Labour sets rail sell-off trap

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Transport Correspondent

Labour yesterday called on dissident Tory MPs to join its campaign against rail privatisation by voting with the Opposition in a forthcoming vote in the Commons.

Clare Short, Labour's transport spokeswoman, said as many as one in five Tory MPs had doubts about rail privatisation, according to a recent poll by the Save Our Railways campaign group, and that Labour would be putting forward a parliamentary motion to enable them to express their opposition.

At the press launch, John Prescott, Labour's deputy leader, likened the forthcoming rail-privatisation vote to recent Labour victories in the Commons, such as that on fisheries policy last month. However, all the legislation which will enable the rail network to be sold off has been passed and the only way of creating what Ms Short called a "voting opportunity" for potential rebels would be a Labour motion, which even the staunchest Tory opponents may be unwilling to support.

Ms Short said if the Labour motion was passed, "the Government would be morally bound to halt the process", although with three franchises already let, the Government isunlikely to pull back now.