Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Is the Minister aware that the cost being suffered by my constituents is a one-third increase in delays since the effective renationalisation of Railtrack? They want a Secretary of State who will focus on making the trains arrive as rapidly as his information officers depart. They are not interested in those people; but how can they trust a Secretary of State who has seen resign?or has sacked, or disowned?the chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, the chairman of Railtrack, the franchising director, and that other fellow, Winsor? All those people were appointed by the Secretary of State, or by his Government. How can my constituents trust him if he cannot retain the trust of those whom he appointed?
Mr. Spellar: As well as giving an unmitigated endorsement to the old Railtrack, the right hon. Gentleman seems to favour the whole of the failed structure. I would expect the great majority of those in the industry to consider the new chairmen of the Strategic Rail Authority and Railtrack a considerable improvement, and indeed we are already seeing progress.
That is not in any way to underestimate the difficulty of recovering from the considerable problems created by the structure introduced by the last Government. First there was the privatisation of the train operators, and the way in which it was handled; then there was the rushed and botched privatisation of the infrastructure of Railtrack, a company which, as we have seen, was wrongly focused on short-term shareholder value rather than the running of the system. We are considering how to improve the structural position, and we have already made considerable changes in personnel, to the good of the industry.
5 March 2002 col 142-3W Oral Supplementary Question