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Mrs. Laing: Perfectly reasonably.

Mike Gapes: At least I agree with the hon. Lady about that.

There is immigration to London from the rest of the United Kingdom. The European market entails a lot of mobility; many British people go to work in European capital cities, and many Europeans come to work in London. There is migration from Commonwealth countries and historically large numbers of asylum seekers and refugees have come to the capital city. If that is added to housing shortages, we can see that difficult issues have to be addressed. As a result of the policy of the Conservative party over the years not to provide social housing, rents in the private sector are astronomic. People with average incomes, even with London allowances, cannot afford to buy homes in London. If they are outside the social housing sector, they face weekly private rents of £150, £160, £180 and £200 for half-decent accommodation. They have the uncertainty of six-month or one-year leases; within a few months, they may have to disrupt their children's lives and risk homelessness and bed-and-breakfast accommodation until they find somewhere else. The issue must be pushed up the agenda; there are no easy answers, but we must tackle the problem soon.

I want to make some remarks about Ilford station. A few weeks ago, the chair of the Metropolitan police authority, my long-standing friend Lord Harris, came to our borough to talk with the police commander and the local safer communities partnership. We have a crime hot spot in the centre of Ilford. Redbridge is generally a low-crime borough, despite the unfortunate headlines and a few horrible events, including the murder of a young Pakistani law student, Sajjid Chisti, by a gang last May. Generally, however, Redbridge is not an area with high crime. The railway station is owned by Railtrack and operated by Great Eastern Railway; it is badly designed and a magnet for undesirable people, who hang around, begging for travelcards and money. The place is not very nice because of its design.

I urge Railtrack, which owns the station, and Great Eastern Railway, which operates it, to do some serious work to improve Ilford station and make its environment better. We can design out crime to some extent and introduce modern approaches to staffing; there are issues, to which I shall not refer in detail, concerning the station staff and the way in which they dealt with an incident that led to that murder last year. We must take account of those problems in future.

Finally, I raise the problems of other stations. I asked the Library to produce a note for me on the secure stations scheme, which was introduced by British Transport police

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and Crime Concern in April 1998. I am extremely disappointed that although Liverpool street station is one of the stations that meets the criteria, none of the stations from Liverpool street down to Southend through Ilford, Seven Kings, Goodmayes, Chadwell Heath, Romford—I shall not name all the stations along the line, as some are outside my constituency—through Shenfield to Southend is in the scheme. I want to know why not.

We need to raise standards of security and people's confidence when they travel on our public transport—on the underground, on the overground railway and on buses. I intervened on the speech of the Opposition spokesman and commented on congestion charging. My views are on the record at my website,, and they can also be read in the Official Report of the debates in Westminster Hall, where I spoke in January. The Mayor's scheme is the wrong scheme in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it will have serious detrimental consequences for people who live in outer London.

I congratulate the Opposition on their choice of subject for today's debate. It gives me the opportunity to point out the damaging behaviour of the Conservatives and Liberals in Redbridge council, and the opportunity to praise the Government's record in giving greater support to my borough over the past five years.

8.11 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I begin by apologising for missing some of the opening speech from the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman. Perhaps surprisingly, I am in total agreement with the Conservative motion, but I must comment briefly on what it does not recognise: the fact that the Conservatives share some responsibility for the poor quality of life that we experience in London and the south-east.

Private affluence and public squalor were not invented back in 1997. The problems are deep-seated. I have lived in London for more than 20 years, and it is clear that under-investment in our transport and other infrastructure and a lack of vision for London have existed for many decades. I understand that the failures of Conservative policy were not recognised in the opening speech, but there will be an opportunity, perhaps in the summing up, for those failures to be recognised, and I understand that at least one Conservative Back Bencher acknowledged in his comments the responsibility that Conservatives share for the present poor quality of life in our capital city.

The person who drafted the Labour amendment obviously has a sense of humour. The Government's amendment welcomes

but which capital are we talking about—not London, surely? The Government are not willing to give the capital's directly elected authority and Mayor the power they need to fulfil Londoners' wishes. The Government have not restored democratic citywide government to the capital. In some ways, they have created something that resembles a South African homeland, hemmed in legislatively and unable to make the decisions that really matter—on PPP, for example.

Clearly, the state of the tube is fundamental to the quality of life of the 800,000 people who commute into London, so why do the Government persist in imposing on London a plan for the part-privatisation of the underground, which nobody believes will improve the

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quality of life of Londoners? London's elected representatives will be stuck with trying to manage the scheme as best they can for 30 years, even though the current Mayor was elected specifically in opposition to the plan. Londoners are still wondering why they bothered to vote.

The statutory consultation period for the part- privatisation has been a farce. Last November, during the Transport Committee's hearings into the matter, the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions promised that there would be a full consultation with all interested parties before any final decision was made, so that he could form what he described as

The consultation that emerged has been a travesty of that promise. The only consultation that has taken place has been the one that the Government are legally bound to undertake with the Mayor and Transport for London, and as much as possible has been done to hamper that consultation. The bare minimum of time was allowed for Transport for London to examine contracts which, we were told, are unique and among the longest and most complex of their type in the world. Even worse, vital documents were withheld from TFL for a considerable period, and only the threat of legal action brought them to light. Perhaps the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs can explain how such activity helps devolved government work properly, and in what respect it will improve the quality of life of Londoners.

The consultation might be more meaningful if the Government followed the Labour-dominated Transport Committee's recent recommendation, which stated:

I hope that the Minister will undertake to speak to his colleagues in the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to ensure that such a debate takes place on a free vote, so that Members of all parties can express their views as part of the consultation on the Government's plans for the London underground.

If we are to address one of the key concerns of Londoners in relation to the tube, and one which has a major impact on their quality of life, another question that the Minister will have to answer is exactly what new tube capacity will be created in the first seven and a half years of the PPP contracts. It is the new trains that will make the difference. The £16 billion figure that is repeated ad nauseam sounds impressive, but if one analyses what it will mean in respect of overcrowding, for instance, it does not look impressive at all.

Another aspect of transport that has a significant impact on people's quality of life is train services. Will the Minister comment on the concerns expressed in the Evening Standard today about the possibility of a huge rise in fares, and how that will impact on people's quality of life? There is a clear link between the level of service that people receive and how much they have to pay for it—that influences their perception of their quality of life. If there is a significant increase in fares at the end of the seven-year period during which fare increases were limited to the level of inflation or less, we want to hear

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from the Government how they think commuters will respond—commuters who live in London and those who travel into London.

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