§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ [Relevant document: Third Report of the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) of Session 1989–90, New Parliamentary Building (Phase 2) and the Jubilee Line Proposals (HC334).]7.39 pm
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
Mr. Speaker has selected the instruction in the name of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore):That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Bill to have regard to the need for regeneration of local communities and local industries in and around the areas of London Dockland and Lower Lea Valley.
§ Mr. Thorne
I have read the instruction and I have considerable sympathy with the terms in which it is expressed. I will listen with great interest to what right hon. and hon. Members have to say in that connection. The instruction has considerable merit.
London's rail services play a vital part in the city's economy. There has been unprecedented growth in passenger demand on the underground and it is widely accepted that new and improved services are needed. Two main types of improvement can be identified: those that seek to tackle congestion in central London, and those provided to meet the needs of new developments.
Last year, the Government commissioned two major studies: the central London rail study, which concentrates on congestion and ways to tackle it, and the east London rail study, which focuses on the needs of docklands. The enormous scale and rapid pace of the regeneration of docklands now far exceeds what was expected in the early to mid-1980s, when the current programme of investment was planned, which led to the construction of the docklands light railway. The east London rail study examined the options for improving rail access from central London to docklands and beyond.
The preferred option was for an extension of the Jubilee line from Green Park via Waterloo, London Bridge and Canary Wharf to Stratford. Over this last section, the route could go either via Greenwich Point or via Brunswick Foreshore. By linking to the existing Jubilee line, which runs through the west end to north-west London, with its important connections to the rest of the underground system at Baker Street, Bond Street and Green Park, the benefits of the extension could be increased. New connections would be provided in the central area at Westminster, Waterloo and London Bridge. In addition, the proposal would benefit commuters travelling to the west end and docklands, as well as many residents of inner south London, who are not currently served by the underground.
§ Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)
I welcome my hon. Friend's proposals most warmly. Will he commend to the engineers, despite the technical difficulties, the needs of wheelchair users? There might be a way of having an emergency walkway to ensure that wheelchair users of the London underground—and especially of the new extension—can get out in an emergency.
§ Mr. Thorne
My hon. Friend is a well-known champion of the disabled. I will ask the engineers to take careful and special note of what she has said. However, we are extending an existing line, so to some extent we are inhibited by the standards already laid down.
The proposal is to extend the Jubilee line from Green Park to Stratford. Stations at Westminster, Waterloo, London Bridge, Canada Water, Canary Wharf, Canning Town, West Ham and Stratford would not only provide access to the areas they serve, but would provide important interchanges with other lines. The Bill also provides for other stations at Southwark and Bermondsey, and I shall return to those proposals a little later.
The extended line would be a major east-west trunk route, fed from major routes into London and offering a fast, high-capacity service with direct connections between docklands and numerous important strategic locations in London, including direct connections to the west end, to west and to north-west London, via Westminster and Green Park. The line would offer direct connections to Waterloo, serving the commuter suburbs to the south-west of London and giving access to the proposed channel tunnel terminus. It would offer direct connections to London Bridge, serving the commuter network to the south and to the south-east of London, and direct connection to the commuter lines from Essex via Stratford and West Ham. The Bill provides for an extension in tunnel south of Green Park as far as Canning Town. From there it would run on the surface parallel to the existing tracks for British Rail's North London line to Stratford, where it would terminate.
The proposed extension has raised a number of concerns, which the promoters acknowledge and are addressing. The first concern is the re-routing of existing Jubilee line services into Charing Cross. Heavy passenger flows are expected between the existing and new sections of the Jubilee line. To meet that demand, it would not be possible to provide a service from north-west London to Waterloo and docklands as well as a service to Charing Cross. Accordingly, it is necessary to close the existing service on the Jubilee line between Green Park and Charing Cross. However, passengers who currently change from the Jubilee line on to the Northern or Bakerloo lines at Charing Cross, and the many British Rail passengers who join the Jubilee line at Charing Cross, will be able to do so at London Bridge or at Waterloo.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)
Does the hon. Gentleman regret the fact that after that part of the line is closed there will be a loss of service? Transport 2000 strongly wanted that line to be kept open. Is the hon. Gentleman supporting its closure?
§ Mr. Thorne
Yes, with regret. I should like to give happier news to the right hon. Gentleman. Unfortunately, if we were to try to feed trains into Charing Cross as well as round to Stratford, we should severely impair the efficiency of the line. The matter is always open to future consideration, but the original intention was that the line should form part of the Fleet line and should travel on the north side of the Thames. This is a wonderful opportunity for it to go to the south; and, of course, the docklands light railway was subsequently introduced.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that a third option could be available when the Green Park-Charing Cross section is 520 replaced? There could be an interchange between Waterloo, East and Southwark stations. That would provide an additional opportunity for people to change from the underground to British Rail services and would alleviate congestion, which will be considerable when channel tunnel traffic comes to Waterloo.
§ Mr. Thorne
I share the hon. Gentleman's concern for his constituents and I sincerely hope that a way will be found for stations to be built at Southwark and at Bermondsey. Studies are going on at present. We must establish that the demand is there and that it will be possible to use those stations sufficiently to justify the considerable cost involved in building them.
As part of the arrangements for providing station facilities on the proposed railway extension, it is proposed that the station at Westminster should be rebuilt with two ticket halls. The eastern ticket hall would be on the site of the present station, with the western ticket hall being under the junction of Parliament street, Great George street and Bridge street. The subject has been considered by the New Building Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services), which the promoters have met and to which they have given evidence on a number of occasions.
Concern has been expressed about the siting of the western ticket hall beneath the road junction adjacent to the Palace of Westminster, which could lead to an unacceptable disruption of the working of Parliament. The construction of the ticket hall would involve raising the road level by 1 m on to a temporary road decking similar to that built at Oxford Circus during the construction of the Victoria line in the 1960s.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not for a moment wish to mislead the House. I am sure that he will acknowledge that that was only one of many issues over which the New Building Sub-Committee expressed concern.
§ Mr. Thorne
My hon. Friend is right. The Sub-Committee passed comment on that issue. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it was generally in favour of the Bill, subject to its own conditions. It is intended to meet two of the major conditions.
§ Mr. Orme
I speak as a member of the Sub-Committee. There was fundamental disagreement between the Sub-Committee and London Transport over the siting of the interchange. We had alternative proposals, which our advisers told us were feasible, to transfer that interchange to St. James's Park. That is our recorded view, and we maintain that view.
§ Mr. Thorne
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. However, on financial and various other criteria, it was considered that the present proposal was best. I believe that the Services Committee was prepared to accept that on the basis of the recommendations from the available experts.
It has therefore been suggested to the promoters that one possible solution would be to move the western ticket hall to a site beneath Parliament square if the House should wish that. Accordingly, if this alternative site were to be the preferred solution, the promoters would be prepared to move the western ticket hall for the new station. To that end, powers have been included in an 521 additional provision which would enable the promoters to take and use that part of Parliament square which would be required for that purpose.
By including proposals for an alternative site for the western ticket hall, the promoters believe that they are acting in accordance with the wishes of the Services Committee as set out in paragraph 49 of its third report entitled "New Parliamentary Building (Phase 2) and the Jubilee Line Proposals", which is House of Commons Paper 334. If, however, other arrangements were eventually found to be acceptable to the Committee on the Bill, the promoters might not need to seek amendment of the Bill so far as it relates to the new station at Westminster, as such other arrangements as are mentioned in the Select Committee's third report should be capable of implementation under the Bill as deposited.
After construction of the new station, Parliament square would be restored as near as possible to its present condition. Construction of the western ticket hall under the square would, however, affect the small trees growing on the north side of the square and they would need to be removed. The promoters intend to replace the trees after completion of construction work, and to that end they are consulting the arboricultural officer of the City of Westminster. If the site of the western ticket hall were to be built beneath Parliament square, the promoters would also consult the royal botanic gardens at Kew about suitable replacements for the lost trees.
At Waterloo there will be a Jubilee line station and an interchange with existing services.
§ Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)
The hon. Gentleman has just referred to Parliament square. It seems strange that the Minister and London Underground appear to want to accommodate the docklands and the investment in that area, but want to shift additional people into this already congested area. Could the promoters not find additional money to take account of the New Building Sub-Committee's recommendations? The hon. Gentleman did not say how long Parliament square would be disrupted. Can he give us some idea of how long that disruption would last?
§ Mr. Thorne
Consideration has been given to the matter, and the best possible route is now agreed to be through Westminster to Waterloo. The line cannot adequately serve Waterloo without passing through Westminster. There are great advantages in having a connection to the District and Circle lines and that is the main factor. The original intention was that the line would extend along the north side of the Thames via Charing Cross. However, now that the channel tunnel terminus is to be built at Waterloo, it is important that such a facility should be there. That is one of the main reasons for the change of direction. However, that does not mean that the existing tunnel will be blocked up. It will be left so that, if in future it is desirable to extend in that direction, that will be possible.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
Will the hon. Gentleman answer my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond)? How many years is Parliament square expected to be turned into a bomb site? Can he give us a firm idea of the calculations and the source of those 522 calculations and tell us whether they come from London Transport or a firm of contracting engineers? can he enlighten the House about that?
§ Mr. Thorne
The whole period for the construction of the extension is 53 months—approximately four and a half years. However, only part of that time would entail major works in Parliament square. One would expect that it would be heavily worked for two years, but for the remainder of the period there would certainly be some form of work in the area.
§ Mr. Cormack
It is quite clear from the evidence that we received that Parliament square would become a building site, or a bomb site as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) described it, for a good four years. That was clear from all the evidence that we received. It is important that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), who is seeking to get the support of the House for the measure, should not try in so doing to give us a rosy picture of what will happen. There will be major disruption, as Westminster city council has made quite plain, for about four years.
§ Mr. Thorne
There are two kinds of disruption. One is disturbance to the soil, which will clearly take place within the area. Major steps are being taken to surround the site with appropriate wooden cover so that it will not be too much of an eyesore to those at ground level. Admittedly those who view Parliament square from a height will have a less attractive view. The other disruption must be to traffic. The working is being arranged so that the minimum of disruption is caused to traffic. Certainly during rush hour peak periods we would not wish to have heavy vehicles moving in and out of the site. That will mean that a certain amount of the spoil will have to be stored on the site while it is being extracted until more appropriate times to remove it.
It is clear that there will be disruption; I do not seek to deny that. There is always disruption where there is building work. It is a question whether that disruption is tolerable and acceptable. We, like everyone else, must face the need for some disruption if it brings lasting improvements for the travelling public.
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
We should be more specific when we are talking about the time factor. The House would not welcome being misled. Clause 7(3) states quite specifically:Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, the Company may, for a period not exceeding six years from the date of the passing of this Act, narrow and stop up".The Bill is requesting at least six years.
§ Mr. Thorne
I am of course talking about 53 weeks being the contract period from the time that the work starts. It is not 53 weeks from now. The Bill will have to progress through the House and receive Royal Assent. Contracts will then have to be let, and that will obviously have to happen before any work can start.
These days, contractors have been fairly reliable. I know that there have been some problems in constructing tunnels elsewhere, but there is considerable expertise. I do not think that it is beyond the ability of engineers to make a fairly accurate forecast of the time that the project will take. I am confident that the estimated figure of 53 weeks is not unreasonable.
§ Mr. Ray Powell
The request in clause 7(3) says 523not exceeding six years from the date of the passing of the Act".Bearing in mind whatever time the House takes and the Committee, if one is appointed, will take, the Bill means six years from the time the Act is passed.
§ Mr. Thorne
Certainly. Time will be required for contracts to be put out and to be let. I should have thought that that could easily take six months. We are talking about a total of five years. It is only wise for a Bill to allow for any eventuality. Ground conditions are clearly an important factor in tunnelling, and that is one of the great points about the Bill. Subsoil structures between the north of the Thames and the south of the Thames are quite different. It is only because of the extra expertise that has been acquired in recent years that we are able to contemplate tunnelling. That is one reason why the original proposal was to go along the Fleet line on the north side of the Thames. It would be imprudent merely to ask for the bare minimum time that is required in case some snag is encountered. That is the reason for the six-year period.
§ Mr. Cryer
The hon. Gentleman will agree that the extension involves tunnelling and road diversions near important historical buildings and will therefore call for the most careful standards of work. Can he say why completion of the parliamentary offices, which were built in Bridge street, adjacent to the House, and adjacent to the proposed works, and where the same high standard of work was required, was many months overdue? Would not the problem that occurred with those buildings be likely to recur in exactly the same location with the same required standard of work? Are not we talking about possibly scraping through in six years, with a bit of luck?
§ Mr. Thorne
The hon. Gentleman takes a pessimistic view. There is a difference between contracting work above ground and mining work beneath it. Miners are fairly reliable and accurate. The forecast of 53 months is fair. It is sensible to want a little latitude in case there is a problem, but I see nothing unreasonable in what is requested. The times that have been quoted are perfectly fair and reasonable.
§ Mr. Redmond
I think that what you mentioned will be slippery Joe. Leaving that matter to one side, I wonder whether you could—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would not ignore the Chair but would make his remarks through the Chair.
§ Mr. Redmond
I wonder whether, Madam Deputy Speaker, the sponsor of the Bill would explain to the House why there is a need for Parliament square to be disrupted. The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that, away from the congestion of the city, a place could be set aside where all the dirt and muck from the tunnelling could be disposed of without disrupting an already crowded city. There is no need for Parliament square to be disrupted. If the hon. Gentleman and London Underground representatives were to go to 524 Yorkshire, they could recruit a team to do the job for them—whichever job is eventually decided—without any disruption of Parliament square. Why must Parliament square be disrupted?
§ Mr. Thorne
It is required to be disrupted, because, technically, it is believed that it is the best place to remove the spoil. Much of the spoil is to be removed by barge from various places along the route, and I shall refer to them later. That is a technical point, which I am sure could be argued in some detail before the Opposed Private Bill Committee. It would be wrong of me to second-guess the questions that the Committee will ask in its thorough examination of the Bill.
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)
I am sure that my hon. Friend would wish to point out that, of course, no spoil would come out at Parliament square. Tunnelling for the line between Green Park and Waterloo would come from the Jubilee gardens site. No spoil or muck from the tunnel will come up into Parliament square. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, the Parliament square works relate to the excavation of the ticketing hall.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must respond to an intervention before he allows another intervention.
§ Mr. Thorne
I accept what my hon Friend says. Obviously, some material will be removed. It depends on what the Opposed Bill Committee decides: whether it is to be located at the intersection of the roads or actually in Parliament square itself, and therefore how much spoil is to be removed.
§ Mr. Thorne
I must now get on with my speech.
At Waterloo, there will be a Jubilee line station with an interchange with existing services—Northern, Bakerloo, Waterloo and City and Network SouthEast services. A considerable number of petitions from individuals and local interest groups have expressed concern about the proposals in the Bill and the effect that the works will have on people living in the vicinity. London Underground h as met and plans to have further meetings with those concerned to explain the works in detail and the steps that are being taken to mitigate environmental effects. A particular concern in the Waterloo area is the temporary loss of public open space for use as a work site in Jubilee gardens. That work site will be used to construct the main tunnels west of Green park and east of Waterloo station.
Tunnelling spoil will be carried along the tunnel to Jubilee gardens, from where it will be taken by barge along the river. That will require the occupation of part of Jubilee gardens for three to four years. Other construction sites will be necessary at Tenison way and part of the Ball Ring, which will serve the Waterloo station construction works. It will be necessary also to have further major work sites at Ewer street in north Southwark and at Old Jamaica road, east of London Bridge station. Those sites are 525 essential to enable the construction of the tunnel from Waterloo to London Bridge and beyond to Canada Water in the Surrey docks.
The promoters of the Bill are working closely with all affected borough councils to draw up a detailed code of construction practice that will regulate the construction of the works, including measures to control construction noise, vehicle movements and other matters associated with the construction of a major underground railway.
Two proposed stations south of the river, at Southwark and Bermondsey, have been the subject of press speculation this week about their eventual inclusion in the project. The promoters wish those two stations to be built and are anxious to make the best possible case in terms of transport planning and local benefits so as to meet the Department of Transport's formal approval criteria. The Department has asked for further information, which London Regional Transport is now providing.
Between Canning Town and Stratford, the Jubilee line extension will be constructed alongside the existing service of British Rail, known as the north London line, which runs from Richmond to north Woolwich. It is proposed to construct a station at Canning Town to provide an interchange to the docklands light railway station, presently under construction, and the existing British Rail station. As Canning Town will be a major transport interchange point in the east end, it is proposed to construct a new bus station just to the south of the A13 where that road crosses the north London line.
The construction of the bus station will inevitably result in the acquistion of certain properties in Victoria Dock road. London Underground is in negotiation with the interested parties with a view to purchasing certain properties in advance of Royal Assent. To the north of Canning Town, it will be necessary to acquire property in a limited number of other locations in order to construct the extension. London Underground is in discussions with the landowners concerned.
In opening the debate, I said that there was a choice of route on the docklands section from Canary wharf to Stratford, which could run either via Brunswick or on the north Greenwich peninsula. Representations have been made by the owners of the land on the Greenwich peninsula, which they are to redevelop for housing, that the route across it would provide considerable benefit to persons living in the area. London Underground has studied the propositions and believes that to be the case and that, in addition, the new alignment would provide further high capacity public transport—
§ Mr. Redmond
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Some expenditure has been mentioned and, obviously, the Government are intending to put X amount of money into the project. If the Government are involved, the question of a hybrid Bill comes into the discussion. In connection with that, may I ask whether permission to spend money can be given before the measure has received the approval of the House?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
That is not a matter for the Chair; it is a matter for debate. That question should be addressed to the hon. Member who is speaking on behalf of the promotors.
§ Mr. Thorne
The new alignment would also provide further high-capacity public transport river crossings for the whole of that part of London, which is an area notorious for its inadequate cross-river capacity. The Greenwich peninsula is intrinsically difficult to serve by public transport and is poorly served at present. Improved public transport access would substantially enhance the prospect of the area being redeveloped for housing.
In addition, the promotors understand that a large car park is to be constructed near the proposed Jubilee line station on the railway on the Greenwich peninsula. That will enable cars bound for the docklands development area and for central London to be intercepted and thus would help to reduce traffic congestion on the busy inner-London roads in that area and in central London generally.
The change of route would result in the exclusion of one proposed station from the railway, at Brunswick. The proposed site for that station is adjacent to a station that is to be built as part of the Beckton extension of the docklands railway. That area will therefore be served by public rail transport. There will be provision for interchange between the proposed Jubilee line extension and the docklands railway at both Canary wharf and Canning town. It therefore seems to the promoters that there are substantial transport benefits to be achieved by adopting this revised route.
I have stressed the promoters' attempts to meet concerned local people and to analyse their concerns openly and fairly. In contemplating this project, London Underground Ltd. was always sensitive to the fact that such a project in central and inner London could have an impact upon people and on the natural and built environment. On their behalf, an independent consultancy has carried out an environmental impact assessment, and an environmental statement has been produced and sent to all petitioners. London Underground Ltd. has accepted the mitigation measures suggested in that report.
Extensive consultation has taken place with local authorities, statutory bodies, residents and interest groups, and affected occupiers so that their concerns could be established and responded to. This consultation is continuing and will go on up to and beyond the start of construction works.
§ Mr. Cryer
Is the environmental impact survey available to hon. Members? Have any attempts been made to circulate it to hon. Members? I have not seen it. I understand that copies are available in the sense that some hon. Members have got hold of them, but I also understand that the survey is not in the Vote Office. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that omission should be rectified?
§ Mr. Thorne
As the survey is detailed, it is more appropriate that it should be dealt with in the Opposed Private Bill Committee. When the Bill returns to the Floor of the House, there will be an opportunity for hon. Members to make further comments, should the need arise. If the hon. Gentleman would like some further information, I shall do my best to ensure that he receives it at that time.
The final topic I wish to touch on is that of the contribution of developers to the funding of the extension. It is a project on a massive scale: the cost of constructing the work in the Bill is estimated to exceed £1,000 million. 527 From the date of starting construction, it is expected that the project will take some four and a half years to complete.
There is to be a substantial contribution from Olympia and York, the developers of Canary wharf, and a further contribution from British Gas, the owners of the land on the Greenwich peninsula, and from Regalian Properties plc.
The proposed extension to Stratford would provide a major addition—
§ Mr. Thorne
The right hon. Gentleman must ask the Minister that question. Olympia and York has offered a substantial contribution, which I believe totals £400 million over the period. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will wish to put his own questions later.
The measure would bring widespread benefits to many who live in, work in and visit the capital. The promoters therefore ask that the Bill be given a Second Reading so that they may be allowed to proceed, and put to the Opposed Bill Committee their case for the provisions of the Bill and also of the additional provision.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
First, I thank the Chair for accepting the instruction tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), other hon. Members representing east London constituencies, and myself. As it is unlikely that we shall reach discussion of the instruction—for procedural reasons—I should like to put it on the record by reading it. It states:After Second Reading of the London Underground Bill, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to have regard to the need for regeneration of local communities and local industries in and around the areas of London Dockland and Lower Lea Valley.Such an instruction should not be necessary for Bills connected with public transport.
Secondly, I thank the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) for saying that he had great sympathy with our instruction. I sense that his sympathy comes from being the Member of Parliament for a constituency on the eastern side of London. In addition, through his experience on the Greater London council, he has some understanding of the need for proper strategic planning in London. I wish that I could say the same for his hon. Friends on the Front Bench. The lack of such understanding is the reason why the instruction has been tabled.
Nearly three miles of the line is in Newham. I shall come to details affecting the borough later, and am joined in those views by my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton). This is a London issue and I shall begin by expressing my personal views, as a London Member as well as an east London Member, about the strategic issues relating to transport in London.
The Bill has aroused mixed feelings in those of us who take an interest in transport in London. Undoubtedly, any investment in the London underground is welcome at the moment. Those who use or who try to use the District line will know what I mean. Many other issues also worry hon. 528 Members. However, the Bill is not one of our first strategic priorities. Indeed, one might even say that its genesis does not lie in transport strategy at all. It comes from the needs of a developer, to which I shall come in a moment, which have arisen because of the lack of planning on the part of the Government and the London Docklands development corporation. That is incontrovertible. One of the problems with the LDDC is that it does not set out specifically to regenerate communities or local industry. That is one of the reasons why we tabled the instruction.
§ Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)
Is my hon. Friend aware that several requests from me for a meeting with the Reichman brothers, the directors of Olympia arid York which is building Canary Wharf, have drawn a blank? I have been unable to acquaint them with my anxiety that building the Jubilee line should not add to the uprooting of local industry and the intolerable disturbance that the community is already suffering. Upwards of 9,300 people have lost television reception as Canary Wharf has risen. They could not see the world cup. Apparently the directors of Olympia and York do not feel obliged to help with those problems. Although we welcome an addition to public transport, I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that, as the line will not be built in an empty space, but a community lives there, its interest and well-being must be taken into account.
§ Mr. Spearing
That is the authentic voice not only of Tower Hamlets but of the Isle of Dogs, which is where one of the stations will be. It had local industry. Metropolitan Foods in my constituency has been told by the LDDC that its undoubted losses cannot be covered by public funds. We also hear that the LDDC's budget for this year will not be published until September. If any local authority n London did not publish its budget for this year until September, it would face a court case, prison or even worse. We believe that that is not good enough.
An extraordinary statistic sums up the imbalance in London planning. When the late Lord Cross, who chaired the Select Committee in another place which dealt with the establishment of the LDDC, commended the LDDC to the House, he said that he wanted mostly houses with gardens in London and hoped that there would be a time when conditions were such that they could be built. That was on 1 July 1981. He said that the houses should be for rent.
The figures produced by the docklands consultative committee of London boroughs a fortnight ago show that 2,000–odd dwellings for rent have been built. Another statistic shows that £2,000 million has been invested in transport infrastructure or earmarked for it. That includes the amount for the Jubilee line. If those figures are correct, an extraordinary £1 million is spent for every dwelling for rent built so far in the docklands area. One can understand the anxiety in east London about ever more transport infrastructure, welcome though it is in some ways because, we hope, it will be publicly owned.
Even the Government admit that the line is not the priority. We are awaiting the result of the so-called central London rail study. There is a choice between crossrail and the Chelsea-Hackney line. Although the line proposed in the Bill goes through central London from Green Park to London bridge, it is part of the so-called east London rail 529 study. We believe that that study was produced as a result of the Government's non-planning and the need to bail out Canary wharf.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) told us that the people who are spending £400 million on the railway and on producing such an enormous building in her constituency have not met the current proprietors of Canary wharf. They picked up the tab from the original promoters, who found that even with Swiss finance and First Boston they could not find the money. They were induced to take up another option. I do not know what additional letters of comfort or suggestions the proprietors received from the LDDC. We believe that it was a close-run thing.
The company has discovered that the docklands light railway is not sufficient for its development needs, so it has come along to the Government and said, "Please give us a tube. We will give you £400 million towards it." Perhaps the Minister will confirm that £100 million of that is cash down and £300 million will be paid when the line is built. At 1989 prices, the Government are contributing an estimated £700 million in addition. I should correct that statement. It is not the Government but either the farepayers or taxpayers of London who will pay. I presume that there will be some input from London Transport. If not, the money will come from the Government.
I hope that the Minister can clear up a problem. I recall an answer that I was given to a question that I asked some time ago about the origin of the money for the line. Normally one would expect that it would be part of the infrastructure vote for London of the Department of Transport. I understand that the money will not come from that source and that the arrangements have been changed. I have heard stories about a contingency fund. Perhaps the Minister can clear up that matter now or in Committee.
It has already been said that civil engineering contracts have a habit of being somewhat more expensive than originally expected. Everyone knows that the ground conditions in south London are different from those of north London. The line crosses under the Thames in three places. Irrespective of the method of funding and its ins and outs, who will stand the tab if the estimates are exceeded? Will it be, pro rata, the developers and the Government, or will the entire extra cost be paid with public money?
I have said enough about the genesis of the railway. Most of us in east London believe that the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), formerly Secretary of State for the Environment and now chairman of the Conservative party, could have called a public inquiry on the development at Canary wharf but did not do so. That is positive proof that the Conservative party does not care about proper strategic planning for London. A development where 50,000 people may work is of enormous strategic importance. Having agreed it, this controversial Bill has been brought before the House.
At the beginning of the debate a good deal was said about Parliament square. I shall not dwell on that for long, but I wish to suggest a solution. When I saw the plans about six months ago I said to London Transport, "Why Westminster? Lots of people want to go to Charing Cross. 530 It is a main line British Rail station with many interchanges. Why not take it on from there and go to Waterloo via Temple?" Of course there must be an interchange with the District and Circle lines—no one would disagree with that—but it could be at St. James's Park, as the Services Committee suggested. What about Temple? London Transport said, "We shall have to think about that. Oh, the curve is too sharp."
I looked at the maps in the Private Bill Office and found that the curve underneath Pall Mall is designed for 300 m. I got out a schoolboy compass and did some work. I think that it might be possible for the line to continue from Charing Cross, bend towards Temple and bend again somewhere under Waterloo. If that were possible—this is a Committee point—it might solve a good many of the problems.
The disadvantage for some hon. Members might be that they could not get on the train at Parliament square. I could not get on it to go to my constituency. Hon. Members would have to walk all the way to Trafalgar square—800 yd. That may seem a long way, but it is about the same distance as from the Members' Entrance to the bridge across the lake in St. James's Park. That brings the objection on distance into perspective.
I hope that that matter will be considered in Committee. A line of the alignment which I have described—perhaps the track will have to be longer or the curve greater to slow down the trains—would probably cost much less than extensive works in Parliament square. Such development would also provide a much valued connection direct to Charing Cross.
My hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-East and for Newham, North-West have similar thoughts to mine about how the proposed development will affect Newham. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West is particularly interested as he shares the projected route with me. The London borough of Newham and many businesses in the area have submitted petitions and the views that I intend to express are those of the borough and of my hon. Friends—except when I express a particular personal view.
I agree with the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) about disabled access. It would not be possible easily to redesign the Jubilee line to accommodate disabled persons. However, London Transport has said that any completely new line in London will be designed to accommodate them. Whatever new tunnels are built, it would be useful if they were large enough to enable disabled persons to use the tubes. Disabled people of Newham and West Ham would like to visit the west end via the Jubilee line and, providing safety restrictions are upheld, I do not see any reason why the tunnels to be constructed should not accommodate tubes large enough for such people. I hope that the Committee will consider that.
With the Jubilee line entering the London borough of Newham from the Greenwich peninsula, there is the hope that construction will provide possible future branch lines—to the north Woolwich area. The diagrams show that a step-plate junction is planned and I hope that the Committee is assured that such a junction will be built. Building a junction underground after the trains are running is not only difficult, but may even be impossible.
A step-plate junction would provide two route options. First, a branch could be constructed over the existing north London line, to which the hon. Member for Ilford, 531 South referred, as far as north Woolwich and perhaps beyond. Good planning might take that line on to Woolwich Arsenal. Secondly, a branch could be constructed towards Custom House on the north side of the royal docks and onwards to Barking. I agree with the London borough of Newham that those options should be part of the proposed route, because that would provide good value for money as construction would be over existing track.
Those routes could be developed either by inter-running the existing north London link—I know that the transport inspectors have some doubt about that, but there is inter-running elsewhere and it should be considered—or along parallel lines. I believe that there should be facilities for freight to run at night even if inter-running is available on both lines. What will happen in the royal docks area is a matter of speculation, so we should keep our options open.
The rail corridor from Canning Town to Stratford is already wide with four tracks. It is proposed that that corridor be dedicated to the Jubilee line. In future I hope that there will be room for a possible channel tunnel link.
The London borough of Newham and the hon. Members who represent it are concerned about the amount of land that is included within the compulsory purchase area. We do not understand the extensive areas so designated and we do not understand why arrangements are not made for works to be done on a pro tern basis. We do not understand why everything should be compulsorily acquired, especially in respect of the land at West Ham.
At Canning Town there are also a number of controversial purchases of existing firms that employ local people. Those local industries have survived and they want to expand in the area. Whether the instruction is passed, I hope that the Committee will make it clear to the promoters that those firms and their employees must not be disadvantaged. The hon. Member for Ilford, South and the promotors claim that the local people will be advantaged as a result of the new bus station and railways. Even if that is so, we must still see to it that nobody who is displaced is disadvantaged in any way. Unfortunately, the LDDC has not done that, but the Bill must ensure it. I am sure that the petitioners and the borough will consider that matter closely in Committee.
§ Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford)
What will happen at the Canning Town interchange is especially important, because when the station and bus interchange are built, the value of the surrounding land will go up considerably. If London Underground has bought more land than it needs through compulsory purchase, it will be the one to benefit from that increase in value. The management of London Underground should be leaning over backwards to ensure that the people of the area represented by the hon. Gentleman do not believe that too much land is being compulsorily purchased. They should be given the information to ensure that that does not happen.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for underlining my point. The amount of land to be purchased at Canning Town may not be that great, but the demands of the local industries are important. One firm has a gantry 532 crane and one does not put such cranes up afresh for tuppence. It is important to take into account such displacements.
The point raised by the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) has even greater relevance in West Ham. At Canning Town there will be only three underground railways: the docklands light railway, the Jubilee line and the north London line, unless it is displaced as the borough suggests. At West Ham there will be four railway lines, presuming the Bill gets through. We shall have the existing north London link, the Jubilee line, the District line, when it is running, and in addition, British Rail has sensibly said that some of the trains on the Tilbury line will stop there. Four electrified railways will cross one another at right angles, so the surrounding land will be extremely valuable.
The land to the north-west of West Ham station in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West forms part of the lower Lea valley area to which the instruction refers. That area is in the process of being changed, which requires careful planning. Good strategic planning and borough planning should ensure that the plans meet the needs of the people of Newham, not the needs of developers coming in on the back of a new railway line.
As is well known, Newham, statistically, is the second most deprived borough in the country, but that is not so as it is rich in human talent. Morally, the land belongs to the people of the area and it should be developed for their benefit. The plans include a possible depot for the railway just south of Stratford. The railway must have a depot, of course, but perhaps it could be built further north or covered over so that the space above could be used for something else. Those important points must be decided by the Committee.
To the north of the land affected in the lower Lea valley is Stratford—a junction already known because of the channel tunnel controversy. Only this week a Committee of the House referred to its inability to evaluate the potential of Stratford as a future channel tunnel international station not terminal. The Jubilee line is clue to terminate there. It would provide a fast service if it were constructed from Waterloo and London Bridge straight to Stratford.
I hope that there can be some safeguard there—perhaps a three-decker arrangement: the Jubilee line, the north London line, roads and other railways north to south on the lower level, with plenty of space for development and a connection to crossrail that we hope is coming in a few weeks' time. That will probably be announced after we go away for the summer recess if the Government run to form. I hope that it will be announced before the recess. For the east-west, on the next level, perhaps there could be a channel link using the Ove Arup scheme or whichever route is chosen. There could be a third deck on top of that for passenger circulation and motor traffic to give an excellent and well-designed interchange.
There is the land available and it makes strategic sense for the line to go there. There is plenty of land further north, so perhaps the railway could be built there in the Lea valley area. It could join up with other tube railways further north. However, I shall not pursue that argument because it is a wider strategic issue.
I have spoken enough to show that the Bill has had a mixed reception. It is not the first priority for strategic transport investment in London, which must he the 533 crossrail. London Transport, the Bill's promoters, has not looked as carefully as it might at some of the alternative alignments in the west end, particularly those that would avoid the complications of using Parliament square. Above all, unfortunately, the genesis of the railway has been based not on the regeneration of communities or industries, but on the needs of developers who may have been under some misapprehension that transport was to be provided when in fact permission had not been given.
The Bill has had a mixed reception from those of us in east London. If the line is constructed, we shall look carefully at the detailed planning, because it should serve the people of east London.
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
I am grateful to have this opportunity to speak early in the debate. I wish to place on record the appreciation of the members of the New Building Sub-Committee for the complimentary comments by the Leader of the House as reported in Hansard, 10 July, column 281. To save time, I shall not attempt to repeat many of the issues raised during that short debate, but I wish to record my sincere appreciation of the members of the New Building Sub-Committee who conscientiously attended weekly meetings to delve into the depths of the problems that the Bill will present to the House.
The Committee fully appreciates the dauntless hours of work which the Clerk, Mr. Robin James, devoted so meticulously to ensuring that the Committee was kept fully conversant and informed of all the details necessary to enable members to discuss and decide issues of this complex and controversial Bill, especially where it affected hon. Members and their accommodation.
The Minister for Public Transport intervened earlier and referred to the spoil that would be brought up in Parliament square. If spoil is not to be brought up in Parliament square, why was the New Building Sub-Committee told that numerous lorries would be fed into the already congested traffic around the square on an hourly basis once the site was prepared and soil excavation taking place? If spoil is brought up in a building site, particularly in the centre of London right outside the precincts of the House, it will not only be unsightly, but will result in a large amount of muck being brought from the site by lorries onto a congested road. The Minister should address that important issue.
I spoke briefly on Tuesday to oppose the business motion because I thought that three hours was far too short a period for us to discuss a Bill with such serious implications. Opposition Members and, I am sure, members of the New Building Sub-Committee would declare their support for more and better facilities in London. However, I should like to address the Bill's effects on Parliament and Parliament buildings.
§ Mr. Cryer
I have looked through the report of the Committee of which my hon. Friend is the Chairman. Was there any explanation from the promoter about guaranteeing the position of the Sessional Orders? My hon. Friend mentioned extra lorries, spoil and congestion in Parliament square. Clearly, Sessional Orders must be maintained. I wonder whether the promoters went out of their way to explain to the committee what provision they 534 planned to make to ensure that Sessional Orders would be applied throughout the period of possibly six years during which the works will disrupt Parliament square?
§ Mr. Powell
That is an important point. I recall that my hon. Friend raised the issue of Sessional Orders during our debate on the Queen's Speech. He took a spot that I was hoping to take, because it was the first time that the television cameras had been used in the House. It is the Serjeant at Arms's responsibility for ensuring that access to and from the precincts of the House is not contravened by any order. I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for not giving him a full reply now, but I want to refer to Sessional Orders and remind hon. Members that we should ensure that we have right of access to and from the House, later in my speech.
§ Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)
My hon. Friend mentioned a three-hour debate. There is no suggestion that this Second Reading debate should be confined to three hours. This is the first part of the Bill's Second Reading. I assume that, if it had been an official Government Bill instead of an unofficial Government Bill, we would have demanded more than a day to debate the important issues relating to it.
§ Mr. Powell
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is one of the members of the New Building Sub-Committee and devoted an hour or even two hours every week for the purpose of discussing this complicated Bill and how it affects the House. I am glad that he raised this point because three hours, or even a day, spent on debate is not enough when we consider that the Sub-Committee has taken months of deliberation. It has placed pressure on, and had meetings with, the Minister of Transport and others to ensure that hon. Members have a full and comprehensive knowledge of what is proposed and how it affects the House.
§ Mr. Cormack
I am grateful to my hon. Friend—I deliberately call him that in this context. Does he recall that when the Sub-Committee first began its deliberations, its members had no prior warning of what was going to hit them. So great was the consternation and disgust that one member a Government Whip—walked out in disgust.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Within a matter of days of that happening, the Chairman said that the opinion expressed by the throwing down of papers and walking out was entirely different from the opinion held a week or two later, after we had met the Minister to discuss the Bill.
§ Mr. Cryer
It appears that the Government Whip was so disgusted that he threw down his papers and walked from the Committee. We can well imagine the cascade of papers that were thrown from Government offices and the number of people who walked out after reading in The Spectator the interview of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
§ Mr. Powell
If I were to travel down that road, you would soon bring me to order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I can well imagine what would happen if people took such action.
§ Mr. Redmond
Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell us about the disruption that is likely to be caused in Parliament square. The sponsor of the Bill and the 535 Minister failed to do that. I am still not convinced about the need to have a bob-hole in Parliament square. When a pit is sunk, all the waste travels up the shaft and the coal that is extracted travels along the tunnel and up the shaft. The waste outlet could be away from Parliament square. I can see no need for a bob-hole. Perhaps my hon. Friend or the Minister could deal with that.
§ Mr. Powell
The Committee deliberated on that, and we employed consultants to look for alternative sites. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) used to be a miner, and I am the son of a miner. If a mine were being sunk in Wales or in my hon. Friend's constituency, spoil could be brought up well away from the shaft. My hon. Friend spoke about a bob-hole. Great disruption will be caused when a ramp is placed around the roadway.
I hope that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, will bear in mind what I and other hon. Members have said before you decide on the closure. If the Bill becomes law, it will affect everyone who works in the House. It will turn Parliament square into a building site for at least five years. Six years is the period mentioned in the Bill. It will also involve rebuilding Westminster station and will have serious implications for Parliament's new building project. That means that the only chance for hon. Members to acquire the sort of office accommodation that is taken for granted in foreign legislatures will be lost.
Hon. Members need new accommodation. When we met the Secretary of State for Transport and members of London Underground, we noted their spacious offices. Would they like to work in some of the offices in which hon. Members have to work? Some of us represent 60,000 or 70,000 constituents and have to work in an office that is like a little box, which we have to share with a secretary and sometimes a research assistant. About 40 hon. Members sometimes gather in the Cloisters of the House, where there is not much room for anything more than spare library books.
If the public were fully aware of the accommodation available to Members, they would share the anxiety felt by the New Building Sub-Committee about the proposals, which could delay the completion of phase 2 of the new building for five or six years. Many Members of my age will not be here in five or six years to enjoy such offices. If the Bill had not been presented, if Parliament square had not been selected for use as a building site, and if there had not been changes in the proposals for Westminster station, phase 2 would be well on the way to completion.
§ Mr. Dixon
Does my hon. Friend agree that the New Building Sub-Committee was opposed to the new Jubilee line because of its connections with the District and Central lines? London Underground did not accept the alternative put forward by the New Building Sub-Committee, that the connection of the Jubilee and District and Central lines should be at St. James's station. Does my hon. Friend agree that that was because London Underground has its headquarters at St. James's and did not want to experience the disruption that it is prepared to inflict on hon. Members?
§ Mr. Powell
My hon. Friend is right. That was discussed in Committee.
Between November and last May, the Committee carried out an inquiry into the effect of the Bill's proposals on the work of Parliament.
§ Mr. Cryer
I gleaned from the evidence provided by the Committee that, although London Underground claimed that it had looked at alternatives, no serious calculations had been made about the engineering difficulties, the potential of the Committee's suggestion or the cost of any alternative to having the interchange in Parliament square.
§ Mr. Cryer
May I put the record straight? I was not saying that the Committee did not investigate; it did. My point was that London Underground—which is the Bill's promoter, and on which the main burden was placed to examine all the alternatives and give evidence to the House—plumped for a big hole in Parliament square without having done any homework on the alternatives. Would that be correct?
§ Mr. Powell
That is correct. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) referred to a Conservative Member throwing down his papers the night that the proposals were made to the Committee because he thought that Parliament square—indeed, Westminster and Parliament itself—should not have been involved, and that there should have been an alternative. That is the reason why he left the Committee in disgust. At that meeting, the Committee expressed the opinion that London Underground should at least have informed its members. Hon. Members were not aware of the proposals, although we had heard rumours about them. I believe that London Underground presented the proposals in the hope that they would go through with a nod and a wink—and of course, without the New Building Sub-Committee. It had not given a thought to the possibility that the New Building Sub-Committee and the proposed phase 2 should be considered.
§ Mr Redmond
It is important that this point be cleared up. When the Bill's sponsor was giving his reasons why the Bill should be given a Second Reading, he told me that the alternative proposed by the New Building Sub-Committee was far too expensive. If that was the case, one would assume that the costings had been calculated. If my hon. Friend is saying that no serious estimates were made, that is very disturbing.
§ Mr. Powell
When the proposals were presented to the New Building Sub-Committee and the specialists whom it appointed for advice, our specialists offered us the alternatives, which we presented to London Underground, which then costed them. It was not aware of—indeed, had not considered—alternative proposals until our consultants had given their advice. One suggestion will affect the environment, and the other will cost more money; I assume that that is what my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) is referring to. The proposals were based primarily on the alternative sites suggested by the New Building Sub-Committee.
The Committee published a detailed report, which is available from the Vote Office. I urge any hon. Members who have not already done so to acquire a copy and to read at least the summary of its conclusions. The report is 99 pages long. I would not expect hon. Members to go through all the graphic details, but if they read the 537 summary of conclusions I am sure it will give them an idea of what the New Building Sub-Committee had proposed. I will not try to summarise the report, but I shall pick out a few key points. The House should have been given at least a day to consider a Bill of this magnitude.
In expressing its apprehension about the Bill, the Sub-Committee did not adopt a "not in my back yard" approach, and was careful not to express a view on the merits of the Jubilee line proposals. The Committee will support any sensible attempt to improve London's chronic transport problems, but surely it is right for proposals to be scrutinised to ensure that they show proper respect for the rights of those affected by them.
Individuals and companies affected by a private Bill are able to petition Parliament. That gives them the right to appear before the Committee considering the Bill to argue their case against it. But the House cannot petition itself, so we thought that the best way to safeguard the interests of the House was to use our powers as a Select Committee to conduct an inquiry and produce a report. Our report is not special pleading for Members of Parliament; it is a responsible attempt to ensure that hastily drafted proposals from London Underground do not result in Members of Parliament and the constituents who visit them suffering intolerable conditions for years.
The report concludes that the Bill should proceed at least to its Committee stage, but subject to certain conditions. It is no secret that members of the Sub-Committee were reluctant to give even a qualified approval to the Bill. We remain worried about the noise and inconvenience, the dust and vibration that we may have to suffer in the immediate vicinity of this building for five or more years. We are also worried about the implications of doubling the number of passengers leaving and entering Westminster station in an area which is already very congested, particularly at the height of the tourist season.
London Underground has told us that the new building project will not be delayed as a result of its construction work. I wish that I could be sure that it is right, but I am sceptical. The buildings which make up phase 2 of our project surround the underground station, and they all come within the limits of deviation contained in the Bill. Therefore, the Bill will give London Underground the power to demolish or alter those buildings as it likes in the construction of the station immediately below them.
If the proposals go ahead, I hope that London Underground's architects and the Property Services Agency's architects will be able to dovetail their proposals so that the two schemes can proceed in tandem. However, one would have to be very optimistic to assume that such an enormously complicated exercise would go smoothly.
§ Mr. Redmond
My hon. Friend makes an important point, because there could never be sufficient money to replace any of the buildings in this vicinity. Has London Underground given any details of the sort of insurance cover that would be available in the event of an accident? It is obvious that London Underground could not carry the sort of costs that might be occurred if, say, Westminster abbey or the Norman Shaw building, of which we have such great expectations, were damaged. What sort of premiums would be required to safeguard such buildings?
§ Mr. Powell
London Underground has not offered much up front on insurance cover for any buildings that might be damaged. It will not even say whether it is prepared to fund a raft over Westminster station. Therefore, I cannot tell my hon. Friend whether it will be in a position to pay compensation or guarantee to replace any buildings or parts of buildings that might be demolished.
There is no way in which London Underground can guarantee that its scheme will not delay the new parliamentary building. That might be delayed for several years. There is a strong likelihood that there will be delays. Quite apart from the problems that we all know beset the building industry and which we have recently experienced in respect of phase 1 of the new parliamentary building, there is the question of how long the Bill will take to obtain Royal Assent, if it ever does.
London Underground has planned on the assumption that the Bill will be on the statute book in mid-May 1991. The Bill will have to pass through both Houses and both Committee stages within 12 months. Anyone who has followed the progress of recent controversial private Bills, such as the King's Cross Railways Bill, will know that that is a completely unrealistic timetable. If hon. Members ask my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) about details of the way in which private Bills can be delayed, I am sure that he could go into graphic detail.
We are concerned about London Underground's assumption that Royal Assent could be given by mid-May 1991. Until the Bill is passed and we are aware of what London Underground is promising, very little, if anything, can be done by the New Building Sub-Committee to progress our plans for the development of phase 2. That is why the Committee objected so realistically to the proposals.
§ Mr. Redmond
It is not true that we seek to delay private Bills. Due to the system that operates within this place—the Government's involvement and the practice of slipping private Bills through to avoid public inquiries—it is right and proper that controversial Bills should be adequately discussed in Committee and on the Floor of the House, in an attempt to make people aware of what is transpiring. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that such a controversial Bill, which will affect so many people in London, but do virtually nothing to resolve London's transport problems, deserves the maximum debating time and publicity to ensure that all people, whether they live along the line or on the other side of the river, are aware of what will take place. Money has been squandered; it is not being put to the best possible use.
§ Mr. Powell
I hope that my hon. and close Friend will not think for a minute that I was criticising him and his colleagues, who objected so strongly and realistically to some of the proposed private Bills presented in recent months. I am glad that he is here to make his observations on this controversial private Bill. The House would do well to consider some of the alternatives to the present private Bill system.
For all the reasons given by the Committee that I have outlined, the Bill is potentially bad news for the House and for those hon. Members who work here. Therefore the Committee thought that it was our duty to our colleagues to at least consider the possibility of building the Jubilee 539 line interchange somewhere other than Westminster—I am getting to the point that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) referred to.
London Underground assured the Committee that the interchange had to be at Westminster for engineering reasons. We rejected that, and we were proved right. We engaged the services of two experienced engineers, who devised two alternative routes for the line through St. James's Park Station. The fact that London Underground's headquarters is above St. James's Park station—as my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) mentioned—may not be unrelated to its unwillingness to contemplate siting the interchange there.
In due course, London Underground conceded that the two alternative routes were feasible in engineering terms. Unfortunately, each had a disadvantage of cost or inconvenience, and the Committee eventually had to accept that Westminster was marginally the better location from a strictly operational point of view. We then had to decide how the new building project and the interests of Parliament could be safeguarded.
We decided that, if the Bill is to proceed and if the interchange is to be built at Westminster, because of the benefits for transport policy, London Underground should undertake to meet three important conditions. It has done so in respect of two, and we are grateful for that. One is to implement a particular design scheme for Westminster station that will be reconcilable with plans for the parliamentary building. The details are set out in the report. The other is to implement all the recommendations relating to the Westminster area in the independent assessment of environmental impact commissioned by the promoters.
The third condition, which we feel is crucial, is that London Underground should bear the full cost of building a concrete raft across the site, which would be enormously important in physically separating the London Underground works below the raft from the parliamentary works above. In theory, it will permit each set of works to proceed separately, and allow for accommodation of superior quality to be erected above the railway.
London Underground has offered to pay for rafting over an area approximating to that of the existing ticket hall, at an estimated cost of £1.5 to £2 million—but not for the rafting required over the rest of the site, the cost of which is estimated by London Underground to be a further £6 million to £7 million. That is not a satisfactory response to our request.
The Services Committee, under the chairmanship of the Leader of the House, concluded:it would be little short of disastrous, from the point of view of the House's interests, if the Jubilee Line proposals were to proceed without satisfactory assurances from London Underground that funds will be forthcoming to enable a complete raft to be built.That is strong language, but it is entirely justified.
The Committee added that such an undertakingwould be some recompense to the House for the disruption and delays which will almost certainly be attendant upon the London Underground proposals.I hope that the sponsor of the Bill will be able to give the House the undertaking that the Services Committee considers essential. If by any chance London Underground is still unwilling to do so, and if the Bill receives its Second Reading, I trust that it will be made a 540 requirement in Committee that the promoter gives that undertaking as a condition of the Bill proceeding any further.
Another major issue of concern is London Underground's proposal to build a new west ticket hall. In its original form, it would involve erecting a 3 ft high metal ramp across the junction of Bridge street with Parliament square. The Services Committee regards that scheme as completely unacceptable. It would be an eyesore and likely to slow traffic, thus contributing to congestion. It might also contravene the Sessional Orders of the House. which require that passage through the streets leading to the House be kept free and open, and that no obstruction be permitted to hinder the passage of Members of Parliament to and from the House.
Under the original proposal, the raft would have ended immediately beside the palace gates. I understand that those responsible for arranging ceremonial occasions in Parliament square involving the Brigade of Guards and the Household Cavalry are also unhappy at that proposal. The Services Committee suggested two alternatives. One is to build the whole of the new ticket hall beneath Parliament square itself, thus removing the need for excavations. The other option would be to use a technique called flush decking, which would not impede traffic to the same extent. We do not express a preference between those options, but are content for an Opposed Bill Committee to decide between them.
§ Mr. Cryer
What my hon. Friend is saying answers a question that I asked some time ago. It appears that London Underground provided no assurances about any potential breaches of the Sessional Orders. As my hon. Friend knows, I take a great interest in the Sessional Orders—at times, more than most. It is clear that London Underground does not appreciate their significance and importance. Has London Underground given an assurance that all future designs and considerations in its proposals will take into account Sessional Orders? It seems to me that my hon. Friend's Committee has been making all those requests but has received very little response from London Underground.
§ Mr. Powell
There has been no response from London Underground on whether it will accept the alternative that has been suggested by the Committee on the option called flush decking, which we understand would be quite an innovation in this country, although it has been employed successfully in other countries. To my knowledge London Underground has given no such undertaking.
As for the Sessional Orders, particularly the one in which my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and the New Building Sub-Committee were interested, the Serjeant at Arms is on that Committee and was well aware of the problems. As it is his responsibility to ensure that Sessional Orders are carried out, I take it that he has taken due cognisance of what my hon. Friend has said.
§ Mr. Orme
My hon. Friend has outlined some of the difficulties that the development will cause in Westminster and in Parliament square. Does he agree that the Committee of which I am a member and of which he is the distinguished Chairman was told by its technical advisers that it was not necessary to have the interchange at 541 Parliament square—that it would be feasible for it to be moved to St. James's park—but that London Underground did not accept that proposal?
§ Mr. Powell
My right hon. Friend is quite right. I am glad that he has emphasised that point. There is still time before we conclude the debate tonight for assurances to be given by the Minister or the promoter of the Bill that they will at least consider yet again the alternatives. If the alternative proposals were accepted and the building site was situated at St. James's park, it would be possible to avoid the problems that would beset the House in future because of the proposed development in Parliament square.
The rest of the report concerns our architects' preliminary proposals for phase 2 of the new parliamentary building. I hope that hon. Members will read that part of the report, but as it does not relate directly to the Bill I shall not deal with it in detail now.
I should like to refer to the Bill itself. We received the proposals and outline of the Bill only today. They refer to the fact that there were 95 petitions against the Bill. That is quite a number of petitioners. I shall not go into depth and detail about the people who petitioned against the Bill. I shall say only that Westminster city council was appalled at the proposals. Some of the members of Westminster city council with whom we discussed the matter said that they would be petitioning strongly against it.
I know that several of my hon. Friends would like to participate in the debate, and I do not want to go on indefinitely, but if the Bill is given a Second Reading, the Opposed Private Bill Committee will carry a burden of responsibility heavier than that usually carried by such Committees. I hope that it will perform its duty wisely and fairly and take full account of the Services Committee's reports. I hope that, when hon. Members express an opinion on the Bill, they will at least have referred to my Committee's report. It has studied the Bill at length and in detail, and I hope that hon. Members will benefit from it.
§ Mr. Cormack
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely it would be right for more hon. Members to have an opportunity to participate in this important debate before the Minister speaks. The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) and I had the honour of serving on the Committee. We gave hours of our time to it, because sometimes it met two or three times a week over a six-month period. It would be better if hon. Members had the chance to speak before the Minister.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
It is for the Minister to decide when the speak, but on private Bills it is quite normal or a Minister to give the Government's view at a fairly early stage.
§ Mr. Cryer
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you can see, several hon. Members wish to participate in the debate, including at least one member of the Committee that considered the Bill extensively. As there is only an hour left of the allotted time, I hope that you will bear that in mind should a closure motion, although it would be terribly mistaken, be moved. I hope that such a motion would be rejected.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
As the hon. Gentleman said, time is getting short, and it would be far better if we got on with the debate.
§ Mr. Freeman
It might be for the convenience of the House, and with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I deferred my remarks until other hon. Members have had a chance to speak.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
I am sure that, on this non-party issue, I speak for all hon. Members when I say that I very much appreciate my hon. Friend's gesture, which was entirely typical of his courteous approach to parliamentary matters.
I had the honour of serving on the New Building Sub-Committee, which was chaired with much distinction by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). His comments may give hon. Members who do not have the privilege, or chore, depending on how they look at it, of serving on such Committees some idea of the amount of work that they do on behalf of the House. Members of those Committees must give up much of their time. None of us minds that, but I hope that nobody will think that in discussing the Bill we are being over-parochial.
The New Building Sub-Committee, which is part of the Service Committee, is given a duty by the House of Commons to consider, without fear or favour and in a bipartisan, non-party spirit, issues affecting the House of Commons and the well-being of its Members. It is not being narrow or insular for us to have concentrated in our report on the impact of the Bill on the Palace of Westminster. In concentrating on that impact, we were seeking—I believe this to be true of all members of the Committee, regardless of party affiliation—to ensure that Members can serve their constituents as well as possible. It is difficult for hon. Members to serve their constituents as well as they might in the conditions that many of them have to tolerate now. It will be well into the 1990s, approaching the turn of the century, before every hon. Member has a room of his or her own—basic minimum facilities which legislatures throughout the world take for granted.
I do not entirely approve of our procedures here; we waste a great deal of time. However, it should be said that this Parliament sits for many more weeks and for longer hours than virtually any other Parliament. It is important, therefore, with the additional responsibility that we have thrust on us as constituency welfare officers, that hon. Members should have an opportunity to do their work not in great comfort, but with a degree of privacy that our constituents have the right to expect.
It was with that basic thought in mind that we sat down together to study this proposal. It was one day last autumn—
§ Mr. Orme
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, although he has outlined the position of our own Parliament, it was not special pleading by Members of Parliament? We shall not necessarily be disrupted, but 30,000 more people will arrive in Parliament square each day if the interchange is built. We are talking about 9 million or 10 million people a year in the centre of the capital. We are talking not only about the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but about Westminster abbey, about St. Thomas's, about the Methodist church, 543 about the Queen Elizabeth centre and about Whitehall, which are all within the area that will be disrupted to an extent that I believe hon. Members have not yet realised.
§ Mr. Cormack
That was one of the points that exercised us. In the cross-questioning, it became apparent that the point had not similarly exercised some of the planners at London Underground. This is not just Parliament's backyard. Parliament is not only the people's supreme palace—and we are here to serve the people—but the focal point of the kingdom. People come here not only from all over the country, but from all over the world. Many people in the Commonwealth—I know it is no longer called the British Commonwealth—still look to Parliament square as the focus of many of their aspirations; it has a special meaning for them.
Before the helpful intervention of the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), with which I very much agree, I was saying that we were suddenly taken aback one day last autumn.
§ Mr. Cryer
The hon. Gentleman should not apologise for concentrating on the impact on Parliament with which he is especially concerned. Parliament is an important building, it has an important function and it is the centre of people's attention. Like me, the hon. Gentleman has been present for most of the debate, and it clear that the disruption that is focused on our immediate environment will extend along virtually all this line. The objections to the line in Westminster are echoed by the complaints about the disruption to ordinary people's lives, which are brought to the House again and again by hon. Members whose constituents are affected.
§ Mr. Cormack
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right. I am concentrating my remarks on Westminster because of my position on the Select Committee, but I accept what he says.
One day last autumn, we were suddenly taken aback when the proposals were unveiled to us. The Committee was deeply angered and shocked. The reaction of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has already been described. It became apparent that London Underground had not thought through the impact of its proposals or taken into account Parliament and our national responsibilities. I am bound to say that subsequently we had a number of much more sensible and fruitful meetings with London Underground. Like the hon. Member for Ogmore, the Chairman of the New Building Sub-Committee, I am grateful for two of the undertakings that have been given.
Taking up a point raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), from the outset none of us took a narrow view. It is so tremendously apparent to anyone who lives in London for any part of the week that there is a need to improve public transport in London. None of us could possibly deny the importance of the underground in the context of London's transport needs.
There may be many views about Canary Wharf. I felt that the Secretary of State at the time should have called that project in, and I said so at the time. However, I had an opportunity to take the all-party arts and heritage group on a visit to Canary Wharf recently. It was a good group with hon. Members from both sides of the House and from the other place. We were impressed by the quality of the construction and the thought that was going 544 into that development. It is not one that I would have wished for, but it is happening and I pay a genuine compliment to those responsible for it.
The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) said that, with 50,000 people working daily at Canary Wharf, there must be better transport links. I do not deny the need for this particular rail link. However, I question the manner in which it has been brought about and whether the interchange which will affect us most of all is sensibly situated.
We must look very carefully at the effect on the area of four and a half, five or six years' disruption. I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) paid enough attention to that point. He seemed to dismiss it rather too cavalierly. I am sure that that was not his intention because, after all, he is a Member of Parliament and he will suffer like the rest of us. When we cross-examined the people who gave evidence from Westminster city council, it was apparent that those extremely experienced gentlemen were deeply disturbed about what would happen in Parliament square hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, for a minimum of four and for a maximum of six years.
As the hon. Member for Bradford, South said, those of us on the New Building Sub-Committee know better than most what slippage means. We have incurred a good deal of wrath—undeservedly, I believe—from our colleagues because phase 1 of the new building, which should have been ready for occupation this autumn, will not be ready for occupation by hon. Members until a year after that. We heard the good news the other day that the contractors hope to complete their handing over by Christmas or eairly next year. It remains to be seen whether they can keep to that timetable. If they can, we shall be surprised as well as grateful. However, it will be after the next summer recess before hon. Members can enjoy the new amenities and conveniences.
We more than most understand what slippage is all about. We have to face the possibility of six years' disruption during which time Parliament square would be a major building site. Hour after hour, lorries, laden with I do not know what, would be slipping into the traffic. That caused our witnesses from Westminster city council great concern.
§ Mr. Orme
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will recall that a few weeks ago traffic was reduced to one lane along the Embankment because of resurfacing. I travel that way from the Barbican, and on two or three occasions I was stuck in a traffic jam which lasted for up to 15 or 20 minutes. Virtually everything had stopped around Parliament square. That traffic must pass through Parliament square because there is no other route. It must cross the Thames, and it must go round the square as it heads north, some of it into the country. What will be the effect of a minimum of eight lorry movements an hour in and out of a building site in addition to the congestion that already exists?
§ Mr. Cormack
I tremble to think about that. Like the hon. Gentleman, I come in that way every morning from my London home. Like him, I was delayed many times while the necessary resurfacing took place. We had precisely the same experience when Whitehall was resurfaced earlier this year. I compliment those responsible because they did it as quickly as it could conceivably have 545 been done, and they seem to have done a very good job, but for several weeks there were interruptions. That was for just a few weeks, and we all knew that that job would be accomplished. With Parliament square, however, we are talking about four, five or six years, with lorries moving every hour. It could be catastrophic.
We all know what happens when it rains in London —the whole place seizes up. Traffic is held up when people come to demonstrate in Parliament. I am not talking about those who come with the deliberate attempt of causing disruption, which only occasionally happens, as it did one day last year when a group of students sat in the road. That is very rare. Most people who come here behave in an extremely sensible and law-abiding manner. Nevertheless, there are many of them, and it is their right to come. One can imagine what matters would be like with the lorries as well.
It is incumbent on those who are promoting the Bill to think, and to think again, about whether the two alternatives that the Committee proved to be feasible should be considered. I hope that, if the Bill goes to the Opposed Bill Commitee, that Committee will call for evidence and look at the matter very critically indeed.
§ Miss Hoey
I accept that there will be great disruption in the Westminster area. Presumably, when the construction is in progress, many people in the Westminster area will choose to spend their lunch hours crossing Waterloo bridge and spending time in Jubilee gardens. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that even that will not be possible because Jubilee gardens will be completely ruined for perhaps eight years? Does he agree also that that would be an even greater disruption for the people of London than what would happen in this area?
§ Mr. Cormack
That is possible. I shall not be drawn along that line because I do not know as much about that matter as the hon. Lady does. I believe that that area is in her constituency, or certainly is adjacent to it, and she knows a great deal about it. Of course I know Jubilee gardens, but I am not an expert on it. That is why I am concentrating my remarks on the area for which the House has given me and my colleagues a certain responsibility.
Another point that has not been taken into account is the security aspect. There are two sides to that. First, there is the building period. We all know what happens when there is a security alarm. I was dining very close to the Carlton club a fortnight ago, and I saw the chaos and confusion. Thank God nobody was killed there, but there was major confusion. What happens if people need to get quick access to and egress from this Palace during the period of the construction?
Secondly, what concerns me more—I have raised the matter on several occasions in Committee—are the 30,000 extra people day after day being disgorged around the Winston Churchill statue—incidentally, it will be taken away for five years—with all the other implicit problems from a security monitoring point of view. That problem has not been sufficiently taken into account. The factor that has most affected our lives during the 20 years in which I have been in this place has been terrorism. It has transformed our lives and what we can and cannot do around here.
§ Mr. Ray Powell
How could ceremonial occasions such as the opening of Parliament take place with a ramp around the square? Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that point?
§ Mr. Cormack
I shall refer to the ramp. That is yet another factor. One thing that I am adamant about is that, if the construction is to happen and if Parliament square is to be disrupted in that way, it will make the problem far worse if there is a ramp—it would compound it a thousandfold—because vehicles would have to go up and down as they went around.
Like the hon. Member for Ogmore, I have a great affection for our ceremonial occasions. I believe that they mean a lot to people. The state opening is a great and glittering occasion which means a lot to the people of this country. I would hate to see Her Majesty have to come here in a motor car for four or five years instead of in the procession to which we are all so happily accustomed. I well remember the state opening in February 1974 when she did come in a motor car. It was very subdued—and we know the reason. Nevertheless, in October of that year, when the hon. Gentleman's party was returned to government again—[interruption.]—we all said how splendid it was to have a real state opening again. I do not want four or five years without a proper state opening—
§ Mr. Cormack
I will not be drawn into that.
I fail to see how we could possibly mount the normal state opening or any other great ceremonial occasion involving Westminster and Westminster hall if there were a ramp.
Many factors must be taken most carefully into account. The Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) agonised over that. The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) has described how much care, thought and trouble went into the report. After agonising over it, taking evidence and trying to push aside our own prejudices—we all have them—we came to the conclusion outlined in paragraph 51:
As we have said above, the decision on the Jubilee Line proposals in relation to Westminster has not been an easy one. However, we believe that if (and only if) the various conditions we have set out in paragraph 44 above, including those relating to funding of the concrete raft, are met, the adverse short-term impact of the proposed construction works should be minimised, and there may be long-term benefits for the House in terms of the new building project. We therefore recommend that, subject to the acceptance of these conditions, the bill should be given a second reading and submitted to the scrutiny of the Opposed Bill Committee.It is important that hon. Members do not infer from that that we are backing the Bill. We are giving extremely qualified approval to a proposal that affects Parliament. I draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South to those words "and only if". I stress that it is a unanimous report, unanimously endorsed by the Services Committee, which is presided over by the Leader of the House, which in itself is an important point. Unless my hon. Friend can give me and the rest of the Committee an assurance that the concrete raft provision will be met —I shall not repeat the details because they have been graphically described by the hon. Member for Jarrow—I cannot conceivably do other than oppose the Bill tonight. If my hon. Friend can give me that assurance, I am prepared to sit back and to see the Bill—possibly—be given its Second Reading.
547 The Committee stated:and only if … the Bill should be given a second reading".There is a lot of misunderstanding about parliamentary terminology both outside and inside the House. To give a Bill its Second Reading is not to give approval for a certain piece of legislation. It is simply to say, "All right, this is something that merits careful consideration." I have frequently voted for a Second Reading on the condition that the Bill is amendable. If it is amended, I shall vote for it on Third Reading. During my time in the House, on several occasions I have not voted on Third Reading for a Bill that I supported on Second Reading. Indeed, on occasions, I have voted against a Bill on Third Reading, having voted for its Second Reading. There is nothing peculiar or incompatible in that.
§ Mr. Spearing
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a more important distinction? Whereas with a public Bill the position is as he described, in private legislation, subject to reference from the Chair, a Second Reading passes the Bill on for examination by Committee. It is within the power of the Committee either to require changes, if it agrees that the Bill should continue, or to dispose of the Bill. There is a great distinction between Second Readings on public and private Bills.
§ Mr. Cormack
Indeed there is. I was coming to that. The hon. Gentleman is a much greater expert on private Bills than me. Most of my experience has been in public legislation. The hon. Gentleman is right. The process of scrutiny to which the Bill will be subjected if it receives a Second Reading is of fundamental importance. We said that it should be submitted to scrutiny. Scrutiny means detailed examination, not a cursory glance. It means the most detailed examination.
The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) has already said that there are 95 petitions against the Bill. I am not sufficiently expert to know whether that is an all-time record, but it is a figure that has not been reached in recent years. A great many people have expressed various anxieties. As the Chairman of the Committee made plain, that does not include Members of Parliament because we cannot petition Parliament. If we had the opportunity, we would certainly make the number up to 96 because we have concerns about Parliament square.
There is massive concern about the Bill. It has been expressed by a range of bodies, from heritage bodies, such as English Heritage, to which Parliament has delegated authority over historic buildings, to Westminster city council, amenity societies, and local residents' groups. One could go on and on. A great many people are anxious about the Bill.
I do not envy hon. Members who will serve on the Opposed Private Bill Committee if it is established. They will have to devote many hours to go into details with the petitioners beside which the hours that my Committee devoted will pale into insignificance.
§ Mr. Orme
The hon. Gentleman refers to the decisions and recommendations of my Committee. He will be aware, because he was present at the sitting of the Committee when we finally discussed the Bill, that it was made clear that the alternative suggestions and proposals to move the station from Parliament square to St. James's park were put on the table. We had received information from our assessors and the engineers who examined the proposals. We have not moved from that position.
§ Mr. Cormack
That is how I understand the position. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. He, the hon. Member for Jarrow and I are in accord. Our names are on the blocking motion for that reason. I fully understand why the two Government Whips on the Committee could not add their names to the blocking motion. However, I do not give away any secrets by saying that they support US. Indeed, it is a unanimous report.
§ Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)
The hon. Gentleman and I and others on the Committee spent many hours discussing the merits or demerits of the proposal. At no time did we envisage that such an important Bill would be allocated only three hours for Second Reading. If we had realised that, we should have recommended that the Bill be given more than one session on the Floor of the House before being given a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Cormack
I was not present for the debate the other night, but I know that the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman and others were present. I agree with him. Three hours is not long enough. I do not say that to criticise my hon. Friend the Minister. Many hon. Members have genuine constituency interests on this matter. I have spoken properly and deliberately about my parliamentary responsibilities, as did the Chairman of the Sub-Committee and as will the hon. Member for Jarrow, if he is called. We do not represent London constituencies, but the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) do, and so do other of my hon. Friends. It is important that everyone who has an interest has an opportunity to state his view.
§ Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most disturbing aspects of the Bill, as with the King's Cross Railways Bill, is the attempt by its draftsmen and promoters of the Bill to oust the general law? Clause 14, in common with the notorious clause 19 in the Kings Cross Railways Bill, seeks to give a privilege and waive the otherwise adequate safeguards of planing consent for listed buildings. The promoters are trying to get them out of the way to ride roughshod over our heritage and other aspects of that which we want to preserve. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is reprehensible and that such a clause should be struck out?
§ Mr. Cormack
I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend says. He and I have a shared interest, as do many other hon. Members, in historic buildings. Many of us have struggled hard to get the law and its protective facilities extended, and to have anything like that set aside for purely commercial reasons is wrong.
My hon. Friend has highlighted yet another extra burden that will fall upon hon. Members who are appointed to the Opposed Private Bill Committee. I hope that they will read carefully what has been said this evening and will consider that they have an added obligation to examine and to scrutinise to ensure that nothing goes by default.
We are dealing with an area of London that boasts some of the most interesting, attractive and important historic buildings—in Parliament square we have some of the most important buildings in the world. It is vital that whatever is done should not endanger their stability or structure.
549 I have asked a number of questions of the people at London Underground about the effects of any works on the Clock Tower. I well remember that when the underground car park of the House was constructed many detailed questions were asked about that work. Those people have sought to assure me that there will be no danger, and I genuinely believe that they have tackled the matter carefully. They certainly believe what they say, but it is important to consider that matter. If we look across the square to Westminster Central hall, for example, we soon realise that some buildings are not in such fine fettle as this House.
In response to the intervention of the hon. Member for Jarrow, may I say that it is important that everyone interested in the Bill should have an opportunity to explain his or her fears and misgivings and to ask questions. It is incumbent upon the sponsor of the Bill to come before the House before the Bill receives its Second Reading with clear, comprehensive and reassuring answers. I sympathise with his predicament, but, after all, he took the job on voluntarily. I want him to know that I do not think that he made a sufficiently reassuring speech when he introduced the Bill. My hon. Friend can, of course, seek leave to speak again, and I hope that he will. He will have to make quite a long speech as he must touch on all the points raised. I have no intention of doing anything other than going into the No Lobby if I cannot have that categorical assurance that we have sought in our unanimous report, submitted on behalf of the House.
What is being proposed will change the centre of Westminster for the life of one Parliament, if not two. People may be elected to this House who serve their entire parliamentary career without seeing anything but a building site. If we are to have such an upheaval, and with it the dust, noise and dirt about which our constituents often complain to us when large constructions are under way in our constituencies, a national public benefit must derive from it. I am not yet fully persuaded that it is essential for the station to be here for that benefit to accrue. I await further persuasion, but this evening, or whenever the vote is taken, I cannot support the Bill, or even abstain from voting, unless the assurances that we have sought are, to the very last letter, jot and tittle, answered satisfactorily by my hon. Friend the Minister.
§ 10 pm
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
I am grateful for being called to speak.
We have heard contributions from both sides of the House on the importance of the Bill to this building and city. I hope that the hon. Members for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and others will excuse me if, partly because they made their case well, I follow the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and address the issues that affect not just those who work here, but those who live here all the time. I do so with some justification as, of all the boroughs and constituencies through which the line, if built, will pass, it travels for a considerably greater length through mine. Therefore, there are more people affected by the Bill who live and work in Southwark and Bermondsey than anywhere else.
550 The prospect of a new line is a great opportunity, which should come to various groups of people. It should clearly come as much if not more to those whose home is London as to anyone else. That is why I was happy to associate myself with the initiative of the hon. Member for Newham, South and my other colleagues who are Members for the London Docklands development corporation constituencies and the wider docklands area, and with the instruction that has been selected. After a decade of development in the docklands, there is a feeling that the docklands programme got off on the wrong foot because it was not specifically targeted at regenerating the communities of inner, south-east and east London.
I am glad to say that ever since I have been in the House —seven years and more—successive Ministers for Public Transport and Secretaries of State for Transport have conceded that there is a great need for public transport provision in south London. One of the Minister's predecessors, now the Minister for Overseas Development, conceded that south-east London was a white hole on the transport map. The tube map of London shows that that is certainly the case.
The figures given in a written answer last year by the Minister's immediate predecessor, now the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities, stated that there were 244 London underground stations north of the river and only 29 south of the river, which confirms the point. The issue is particularly important for people who live in communities such as mine and those of the hon. Members for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) and for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), the majority of whom do not have any private transport and so depend enormously on public transport.
The idea of the Bill has been in the air for several years. It originally came as a proposal for one part of the regeneration, but was initiated in its present form by Olympia and York. It had been on the drawing board in different forms. It was a welcome proposal, particularly when last autumn the Secretary of State announced that the line was to have the go-ahead. He said:I am pleased to be able to give the go-ahead to the first major addition to London's Underground network since the Victoria line was approved, a quarter of a century ago.He continued:
This will greatly support regeneration of docklands; it will relieve congestion on roads and the existing rail network including the docklands light railway; and it will further strengthen public transport links with BR lines at Waterloo (including the new Channel tunnel terminal) and at London Bridge. The new line will also much improve accessibility for areas south of the Thames in Southwark and Bermondsey and in London's east end in Tower Hamlets and Newham that are not now well served by public transport. I know how welcome this news will be to those areas."—[Official Report, 16 November 1989; Vol. 160, c. 398.]The announcement of a new tube line serving the docklands communities, where public transport by any definition is poor, was welcome. It was good to see in the Bill and in the statement produced in the last few days by the Bill's promoters in support of Second Reading the following fairly carefully phrased sentence:It is envisaged that there will be stations at Westminster, Waterloo, Southwark, London Bridge, Bermondsey, Canada Water, Canary Wharf, North Greenwich, Canning Town, West Ham and Stratford.Obviously, I am able to speak specifically only for my constituents but I know that people in the Isle of Dogs, some of whom have written to hon. Members, want the line as well because they need better public transport. The 551 Jubilee line users group also supports the proposal. As the Minister knows, one of the alternative modes of transport in the jigsaw, the river bus, does not now stop at as many places in docklands as it once did. That means that we depend even more on the underground system.
It therefore came as a surprise to me—the Minister told me a few days ago that it surprised him, too—to see in the national press on 10 July stories from which I shall quote two headings. The headline in The Times said:Tube line may be dropped".The headline in The Daily Telegraph said:Threat to new Jubilee stations".Two articles by transport correspondents said that it was possible that the Southwark and Bermondsey stations would not be built.
I am grateful for the discussions that I have had with the Minister and his predecessor. A further meeting was envisaged before this debate. When we met earlier this week, the Minister confirmed that it was their policy to build those stations. When I met the Minister's predecessor in April I was accompanied by the chief executive of Southwark and relevant officers and the then leader of the council. The Minister appeared to support the proposals and it seemed that they could be justified on economic grounds and that the money could be provided. More than £400 million of public money has been committed by the Government to a line that includes all the stations on the list that I read to the House.
Rightly, there have been detailed appraisals of the line as a whole and of its component parts and weighty documents contain the most recent conclusions. The appraisals, one more clearly than the other, justify the stations south of the river, Southwark and Bermondsey. They make it clear that the justifications are not simply micro-economic: the stations are crucial to the regeneration of the whole area.
We truly need a new line to link the rail head termini at Waterloo and London Bridge to the new opportunities in docklands. It is, however, equally important for people living in the inner city to be able to take advantage of the job opportunities that are arising in docklands. It is just as important for them to be able to travel a few miles to obtain jobs as it is for commuters to be able to travel into London from Kent, Sussex and Surrey; indeed—as the Minister would probably expect me to say—I consider it more important.
The Minister and his predecessors have been courteous enough to receive the alternative appraisals that have been commissioned by my local Council. I have it on good authority that the London Underground estimates of local benefit were, in fact, underestimates—that the potential advantages in terms of job prospects and, in particular, the number of users are greater than is suggested by the figures presented formally to the Government.
Let me present my figures—a short litany which, in my view, makes an overwhelming case for the building of the Southwark and Bermondsey stations. If Bermondsey is not built, there will be a distance of 2.7 km between London Bridge and the proposed Canada Water station: that would be the longest distance between any two stations on the extension, 60 per cent. longer than the mean distance between stations. If Southwark and Bermondsey stations are not built, Southwark will be the only one of the four docklands boroughs—Southwark, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Newham—without any new stations committed, although it has by far the longest 552 stretch of line. Greenwich has North Greenwich, Tower Hamlets has Canary Wharf and Newham has Canning Town; Southwark, with more than 5 km of line, will have no new station at all.
If stations are not built at Southwark and Bermondsey, the relationship between the borough and the area served by the station and the line the ratio of station to line, as it were—will be far worse than in any other borough. None of the other comparisons has produced such a disadvantageous ratio as that of one station for every 2.6 km of line.
Perhaps more telling than any of those figures, however, are the calculations about the likely use of the stations. According to the figures supplied to me by Southwark Officer, no doubt derived from London Underground, the anticipated use of both Southwark and Bermondsey—taken separately—will exceed the use of 12 stations that are already on the line: Stanmore, Canons Park, Queensbury, Kingsbury, Wembley Park, Neasden, Dollis Hill, Willesden Green, Kilburn, West Hampstead, Swiss Cottage and St. John's Wood.
Even Baker Street station has fewer users than are anticipated for the Southwark station, as have five other stations on the new line: Canada Water, North Greenwich, Canning Town, West Ham and Stratford. We find ourselves facing the ridiculous proposition that, according to forecasts, Southwark's passenger usage would be greater than, or equal to, that of 13 out of 16 existing Jubilee line stations and five out of the nine committed new stations, while the forecast passenger average for Bermondsey station is higher than, or equal to, that of 12 of the 16 existing Jubilee line stations.
§ Mr. Spearing
Apart from what I have read in newspaper reports, I have seen nothing about any reduction in the number of stations. All the literature showered on us by London Regional Transport has featured the two stations. The hon. Gentleman may not realise that we do not understand why there was ever any doubt. When did he learn that there was any possibility of the withdrawal of the stations? It looks to me like the old docklands light railway-Canning Town thing all over again.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the hon. Gentleman will give me another minute and a half, I shall give my conclusions on that point.
Southwark station's proposed passenger usage is roughly equal to that of Earl's Court or Elephant and Castle—hardly quiet, cosy suburban stations. Even Bermondsey station, which it is anticipated will have less use, will be equivalent to Marylebone or Edgware Road —again, not small stations. The Minister rightly said when I met him the other day that we do not want another Mornington Crescent. A helpful officer of Southwark council, with the help of London Underground, did some research for me. In the spring of 1988, the latest period for which we have figures, Mornington Crescent had about 2,000 users during peak morning hours. It is anticipated that Bermondsey will have at least 80 per cent. more.
We have all the figures and the evidence appears to stack up. I have not yet found anyone who is not in favour of the stations. London Underground is in favour of stations at Southwark and Bermondsey. The London borough of Southwark is enthusiastically in favour of them. Olympia and York, in its letter to Members, said: 553Firstly, it will bring fast efficient public rail transport to south and east London, especially improving across-London transport services for people living in Newham, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich.It goes on to say:
It will also enable people living in Canning Town and Bermondsey to get to the West End and to reach other parts of London faster.The Minister has told me explicitly, and he has also put it in writing, that not only was the line planned on the assumption that there would be stations in the borough of Southwark at Southwark and Bermondsey, but the Government's policy is that they should be.
To paraphrase a phrase from somewhere else, if all those people are for us, who then is against us? There is only one possibility. It can only be the Treasury. I have not asked. It may not formally have considered the matter. I hope that it has not. I hope that it will be for us, too. There is certainly no logical case for anybody not to be for us.
For decades before I became a Member of Parliament for Southwark and Bermondsey my constituents were waiting for a decent east-west rail link. It would be folly to have an underground line without any stations on one of its longest stretches. It is like planning a bus route with no bus stops or a motorway without slip roads. It would be madness indeed.
I hope that the arguments are so convincing that the Minister realises that we had better have the line.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman is being mischievous again. I have not yet seen the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the Chamber tonight, but I accept that his appearance would cause a bit of a disturbance.
§ Mr. Skinner
I assume that the hon. Gentleman intends to go on until the end as he has a lot of things to say, but I just heard the caucus of the 1922 committee say that Ridley was on his way out and I assumed that, if the debate were to continue for any length of time, he would be joining the hon. Member on the Back Benches.
§ Mr. Hughes
It would not cause me any dissatisfaction if the Secretary of State became a Back Bencher this weekend. I just hope that he does not join these Benches, although I do not think that he would. But we hear that there is to be a reshuffle, so the Prime Minister will have every opportunity to take speedy action. Those of us who shadowed him when he was Secretary of State for the Environment would certainly say amen to that.
The line also raised several wider issues. The hon. Members for Staffordshire, South and for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) mentioned the environmental issues affecting Westminster. One of the key issues is the effect that the Bill will have on the environment. It will be significant wherever work is taking place and not merely where stations are being built. For example, there will be vent shafts, digging for disposal of waste and the removal of Waste, some of which will be taken away by barge and some by road.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall and I share responsibility, as her constituency covers the major part of Waterloo and mine covers the rest, for a significant piece of rare green space by the river which will be lost for five 554 years. So the environmental effects are all-important, and I shall list the matters that I hope the Minister and the sponsor of the Bill will realise need to be considered, and that we are concerned about.
Like the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden), I hope that clause 14 will be dropped from the Bill. Such a clause found total disfavour with the Committee on the King's Cross Railways Bill, as it sought to take away the normal planning controls. The Committee has made its position clear on that issue, as did English Heritage, which asked for Members' support. The Minister has been sympathetic to such issues in the past and I hope that he will make his position clear. All the safeguards that are built in to protect the environment must not be swept away in the Bill, and I hope that we shall hear no more about that.
It is imperative that we have quiet trains. The Evening Standard today states:London Underground is to spend more than £500,000 smoothing out the shake, rattle and roll of its trains.Loads of people will say amen to that too. London Undergroundhave already promised that when the new Jubilee line extension is built through south-east London and on to Stratford by the mid-1990s it will be a 'whispering railway'."[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It would be helpful if any hon. Members who are talking but who are not in the Chamber were to carry on their discussions elsewhere.
§ Mr. Hughes
I could not hear what the hon. Members were saying, but they are certainly all prospective contenders for office, so they might have been discussing the Secretary of State.
Quiet tube trains are important, and I hope that that investment goes ahead. As the quotation from a London Underground spokesman stated:All we have to do is to find out how"—meaning, how to achieve it.
For the convenience and comfort of many Southwark residents, it is of paramount importance that we have a resilient track as the line is often near to the surface. I calculate that we need just under 4 km of resilient track in Southwark and it is important that that is costed for and built in at the beginning.
§ Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)
The need for quiet trains would be echoed by the Institution of Civil Engineers, which is in favour of the Bill. It is in the process of building a new underground lecture theatre that will be close to the underground line, as it is proposed at present. It would be interested in quiet trains, and hopes that the final alignment of the underground railway will take full account of the new works in progress at the institution.
§ Mr. Hughes
I hope that the institution will offer its services not only in self-interest, which I understand, but in the interests of the rest of us. The line will go by Guy's hospital, under important churches south of the river and under many housing estates where people live close together. The prospects of an underground line under their homes is worrying enough, let alone the regular thud and 555 rumble of trains. That hardly suggests to the individual that the proposals will be of real benefit. So far, London Underground has given no commitment in that respect. Perhaps the Minister can say whether it has now done so. If it has, I welcome that and shall be delighted to hear of it. If the Minister wants to intervene, I shall be pleased to let him do so.
§ Mr. Freeman
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, inevitably, my contribution to the debate must be brief because it concerns the financing of London Regional Transport.
Our policy is that there should be stations at Southwark and Bermondsey, but we must justify that commitment through the appraisals that are expected in October. We made it clear from the word go that they are needed, but I hope that the appraisals will clearly justify constructing those two stations.
It is Government policy that those two stations should be built, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates also that the question of the concrete raft must be addressed in the same way. That is a point for the Committee. The Government understand the strength of the arguments about not only the two stations but the raft. Once the plans for phase 2 of the parliamentary building are known, it will be open to London Regional Transport to discuss and to negotiate with the Department of the Environment the construction of the raft.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am grateful for the Minister's clarification. I appreciate that the Bill is not from the Minister but technically and in substance is a London Underground Bill. However, problems arise when, after a lengthy gestation, a Bill comes before the House with problems still unresolved.
I support the proposals for the line, but I cannot tonight vote for a Bill that does not incorporate a commitment to two stations which were always part of the plan, but which may now not be constructed. In that respect, I am in a similar position to other hon. Members who say, "We are not againt the concept of the line but we want to know on what terms it is to be constructed."
The chairman of the parliamentary Labour party, who is also a member of the New Building Sub-Committee, the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), made the point, as have other hon. Members, that we have a limited time in which to debate many points of view, but that the crucial issue has been the subject of questions that we have all asked, and to which we should have received answers by now.
It is not as if we have not asked those questions before. It is not a matter of popping questions at the last moment. We have consistently asked questions in the hope that we should receive answers before tonight. We could then have said, "Fine. Thank you. You have reassured us, and we can now co-operate, collaborate and proceed."
§ Mr. Cryer
Right hon. and hon. Members also want to see the necessary provisions included in the Bill. We shall then know that we have something more than an assurance subject to a great many qualifications. If no amendments are made in Committee by a tiny handful of right hon. and hon. Members, there will be no Report stage. Unless the features in question are included in the Bill at this stage, there is a real risk that it could pass through this House without the alterations that will add credibility to the assurances that have been given.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) makes a valid point. I say to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) and to other hon. Members that they should give thought to reassuring the whole House. I do not want to see the absence of public transport in south London. I want to see more public transport there, but I also want to ensure that the accompanying issues are resolved. I am sure that the hon. Members for Vauxhall for Deptford and for Newham, South, and other hon. Members, hold the same view. We must have answers.
§ Mr. Spearing
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assumed that the Bill comprised not just text but the deposited plans that several hon. Members have consulted on a number of occasions in the Private Bill Office. Those plans relate to phases 1, 2, 3 and 4, lines of deviation, and so on, and include the two stations mentioned tonight. However, in a helpful intervention, the Minister said that depending on the result of assessments of which I was unaware until a few minutes ago, it may be that, ultimately, those two stations will not be built. Therefore, are the deposited plans part of the Bill? If not, we cannot consider whether we should support it.
§ Mr. Hughes
I hear what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but that point clearly causes concern. The Minister and the promoters will be aware that there has been no opposition to the stations that were originally planned being constructed.
Returning to noise, I am told—it seems to be a perfectly valid point—that the United States' noise standards for resilient track are higher—a 35 decibel limit rather than 40 decibels here. I hope that those standards will be adopted for the Bill.
I endorse the point made by the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson): there must be facilities for disabled people. When building new public transport we must ensure that everybody can use it. I do not pretend that there is one perfect answer—I know that lifts are planned at some stations—but I hope that this point will be taken on board and that we shall not find ourselves behind the times on that important issue.
Concerns about planning have been expressed at my constituency meetings. We want the powers of local authorities to control noise, traffic, access and matters affecting communities to be retained, but the Bill says to local authorities, "You cannot have those powers." A parallel is that when outline planning permission is obtained, the details are left to the local authority to regulate. If the House gives the Bill a Second Reading, it surely should not mean that we are removing local authorities' powers to regulate detailed planning matters.
It is important that the line is a part of the rail network. I do not doubt the Minister's good faith, but the Bill must be followed with a Bill for a link with an extended east London line. If we are to regenerate the rest of Southwark down to Lewisham and Peckham, there must be more east London line. We might have had such a Bill last year, but it was not presented. However, it must be presented this year, and the chief executive of the London Docklands development corporation agrees with its importance. There is the possibility of an inner-rail circle round London and I hope that that will be available.
§ Mr. Freeman
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. The House will know that the Government strongly support the Bill and hope very much that it will be given a Second Reading. The east London rail study mentioned a Bill for the Jubilee line. That is an important first step. The hon. Gentleman is right to mention not only the docklands light railway to Lewisham extension but the east London line extension—two matters to which the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) attaches much importance, as I do. They are part of the east London rail study. They must be subsequent to the Bill, which is important and which the Government support.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Bill is not a single proposal standing in isolation. It must link parts of London that have no decent public transport, thereby linking people with places of work and development. That point was made in a different context by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South.
We will need a decent code of construction practice. We must ensure that work is carried out at proper times and that the arrival and departure of vehicles is properly controlled. Unless there is proper enforcement, the best code in the world will be to no avail. The problems of air pollution, noise pollution, soil pollution, dirt on pavements and roads and all the knock-on effects of congestion must be considered. I hope that there will be a mechanism to enforce construction practice.
It is no good expecting hard-pressed local authorities suddenly to divert all their resources to monitoring what happens in Parliament square, at Waterloo station or by London bridge. They have other things to do, so they will not be able to carry out such monitoring. I hope that hon. Members realise that it is important that we give local authorities the help, which must come from somewhere else.
§ Mr. Cormack
It is difficult to enforce rules and if they are transgressed, it is difficult to put matters right, as we all know from our constituencies.
§ Mr. Hughes
That is true and I hope that the specific points will be taken on board.
We are now at a difficult moment in the debate. We were provisionally allowed only three hours. Many hon. Members have perfectly valid and proper points to make. I can speak for other hon. Members with whom I have discussed this when I say that many of us do not want the Bill to disappear. We do not want to put it off; we want the Bill. However, we want a Bill that contains assurances and on which hon. Members have had a proper debate. The right hon. Member for Salford, East made the point that for a Second Reading debate, the House usually has a period of about six hours until 10 pm.
This is probably the most significant private Bill some of us have debated, especially for people who live south of the river. We have seen how controversial these matters are north of the river. We have seen that the King's Cross Railways Bill generated either the longest or the second longest sitting ever of a Committee on a private Bill.
It is important that we have sufficient time for all the points to be put on Second Reading and I hope that it will be possible for the House to be able to hear those points soon. I hope that it will then be possible for answers to be given, and then we can proceed to Committee and come out with a clean, tightly ordered and generally satisfactory Bill that meets the concerns of hon. Members of all parties 558 with constituency, parliamentary and wider interests. That is the objective of this debate. The task before us is to ensure that we enable that to happen.
No hon. Member is unwilling to co-operate with all who have done the work. I pay tribute to the work done by many groups such as London Underground and my borough council. However, the work must be put into effect to get a decent product. We need a decent product because this is our only opportunity to get it right. If we get it wrong, it will be too late to do anything about it. It will be no good to say after the event, as people have said about motorways, "It wasn't big enough. We didn't think of that." We must ensure that we deal with all the issues at this stage.
I hope that the House is clear about the concern over the Bill and that Ministers are clear about the specific concerns of hon. Members. I hope that the promoters realise that they have a lot more work to do and that all hon. Members will realise that we have an opportunity to do that if we are all given the chance.
All of us who have concerns have already spent considerable time on the Bill. We do not come tonight for the first time to express an interest. We have spent hours on the Bill because we are concerned that we get the right product. It is important now that we take on that effort, that we co-operate across the parties—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
I cannot accept the motion at this time because I think that the House will want to hear the views of the Minister, of the Opposition Front Bench and of the Chairman of the Services Committee.
§ Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have had three hours of debate on the Bill. I accept that some hon. Members have not been called, but is not it right to say that this is a long Second Reading debate? I cannot understand why the motion has not been accepted—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety to bring the proceedings to a conclusion. However, it is a matter for the absolute discretion and judgment of the Chair. It is not an easy matter to decide. However, the House will want to hear the views of the Government, of the Opposition and of the Chairman of the Select Committee. I call Mr. Simon Hughes.
§ It being three hours after commencement of proceedings on the motion, the debate stood adjourned, pursuant to Order [10 July].
§ Debate to be resumed on Thursday 19 July.
§ Mr. Robert G. Hughes
Further to the point of order that I raised earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the closure is not allowed and we cannot have the Second Reading today, is it not clear that a small number of hon. Members, none of them from London and most of whom are Labour Members—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not seek to challenge or to debate my ruling. It is a matter for my judgment. These are not easy matters to decide, but I have used my judgment and ruled accordingly.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that second thoughts are sometimes better than first thoughts. Many people in London tonight will be distressed that the House did not come to a decision on the Second Reading of the London Underground Bill. It is a vital Bill to improve London transport, and it should be allowed a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Cryer
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that earlier, while you were not in the Chair, the Minister tried to rise but one of his colleagues on the Conservative Benches, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) who is a member of the New Building Sub-Committee—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is trying to be helpful. However, we should not debate the ruling from the Chair. We have rules. It is a matter for my judgment. It is my responsibility, which I accept entirely.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I very much hope that we can move on, and that hon. Members will not challenge my ruling.
§ Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)
In no way am I challenging your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I would find it useful to know how often there has been a full three-hour debate—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is persisting in seeking to debate my ruling. We should move on now to the defence order.
§ Mr. Hughes
It is a point of order. I would not seek to incur your displeasure or to be thrown out of the Chamber —particularly on your birthday, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, on a number of occasions when this difficult matter has been decided by the Chair and when the Chair has of course sought to be fair, we have talked about the amount of time taken up by the Second Reading debate. My clear understanding from previous occasions is that, when a matter has been before the House on Second Reading for this length of time—three hours—in my short experience a closure has always been allowed. I find it difficult to understand why, on this vital matter for London, you have not allowed a closure tonight.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Let me deal with one point of order at a time.
I felt that the House would wish to know the views of the Government, of the Official Opposition and of the Chairman of the Services Committee in respect of a Bill that has a significant impact on our affairs in the House. I have ruled on the matter, and we really should move on.
§ Mr. Skinner
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are being besieged with points of order because the Minister who is due to open the next debate is not available. Conservative Members are raising points of order to allow time for the Minister to arrive.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. One point of order at a time. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) often throws me a lifebelt. However, once again it has rather hit me on the head. We really should now move on.