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As I said, two Conservative Members of Parliament are standing in a leadership contest, and I looked for more up-to-date information on what they have to say about the railways. I checked out the website for the shadow Home Secretary. On 29 March, he listed 14 campaigns, all of which he seemed to have launched on that one day. The website did not list other campaigns since that date, which perhaps explains what is happening to his leadership campaign.
Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): The hon. Gentleman may care to reflect that the successful campaign that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) conducted on that issue enabled him to double his majority over the Liberal Democrats at the general election.
Tom Brake: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, but I repeat my view that basing one's transport policy on the need to secure direct trains from one's constituency to London is short-sighted.
"We must give voice to a Conservative instinct that has been silent for too long: our belief that the quality of life matters as much as the quantity of money. People in Britain today don't just want to be better off financially, with decent, well-paid jobs. They don't just want public services that work. They want Britain to be a place which lifts the spirits."
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is in danger of going down a branch line. The debate is about the Government handling of decisions relating to Railtrack and the Prime Minister's amendment to the motion. The hon. Gentleman is not speaking directly to that at the moment.
The incompetence demonstrated by the Conservative Government when they created Railtrack and privatised the railways does not exonerate Labour. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton identified some interesting facts, including the number of miles of new railway line to be built in the next few months. In 2007, 24 miles will be completed, so I assume that this year none will be built. He also told us that just three transport projects costing £500 million or more have commenced since 1997. Things were supposed to be different, as the 1997 Labour manifesto makes clear:
"The process of rail privatisation is now largely complete. It has made fortunes for a few, but has been a poor deal for the taxpayer . . . There must be convenient connections, through-ticketing and accurate travel information for the benefit of all passengers."
The Secretary of State may wish to comment on the need for convenient connections, which are not yet available at King's Cross, St. Pancras or in the Thameslink box. They will not be available at Stratford station unless a travelator is provided. And we await progress on through-ticketing in relation to the Oyster card.
A subject that Conservative speakers have repeatedly raised in this debate is the link with the Chancellor. They have asked whether he has had an active hand in everything surrounding Railtrack and its demise. The evidence that all lines lead to the Chancellor in relation to transport policy involves not Railtrack but the public-private partnership for the tube, but I shall not dwell on that subject, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you would probably call me to order. However, that partnership has not been a great success, and I do not imagine that the Chancellor will want to stress his involvement in it.
In a final comment on Labour's performance, I must point out that the Strategic Rail Authority was to have been the solution to these problems, and the body that would have ensured that the strategic planning infrastructure was appropriate. The Government announced the legislation to introduce the authority to
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great fanfare in 2000, but now, just a few years later, it has very inconveniently been disbanded, with millions having been handed over to consultants in the process.
A clear consensus is emerging that Britain's transport problems can be solved only by environmentally sustainable strategies, and that the railways will form an essential part of that solution. That is why this debate should have been about the future of the railways, not about things that have happened in the past. Those issues were examined in the court case, and the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges will consider the activities of the right hon. Member for North Tyneside, which is the appropriate course of action.
I did not agree with much of what the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton said, but I agree with him that the House is the place to redress grievances. They include those that were imposed by the decades of underinvestment in the railwaysthe delays, the cancellations and the overcrowdingthat previous Conservative Governments inflicted on the travelling public, aided and abetted to a certain degree by the present Government. Those are the grievances that people want to see redressed today, but it is clear from the debate that people will remain dissatisfied. They will get only forced indignation and no humility from the Conservatives. The travelling public's grievances will have to be redressed on another day.
Mr. Stephen Byers (North Tyneside) (Lab): I listened with great attention as the motion was moved by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). I spent just over three weeks in the High Court at the end of June and the beginning of July, and the hon. Gentleman's speech was a total rerun of every argument that was put before the court. There was nothing new in his contribution. None of the documents to which he referred was new or fresh. I think that he said that some of them had been leaked, but they were all disclosed to the public during the court proceedings. In relation to the evidence that was put before the court when I petitioned for administration, the bundle of all the documents that we put before the High Court was also put into the Library of the House by the end of October 2001. So all the details and documents have been made available to Members of the House and, indeed, to the wider public. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was right to say that the judge had complimented the Department on its full disclosure, including that of documents that would usually have had legal privilege attached to them and would not have been disclosed in the normal course of events.
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