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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 22:33 GMT
GLA rejects Tube sell-off
Ken Livingstone uses the Underground
Ken Livingstone welcomed the GLA's rejection of PPP
London Mayor Ken Livingstone's battle to derail the government's proposed partial sell-off of the London Underground received a boost on Wednesday when the Greater London Assembly (GLA) voted to reject the plan.

The London Assembly's vote today to oppose the government's partial privatisation of the tube is a hugely important decision and a real breakthrough

Ken Livingstone
In a Conservative motion, backed by all but the assembly's Labour members, the GLA not only voted against the government's proposed "public private partnership" (PPP) scheme but also to formally scrutinise the controversial plan.

Mr Livingstone hailed the vote as a "hugely important decision and a real breakthrough".

"It reflects the overwhelming consensus in London, expressed not only in opinion polls and in the views of every serious commentator, but also in the majority of votes during the London elections this May."

Mr Livingstone, who was expelled from Labour's ranks for running against the party's official candidate in the mayoral race, said assembly members were "right to strongly express their verdict".

Privatisation 'a disaster'

The mayor said the fragmentation of the rail network following its privatisation had been "a disaster" and that the Tube "should not go the same way".

"I welcome that in the course of the debate Labour's transport spokesman agreed with the other parties that the assembly should now scrutinise the public-private partnership."

Mr Livingstone, who supports a bond issue to raise revenue for the Underground, said the cross-party agreement to now examine the issue of PPP "would serve the interests of London".

"I will assist the assembly in their work of scrutinising partial privatisation."

Earlier this year Mr Livingstone appointed Bob Kiley, the man who oversaw the revival of the New York subway system, to the post of commissioner of Transport for London.

War of words

The mayor said that during the debate on the PPP, the leader of the Labour GLA group, Lord (Toby) Harris, expressed the view that he would welcome the views of Mr Kiley on the issue.

"It is vital that the man who will be running London Underground can make a full and detailed assessment of the scheme to fragment and partially privatise the Tube," said Mr Livingstone.

But Labour GLA member John Biggs said the assembly's decision was a "regrettable example of point scoring" arguing that it had closed down the debate on the issue.

"The Labour position remains that subject to its passing value-for-money and safety tests, the PPP probably remains the best deal in town," said Mr Biggs.

"This is obviously the case whereas today nobody is proposing a serious alternative."

For the Tories, Andrew Pelling said that the Underground "should be run on London's terms".

He said: "We have the PPP option or the Kiley option, and we are backing Ken's choice of man for the job."

Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone reiterated her party's opposition to PPP saying: "Profit and safety are a deadly mix, as we have only too sadly seen evidenced by the Paddington and Hatfield disasters."

In recent weeks a war of words has been waged between the mayor and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott over whether Mr Kiley would be granted access to details of commercial firms' bids to the run the Tube network.

Last month the government faced embarrassment when the conference of the London Labour Party backed a call for ministers to withdraw the PPP plans.

And opinion polls have consistently suggested that Londoners remain opposed to the sell-off plans. An ICM/London Evening Standard survey this week showed that 50% of those questioned wanted Mr Livingstone to oppose the PPP.

The government plans to see the PPP through before handing the running of the network over to the mayor and the GLA in autumn next year.

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See also:

26 Sep 00 | Labour
Livingstone blasts Tube plan
18 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Tube sell-off safety threat
04 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Labour expels Livingstone
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