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Mr. Byers: The safety position has been absolutely clear throughout—it will be decided by the Health and Safety Executive; it is not right for politicians to decide whether a safety case has been made. Independent safety experts—the Health and Safety Executive—will decide whether they agree with the safety case. I have said several times before that if they do not agree, we will not proceed with the PPP. I said that months ago; I continue to say it, and I say it again in the House this evening.

The Deputy Prime Minister suggested that there might be indicative savings of about £4.5 billion—I read his precise words today. There are savings of about £4 billion, which is significant. [Interruption.] It is £2 billion, and £2 billion indirectly. Hon. Members should read the report that the National Audit Office produced in December 2000. I have looked at it in detail and, as those who follow such things closely will know, the NAO makes it very clear that the benefits of a value-for-money assessment are not just the direct financial benefits but the indirect financial benefits, and people should consider that if they want to look at the issue in the round.

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The NAO also said in its December 2000 report that value for money will not be a pass-fail; there will always be a subjective test. That is why I felt it was important that, rather than having a report to me that is not made public, I will publish the report and people can then judge the steps and decisions that I have taken. I am happy to do that; it is part of being accountable. There will be a row and a disagreement, and people will pick up certain aspects of the report, but as Ernst and Young says in its conclusion, on balance—it is a subjective view—it believes that value for money has been achieved.

On the public sector comparator, we have ensured that there is a fair judgment. We have considered more than 200 situations in the public sector comparator. We did not include those that involved, I hope, unique large cost overruns—for example, the Jubilee line's cost overrun was about 67 per cent.—because I believed that they would distort the overall figure. The cost overruns in the 200 situations that we considered came to about 20 per cent. on average, and that figure has been included in the public sector comparator.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. Hon. Members can see how many Members are seeking to catch my eye, so unless questions are brief—by brief, I mean one question—an awful lot of hon. Members will be disappointed.

Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the brave face that he has put on the statement, but that does not disguise the fact that this is a pig in a poke. Will he go back to the Chancellor and tell him that there were two cases for the PPP—first, that it was value for money and, secondly, that it transferred risk from the public sector to the private sector? Does he not accept that the Ernst and Young report does not show that the PPP is value for money? It certainly does not transfer risk from the public sector to the private sector. The contract management risk will be horrendous. The risk to the passengers of a declining service with no penalties still exists, and there is the health and safety risk as well. My right hon. Friend says that the Health and Safety Executive is totally independent, but will he confirm that it is his Department's responsibility to make available to the HSE sufficient resources to enforce the highest standards of safety in the contract?

Mr. Byers: I believe that value for money has been achieved in the terms outlined in the Ernst and Young report. I also believe that risk has been transferred, as I outlined to the House in the examples that I just gave.

I ensured that the Health and Safety Executive received a substantial increase not just in its own resources, but in the number of people it can employ specifically to inspect the railway system, which includes the London underground. It has the resources, which is why it can do a comprehensive job in judging whether it is prepared to agree the safety case. The HSE will be given the time to do that. There is no rush; there is no timetable. It will proceed at its own pace and arrive at its own conclusion. In my view, that is exactly how it should be.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Does not the Secretary of State realise that a consultation has

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already taken place on the scheme that he proposes? I refer to the consultation through the ballot box in the Greater London Authority elections. Was not the proposal thrown out overwhelmingly by the electorate of London because they had no confidence in it?

How will the Secretary of State meet the capacity demands? Over the past 11 years, passenger journeys increased by 25 per cent., or 200 million. How will that be met in the next few years by this cockshy scheme in which no one has any faith?

Mr. Byers: I think the hon. Gentleman knows, because he served on the Standing Committee, that the provisions of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 were clear: the terms under which the transfer took place would be determined by the Government. We are determining those, as laid down in statute.

Capacity is a key issue. That is why, under the modernisation proposals, capacity on the Jubilee line will increase by 22 per cent., on the Victoria line by 15 per cent. and on the Metropolitan and Circle lines by 17 per cent within the first 10 years. We are addressing capacity improvements within the first 10 years.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): I have spelt out in the House my opposition to many worrying aspects of this scheme, not least the fractured management and its consequences. It was interesting that the Secretary of State kept referring to the public sector as London Underground but did not mention the Mayor and Transport for London in that context. I limit myself to one brief question: who is accountable under the system—the Mayor or the Minister?

Mr. Byers: Until the transfer, we remain responsible. The Greater London Authority Act allows us to take these decisions. When the proposals are in place, we will talk to the Mayor and Transport for London about a timetable for transfer. They will then take responsibility. Those are the provisions laid down in the 1999 Act. I know from conversations that I have had with the Mayor that they will be constructive in ensuring a smooth transition and transfer.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): Given that the Government have taken more than four years to produce this proposal to put investment into London Underground, is the Secretary of State aware that the amount of investment since 1997 has been considerably less than the comparable period before? When he talks about an investment of £16 billion over the next 15 years, does that take inflation into account, because that will be considerable over that period? If it does, will not the costs of the contracts have to be increased? Taking all things into consideration, the more one looks at the figures, the more one must conclude that the level of investment over the next 15 years will not be more than it was just before 1997.

Mr. Byers: That is simply incorrect. If the hon. Gentleman looks at core investment he will see that the improvements under our proposals are considerably in excess of the core investment proposals that were implemented between 1991 and 1997. The significant blip upwards was due to the cost overruns on the Jubilee line extension. The Conservatives talk about the great investment that took place, but they should look at the

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figures, as I have done. They show that the blip was a result of a failure to control the costs of the Jubilee line extension. If Members look at core investment, which is what we are dealing with, they will see a huge difference—greater investment each year for the 15 years covered by the proposals that we are putting to the House this evening.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush): The Secretary of State will be aware that the public know that failure to invest for decades is the reason that we are in a mess now. They also know that we need money put in, and we need it fast. To be frank, if anyone messes around with this and delays it, they will not be easily forgiven. Yes, the public want it done safely and efficiently, but they want it done, and they expect the Minister and the Mayor to get on with it, and soon.

Mr. Byers: That is the important message. We have the plans, which are ready to go, and we have the money, which is ready to be invested—some £16 billion over 15 years. The message, not only from my hon. Friend but from London's travelling public, is clear: they have had enough of politicians arguing; now, they want us to get on with the job and invest the money. That is what we want to do. We have a plan, we have the money, and now we want to get on with investment in the underground.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): The Secretary of State will know that Metropolitan line rolling stock is the oldest on the system. Will he confirm that it will still take between 10 and 15 years for that to be replaced? Will it also take 10 or 15 years to modernise the system, and are there any plans to extend the network?

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