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Mr. Don Foster: It says here.

Mr. Mullin: Yes, it does say here; I wrote it.

As the Under-Secretary said in his opening remarks, the public-private partnerships that we are putting together for the London Underground and National Air Traffic Services represent carefully devised, appropriate and pragmatic--yes, there is that word again--solutions to problems that have arisen from years of under-investment and poor project management in the two services.

6 Nov 2000 : Column 122

The Government will retain a major stake in NATS, allowing it to retain a significant degree of influence over the management of the business. If the hon. Member for Bath will forgive me for saying so, he made several irresponsible points about safety. Safety, far from being undermined, will be enhanced. It will remain with the public sector--the Civil Aviation Authority--and will be entirely separate from day-to-day operational control. As for London Underground, strategic control will remain with the public sector, reporting to the Mayor. In 30 years' time, the assets, far from being permanently privatised, will revert to the public sector.

The advantage of a public-private partnership is that it is the best way in which to lever in private sector investment and project-management expertise while preserving the safeguards that the travelling public rightly demand. Various alternative models have been proposed. The Government have examined them all and concluded that PPP is superior.

The main alternative--I am sure that it is one that would find most favour on the Liberal Democrat Benches--is for the Chancellor to write out a cheque. I have lost count of the number of times during the past three years that the Liberal Democrats have spent their extra penny on income tax--a point made by my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) and for Luton, South (Ms Moran). We have not heard so much about it recently. Now they want to help the Chancellor spend his surplus--a surplus, incidentally, that he would not have had but for his sound management of the economy.

As you may have noticed, Mr. Speaker, the Chancellor has not been short of advice from a variety of quarters in the past few weeks on how he might spend his surplus. Even the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) has been at it. He wants tax cuts and more public spending. Well, life is not like that. It is folly to pretend that everyone can have more of everything.

The plain truth is that if we are to cope with all the demands for more investment in public services, we must make some choices. Where investment can be raised from the private sector without jeopardising the public interest, it makes sense to do so--quite apart from which we need some of the private sector project-management skills that some parts of the public sector so obviously lack.

I turn to some of the points made in the debate. My hon. Friends the Members for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) and for Luton, South rightly pointed out the little-known fact that, at more than 30 small and medium-sized airports around the country, air traffic control is in private hands, and has been so for many years. We have all been landing and taking off at those airports without even noticing the fact--whether it be at East Midlands, Bristol, Luton or Newcastle airport, where I took off this morning. If it were true that only the state can manage industries where safety is essential, we would all travel on Aeroflot rather than British Airways. [Interruption.] I know that that is an old joke, but I am sure that not everyone has heard it before.

The hon. Member for Poole made a thoughtful speech. He comes from the civilised wing of his party and is not one of the true believers who sit on the Conservative Back Benches, not that there are many of them present tonight. He said that the Conservative party is pragmatic--he can say that again. Had he attended our previous debate,

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he would have heard his hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) call for the restoration of the link between earnings and the state pension--a link that the Conservative party broke many years ago. That is pragmatism for you.

The hon. Member for Poole asks whether March 2001 was still the date for the sale. Yes, the Government intend the sale to go ahead on that date. He asks whether we intend to reverse the Lords amendment relating to pensions. Yes, the position of existing employees is already adequately protected. He asks about overseas ownership, and the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) mentioned the three companies on the final shortlist. We do not accept the argument that only a British strategic partner can be the right one. The right partner will be the one that provides the best solution and future for NATS; that is the basis on which we shall assess the bids. Incidentally, we have some plans to protect the Tory party from foreign ownership: part IV, chapter II of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill will prevent foreign donations, and not before time.

The hon. Member for Poole made a serious point about safety. He expressed concern about the interaction between the rail regulator and Railtrack and about the fact that Railtrack could be fined for not meeting punctuality targets and for delays to trains. We recognise the seriousness of that issue, so we have asked Sir Alastair Morton to consider with the industry the contractual and regulatory regime. The framework was created at the time of privatisation, but we shall have to consider what revision is needed.

The hon. Gentleman asked what effect a delay to the PPP of the sort proposed by the Lords would have. We intend to reverse that Lords amendment. Were it to stand, it would jeopardise the PPP.

Ms Osborne: Will my hon. Friend confirm the implications for the new Scottish centre of the Lords amendment standing and the NATS' PPP being delayed until after the general election?

Mr. Mullin: As I say, the programme for the new Scottish centre, which, after initial difficulties, is now going quite well, would be jeopardised.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) quoted the Industrial Society report and suggested that it said that passengers would be put at risk. In fact, the report stated that the society did not subscribe to the view that the PPP was inherently unsafe, and it welcomed the Government's efforts to ensure that safety was kept in public sector control.

The hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) asked whether the Government were confident of being able to retain a golden share. Yes.

In conclusion, the Government have no desire to repeat the mistakes of Conservative privatisations, in which public assets were simply looted. Our aim is to channel badly needed private sector funding and management skills into our transport infrastructure for the benefit of all. Ours are not the "flog it and forget it" exercises that

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the Conservatives continue to advocate. We are retaining a significant Government presence precisely for the purpose of protecting the public interest.

The London Underground PPP enables us finally to reverse the historic decline of the tube. It offers billions of pounds of investment--

Mr. Tyler rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 43, Noes 272.

Division No. 319
[10 pm


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gidley, Sandra
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Webb, Steve
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Heath and
Sir Robert Smith.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chaytor, David
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Denham, John
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hope, Phil
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. Jim Dowd.

Question accordingly negatived.

6 Nov 2000 : Column 126

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):--

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 68.

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