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TfL Funding: Discussions with Mayor of London

Volume 705: debated on Thursday 16 December 2021

Ministers and officials in the Department for Transport regularly meet officials from Transport for London and the Mayor’s office to discuss a range of issues around funding for Transport for London. Most recently, Baroness Vere met Heidi Alexander on 2 December.

The move to plan B this week has seen bus travel demand in our capital fall by 9% and tube travel demand by a staggering 29%, leaving both still well below pre-pandemic levels. TfL’s financial problems are a direct result of the national effort against coronavirus. The failure to agree a funding settlement will not only decimate services for Londoners, but put at risk the entire country’s economic recovery. I therefore impel the Secretary of State to put aside any vindictive party political considerations and, in a spirit of magnanimity, do what is necessary today to save TfL from collapse.

I am afraid that I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s description of the situation. It does not seem particularly vindictive to pay out £4.1 billion in support of TfL as it rightly battles its way through coronavirus. It is not entirely correct to say that all the problems are related to that; the £13 billion of debt that it has is considerably higher than when the Mayor took over. Putting that aside, I am keen to continue to support TfL. The House will be interested to know that I had to wait more than three weeks for the Mayor to come forward with measures that he was supposed to provide us with in the middle of November.

Yet again, the Government seem to be engaging in a blatant act of political sabotage of London’s vital transport networks. This week, Londoners have listened to Government advice, done the right thing and worked from home to keep our NHS and communities safe. As a result, passenger levels have dropped by over a quarter, which has had a further colossal impact on TfL’s revenue.

All the while, Ministers continue to force a cliff-edge negotiation on TfL finances in what can only be seen as a political attack that will punish hard-working Londoners for simply doing the right thing. As we saw in last week’s Evening Standard, from transport trade unions to square mile firms, London is totally united in its opposition to these disastrous political manoeuvres. Will the Secretary of State do his job and finally meet the Mayor of London? Can he get around the table today and sort it out?

It is interesting that the Front-Bench team have taken their briefing directly from the Mayor of London. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not catch what I just said: the letter that I received with the measures that the Mayor had to meet, which were outlined in an agreement, arrived on my desk three weeks late. Not unreasonably, on behalf of the taxpayer, I went back to him and asked him to clarify some of those points.

The hon. Gentleman accuses us, as other Opposition Members have, of playing politics with this issue, which is completely untrue. Yesterday, I received a long and—I am pleased to say—quite detailed letter to clarify some of those measures, but where did I receive that letter? It was in the Evening Standard, not even on my own desk.

As the Rail Minister in 2018, long before covid, I remember that my negotiations with the Mayor of London resulted in a loan of more than £2 billion for TfL. I am aware of further loans and bail-outs since. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is simply wrong to say that TfL has not been supported by the Government?

My hon. Friend, a former Transport Minister, is absolutely right. There has been about £9.6 billion of waste in TfL finances since 2016. Crossrail is £5.2 billion over—it was on time and on budget when the Mayor took office; there is the pensions cost of £828 million; the failure to raise the fares while the rest of the network had to, which cost £640 million; and another £400 million of combined fare dodging. [Interruption.] The Opposition do not want to hear about the waste, but the Government have supported TfL and will continue to do so, but we will not support the incompetence of the Mayor.

There was a question about meeting the Mayor, and hopefully that can be resolved. I think the Secretary of State got distracted by a former Rail Minister, but we will not get into that.