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Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire) (Con): Of course I take the point that land which is redundant today might not be redundant tomorrow. Just before privatisation, a lot of land became redundant because of
27 Jan 2005 : Column 502
the inefficiency of the railways under nationalisation. Privatisation led to more demand, and although we now want the duelling of track throughout my constituency, we did not want that under nationalisation. However, surely that does not negate the value of reporting to the House about what is thought to be operationally viable in the future or redundant in the way envisaged by new clause 6. Why not keep the House of Commons informed?

Mr. McNulty: I am not saying that the House of Commons or anyone else should not be informed, but the ORR and Network Rail have a relationship in the first instance through which they can consider what happens to land. Let me go into a bit more detail, although we can return to the matter if hon. Members wish.

Network Rail's forecast income from property was closely scrutinised by the ORR as part of the access charges review in 2003, precisely to ensure that Network Rail was maximising the revenue generating potential of its property portfolio. In the conclusions of the review, the ORR determined that Network Rail should earn £1.2 billion in property income over the five years from 1 April 2004, which was £50 million more than Network Rail had forecast. That is clearly a challenging target, but assets, buildings and other portfolios do not stand idle while people decide what to do with them, because they form part of Network Rail's overall budget. As has been said, it is clearly best for Network Rail to determine how best to manage its property portfolio from day to day to optimise revenue earned from that without compromising its core business of operating, maintaining and renewing the rail network. It would not be terribly appropriate for civil servants or politicians to get involved in that process.

The ORR thus already regulates and monitors the disposal of Network Rail's land and property. Network Rail's network licence includes a condition that was imposed by the rail regulator to prevent the disposal of land by Network Rail unless the ORR consents to such disposal. When reaching a decision, the ORR will consult various railway industry stakeholders for their views. Consent is likely to be refused if the land could be important to the continuing operation and further development of the network, as I said.

The purpose of the licence condition is to ensure that parts of the Network Rail property portfolio that might be required for the future development of the railway are retained for that purpose. If consent is given, which may be for an individual case or in accordance with a general consent covering specified categories of land, the decision on whether, when and how land should be disposed is a commercial one for Network Rail.

A balance must be struck between what the ORR reports about the previous disposal and utilisation of assets and the real commercial considerations of the ORR and Network Rail. Many of the suggestions made by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire are covered in one way or another by the relationship between the ORR and Network Rail. However, the arbitrary time frames in new clause 6 are not appropriate. When the post-SRA world settles down, I am more than happy to ensure that the right hon. Gentleman, his colleagues and anyone else who needs to know are aware of Network Rail's assets register, land
27 Jan 2005 : Column 503
holdings and the targets for the next periodic review. In that context, I would suggest that most of the concerns addressed by new clauses 5 and 6 either have been covered already, or are well on their way to being covered. Although I accept the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's points, I hope that he will withdraw the motion.

Mr. Greg Knight: We have had a worthwhile debate. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) criticised what he described as the narrow drafting of the new clauses, but accepted the thrust of the argument behind them. I suppose it was a case of praising with faint damns, but I thank him for his qualified support.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) drew the House's attention to specific problems occurring in his part of the country, and I am sure that the Minister will reflect on his comments. My hon. Friend made a telling point when he said that bridges on some parts of the network are choke points. They are indeed a big problem on a large part of the network, and in many cases they prevent the network from being opened up to increased freight business. If redundant assets could be sold to fund bridge replacement work, both passengers and freight customers would benefit.

We take the Minister's point about retaining—where appropriate—currently unused railway land if there are plans to bring it into use in future. We accept that, of course, but it was not part of the aim we sought to achieve through new clause 6. I was delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman accepts that Network Rail could do more and be more proactive about enhancing passenger flow. We give him two cheers for clearly acknowledging that more could be done. I hope that as long as he is a Transport Minister, he will stay on the case and ensure that Network Rail is indeed more active in improving the quality of travel for passengers. In the light of his response and of the fact that the Minister acknowledges that there is a problem, I shall not pursue new clause 6 any further.

I was less convinced by the Minister's response to new clause 5. There is a case for saying that as long as the railways remain under the wing of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State should be answerable to the House and should have a duty to publish a rail efficiency report—if only to focus his mind and ours on the fact that more could and should be done to improve rail efficiency. Although I thank the Minister for his comprehensive response, I still have some doubts regarding new clause 5, and when in doubt one should always take the mood of the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 222.

Division No. 53
[3.29 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Barker, Gregory
Beith, rh A. J.
Bellingham, Henry
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Malcolm
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, David
Carmichael, Alistair
Cash, William
Chope, Christopher
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Curry, rh David
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gill, Parmjit Singh
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Hendry, Charles
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jack, rh Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lilley, rh Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, rh Michael
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, rh Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Randall, John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Dame Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Weir, Michael
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wishart, Pete
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Mark Prisk and
Andrew Selous


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, rh John
Beard, Nigel
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brennan, Kevin
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Byrne, Liam (B'ham Hodge H)
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clelland, David
Coffey, Ms Ann
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, David
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Darling, rh Alistair
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hendrick, Mark
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
McAvoy, rh Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, rh John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Michael, rh Alun
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Rooney, Terry
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Iain (Hartlepool)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

James Purnell and
Ms Bridget Prentice

Question accordingly negatived.

27 Jan 2005 : Column 506

New Clause 9

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