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Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his statement. It was less joined up than muddled up, but welcome none the less, as it gives us a chance to ask some questions about the real issues facing London transport.

With your permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard), and her team, who fought valiantly against the follies of the Government's transport policy. I welcome my new team and congratulate my new shadow Cabinet colleague. We regard transport as sufficiently important to deserve full shadow Cabinet status within the framework of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

I have some advice for the Deputy Prime Minister. The man people outside the House like to call "two Jags John" should try to keep both cars and the chauffeur. This statement means continuing delays and chaos on the underground. Once high-living Ministers discovered that there was no first-class accommodation on the tube, they put their policy on ice for a couple of years.

Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East): When did the right hon. Gentleman last travel on the tube?

Mr. Redwood: I regularly travel on the tube, unlike the Deputy Prime Minister, who uses it only for photo opportunities and takes his Jaguar along to pick him up when the going gets sticky. He showed his lack of touch on the tube when he tried to push around a ticket machine. The statement shows that he is no more successful when he tries to push the whole railway system around.

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Does the Deputy Prime Minister know that his two-year delay in designing a new policy for the underground has made matters a lot worse for all those who travel from High Barnet to Morden, from Ealing Broadway to Epping or to and from many other stops on the tube? Does he realise that since he took over from the Conservatives, service quality has plummeted, cancellations and delays are the order of the day and investment has been savaged?

We all remember Labour's promises. Before May 1997 a tube train broke down once every 21 minutes. That was not nearly good enough, so we proposed privatisation and a big injection of new money. After two years of new Labour, a tube train breaks down once every 16 minutes, and the Government have cut the investment. They dared to tell Londoners that things could only get better. They have got a great deal worse.

Over the final 10 years of Conservative Government, we made steady investment in the tube system--[Laugher.] Labour Members should read the figures; the Labour Government are spending a quarter less than was being spent when they came to power, while they should have been spending more. The Government have cancelled privatisation, and there is a great hole in the accounts. No one knows where the extra money will come from or even whether the tube can keep going. I pay tribute to the staff who struggle to do well in extremely difficult circumstances without any clear policy or any decent investment. Far from giving managers certainty, the Government have left them in the dark.

The Secretary of State has pulled off an almost impossible treble. The unions are against him, the Treasury is against him and most of the potential bidders are also opposed to his scheme. Everyone has told him that franchises should be longer than 15 years, but he knows best. He will not achieve good value for money for the taxpayer. Does he realise that there is a huge gap between the expectations that Labour aroused before the election and the reality of public transport since then?

Mr. McNulty : Mind the gap.

Mr. Redwood: Labour Members understand that much, at least. The Secretary of State should mind the gap. He has certainly failed to mind the shop.

How many extra services will the Deputy Prime Minister pledge to introduce? How many new train sets will be available over the next two years? When will the rate of breakdowns return to the level that he inherited from the Conservatives? The rate is now much higher. What will be the extra burden on taxpayers as a result of his policy? What will happen if the new mayor disagrees with his plans?

When will the Railtrack heads of agreement become a binding contract? What guarantee will the Deputy Prime Minister secure regarding responsibility for safety? Does he regret saying that a fragmented railway would be a less safe railway, now that he has decided to fragment it himself? What is his new, and delayed, timetable for the proposals? Is there any hope of their introduction before the next general election, or will he go to the public having done nothing to improve the tube?

What can the Deputy Prime Minister say to reassure Londoners about future fare levels? How does he explain his change of heart about Railtrack? He used to condemn it, he threatened to re-nationalise it and now he wants to give it a bye into the next bidding round without any competition.

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The Deputy Prime Minister rants and raves about the private rail companies but he has no idea how to run a railway. Few people want to buy a second-hand railway from him. His transport policy is to clobber the motorist, bankrupt the haulier, invite in the foreign lorry, put a bus lane on the M4 so that traffic can tail back to the M25 and give us Hobson's choice on public transport. Today's statement is another milestone along the traffic jam that passes for Labour's transport policy. How will that policy work, and what can the Deputy Prime Minister do to make it better?

Mr. Prescott: I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and welcome him to his new role as the shadow spokesman on the Environment, Transport and the Regions. I hope that he will eventually begin to learn the facts of his case--it is a little early for him to understand them now. I also hope that working with the environment will bring him more in touch with planet earth.

May I also express my appreciation for the kind remarks of the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard). I will certainly miss her friendly face and, at times, her cutting tongue. She will be sadly missed from the Front Bench. She feared that she would be replaced by a face that was younger or fresher--I am not so sure that that has been achieved.

The right hon. Gentleman pointed out a catalogue of disasters on the underground. He is right. There are delays, considerable problems and breakdowns. However, 18 years of disinvestment in the underground to the extent of £1.2 billion would affect the quality of the service. If he is not sure about that £1.2 billion disinvestment in 18 years, I must point out that in the last year of the previous Administration £360 million was cut from investment in the underground. How the right hon. Gentleman has the cheek to come to the House and lecture us about the quality of a railway system in which the previous Government massively disinvested, and which had no future and no possibility of securing investment, I do not know.

In the two years that I have been in this job, I have reorganised the underground system. While I was doing so, I was also renegotiating the deal for the channel tunnel rail link, which had collapsed under the previous Administration. We were being asked for £1 billion more. I renegotiated and arranged new bond financing and it did not cost us a penny more. That is the difference in approach, in detail and in fact, of this Government, and we have produced a good system.

We are now embarked on the process that I described, which will keep the system publicly owned and publicly accountable because we do not believe in a privatised system. That is what we are doing in the three proposed contracts and our work with Railtrack. I well understand Railtrack's difficulties. It was not given any regulatory control and has been free to do whatever it likes--in the main, to make an awful lot of profit--because the previous Administration put no controls on it. Railtrack has made millions of pounds at the taxpayer's expense.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex): What are you going to do?

Mr. Prescott: I am just about to tell the hon. Gentleman. He may have entered the shadow Cabinet, but

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he should not get too keen at this stage. He will find that I negotiated another deal for the channel tunnel rail link, which involved Railtrack, but I ensured that the controls and contracts were tight enough to ensure that we achieved 10 per cent. completion ahead of time and on budget. I wish that I could have done that with the Jubilee line, for which the previous Administration were responsible.

During the past two years I have had to deal with all those problems. I have come to the conclusion that this is the best way forward. It will bring about the investment that we are agreed needs to be put into the transport system. However, I have suggested much more. I have offered a vision of integration--the connection of transport systems--to make London a truly global city at the transport hub of Europe and the world. That is the vision that one needs for transport and that is what I am embarked on.

Frankly, many of the questions that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) posed he almost answered himself. He is not in tune with the facts--although I will allow him a little more time to study them, as he has only just entered the job.

I shall give one quick example. The right hon. Gentleman should not rely on what he reads in the press for information; he should go and find out. He mentioned the M4 bus priority lane and all the talk of tailbacks. Last Friday, I did the journey myself to find out what was happening. I did the journey right through the so-called tailbacks--

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