million, £251 million and £175 million. One of our first acts on taking office was finding an additional £365 million for London Underground, which ensured for two financial years that it had more than £1 billion to carry out necessary modernisation and the rolling back of necessary work on the underground. The failures of the previous Administration meant that, year on year on year, London Underground had been incapable of doing such work--it was impossible for it to plan.

Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster): Will my hon. Friend confirm that the investment figures quoted by the Opposition include investment in the Jubilee line and investment required to resolve the problems arising from the King's Cross disaster?

5 pm

Ms Jackson: My hon. Friend is entirely right. The figures that I just read out, to stunned silence on the Opposition Benches, exclusively related to the core funding. They excluded the Jubilee line extension costs to which my hon. Friend referred.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): The Minister has taken just one particular part of the funding. If she looks at the total funding, she will find that the figures are very different from those that she quoted. Will she confirm that, for the 10 years from 1987 to 1997, the previous Government invested an average of some£700 million per annum, whereas, under the Labour Government, the average has been £500 million?

Ms Jackson: The hon. Gentleman can move the figures backwards and forwards as much as he likes; the fact remains that the core funding over the period to which he refers was reduced by the previous Administration. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. One has only to look at the state of the London underground when we came to office. Over 18 years, no major improvements were made in the core investment necessary to maintain one of London's vital arteries.

Mr. Ottaway: It is important that we clarify this point, and I can think of no better authority than the

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Department's annual report for 1999. May I draw the Minister's attention to paragraph 13(d) on London transport investment? Unfortunately, the figures start at 1993-94 and run for the six years to 1999-2000. I say "unfortunately", because the figures would be even more impressive if they went back further than 1993. In1993-94, the core business was £520 million; in1994-95, it was £554 million; and, in 1995-96, it was £589 million--compared with the figures for 1998-99 and 1999-2000, which were £394 million and--

Ms Jackson: What about the intervening years?

Mr. Ottaway: The intervening years were better still: 1996-97 was the only year in the last decade when that figure fell below £400 million.

Ms Jackson: Half.

Mr. Ottaway: My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) is absolutely right. The level of investment over the past decade has been, on average, £700 million per annum. The source for that information is the submission by London Underground to the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. The Minister is responsible for London Underground, but she may not know what her own organisation is saying.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. The amendments are on the specific subject of transition, but we are now discussing investment, funding and the record of previous Governments. There must be a narrower discussion on the amendments before us.

Ms Jackson: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I simply say that, if the previous Administration were so committed to maintaining and modernising London Underground, I find it somewhat surprising that their only response was to sell it off?

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) referred to the speculative stories that have been appearing in the London press. He referred in particular to one in The Times. I am sure that he is aware that it was virtually a rerun of a similar speculative story that appeared in the Financial Times several weeks ago.

The hon. Gentleman was also much concerned about what he perceives as a funding gap before the public-private partnership for London Underground is completed. We have made it abundantly clear, both inside and outside the House, that we are cognisant of the importance of London Underground and would never, ever allow it to fall into what Opposition Members have called a black hole.

Mr. Wilkinson: The phrase "a black hole" has a resonance with the general public, who are genuinely and rightly concerned. Did the Minister not admit in the Standing Committee that, for the transitional period at least, passengers on the London tube would have to continue to pay fare rises over and above the rate of inflation? She said that that would be the case for the foreseeable future--we have no date.

What will happen during the transitional period between the assumption by the Greater London Authority of its responsibility and the assumption by Transport for

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London of its intended responsibility for London Transport underground? The Exchequer has made no provision for the necessary investment. Does she have any figures with which she can reassure the House and the travelling public?

Ms Jackson: That is not what I said in Committee about fares. I referred to the fare modelling on which the public-private partnership was based, and said that the modelling assumed a fare increase of the retail prices index plus one for the years 2000 and 2001 and, after that, the assumption was RPI plus zero. The general public in London can be in no doubt about the importance that the Government attach to London Underground. The hon. Gentleman is incorrect to say that the public are fearful.

One of the first actions that we took when we came to office was to provide an additional £365 million for London Underground. There is no way in which we would not continue to ensure that this vital part of London's public transport system serves the people of London. It will be the mayor's responsibility to set fares.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to a story that has appeared in the newspapers about Railtrack--it is again somewhat fantastical. It is interesting that that story has prompted a statement from the TubeRail Consortium, which says:

The TubeRail Consortium comprises Alstom, Amec, Brown and Root and Tarmac Construction.

Mr. Simon Hughes: I do not know how near the Minister is to the end of her speech, and I assume that she will deal in a minute with the specific questions that I asked her about the beginning and the end of the transition. I want to make sure that she will give us an answer on a matter that she touched on. She said that no expressions of interest have yet been sought. On 14 December last year, the Deputy Prime Minister said:

What is now the timetable, given that we are in May and, by most definitions, "early next year" must be running out?

Ms Jackson: The hon. Gentleman clearly enjoys playing the White Rabbit. He is obsessed with time. Every time he gets to his feet, all he needs is the prop of the watch. I shall repeat what I said to him earlier: there have been no invitations from anyone to anyone for expressions of interest. The process is one of pre-qualification. The first stage of pre-qualification will be due later this spring. London Transport published a progress report on 15 March, and I repeat that there is great private sector interest in the public-private partnership. I have just read out the statement made today by TubeRail.

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