Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): London is booming. More people are living and working in our city, yet our transport infrastructure is inadequate and overcrowded. Trains are unpleasant. They operate at massively overcrowded capacity. Our roads are congested. There are road works and delays. Badly planned junctions and badly phased traffic lights are causing serious problems for people who commute into this city.
It is not all bad news, however, because improvements are being made in some parts of London. I draw attention to the work of the Thames Gateway local authorities. Their document "Transport Agenda" sets out proposals to extend the docklands light railway from City airport to connect with the north Kent line and the tunnel connection between Silvertown and the Greenwich peninsular, and the shared use of the Thames Gateway bridge. They are also supporting crossrail, as are many other organisations. There is currently a stakeholder consultation on the crossrail 1 option.
I want to add my voice strongly to the call that was made some months ago by the Corporation of London for the classic crossrail routethe route from Liverpool Street station to Stratford through Ilford and on to Shenfield. That will be the best option in the early stages for ensuring that pressure eases on the Central line, making conditions far better for my constituents and many others who commute from east London and Essex to work in central London. Hopefully, the channel tunnel rail link will connect at Stratford with crossrail and the Central and Jubilee lines. It is vital that the first development of that beyond Ebbsfleet should go to Stratford, not St. Pancras, because of ease of communications and its ability to take people around London, not through the centre.
Some problems have been caused by a lack of leadership, sensitivity and focus. I shall not concentrate today on congestion charging. We dealt with that in this Chamber about four months ago. I shall not deal with London Underground and the public-private partnership because that will be debated tomorrow. I shall focus today on the problems of Transport for London, an organisation that should be at the forefront of improving matters in partnership with the 32 London boroughs, the Association of London Government and central Government.
Sections 142 to 144 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 require the Mayor to prepare a transport strategy for London and to encompass all forms of transport, including movement of goods as well as people. Section 154 of the Act established Transport for London and its powers. The Mayor is given wide powers of control over TFL. Members of the Greater London
I was a member of the Committee that considered the Greater London Authority Bill, as was the author of that column, the then Member for Brent, East, Mr. Ken Livingstone, who was elected in May 2000 as the independent Mayor of London.
It is the most unlikely of alliances: the left-wing rebel, scourge of the Establishment, and the former CIA man and one-time union basher, united against the plans of Big Government.
Now ensconced in a £2m house in Belgravia and on a £2m four-year contract, Kiley is rising to meet the challenge before him. He is said to want to bring 100 of his former American colleagues to manage London's transport"
Mike Gapes : My recollection of the Committeeand if we were to read the transcript, we would find that I am rightis that those words were not used, although we may certainly debate what happened all those years ago. I will deal with that matter as I go on.
Kiley's track record in New York deserves closer examination. By the time he quit in 1990, the subway was an altogether more dangerous place than when he had taken over seven years earlier, with a sharp increase in muggings and fires.
Only months after he departed, the subway suffered one of its worst-ever disasters at Lexington Avenue that caused five deaths and 150 injuries.
Kiley has an unfortunate habit of taking the credit for other people's successes. Much of the improvement in the subway during his tenure should be credited to Richard Ravitch, his predecessor, who won approval for a $6.6bn capital improvement programme. This provided the new trains Kiley likes to talk about so much.
Kiley says less about his consistent failure to hit targets for passenger growth on the networknumbers actually fell in his last year in chargeand his bungling financial management that drove the authority ever-deeper into the red."
Mr. Kiley has little experience of running a modern and complex bus service and comes from a city in which buses are still in the dark ages, with no advanced technology, few bus lanes, no effective route co-ordination and half the ridership of London. There are 4 million passengers in London, and slightly more than 2 million passengers in New York.
Mr. Kiley's career has been dogged by continual accusations of cronyism and fat cat pay. In New York, he and his sidekick, David Gunn, both earned substantially more than the mayor. In London, he has assembled more or less the same team as was with him in New York, all funded by the London taxpayer.
Another article in The Sunday Telegraph, by Jonathan Petre and Sonia Purnell last August, pointed out that several of the specifically recruited team were paid grossly inflated salaries. An independent report commissioned by Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York, found that some posts had been filled by Mr. Kiley's right-hand man, David Gunn, without having been advertised and that normal job requirements had been waived.
In 1985, a report by the inspector general of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, of which Kiley was then chairman, said that there was "clear salary favouritism". The 1985 investigation by the inspector general, Sanford Russell, found that several staff taken on after Mr. Kiley took over the New York subway had received excessive salaries and expenses. The salaries of a group hired from Pennsylvania, formerly headed by Mr. Gunn,
Jay Walder is an interesting man. He is the finance and planning managing director, and now calls himself chief executive, of TFL. He is a former professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. According to a document that I acquired from within TFL, he was
From November 2000 until the end of January 2001, he provided advice to the commissioner on the PPP proposals and congestion chargingthat is, before and immediately after Kiley officially started work for TFL. The fees paid were £18,662. From 5 February 2001, he was hired on a four-year contract worth £200,000 a year as TFL's managing director of finance and performance, although he seems to have time to lecture in the United States. Last week, he gave a lecture on
I found that information on the internet. It was widely advertised several months ago. I do not know how many other lectures Mr. Walder has given during the period and how much time he has spent in the United States. Those are relevant questions that need to be investigated.
Maggie Boepple, a New York lobbyist who worked on the MTA in New York, was employed from February to August 2001 on a consultancy basis and was involved in early work on the PPP and TFL's alternative investment programme. She was later appointed on a fixed-term contract until 30 October 2002 to manage the transition of London Underground into TFL.
Steve Polan, a senior legal adviser on the MTA, works for a firm called Kalkines, Arky, Zall and Bernstein, which is engaged on a consultancy basis to provide specialist legal advice to the commissioner on financial contracts. The total fees paid to Kalkines, Arky, Zall and Bernstein for work done by Steve Polan to the end of August 2001 amounted to £183,112.
Tom Amenta worked in the finance group of the MTA. He advises on the PPP, focusing on the integration of London Underground. His salary is about £90,000 to £100,000. The total fee paid between November 2000 and the beginning of February 2001 was £28,859. From February 2001, Tom Amenta was employed as a senior projects manager reporting to Jay Walder. His contract ended in March 2002.
Drew Hyde worked for TFL on a consultancy basis between October 2000 and May 2001, and drew fees of £58,540. Charles Monheim has worked on ticketing and the smart card project, and Eric Rothman works for Jay Walder on approval of business plans
In total, about 20 Americans do regular consultancy work for TFL, and they have been given that work through Bob Kiley. The consultants can earn around £1,000 per day, which is all paid for by Londoners through Ken Livingstone's precept on the boroughs and other income generated by TFL.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): In the interests of balance, will the hon. Gentleman set out with similar detail tomorrow the consultancy fees that have been charged by the various consortia that work for the Government on PPP? Alternatively, will he mention Cap Gemini Ernst and Young, which is working on Railtrack in administration? I understand that its fees are £700,000 a week.
Bill Bratton is the ex-commissioner of police in New York city. Previously, he was chief of New York's transit police. TFL paid to bring him to London. He spent lots of his time meeting the Home Secretary, other political figures and people in the Metropolitan police. Bill Bratton runs The Bratton Group in New York city. A TFL document states that the group
The group published a report entitled "Adopting a Modern Enforcement Strategy for London's Buses" in September 2001. It is known in London Assembly circles as the Wasserman report, after its principal author and Bratton employee, Bob Wasserman. He is an adviser to TFL and is well known in the American police for his work on the broken window theory: if one deals with the small crimes, the big ones will sort themselves out.
Bob Kiley has made at least 30 key appointments throughout the organisation. As far as I understand, they have not been advertised externally. Some of the appointments are new, and some are major promotions. They include a senior communications position that was advertised at a salary of around £50,000 and appointed at £70,000. Kiley's own speech writer, Sarah Moule, is on around £400 per day plus an agency fee. Jeroen Weimar recently moved from being Kiley's chief of staff to director of corporate services. The sum effect of that is that Kiley and Jay Walder have introduced a regime with centralised power. Kiley's Americans are rewriting the transport strategy at this moment with no consultation whatever, and frequently recommending things that people are querying and saying do not fit into British law or experience.
Kiley and his team are not following correct procedure. They are insensitive and, in the opinion of many people working in TFL, totally ruthless in the way in which they operate. New US staff are being sought all the time. For example, there is an ad on the alumni news and information website of Northwestern university for the transport planning opportunity of the decade: the post of transport planning director in London. It says that the post will be appointed by Transport Commissioner Bob Kiley and Jay Walder, and adds that this is a unique opportunity. That is being advertised on US university websites. I understand that it is not being promoted via human resources at TFL; it is being done directly by the Kiley operation.
Mr. Kiley recently sent someone to Harvard to investigate direct recruitment from there. As I speak, well-paid US consultants and contract-holders are sitting together on the 14th floor of Windsor house,
There is clearly a culture of fear within TFL, and I understand that at least 10 senior British managers earning £70,000 and above have been asked to leave the organisation. On the whole, they appear to have signed gagging orders, and they no doubt received substantial pay-offs in the region of one year's salary. Recent departures include Richard Smith, director of integration, and Mike Swiggs, who was acting chief executive in the pre-Kiley era, and who left his post as corporate director two weeks ago.
Ken Livingstone is chair of TFL, but what has he done? He seems to have some kind of pact with Bob Kiley not to interfere in the management of TFL as long as Kiley gives him good political cover and support on the PPP. There is now no one left in TFL with senior management experience of London Underground. One of the only senior British staff left there is Peter Hendy, managing director of London Buses, who is an extremely wealthy man from buying out his bus company during the Thatcher era, and the improvement in bus services is about the only visible achievement made during the two years of TFL. Then there is Derek Turner, the managing director of street management, who is the only senior manager left from the start of TFL. He will presumably be there as the fall guy when Ken's foolish congestion charging scheme ends in disaster.
It was not meant to be like this. The essence of the Greater London Authority Act was for partnership with the ALG, the boroughs and the Government. However, the Kiley team has acted more unilaterally than in partnership. It has not consulted the boroughs. For example, last year, Jay Walder proposed to change the system for paying the boroughs the intermediate transport programme grant from quarterly in advance to monthly in arrears. That led to very sharp exchanges with the director of the ALG transport and environment committee, Nick Lester, and the boroughs were incandescent. They protested, but nothing changed. The Kiley model is going ahead regardless.
Kiley and his American team seem to believe that London boroughs ought to be in the same weak relationship to the city government as the boroughs in New York are to the New York city government. They do not understand that this is the United Kingdom and that London has a very valuable tradition of strong borough-based local authorities. It is essential, if things are to work effectively in London, that the London administration co-operates and does not ride roughshod over local authorities in our capital.
Mike Gapes : If the hon. Gentleman reads the Act, he will see that it makes it absolutely clear that there should be partnership between the Greater London Authority and the Mayor, and the boroughs. That is what I am calling for.
Mike Gapes : No, I do not have time. I need to make a few more points and then conclude. I understand that other hon. Members want to make contributions. I should be happy to carry on talking but they might not like it.
Recently, London Buses entered into a joint arrangement with the Metropolitan police service for a contract worth £25 million a year. The Met's lead on that project is Commander Alan Shave, and the money is coming from Transport for London to pay for policing relating to bus routes. I gather that that has been introduced rather quickly, without considering whether it will necessarily be value for money. It was not piloted. The contract between TFL and the Metropolitan police service was signed without the business case having been approved. I understand that, as part of the project, a group of 10 TFL and Metropolitan police staff were taken first class to New York to meet police there and to see how they were operating.
Before the GLA came into existence, there was a London bus initiative with the boroughs. Recently, London bus initiative 1 has been developed into London bus initiative 2. Initially, the boroughs played the leading role in the initiative, but now they are being excluded and there is no partnership with them. That was, again, brought in without any consultation or discussion with the boroughs. Centralisation of control is damaging to effective government in London. It is also damaging to the way in which TFL is operated.
It takes, on average, eight months to get basic business cases within the organisation approved. Kiley's team in charge of business cases, run by Jay Walder, decided recently to recruit 10 additional staff to try to clear the backlog of cases that has built up because no one makes a decision, rather than devolving the powers to the managing directors. Everything has to be taken through the centre. The result is that projects are delayed and cannot proceed unless they are Bob Kiley's own pet projects.
TFL was established with optimism. There was much new money to be invested and it seemed that transport in London was at last going to get the work and investment that it needed. Sadly, since the publication of the flawed transport strategy, things have gone from bad to worse. Serious questions need to be asked about why there are so many staff on sick leave, why people believe that stress in the organisation is leading to chaos, why meetings of the chief officer group and its decisions are not minuted, why people get decisions made by talking to Jay Walder in corridors rather than through formal meetings and why there is a culture of a lack of trust of the British employees in TFL by the American management team that has come in and colonised the 14th floor of Windsor house. Serious questions must be asked about the money being spent outside. Fishburn
Other issues need to be examined. Questions must be asked, and I call today on the district auditor and the Audit Commission urgently to investigate employment practices. Were posts correctly advertised and filled? How much has been spent on headhunters and consultants here and in the United States? How much has TFL spent on transatlantic flights and hotels for its consultants and employees? Has the equal opportunities policy on recruitment been followed? How much has been paid to experienced staff who have resigned or been dismissed, and how much extra was paid to buy their silence in gagging orders and deals?
Have the various appointments and consultancies been value for money? Was the £1.5 million on legal work, including legal challenges to the PPP and the costs of losing the last judicial review, correctly spent? Was TFL right to spend £37,000 during the 2002 London borough elections on the "last chance for Londoners to say no to the PPP" campaign? Is it appropriate that TFL spent £3 million last year and will spend £7 million this year on matters related to the underground and PPP? Is all that money being spent correctly?
Londoners deserve and need a modern transport system. As chairman of TFL, the Mayor bears ultimate responsibility for the actions and regime of his appointed Transport Commissioner, Bob Kiley. Londoners deserve better, and we want answers.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): I will deal with issues relating to transport in the capital, particularly the underground. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) on securing the debate, which is very important to Londoners and the significant number of people who live outside the confines of the M25 but work in London and rely on transport in London.
When the hon. Gentleman says that the situation was not meant to be like this, I am inclined to say, although I was not in the House at the time, that Conservatives warned the Government about it. The idea that Londoners would elect a London Mayor with a huge personal mandate and that that Mayor, whoever the person was, would not take to himself many centralised powers was unrealistic, to put it mildly.
I shall discuss issues that specifically relate to central London, such as the congestion charge, which I shall mention shortly. Tomorrow, we shall debate on the Floor of the House the report on the PPP by the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions. The current state of affairs in London Underground is nothing short of a national disgrace. There is little doubt that if animals were subject to the conditions that many underground passengers have to put up with, it would immediately become a national scandal. The problems occur not just in the rush hour but for much of the working day.
Clearly, the massive strategic problem with funding the underground must be addressed. Unfortunately, a case is going to court. The only thing that we can safely say is what the Mayor has said: there will be scratchy public transport for the next 10 years. There is little
The Mayor has significant powers, and I appreciate that the hon. Member for Ilford, South has great concerns about the execution of those powers within the confines of Transport for London. All the bickering will not get us anywhere. It is important that London MPs play their part in facilitating matters. For our part, Conservatives have spent much of the past year encouraging Ken Livingstone and Bob Kiley to ensure that the right thing is done in the interests of Londoners. We have done our best to be constructive in the matter.
However, politicians and, more importantly, our constituents are running out of patience because of the mess that is being created in Transport for London and the poor relationship between the Mayor of London and central Government. At the heart of the PPP issue is the funding of the programmes that we have in place. It is easy for all of us to blame the Mayor or Transport for London, but the Treasury has deliberately held on to the purse strings not just for transport and crucial day-to-day issues concerning transport, which is specifically within the confines of this debate, but for public services as a whole. London gets an appallingly bad deal from central Government.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when looking at transport problems in London, all roads lead to the Treasury? On the PPP, London Underground could be wholly privatisedI would not support that, but it could be done and would have intellectual consistencyor it could remain in the public sector. However, the Government's chosen course of PPP is the worst of all possible worlds.
Mr. Field : I suspect that I shall not utter these words too often in my parliamentary career, but I entirely agree with the hon. Lady's sentiments. PPP is absolutely the worst of the available options. The Select Committee knows considerably more about the details, but it is clear even from a cursory look at the PPP document that the Government are saying that transport in London will get worse for at least the first seven and a half years of PPP's operation, assuming that it can be got under way.
It strikes me that the whole fiasco of Railtrack and the oft-repeated phrase that there would be an integrated transport policy under the Deputy Prime Minister, the former Secretary of State who now has responsibility for the regions, point to a lack of central Government credibility. The Government's transport policy for London and where it is going is greatly worrying.
On congestion charging, the big idea of the Mayor was predicated on the fact that there would be great improvements in public transport prior to the introduction of the congestion charge. Indeed, that is self-evidently necessary because, if the congestion charge is to be effective, it will take some 15 to 20 per cent. of capacity from central London's roads. That capacity must go somewhere and the obvious idea was that it would go into the public transport system.
As many hon. Members know, my local councilWestminster city councilis taking the matter to the High Court in the middle of July. It is regrettable that it has been forced so to do, but it is understandable given the concerns of many local residents.
Mike Gapes : Does the hon. Gentleman suspect, as I do, that the Mayor might secretly welcome Westminster city council's legal challenge because a delay in introducing the congestion charge might avoid a political fiasco and disaster for him?
Mr. Mark Field : I had suspected that and I pacify a number of my local residents associations and constituents on that basis. My only caveat to that theory, which goes back to funding, is that the one significant benefit of congestion charging for Mr. Livingstone, over and above the environmental advantages and other political aspects that have driven the policy forward, is the prospect of £130 million to £150 million a year that he can securitise for transport and other projects in the years ahead. So little money is coming through from central Government that he may find it difficult to resist such a prospect, notwithstanding the potential political fiasco, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, of introducing a congestion charge in that way.
London needs a strong and credible Mayor with the legal authority to drive through an agenda. Unfortunately, over the past two years, we have had little more than a media personality using his celebrity to proclaim a vision without any idea of how to deliver it.
Central Government need to understand that the devolution of power in London must at the same time ensure that the city is suitably rewarded for being the economic powerhouse of the country. It is little short of a disgrace that the Government have largely ignored the quality of life of so many Londoners. They are happy to take the taxes, the increased stamp duty and inheritance tax that flow from the wealth created by Londoners, but do not invest in the basic transport infrastructure that is so necessary.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): Transport is one of the most fundamental issues for all Londoners, whether rich like some of the voters in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), or poor like many of my constituents in Hackney. It is a crucial issue for people who use public transport, but also for those who do not. There are no more passionate advocates of
Transport was a key issue in the last mayoral campaign. Let me remind my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) and Conservative Members that my party brought the whole weight of the Labour machine to bear in the last mayoral campaign in support of policies such as PPPand it was humiliatingly smashed. A good man whom I personally like and admire, the then Member for Holborn and St. Pancras ended his national career in a regrettable way.
It amazes me that colleagues such as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South are still trying to re-fight the mayoral campaign. Too many of my Labour colleagues are like Japanese soldiers in the jungle, still fighting the second world war. They cannot acknowledge that Ken Livingstone won on a policy that is directly contrary to those that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South and others are still trying to peddle. Londoners were opposed to PPP. Ken beat the Labour party on PPP in the mayoral election. Londoners remain opposed to PPP. By the time the next mayoral election comes around, Londoners will not have seen any gains from PPP. Colleagues arguing that PPP is the way to get things done will have to eat their words.
On behalf of Londoners, I urge my colleagues to put an end to this petty and personal sniping at the Mayor, which is based on the ignominious failure of the Labour candidate at the last mayoral election, and to work constructively with him. When it comes to the big political issues, such as PPP, the importance of investment in transport, and the need to put pressure on the Treasury to make the money available, the people of London are solidly behind their Mayor. Parties and people who are seen to be involved in petty, personal sniping and retaining tittle-tattle about TFL
Mike Gapes : Is my hon. Friend saying that she does not care about the way in which Londoners' money is spent? Is it right for the Mayor to appoint a Transport Commissioner and allow him to do what the hell he likes, with no one allowed to query or challenge it? Is my hon. Friend really saying that?
In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South, of course I care about Londoners' money. He is as knowledgeable about the legislation and construction of the Assembly as I am, so he will be aware that a detailed structure of scrutiny, appraisal and report ensures that the Mayor and TFL have to account for the
Ms Abbott : Yes, it is vital. This is where my hon. Friend swept up the tittle-tattle with which he has been detaining the Chamber. Of course it is vital that there is scrutiny and accountability. Fewer public officials in this country have more statutory scrutiny and accountability structures and requirements than the Mayor. Londoners may set their minds at rest. If there is any problem about scrutiny and accountability in relation to the Mayor, I suggest that my hon. Friend takes it to members of the Assembly. The responsibility for scrutiny rests fairly and squarely with the Assembly. Let us kill this notion here and now that there is no scrutiny or accountability where the Mayor is concerned. If anything, the legislation and institutional arrangements provide for an excess of scrutiny and accountability.
On the questions raised about TFL, the people of Ilford are as dependent on transport as anyone else. They will therefore be surprised to read that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South seeks to detain the Chamber this morning with all sorts of whinges and tittle-tattle from nameless people at TFL, rather than to call for more money for transport and an end to the misbegotten public-private partnership, or to work more constructively with the Mayor.
I know that there are many hard-working and pleasant people at TFL, who are no doubt kind to their grandparents, small children and animals. However, as my hon. Friend will be aware, there has been a long-standing issue at TFL about the overall quality of management. I have heard colleagues make the same point about project management, although not everyone at TFL has been lacking. It would be surprising if the new Transport Commissioner did not bring in new people to address the systemic failures in management. Indeed, it would be remiss of him not to. My hon. Friend has gone sweeping the corridors of Romney house for tittle-tattle about complaints about the new management structure, and brought it to the Chamber as if it constituted a substantive critique. The sort of whinges and complaints about Americans with which my hon. Friend has sought to detain the Chamber are inevitable when one is trying to strengthen a management structure that is notoriously weak, with all due respect to individuals. They are inevitable when one is trying to put in place international expertise, to fill the gaps and to make TFL an institution that can manage a 21st century transport system for a 21st century city.
The people of Ilford would prefer a Member who seeks to work positively with someone who is, after all, the elected Mayor. When you sneer at the notion that Ken Livingstone was elected Mayor, you sneer not at the individual, but at the thousands of your Ilford
Mike Gapes : I do not want to get into a personal argument with my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), but my constituents may judge me on my record and, no doubt, my hon. Friend's constituents will have things to say about her record in due course. It is important that hon. Members are prepared to represent the concerns that are brought to us. Just because someone has been elected does not mean that they can do what on earth they like for the period of their mandate. We have a duty as London MPs to ensure that public moneyour moneyis spent properly.
Ms Abbott : As I said, there is no question of the Mayor being able to do what he likes. The law does not allow that. Nor does the Assembly or, if I might say so, the Evening Standard. If there were no Assembly or institutional structures, the Evening Standard would keep any Mayor on his or her toes. The notion that I am saying that the Mayor should be able to do what he likes is nonsense.
To return to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South on Transport for London, there are bound to be stresses and strains as TFL modernises and as the type of international management expertise that it needs is introduced. It would be highly surprising if none of the people who had to leave or modify their working practices had complaints. As I have said, it is surprising that an hon. Member, rather than raise substantive issues, has brought such tittle-tattle before the Chamber.
I want to comment on the congestion charge as a London Member who does not drive and therefore does not perhaps have the same heartfelt feelings about it as other hon. Members. Although I do not drive, I am well aware that in the 14 years that I have represented Hackney, increased congestion has meant that it has taken longer and longer to make the journey to Westminster. A journey that took 30 minutes in the rush hour when I was first elected in 1987 now takes between 45 minutes and an hour. Considering that London is the economic heartland and motor of this country, especially with the financial services in the City, something must be done.
People in other cities in Britain and around the world will examine how the congestion charge works in London. The Mayor has no choice but to see whether it can work. Something must be done because the congestion is an economic and social problem with potential health effects.
The congestion charge is a weapon, but I am mindful of the fact that in a borough such as Hackney many poor people have to drive. A single mother who works shifts as an office cleaner and has to get her child to nursery has to have an old banger to get around. I stand at bus stops and see those ladies. They are not rich, or even
In principle, the congestion charge is right, but as I have told the Mayor in private and now say in public, it must be thought through properly. He must ensure that it will not have an unnecessary detrimental effect while dealing with congestion. Some of the potential inequities must be thought through.
Mr. Mark Field : Speaking for myself rather than my party, I have no objection to the principle of a congestion charge. Ultimately, if we believe in free markets, road pricing is a potential element. However, there is a clear crisis in the public transport system, and the only viable alternative is for people to use their cars, so does the hon. Lady agree that now cannot be the right time to introduce such charges? The Opposition have also raised ongoing concerns about the fact that congestion has become worse with TFL's policy of reducing three-lane roads to two-lane roads and altering traffic light sequencing. When the charge is introduced, some of those changes may be reversed and prove that the congestion charge has improved the situation from very bad to not quite as bad.
Ms Abbott : I understand the hon. Gentleman's comments, and there is a sense in which the congestion charge is a gamble. It has never been done in a city of the size and density of London, so it must be carefully thought through, but I suspect that there will never be a right time to introduce the charge. It would have been better to see a step change in the quality of public transport before we introduced the congestion charge. However, if my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South had spent some of the energy that he spent on petty personal sniping against the Mayor on trying to get the Chancellor of Exchequer to provide the funding and support needed to give Londoners the public transport that they deserve, his constituents would have reason to be grateful.
I do not want to detain the Chamber, because I know that many hon. Members want to speak. However, it would be wrong for this debate to pass without reminding the Chamber that London's elected Mayor retains the support of most Londoners for his transport policies. In particular, all the polls show that he retains the support of most Londoners for his opposition to PPP, and that Londoners are grateful to TFL and the GLA for the improvements that have been made to bus services.
Londoners are looking to hon. Members on both sides of the House to stop engaging in the petty warfare that stems from the mayoral campaign, to look forward and to work constructively with the Mayor. No one can say that he has not attempted to run an inclusive administration, and to work with people. The time is long overdue for some of my colleagues to put their anger and bitterness about the mayoral campaign behind them and to seek to work constructively with the Mayor. The people of London deserve no less.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) on securing this debate on an important subject. In truth, however, he missed his opportunity. As we look around the Chamber, we see the Minister, who has given up a morning to be here, his officials, the people who run the building, and members of the public who have come to listen. In fact, we have witnessed internal warfare between the various factions of the Labour party. It is a shame that such debates are used in that way.
To respond to the speech by the hon. Member for Ilford, South, if ever there were an endorsement of the Opposition's position during the passage of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, that was it. Most of the things that he complained about were things that we said would happen. He is right to raise those issues, but he must accept that that is what devolution means. His party is committed to devolution in a way that my party is not, but that is what democracy is all about. As the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington said, Mr. Livingstone was democratically electedhe got his mandate. If the hon. Member for Ilford, South does not like the way that the Mayor is running the show, tough. That is what politics is all about.
The hon. Gentleman made some quite serious allegations about the conduct of a number of officials at the Greater London Authority. [Interruption.] I am prepared to give way to him if he says that he will repeat those allegations outside the Palace of Westminster.
Richard Ottaway : I hesitate to disagree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I think that the courts have found that there can be a waiver of privilege. Anyway, I do not want to dwell on the point and I am sure that you are right. I shall move on because we have limited time.
The hon. Member for Ilford, South said that the boroughs were not being properly consulted and their views were being overridden. The Opposition tabled an amendment to allow the boroughs more powers and more involvement, but the hon. Gentleman voted against it in Committee and on the Floor of the House.
The hon. Gentleman complained about the precept. In Committee, he and I were given assurances that the precept would be capped. However, the cap was lifted in the House of Lords. Two hundred amendments came back and were debated in four hours on the Floor of the House. Among them was the removal of the cap on the precept. That is what happened. The way in which the hon. Gentleman's party took the legislation through the House led to all the things that he has complained about. If he continues with this line over the next 22 months, we will consistently remind him and his party that they are completely responsible for this state of affairs.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman on one point. The Mayor has been profligate. He has hired too many special advisers and he has achieved little. There are more pigeons in Trafalgar square than when he started. He has done absolutely nothing as Mayor. We will feel the impact of his policies when he introduces road-user charging. There are two sides to that debate. I happen to be against it. Of all the places in Britain to introduce the pilot scheme for congestion charging, central London is not it. It will lead to a lacuna in the middle. The constituents of the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington will be able to drive with ease through the centre of London, oblivious to the complete chaos that will surround the area. It is a disastrous policy, but again the Labour party gave the Mayor the power to do this. It has to live with the consequences. It voted for and welcomed road-user charging. We will hold the Government to account.
There are many more policies that we could talk about for a long time. It is so sad that London has such potential on the transport side. There is a huge underground network, which, if it were run properly and if this disastrous PPP were scrapped, could be the best metro system in the world. We have taxis. We have buses running through the night. The buses have been a success story, but as they have been given an £800 million subsidy, it would be a scandal if they were not. If there is good will on all sides, proper funding and commitment, things can be achieved. The Government are responsible for the present state of affairs and they must answer for it.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I congratulate the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) on securing the debate. He heaped praise on the Government for their role in transport and castigated Transport for London. I hope to be a little more balanced. He should perhaps have called the debate "Get Kiley". We would then have known what notes to prepare. I take it that he is against the use of consultants in any capacity, and will object to the Government's use of consultants in relation to PPP and Railtrack in administration and to the £36 million paid in success fees to tube lines. I will listen to tomorrow's proceedings with interest.
What is interesting about the figures that the hon. Gentleman produced on spending on different consultants is that he managed to obtain them. Can the Minister provide hon. Members with a similar level of detail about the spending on PPP and on Railtrack in administration, so that we can see precisely how much the individual consultants who have been working on
The hon. Gentleman was lucky in securing his information. Many of his final questions about the way in which TFL has operated could be addressed to the Government in relation to PPP and Railtrack in administration. I am perhaps disappointed that he did not do that this morning. He said that it was not supposed to be this way. Of course it was not. A compliant Labour Mayor was supposed to be elected. That did not happen and now he is partly to blame for the mess that we are in.
I will not make the tube the focus of my comments this morning because I want to keep my powder dry for tomorrow's debate. There are clearly many unresolved matters to which the hon. Member for Ilford, South did not refer such as the funding gap, whether the financiers now have partial responsibility for safety, success fees and the conflict between what Londoners expect and the reality, in view of the headline figures and the billions that will allegedly be invested as a result of PPP.
Many matters could and should be raised today. Crossrail is an important project, which is vital for the sustainability of London. As regards phase two of the channel tunnel rail link, I hope that the Minister can confirm that the ongoing discussions about Network Rail have not caused problems.
Congestion charges were the subject of a debate several months ago. If time had allowed, we could have mentioned a positive development at Connex, which has allowed its staff to train as specials. That is a useful development, which I hope other train companies will take up. We could have considered commuter rail services and the franchise negotiations. What is happening to South Central, where is it going in terms of a new franchise, and will it deliver what commuters want?
We could have talked about cycling, and it is a pity that the Mayor is scaling down the plans for the cycle network. We could have talked about road safety. I am concerned about the way in which TFL is operating in that regard. I know of a pedestrian crossing that is desperately needed in my constituency, but we have been told that it will take six months to consider the matter. Work must be done on such issues.
There are problems with consultation. TFL recognises that it is perceived as seeking views on schemes after they have been drawn up, rather than at the formative stage. It is belatedly undertaking to provide clear and accessible information, to consult on schemes at the formative stage and not to refuse to attend local meetings to which it is invited, which is clearly important. Minicabs are a significant issue in London, but what progress has been made on licensing?
Those are some of the issues, but, in the few minutes that remain, I want to concentrate on buses, to which the hon. Member for Ilford, South referred. TFL must significantly improve the information that it provides and, more specifically, the countdown system. For the benefit of those who do not use the buses, that system tells passengers, in theory, when the next bus is due. Some 4,000 displays are to be installed by 2005, but that is not ambitious enough. We must ensure that information about the arrival of buses is available throughout the network, because that is the only way to get people on to the system. In future years, any significant sums that we raise through congestion charging could be used to achieve that.
The accessibility of buses is a significant problem in London and, I suspect, elsewhere. Ramps may not work, or drivers may not be trained to use them. Those who have been trained may feel unable to use the ramps because they are worried that they will not be able to pull them back in. The bus would then have to stop, everyone would have to be thrown off, and a replacement bus would have to be found. I hope that TFL and the Government will tackle those significant issues, which may also require action elsewhere.
I think that all hon. Members agree that London is not moving, and the Minister must accept that he shares responsibility for the crisis. His Government were responsible for drafting the legislation, his party was responsible for creating Ken the martyr and for underfunding London's transport infrastructure for many years.
So concluded Tourism Alliance in its report published in April 2002. That influential body, led by Digby Jones, brings together all the tourism interests in the United Kingdom, but it concentrates on London, where tourism represents economic activity worth about £10 billion each year, about 8 per cent. of gross domestic product. It is London's second largest industry.
Tourism Alliance homed in on the issue of political in-fighting. If anyone doubted that that was happening, those doubts were removed today. I cannot understand the motive of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) in introducing the debate in the way in which he did. I congratulate him on his success in the ballot, but it is regrettable that he chose to spend half an hour laying into people who are in no position to defend themselves in this Chamber, instead of concentrating on the real issues that affect Londoners, such as the appalling state of transport in London. I do not know
Mr. Chope : I accept that. The hon. Gentleman takes full responsibility for what he said, but this is part of a pattern, whereby Labour Members are more interested in political in-fighting and point scoring than in delivering services to Londoners.
Let us remind ourselves of the awful nightmare in which Londoners currently live. Traffic crawls at 9.9 mph, the lowest speed since the era of the horse and cart. The Mayor of London has taken down his red flag from County hall and now carries it before him on the streets of London. In any 24-hour period, almost the same number of vehicles enter London now1.6 million in 2001as in 1987, when the figure was 1.59 million, yet as the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said, her journey has increased during that time from 30 to 45 minutes because of congestion. That congestion is not caused by an increase in vehicles, because there is hardly any increase in the number of vehicles entering London; it is caused by other factors, such as road works, manipulation of traffic lights and ill-designed traffic-calming schemes.
Back in the days of the Greater London council, I remember a half-baked scheme to try to close off most of the roads in London. Fortunately, that scheme did not go ahead because of central Government intervention, but we now have an independent Mayor, who seems to be able to achieve now what he was unable to achieve before.
Significantly, road safety is deteriorating fast. In spite of the lowering of traffic speeds, we are witnessing totally unacceptable carnage on London roads. Some 357 people were killed on London's roads in 2001, an increase of 73, or 25 per cent., on the previous year's figure. Almost one in 10 of the people killed on Britain's roads are killed in London, where the traffic is travelling relatively slowly. That is a major indictment of Transport for London and the Labour party.
Ms Abbott : Briefly on the point about road safety, there are particular concerns about children. The sad fact is that children in poor areas are far more likely to die on the road than other children. That is a serious issue.
Mr. Chope : The hon. Lady is absolutely right. When I was the Minister responsible for road safety, I was conscious of that. I am disappointed that the road safety statistics are now going in the wrong direction and that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of society are suffering most.
London has the most disrupted, overcrowded and costly underground network in the world. We shall debate that tomorrow, so I will not pursue the matter now. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ilford, South would
What is the prospect for the future? It is for more litigation, more political in-fighting, higher fares and charges, more congestion and pollution and the nightmare of congestion charging40 or 50 per cent. of it to be paid for by the people living by the gateway at which the charges will impact. That will create diversion of traffic, distortions in the market, additional journeys and a nightmare for Londoners. We have the prospect of higher tube fares or much higher precepts in order to deal with the enormous funding gap that has been identified in the papers for London Transport, particularly for London Underground. There might have been some improvements on the buses, but overall the costs have shot up, investment has fallen and service is deteriorating. It is a nightmare, yet the hon. Member for Ilford, South spent hardly any time talking about that.
In contrast, my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) made some constructive comments, based on his experience and that of his constituents in facing up to what is happening in London. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) rightly drew attention to the extent to which the hon. Member for Ilford, South must share responsibility for what has happened: he is the joint author of the situation that he described so vividly. He introduced us to superb political theatre. The fantasy was enhanced by clear evidence of his short-term memory loss: he had been involved in the wrong side of the argument when Conservative Members were warning Londoners of the consequences of what the Government were doing.
The Government's attitude seems to be to say, "Hands off. It's nowt to do with us guv. The congestion charging scheme is a matter for the Mayor. We are not involved in it." There was an amazing response in the other place whenViscount Astor asked whether the Government endorsed the Mayor of London's proposals on inner-London congestion charging. He was told by the Minister responsible, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston:
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South spoke forcefully and eloquently, as always. He raised some important matters. I cannot comment too extensively on the issues to do with the Mayor, but I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend said, and I am sure that it will be noted in other quarters. As we speak, the process of accountability is taking place in the London Assembly itself. The Mayor is answering questions at this very moment.
My hon. Friend raised several important points in his well-researched manner. Transport for London is a best value authority, and it must therefore demonstrate best value for money and services. It is answerable to the district auditor for its plans. The actions of TFL are subject to the scrutiny of the Assembly, and decisions require the approval of the TFL board. Accountability for many of the matters that he raised is down to other sources, and properly so.
My hon. Friend spoke at some length about appointments that the Mayor has made to his management team. That is a matter for the Mayor. If the voters do not like what he has done, or are concerned about the matters that my hon. Friend has raised forcefully todayI am sure that they will be mentioned at any future electionit is for the people of London to hold the Mayor to account. I am sure that they will.
My hon. Friend gave an outline of how things were in London. If we are to sustain a vibrant and flourishing economy across Britain, and particularly in London, we need to reform and to invest in our transport infrastructure. Our transport system has suffered not years but decades of under-investment. Wherever we look, whether at rail, road or air, there are tremendous strains and stresses. However, we are the world's fourth largest economy. I am pleased to say that in recent years our economy has grown and improved.
London is important not just in Britain but as a world city. It is a major financial and business centre. I note that the latest Healey and Baker European cities monitor rates London as the best European city for external links and the second best for internal travel. It is worth putting London in the context of the rest of Europe. However, we should not be complacent.The scale of London and the complexity of the transport system, coupled with the enormously high demand, mean that the city's transport problems are of a considerably different magnitude to those in other parts of the country. London's successful economy has placed great strains on roads, rail and the underground network, especially at peak times. I am sure that the pressures of demand will increase.
Ms Abbott : The Minister mentioned the importance of transport to people who work. However, I remind him that there are big pockets of unemployment in London, and developing the transport infrastructure has an important role to play in regenerating areas such as my constituency.
Mr. Jamieson : My hon. Friend has raised an important point, and what she said applies throughout the country. It is necessary to improve transport, especially bus services, for people who are not in work or who live in areas of long-term high unemployment. There are certainly large pockets of wealth in London, as there are large pockets of poverty; that is the position in many other cities. Improving transport links, particularly to enable people to enjoy some of the benefits of the improvement in the economy, are important.
Tom Brake : Can the Minister confirm that there has been no threat to the channel tunnel rail link phase two, and that that is not the reason why the negotiations about Railtrack in administration and Network Rail seemed to have been prolonged?
The plan takes a long-term approach to the problems that face us. It is a working document. We want to see it develop. We have put in place the funding to carry out many schemes. I am pleased that the stop-go funding that characterised previous Governments has now come to an end.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South and others mentioned the crossrail development, in which much interest has been shown. The Government will support viable proposals for a new east-west rail link across London. The project is highlighted in the transport plan as potentially contributing a 15 per cent. increase in seating capacity on the rail and underground network in central London during the morning peak. I know that my hon. Friend has particular ambitions and the actual detail of the project will come to pass shortly.
We are debating London Underground tomorrow on the Floor of the House, but it would be remiss of me not to refer to it today. Through the PPP, the modernisation of the tube is almost ready to begin. The plans are designed to unlock unprecedented sums for investmentsome £16 billion over the next 15 years, including £4 billion from the private sector.
The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) and others drew attention to congestion charging. I cannot comment on the legal challenge that has been made by Westminster. That is a matter for Westminster and the Mayor to sort out between themselves. We are keeping a close eye on the development of congestion charging. We provided such powers under the Greater London Authority Act, and other Acts have given local authorities throughout the country the ability to introduce congestion charging. Enabling powers have been given to the GLA and local authorities. It is for those authorities to make sure that they account democratically to their local population for schemes, whether they work or whether they do not. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that improvements to public transport must go hand in hand with the congestion charging policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) made a similar point.
Whenever I speak at meetings outside London, all I hear is that the south-east and London are getting all the money, so it is interesting to hear those who represent constituencies in and near London saying that the money is not being spent in London. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) will know that, under the 10-year plan, £182 billion will be spenta massive 44 per cent. increase on the previous decadeand that £25 billion of that sum will be allocated to London in the next 10 years. That is a substantial amount of money.
As always, I have not had time to respond to all the points that have made in the debate, which at times was more like a London Assembly debate than a debate in the House of Commons. None the less, I have enjoyed it and many valuable points have been made. If hon. Members wish to pursue points that were not answered, I shall be delighted to do that through correspondence.