Mr. Gardiner: Does my hon. Friend agree with the Comptroller and Auditor General, who said that under the PPP the private sector would not have any operational responsibilities on the network but would mainly be responsible for the work that goes on overnight while the
Mr. Robinson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend because I was about to come to those points, particularly safety, but let me clarify where the split in regard to operations takes place. Drivers will be provided by the public sector, which will also set the timetable and service levels. Safety levels are set by the Health and Safety Executive, which has yet to sign off on the contracts, so that safeguard is already built in. They will be controlled by London Underground, which is already subject to them. The same standards will be imposed on the major infrastructure companies and monitored very closely. The safety issue will be emphasised in the new arrangements.
As I have said, the contracts are signed subject to two qualifications. I sincerely hope that the judicial review will find in favour, that Brussels will not interfere, and that the PPP will be able to proceed. However, there is one very nasty storm cloud on the horizon. The Mayor and Mr. Kiley could seek to appeal the decision in Brussels if it is positive to the PPP. That could get us into another legal wrangle, which might, I understand, last up to 14 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich, the Chairman of the Select Committee, said that we had been at it for four years. We have completed it. We are now there, but there is that one last danger: a spanner could be thrown into the works at the last moment.
The private sector would walk. We know the damage that we are having to repair with Railtrack. The investment would not be there and we would really face delay. The only sufferers would be Londoners. Given the success that I am sure the PPP will enjoy, they can look forward to progressive improvements. If we can get ahead with the project now, those benefits will come over the next few years.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South): I note that the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) is continuing the hatchet job on Mr. Kiley that was started by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) yesterday.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) on securing this debate and on the way in which she introduced it. I congratulate the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions on its work and on the two reports that it has produced, which have been very important.
My main concern about the way in which the matter has been handled so far relates to the delay. It was in 1996 that the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) said at the Labour party conference that we had to get on with it as quickly as possible. Mind you, in the same speech, he said that our air was not for sale, so we have to take his comments with a pinch of salt.
The point was then made in the 1997 manifesto. Then in 1997 a motion was debated on the Floor of the House calling for swift action. Then in 1998 the Deputy Prime Minister came to the Dispatch Box with full majesty and said, "I am not going to be rushed." That is one pledge that he has stuck to.
In Hong Kong, a whole airport was built in four and a half years. Land was reclaimed, roads were built, railways were put in place and tunnels were dug, all in the time that the Government have been deciding what to do about the PPP. In the interim, the Government have bumbled along, making do as far as the underground is concerned, providing a patchwork service. The tragedy is that the underground has such potential, but it has been consistently underfunded.
In the last 10 years of the Conservative Government, in cash terms, they put in £7 billion£700 million a year. Labour Members are keen to say, "If you took out the Jubilee line, we would match the funding." It is not true. If one takes out Jubilee line funding from both Governments, the previous Conservative Government still put in more funding than this Government have done.
Then we had the fiasco in June last year. The then Secretary of State with responsibility for transport proudly announced that the grant had doubled from £267 million a year to £520 million a year, when £775 million had been promised and work had started on that premise.
When the Greater London Authority Bill went through the House, the Conservative party warned there would be a fractious relationship between the Mayor and the Government, and indeed the Assembly. Labour's London manifesto said in 1997:
In the Mayor's letter of 12 June this year, he identified a £1.4 billion shortfall between the Government grant and the authority's funding needs. When I asked the right hon. Member for Tyneside, North (Mr. Byers) when he was Secretary of State how that gap would be filled, and said that the debt would otherwise be dumped on the people of London, he denied that that would happen.
The debt is going to be dumped on the people of Londonunless the Minister wants to intervene now to explain how the funding gap is going to be filled. I notice that he has gone rigid in case any movement may be interpreted one way or the other. The truth is that there is a debt, and the people of London are going to have to pay for it. The Minister shakes his head. That is just what the previous Secretary of State did, but an explanation is needed for the people of London.
I turn specifically to the PPP. The Select Committee reports are devastating. The Government's response rejects those reports in language that they will come to regret. The Select Committee has an in-built Government majority. For it to call on the Government to abandon a major plank of their transport policyindeed, it is at the centre of policy on the nation's capitalis high stakes indeed. Just to give the reason that there will be further
In one sense, the PPP is half right. It is right to involve the private sector, which has demonstrated through countless privatisations that it is more efficient, but this particular way of using it is wrong. One of the lessons that we have learned about Railtrack is that horizontal integration, separating railway from the operations of Railtrack, is a key factor in the failure of its operation. We should have vertical integration.