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Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), who is very experienced in these matters. We are happy to add our names to her amendment; I hope that that will not do heror rather ourcause too much harm.
It would be churlish of me not to welcome the opportunity for the debate. I presume that this two or three-hour debate is the second and final phase of the wide consultation on the Government's part-privatisation plans for London Underground that was promised by the former Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. I hope that the debate will focus on the public-private partnership rather than on the personalities involved, including the Mayor of London, Bob Kiley,
Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): Can the hon. Gentleman explain how it is possible to hijack one's own debate?
Tom Brake: Many hon. Members thought that a debate entitled "Transport in London" would be about transport in London, but that was not the case.
The Government have always stated that their approach to the modernisation of the underground would be based on three principles. I quote:
Is PPP compromising safety? There is no doubt that PPP will make managing safety issues more complex owing to the fragmentation that it introduces to the industrythe very sort of fragmentation that has caused so many problems on the rail network. A network broken up into two parts will have more interfaces and there will be more opportunities for safety standards to diverge. Of course, more complex does not necessarily mean less safe, but it does mean that a greater effort will have to be put into safety standards to achieve the same level of safety than would be the case if there was not that fragmentation.
Of still greater concern is Transport for London's assessment that PPP hands over to the infracos' financiersnot to the infracosdecision-making powers over safety matters. On 19 June, Bob Kiley wrote about that to Mr. Stephen Williams of the Health and Safety Executive. So far, he has not received a substantive response. In his letter, he said that
Will the Minister confirm whether TfL is correct in its assessment of the documents and, if it is, what guarantees he can give the House that the financiers of the infracos will always make safety their priority? If he can provide none, PPP should be put out of its misery now.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): One of the issues that Bob Kiley has raised is the use of subcontractors. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most problematic aspects of Railtrack was the increased use of subcontractors, because much of the labour they used was not permanent or skilled? We do not want that to be replicated on London's underground.
Tom Brake: I agree. The management of subcontractors is a key priority. One of the concerns about the fragmentation of the network is that it will be possible for Tube Lines and Metronet to operate to different standards, thereby making it even more difficult to control the work that is done.
Geraint Davies: The hon. Gentleman seems to be saying that the banks play no role in this, and that they are just leeches taking the money without providing added value. Does he agree that the banks' role is to provide a discipline to the private supplier who offers the service to the public? Does he agree that, without the banks, we are less likely to meet our targets, and with them, if the targets are not met, those private suppliers will be removed and replaced or their profits will be penalised, which will ensure that projects are delivered on time?
Tom Brake: I agree with part of the hon. Gentleman's point. Clearly, the banks have a role in relation to infracos. However, they should not have a role in making decisions that could have an impact on safety.
The final key question is whether PPP represents value for money. We will know the definitive answer when the National Audit Office conducts its investigation. Unfortunately, that will happen only after the financial close, when it is too late to do anything about it for the next 30 years. The NAO's remit must be changed. What is the point of finding in the next couple of months that
I wrote to the Comptroller and Auditor General on 9 May to ask him to consider several specific points. They were:
The NAO will have much to consider and investigatefor example, the obscene sums of money that will be dished out to Tube Lines for its PPP set-up costs, which include £36 million of so-called success fees to be given to Tube Lines' parent companies, Amey, Jarvis and Bechtel, and the more than £100 million that the Government have spent on their consultants.
Metronet has refused to comment on the precise indecency of its golden hello, and stated that
It is not surprising that Metronet refuses to answer legitimate questions about the amount of taxpayers' money it will receive for its efforts. However, I did not expect the same response from the Secretary of State. I wrote to him on 20 June and asked, among other questions:
I do not however welcome the content of the Secretary of State's reply, which confirmed that
When the NAO makes its value-for-money assessment, as well as the nine-figure sums, it will have to take into account the fact that the start-up costs for a bond issue would be approximately £40 million, compared with between £440 million, according to The Guardian, and £570 million, according to the Evening Standard, for the Government's plan. It will also have to take account of TfL's estimate that a bond issue would have cost
Five years ago, Labour promised miracles for the tube. The Deputy Prime Minister stated: