§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Brooke (City of London and Westminster, South)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I must apologise to the House for moving the motion with a faintly piratical appearance. In the heady days of the recess I came into collision with a tree which did damage to me. In the interests of the tree I should say that it acted in self-defence after I had done damage to it, and in the interests of part II of the Bill I should say that I was not in a car at the time it occurred.
§ Mr. Brooke
All hon. Members have received copies of the statement on behalf of the promoters in support of this Second Reading, but in case any hon. Member has not brought his statement with him I shall take the liberty of reminding the House of the principal purposes of the Bill, which is promoted by the Corporation of London in my constituency.
The first purpose isto authorise the Corporation as Conservators of Epping Forest to grant to the Secretary of State for Transport the lands, and rights in lands, he requires for the construction of a part of the M25 London Orbital Motorway authorised under the Highways Acts 1959 to 1971;and, secondly,to provide for the moving of Billingsgate Market from its present site at Lower Thames Street in the City to a new site at North Quay, West India and Millwall Docks, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.There are ancillary clauses in Part IV entitled "Miscellaneous and General", to which I shall refer separately.
With a Bill of this sort the normal procedure would be, in the classic manner of a storyteller, to begin at the beginning and go on to the end, but with the indulgence of the House I propose to modify that procedure. I remember being taught in my youth that the difference between the words "perverse" and "preposterous" went back to their Latin origins. I shall certainly be perverse, but 1170 I shall also be preposterous in taking the end first and coming back to the beginning.
I do so because the majority of the interest in this Bill—both inside the House and outside—relates to part II, which is concerned with Epping Forest. It would seem to me for the convenience of the House if I take that part last so that it is fresh in the minds of hon. Members when we get down to the debate.
Let me first deal with parts III and IV. On part III, I cannot improve upon the language used by the promoters of the Bill, who said in their statement:For many years the Corporation have been considering the reaccommodation of Billingsgate Market to provide the facilities now required for this important fish market and to avoid the present necessity for the use of roads and lanes adjoining the existing market as parking and trading areas. This is necessitated both by the age and state of the present Market buildings and by the need for the continuation of the main southern traffic route along the line of Lower and Upper Thames Street. Plans for the reaccommodation of the Market on its present site, for which powers were conferred by the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1973, have proved impracticable on grounds of cost but an acceptable site is now available at the West India Dock in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In agreement with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the traders in the Market the Corporation accordingly now seek powers in Part III of the Bill to move the Market to this new site.Provision is included in Part III of the Bill for the reaccommodation of existing Market traders at the new site and for making available facilities for the licensed porters employed at the existing Market. The Bill also provides for the constitution of a new Billingsgate Market Consultative Advisory Committee, including representatives of the traders and workers in the Market.It might be helpful if I add a word or two of my own. First, the move of Billingsgate market is the outcome of long negotiations with the Department of the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the London borough of Tower Hamlets and the trade. It is welcomed as a useful contribution to the rehabilitation of dockland.
Secondly, the reference to the trade that I have just made implies, and indeed embraces, full consultation not only with the traders but with the market porters, who are in agreement with the move.
Thirdly, I should like to scotch a red herring—if I may be allowed that phrase—relating to archaeology. The Council 1171 for British Archaeology got wind of the Bill, but if I may draw on the atmosphere of Billingsgate, whose lost smell will be my one regret about these clauses—since the maritime smell that brought the sea right into the heart of the City is to disappear in due course as a result of the Bill—the Billingsgate smell interfered with the archaeologists' scent. They wrote to several hon. Members before they reached the hon. Member who was perhaps closest to the Bill. Their fears have been entirely allayed on learning that the land and property at Billingsgate is not the subject of a separate commercial development.
Of course, the City has an outstanding reputation in relation to archaeology. Here I must declare an interest, not as an archaeologist but as an ancient historian very much manqué. The City maintains the largest field archaeology unit in the country, attached to the Museum of London, and it attaches great importance to interpreting the planning laws to allow maximum archaeological investigation of any site uncovered in the course of development. The irony of the Council for British Archaeology's apprehensions about the Bill, which were expressed to several Members, is that unless the measure is passed Billingsgate, which it rightly says is an important and rich archaeological site, will not be uncovered at all.
Reference to the archaeological unit of the Museum of London brings me happily to part IV of the Bill, because clause 18 relates to admission charges to the Museum of London. Again, I quote from a statement by the promoters:The Bill includes in Part IV miscellaneous provisions to confer on the Board of Governors of the Museum of London powers to make charges for admission similar to those available at other public museums; to enable the Corporation to develop as a place of public resort the parts of Tower Bridge (including the existing high level footbridges) which are not required for highway purposes; provision for the letting of stalls in Spitalfields Market; and an increase of the maximum penalties for offences in streets and other thoroughfares under section 35 of the City of London Police Act 1839.There may be some unhappiness in certain parts of the House about clause 18 relating to museum charges. I shall not make a rod for my own back by seeking to suggest what that unhappiness might be, but let me say at this juncture that the board of governors has already 1172 recorded that there is no intention to use this power other than for special occasions, as other national museums do from time to time.
The provision in clause 19 relating to Tower bridge is supported by the London tourist bord and will provide a first-class attraction for tourists, while the remaining miscellaneous provisions are designed solely to bring the legislation concerned up to date.
That brings me to part II of the Bill, relating to Epping Forest. Here I shall err on the side of fullness so that the subject may be adequately ventilated.
Epping Forest, which is the remnant of the ancient Royal Forest of Waltham, comprises about nine square miles of diversified woodland and open land, extending from Wanstead Flats in the south to Epping in the north. It is vested in the Corporation of London as the conservator of Epping Forest under the Epping Forest Act 1878 and is regulated and managed by it through the Epping Forest and open spaces committee, which includes four verderers elected by the commoners of the forest.
Part II of the Bill is required to enable the Corporation to make available to the Secretary of State for Transport the interests which he requires in some 14½ acres of land at the northern end of the forest for the construction of the length of the M25 motorway between the A10 and the M11 and so to give effect to terms now agreed with the Department for the grant of those interests in forest land. In the view of the Corporation, these terms and the manner of construction of that part of the motorway affecting the forest now intended by the Departmen are as advantageous to forest interests as could reasonably be expected.
Because some of the opposition, or potential opposition, to the Bill is in pursuit of conservationist interests, it may be to the advantage of the House if I were to sketch some of the historical background which gave rise to the City of London becoming responsible for Epping Forest in a parliamentary saga of a century ago, with what have been highly beneficial conservationist consequences.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were, as now, about 6,000 acres of land in Epping Forest. By 1870, 1173 however, there remained only some 3,000 acres as the result of enclosures, some of them illegal, of the open waste. By that time the importance of preserving as much as possible of the forest as an open space close to the expanding metropolis of London became apparent, and prevention of encroachment on the forest became the subject of much controversy.
In February 1870 a resolution was passed in the Commons praying that steps should be taken to preserve Epping Forest as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. In the same Session a Bill was introduced by the Government of the day for this purpose. That Bill proposed the preservation as open space of only some 1,000 acres, and it failed to pass. On 20 April 1871 a further motion was carried in the Commons that measures be taken to preserve as an open space all those parts of Epping Forest which had not been enclosed by the assent of the Crown or by legal authority.
The Corporation of London then resolved to take steps itself to resist encroachments on the forest and, basing its claims on its rights as commoner in respect of its ownership of Ilford cemetery, it instituted a suit in Chancery against the lords of the manor. In 1874, after protracted and costly litigation the Corporation succeeded in obtaining a decree of the court to the effect that the owners and occupiers of land in the forest were entitled to rights in common over the whole of the waste lands.
In the meantime, under an Act passed in 1871 commissioners had been appointed to report on the possibility of preserving the forest as an open space for the public, but when they presented their final report in 1877 they recommended a scheme whereby land already unlawfully enclosed should remain enclosed unless repurchased at its full market value.
The Corporation successfully resisted those proposals, and when the Epping Forest Act 1878 was passed it provided that lands enclosed since 1851 should be thrown open and all questions as to the extent of the lands and as to the compensation payable and other matters should be determined by a named arbitrator acting with special powers.
1174 Before the passing of the Act of 1878 the Corporation had been actively engaged in the purchase of land in the forest by negotiation. Under that Act it accepted full responsibility for the payment of all compensation in accordance with the arbitrator's decisions.
Since the passing of the Act it has from time to time expended considerable sums in the acquisition of further lands to add to the forest. In addition, the Corporation bears the annual expenses incurred in the management of the forest now running at about £370,000 per year.
Because it is germane to this debate, it may also be helpful if I remind the House of section 7 of the Epping Forest Act 1878. That says:(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Conservators shall at all times keep Epping Forest uninclosed and unbuilt on, as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public: and they shall by all lawful means, prevent, resist, and abate all future inclosures, encroachments, and buildings, and all attempts to inclose, encroach, or build on any part thereof, or to appropriate or use the same, or the soil, timber, or roads thereof, or any part thereof, for any purpose inconsistent with the objects of this Act.(2) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Conservators shall not sell, demise, or otherwise alienate any part of the Forest, or concur in any sale, demise, or other alienation thereof, or of any part thereof.(3) The Conservators shall at all times as far as possible preserve the natural aspect of the Forest ".Then it goes into various details relating to care of the woodlands and of ancient earthworks.
Section 9 further declares that the public shall have the right to use Epping Forest as an open space for recreation and enjoyment.
Under Section 33—and I feel obliged to refer again to this because it comes on to the reference to roads—general powers are conferred upon the Corporation for the management of the forest, but these powers fall to be construed in the light of the primary duty set out in section 7. These general powers include, in section 33(1)(iv), a power to maintain and make roads, footpaths and ways, to dedicate roads to the public subject to the law of highways, to afford facilities and grant rights of way for access to enclosures.
Section 33(1)(xiii) also includes—this is relevant as well—power to set apart parts 1175 of the forest for the use of the inhabitants to play cricket and other sports, to lay out and maintain cricket grounds and grounds for other sports, and to enter into agreements and confer special privileges on particular clubs.
That covers the legislative background within which the City Corporation has to discharge its trusteeship. Because some of the hon. Members who are present are here for the "ecology" of the evening, I shall also say a word about the woodland management practice. I shall shorten this by saying that two-thirds of the area of the forest is woodland and one-third grassland, interspersed with blocks of woodland, the greater part of the woodland being in the northern half of the forest.
In pursuance of its duty to preserve the natural aspect, the management of the woodlands has been based on a system of natural regeneration, and anything which suggests plantation management has been avoided. Therefore, in the northern part of the forest, that is the area closest to the line of the M25, the woodlands comprise the largest block of hardwoods in the United Kingdom.
Obviously, there have been occasions in the past when there has been a need for road improvements relating to the forest. It would be wrong for the debate to take place without my acknowledging and referring to that background. The A11 runs through the forest from north to south. Many other roads of all classes divide and loosen the structure of the forest, especially in the southern part.
From time to time the Corporation is faced with demands for the use of forest land by public services. It endeavours to accommodate these claims by the grant of wayleaves subject to suitable safeguards, but demands for highway improvements give rise to special problems.
Since the passing of the 1878 Act the Corporation has dedicated for highway purposes forest lands extending to about 101 acres, which include the formal dedication of strips of land that have come to be used as part of the highways that traverse the forest. The loss of these scattered strips from the open forest has been more than made good by the addition to the forest during this period of about 275 acres. In addition, the Corporation 1176 has made dedication of forest land for highway purposes subject to conditions. That is also germane to the Bill. For example, on agreeing to the dedication of lands for addition to minor roads radiating from the High Beech area, the Corporation made it a condition that the roads should not be used by larger vehicles. That condition was accepted by the Ministry of Transport and a weight restriction was imposed on the roads in or about 1966.
In 1967 proposals were made by the Ministry of Transport for re-routing the North Circular Road at Walthamstow for a distance of about 860 yards across Walthamstow Forest, affecting some 14 acres of forest land. The Corporation sought to have the road built in a tunnel but was informed that that was impracticable within the context of the local road strategy. On that occasion the Corporation decided that its powers for dedication under the 1878 Act did not permit its agreement to the dedication of land for the road. As the only land available as exchange land for addition to the forest area was some allotment gardens for which compulsory powers of acquisition were required, the proposals were submitted to and approved by Parliament in the Epping Forest (Waterworks Corner) Act 1968.
On subsequent occasions proposals have been put to the Corporation for highway improvements at important junctions involving severance of substantial areas of forest land and the creation of isolated areas of forest. In refusing its consent the Corporation has informed the highway authorities that for major road improvements of the sort proposed it would be necessary to apply to Parliament for leave to vary the provisions of the 1878 Act. That again brings us to the debate.
It is possibly coincidental that subsequently such proposals have either been abandoned or modified to reduce the demands on forest lands to such an extent as to enable the Corporation to consider the exercise of its powers to dedicate the land. I mention that to illustrate that the City as a conservator has been an effective conservationist in defending the forest against interference and damaging depredation on transport grounds.
1177 That brings me, by a logical train of narrative, and perhaps to the relief of the House, to the orbital motorway. Since the late 1960s the Corporation has actively been concerned with the possibility of routing the M25 orbital motorway, formerly called the M16 motorway, across Epping Forest. Before that it was concerned with the proposals for ringway 3. In February 1967 the Corporation represented to the Ministry of Transport that the intersection of the M11 with any intended ring road should be sited at a point which would not necessitate the routing of the ring road across the forest. Subsequently, proposals were made for a route across the forest and the Corporation urged that, if that were necessary, the road should be tunnelled under the forest.
In 1970 the Department, as it had by then become, produced a plan showing five possible routes for the orbital motorway across forest land, the northernmost being at Bell Common. The Corporation determined that all the routes except the northernmost would be totally unacceptable and that although it would object to all the routes it might be prepared to modify the objection if it were found practicable to place the northernmost route in tunnel.
There followed a number of meetings with the Department and with other interested parties. The Corporation was informed that no route further north to avoid the forest land altogether was practicable, and it has therefore been concerned to secure that the route chosen should be one that would do the least damage to forest amenities.
The Corporation has throughout urged the Department in the strongest terms to construct the road in tunnel through the forest, preferably by a bored tunnel, but, failing that, by the cut-and-cover method. In its view that is the minimum requirement for safeguarding the forest environment so far as practicable in the face of these developments. The Corporation has also been concerned to ensure that there was no intersection with the A11 which would have the effect of increasing traffic flows on roads in the forest. It has also been consulted upon the nature of construction of the proposed route at Copped Hall Green.
1178 I pause at this juncture of the narrative to allow myself a brief comment on the deer in the forest, which played a large part in the public inquiry on the M25. The deer are affected by the proposed bridge at Copped Hall Green. Even my brief experience in the House has taught me that there is sometimes more concern in the House for animals than for people. In commenting on the deer, we are exceedingly lucky in having available to us the work of Dr. and Mrs. Donald Chapman. Dr. Chapman is a research chemist who was born and brought up on the edge of the forest. Mrs. Chapman is a zoologist. Both individually and together they are the authors of a series of monographs on fallow deer in general and fallow deer in Essex in particular.
It will probably come as no surprise to the House that the number of deer in the forest, which fell dangerously low by the 1860s before the City took over the forest in 1878, rose steadily after 1878. It is true that in recent years they have tended to congregate more in the wild in the private land to the north of the forest, which provides an ideal habitat for them. However, they are still to be found in the forest. Indeed, the City, at its own expense, has purchased 80 acres at the edge of the forest to create a deer sanctuary for about 160 deer.
Crucial to the Bill are facilities for the deer to cross under the motorway. Dr. Chapman provided evidence for the inquiry on what the arrangements should be for the deer to go about their lawful occasions. Deer, like elephants, are creatures of habit over their routes. The arrangements that have been made exceed those that he specified. Similar arrangements have been made in the plans for smaller mammals such as badgers.
At the time of the inquiry into the route of this section of the M25, the Department proposed that only 200 metres of the motorway from Epping Road should be buried, that being in its view a length sufficient to preserve the physical continuity of forest land. Together with many other objectors, the Corporation appeared at the inquiry and urged that the proposed tunnel should extend across the full 450 metres of forest land between Epping Road and Theydon Road notwithstanding the additional cost, then estimated at a further £2.5 million.
1179 In his report on the inquiry the inspector, Mr. Clinch, reported that in his opinion the Department had chosen the best point for the road to cross the forest but that the restriction of the tunnel to 200 metres would cause severe environmental intrusion on forest land. In their decision letter, the Secretaries of State for Transport and the Environment stated that they considered the issue whether to extend the tunnel to be finely balanced but that having regard to the special nature of the Epping Forest land they accepted the inspector's recommendation to extend the tunnel to Theydon Road.
Part of the forest land affected by the proposed motorway at Bell Common is laid out as a cricket ground used by the Epping Foresters cricket club under licence granted by the Corporation under the Epping Forest Act 1878. The proposals for the motorway have been discussed between the Department, the cricket club and the Corporation, and it has been agreed that, on the completion of the motorway in tunnel at that point, the cricket ground will be reinstated and the pavilion rebuilt on land adjoining. During the construction period of about two years it has been agreed that the cricket club will be a wandering team and that the Department will pay it compensation.
In summarising part II of the Bill I shall go briefly over the clauses before commending the Bill to the House. The clauses in part II have been agreed between the Corporation and the Department. The provisions set in italics involve a charge on public moneys and require a money resolution, which was taken this afternoon.
Clause 3 provides the appropriate definitions. As defined in the clause, "the roadworks" means the length of the M25 orbital motorway authorised by the M25 motorway—A10 to M11 section—and Connecting Roads Scheme 1978, Statutory Instrument No. 330, referred to in the preamble to the Bill.
Clause 4 requires the Corporation to grant to the Secretary of State the freehold in 3.647 hectares—9 acres—including isolated strips required for the motorway which are of no importance to the forest and the area at Mill Plain which, on completion of the tunnel, is to be dedicated for public use in conjunction with adjoining forest land and rights of 1180 temporary occupation, drainage rights and rights of access in 2.229 hectares—5½ acres. That is the area of Bell Common relating to the tunnel, which will then be restored.
In the case of lands required for temporary occupation, the Secretary of State will be required to reinstate the lands on completion of the purpose for which they are required and restore them to the forest. Where drainage rights are required, the public use of the lands would continue subject to those rights.
Clause 5 requires the Secretary of State to grant to the Corporation in exchange an area of land not less than the total area affected, namely, 5.876 hectares—14½ acres. These exchange lands have not yet been identified and the Corporation would wish that time should be allowed to find the most suitable land. Under the clause the Corporation, as the guardian of the forest, would have to be satisfied about the suitability of the exchange lands subject to the right of the Secretary of State to refer the matter to arbitration under Clause 9.
Clause 6 declares the Secretary of State's expressed intention to construct the motorway across Mill Plain, where the cricket ground is situated, in cut-and-cover tunnel and to dedicate the surface to public use.
Clause 7 makes provision for the protection of the Epping Foresters cricket club. The clause has been agreed with the club.
Clause 8 provides an indemnity to the Corporation in respect of costs and claims arising, and clause 9 makes provision for arbitration of disputes between the Secretary of State and the Corporation.
I hope that I have not wearied the House by dealing with these matters at excessive length. All hon. Members have been subjected to communications about the Bill from outside the House. It seemed in the interests of the House that what lay behind the Bill should be fully covered. With those words, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)
My objection to this Bill—this is the reason why I and my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) tabled a blocking motion—is confined to part of the Bill, as I am sure most people will realise. 1181 It is confined to that part of the Bill which refers to the erosion into Epping Forest required by the Department for the purposes of its special new road and connecting roads forming part of the M25. I am sure that most of the Bill is long overdue, although a question arose in my mind when I read about the museum charges. I am not convinced by the remarks of the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) that we need not be worried because it is not intended that this part of the Bill should be used. If the City of London is not intending to use this provision, why put it in the Bill? Perhaps, at some stage, an hon. Member will enlighten me on that matter.
I hope that the House will not consider me discourteous if I am not present for the whole of the debate. I arranged some time ago to meet 60 constituents upstairs in a Committee Room, and I feel that I cannot let them down. I hope that the House will not feel that this shows any discourtesy or any lack of interest in the Bill. I had the impression during the speech of the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South that he was not intending to give away parts of Epping Forest but was anxious to preserve them. He gave an excellent and interesting run-down of the history of Epping Forest and showed how well the City of London has conserved the forest, beating off robber barons from right and left. We now have a robber baron in the guise of the Department of Transport wanting to lay its hands on yet another little bit of the forest which is so dear to the hearts of so many people.
It is because I have a dual interest in Epping Forest that I rise to speak in this debate. Part of my interest is a personal one. I know the forest fairly well. I was born in the North-East but my mother was born in Essex and I went to school in Southend. Most of my teenage years were spent in that area. I know some of its beauty spots very well. I am deeply concerned over the latest evidence, in general terms, that we are using cement and concrete to cover up some of the nicer parts of our countryside. This interest occurred long before my association with my constituency. But my constituency is very relevant to the argument.
1182 Barking is a built-up set of estates, and my constituents rely on using other parts of Essex at the weekend to take a picnic with their children or to spend time in a caravan. Epping Forest is very much an integral part of those pastimes. Many of my constituents object to the idea of a motorway going through even a small part of the forest that they like so much. It is an amenity that they have enjoyed for generations. If there is any alternative, even at this late hour, which avoids cutting into Epping Forest, it ought to be pursued in general environmental interests and in the interests of people who have used the forest for a long time and want to continue to use it in its existing form.
I oppose giving this Bill a Second Reading on the nod. I feel that there should be more parliamentary scrutiny than simply allowing it to go through without any objection at 2.30 p.m. I am glad to see that so many hon. Members, many with an interest in this part of the country, have remained to take part in, or to listen to, this debate. It is important that this sort of matter should not go through the House without hon. Members giving it as much parliamentary scrutiny as possible.
I am not opposed to the M25 project in principle. There are arguments for and against it. On balance, the economic, social and environmental consequences of its construction, affecting London and the green belt in the South-East, will be good and will fulfil the claims of reduced traffic in inner London. It will make that part of our area much pleasanter without, I hope, causing too much harm to other areas through which it will be constructed. Many conflicting views have been put forward over the years, not only from hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am sure that there are differing views on the Opposition side as on this side of the House about the use or desirability of an orbital road and claims made for what it will do. I am not an expert. I have often found myself confused by two arguments which are totally different, both claiming advantages.
We are not really discussing the pros and cons of the orbital road except its effects on Epping Forest and the damage that would be caused to that part of the countryside. I do not want to detain the 1183 House by arguing that the M25 is itself necessarily bad. In terms of this Bill, it would be a pity to divert attention from the specific point made in part II. If this road is to run through the areas of Epping Forest described by the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South, which are listed in the Bill and available in the Private Bill Office and shown on maps, it will surely do great damage to the environment. It is not simply that a great wide motorway will be at least partially touching this lovely forest.
Many of us have driven along motorways and know the pollution damage caused by them. We know about the noise, the dust and the general unsightly appearance of a concrete strip running through a beautiful part of the countryside. It is not merely a question of the size of the motorway. I believe that the pollution that it would cause would probably be worse than any other damage that it might produce.
The forest is a place of peaceful enjoyment and historic value to people in this part of the world. A great road going through bits of it—although it has been said "It is only a little bit here, and then it winds round and it is a little bit there"—with noise and fumes, would spoil that kind of peaceful beauty and ruin the glade-like appearance. I know many little bits around the area that we are discussing which I am sure would be destroyed, even if they themselves were not built on for the motorway. The very fact that they would be so near a big motorway would ruin them.
It is no good saying, as we can in regard to other things, "Let us try it. Let us see the value of the motorway. Perhaps it will be so great that we ought to put other things on one side and agree to have it in the interests of progress and of convenience for people, and so on." Once one has built a motorway and chopped up even a small part of the forest, there is no going back. There is no saying, 10 years on, after it has been built, "We made a mistake. It is hardly ever used. It is rather ugly, so let us go back and have the nice peaceful land that we had before." It is a one-off matter and for ever. It is something over which we must take the greatest care before we proceed.
1184 As the hon. Member has said, the Epping Forest Act 1878 put specific responsibilities on the conservators. The hon. Member quoted from the Act, and I should like to repeat a few of the words that he quoted, which led me to think that he would support them. Section 7 of the Act provides that the conservators shallkeep Epping Forest uninclosed and unbuilt on, as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public; and they shall by all lawful means, prevent, resist, and abate all future inclosures, encroachments".That is what Epping Forest is all about. I hand it to the City of London, as the conservators, that it has done its job excellently.
The hon. Member mentioned section 7(3) of the Act:The Conservators shall at all times as far as possible preserve the natural aspect of the Forest ".How can that kind of undertaking in particular be guaranteed if we let this legislation go through and do not protest and ask the Department to find another way of achieving its objective?
I know that the conservators are to be given under the Bill other lands in lieu of what will be taken away from Epping Forest by the Secretary of State. That really will not compensate for the ruin of the natural aspect of those parts which are to be taken away and which people have become used to.
Even at this late stage, I beg the House to reconsider this part of the Bill. I believe that the Bill will go to an Opposed Bill Committee. I hope that that Committee will give very great thought to this aspect. I hope that the House will take it from me, and from other hon. Members too, I am sure, that there is a great wealth and strength of opinion outside the House, particularly in the areas surrounding those areas concerned. I remind the House that at the time of the public inquiry in 1974–75 a petition containing 21,000 signatures was presented objecting to the proposal. I am absolutely certain that the number has not only remained at 21,000 at least but has grown.
Last Sunday morning, on the radio, I heard Lord Olivier speak very movingly on "The Week's Good Cause" on behalf of the Council for the Protection of Rural 1185 England. Because I have always been a devoted fan of that brilliant actor, I listened very carefully to what he had to say. Knowing that this Bill would be coming before the House today, I realised then how much it is in the interests of all of us in this country to preserve every little bit that we have as far as possible as it is now, rather than allow great concrete strips to be driven through our countryside. I hope that this bit of rural England, in Essex, will remain as it is.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) on the lucid and persuasive manner with which he opened the debate. It is right that there should be a debate, and it is entirely proper that the hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) should refuse the City of London the opportunity of having this Bill on the nod. We are indebted to her and to those who have insisted that we should have a proper Second Reading debate.
The hon. Lady and I are united, at least, in this: we love Epping Forest. Therefore, it was not without heart-searching and misgiving that I decided, at length, that as Member of Parliament for Epping Forest I would give my support to the Bill, including part II.
Of course there is opposition to part II within my constituency—for example, from the Upshire Village Preservation Society, which has petitioned against the Bill. While I have decided to support the Bill, I am full of admiration for the strenuous and intelligent campaign waged over the years by that society. It speaks for a number of my constituents in Upshire itself, High Beech, Epping, They-don Bois, Chigwell, Chigwell Row, Loughton and Buckhurst Hill, and of course it speaks for others well outside the Epping Forest constituency and outside the county of Essex.
The hon. Member for Barking said that she is not against the M25. However, I think that we have reached a point at which it is difficult not to be against the M25 and, at the same time, to be against part II of the Bill.
1186 If the hon. Lady is eager to meet some constituents and is keeping them waiting, I shall not be in the least offended if she leaves the Chamber, although I shall be delighted if she remains to hear what I have to say. I should not be in the least put out if she wishes to join her constituents.
However many people may have signed the petition to which the hon. Lady referred, my impression—I have taken some trouble to make inquiries—is that in Epping and elsewhere there is widespread and numerically larger support for a measure which is seen as a necessary step towards the completion of the M25, from which they hope for relief from the congestion of town streets and country roads by heavy traffic.
I confirmed this morning with the chief executive and clerk of the Epping Forest district council that the council favours the Bill. We are all looking forward to hearing the Minister. I believe that he will have something to say about how damage to the forest and its surroundings is to be minimised. We have heard something of this from my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South. He has quite rightly not forgotten either the deer or the Epping Foresters cricket club. Clause 6, about the tunnel to be constructed by cut-and-cover on Bell Common, is of special importance, and I know that that will be noted by hon. Members.
I received a letter today from a lady in Buckhurst Hill who is opposed to the Bill but who favours the scheme put forward by Mr. Barry Fineberg in the Architects' Journal of 13 December 1978. She acknowledges thatThe Department of the Environment has made great concessions to the forest in the final plans for the motorway ".She says that she is grateful for that. She is at the same time anxious that Mr. Fineberg's scheme should proceed. So, indeed, are the petitioners against the Bill. The lady is concerned—as is the hon. Member for Barking—lest the motorway cuts the forest from the open countryside and thus obstructs the natural movement of wild life.
My hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South referred to the proposed deer crossing. I trust that we shall hear more about that from the Minister.
1187 Like my constituent earlier I was attracted by the alternative northerly route for the motorway through the Lea valley, which would have made it unnecessary for the forest to be touched. That alternative is not before us. If it ever was a starter, it is not now. I want to be practical. The Government, having held their public inquiry and having published their route and made modifications, should now adhere to their decision. I speak without authority but I think that the Government's Conservative successor will also adhere to the decision. Despite what the hon. Member for Barking said, I do not think that an alternative exists, unless we say that this road should not be completed.
It is preferable for the 5.87 hectares—let us call it 9 acres—to be made over to the Secretary of State for Transport in the way provided for in the Bill, rather than the Government being left to proceed in ways that might be less acceptable. It is not clear from what the hon. Lady said whether she is aware that the Government will be required to find, in exchange, land for the forest that is equally advantageous. I take that to mean a plot that is satisfactory to the conservators of the forest.
It is important to note that the conservators are promoting this Bill. They would not be doing so had they not, in their wisdom and zeal for the forest, thought it proper to promote it. My hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South gave an admirable historical outline. Last year the City of London completed a century of vigilant and efficient stewardship, performed with the City's cash and at no charge to any taxpayer or ratepayer.
I marked the occasion of the centenary of the Epping Forest Act by tabling an early-day motion thanking the verderers and all concerned for maintaining the forest for the use and enjoyment of all the people and for posterity. Because of the devotion that the conservators have shown I am encouraged in my support of the Bill, since it provides the best course in the circumstances in which we now stand.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryan Magee (Leyton)
Although the proposed M25 does not go through any part of the London borough of 1188 Waltham Forest, which contains my constituency, we are one of the Epping Forest boroughs and therefore we are deeply concerned with the future of the forest as a whole.
So I have discussed this Bill, so ably moved by the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke), with appropriate members of my local authority; and they have raised no objection to it. The negative way I put that is significant. Many of us decided reluctantly not to oppose the Bill. For there is a high price to be paid. I am one of those Londoners who has enjoyed the facilities of Epping Forest from earliest childhood. I literally cannot remember a time before I was being taken there by my parents. So I know from my own experience the enormous enrichment that the forest brings, and has always brought, to the people of London.
I have tramped the course that the M25 is to take over Epping Forest to see what will be lost. It cost me a beat of the heart to see what will have to go. But, as the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) said, we have to choose between this Bill and not having the M25. We cannot, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) hoped we could, have it both ways. We have either to accept the Bill and its implications or reject the M25. It is no good asking if another way can be found. Years have been spent looking for another way, and no other practicable way is available.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
The hon. Gentleman knows that not only am I from his borough but that I am from the northern part and therefore closer to the forest. I sat for four years as the Member for Epping Forest during earlier stages when we were looking for another route. Even then, when there was a greater possibility of finding other routes, I was reluctantly forced to the same conclusion as he has now reached. There was not another route then, let alone now.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is very important that the present proposals should be carefully scrutinised to see whether, even though they are put into effect, it might be possible to improve them further? Does he also agree that, because of his desire to conserve the forest, the House should ask that that be done?
§ Mr. Magee
I am entirely in agreement with my hon. Friend about that. We take the view that we do in the London borough of Waltham Forest partly because of the lack of alternatives, partly because there have been really intelligent and assiduous attempts to mitigate the damage by the cut-and-cover construction, partly because of the excellent record of the City of London in maintaining the forest, and partly because we have considerable confidence in the conservators to see that the thing is done properly.
But, having said that, everyone concerned with this scheme must take full account of the feelings and arguments of the people who oppose it. It would be quite wrong if they thought they could say, after this debate: "Right, now we have got our permission—to hell with the opposition." There are genuinely strong reasons, and even stronger emotions, against the proposals, and these must be taken into account.
I want to single out one for consideration. It is the question of precedent. I know that to argue against something on the grounds that it sets a bad precedent is often a lazy or fraudulent way of arguing, but it is not in this case.
Epping Forest is a limited and unique piece of open country. It would be terrible if, on the ground of one particular need, a bit was snipped off here, and on the ground of some other need a bit was snipped off there. That process might be supported each time by good arguments but the cumulative result would be disastrous.
So although, reluctantly, I support the the Bill, I could not accept it as a precedent for anything. I shall say "No" in the future if anyone in the House cites this Bill as a precedent for cutting back the forest still further.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
I shall confine my remarks to part III of the 1190 Bill. I also wish to put the Kentish view in this Essex debate. The M25 forms a complete circle. We must have it. I am particularly pleased to see the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry) in the Chamber, because he and I know how rotten the South Circular Road is. We also know that, comparatively, the North Circular Road is a good road.
Unless the M25 is made into a perfect orbital road to carry the traffic that wishes to avoid the centre of London, we in Kent, with people coming from and going to the Channel ports and even to the gateway of the Channel tunnel—if that is built—will suffer. There is a great national need.
Those of us who live in other parts of the country appreciate the thoughtful words and personal sacrifice on behalf of constituents that have been made by hon. Members who have spoken in the debate. They have spoken with thought and concern. I share their concern but I wish to emphasise the national aspect.
I can give a word of comfort from personal knowledge, from many miles away, to those who are worried about the well-being of the deer. I own part of the top of the Whiteball tunnel on the Western Region of British Rail. By that surface route across the railway the deer cross from the Quantock Hills to the Blackdown Hills, in Somerset. If there were no tunnel, the deer would not have made that crossing since the railway was built in the 1840s. I can assure people who are fond of deer that a tunnel, provided that it is long enough, can protect deer. The Minister was wise to agree to the longer tunnel. Such a tunnel will provide a sure passage for deer.
I turn to the part of the Bill that interests me most. Hon. Members will know about my long-standing interest in market matters. I am glad that adequate provision is being made for a move of Billingsgate market to a new site. I am delighted that some of the errors that crept in when we were dealing with the Covent Garden move will not apply in this case. I am particularly glad to see clause 15, which allows for the Billingsgate market consultative advisory committee. Such a committee was established as an afterthought for the Covent Garden scheme and it has proved beneficial. I am glad that the City Corporation has learned wisdom. I am also 1191 glad that the market porters are being fully considered. Clause 14 deals adequately with that matter.
It is important to note that in clause 15, although the City, which is the present market authority, will be represented on the consultative and advisory committee, it will not have the controlling voice. That is important. If a consultative committee truly is to represent all the interests, the market authority should not be the boss-man. I look forward to the consultative committee working well.
I turn to clause 20. I am an occasional buyer and a rare seller at Spitalfields market and I should declare a remote interest. I am glad that the clause will enable the Corporation to extend the security of tenure of traders in that market. This can be only good.
Hon. Members have paid tribute to the excellence of the City Corporation as conservators of Epping Forest. I also pay tribute to the excellent work of the City Corporation, which is appreciated by all those who work in the markets. The volume of goods that goes through the City markets might be declining, but it is essential that there shoud be a great price-setting market for every commodity. The City of London provides this in its markets. Spitalfields, Smithfield and Billingsgate markets enable the City to be at the heart of national price-setting for all the main commodities that people eat.
I commend the Bill to the House. I hope that those who are critical of part of the Bill will not vote against it but will allow it to go to Committee, where their anxieties can be scrutinised.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
The reason for my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) and I objecting to the Bill going through on the nod is our deep concern about the transfer of land which now forms part of Epping Forest to the Secretary of State for Transport for the construction of the M25 motorway.
Unlike some hon. Members, I cannot say that my reservations about the proposals have been removed. Epping Forest is a famous recreation area which has long been enjoyed not only by the residents of West Essex but by people from East London and further afield. The 1192 forest contains numerous historic sites. It has a unique natural life. It is an area of great beauty.
Last year we celebrated the centenary of the 1878 Epping Forest Act by which our predecessors ensured the preservation of this area of common land for the use of the public. That Act was not achieved without a great struggle. Of course, the Corporation of London, the Buxton family and other leading figures in the Victorian period played an honourable part. The movement was, however, also supported by many ordinary working people, amongst whom a humble Loughton man, Thomas Willingale, and his family must take pride of place. He initiated the resistance to the lord of the manor of Loughton who wished to enclose the forest before the Corporation was involved, ultimately hoping to dispose of it for speculative purposes. It was a long and hard struggle. Had it not triumphed, and had not our predecessors, many of whom were humble folk, taken part, Epping Forest would long ago have disappeared under concrete, bricks and mortar.
Those who resisted enclosures and speculators 100 years ago were not always seen as progressives. History shows that many regarded the forest as a nuisance. It harboured undesirable people and sometimes provided refuge for gipsies. Those wishing to protect and preserve the forest were seen as obstructors standing in the way of progress. When we resist the proposal this evening, we may equally be seen as obstructionist. But if there are not people who are prepared to resist encroachment on that part of our heritage, it will ultimately disappear. It is our duty to question pertinently and carefully every proposal that is put forward for encroachment, and history can judge whether we are obstructionist.
Today the pressure is not from private speculators who have lost out. It is not even from those who are pressing for building land. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) will remember that just after the Second World War West Ham council was anxious to acquire part of Wanstead Flats for a housing estate. At a time when there was a great housing need, many would have seen that as a priority. But some 35 years later we can see that it would have been a mistake.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)
As my hon. Friend knows, I was in the House at that time. Then, as now, the most successful opponent was the City Corporation, which has so well preserved Epping Forest. The City of London and the City conservators have always fought and are still fighting to preserve the forest.
§ Mr. Newens
I entirely agree. My political position would not be regarded as close to that of many members of the Corporation. My praise for the conservators can therefore be regarded as objective. I pay tribute to them. Many who participate in conserving Epping Forest have a great sense of public duty. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West also expressed views on the issue that may not have been popular among his constituents just after the war.
The pressure today is not from the same sources as in the past but from other public authorities, and it is principally for roads. West Essex, of which Epping Forest forms part, has not been ungenerous in the provision of land over the past 30 or 40 years for other purposes. Not only have GLC estates been built, but so has Harlow new town, which I represent. There has also been the aerodrome at North Weald. That served an important purpose during the war. A little further to the north, proposals are being mooted again for the possible use of a large tract of land for the third London airport at Stansted, to which I am opposed. Land has been provided for the M11 through West Essex. Surely, in these circumstances we should look very carefully at proposals to take still more land from this area.
As the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) pointed out, the forest consists of 6,000 acres of woodland and plain stretching from Wanstead to Thornwood. It is 12 miles long but comparatively narrow. After the 1968 Act it was cut across at Waterworks Corner at Walthamstow. The M25 proposal involves a new and equally savage cut further to the north. This would not merely remove a certain acreage of land but would change much of the environment in that part of the forest. It would change it both visually and in terms of noise. In addition, it 1194 would cut across some adjacent open land which has certain scenic value and which should not be discounted.
I am pleased with the proposal to make a cutting and tunnel for part of the motorway. This represents an improvement on some of the earlier proposals, but I still believe that areas adjacent to the forest where the motorway is planned will be disfigured by bridges and high-level roads and the interchange at Copped Hall Green.
I am deeply concerned about the effect on Upshire. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who represents that village, has already commented that Upshire Village Preservation Society has been particularly active on this issue. Upshire is a very beautiful village, and it would be appalling if a high-level road and a bridge were constructed there disfiguring that area.
This matter must be looked at again. I hope that the Committee will provide an opportunity to do that. A number of hon. Members have commented on the wild life that exists in the forest. It still exists, but it has been affected considerably by development over the years. Much of the original deer population which I remember as a boy has now departed despite the efforts, which we all praise, of the Corporation and other interested people.
In addition, the forest in its present state also represents a haven for wild life from some surrounding areas—areas which are being constantly developed for housing. Even where these have remained in agricultural use they have frequently been stripped of hedges and trees and polluted by pesticides and chemicals. Nowadays it is difficult to find ponds with tadpoles, frogs and many of the fish that could be found in West Essex when I was a boy. However, they have survived to some extent in the forest. If hon. Members wish Epping Forest to survive—as I believe they all do—they should be concerned about the effect that a motorway will have on the forest environment.
The proposed M25 will cut right across the forest. Certain proposals have been made to enable some of the wild life to travel from the north to the south and back again. Those proposals should be re-examined carefully, because I suspect that some of the wild life uses the land at the side of the forest. The plans should 1195 be reviewed and studied carefully before they are implemented and, possibly, constitute a great new desecration of Epping Forest.
Those of us who oppose the present development and are deeply concerned about it should not be dismissed as eccentrics. Among our number are not only residents in the area but the Friends of the Earth and many who live miles away and know the forest from their visits to it.
Epping Forest is part of our heritage and we have a duty to protect it for the enjoyment of generations to come. I am an East Londoner and my ancestors lived in East London for generations before me. They have visited Epping Forest, even in the memory of my family, for more than 100 years.
In a debate in 1968 I stated that the forest could eventually die the death of a thousand cuts. I believe that the forest will not stand many more cuts such as that proposed in the Bill. I recognise that there must be some lateral road communications across West Essex, but the present proposals are not satisfactory. Therefore, I hope that there is still time for further reconsideration in order to avoid the undesirable consequence of further spoliation of this beautiful part of the country. That may be achieved in Committee and, for that reason, I shall not oppose the Second Reading.
However, some of my hon. Friends, including those who are not present, are agreed that, unless guarantees are given on the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking and myself, we shall feel it our duty to continue to put up such resistance as is possible to prevent the further passage of the Bill.
Clause 18 refers to provisions for charges on admission to museums. I have visited the excellent new museum created by the Corporation of the City of London. It provides a tremendous opportunity to learn about the past of London. I should be sad if charges were imposed which would, inevitably, deter many who should know more about the history of our great capital city.
§ Mr. Wells
I understand that the charges are intended to enable the Corporation to set up special exhibitions at which admission would obviously have to be by ticket only. The ordinary facilities of the museum are excellent, but the 1196 imposition of charges is intended to enable the Corporation to take a further step forward.
§ Mr. Newens
I accept that that is the objective, but I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind what happened to a previous proposal that was implemented at national level with the support of Conservative Members. I hope that we will not support the introduction of charges for all visitors except on very special occasions. Even then, I hope that charges can be avoided wherever possible.
I am unhappy that I have to express so many reservations about the Bill, but no one with pride in, or affection for, our countryside can view with equanimity its further desecration, and it is, therefore, necessary for hon. Members to express any reservations that they may have.
Epping Forest is a unique stretch of countryside and no one can maintain that the proposals in the Bill will not damage it. If our generation fails to stand firm against its continuing erosion we shall deserve the condemnation of those who come after us.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)
Like most other hon. Members who have spoken so far, I intend to concentrate on the part of the Bill dealing with Epping Forest and the M25.
Although my constituents are somewhat removed from Epping Forest, they, like most other residents of Essex and East London, very much enjoy the pleasures of the forest and wish that no steps should be taken to reduce that enjoyment materially. However, they are passionately in favour of the M25 going ahead because there are many substantial traffic problems in the areas around Brentwood and Ongar that can be removed only by the completion of the M25.
This is not a debate on the merits or otherwise of the M25, but it is within the rules of order for me to say that the motorway, one section of which we are discussing, was first mooted as long ago as 1944. Since then, there have been several changes of name, changes of route and changes of Government, to the point where my constituents feel that any change of heart by this or any future Government in pressing forward with the M25 would be totally unacceptable. They 1197 also feel that any attempt to obstruct the reasonable progress of the construction of the M25 should be equally opposed.
There can be hardly any other major capital city that does not have an orbital route around its extremities. We are to be criticised for still having, after successive Governments of both parties, an incomplete road structure around the capital.
The advantages of the M25, if they need restating, are surely that in terms of commerce, trade and the recreation of the people on whose behalf we have been speaking there must be greater facility to move from point to point around the capital.
I want to concentrate on ecological and environmental factors relating to part of my constituency which will continue to suffer until the M25 is completed. I refer to villages along the A128 trunk road, which were previously peaceful havens but which now live in the midst of ever-growing, heavy traffic on a road which was never constructed to take it.
I endorse the argument that it is desirable for people to escape to the recreational spaces of Epping Forest. My constituents would also do so. In concentrating on the need for the Epping Forest open spaces to continue to be available for people of Essex and East London, I hope that an occasional thought will be given to the people in the villages in my constituency whose lives have been made a living hell as a result of the juggernauts trundling along the A128. I sincerely plead with the House not to hold up the progress of this Bill this evening.
The stretch of the M25 to which the Bill refers lies between the A10 and the M11. Therefore, it is far removed from the immediate area of my constituency. Until the M25 is complete and forms a true orbital road around the capital city of the United Kingdom, there will be inadequate communications around London. I do not believe that the M25 can or should be viewed in sections relative to the constituency interests of Members of Parliament. That is why I believe that the section between the A10 and the M11 must proceed in the same way 1198 as all the other sections more immediately adjacent to my constituency.
I echo something that was said by the hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson). I thought that she approached this matter in a reasonable manner. She is entitled, as is the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), to require that the House should consider it necessary to proceed with this Bill. I believe that in having given the opportunity to the House to debate the various points a service has been rendered to the interests of the progress of the M25 motorway.
I was concerned when the hon. Lady finished her speech by asking a question. She asked whether there was no alternative, even at this late hour, whether we could reconsider, and whether we had to cut into Epping Forest in the way proposed. That concerned me greatly. If that were thought to be a reason for further delay, for further investigation and for reopening those areas which, heaven knows, have been given a great deal of attention over the past years, it would be a retrograde step.
The hon. Member for Harlow seemed to open up and fight old battles which many of us thought had been given maximum opportunity for investigation in the past. Many of us feel that it is only after maximum public investigation that we are able and required to bring a Bill before the House. Although I commend those concerned for having brought this motion before the House to enable us to pause and think whether it is the right course to adopt, I would greatly regret any suggestion that obstruction and delay were synonymous with their action.
§ Mr. Newens
Does the hon. Member agree that if further consideration of these proposals could diminish the amount of environmental damage that is undoubtedly being caused, that would be desirable? Is it not worth while delaying the process a little in order that that greater good can be achieved?
§ Mr. McCrindle
Of course it is desirable to minimise any environmental damage, if that can be done without delaying the progress of the M25, but I repeat that the processes have been gone through exhaustively and that every conceivable opportunity has been given to 1199 objectors. Every opportunity has been given to finding an alternative way that would minimise environmental damage. My fear about yielding to the hon. Gentleman's implied course of action is that it could be another way of delaying for a considerable period the progress of this motorway.
The hon. Gentleman said earlier that he hoped that he and those who thought like him would not be dismissed as eccentrics. I would not for a moment dismiss the hon. Gentleman as an eccentric, but I recognise that he fights a tough battle. He is perfectly entitled to fight that tough battle, inasmuch as he is bringing to the attention of the House this evening the difficulties and, indeed, the dangers which are involved with the passage of the Bill. He is perfectly entitled also to hope that in Committee the Bill will be exhaustively explored. I hope that I have persuaded the House, however, that what the hon. Gentleman would not be entitled to do would be to delay the progress of the M25, because that would be to the detriment of my constituents and, indirectly, to the detriment of his.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Arnold Shaw (Ilford, South)
From time to time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Londoners have the opportunity of speaking on subjects that are of interest to them. I think that the House will agree that this opportunity is one that has come very readily to our ears, in that it deals with a number of subjects that are quite fascinating to London and to London Members. Nevertheless, the nub of the Bill is obviously the question that has taken up the time of most of the speakers so far—the land for which the Department of Transport has asked in order to complete a part of the M25.
This brings a certain apprehension to those of us who have that love for the forest which has been expressed by so many Members this evening. We are indebted to those Members, for by their objection in the first place we have been able to have this Second Reading debate.
I believe that the House has gained by having the debate. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) in hoping that when the subject is debated in Committee there will yet be a possibility of doing something to improve 1200 the position. Nevertheless, having said that, I am here, in a way, in order to pay a debt to the City of London for what it has done in preserving Epping Forest.
As a boy I spent a good deal of my time in the forest—half-days and days, whenever I had the opportunity—so that I could enjoy the amenities there. We have already been told, and we know, that until the Epping Forest Act 1878 a great deal of the land had been eroded. It is quite true to say that there were pioneers who did much to bring to the attention of the public the need to save the forest. In the ultimate it has been the City of London and its conservators who have managed to conserve the forest for us.
There is a dilemma here between conservation and the provision of roads and traffic management. From the experience that we have had of the work of the conservators of the City of London, we can put a certain amount of confidence in them to get the best out of the situation that it is possible to obtain. I believe that the M25 should be built, for the reasons that have become apparent from the debate. It is essential to keep heavy traffic out of the highways and byways of the villages in the constituency of the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) and also in my constituency, where heavy vehicles percolate through roads that were not made for them. All that could be obviated by the building of the orbital road.
It is necessary to compromise between the necessity for conservation and the provision of roads. A long time has been spent in negotiation between the City conservators and the Department of Transport, and a scheme has been produced that is broadly acceptable. It is to be hoped that as a result of the debate and the examination of the Bill in Committee improvements will be achieved.
There is one personal observation that I should like to make on the Bill. It concerns the moving of Billingsgate market from its present site to Tower Hamlets. In the first instance this will be for the benefit of the redevelopment of the dock area, but, apart from that, as one who uses the Lower Thames Road which passes through the market, I should be very pleased for the market 1201 to be replaced by an imaginative scheme possibly based on the Monument and the rebuilding of the road that is such a trial to my car. That is something we have to look forward to. I trust that the Bill will get a Second Reading, as I am sure it will.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Vivian Bendall (Ilford, North)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) on the excellent way in which he presented the Bill. I also add my congratulations to hon. Members who had certain reservations about it. The great virtue of the House of Commons is that we are able to debate sensibly issues that concern us and our constituents. I should not like the countryside to be destroyed just for the sake of the destruction of the countryside.
We have to look at the problems that face Londoners. In my constituency juggernauts and heavy traffic cause tremendous environmental problems. An immense number of juggernauts pass through the two constituencies of Ilford, North and Ilford, South, affecting the environment of the people who live in the area. That is because there is no orbital road around London. There should be a proper road system and structure to enable goods to be taken to the ports, so that our economy may be improved.
I believe that the most important part of the whole road network is the orbital road round London. The South Circular Road is just a series of roads linked together. We know that a tremendous amount of juggernaut traffic is coming from the industrial areas of the Midlands to the southern parts of the country. Therefore, it is vital for the economy of the whole country that we have the M25 circular road built around London.
If we are to have a motorway structure which comes into London—the M23, the M11 and other motorways, most of which come to the edge of the conurbation—it is vital that there is an orbital system to take the heavy traffic round the city and disperse it, rather than having it go through the centre as at present.
I believe that the M25 is vital to the environment of the inner city areas. We know that it is important to restructure 1202 and redevelop dockland and the inner city areas. If that is so, and if we are to give a better quality of life to the people living in inner London, it is vital that the M25 be constructed.
I have made the points that I wanted to make tonight, and I thank the House for its indulgence. I hope that the Bill goes through to Committee and that we shall eventually see it on the statute book.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-west)
I, too, should like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) for the admirable way in which he has introduced the Bill. Naturally, he was speaking on behalf of the promoters of the City of London, and as I have done so before I want to pay tribute to them also. As has been said, for 100 years they have given excellent service along the lines that my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) mentioned. He may well have been right that 100 years ago, when the battle started, different individuals were then active, but for the last 100 years the City of London has carried on that battle.
I have not been here for the whole of that time but I have been involved for the past 34 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow was quite right when he mentioned the battle that went on when, had it not been for the City of London, there would now have been tower blocks on Wanstead Flats. Originally the excuse was that there should be houses. We had to fight, and the City of London led that fight. If it had not done so, houses would have led to tower blocks, tower blocks to schools, and schools to shops and there would be no Wanstead Flats as we know them today. Thank God that the City of London did its job and did it well. We worked together on it. I also pay tribute to the City of London for the excellent way in which it keeps West Ham park. It does an excellent job.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow and other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson), rightly say that we have to put up a fight to see that no liberty is taken with Epping Forest. But let us not lose the trees for the shadow, or the substance for the shadow. It is not the City of London that needs to be 1203 checked or castigated; it is the Department of Transport. Not one word has been said about watching the Department of Transport, but that is what needs to be watched. It is the Department that makes pledges, gives promises and breaks them. The Department of Transport said that we would not have tachographs, whatever the EEC said, yet immediately it ran away and said "We will have tachographs now, reluctantly."
My hon. Friends the Members for Harlow and Barking have initiated this debate. I am glad that they have done so, because we have got to work with the City of London. We may say that we do not really want the road, but we do, and although we are reluctant, because it will cause damage, we want the road without too much damage. If we find the Department of Transport reneging or taking any action, notwithstanding what my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow said I shall join him in saying that we should keep a check on the Department of Transport to keep it in order.
I do not trust the Department of Transport. By its actions over the years it has not proved that it has the best interests of the people at heart. The City of London has proved this. It has done so for 100 years, and certainly to my personal knowledge for the past 34 years.
I notice my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow smiling. Like him, I have gone along to many Ministers, ministerial advisers and local government officers. I have never found any of them so accommodating or helpful as the City of London authority and its officers. They have not put themselves out in the way that the City of London's officials have. When I have problems or difficulties over Wanstead Flats, West Ham park or Epping Forest, I know that I get better treatment from the authority's officials than I do from ministerial Departments.
§ Mr. McCrindle
I was just about to reflect that it must be a historic occasion when the hon. Gentleman in the same sentences praises the City of London and criticises the Department of Transport and a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Lewis
Had the hon. Gentleman been here long enough he would know that I have done this for 34 years, irrespective of what Government are in 1204 power. That does not matter to me. If something is wrong, and if a Minister or his Department is wrong, I could not care less which Government are in power. The hon. Gentleman should know by now that I have said this on many occasions. I must have seen 3,000 or 4,000 Ministers of all parties pass through the House, but I can count on the fingers of two hands Ministers of either party who were good, in that they did what they wanted to do and were not dictated to by civil servants. The problem is that we do not have Ministers who are strong enough to stand up to Civil Service advisers.
When I go to the City of London, I meet its officers, its Court of Common Council men and its various councillors. I know that they stand up to such people. But I have not seen that happen in this House. Therefore, it is not a question of party; it is the old question of "White-hall knows best". I do not believe that Whitehall knows best.
That is why I am with my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow. If Ministers transgress, I know that the City of London will try to stop them from doing so. I am sure that the City of London will do its best to look after the interests of the forest and its users. I am sure that the City of London would welcome the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Harlow and Barking, as I am sure it welcomes this debate.
Do not let us forget that the City of London has proved that it can be trusted and that it has fought. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow has had the opportunity of going on one of the City's trips around the forest.
§ Mr. Lewis
Then he knows as well as I do that the City of London has done an excellent job. If there is to be any transgression, I have no fear at all about the City of London. We know that it is promoting the Bill, but in fact it is doing so at the behest of the Department of Transport. It is the Department that we must watch. I shall be with my hon. Friend, on the barricades if need be, fighting whatever Minister may be in office. If we win the next election, as everyone says we shall, it will be a Minister of my own party against whom I shall be 1205 fighting. If that prognostication is wrong, and a Minister of a different party is in office, I shall still be there.
I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Barking and Harlow for giving us the chance of debating the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friends' desire and objective that there will be no further transgression is supported, and if they need help and support I shall be with them.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John Horam)
I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis), who made an interesting and wide-ranging speech, that one of the merits of proceeding in the way that we are tonight is that if at any future stage—God forbid—there were any further transgression on Epping Forest, such a parliamentary procedure would have to be gone through again, and my hon. Friends would again have an opportunity of making their speeches.
I see a broad beam across the face of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West. I am anticipating what he may say on a future occasion. But at least the safeguards are there, which is an important factor in this situation.
I am also glad that through the efforts of my hon. Friends, as well as Conservative Members, we have had a constructive debate. I am glad of the opportunity to debate the M25 London orbital route, and also the particular problems of this part of the orbital route.
The hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke), who introduced the Bill most ably, explained why the City is involved. It may be helpful if I explain why the Government are committed to building the M25, and why and to what extent land in the forest is affected. I hope that I shall also be able to explain how we view the considerable concern of my hon. Friends, as well as the strong views of those in the affected area, about what must be regarded as part of our national heritage—Epping Forest—which is a beautiful stretch of countryside and, clearly, a most important local amenity.
To begin with the basic situation on the M25, I should like to repeat points that I have already made to the House in 1206 previous debates on the reasons for this particular project.
As I explained in the Adjournment debate on 2 November, broadly this road serves three main functions: first, it will provide a way round Greater London for through traffic, particularly traffic to and from the East Coast, the Channel ports and the Tilbury docks. It will also link Heathrow and Gatwick and provide a route from those airports to the M1 and the M4.
Secondly, it will act as a general distributor, linking the radial routes that carry traffic in and out of London. Drivers will be able to reach places in London or find the most convenient access road without crossing the centre or using existing inadequate orbital routes.
Thirdly, it will also bring substantial local relief to many congested roads on the outskirts of London.
In the course of this debate, as in other debates on the same subject, hon. Members have stressed the importance of the road and the relief it will bring to many of their constituents. The M25 has the highest priority in our road building programme. Although only 23 miles have been built out of a total length of 120 miles, a further 16 miles is under construction and planning is well advanced on a further 45 miles. Only about a quarter of the route remains to be settled. I expect that all except the north-west sector will be finished by the end of 1983, and the whole road will be completed in 1985.
The north-east quadrant of the motorway, which includes the section through Epping Forest, will play a significant role in taking traffic from the M1 and the A1 to Tilbury and the Channel ports. It should also benefit more local traffic moving around this north-east sector of London. Without this section, increasing volumes of heavy traffic would continue to use routes through London and its suburbs or, alternatively, through rural Essex and Hertfordshire, using totally unsuitable roads and causing increasing delays for both through and local traffic. That would be undesirable environmentally and would also lead to increased danger to pedestrians and motorists alike.
The transfer of this obstructive traffic to this purpose-built road will lead to substantial environmental benefits in the 1207 London suburbs and also—and this has been much commented upon, most noticeably by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) recently—in the towns and villages of Essex and Hertfordshire. The proposed route for the north-eastern sector from the A10 and Bulls Cross to the A12 near Brentwood was published in 1973. Over 1,500 objections were received and a public inquiry was held at Epping between December 1974 and July 1975. The inquiry lasted for 89 days. At the time it was the longest inquiry ever held. I do not think that it can reasonably be claimed that the inspector failed to give objectors a chance to put their views forward.
The inspector reported in May 1976. He took into account the Department's forecast of the number of vehicles likely to use the road, the environmental effects and the effects on agriculture, green belt land and the forest. He declared himself satisfied that the road was needed and that the environmental disbenefits it would bring would be more than offset by the environmental benefits enjoyed by the wider community. The report is no less than 922 pages long. I recognise that the length of the inquiry or the bulk of the report is not by itself conclusive evidence that nothing was overlooked. However, I hope that hon. Members will accept that in this instance there are reliable indicators of the careful and thorough way in which all the relevant factors were considered by the inspector. In the end the inspector recommended that the line orders should be made as drafted, subject to some alterations.
After further careful consideration by the Departments of Transport and Environment the decision of my right hon. Friends was given in a letter dated 28 September 1977 and the orders were made on 1 March 1978. Since then we have been going ahead with the remaining statutory procedures. A public inquiry into the draft compulsory purchase orders for the section to the west of the forest from the River Lea to the A121 will open on 20 March, and the inquiry into the draft orders from the A121 to the M11 will probably open in May or June. The last section cannot be built unless we are able to use the land that is the subject of part II. My right hon. Friends 1208 will not make any decisions on the order until Parliament has completed its consideration of the Bill.
I turn to the effects on the forest. As the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South said, the conservators' main aim, which I share, has been to minimise the impact on the forest. The most direct route, and hence the cheapest and most convenient for motorists, would take the road through a broad part of the forest. A route further to the north than the current scheme, avoiding the forest altogether, would have been longer and would have taken more land, property and houses. The route that was proposed by the Department and approved by the inspector is thus a compromise. It passes through the northern tip of the forest. It touches forest land at four points, and with the exception of Bell Common these are all roadside verges.
At the two principal crossings the motorway will be carried on bridges over the verges so that riders and walkers will be able virtually to follow their present paths. At Bell Common the road passes through about 500 yards of the forest. The Department had originally proposed that the road should be constructed in a cut-and-cover tunnel for about half that length to preserve the continuity of forest land. However, the inspector supported the proposal put forward by the conservators that the whole length should be in a tunnel at an extra cost of about £2½ million at 1974 prices. The Secretary of State accepted that recommendation.
After construction of the road the land will be returned to its current use. The current use is the cricket pitch. Clause 7 will lay on the Department responsibility to provide the cricket club with facilitiesnot less advantageous to the members…than the cricket ground, pavilion and conveniences now available to them ".That is a fairly strong commitment. I do not know how lavish the provision will be but I think that the words I have quoted are suitable.
The overall extent of the forest is about 6,000 acres. The Bill will enable the City to transfer to the Department 14½ acres of that 6,000 acres. Once the road has been built, 11½ acres of the 14½ acres will be open to the public, Moreover, my Department intends to buy 14½ acres to 1209 give to the City in exchange for what is transferred, so the size of the forest will not be changed. Indeed, the area open to the public will be increased. I would like to refer to the question of delay, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens). He made the point that it may be right to delay things in the wider interests of ensuring that one finds the best possible solution to this conflict between the need for a road which would be environmentally beneficial but also the environmental need to protect the forest and this special part of London. I would like to put some points to him.
Any broad alternative, most recently the River Lea proposal put forward by a number of individuals, would probably take at least a year to consider in depth. There would, therefore, be a delay of at least a year in any solution. If we were to embark on an alernative, this whole project would be set back at least a decade. It would take that long to work out any alternative to what is now proposed to the point where it was feasible to build the road.
I would like my hon. Friend to consider the problems of simply delaying this part of the road. As a number of speakers have pointed out, other sections of the road are proceeding. Indeed, other sections of the M25 have been completed. If this section was not built, there would be a gap in the orbital road and traffic would flow from the sections that were built into this gap. The situation in that area would not merely be as bad as it is today. It could well be considerably worse.
Apart from the speeches made in this debate by the hon. Members for Brentwood and Ongar and for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who declared clearly what he felt was the balance of the argument, I have also had representations from my hon. Friends the Members for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) and for Edmonton (Mr. Graham), who cannot participate in this debate—although they would have liked to do so—because they are members of the Government. They have been concerned about the possibility of delay in this section of the road because of the reasons—
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
It is not true that the hon. Members whom the Minister has mentioned cannot participate in the debate. They choose not to do so. They could if they wanted. There is nothing to stop them. Any member of the Government can speak.
§ Mr. Horam
I defer to my hon. Friend, given the length of time that he has been an hon. Member of this House, on the question of the traditions of the House. He may well be right. I thought it was worth making that point simply to indicate the real problems which even a short delay in this section of the road could cause in other parts of London.
§ Mr. Newens
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that, recognising, as I hope I made clear in my speech, the need for lateral road communications in this area, it is still vital that those roads are not constructed in a manner which destroys or seriously damages the environment? I am grateful that he mentioned certain areas. The areas at Copthall Green and Upshire have to be looked at again. Does my hon. Friend agree that, even in the time available, we have to go over these matters carefully together with the representations of hon. Members who have spoken in favour of proceeding with the road?
§ Mr. Horam
I take my hon. Friend's point that there should be proper consideration of the environmental points, including those that he and other hon. Members have made during this prolonged debate. In so far as the statutory procedures allow, certainly the Committee stage will be a proper place to consider those points.
I also say to my hon. Friend that as a matter of general policy he will know that, certainly since my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Transport and I have been in charge of affairs at the Department of Transport—nothwithstanding the comments of my hon. Friend, whose memory goes back much further than that—we have tried more comprehensively to take into account the environmental problems of road building. I have tried to show—I think that my hon. Friend has given me credit for it—what we have tried to do 1211 in this particular case to meet the very clear problems which we recognise.
Finally, therefore, the Government really cannot say too much about the importance of the M25. If the road is to avoid the built-up areas of London there is no alternative but to cross the surrounding countryside, including this small stretch of Epping Forest. I regret that as much as other hon. Members. We have gone to great lengths to protect the amenities of the forest, but it is not simply a question of weighing the environmental loss against wider benefits. Failure to complete this road would leave unsolved acute problems of congestion, noise, pollution and danger which would far outweigh its adverse effects. That is why I feel that the majority—indeed, almost everyone—who have spoken in this debate have come down, certainly on balance, on the side of this project.
I quite understand why the City Corporation feels that it is necessary to obtain parliamentary authority to enable this road to run through the forest. Indeed, it provides the sort of guarantees to which some of my hon. Friends have referred, and I am grateful to the Corporation for bringing forward this part of the Bill.
I must make clear that the orbital route is urgently needed, and the Government therefore regard it as vital that the Bill should proceed. I hope that my hon. Friends the Members for Harlow and for Barking (Miss Richardson), in particular, will recognise that we have tried our hardest to minimise that clear environmental effects which the project will impose, that we have tried to take full account of the feelings and the arguments of those who have opposed this particular scheme at various stages, and that, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee), while we, as Ministers, have come to the conclusion that we have, we have also come to it very reluctantly, in view of the conflicts between transport considerations and environmental considerations which are posed very acutely in this sort of area.
I hope that my hon. Friends will recognise that we, too, welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter as fully, frankly and openly as possible, but in the light of the general balance of the argument we should give the Bill a Second Reading so that it can proceed to the Committee stage, where sensible 1212 discussion of details can go forward, but, at the end of the day, there should be no delay in this project.
§ Mr. Wells
I am disappointed that the Minister said nothing about the great advantages of the clearway that will come outside Billingsgate market when the inevitable market congestion is removed. He is, after all, a Minister of Transport. We did not expect him to say anything about the details of the market, but there are many transport implications in other clauses. The hon. Gentleman said nothing about the furious driving referred to in clause 21.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)
I welcome the Bill and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) on the way in which he introduced it.
Many people will regret the passing of Billingsgate. It is part of the City, as Smithfield still is, and it brings a piquant flavour to that part of the world as one drives through, although, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) made clear, there is a certain amount of road congestion. The removal of Billingsgate will leave Fishmongers' Hall, that magnificent building, isolated from its original purpose but I am sure that it will be possible to make journeys from the new Billingsgate to the old Fishmongers' Hall. The move is clearly demonstrated as necessary for a variety of reasons.
As everybody in the debate has said, Epping Forest is a unique place for those who were brought up in that part of the world, for those who drive through it and for those who read about it. If there is any threat of filching pieces of Epping Forest, it is right that the decision should be taken in this House and only after full examination and debate. It is also clear that there is a general feeling that the M25 is a top priority road, certainly for London. The Bill makes it clear that there will be no loss of land to Epping Forest.
There are worries on both sides of the House about some aspect of the road. Hon. Members ask whether it is really necessary for the road to go through Epping Forest. Such worries will be examined in Committee. It would be quite 1213 wrong, as most Members have said, if the House were not to give the Bill a Second Reading and allow that examination to take place in Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) asked specifically about the M25. I see no reason why the next Government should change the decision to treat the M25 as a top priority road. The report of the inspector is a valuable one, and the fact that the Government have accepted his view that much more of the road should be built in tunnel was one of the points which the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) rightly welcomed in a speech showing concern for what has happened.
I make brief reference to clause 21. It is a most interesting clause which seems strangely out of place in this Bill. The provision was last changed in 1967. Then it was possible to drive furiously through the City of London committing various offences in thoroughfares, including the discharging of firearms. The maximum penalty for that until 1967 was a fine of £2. In 1967 it became £20 and, presumably on the advice of the Commissioner of the City of London Police, it is now proposed to increase it to £50.
One would have thought that that was a very small charge to pay for discharging firearms or driving furiously. Perhaps if one drove furiously and discharged firearms there might still be a fine of only £50. However, I am sure that there is a good reason for its being in the Bill although my hon. Friend did not tell us about it when he introduced the measure.
The Minister was clear, as he always is when explaining road problems. He showed the environmental advantages, on balance, of allowing the Bill to proceed and of allowing the exchange of land so that the road can be built and go into cut-and-cover for the longest possible distance. I was sorry that he did not tell us more—as he was asked to do from both sides of the House—about the deer tracks, which seem to follow on from the elephant trails about which my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South spoke. We shall have to assume that the deer will be able to cross the tunnel when it is filled in.
1214 This has been a useful debate. Well-deserved tributes have been paid from all sides to the City Corporation for its enlightened stewardship of Epping Forest. Most of us would praise the Corporation for its enlightened stewardship of all that goes on within the square mile.
I hope that the Bill will emerge from Committee swiftly. I trust that the Committee will examine the issues which cause genuine concern to Members on both sides of the House. I hope, too, that the Bill will complete all its stages and allow the road to be built to provide a vital link for all who work and live in London.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am grateful for being allowed, by the leave of the House, to reply to the debate. Those who wish to revise the procedures of the House sometimes question whether Private Bills have a proper place in our procedures. Today's debate wholly vindicates the principle of having such Bills debated in this way. I join other hon. Members in thanking the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) and his hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) for objecting in such a way that we could have the debate, which has been useful and valuable.
I thank all my hon. Friends for supporting the Bill, and all hon. Members for their contributions to an excellent debate. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) said that this was a London occasion. It was kind of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wan-stead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) to come in at the end of the debate to listen to the closing speeches.
The centrepiece of the debate has been Epping Forest and the City's trusteeship of it. I hope that I used factual rather than evaluative language in talking of the past century. It has been warming to hear the tributes paid to the City for its stewardship of the forest in the last 100 years. I refer in particular to the tribute paid by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) in an intervention and in his speech. Tributes have been paid in which I take incidental personal pride on behalf of the City. Like Lysias, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) and I were 1215 nursed on the self-same hill—in Hampstead. Therefore, from the background of Hampstead Heath I can judge the way in which Epping Forest is administered. I do so with admiration.
The hon. Member for Barking spoke about the problem of giving away land. I am not sure that it is fully recognised that the Department of Transport is to have 14 acres available to Epping Forest, which will have an incidental virtue. It is land which will probably come in one piece instead of in four different packets, which will be less of a cumulative loss.
As I prepared for the debate, I was reminded of Lord Slim's remark that the British Army is always fated to fight its battles at the junctions of two or more maps. Similar complications arose in this case.
The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee) spoke of having tramped the route in order to see what had happened. Perhaps I am a more urban animal. I believe that one should see a city on one's feet but my inspection of the route was by car. By that one could see that except for Bell Common the three other areas of the forest were strips of land which lined outlying parts of the forest, rather than total incursions into the forest.
The hon. Member for Harlow made a powerful speech, with which many hon. Members will agree, on the necessity for vigilance to prevent the erosion of the richness of our heritage. Such defences are important.
Returning to the deer, he was concerned that they were using the land on the edge of the forest. That is so. In the 1966 census 61 deer were found in the area to the north and only four to seven were seen by the verderers during that day in the forest. The critical factor is whether they can cross over to use the forest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) lent admirable support about the M25 on behalf of their constituents. There has been a thorough-going 1216 debate on the effect of the M25 by hon. Members who know the area well.
There were other references to Billingsgate market. I am grateful for the welcome given by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells) not only to the City's stewardship of the market but to its action. The hon. Member for Ilford, South, who spoke with lyricism on Epping Forest, also welcomed the developments at Billingsgate.
There is obviously a problem over charges at the Museum of London. As the hon. Member for Harlow said, the museum has done an outstanding job and has won a major European prize. There is a mild problem of response through the Bill. The promoters of the Bill are not exactly the same as the governors of the museum, and consultation is needed with the governors to respond to the criticisms. In Committee we should be able to find accommodation and a compromise solution to remove the misgivings expressed by the hon. Member for Harlow.
Finally, I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State and to the Department of Transport for the manner in which the arrangements have been carried out. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead said, the Minister's comments at the end of the debate were lucid.
In closing, I return to the cricket ground reference and the phrase quoted by the Under-Secretary of State, that the arrangements when Bell Common is returned to the cricketers are to be no less advantageous to members than the cricket ground pavilion and conveniences now available. I saw the ground earlier in the year when there was snow on the wicket. Painted on the pavilion was the phrase "George Davis rules, OK". I hope that the damage done to Bell Common in building the tunnel will be less than the damage to the Headingley wicket in the name of George Davis. I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to this most worthwhile debate.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.