8 February 2016

RMT Press Office

Transport union RMT today welcomed what it says is a "significant victory" over the Government's Transport for London Bill.

The Transport for London Bill was introduced into Parliament to allow TfL to participate in novel company structures – including opaque, tax avoiding offshore structures that are well-known vehicles for laundering capital. Specifically, TfL intended to jump head first into the worst kind of corporate structures known as “Limited Partnerships” to maximise the profit it hoped to make from developing the land it owns above and around stations.


That TfL was keen to acquire the power to engage in “Limited Partnerships” – already identified as the means by which vast sums were stolen from the Moldovan Central Bank - only arose from the necessity for it to fill an impending funding gap. In particular, the announcement by the Treasury that it would be scrapping the £800 million grant it receives from central government – and that the money would be disappearing to an accelerated timescale.


RMT in conjunction with Andy Slaughter MP, John McDonnell MP, and numerous other labour MPs and the Save Earls Court Campaign combined together to petition against the Bill and try to prevent the most ill-conceived aspects of it from becoming law. TfL used every trick in the book to try and push its Bill through Parliament – including the offer of sweeteners, procedural sharp practice and the threat of legal costs.


The petitioners and MPs held firm and a cross-party Parliamentary committee agreed that the key clause of the Bill (clause 5) was in need of significant amendment. Now, five years later, with many thousands of pounds spent on lawyers, TfL has finally conceded defeat and agreed not to seek to acquire the power to enter into “Limited Partnerships”.


This is a real breakthrough – TfL never had sufficient competence to avoid being taken to the cleaners by property sharks. With a fresh financial crisis brewing and an increased risk of corporate defaults – especially in the over-leveraged property sector, TfL has been saved from itself in the nick of time.


RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:


“We welcome that TfL has finally agreed to moderate its plans. TfL made a complete mess of the Earls Court development and was setting itself up to lose hundreds of millions of pounds by disposing of state assets far too cheaply.


“However, the story is not over yet. The proposals for commercially exploiting TfL land are coming in thick and fast. Accordingly, we will remain vigilant while the remaining provisions of the Bill return to Parliament for final scrutiny."

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Tagged with: Transport for London Bill