Committee will summon Prescott to justify private-sector Tube plans

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The Independent Online

The Government's controversial plans to rely on the private sector in a £7bn upgrade of London Underground will come under renewed pressure from a parliamentary probe.

The influential Transport Committee is expected to announce this week a list a witnesses due to appear before it next month, when it examines the Public Private Partnership scheme that the Government has chosen as the way to fund future Tube maintenance work.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, is likely to be summoned before the committee to justify his decision to opt for the PPP. The PPP, which requires private sector consortia to bid for three separate contracts for the work, has become the central issue in the election for London mayor.

The parliamentary enquiry is likely to heighten the anxiety of the bidders for the work, who are already nervous about the possible election of the front-runner Ken Livingstone, who bitterly opposes the PPP plan. Bids for two of the contracts are due at the end of this month.

The committee is likely to give the PPP a robust examination and it has already indicated that it is not satisfied that the proposal is the best way forward.

The inquiry follows a meeting between the committee and the London Underground chief executive, Denis Tunnicliffe, earlier this year at which Mr Tunnicliffe failed to convince MPs of the rationale for the PPP. Stephen Ladyman, the Labour MP for South Thanet and a member of the committee, said the MPs would also hear evidence from experts in the bond market, the option favoured by Mr Livingstone to fund the Tube work.