Prescott stands by his plan

30 May 02
As question marks hung over the government's transport policy, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott hit back at Labour's critics in the Commons' transport select committee.

31 May 2002

On May 26, the influential committee, which enjoys a Labour majority, published a report claiming the government's policy was 'incoherent'.

But Prescott, architect of the ten-year plan launched in 2000, hit back, saying that progress was being made.

The deputy prime minister attacked the committee's opposition to private sector involvement in helping to deliver the government's policies, saying critics failed to put forward any other policy options.

'It was so sad to see that the transport select committee should be so hostile to the major public-private finance proposals in Britain's first long-term ten-year transport investment plan,' he said.

'Throwing doubt on the possibility of raising the required finance flies in the face of the evidence and undermines the commitment to long-term investment, without proposing any long-term alternatives,' he said.

Prescott, departing from a prepared speech at a public-private partnership conference in London on May 28 – just hours before Transport Secretary Stephen Byers resigned – singled out transport committee chair Gwyneth Dunwoody for her opposition to PPPs.

'Gwyneth, it's time to move on from the debate on PPP investment,' declared Prescott.

The government's transport plan aims to use around £45bn, out of a total of £180bn, from the private sector to help out Britain's ailing road and rail network.

However, MPs on the transport committee said the plan's success could be 'undermined by funding uncertainty'.

They said: 'There are concerns, particularly for the railways, that the necessary levels of private sector support may not be forthcoming, either at the right time or on the right terms.

'The government must provide increased financial support when necessary, to ensure that it achieves all the objectives of the revised plan and not just those objectives that the private sector is prepared to fund.'

Further doubt was cast by the outgoing Byers who, in one of his last statements as a Cabinet member, said he would make revisions to the transport plan.


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