§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
I must inform the House that the Speaker has selected the instruction in the name of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) but not the instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I suggest that it may be for the convenience of the House to debate the instruction together with the motion for Second Reading:That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill that it shall have particular regard to the financial justification for Crossrail in the light of the proposals for the privatisation of British Rail, to the proposed method of financing Crossrail in the light of the Government's announcements that it should be substantially funded by the private sector, and to its interrelationship with other rail proposals across London which have been put forward since the Central London Rail Study was completed.
§ Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is a private Bill that we are debating this evening. It is promoted jointly by the British Railways Board and London Underground Ltd., and was deposited in the House in November 1991. As a result of further studies conducted by the promoters into the details of the proposed route, the promoters deposited an additional provision to the Bill in the House in January 1993. The promoters have statutory duties to provide or secure railway services and to co-operate with one another in the performance and exercise of their duties.
I should at this point pay tribute to the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat) who acted on behalf of the promoters of the Bill until his elevation to the ranks of the Government. I hope that the House will be reasonably tolerant of my efforts in taking over the Bill at what must stand as pretty short notice.
§ Mr. Lidington
I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks). I know that he will, as always, be trenchant on behalf of his constituents, whatever legislation we are debating.
The purpose of the Bill is to seek powers to construct the crossrail route. Right hon. and hon. Members will doubtless have read a considerable amount about the crossrail project, but it may be for the convenience of the House if I summarise the main purposes of the Bill.
The crossrail project was one of the recommendations of the central London rail study published in January 1989. It involves the construction of a new underground railway in twin tunnels deep underneath central London, commencing west of Paddington station and ending east of Liverpool street station. At both the eastern and western ends of this central London stretch, the new link would connect with existing railways running out, in the west, to Aylesbury and to Reading and, in the east, to Shenfield.
In the Bill, the promoters seek powers to allow for the constructions of platforms at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon and Liverpool Street, connecting with existing London Underground and British Rail stations. These works would permit 202 interchanges with eight London underground lines and with British Rail at Paddington, Farringdon, Moorgate and Liverpool Street stations.
At Stratford, in east London, passengers would be able to change from crossrail to the docklands light railway and the proposed Jubilee line extension. The Bill also provides for other works both within the greater London area and in neighbouring counties, to enable the project to go ahead.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
May I say how welcome it is to see, in the additional provision to be inserted, that reconstruction of part of Northwood station in my constituency, with all necessary works and conveniences connected therewith, is proposed? This will be most welcome to my constituents, who will be able to get to the City and beyond to their places of work and, on occasion, for recreation. Now that it is proposed that this be in the Bill, the objections that I had to it previously can be graciously withdrawn.
§ Mr. Lidington
I am very grateful, as I am sure that the promoters will be, to my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood. He, too, has been very active in lobbying the promoters on behalf of his constituents, and I am glad that he is satisfied with the results of his efforts.
The objectives of the crossrail project are to relieve pressure on the most crowded sections of the Central and Metropolitan lines of London Underground and the great eastern inner suburban services of British Rail. Crossrail will also ease congestion at both Paddington and Liverpool Street stations and provide better, direct access to and from London for people in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.
I certainly know from my own constituency experience about the very strong backing for this project from the Thames Valley chamber of commerce and industry, Buckinghamshire county council and Aylesbury Vale district council, who see the crossrail route as very important for the continued prosperity of that area of the country.
In the longer term, further environmental benefits will ensue, because a good, efficient crossrail route will make it more attractive to people to travel by train to, from and under London, instead of going by road.
Crossrail also fits into a long-term pattern of adapting London's railways to meet the extra demands from passengers over the years. As the House knows, most of the present underground network was built before the second world war. Since then, London Transport has extended the Central line in 1947–49, built the Victoria line in 1969, extended the Piccadilly line to Heathrow in 1977, and, more recently, built the Jubilee line from Baker Street to Charing Cross, and the dockland light railway. British Rail has upgraded and electrified many existing routes into central London and has introduced the Thameslink service between the northern and southern halves of the capital.
So I believe that crossrail is intrinsically worth while for the immediate benefits it brings, and also provides what one might term a flexible piece of infrastructure, a keystone for the railway network to serve London and the home counties in the future.
There will be the possibility of additional connections from crossrail into new railway lines which it is proposed might be built. The service to Heathrow airport is one example. Connections to Kent via the Channel tunnel link 203 are another example, for that link is likely to meet crossrail just beyond Stratford, and it is perfectly feasible for a junction to be built there, which would join the Channel tunnel direct link into crossrail and the rest of the British Rail network.
§ Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North)
One is naturally concerned about the route in central London. The Harpur Trust has a big estate there, and I should be glad if my hon. Friend would say what route crossrail takes when it leaves Paddington station and comes to Bond street and Tottenham Court road. Does it follow Oxford street, New Oxford street and then up to Theobalds road—in other words, keep to the main arteries, so that there will be no anxiety about the stability of buildings on either side of the route—or does it cut through some of the area where it could cause building disturbances?
§ Mr. Lidington
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising points which I know are important to a great many of the property owners along the proposed route, who have indicated their objections and registered them by way of petition.
The proposed route would run south of Oxford street and New Oxford street, under St. Giles, and then cross Holborn at about the site of the present Holborn tube station, running parallel to Holborn, slightly north, running under Red Lion square and Gray's Inn, and then over to Farringdon station.
The promoters appreciate the concern of many people about the environmental impact of their proposals, and I would be happy to supply my hon. Friend with a copy of the very detailed environmental statement that they have produced, so that he can see exactly what is proposed for the route and the measures that the promoters wish to take to alleviate any environmental damage.
§ Sir Trevor Skeet
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for that information, and I want to trespass on his time for one moment. The route goes very close to Holborn station. Will there be an interchange at Holborn as well, because this would be extremely convenient for the area concerned?
§ Mr. Lidington
I am sure that the promoters of the Bill will have listened carefully to my hon. Friend and will be interested to consider the proposals that he is putting forward tonight.
The crossrail project is being designed throughout to comply with the best British Rail and London Underground standards for safety, operations and passenger comfort. Particular thought is being given in the design of rolling stock to seating and standing areas that will help disabled people—not only wheelchair users, but people with other infirmities or disabilities.
The initial plan envisages a service of 24 trains each hour in each direction during the rush hours, with capacity for up to 32 trains an hour in each direction. The plan is for crossrail, once it is operational, to run for up to 19 hours a day.
I said that the promoters had deposited with the House an additional provision to the Bill. The reason is that, since the original Bill was deposited in November 1991, the engineers and planners working for the promoters have refined their scheme and talked to a number of the residents and landowners along the proposed route. The 204 powers sought in the additional provision are as a result of those studies. I will not list them all, although I know that the promoters will be happy to give any hon. Member with an interest in the details of the project a full explanation of their proposals.
However, to illustrate what the additional provision seeks to do, I draw the attention of the House to the proposals with regard to Harrow, where the original route plan envisaged that a small area of allotments would be taken to provide for some new sidings. Local residents objected to this and, as always, they were ably led in their lobbying by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes), whose silence in the House never precludes his active endeavours on behalf of his constituents.
As a result, the crossrail team looked again at their plans. They found a different way of achieving their original objective, and therefore incorporated a new enabling proposal in the additional provision.
§ Mr. Richard Page (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I am a firm supporter of crossrail if it does anything to relieve the road traffic in my area. My hon. Friend mentions the extra provision. He will be aware that Moor Park, which is just up the line from the station that he has just mentioned, was in the plan, then out of the plan, and now I understand that it is back in the plan. The latest position is that the works necessary for services to stop at both Moor Park and Northwood are to be sought through parliamentary approval, but there is no firm commitment to proceed with the service stopping at Moor Park.
May I ask my hon. Friend, who has so nobly taken on this task at short notice, whether he has any information at all about whether British Rail or London Underground is thinking of providing further information about whether it will be using the two stations, or whether this is just a convenient method of getting the provision into the Bill and then not offering my constituents a service?
§ Mr. Lidington
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page). I feel that I have a particular interest in the points made by him and by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), as I spent most of my childhood in their area and know the two stations well. The promoters are seeking powers to provide a stopping service at either Northwood or Moor Park or both. They will make both a technical and a commercial assessment of which is the best of the options available.
§ Mr. Lidington
I know that both my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West and my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood will press their case very hard. The promoters hope that they will be permitted to include the additional provision in the Bill if it is passed tonight and considered by a select Committee.
It is quite understandable that concerns and questions should be expressed about a project of this scale, and especially about its environmental impact. As required both by the Standing Orders of the House and by European Community directives, the promoters have published environmental statements dealing both with the main Bill and with the additional provision. Copies have been deposited in the House, and those statements set out
205 in detail measures that will be taken to avoid or reduce any adverse impact that the project may have on the environment.
Let me cite in particular the safeguards proposed in respect of construction of the project. All inter-station tunnelling will be done from two main work sites at either end of the central London tunnel—the first at Royal Oak, just west of Paddington, and the second at Bethnal Green, east of Liverpool Street. Large quantities of spoil will be removed, and materials will be brought in, by rail, thereby significantly reducing any need to use lorries.
The promoters are also discussing with the local authorities involved a code of construction practice that would be incorporated in construction contracts. The code would set down limitations, standards and procedures for dealing with items such as hours of working, noise, dust and air pollution, the protection of watercourses, site hoardings and safety. Effective monitoring would be carried out to ensure that the promoters' contractors complied fully with those requirements.
So far, some 314 petitions have been presented against the Bill. The promoters are now discussing the petitioners' problems with them in the usual way, to try to find a mutually satisfactory agreement in each case. The normal form of settlement is for the promoters to give the petitioner, in return for withdrawing his objection, a legally binding undertaking recording the agreement reached. Where differences cannot be resolved, the petitioners will of course be able to put their objections to the Committee considering the Bill.
I know that one matter that especially concerns some petitioners is that of compensation. The promoters' position is that they will comply fully with the compensation code now in force, or with any variation in the compensation code enacted by Parliament. As most hon. Members know, the term "compensation code" is shorthand for a considerable body of statute and case law developed over the past century and a half. The code was last reviewed by Parliament as recently as 1991, when the House passed the Planning and Compensation Act of that year.
§ Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)
We all appreciate that the review was a recent review. Does my hon. Friend accept. however, that, given a scheme of the scale and likely duration of crossrail, there is likely to be a special problem, particularly as regards blight? My hon. Friend will be aware that eligibility for the service of blight notices excludes leases shorter than three years, premises with a rateable value of more than £18,000 and investment properties. He may not be aware that the owners of St. Anselm's house have already had to go into receivership because of the blight that exists. An unusually depressed rent—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that interventions are intended to be short. In this debate, each intervention has been longer than the last.
§ Mr. Lidington
My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) has taken a long-standing interest in these matters. I know from my own constituency casework of hard cases. I can think of an 206 example of a business caught by the 18,000 rateable value rule which has been blighted for more than a decade by a long-delayed road scheme.
However, my hon. Friend's criticisms should be made to Ministers rather than to the crossrail promoters. It would not be right to ask the promoters alone to make special arrangements and depart from the compensation agreements laid down by Parliament. Any questions about disputed compensation should be a matter for the Lands Tribunal, which is the body set up by Parliament to deal with such questions.
§ Mr. Butterfill
Would my hon. Friend therefore agree that, given the scale and likely time scale of crossrail, that is a matter that the Select Committee should consider seriously?
§ Mr. Lidington
I am sure that the Select Committee will take the whole question of compensation seriously and will want to listen carefully to the arguments of any petitioners who have been unable to reach an agreement with the promoters.
Another matter which I know has caused concern is the inclusion of clause 18, which seeks to disapply statutory controls over alterations to listed buildings. The reason for that clause is that it is essential that the Bill gives the promoters the power that they need to build crossrail. That could not be achieved if, after Parliament had authorised the project, the promoters then had to go through a completely separate procedure under the planning Acts to demolish or interfere with buildings currently listed, or even buildings that are not listed now but which might be listed in future.
I emphasise, however, that the promoters are aware of the need to minimise the environmental impact of crossrail upon the built environment. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich, with his detailed knowledge of crossrail and his new responsibilities as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, will be working hard to make sure that crossrail not only goes ahead but goes ahead with a minimal impact upon the valuable built environment of central London.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
The hon. Gentleman is doing a very good job at short notice. Has he had an opportunity to study the report of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure? The point on which he is touching—the right of promoters to override the various planning processes—concerned that Committee greatly. Has British Rail been in discussion with English Heritage? Has English Heritage petitioned against the Bill, and, if so, will British Rail on this occasion allow it to put its case, as it has not done on previous occasions?
§ Mr. Lidington
I have not studied the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but he will know better than I do that this is probably the last major private Bill of its kind that will come before the House, and that any future projects would be dealt with under the new procedure that has recently been authorised. I think that it would be wrong, however, to delay the project and risk its future by saying that it should go to the back of the queue and start again under the new procedure.
The promoters have offered to consult both English Heritage and the individual local authorities concerned as soon as the need for works affecting a listed building or building in a conservation area is clear, and before any 207 building is interferred with. The promoters face a slight difficulty, because it is difficult for them to predict, when they are still talking to petitioners, exactly which buildings will be affected and how.
That is why schedule 6 sets out a long list of buildings affected by clause 18. At first sight, that list seems daunting. However, I assure the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and the House that the promoters currently believe that it will be necessary to interfere with a very small number of listed buildings or buildings in conservation areas. Their current thinking is that perhaps only three listed buildings would need to be demolished for the project to go ahead successfully.
I want to refer briefly to finance. Crossrail is a major infrastructure project. I am sure that the House will be aware of the general constraints on public expenditure at the moment. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will say more about finance later. On behalf of the promoters, I would like to make it clear that they would be very happy to work with private sector partners to get Crossrail built.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
I want to raise a familiar theme, which no doubt the Minister will anticipate. Does the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) understand that, when we are asked to approve legislation either on Second Reading or Third Reading. one of our problems when there is no guarantee about the money for a project, and when days of staff time in this place and thousands of pounds are spent on preparation by the promoters, is that we must remember that the money has not been provided for the previous legislation relating to London railways—the Jubilee line?
Will the hon. Gentleman use his influence to ensure that he will get more support and encouragement for crossrail if the earlier project receives the green light before we make further progress on this project?
§ Mr. Lidington
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I assure him that I will remain the hon. Member for, Aylesbury while I speak on behalf of the promoters in relation to crossrail.
I want now to refer briefly to the instruction tabled by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). I have no doubt that he will seek to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker. He has strongly felt and legitimate concerns about the project.
I believe that it is already quite in order for petitioners to raise with the Committee the list of subjects contained in the right hon. Gentleman's instruction. Similarly, it would be in order for the Committee to consider them. The promoters believe that the instruction is superfluous, and that the House should be content to leave it to the Committee to decide upon the extent to which it wishes to inquire into the matters listed in the instruction. For those reasons, I ask the House not to accept the instruction.
Crossrail is important for London and for the south-east of England. British Rail and London Underground carry three quarters of all the commuters who travel to central London. That amounts to more than I billion passenger journeys a year. It is in the interests of those passengers that the project goes ahead.
However, I believe that the project is also a national issue. If London is to compete effectively with Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo or New York, it must have a modern, reliable 208 and efficient system of rail transport. That is what international trade and finance and British commuters want and expect. For those reasons, for the London and regional interests and because I believe that the project is in our nation's interests, I commend the Bill and its additional provision to the House.
§ Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)
May I first congratulate the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) on his presentation of the Bill? I understand that congratulations are also due as the hon. Gentleman's wife gave birth within the last 72 hours. To be handed a Bill and a baby in the same week is beyond the call of duty for any Member of Parliament.
The Labour party has long supported the crossrail principle and will therefore support the Bill. We deplore the delay and uncertainty which have surrounded it so far and the fact that there are still so many unanswered questions. For all our discussions tonight, crossrail is still a paper project. With ths:. Jubilee line, the fast link to the tunnel and the west coast main line, there were repeated Government announcements of support in principle, but no substance to back them up or the leadership to ensure that those projects take place in a reasonable time scale.
In respect of crossrail, we still do not know where the money will come from. We do not know when work will start or what role the private sector will seek or be willing to accept. We do not know what conditions the private sector will insist on. In short, we still do not know if or when the project will happen. That is a strange way to plan the transport needs of our country for the next century. Indeed, it is a very Tory way.
The backdrop to this debate and to any debate about the railways this week must be the announcement of job losses by ABB Transportation in York and Derby. Nine hundred jobs have gone down the drain because of the blight—
§ The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Key)
What has all this got to do with it?
§ Mr. Wilson
The Minister for Roads and Traffic wants to know what this has to do with it. I suppose that he has been brought in to add weight to the Transport team. If he waits a moment, he will discover exactly what it has to do with it. I suppose that it is natural to move someone from running the national lottery to the Tory Transport team.
Let me explain what the job losses have to do with this. Unless the major infrastructure projects go ahead, the blight which the Railway Industry Association has warned against will deepen and continue and many more thousands of jobs will be lost in the railway industry.
The Minister for Roads and Traffic might like to examine the presentation document for the class 341 train for crossrail. If it had not taken years to get the project to this stage, if we had not had to drag the time from the Government for this Second Reading debate and if we were now talking about the project going ahead, the trains would be under construction, the design work would be in progress and we might have a flourishing railway manufacturing industry in this country.
Instead, the Jubilee line, crossrail, the tunnel link and the west coast main line are in no position to go ahead. That is why our railway manufacturing industries are being strangled. I hope that in that brief tutorial I have 209 managed to relate tonight's debate to my comments about the redundancies in York and Derby. Alas, many thousands more will follow if the present policies are pursued.
There cannot be many other pieces of legislation which have stood on the toes of so many of the good and the great. I hope that that will not be another reason for undue influence being exerted behind the scenes in respect of Government policy. The route which crossrail is designed to follow seems to pass the doors of just about every influential interest group in the country and, as everyone knows, many of them do not like it.
I understand that the estate agents are particularly opposed to the project. Magnanimously, they have made a small cottage industry out of advising others who are opposed to the project to their own considerable advantage. I suppose that that is a case of hedging their bets.
I had never expected to be lobbied by the Mayfair residents association. I regard it as a considerable diminution of my status that it should have seen fit to approach me. Of course, the many legitimate concerns must be addressed by the promoters, as the hon. Member for Aylesbury recognised. I stress that the legitimate concerns of ordinary citizens who live on housing estates and in the less fashionable parts of London and the rest of the crossrail route must be treated as seriously as the concerns of those who exercise influence in high places and who, in this matter, will certainly seek to continue to exercise that influence.
As the hon. Member for Aylesbury said, we will certainly hear from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and from other Opposition Members who have legitimate concerns about the project and how it will affect their constituents. I hope that there will be respect for those doubts and concerns on all sides of the House. It is totally incumbent on the sponsors of the Bill to go to maximum lengths to meet those doubts and concerns.
In particular, they should respect the principle that, when there is inconvenience to areas along the route, benefits should also be brought to those areas in terms of employment and improvement of communications. It would be unjust if areas along the route suffered massive disruption for five years or so until the project is completed and then at the end of the day had little or nothing to show for it. I hope that the principle of equity will be respected.
We deplore the lack of strategic planning for London and an overall vision for transport and communications in the Greater London area and beyond. We recognise that the scheme is to a large extent a child of the Greater London council and the era in which people were talking about the proper planning of transport in London.
§ Mr. Wilson
The current scheme was borne out of a 60 per cent. increase in passenger traffic on London Underground between 1982 and 1989. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) rightly says that the GLC put it forward. As a child of the GLC, he will undoubtedly elaborate on that theme later in the debate.
210 In January 1989, the central London rail study concluded that upgrading to the existing network would be effective in cutting overcrowding but that new lines were needed urgently if the long-term problems were to be solved. Of all the new lines proposed, crossrail would be the most effective in tackling the key problems of congestion on the central line and Network SouthEast services into Liverpool Street. In September 1990, the current crossrail route was safeguarded and detailed consultation began. It is a source of regret to Labour Members that it has taken almost three years to reach this Second Reading debate.
I examined as much of the proposed route as I could to familiarise myself with some of the details of the issues involved. I have talked to representatives of crossrail who have a commitment to making the necessary arrangements and safeguards to minimise the disturbance. Let no one kid themselves. We cannot have a project of this scale anywhere in the country without substantial disruption. Certainly, we cannot have a project of this scale in the centre of London without substantial disruption and that is a fact of life with which people will have to live. I recognise that many people throughout the country have had major upheaval because of infrastructural developments without a fraction of the consultation or the willingness to answer concerns and build in safeguards that has been shown by the sponsors of this Bill.
It is essential that buildings and other structures above ground level are protected and steps must be taken to do that. When I toured the area, I was struck not so much by the buildings that must be safeguarded as by the extent of architectural vandalism that has taken place over the past 20 years or so in many of the sensitive areas which we are now talking about safeguarding. I refer to some of the great squares through which the route will pass. Sadly, the damage was done in the 1960s and 1970s with grotesque buildings that should never have been permitted in the first place. I hope that, at least on some parts of the route, the effect of crossrail and the sensitivity that the developers must show will bring architectural improvement to those places, rather than further decline.
Certainly, there will be disruption and the job of the sponsors and those who will preside over them must be to limit that disruption and the impact on the environment, the people who live there, those who work there and those who have businesses there. All that must be extremely carefully guarded against. I hope that the sponsors will accept the principle that, simply because there is an open space, it should not be used as a building site in connection with this project. There are legitimate worries about that on many parts of the route.
While it is easy to say that a delicate garden in the middle of a west end square will be safeguarded. I hope that the same respect will be paid to public parks and open spaces throughout the length of the route. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) asked me to make that point, which he strongly endorses and advocates.
The benefits of crossrail will be to relieve overcrowding on the Central line, reduce journey times across the south-east, create 19 interchanges with the existing network, relieve overcrowding at stations by moving 30,000 passengers a day to change at Liverpool Street and provide better-quality trains. To return to my original point, there is a desperate need for better-quality trains to maintain a railway manufacturing industry. The project 211 will also mean diverting traffic away from the roads, which is important. There is a strong environmental aspect to the legislation, which is one reason why the Labour party supports it.
To comment on the work sites that will be used during construction, especially in anticipation of some of the comments which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney will make, one of the most interesting urban areas that I have examined in a long time is the area around Allen Gardens in his constituency. A wide variety of activities take place in that area. It is a heavily populated area with a mixed community. It has a city farm and a school and it is a market area. It is extremely interesting. I must enter the plea and, indeed, the expectation that, when the work is finished—if it goes ahead there—that area will be not only restored but improved and that the views of local residents will be taken fully into account from the start to the finish of the process.
Since the Crossrail Bill was deposited in 1991, the plans for the project have been refined. I have been told that only one listed building will need to be demolished completely and a further five listed structures will need to be partially demolished. It would be good if that total could be reduced further, but that is a matter for ongoing consideration.
We support crossrail, together with other major infrastructural projects on environmental and communication grounds and, perhaps above all, because we understand that we will not get out of this ghastly recession without such kick starts to the economy. Such projects play a key part in any Keynesian approach to economics. We will not get recovery unless we have major projects. Jobs and the multiplying effect in the economy come most effectively through projects of this nature.
There are various estimates of the number of jobs that will be created. It has been said that 60,000 jobs will be associated with the crossrail project. I have no first-hand knowledge of whether that estimate is on the high or low side, but, certainly, the project will be a substantial source of both direct or indirect employment.
For all those reasons, we support the Bill. In doing so, we tell the Government that this should not be the end of the process. It should not be the start of another long hiatus in which nothing much happens. The Bill will go to a Committee. I hope that it will not be bogged down for too long, although all objections and representations must be taken seriously and addressed. We want the project to go ahead on the basis that all the representations and concerns have been properly addressed.
That means that at some point the Government will have to get behind it. They will have to say where the money is coming from and underwrite funding, if necessary. They will have to give leadership—they cannot sit back, as they have done for years on other major infrastructural projects, and make woolly noises about the private sector getting involved. Nothing happens and months and years pass.
If the Government are serious about the project, they must say where the money will come from, give the necessary leadership and ensure that crossrail happens. They must do so sooner rather than later. If they prevaricate and if the process continues indefinitely, the people of London and the whole area served by crossrail will feel betrayed and let down by the Government yet again. Everyone who believes that the capital should have 212 a co-ordinated, modern transport policy will recognise again that, while the Tories talk big, they act very small indeed.
§ The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris)
I welcome this opportunity to confirm the Government's support for the Bill. I wish to add my own words of appreciation of the work which was put into the Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat), whose ministerial duties have obviously taken him elsewhere. As my colleagties will appreciate, it was the most exquisite case of the biter bit or the poacher turned gamekeeper when my hon. Friend translated himself from the putative sponsor of the Crossrail Bill into the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage with responsibility for protecting listed buildings.
§ Mr. Norris
As my hon. Friend says, there is no doubt an interest there too. My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich did a great deal of work in connection with the Crossrail Bill. I am sure that the whole House agrees that it is right to put on record a word of thanks to my hon. Friend for the valuable work that he did in bringing the scheme forward.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) has done a magnificent job in taking on the Bill at extraordinary short notice. To add to the comments made by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), I gather that Mrs. Lidington—as it is proper for me to refer to her in the House—was so shocked at the news that my hon. Friend had taken on the job that she produced his son and heir three weeks early.
§ Mr. Norris
Indeed, there was certainly no case of premature delivery there. The hon. Gentleman is right. But with his customary good humour, I am sure that he wants to wish Mrs. Lidington a happy time now with her new child. I am sure that the child will be a speed reader by the age of three if he is the scion of my hon. Friend. He will undoubtedly read at an early age of his formal introduction to the House at such an early point in his career. It is probably a parliamentary first.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury gave an excellent account of the Bill's scope and purpose so the reason for the Government's support is clear. He described what crossrail was and the benefits that it would bring to London, the south-east of England and the country as a whole. He spoke about the reduced passenger congestion that crossrail would bring, the faster and easier rail journeys that it would enable passengers to make into central London, and the better designed stations and trains that it would bring to London. Many of those benefits have been stressed in recent months by a wide range of interests.
We have received representations about the benefits of crossrail from many right hon. and hon. Members, local authorities, private companies, retailers' organisations, professional organisations, environmental groups and many others. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree about the importance of the benefits that crossrail will bring.
213 I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North, for the fact that, in the midst of his customary expletives about the Government's transport policy in general, a few words of general support for the Bill leaked out. I know that it was a painful process for the hon. Gentleman. I congratulate him on having stuck with it and saying at the end that he would support the Bill. It was decent of him.
I recognise how painful it must be for him to find himself associated with the Mayfair residents committee. But it is an experience that will come to him, as it comes to us all. It is not painful and he will get over it fairly quickly.
§ Mr. Wilson
As a matter of fact, I was thinking of applying for honorary membership. I said at the start that we supported the Bill. I said that we had supported it for a long time. I wonder who has supported it for the longer time. I suspect that it is Opposition Members and particularly my distinguished hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).
§ Mr. Norris
I would not dream of getting into a debate with the hon. Gentleman about whose is longer than whose. Suffice it to say that I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming beyond reasonable doubt that he is a putative Mayfair resident and that he supports the Bill.
The Government attach importance to the benefits of crossrail. I stress the reduction in congestion because it is at the heart of our policy for transport in London. We are determined to maintain London's competitiveness with other major European cities such as Paris and Frankfurt. Reducing congestion is a key element in achieving that.
As the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury said, crossrail will bring relief from congestion on many critical parts of London's road and public transport networks. It will reduce congestion on the Central line, as we agree. Hon. Members will also accept that it will ease Liverpool Street station. It will reduce congestion on the Great Eastern commuter services from the east and on the Metropolitan line from the west.
The pressure of congestion on those lines is serious now. We know that as the country pulls out of recession, increased employment levels will quickly cause that pressure and congestion to grow. We must obviously ensure that London is fully equipped to deal with the problem before it becomes critical.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
The Minister is right to say that crossrail will ease the Central line, because to some extent it will be a fast addition to the Central line. But can he explain how it will ease congestion east of Bethnal Green on the Great Eastern? There will be no additional tracks as far as I am aware, other than Union rail.
To enable me to make perhaps a less critical speech than I otherwise might make, if I catch the eye of the Chair, will the Minister tell us, in view of the Government's legislation, who will own the tunnels and stations of crossrail? Who will run the tunnels and stations, as distinct from running the trains?
§ Mr. Norris
On the first point, the hon. Gentleman has an extensive knowledge of the matter and he will appreciate that the crossrail route will not run parallel to the Great Eastern. However, it will offer to a raft of people in that part of west Essex in particular an alternative means of accessing the west end of London. That will thereby relieve congestion on the Great Eastern.
The hon. Gentleman is also right to say that the major reduction of congestion will occur on the Central line. That is an important point. I often hear commentators divide expenditure on London transport between what is known as core expenditure' and what is known as mega-project expenditure, as if the two were different. I frequently stress the point, which I know is appreciated by many hon. Members, that the two are integral.
We are in the process of spending £800 million on the Central line. I know that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West is aware of the scale of that investment. Many of his constituents will benefit from it. But the congestion on the Central line will be reduced by only about 15 per cent. as a result of that upgrading. The major benefit in congestion reduction will come with the crossrail project.
I shall say a few words about finance in a moment. If the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) will wait until then, I will answer his second point.
It is of course true that the employment levels on which the plans for crossrail were originally based—the assumptions in the central London rail study—are now some five years old. Of course, they look optimistic now because they were made before the depth of the recession became apparent. Traffic levels have certainly fallen since the assumptions were made. It may well take longer to achieve the forecast traffic levels, but we are confident that, with economic recovery, those levels will be achieved, albeit later than the central London rail study supposed.
I underline that crossrail is not a five-year or 10-year project. As with all the great underground rail projects in London, it is a project for the next 50 or 100 years.
Apart from the relief of congestion and the other benefits mentioned by my hon. Friend, crossrail also has an important role to play in the strategic development of London and the south-east. By providing a new fast link along London's east-west corridor, the project runs very much with the grain of future development in London. To the west, as we all know, the pressures of development have always been strong; to the east, there is the huge potential of the east Thames corridor, which the Government have recognised we should tap. One of the most important initiatives in that area is the high-speed line to the channel, the channel tunnel rail link.
Crossrail's benefits are closely linked with those of the CTRL. As the House knows, the Government's preferred route for consultation for the CTRL runs via Stratford into St. Pancras. The Kings Cross-St. Pancras underground station is already one of London Underground's most crowded stations. It could not readily cope with more than six commuter trains an hour coming off the CTRL. Part of the case for crossrail is that it would allow CTRL commuters from Kent to go westwards to the City and the west end, either through a direct link from the CTRL to crossrail or, if a stop is provided on the CTRL at Stratford, by changing onto crossrail trains there.
Meanwhile, the promoters have further developed the design of the project. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury referred to the additional provision which was deposited by the promoters in January. My officials and I 215 looked carefully at it. We noted that it contained several important new measures, including the provision for a possible new station at Northwood—which I am glad so delighted our hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson)—powers to change the design of certain ticket halls, powers to improve the location of certain ventilation shafts and so on. I am satisfied that those extra measures that the additional provision adds to the Biil are necessary to enable the crossrail project to develop satisfactorily.
§ Mr. Norris
I will indeed say a word or two about that. If it is possible in future to connect crossrail to the Heathrow express project which the British Airports Authority is taking forward with British Rail, that will provide a superb link from Heathrow into Paddington and thence into the City. For the first time it will be possible for people to get directly from a terminal at the country's major airport, which employs a great many people in my hon. Friend's constituency, to their office in the City of London via Liverpool Street station within a short period. That is one of the most exciting prospects that the crossrail project offers us.
Given that my hon. Friend's future is so closely entwined with that of Heathrow airport—he has never made any secret of that and he has been a campaigner for his constituents for many years—he should not underestimate the huge benefit to the viability of Heathrow that crossrail brings.
The irony is that at present there is a good train service from Gatwick to Victoria and a better train service from Stansted to Liverpool Street, but there is no rail service to Heathrow other than the Piccadily line. Any hon. Member who has had the pleasure of that service will know—
§ Mr. Norris
—as the hon. Gentleman says. that it is appalling. London Transport will accept that the hon. Gentleman means that it takes over an hour, it stops, there is nowhere to put luggage and it is an extremely inconvenient journey. The great advantage of linking the Heathrow express to crossrail would be to overcome that and to give the world's No.1 international airport the link into Europe's business centre that we as a nation must have.
§ Mr. Dicks
A point made in the discussion about the Heathrow express was exactly the point that my hon. Friend makes in relation to crossrail. It was said that a train running from Paddington to Heathrow every 15 minutes would be sufficient. Now it is argued that there is a little gap of 14 minutes between those trains and crossrail would fill it. In effect that means that every day there will be trains whipping past my constituents' homes continually. All I am saying is that my hon. Friend's argument for crossrail is the same as that made by the promoters of the Heathrow express.
§ Mr. Norris
No doubt it was, but for every person who is on a train there may be one fewer car emitting all sorts of pollution on its way through London to Heathrow airport and clogging up the M4. The benefits are 216 enormous. I hope that on balance my hon. Friend will consider the substantial benefits for those who live around Heathrow as a result of the reduction in the number for cars that will need to access the airport. Anything that enhances the viability of a major centre, such as Heathrow, to the degree that this project does is surely to be welcomed.
I must stress that crossrail is not the Heathrow express. My hon. Friend is right to link them. He suggests that somehow that is to be avoided and should be regarded with suspicion. I say that it is an opportunity of which we should enthusiastically take advantage.
We have already done a considerable amount of work on the way in which the project is to be taken forward. The House will recall that in announcing our public expenditure plans last November my right hon. Friend the then Chancellor of the Exchequer explained that we had been examining ways of increasing the scope for private financing of capital projects. He told the House of his decision to liberalise the rules for such financing. He also announced our intention actively to encourage joint ventures with the private sector where they involve a real transfer of risk to the private sector. He said that we would be prepared to consider such an approach for crossrail. That is precisely what we have been doing.
My right hon. Friend told the House in his Budget speech in March of the enthusiastic response that we had received to the private finance initiative. He said that we had concluded that it would be preferable to take crossrail forward as a joint venture with the private sector. We therefore set about re-examining the present proposals with a view to maximising the participation and financial involvement of the private sector and to securing the best value for money for the taxpayer.
Let us be clear what the initiative is about. Too often in the past the Government have treated proposed projects as being either wholly private or wholly public sector projects. We believe that there are considerable benefits to be gained, beyond the question of sharing costs and risks, from allowing private sector skills to become involved in the development of projects such as crossrail.
To answer a point made by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North, it is entirely right that the Government should be prepared to pay for social and other wider non-user benefits of a line such as crossrail. Nevertheless, we want to bring the entrepreneurial skills of the private sector to bear whenever we can: where it can tailor services to the market, increase revenue and exercise better control of our costs—in short, where it can invest its money at its risk and reap its reward. That process can also free scarce public funds to meet other important needs.
Before the hon. Gentleman comes back on that, let me make two points. First, that decision must be right, given that any Government of whatever complexion is faced with the finity of public expenditure and the fact that there will always be projects that although desirable are not affordable. That would be the case even if the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends were on the Government Front Bench, no doubt with him, or if the hon. Gentleman were where he is, and I hope that he stays there for a lot longer.
In that context it is important to look at the ways in which additional funding can be unlocked. That is what the private sector participation initiative does. I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North about the regenerative potential of such schemes, and no doubt he is right. However, I see 217 nothing in the writings of John Maynard Keynes that justifies a poorly valued project, which has been poorly researched and offers poor value for taxpayers money being advanced as a public project merely because it would create jobs.
That is not the test that must be applied. The most important test is that the project represents genuine value for money and allows us to add to that which can be provided in the private sector either by public or private interest.
§ Mr. Shore
Can the Minister be a little bit more specific? He expresses his enthusiasm for private participation in the project, but what are the orders of magnitude of which he is thinking, accepting that the total cost will be around £2,000 million? What proportion of that does he expect the private sector to contribute? He has the report of the consultants' examination of the prospects, and surely it would help the House if it were made public. We could then judge the project for ourselves rather than take it entirely on the Minister's word.
§ Mr. Norris
We appointed consultants to look at the project to see whether it was a genuine runner as a joint venture and how it might be made most attractive. They reported to us last month that it would indeed be an attractive joint venture. We asked the promoters to proceed to the Second Reading on that basis. It would have been wrong for us to do so had we not had that reassurance.
I am sure that the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) appreciates that I cannot anticipate what the final division of costs or investment might be as between the public purse and the private sector. That would quite properly be a matter for negotiation. The Government are not contemplating, however, simply a project that is substantially in the public sector to which the private sector might merely offer a small contribution. We are looking for the private sector to be fundamentally involved in taking the project forward. That would imply fairly sizeable funds being injected by the private sector.
What really underpins the argument, however, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, is that the project involves the private sector taking on a measure of the risk. It will be involved in identifying an income stream and the way in which that can be rewarded. Its own ability to control costs will be crucial because that will add value for those who will ultimately be the users of the scheme.
§ Sir Trevor Skeet
This extremely good scheme must be fostered because a private venture is an excellent idea. Assuming that it will be run on the basis of a 50:50 arrangement, and bearing in mind that we have a public sector borrowing requirement for next year of £50 billion, will the Government give a guarantee that they will come up with the money?
§ Mr. Norris
I hesitate to say to my hon. Friend that he is too long in the tooth because that might not be considered flattering, but he is experienced enough to know that I am not here to give guarantees for expenditure that will occur way beyond the public expenditure survey. My hon. Friend is absolutely right, however, that the project is a classic private sector one.
218 To assist the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney, I should say that the public sector benefit is assessable in terms of what I described loosely as the non-user benefits. That refers to reduction in congestion, the greater facility for business that is provided by the scheme and so on. That is a tried technique of assessment of which, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman had some direct experience when he held ministerial office.
If the project is taken forward as, essentially, a private sector one, but is underpinned by the concept of the public sector contribution reflecting those non-user benefits, it is a perfectly sensible marriage. I do not believe that it would be in the taxpayer's interest to reveal the full details of the reports which the crossrail team received and for which the Government called. I believe that the case is a perfectly sustainable one. It is not a question of wanting to keep secret the contents of the report because a great deal of it will necessarily be made public as the recommendations are brought into play. They underpin the fundamental decision that this is a good project, which is worth supporting.
§ Mr. Spearing
I appreciate that the Minister shares our fundamental desire to seek proper transport in London. He will recall that, four years ago, I sent a memorandum to the Department advocating support for the scheme as against others. Surely the Government are in danger, however, of doing what they have done before by taking their own views in abeyance of practicalities. The railway will be extremely expensive to build because it will need many escalators and tunnels, a lot of ventilation and a great deal of remedial work.
How will the Minister get the revenue from the capital involved to pay a sufficient return to any private capital that he may raise, even if the taxpayer provides support that does not expect a return? Is he not aware that the tube never paid in its early days?
§ Mr. Norris
Yes, of course I am aware of that. I do not want to get drawn into the detail, however, because the House will be bored to tears and because I am not sure that it would assist.
§ Mr. Norris
I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman a private tutorial on the subject at a place of his choosing.
The hon. Member for Newham, South should understand that the reality is straightforward. Were the scheme capable of being entirely financed at profitable levels by revenue raised from passengers there would be no need for the taxpayer to contribute. The scheme could then no doubt proceed. As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, however, when one considers the concept of tunnelling in central London, which is an extremely expensive business, the scheme, of necessity, is unlikely to be profitable in itself. That is precisely where the taxpayers' interest in the social and other non-user benefits, which are conveyed by the scheme, come into play.
The Government have therefore made it clear that they are prepared to consider investment in the scheme to reflect those benefits. That is not only perfectly good common sense, but a prudent way in which to undertake projects of this size. The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North is apparently not prepared to accept that that means that the amount that would otherwise be invested in the 219 scheme can now be available for investment elsewhere. I apologise to hon. Members for my behaviour just now, but the idea that there are no flies on me at last has some veracity.
§ Mr. Wilson
I thought that we were about to see the Government swot.
We know that the Minister paints with a broad brush, but could he focus a little, perhaps to the nearest half a billion pounds, on how much he expects from the private sector? I should have thought that he could give us a little help on that. Can he give us any idea of what he expects the private sector to do? Will it have an investment, operational or partnership role? Will the project be some sort of franchise enterprise? I am sure that the private sector would like to know what the Government have in mind for them, or is it all as vague as the fly that buzzes around?
§ Mr. Norris
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman on several counts. I do not believe that it would make any sense to negotiate in advance, in a vacuum. The precise form that any such agreement might take has yet to be determined and will no doubt largely depend on what developers tell us they believe is practicable. That is an important part of the process. There will be areas of interest where those in the private sector will say that we have got it wrong and that we will need to alter them if we want the proposals to succeed.
§ Mr. Norris
It is clear from what they have already said that they would like appropriate legislation in place so that the powers to deliver the project exist before they invest and participate in it. Beyond that, they have made it clear that they are prepared to listen, as we are. I believe that the dialogue that we have developed with them is extremely constructive. It is not a broad brush issue—there is a great difference between expressing principles simply, which I hope we are capable of doing, and glossing over important detail, which we are not attempting to do.
§ Mr. Butterfill
When the consultants considered the viability of the project, in what terms did they consider the compensation code? The 1991 code did not envisage negative equity for the houses that may be purchased. There are people who can afford to maintain the mortgage payments on their houses, but if those houses where compulsorily acquired, the occupiers would be left with a debt and nowhere to live. Will that problem be addressed during the Bill's consideration?
§ Mr. Norris
I shall say a word on that subject in a few minutes, if my hon. Friend will bear with me.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) should declare his interest.
§ Mr. Butterfill
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. From a sedentary position, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) asked me to declare my interest. I have no financial interest in the matter whatsoever.
§ Ms Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)
Hopefully, my constituents will be spared the blight that threatens Allen Gardens in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) which is slightly further to the west, and will be spared the 220 problems of compulsory purchase and negative equity mentioned by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill).
Why does the Minister believe that the private sector will be forthcoming with the finances for the project any more than it has been for the Jubilee line or the extension of the docklands light railway? What does the private sector have to gain? Surely the Minister must accept that such major changes constitute a public service and must be undertaken by the Government.
§ Mr. Norris
There is a considerable qualitative difference between the examples given by the hon. Lady and the crossrail project. She will know that the Government's contribution to the Jubilee line is committed, provided that the private sector contribution is forthcoming. The hon. Lady has a strong constituency interest in the area, and I think that she knows that the private sector is picking up the pieces from the Olympia and York administration and has been prepared to negotiate on similar terms to provide the necessary finance.
When that is forthcoming, the line will commence. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has always made that clear. I regard that as a straightforward developer-contribution project, which is not a precedent for what we are now discussing: We are talking about taking forward a project as a joint venture, which is fundamentally different.
§ Mr. Norris
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he will then allow me to proceed. I appreciate that the issue is important, but I am sure that the House would wish me to make progress.
§ Mr. Snape
I apologise to the Minister for not being able to wait for his private tutorial, but he cannot be allowed to wriggle off the financial hook so easily. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) said, the private sector has been less than forthcoming in contributions to the Jubilee line and has contributed only a small proportion of that development's total cost. The House deserves better from the Minister. We should know, at least vaguely—vagueness appears to be at the core of the Minister's speech—what proportion of the total bill for this massive but much needed project the Government envisage the private sector paying.
§ Mr. Norris
The hon. Gentleman should get his facts right. The private sector contribution to the Jubilee line extension is almost £400 million—a not insignificant amount of developer contribution. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well—implicit in what he has said is the understanding—that crossrail is a different sort of project. It has been taken forward as a private sector project on terms yet to be established. It would not be in anyone's interest to negotiate now in a vacuum on a project whose shape we need to refine with those who are seriously interested in advancing it.
There is no shortage of serious interest in such projects. The easiest thing that one can do in banking is take deposits, but that does not make a profit. One only makes a profit when one invests. Major bankers all over the world are interested in creative ways of investing in major infrastructure opportunities.
221 Private sector participation may lead to some changes in the scope or timing of some of the works proposed. I fully expect that we shall be able to say more about that by the time that the bulk of the Committee work is done, but for the present, the proper assumption for petitioners to make is that the promoters will continue to require the powers for which the Bill makes provision.
I should make it absolutely clear that our adoption of the joint venture approach in no way undermines the agreements that the promoters may have reached with, or the undertaking that they may yet give to, people affected by crossrail. I unequivocally state that if those undertakings are inherited by a private sector interest through a joint venture, they will be honoured.
Once the Committee stage gets under way, there will be a wide range of issues for consideration—I shall now mention just two. The first is the subject of compensation, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth. West (Mr. Butterfill). I know that some people regard the provisions of the current code as inadequate to meet the specific circumstances that arise as a result of crossrail's plans. The Secretary of State for the Environment addressed that issue.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury said, earlier this year the Secretary of State looked at some of the issues raised by those who regard the code's provisions as inadequate. However, it is not long since the Government reviewed the compensation code prior to the Planning and Compensation Act 1991. Therefore, the general view of my right hon. Friend is that the provisions strike a fair balance between the interests of landowners and the community as a whole, and he sees no immediate case for any further amendment.
Secondly, there is the issue of the way in which listed buildings are treated in the Bill. Clause 18 disapplies the normal statutory controls over the demolition and alteration of listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas. We decided that it would be appropriate for the promoters to include such a clause in the Bill when we gave them consent to deposit the Bill in Parliament in November 1991. That was an important decision and I shall remind the House of the background to it.
There has quite properly been much cross-party concern in recent years about the possible use of private Bills as a means of side-stepping conservation legislation. We accept that promoters should not as a matter of course be able to circumvent normal statutory planning consent procedures. But the statutory planning procedures should not be able to thwart Parliament's will. Important projects like crossrail should not be delayed and put at risk. Ministers responsible for such matters in the Department of the Environment and the Department of Trasnport reached agreement two years ago on the basis on which the Government would, in future, give consent to the deposit of private Bills including such clauses. It was agreed that such clauses would be allowed only in exceptional cases. The sort of scheme for which it would be appropriate to use such a clause would be a scheme of strategic importance promoted in pursuit of Government policy objectives.
§ Mr. Wilson
While we are on the subject of planning controls and straying outwith normal planning procedures, does the Minister agree that the administration of 222 the royal parks should not regard itself as being outwith planning procedures? The project's designers want to erect a ventilation shaft in Hyde park in a discreet way which I do not think would harm the landscape, but they should not act in a spirit that goes above and beyond planning controls. It may seem as improbable as me becoming a member of the Mayfair residents association, but on this occasion I am on the side of Westminster council.
§ Mr. Norris
The hon. Gentleman should be used to having strange bedfellows on the project. He is right: the issue is important. In my discussions with the crossrail team, it has made it clear that it intends, where possible, to apply the most stringent standards to its negotiations with those interested either in listed buildings or buildings in conservation areas. I know it has been in considerable negotiation with the authorities responsible for the royal parks. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State who was recently at the Department for National Heritage can confirm that that was the case.
§ Mr. Wilson
Perhaps we can take advantage of the presence of the Under-Secretary and the juxtaposition of responsibilities to which the Minister referred. I was asking whether the royal parks would accede to the views of the local authority and the crossrail project. From what the Minister says, I gather that the Government will say, "Thank you very much, but no, you are not doing it, so you will have to put it somewhere else," which will cause more problems and provide further objections from local residents.
§ Mr. Norris
The matter is still under discussion between the various parties involved, so I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman the conclusion. I underline that the issue is taken very seriously. That is true of the whole way in which the team intends to take forward consideration of buildings that are likely to be affected by the project.
That is the note on which I wish to end because it is for the Committee to take a view on the many detailed objections that have been the subject of petitions against the Bill. It is not for the Government, or for the House on Second Reading, to take a view on all those detailed points. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury has already described what works will be involved if Parliament confers the powers. Those, and the effects on petitioners, will be closely examined during the Committee stage of the Bill.
I assure the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney that hon. Members will examine in Committee the types of issue mentioned by him in his special instructions. So I do not believe that that instruction is necessary, nor that standing in the name of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), which covers very similar issues. Where they are relevant—as the hon. Gentleman will know from his long experience—the Committee will wish to consider them.
We in Government are determined to secure the future of London as a world-class city, for Londoners and for the international community. That means pressing forward quickly with crossrail as a joint venture between the public and private sectors. The project will bring enormous benefits, on many of which I and other hon. Members have dwelt at length. In view of those benefits, the Government support the Bill, which I commend to the House.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
I have standing in my name a motionThat the Bill be read a second time upon this day six monthsand an instruction, on which I have taken note of what was said by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) and by the Minister. I understood them both to say that my instruction was not necessary because, in the words of the hon. Member for Aylesbury, "they can take account" and because, in the stronger words of the Minister, "they will take account."
In view of those strong indications, I can safely leave my instruction, as it were, although I emphasise that it is important that the wider considerations which were mentioned in the instruction, and which relate to events since the crossrail project was originally launched, are seriously examined in the interests of all in London who wish to see the best possible expenditure of public and private money on the improvement of public rail travel in the London area.
I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Aylesbury, who has served the House well. It is remarkable that he should have picked up the Bill, as it were, and presented it so quickly, and to have done so against the background of the great personal events about which we were pleased to hear.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) kindly referred to my area, which is directly affected by the Bill, or at least by the line of the route, of which we are now aware. He spoke sympathetically about areas to which massive disruption is likely to be caused. I have no doubt that my area will suffer massive disruption; accordingly, I shall make a constituency plea before moving to some wider considerations of the whole issue.
It is an unhappy fact that the double large-bore tunnels will go from Paddington under the ground to Tower Hamlets, where they will come out in the Spitalfields area, which happens to be, on all the indices that exist, the most deprived area of London. The community there will be seriously affected by the development. It is an area of 9,000 people, formed of about 2,500 households, with a third of the population—the relevance of this will become evident —being under the age of 15. It is the largest concentration of Bangladeshi people in England.
That community has only one green open space available for general community purposes. That is called Allen gardens. It is precisely there that the tunnel will burst forth to the surface, heading for the viaduct. The effects of that will be considerable. Because it will be used as a work site, it will be out of action for almost the whole period of tunnel construction, which will be four to five years. Three substantial primary schools are located very close to Allen gardens and a large number of houses exist well within 100 m of where the tunnel will come out.
Anyone who has been near a large construction site will appreciate the great problems that face a community that is subjected to all the environmental disturbance—noise, dust and general congestion—that occurs in such circumstances. I hope that some compensation and mitigating measures will be available and that all possible means will be examined to ease matters. I am not hopeful that much can or will be done, so I am in favour of looking again at the precise route of crossrail.
224 I believe that there are alternatives. Indeed, some hon. Members have been supporting alternative routes in submissions that I have seen, and I hope that we shall hear more of that tonight. If the route cannot be altered or diverted in a way that will prevent the environmental outrage to which I have referred, I hope that tunnelling right through Tower Hamlets will be considered as an alternative.
Not only will the tunnel emerge in the Spitalfields area, but Allen gardens happens to be the very place chosen for a city challenge project. It is in its second year of city challenge. In other words, vast disruption will take place right in the middle of an area that is supposed, as part of the city challenge project, to be upgraded generally. Instead, it now faces great environmental deterioration. I hope that serious thought will be given to finding alternative solutions and that Allen gardens will not be used for this purpose.
I believe that we ought to say a little more about the origins of the crossrail project and look a little more carefully at the changes that have occurred since it was given the go-ahead. The Minister referred to the report in early 1989 by the then Secretary of State for Transport, from which I should like to quote:London's economy has been growing strongly in recent years. This growth is expected to continue. More and more people are seeking -to come to work in the tightly packed central area. Parts of inner London, most notably Docklands, are being transformed … All this is putting severe strains on London's transport system, which is suffering from heavy congestion at peak times on both road and rail.It was against that background that the two proposals were advanced: for a major upgrading of the rail network and for two major new developments—either crossrail, or the Hackney-Chelsea line, or both.
It is clear that the report assumes that employment would grow dramatically—hardly surprising, given that the study was carried out in 1988 at the peak of the economic boom. The projection was for 100,000 more jobs in central London by the turn of the century; a higher projection added another 150,000. Three years on, we know that these are not realistic figures. Far from a growth of 150,000 passenger movements, there has been a decline of about the same number. I cannot believe that that has not had a serious effect on the results based on the earlier models.
On 29 March, I asked the Minister a question about that matter. The Minister, saying that he had already answered his hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), stated that he had provided figures from a reassessment carried out in 1991. That is now somewhat out of date; the real damage to London has been done in the past two years. The Minister went on to say:A further reappraisal is in hand, and this will take into account the re-examination announced in the Budget on 16 March 1993."—[Official Report, 29 March 1993; Vol. 222, c. 1.]I am not aware that the further reappraisal has been concluded or that, if concluded, it has been made public. It certainly should be. I cannot believe that the figures from a 1993 assessment are anything like as favourable as they were in 1988 when the original assessment was made. There has been an important change, so I hope that the Minister will inform the Committee of the latest assessment figures.
London is changing, and the more dismal job prospects are not the only factor to be taken into account. It is rather dangerous to assume that, in the next 10 or 15 years, we 225 will resume the growth levels of 1988 in central London. A movement away from central London is taking place, helped a great deal by new communications systems. People do not have to be brought together in vast buildings in the centre of London; they can be more easily dispersed. That trend will continue. Even if there is a revival in the London economy, there are vast empty office spaces in docklands which can and should be used.
Since the central London rail study reported, there have been other rail developments, including the Jubilee line extension to Stratford, the channel tunnel rail link via Stratford through the east end of London, ending, we think, at St. Pancras, and the upgrading of the Central line. Oddly, no one in the Government, British Rail or London Underground appears to have considered the impact of those developments on the case for crossrail, nor whether, and if so to what extent, parts of those schemes can be integrated with each other. I am thinking particularly of the likely prospect of a further tunnel being built from Stratford, going through Tower Hamlets and heading down towards St. Pancras terminal.
If that fairly large project has to be built, it would be sensible to determine whether crossrail can be linked with it. That may seem child's play; one would hope that people with computers would seriously study the implications of one such development for others—
§ Mr. Norris
The right hon. Gentleman's proposition was suggested by Tower Hamlets borough council. He is right to think that there is some superficial appeal in the idea of an alternative route such as the one that he proposes. I asked the promoters and BR to look carefully at it, because I have a great deal of sympathy with much of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. They, however, advised me and the crossrail team in unequivocal terms that the alternative does not meet some of the central decongestion criteria that the project is designed to deliver. I will not elaborate now; suffice it to say that the idea has been examined and, unfortunately, had to be rejected.
§ Mr. Shore
I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. I am sure that such connected studies should be a permanent feature of transport planning in central and Greater London.
Another recent change since 1988 has been the cut in London Underground's core budget, announced in the 1992 autumn statement. That cut amounted to 30 per cent. Instead of investment of about £860 million in the financial year 1993–94, the autumn statement showed a huge cut, to £570 million. It will continue in the following years.
Given the impact that those cuts in the core budget will have, we should think rather carefully before embarking on more major capital expenditure. The cuts will have a serious effect on London. They will result in delay to the upgrading of the Northern line, so that completion cannot be achieved until at least 2004, and deferral of essential track replacement programmes.
Implementation of the east London line extension will be deferred by two years and no station refurbishment will start in 1993–94. The refurbishment of the interior of District and Metropolitan line rolling stock will be cancelled, as will work on the modernisation of various signals. Improvement programmes for public address systems will also be deferred. Surely there is a serious 226 argument for spending whatever money we have available on upgrading the existing core network before embarking on a new project of this kind.
Another change made since 1988 has some bearing on the matter—the privatisation of British Rail, which, along with London Regional Transport, is sponsoring the crossrail project. The position is quite interesting. Under the previous arrangements, although the crossrail line will require 70 new train sets, British Rail had to account financially for only about six—the difference being made up by redeployment of orders already made for other services. As long as BR continued as a large organisation, such redeployments seemed reasonable, allowing a certain flexibility. The question that now arises is whether that flexibility can be retained. If it cannot, will there not be a substantial increase in the capital cost of crossrail?
I believe that the questions that I have raised justify a thorough and up-to-date review of crossrail's costing. If we have the costing, let it be published, together with the costings of alternative rail projects in London.
Another consideration, which has already been aired, must throw serious doubt on the whole project. The financing of crossrail will depend substantially on a major private sector contribution. I asked the Minister about the report from Warburgs and Bechtel, and we have had some exchanges about the matter. On 26 May, he told me:The basis on which the private sector would contribute to the cost of the project will not be settled by 8 June."—[Official Report, 26 May 1993; Vol. 225, c. 571.]It is a pity that we could not use the information in today's debate.
The Minister tried to assure us that the private sector was willing and able to provide substantial finance. I did not find his argument entirely convincing—he may wish to intervene. My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) rightly mentioned the difficulty involved in the financing of the Jubilee line extension. Private sector money was raised because it served an obvious developmental purpose. As long as it was viable, Olympia and York considered the development attractive and was prepared—as a large firm—to make substantial sums available.
As we know, the firm is now in grave difficulties. The firms that have tried to take over from it, and the banks associated with it, have encountered considerable problems in agreeing to raise £400 million—which, although it is a considerable amount, is only about a quarter of the total cost.
In this instance, if I understood the Minister aright, we are talking about much more than a quarter of the cost of crossrail. This rail development could involve up to 50 per cent. private finance. I wonder how that will attract the private sector. For one thing, the crossrail project does not present the necessary developmental incentive: there is no Olympia and York standing at the end of the line, saying, "Come to me." The return on capital must be substantial to attract private capital on the required srale, given the investment alternatives.
Am I right in thinking that one essential component of the deal that the Minister is working out is that private return will be subsidised or that return on capital will be guaranteed by the Government? Both those methods may help the Minister to get around the PSBR restraints. I should like to be sure that I am following his thoughts correctly.
§ Mr. Norris
The right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that the Jubilee line extension is about a developer contribution—no more, no less. It is a big developer contribution, but great value is being delivered. The right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that Olympia and York had no difficulty with that. Of course, it was difficult to put back the pieces after the company went into adrninistration, but the principle remains coherent.
The right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that this is a different beast. It is a joint venture in which the Government foresee the partner taking on a much more proactive role as risk taker. It will earn a reward based on revenues that it will have some responsibility for generating by making its service attractive. It will earn a return on its investment that will be paralleled by investment from the public sector in order to reflect the non-user benefits—benefits that are real but are not captured by the fare box.
That is a straightforward concept. The right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished former Secretary of State and has dealt with similar projects. He is fair in his dealings with this matter. This is where we put the private sector in the driving seat, not endeavouring to earn a return across the whole of the potential capital outlay, but recognising that the public sector will contribute that which reflects the non-fare box benefits to the community.
In that context, the fact that the contribution will be substantially larger is of no great significance. It is a different type of project attracting a different type of participant.
§ Mr. Shore
That gives us a clearer idea of what is in the Minister's mind. I suspect that subsidy and guarantees on return of capital will be necessary to get any significant private investment because these rail projects are not inherently profitable. They are not natural areas for private investment of the scale that is now being thought of.
Given the state of our knowledge, the lack of an up-to-date survey of the project, the lack of a review of the alternatives and the hazy view of the funding arrange-ments, it would not be sensible for the House to give the Bill a Second Reading now. Therefore, I urge strongly that hon. Members support my motion to delay consideration of the Bill for another six months.
§ 9.7 pm
§ Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)
I blocked this motion, together with the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), mainly because of the suggestion of a construction at Hayes which will allow trains on the crossrail link to go into Heathrow. I have no real objection to crossrail in principle, but I wonder whether the promoters of the Bill—London Underground and British Rail—should be allowed to play with model railways on the front room floor, let alone be involved in a project as important as this. I should have thought that their track record should preclude them from being involved. That is a personal view built up after sitting for seven years on the Transport Select Committee.
It seems strange that the promoters want to expand from the original concept of going east-west and west-east through London to pop in to Heathrow to fill up the gaps that will be left by the Heathrow express. As I said to my hon. Friend the Minister in an intervention, the idea of the Heathrow express was put to my constituents on the basis 228 that it was essential to bring people from London, Paddington on a fast link to Heathrow because the underground and road links are bad. They were told that when the Paddington-Heathrow express was introduced, there would be no need for additional rail access to Heathrow.
My constituents reluctantly accepted it. I opposed it throughout and voted against it. We lost, but that is democracy. Now we have the concept of a fast link through London. The promoters say there will be a train from Paddington to Heathrow every 15 minutes and are wondering if they can slot in two or perhaps four additional trains a hour. They do not understand how it will affect people in my constituency.
§ Mr. Dicks
The hon. Gentleman from a sedentary position says "Come on," but perhaps he should be aware that local opposition is mainly from the Labour party. My opponent at the last election is acting as the spokesman for petitioners against this scheme. Before he makes those comments and before those on the Labour Front Bench are so quick to support crossrail, perhaps they should bear in mind the fact they are talking with a forked tongue, locally and in the House.
§ Mr. Snape
I realise that any argument that the hon. Gentleman puts forward will be carefully weighed intellectually. He appears to be saying that he reluctantly accepted a railway line through his constituency, but that his constituents' lives would be more disturbed if that railway line were used by trains on a regular basis. With the greatest of respect, even from someone of the intellectual flexibility of the hon. Gentleman that appears not to be too sound an argument.
§ Mr. Dicks
The hon. Gentleman, with all his clever witticisms, has missed the point. He does not understand that the additional construction works needed for the crossrail trains will produce a worse environment for my constituents than there would have been with only the Heathrow express. If he feels that the lives of my constituents are so unimportant that he can be flippant, perhaps he should talk to his Labour party friends in my constituency, who feel even more strongly than I do. His flippant remarks, first from a sedentary position, are normal for the hon. Gentleman and are perhaps one reason why he has moved from the Labour Front Bench to the Back Bench.
§ Mr. Spearing
Three years ago when the Heathrow-Paddington fast link was proposed, I asked some questions about its extension into central London and the City. Are not the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, whatever their political allegiance, acting under some misapprehension? Is it not likely that there will be a service from Heathrow into Paddington and beyond, perhaps at 15-minute intervals and perhaps stopping at Southall or Ealing Broadway, which would be a very fast service and would perhaps provide a superior service to him, his constituents and users of Heathrow airport and not stopping at Paddington but going straight through?
§ Mr. Dicks
That may well be the case, but if there are to be trains going past the homes of my constituents every 15 minutes and guarantees and assurances are given along the lines of the development of the Heathrow express, the 229 proposal that trains should be going past their homes constantly throughout the day is rather mean, to say the least.
The small viaduct that allows trains to come out of Hayes station and turn left towards Heathrow will have to be extended for the crossrail trains. I do not think it is as flippant a matter as the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) does.
Those who use Heathrow airport are beginning to believe that the need to develop the airport is of paramount importance for economic and financial reasons and to hell with the local community. The airport exists within the community and there has to be give and take on both sides.
Some airlines now want to fly their aeroplanes through the night. People want to extend the activities at Heathrow to the inconvenience of my constituents. Now crossrail wants to fill in the gaps between trains on the Heathrow express. Those people have to be reminded there is a community of people who live under the flight paths of aeroplanes at Heathrow with all the trials and tribulations. That should be brought to the attention of the promoters so that they bear it in mind in their further considerations.
Incidentally, my hon. Friend the Minister said just now that many of these matters are matters for the Committee. I was on the Committee which looked into the Dartford-Thurrock crossing and which made a unanimous recommendation about wind protectors on the bridge. When it came back to the Floor of the House, his Department overruled us and the Minister refused to believe what the Committee had decided. So how can we be sure that whatever the private Bill Committee suggests will be accepted by him and by his colleagues and pushed through? One does not know.
There is the problem of compensation. Perhaps I may read a short extract from a letter that I have received from a constituent:When the CPO is served we hope to move to another site but the compensation system will not provide funds in sufficient time to build another factory and gradually transfer production so that our work flow and output remain unaffected.My constituent feels that if compensation arrangements can be made in good time ahead of the change, to enable his firm to move its facilities, keep its business and service its customers' needs, it will be helpful, but the indications are that this will not happen. I just wonder why something cannot be done about that.
It is interesting that at the time of the Budget the impression after the Chancellor's speech was that crossrail would be on a back burner. For some strange reason that has yet to be explained, it has suddenly come forward at a rush, with no indication of where the private sector finance is to come from. Will the Minister explain in due course why we have moved from putting it on the back burner to this effort to get the thing moving? My constituents are rightly concerned about this and, regardless of the views of some Opposition Members, they expect their views to he heard and taken into consideration by the promoters. They would just like to know what is going to happen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes), as a Whip, cannot take part in the debate, but he is with us on the Front Bench. I know that he wishes to welcome the Second Reading and the important new rail 230 connnections and speedier services that crossrail will bring for his constituents. He is grateful to the crossrail team for its careful work that led to the West Harrow sidings being moved to the north side of the tracks. These sidings will therefore be away from the houses in The Gardens, West Harrow which would otherwise be badly affected by the building work and the line when completed.
My hon. Friend would also like to pay tribute to the residents of The Gardens who campaigned with great skill and determination for this very sensible change—in particular, Mrs. Russell, who is not in the first flush of youth, but who provided the drive and enthusiasm for their campaign. A second petition from my hon. Friend's constituents was drawn up by the Pinner South residents association. They and my hon. Friend are grateful to the crossrail team for the time and trouble that it has taken to answer their concerns.
Provided that a few matters of interpretation of commitments are tidied up, the Pinner South residents association will withdraw its petition on a "first house" basis. What is vital to tilt association is that, where people have their whole outlook changed, trees and shrubs should be planted wherever feasible by crossrail to limit the intrusion.
I say that because my hon. Friend is unable to take part in the debate. My, view is that of strong opposition to crossrail, not in its concept but in this minor change to Heathrow, whereas the views that I have put forward on behalf of my hon. Friend are fully in support of the crossrail scheme.
§ Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon)
I shall briefly restate the support of the Liberal Democrats for the concept of crossrail and for this Second Reading, which is a vital but rather belated step along the way.
It is regrettable that the Government have not been more forthcoming about the financing of the scheme because, as other hon. Members have said, their record on other major transport infrastructure projects, such as the channel tunnel high-speed link and the Jubilee line extension, has not been encouraging. The danger is that we will see a repeat performance with this, and some of the remarks by the Minister in his intervention in the speech of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) have not given much encouragement in this regard.
I wonder why he is unable to acknowledge that the crossrail scheme is not entirely a commercial viability and therefore to recognise the concept of what I think he describes as a social benefit which will accrue from it. Then it is assumed that the Government should calculate that by seeing what the private sector is willing to put up by way of finance and assuming that the remainder is the balance.
There is a gap between those two and it is essential that the Government fill that gap if the whole thing is ever to come about, because a perfect marketplace does not, and never will, exist. During the recession it has been very difficult to get the private sector to come forward with the money for these projects. This was unfortunate because, with 500,000 construction workers unemployed, many of them could have been carried out at a much better price than will be achieved when they finally get under way, if indeed they ever do.
231 The need for a project of this sort is clear. The increase in passenger traffic during the 1980s and the projections of further passenger growth in the decades to come are compelling arguments and make it necessary to carry out this project as quickly as possible. The overcrowding on other services in the capital is becoming unbearable already and, if the situation at Liverpool street, for example, can be improved, it will undoubtedly benefit many people in east London and west Essex, as the Minister mentioned earlier.
The earlier comments by hon. Gentleman to the effect that there was no connection between the drastic announcement from ABB and the delay in this project —some two years between the Bill being deposited and its coming forward for Second Reading—were very strange. I think there is a clear and obvious connection. The order for class 341 trains to the value of £500 million on the order books of that company might have helped to avoid this week's unfortunate announcement.
I refer briefly to some of the problems. Without wishing to involve myself in the constituency affairs of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), I have been approeached, as I am sure have many right hon. and hon. Members, by the London borough of Tower Hamlets, whose concern on behalf of its residents is understandable. There will undoubtedly be a price to be paid by people living in the area which the right hon. Gentleman has described. I endorse his suggestion that, if no more acceptable solution can be found, the prospect of a tunnel all the way to Stratford should not be lightly cast aside.
Compensation will be a matter of considerable concern to many and varied interests. That is something which the Committee will have to consider, as is the fact that many churches which are old and vulnerable structures are likely to be particularly at risk.
I believe that the House should give a Second Reading to the Bill as a statement of faith in London's future, but I believe strongly that the comments that have been made about the financing need to be addressed if this is not to become a complete white elephant.
§ Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
First, I want to add my congratulations to those offered by my hon. Friends to my neighbour in Buckinghamshire, my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington). It is pretty arduous and demanding to have a Bill and a baby at the same time. Which one will prove the more demanding only the passage of time will tell.
It is amazing that Network SouthEast moves 426,000 people in and out of London every day, out of the total of 1,042,000 who enter London during the peak hours between 7 and 10 am. We therefore have the problem, to which other hon. Members have alluded, of improving the existing system. We need to increase the capacity and flexibility of our public transport system, which continues to grow under ever-growing demands. The system needs modernising because we need to be able to attract more users off the roads and to provide visitors to and residents in our capital city with the system that they need.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to welcome today the progress on the crossrail project, which is badly needed, in my view, to refresh parts that other transport proposals have not yet reached in our city.
232 I should like to congratulate the engineers who have been working so hard on the crossrail project. Given that a White Paper on science and technology—the first for 20 years—has been produced recently and that we are starting to value the contribution of engineers to our society, they deserve a mention in the debate. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends will join me in recognising their great contribution to technology.
As we have heard, the project will relieve overcrowding, both now and in the future, and will contribute to the infrastructure of the City, helping it to retain its position as a world leading financial centre. As a freeman of the City of London, I emphasise that that is close to my heart. The City of London corporation strongly supports the scheme, which it believes is good news for the quality of life of all Londoners. It welcomes the estimated employment effects: approximately 74,000 jobs in the planning and construction phases and a possible 25,000 new jobs in the city—the equivalent of filling 6 million sq ft of office space or more than half the space that is vacant in the city at present.
At the same time, the corporation, as a petitioner, has the opportunity to be present at the table to look at the details of the scheme with the promoters and to protect the interests of those affected by construction work. A scheme as large and imaginative as crossrail will inevitably cause disruption, but it will be for the greater and longer-term benefit of London and the surrounding areas. I am sure that what we have heard on the compensation arrangements will gladden the hearts of many of those affected.
I am sure that the dialogue with the corporation will continue to progress well, and the crossrail team has been making a good impression with those with whom it has been negotiating and carrying on discussion. The corporation said:It may … be said that negotiations of a very helpful kind are proceeding between the Corporation and the Promoters, and there are gounds for optimism that they will be fruitful by the time a Committee stage is under way.That bodes well for the future.
There will be disruption, and in my constituency there will be changes to all three of our stations—Chesham, Amersham and Chalfont and Latimer. Those stations will have to be altered with platform extensions, and I hope that their character will be protected and enhanced.
Both Chiltern district council and I are concerned about another matter—the car parking demand at all three of the sites. Parking has been a problem in the past and will remain an issue in the future. There has been some loose talk about cancelling the Aylesbury and/or the Chesham link, and I am pleased to see that enabling powers for that part of the route have been included in the Bill. It is essential that the crossrail project is completed right up to the Aylesbury link to ensure a more even spread and balance, certainly of park-and-ride commuters, who may travel from further afield to use this magnificent system. A greater recognition of the burden on local authorities at the end of the line should be taken on board by all the promoters and even perhaps by the Government when they are considering the standard spending assessments.
In the interests of the environment, we wish to encourage people to leave their cars and use an efficient public transport system, but we must ensure that they have safe secure areas in which to leave those cars. That is a particular problem at the Buckinghamshire end of the 233 crossrail route, and I expect that matter to be considered carefully. Some time ago, one of my constituents wrote a letter to my predecessor, saying:Chesham needs its rail link to keep it on the map and for relief on our roads, and extra permanent car parking places —If Crossrail can bring these things to the Town it can't come soon enough.I also seek reassurance on certain environmental matters such as tree lopping, which will be necessary in the Buckinghamshire area. We need to ensure that the overhead conductors are clear of our trees, but the county council has expressed concern about those arrangements and I hope that those details will be taken into consideration. Similarly, the fine detail of the five bridges that will have to be raised to accommodate the new service in my constituency will require close examination to ensure the minimum disruption for the inhabitants of Chesham and Amersham.
The county council strongly supports crossrail. In a letter to the Prime Minister in May, the council stated:Buckinghamshire County Council strongly supports the Cross Rail project and in particular the proposals for improvement to the London to Aylesbury linkwhich, of course, passes through my constituency. The council continued:Without this important investment the economic development of central and southern Buckinghamshire will be significantly frustrated … There is substantial local support for the Aylesbury-London Cross Rail project among the business community and among the local authorities. Any decision to drop the project or to postpone the Aylesbury link would be seen as a severe blow to all our efforts and would be very unpopular.I hope that the promoters will continue their detailed consultations with county and district councils in relation to their concerns so that agreements can be reached on all sides.
I want to refer now to an issue about which I am not particularly satisfied at the moment, despite earlier discussions with the promoters—mobility-impaired access. Access is being provided at only 15 of the 41 surface stations. Although I recognise that step-free access will be available at all five central London stations, I am concerned about other areas such as my constituency.
It is proposed that in my constituency, access for disabled people will be made available at Amersham and Chesham, but not at Chalfont and Latimer because of its proximity to Amersham. I will be urging the promoters to reconsider that policy and I will press for an upgrading at Chalfont and Latimer. We are building a major transport system for the next century. For the marginal costs involved, particularly at this one station, I hope that the promoters will not seek to disadvantage a section of my constituents by not providing ease of access to a system which, after all, will last us for the next 50 years.
For any public transport system to be successful, it needs the basic criteria of accessibility, capacity and frequency. Let that accessibility be for all. Capacity and frequency are being increased and both will be welcomed by all travellers. They will particularly welcome the links to Heathrow and the channel tunnel route.
My constituents in Chesham and Amersham welcome the crossrail project. It represents a vital upgrading which will improve their access to other parts of the capital, the country and the continent. I wish the Bill well.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) referred to her constituency and I have a query about the map that the promoters have supplied.
However, I want to take a much wider view about the promotion and to begin by saying that if an hon. Member who was in this place in the 1850s were suddenly to return today, he would find himself on familiar ground. In the late 1850s, there were a number of Bills before the House, one of which succeeded and established the Metropolitan railway. The Metropolitan railway was the first London crossrail and virtually the first underground railway in the world. Questions of finance, planning, services, facilities and safety and all the issues which the Committee will discuss were also live issues 140 years ago.
There are more similarities than may be apparent. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham referred to the City of London corporation. I am glad to say that the Metropolitan railway owed something to the then perhaps enlightened City of London with regard to its construction. At that time the City was engaged in slum clearance in the Fleet valley. As new roads were being built, it was decided to build the railway beneath them. That happened below what used to be called New road and which we now call Euston road.
At that time, there were also discussions about the salubrious residential areas of Paddington which would be connected to the City by the new rapid means of transport. No doubt the directors of the then Great Western railway saw an opportunity to extend their trains to the City. Hon. Members will be surprised to know that, until 1939, trains ran from Southall to Paddington, where an electric locomotive was put on and people were taken through to Aldgate. It is not a new idea. I see that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) has gone—[Interruption.] I am glad to see that he is still here.
The first terminus of the Metropolitan railway was at platforms 1 and 2 at Liverpool Street. Until recently, there was a link in the tunnel from the Metropolitan railway to the Great Eastern railway at Liverpool Street which was used by trains until 1904. Coincidentally, the last train to use that link was a railway excursion from Aylesbury to Great Yarmouth via the Metropolitan railway at Liverpool street, so we are not talking about anything new.
The finance of that railway was a major feature of discussions in the House at that time, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) rightly referred to that. It is not simply finance for the building and the rate of return. After all, even with dense traffic, not much revenue will be coming in over the expensive five miles of tunnel, with the stations, the lifts and escalators, ventilation and so on.
The Government are complicating matters through the other legislation in another place. When I asked the Minister who would own the railway, he talked at the end of his speech about finance, which was most interesting, but not about ownership. The first crossrail company that gave those extra facilities was the Metropolitan Railway Company. It owned the track and the tunnels, signalled the trains and allowed the Great Western to come in at one end and the Great Eastern at the other end.
The second crossrail company was the District Railway Company, with its original terminus at Mansion House. At one time, one could walk to Westminster underground 235 station and get a train to Windsor via the link at Ealing Broadway. Indeed, until the outbreak of war, one could get a train at Ealing Broadway and go all the way to Southend. We are not talking about anything new; we are talking about a new method of railway control. Who will run all the links to which the hon. Member for Aylesbury referred, and which the Minister rightly emphasised? Will they be run by the group of people listed by the Secretary of State in his recent press release? Will that provide the sort of rigidity that might not be for the benefit of everyone involved? As the Metropolitan railway provided that facility in its initial phase before it settled down as an inter-urban track, there is a certain rigidity in the maps provided.
I shall refer to such matters because we must think of this important tunnel with its facility in much wider regional terms than has been accepted so far. Indeed, the concept of a fast deep railway is not new. Such railways were built in New York about the turn of the century. In the 1920s, the Metropolitan and District lines had plans for deep-level tubes as express tubes to relieve congestion on the original routes.
Let us examine the wider aspects, especially the routes, frequencies and services that may be provided. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham referred to the problems at that end of the line. What has not been made clear—although it may be in some of the literature that I have read—is whether the Metropolitan line service for rail electric as far as Amersham will be extended further or whether there will be electrification from there to Aylesbury. Presumably. the fast crossrail will provide the fast services, perhaps stopping at Harrow and Amersham and then stopping at Aylesbury, as will probably be confirmed.
§ Mr. Lidington
To assist the hon. Gentleman, the proposal is that, once crossrail is operational on that branch, the services that are provided at present by the Chilton line of British Rail from Marylebone to Aylesbury and those provided by London Underground from Baker Street to Amersham will be taken over by a crossrail route that serves Aylesbury and the intervening stations listed on the map through to Paddington. Trains will go to Paddington, rather than to Marylebone. The Metropolitan line will continue to run its service, stopping at all its present stations to Watford and Uxbridge.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting that on the record in the Second Reading debate. The debate is an opportunity to clear up points that people want to raise. The Committee will be able to refer to them.
There is some rigidity in the plan. Other options west of London might be considered and taken up. Everyone has said that the project will last for 50 or 100 years, so we should consider all the options now and ask why they have not been chosen. The hon. Member for Aylesbury mentioned some of the terminals at Paddington. What about Old Oak to High Wycombe? The line goes along the back of Old Oak depot. What about that magnificent line built in the early years of this century? It is a fast and wide railway from Old Oak junction up to High Wycombe. There are plenty of places along the line. I know that they are served by Marylebone at present, but the line is a possibility.
Reading is shown as the terminal. Of course, it will be, if electrification goes to Reading. Are we to suppose that, 236 Governments permitting, there will not be electrification beyond Reading, perhaps to Oxford? What about the Bristol main line? I am sure that Brunel would be shocked that we have not electrified his wonderful railway of that wide gauge, of which I shall say more in a moment.
What about the Heathrow link? I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury to ask about trains from Heathrow to perhaps anywhere east—perhaps Ilford or Shenfield. More logically, a link could go up the Lea Valley to Stansted airport. That would provide some airport logic, if nothing else.
One of the puzzles of the western entry is that the planned route of the crossrail proposal crosses the west coast main line overhead. There is already a rail chord joining it. Is there no possibility of trains coming down the west coast main line and occasionally using crossrail? That could happen perhaps at weekends—on Saturdays or perhaps for a rally at Hyde park on a Sunday. There is no reason why the Sunday services should not run at different times, as they do in other parts of London to respond to changed demand. I am sure that they will. If this magnificent facility is built, it will provide that great flexibility.
What about east London? The flexibility there is perhaps even greater. I have already mentioned the Lea Valley line up to Stansted airport and perhaps as far as Cambridge. The line is electrified in any case, with fast electric trains with sliding doors which go at about 100 miles an hour. Kings Lynn or Norwich would certainly be within range. I am sure that the Secretary of State would be interested in that.
What about the Chingford link? Chingford is being excluded from the possibilities. The line runs through Walthamstow. I told my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow—
§ Mr. Spearing
It is in the same borough. I told my hon. Friend the railway story, which deserves repetition, of the old lady before the war at Liverpool Street, from which a 10-minute jazz steam service ran up and down to Enfield and Chingford. She said to a porter, "Please my man, when is the last train to Walthamstow?" The porter said, "Lawd bless you ma'am, there ain't no last train to Walthamstow." The trains ran every hour through the night. Yet Walthamstow is not being included as a possibility for crossrail.
The greatest conundrum has been referred to only in passing. The Government place great emphasis on the east Thames corridor, yet no Tilbury through line is shown, even though the electrified lines already exist. Another conundrum is the connection, if any, with Union Rail. The Government have said that fast trains will run from Kent into the Stratford area. Why should people from Kent be deprived of going direct to Oxford street to shop? Why should the people of Chatham not have the facilities that the people of Amersham already have? I do not know the answer, but at least there is a possibility. Such a link may not be the immediate plan, but there is nothing to stop it in the long run.
The biggest anomaly is the beauty contest that the Government have precipitated between Ebbsfleet, which is adjacent to Chatham, and Rainham and Stratford. Union Rail is not too keen on any international station at Stratford being defined as the terminus for international 237 trains. There will be some sort of competition—that is not too strong a description of what will happen—between now and October, and I do not want to prejudice it. My Newham membership will indicate where my sympathies lie.
There is a lack of railway logic in the project. It has appeared as a gaping hole, at least in the technical thinking. That is illustrated in the concern of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) for Allen gardens and the junction with the Great Eastern suburban lines. At present, the operators are thinking of an old-fashioned flat-level junction near Allen gardens to join up with the suburban lines of the Great Eastern. If there is to be an international station at Stratford, perhaps on the north of the present station, with good connections, crossrail should be linked to that. There is at least a possibility of taking the tunnels a few hundred yards or a mile further east. There are sites readily available which would provide a good junction from crossrail not only to the suburban lines of the Great Eastern and to a link to Tilbury, but also to the fast lines to Norwich, the Lea valley and, possibly, Stansted. That would not cost much extra, bearing in mind the great cost of tunnelling in central London.
We should consider this not just in terms of the routes on the map, but as an imaginative public transport facility for the 21st century which is combined with inter-city transport and, no doubt, international transport through what the Minister interestingly calls the CTRL, which I translate as the channel tunnel rail link—not Union Rail.
I return to my opening theme. Who will own the track and run the stations? Will people be able to use a future travelcard on this link? I know that the Minister has strong views on that. Will crossrail be part of a super Network SouthEast of rapid inter-urban modern trains running at high speed and connected perhaps to some of the routes to the south which were electrified in the 1930s? Or will it be made impossible to operate through financial arrange ments that the Government are embarking on now, whereby the running of trains, the management of track, finance, the return on capital and the operation of joint stations—which there is bound to be with London Transport or whatever remains of it—will be complicated?
Will we have in the centre of London the problems that are spread around the country and that are implicit in the legislation that we have been contemplating? [Interruption.] I am glad to see the Minister for Public Transport coming into the Chamber at this point. So far, all that that legislation has presented has been complication after complication and difficulty after difficulty. If Railtrack does not survive—I cannot see it doing so—one of the agencies to operate, own and be responsible for the track will disappear.
To return to the theme with which I started, legislators of 140 years ago, tackling similar problems to those of today—most of the essence of this issue was present then—would be astonished and astounded that the Government are not contemplating a single operational entity responsible for this imaginative five to six miles of tunnel through which many services might come. We hope that there might be flexibility over the years as strategic planning gets back on the map. We hope that this will 238 serve London as its urban railways have done and serve it well. These issues must be faced fairly and squarely and dealt with properly in Committee.
The instruction proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney would ensure that that happens, and I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Aylesbury say that that will not be excluded from consideration. If any petitioner brings that up, he should be listened to with care and attention, because without proper co-ordination and proper arrangements to provide facilities for passengers and flexible ticketing of the type that has been successful in London in the past few years, the project will not be the success that it deserves to be.
§ Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley)
I add to the warm congratulations that have been heaped on my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) on acting as sponsor of the Bill and introducing it at short notice tonight. I also welcome the Government's support, both financial and general, for the Bill.
It may be regarded as something of a curiosity that 1, as the Member for Finchley, whose constituency is on the north-south Northern line, have the temerity to speak in a debate on the east-west route. I am concerned, however, about the general benefits of the project deriving to the City, London and my constituency and I have some interest in urban regeneration as I am the immediate past chairman of the British Urban Regeneration Association.
The course of the debate has led to one certain conclusion—our capital city needs the best form of infrastructure. No city can live, breathe or prosper without such infrastructure. At the moment cars move around London at an average speed of just 7 mph. There is notorious and widespread congestion on the underground. The Northern line, which will be served by crossrail, has a well-known congestion spot at Tottenham Court road. I hope that that will improve with the intersection with crossrail.
Repeated reference has been made to the risk to future investment in the City if we do not provide adequate infrastructure. I echo what my hon. Friends the Members for Aylesbury and for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) have said and emphasise it. Given that Singapore Hong Kong and Jakarta, on the ever more wealthy Pacific rim, are providing splendid new infrastructure to compete with west Europe, surely it is right for London to provide the best possible infrastructure. It is vital that we undertake projects such as crossrail.
I am persuaded from discussions with the promoters that the speed improvements—a saving of half an hour on the line from Aylesbury into central London and a quarter of an hour from Reading into central London—together with the comfort of the new trains and rolling stock, will mean fewer cars will travel on the roads in central London. That would be a crucial spin-off benefit of the Bill.
Concern has been expressed, however, bout the disturbance that the project will cause. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) referred to that in connection with his end of the proposed tunnel. According to the promoters, 20 work sites will disgorge earth and soil from the ground; 16 of which will involve the movement of 100 lorries a day. That noise and disturbance will continue for up to three years of the projected five-year span of the project.
239 When faced with the stark facts, the promoters say that they are only too happy to abide by the construction industry's best code of practice, which means that no lorries will emerge from the work sites at night. The disturbance caused by digging and other extraction from the tunnel will be minimised. I hope that those disturbance problems will be ironed out in Committee. I have spoken to the promoters and I am satisfied that they are bearing the problems in mind and trying to ensure that our city, which needs the infrastructure, will suffer as little as possible during the construction stage.
I support the Bill, not because it will provide a kick start, as the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) suggested—I hope that it will be more of an electrical start—but because it will improve infrastructure in the working as well as the investment environment. I also support it because of the spin-offs that it will provide for my Finchley constituency—through Tottenham Court Road and the fact that it will mean fewer cars on the roads in all surburban parts of London. I believe that the project is well designed and a good buy. It will provide 150 km of new concept railway from a tunnel that is only 10 km long —it is demonstrably a good buy.
The project has a wider general benefit. The improvements that we gain tonight by way of the Crossrail Bill will, I hope, tomorrow apply to the Northern line.
§ Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
I speak as a Member of Parliament who represents a constituency which has a station on the crossrail line but which will not, as far as I know, be substantially changed. There are strong arguments for improving Ilford station which we could consider. I believe that the Bill and the project should be supported as a necessary but insufficient step towards improving transport from east London and Essex across London.
If crossrail becomes a reality, it will significantly reduce travel time to Paddington. It will make it possible for people from my constituency to travel to Heathrow airport without having to allow two hours to get there and then waiting an hour for a plane which might be delayed. It is a long journey from Ilford and parts of north-east London to Heathrow airport. If the developments, including a possible change at Heathrow and the crossrail link to Heathrow are achieved, they will greatly benefit my constituents.
I have a number of concerns about the Bill. I do not want to repeat what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and my hon. Friends the Members for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). We must consider an integrated long-term plan for public transport in our capital city. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) referred to 1947 and the development of the Central line. He may not be aware that London Transport is currently proposing to stop trains running between Epping and Ongar.
Over the years there have been significant cuts in the Hainault to Woodford line. Anyone who travels on the Central line into central London and stands on the overcrowded platforms at Leytonstone or Leyton when trains are delayed, as my constituents do, will know that it becomes positively dangerous for any more trains to empty their passengers on to the platforms as there is no 240 space. People who travel on that line will know of the need for significant improvements, as well as proper integration with the British Rail link.
We must consider the channel tunnel—its connection to Stratford and a passenger interchange at Stratford, which is vital. In that way we could take some of the pressure off the existing Central line.
But the real answer lies in investment in public transport. I refer not simply to crossrail but to the whole gamut of public transport services in London. I am especially worried on that count when I recall that last year's autumn statement led to drastic cuts in the investment funds available to London Transport. That has resulted in LT not being able to do the job that we all accept is necessary. Investment is vital if public transport in the capital is to work more efficiently. To achieve efficiency, we must have the necessary resources, yet we know from what has occurred with the Jubilee line and the channel tunnel that we cannot rely on hypothetical private sector investment—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be read a Second time.
§ 10.1 pm
§ Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) on taking the Bill forward. It is particularly welcome to me because it means that a matter of great and direct importance to my constituency is in the hands of an extremely capable and trusted hon. Friend and neighbour.
A glance at the map shows that my constituency is shaped like a funnel. Many people dribble down it into Aylesbury, so the line there is vital to many of my constituents, particularly bearing in mind the fact that my area is not well served by large roads. Clearly, we have a strong interest in the Bill and we welcome crossrail proceeding through to the Aylesbury link.
Access to London by road from my part of the world is highly problematical, as anyone who has traversed Western avenue will know. Road works along it are eternal. The A413 is in part reduced to what resembles a single track country road. It is all very primitive and old-fashioned and we need a modern high-speed, low-priced—an important point, to which I shall come —railway such as exists in some curious countries on the mainland of Europe.
The Minister should not be too upset at displays of scepticism over some financial aspects of the proposal. I am sorry to say that I vibrated a little in sympathy with some of the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). I say that because scepticism is justified when we remember that we have no examples of such grandiose ideas of public-private railway systems functioning, not just in this but in analogous countries.
241 Others, like me, find when they are abroad that private telephones work, so we vote for them here; that private electricity companies work, so we vote for them here; and that private water companies work, so we vote for them here. But I do not vote for the privatisation of railways for the simple and pragmatic reason that I have not experienced many of them abroad. Indeed, I have not used them abroad and, as a Conservative, I like the idea of seeing things working before I vote for them.
Hence, like some Opposition Members, I am worried about the financial future of the Bill. While hon. Members on both sides are saying that it is a grand idea, I am left wondering who will pay for it.
I differ from Opposition Members in that I am ready to say that I would like the Government to adopt a much more centralising, strategic role in transport planning, but I also believe it logically impossible to want that without stating where the money will come from. So, in order to maximise Government spending as necessary on proper transport schemes we must be perfectly honest about where the money will come from. It should, of course, come from a diminution of universal benefits and tax breaks, such as mortgage tax relief, which damage our economy. That money should be put into transport as a prime area of investment, to strengthen our economy.
Anyone who believes that this is a quirky view should read the article in The Daily Telegraph today, written by Mr. Howard Davies, the director of the CBI, who singles out transport as the prime area in which the Government should invest for the benefit of industry and the country.
I do not want to sound too doubtful. I should be delighted if the Government came up with a viable and swift scheme for public-private co-operation. That is what my constituents want. Conversely, I would be pretty fed up —as would many of my constituents—if this beautiful idea evaporated because it was not anchored in sensible finance.
§ 10.6 pm
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
I should like to add my belated congratulations to the hon. Member for Ayslesbury (Mr. Lidington) on his double joy of a baby and a Bill. I assure him that there will be a lot more bills to follow the birth of the baby—but not of the parliamentary variety. It is just as well that the gestation period of his wife's baby was not as long as that of this Bill, which has taken some years to progress from conception to Second Reading.
I listened with great care to the speech by the silver-tongued Minister. I am afraid that I came to the conclusion that the Government's transport policy, particularly for London, was drawn up by Samuel Beckett. The Minister will of course recall that Beckett wrote a famous play called "Waiting for Godot". Clearly that principle seems to attend the Government's transport policy in respect of crossrail and a number of other proposed ventures. He will also remember, as he is a classically trained literary gent, that the two main characters in the play were Gogo and Didi, two tramps. I find it difficult to envisage the Minister of State as a tramp, the more so in view of the cut of his Saville Row whistle and of the amount of gold in his Rolex watch, which I understand the new Chancellor has been eyeing up 242 enviously—working on the assumption that there is probably as much gold in that watch as he will get from a new tax hike.
It is a lot easier to see the more crumpled and sartorially challenged Secretary of State as one of Beckett's tramps. Like Gogo and Didi, the two Ministers sit under the tree waiting for something to turn up. Today, crossrail; yesterday, the Jubilee line extension; the day before, the channel tunnell so-called fast rail link to London.
In London, all we get from these two political tramps is unending talk, press releases galore and interminable newspaper stories with headings such as, "Minister/ Government gives green light to crossrail—or Jubilee line extension, or something else". Then come all the follow-ups about the doubts and question marks, the delays and rethinks:Jubilee line extension faces the axe";Ministers consider flotation to fund tunnel rail link".The idea of floating a tunnel is rather wonderful.Minister minimises Jubilee line snag";A compromise to get Jubilee line back on track".The only consistent theme in all these schemes is that, rather like Godot, they never show up. I hope to continue my literary allusion a little longer, by adding that I trust that the Minister is familiar with the fact that Gogo and Didi contemplate hanging themselves on the tree if Godot does not arrive. Even in my darkest moments, I would not urge such a solution on the Minister or the Secretary of State; apart from anything else, they would probably bungle it. But I wonder how much longer they can hang on to their political credibility, in the absence of political action.
Recent talk on the street, as they say, was that the Minister had had enough: that he was becoming depressed, rather like the Prime Minister. This highly successful seller of secondhand Rollers—as we know he used to be—had eventually been laid low by his failure to sell a third-rate transport policy to London. I am glad to say, however, that the Minister is still with us, hanging on in there like a driver in a clapped-out Lada, wondering whether the wheels will drop off before or after his big end goes. What a way not to run a railway!
Opposition Members want crossrail to go ahead, and we shall vote for the Bill's Second Reading. However, we shall do so without illusion. I am not convinced that the project will come about while the present Government are in office. On this occasion, I hope that I am proved wrong; but I have a distinct feeling that, rather like the grand old Duke of York, the Minister is marching us up the hill tonight only to march us down again tomorrow. As other hon. Members have pointed out, if crossrail is built, it will relieve heavy congestion on the most overcrowded sections of London's existing underground network, and will take much traffic off the roads. We would welcome that in London and the south-east: it makes great sense, which is why—as my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) said earlier—the original proposal came from the Greater London council.
We are worried by the estimated cost of £2 billion during the period to 1999. The Minister has given us no guarantee in regard to where the money will come from. Earlier, a little interchange took place in the Division Lobby between my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) and myself. Like a number of other Labour Members from outside London, he asked why all this investment should go into London.
§ Mr. Banks
My hon. Friend is becoming very jealous, bitter and twisted in his old age. I understand that our right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) recently failed to turn up on the television programme "Have I Got News For You" for the third time; perhaps my hon. Friend could stand in for the right hon. tub of lard that replaced him. He is certainly substantial enough adequately to represent the former deputy leader of the Labour party.
Let me tell my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow, and other Opposition Members representing constituencies outside London, that we are not just discussing investment in London. Projects such as crossrail and the Jubilee line extension mean jobs in manufacturing industry outside the greater London area. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow said that crossrail would not provide shipbuilding jobs on the Tyne; as I told him, it would be very difficult to run ships on crossrail, but—given all the assurances provided by the hon. Member for Aylesbury in his attempt to get the Bill through tonight—he will no doubt assure my hon. Friend that that will be done if at all possible.
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the appointment of consultants in his Budget speech on 16 March. Their reports have been presented to him. The Bechtel report has proposed some cost adjustments, and S. G. Warburg—appointed to assess the viability and options for private finance—has reported favourably. I hope that, in fairness to the House and the Standing Committee, the Minister will make those reports available, because they are very important. The Minister said that they contained favourable comments about the financing of crossrail; I think it incumbent on the Government to present them to members of the Standing Committee, so that they can make their decisions on an informed basis.
The Minister understands a bit about money. Why does he not talk ackers? The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) rightly pulled him up on this. How much will the private sector contribute to crossrail? The Minister said that the private sector wanted to see the legislation in place, and that it would then consider. He cannot have it both ways.
The Minister said that in the reports, the private sector said that it was favourably inclined towards crossrail. How can he now say that it wants to see the legislation in place before coming up with a definite deal? The Minister did not give the House enough assurances, and he certainly did not satisfy his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden).
There was no indication of the proportion expected to be forthcoming from the private sector or on what basis it would wish to participate. The Minister has to answer many more questions, if not in the House, they must be answered when evidence is being taken in Committee. The Minister gave no guarantee about the Government's financial commitment. This looks to us to be something akin to the Jubilee line extension. We are waiting for it and the Minister keeps assuring us that everyone thinks that it is a good idea and that money is forthcoming. When is it to happen? The Minister must answer that question.
My borough of Newham has petitioned against the Bill because, among other things, it wants to secure full disabled access at all stations, to all platforms on all the rail services covered by Crossrail. I hope that the hon.
244 Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) will say something about that, because there has been no mention of disabled access so far. Crossrail proposes disabled access only to Stratford and other central London stations.
Notwithstanding what I have said, we wish the Bill well. However, we will not hold our breath while we wait for crossrail to be constructed.
§ Mr. Norris
With the leave of the House, I should like to make a brief reply. I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). It was wonderful—a real pleasure. I have always felt diffident about the fact that the hon. Gentleman is clearly obsessed with my life style. Scarcely a day goes by when he does not either make an offer for my car or, on occasions, for my watch, which is an extraordinary implement which does not even tell the time very well. There is not a word of inscription on the back, either in English or in Latin. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will keep this strictly between us.
On one occasion, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West wanted to know more about my tailor. He happened to be enjoying a ride in my ministerial limousine at the time. It does not give me much pleasure to record these facts, but I lay them on the record because it is important to understand them.
§ Mr. Norris
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) is a shrewd judge in these matters.
This is all good, jolly knockabout stuff, but it misses an essential point. The Labour party has an extraordinary sterility on the business of investment in infrastructure in Britain. It has only one solution—the taxpayer must pay. There is no equivocation, it is always the taxpayer who pays. The Conservative party believes—it seems to be beyond peradventure—that there are many opportunities for investment, and I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) that there are many examples of such opportunities internationally, where the private sector has been able to co-operate with Governments to take great projects forward. I have no doubt that crossrail will be an example of just such a successful project.
§ Mr. Lidington
With the leave of the House, I wish to thank all hon. Members who have taken part in the debate, and who have, in the main, supported the Crossrail project. I wish to thank them also for their remarks about my domestic circumstances. I shall make sure that a copy of the Bill and the relevant copy of the Official Report are stored with the christening robe and the silver-plated tea spoon.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) asked a direct question about access for the disabled. He was slightly unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) who alluded to that in her speech, but as the Member of Parliament who represents the Stoke Mandeville spinal injuries unit, I shall make sure that those points are conveyed to the promoters of the Bill.
245 I can tell the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) that nothing in the Bill or the crossrail project would preclude the additional junctions or the electrification which he seeks. It is open to railway operators in future to take that course if they so choose.
I can assure the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) that the promoters accept utterly that they have a duty to do right by the people of Bethnal Green and the people of Hayes as much as by the people living in Mayfair or other plusher parts of central London, or indeed the leafy shires. The promoters have already been in touch with many community representatives in the areas represented by the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend. They will continue to do that and will take note of the points that have been raised tonight.
The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney made some broader criticisms of the Bill. I shall not reply to them at length because they were dealt with in my 246 speech and that of my hon. Friend the Minister except to say that passenger forecasts may have proved wrong because of the severe and long-lasting recession in London and the south-east, but despite the recession there is congestion on the Central line and at Paddington and Liverpool Street stations which demonstrates the need for the additional link that crossrail will provide.
With the economic recovery now under way, there is every prospect that the project will not only bring many thousands of new jobs in the construction industry to London and the south-east but will provide a first-class railway link in London and the south-east which will serve the region's and the capital's economy well for many years to come. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)
Does the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) wish to move the instruction? I see that he does not.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Read a Second time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.