Maria Eagle – 2019 Speech on a Public Advocate

Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle, the Labour MP for Garston and Halewood, in the House of Commons on 10 July 2019.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish a public advocate to provide advice to, and act as data controller for, representatives of the deceased after major incidents.

The Bill is about changing how we handle the aftermath of public disasters so that we can better enable families of the deceased and injured survivors to get what they need from the events that inevitably follow. It aims to provide collective representation for bereaved families and injured survivors during the investigations in the aftermath and to provide for the establishment of an independent panel to review documentation relating to the disaster. It should prevent families and survivors from feeling excluded by the official processes and feeling like their needs are being ignored. It will enable a more cost-effective response that helps families and facilitates a collective solidarity amongst them, as well as putting their voices at the very centre of the aftermath.

The Bill arises out of the experience of the Hillsborough families and its aim is to prevent others from having to go through the trauma and agonies that the Hillsborough families and survivors have endured simply to get the truth about what happened to their loved ones officially accepted and to get justice and accountability for what went wrong. Families and the injured survivors in disasters usually want two simple things—to find out what happened and why, and to stop it ever happening again to other people—yet it is striking how frequently they feel let down. We have seen it time after time: Hillsborough, the MV Derbyshire, the Marchioness, terrorist attacks such as Lockerbie and other bombings, and more recently the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower. In all these cases, there have been reports of families and survivors feeling alienated and ignored and often feeling the need to campaign for truth and justice because they do not feel that their needs have been met by the proceedings that have happened.

I would like to thank Lord Wills for drafting the Bill, following work that he and I did consulting family support groups involved in a number of public disasters. It is he who devised the mechanics of how the Hillsborough independent panel should work in 2009, when we were both Ministers in the Ministry of Justice. Its establishment followed a call for transparency and the publication of documents on the 20th anniversary of the disaster by Andy Burnham and me—both then Ministers. Without Lord Wills, the Hillsborough independent panel would never have happened, and without the HIP the full truth about Hillsborough would never have been officially acknowledged. The original inquest verdicts of accidental death would never have been quashed and replaced after the second inquests with verdicts of unlawful killing. It was the HIP that finally and definitively reported the full truth of what happened at Hillsborough, 23 years after the events, and it did so using the principles of openness, transparency and the publication of documentation.​
I have had an involvement with Hillsborough families for 29 years. When I was an articled clerk in a legal practice in Liverpool in 1990, my principal was one of the solicitors on the Hillsborough steering committee conducting the original civil litigation. I have known and tried to help the Hillsborough families ever since that time. When I was first elected to this House in 1997, members of the executive committee of the Hillsborough Families Support Group were amongst the first of my constituents to come to me for help, and I have been helping them ever since. Significant progress has been made over these years—very much against the odds, it must be said—so I have a deep understanding of what has happened to them in the past 30 years. The members of the executive committee of the Hillsborough Families Support Group have told me that they support the Bill because they think that it will make a difference to bereaved families in future disasters.

The Hillsborough families’ experience is extreme, but not unique. In the aftermath of disasters, things often seem to go wrong for the families of the deceased and for injured survivors. I have handled other cases myself. The families of the 44 people who were killed when MV Derbyshire sank with all hands in 1980 spent 20 years campaigning to clear their loved ones of blame for what happened. They felt that the British Wreck Commission had blamed alleged poor seamanship for the sinking, thus casting aspersions on the victims—who could not answer back—rather than on the owners, builders and insurers of the vessel. As the secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on MV Derbyshire, I saw what a heavy toll that took on them, and I helped them to succeed in their long and difficult campaign for official acknowledgement of the truth of what had happened. The truth was that their relatives had been wholly innocent victims of the disaster, and their campaign was fully vindicated, but it should not have taken 20 years.

There have been, and will continue to be, other disasters that kill and injure people, creating more bereaved families and injured survivors. We should use the experiences of past disasters to improve the way in which we handle the aftermath of those that happen in the future. The Bill would establish an independent, adequately resourced public advocate for those who are bereaved in public disasters, and for injured survivors. It would locate the public advocate’s office in a Government Department; the advocate would be able to call on its resources but, crucially, would be totally independent of the Government. It would require the public advocate to act if 50% plus one or more of the families of the deceased and injured survivors asked for that to happen. The advocate would then act as a representative of the collective interests of the bereaved and survivors in securing the openness and transparency that families need.

The process would not replace any representation in legal proceedings, but the advocate would have an additional role intended to give families and survivors confidence that their needs were central in the securing of truth and justice. That would be done by ensuring transparency and openness in a way that cannot be hijacked by organs of the state or other interested parties in the various legal proceedings that often follow in the aftermath of a disaster.

The public advocate, as a data controller, would establish a panel—like the Hillsborough independent panel—in consultation with relatives of the deceased and survivors, to review all documentation at a much ​earlier stage than was the case with Hillsborough, thus facilitating transparency and disclosure by way of reports to Parliament and the Lord Chancellor. That would counterbalance legal proceedings, inquiries, inquests and other trials leaving families feeling like unimportant, unrepresented parties—which is how they often feel. It would complement and add to the sum of knowledge about what happened and why, and it would do so in a timely fashion and at an early stage.

In the Queen’s Speech of 2017, the Government promised to establish such an office, but—unbelievably, given how straightforward such legislation would be—they have made no progress beyond conducting a consultation. It is also clear from their consultation document, published in September last year, that their public advocate would not be independent, would not be a data controller, would not be able to act at the behest of families, would be directed by the Secretary of State, and would not have the power to establish and appoint independent panels such as the Hillsborough independent panel.

Let me say to the Government that unless the families have more agency and the public advocate is truly independent, that simply will not do the job of maintaining families’ confidence and putting them at the centre of the search for the truth in the aftermath of disasters. To be effective, the public advocate needs independence, the confidence of the families and survivors, and the ability to establish an independent panel as a data controller and to report findings. Those are the essential elements that will prevent the aftermath of future disasters from being made more traumatic for families and survivors, as has happened in the past.

I believe that, if implemented, these measures will prevent bereaved families and injured survivors from ever again having to endure decades of fighting for the truth to be acknowledged by officialdom, and decades of striving for justice and accountability. If passed, the Bill will also stand as an enduring monument to the dignity and collective strength, fight and stamina of the Hillsborough families and survivors, so that they can know at last that something good and permanent has come out of their decades of agony and trauma, and that no one will ever again have to go through what they have endured simply because their family has had the great misfortune to be caught up in a public disaster.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Maria Eagle – 2016 Speech on the BBC


Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle, the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, in the House of Commons on 12 May 2016.

May I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for early sight of it? Despite being very coy in the House yesterday when we asked about his plans, he seems to have managed to brief various newspapers overnight on a large part of the contents of the White Paper—a deplorable state of affairs. Indeed, for the last few weeks, we have had to read an increasing avalanche of briefing to Conservative-supporting newspapers—especially those hostile to the BBC—which appears to have emanated from his Department.

The fact that most of the Secretary of State’s wilder proposals appear to have been watered down, dumped or delayed by the Government, of which he is a member, is a reflection of his diminishing influence and lack of clout. He has not got his way in most things, and I welcome that.

There is no point the Secretary of State denying that he has been overruled by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. We know he is extremely hostile to the BBC. He wants it diminished in scope and size. He recently told an audience in Cambridge that the BBC is merely

“a market intervention of around £4 billion by government”.

That was before he described the disappearance of the BBC if the charter was not renewed as “a tempting prospect”.

The Secretary of State has spent time in speeches trying to tell the BBC that it should not be making popular programmes or that, if it does, they should be scheduled at times when fewer people will watch them. The truth is that, in large part, he has not got his way.


Mr Speaker


Maria Eagle

The Secretary of State’s views are also totally out of step with licence fee payers, who value and support the BBC. I said yesterday that the Opposition believe the BBC charter should have governance arrangements that guarantee the BBC’s editorial and financial independence and refrain from interfering with the BBC’s mission to inform, educate and entertain us all. We will examine the White Paper in detail to see how well it measures up against those criteria.

I welcome the fact that the length of the new charter is to be 11 years, but I am concerned with the imposition of a break clause that will, in effect, reduce that to five and a half years. That does not really give the BBC the certainty and stability it requires to get on with the job. I also welcome the fact that the licence fee is to continue until 2022, increased by CPI inflation, but we wait to see how his proposals over the second half of the charter period develop and will look very closely at what the Government do at that stage.

I still have some major concerns. On governance, I said yesterday that it is unacceptable for a majority of the unitary board, which will have major influence over output and therefore over editorial decisions, to be appointed by the Government. Today we learned that the Secretary of State plans that only up to at least half the board will be Government appointees. This board will run the BBC. Despite what he says, it will have influence over output and therefore over editorial decisions. Appointing a unitary board is different from appointing either governors or trustees, who have had no power to run the BBC day to day.

The Secretary of State’s suggestion that these proposals enhance the independence of the BBC are hard to reconcile with reality. We have seen overnight a political campaign—the leave campaign—headed up by Cabinet Ministers threatening a broadcaster with unspecified consequences for doing something that Cabinet Ministers did not like. How much more serious a threat would that be if those Cabinet Ministers got to appoint at least half the board of the broadcaster concerned? Yet that is the prospect facing the BBC under his plans.

I am still worried, therefore, that the Government are seeking unduly to influence the output and editorial decision making of the BBC—or can be seen to be doing so. Will he now promise that all Government appointments will be made by a demonstrably independent process overseen by the Commissioner for Public Appointments that prevents there being any suspicion that the Government seek to turn the BBC into something over which they have more control than is currently the case? Reports in today’s newspapers that the Prime Minister has personally intervened to insist that Rona Fairhead be installed as chair of the new board do not augur well in this respect. I make no comment on the merits of Rona Fairhead, but there has been no process at all to reach such a decision—simply a prime ministerial diktat. That does not augur well for these arrangements in future.

On financial independence, a funding agreement was struck by the Chancellor with the BBC last year. We will look to ensure that it is met in full by the Government, with no more top-slicing—I welcome what the Secretary of State said about that—and no siphoning off of licence fee payers’ money into funds to be given to other broadcasters. We are glad, in that respect, that his contestable pot proposals, widely briefed in advance of the publication of the White Paper, are now somewhat shrunken and are to be consulted on. Will he give the House an assurance that he will listen to the results of that consultation and be prepared, if necessary and if that is its outcome, to abandon these proposals?

I am very concerned that the Secretary of State wants to change the mission of the BBC when it has worked well for more than 90 years and is supported by the public. There is a great virtue to the simplicity and clarity of the current phraseology of its mission statement. Given what he has said, we will look closely at what he proposes to see how it might work. I do not believe that his obsession with distinctiveness should be imported into the BBC’s mission statement. However, we will look at the wording he proposes to see whether we have any concerns about what the implications will be.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s focus on improving the diversity of the BBC in respect of its staffing and the way in which it produces its output. Again, I am not convinced that the mission statement is the best place to put that. None the less, we will look closely at what he proposes, and I welcome the general tenor of his remarks and his intentions in this respect.

The Opposition do not accept the Secretary of State’s assertion that the size and scale of the BBC crowd out investment and have a negative impact on the media market—quite the opposite. The BBC already works well with other UK creative industries and other broadcasters, to the benefit of all. He might be better advised to keep his nose out of this rather than trying to tell the BBC how to do the job that it does on a day-to-day basis. He ought to stop his ideologically driven meddling and let it get on with the job.

We note what the Secretary of State had to say about the new and enhanced role that Ofcom will have in regulating the BBC. It will be a big job, and Ofcom already has a lot on its plate. Can he guarantee to the House that Ofcom will be given the proper resource—extra staffing, expertise and money—to do the job he now expects it to do? He said nothing about that in his statement today, but an important part of whether this will work is how Ofcom will be able to do this job.

In respect of what the Secretary of State said about the National Audit Office, I respect the National Audit Office and its work very much—I think everybody in this House does—so I have no objection. I note that he said in his statement that there will be appropriate safeguards for editorial independence once value-for-money reports have been done. That is tremendously important. It needs to be totally clear that any work done by the National Audit Office does not interfere with the editorial independence of the BBC. We will look at the detail of those safeguards, and I hope that he will be very open in setting out that detail.

The BBC is one of the UK’s most successful and loved institutions. There has developed a feeling, both inside this Parliament and outside it, that the Government are seeking inappropriate influence over the BBC. Will he now agree that when his proposals are debated in both Houses of Parliament, it should be on a substantive motion that enables Members of both Houses to express their views by way of a vote?

Maria Eagle – 2013 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle to the 2013 Labour Party conference in Brighton.


Do you remember David Cameron’s promise on rail fares last year? Capping future increases at just one per cent above inflation.

But remember what actually happened?

The new year slog back to work.

The first commute on a cold, dark January morning.

But the nastiest shock awaiting commuters? A third year in a row of inflation-busting fare rises – some tickets up by as much as eleven per cent.

David Cameron’s broken promise on rail fares.

Because he cannot, and will not, stand up to vested interests.

Because David Cameron will always put the privileged few before working people.

But we can’t be One Nation if we price more and more people off our transport system. If people can’t afford to live near their job, then find the cost of commuting goes up faster than their wages. If young people are told to stay in education, or find an apprenticeship, but then find they can’t afford to get there.

That’s why a One Nation Labour government will tackle the cost of living crisis. Banning train companies from hiking fares beyond strict limits. No more averaging out the so-called fare cap, but an actual cap.

Not on some routes, but on every route.

Let me say this to the train companies:

You make hundreds of millions a year, in a system that pays out more in subsidies than you pay back.

So when fares go up again in January, do the right thing:

Voluntarily cap fare rises, since Ministers won’t.

Do your bit to ease the cost of living crisis.

But if you choose not to act, then a One Nation Labour government will put a proper cap on fares.

You know, Ministers did announce a cap on rail fares last week – new maximum prices for singles and returns.

And the new cap?

£250 one way. £500 return.

And, that’s not even First Class. Conference, what planet is David Cameron on?

And it isn’t just the level of fares that drives people to distraction. It’s the feeling that the system is always trying to rip you off. You buy an off peak ticket. But nowhere does it tell you when off peak actually starts. And every train company seems to use a different set of rules.

So, yes we need to cap fare rises.

But we need a new deal for passengers too.

No more talk of Super Peak fares, meaning your season ticket wouldn’t even be valid on every train.

No more stretching peak time, when it’s actually about stretching profits.

No more confusing tickets, but the exact time you can use it printed on the ticket.

No more inflexibility when you book in advance, so you can’t get the next train – even when it’s empty.

And if you do have the wrong ticket on the train, take off the price you’ve already paid from the cost of a new one.

No more single and return journeys costing the same. Not just in one pilot area after 2015, as the government plans, but across the network.

No more charging more at the ticket office than online, just to provide another excuse to close them.

No more rip offs at ticket machines, but a new legal right to be offered the cheapest fare regardless of how or where you buy a ticket.

No more inflation-busting increases in the cost of leaving your car at the station, when it’s just another way to clobber commuters.

No more ripping people off with internet charges, just because you can’t afford to travel First Class.

And isn’t it time that all trains had wifi in the 21st century? So let’s require it in franchises.

And when train companies are paid £136million by Network Rail for delays, no more pocketing tens of millions of pounds that should be passed on to passengers.

In future, it should be paid to passengers, or not be paid at all.

Isn’t it time to end the racket on our railways, and once again put passengers before profit?

And let’s tackle overcrowding on our railways that can make the journey to work such a misery. So let’s free up space for new commuter services by moving the growth in longer journeys onto a new north-south rail line. Reducing journey times. Getting more freight off our roads.

But, unlike the Tories, let’s use the project as an opportunity to create thousands of new apprenticeships for our young people.

And, unlike the Tories, no blank cheque for any government project. So, as Ed Balls rightly says: we support the idea of a new north-south rail line but, if costs continue to rise – and the value for money cannot be demonstrated, we will have to ask if this is the right priority for £50billion pounds.

So I say to David Cameron: get a grip on this project. Get a grip on its budget. And get it back on track.

And get a grip on the chaos in rail franchising too. Entirely caused by ministerial incompetence. What an appalling, unacceptable, scandalous waste of public money.

Fifty million pounds of compensation to train companies.

Millions more to lawyers and consultants.

The expense of two inquiries.

And now Ministers forced to extend rail contracts by as much as fifty months, while they sort out the mess. And how do you think the crack negotiating team of Patrick McLoughlin and Simon Burns are doing?

With just two out of twelve extensions agreed, the train companies will pay a staggering £78 million less than last year. Enough to have ended above inflation fare rises.

Ministerial incompetence adding to the cost of living crisis.

And now Ministers have come up with a new plan to waste money. A costly and unnecessary privatisation of East Coast trains. It’s on course to have returned £800million to tax-payers. And reinvests all of its profits to benefit passengers. Profits that, from 2015, will be shared with shareholders.

David Cameron: even at this late stage, abandon this costly, unnecessary, ideological, dogmatic, cynical, wrong-headed, vested-interest driven, disastrous privatisation.

But if you go ahead:

End the nonsense that means the only rail company in the world barred from bidding is the one that is running it – and doing so well. Even the French, German and Dutch state railways can bid.

How completely bizarre that Tory Ministers have no problem with a government-run rail service so long as it isn’t British.

So, instead of all this waste, let’s reduce costs in our railway. Save money by bringing a fragmented industry together. With responsibilities currently spread across the Transport Department and multiple separate bodies, brought within a reformed and more accountable Network Rail.

Save money by ending wasteful repainting and rebranding of trains and stations with every new contract. Restore a coherent InterCity identity to national train services, regardless of public or private operator.

Not just reducing waste, but making life easier for passengers too.

Conference. To tackle the cost of living crisis, we need reform of local transport too.

Bus fares, rising by nearly twice the rate of inflation. Transport authorities, powerless to act.

Unable to insist that tickets work across operators.

Unable to introduce smart ticketing, like Oyster.

Unable to cap the daily, weekly and monthly cost of travel.

Unable to require bus companies to let young people travel free.

And unable to take control of local rail services, to create a genuinely integrated network.

All things taken for granted in London.

But David Cameron’s government is making it harder for councils to deliver change.

His franchising fiasco has put the brakes on local control over rail. His decision to rig bus funding now penalises authorities that pursue reform.

I pay tribute to Labour councils and councillors that are determined to fight for a better deal for passengers. Like David Wood, the chair of Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority, now – with his colleagues – pursuing the first ever Quality Bus Contracts. Leading the way and others will follow. Reversing the failure of bus deregulation. Tackling the cost of living crisis.

And a One Nation Labour government would make it easier. A simpler, faster route to reform. Devolved funding to give transport authorities greater clout.

Deregulation Exemption Zones, so government can give them the backing they need.

Let me say this to those bus companies that are opposing reform:

You already bid for contracts to run rail services.

You already bid for contracts to run buses in London. And across Europe.

And you can do so in Tyne and Wear.

And wherever councils want to secure a better deal.


Let’s take another step to tackle the cost of living crisis, while improving our health and protecting the environment:

When nearly a quarter of all journeys are less than a mile, Let’s Get Britain Cycling.

On this issue Norman Baker and I agree.

He’s tried to get his Tory bosses to take cycling seriously. But while they’ve set out a plan to spend £28 billion on roads, he’s secured just £38million a year to support cycling.

And conveniently forgotten the three wasted years that followed his decision to axe Cycling England and its £60million a year budget.

Come off it, Norman: On ya bike.

So, here’s what we need to do:clear goals to increase cycling.

Separated routes.

Redesigned junctions.

Phased traffic lights.

Cycling Safety Assessments for all new transport schemes.

Restored targets to cut road deaths and serious injuries.

Duties to support Active Travel, as Labour introduced in Wales.

20mph zones, the default in residential areas.

Long term support for teaching safe cycling.

Space on trains.

Secure facilities at stations – required in rail contracts.

Sentencing guidelines reviewed.

Tough new rules on HGVs.

Supporting cycling. Increasing numbers. Improving safety.

Conference. Practical measures to reduce the cost of living.

Capping fare rises.

Reforming ticketing.

Integrating transport.

Supporting cycling.

New help for commuters. Removing barriers facing young people.

One Nation Labour, led by Ed Miliband:

Dealing with the cost of living crisis. Reducing the pressure on household budgets. Delivering a One Nation transport system that works for working people.

Maria Eagle – 2012 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle to the Labour Party conference on 1st October 2012.


Families not only under pressure from energy and food prices, but the rising cost of transport too.

And only real reform will deliver a better deal.

Inflation busting fare rises. Record prices at the pump.

Contributing to the cost of living crisis.

And as I’ve travelled around the country during our Policy Review, let me tell you what I’ve heard:

Young people who say they’ve dropped out of college, because the cost of getting there was just too high.

Commuters who say their season ticket now costs more than the mortgage or rent.

That’s a transport system that isn’t working for working people.

And the response from this Tory-led Government?

After two-and-a-half years. And three transport secretaries:

Bus fares up, and one in five supported services facing the axe.

Because the Government chose to cut funding too far and too fast.

Train fares up, by as much as 11 per cent. Not for one year – but three years in a row.

Because the Government chose to increase the cap on fare rises, then told train companies they could hike some tickets by even more.

And when Labour forced a vote in Parliament last month?

Not one Tory or Liberal Democrat MP voted to limit fare rises to one per cent above inflation.

And just when commuters thought things couldn’t get any tougher:

A planned new ‘super peak’ fare.

So your season ticket won’t even be valid on every train.

Even though most people can’t just pick and choose the hours they work.

And, as if fares weren’t complex enough:

Giving the green light to requests from train companies to close ticket offices.

And fuel prices up too: thanks to a decision to drive VAT up to 20 per cent.

A Government completely out of touch with the impact of rising transport costs.

Labour would be making different choices.

Protecting support for local bus services.

Legislating to make train companies apply the fare cap on every route.

Reversing the increase in VAT, while times are tough.

Immediate measures to ease the pressure on families.

But let’s be honest:

This Government has made things worse, but transport costs were already too high.

Because there are fundamental, long term problems with our transport system.

And only real reform will deliver a better deal for fare-payers and tax-payers.

This Government’s economic failure means we will inherit the toughest pressure on public spending.

So the old answers just won’t work anymore.

Remember back to 1997?

One of our proudest achievements:

Free bus passes for pensioners.

But in a deregulated bus market, there was only one way to deliver it:

We paid the bus companies, and we watched as profits soared.

Now let’s go forward to 2015, and the new challenges we face:

Like helping those young people that I met, who said they couldn’t afford to get to college.

But if the 1997 solution was just to pay the bill, the 2015 answer can only be reform.

So, in return for the profits they make in a subsidised industry:

Requiring bus companies to deliver concessionary fares for young people aged 16 to 19 in education or training.

It’s what we mean by predistribution:

Companies acting responsibly, so that tax-payers don’t have to step in.

In Government we passed legislation to make it possible:

Introducing Quality Contracts, enabling transport authorities to reverse bus deregulation in their area.

But it remains difficult in practice.

So when the Integrated Transport Authority in Tyne and Wear decided to get a better deal for passengers, how did Stagecoach react?

They threatened to close depots, sack drivers and take buses off the road overnight.

Sir Brian Souter claimed he’d rather “take poison” than enter a Quality Contract.

And his Managing Director accused the elected, accountable transport authority of “operating in the same camp as Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.”

Just for wanting a better deal for taxpayers’ money.

And now Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker has stacked the rules on bus funding against transport authorities that pursue reform.

I say to the Government:

Restore a level playing field to Better Bus Area funding.

Consider the case for Deregulation Exemption Zones.

Work with councils, not against them.

And to the bus companies, I say:

You operate successfully in a regulated system right across Europe, and you can do so here.

And only real reform will deliver a better deal on rail.

So that we can end the era of above inflation fare rises, while still delivering vital investment:

The rolling programme of electrification, set out by Labour in government.

The Northern Hub.

A new generation of inter-city trains: to be built in the North East, thanks to Labour.

What a contrast to a Tory-led Government exporting jobs by building the trains for Thameslink in Germany. An appalling mistake that they must not repeat with Crossrail.

And HS2. Delivering new capacity. Cutting journey times across Britain, benefitting cities like Manchester.

I say to the new Transport Secretary: it’s time to get behind this project in a way your predecessors failed to do.

Let’s work together on a cross-party basis to legislate for the whole route in this Parliament.

We began the job of reforming the rail industry in government.

Tackling the legacy of a botched Tory privatisation.

We created Network Rail as a not for dividend company.

Yet tax-payers still don’t get a good enough deal:

Not for the three and a half billion pounds they put into the rail industry each and every year.

We saw again this year: an out of control bonus culture, exposing a corporate governance structure at Network Rail that is not fit for purpose.

So we need greater accountability.

But the real waste comes from the costs of fragmentation:

Like the taxpayers’ money paid to private train companies, just so Network Rail can repair the track.

Even through it’s essential to run their services, and make a profit.

The same companies paid to put on the replacement bus service.

And handed £172 million last year to compensate for delays.

Even though very little found its way to the passengers who’d been inconvenienced.

And then, time and time again, the public sector picking up the pieces after private failure.

Not just the disaster of Railtrack. But companies failing to fulfil contracts to deliver services. Not once, but twice on the East Coast line.

And what have we seen, since it is no longer run for private profit?

£187 million returned to taxpayers this year. £170 million the year before.

Profit that next year will once again be shared with shareholders.

That’s if the contract isn’t won by the German, French or Dutch state railway, who already run large parts of our rail network.

Exporting profits to deliver lower fares on the continent, at the expense of passengers in Britain.

So if we were in government today, we’d provide long term certainty and stability on the East Coast line.

Not privatisation for its own sake: but a real public sector comparator.

And if resolving the franchise fiasco on the West Coast Main Line means the Government has to run that on the same basis? Then we will support them.

Labour’s Policy Review will continue to look at what we can learn from other countries, where the structure of their rail industry is more efficient – and fares are lower as a result.

And we’ll continue to look at how best to empower communities to have a greater say over local and regional rail services.

Because only reform can deliver a better deal.

And motorists need to see change too.

Instead of just talking about it, Ministers should act on their promise to crack down on profiteering by petrol companies.

And tackle the abuses in the car insurance market that drive up premiums.

And when two-thirds of the journeys that we make are under five miles:

Let’s make alternatives to driving, not just a possibility, but an attractive choice.

Not just affordable public transport. But supporting cycling and walking too.

Easing the pressure on the household budget.

And in a year when we’ve seen a 12 per cent increase in pedestrians killed on our roads and the appalling tragedy of eighty-eight cyclists losing their lives, we must have a renewed focus on safety.

I know that Patrick McLoughlin agrees.

So I urge him to restore the axed targets to cut deaths and injuries on our roads.

I congratulate The Times on their Cities Fit for Cyclists campaign.

The Government should implement the campaign’s manifesto for change. In full.

Separated cycle-ways. Redesigned junctions. Advance green lights for cyclists.

Setting aside a proportion of the roads budget to make it happen.

Supporting local authorities to extend 20mph speed limits in residential areas.

Better cycling facilities at train stations and on trains.

Safe routes to schools.

And learning the lessons for England from the innovative Active Travel legislation being taken forward by the Labour Government in Wales.


A government out of touch with the impact of rising transport costs.

New thinking from Labour.

Immediate steps:

Protecting bus services.

Capping rail fares.

Reducing VAT on fuel.

Reform to meet fundamental long term challenges:

Empowering transport authorities to regulate bus services.

Tackling fragmentation in our rail system. Putting passengers before profit.

Cycling and walking: a genuine priority.

Because only real reform will deliver a better deal on transport.

Maria Eagle – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle, the Shadow Transport Secretary, to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on 26th September 2011.


As Liverpool’s voice in the Shadow Cabinet, I’m proud to welcome you to our fantastic city. A city transformed under a Labour government. A city determined not to be dragged back, despite the best efforts of the Tories and Liberal Democrats. And I pay tribute to the inspirational leadership of Joe Anderson as he steers our city through tough times.

And in May, Liverpool told the Liberal Democrats what we thought of their decision to sell out this city. To prop up a Tory government. We defeated them in seat after seat. And I want to welcome to his first conference our energetic new councillor for Wavertree: elected in May at just 18 years old: Jake Morrison.

It’s great to see Liverpool leading the way on transport. Outside London, the only city to take control of its rail network. Keeping fares down. And about to introduce our version of London’s Oystercard: the Walrus – the first travelcard in the country that buys more than just your ticket.

And wouldn’t it be good if London was once again led by someone who understands why transport matters? Someone who doesn’t let bus and tube fares spiral, but brings them under control. So let’s ensure the next Mayor of London is a Labour Mayor: Ken Livingstone.

Devolving funding and decision making over transport is making a real difference in our cities. But in government we didn’t go far enough.

That’s why our policy review has been looking at how we can devolve more transport responsibilities. Local and regional rail services. Investment in our roads. These are decisions that should be made locally, by integrated transport authorities. Not just in our major cities but right across the country.

And, just like in London, powers to deliver bus services in the way that best suits each community. Quality Contracts were a good start. But the incentives to use them just aren’t there and the risks too great.

In too many places: No accountability. No way for local communities to set priorities. Profits, not passengers, too often driving decisions.

So, our policy review is looking at the right way to reverse bus deregulation.

But it’s not right to say that this government doesn’t believe in devolution. When it suits them.

Like devolving to local authorities the cuts to local transport. Half a billion pounds, this year alone.

Setting back the progress we made on road safety.

Setting back initiatives to get people cycling and walking.

Cutting bus services: Reducing opportunities for young people. Increasing social isolation.

Just think back to the election. Remember the TV debates? Remember David Cameron’s outrage when we warned that free bus passes for older people were under threat? Yet he’s slashed funding for the scheme. So bus routes are being cut. And now, up and down the country, pensioners want to know: what use is a free bus pass without a bus?

And do you know what is even more despicable?

Ending reduced fares on coaches for older and disabled people. Cutting a lifeline. Causing misery and isolation this Christmas.

And who has been in the driving seat of these cuts? Liberal Democrat Transport Minister, Norman Baker. Fast becoming a modern day Beeching for the buses.

The same Norman Baker who promised to cut rail fares at the election. But is hiking them by 8%. Not for one year. But three years in a row.

Eye watering ticket prices. Not my words. But Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s. Has there ever been a Secretary of State so out of touch with the day to day lives of millions of people, up and down the country?

And the Lib Dems just let him get away with it.

And what has Norman Baker got in return?

The centrepiece of his conference speech last week:

The Road Signs Review.

I think we know which road signs will survive his review.

No left turn.

U-turn here.

And no doubt we’ll be seeing lots more Give Way signs.

Giving way on rail fares.

Giving way on bus cuts.

Norman Baker: the Give Way Minister in a Give Way party: that’s the Liberal Democrats in this Tory-led Government.

It’s right to blame the government for bus cuts and fare rises.

But the transport companies have a social responsibility too. And since privatisation, we’ve not seen enough of it.

We’ve stood by the bus companies as the government has cut their subsidies. Now I want them to stand by Britain’s next generation.

So today I call on them to work together. And in return for the support they receive, invest some of their profits in Britain’s young people. And in time for the next academic year, deliver a concessionary fares scheme for 16-18 year olds in education or training. And if they don’t, the government should insist that they do.

And we need greater responsibility from the train operating companies too.

So when rail franchises come up, here’s what the government should do.

Not reward companies that walk away from franchises to avoid payments to Government. Then expect to bid again or carry on making money somewhere else on the network.

Not reward companies who stealthily widen peak time, to charge the highest prices for more of the day.

Not reward companies who average out the fare cap, so commuters pay way over the odds for a ticket. Even though Tory ministers tell them it’s OK.

That’s the irresponsibility at the top that Ed Miliband has pledged that a future Labour government will tackle. No more something for nothing in our privatised industries.

And let’s be honest. Our rail system is not fit for purpose and needs radical change. And I think we were too timid about this in government.

It cannot be right that the rail industry costs the taxpayer £4bn a year, yet a few at the top can walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds in profit every year.

The Tory answer? Close ticket offices. Sack frontline staff. Profit driving infrastructure, not just services. Back to the days of Railtrack.

But there is an alternative.

Isn’t it time to tackle the fragmentation of our rail industry that is the disastrous legacy of the Tory privatisation?

Because it is madness that the taxpayer has to pay compensation to train companies while track is repaired – even though it’s essential to run their services.

It is madness that the taxpayer then pays the same company again, so that their bus division can provide a rail replacement service.

I think that if your train is replaced by a bus, your ticket should cost less. But under our fragmented industry, that won’t happen. Because the train companies will just pass on the cost to the taxpayer.

The country wants us to find a better way to deliver rail service in Britain. That’s what we heard loud and clear in our policy review.

They manage it in other parts of the EU. And we can do it here.

So, over the coming months, we will be looking at the right way to bring order back to the chaos in our railways.

And let’s have a new deal for British train manufacturing too.

When the Prime Minister took his Cabinet to Derby, home of our last train manufacturer, he said he’d support local businesses. Then placed a massive order for new trains with a company that will build them in Germany.

It’s time to nail a lie.

If the government thought the tender was wrong: they had every right to rip it up and start again.

The truth? As Philip Hammond has admitted: it just didn’t occur to him.

Because this is a government that cannot think beyond the bottom line.

The local workforce at Bombardier should be proud of the way they are fighting. Not just for their jobs, but for the future of train manufacturing in this country. And we should be proud of the fantastic job that our local Labour MPs – Margaret Beckett and Chris Williamson – are doing. And the effort and resources of the trade unions, leading this fight. We stand with you and we must keep fighting for those jobs.

And let’s make sure that never again do we stack the odds so badly against Britain.

So today I say to Philip Hammond: there is no faith that your Department will give British manufacturing a fair chance. So hand over responsibility for ordering the new Crossrail trains to Transport for London, which – thanks to Labour – has a track record of buying British. And, while we’re at it, let’s show our commitment to rail devolution by letting them manage more of London’s suburban rail services. Providing another opportunity for British train manufacturing.

And let’s set out a long term strategy for investing in our rail infrastructure.

No more talk of classic rail, but a network transformed with a programme to complete electrification and introduce a new generation of high speed inter-city trains. And, yes, let’s also tackle capacity problems between north and south. And in the only credible way it can be done.

That’s why it was Labour that set out plans for a new high speed line. Not just from London to Birmingham, but on to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. Cutting journey times across the UK, benefitting Glasgow and Edinburgh. And, yes, bringing Liverpool under 100 minutes from London.

But the Tory-led Government is only planning to take powers to construct the line as far as Birmingham which casts real doubt on their long term commitment to delivering high speed rail in the north. They should think again and ensure the whole route is included in the forthcoming legislation.

And let’s make it a line that is affordable for the many, not the few. Because when Philip Hammond says, that if you work in a factory in Manchester you will never use it. But, not to worry, because you’ll benefit when your company director does. I’m sorry but that is a Tory vision for high speed rail, not a Labour vision. Philip Hammond may think it is a rich man’s toy, but I don’t. I know you don’t. And a future Labour government never will.

So, Conference.

We have a tough journey ahead of us.

We’ve only just set out.

So celebrating what we achieved. Recognising what we got wrong.

We’ve started to chart a new course for transport.

Putting communities in charge, here in Liverpool and across Britain.

Tackling irresponsibility at the top.

Backing British manufacturing, jobs and growth.

Affordability, our number one priority.

That’s Labour’s new direction for transport.

Maria Eagle – 1997 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons


Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Maria Eagle in the House of Commons on 17th June 1997.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech in this important debate. I am particularly happy to be able to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts) on his first contribution, and I am sure that we shall hear many more contributions from him.

Garston is positioned to the south of most of the well-known Liverpool landmarks, and it is a mixed residential and industrial constituency. It includes some of the docks and the old industrial heartland of the city, much of which was devastated in the early 1980s. Were I to list the factories and employers who have gone from my constituency, it would be a depressingly long list. Liverpool, however, is irrepressible and the people are of the best sort. There are encouraging signs of hope and renewal, especially in the single regeneration budget partnership areas of Speke, Garston and Netherley valley.

Garston’s borders are logical on three sides—the River Mersey, the green belt at the southern edge of the city and the M62. The border on the fourth side runs almost down Queens drive, but not quite. My constituency is perhaps the most socially and economically diverse of all the Liverpool seats and as such, it has always been a volatile swing seat. It used to be a true marginal, but it has lately swung strongly to the Labour party. Although I might like to think that that phenomenon coincides precisely with my appearance on the scene, in fact it predates it. Garston’s progress to an 18,000-plus Labour majority has been aided enormously by the slow death of the Tory party in Liverpool.

Whichever of the two—the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) or the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague)—who are vying to be Leader of the Opposition is successful in grabbing that poisoned chalice, he might profitably reflect on how his party can ever again be relevant to the people of my constituency. If he finds an answer, he may well be on the way to renewing his party. As recently as 1979, Garston was held by the Conservative party, but now it is a very distant third.

Garston contains some of the most desirable and expensive housing in Liverpool, in the Woolton and Allerton areas, and has the highest proportion of owner-occupation in the city, but it also has huge peripheral estates in Netherley and Speke and some very poor private terraced property in Garston, some of which is unfit for human habitation. Unemployment is well above the national average and all indices of deprivation show Liverpool to be very poor—one of the poorest regions in the European Union. Large swathes of my constituency suffer the problems associated with unemployment and poor housing—poverty, ill health and crime, to name just three—yet the community spirit is strong.

Throughout the constituency, community-led groups and businesses have sprung up to try to tackle the problems—whether by way of credit unions taking banks to the estates, such as those in Netherley and Speke, long since abandoned by commercial institutions, or by way of employment and regeneration initiatives, the list is almost endless. SMART, ARCH, CREATE, VANT—I could go on for many hours about the good work of those organisations in my constituency, but time is short. Suffice it to say that the capacity of the people of Garston constituency to fight for improvements and life chances for themselves and their families is endless and inspiring.

Despite the efforts being made, however, regeneration is never an easy task. Some basic problems must be tackled by the Government, and I shall address one of the most basic problems in my constituency, which the Government can and should tackle—the provision of adequate housing. First, I want to refer to three of my predecessors—Eddie Loyden, David Alton and Sir Malcolm Thornton. All have represented part of my constituency and all left this House on 20 April or 1 May.

Many hon. Members on both sides will recall Eddie Loyden as a modest man, but a determined fighter for his constituents and for his strongly held socialist beliefs. A seafarer and a docker, his fight on behalf of the families of the victims of the MV Derbyshire typifies him. I know that hon. Members will join me in wishing him a long and active retirement.

David Alton was another respected representative of the Grassendale ward of the Garston constituency. He has now gone to the other place where, I have no doubt, he will continue to speak up for Liverpool.

Sir Malcolm Thornton, who left this House at the behest of his constituents in Crosby rather than of his own volition, was the Member for Garston between 1979 and 1983, so I ask the indulgence of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Ms Curtis-Thomas) if I make some remarks about him. Our paths crossed in 1992, when I fought Crosby for Labour while Sir Malcolm Thornton fought it for the Conservatives. I came, as I recall, a rather glorious second. I recall seeing Sir Malcolm again on 2 May 1997 after his shock defeat. He was as courteous and gracious in defeat as he had been in victory five years previously. I am sure that all hon. Members wish him well in his future endeavours, whatever they are. I certainly wish all my predecessors well.

Something else all my predecessors and I share, apart from having had the honour of representing Garston, is that we have all made maiden speeches about housing. That illustrates how, across party and through time, the issue has been so important in Garston. It still is.

Council housing in Liverpool is, in the main, very poor. Of more than 45,500 dwellings, almost 27,000—over half—are structurally substandard or in poor condition. Much of the stock is ill maintained, some of it designated defective under housing defects legislation, and some which is defective has not been designated. The local authority estimates that £700 million is required to bring the stock up to standard. The standard in Liverpool council housing for heating is one gas fire. Damp, disrepair, mould growth and the consequences for the health and well-being of the occupants are endemic throughout the stock. Those consequences include needless and difficult additional burdens for thousands of my constituents who already have many other burdens to bear.

I know about this, not just because 80 per cent. of my constituency case load relates to housing problems, but from my experience before the election as a solicitor in private practice in Liverpool, specialising in housing law. During my time in the House, I want to achieve an improvement in living conditions for those in the poorest housing. Before my election, I used the courts—civil and criminal—to achieve that for those who sought my help. Now I shall use legislation. However improvements are achieved, they are long overdue.

In her maiden speech in 1945, Bessie Braddock—a well-known Liverpool Member of Parliament whom I feel I can cite because she had a connection with Bennett street in Garston—told of families of 10 in her Liverpool, Exchange constituency who were forced to live in overcrowded conditions. At my first constituency surgery after the election, I was consulted by a constituent who complained that she and her family of 10 were overcrowded in their home in Speke, yet she had no immediate prospect of adequate housing. Little seems to have changed in Liverpool.

We must do something about that state of affairs. That is why I welcome and support the Bill. It begins to tackle the housing crisis that has been worsened by the dogma of the Conservative party and bequeathed to the nation. It makes provision for the Secretary of State to take into account capital receipts set aside for debt redemption when issuing supplementary credit approvals. That sounds dry and technical, but it will get some of the £5 billion of locked-up set-aside capital receipts back into the equation for rebuilding and rehabilitating social housing. The measure is long overdue, delayed purely by the previous Government’s prejudice against social housing.

In Speke and Garston, in Netherley and Childwall valley, we need repairs and improvements to houses—and soon. I welcome other initiatives that the Government are supporting, such as establishing housing companies and mechanisms to involve tenants. I believe passionately in the strength, sense and ability of ordinary people to shape and transform their lives, given half a chance. I have a particular belief in the capacity of Liverpudlians to do that. Their solidarity, community spirit and adaptability are demonstrated every day on the estates to which I have referred. Let us ask them what they want to do, and listen to the answers.

Landlords, even social landlords, do not have a monopoly of wisdom—certainly not in Liverpool. The best of them would not claim to. I hope that, with the backing of the Government, determined to make a difference in Speke and Netherley, things will change. The Bill is a good start. Perhaps we can then ensure that the next hon. Member for Garston—who, I trust, will not come to the House for many a long year—will be able to choose a different subject for his or her maiden speech.