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Commons Chamber

Volume 422: debated on Tuesday 15 June 2004

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 15 June 2004

The House met at half-past Eleven o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

The Secretary of State was asked

Anti-Semitism

2.

What representations he has received about anti-Semitism in Europe. [178626]

The Government are aware of a disturbing increase in anti-Semitic remarks and attacks across many European nations, including the UK. We vigorously condemn them and remain in close contact with representatives of the Jewish community, here and elsewhere in Europe, to discuss ways of combating anti-Semitism. We were active participants in the recent OSCE—Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe—conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin.

The Minister is absolutely right to say that there has been a worrying increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe. Is he aware that a great deal of that is connected with the situation in the middle east? Does he agree that, whatever views might be legitimately held about the situation in the middle east, it is wholly unacceptable for attacks to be carried out on innocent people and communities in connection with that conflict? Will he ensure that the United Kingdom plays its full part in the coming OSCE conference, due to start tomorrow in Paris, and in particular does as much as possible to stop the international peddling of hate on this subject through the internet?

I cannot but completely agree with the hon. Gentleman's remarks The Government, Ministers and MPs are active in the campaign. The most recent anti-Semitic attack took place recently in France, but a large number of gravestones of French Muslims have also been desecrated at Strasbourg, according to yesterday's Le Monde, with remarks such as "Sieg Heil" and "White Power". Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, hatred of immigrants and xenophobia are all parts of a connected continuum that we must combat very firmly and clearly indeed.

Does the Minister recognise the gravity of anti-Semitism coming from some Islamic sources that links up with the anti-Semitism of the far right in advocating Jewish conspiracy theories, blood libels and holocaust denial? What steps are the Government taking to counter that?

I pay tribute to the way in which the hon. Lady has consistently raised this sickening aspect of modern political discourse. Again, she flags up a concern shared by everyone in the House. That is why I am pleased that the OSCE is focusing on anti-Semitism. I know that the French Government are taking strong steps in that regard, as are the German Government, and we, too, must keep a watchful eye on the situation because hate language in British politics—whether on immigrants, on questions to do with Israel and the right of the Jewish people to their state, or on the problems faced by many of my Muslim constituents—is, I am afraid, on the rise, rather than going down.

It would be disturbing, would it not, if it turned out that taxpayers were helping to fund anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish people? Yet when I recently visited OLAF, the anti-fraud agency in Brussels, Mr. Alberto Perduca, the official in charge of looking at funding for the Palestinians, admitted that it could not be ruled out that cash used by the EU to give funding to the Palestinian Authority might in some cases have made its way to groups to which it should not have made its way. What is the Foreign Office doing to keep that matter under review?

It is rather tenuous to get in a jibe at the EU over the serious problem of attacks on Jewish graves, desecrations of other Jewish memorials and anti-Semitic remarks. The Commissioner responsible, the right hon. Chris Patten, is keeping the matter tightly under control. I accept fully the concerns of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon), but if he has one piece of direct evidence of any money circuiting back into anti-Semitic organisations in Europe, I would love to see it because I promise him and the House that I would take that up with every bit of vigour that I possess.

Middle East

3.

What further steps he will take to encourage the establishment of democracy in the middle east. [178627]

I set out the United Kingdom's approach to encouraging modernisation in the Arab world in a speech that I made at the Foreign Policy Centre on 1 March. In that speech, which has been generally well received in the region, I made it clear that we will work in partnership with countries in the region in support of locally led political, economic and social reform.

In the coming period, we will be responding to the forward-looking statement from the Tunis summit, and concentrating on implementation of the G8 and EU strategies, as well as continuing effective use of our bilateral programmes.

The Prime Minister told me yesterday that democracy in the middle east has got to come from within, but if that is the case, surely we will be waiting for ever. What are the Government doing to force the pace of change in dysfunctional societies such as Saudi Arabia, where women cannot even legally drive a car? In a recent case, a female television presenter was beaten up by her husband for daring to answer the telephone. Saudi Arabia is supposedly an ally of ours. What are we doing to force the pace of change?

I resist the idea that we should force the pace of change in the way that my hon. Friend sets out. We in Europe need to have a certain amount of humility in respect of this issue. Only 30 years ago, which is within the lifetime of many in this House, not only was half of Europe under the Soviets' control, but three countries in southern Europe—Portugal, Spain and Greece—all had fascist dictatorships. We would have resisted the idea that our pace of change within Europe should be forced from outside. We have to encourage change and support the many people in all countries in the region who are actively pursuing change.

Saudi Arabia is beginning a process of reform, even though it might not be as fast as my hon. Friend would wish. Local council elections will be held shortly, and in many countries in the region there are now the beginnings—in some cases, more than the beginnings—of active democratic institutions.

Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House what his view is of conditions for democratic life in Gaza, where the infrastructure has been systematically damaged, houses have been indiscriminately destroyed and demolished, and the quality of life has been comprehensively diminished? At the moment, the international community is raising substantial sums for the restoration of Iraq. If the Sharon proposals for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza are implemented, who will pay for Gaza?

It is self-evidently the case, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman points out, that operating democracy within the Gaza area is and has been very difficult since the incursions by the Israeli defence force, some of which—such as the terrible incursions in Rafah—have been roundly condemned by a United Nations Security Council resolution that the United Kingdom supported. That said, the Palestinian Authority themselves have to take further steps—they could take such steps, even now—to improve the operation of their democratic institutions. For example, they could place the security forces under the full and proper control of the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister, and ensure that they are paid through bank accounts rather than in cash.

In terms of the withdrawal from Gaza, there may be a need for further international aid. I am afraid that the value of some of the aid has been destroyed by Israeli incursions, but we simply have to accept that and try to move on.

I thank my right ho n. Friend for his comments on democracy in the Arab world. Of course, the middle east also encompasses Iran, where there is nominal democracy but there are significant human rights abuses. I doubt whether any of us in the House would recognise Iran as a true democracy. What steps are the United Kingdom Government taking to encourage true democracy in Iran?

I should tell my hon. Friend as an aside that it is an unwise idea to suggest that Iranians are Arabs, because they are not. On his wider point, among many other aspects of an intensive dialogue with the Iranian Government, we have a human rights dialogue, and so does the European Union.

Would the Foreign Secretary tell the House whether there are any democratic states in the middle east other than Israel?

There are states in different stages of democratic development. [Laughter.] I do not believe that we should mod the progress that has been made. Oman and Qatar have recently introduced direct elections, and of the states within the Arab world, only Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have no public plebiscite for national assembly and/or head of state elections. Of course, their political institutions are not in a state that we would describe as full democracy. The Important thing is that that is now recognised within the region itself, and there is a clear programme of reform that has been agreed by the Arab League, not least at its summit in Tunis.

My right hon. Friend will know that, when the Palestinian parliamentary delegation came to this place a few weeks ago, it stressed its wish to hold elections in the occupied territories, which are now several years overdue. It made the point that it is difficult to hold elections where candidates cannot get from one place to another and voters do not know whether they can reach a polling station because they are under curfew. All that is directly related to the occupation. What does my right hon. Friend feel that the international community can do to ensure that elections take place in the occupied territories as soon as possible?

The key thing for the international community, as well as for the Palestinians, the Israelis and those in the region, is to support the active implementation of the road map. If we could get an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza under proper conditions, that could at least set the stage for the normalisation of life within Gaza.

The right hon. Gentleman has just referred to the withdrawal by the state of Israel from Gaza. Would he accept that that must be just the first step and that further steps must include withdrawal from all the west bank settlements, together with sensible proposals for sharing the sovereignty of Jerusalem?

Yes is the answer, and the stages are clearly set out in the road map. As the G8 summit acknowledged, the basic template for our position and that of the G8 in respect of Israel-Palestine remains Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

Brazil

4.

When he next expects to visit Brazil to discuss bilateral relations. [178628]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Bill Rammell)

The Foreign Secretary has no current plans to visit Brazil, but recently met Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim in London. I have visited Brazil twice and the Deputy Prime Minister hopes shortly to visit Brazil. Such contact underlines our commitment to our relationship with Brazil.

Having just returned from an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to Brazil— [Laughter.]— I tell my hon. Friend that it is clear that the Brazilian Government want a very strong relationship with Europe, both politically and commercially, to balance their relations with the USA? Does he agree that it is also in our interests and vital for the whole of south America that progressive democratic Government can deliver and succeed in Brazil? For both those reasons, may I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that if he does have a life beyond the middle east, Iraq and the European constitution, he should give some priority to visiting Brazil?

Despite the jocularity, I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he does on our relationship with Brazil as the chairman of the all-party group. I genuinely believe that such Back-Bencher contributions are an essential counterpart to what we do within the Government. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend's views about the importance of the relationship between the EU and Brazil. Hopefully, if we can make progress on the EU-Mercosur agreement, that would be a significant step forward. It is clearly in our interests and in the interests of the Brazilians that President Lula's Government succeed. Finally, I am sure that the Foreign Secretary has heard my h on. Friend's request.

There has been a lot of talk about reforming the Unite, 1 Nations. Does the Minister envisage a time when countries such as Brazil, or indeed India, will become members of the Security Council, or is it Her Majesty's Government's line that there can be any reform of the I IN provided that the existing Security Council member ship stays static?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is aware of our current policy, which is to be in favour of expansion of the permanent membership of the Security Council. Brazil is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Nevertheless, we believe that in an expanded permanent membership, Brazil is the pre-eminent country from Latin America, and we would be content with that position.

May I tell my hon. Friend that I was also a member of the delegation to Brazil? While there, we had the opportunity of visiting the vice-consul in Sao Paulo who had responsibility for dealing with the very serious drugs trade, which passes through Brazil to the UK. While there is good co-operation between the Brazilian authorities and our people in Brazil in dealing with the drugs trade and they have had considerable success, there is little doubt that they are significantly overstretched. Will my hon. Friend talk to the Chancellor to see whether anything can be done to improve the staffing of Customs and Excise officers in Brazil to tackle the drugs trade? We could then have significantly greater success with comparatively little extra investment.

I certainly agree that drugs trafficking is a significant problem. At present, we fund 100 drugs liaison officers who work out of our posts around the world, but we can always look to do more. I shall pass on my hon. Friend's comments, and I assure him that we keep the matter under active review.

Middle East

5.

If he will make a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. [178629]

The Israeli Cabinet decided on 6 June to approve in principle the removal of all settlements from Gaza, and of four from the west bank, as a first step towards implementation of the road map. The Palestinian Authority also need to deliver on their road map commitments, particularly on security. I fully support the statement made by G8 leaders on 10 June on the next steps for Quartet-led international engagement.

What steps are being taken to help the Israeli Government secure a complete withdrawal from Gaza? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that delivering at least one definite part of the road map is absolutely key to ensuring peace throughout the middle east?

Withdrawal from Gaza itself is obviously in the hands of the Israeli Government. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the problems that Prime Minister Sharon has encountered in his Cabinet in gaining full agreement for the withdrawal plan. However, the road map, which sets out the requirement for withdrawal, was agreed by the Israeli Government as well as by the Palestinian Authority, the neighbours and the Quartet. We look to all parties to the road map to implement their part of its obligations.

My understanding is that the Sharon peace plan intends that the Israelis, after withdrawing from Gaza, should keep control of the Gaza-Egypt border. Is my right hon. Friend making representations to the Israelis that withdrawal from Gaza should be as full as possible?

Active discussions are taking place with the Egyptian Government about the control of that border area, which is known as Philadelphi road. I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of those discussions, but there is full understanding in the international community that that border has to be secure. That, too, is as much in Egypt's interests as it is in the interests of the other parties in the area.

Given that the disengagement plan has the support of the Quartet— as well as the "in principle" support of both Jordan and Egypt and support from this country—what measures is the Foreign Secretary taking to persuade the Palestinian Authority to accept and support it?

The Palestinian Authority do accept the disengagement plan. They can hardly do otherwise as they have called for withdrawal from the occupied territories for a very long time, but, of course, they have legitimate concerns about the conditions in which the withdrawal takes place. We are in active contact with Palestinian leaders to ensure that any security vacuum left by the withdrawal of the IDF can be filled by Palestinian security forces with the active support of the international community, including the UK.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday that he told the G8 summit that a specific set of actions to restore momentum on the road map should be implemented. Will my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister, impress on Israel through the Quartet the need to refrain from unilateral decision making, especially about Palestinian territory in Gaza or building a wall on Palestinian territory in the west bank?

We continue to impress that point on the Israelis, and we do so repeatedly. The Israelis reply that they have responded to the security situation. The sooner we can get an improvement in the security situation on both sides of the green line, and of the wall, the easier it will be to relax conditions in the occupied territories.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the two-state solution cannot be imposed, and that it must be reached by mutual consensus emerging from negotiations? Does it not follow, therefore, that any return to the road map must begin with the ending of terrorist violence and the start of the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory, but also with the resumption of the dialogue between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority that was derailed by violence last July? What practical steps can the Quartet take to help to create a favourable environment for restarting those negotiations, in terns of helping to underpin security in the region and of producing an economic package that can genuinely address the economic deprivations among Palestinians that make them such ready recruits for terrorism?

I simply say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that while in practice it is not possible for the international community to impose the necessary changes on the ground, it must also be acknowledged by both sides that the policy that they are following is not voluntary but has been decided by the international community in resolutions 242, 338 and 1393. Those are UN Security Council obligations on all parties in the region.

I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the importance of the resumption of dialogue, and that is why a director-level delegation from the leaders of the Quartet will visit the region shortly. We agree on the need for an economic package, and although much of the aid that has been put into the occupied territories in the past has sadly not borne fruit because some of it has been destroyed by actions by the IDF and in other ways, I am clear that the international community will be ready to continue funding any recovery within the occupied territories.

Would the Foreign Secretary also agree that a resolution of the conflict in the middle east would be more easily achieved with the involvement of the Islamic nations in the region? Would it help if—as well as assuring the security and integrity of the state of Israel—the Arab nations were also persuaded to work alongside the Quartet as enablers, facilitators and confidence builders on the Palestinian side? Have there been discussions between the Quartet and the Arab nations about becoming more formally involved in that way?

Yes, there are continual discussions with the Arab League and with individual nations. Some of the near nations—Jordan and Egypt especially—have played an important and constructive role in very difficult circumstances. We also look to all the Arab nations in the region to understand one of their obligations under tho road map and Security Council resolutions, which is to recognise the state of Israel, its right to exist and its right to exist in safety within borders set down by the Security Council.

I welcome the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday that the Quartet will meet shortly. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the Prime Minister of Israel can persuade the settlers to leave Gaza, the properties should be handed over to the Palestinian Authority in part-compensation for all the destruction that the Israeli defence force has caused there?

I understand the force of my hon. Friend's point. There are already some complicated issues of compensation that will have to be resolved, both in respect of the occupied territories and damage in Israel.

India

6.

What assessment he has made of the implications for Indo-British relations of the election of a new Government in India. [178630]

Relations between the United Kingdom and India are already very strong and I believe that they will strengthen further, following the election of the United Progressive Alliance Government. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh on their election victory. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will travel to India soon. Tomorrow, I shall welcome the new Indian Foreign Minister, Natwar Singh, to London, and there are plans for a further three Indian Ministers to visit the UK within the next 10 days.

I draw the attention of the House to my registrable interest in this subject. I welcome the Foreign Secretary's answer, especially as he referred to Mr. Natwar Singh, the new External Affairs Minister, who is a former member of my old college, Corpus Christi college, Cambridge. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the newly formed Government in India are very encouraging? They are broadly based in faith terms, with Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Hindu members, as reflected in early-day motion 1300. They are also broadly based in economic and political terms. Will he ensure that every contact we have with the Indian Government reminds them of the importance of maintaining their commitment to open markets and liberalisation?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Manmohan Singh was one of the pioneers of the liberalising economic programme that began in the 1990s and which has laid the foundation for India's remarkable economic progress since then. They are a broadly based Government, with a Sikh Prime Minister, a Muslim President, a Hindu External Affairs Minister and a Christian leader of the largest party. That emphasises the triumph of Indian democracy and its secular society.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to condemn the money men who hounded Sonia Gandhi from office through the manipulation of the markets a few weeks ago? Will he also welcome the attempt to return India to the broadly based and secular future—and a united future, as the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) mentioned—that Congress has always sought and that was undermined and sabotaged by the neo-fascists of the BJP?

May I make it clear that we had very good relations—close personal and close institutional Government relations—with the previous Government of India and high-level respect for their leaders? My hon. Friend will forgive me, but I am afraid that I shall not get involved in the internal affairs of the Indian Government or Indian political parties. The important thing is that there was a free and democratic election; the people of India made their decision and we should respect it.

Given the likely enormous economic potential and political importance of India over the coming decades, and given the United Kingdom's special links with India in all sorts of ways, will the Foreign Secretary make it a priority of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that the highest attention is given to promoting Indo-British relations?

I entirely endorse the hon. Gentleman's point; the relationship has the highest level of commitment and attention. I have been to India five or six times during the past four years. I was last there at the beginning of February and intend to visit again as quickly as I can, and so will the Prime Minister.

I add my congratulations to India on its vibrant democracy and its continuing commitment to a secular society. What efforts is my right hon. Friend making to maintain the dialogue that the previous Government set up with Pakistan to ensure a peaceful future for that region of the world?

In January, I met Sonia Gandhi and Natwar Singh when they were in opposition, and they made clear to me their commitment to, and support for, the then Government's efforts—the Vajpayee- Musharraf efforts—to secure a composite dialogue, including on the issue of Kashmir. From my telephone contact with Natwar Singh earlier, I am in no doubt at all—nor shall I be, I am sure, after my meetings with him tomorrow—that the Congress-led Government will have the same commitment to pursue that dialogue, which has already produced great benefits for both sides and offers the prospect of a peaceful resolution to the 60year-old dispute over the area of Kashmir.

Drugs Trade

8.

What progress has been made in the fight against the international drugs trade. [178632]

We are making progress overseas in our fight against drugs. We seized record amounts of cocaine last year: 91 tonnes. More and more cocaine traffickers are being arrested, and we are investing record amounts in the fight against heroin, especially in Afghanistan.

I thank my hon. Friend for that response and for his commitment to eliminating the international drugs trade. Although I have never been on an IPU trip, does he accept the situation described in an excellent article on Afghanistan published in the Sunday Herald this week? It pointed out that opium production had doubled between 2002 and 2003 and included an interview with an individual who earned £65 for 5 kg of opium. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that the international community provide alternative sources of income for people in Afghanistan if they are to make real progress and stop the growth of poppy fields in Afghanistan in future?

My hon. Friend is right: we face a serious challenge in tackling opium cultivation in Afghanistan. I should point out that cultivation has not doubled; the latest United Nations survey shows a marginal increase in cultivation compared with last year. However, it seems from anecdotal reports that this year there will be an increase in cultivation in the current planting season. That pattern is not inconsistent with countries where there has been success in tackling the problem—initially there is an increase. However, the key is a comprehensive strategy, as my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, which includes provision for alternative livelihoods.

Since our Government took over the fight against the drug trade in Afghanistan in April 2002, how many hectares of poppies have been destroyed, how many trafficking networks have been dismantled and how much land has been turned over to alternative production? As we have heard, the UN report last year showed that the situation was getting worse. When another UN report is compiled this autumn, does the Minister expect it to show that things are improving under British leadership or still getting worse?

Let me give the hon. Gentleman some specifics on the progress that is being made. A team of Afghan counter-narcotics police officers is now in place, which has seized 125 kilos of heroin. Similarly, the Afghan special narcotics force—an Afghan initiative under the control of the Ministry of the Interior—has seized more than 32 tonnes of opiates and destroyed 32 laboratories. Nevertheless, I do not deny that we face a significant challenge—it is not solely our responsibility—on behalf of the Afghan people and the international community, because anecdotal evidence suggests that cultivation and production may increase again this year. Nevertheless. all the measures that are now in place suggest that in the current 15 months, particularly in the next planting season, we should begin to see, if our strategy is working—I believe that it is—the tide beginning to turn.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, last year, Europol reported to the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security, which is part of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, that its worst nightmares had been realised: laboratories in southern Europe are now producing synthetic cocaine and synthetic heroin that is of a decent level? Its fear is that, once we start to tackle the situation in Afghanistan, that synthetic heroin and cocaine will come on to the market, as the price begins to change. What are we doing, together with other international partners, to tackle that and those laboratories?

I am aware of those concerns, and they underline the problem that, whatever we might say in the House, when we seek to tackle the international drugs trade, we are dealing with one of the most sophisticated, expensively funded organised crime rackets in the world. Everywhere we make an impact on the system—we hope that we will succeed in Afghanistan—we must be aware of the knock-on consequences for those places where the industry will try to go next. That is very much at the forefront of our thinking.

Will the Minister also pay tribute to the Royal Navy for its contribution to tackling the international drugs trade? Recently, HMS Northumberland seized cocaine worth £135 million and HMS Iron Duke seized cocaine worth £250 million. If they had not done so, those drugs would have ended up on the streets of a country somewhere, bringing huge misery. Will he pay tribute to the Royal Navy for using the intelligence available and seizing the drugs? It is vital that they are given the necessary support to ensure that they have a presence on the high seas to tackle the drugs problem where it exists.

I pay tribute to the Royal Navy and the work that it undertakes to support our efforts, but the other point that the hon. Gentleman's question underlines is that, in dealing with the problem elsewhere in the world, we are working not just for the benefit for the people of those countries, but in our own vested interests. The cocaine that originates in Colombia comes to this country, and 95 per cent. of the heroin from Afghanistan fuels the drugs trade in this country. We have a massive vested interest in tackling the problem, which is why we are devoting so much work and investment to it.

Tariq Aziz

9.

What arrangements have been made for a trial for Tariq Aziz. [178633]

Mr. Tariq Aziz is being held by the United States It is the policy of multinational force partners not n disclose the precise location of detainees for security reasons. It is for the US and Iraqi authorities to determine when Mr. Aziz should be handed over to the Iraqi authorities and for the Iraqi authorities to determine the legal procedures that should apply. In December 2003, the then Iraqi governing council established a special tribunal to try senior members of the former regime.

We an part of the coalition, are we not? Will the response to the International Red Cross be the proverbial "Get lost", when it says that, under international law, those people, included Tariq Aziz, should be charged before 30 June or freed? After Elizabeth Wilmshurst, should not the Foreign Office and the United States be a little less cavalier with international law?

We in tie British Government subscribe fully to and follow fully our obligations under international law. That has been the case throughout the Iraqi conflict as well as in the past.

As for the position of Mr. Aziz and other detainees, I should say to my hon. Friend that just before I left the Foreign Office to come here, I saw an item on the BBC website. Although I have had no separate confirmation of this, it says:
"Iraqi Prime Minister lyad Allawi says the US-led coalition will soon hand over high-profile detainees—including Saddam Hussein—to Iraqi custody."
If that is to happen, it will be widely welcomed in the House. It is a matter on which I know the Iraqis and the United States are working.

Given that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have a principled opposition to the death penalty and given that Britain, as part of the coalition provisional authority, will shortly hand over Saddam Hussein for trial, can the right hon. Gentleman say what representations, if any, he has male to ensure that the future Iraqi authorities do not put Saddam Hussein to death? Or does he wash his hands of the matter?

We have made strong representations to the Iraqis about our position in respect of the death penalty. We were successful during the period of the Iraq governing council in persuading it to suspend the death penalty. It is known that Iraqi Ministers have said that they will support the re-establishment of the death penalty from 30 June, and it is also a fact that a number of countries around the world, including China and the United States, are retentionist and operate the death penalty. However, in respect of all those countries, not least and including Iraq, we shall make very strong representations about the need tot to use the death penalty. Those representations will be made on both moral grounds, which are well supported in the House, and on very practical grounds. As we in this country found with the death penalty 50 years ago, one can end up not only convicting the wrong person, but executing the wrong person.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that sufficient funding is in place to assist the work of the Iraq special tribunal?

I cannot say from the Dispatch Box that I am satisfied about that, and I am very happy to investigate the matter further, to write to my hon. Friend and to place the record in the Library of the House.

Iraq

10.

What links exist between his Department and the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division in preparing for national, regional and local elections in Iraq. [178634]

14.

What recent discussions he has had with the UN on the handover of sovereignty in Iraq. [178638]

The unanimous adoption last week of Security Council resolution 1546 endorsed the transfer of authority to a new Iraqi Government and endorsed future security arrangements. The resolution reflected several months of intensive discussions with our international partners and with the United Nations. We were in regular consultation with the political mission led by UN Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, and the UN electoral team led by Carina Perelli. Those close contacts will continue as the UN takes the leading role in assisting the Iraqi Government and people in their preparations for democratic elections by 31 January 2005.

I feel that my question has rather got lost by being linked with the question from the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink). My question is specifically about electoral systems.

If Iraq is to move beyond a rather theoretical legal sovereignty on 30 June towards full political sovereignty on 31 January next year, is not the role of the United Nations of key importance, especially in relation to the establishment of an electoral system? Will the role of the United Kingdom and the USA in this matter be secondary to that of the United Nations?

On the last point, the answer is yes. On my hon. Friend's first point, an electoral commission has been established. Interestingly, there were more than 1,800 applications for appointment and a shortlist of candidates was interviewed by a panel of experts led by Judge Kriegler of South Africa. The final commission consists of seven commissioners, including two women and one United Nations member. It bodes well for the future.

On the electoral system itself—my hon. Friend takes an interest in such matters, as do I—Mrs. Perelli has recommended that the introduction of a national list system for interim elections to the national congress should take place between now and January. Obviously, the subsequent election system operated will be a matter for the constituent assembly that draws up the new constitution.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell the House exactly what support will be provided by Britain in the run up to the 2005 elections? Will that involve additional British troops going to Iraq?

We will certainly provide a good deal of support through our existing troop contingents. The European Union and other institutions with expertise in monitoring and supporting electoral processes will provide support if they, in turn, can get effective security—that is a separate limb of Security Council resolution 1546. The hon. Gentleman will know that troop numbers are kept under continuous review and that any changes will be announced to the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

The Foreign Secretary will recall my question of 8 September about the number of Iraqi deaths. He was kind enough to write to me in November to confirm that when the information was collated, he would write again and place the information in the Library. Will he tell the House when that will happen?

I do indeed recall the question that my hon. Friend asked on 8 September, which was whether

there were effective estimates by the coalition forces of casualties in the conflict during the intense military action and subsequently. I wrote to her with an interim reply in November and examined the matter in great detail. I also looked at the non-governmental organisation website www.iraqbodycount.org, which has its own estimates. I owe my hon. Friend an answer and I am sorry that she has not received one, but that is not due to a lack of application.

On the "Today" programme a couple of weeks ago, I said that I had answered a question about the matter. I was speaking from my recollections, as I made clear at the time, but I should like to point out that I had answered a supplementary question during a statement rather than a parliamentary question—with a capital Q. I apologise for that minor transgression.

One of the key tasks that faces the electoral assistance division and other United Nations bodies is to restore the UN's reputation in the eyes of many ordinary Iraqis following its tarnishing due to the oil-for-food programme. Given that recent intelligence suggests that Saddam Hussein and his immediate family and entourage benefited to the tune of $10 billion, and that intelligence coming out of Iraq suggests that that money is being used to fund the insurgency that faces our troops and threatens the elections, what moves have the Foreign Office taken to back the Iraq governing council's call for a full and independent inquiry?

An investigation is already taking place under the aegis of the United Nations, and it is linked to investigations by law enforcement authorities in several countries. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands that I cannot go into further detail because that might prejudice the outcome of some of those criminal investigations, but we are certainly powerfully seized of the issue.

Is it not the case that under pressure from US Ambassador Paul Bremer, Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers have been banned from fighting elections for three years? Is that not a deeply foolish decision? Would it not be better for them to be engaged in the elections rather than outside fighting?

My hon. Friend might well be ahead of me because I was not aware that that individual had been banned. Ambassador Bremer is entitled to his opinions, but such decisions should be made by the Iraqi Government, with advice from the United Nations.

Burma

11.

What representations he has made to the regime in Burma about human rights and the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi. [178635]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Chris Mullin)

We regularly raise the Government's concerns about human rights with the regime in Burma, and we have repeatedly called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, most recently when my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment met the Burmese ambassador on 1 June.

My hon. Friend will be aware that concern about the situation in Burma is shared across the House and the country. In Edinburgh, for example, the city council has recently voted unanimously to offer the freedom of the city to Aung San Suu Kyi. In view of that widespread concern, is it not time for tough, effective sanctions to be imposed on the regime in Burma to make it improve its dreadful human rights record?

I am sure that Aung San Suu Kyi will appreciate the honour conferred on her by Edinburgh city council. There are already sanctions against the Burmese regime. We adhere to the common EU position, which was renewed on 26 April, that targets EU sanctions on members of the regime, not the people of Burma, who have already suffered enough under that awful regime. Those sanctions include a visa ban on leading members of the regime, an assets freeze and an arms embargo.

Echoing the point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Lazarowicz), it is clear to all of us who take an interest in the tragic situation in Burma that the EU-UK sanctions is against the regime are weaker than the measures that the USA has adopted to pressure the regime, and appear to be enforced with less vigour. What specific plans do the Government have to bring the EU-UK sanctions and their enforcement into line with those of the Americans?

The EU sanctions are reviewed annually, and were stiffened last April. We shall obviously review them in future in light of discussions with our EU colleagues. They are however, EU sanctions, and we have to take our allies with us.

My hon. Friend will know that the junta in Burma has been running a national convention from which the National League for Democracy—NLD—has been excluded. That convention has dratted a constitution that ensures military dominance, which is surely a further retrograde step. Most of Burma's trading is now conducted in euros, since the US has imposed financial sanctions. Is it not time to approach our European partners seriously about financial sanctions against that terrible regime?

We take the situation very seriously. As for the constitutional convention, we respect the decision of the National League for Democracy not to take part, because it is clearly a bogus exercise. It would make no sense at all for it to take part while its leaders are detained, its offices closed down and there is not a shred of democracy in Burma.

Turkey

12.

If he will make a statement on human rights in Turkey. [178636]

13.

What assessment he has made of Turkey's preparedness to begin negotiations on joining the EU. [178637]

I welcome the adoption by Turkey of wide-ranging reforms to improve its human rights performance. I particularly welcome the release of Leyla Zana and three former Kurdish MPs pending their appeal and the first TV broadcasts in Kurdish last week However, I deplore the imprisonment of the journalist Hakan Albayrak of Milli Gazete and hope that he will soon be released.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Is he aware of the campaign by Amnesty International to stop violence against women and the fact that the situation in Turkey is so bad that Amnesty has issued a country-specific report highlighting the fact that honour killings are widespread, lenient sentences for rape are common and that Turkish authorities rarely investigate complaints by women about rape or murder? Will he do all that he can to persuade the Turkish Government that it is in their best interest to make sure not only that international and regional treaties are ratified but that perpetrators are brought to justice so that violence against women is ended in that country?

I wrote to Amnesty congratulating it on that report, which I hope receives, wide circulation in Turkey. The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to it, and it will play a prominent role in discussions in July between Turkey and the UK as part of our human rights dialogue.

My hon. Friend rightly points to the substantial improvement in Turkey's human rights record since the election of the present Government, but he also points out, rightly, that Turkey has some considerable way to go to conform to its existing commitments as a signatory to the convention on human rights of the Council of Europe. Will my hon. Friend make it clear that while human rights are certainly a measure by which Turkey's accession to the European Union will be judged, from Britain's point of view we want Turkey to be a member and one that conforms to proper EU standards, and that those from other partner countries in the EU who seem to wish to impose an arbitrary block on Turkey are heading in the wrong direction?

Quite so. Every human rights representative, lawyer or organisation with whom I have been in contact in Turkey has urged that Europe gives a positive response at the end of the year to Turkey's application to be considered as an EU member. They believe that that will be the second great modernisation of Turkey, after the Ataturk modernisation. They want to see European Union values, ideas and officials, and EU money being spent in Turkey to continue that process of modernisation.

Does my hon. Friend agree that if a start date for negotiations is given in December, it will send a positive message that negotiations are to begin with a predominantly Muslim country, which will help us to define our concept of what Europe is?

I agree with my hon. Friend. May I, through you, Mr. Speaker, thank him for raising forcefully in Turkey last month the case of Leyla Zana and other human rights issues in the discussions with the Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul. My hon. Friend was treading in the footsteps of the Prime Minister, who has also made representations on human rights issues directly to the Turkish Government, and he is right, of course, that in our dialogue with the Islamic world, there is an enormous opportunity to see an Islamic democratic state with great problems—I accept that—that is seeking to move in the direction of Europe. The Mediterranean coastline of Turkey lies to the west of that EU member state, Cyprus. Istanbul is a cradle city of European civilisation. I hope all member states will support Turkey's ambitions, if it meets all the relevant criteria.

But is the Minister not concerned by the developing opposition of a number of leading European political parties to the eventual Turkish membership of the European Union? Does he agree that that trend has sadly more to do with populist domestic considerations than with concerns about Turkey's democratic or human rights record?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who is a great expert on Austria, where some of those symptoms manifest themselves. I urge all the Opposition parties, but principally the main Opposition party, to become actively involved in a pro-European way in the European People's party, to enter into a dialogue with the Conservative and Christian Democratic parties of Europe, to drop their ridiculous continuing obsessive hostility to Europe and to become pro-British and pro-Turkish by becoming pro-European.

I am tempted to ask whether that was the message that the Minister got on his pager earlier. Will he use what influence he has with his European colleagues to expedite the announcement of a starting date for the negotiations on accession for Turkey? Turkey is making welcome efforts to conform to the Copenhagen criteria. It has been immensely constructive recently in seeking to resolve the problems of Cyprus, and of course it has been a staunch ally for many years in NATO. Would Turkey not also bring great value to the European Union as a natural bridge between Europe and the Islamic world, as also having historic links with the middle east and having very strong relations with the state of Israel? Does the Minister agree that an early start to negotiations, however long they may take to complete, will give Turkey the encouragement it needs to make progress at this time?

It seems that since Sunday we are making distinct progress. Here is one aspect of European policy on which I can agree with every word the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. I pay sincere tribute to the statements of the shadow Europe Minister on Turkey. There is no division between the Front Benchers on this issue. I would simply say that the Conservatives could be strong advocates for Turkish membership if they were to be active players in Europe instead of being seen, as they are at the moment, to be permanently hostile to Britain's full engagement in the European Union, particularly under the forthcoming constitutional treaty.

Cyprus

15.

What recent discussions he has had with the (a) Greek and (b) Turkish Governments on the future of Cyprus. [178639]

At yesterday's General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels, at the UK-Turkey summit on 17 May, which was attended by the Prime Minister, and via our ambassadors in Athens and Ankara, the Government have been in regular contact with the Greek and Turkish Governments following the referendums in April on the UN Secretary-General's plan for the settlement of the Cyprus problem.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that now that the Turkish Cypriots have overwhelmingly voted yes in the referendum, we should be considering not only how we can start to normalise relations with the northern part of Cyprus, but how we can talk to the Greek Cypriot population, perhaps with our colleagues in the European Union, to try to make real progress towards a united island of Cyprus?

My hon. Friend is right. As the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement on 28 April, Britain is engaged in dialogue with both communities on the island. The people in the north of Cyprus—the Turkish Cypriots—sent a clear yes to Europe; unfortunately, that was not the result from the Greek Cypriots. We believe that the UN Secretary-General's plan remains the best way forward for allowing a united Cyprus to enter the European Union.

Trade Unions (Political Funds) Reform

12.31 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to limit the requirement to re-ballot on the maintenance of trade union political funds to a total of three consecutive ballots.
I thank hon. Members who have signed various early-day motions that I have tabled on this subject over the past year. I note the absence of Liberal Democrat and nationalist Members both from the Chamber and from the signatures on many of my EDMs. My hon. Friends will not be surprised by the omission of the signatures of Conservative Members.

It is somewhat ironic that the Liberal Democrats and the nationalists choose not to back this proposal. The trade unions that have been most affected in practical terms by the requirement to ballot on a trade union political fund are the civil service and teaching unions, which have repeatedly felt somewhat constrained in their ability to be involved in the political process and have faced dilemmas and quandaries about whether to have a political fund. It would be irrational and unfair to assume that if those unions currently had a large political fund, they would choose not to direct it in favour of a political party, but to attack on behalf of their members—positively, negatively or in whatever way they choose—the Government of the day. From 1984 to 1997, they would have had more ability to attack the then Conservative Government, but if they had had less restriction on their freedom to be involved politically over the past seven years, they would undoubtedly have chosen to express their concerns about the current Government.

Trade unions have been involved in political activity since their creation and, for the past century, have faced regulation on how to operate politically through a requirement for a separate political fund, unlike companies and wealthy individuals. The genesis of that relates to an example that involves the Leeds Labour party, which was established in 1901. A member of my family, who was a shop steward in an engineering works, was one of the founding members. His employer told him that it was perfectly acceptable for him to be involved industrially as a union shop steward, but that if he chose to join the new Labour party he would neither be promoted nor have security of employment. By the time political funds were introduced, he had spent three years unable to work in any engineering company in Leeds solely because of the decision to be involved politically. Those who wished power in this country to be weighted heavily and indiscriminately in favour of a specific set of people knew exactly what they were doing.

The development of political funds enabled Members of Parliament, who were initially unpaid, to be put forward, elected and live while they were Members. The 1933 Hastings agreement legitimised the process by creating a system of sponsorship. As Members of Parliament began to be paid a living wage, union support became entirely electoral.

In 1984, the unions were picked out for special attention. That was nothing to do with individual rights because contracting out from the political fund was always possible and in some unions, especially white collar unions, it was common. The Tories hoped to cut off Labour's source of income, leaving them with their wealthy backers. They underestimated trade unionists. Ballot after ballot in 1984–85 and in 1994–95 reaffirmed the right to a political fund by huge majorities in every Labour-affiliated union.

Since then, the Nolan and the Neill committees were set up and the sleaze of Tory money began to be regulated. Cash for questions and nights in the Ritz hotel led to demands for action on transparency. We now have a parliamentary and a legal framework for political donations. That is right and proper but it creates an anomaly.

Union money has always been transparent. It is published and accountable. Now it is doubly transparent and accountable due to political party and MP requirements to declare any donations. Why, on top of that, should there be a red-tape burden of bureaucracy and regulation, forcing the waste of unnecessary regulation and expense on the unions? In recent months, Amicus, the print union, the Transport and General Workers Union and others have won ballots by huge majorities. Even the fence sitters must accept that the transparency laws work. Why one law for the rich individual, for company donations and for the Wheelers and the Ecclestones, but two for the unions?

My Bill provides that enough is enough three times and you are out. I cannot imagine a more modest proposal. Once three ballots have succeeded, let us cut back the unnecessary red tape and burden of regulation. Let us have one rule for all. I commend the Bill to the House.

12.38 pm

I oppose the Bill. A trade union that wishes to spend money on party political activities must set up a separate political fund for financing any such expenditure. Trade unions must comply with specific statutory requirements in setting up and running such funds and union members have rights in relation to the requirements. For example, no member is obliged to contribute to a union's political fund. The Trade Union Act 1984, which is now the Trade Union Reform and Employment Relations Consolidation Act 1992, made it a legal requirement for unions to reballot their members every 10 years to keep a political fund in operation.

An explanation of how a trade union political fund should be set up is provided by Microsoft, on its very helpful online site for small business customers. It says:

"To set up a political fund, a union must first ballot its members to adopt 'political objects' as a union objective.
The rules for conducting that ballot must be adopted as rules of the union and approved by the Certification Officer for Trade Unions and Employers' Associations before the ballot takes place. Approval will only be given if the political fund ballot rules meet certain requirements. In particular, entitlement to vote must be given to every member of the union, the ballot must be held by post, and the ballot must be conducted and supervised by an independent scrutineer.
Once a political fund is established, a trade union must adopt political fund rules', and these must be approved by the Certification Officer. These rules must safeguard the rights of members by permitting individual members to contract out of contributing to the political fund"

and providing

"that contributing to the political fund shall not be made a condition for admission to the union."

So what are the unions saying about the proposal of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann)? [HON. MEMBERS: "They like it."] Oh, they do like it; indeed they do. According to the trade union co-ordinating committee, there has so far been no evidence of union members wanting to lose their political funds. In the 1980s, 83 per cent. of them voted yes; in the 1990s, the yes vote was 82 per cent. Currently, 35 unions representing 4.5 million members have political funds. Many of them have recently had, or are soon due to have, ballots.

In April 2003, the communications union Connect voted by 81 per cent. to 19 per cent. to keep its fund, in a turnout of 38 per cent. Also in 2003, Amicus voted to retain its fund, with a yes vote of 71 per cent. At the TUC conference in September 2003, 20 unions joined up to launch the trade union co-ordinating committee, combining their resources in fighting political fund ballots. The TUC argument is that the unions are happy with the political funds and that we should leave them to get on with it, on the assumption that, despite there regularly being turnouts of less than 50 per cent. in these ballots, most union members who have voted have supported continued political activity when asked.

I would suggest, however, that that argument is deeply flawed for three reasons. First, it has been shown that many union members want to vote on whether their union gets involved in political campaigning. Only this year, an attempt by some members of the National Union of Journalists to set up a political fund was voted down in a secret ballot, with 53 per cent. of the vote going against the proposal. It has been suggested that that would have been enough to head off a schism, because several high-profile members had threatened to resign if the fund were instituted.

Union members, including the former NUJ president, now the Minister for Europe, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), and media figures such as Jon Snow and Jeremy Paxman had all expressed concern that the fund would prejudice the union's proud political independence. The NUJ had argued that all money in the fund would be used to finance campaigning on behalf of NUJ members, and not to support political parties. That proposal was defeated.

The second reason is that, under legislation introduced by this Labour Government, companies now need to approve political donations. Not only that, but they need to ballot their members on the matter annually rather than once a decade. So I would suggest that, rather than making things easier for the unions by cancelling their once-in-a-decade vote, we need to equalise the position with companies by making unions vote on their political donations annually, as companies currently have to.

The third reason is the changing nature of political funding in this country. As we saw in the Employment Relations Bill, which is now making its way through the other place, the Government are proposing to set up a so-called modernisation fund involving an uncapped amount of money. The Government say that it could be up to £10 million, but it could be three or four times that amount because the Bill currently makes no provision in that regard, although I hope that it will do. That money will be given to unions for so-called modernisation proposals—things that I would have thought their membership subscriptions should be paying for anyway. Even if those funds are not going to be used for political activity, they will certainly leave the unions with more money that could be used in that way. Again, therefore, given the way in which the Government propose to change the law, it is even more important that union members have the right to say how unions should be able to spend their money in terms of politics.

We should also note the changing nature of the Labour party's funding. It has a collapsing membership, its base of new Labour entrepreneurs is rapidly disappearing, and it is becoming increasingly dependent on trade union funding, which, I believe, was some £6.5 million last year. The Labour party is not becoming less dependent on union Funding, but a lot more dependent on it. In fact, it is becoming almost totally dependent on trade union funding I do not see that as a reason for getting rid of union members' ability to vote on political funding but as a reason for giving them more rights as to how their union funds are spent.

As Labour becomes more reliant on such funding, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw asks for less answerability and more opaqueness, when there should be more accountability, more openness and annual debates, as companies must now have. The Employment Relations Bill ratchets up union rights significantly. This would be another attempt to ratchet up those rights even further, but this time to the detriment of union members, who should be given more rights to decide on their funds, not less, as proposed by t his Bill, which I oppose.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):—

The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 98.

Division No. 196]

[12:46 pm

AYES

Atherton, Ms CandyClark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Austin, JohnClarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge &
Banks, Tony

Chryston)

Barnes, HarryClelland, David
Barrett, JohnClwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Battle, JohnCohen, Harry
Begg, Miss AnneCook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Bell, Sir StuartCorston, Jean
Best, HaroldCotter, Brian
Blizzard, BobCox, Tom (Tooting)
Borrow, DavidCranston, Ross
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Breed, ColinCryer, John (Hornchurch)
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.Dalyell, Tam
Bruce, MalcolmDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Buck, Ms KarenDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Burden, RichardDobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Burgon, ColinDobson, rh Frank
Burstow, PaulDonohoe, Brian H.
Cable, Dr. VincentDoran, Frank
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Carmichael, AlistairDrew, David (Stroud)
Caton, MartinEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Chaytor, DavidEtherington, Bill
Clapham, MichaelFarrelly, Paul

Fisher, MarkMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Flynn, Paul (Newport WNaysmith, Dr. Doug
Foulkes, rh GeorgeO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Francis, Dr. HywelO'Hara, Edward
George, Andrew (St. Ives)Öpik, Lembit
Gibson, Dr. IanOwen, Albert
Gilroy, LindaPicking, Anne
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)Pickthall Colin
Hancock, MikeProsser, Gwyn
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)Purchase, Ken
Harvey, NickQuinn, Lawrie
Hepburn, StephenRapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Hermon, LadyRendel, David
Hinchliffe, DavidRobertson, John (Glasgow
Holmes, Paul

Anniesland)

Hopkins, KelvinSalter, Martin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N &Sanders Adrian

Sefton E)

Savidge. Malcolm
Hoyle, LindsaySawfora, Phil
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)Sedgemore, Brian
Iddon, Dr. BrianShaw, Jonathan
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Sheridan, Jim
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Simpson, Helan (Nottingham S)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Squire, Rachel
King, Andy (Rugby)Steinberg, Gerry
Lazarowicz, MarkStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Stinchcombe, Paul
Stunell, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)Taylor. Matthew (Truro)
McDonagh, SiobhainThurso, John
MacDougall, JohnTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Mclsaac, ShonaTurner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton
McKechin, Ann

Kemptown)

McWilliam, JohnTyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Mahmood, KhalidTynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Mallaber, JudyWalley, Ms Joan
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)Ward, Claire
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)Wareing, Robert N.
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)White, Brian
Wilson, Brian
Martlew, EricWinnick, David
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)Younger-Ross, Richard
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Mole, Chris

Tellers for the Ayes:

Morgan, Julie

Mr. Andrew Love and

Mountford, Kali

Tony Lloyd

NOES

Amess, DavidBurt, Alistair
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Cameron, David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE
Bacon, Richard

Fife)

Baker, NormanChapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping
Baron, John (Billericay)

Barnet)

Bercow, JohnChope, Christopher
Blunt, CrispinClappison, James
Brazier, JulianClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Browning, Mrs AngelaCollins, Tim

Davey, Edward (Kingston)May, Mrs Theresa
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice &Moss, Malcolm

Howden)

Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Djanogly, JonathanOsborne, George (Tatton)
Dorrell, rh StephenPaterson, Owen
Doughty, SuePickles, Eric
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)Price, Adam (E Carmarthen &
Duncan Smith, rh lain

Dinefwr)

Flight, HowardPugh, Dr. John
Foster, Don (Bath)Randall, John
Francois, MarkRedwood, rh John
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)Robathan, Andrew
Gray, James (N Wilts)Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Grayling, ChrisRobertson, Hugh (Faversham &
Green, Damian (Ashford)

M-Kent)

Greenway, John Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Grieve, DominicRuffley, David
Gummer, rh JohnSelous, Andrew
Hague, rh WilliamShepherd, Richard
Heath DavidSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Hendry, CharlesSpicer, Sir Michael
Hoban Mark (Fareham)Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Hogg, rh DouglasSteen, Anthony
Horam, John (Orpington)Streeter, Gary
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Syms, Robert
Jenkin, BernardTaylor, John (Solihull)
Johnson, Boris (Henley)Tredinnick, David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Tyrie, Andrew
Keetch, PaulViggers, Peter
Kirkbride, Miss JulieWatkinson, Angela
Kirkwood, Sir ArchyWeir, Michael
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)Whittingdale, John
Laws, David (Yeovil)Wiggin, Bill
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)Wilkinson, John
Liddell-Grainger, IanWilliams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Lilley, rh PeterWilshire, David
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)Wishart, Pete
McIntosh, Miss AnneYeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Maclean, rh DavidYoung, rh Sir George
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey

Tellers for the Noes:

Maude, rh Francis

Mr. Eric Forth and

Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian

Mr. Nigel Evans

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by John Mann, Angela Eagle, Helen Jones, Mr. Lindsay Hoyle, Mr. Parmjit Dhanda, David Winnick, Tony Lloyd, Geraldine Smith, Mr. David Crausby, Brian White, David Taylor and Mr. Bill Tynan.

Trade Unions (Political Funds) Reform

John Mann accordingly presented a Bill to limit the requirement to re-ballot on the maintenance of trade union political funds to a total of three consecutive ballots: And the same was read the First Time; and ordered to be read a Second Time on Friday 15 October, and to be printed [Bill 116].

Opposition Day

[10TH ALLOTTED DAY—SECOND PART]

Transport

I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

12,59 pm

I beg to move,

That this House notes that the Government has failed to meet its target of reducing congestion on Britain's roads by 5 per cent., that congestion is set to rise by up to 20 per cent. by 2010 and that, according to the CBI, traffic congestion costs British industry £15 billion to £20 billion a year; recognises that the Government is failing to meet its targets for increased passenger and freight use of the railways and that rail freight declined by 0.3 billion net tonne kilometres in 2002; regrets the fact that one in five trains is still running late and that reliability on the railways has not even returned to the levels achieved before the Hatfield crash; condemns the Government's failure to decide the future of Crossrail, the East London Line Extension and Thameslink 2000 and the delay of improvements such as the upgrading of the East Coast Main Line; further notes that the Transport Committee stated that the Government has had 'years to address the problems of the railway but failed to take effective action'; calls on the Government to acknowledge that its Ten Year Transport Plan has failed in all its key objectives; deplores the Government's failure to develop a coherent planning strategy for Britain's ports; further condemns the Government for the confusion and blight caused by the Aviation White Paper to many communities near airports; and further calls, in the light of these failures, for a re-evaluation of transport policy which properly recognises the needs of both drivers and users of public transport.
I am delighted to have an opportunity to debate these important issues one day into my new job.

Pull the other one!

The right hon. Gentleman suggests that I am not enthusiastic about this. No one is more concerned than I, who have talked to many of my constituents in recent months about their transport problems, and no one is more enthusiastic about addressing the issues. I will, however, start on the rational and grown-up note that I intend to adopt in dealing with this issue during the next few months, by acknowledging that some of the problems of transport are, indeed, long term. The origins of some of today's difficulties lie far in the past.

In a moment. It is precisely because of that that many of the difficulties need to be addressed more urgently than they are being addressed by the Government.

Let me thank the Secretary of State and his predecessors, however, and most notably the Deputy Prime Minister, who predictably is absent from the House today, for creating a background in relation to transport that is so familiar to someone who has just spent seven and a half months shadowing health and education.

I shall give way in a moment. Health and education are two areas in which Labour has spent much of the past seven years setting targets in Whitehall, very few of which are ever achieved, establishing expensive new quangos that, after a few years of consuming huge sums of taxpayers' money, none of which reaches front line services, are then abolished, and making claims that waiting times are getting shorter. In fact, whether someone is waiting for a hospital bed, for a consultant's appointment or for a train to arrive, they know in many cases that waiting times are getting longer.

I know that the hon. Gentleman's Chief Whip is desperately trying to protect him from my intervention, but the hon. Gentleman said that many of the problems that our Government face go back a long way into the past. Surely the main problem on the railways is the botched privatisation of the previous Tory Government.

I wondered how many minutes it would be before a Labour Member tried to address today's problems by referring to issues that were decided many years ago in the past. If Labour Members are so concerned about privatisation, have they asked the Secretary of State why he has not renationalised the train operating comp lilies? What is the answer to that? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that there should be a renationalisation programme, and how does he propose that that should be financed? Which taxes on his constituents does lie want to see raised to repurchase the train operating companies, many of which have done a successful job?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I said, and to what many others on this side of the House have said. The problem was the particular way in which the privatisation was carried out. It could have been done sensibly, although I should not necessarily have supported it, but to set up all the different organisations—train operating companies, leasing companies and the predecessor of Network Rail, Railtrack— clearly created chaos and confusion. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are the architects of that chaos and confusion.

I note that the right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that he would raise the tax on whisky to pay for the renationalisation of the railway industry.

The similarities in the ways in which Labour has let people down on health, education and transport are depressing, with the same combination of over-hyped policies, endless centrally set bureaucratic targets, broken promises and frustrated consumers. Britain's transport system is used by almost every family in the country almost every day of the lives and, equally importantly, by almost every business. Families, businesses and the whole economy are damaged by the Government's failures on roads, railways and airports. That damage is not confined to the endless delays experienced by travellers in cars, trains and aircraft every day, but extends to businesses, whose competitive position is undermined at a time when competition from abroad is more intense than ever before.

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is new to the job, and he is setting out his concerns on transport policy. I think that he was today quoted as saying that Tory transport policies were at a fairly undeveloped stage. If that is so, when will he start to develop them? Will he be arguing with the shadow Chancellor that the Tories should increase transport spending by more than inflation?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised the question of Conservative transport policy. My colleagues have set out a 10-paint plan to deal with one aspect of policy, about half a which has already been adopted by the Government. We will gradually set out further policies, and the electors will have the choice of either persuading the Government to do the sensible thing and adopt them or, before too long, electing a Conservative Government who will implement them wholeheartedly. After the results of the elections last week, it seems that that day is not far off.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the main problem is a shortage of transport capacity of all kinds? We are short of rail capacity and road capacity. Will a Conservative Government start to produce the bind of infrastructure that we need, preferably using private finance?

My right hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter, and I shall deal with our approach and the Government's shortcomings and failures to increase capacity in the way in which he has suggested in a moment. Looking at business, it is perfectly true that our competitive position worldwide is now threatened by capacity shortages, particularly in roads, railways and airports.

Only this week, the CBI has concluded that Labour's 10-year transport plan has failed. The director general, Digby Jones, pointed out that even after £50 billion of spending in four years, the lack of improvement in road congestion and train performance is "exhausting tolerance" among the public and employers. He went on:
"We have a first-class economy which deserves a first-rate transport system, not the substandard infrastructure that is letting down the country."
Earlier this year, the British Chambers of Commerce reported that only one company in 10 believed that the transport system met its business needs. Only one company in 50 believes that the Government's proposals will provide an effective solution to the transport problems that are holding its business back. The BCC estimates that the costs of meeting the problems caused by the transport infrastructure now amount to £15 billion. One business in three states that the resulting higher operating coats have a significant impact on its business.

Labour's failures on transport, therefore, not only let down millions of frustrated motorists, rail travellers and airport users every day, but are costing the country dear and undermining our international competitive position.

My hon. Friend is giving an insightful analysis into the failings of the policy. Does he also accept that much of the policy was a work of fiction? If we read the transport plan, we find that project after project that the Government committed themselves to having open by 2010—modernising the east coast main line, upgrading the Great Western main line—has now been scrapped. The document is not worth the paper that it is written on.

My hon. Friend anticipates some of the points that I intend to make. He is quite right to say that the Department has an almost unbeatable record for setting targets through a variety of documents, then failing to achieve them. I should mention that we support the idea of having a long-term transport plan. The nature of the issues and the industries involved requires long-term planning, and our criticism of Labour's approach is not the existence of the plan but the execution of it.

Let us consider the Government's record in relation to the motion. The 10-year transport plan promised to cut road congestion by 5 per cent. by 2010, with bigger reductions in major cities. Last year, however, the CBI reported that congestion on key parts of the road network was worse than it was before the plan. Perhaps that is not surprising because under Labour, Britain spends the lowest proportion of motoring taxes on transport of any advanced country. Throughout the period of the 10-year plan, Labour plans to spend less every single year on new roads than Baroness Thatcher's Government spent every single year for which she was in power. Under Labour, in 2001 not a single inch of new bypass was built anywhere in the United Kingdom.

The £6 billion road-building programme that was left behind by the outgoing Conservative Government in 1997, including a commitment to building 150 new roads, was scrapped. Only 37 of those roads were completed. I welcome the fact that belatedly, Labour has restarted the road-building programme. In just the past few days, I have heard that a small project, involving less than £1 million, is to go ahead in my constituency, and I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), for listening to the representations that I and my constituents made about the Old London road link road in Capel St. Mary. I hope that that is the harbinger of further roads to be built in Suffolk. They are certainly badly needed, most notably the Sudbury western bypass. I shall take that up with the Under-Secretary in due course.

Changes of mind in the Government's approach to the roads have not been confined to decisions about building. Road pricing has suffered a similar fate. In the 2002 Budget, the Government said that they would introduce a UK-wide, distance-based road user charge for lorries to ensure that all lorry operators, including those from continental Europe, pay their fair share towards the cost of using British roads and of financing further investment. Since that time, the Department says that it

"has been working closely with HM Customs and Excise to establish the framework for the lorry road-user charge."
It has produced no fewer than three progress reports on the proposed framework, the most recent being issued

this March. It announced that the implementation date has been moved back to 2007–08 to

"leave more time for trials of the final equipment and a phased introduction",
so that

"the Government is now in a position to begin the procurement process".
This is another example of the dithering for which the Department for Transport has become famous.

On the third anniversary of the Deputy Prime Minister's announcement of the 10-year plan, figures from Trafficmaster showed that average journey times had risen by 16 per cent. since 1998, and that motorway congestion was up by 40 per cent. The Freight Transport Association pointed out earlier this year that the condition of local roads is 6 per cent. worse than a decade ago.

It is not just the state of the roads;but the cost of driving that causes concern. Labour remains addicted to raising fuel duty, but we have long opposed the 2p increase planned for this autumn. I remind the House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his 2003 Budget that high and volatile fuel prices provide no basis for raising duty, and that he was therefore deferring duty rises until this autumn. It is clear that if ever there has been a time of high and volatile fuel prices, it is now. All we get from the Chancellor is a commitment to review the decision, despite the fact that because of the fuel price increase, the revenue that he is raising from petroleum revenue tax already greatly exceeds the amount that would be produced by a 2p increase in duty.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the 2p extra per litre on petrol, which will be introduced later this year, will hit disproportionately those who live in rural areas? They do not have a choice between public transport or the car; they have only the car, which they rely on to do their daily business. It is therefore vital that the 2p increase is not imposed in September, so that rural people can at least buy their fuel—the most expensive anywhere in Europe—without that extra tax.

My hon. Friend is right: no group of people suffers more from the Government's war on the motorist than those living in rural communities. He knows from his constituency experience—as I know from mine, and from the visits that I pay to rural areas throughout the country—that the Government have systematically discriminated against people in rural communities. The 2p increase in fuel duty is yet another example of that. As long as the conditions of high and volatile fuel prices remain, the Conservative party will fight tooth and nail against this duty increase. The question now is whether the Secretary of State will join in that fight. We know how close he is to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; motorists will look to him to use his influence on their behalf.

On the railways, the picture is really no better. The 10-year plan promised a 50 per cent. increase in passenger use by 2010, but the Department for Transport's own annual report reveals a growth figure of only 6 per cent. so far. When Labour's own Commission for Integrated Transport advised that the 50 per cent. target be reconsidered, the Government were forced into a U-turn on this issue as well. One way to encourage greater use of the railways might be to make the comparative cost of rail travel more attractive. The 10-year plan promised real reductions in rail fares, but the Government subsequently removed the cap on rail fares, resulting in larger fare increases, with double-figure percentage rises becoming commonplace.

Regular users of the trains, such as me, are painfully aware of how out of date much of our rolling stock remains. The 10-year plan promised that by 2010, new and faster tilting trains would be travelling at speeds of up to 140 mph. There is no longer any possibility of that happening by 2010 on the west coast main line, and there is no definite date thereafter on which this pledge will be honoured. The Deputy Prime Minister's promise that the old mark 1 slam-door trains would be replaced by the end of 2004 has also been broken.

We were promised that under Labour trains would be more punctual, but more than one train in five continues to arrive late. Meanwhile, confusion reigns. The Office of the Rail Regulator, the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail—all creations of this Labour Government—are vying with each other to be the organisation that runs the railways. Re-franchising agreements struck 1D3 the SRA have resulted in station cuts and longer journey times for London commuters—who, incidentally, account for 70 per cent. of all rail journeys in the United Kingdom.

In the period after privatisation, services were increased in response to demand and passenger railway use grew. Now, as uncertainty prevails, the number of complaints from passengers is rising sharply. The Transport Committee, pointed out that

"overcrowding on public transport is bad and is likely to get worse … The current chronic overcrowding in all the major conurbations that gave evidence is unacceptable".

On commuters and London commuters in particular, does my hon. Friend agree that one of the Government's major failings is that they simply have not taken decisions on the railway infrastructure spending that is necessary—I am thinking, for example, of Thameslink 2000—if we are to have the capacity to which he has referred?

I shall deal with Thameslink in a moment. May I tell my hon. Friend how much I enjoyed the journey that he and I look by railway to his constituency only a few weeks ago—in only moderate discomfort—in rolling stock that dated from the 1950s and certainly no later than the 1960s?

Whether the taxpayer is now seeing value for money for rail subsidies running at £14 million a day is extremely doubtful. A s for future projects, as more than one of my hon. Friends has said, delay and dither continue to be the order of the day. Labour claims that it is committed to Crossrail, yet we still have no confirmation that this project is to go ahead. Such delay now means that it will not be built in time for the Olympic games, should they be held in this country in 2012.

In 2001, Labour's general election manifesto stated:

"We support plans to extend the East London line".

Despite that commitment and the fact that only three miles of new track are needed to join up the existing railways that form part of the project, the scheme has been delayed until 2010 at the earliest, and there is doubt as to whether it will ever be completed. Of course, this scheme is part of our Olympic bid, 'allure to complete it may well jeopardise London's chances of success. Indeed, if our bid fails it is extremely likely that transport failures will be one of the main reasons why.

We should not overlook the fact that our financial services industry—an industry in which Britain remains a world leader, and which is heavily dependent on London—itself requires an up-to-date infrastructure to maintain that position, to meet its needs, and to ensure that London remains a city in which people can move around easily, that is pleasant to live in and which can meet the demands of a 21st-century industry.

I wonder whether my hon. Friend intends to address the future of the Strategic Rail Authority. He is doubtless aware of the rumour that it will be abolished, which has come about because the prediction that we made during the legislative passage of the Transport Bill 2000— that the SRA would be a bottleneck for investment and would slow down decision making—has come true. Indeed, even the Government regret setting it up. Is he aware that more people in London are now employed by the SRA than were originally employed by British Rail? Is this not an area in which we could cut waste and improve transport?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I certainly look forward to the Government's announcing their decision on the future of the SRA. I am afraid that this is typical of Labour's approach in so many areas. They establish large new quangos arid employ large numbers of people, none of whom do anything to improve services to customers. What is true for the railways is also true for education and for health. Huge sums of taxpayers' money are then ;pent, and in the end, the Government see the folly of their ways and close down such organisations. The SRA was a creation entirely of this Labour Government, and my hon. Friend has raised a most important point.

On airport capacity, a similar method of ducking or delaying decisions has characterised the Government's approach. The Secretary of State lacks any coherent plan or vision to address the environmental concerns associated with the future of Heathrow. Given that it is very likely that extra airport capacity will be needed—and given that this problem will not only not go away, but will get harder to solve the longer decisions are put off—it is time that we had some answers. Many thousands of people are now suffering blight as a result of the Government's inability to reach decisions.

My own constituency of South Suffolk is affected by developments at Stansted. The expansion of activity there has already caused considerable disturbance in some of the most tranquil areas of East Anglia. There is widespread and justified dissatisfaction with the consultation process, whose shortcomings mean that the first thing that many people in rural communities know about changes in flight paths and increased aircraft movements is the sound of jet planes droning over their homes.

What would the hon. Gentleman say to people who are concerned about the dangers of pollution and night noise from the new Finningley airport?

I would say that they need a clear decision from the Government on how they will tackle those problems—a decision that the Government have wholly failed to take. A proposed further expansion of Stansted now seems to be being advanced without proper environmental or health impact studies or a convincing business case.

We have seen the same head-in-the-sand approach in relation to ports with the refusal of the container port at Dibden bay. There may have been very sound environmental reasons for refusing the application. That is all very well, but at the same time, no one disputes the fact that, within a few years, the UK will run out of container port capacity. Where is the Government's ports strategy? Where is the leadership on that vital issue, which is so crucial to Britain's trading future? We cannot escape the view that, as with airports, the Government are stoking up a bonfire that someone else will have to dampen down.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I wanted to intervene before he altogether leaves the question of airports. What would he say to constituents such as mine who are blighted by the possibility of having a second runway at Birmingham airport, with no idea whatever of what sort of compensation scheme will apply? So far, they have had no consultation either.

I am afraid that my hon. Friend's constituents have suffered not only from the Government's dither and delay, but from the failure of the consultation process. I sympathise greatly with his constituents, some of whom will be in a similar position to those in East Anglia who have similar anxieties. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that, when the happy day dawns and a Conservative Government are elected, those issues will be addressed urgently and responsibly.

Before the hon. Gentleman concludes, does he agree that there is a role for smaller airports—I mean very small airports—to provide something of a regional link? The remote areas of Wales are an obvious example. That can be done without undue disturbance to local residents and there are considerable economic benefits to the communities that such airports serve.

I am happy for local communities, if they want to exercise that choice, to have the opportunity to be served with additional local airport capacity.

Transport is an area of policy whose impact is wider than almost any other. Decisions are in their nature very long term. Delay and uncertainty therefore have particularly harmful effects. A joined-up approach is needed to link planning decisions more logically to transport policy, which provides maximum choice to users and ensures that investment grows on a steady basis. That process should involve a greater element of private finance as a way of promoting that very steadiness.

The country is running out of patience with this Labour Government. After last week's excellent election results, the Conservative party looks forward to presenting its alternative prescription. Meanwhile, I commend the motion to the House.

1.23 pm

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

"recognises that the problems with the transport system stem from decades of under-investment; welcomes the Government's commitment to long-term funding for transport through the Ten Year Plan; acknowledges that one of the main reasons for the continuing pressure on transport networks is that the United Kingdom is enjoying the longest period of sustained economic growth for more than 200 years; supports the Government's determination to face the tough decisions which will be required to meet these pressures and put UK transport on a sustainable footing, including runway capacity at UK airports, management of road space and re-organising Britain's railways following a failed privatisation; and welcomes the early signs of success, including the halt in the decline in bus use, the biggest replacement programme for railway rolling stock ever seen in this country, the major programme of investment in the West Coast Main Line and the 22 per cent. decline in the numbers of people killed or seriously injured on the roads since the mid-1990s."
Mr. Speaker, some of us must have seen a different set of election results last Thursday from the one that the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) saw.

I should first acknowledge the departure of the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), who had the shadow transport job for what seems a comparatively short time. We did not see her very much the second time in that role, but I see from the Conservative website that her new job as shadow Secretary of State with responsibility for the family includes the task of having

"a campaigning role highlighting the success of Conservatives in delivering better local services at lower cost",
so I think that it will be some time before we see the right hon. Lady again.

I also noticed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) said, that on the appointment of the hon. Member for South Suffolk yesterday, which we are told was a total surprise to him, he thought that the Tory transport policy was "fairly undeveloped". That seems a rather damning indictment of his predecessors, but I would say that he is absolutely right in that analysis. I have waited the last two years to see just a glimmer of Tory party transport policy. They have now had seven years to develop one, but we still have not seen it. There must come a point at which we debate some of the big transport issues that we face—the hon. Gentleman is right that there are some, on which the electorate are entitled to make choices between the two main parties likely to form a Government—and I hope that that day will come.

May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that I introduced the policy of the Brit disc—charging foreign lorries for the use of British roads—to this House some time ago. The difference between a Labour Government and a Conservative Government is that we would have gone on and done it, while the right hon. Gentleman is dithering and wasting money.

I shall come on to the lorry road user charging point in just a moment, but I hardly think that a single suggestion or a quote in a newspaper amounts to a coherent transport policy. The Conservatives do not have one and, arguably, they did not have one when they were in government either.

Talking of coherent policies, did the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), when he said that he wanted to tax motorists out of their cars? Does he agree with that coherent policy?

He did not say that, and the hon. Gentleman would do well to read what my hon. Friend actually said.

Let me start by acknowledging that the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green), who has managed to hold his place in the transport team, made an interesting speech in Portugal this year

The hon. Member for South Suffolk must find it interesting, because he used the same words at the tail end of his speech—perhaps the hon. Member for Ashford acts as his speech writer. He made three points, which were absolutely right. He said that there were three principles that were essential to transport. First, the Government should give people genuine choice about the mode of transport that they choose. That is absolutely right, and I have long said that. Secondly, he made the important point that long-term transport success will come from steady and predictable investment policies, sheltered from incessant political interference. Thirdly, he went on to say that investment would require substantial private sector money, which is also absolutely right.

In respect of the second point, the hon. Member for South Suffolk started off by referring to it—at that stage I thought that he might be offering a thoughtful tour around transport policy—when he said that many of the problems that we face now have grown up over many years and many decades. That is absolutely true. Successive Governments, Conservative and Labour, have failed to spend enough on a consistent and sustained basis. Whether we are talking about the railways or the roads, the problem is that, despite the fact that we are the fourth largest economy in the world and the fact that there have been times over the last 30 or 40 years when we should have been spending money to improve capacity, successive Governments did not do so. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who is no longer in his place, was absolutely right about that.

If we are to improve transport, several things need to be done in respect of management and policy, which I will develop in a moment, but the one thing that is absolutely essential is to continue with sustained and increased investment.

I will give way in a moment.

That is what the CBI called for the other day. The one policy that the Conservative party—though not, curiously, the hon. Member for South Suffolk—has is a commitment to freezing public spending. That is what the shadow Chancellor has set out. Doing that in transport terms would mean a cut of nearly £600 million. Whatever the problems with transport, it can never be the answer to cut from the budget an amount roughly equivalent to what the Highways Agency spends on motorways and trunk roads, or to the amount spent on concessionary bus travel.

When the hon. Member for South Suffolk was speaking and taking interventions, he gave a number of nods and winks that he would back. Crossrail, the East London line, Thameslink 2000—you name it, he would back it. Where is the money going to come from to pay for that?

In a moment. For six months, the hon. Member for South Suffolk dealt with health and education, and he was not afraid to make spending commitments. He attended the National Union of Teachers conference—and I suppose that he deserves a medal for that—and said that he was determined that the next Conservative Government would not only match Labour's spending commitments on schools but surpass them. Interestingly, he had the opportunity to say something on transport spending, but he did not. Perhaps he saw an interesting extract from Andrew Neil's BBC interview with the shadow Chancellor. Andrew Neil asked whether a Conservative Government would match Labour's spending on education, and the shadow Chancellor said, "No, we'll stick to our plan." When Mr. Neil noted that in his famous lecture—he was being funny—the shadow Chancellor had said that he would match whatever Labour spent on health and education, the right hon. Gentleman said, "No, I didn't. You can read my entire text. You will never read any words like that."

Whatever he turns his mind to over the next few weeks, the hon. Member for South Suffolk will find that he is stymied—if I can use that transport term—by the fact that his shadow Chancellor is not prepared to give him the money that he will need. Indeed, the shadow Chancellor actually proposes to cut the money that would go to transport.

Yes, in a moment. I cannot wait to give way to the hon. Gentleman. All the things that the hon.

Member for South Suffolk has said today, and all the hints that he has made, will come to nothing if the means to make them happen are not available.

The Government are increasing the amount of money going to transport by about 50 per cent. in real terms. The Conservatives want to cut that transport budget. It is therefore very difficult, if not impossible, to take seriously any protestations by the hon. Member for South Suffolk—or whoever the next Conservative spokesman happens to be, or the one after that, given that the average tenure under the new Opposition leadership seems to be rather shorter even than under the previous leadership.

At least two former Conservative Transport Secretaries are present today. They will know that transport needs consistent and sustained levels of spending beyond all else. All the grand plans for road building, for example, set out by the Conservatives at the beginning of the 1990s had collapsed by the time the former Government left office. The reason was that their boom-and-bust philosophy and the cuts that they had to make meant that they could not pay for those plans.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. Given what he has just said, why do the figures on page 99 of the 10-year plan show that public investment in the railways in 2010–11 will be less than what it was 15 years previously, under the Conservatives?

We have just been listening to the Opposition belief that private finance must be brought into transport. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that. Over the period, £33 billion in public sector investment will be made, and that will bring in a similar amount from the private sector. I make no bones about that, and I thought that there was some agreement on it across the Chamber—although I know that the Liberals have changed their policy as well. However, it must be right to bring in money from both the public and the private sectors. I certainly do not apologise for that. It does not matter to the railways whether the money comes from the public sector or the private sector. What matters is that it gets there in the first place.

I shall move on to considering some of the elements in the motion before the House, but before that I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. From his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), it appears that the right hon. Gentleman is proud of the amount of private sector finance going into transport. When they go to the rest of the UK, my constituents can only use transport financed by the private sector. There is no public sector subsidy for services from my constituency to any other part of the UK. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that private sector finance is more stable, when it comes to investment, than public sector finance?

No, I think that we need both, frankly. We shall discuss the railways shortly, but I cannot see how any railway system in the world would not need money from both the public and private sector. The Conservatives privatised the railways, and they believed that they could move rail transport substantially into the private sector, rather as happened with aviation. That is not going to happen. It is impossible, as the sums of money involved are just too large. That is why I think that both forms of investment are needed.

I want to deal with a number of matters, the first of which—the role of speed cameras in road safety—is topical today. However, it is curious that the Conservative spokesman did not mention it, as the matter has been raised at every Transport Question Time since January. Today, the Government have published an independent report showing that the number of people killed or seriously injured at camera sites has fallen by almost 40 per cent., and I have published data in connection with every speed camera in the country. Those data show why each camera position was selected, and what has happened since. It is therefore curious that the Opposition have said not a word on the matter.

The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) said at the beginning of the year that the Opposition wanted a national audit of all the camera sites. At the time, all the controversy—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the figures are wrong?

The hon. Gentleman says that the figures are old. He has spent most of the year giving the impression that all speed cameras are wrong and in the wrong place, but when confronted with the evidence, he has absolutely nothing to say.

The Secretary of State has completely traduced what I said. I never said that all speed cameras were in the wrong place, although I did say that some of them were. The roads Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), has said constantly that no speed camera was in the wrong place. On the radio this morning, however, the Secretary of State said that some speed cameras were in the wrong place. I am delighted that he agrees with me, and not with his own junior Minister.

We should not get into a slanging match. However, I remember that the hon. Gentleman left the House with a clear impression, after the first Transport Question Time of the year, that he was against speed cameras, and that he thought that most of them were in the wrong place.

In light of all the controversy at the beginning of the year, I asked my officials at the Department to produce data for each and every camera site. In that way, anyone who has a question about any particular camera—why it was situated where it was, and what difference it has made—can now find out, as the information has been collected. That information is backed up by an independent study produced by University college London, which shows that the cameras save lives.

The hon. Member for Ashford has said that some cameras need to be looked at more closely, and he is right—indeed, I think I said the same thing at the most recent Question Time. The vast majority of cameras appear to be having the right effect, and the number of accidents in which people are killed or injured has fallen. A small number of cameras—about 200-odd—were installed in the early 1990s. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) introduced the policy, and so will know something about this matter. In those days, it was not necessary, as it is now, to show that cameras led to a significant reduction in the numbers of people killed or injured. Therefore we will have to consider whether those cameras are justified. I suspect that people will say that many of them are justified, but some may not be.

About 200 other cameras do not appear to be having the effect that was intended, and I have asked that the local partnerships and the police consider their placement. However, there are something like 5,000 camera sites in the country. Most people believe that the use of cameras should be considered rationally. We hear a lot from people who do not like speed cameras, but a lot of others are campaigning actively for more.

Moreover, we mug t never forget that today, and every day of the year, nearly 10 people will be killed or seriously injured on this country's roads. We owe it to them to do all we can to improve road safety. That goes beyond concentrating on speed cameras, which are just one element of an overall strategy. The information published by the Government today is a major step towards ensuring that the debate has a rational basis. People do not need to believe any of us: they can look at the figures, and decide for themselves.

No driver likes speed cameras, but that does not mean that we do not recognise that they are important. Last year, seven people died on the A631 in my constituency. This year, no one has died since speed cameras were introduced. My right hon. Friend said he was reviewing the siting of 200 cameras. Will he also look at roads such a; the A638? The number of people killed at one place on that road has not been sufficient to warrant a speed camera. but should not there be more flexible criteria in relation to siting cameras? The number of people killed on a longer stretch of that road than can be taken into account for the purpose of siting a camera shows that he road is a killer, and that it needs speed cameras.

My hon. Friend illustrates the problem that we face. All Members of Parliament and local councillors will know that for everybody who says that a camera should not be in a certain place, there is someone else who says that we should do something about that dangerous road. The decision on the siting of individual cameras is a matter for police and local authorities, and my hon. Friend should pursue the matter with them.

The Secretary of State will be aware that Durham and North Yorkshire do not have fixed camera sites, so his letter to me was silent on that point. The Under-Secretary with

responsibility for roads has admitted that the child pedestrian casualty figures are unacceptably high, but what do the Government propose to do about that?

Durham and North Yorkshire are not in the netting-off scheme, and that is why they were not included. If they are not in the scheme, they are not obliged to provide figures and that i why they were not mentioned. It is for those areas to decide whether they want to have speed cameras. Child casualty numbers are falling, but my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was right to highlight our concern. We need to keep up the pressure to reduce casualties among children and motorcyclists, and the Department has a number of strategies to address that. No doubt we will return to the issue in future debates.

It is necessary to recognise that we have an inherited problem, built up over many years in which the country did not spend enough on road capacity. The solution has three strands. First, we need to increase capacity where necessary, and over the pa ;t few years I have announced plans to widen the major motorways and improve other roads and junctions Secondly, we need to ensure that we put money into public transport so that people can have the choice to which the hon. Member for South Suffolk referred. Thirdly, we need to improve the way in which our roads are managed, because they are not managed particularly well. That is why we set up the traffic area officers, starting in the west midlands, to assist in keeping traffic flowing after an incident or accident.

All three aspects of our approach require investment, and so I come back to the issue of Tory policy. We have just received a lecture on the shortcomings of our policy, and that is fine. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to criticise, because that is what Oppositions do. However, at some point, the Tories will need some sort of policy if they do not think that our policy is right.

Those three strategies are fair enough, but what would the Secretary of State say to rural motorists in constituencies such as mine, who have little public transport and are completely dependent on their cars but who face the highest fuel prices in Europe? What words of comfort does he have for them?

It is true that many people living in rural areas do no have the same access to public transport. That applies throughout the country, and transport policy has to recognise that cars are essential for many people. However, the real problem with fuel prices in the past few weeks has not been caused by tax, because my right hon. Friend the Chancellor deferred the increase in tax this year. The problem was caused by the dramatic rise in international oil prices over a very short period. The answer to that problem is to try to bring influence to bear on the OPEC countries to increase production, and that is precisely what the Government have done. Oil production has increased and we have seen a modest reduction in prices. However, the opportunism of the Conservatives in trying to suggest that international oil price changes would not have happened if they were in government beggars belief.

The hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), who used to be a transport spokesman, asked me about road user charging for lorries. Sadly, it seems that he could not wait for the answer, as he is no longer in his place. However, the Government remain determined on that issue. There has been some slippage in the timetable, but that is primarily because we want to ensure that the scheme works when it is introduced. Our experience of big IT projects and the experience of a similar scheme in Germany lead me to believe that we should take the time to get the scheme right, and not rush into something that then fails.

The Tories have also indicated that in the longer term they would consider whether road pricing for cars was a possibility, including distance-based charging. That will not happen in the near future, because it is a long way off technically, but the Government will shortly publish the feasibility study that we set up. It will be interesting to see whether the hon. Member for South Suffolk has the courage to look ahead 30 or 40 years instead of concentrating on the 30 to 40-minute time horizon that has appeared to occupy some of his predecessors.

My right hon. Friend mentioned road management. What, if any, work has his Department done on variable speeds on motorways?

There are two separate issues there. The first is whether we intend to change the motorway speed limit, and I can confirm that we do not have any plans to do that. The second is variable speed limits on, for example, the M25 and other motorways to manage traffic flow, and we intend to develop those because they work.

On the subject of our railways, the legacy of a lack of investment is clear. We are putting money into the railways. The hon. Member for South Suffolk was critical of how much money we are putting in, but we are putting more money in because we are getting more out of it. British Rail used to reckon on replacing 500 miles of track each year. In the lead up to privatisation, that fell to 300 miles. After privatisation, it dropped to 200. However, this year, Network Rail will replace some 850 miles of track. If we want a reliable railway, the track and the signalling must be maintained just like the rolling stock itself.

In what could prove to be an expensive speech when the great day of judgment comes, the hon. Gentleman hinted that he would provide 140-mile an hour running on the west coast main line. However, he knows that the Tories' friends in Railtrack—the right hon. Member for Maidenhead only had one policy, and that was to bring back Railtrack—hopelessly underestimated the cost of doing up the west coast main line. Under Railtrack the cost soared to more than £13 billion. Now it will cost some £7 billion, but when it is finished it will cut the London to Manchester—and indeed to Glasgow—journey times by half an hour; and when it is finished in four years' time, it will cut the journey to Glasgow by an hour.

The channel tunnel rail link is open, and it has already cut the journey time. Its reliability is good and it is due to be completed in 2007. To listen to the hon. Gentleman, one would think that no rolling stock was ever replaced. In fact, nearly 40 per cent. of rolling stock has been replaced over a five-year period, and nearly half of that has been done on London commuter routes.

We are also improving the power supply south of the Thames, something that Railtrack never got round to doing, because of its incompetence. Last year saw 1 billion passengers travel on the railways for the first time since the early 1960s. I do not deny that much remains to do, but on roads, railways and the tube—which now has £1 billion a year invested in it—we are putting money into the system, which successive Governments failed to do, and that will lead to improvements.

The Secretary of State will accept that the Government have made various promises over the years. He will remember the Strategic Rail Authority plan that specifically set out projects, with timetabled starting dates, for this decade, but most of them have now been abandoned. The Government have made commitments and promises that they have failed to keep.

Many of the things that we said we would do are being done. As I have said before, it is true that costs in the industry are far higher than they should be, primarily because Railtrack completely lost control of its spending. Bringing maintenance back in house has saved substantial sums. Last year, Network Rail spent £1 billion less than it thought it would, through efficiency savings, and that demonstrates the problems that were stored up by the policies that the hon. Gentleman supported.

I certainly acknowledge the investment that has been made. In my constituency, for instance, the Northfield relief road was on the stocks for about 30 years because there was no money, but work should start on the site at the end of this year or early next year, purely owing to the investment that is being put in.

In the west midlands, there is still a huge need for increased transport infrastructure investment over and above what is going in at present. The region not only needs to be able to move its manufactured goods around but, strategically, it is slap-bang in the middle of the route between the south-east and the north-west and beyond. My right hon. Friend will know that that is a real issue for businesses and others, as well as for commuters, in the west midlands, so although I acknowledge what has been done, will he revisit the need for extra investment in the west midlands?

I understand what my hon. Friend is saying. The west coast main line will help the west midlands, in particular, and the M6 toll, which is of course privately financed, has relieved much of the pressure on the existing M6 and freed up much capacity. Last year, I announced that quite substantial sums of investment were available to the Birmingham area and the west midlands to improve local transport. However, I fully understand my hon. Friend's point. Across the country, the argument about investing and capacity is powerful, but I come back to the point that if policy is to cut spending rather than to increase it, there is an inevitable consequence—we do not have to speculate about what it is because this country has been there before.

I want to say a few words about aviation. The hon. Member for South Suffolk has held his appointment only for a few hours so I forgive him for not having read the air transport White Paper that we published in December. For the first time in a long time, it set out a framework for policy for airport development for the next 20 to 30 years and has been widely welcomed outside. Of course, there is controversy at individual sites about runway development and so on, but as I listened to the hon. Gentleman, he gave me the clear impression that he was against development at Stansted, against development at Heathrow, against development at Birmingham and, I dare say, if a few other Members had stood up he would have been against development in their areas, too. Perhaps I should have asked him about his plans for Edinburgh airport, although he might want to check out local opinion before he gives his view.

The matter is duff cult. The number of people flying has increased dramatically over the past few years; nearly half the population flies at least once a year, so if we are to avoid the problems we currently experience on our roads and railways we need sensible capacity increases in aviation We have set out our stall. I used to ask the right hon. Member for Maidenhead what her policy was, but sadly. she never got around to telling me. Before the hon. Member for South Suffolk leaves his post, in six and a hall months' time, I hope that he at least will come up with a policy.

Does the Secretary of State accept that small, regional airports have an important role to play for a relatively small number of passengers who need to get from one place to another fast? As long as development is carried out sensitively, with attention to planning and noise considerations, such airports can be an important aid to economic development, especially in rural and outlying areas. The Government should think about making small investments that deliver big returns of that sort.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. With the Welsh Assembly, we are looking at the Welsh airport network. He is right to say that small airports have an important role. But we must be realistic; we cannot put small airports everywhere. There has to be a balance. He would no doubt find that opinion among his constituents was sharply divided as soon as they thought that a runway would be built nearby.

Before I turn to abusing the Liberals, as I said I would, I shall give way to the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois).

I am reluctant to delay any initiative that leads to abuse of the Liberal Democrats, so I thank the Secretary of State for giving way.

On Stansted, the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that current capacity for the existing runway is approximately 20 million passenger movements a year, and that, with full utilisation of that runway, it would be possible to increase the number to about 40 million. Given the tremendous environmental damage that would be created in the county of Essex by the large expansion of the footprint of Stansted that will be required for the second runway, is not the logical compromise to increase capacity on the existing runway to 40 million? That would give some of the expansion in capacity that the right hon. Gentleman wants without causing tremendous environmental damage in Essex.

We looked hard at that matter and I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's point. However, when considering Stansted and the south-east, we took the view that we needed additional capacity, although the hon. Gentleman should remember that it will not happen next year or the year after, given the length of time that it takes to do such things. We are talking about a second runway at Stansted in the first part of the next decade and the Heathrow development will take place even later than that. At present, capacity at Stansted is almost fully taken up at peak hours, so we need to plan ahead. Our starting point was that we should make maximum use of what we already had and we considered that, but as the hon. Gentleman knows, we came to the conclusion that a second runway was necessary.

The Liberals have been very quiet, so I shall not say too much about them. However, I am curious about two things. When I looked at their rebuttal of our paper about their spending commitments, one of which was almost £2 billion more for the railways, they responded that that was no longer a commitment, owing to changed circumstances. Have the circumstances changed again? Secondly, their plan was to double investment in local transport schemes, but their response was that that, too, was no longer a commitment, owing to changed circumstances. Have those circumstances changed? I make those points only because occasionally the Liberals suggest that many things could be done, without always mentioning that the money has to be provided, too.

I conclude on this point: there is a lot more to do on transport. We face huge problems that have built up over many years, but the central point and, I suspect, the dividing line between the parties over the next period of time, is that we are prepared to sustain the amount of money that we are spending on transport, where we have already seen a steady increase, but the Conservatives are committed to a dramatic cut. For as long as that remains the case, whatever they say about transport will lack credibility. For that reason, I suspect that the House will reject their motion.

1.57 pm

I begin by welcoming the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) to his new post It is nice to see him at the Dispatch Box, as his predecessor was rarely in the Chamber when we debated transport. I look forward to debating the subject with him on in my future occasions. He will probably find that transport is one of the most fertile policy areas for his party, as it is currently entirely policy-free.

No one can doubt that transport is central to our future prosperity and we must pay great attention to it. However, we need to address a paradox at the centre of transport policy; it is a key part of transport policy, but I have not heard much about it this afternoon. On the one hand, transport is critical to the economy. The ability to move freight and passengers efficiently is vital to productivity; it is both a driver of, and is driven by, the economy. Equally important, people need good transport links to give them access to facilities and services—shops, education, culture and many other things. Sometimes, especially in rural areas, the lack of transport is a major cause of social exclusion.

On the other hand, however, in our modern, highly fossil-fuel-consuming, mobile society, transport has major environmental costs that we ignore at our peril. In March, for example, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a report on air emission estimates, which revealed that carbon dioxide emissions from road traffic were 31.9 million tonnes in 2002—the highest since 1970—while nitrous oxide emissions had increased to 14,800 tonnes, a rise of 55 per cent. over five years.

Aviation produces an even gloomier picture. Consumption rose by 21 per cent. between 1997 and 2003. London's three busiest airports alone produce a staggering 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and 13,000 tonnes of nitrous oxide each year. The aviation industry's emissions are projected to double between 1990 and 2010.

Clearly, such emission levels are wholly unsustainable. We are long past the time when we can stick our heads in the sand and hope that global warming will go away. Climate change is clearly a reality. We simply cannot go on like this if we want to avoid what the film "The Day After Tomorrow" shows us.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way. He mentioned one Select Committee report. He may be aware that the Environmental Audit Committee, on which I serve, has produced a number of reports on the environmental effects of aviation. Given the effect of so-called "radiative forcing", aircraft emissions can have four times the effect on the ozone layer when they are made at altitude—when aircraft are in flight—than they have when those chemicals are released into the atmosphere at ground level. That very important environmental point is not lost on people who live in north Essex.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who makes a valid point. It is extremely valid when one considers that projections suggest that aviation emissions will constitute 50 per cent. of emissions in this country by about 2020.

The objective of our transport policy, therefore, must be to reconcile the need for an efficient and effective transport system with the imperative of reducing emissions. Such an objective can be achieved only if the Government, providers and consumers change their attitudes considerably, but the Government must set out the vision—the long-term plan—and provide the leadership. Currently, plans are laid on a 10-year basis. I suggest that 10 years is far too short. It is obvious that we need to deal in a much longer time scale for all modes of transport—something like 25 to 30 years. Indeed, the Secretary of State has recognised that, and I pay tribute

to the Government for the aviation White Paper, which takes a much more long-term view. I may not agree with all its conclusions, but I absolutely agree that considering modes of transport in the long term is vital if we are to have sustainable policies and a clear vision that the public can sign up to. The same is needed for the railways.

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify whether imposing an additional environmental duty on aviation fuel is Liberal Democrat policy?

Our current policy is to seek to ensure that the external costs of aviation are properly reflected. There have been suggestions that that should be done by means of an aviation fuel tax, which I believe has considerable merit. The problem is that aviation fuel tax would be extremely difficult to put it in place without treaties at the very least in Europe. if not throughout the world. So I rather prefer—this is what I am arguing for within my party, and I hope that it may become our policy—a tax based on the aircraft that take off from this country, rather than air passenger duty, which has absolutely no green benefit whatever and was introduced by a Conservative Government simply to balance the books. I would get rid of air passenger duty and tax aeroplanes instead. That would not only encourage the aviation industry to start to produce more fuel-efficient aeroplanes and airlines to ensure that they operate more effectively, but direct the taxation at the bad. It would be a much better way to externalise the taxation. I sincerely hope that, when that policy has been adopted through our party channels, I shall be able to present it.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for diverting for a moment to clarify that interesting point. He is talking about scrapping air passenger duty and replacing it with a levy on planes. Presumably, the airlines would pass on the cost to passengers. How would that change anything?

The hon. Gentleman misses an obvious point: air passenger duty is levied on each passenger, so it is easy to put on each ticket whatever the cost is. A duty levied on the aeroplane could not be passed on to passengers by adding it to the ticket price for the simple reason that the airline never knows how many people will fly on it. If the aeroplane itself were taxed, the amount would have to be included in the airline industry's costs. It would be passed on in the total cost of the tickets for all passengers, which is precisely what we seek to achieve, so the true costs would be externalised. The airlines would not be able to show £9 to fly somewhere in Europe and then add on tax and all the other bits in brackets.

May I tell the hon. Gentleman that I very much hope that that becomes Liberal Democrat policy?

I am confident that it will.

We must also consider managing demand, and we have already started to talk about doing so. It is important that we consider the true cost of each mode of travel as well as managing demand, which is a vital tool in resolving the paradox. We can no longer accept that everyone has a free and unfettered right to travel wherever they wish. whenever they wish, by whatever mode of travel they wish. Transport is a limited resource, so it must be managed wisely. It is for the Government to influence how people and goods are transported by the policies that favour those modes with the least environmental cost. Our citizens have a right to efficient transport, but not by every mode, everywhere. Our resources must be managed. Against that background and given the resources available, it is clear that we have not begun to maximise our potential.

Take freight, for example, which is vital to commerce and industry. More than 90 per cent. of freight arrives at and departs from our shores by sea, but it is largely transported by road thereafter. Yet, all along our coasts, many medium and small ports are underused. Surely, transporting some of our freight onwards by coastal shipping would be an important addition to our armoury. After all sea travel is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to move freight. The infrastructure exists. so why do the Government do nothing to promote that form of transport?

The railways offer a considerable opportunity for further freight movement, but freight trains need access to the rail network to maximise it. We also need to promote the concept of freight villages and the related logistics. That, too, will require Government support. Getting our railways right is the keystone for transport in the future. The industry needs sound structures for the future, and the outcome of the current rail review must settle the questions about the current arrangements.

The objective of rail policy should be. first, to provide a safe, reliable and affordable system of public transport and, secondly, to invest in the network's future to provide a modern and efficient railway for the 21st century. If we are to have a successful rail network, three functions need to be undertaken in considering the structure, which is the objective of the rail review: first, strategic direction; secondly, service delivery; and, thirdly, regulation.

On strategic direction, the Department for Transport should provide a long-term, strategic vision for our railways. The Government, in partnership with the private sector, provide much of the funding, and it is their responsibility to ensure that an inefficient transport infrastructure exists to support the economy. The Government must therefore provide the leadership and vision, which, as I have said, should be over 25 to 30 years, in the Department for Transport. That would effectively remove the need for the Strategic Rail Authority.

The management of service delivery should remain with Network Rail for the infrastructure and with the train operating companies for the franchises. The Department for Transport should be responsible both for funding arrangements and for defining the strategy for Network Rail, working in a new, simplified regulatory framework. Network Rail is best placed to be responsible for the day-to-day management and running of the network, together with the day-to-day co-ordination of services. I saw a leak in the weekend press that suggested that Ministers would be responsible

for some of the day-to-day management of the railways. I sincerely hope that we never arr lye at that unhappy state of affairs.

On regulation, it is essential that there is an independent regulator. The current arrangements are clearly over-bureaucratic and complicated, particularly with regard to safety. The regulation model best suited to the railways must follow that of the Civil Aviation Authority for air transport, whereby economic, environmental and safety regulation come under one body. The new regulator would include the new rail accident investigation branch as well as consumer representation. That would mean removing all safety functions from the Health and Safety Executive and giving them to the new body, which should also take responsibility for organising the franchising process. It might also be worth looking at the duties of the Office of Fair Trading relating to the railways and considering whether they might more suitably be placed under the auspices of the new regulator.

There is, however, one leftover from the awful privatisation that is a complete waste of time, wholly unnecessary and adds un-needed cost. I refer to the monopolistic rolling stock companies, which add very little. If anyone wants proof that they are simply a cash cow, the fact that they are all owned by banks does it for me.

If franchises were longer, it would be possible to envisage a system whereby the train operating companies could become owners of rolling stock and therefore be able to have control over their assets and costs in much the same way as happens in other areas, such as lifeline ferry links, where expensive assets are passed on from one franchisee to another, having been amortised for their life over the balance sheet of the first company. Examining the rolling stock companies is a critical part of taking forward the seduction of costs on our railways.

I am amazed by what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He is describing a wish to move from one leasing arrangement to another. Leasing companies, regardless of who they are and what they do, will make a margin. Surely he agrees that the rolling stock side is the one demonstrable and tangible success of privatisation: the substantial new investments in rolling stock are visible and can be found on the rail network all the time. Does he want to go back to a situation in which the companies buy their own stock, or is he talking simply about moving from one kind of leasing company to another?

The hon. Gentleman's comment that the ROSCOs are the one successful part of privatisation is very revealing. That is at the heart of Conservative thinking. Those companies are the one part that makes a great deal of money for the City, which is the only thing that they seem to add to the equation. It would be perfectly possible for the train operating companies to have access to capital, and their capital cost is considerably smaller than the lease cost that they currently pay. I believe that their average cost of capital is around 7 or 8 per cent., so if they are paying 7 or 8 per cent. using capital from the equity market or from the borrowing to which they have access, they will be very able to acquire stock. What is needed is a mechanism by which the stock can be transferred at the end of the franchise. Above all, in the longer term, we need to commit to expanding the network to permit more capacity, particularly for fast trains and freight.

The Secretary of State asked me to say a word about our spending plans, and I am happy to confirm that our current policies for the next Parliament envisage nothing that involves an increase in transport spending. We are quite happy to live within the sums that are currently available. I agree with him that there has been considerable waste in the rail system, and Network Rail, through the policy that I agreed with of bringing maintenance back in-house, has been able to make savings. In the shorter term, all that is required to be done can be achieved within the existing budget.

I do not seek the same expenditure on each area. I would certainly seek a shift in policies that might lead to more being spent on public transport than on other things, but I am happy to confirm that the global figure for the Department would remain the same. However, before the Secretary of State announces on a website that a new commitment has been made—it is not a new commitment—I hasten to add that I believe that whoever is in government has a duty to look 25 to 30 years into the long term and decide about the infrastructure that needs to be put in place over that time to meet our goals. There is a serious and mature debate to be had about that, and I would be happy to enter into it.

I believe that there should be an assumption against expanding the road network. There will certainly be areas in which new schemes present the best cost-benefit overall and sometimes the best environmental option. We should certainly invest in those cases. However, I do not believe that simply building more roads provides an answer to the problems that we face. It is well documented that new roads create traffic.

We also need to consider how roads are charged for. The Secretary of State mentioned road charging, and it is worth mentioning in parenthesis that the actual cost of motoring in 2001 was lower in real terms than it was in 1974. An answer that one of my hon. Friends received from the Secretary of State's Department helpfully used a base of 100 for the cost of motoring in 1974. In 2001, the figure had reduced to 98.7. Interestingly, on the same time scale the costs of rail travel had increased from 100 to 185.3 and of bus travel from 100 to 166.1. Since 1997, the cost of rail travel has gone up by 8 per cent. and that of bus travel by 5 per cent., but despite what the Conservatives say, motoring costs have gone down by 1 per cent.

Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten the House on Liberal Democrat policy on this issue? Is it to get the cost of motoring up to 100 or perhaps a bit beyond, and the cost of rail travel to below its current figure?

We would like the true cost of motoring to be apparent. I note from the table that the previous Conservative Government had the highest figure, having got it up to 104 in 1979. Our policy, as I shall show in a moment, is to make sure that the real costs of motoring are seen. That is best done by removing vehicle excise duty and fuel duty and replacing them with road user charging. As the Secretary of State said, the technology for that is by no means proven, although there is one scheme that believes that it could be implemented immediately. It will take time to develop and implement the technology but, over a five to 10-year period, I see no reason why road charging should not prove the best way forward. If I heard him right, he invited us to discuss that matter, and I an certainly happy to do so.

I shall not go into detail on aviation. We had a very good debate on it last week, but my points about emissions make it clear that restraining the uncontrolled growth of aviation must be part of the longer-term strategy. In part, that can be done by providing real and competitive alternatives. It is mad that, in an island as small as ours, the most effective way of getting from London to Edinburgh is by air. There should be a rail alternative. A rail alternative was timetabled some years ago that would have done the journey in four hours, which is almost exactly the same as the time of a door-to-door journey by air. If we could promote that alternative, we might be able to remove some of the short-haul requirements for domestic aviation. I recently had the pleasure of visiting Korea and, on the day that I was there, a headline in the International Herald Tribune highlighted the collapse of domestic aviation demand there because of the opening of a new high-speed rail link from the south of the country to Seoul. It achieved the exact objective of reducing demand, so we should consider such schemes.

My colleagues and I will support the Conservative motion, albeit with some reluctance. It is pretty high on complaint yet, as the speech made by the hon. Member for South Suffolk showed, low on alternatives. When the Conservatives were in government, they did little for roads—the facts do not back up their rhetoric. They completely rodgered the railways and hid from just about everything else. The answer to the problem that Conservative Members have given in recent Westminster Hall debates and other debates in which I have participated has seemed to be. "Just build more roads." We had a long discussion about port capacity during one debate, and the Conservative spokesman's answer to the problem was, "Build more roads everywhere." Up until today, their answer seemed to be, "Build more roads and speed. You can go as fast as you like."

Although the Conservatives have little to offer, their criticism of the Government is justified. There are alternatives. In the longer term, we need a clear strategy and, above all, a commitment to an integrated transport policy that uses all available modes of transport. It is up to the Government to provide and deliver that vision.

2.21 pm

I feel the same way that I felt on Sunday night when we got to the 90th minute. I thought that the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) was going to support the Government amendment, so I feel very disappointed. I regret that because I have a considerable amount of time for the hon. Gentleman. His constituency is similar to mine, although it is on the other side of the border. I applaud his attempts to talk and listen to people from the transport industry. I hope that he will reconfigure his approach on the amendment during the debate. It is sad that the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) has left the Chamber because I thought that the official Opposition might be making a visionary attempt to hold a timely and appropriate debate on this day—I shall come to that in a moment.

I had especially hoped that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) would be in the Chamber so that I could take up an outstanding matter that arose during her recent visit to my constituency during the election campaign. It was a whistlestop visit with quick photographs by the quayside before she left, but that is not easy to do in a constituency such as Scarborough and Whitby. The right hon. Lady failed to listen or respond to any of the many questions asked by my constituents—albeit local journalists—about Conservative party transport policy. Indeed, the only reference made to transport policy as a result of her brief visit to the quayside in Whitby was a photograph in the local paper of her famous shoes—I do not think that that had anything to do with pedestrian strategy. The visit showed how the right hon. Lady, who is in charge of an official Opposition policy, failed to recognise a key priority in my constituency and many others throughout the country, despite the fact that her party wishes to become the Government.

As I said earlier, the debate is timely because today is the day on which the Institution of Civil Engineers publishes its report "The State of the Nation"—I declare an interest because I am a chartered civil engineer. The report is an independent assessment of the nation's logistics, key elements of the economy and everyday life, that is written by people such as me who are involved in the delivery of renewal and maintenance for our infrastructure. I pay tribute to the institution for commissioning the work. Many right hon. and hon. Members will have received invitations from fellow civil engineers to the Institution of Civil Engineers parliamentary reception this evening. I hope that the hon. Member for South Suffolk will go along and listen to practitioners who are trying to maintain this country's transport network because they do not feel that Conservative prescriptions thus far match their assessment on the country's transport policy.

During my 19 years in the transport industry, I reckon that about 60 per cent. of my design and assessment work behind my prognosis of what needed to happen to our transport infrastructure, and especially the rail infrastructure, was done to no effect. It was consigned to drawers and the archives—I guess that some might have ended up in the national railway museum by now. The Conservative Government of the time failed to deliver a transport policy. They failed to deliver on railways and certainly on this country's road network. The hon. Member for South Suffolk said that when the Conservative party left government in 1997, it left a wish list of road schemes at the Department for Transport. However, the wish list could not be delivered, so many of my constituents were disappointed that the much-needed revitalisation of the A64 corridor did not happen, despite the fact that my predecessor in my constituency, the Conservative Member John Sykes, had long promised it. Such a situation was a consequence of the boom-bust economy and the stop-go approach on policy delivery during the 18 sad and

backward-looking years when the Conservatives failed to listen to the many communities that wanted investment in transport.

The Institution of Civil Engineers has rightly framed a national debate in much the same way that the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross suggested. We need a debate from which politics is removed and a long-term strategic approach. As we try to reach conclusions on what needs to be put right, we need not only to assess what must be put in place, but to ensure that appropriate finance is available. I hope that as many Conservative Members as possible will go to listen to my colleagues in Great George street.

I pay tribute to the current president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Douglas Oakervee, who has a worldwide reputation for producing transport schemes. He was one of the people behind the provision and delivery of the Hong Kong mass rapid transit system and Hong Kong airport. He is a world-class engineer. The possibility of earning real revenue for the country through exporting his and my colleagues' skills and their ability to deliver such major projects must be based on a coherent and strategic domestic approach. We need a flow of work so that we may not only renew, build and maintain this country's infrastructure—especially our transport infrastructure—but ensue that we introduce new technologies and techniques.

The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross talked about his experiences in Korea. I remind him that one of the results of the Channel tunnel rail link was a modal switch affecting journeys from London to Paris and Brussels. The switch occurred because the high-speed railway was delivered on time and on budget. Many civil engineers thought that that deserved much celebration, but sadly, as ever, the national press failed to recognise the tremendous achievement of the team that put the project together. Such achievements can be delivered if there is continuity of approach.

I agree with Douglas Oakervee, who says in "The State of the Nation", the report that was published today:
"It is up to government, in partnership with other stakeholders, to educate public opinion and thereby gain support to take the important but unpalatable decisions that will protect our standard of living and keep this nation prosperous.
Our report this year does not therefore simply challenge government to take action. It challenges everyone to become part of the solution, not part of the problem."
I expressed a similar sentiment to great effect, I believe, when I stood for election in 1997. As an engineer who is also a Member of Parliament, I believe that if Members focused on listening to practitioners our debates would be better informed and there would be an opportunity, well received by our constituents, to achieve the right transport solutions for the nation.

As well as making an assessment of the nation's transport infrastructure, ICE looked at regional questions this year. Many Members will have received correspondence from it during the past few days indicating the nature of progress in their own region. I pay tribute to Mr. Colin Clinton, who chaired ICE's work on transport in "The State of the Nation" and examined the Government's performance in Yorkshire and the Humber, a region that I represent. Like any school report, it assesses performance with an A, B or C. I was pleased that ICE, an unbiased, independent body, believed that there was an improvement in the delivery of transport policy in Yorkshire and the Humber, and gave it a B/C grade. I do not know whether that is a B-minus or a C-plus, but it is a distinct improvement on the position in my region and many other parts of the country in 1997.

We obviously face challenges in rail, the area of transport that I know most about. The east coast main line gives cause for concern as it has almost reached capacity. The frustrations of business people and other passengers are sometimes recorded in the regional press. Urgent progress should be made on tackling delays in upgrades on the route because there is a strong indication that that is starting to have an effect on the growth of the economy in the region. The TransPennine service is vital to my Scarborough constituency, and the new franchise has produced some of the best improvements in the country in recent years. I pay tribute to the TransPennine team for the delivery of the new service. New rolling stock is promised and rapid services link the Pennines to the north-west and connect my constituency to the east coast main line and thence to the capital.

Some improvements on the TransPennine route could be translated into developments on the east coast main line, including longer passenger trains and the provision of passing loops. Above all, more capacity should be built into the system to allow for freight services, which are vital to the manufacturers on the Yorkshire coast and in the rest of the region. I welcome the fact that the franchises are being renegotiated. The northern franchise is important to communities in the Whitby area, which is serviced by the Esk Valley line, and I urge the Minister to do all that he can to encourage speedy announcements on that route.

I pay tribute to the Strategic Rail Authority for its work with the community rail partnerships to revitalise and reinvigorate the crucial relationship between local communities, particularly rural communities, and the railways. I urge the Minister to consider the outputs of the Esk Valley line, which has been identified as a suitable pilot by the SRA, as we need to make sure that the public get value for money on rural railways and that we achieve efficiency and effectiveness in our transport network.

Since 1997, the Yorkshire box, which consists of the M1, the M62, the A1 and the M18, has improved and reinvigorated local transport systems in the heart of the region. Promised improvements to upgrade the A1 corridor to motorway standard are in stark contrast to the state of affairs under the right hon. Member for Maidenhead. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), took considerable time and effort to meet my constituents, including members of the business community, and learn about the importance of the upgrade of the A64 corridor to the area. I pay tribute to the work that has been done to redefine strategic priorities in Yorkshire. The Government's regional transport policy has enabled us to have a dialogue and consider appropriate improvements and upgrades to the A64 corridor.

Scarborough and Whitby are important tourism destinations in the summer and early autumn—in fact, almost all year round now—and local transport plans have been introduced in partnership with local authorities, North Yorkshire county council and Scarborough borough council. Park and ride schemes are about to come on stream and there is better handling and management of traffic systems in the area. Those vital schemes would not have been introduced by a Conservative Government. My constituents know that if such a Government were elected before those plans are fully delivered they would go into the wish list bin that was clearly utilised in the mid-1990s.

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman and his comments about Conservative policy. He talked about the Yorkshire box and the work that began in 1997. Will he not pay tribute to the last Conservative Government for making it possible to create that box?

I pay tribute to any Government who respond to the agenda of the region. That is why I have made great play of all political parties listening to practitioners. Regrettably, for a vital scheme of regional and national significance, there were many schemes that were not delivered by the Administration that the hon. Gentleman supported. Many schemes were consigned to the dustbin of history the—wish list of transport policy, as I would call it.

It behoves all Members to make a proper assessment of the requirements of transport policy. We must not just propose schemes—we must ensure that the resources are available to support them. The central failure of the economic policy of the previous Administration prevented transport policy from moving forward. If the hon. Member for South Suffolk had been allowed to develop his argument further, he would also have come to the conclusion that the main problems for the development of transport policy, as I experienced during my professional career, arose from the boom-bust, stop-go approach. We need a national settlement, a strategic view and a long-term agenda, as proposed by members of my institution over at Great George street. I hope to see the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) there and I will gladly introduce him to his constituents there, who support the proposition that I am advancing. The ideas proposed by the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer do not come close to responding to a national agenda, which is extremely important.

I shall deal briefly with airport strategy in the region of Yorkshire and the Humber. Earlier in the debate reference was made to Finningley. Regrettably, the spokesperson for the Conservative party did not seem to know much about Finningley or what it was. Air journey possibilities from outside the region need to be developed. Partly because of the excellent TransPennine railway connection from Scarborough to Manchester airport, 85 per cent. of air journeys undertaken by my constituents probably start from Manchester airport, rather than from an airport in the Yorkshire region that is a shorter trip away. Finningley offers great possibilities not only for business and leisure travellers, but for air freight services. I look forward to a rail link into that airport near Doncaster.

Finally, I was pleased to hear the comments about coastal traffic, coming as I do from an area with a long maritime tradition. I say that with no humility, because my constituents would never forgive me if I did, given the art of navigation, the legacy of Captain Cook and the legacy of maritime skills that originated and developed in Whitby, which has a long naval heritage. The potential for that small port to make an effective contribution in the way suggested by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is tremendous, but to bring that about investment would be needed in the land links into the port.

I should be delighted to speak to my hon. Friend the Minister, probably at some length, about the possibility of supplying an eight-mile missing link between Pickering and Rillington junction near Malton, which would afford access par excellence from the port of Whitby to the east coast main line and avoid the long journey around. That would be particularly useful for freight traffic and would revitalise the port of Whitby and make a major contribution to the strategy mentioned by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross to reinvigorate coastal traffic. That would be a worthwhile project and my colleagues from the Institution of Civil Engineers would undoubtedly support it.

On road and transport safety, it is well known to the House that one of the challenges of representing a part of the country containing a national park is that there is a higher than average number of accidents caused by motorcyclists. The so-called boy racer has moved on, and people of my age or even older who have a large disposable income power through the North Yorkshire countryside on a Harley-Davidson or whatever. Regrettably, there is a higher proportion of accidents in my constituency than elsewhere in the countryside.

I was interested to note that the Yorkshire Post today highlights the fact that the roads of the Yorkshire region are a blackspot for motorcycle accidents. That is based on a new report from the AA Motoring Trust, which found that four roads in the region are blackspots for motorcycle accidents. I raised the issue earlier this month with the Minister of State, Department of Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton).

It is incumbent on my hon. Friend the Minister to tell us about the work that is going on between the Department for Transport and health bodies to improve rider behaviour on our roads. That has a great impact on accident and emergency services and on transport and leads to loss of life. I urge him to tell the House what work is in progress to improve the behaviour of motorcyclists not only in my constituency, but throughout the country. A better information service is needed, because prevention is better than cure. The fatalities that unfortunately occur on our roads are a price too high to pay.

In conclusion, I commend the Government on what has been achieved so far to provide continuity in transport policy and a long-term approach, not a short-term fix. It is part of the Government's overall approach to use the benefits of a stronger economy to deliver. I know that my constituents and the people who work in the construction industry, some of whom hon. Members might have the opportunity to speak to later today, will tell them that bridge builders believe in building bridges and setting foundations for the future. I believe that the Government's policy does that, and that is the way forward for transport in this country.

2.48 pm

The Institution of Civil Engineers is an historic, estimable and professional organisation, and it is fortunate to have the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn) as its Member. The ICE will be well pleased with his contribution to the debate, although given the rosy picture that he painted on its behalf, it may be confused by the fact that he represents 50 per cent. of the total Labour Back-Bench force. Two Labour Members came to defend and commend the Government. If, on the other hand, he had claimed to represent one of the best purveyors of fish and chips in the country, he would have carried both sides of the House.

If one looks across the range of Government policy, transport is the best example of where old Labour and new Labour collide. The Government have lost the plot on transport, but they did so primarily in their first Parliament. I well remember the days when it was my privilege to stand at the Government Dispatch Box and the right hon. Member for Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who is now Deputy Prime Minister, frothed at me from the Opposition Dispatch Box, shouting that privatisation of the railways was wrong. When I told him that I believed that, after 40 years of annual decreases in the number of people using the railways, privatisation would mean significant increases in passenger numbers and more investment that would lead to new trains, he frothed and fumed and vehemently denied it; but of course that is exactly what happened. He made the big mistake of being so emotionally antagonistic to the developing railway system that he could not form objective judgments, so he focused the debate on punctuality, which, although important to passengers, is not as important if it is the exclusive focus, as it was in his case. As a result, issues relating to safety and maintenance got set to one side.

The right hon. Gentleman also fulminated against roads. The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby was right to say that it is traditional for Governments—not just the last Conservative Government, for his information—to have a long list or roads that it would be good to build. I can lay claim to being the first Secretary of State to decide to inject a degree of rationality into that list, which was so long under both Governments that some people would have had to wait 30 or 40 years to see their particular road. That did not seem sensible, and I tried to reduce the list to a size that would be deliverable within a reasonable time frame. In describing it as a wish list, the hon. Gentleman condemns his own Ministers. We initiated a change of policy that said, "It would be good to build all these roads, but let's at least have a list that is likely to be deliverable in the foreseeable future."

As the Government's first Transport Secretary, the right hon. Member for Hull, East brought to Government the antagonism to roads that he had honed on me and my right hon. Friends and, as it says in the eighth report of the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions, slashed all the road building programmes. On 6 June 1997, he said:
"I will have failed if in five years' time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. It's a tall order, but I urge you to hold me to it."
That is like everything else that Ministers say: it is all spin. He did not mean it, he did not deliver it, he never could deliver it, he was not capable of forming a coherent policy that might be the basis for delivering it and he still rides around in his two Jaguars having failed by his own account, but not in the least embarrassed by it.

Although it is never a good career move for an Opposition Back Bencher to be mildly supportive of and sorry for the current incumbent of any Cabinet job, the blame for the fact that the Government's transport policy is a mess lies primarily not with the current Secretary of State, but with his two predecessors. I commend him—again, not a good career move—for having talked about reinstating a road-building programme. That takes him back, as the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby will note, precisely to where we left off in 1997: we have lost seven years in the process. I am pleased to see the Secretary of State in his place. His two predecessors—I shall come to the other one in a moment—did their best to screw up transport policy because they were not comfortable with trying to bring it into the 21st century and he now has to make decisions that are driven less by their political ideology, and in some cases emotional distaste, than by the need to realign Government policy with the realities of today.

One problem that the Secretary of State faces—I hope that his successor, whom I believe will be my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), will address it—is the need radically to speed up the roads programme. I was the Secretary of State who made the decision to widen the M25 between the M4 and the M3 as part of the Government's submission to the fifth terminal inquiry. That work is only just starting. I was the Secretary of State who made the decision, in the context of speeding the cross-Channel rail link, to put the terminal at St. Pancras. That work is only just starting.

I say to the Secretary of State that if we are to modernise the roads programme—he has said that he wants to do so, as would any sensible person, particularly a former Transport Minister—we need to have a radical look at the public inquiry arrangements and decision-making processes that relate to road building because they are so antiquated that nobody could even put a date on them. I have some ideas of my own about how that might be achieved while still defending the democratic process and I am happy to share them with anybody who is interested, though not in today's debate.

I want to say a few words about rail. The right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) characteristically made his early comment and dashed for the door. In this case, it was: "Wasn't the rail privatisation process awful?" or words to that effect. I was not the Secretary of State who devised that policy or carried it through the House, but I moved it forward to completion and the increased passenger numbers and investment that we see today. It tends to be forgotten that other countries looked at how we privatised our railways and followed our example.

I find it sad that these days we spend too much time talking about the process instead of the passengers whom the process was designed to benefit. I chide the Secretary of State ever so slightly for his recent decision on fares. One of my most cherished memories of government is the Cabinet sub-committee meeting in which the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and I debated my proposal to move to a retail prices index minus 1 regime for 70 per cent. of fares. Hon. Members who know the previous Chancellor will understand when I say that it was a robust conversation. However, we agreed the policy. We did that because, as I said at the time, it ought to be made clear that passengers should get and be seen to get some benefit from privatisation. It was a signal that we were in favour of the railways. It was also, given that we had an RPI plus policy on roads, an indication of how we wished people to behave. I regret that that signal has been removed and that fares will increase, perhaps sharply, when the Government's rhetoric is about trying to get more people to use the railways.

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the architecture of and preparation for rail privatisation, were not the previous Government trying to manage a decline in expectation of the railways, especially for freight, rather than cater for the expansion that subsequently occurred as a result of an economy that has done well? The previous Government sought to establish a system to manage a decline rather than to provide for expansion.

On the contrary. For once, I do not have to bore the hon. Gentleman with many facts and figures. Indeed, I condemn him to a worse fate: he should read all the speeches that I made when I was Secretary of State for Transport. He will then know precisely what we were doing.

On reflection, we made one mistake in the privatisation process. The train operators were all new business men, who were keen to run businesses that would benefit passengers and customers but also their shareholders. It is possible to do that simultaneously. Our mistake was to allow old British Rail management to become the management of Railtrack. The consequences were not good and change had to be introduced.

At that point, let us consider the contribution of the Secretary of State's other predecessor, the right hon. Member for Tyneside, North (Mr. Byers). In a statement to the House, he announced that he intended to put Railtrack into a special vehicle. In response to that, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and I got to our feet and warned the Government that it was one of the most damaging decisions that they had ever made in the context of the public sector. We said that it would seriously undermine confidence in the private finance initiative and make public-private partnerships much more expensive. All that happened.

I remind Labour Members that the private holders of Railtrack shares will take the Government to court later in the year. We will then see precisely the effect of the former Secretary of State's judgment. If there is evidence that Her Majesty's Treasury leaned on the Secretary of State about the decision—as a former Secretary of State, I would be amazed if the Treasury had not leaned on him—the consequences for the Government's transport policy will be catastrophic.

We gave operating companies 15-year leases because we understood that they needed certainty to invest. The Government give them two-year leases and the companies will not invest. In one sense, that is not a party political point but a reflection of the marketplace. If companies do not believe that they have time to recoup their investment, they will not invest. The Government must make up their mind quickly about whether they wish to sustain and develop the investment and the passenger attraction of the railways through the contracts that they are willing to give the operators.

It has become clear beyond peradventure that the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail do not have money to invest in stations. The operating companies are the only ones that have money to improve our stations. They will not invest if they are given only two-year contracts. They need long contracts if they are to have the confidence to invest not only in developing services but in stations.

Let me make a constituency point. I am greatly privileged to be in r ty 26th year of representing some part of the city of Peterborough. For years, we have been promised badly needed redevelopment of our railway station. Pete) borough is the first stop on the east coast main line but he promise of redevelopment was made circa 1975 or 1980. Railtrack promised that we would have it and die SRA said that it would happen. Now the SRA will not even promise.

Indeed, in Peterborough, we do not know whether we shall have a new station and, if we do, whether it will face in the same direction as the current station or whether the plan will be reversed and the buildings constructed on the ether side of the track. We have a plan to develop our station 25 years after the end of the development corporation and we do not even know the direction that it is likely to face and what will be built in its environs, despite its position at the heart of the master plan to redevelop the city. Ministers will understand that such long-standing constituency problems cause hon Members from all parties to get agitated when we consider transport policy.

My last point concerns aviation. Again, I believe that I have the privilege of being the last Secretary of State to review airport policy At that time, I made it possible to have a second parallel runway at Gatwick, although legal constraints meant that that could not happen before the middle of the next