Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend makes his point powerfully, underlining my point that the Government have made the chaos far worse, creating problems and then having the audacity to blame someone else.

Ms Claire Ward (Watford): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood: No, I must make a little progress, because many people wish to speak.

Only six miles out of every 100 travelled are journeys by train. If the Government woke up and decided to implement the 50 per cent. increase in railway capacity that is being suggested by the privatised industry, it would take care of only two years' growth in travel requirements. That is worth doing, and we recommend it, but it will not solve the problem of congestion. They need to sort out the road system as well as the railway system.

The Deputy Prime Minister has had proposals from Railtrack sitting on his desk for two years now. They involve paying more for new facilities and less for what is already available. Why can he not make up his mind? Why will he not sit down with Railtrack and negotiate a satisfactory package? Does he not realise that he has become the chief obstacle to expanding the railway network?

Many train travellers would like the Government to get on with the job and to make it easier for companies to run more trains. Will the Secretary of State tell us when there will be action on the Welwyn viaduct and when Paddington will be restored to capacity?

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman appears not to be giving way.

Mr. Redwood: Does the Secretary of State accept that important engineering works are needed for the safe running of more trains into many of the main London terminuses? The Opposition recommend that the Government do a deal with Railtrack to ensure that the main bottlenecks in the network are dealt with by investment in extra track and signals. We urge the Government to let others into the network, building sidings and branch lines to give more businesses a rail freight option. It has started to happen thanks to privatisation; it now needs some encouragement from the Government. That is the common-sense approach.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that, on this crucial issue,

8 Dec 1999 : Column 831

politicians should be judged by not what they say now but what they did when they were in government. Does he recall an article by Anatole Kaletsky, who writes forThe Times and is hardly a friend of the Labour party, in the weeks before the general election saying that one of the issues that would force him to consider voting against the Conservative party was its complete contempt for the public interest in transport? Why does he think that Anatole Kaletsky wrote those words?

Mr. Redwood: I do not agree with Mr. Kaletsky's judgment on that issue, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman lives up to his fine words. He signed the early-day motion against the Government's half-baked idea of selling off the National Air Traffic Services on the cheap. I trust that he will vote with his conscience, and then I will give him more credence.

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, while some Labour Members have a little local difficulty over the National Air Traffic Services, it is nothing that cannot be sorted out over some good old-fashioned beer and sandwiches? Does he acknowledge that what unites Labour Members is our determination to expose the appalling record of his Government, who scrapped schemes such as crossrail, made a hash of the channel tunnel rail link and deregulated our bus services with a resulting decline in bus usage? Does he accept that the best thing that he could do this afternoon is apologise for the record of his Government?

Mr. Redwood: The Opposition are setting out some bold and innovative ideas which will make a real difference to the railway and road systems and to transport generally. Again, I look forward to the hon. Gentleman joining us in the Lobby when the issue of NATS is decided. We have strong objections to Labour's proposals. Some Labour Members, for different reasons, are equally strongly against them. We trust that they will do the right thing. I should be very surprised, however, if beer and sandwiches were on offer these days. I think it is Italian fare only for Tony's cronies at No. 10.

Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South) rose--

Ms Ward rose--

Mr. Redwood: I must now make some progress.

The Deputy Prime Minister's attitude to Railtrack has perplexed and angered many an observer. First, he blamed Railtrack for the problems of the railway and then he made it the preferred single bidder to take over the Circle and District lines. Finally, he completed the summersault and stopped Railtrack bidding for those lines.

It was never a good idea to burden Railtrack with responsibility for the tube. We warned the Deputy Prime Minister against it when he first thought of it. Railtrack will be stretched enough to raise all the money that it needs to improve the main line railway. The tube needs billions of pounds of investment in its own right. The Deputy Prime Minister's public-private partnership is two and a half years late, ruinously expensive and already a laughing stock.

8 Dec 1999 : Column 832

A public-private partnership lies at the intersection of new and old Labour. The Deputy Prime Minister will point to the public part of it; he naively sees it as a way of spending public money without having the Treasury breathing down his neck. The Blairites point to the private part of it, stressing how new and third way it will be. As a result of the rows between the two schools of thought, nothing ever advances or gets better. Tube travellers have to put up with higher fares and an unreliable service. When it comes to transport investment, third way has so far meant no way.

The two public-private partnerships on the Secretary of State's agenda--NATS and the tube--are causing endless rows between himself, No. 10 and the parliamentary Labour party, which supports him or the Prime Minister from time to time.

The Deputy Prime Minister attracts more friendly fire than anyone in the Government, and that is saying quite a lot. I dislike the snobbish disdain that the teenage scribblers at the centre of this Government often seem to show for the Deputy Prime Minister. It does not make his difficult task any easier. I hope that Labour Members support me in this.

We learn that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is eyeing up the Deputy Prime Minister's job. We hear that No. 10 is wild about the way in which the Deputy Prime Minister has upset the motorist. We hear of growing impatience about the lack of results from anything the Deputy Prime Minister touches. We are told by a trade union leader--[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. The House must come to order. The right hon. Gentleman can barely be heard.

Mr. Redwood: We are told by a trade union leader that the Deputy Prime Minister is in the evening of his political career and, by sources close to the Prime Minister, that he is not up to the job.

Ms Ward: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood: Not at the moment.

Labour promised us joined-up government, which would be easier to achieve in a mega-Ministry. The Ministry could, for example, use its planning powers to ensure that more new homes were built in cities and towns, near to train and bus stations, rather than out on green fields near motorways and bypasses. That, in the Government's terms, would be joined-up government. Instead, we have broken-down government. They decide that more homes should be built as far away as possible from the Victorian pattern of railway lines and stations serving the main industrial towns and cities.

The Government could use their planning policiesto encourage a northern renaissance and to limit development in the south. That would remove some of the extra strain that will otherwise come on to trains, buses and tubes in the south. That would be joined-up government. Instead, we have broken-down government. They decide to plough on with more development in the south, even though there is not enough capacity at the moment to transport people who are already there.

The Government could grasp that people do not use their cars out of malice or spite, but because often there is no alternative. It would be joined-up government to

8 Dec 1999 : Column 833

have people drive to a station or bus stop and be able to park there. It is broken-down government to do absolutely nothing to make it easier for people to park and ride.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that it is the greatest possible compliment to his continuing parliamentary effectiveness that, every time he leads a debate, the pre-programmed robots on the Labour Back Benches seek to destabilise him? Does he agree that it is an absolute disgrace that, last year alone, the Secretary of State clobbered the road user to the tune of £32 billion and spent less than a fifth of that sum on transport?

Mr. Redwood: It is a disgrace.


Next Section

IndexHome Page