Current Secretary of Sate for Transport, Lord Adonis rightly gets praise from across the political spectrum. Although there’s by no means cross-party agreement on some transport issues (think Heathrow for a start), Adonis is generally respected even when he is disagreed with. Whilst he has an extremely strong claim to have been the best Labour transport minister since 1997, some of the competition for that accolade is not exactly stiff.
Indeed, the publication a few days ago of another cross-party Select Committee report into the failings of part-privatisation on the London Underground reminds me of just how bad Labour MP Glenda Jackson was as a transport minister for a period after the 1997 general election.
Glenda Jackson was an enthusiastic cheerleader for privatising parts of the Tube and back in 1999 boldly claimed:
It is absurd to presuppose that a public-private partnership evinced by this Government will do anything other than produce the best possible value for the taxpayer and the people of London by ensuring adequate investment…
The scaremongering of the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton [Lib Dem Ed Davey], who says that such reviews would lead to excessive and overweening costs, is unfounded…
We have been meticulous in assuring ourselves that the model on which we base the definition of PPP contracts will deliver the best possible value to the taxpayer and, of course, to the underground itself. (Hansard)
The reality? As the cross-party group of MPs put it in their latest report:
Transport for London (TfL) today welcomed the Commons Transport Select Committee’s confirmation that the London Underground (LU) Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts are “flawed” and have “failed to prove” value for money…
The Committee’s report said: “We reiterate once again our judgement that the PPP scheme is flawed. Some 20 months following the demise of Metronet, the Government is no nearer being able to demonstrate that the PPP provides value for money for the taxpayer.”…
LU Managing Director, Mike Brown said: “This report confirms that the PPP is failing to deliver improvements to the Tube, value for money and is therefore failing to deliver for London.” (TfL press release)
Louise Ellman, the Labour MP who chairs the Transport Select Committee put it succinctly:
The PPP scheme is flawed. Some 20 months following the demise of Metronet, the Government is no nearer to being able to demonstrate that the PPP provides value for money for the taxpayer.
Not so much “absurd” or “scaremongering” as absolutely right, Glenda. Shame she didn’t listen to the warnings and instead gave her full backing to part-privatising the tube.
I suspect Glenda Jackson’s keen support for privatisation may not be going down too well with her many constituents who are suffering from repeated closures on the Northern and Jubilee Lines, a point I’m sure the Liberal Democrat candidate for Hamsptead & Kilburn, Ed Fordham, will be reminding them of.