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Mr. Darvill: The second world war. There was significant investment in the underground system before the war. Had that rate of investment been maintained during the latter part of the century, we would not be facing today's difficulties. The major part of the blame for the failure to maintain investment must rest with the party that was in power for most of that period. I do not deny that the Labour party was in power for some of that time, and bears part of the responsibility, but the Conservative party was in power for most of the period during which such investment could have been maintained. That failure has to be reversed.
Whatever the organisational or ownership system for the underground--whether it is privatised, whether a PPP is involved or whether the situation is left as it is--investment is crucial. My constituents are concerned about the tube's future, but the Opposition motion only expresses concern about the PPP.
Mr. Geraint Davies: Does my hon. Friend agree that one reason for the deterioration, and for the increase in the number of people expressing concern about value for money, is that more people are using the tube because the Government are putting more people into work, and those people have to travel?
Mr. Darvill: My hon. Friend makes a good point about a contributory factor. Other factors include the effect of congestion on our roads and pricing on the underground. Travelcards, which I know are not available to rush-hour travellers, represent good value for money and are used by many of my constituents, who can travel after 9.30 am from Upminster to the other side of London for a good price. That has led to an increase in the use of the underground system. Although it is possible further to expand that use, expansion is limited by capacity problems. We therefore need increased investment, which will help to develop integrated transport policies. Important environmental issues are also involved. We should not consider any of those problems in isolation, and we need to deal with them quickly.
My constituents tell me that, however we decide to attract investment, we must get on with the job. They want investment sooner rather than later and I am happy to examine the PPP, which is a way forward. Although I appreciate that there are concerns about it, some of them are the result of scaremongering. The underground system should be comfortable, clean, reliable and safe--that is what constituents want and, when the investment goes in, that is what will be delivered.
The Opposition motion refers to the appointment, which I welcome, of a senior management official. I urge the Government to provide any information necessary for him to do his work properly--subject, of course, to the consideration that commercial confidentiality should be protected. If we are going through a bidding process and
Ms Abbott: My hon. Friend cites the importance of commercial confidentiality. Is he aware that Mr. Kiley gave an undertaking about the confidentiality of the material? Does my hon. Friend not believe Mr. Kiley, given that Mr. Kiley spent 10 years in the CIA?
Mr. Darvill: I am afraid that I cannot answer my hon. Friend's question. If I were responsible for commercial contracts and I wanted to get the best bid, I would want to secure commercial confidentiality. Subject to that consideration--it may be possible to extract the information from the relevant documents--my view is that information should be passed on as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
The Opposition motion is ill timed because the Government have already said that they are having meetings with Mr. Kiley. Legislation involving the PPP is on the statute book, and the problem, as I see it, lies with its implementation. The sooner we introduce the arrangements, the better. I urge the House to reject the Opposition motion and to support the Government amendment.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): I am delighted to take part in the debate not only because I see many veterans on both sides of the House from the Standing Committee that considered the Greater London Authority Act 1999, but because, although I often describe myself as an inhabitant of Middlesex, I am also a Londoner. In this instance, I feel that I am an inhabitant of Metroland: Uxbridge is the sort of area that was described by Sir John Betjeman.
The fact that no main line runs through Uxbridge is, apparently, as a result of the love of non-conformism among inhabitants of Uxbridge, who were not keen for trains to travel through the area on a main line on Sundays. I like to think that such non-conformism is still present in Uxbridge and surrounding areas.
No doubt hon. Members on both sides of the House will be well acquainted with the journey to Uxbridge. They will know that my constituency contains three underground stations: Uxbridge, Hillingdon and Ickenham. I used to travel to school on the underground--
Mr. Randall: And I used to travel on the underground when I was at university. So I have a certain affection for the experience of being bumped around on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines at various times of the day and night.
Will my hon. Friend accept from me that the most pleasurable journeys on the London underground to the Uxbridge station that I have ever in my life undertaken took place during the July 1997 by-election campaign, in which he was so triumphant?
We are very interested in the future of the underground. I agree with the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) that many people will think about it carefully when casting their votes at the forthcoming general election. It might therefore be in my interest to encourage the Government to continue their present line on the PPP, which is deeply unpopular throughout the area, but I think that if I did so I would do a disservice to my constituents, and to fellow Londoners.
As I said earlier, many Members who are present today were involved in the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill. We had hardly any time for discussion, and what we discussed was not what happened in the end.
I am glad that our motion allows such open-mindedness to operate in today's discussion. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) offered the Government a very fair option: to let Mr. Kiley himself decide what was preferable. It was refreshing to hear the hon. Gentleman propose a solution in which dogma would not decide the issues that matter to London.
As we have elected a Mayor, I think it fair to say this: most people voted for him thinking that he would sort out London's transport problems, and most of them would like the Mayor and his office to get on with the job with which they believe they entrusted him. Many of my constituents will be sad to learn that he has been constrained by the Government. If the Government really are frightened of an independent assessment, as they seem to be, that is a sad indictment.
As I think is recognised, what we need is real investment. The infrastructure is not in a good state. I want to look to the future: I want to see imagination being used. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip- Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) mentioned projects to extend the tube in his constituency, and I ask the Minister again to consider the possibility of extending the Central line to Uxbridge.
On one occasion, during Question Time, I asked the Deputy Prime Minister whether he had considered that option. He told me that it had been looked at and rejected when the Government came to power. Subsequently, correspondence--delegated to the Minister, I believe--revealed the interesting fact that the Government had neither examined nor discussed the possibility, but had they done so they would no doubt have rejected it.
Another subject that crops up frequently during discussions about the underground is further access for disabled passengers. That too will require investment. In the case of some stations there is access to platforms, but getting on to trains is less easy, and there is always the problem at the other end: disabled people will probably want to get out of trains at a point where they cannot possibly do so.
The problem with Uxbridge is that it is a terminus, and for many years there has been no planning for car parking. There is no incentive for drivers to go to Uxbridge or, indeed, other stations in my constituency, and then to continue their journeys to the centre of London.
We have a problem. The service has been deteriorating. It is slow, and somewhat dirty; it is certainly not particularly attractive in the evenings, and we are subject to increasing delays. I hope that the Government will listen to Londoners of all political persuasions--and probably, the way things are now, of none--give the Mayor and his director of transport a level playing field, and give us the underground in London that we all want.