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Mr. Clifton-Brown: Does my right hon. Friend agree that we cannot run the public service if we do not have the right people in it and that it is no surprise that we cannot recruit enough nurses, policemen and members of the armed forces if we cannot offer them the right working conditions? We should get back to giving them the right conditions, and to the situation that used to pertain when those who worked for the public services were regarded as key members of society.
I must move on to transport, and I am glad to see the Transport Secretary in his place. He has set out the plans for what he thinks is a massive investment in new transport facilities. We have had the much advertised and much delayed £180 billion blockbuster 10-year plan. What strikes me about it is the poverty of expectation on private capital over such a long period and in such a large and prosperous country.
What are the figures? The Secretary of State believes that we can raise only £56 billion from the private sector to supplement the substantial sums of public money going into the £180 billion. There are difficulties with the right hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, and when the figures are unpacked we discover that a lot of the £64 billion for railwaysor is it now £67 billion?is subsidy for existing activities. Not a great deal is investment in major new projects.
Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman is ahead of me and he is absolutely right. The Government and the SRA have had to reduce expectations for the good reason that their plans are much delayed and much damaged by the actions taken recently. The original plan is some 18 months out of date, but the Government appear to have rolled it forward. It is still called a 10-year plan rather than an eight and a half year plan because they are worried about the gap in investment and new finance this year, which results from the problems generated by Railtrack's bankruptcy and the delay in agreeing the new franchises with the train companies.
The investment in the railway is too small, so how could it be increased? The Secretary of State could and should immediately do two simple things to speed up and magnify that prospective private sector investment. First, he should return Railtrack to the private sector as quickly as possible. I hope that Ministers segregate that task. If the Secretary of State wants to, he should be the proponent of a company limited by guaranteethat will need a lot of detailed and hands-on work from the Government and the people who put it togetherbut a completely independent Minister, if one can be found, should judge the competition between the bidders, who would then need a licence from the Government.
Whether the Secretary of State's CLG gets going or notthat will be expensive and difficultI hope that he returns Railtrack to the private sector as quickly as possible. Why does he not tell us today that he intends to put out a sale memorandum within a month and that bids will close two months thereafter? That would show a sense of urgency. If Railtrack could be up and running as a private sector company by autumnthe first feasible date that the right hon. Gentleman could possibly achievewe would lose only about a year of the investment programme and we might be able to rebuild more quickly.
On the timetable that the Government seem to be following, however, a much longer period in administration is in prospect. I am sure that there are all sorts of problems in compiling an accurate and detailed sale memorandum, but they are exactly what the Secretary of State must cut through if he is serious about private sector investment in the track.
An even easier task for the Secretary of State or his SRA is getting investment in rolling stock going again, although it has been badly damaged by a company's discovery that there is not enough power in the network to run the new trains that it has bought. That will deter other companies from buying other types of new train that might be power hungry. More importantly, delay and damage have been caused by the failure of the SRA and the Secretary of State to renew franchises. Worse, they have told the industry that they do not like the current structure and that they want the train operating companies to be merged.
We have not heard the exact way in which the Secretary of State and the SRA want that to happen or how they can insist on private sector companies doing it. We live in expectation of learning that. They have devised the
It is odd that the Secretary of State has such a tidy mind that he wants only one train company in any London terminus. What happens cross country is more difficult to judge; I presume that he would allow more than one train company to use Crewe or Reading, where different companies go although they may travel to a different London terminus.
The policy that I have described would delay ordering new trains because sorting out the mergers and the amalgamations of franchises will take time. It would delay negotiations of the new franchises, and companies will not order new rolling stock during that time. They want to know whether they are winners or loserswhether they will survive or go down. They want to know the sort of franchise that they will get before they commit a decent amount of money to new investment.
The Secretary of State could make two decisions today to begin to solve the problems. If he does not do that, we will not get a fair proportion of the money for the 10-year plan in the next two or three years, and there will be nothing to show for it before the general election.
Why will the remainder of transport receive only £120 billion? That is not much money. Let us put it in the context of British people buying 10 per cent. fewer cars each year than they bought last year, which was a good year for buying cars. That applies only if one likes buying cars. It was a bad year for the Government, who do not like people having cars.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster): What is my right hon. Friend's view of the plans of the Mayor of London to introduce congestion charging and the likely burden that that will place on public sector workers such as firefighters and ambulance drivers who work inside the charging area but cannot afford to live there because of property prices? They have to drive their cars to work because they work unsocial hours or have to carry equipment with them. I understand that the Secretary of State has the power to exempt groups of people from the charge. Does my right hon. Friend agree that he should use it?
Mr. Redwood: Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend that if the Government were foolish enough to press ahead with such a scheme, they would have to make generous exemptions. I am sure that many Members of Parliament would expect to be exempted, too, because they regard themselves as important workers who do not live in London but clearly work there from time to time. The embarrassment caused by exempting Members of Parliament would be interesting. However, we are trespassing on private grief: the Mayor is keener on such a scheme than the Government. We shall watch this space.
The British people know their Government well. We had a record year for new cars last year, and that clearly suggests that people have decided that public transport will not work well or quickly under the Government. They will therefore continue to try to upgrade their cars and increase the number of cars per family because they have to use that mode of transport to get around.
It is not that many people are fanatics about their cars in the way that some Ministers suggest. Many people have no choice. In a rural area, there is absolutely no choice; in an urban area, there is no choice for certain journeys. It is becoming so difficult to get to stations in big towns and cities these days that people often decide that, instead of battling for three quarters of an hour or an hour to get to the station, they might as well spend 20 minutes getting on to the motorway network and getting somewhere. They conclude that they probably do not use much more petrol doing that, and that they will save a lot of money and inconvenience. Ministers will have to work hard to get the private capital into the system, and they will have to work with local government to understand why so many people are voting with their cars and with their feet, and are unwilling to take the public transport option.
The other day, I was invited to a presentation at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions in my capacity as a Member of Parliament representing a Thames valley constituency. The presentation was designed to bring us up to date with the so-called multi-modal study affecting the M3-M4 area, from just outside the M25 to Reading. We had a long, academic debate about whether this was the right region to considerapparently, many opinions have been expressed and many papers written on thatand we were told that one of the aims of the thing was to see how the Department could come up with a solution that would solve more of our transport problems with trains, and by switching people out of their cars.
I do not know whether the Secretary of State is aware that his Department is, at the same time, saying that Wokingham alone will have to absorb 7,750 new houses over a 15-year period. Families will move into those homes as they are built, and they will be two or three-car families, because that is the nature of the area. Far from limiting traffic or vehicle use, therefore, the Secretary of State's own Department is busily undermining his integrated transport policy with a planning decision that is deeply unpopular in my constituency and which will greatly increase the traffic problem.
The Secretary of State should also be aware that we are currently short of capacity on the trains as well as on the roads. It is not an answer to say that all we have to do is switch people out of their cars on to the trains that are waiting there for them. The trains are not there. The Secretary of State says in his plan that he reckons he can increase train usage by 50 per cent. over a 10-year period. As a starting point for that increase, we currently do only
I urge the Secretary of State for Transport to understand that, in an area such as mine, people are buying cars and using them. They are very frustrated; they cannot get to the stations easily, and when they do, there is insufficient capacity on the trains. South West Trains does not have a renewed franchise, and it is not making any investment until it gets one. The local council and South West Trains cannot put in the new station until the Railtrack problem is sorted out and South West Trains have a franchise. The reality on the ground is that the billions being talked about by the Government are not achieving any improvements whatever, and things are often getting worse.
I am sure that the Secretary of State will be able to come to the House in a couple of yearsif he is still Secretary of Stateand say that much more money has been spent on the railways over those two years. But most of that money will be tipped down the drain. It will go on the fees of the administrator and the consultants, the losses being built up by a business whose morale has been shattered, and the losses that will be incurred because the business is no longer controlling its costs in the way that a private sector company would have done. Public capital will be going in, where private capital could have gone in if the company had not been bankrupted.
We have seen great problems in the public services, and they are getting worse. More money is sometimes helpful, but in all too many cases, more Government money is going into the wrong things and making the problem worse rather than better. We need a massive expansion of private capital in health and in the railways. The two spinnersthe two Secretaries of State who sit there like Tweedledum and Tweedledeesuggest to their Back Benchers that they are going in different directions, but they are fundamentally united in their purpose. They believe that the art of government is in spinning, and they will both preside over a substantial deterioration in the services in their care.