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Mr. Bercow: Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the Government are serious about hypothecation, they ought to tell us tonight for what proportion of the proceeds of taxes on road users public expenditure on transport should account by the end of the current Parliament?

Mr. Gray: Indeed they should, but I suspect that they are reluctant to do so, for the very good reason given by none other than Mr. Lloyd George, the then Prime Minister, in 1909, when he introduced vehicle excise duty. He said, in this place,

New Labour language, in 1909!

Lloyd George continued:

That was hypothecation in 1909, and hypothecation in 1999 is precisely the same. It is very hypothetical. The Government may give lip service to it for a day or two--

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for 10 years, in the case of London--but the possibility that the extra money taken from the motorist's pocket will be used for transport for all time is extremely remote.

Mr. Davies: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gray: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not. I have been a little generous to him, and I am not certain that either of his earlier interventions justified my generosity.

Neither the proposals in the integrated transport White Paper nor the Bill that we shall shortly consider will lead to an improvement in our transport system. In fact, we have a standstill Britain, a gridlocked Britain, a Britain waiting in a bus queue in the pouring rain. Incidentally, my researcher tells me that recently he could not use the new Jubilee line extension, which had been closed for a day, and had to stand in the pouring rain waiting for bus in the east end of London--for no less a reason than that the Deputy Prime Minister was going to open the Jubilee line extension, which therefore had to be closed in the meantime.

This is a Britain standing in a bus queue in thepouring rain; a Britain crammed into a filthy, overheated underground. Nothing that the Deputy Prime Minister has said today, in the integrated transport White Paper or in his Bill will make any difference to those realities.

It is not necessary for us to knock the Deputy Prime Minister because there are plenty of his detractors on the Government Benches. If I were him, I would find most worrying about the debate the warmth with which some Labour Members welcomed his appearance, saying how unassailable is his position. It is interesting that, in The Times this morning, the Prime Minister's official spokesman described the Deputy Prime Minister as

I suspect that that is Campbell-speak for, "He's on his way." If he is not on his way, I rather enjoyed the Private Eye front page today. It has a picture of the Deputy Prime Minister standing in a station. The announcement over the loudspeaker says:

    "I regret to announce that my departure has been delayed."

7.20 pm

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): I was disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray). It seems that, even on an Opposition day, Conservative Members have to filibuster because not enough of them want to speak. I shall try to be brief as I know that many Labour Members wish to speak.

I have no wish to speak about the tube. I have no wish to be the mayor of London, but I want to talk about something that is important to that city, as it is to the rest of country: the west coast main line, which starts in Euston, not Glasgow; history tells us that. It is 550 miles long. It is the busiest rail link in Europe. It carries more than 2,000 passenger and freight trains every day. I want to contrast what happened under the Conservative Government with what is happening under a Labour Government.

The west coast main line was upgraded and electrified in the 1960s. Privatisation did not do that. It was done under British Rail; it was probably British Railways in the 1960s. It was done under a Labour Government.

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The east coast main line was upgraded to a high standard under the previous Government, but the west coast main line had a major problem. No money was put in for many years. As has been mentioned, one of the reasons was that Mrs. Thatcher did not like railways.

Those of us who go past Crewe station every week when we travel from our constituencies see in the museum the advanced passenger train. It was a tilting train that was designed and built in Britain. It is the predecessor of all the tilting trains that are running in Europe. That train was cancelled by the Conservative Government.

Mrs. Thatcher did not like the train. An attempt was made to put it in service too quickly. A group of journalists were taken to Glasgow. I am afraid that they overindulged there and returned on the tilting train. As the tilt was not quite right, it made them ill. The train got a bad press and was thrown out.

I have been to parts of Europe where tilting trains are successfully run and built. People have adapted the technology from the APT and run it in their country. Unfortunately, the UK has to buy that technology back.

From that time, things started to go downhill on the west coast main line. Hon. Members may remember that there was going to be a train called West Coast 250. It was an advanced version of what runs on the east coast main line. In the early 1990s, the Conservative Government cancelled that train and left us with no plans to upgrade the west coast main line. At that point, I founded the all-party group on the west coast main line. I have co-chaired it ever since with the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day).

The west coast main line went through many false dawns under the previous Government. As has been said, a press conference was held every other week on its upgrading. We pressured one Chancellor of the Exchequer so much that he announced in the Budget that £500 million would be made available. When I spoke to the Minister with responsibility for transport at the time, Mr. Roger Freeman, I found that there was no money.

Then, a little money was made available: enough for 13 train sets on the west coast main line--[Interruption.] They are called train sets, as any puffer nutter will confirm. The choice was between those trains and more commuter trains in the south-east. Of course, the Government of the time picked the trains for the south-east and we lost out.

Then, we had privatisation. Everything stopped for privatisation. In fact, on the west coast main line, many of the trains stopped because maintenance was not carried out. Timetables were reduced. The number of trains was decreased because the trains were not reliable. Privatisation came along. Richard Branson and Virgin Trains took over the line. The only thing that happened was that his reputation plummeted because the trains did not get better; they got worse. It was not until the Labour Government were elected that things started to happen.

We now have a contract for 55 tilting trains on the west coast main line. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) pointed out, it is not Mr. Branson who owns them. He signed a contract to lease them, but they are owned by a company called Angel Trains. The journey time from Manchester will be reduced to one hour 50 minutes and from Glasgow to under four hours. If I tell hon. Members that it took me

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five and a half hours last week to get to my constituency in Carlisle, they will realise that that is a major improvement.

A total of £1 billion has been invested in the west coast main line since the Labour Government came to power. Railtrack has put out contracts worth £800 million to help to upgrade the line, but it has deteriorated that much over the years that it is estimated that it will cost £4 billion to upgrade the line. That shows the neglect under the last Conservative Government.

Come 2002, we will see the benefits of the Labour Government's policy on the west coast main line. We will see tilting trains. Come 2005, they will run at 140 mph. Under the Conservatives, there was total neglect. We were not in London. We were not important, yet the country's prosperity depends on the west coast main line more than on any other line.

Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport): I have to suffer the west coast main line and was two hours late getting into London only last week. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, even though, under the Labour Government, we will get new trains and new rolling stock--I believe Richard Branson when he says that--Railtrack is still the problem? If Railtrack does not improve, we will still have the trains that we have today running late. Tilting trains are very nice--I did not go with the hon. Gentleman to see the tilting trains--but they will not improve the position unless Railtrack improves.

Mr. Martlew: The hon. Gentleman is right, but we have in Tom Winsor a rail regulator--the all-party group on the west coast main line had a meeting today--who will insist that Railtrack gets the line right. If it does not, it will pay the penalty, which will be many millions of pounds. Therefore, I am convinced that, under the present Government, we will see advantages.

Some of the criticism of the Government is because the new rolling stock is not yet running and the line has not yet been improved but, come 2001-2002, people will see the difference that the Labour Government have made.

I touch on one more point: the Settle-to-Carlisle railway line. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) is not in his place. His reputation is a bit better in Carlisle than in other parts of the country as he was the transport Minister who saved that line. The only problem was that he did not give us any money, so the line has deteriorated ever since. Only last week, I was there to see the start of work on the line after an extra £18 million was made available because of what the Government are doing.

A renaissance in the railways is not only in progress, but is necessary--as we all know, we shall not be able to build many more roads. The renaissance is also one of the Government's priorities, and we shall soon see the benefits of it.

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