Parliamentary Candidate at The Friday Room

Report by Geoff Gay on Friday Room meeting  14th December 2012
with  Matthew O’Callaghan,  Labour parliamentary candidate for Loughborough Constituency on “What should be in the 2015 Labour Manifesto?”

As many regulars missed this meeting, I thought this report would be helpful as an insight into Matthew’s thinking; also an insight into the concerns of the Labour Party members who were the great majority of those present.

Matthew opened with an attack on the way that the present government has brought in a series of measures – on the NHS, education, the welfare state, local government and the unions – which are driven by an anti-public service ideology and were not in the manifesto of either coalition party. Matthew could see no signs of a counter-balancing alternative ideology in the Labour Party. Labour were far too cautious in 1997 and their 2010 manifesto with its 11 chapters was ” a big yawn”. Later, he reinforced this by saying that he hoped that Labour would emerge with a ” big idea” and should base its manifesto not on opinion polls, but on planning and investing for the longer-term. “Our society and politics,” he said, “almost reward short-termism.”  “We have to be cautious in what we promise, but if something is clearly wrong, we have to do something about it.”

Geoff comments:  However, I felt that this “big idea” view was slightly undermined by a later declaration that he was personally more comfortable with community action than with grand schemes ( That is not to say that there is anything wrong with community action).

Matthew then developed some specific points which he wished to see in the Labour manifesto :

Whereas the government had embarked on a programme of reducing and restricting the role of local authorities, he believed in a form of “localism” in which local councils, which are inherently more immediately accountable than central government, were able to exercise power with proper resources and a degree of autonomy: “There needs to be a shift from national to local“.
On education, he was firmly opposed to the government’s removal of schools from local accountability, and wished to see a situation where at least the funding of schools was returned to the local authorities.

Geoff comments:   I felt that, in a situation where many local authorities are assiduously washing their hands of education, this was rather naive and lacking in the sort of depth that is necessary in a serious look at future policy : For example, the idea of local elected “education boards” is gaining currency on the left.

Matthew would also like services such as Health and the Police to have local democratic accountability via elected councils, and for councils to use “direct works” rather than privatised tendering: on the other hand there is a tendency towards inefficiency in public services which could be tackled through something like the French Public Service Academies. We also need to go onto the offensive on taxation, arguing that public services have to be paid for.

On the economy, Matthew called for investment and research, through companies and universities, in key technologies like bio-engineering. With government help, there could be a renewed emphasis on “making things ourselves”. While not necessarily taking control, the state needs to regulate essential services, particularly Energy which is “really a monopoly”, and Rail, in which splitting trains from track was stupid. Again long-termism comes into play, working on the understanding that “we can’t grow forever.”  In answering a question about flat-rate indirect taxes such as VAT and beer duty , Matthew said that he was certainly opposed to the beer duty escalator.

Numbers of other important issues were covered in the context of contributions and questions :

Democratic Reform and Pluralism:  Matthew admitted that he was equivocal and undecided on voting systems ; he was debating with himself issues such as the efficacy or otherwise of coalitions, the constituency link and whether we were primarily electing a government or a local MP. He agreed that big problems with First Past the Post were “inherent majorities” and having to tailor policies to the “middle 200 000” , and suggested that he might be persuaded by some form of “top-up” system.  Matthew declared that “Labour does not have a monopoly of wisdom and can learn a lot from others, particularly the Greens and extra-parliamentary groups like 38 Degrees, although he said, in reply to a question, that he was not personally keen on “joining groups”.

Europe :  Matthew was pro-European though he was not keen on all EU structures. He felt that, at the next general election, all major parties are likely to promise some form of referendum, and he personally would like it to be “in or out, to stop all the farting around”.

Voter Engagement ( or lack of ):  “If its all mush in the middle, what incentive is there for people to vote?”  On the other hand, “passion generates engagement”: Matthew recalled a passionately-fought council election in which the turnout was over 80%!

Inequality: While regretting that inequality had increased under Labour, Matthew said that the issue was not simple: “Legislation for equality is a bit like legislating for goodness”.  “Those who can afford it should pay higher taxes and so lowering the 50% rate was wrong, but if those at the  bottom improve by 10% and those at the top improve by 15%, is that necessarily wrong ?”

The Environment and Energy Policy:  Matthew was clearly opposed to “fracking” because he felt that the technology was imperfect: it was not just a matter of earth tremors – what about the long-term effects of pumping chemicals into the earth ?  On wind farms and the like, we need to think about how to combat and stand up to nimbyism. Energy policy should be balanced but with far more emphasis on renewables.

Geoff comments:  Statistically, it cannot have been just the weather and Christmas shopping that put off our regulars : without the influx of Labour members, the attendance would have been too small to make the meeting worthwhile : as it was, I thought that the meeting was informative and engaging and would comment that , for pluralism and anti-tribalism to mean anything, they need to work all ways.

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4 Responses to Parliamentary Candidate at The Friday Room

  1. Clearly, statistically, Geoff it could have been! The low turnout by regulars could be any one of those causes: the weather, Christmas, tribalism. Take for example the Greens – there are 4 regular attendees, with attendance numbering, not unsurprisingly, anywhere between 1 and 4. I was at a work conference in Nottingham followed by Christmas social and I know of three others got drenched, really drenched, at the vigil for Syria earlier. So Geoff your statistical inference is really flawed; even without this new knowledge, you could deduce that. If you like I’ll produce a frequency chart for Green Party attendance and we can calculate the probability of there being zero. We really should not be in the business of undermining statistics as a tool for rational inference making. The only evidence for a type of tribalism is an influx of party members to hear one of their own. However we should not dwell on this. It is progress a) that Matthew came, b) party people did attend a non-party political meeting, and c) Matthew said there are things to be learnt from other parties. These are steps toward the deliberative democracy that need to precede or at any rate feature strongly in any future campaign for electoral reform and proportional representation.

    Lastly though, thanks for the write up of the meeting; I do wish I could have attended.

    • John Greenwood says:

      I agree with Philip.

      I was glad to be able to suggest things which I would like to see in the manifesto of any party and Mathew seemed open to this.

  2. I had intended to go, but was not feeling too good that night, plus filthy weather, plus I was uncomfortable with a Lib Dem telling the Labour candidate what his party should put in their manifesto, the meeting might have become confrontational. I now regret not going, sounds like Matthew and the Lib Dems share some common ground. Some other time perhaps.

  3. Keith Clarke says:

    Dear Colleagues

    These are the three items I would like to see in a Labour Party Manifesto. These items all make it financially possible to do other things as they save money or make government revenues increase.

    I trust you find this helpful.

    Keith

    First

    1. The repeal of the 1690 William and Mary Act.
    2. The abolition of The Corporation of The City of London.
    3. The Abolition of the position of The Rememberancer in the House of Commons.
    4. The Abolition of the position of Lord Mayor of The City of London.
    5. The absorption of The City of London into a neighbouring local authority.
    6. The seizure of all property owned by The Corporation of The City of London by the state.
    7. The withdrawal by Parliament of the rights of 32,000 companies to have votes in British elections.
    8. The absorption of The City of London Police into the London Metropolitan Police.
    9. Better accountancy laws to make multinationals break their financial information down by country and disclose what they do in each place. This will ensure global markets become more transparent.
    10. A trawl through all Acts of parliament to ensure that any escape clauses for The City are eradicated and any medieval charters giving The City rights are rendered null and void.
    Only by eradicating these medieval practices can Britain be pulled, kicking and screaming, into a modern compassionate and enlightened 21st century democracy.
    Supporting arguments:-

    Taxation and The City
    Taxation pays for civilisation. It provides a set of services, which makes Britain a compassionate and enlightened society protecting the most vulnerable in society, providing education for all, and a health service free on demand for all citizens. This can only be sustained if all citizens and companies pay their taxes as agreed by parliament. Most working people are on PAYE and duly pay their taxes and this has proved to be an efficient way to collect tax. The problems arise with those who are registered as self-employed and have numerous ways of minimising their tax liability, those that evade and avoid tax and finally, those that have a legal right not to pay tax.

    Much time has been given to tax evasion and tax avoidance and I do not believe it is beyond either parliament or HMRC to devise either systems or legislation to curtail these practices. I therefore would like to see a campaign in all appropriate forums to achieve this objective.

    Further I would like a campaign to rectify the position that individuals and companies, which are registered with The City, have a right not to pay tax. I therefore call on all citizens to bring to the attention of all MPs, all members of the TUC, the Labour Party and all members of Unions, that the “1690 William and Mary Act” gives a legal right to those registered with The City not to pay tax as levied by Parliament.

    Secondly

    Energy Policy

    First Britain needs to have a viable carbon free strategy. Perhaps you could consider the following.
    Procedure
    1. First decide were there is a reliable and regular supply of energy. This will give you two options tidal/wave power and geothermal. Both sources are for practical purposes inexhaustible and reliable and just for good measure Britain has plenty of both. In other words a secure supply, not reliant on imports.
    2. Next consider some joined up thinking. What other methods of generating are available. Pumped storage and heat pumps readily come to mind. Not working on the edge of human knowledge but well established and proven.
    3. Now consider the environmental implications. Visually and in terms of acceptability due to their impact on nature and the environment.
    4. Next look at the economics of alternate energy. For large projects, like power stations, money has to be borrowed at the planning and building stage. There is no return on capitol employed until the station is complete. In the case of the Channel Tunnel you will see that that this debt has created a monumental problem for the operators and the banks and is not likely to be solved in the near future.
    5. Finally look at who owns the generating capacity and why are they in business? They are certainly not in the business to generate energy. They are private enterprises whose only goal is to produce a profit. They are not bound by Government objectives or declarations on greenhouse gas emissions.
    If you follow this process you will see that Britain does not have a viable energy policy. This when Britain has an abundance of carbon free energy.

    Supporting arguments: –
    The Alternative Plan
    Joined up Thinking and Supporting Logic
    There is very little kinetic energy in wind. Wind is unreliable. Wind turbines are expensive, inefficient and an environmental problem and at best can only operate for 25% in any year. We do not manufacture them in Britain. Landowners receive a rent of £40,000 pa from the energy companies and claim EU “set aside cash” from the CAP of about £4,000 pa per turbine. They are certainly popular with landowners.
    Tidal turbine power is reliable, at least four opportunities a day to generate power and 365 days per year. The tide times are staggered round the coast of Britain giving constant supply of energy with no dead time. They will not be seen and pose no threat to sea life. The kinetic energy is many times greater than that of wind. Water is 821 times denser than air. Nobody has been swept of their feet with a 5 mph wind but nobody can swim against a 5mph tide.
    Next there is the capture of wave power through “pelamis” by means of hydraulic pumps. In the North Sea these will take the energy out of the waves and reduce coastal erosion saving money on coastal defences. This saving could be redistributed to wave power. In the national accounts of GB Ltd we are not looking for all new money we are moving it from one budget to another. If Britain extracted a fraction of 1% of the energy available round our coast we could immediately be a green energy exporter.
    If we used tidal energy/wave energy to drive pumped storage during off-peak times of demand we would have further resources available. Likewise geothermal power systems with heat pumps powered, by tidal/wave energy, and we are on to another winner. All eco towns should have geothermal systems driven by heat-pumps installed before building houses start.
    Engineers in the city centre of Newcastle have been drilling a hole for the past year. After £1m of drilling, the hole got to 2000m underground and struck gold. Or rather, salty hot water. Steam is now coming out of the orifice and it should heat – effectively for ever, and more or less costless and carbon free – the university’s science campus, a local shopping centre, some homes and a swimming pool. These circumstances occur in several parts of Britain.
    None of these options give the Government the financial problems faced by any other power station. They do not require billions of pounds invested for years before energy is produced. The time-scale is much shorter. A national grid exists which all these systems could supply. A geothermal power station has a very small footprint from one acre up to eight acres. This is minimal compared with conventional power stations.
    Last but not least get individuals to replace their broken gas boilers with CHP Boilers with the ability to sell the surplus energy back to the national grid at the same rate as energy companies charge. The customers will make savings and the Government does not have to find the investment, the customers are making the investment. With the rate of replacement in Britain, by 2020 these will replace the equivalent of one power station. Either a reduction of VAT on CHP Boilers, or the elimination of VAT, will be an added incentive to customers.
    The plan will create employment in Britain’s manufacturing industry. We can manufacture Sea Turbines, and Wave Generators. We have the ability to build pumped storage systems and the ability to manufacture heat pumps. If we have the will we could have a National Energy Company, which could generate this energy and corner the market in these forms of energy. Exporting this energy will improve our Balance of Payments.

    Thirdly

    Public Ownership of Railways

    Supporting Paper:-

    Executive Summary
    The cost of the privatised railway
    There is a widespread concern – shared across the political spectrum – that we are not getting good value from the substantial sums of public money that are invested in the railways every year. Since privatisation, the cost to the public purse of running the railways has risen by a factor of between two and three times. The most cautious view is that the public money going into the railways has increased from around £2.4 billion per year before privatisation (in the period 1990/91 to 1994/95), to approximately £5.4 billion per year in the period 2005/06 to 2009/10 (all at 2009/10 prices). Over the same period, the money going into the railways from passenger fares has also increased in real terms. Much of the increase in cost may be attributed to fundamental problems with the complex privatised railway structure created by the Conservative Government in 1994. Key reasons for the increase in cost include higher interest payments in order to keep Network Rail’s debts off the government balance sheet; debt write-offs; costs arising as a result of fragmentation of the rail system into many organisations; profit margins of complex tiers of contractors and sub-contractors; and dividend payments to private investors. Taken together, these represent a cumulative cost since privatisation of more than £11 billion of public funds, or around £1.2 billion per year. This should be considered a minimum figure, as it includes only those costs, which may be most readily quantified. To put these figures in context, if all unnecessary costs were eliminated and the resultant saving was used entirely to reduce fares, it would equate to an across-the board cut in fares of 18% (or a substantially larger cut in fares that are price regulated because of their social importance).
    The effects of privatisation on passengers, freight and train manufacturing
    The current structure of the railways affects passengers in several ways. Britain has Europe’s highest commuter fares for both day returns and season tickets. Ticket purchase is excessively complex. When things go wrong, there is a lack of clear accountability. Although the privatised rail freight industry might fairly be said to appear better than the rest of the privatised railway, privatisation has resulted in lost opportunities to expand rail freight. Leakage of public money out of the railway as a whole has reduced the funds available for investment in rail freight distribution centres; freight links to serve new industrial capacity; and expansion of the strategic rail freight network. Substantial reductions in rail freight track access charges (80-90% in real terms from the level immediately after privatisation) failed to stimulate growth in the rail freight market. The UK’s once successful rail manufacturing industry has been almost destroyed since privatisation, due to an overall level of investment that is too low to sustain manufacture and a stop-start procurement pattern. These problems arise from the absence, since privatisation, of any kind of ‘guiding mind’ for the whole railway that is able to plan a steady, economical procurement programme using domestic suppliers.
    Perceived obstacles to reform
    There are three broad categories of argument against reuniting the railways under public control: that involvement of the private sector brings valuable innovation, greater investment, and greater efficiency; that it would cost too much to buy back the assets that have been sold off; and that any action to reunify the railway under public ownership would contravene EU law. However, the Transport Select Committee, the McNulty report, and the expert interviewees for this study suggest that innovation is discouraged by the complex and fragmented structure of the privatised railway, and is more difficult now than it was before the railways were privatised. The hoped-for innovation has not materialised. Genuine at-risk private investment (as opposed to private capital expenditure that is underwritten by the Government) makes an insignificant contribution to the railways, representing of the order of one per cent of the total money that goes into the railway each year. This is substantially less than the additional costs posed by the privatised structure. Privatisation has also failed to increase the efficiency of the railways. Notably, this appears to be due to increased numbers of administrators and managers. The cost of these ‘back room’ staff has increased 56% since privatisation, measured per train kilometre. Fragmentation has produced duplication of functions in the different private companies and new staff to deal with all the interfaces between those companies. A step-by-step approach would enable the railway’s assets to be reacquired for the public at minimal cost, and with substantial ongoing savings over time. This step-by-step approach would involve acquisition of franchises as they expired or as companies failed to meet franchise conditions; bringing Network Rail’s debt back onto the Government balance sheet (resulting in lower interest payments); direct procurement of new rolling stock; and ‘fair price’ regulation to bring down the cost of leasing existing stock from the rolling stock companies that now own it. European legislation does not dictate that railways must be fully privatised. There is no requirement under EU legislation for railway infrastructure to be in private ownership. Nor is there any bar on train services being operated by a Government owned enterprise. Other EU countries have accommodated EU legislation whilst largely or entirely retaining public ownership of their railways, and the most recent proceedings at the European Court of Justice suggest that this is likely to remain the case in future.

    What our railways should be for
    Railway reform should seek to provide a high quality service that passengers
    understand, with simple system-wide ticketing and affordable fares. It should tackle overcrowding by expanding capacity; help stimulate local economic regeneration through better services; help rebuild a UK rail manufacturing base; expand urban rail networks as a means to create uncongested and more liveable cities; reduce carbon emissions by achieving a modal shift of freight from road to rail; and provide an attractive alternative to flying for longer journeys within the UK. At the regional and local level, rail services should be integrated with other modes, as part of a seamless public transport system. There should be a strong ethos of public service, in which all staff feel they are working to create the best possible railway, for the benefit of all of us.
    How the railway is structured in other countries
    Elsewhere in Europe, between 80% and 100% of passenger train services are provided by the public sector. Publicly owned companies also carry the majority of rail freight in most other European countries, excepting the Netherlands. Other European countries provide important lessons for reform in the UK. Generally, the publicly owned train operator has a ‘semi-detached’ relationship to the publicly owned rail infrastructure manager. This may take the form of two separate state owned companies (Spain, France, Sweden, Netherlands); separate companies within a state-owned group of companies (Germany, Italy); or divisions of a single state owned company (Switzerland). The European Commission is challenging the way some countries have transposed EU rail directives into domestic law, but although this may lead to some limited adjustments, there is no prospect of any of these countries having to abandon their basic railway structures. Other countries accept that rail infrastructure requires state financing, planned over periods of multiple years (typically 3-8 years), and in the context of a longer-term (15 – 20 year) overall plan. Regional governments in all other European countries (and Switzerland) have a major role in the provision of local rail services, even if local trains are operated by the national state-owned train company with funding derived from national budgets. Other European countries have been more successful than Britain at sustaining domestic train manufacturing.
    Unifying passenger train operations in Britain at minimal cost
    Gradual acquisition of passenger franchises would not require significant public expenditure. Train operating companies could be absorbed into a public ‘passenger operations’ organisation as existing franchises expire; through tighter enforcement of franchise conditions; as TOCs themselves choose to surrender franchises; or as their premium payment structure reduces their purchase value to zero or a minimal price. Despite the planned move to longer franchises, break points to review performance may offer an opportunity to bring under-performing franchises back into the public sector. Bringing passenger operations back into the public sector in a gradual way would provide a comparator against which the performance of other operators could be benchmarked. While some of our expert interviewees preferred bringing passenger operations entirely within the public sector, and others favoured a ‘mixed economy’ with some continued private sector involvement, it is notable that the first step – taking some passenger franchises back under public control – is the same. Our proposed gradual approach offers a means to build a consensus over time, through measurement and comparison of the performance of private and public operations.
    Inter-city services within a unified passenger train operator
    Most countries’ rail systems show a clear structural distinction between fast long distance inter-city services, and more local trains serving a single city or region. Our expert interviewees felt that fast long-distance services should be reassembled as a single management and business unit, forming a strong flagship ‘brand’ for the reunified railway. Public operation of these potentially profitable services would bring advantages to the public purse and to passengers. The Government could choose to direct the resulting profits towards reducing fares on long-distance rail routes, which would help cut motorway congestion and carbon emissions; or to cross-subsidise socially valuable services on other routes.
    The role of regional bodies and devolved administrations in relation to
    passenger services
    Within the context of a unified passenger operator throughout England, Wales and Scotland, there was support from expert interviewees for regional bodies and devolved administrations to play a greater role in specifying the service needs of train passengers within their catchments; negotiating with the unified passenger operator to deliver those services; and arranging integration between local rail services and bus, tram and tube services. Funds for local and regional passenger rail services should flow via regional bodies and devolved administrations.
    An overarching ‘guiding mind’ for the railway: ‘GB Rail’
    The need for the different parts of the railway to be managed as a coherent whole arose repeatedly in our discussion with experts, several of whom pointed to the need for a ‘guiding mind’ to ensure that services, infrastructure and rolling stock are managed and developed in an integrated and consistent way. While EU law poses certain constraints on how such integration may be achieved, a careful assessment of the structural arrangements in other EU countries, and the specific grounds on which the European Commission has challenged these structures, suggests that substantial integration under an overarching ‘guiding mind’ would be possible. This ‘guiding mind’ body, which we term ‘GB Rail’, would provide a single railway entity for a national Government to deal with. Because it would have an overview of the whole railway, it would be able to achieve efficiencies that are not currently possible. ‘GB Rail’ would be a publicly-owned corporation, with a subsidiary company responsible for passenger train operations and certain functions relating to infrastructure (maintenance and enhancement, signalling and station management), which we term ‘GB Rail Network and Operations’, and a separate subsidiary company responsible for capacity allocation and access charges, which we term ‘GB Rail Access’. It would also be responsible for any publicly-owned freight operations. This structure appears compliant with EU law, as the ‘essential functions’ relating to non-discriminatory access for privately-owned freight operators and international passenger operators would be managed independently of the publicly-owned passenger train operator. Within GB Rail Network and Operations, it would be necessary for passenger operations and infrastructure divisions to operate with independent accounting, in order to fulfil EU regulations. Our review of the structure of the railways in other European countries did reveal a variety of other ways of achieving the important ‘guiding mind’ function that is currently absent in Britain, and suggested that the proposed model was not the only possible choice. However, most alternative structures appeared more difficult to defend against challenge from the European Commission. This does not make them completely unfeasible: a determined Government could decide to fight the European Commission in order to achieve its preferred structure, and if necessary to pay fines, which would be small in comparison to the cost savings from public ownership.
    Reform of Network Rail
    There would be several benefits from making Network Rail a division or subsidiary of a publicly-owned ‘guiding mind’ organisation. First, it is estimated that over £150 million of debt interest payments could be saved every year by bringing Network Rail into the public sector. Second, weaknesses in Network Rail’s current governance structure could be addressed, making it properly accountable to government for the public money that it spends. Once its ‘essential functions’ of allocating and charging for network capacity were hived off to GB Rail Access, Network Rail could gradually take on a train operations role, becoming GB Rail Network and Operations. Thus it would not be necessary to set up an entirely new public body to absorb passenger operations as these were brought back into the public sector. The present five-year planning and finance cycle for rail infrastructure investment should be retained, within the context of a new longer-term strategic rail plan which would be the outcome of a political process to agree a vision for the future of Britain’s railways. This would address strategic issues such as how inter-city services should be developed outside London.
    A new model for rolling stock procurement
    ‘GB Rail’ should be able to procure new trains directly, using either government grant or government-backed debt. It would be able to plan a regularised programme of procurement to meet predicted rolling stock needs and strategic plans for the future of the railway, offering better value for money than the current arrangements. Savings could be enhanced by standardising stock across the UK instead of adopting different specifications for various routes, franchises and TOCs. An approach to procurement which supported UK train manufacturing industry could be consistent with EU legislation, if it was appropriately framed.
    Fair lease costs for existing rolling stock
    It is important to overcome the longstanding problem that ROSCOs are able to charge excessive rents for their trains, in a market where there is very little effective competition. Control of lease rentals could offer an effective tool to ensure existing rolling stock is available at a reasonable price. A new Government could propose a reduction in lease rentals in return for a usage guarantee on the ROSCOs’ stock, and, if no agreement were reached, it could introduce regulation to control lease rentals, with an independent expert determining a fair price for the remainder of the life of the stock.
    A growing rail freight sector
    The context for reforms to improve rail freight is different to that for passenger operations because competition in this sector is required under EU law. Since any freight operator who was bought out is guaranteed a right under EU law to re-enter the UK rail freight market, it is unclear what purchase might achieve. The private freight operators are profitable companies and therefore could also be expensive for the Government to purchase. DRS, which is publicly-owned, could become a division or subsidiary of ‘GB Rail’, and this would be consistent with EU Rules. Growth in rail freight would be aided by greater investment in strategic freight network infrastructure schemes. Some schemes, which are presently unaffordable, could become viable if more rail enhancement projects were carried out by Network Rail’s own workforce rather than being outsourced.
    Implications for rail regulation
    Although no independent rail regulator existed before privatisation, it is likely that the Office for Rail Regulation would need to be retained, with modified terms and powers. Its role would include overseeing access arrangements to UK railways for private freight services and international passenger services through the channel tunnel. It might be responsible for ensuring a fair price was paid for the lease of existing rolling stock from the ROSCOs; and might also oversee the setting of track access charges for different freight flows and their fair application to freight operators in the private and public sectors.
    The political programme for railway reform: now and from 2015
    A Labour Party that was committed to reform of the railways could take some important steps now, in preparation for action as a future Government. These include stating that no new franchises will be signed under a Labour Government; stating that an incoming Labour Government would review all existing franchises to assess whether tax-payers and fare-payers would receive better value-for-money from an immediate buy-out of certain franchises; and arguing now for break-points in all longer franchises let under the current Government, to allow for review including termination. To reduce leakage of public money out of the railways, the Labour Party could propose a 50% tax on all dividends paid by TOCs and ROSCOs. It could also state that in Government it would regulate the ROSCOs’ oligopoly to ensure a fair price is paid for lease of rolling stock. These steps could be taken in the context of an overarching Labour Party strategy to Rebuild Rail, which could include commitments to make the UK railway system as integrated as possible within the constraints of EU law; to bring fares more into line with those in Europe; to eliminate leakage of public monies out of the railways; and to develop the railway’s potential to contribute to Britain’s prosperity.

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