§ Order for Second Reading read.7.17 pm
§ Mr. Garry Waller (Keighley)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill is a more modest measure than the first Bill of the same name, but it represents an important part of the overall King's Cross project. Before I outline the details of the proposals, it will be helpful to the House if I put the Bill in its proper context.
The Bill follows on from works proposed in the original King's Cross Railways Bill, which is now in Committee in another place.
§ Mr. Waller
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall get a little further into my speech before giving way, although I shall certainly give way to him soon.
Hon. Members will recall that the purpose of the King's Cross Railways Bill was, first, to provide facilities for an enhanced Thameslink service across London, and, secondly, to provide a second international terminal for channel tunnel passenger trains with the best possible interchange from existing InterCity and Network SouthEast services. Thirdly, it was to provide increased capacity for domestic services at the existing St. Pancras and King's Cross main line stations.
During four days of debate in this House on the principal Bill, I attempted to demonstrate the strategic importance of the King's Cross project not only to London but to the many other parts of the country which the enhanced King's Cross and St. Pancras station would link to the capital and to Europe. I hope that hon. Members will not seek to reopen the debate on the issues in the principal Bill, which was passed on 28 January by an overwhelming majority. Perhaps if they do try to do so you, in your wisdom, Madam Deputy Speaker, will rule them out of order.
§ Mr. Corbyn
The hon. Gentleman is aware that the first Bill has not completed its passage through Parliament and is being considered elsewhere. Given the hon. Gentleman's close links with the British Railways Board, and in view of the property slump in London, can he tell us whether the board is seriously considering dropping the whole project, including the office development to the north of the proposed station site? If that is on the cards, this Bill will be redundant.
§ Mr. Waller
No such proposal is on the cards. Indeed, only a few days ago an important announcement was made about the new concourse building for which a planning application is to be submitted. Although there may be short-term problems when considering a Bill that will give the go-ahead to a project lasting a number of years, such short-term considerations will play a relatively minor part. The railway lands which are the essential subject of the principal Bill are regarded by British Rail as an important part of its strategy for the inter-city railway of the 21st century. As a regular user of the station, I look forward to its completion.
In the original Bill a number of new railway links are proposed to join the sub-surface station and St. Pancras 953 with the east coast main line. The purpose of the works is to improve the journey opportunities and capacity at the new station complex, especially for Thameslink and for international passengers. It will be recalled that those passengers will make use of a sub-surface station which will be linked to the existing one.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
The hon. Gentleman has so far spent all his time referring to the original Bill and the proposals for a channel tunnel terminus at King's Cross. He will be aware that only about 5 per cent. of this Bill has any direct relevance to the international station or the original Bill. That 5 per cent. relates to four minor access points. The overwhelming bulk of the Bill is about making a railway link into a concrete batching plant at a site in Holloway in the middle of my constituency.
§ Mr. Waller
I have devoted about four sentences to the original Bill, to put this one in context. I also tried to answer the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). I am sorry now that I allowed the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) to intervene, because I am anxious to make progress and to get on to the subject of the Bill.
One consequence of the works carried out to provide this new link will be the displacement of the Marcon and Pioneer Willment building materials plants which are at the northern end of the King's Cross site. Here we come to the heart of the proposals in the Bill. King's Cross has been a good site for these two firms, and since the 1960s it has enabled them to dispatch concrete to locations throughout the City and the west end.
The construction industry imposes extremely stringent requirements on its suppliers. To comply with BS5328, concrete should be discharged from delivery vehicles within two hours of loading. Sometimes it is demanded that unloading should be effected within an hour. To meet these stringent demands, and to retain the laudable commitment—I hope that all hon. Members support it—of bringing in aggregates to the plants by rail, other sites in north London were considered by the companies as an alternative to King's Cross. Lough road in Holloway was one of the few sites identified as fit for this purpose, both in reports by consultants hired by BR and—quite independently—by the Association of London Borough Planning Officers. It was the only site suitably close to central London for Pioneer Willment and Marcon.
While preparing for this debate I visited the site. I cannot claim to have anything like the detailed knowledge possessed by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, in whose constituency it lies, but I have a reasonably good idea of the location and of the implications that this development would have for the people who live alongside it.
Since the 19th century, Lough road has been the site of a railway goods yard and it has only recently become disused. In its time it has been a cattle yard and, more recently, a Motorail depot. The proposals in the Bill seek to return the site to something akin to its original purpose. Indeed, in planning terms, the location is widely regarded as best suited to B2 or general industrial use. As recently as 1986, it was identified as such in the Islington 954 development plan, and it is included as such in the unitary development plan prepared by the borough of Islington in 1991, on which an inspector's report is awaited.
The plan includes the new Holloway access road allowed for in British Rail's own plans, and Islington council has already granted itself planning permission to construct the road. I suspect that several hon. Members will want to discuss that road further today.
The work in the Bill proposes to reinstate rail access into the site from the east coast main line. The works lie on BR land along former track formations in the area. There used to be a railway line, and the siding which provides rail access will closely match the track formation that used to be in place. The Bill also includes powers to construct and operate this facility, subject to planning permission. Consent has now been received from the relevant Secretaries of State following a public local inquiry into an appeal by British Rail against the non-determination by the London borough of Islington of BR's application for planning permission.
Many hon. Members will know that conditions were attached to the recommendation of the inspector. Minor road improvements have also been agreed following discussions between the borough and BR.
The railway works are in three parts. First, there is a line 1,009 m long from the Great Northern railway, now known as the east coast main line, into the site. Secondly, there is a 415 m line from the nearby Canonbury junction freight line into the line to which I have just referred. Thirdly, there is a 71 m line rejoining the siding to the east coast main line. Together, these works will allow aggregates trains to enter and leave the site from either direction without interfering with the busy commuter and inter-city traffic on the east coast main line.
I am aware that there are 16 petitions against the Bill and that many of them reflect the natural concern of local residents about the possible dust and noise levels in the area of the new plant. The use of the site was considered in depth at the public inquiry prior to consent being given. I am sure that those are the kinds of issue that are best dealt with by the Committee if petitioners wish to pursue them and if the Bill receives a Second Reading tonight.
§ Mr. Corbyn
In his researches, no doubt the hon. Gentleman considered the problem of the resiting of the concrete batching plant in the past by the same company at Monnery road, in my constituency. Has the hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to read the inspector's report which rejected that planning application? Similar words to those used by the hon. Gentleman in support of the new site were used in support of the other site, but they were rejected. Many of the arguments about dust, noise, pollution and traffic apply just as much to the new site as they did to the original site.
§ Mr. Waller
I have read the inspector's report and BR's arguments in favour of the proposal. I have also read the arguments of the London borough of Islington against the proposal and the arguments advanced by many local residents who were opposed to the development and who petitioned against it. I have also read a summary of the contribution made by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.
At the end of the day, the inspector stated clearly that he did not believe that the concerns were sufficient to overrule the desirability of the site, bearing in mind the 955 considerable advantages that it would provide. Because he rejected the concerns about noise, dust and traffic, he did not think it necessary to consider whether there was an overwhelming need for the project. However, if he had not felt that there were good reasons for the consent to be applied, it could have been shown that there was a need which could not have been satisfied by locating the site anywhere else.
There are proposals to mitigate noise from the plant through the use of screening. That will provide suitable protection against plant noise and the process of loading and unloading material. The arrival and departure of trains will not significantly raise the level of noise of that busy railway route. The east coast main line carries a great deal of traffic. When channel tunnel traffic begins to use the line, the traffic will increase.
It is important to BR's future viability and success that there should be an increase in use of its lines, and I hope that all hon. Members would support that. Set against the use of that very busy line—one of the country's premier lines—it is not felt that the arrival and departure of trains in connection with the plant will significantly raise the level of noise, especially bearing in mind the agreements and conditions applied by the inspector with regard to night-time working.
Concerns were also expressed about the effects of dust. I noted that a number of those who gave evidence at the public inquiry had been to King's Cross and had expressed concern about the dust there. Monitoring has shown that there is not a great deal of dust at King's Cross. However, the plant at King's Cross was constructed many years ago and considerable progress has been made in applying dust suppression techniques.
Furthermore, the aggregates used in the batching process are damp and not inherently dusty. Proposals are included for the site for the damping down of the aggregates in the handling area. It is believed that dust levels will prove to be negligible. Monitoring of dust levels at King's Cross, where the levels have inherently been much greater than is anticipated at Lough road, show that there is absolutely no threat to health as interpreted by international health organisations.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
The purpose of the Bill is to facilitate development at King's Cross. As the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) said, King's Cross is a major terminus which will hopefully be a through station at the end of the premier east coast main line. In order to gain support for the Bill, perhaps he can explain something to me. In its very expensive document entitled "On Track for Europe", BR states that it is ordering daytime trains and that those trainswill provide daily services from Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham to Paris and to Brussels. Other stops are planned at Stockport, Crewe, Stafford, Coventry, Rugby and Milton Keynes and at Newcastle, Darlington, York, Doncaster and Peterborough.
The whole purpose of the King's Cross development has been to garner support from the provinces on the basis that trains will stop at major cities. With regard to the list to which I have referred, why will no trains originate from or stop at Leeds or Bradford?
§ Mr. Waller
I must be cautious about pursuing too far the point raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), because that is not the subject of the Bill. However, the prospect of channel tunnel trains going to 956 Leeds is by no means ruled out, although I think that that would depend on the electrification of the link between Leeds and York which would enable trains on the east coast main line bound for Newcastle and Edinburgh to divert via Leeds. That might be considered and, for constituency reasons, I hope that it is implemented when the opportunity arises.
The second main proposal in the Bill is to improve access to the main works sites.
§ Mr. Waller
I promise to give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.
It was one of the criticisms of the local authorities that the quality of access to the site was not ideal. The No. 2 Bill benefits from more detailed construction planning, and it proposes a remedy by providing three new temporary access points and by making one of the original access points permanent rather than temporary to meet the express requirements of the railways inspectorate for vehicular access in the event of emergencies. That should help to reduce even further use of the public highway and any possible congestion. It should allow swifter movement of vehicles to and from the site.
More of the construction traffic associated with the project will now be able to use major rather than residential roads, which will be particularly beneficial to residents of Wharfdale road, Balfe street and Railway street, three streets that figured prominently in our debate on the principal Bill.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I am not trying to throw the hon. Gentleman off his stride, but he seems to have ignored the implications of clause 9, which fits in with the question of the concrete batching plant at Lough road. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the modifications proposed for the Hornsey road bridge fall within my constituency, as the boundary runs along the Holloway road, the northern side of which is in my constituency. Can the hon. Gentleman say how extensive will be those works to the Hornsey road bridge, and is he aware that the bridge was changed not so recently to make it narrower?
§ Mr. Waller
I am very much aware of the latter point. If BR had anticipated the present proposals, it would not have made that change. Nevertheless, it is necessary to build a new bridge alongside the existing one to enable the project to go ahead. I cannot at this stage answer the hon. Gentleman's point in full. However, if I can make progress quickly and finish my speech, there will be time for me to answer important points like that later in the debate, if I have the leave of the House to respond.
It is perhaps difficult for a Bill such as this to capture the imagination of the House. I hope, however, that it will be seen as an important adjunct to the original proposals.
The House should take the opportunity to allow Marcon and Pioneer Willment to remain in the business of providing high—quality concrete to central London, but, above all, we should allow them to continue to bring in their aggregates by rail. The hon. Member for Bradford, South is very keen for that to be facilitated, not only at King's Cross but in many parts of the country, and I applaud his intent.
It is certainly the policy of the Government and of the Opposition to develop opportunities for freight by rail, 957 and it commands the highest support in the House. This Bill must succeed if there is to be any credibility in that policy.
The proposals for access to the main King's Cross site are in response to the feeling that access could be improved. I hope that the measures in the No. 2 Bill will be seen as a measure of the promoter's willingness to respond to the concerns of local authorities and others.
I recognise hon. Members' important constituency concerns. However, there is a need for a concrete batching site. The public inquiry concluded that that was an appropriate site and that the concerns expressed by the objectors, although not totally insignificant by any means, were not such that the project should not go ahead. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I oppose the Bill, and I do so most vigorously. It is a misleadingly titled Bill, because I suspect that British Rail quite deliberately wanted to imply that there was a direct connection between the works connected with this Bill and the new channel tunnel station at King's Cross, which was approved by the passage of the original King's Cross Railways Bill. The promulgation of this No. 2 Bill by British Rail has compounded that misleading impression. It has argued that the Bill is somehow an integral part of the placing at King's Cross of the channel tunnel traffic. It has sold the virtues of the No. 2 Bill on the back of that assumption. That assumption is totally incorrect.
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) tended to go a little bit in the same direction when he talked about the Bill being an adjunct to the original King's Cross Railways Bill. It is nothing of the sort. If the Bill were to fall and not be given a Second Reading, that would make virtually not one jot of difference to the proposals for the channel tunnel station at King's Cross.
The location of the channel tunnel traffic at King's Cross and its onward progress to the north-east and north-west is of great importance to many of my hon. Friends and indeed of particular importance to my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell), who has argued long and valiantly in a previous capacity for such direct links to the north. None of that—the location at King's Cross or the links to the north—would be affected at all if the Bill were defeated today.
I hope that British Rail will not try to argue that anything else is the case, because 95 per cent. of the Bill is about the specific location of a concrete batching plant on a specific site in the middle of my constituency—nothing more, nothing less. To imply that it is anything more is actually to mislead the House and the public as well.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. He will recall that, in the Committee report on the King's Cross Railways Bill, British Rail was taken strenuously to task for the way in which it argued its case. I suspect that it is up to precisely the same tricks this time.
The statement that was issued by the propagators of the Bill in connection with the Second Reading states:This Bill will confer on the Board additional powers to those being sought in the King's Cross Railways Bill".They clearly give the impression in that supporting statement that there is a direct connection between the No. 2 Bill and the main King's Cross Railways Bill. There is not. Again, they give the same impression in the environmental summary which is in the Vote Office. They say:The King's Cross Railways (No. 2) Bill contains two railway works proposals which are closely connected with the major improvements planned for King's Cross".
The works proposals are not closely connected with those major improvements. There are only two connections of any kind whatsoever. The first is the proposal in the No. 2 Bill for four new—three of them are temporary—access points to the main King's Cross works. Those are minor matters, but they are none the less contestable, and I shall refer to them in a moment, but they are not germane to the entirety of the King's Cross project. Indeed, if British Rail had wanted to, it could have introduced those new access points in amendments to the existing King's Cross Railways Bill.
The only other connection between the two schemes is the theme that ran through the introductory remarks of the hon. Member for Keighley, and that is the assumption that, because a concrete batching plant on the King's Cross Railway lands is going to be displaced—eventually—by developments at King's Cross, another site has to be identified for it. Of course, it does not have to be at Lough road. Those are the only two connections between the two Bills. For British Rail to pretend otherwise is disingenuous at best.
§ Mr. Smith
The last thing that I would accuse my hon. Friend of being is disingenuous. He has a formidable reputation for plain and honest speaking, but I fear that on that specific point he is wrong.
The Bill provides for the railway works in connection with a specific location for the concrete batching plant. There is a multitude of other possible locations. If one moves a concrete batching plant, one does not have to put it on Lough road. As I shall mention later, there is provision, for example, for a new temporary concrete batching plant on the King's Cross railway lands while construction continues on the new station. There is no reason whatever why that plant should not stay on the King's Cross railway lands. Perhaps a few square feet of office development might have to be removed from the London regenertion consortium scheme. But it would be perfectly possible to put the plant elsewhere. 959 My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) is right to say that the removal of the concrete batching plant from King's Cross is an inevitable consequence of the original King's Cross Railways Bill, but the placing of that concrete batching plant on the Lough road site is by no means an inevitable consequence. That is the point at issue.
There are four new access points to the main King's Cross site. Three of them will be temporary. One is on the east corner of Caledonian road and Pentonville road. The second is on the west corner of Northdown street and Pentonville road. The first of those access points seems somewhat dangerous. I am sure that after a close inspection of the maps which have been tabled you would come to the same conclusion, Madam Deputy Speaker. Similarly, the second site lies outside the planned lorry routes for the King's Cross construction traffic. One has to assume, therefore, that the lorry routes will be changed to make use of that new access point. The second access point could also be dangerous, although perhaps less obviously so than the first.
The third new access point is on the south corner of Railway street and York way. That proposal is supposed to move an original access point midway along Railway street, and therefore much nearer to the residential houses in Balfe street, to the new south corner. However, Madam Deputy Speaker, you will undoubtedly recall from our discussions about the original King's Cross Railways Bill that the hon. Member for Keighley, who sponsored that Bill also, specifically refused to remove from the Bill the provision for the original access point halfway along Railway street. Now, we are told that a third new access point will be created, but that the original access point will not be removed. Therefore, far from allaying the fears of residents and the local authority, as the hon. Member for Keighley implied, British Rail is creating extra access points without removing any of the access points provided under the original Bill.
The new access point at the corner of Railway street and York way would require the complete demolition of the St. Pancras ironworks, a building which is considered to be the most significant unlisted building in the immediate area. There is an alternative: if British Rail did its homework properly—I am afraid that a long catalogue of instances in connection with the King's Cross project demonstrates that British Rail does not—it could have created a different access point a little further south on York way itself. That would have been much more acceptable to local people and equally good for British Rail. It would not have involved the demolition of any remarkable buildings.
The three new access points, all of which are in my constituency, do not add anything to the original Bill. Indeed, they make life worse rather than better for local people. The three access points which I mentioned are designed to be temporary. A fourth access point, provided for in the No. 2 Bill, will be permanent. It is on King's Cross road near Britannia street. It is supposed to provide emergency access to the station.
The new permanent access point is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), who had hoped to be here with us this evening but has been unavoidably detained elsewhere. Of course there is a need for an emergency service access to the King's Cross site. However, I remain to be convinced that the position at Britannia street and King's 960 Cross road is the right one for that emergency access. Of course, it enlarges the area of land which will be gobbled up by British Rail in both Camden and Islington for the purposes of its new channel tunnel station project.
The new access provisions seem to be the only parts of the Bill which have a direct impact on the main King's Cross project. British Rail has not come up with good proposals for new access points. It has come up with detrimental proposals and it could have done better.
I note from the environmental statement tabled with the Bill that British Rail says that the provisions of the environment code of the King's Cross Railways Bill will apply to the construction of the new access points. As you will recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, we had a lengthy debate about the provisions of that environmental code when we discussed the main Bill. It was obvious from those discussions that the environmental code had not yet been agreed by the boroughs concerned. It still has not been agreed. It is inadequate. Blandly to say in the environmental impact statement that an environmental code will be in place to protect the interests of residents does not say much to the residents who will be affected.
Indeed, one must raise a fairly serious question about the validity of the entire environmental statement that British Rail has tabled in connection with the Bill. For example, under the heading "Cultural Heritage", it says:The planning of the King's Cross Railways Bill works has taken account of the character of the surrounding area, in particular the location and characteristics of Conservation Areas, listed buildings and other buildings of importance and interest.The planning has done nothing of the sort. I invite British Rail to tell that to the owners and proprietors of the Great Northern hotel, which will be knocked down under British Rail's proposals. To say that the planning has taken account of the character of the surrounding area is wholly invalid. An environmental assessment report which comes out with obviously bogus sentences of that nature cannot be taken as a properly serious document.
§ Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the conservation area and the Great Northern hotel. In the context of that argument, he should also have mentioned the Golden Lion public house, which is also in the conservation area and is likely to be demolished. Surely that is another sign of the fact that British Rail has not considered the conservation aspects of its proposals. Many people tend to think of the Great Northern hotel as the obvious watering hole for people in the area, but the Golden Lion pub is also well known and has a certain tradition and character.
§ Mr. Waller
Perhaps I could abbreviate the expected comments about that pub. Contrary to what was said, British Rail has demonstrated its concern and is in discussions with the London borough of Camden, in whose area the unlisted public house is located. It may or may not be demolished as part of the work, but it is not true to say that British Rail has not been concerned about its future.
§ Mr. Smith
That is a classic instance of the way in which British Rail has acted in connection with the project—it 961 makes a proposal—in this case, for the demolition of a public house—begins to retreat from that position in the face of the fierce and logical opposition from all quarters and finally comes up with a half-baked solution.
That is what British Rail did about the access points which I mentioned, which are a minor part of the No. 2 Bill, representing at most 5 per cent. of its contents. I shall concentrate my remarks on the other 95 per cent., which concerns the concrete batching plant at the Lough road site and the railway works which will reach it. We cannot consider the railway works without considering the plant, as there will be no plant without railway access.
I shall place before my colleagues a number of reasons why we should not grant approval for a plant. The first and perhaps most important is that there is fierce local opposition to it. Several public meetings have been held. They were packed and were unanimous in their condemnation of the proposal. A number of local residents sat through the entire public local inquiry held by the planning inspector at Islington town hall, lasting several weeks. Many local residents expressed their concern in evidence to the planning inspector and many submitted petitions against the Bill.
I shall demonstrate the strength of feeling among local people. A letter from Mr. Fitzgerald, the chairman of the governors of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart school—a primary school next door to the proposed site of the concrete batching plant—says:I am appalled at the idea of British Rail's proposal to build two Concrete Batching Plants at Piper Close within 200 yards of the school. I would like to put forward my objection to these plants being sited at Piper Close. To think that our children will have to live and learn in such an environment is unthinkable, impractical and a disgrace to the powers who thought of the idea in the first place. They say it will be dustproof? They mean as near as they can make it, not quite the same thing … Must our children live and learn with windows permanently closed … The traffic hazard will be much much worse than it is at the present time.That is eloquent testimony to the concern felt about the school which is next door to the site in question.
The tenants association of Tealby, Soldene, Bramall and Geary houses on the Ringcross estate has written to say:We the tenants association do object on behalf of our tenants and ourselves to the planning application made by British Rail/Marcon and Willment to build one of two concrete batching plants on the site between Piper Close and the railway line".The letter lists the association's objections and highlightsThe inappropriateness of this particular type of industrial activity next to residential dwellings.The Ringcross estate lies directly by the site in question and many of the tenants on the estate will be directly affected by the siting of the concrete plant there.
The tenants association of Shearling way, which is also nearby, writes:On behalf of the tenants of Shearling Way estate, we are objecting to the proposed concrete batching plant between Piper Close and the railway line … A number of our tenants back directly onto the railway lines and are very annoyed at the prospect of these trains running when people are normally asleep.I shall come to the question of night-time operations in a moment, because the situation is unclear and the hon. Member for Keighley did not touch on it. The tenants association stresses thatthis is very much a residential area".962 It is right to do so.
A local general practitioner, Dr. Herwitz, whose practice covers the area around the site, has also written. He said:I am writing to protest about the proposed plans to turn the Lough road site in London N7 into concrete batching plants. This will result in many hundreds of lorry journeys every day causing unacceptable levels of noise, dust and pollution.A large number of journeys by HGVs in this dense residential area would result in serious hazards to pedestrians as well as to local traffic. There are numerous schools in the area and children would clearly be at increased risk. In addition, there are several day centres for the elderly and special accommodation for the disabled. These people in particular need to be able to get to their homes and facilities locally without being threatened by enormous concrete transporters. This is a residential area which includes some light industrial buildings. The industrial units mainly involve quiet processes and little in the way of continuous journeys to-and-fro by large vehicles. By and large, such light industrial factories and workshops work well together. However the proposed concrete batching plants will destroy the equilibrium of the area … In addition, they will also result in noisy night-time deliveries to the site. I know of many shift workers, including NHS nurses, who live near to this site whose sleep will be seriously disturbed if the proposals are given the go ahead.
That is but a small sample of the comments of local people, in positions of some authority and knowledge, who have argued strongly against the siting of the concrete batching plant at that location. Two themes of objections are overwhelmingly obvious. First, the area is residential, people's homes directly overlook the site and are cheek by jowl with it and they will be dramatically affected by the erection of the concrete plant.
The second major theme of the residents is not just the impact of the workings on the site but all the consequent movements of traffic, especially because the concrete aggregate will enter by train and leave by lorry. There will be many lorry movements in and out of the new site throughout the day.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Is my hon. Friend aware—I am sure he is—that one issue concerning the concrete batching plant, which came up at the Monnery road inquiry, was the short interval between the loading of lorries and the deliveries of the ready-mixed concrete? As the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) pointed out, that sometimes takes an hour. There is a lot of traffic in Islington, so does my hon. Friend think that residential roads will be used increasingly to deliver the concrete quickly?
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend may be right. I shall touch on that in a moment when I consider the traffic implications of the development, which are not quite what British Rail claims they are likely to be.
British Rail is up to its usual tricks with the main King's Cross development. Originally, it argued that that development would cause negligible traffic consequences, but it was forced to admit that some would arise. In addition, the Department of Transport estimates of disruption are considerably greater than those of British Rail. British Rail is playing the same tricks in this issue.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the noise on the site. It is important to note that that will not be caused by heavy goods vehicles alone. The concrete will arrive by train, so the hon. Gentleman should take account of page 27 of British Rail's environmental assessment, where it admits that the greatest potential for 963 noise from trains will be between midnight and 3 o'clock in the morning. It also admits that diesel engines will idle and one can imagine the noise that they will make. The problem is not just that of noise from trains moving into and out of the site but that of diesel engines idling as unloading takes place. That will have a dramatic impact on noise levels for local residents during the most inconvenient hours of the day.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to what British Rail says in its environmental statement.
We face something of a dilemma because in that report, British Rail suggested that there will be at least one night-time delivery of sand and aggregate to the batching plant. Of course, that will create noise. The hon. Gentleman rightly referred to diesel engines idling, but they will also shunt backwards and forwards. Trucks will be pulled one by one as they pass through the unloading bays. The noise impact of those activities in the early hours of the morning on the people whose homes are directly next door will be considerable.
§ Mr. Smith
For once, I fear that my charitable inclinations towards my hon. Friend are departing. He falls into exactly the same trap as British Rail did in its environmental statements. It has argued that the people of Islington already have to put up with noise, so if it loads a massive amount of extra noise on them, it will not matter. My hon. Friend cannot expect the people of Islington to accept that argument, which would add extra noise on top of that from which they already suffer. I accept that they live in a congested inner-city area and that many of them live beside roads and railway lines. They accept the constraints that that imposes on their quality of life, but it would be too much to subject them to extra, intrusive noise, especially in the middle of the night.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Does my hon. Friend recall that in 1983 we tabled an early-day motion which called for a Londonwide lorry ban? We were not entirely successful, but we achieved a night-time lorry ban and changed the attitudes of many local authorities, particularly our own. They have done their best to curb the use of heavy vehicles at night and to reduce the noise pollution from them. It is therefore highly inappropriate that people should be expected to put up with increased noise at night, because of the concrete batching plant, when those people have enjoyed a slight improvement in their living conditions because of the operation of the night-time lorry ban on the Holloway road.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend is correct. Perhaps he should have added that the former Greater London council played a creditable role in achieving a night-time lorry ban in London, which greatly benefited its residents.
We face a dilemma on night-time working. In its environmental statements, British Rail stated that there will be night-time deliveries of aggregate and sand and floodlighting of the site to enable the night-time work to carry on. The planning inspector in a recent report, to which British Rail does not refer in any of the documents that it has laid before the House, made recommendations 964 that are germane to the debate. He recommended that planning permission should be granted only on condition that no night-time operations take place. We need to know from British Rail whether it intends to pursue the idea of night-time working or whether it will accept the condition proposed by the planning inspector. At present, everything that British Rail has proposed assumes that there will be night-time operations.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to refer to the environmental assessments of noise levels, because it is beyond dispute that BR assumes night-time working will take place. However, he has disappointed me, because he has confined his remarks to the noise caused by heavy goods vehicles and shunting. I remind him—I hope that he will devote part of his speech to this—that, to unload the trucks, a vibrating machine will be necessary to grab the sand and gravel out of them. On pages 27 and 28 of volume two of the technical reports, British Rail admits that the greatest potential for noise comes from the machinery that will grab the sand and gravel from the railway trucks. That will also add to the noise caused by the diesel engines.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Gentleman is anticipating my argument, because I had intended to consider the issues of noise, dust and the nature of the working. However, he is right to draw our attention to page 27. A footnote to that statement says:It is intended that deliveries of sand at night will be restricted, should it prove necessary.Who determines whether it proves necessary? We need to know whether the planning inspector's restrictions on night-time operations will be accepted by British Rail. The papers which British Rail has tabled in the House show that it will not accept that restriction.
§ Mr. Waller
British Rail has accepted the condition applied by the planning inspector that there should be no night-time deliveries of aggregates to the site. It may have been thought that, compared with the large amount of traffic on the line, that was a relatively minor factor. Nevertheless, British Rail has accepted that, despite the fact that it causes some disadvantage. The limited number of deliveries at night would have been advantageous to British Rail, but it accepts the condition that the planning inspector has applied to his recommendation.
§ Mr. Smith
In that case, we are making some progress. We now have an acceptance by British Rail of the planning inspector's recommendation.
However, as the planning inspector pointed out, an inevitable consequence of reduced night-time activity on the site would be increased day-time activity. Therefore, although local residents are delighted that there will be no prospect of work until the small hours of the morning, the consequences of that must be taken into account.
The hon. Member for Keighly briefly mentioned the history of the site, and it may be appropriate if I deal for a moment or two with that subject. The site is interesting and has served many purposes in its lifetime. It was originally used for sidings, cattle pens and the premises of forage merchants. It was very much connected with its location directly beside the railway. It went through a long and tortuous history of different tenancies, uses and applications for planning permission.
It is worth noting that in 1962 British Rail declared the site to be surplus land and offered it to London county 965 council as a possible site for housing. That seems to show that, 30 years ago, British Rail felt that the best use for that site was not the use that is now proposed but something quite different. It is worth noting also that proposals have been made on several occasions for the creation of a concrete batching plant on the Lough road site. In 1970, the London borough of Islington turned down an application, giving as grounds for doing so the disturbance and noise that would be created for the occupants of an estate that was then under construction, which subsequently became the Ringcross estate, directly beside the site on which the Bill focuses.
The latest position is that British Rail, in association with the two concrete companies, has submitted two different applications for concrete batching facilities on the site. The Department of the Environment inspector has considered the matter, there has been a lengthy public local inquiry and vigorous local opposition has been expressed to the proposal. The inspector's report was issued only a few weeks ago, with the important proviso of no night-time working. I regret to say that it does not accept the opposition of local residents and the borough but recommends approval of the concrete batching plant. However, it clearly says that harm will be done to the amenities of local residents.
The inspector then develops the remarkable argument that, because the site is destined in the local plan for general industrial use, it does not matter what kind of industrial use the land is put to because everyone will accept that there will be disturbance and noise. There is a world of difference between an industrial use that it is possible and sensible to locate next door to residential accommodation and industrial use that it is not sensible to locate next door to residential accommodation. A concrete batching plant falls firmly in the latter category. I fear that the planning inspector has not accepted what seems to be a common-sense argument put strongly by local people.
Everything now depends on the Bill. If it does not go ahead, the concrete batching plant will not go ahead. But if it proceeds and it receives approval from both Houses of Parliament, the concrete batching plant will go ahead and many of my constituents will be directly damaged and disadvantaged by that fact. That is why I cannot accept the proposal.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that it is a fundamentally flawed way of going about matters to go first to the planning authority, then hold a public inquiry and, lastly, go to the Secretary of State? Is it not presumptuous to try to present a fait accompli to Parliament? If British Rail wanted to go ahead with the project, would it not have been more courteous to come first to Parliament with its proposals for legislation and, only after Parliament had determined whether the Bill should go ahead, hold a public inquiry? Was it not presumptuous of British Rail to say to the House, "Well, we have held a public inquiry and have the Secretary of State's permission, so will you kindly rubber-stamp it?"
§ Mr. Smith
Great as my respect is for the hon. Gentleman, I do not follow his argument entirely. I have long argued that the whole private Bill procedure is nonsense. It is no sensible way to make proper decisions 966 about local planning matters, which is basically what the Bill is about, or strategic principle decisions, which is what the main King's Cross Bill is about.
Other matters also need to be taken into account. In his opening remarks, the hon. Member for Keighley said that there was no alternative site and that, as a result of the removal of the batching plant in the King's Cross development, the new batching plant had to be located in Lough road because there was nowhere else for it to go. He said that everybody else had had a look and had come to the conclusion that it must be located at Lough road. That is explicitly stated in the environmental statement issued by British Rail.
But we are talking about a fairly substantial area. The way in which concrete is produced at a batching plant means that it can be transported from a large number of locations to central London. It does not have to come from the King's Cross or Holloway district but could come from any region within a suitable mileage of central London.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) mentioned Monnery road public inquiry and the inspector's report. That involved another proposal for a concrete batching plant—in his constituency, not mine —which attracted similarly fierce opposition from local residents. I am pleased that, in that case, the inspector saw sense and decided that the proposal should not go ahead. The subject of alternative locations arose during that inquiry. The Secretary of State's inspector said that there was a potential site at Juno way in New Cross.
Page 42 of the inspector's report stated that the potential site at Juno waywould be able to serve areas to the south of the Thames now operated from King's Cross.It also stated:I do not accept that the River Thames acts for practical purposes as a complete barrier to lorry movement.It is clear from the inspector's report on Monnery road that the new site proposed at Juno way in New Cross could serve exactly the purpose proposed for the site at King's Cross. Since then, permission has been granted to develop the Juno way site as a concrete batching plant, so an alternative site does exist; for anyone, including British Rail, to pretend that it does not is not a valid argument.
New Cross is not the only alternative site and the question must be asked whether British Rail has looked closely enough at the land it owns at King's Cross. The proposals for the new international station at King's Cross touch on only a small proportion of British Rail's lands at King's Cross. There are proposals for a massive development of the remainder of those railway lands by the London regeneration consortium. I am by no means convinced that it is impossible to find a corner of the King's Cross railway lands that could be used for the relocation of the present concrete batching plant.
At a briefing meeting held in April 1991 on its King's Cross development proposals, British Rail said that it intended to build two concrete plants in the north-west corner of the King's Cross railway lands site for the period of redevelopment and construction of those lands. If it can build two concrete plants on its own King's Cross land for the duration of the King's Cross development, why on earth can it not have two concrete plants to last beyond the time of its redevelopment of the King's Cross railway lands at that location?
967 I cannot accept that there is no alternative to the Lough road site; there are clear alternatives, two of which I have already identified. I am sure that, if we combed the whole of central and inner London for alternative sites, we could come up with a considerable number of other alternatives.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware—although he has not mentioned it—that during the Monnery road and Lough road inquiries the issue of likely future demand for ready-mix concrete was also mentioned. I wonder whether we are planning for over-production of the material and whether we may end up with far too many facilities for producing it to meet the demand.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend is correct. We all know what has happened to the construction industry in recent years. There is 25 per cent. over-capacity in office space in London. The demand for concrete has fallen substantially in recent years. We hope that the construction industry will pick up, although I doubt that it will, given Government policies. We must seriously question whether there is a need for the two plants to continue in existence or whether the need for concrete in the inner London district cannot be met by other existing plants, without dumping a new one in the middle of a residential district.
There are other worries, some of which the hon. Member for Keighley mentioned. There is much concern about the dust that may be generated by the development. I accept that British Rail and the concrete companies say that the activity will be enclosed, the essential operation will be boxed in by protective layers and the process will be subject to dampening.
However, two factors must be borne in mind. First, no such plant has ever been built. There is not a concrete plant in this country with an enclosed operation and the damping-down facilities proposed by British Rail for the King's Cross site. The inspector's report identifies the problem and states that he cannot make a judgment on whether such mechanisms will work, because there is no such plant up and running for him to look at.
The second factor is that, if the protective devices are to work, there must be immaculate housekeeping at the site and everything must be done entirely by the book. From the moment they set foot on the site to the moment they leave, people must abide by the rules. I expect that, in the normal course of operations of a concrete batching plant, there will be quite a lot of hasty, perhaps understandable, breaches of the guidelines and rules. The necessity for closing doors and ensuring that everything is shut may be forgotten in haste. It may well be that the site will not be run absolutely according to the rulebook each and every day in each and every year. Therefore, there is a danger that dust will be created, with a serious impact on local people.
§ Mr. Waller
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the concrete batching plant will be subject to the increasingly stringent regulations set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990? The enforcement authority will be the London borough of Islington, which as an ultimate sanction could require the closure of the concrete batching plant if the regulations were not met. Will that not be a considerable incentive for everyone involved with the plant to ensure that the rules are obeyed?
§ Mr. Smith
I am sure that the excellent environmental health officers of the London borough of Islington will do everything possible to ensure that the site is operated in accordance with the rules and the commitments presently being given by British Rail. But what will happen when there is blisteringly hot weather in the summer and all the doors and hatches in the concrete batching plant, which are supposed to be kept shut, are open because of intolerable heat? One can fully understand how that might occur.
Roller shutters will be constantly opened and shut to allow access into and out of the various site facilities. Are we to say that no dust will ever escape when those shutters are raised or lowered? I would not accuse anyone of bad faith, but in the normal operation of such a site it will be impossible to maintain the absolute standards on dust that British Rail promises.
§ Mr. Corbyn
In response to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), my hon. Friend made an important point about the likely dust levels inside the plant. We are moving into uncharted waters here. Does my hon. Friend agree that Islington's excellent environmental health service will be put in an impossible bind? It will have to ensure reduced dust levels surrounding the plant while being required to look after the health, safety and welfare of those who work in the plant, where dust levels will be high. I wonder whether we are building a plant that will be a complete monster for all concerned.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. One of my sadnesses is that the creation of the concrete batching plant will not provide any employment for local people —it is intended, probably rightly, to move the existing employees from the King's Cross site to this site—but their health and safety must be considered.
I have already touched on the problem of site noise. The site is directly next door to residential accommodation. Noise will come not simply from train deliveries and shunting operations but from lorries coming empty to the plant and leaving full from it. They will rev their engines in low gear and grind their gears coming up out of the low-lying site to reach the levels of the main roads surrounding the site. There will be many noisy operations on the site, such as the descaling of the revolving drums on the backs of the lorries. Local residents will have to put up with all that.
In addition, there will be the impact of train movements. People living in the surrounding area already experience considerable noise disturbance from the trains using the main-line tracks. The vibrations can be felt as far away as Hartham road, which is a considerable distance from the site. Although everyone in the area accepts that no one living in close proximity to a railway, as I do, can expect a wholly quiet, noise-free existence, they are entitled to ask questions about the extent of the additional noise which is likely to be imposed on them. We are talking here not just of inter-city trains or normal transport but of trains carrying extremely heavy materials on to the site.
There is an additional problem. Some houses in the immediately surrounding streets are already experiencing subsidence from the vibrations from the railway lines. Therefore, in addition to noise and disturbance, there may well be gradual structural damage to properties immediately beside the lines.
969 It is worth noting that only a few years ago British Rail sold land for housing, which is now known as the Heddington Grove estate. A year later, it deliberately set about preparing these proposals for a concrete batching plant and associated works that will make life a misery for those who live in those houses.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
I have a copy of the London county council planning and building regulation document of 22 January 1963—document TV51—which specifically designates the land for housing. There is absolutely no doubt that in those days the London county council architects department had information about the site from the principal housing architect:Railway surplus lands, borough of Islington. Proposed use: housing.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Gentleman, who has done much more research into this matter than British Rail ever dreamed of, is right to draw particular attention to that.
In addition to the noise of train movements, traffic will be generated by the lorry movements into and out of the site. British Rail airily tells us in its environmental assessment that that will not affect residential roads. I am afraid that the planning inspector disagrees. He notes that the traffic generated by the concrete batching plant at Lough road would include a considerably higher proportion of heavy goods vehicles than would be generated by any other form of industrial development on the site. He accepts that point, which has been made forcefully by local people.
The inspector goes on to address the question of where the HGVs will go and what will happen to some residential streets. He lists those most likely to be affected as Mackenzie road, Hemingford road and North road, and adds that there will be others. All are residential streets. The inspector points out that they are reasonably wide residential streets. That does not mean that people do not live in them. In all those streets people living in houses and flats will face a massive increase in disturbance from traffic as a direct result of the plant. It is nonsense for British Rail to claim that there will be no impact on residential streets.
The direct access to the site will be from Caledonian road. At rush hours, it is extremely busy, with long queues of traffic stretching past the site. There are residents on Caledonian road, although it is a main traffic artery, and they, too, will be affected. Obviously, the traffic that at present uses the road—not necessarily HGVs—will try to find other ways of bypassing the extra traffic jams that will be created by the HGVs that will use the road as a result of the construction of the site.
Clearly, there will be a dramatic traffic impact on all the surrounding residential areas. It is high time that British Rail owned up to that fact. The additional traffic desperately worries many people who live in the surrounding area.
Other issues have to be addressed. There is the disruption to the flow of existing traffic that will be caused by some of the proposed railway works. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North will want to say a little about the changes to the Hornsey road railway bridge which are proposed in the Bill and which affect his constituency.
I defy anyone to look at the before and after drawings of the Hornsey road railway bridge that are contained in 970 the environmental assessment published by British Rail and not be horrified at the proposed change to the Hornsey road bridge which forms the immediate sight line for all people walking or travelling up and down Hornsey road from Holloway road. That change will have a dramatic impact on the visual environment of the area.
§ Mr. Corbyn
My hon. Friend has obviously looked at the environmental impact notes published by British Rail. Does he agree that the Hornsey road bridge drawings are completely misleading and that it is about time somebody in British Rail learnt how to do three-dimensional drawings so that we can see the impact of the change? That would be a great step forward. At first glance, there appears to be no difference whatever.
§ Mr. Smith
Certainly there appears to be a difference. I suspect that in reality the difference would be far worse than what is already rather alarmingly portrayed in the documents.
In addition, a clause in the Bill abolishes rights of reverter in connection with the proposals. We all know what the Committee on the King's Cross Railways Bill said about the abolition of the rights of reverter. It was dubious about that concept in relation to the King's Cross Railways Bill. I suspect that any Committee that might conceivably be established if we were to give the Bill a Second Reading would wish to take a similarly sceptical attitude to the abolition of rights of reverter in the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
Is not the answer to the question posed by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) contained in the language used by British Rail, which would be worthy of a good estate agent or even a bad one? Describing the new Hornsey road bridge, it says:The current bridge comprises three brick arches and has some visual character.There is no doubt that even British Rail is basically admitting that the bridge is rather attractive, but the next sentence gives the game away. It says:The new bridge would be of a radically different design.Does that not give the game away? Is that not, in estate agents' speak, basically admitting that the bridge will be a visual horror?
§ Mr. Cryer
Would my hon. Friend care to glance at the list of costs supplied with the Bill by the promoter, in which he will see that the bridge will cost just under £2 million? I can assure my hon. Friend that that would go a long way towards providing the rolling stock on the Leeds-Bradford electrification. That cannot be provided at the moment because the Industrial Bank of Scotland, which is arranging for the leasing—following the Government's insistence that the rolling stock should be leased—is saying that it wants a guarantee that, if the railway is privatised, the organisation that takes over the railway from the passenger transport authority will be able to pay for the leasing of the trains. Is it not a remarkable contrast that an important electrification scheme in the north is being placed in great difficulties because of that 971 bizarre leasing insistence by the Government, yet British Rail is prepared to spend almost £6 million on something that is unnecessary?
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend correctly identifies the overall cost of the works in the Bill of some £5.5 million, a high proportion of which relates to the Hornsey road railway bridge. Is it not barmy that here we have a proposal which will do no one any good, which is not material to the King's Cross main proposal for a channel tunnel station, which will do enormous damage to the lives of people in the immediate area and which no one in that immediate area wants, yet it is gobbling up £5.5 million which could much better be spent on other railway improvements, the purchase of rolling stock and such like, for which people are crying out in other parts of the country? One must seriously ask whether British Rail has its priorities right.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. The Leeds-Bradford line is not included in the Bill. I allowed the hon. Gentleman to develop his initial intervention, but I hope that we can return to either the siting of the concreting plant or the passenger terminal.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has already given one example and appeared to be repeating it.
§ Mr. Smith
I am sure that my hon. Friend is simply seeking to assist the House in setting our discussions in an appropriate context.
I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are fond of and know well the streets and estates of Islington. You will, I suspect, share my horror at the Bill. I stress—this is an extremely important point to remind hon. Members, especially my hon. Friends, of—that the Bill has virtually nothing to do with the channel tunnel station at King's Cross and the onward use of that station for links to the north-east and the north-west. The minor matters of access points could easily be dealt with elsewhere.
§ Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)
In the past 75 minutes, my hon. Friend has spoken mainly about planning issues, which I assume were fully considered by the planning inspector at the inquiry. Were the points that my hon. Friend has made now at such length made at the planning inquiry and did the inspector address the remarks made by my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), who represent the borough of Islington?
§ Mr. Smith
I made representations to the inquiry. I did not say as much as I have said in the House, but some of what I have said tonight I also said to the inquiry.
If the Bill did not proceed tonight, the main King's Cross proposal would not be damaged or delayed in any way. If it is passed, the Bill will lead to the establishment of a concrete batching plant which is fiercely opposed and 972 resisted by local people. The plant is not needed at the proposed location in any event, because alternatives exist. At times, it will generate dust, fumes, noise and disruption for people living nearby. It will result in train movement that will disturb and distress those people. It will generate damaging traffic impacts in the surrounding residential streets.
Much of the Bill deals with the protection of highway authorities, undertakers, telecommunications services and water authorities, but it contains nothing about the protection of local residents. It must not be assumed that, just because the local residents live in an inner-city area, they should be forced to put up with what no one else would endure. They are being asked to put up with work going on just beneath their windows, throughout the day and possibly at night. I believe that their interests should be taken into account, and I am here to represent them. Because I know what they think, I believe that the House should refuse point blank to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
I oppose the Bill, and I ask the House to consider seriously what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). Most of the works envisaged in the Bill would take place in his constituency: as I said in an intervention, the constituency boundary lies on the Holloway road, and the northern part of the scheme falls within the Islington, North constituency—that is, the works around the Hornsey road bridge and the new line that links up with the main line near Finsbury park.
My hon. Friend's last point was important. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) is not in the Chamber now. He said that there was already a good deal of noise and disturbance in the borough of Islington. That is true. Islington is an inner-city area, and a good deal of road and railway traffic goes through it. We know that because we live there and have to suffer it. Over the years, however, efforts have been made to reduce the number of heavy vehicles driving through the borough, with some success—I refer particularly to the night-time lorry ban—and conditions have improved slightly.
It is ridiculous to suggest that, because there is already a lower standard of life than there should be in an inner-city area, the establishment of a concrete batching plant there does not matter. Does that mean that people living in an area of poor environmental quality must be consigned to live permanently in an area of ever-decreasing environmental quality? That surely is not the function of the Bill, the House or individual Members of Parliament.
Would Members of Parliament want a concrete batching plant to be established in their constituencies alongside a new housing development? Would they want British Rail, by sleight of hand, to sell the housing development land to people who moved in on the basis that they were moving into a residential area, and that further housing would be built? That is what the land search would have revealed, as was pointed out earlier by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown). British Rail has behaved very unfairly.
British Rail is very good at lobbying tactics. It spends an awful lot of money and time on such tactics, and it has 973 managed to convince a good many hon. Members that only the narrow self-interest of a few London Members prevents it from establishing direct links with the channel tunnel ports and route. That is complete nonsense. During the debate on the King's Cross Railways (No. 1) Bill, it was clear that some hon. Members honestly believed that freight traffic would go through King's Cross, and that our opposition to the terminal that the Bill proposed would somehow prevent industrial development in the northeast, north-west, Scotland and Wales. That is utter and complete nonsense. Fortunately, my hon. Friend was able to expose it for what it was.
British Rail now suggests that, if the concrete batching plant cannot be put in Lough road, the opportunity to revitalise the British economy by means of the channel tunnel connection with Europe will be lost and that that will be due to the selfishness of a few residents who live alongside the proposed concrete batching plant site in that road. It is about time that British Rail was called to account for its lobbying methods and its misinformation.
My constituency includes Monnery road, the previously proposed site for the concrete batching plant that was referred to by my hon. Friend. Reference was also made to it in the inspector's report. We were told exactly the same story—that unless the Monnery road residents were prepared to put up with a concrete batching plant alongside their homes, vast lorry movements each day, the delivery at night of aggregates and all the dust that goes with it, they would be responsible for the failure of the King's Cross enterprise. That was complete and utter bunkum. Their campaign, in which I was delighted to play a part, was successful. They persuaded the inspector not to grant permission for the use of that site. Unfortunately, Willment Ready Mix Concrete and the other company have moved down the road and are trying to develop the Lough road site.
I do not believe that serious consideration has ever been given to finding alternative sites. British Rail is keen to move the concrete batching plant away from its existing site because land values north of King's Cross for office development are potentially higher than the value of disused railway land around Lough road. We are expected to welcome this concrete batching plant into the borough of Islington because money can be made out of the sale of the existing site.
§ Mr. Cryer
Does my hon. Friend agree that this is not entirely British Rail's fault? Is it not largely the Government's fault through imposing financial restrictions on British Rail that force it to look at every means of obtaining revenue from selling off its land? Obviously it favours selling off the most valuable land areas—hence British Rail's promotion of the Bill. If the Government provided adequate investment for British Rail, the Bill would be unnecessary.
§ Mr. Corbyn
My hon. Friend has made a very good point. He made a similar point on previous occasions, and he was right to do so. I share his general support and enthusiasm for railways and for rail transport in general, believing it to be more environmentally friendly than road transport and also believing it to be the proper way to develop this country's infrastructure.
§ Mr. Corbyn
No, my hon. Friend is entirely wrong. I am not opposed to the development of the railway infrastructure in Islington, nor is my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. We spend a great deal of time encouraging people to use the railways in our borough because we suffer the consequences of selfish motorists driving in and out of London, polluting our atmosphere, when they should be travelling by train. We are talking here about an industrial development taking place in a residential area because British Rail has been told by the Government to maximise its income from the sale of its land around King's Cross site. To suggest, as I am sure my hon. Friend did not intend to do, that we are putting forward a "not in my back yard" scenario is simply not true. What we are asking the House to consider is whether it makes good sense to put the concrete batching plant on the proposed site.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury referred in his speech to the problem of the dust created in the area surrounding the proposed concrete batching plant. It is a very serious issue. Wherever a concrete batching plant may be sited and however well it may be managed, it will produce a lot of dust, for those who live in the area, for those who work in the area, or for those who live in the roads along which the concrete is subsequently delivered. They may also be affected by the slurry that is dropped on the roads, which subsequently dries out.
Background dust levels throughout inner London are excessively high. We are conducting studies into the increase in childhood asthma and respiratory illnesses in inner London areas. The results are startling and frightening. I suggest that those who adopt a rather cavalier approach and say that one can resolve the dust problem by encasing the building in a steel shell should think again, because the dust is carried beyond the building. As I said in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury—and I think that he agreed—even if one were to encase the building in a steel shell as proposed, there will be occasions when shutters must be opened or closed to allow the trains or lorries in or out.
Another problem is the likely high levels of dust within the plant, making it extremely dangerous for those who work there. We should think more about the health and safety of everyone involved. If the plant is on a restricted site as proposed, it will be difficult to solve the dust problem.
In his report, which was sent to the Department of the Environment at the end of the inquiry in May this year, the inspector examines in detail the dust problem in a case made by the London borough of Islington. He states that concrete batching is now a prescribed process under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and that these plants will require authorisation from the council under that Act. Under this procedure, the council will be able to ensure that the best available technique not entailing excessive cost is used. It is accepted that the appellants are likely to meet acceptable standards.
That is true, because they are so vague. He goes on to deal with theserious problems of increasing dust levels all around this particular plant if the construction goes ahead.I ask those supporting the proposal to think seriously about the dust problems that are likely to accompany it.
975 I believe that the Lough road site was chosen merely because it happens to be there—for no greater or lesser reason than that. It happens to be there and happens to be a convenient piece of land which British Rail finds that it can use. In our consideration of the Bill, I should have thought that we would first consider the sanity of moving the plant at all. As I said, I think that the move is motivated largely by the potential land value gains that could be made by moving the site from the King's Cross area.
Secondly, we should consider the danger of the site's proximity to existing housing, schools and churches. It is a residential area, and any hon. Member who has been involved in campaigns to try to improve the environment and look after his constituents must be aware of the strength of feeling that goes with opposition to such a plant. Although the inspector's report does not always draw the conclusions that some of us would wish, it at least recognises the strength of feeling.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury asked, are the children who live in the area to sit in a school where the windows cannot be opened? Who is to clean the windows every day to ensure that sunlight gets in when the dust flies around in the dry heat of summer, as already happens?
There will also be increasing traffic movements in the area. It is proposed that there will be three train movements a day running down the new line to deliver the aggregate to the plant itself. There will also be a large number of lorries leaving the site throughout the day. Those lorries filled with wet concrete will have two hours at the most to reach their destinations. In some cases, contractors demand one-hour delivery times.
It is already a heavily trafficked part of London. Most roads in the borough run north to south. Like most roads in north London they are routes in and out of central London. There is increasing pressure on the borough from people trying to use it as a bypass to the City through the Marylebone road, which means more pressure on east-west roads.
A considerable amount of work has been done on the borough's roads—width restriction, road humps and other measures—to try to reduce the amount of heavy goods vehicles using the side roads. If the plant goes ahead, I predict that there will be far more pressure to prevent heavy goods vehicles using residential roads. Such proposals are usually opposed by the emergency services, in some cases for understandable reasons. In turn, that generates greater traffic on the remaining main roads, greater congestion and greater difficulty in delivering the concrete within the one or two hours prescribed.
The construction of the Holloway relief road which accompanies the proposal will increase traffic along the Hornsey road and across the Holloway road. I believe that it will become something of an alternative route into central London. Many of us do not want that. We do not believe that the future of the city lies in increasing road traffic by constructing such roads. The construction of the road is a by-product of the building of the concrete batching plant.
§ Mr. Waller
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. The London borough of Islington gave itself permission to construct the Holloway access road before the planning inquiry, and it objected to the proposal for the Lough road site. Bearing in mind the fact that the Holloway access 976 road will generate more continual noise than anyone expects from the concrete batching plant, I wonder whether the hon. Members for the two Islington constituencies objected to the borough's giving itself permission to construct the road.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I have never favoured the construction of that relief road, because of the increase in traffic that it would bring in London. In general, I am against the construction of new roads in London, because they simply increase the traffic problem. We must look for a public transport solution to London's problems. The hon. Gentleman's question does not present me with a difficulty.
Although the council has granted itself permission for the construction of the road, the finances are not available, whereas part of the money involved in the construction of the concrete batching plant will be spent on the construction of that road—unless I am sadly mistaken, in which case the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) or my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury will quickly correct me.
Page 24 of volume II of the environmental statement gives existing noise levels for nearby residential users. Later, the same document estimates likely noise levels if the proposed works go ahead. I am in no position to challenge the figures or the method used to produce them, but I believe that there will be an increase in noise for people living in tower blocks on the Harvest estate—the large estate to the north of the Holloway road, which contains 18-storey tower blocks. Those people already suffer considerable noise from both roads and railways. The roads immediately surrounding Hornsey road—Annette road, and others—will suffer increased noise, as will the roads immediately surrounding the plant in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.
Expensive works are also proposed involving the building of a new railway on existing track bed north of the Holloway road to link with the main line nearer to Finsbury park. A new bridge is to be constructed over the Hornsey road and the Holloway road, using bridge buttresses, which remain although the bridges were demolished years ago by British Rail. It seems short-sighted to demolish a bridge and subsequently have to rebuild it at considerable cost.
The designs and drawings in the environmental statement are misleading. My intervention in the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury may have been misunderstood. I was trying to say that the drawings pretended to show that there was not much difference in design between the existing bridge and the proposed new bridge span, whereas the result will be an ugly bridge span built at considerable cost which will cause great disruption during its construction. With the amount of money involved, and the kind of construction methods available, I should have thought that BR would at least recognise that it could do something better and more imaginative.
Perhaps the hon. Member for Keighley will be able to help me on my next point when he replies to the debate. At the moment there are many small industrial premises under the arches of the line to the north of the Holloway road around Hornsey road. I know many of the people who work in them and operate small businesses from them. Some years ago there was an attempt massively to 977 increase rents, which would have put most of them out of business. But most have survived by a process of negotiation and campaigning—and in some cases rents have changed. I am not sure what effect there will be on these industrial operations during the construction. Will they be able to remain after the construction of the new line and bridge? They are important employers, and they provide opportunities for small businesses to operate in the area.
Once again we are examining a Bill to do with King's Cross, even though we have been through lengthy processes of a similar sort in the past two Parliaments. Many of us have been unhappy about the planning procedures and the costs involved, not to mention the time taken up. British Rail has always tried to pretend that every obstacle put in the way of its grand design for King's Cross is a deliberate attempt to destroy the whole initiative.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury rightly concluded by saying that there is a world of difference between the construction of the King's Cross terminals and the location of the concrete batching plant. The proposals in the Bill are wholly unreasonable. If British Rail puts this plant in a wrong area such as ours, it will create dust and noise, it will increase traffic in the area and it will greatly damage the environment and health of local people.
We who live in inner cities do so because we want to—because we like them. That does not mean that we like the noise and pollution that go with them. It is not right or fair that plants such as this should be put on inappropriate sites, to the detriment of the environment. The many people from the community who gave evidence to both the Monnery road and Lough road inquiries conclusively showed their concern and their determination to improve their neighbourhoods.
This evening hon. Members will have heard what we who represent the borough have to say and I hope that they will recognise that our points are valid. British Rail has not made the case for locating the concrete plant where it wants it. The Bill should proceed no further. There should be a serious examination of the need to move the plant; of alternative sites for the plant; and of the adequacy of the site proposed, with its attendant dust and noise problems. Finally, we should also look into the likely requirement in future for ready-mixed concrete. Unfortunately there is a slump in the construction industry. London is blessed with a 25 per cent. surplus of office space which is likely to worsen if more office building goes ahead. I am sad to say that there is no major house building exercise because local authorities are denied the funds with which to undertake one.
One wonders whom the whole enterprise is designed to serve. Instead of a concrete batching plant on the site we should like something more useful in line with what local residents have suggested. Perhaps efforts should be made to solve the appalling housing problem faced by people in our borough and throughout inner London. The site was originally earmarked for housing and that is what it should be used for. That would go some way to providing decent housing for people who are homeless or sleeping on the streets, for the concealed homeless who have to share with others, and for those who live with small children on the 978 top floors of tower blocks. They deserve a better chance in life, and this is a small opportunity to improve the lot of a few people.
By contrast, the option represented by the Bill would damage the lives of a large number of people, which is why I ask the House to reject it.
§ The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris)
I should like to take this brief opportunity to outline the Government's view of the Bill and to acknowledge the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), whose opening remarks admirably set the scene for the debate and whose subsequent interventions showed his mastery of his brief.
It would be churlish of me not to acknowledge also the conscientious, as ever, defence of constituency interests mounted by my hon. Friend—if I may so call him—the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and by his colleague the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). I noted too a number of pertinent interventions by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown). Perhaps he will catch the Chair's eye at some future point and say more. I also acknowledge the contribution of the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), whose interventions were as constructive and helpful as ever. I hope that that does not damage the hon. Gentleman's reputation any more than is reasonable, although, at this time of night, it is probably not too dangerous a compliment to pay him.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley has explained, the works in the Bill are related to those in the King's Cross Railways Bill which is currently before a Select Committee in another place. The Government reaffirmed in the Second Reading debate on 1 June their belief that King's Cross is the best location for the London terminus of the proposed rail link. We believe that King's Cross would be the most efficient interchange for international passengers seeking to travel on beyond London and for domestic passengers seeking to travel to central London.
Given that the works form a necessary part of the project which has already been endorsed by the House and passed to another place for consideration, it seems only equitable and sensible that the Bill should be allowed to proceed to Select Committee stage for detailed consideration.
§ Mr. Norris
Before the hon. Gentleman intervenes, perhaps he will allow me to suggest that a number of the detailed points that he raised might be more appropriately considered in the Bill's later stages.
§ Mr. Smith
The Minister said that the works in the Bill were "a necessary part" of the King's Cross project. They are nothing of the sort. Some of the works, such as the access points, are related to the main project, but the concrete batching plant and the railway link to it have nothing whatsoever to do with the main King's Cross project. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that.
§ Mr. Norris
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about the inevitability or otherwise of the link between the two Bills. I reaffirm the Government's view that the works in the No. 2 Bill form a necessary part of the project. I note 979 in passing that, although my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State granted permission for the plant following appeal, and although as such it does not fall within the private Bill procedure, a Bill is required for the railway lines that will enable the project to be joined to the east coast main line and thus allow the concrete to be transported by rail rather than by road. No doubt the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury would broadly welcome that, subject to the reservations that he has outlined.
It is not my place or that of the Government on occasions such as this to argue the merits or demerits of the Bill. I simply intervene to suggest the Government's overall attitude to the Bill. As I said earlier, it is clearly appropriate that the detailed points raised by the hon. Members who have contributed to our debate should be raised in later stages with the Committee. I therefore commend the Bill to the House, and ask that it be allowed to proceed in the usual way to Committee for more detailed consideration.
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
As the Minister has just explained, the Government and the Opposition do not officially take a position on legislation such as this. I have listened to the debate on the King's Cross Railways (No. 2) Bill and I have listened to the debates on earlier King's Cross Railways Bills. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) on his detailed knowledge and constructive arguments against the proposal. I cannot really congratulate him on his brevity, because I am sure that irony is not permitted under the rules of the House. However, my hon. Friend made some detailed objections on behalf of the people he represents, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn).
The long technical summary provided by British Rail points out that the two concrete batching plants—
§ Mr. Snape
I will refer to the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) in a moment, because I want to break the habit of a lifetime and comment on a speech before I have heard it. If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself for a moment, I will get round to him.
The non-technical summary refers to the two concrete batching plants to be displaced by the King's Cross Railways Bill works. That appears to me to provide some justification for the label "King's Cross Railways (No. 2) Bill" to be attached to the measure, but I do not suppose that I will convince either of my hon. Friends that such is the case.
I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury point out an alternative site for the batching plant south of the river. There was one advantage and one disadvantage to that alternative. The advantage from my hon. Friend's point of view is that the site at New Cross was not in his constituency. The disadvantage is that siting the concrete batching plant south of the river would generate even more heavy goods vehicle movements in the City of London and around this building, too. I do not say that our environment is more worthy of protection than that of my hon. Friends' constituents, but if we are to fulfil our party's objective of 980 ensuring that as much traffic as possible, particularly heavy freight traffic, is carried by rail, we must accept that meeting that objective is likely to cause some dislocation to the lives of many of our constituents.
The argument about the dislocation to lives caused by railway marshalling yards and railway facilities is not unfamiliar. I remind my hon. Friends that bordering my constituency, a seat that is slightly more marginal than those of my two hon. Friends, is the Bescot marshalling yard. Proposals to expand the railway facilities there meet considerable local opposition. It might underline my hon. Friends' view of my foolhardiness when I say that I have always supported such proposals because I believe that our party's objective of moving traffic from road to rail should not only be shared in someone else's constituency but adopted in our own constituencies.
Although I appreciate my hon. Friends' concern on behalf of their constituents, some of us who represent constituencies in the midlands and in the north of England would be glad of the opportunity to complain about the noise from industrial premises. Industrial premises in our constituencies are all too often deserted and derelict. The fact that the placing of industrial premises in constituencies such as Islington, South and Finsbury causes some local concern, which is rightly reflected in my hon. Friends' contributions, should not alter the fact that some of us would welcome facing the sort of problems about which my hon. Friends have complained.
I now refer, before he has even opened his mouth to make it, to the speech of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. The hon. Gentleman has the Adjournment debate tonight. [Interruption.] If he has not noticed, I am sure that he will have it drawn to his attention. I promise not to stay for it, if that is any consolation. However, the hon. Gentleman has the Adjournment debate on the InterCity service to and from Cleethorpes. I understand his natural concern that British Rail should see fit to withdraw the one through train a day to that part of the world.
We faced a similar problem with InterCity services from Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury. The hon. Gentleman will be aware, because he takes an interest in such matters countrywide, that the InterCity service from Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury has been cut because BR says, as it says about the Cleethorpes service, that it does not pay and that InterCity is charged with running a profitable service. In the words of the former chairman of British Rail, Sir Bob Reid mark I, "Our job is to run a service which is profitable, not one that is desirable." The hon. Gentleman does not share that view in respect of his own constituency and regional interest.
I notice that BR has said that the objectives that were set by the Secretary of State for InterCity services in the United Kingdom have been considerably tightened of late. In 1988, the objective was to achieve a 2.7 per cent. rate of return on assets. InterCity achieved a 1.3 per cent. rate of return in 1988–89—a profit of £26 million.
In 1992–93, the objective is 4.75 per cent. rate of return—a profit of £95 million—despite the recession. I look forward to seeing the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes participate in all rail debates in future attacking his own Secretary of State, refusing to support his Government and giving the Government Whip nightmares. I hope that he will pass up any opportunity of 981 promotion to attack the objectives that his Government have set, which have a severe impact on the InterCity service to his constituency.
The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes cannot have it both ways. Either he supports the tightening of the financial belt on InterCity, and in doing so accepts that on any measure of profitability the one through-train to Cleethorpes, desirable as it might be, is a non-starter—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It may or may not be desirable, but that is for the Adjournment debate. Will the hon. Gentleman return to the King's Cross Railways (No. 2) Bill?
§ Mr. Snape
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have said enough, and I am grateful to you for your guidance and for your kindness in allowing me to say what I have said already. Now that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes knows what is in order and what is not, I know that he will be careful to avoid falling foul of your justified strictures.
I shall vote for the Bill, even though I appreciate the difficulty that it causes some of my hon. Friends. I believe that the objectives inherent in the Bill are ones that Opposition Members should support.
§ Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East)
When I was elected to Parliament, I thought that I would get away from planning matters, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But I have been thrown back among planning matters again. However, there is a great difference. I could have started off like the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) by expressing my disappointment that British Rail's proposals do not contain a stop for Nottingham to provide a through route via King's Cross to the channel tunnel. I am disappointed about that because I recognise that the channel tunnel will bring extra prosperity to Britain and that the prosperity will follow the lines of communication. The prosperity will come to where the railway runs, so I am disappointed that Nottingham is not part of that line.
If the Bill fails, Nottingham will certainly never have a link with the channel tunnel. If the Bill is passed, there is a possibility that Nottingham will have that link. I believe that if the No. 2 Bill fails, the first Bill will fail. Nothing that my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) or for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) have said persuades me otherwise.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury says that 95 per cent. of the Bill has nothing to do with the original King's Cross Railways Bill. I accept that. My problem is: what about the 5 per cent. that has something to do with the original Bill? If 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 per cent. is necessary for the Bill to be passed, I have a duty to support the No. 2 Bill.
I understand the fears of my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North and for Islington, South and Finsbury. They made a valiant attempt to defend their constituents. They somewhat gilded the lilly. They used some ingenious arguments. If I had more time—I recognise the pressure of time, Mr. Deputy Speaker—I could pick apart their arguments. There was an element of "not in my backyard" in their arguments, but I recognise 982 that there are genuine fears among their constituents. My hon. Friends should express those fears. They have every right to do so.
I represent Nottingham. The area that I represent, Nottingham, East, has some of the worst unemployment figures and some of the worst bankruptcy rates in the country. One of my wards has 40 per cent. Overall unemployment and male unemployment is much higher.
I recognise the unemployment problems faced by the hon. Member for Islington, North, but I cannot return to Nottingham, East and tell people that I have thrown away a chance to give them extra prosperity because of what is happening in Islington.
If I vote against the Bill and it falls, the King's Cross Railways Bill will fall, and then we shall effectively strengthen the north-south divide. In Nottingham, we would like a share of channel tunnel prosperity. Why should that stop at London and the south-east? My views will be those expressed by the majority of hon. Members in the north and in the midlands.
§ Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)
Some of my comments will be similar to those made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell). I listened with considerable interest to my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), who put up a spirited defence of what they think of as their constituents' interests. I was interested to find that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury participated in the planning process, at the end of which the planning inspector arrived at a conclusion. Had he come to a different conclusion, I imagine that the Bill before us would have been different.
My hon. Friend drew attention to the fact that for several years I have commented, outside the House, on the channel tunnel and direct links between it and the north of England. Those links depend critically on a King's Cross terminal. Therefore, in the past eight years—not merely during the four years that the matter has been before the House—I have been active in trying to ensure that those links are in place and have supported the King's Cross project.
I accept that my interest is in one sense strategic. I am interested in the strategic issues through which we may ensure that the channel tunnel serves the nation and not merely the south-east, and that it provides connections between the single European market and the northern industrial regions.
While my hon. Friends who represent Islington have to consider the needs of the people there, and especially of those people near the site where the concrete plant is to be relocated, I have campaigned on behalf of the northern region, and have been dealing with the needs of 17 million people and with the economy that affects them. I must set that and its 5 per cent. of the Bill against the 95 per cent. of the Bill that my hon. Friends who represent Islington are talking about.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
I have followed what my hon. Friend has said and also the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell). Their arguments depend entirely on a presumption that, if the access points included within the Bill for the main King's Cross site are not given the go-ahead, the site, the project 983 and thereby the link to Nottingham, Leeds and the north cannot proceed. That is an incorrect assumption. Access points in the King's Cross Railways Bill provide perfectly well for access to the site. This Bill is an attempt to improve access and is not essential for the rest of the project to go ahead.
§ Mr. Gunnell
I am also worried about the time scale involved in the realisation of the King's Cross project. Improved access points appear to me to affect the time scale. One of my concerns has been the way in which the timing of the project has slipped back further and further. Therefore, there is no value in delaying the Second Reading.
The objections raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, South and Finsbury and for Islington, North should be discussed. But they were considered by the planning inquiry and conclusions were reached. The best place for such arguments to be considered here is in Committee, when the 16 petitions that have been received can be examined in detail. The residents who live near to the plant, who submitted those petitions, would then be able to express their anxieties to hon. Members. There is no reason for further delay, because the north needs the transport links to be in place as soon as possible after the tunnel is completed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) raised a different objection. He was dissatisfied with British Rail's plans for the use of the line and its provision of service to the tunnel. He will know that I am equally dissatisfied with the proposals that British Rail has produced after many years of lobbying. British Rail's planned services are not adequate for any of the northern regions, and in particular Yorkshire and Humberside. It will provide no service at all to west Yorkshire. I agree with my hon. Friend that the proposed links are highly unsatisfactory, but that does not mean that we should stop the Bill's progress at this point.
I shall continue to argue with British Rail about the development of the line and the provision of the correct rolling stock. But we will not even need that rolling stock if the right links are not in place.
§ Mr. Gunnell
I have talked to British Rail, to Bob Reid version one and Bob Reid version two, and a whole host of people about the King's Cross development. We must resist British Rail's attempts to put a block on the provision of services to the north. However, there is a difference between arguing for greater investment by British Rail and taking steps which will lead to unreasonable delays in the King's Cross project. The project has enough problems already.
British Rail's future is surrounded by uncertainty. This project will cost at least £1.4 billion, and if that sum must be obtained primarily from the private sector, which is the present view, I worry whether the project will obtain the money and be completed in the time scale that the north of England needs. The project should be completed. Money should be provided from public funds because it is a national responsibility to ensure that national links are in place for the channel tunnel.
984 If we are to allow the project to have the maximum chance to succeed, we must ensure that the Bill goes to Committee stage so that hon. Member's objections can be considered in detail.
§ Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)
I take issue with the hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell). We have both represented our local authority in one guise or another. Before he entered the House, the hon. Gentleman was a distinguished member of the local authority and, subsequently, an active director of the Yorkshire and Humberside development association. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman may wonder why I take issue with him, because he may argue that, to some extent, our interests are the same.
I have long been uneasy about the King's Cross development. When the original Bill came before the House in 1988, I had misgivings.
The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) took issue with me on whether the project should be dealt with by public inquiry or private Bill. I make no apology for saying that I accept that the private Bill procedure is the correct way for such a project to come before the House. In the 13 years in which I have been a Member of this House, I have taken a close interest in private Bills. I have opposed and promoted them, and I must therefore take the rough with the smooth. Private Bills give hon. Members an opportunity to probe organisations like British Rail much more closely.
The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury is right to discuss his grave misgivings about the project. Hon. Members may ask what someone representing Brigg and Cleethorpes knows about King's Cross. For the past 22 years, since I first went to York university, I have been travelling from King's Cross to York, Scunthorpe or Cleethorpes by rail and I have spent more hours than I care to remember standing on the platforms at King's Cross waiting for a train to one of those three destinations. I hope that I shall have many opportunities in the future to stand on that platform waiting for the 7.50 train. Although the train is often delayed and I am stuck there for an hour or two, it will eventually get me all the way to Cleethorpes. I know a lot about King's Cross because the train is often delayed for more than an hour and 1 take the opportunity to go round the area.
I am particularly familiar with the Golden Lion public house. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) said that he thinks that British Rail will be able to accommodate the problems with regard to that pub, but I am not sure that that is true. The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) quoted only from the non-technical report, whereas those of us who take a close interest in the Bill have referred throughout the debate to the technical report. In that report, British Rail makes it clear that the public house will have to be destroyed. I am delighted to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley that that has now been changed.
However, whether British Rail comes to the House with private legislation or whether it makes assurances in correspondence, it says one thing one year and then stands on its head and swears blindly that it did not mean it. I shall not share my correspondence with the House now but I shall do so in a couple of hours. When I told British Rail in 1988 that I would oppose the original King's Cross 985 Bill unless I received certain assurances, I was given those assurances on paper. But today, British Rail will say that the position has changed. Its assurances are not worth the paper on which they are written—
§ Mr. Brown
That comment is rather near the mark.
British Rail will say anything to get us into the Division Lobbies on private legislation. I have correspondence between myself and British Rail dating back to 1988, when the original King's Cross Bill was introduced, seeking assurances before I was prepared to support the Bill. Today, those assurances are not worth the paper on which they were written.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley assures hon. Members that they need not worry about the Golden Lion public house because, although the technical report says that it will be destroyed, that is not so, I prefer to rely on the judgment of one of the petitioners, the Camden Civic Society, which has existed for a long time. It is described in its petition as a local amenity society, founded in 1963, and is affiliated to the Civic Trust. It has been dealing with British Rail over King's Cross for a long time—more than 28 years. It has met regularly with British Rail and played an active part in monitoring planning developments in the district around King's Cross, particularly in heightening public awareness of its buildings and environment.
In 1988, when the original King's Cross Bill was introduced, Camden Civic Society took the initiative, with officers of the London borough of Camden, in establishing a conservation area advisory committee for the King's Cross district, on the lines set out in the Department of the Environment circular produced in August 1987.
The organisation has met regularly since then and has played an important role in discussions on the district's future. It had no hesitation in saying that the Bill would require the destruction of the Golden Lion public house. It says that the pub is a distinctive building. I have frequently visited the pub when I have been at a loose end waiting for a British Rail train to take me to Cleethorpes, and I agree. I believe that it is also an attractive building in the context of an inner-city environment. It is part of the character of what Camden Civic Society describes as the King's Cross conservation area.
The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury mentioned another building, but I think that he could have done it more justice. The Bill's proposals would involve demolishing the St. Pancras ironworks building—situated at 36-40 York way—which could otherwise be preserved. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury is right to say that there is an alternative.
I have been brought up on the lexicon that there is no alternative with regard to other political matters, but when it came to the issue of nuclear waste in Brigg and Cleethorpes, I proved that there was an alternative. The hon. Gentleman can take heart from the fact that I was told that there was no alternative but to have nuclear waste in my constituency as there was nowhere else for it to go. But miraculously, just one week before the 1987 general election was called, the proposal disappeared.
986 It is absolutely vital that hon. Members should be wary when an organisation such as British Rail seeks powers and claims that the project at King's Cross will fall unless there is a concrete batching plant at Lough road. They must be cautious if British Rail says that the King's Cross project for links between the north of England and Nottingham, through to the channel tunnel, will fall apart if the three temporary access points proposed in the Bill are not granted.
Hon. Members are being made fools of, and taken for a ride by British Rail, if they believe that in two or three years time when they have a constituency problem involving British Rail, they can remind it that they supported it over a controversial Bill and expect it to give them similar support. They can forget that idea—I went through that experience four years ago. I know exactly what hon. Members are in for if they believe the assurances given them by British Rail.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 169, Noes 40.988
|Division No. 35]||[10 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Eggar, Tim|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Elletson, Harold|
|Arbuthnot, James||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Evans, Roger (Monmouth)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Evennett, David|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Faber, David|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Fabricant, Michael|
|Bates, Michael||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Bayley, Hugh||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Beggs, Roy||Fishburn, John Dudley|
|Bellingham, Henry||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Forth, Eric|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Booth, Hartley||Freeman, Roger|
|Boswell, Tim||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Bowis, John||Gillan, Ms Cheryl|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Gorst, John|
|Brazier, Julian||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Bright, Graham||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Gunnell, John|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Hague, William|
|Burt, Alistair||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Butcher, John||Harris, David|
|Butler, Peter||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hawkins, Nicholas|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hayes, Jerry|
|Cash, William||Heald, Oliver|
|Chaplin, Mrs Judith||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hendry, Charles|
|Clappison, James||Hill, James (Southampton Test)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)||Horam, John|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Hoyle, Doug|
|Colvin, Michael||Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Congdon, David||Hunter, Andrew|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jack, Michael|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Couchman, James||Jessel, Toby|
|Cran, James||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Kilfedder, Sir James|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Day, Stephen||Knapman, Roger|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Dover, Den||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Duncan, Alan||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Legg, Barry||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Leigh, Edward||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Lewis, Terry||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lidington, David||Sproat, Iain|
|Lightbown, David||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|McCartney, Ian||Stephen, Michael|
|MacKay, Andrew||Stewart, Allan|
|Maclean, David||Streeter, Gary|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Sweeney, Walter|
|Mahon, Alice||Sykes, John|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Malone, Gerald||Taylor, Rt Hon D. (Strangford)|
|Mans, Keith||Thomason, Roy|
|Marek, Dr John||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Maxton, John||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Merchant, Piers||Tracey, Richard|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Trend, Michael|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Moss, Malcolm||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Wallace, James|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Waller, Gary|
|Norris, Steve||Wells, Bowen|
|Paice, James||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Patnick, Irvine||Whittingdale, John|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Wilkinson, John|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Willetts, David|
|Riddick, Graham||Wilson, Brian|
|Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)||Wood, Timothy|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Ross, William (E Londonderry)|
|Sackville, Tom||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Mr. Peter Luff and|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Dr. Robert Spink.|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Ainger, Nicholas||Bennett, Andrew F.|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Bradley, Keith|
|Barnes, Harry||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Meale, Alan|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Miller, Andrew|
|Cryer, Bob||Morley, Elliot|
|Dafis, Cynog||Mullin, Chris|
|Dixon, Don||Parry, Robert|
|Donohoe, Brian||Patchett, Terry|
|Dowd, Jim||Pike, Peter L.|
|Eastham, Ken||Rogers, Allan|
|Enright, Derek||Skinner, Dennis|
|Gerrard, Neil||Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hardy, Peter||Stern, Michael|
|Illsley, Eric||Vaz, Keith|
|Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|McMaster, Gordon||Tellers for the Noes:|
|McWilliam, John||Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)||Mr. Malcolm Chisholm.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.