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Mr. Ian Bruce rose--

Mr. Prescott: I cannot give way. I am taking up the time of the House.

In conclusion, in place of 18 years of Tory indecision, underinvestment, fragmentation and a declining public transport system, we are fundamentally changing its direction.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Prescott: In our White Paper, the first for 20 years, we set out our vision, with legislation--now before the House--to provide new powers, radical new forms of finance, a new framework for public transport and accountability to the public.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) rose--

Mr. Prescott: Doing nothing is not an option. I am not promising the quick fixes that the House has heard from time to time. I am offering and delivering long-term solutions and making decisions, controversial as they are. We will have a transport system that is well worth supporting. I will not offer quick fixes, as did successive Secretaries of State for Transport, who for years ducked the controversial issues and refused to face up to them. A transport revolution, to build a fully integrated transport system of the quality that this country needs and deserves, is what I shall be offering to the people.

I hope that the right hon. Member for Wokingham will reflect that, in marching up the hill with his confidence vote and climbing down again in humiliation, he has exposed the shameless opportunism and lack of judgment that the Opposition show in so many areas.

4.35 am

Mr. Michael Portillo (Kensington and Chelsea): It is only in politics that one has the opportunity to be a maiden twice over. I first entered this House following a by-election just before Christmas in 1984 in the wake of the death of a Conservative Member. I enter it again today in very similar circumstances. I have to be acutely aware that I am here today only because of the untimely death of Alan Clark.

Alan Clark is greatly missed in Kensington and Chelsea, where he had many friends and was regarded as a very fastidious Member of Parliament. He is also very much missed in the House. We are told that, these days, the public like their politicians to have a hinterland, and Alan Clark had acres of that. He shocked and entertained

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millions of people by writing about that hinterland in his diaries. Those diaries became best-sellers, and Alan Clark became a national figure.

In the diaries, there emerged a picture of a man who was frank, outspoken, sure of himself and candid. He came to the House to do what we are elected to do; he thought for himself and spoke up. The sympathy of the whole House goes to his widow, Jane, for her very untimely loss.

I have a very demanding constituency; I have no doubt about that. It is home to many of the movers and shakers in our nation, particularly in business, media and arts. It also has some of this country's great institutions. It has the museums of south Kensington, the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, the Royal Marsden and the Royal Brompton hospitals--great national institutions indeed. The constituency is also one of villages and communities, where people live among wonderful heritage. They are determined to work and fight for the retention of their way of life and the character of their community.

Many of the statistics on Kensington and Chelsea would lead one to believe that it is a very affluent area, but it also has its range of problems. We certainly have a fair number of refugees living in bed-sitting rooms along the Cromwell road; we certainly have a number of homeless people. I am here as the representative of all those people, too.

We also have many elderly people living in leasehold property who are struggling against unscrupulous landlords. Many are facing the expiry of their lease and demands from freeholders for sums of money that they cannot possibly afford. They are living in great anxiety. Those people were promised a great deal by this Government, and they have been duped by this Government. No legislation on the subject of leasehold reform has been forthcoming. I shall fight in this House to ensure that the Government are shamed into acting on their promises.

What can my constituents expect from me? I have here an item that has been brought to me from Australia. It is an inflatable cushion, which is known simply as "Portillo". The House might be interested in some of its characteristics.

and some advice for the Government--

    "Grab Portillo in the palm of right hand, inserting thumb into opening and grip firmly".

Perhaps that advice was intended for those on this side of the House. The instructions contain a warning to hon. Members:

    "The rolled-up Portillo is simple to have bounce back to its full size and shape."

I want to speak about transport, and I declare an interest because I am an adviser to two energy companies. All the candidates in the by-election discovered that it was almost impossible to find voters at home and that the only way of finding them was by going to the underground in the morning during the rush hour and catching a blurred glimpse of commuters as they rushed past. My constituency is full of underground stations and commuters. Those people have been deceived by the Labour party. As I shall demonstrate, there has been no extra investment in the underground; indeed, the Labour Government have invested less in it. Although the system is crowded, there are no proposals for new additions to it.

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People become especially indignant when Ministers are completely out of touch with commuters' daily experience. Ministers talk about driving people out of their cars as though the public transport system were running empty. They talk as if people were driving cars out of sheer bloody-mindedness. That is not so. Many drive because the public transport system is crowded and unreliable, yet the Labour Government have not proposed any additional capacity.

The Government's only achievement is the creation of a privilege lane on the M4. I call it that because commuters who are stuck in a jam every morning see plutocrats--perhaps donors to new Labour--whizzing by in taxis. The bus lane is misnamed; a bus is hardly ever seen in it. Anyone who believes Government statistics that claim to show that traffic is moving on the M4 should be put into a home for people who believe the Government's statistics. I am keeping an eye on the bus lane, which is currently for "buses and taxis only", and awaiting the day when it is for "buses, taxis and ministerial cars only".

I was Transport Minister for two years. [Interruption.] Oh yes, and I am extremely proud of the previous Government's record. We ordered the Jubilee line extension, and we built the docklands light railway, which we extended to Lewisham and Tower Hill. We put the trams into Manchester, Sheffield and Croydon, and extended the railway system to Stansted and Heathrow airports. We electrified the east coast main line, and caused the channel tunnel to be built. The Government have not made a single public transport announcement. That is a disgrace.

We had a vision for London. We planned to relieve the congestion in the west of London and on the M4 corridor by building new rail and road links to the east. We built many new river crossings across the Thames in the east so that we could bring prosperity to east London. Yet, with all those new rail links, Ministers will travel to the dome on new year's eve by car--another snub to the public transport user. What is the Deputy Prime Minister's vision for London? The Government have no such vision.

Government investment in the underground has been lower than in any year under the Conservative Government. The Deputy Prime Minister tried to shrug that off by talking about the money that went into the Jubilee line, as if our investment in it was worthy of condemnation. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman will listen, I can tell him that, even excluding the money that we invested in the Jubilee line, in every recent year bar one, our investment in the core of the underground was greater than that of the present Government.

The Deputy Prime Minister's hopes for the future are only hopes because he has put them all in the idea that the public-private partnership will produce the investment that is necessary for the underground. When I was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, our officials reckoned that they could recognise those Ministers who were suckers. I think that the Treasury saw him coming, because it persuaded him that, with a public-private partnership, there was no need to put any money at all in the Government public spending plans for investment in the underground. I can imagine the scene when it said to him, "Don't worry, John. We'll see you all right if the thing goes wrong." The thing has gone badly wrong. He

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was then given another £365 million to spend over two years. What has happened to that? It has gone into the black hole of the Jubilee line extension.

Mr. Prescott: It is your contract.

Mr. Portillo: The right hon. Gentleman does not deny it. That money has gone into the black hole of the Jubilee line extension; it is not available to fund the core of the underground. He ought to be concerned about that, because I heard the Prime Minister say that he was investing more in London underground than the previous Government. That is not true, and I have proved it. Now the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that what little money there is, is going not into the core, but into the black hole of the Jubilee line extension.

The right hon. Gentleman finds himself with no money--the cupboard is bare--and he is quite wrong to put all his hopes in the public-private partnership because I do not believe for a minute that those bidders will come forward with anything other than a demand that they should continue to receive public subsidy. Some mayoral candidates are in the Chamber, so may I ask in their presence whether the right hon. Gentleman now proposes that all those decisions should become subject to the authority of the mayor of London, since they will slip into the middle distance and be taken during the mayor's period in office? He is in a hopeless position: having sacked Railtrack, what will he do about the sub-surface lines? He has no plans for that whatever. I listened carefully to his speech and list of achievements, but all that the Government have done is establish structures, commission reports and integrate things. My constituents want some railway lines to be built, but he has not provided any new capacity.

At one stage, it was suggested that the Opposition should table a motion proposing a cut in the right hon. Gentleman's salary, but I am pleased that my right hon. Friends decided, in their wisdom, not to pursue that--first, because he is the fall guy in this situation--perhaps a naive fall guy--and, secondly, because it is so painfully obvious that the Prime Minister intends to cut his deputy's salary to zero. The only question is on which date that will happen.

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