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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 14:41 GMT
Tube plans attacked by MPs
Tube train
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone also opposes PPP
An influential committee of MPs has warned the government not to go ahead with its plan to bring in private companies to maintain the London Underground.

The Commons transport select committee said in a highly critical report on Tuesday that it would be impossible to decide if the proposals were better value for money than keeping the Tube entirely in public hands.


We find it disgraceful that the Health and Safety Executive was given only one month to reach such important conclusions

Transport committee
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has campaigned against the private, public partnership (PPP) proposed by the government, says it was now "inconceivable" for ministers to press ahead with the plans.

After the new report was published, Downing Street said the government had made it "absolutely clear" it would only proceed with PPP if it was better value for money.

Decision time

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers is due to announce within the next few days the results of reports into the best way to finance and run the tube.

Speculation the decision could come this week was fuelled when Tony Blair's official spokesman said the process was now drawing to a conclusion.

The spokesman said value for money and safety were the government's twin "watch words" for the Tube's future.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone: Government cannot go on with PPP
The MPs' report says that the PPP plans fall short on both these fronts.

The committee says Mr Byers has accepted it will be impossible to give a "definitive answer" on how the PPP bids compare on value for money.

Initial estimates that using the scheme instead of a public sector option would save 4.5m were "inadequate and flawed", it concludes.

That means the government should not approve the PPP deal and instead should work with with Mr Livingstone to develop alternatives, says the committee.

Disputes warning

Amid safety fears over the plans, the MPs say it is "disgraceful" the Health and Safety Executive was only given one month to decide whether the plans allow safe working practices.

With industrial action already causing disruption on the Tube, the committee continues: "It is inevitable that the PPP will lead to significant and expensive disputes over the contracts and between staff and employers."

The MPs also argue the Treasury must have taken a key role in such a big financial commitment and so it is "appalling" Treasury ministers and officials refused to appear before the inquiry committee.

"That refusal threatens to undermine the departmental select committee system," says the report.

Mr Livingstone told BBC London: "I have never read a report that is so scathing about a government policy. I think it is inconceivable for the government to proceed."

Later the London Mayor warned he and his lawyers would examine the PPP contracts if Stephen Byers tried to ignore the report.

Mr Livingstone said would look for any grounds for further legal action "to uphold London's interest in a safe and efficient Tube system".

The mayor of London wants to see a bond scheme to raise the 13bn needed for improvements, rather than the PPP which would see a complete restructuring of the way the tube is run.

'Huge gamble'

Conservative shadow transport minister Eric Pickles branded the report a "stinging indictment of Stephen Byers's botched proposals for PPP".

"Mr Byers is determined to take a huge gamble and push through a measure that is opposed by Londoners, transport experts and now the Labour-dominated select committee," said Mr Pickles.

There was similar criticism from Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Tom Brake, who said PPP would be the government's "poll tax on wheels".

"Just over two years ago, John Prescott was claiming that PPP would save 4.5bn," said Mr Brake.

"Now the government are guessing it could save only 1bn."


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02 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Unions erupt in public services row
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