Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Twelve thousand constituents who travel on the trains every day are primarily concerned that, following the Secretary of State‘s renationalisation of Railtrack, punctuality has deteriorated. That is more important than his prolific loss of spin doctors. They also note that he has disowned, dismissed or seen depart the chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, the chairman of Railtrack, the Rail Regulator and another regulator. They were all appointed by him or his Government. If he cannot get on with those people and they do not trust him, how can my constituents trust him to run the railways properly? And if none of those people was required to be paid ?200,000 to keep quiet, why is the taxpayer, and not the Labour party, required to pay that sum to Martin Sixsmith?
Mr. Byers: I have great respect for the Rail Regulator, who I believe is doing a very good job. On the issue of changes at the top of the Strategic Rail Authority and Railtrack, I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that I do not think that those organisations were delivering to his 12,000 constituents coming in from St. Albans. There is a choice: we can either make big changes to have the opportunity of improving our railway system, or we can tinker around at the edges. I have chosen to make the big changes that are needed. The right hon. Gentleman may criticise me for doing so, but in the end, his 12,000 constituents who travel every day will be the judge. By the time of the next election, what will really matter to them will be not the debate that we are having here this afternoon but whether their trains are safer, more punctual and more reliable?and they will be.
9 May 2002 col 298