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Mr. Foster: I agree, and the same applies in the south-west of England. Cornwall has been given objective 1 status by the Department, yet it does not enjoy a similar status when it comes to improvements in rail facilities.
Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): With regard to safety, last week I met Chris Gibb, chief executive of Wales and West Passenger Trains. The meeting had been planned before Christmas, and we discussed the line that runs from Manchester, through Shropshire and Herefordshire, and down to Cardiff. He told me that when he lays on extra trains for rugby international matches at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, he has to borrow coaches from a museum, as he has so little in the way of resources or infrastructure. Does my hon. Friend think that that is a safe way for passengers to travel to a rugby match?
Mr. Foster: I suspect that my hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear that I do not believe that that is the right way to go forward. I am sure the Secretary of State will have heard what my hon. Friend said, and I hope that he will respond later.
The point is that safety recommendations need to be implemented swiftly. Following the dreadful Paddington crash, Lord Cullen made very many safety recommendations, 41 of which were due to be implemented before Christmas, by 19 December. When Lord Cullen published his report on 19 June, he recommended that a review of compliance with his recommendations should be conducted on behalf of the Health and Safety Commission within six months of his report, and that those reports should be published.
On the same day, the Secretary of State said that he wanted a report on implementation by 19 December. Despite asking questions about those 41 Cullen recommendations, we still do not know whether they have been implemented, yet I have received a letter from the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead), that states:
Yesterday, I incorrectly stated that the information was on the Secretary of State's desk. He has assured me that it is not, so I unreservedly apologise to him, but that raises a fascinating question: given that he wanted that report by 19 December and that the review of compliance has been completed, why is it not on the Secretary of State's desk? Why does he not demand that it be put on his desk immediately? Why does he not agree to publish the accurate information that it contains straight away?
The Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr. Stephen Byers): For the simple reason that, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the Health and Safety Executive is an independent body. At the moment, it is clarifying some of the reports that it received from the industry with regard to compliance by 19 December. It will report to the Health and Safety Commission in February, and I will receive a report after that. That is the sequence of events, and I am afraid that it is the price we pay for having an independent HSE that is not dictated to by party politicians.
Mr. Foster: If the HSE is not dictated to by party politicians, it is slightly odd that the Secretary of State said in his press release on 19 June that he wanted that report by 19 December, and I hope that he will take that up with the HSE.
I hope that the Secretary of State will be prepared to intervene one more time. One of Lord Cullen's key recommendations was that signal improvements in the Paddington area should take place by 19 December. Does the Secretary of State know whether those improvements have taken place? Clearly, he has nothing to say. The travelling public will note that he could have obtained that information and asked for an answer to that specific question, yet it appears that he has failed to do so. That is typical of so much of what has happened under this Labour Government. The Minister for Europe also said in that article in The Spectator:
Mr. Foster: Yes, I certainly can, and I shall come to that very point[Interruption.] The answer is £250,000[Interruption.] A figure of £250 million was included in the Liberal Democrats' alternative budget, but given that the hon. Gentleman is interested
Mr. Foster: No, I will not give way; I am still answering the hon. Gentleman's first question. As the hon. Gentleman is interested in government investment in the railways, I hope that he will do me the courtesy of waiting a couple of minutes before I tell him precisely what the Labour Government have invested in the railways.
Mr. Foster: The hon. Gentleman is not comparing like with like. First, he has multiplied his Government's figure by 10 and compared it with a single year's figure. Secondly, in his comparison, he is referring not only to Government money but to expected and anticipated private sector money. If the chaos on the railways
David Taylor: With an interesting statistic earlier, the hon. Gentleman spoke about the travelling public's aggregate waiting time for trains. With the aid of a ballpoint pen and the Order Paper, I have worked out that, since 1 May 1997, the electorate of the United Kingdom have waited an aggregate of 200 million years for a clear exposition of how the Liberal Democrats will finance their transport policies, and of where the taxes will fall.
Mr. Foster: If the hon. Gentleman wants clear exposition, I will be more than happy to provide him with a copy not only of the Liberal Democrat manifestowhich was the only manifesto to contain full costingsbut of the very detailed alternative Budget that we set out. It contains all those details. He need wait no longer; they will shortly be coming his way.
The real question is whether the Labour Government have made progress in solving the problem on our railways. I suggest that one reason why they have not made progress is that they have schizophrenia about the whole issue of privatisation. The House will be well aware that, when the Labour party was in opposition, it opposed rail privatisation. However, within two years of coming into power, it published the fascinating document "Releasing the Power of Rail", which offered a rather different view of privatisation.
The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell) raised the issue of money. On Monday, I asked the Secretary of State whether it was true that the Government will have spent less on the railways in their first five years than the
I will therefore answer the question for the Secretary of State from figures provided by the Library of the House of Commons. In the first five years of the Labour Government, total Government spending on the railways will have been £8.2 billion. In the last five years of the Conservative Government, total Government spending on railways was £13.3 billion. On the crucial issue of investment in the railways, the disparity is even more marked. In their first five years, the Labour Government will have spent £0.7 billion on investment whereas, in their last five years, the Conservatives spent not £0.7 billion but £5.7 billion. Little has been done. Despite the high-level meetings that the Deputy Prime Minister had when he was in charge of the railways, he did little and achieved little.
Then we had a new Secretary of State. Was he going to do anything? Initially, his departmental press release of 18 June, headed "Government Pledges Certainty to allow the Industry to tackle the tough job ahead on our railways", quotes him as saying: