May I assist the House by saying that the Chair will put separately the Questions on the London Docklands Railway (Lewisham, etc.) Bill and the London Docklands Railway (Lewisham, etc.) (No. 2) Bill to keep us in good order, but that it will be in order if hon. Members wish to relate their remarks on the No. 2 Bill to the Third Reading of the first Bill. It will also be common sense as the Bills are closely inter-related.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wish to be helpful and to seek your guidance. I have a blocking motion on two of the private Bills. Following late representations from various people I now seek leave to withdraw the motions and to allow the two Bills to have a Second Reading if that is possible.
The hon. Gentleman is helpful rather at the last minute, but what he said has been noted.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The purpose of the London Docklands Railway (Lewisham, etc.) Bill which, for the convenience of the House, I shall refer to as the No. I Bill, is to permit the building of an extension of the docklands light railway from the Isle of Dogs under the River Thames to Lewisham via Greenwich. The extension will run from a relocated Mudchute station under the River Thames as far as Greenwich British Rail station. It will be elevated through the Deptford creek area and then continue at ground level and in cutting along the valley of the Ravensbourne river to Lewisham British Rail station.
The proposed stations for the extension will be at Mudchute and Island Gardens where the existing stations will be relocated; Cutty Sark, Greenwich where there will be an interchange facility with British Rail mainline services; Deptford bridge, Elverson road and Lewisham where, again, there will be an interchange with British Rail mainline services.
Both Bills are promoted by London Regional Transport. The No. 1 Bill was deposited in November 1990 and the London Docklands Railway (Lewisham, etc.) (No. 2) Bill in November 1991. The powers of London Regional Transport are set out in the London Regional Transport Act 1984, section 2 of which states:
It shall be the general duty of London Regional Transport, in accordance with principles from time to time approved by the Secretary of State and in conjunction with the Railways Board, to provide or secure the provision of public passenger transport services for Greater London.
The Act also confers the power to promote Bills.
Improving public transport accessibility is an essential requirement of the redevelopment process which is now well in hand in docklands. The initial railway legislation, authorised by the London Docklands Railway Acts 1984 and 1985, empowered London Regional Transport to construct the first stage of the docklands light railway from Tower Gateway to the Isle of Dogs and Stratford. London Regional Transport then obtained powers in the London Docklands (City Extension) Act 1986 to extend the railway from Gateway to Bank.
Further extension was put in hand by the London Docklands Railway (Beckton) Act 1989 which authorised the extension of the railway from Poplar and Beckton and, most recently, the London Docklands Railway Act 1989 authorised further works at North Quay in response to the continuing expansion of the docklands light railway network, emphasising its central role in the continuing development of the docklands area.
The two Bills will authorise the next step in the development process which will help equip London for its role as a major world city. The development of docklands is a remarkable phenomenon. After years of stagnation and decline, the designation of the Isle of Dogs as an enterprise zone, the establishment of the London Docklands development corporation, the continuation and further expansion of the docklands light railway and a programme of road improvements have transformed docklands.
However, the transformation is not yet complete. In 1988, London Transport and the London Docklands, development corporation carried out a study of the public transport needs of the docklands area entitled "A Transport Strategy for Docklands". It identified a number of rail projects needed to support the development.
The extension of the docklands light railway to Lewisham was one of the schemes proposed by the study. The Lewisham extension seeks to fill as yet unmet needs in the transport network of docklands, Greenwich and Lewisham. Its primary role is to link the large residential areas south of the Thames to the growing development areas to the north and it will also provide alternative access to the City from the Greenwich and Lewisham areas and provide a direct link to Greenwich and Lewisham town centres from the north, greatly assisting in the improvement and development of the local community.
The area to the south of the river Thames has long suffered from being relatively inaccessible because of the barrier effect of the river. The development of many new employment opportunities in the docklands area will cause a further imbalance unless good river crossing links are provided.
I do not intend to describe the Bill clause by clause, although the House may wish to be made aware of certain features. Although the Bills are promoted by London Regional Transport, it is intended that the construction and operation of the railway will be undertaken by the private sector. Although private sector involvement in the development of the docklands railway is well established, this is the first occasion on which the private sector will retain ownership of the works and will maintain a commercial interest in the operation of the railway after its construction.
The operator will operate the railway by means of a concession arrangement. Clause 33 of the No. 1 Bill provides the necessary mechanism for the Secretary of State to transfer from LRT to a concessionaire the functions to enable it to construct or operate, or to construct and operate, the railway extension. Such funding has the advantages of easing the burden on the public purse at a time when there are many competing demands for new transport projects, and of giving the benefits from the involvement of private sector enterprise and expertise.
The need to deposit the No. 2 Bill has arisen because, since the deposit of the No. 1 Bill, clause 33 has been found to be inadequate inasmuch as it would not authorise the Secretary of State to provide for the transfer of functions to cease to have effect after a specified period or, in specified circumstances, to secure the transfer of functions back to LRT if the person to whom the railway was transferred failed to operate the railway efficiently and safely, or otherwise failed to discharge his functions properly. The No. 2 Bill addresses that aspect of the proposed arrangements and is commended to the House. Hon. Members may also wish to be aware that the No. 1 Bill is deposited with the backing of the London Docklands development corporation, together with that of the London boroughs affected.
When the No. 1 Bill was in Committee, the Government announced that they had it in mind to direct the corporation to transfer ownership of the whole of docklands railway to the LDDC. Before making such a direction, the Government consulted LRT, the local authorities through whose areas the railway runs and the boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich through which the railway for which authorisation is sought in the principal Bill would run. The Government have not announced a decision following that consultation.
If the transfer takes place, LRT proposes that promotion of the Bill should be transferred to Docklands Light Railway Ltd, the operators of the docklands railway. Such a transfer will probably take place after the No. 1 Bill has gone to another place and until then LRT will continue with the promotion of both Bills.
The hon. Gentleman need not worry too much because I am sure that a suitable accounting procedure will be discovered for working out the costs and that that will be taken into account.
I emphasise that the decision to transfer the docklands light railway to LDDC has no bearing on the merits of the scheme. The extension will greatly improve the access to and from large parts of docklands for the benefit of residential and commercial regeneration throughout the area. I am sure that hon. Members whose constituencies will be served by the railway are well aware of the potential benefits. I believe that it is in everyone's interests for the No. 1 Bill to be given its Third Reading and for the No. 2 Bill to be given its Second Reading so that the considerable benefits will not be missed.
My hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) and for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples), who are not able to take part in the debate because of their ministerial office, have asked me to make clear their enthusiasm for the Bill. I am sure that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) will make her views known in due course.
I shall need to speak a little longer than I usually do to put the case for my constituents. I hope that you will bear with me, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I have a raging sore throat and I do not know how long my voice will last. I excuse my anti-social behaviour in spreading germs around the Chamber. My constituents are so concerned about the Bill, which they consider to be the last straw, that I feel that their point of view must be put here.
We feel that the Bill is premature. The present railway does not run properly. When it was introduced, my constituents were told that there would be a light railway which would be quiet and which would give them transport, and they welcomed it. Over four years, the railway has deteriorated so considerably that life has become a nightmare for all the people living along the railway—so much so that they have formed an organisation called Residents Against Noise and Pollution. Some 2,000 of them have signed a petition asking that something be done about the noise. The residents say:
The noise from the DLR is increasingly affecting the lives of residents along the line. Their health, as well as their daytime performance and behaviour, is deeply affected through lack of sleep and constant noise aggression.
When the residents heard that the DLR would be handed over to the London Docklands development corporation, they approached Eric Sorensen and expressed their problems and worries. His answer was in part sympathetic, but it ended:
Perhaps I should end with something of a warning. The noise of this railway is partly inherent to its design, construction and the type of vehicle. You will appreciate that it would be extremely expensive to put this right and it would not be easy to find the right balance between the interests of running the railway and local residents.
In other words, if it costs too much, local residents will just have to suffer. Tough luck!
People in Lewisham and Greenwich, who are probably looking forward to improved transport facilities as we did on the Isle of Dogs, should seriously consider what has happened and how the railway has deteriorated. They should also consider whether they want to support this form of transport or some other. We believe that the extension of the Jubilee line would be one solution. The East London line, which already goes across the river, could also be extended and the definite problems of south London in not having direct railway access to north London could be solved in a better way.
The Residents Against Noise and Pollution organisation says that the new sections of the railway are very noisy. The tracks are completely open from rail track level with no noise control. The interface of tracks and wheels is steel to steel.
Being designed as a light railway system, the wheels are not of heavy steel and are much noisier than heavy steel gauge systems.
The system, although designed as a light railway, is now required to function as a major system with longer trains and more frequent services. It was designed for 1,500 passengers a day. It is planned, with the extension and with the two and three-unit trains, to carry 10 times as many passengers as planned—15,000. Clearly the railway will deteriorate much further. In four years of operation, the railway has deteriorated from being one that did not disturb people too much to one that is extremely noisy.
What will happen when it has to take a huge extra load? The metal wears out very quickly, consequently increasing noise. At a recent meeting in my constituency, officials from the docklands light railway told me, "It is bound to have worn down. After all, it has been in operation for four years." They have not yet found a quiet way of regrinding, and the regrinding will take place in two years out of every four. It is a nightmare for people living in the area.
The brakes are very noisy. Trains stop in between stations very often, so residents are submitted to brake noise not only at stations but elsewhere along the track, and at any time. The stations are basic in design and completely open and therefore any noise of trains stopping and starting spreads through the surrounding area.
Station announcements are by the tannoy system. Since its opening four years ago, the system has not yet been controlled. Announcements can still be heard in premises up to 200 yards from the station. At night, empty trains are relocated for the next day's service, so residents are subject to noise day and night. Maintenance takes place during the night, with the noise of steel grinding, ballast being shovelled, men shouting and so on. No measures seem to have been adopted to reduce noise from night works.
There is reverberation on surrounding buildings. The DLR travels through densely populated areas and very close to dwellings and high buildings. As the tracks are elevated and completely open, the noise spreads through the populated area and reverberates between the buildings, thus giving one the feeling of being in an echo chamber. The railway passes only a few metres away from many homes. At the DLR's opening, the noise problems were localised, but now they have become generalised all along the line.
I shall not continue with the list because I do not want to bore the House, but hon. Members will no doubt realise from what I have said that noise is a real problem which is getting worse and making life a misery for people all along the line. The answer from the LDDC is that it would cost too much to remedy the problem and that it is inherent in the design of the railway, and that nothing can be done. People in Lewisham and Greenwich and their representatives should he very wary about what they are getting: it may not be as welcome in a couple of years' time as it is, in theory, now.
I want to explain—I think it needs explaining—why people in my constituency feel that everything about the extension is negative. They do not want a railway that goes to Lewisham. All that the extension to Lewisham will mean is that the trains that they now catch to Island Gardens—and on which they can get a seat at present—will come from Lewisham full of people from Greenwich, Lewisham and as far away as Kent en route to the Bank. They will not even get a seat. They will have to suffer all the disruption of extra building and all the noise of an overused railway carrying 10 times as many people as it was originally planned to carry.
In 1971 the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), then Secretary of State for the Environment, flew over the area in a helicopter, and in 1979 the present Secretary of State did the same. They saw the river and saw disused docks on both sides and considered it one area —docklands. In fact, the river has always been a divide between north and south London. Any Londoner will tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that people north of the river hardly ever go south of the river. They would probably drive round Paris with more equanimity than they would try to negotiate the badly signposted area south of the river. My constituents may use the foot tunnel to cross to Greenwich, which is very beautiful, but if they want to go shopping, they go to the street markets in Roman road, Crisp street and Stratford. For their entertainment, they go to the west end—up west, as east enders call it. They have nothing to gain from an extension of the railway to Greenwich. It will bring them nothing but hardship.
My constituents are also worried that the railway is to be handed over to the London Docklands development corporation. Clearly, London Transport has made a mess of the thing. It is probably well known everywhere that the trains often break down and that one may start a journey with a child or wheelchair only to find on the way back that the lifts are not working. There are no toilets, so people coming to the arena concerts pee in people's gardens and all over the place.
People have lost their contracts and lost days at work because of the malfunctioning of the railway. The more it malfunctions, the more trains are manned by drivers instead of being operated by the computer system; and the more open it is to human error, the less safe it is. The DLR is a four-year-old baby with teething problems, and to think of extending it before those teething problems are sorted out—if, indeed, they ever can be—is ludicrous.
The record of the LDDC in responding to local people's problems is pretty bad. Take the question of television. Thousands of people in my constituency have had no television reception for years because the LDDC, being able to give planning permission in the enterprise zone and having dictatorial powers, gave planning permission for Canary wharf within about two weeks. It took less time to get planning permission for that huge developement—the largest in Europe—than it takes to get permission to put a sign outside a fish and chip shop elsewhere. No one went into the ramifications—into the effect that it would have on local people.
It is said that television reception from the BBC's Crystal Palace mast to a swathe of homes in Poplar, Limehouse, docklands, Lea Bridge road, Walthamstow, Bow, Chingford, Enfield, Waltham Cross, Greenwich, Catford and Lewisham has been interfered with. I have been working for years now to get the BBC to put a new transmitter and also to get the money for aerials. People who had indoor aerials or aerials on their roofs that functioned very well find that they no longer function. The BBC has said that people must have a good-quality wide band or group E aerial and that set-top aerials are not recommended. Yet when I went to the LDDC—which, after all, is responsible, having given planning permission without investigation—all that it would give was £50,000 towards aerials. That is a drop in the bucket.
Many people still have no replacement aerials. One constituent who had the money to spare spent £225 on a new aerial and paid her licence fee, but her television is still not working very well. Pensioners—the people who need television most—cannot afford it. People are very worried about what will happen if the LDDC takes over the railway system, given that they found it so unresponsive to public concerns over television aerials.
The LDDC is supposed to consult the Dockland Forum—a body made up of a large number of community groups in docklands. Yet this year it has withdrawn the funding from the Dockland Forum so it will probably go out of existence. So much for the LDDC carrying out its statutory obligation to consult. We do not feel that things will go well if the DLR is transferred to them.
My constituents have put up with the noise, dust and dirt from work on the existing railway for years. Now they are asked to put up with it for another three years. One of the parks that will be affected, Millwall park, still has debris from the original railway; Mowlams has not yet removed it. The changing rooms, showers and so on have never been put back into action. People are understandably cynical about promises to carry out repairs and restoration given what has happened in the past.
Our opposition is not root-and-branch opposition to the extension of public transport south of the river, but we do not accept that the DLR is the correct means of transport to adopt or that the Bill is the correct vehicle to enable it to be extended. We do not accept that railways should be privatised by private Bills. That has happened too often. Some of my constituents worked in Tilbury and saw the Tilbury docks privatised by private Bill. I suppose that British Rail could privatise itself in the same way, but it does not seem to me a fair or correct system.
The Bill presupposes a tripartite structure. It gives parliamentary authority and outline planning permission for the construction of the works specified and the deposited plans within the lines of deviation. The railway will not be built or run by the promoters.
The second part of the structure is the agreement which has not yet been published. That is called the concession agreement. It will enable the unnamed purchaser of the railway to design it, build it, operate it and make a profit from it. The third part is the No. 2 Bill to enable the powers of the promoter to be transferred to the concessionary company.
The concession agreement will not be laid before Parliament. We do not know what is going to happen. That is one of my main objections to the Bill. All the important details will be covered by the concession agreement. We do not know what the design will be and we do not know what the concession agreement will say about safety issues. We do not know what it will require in terms of fare structures, and we do not know what service will be required of the operator of the railway. We simply know what London Regional Transport says its position is, or was, in relation to the negotiations on the concession agreement.
There is nothing to stop the promoter from conceding points to the concession company and surrendering important points on those issues later. Parliament is being asked to approve a blank cheque.
The Bill went through Committee on the understanding that the promoter was London Regional Transport. We now know that the docklands light railway will be operated by the LDDC. However, we do not know what the LDDC will require and what commitments made by London Regional Transport will be picked up by the LDDC. As I have said, the record of the LDDC among my constituents is not good. It is over-bureaucratic and unresponsive to the needs of local people. It is not consulting properly.
My hon. Friend is making an important point. The railway is effectively being privatised by a private Bill. Will my hon. Friend consider the procedure because clearly that action is an important political step by the Government who are privatising the railway and handing it over to the LDDC? Is that the right method? Will she comment on the process of the Bill being presented by London Regional Transport and then the LDDC taking over the railway? The LDDC will be accountable to no one with regard to its running of the railway. Any future plans that the LDDC may have for the railway might be outside the rest of the rail and tube network.
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is pernicious and creeping development that things are being privatised by private Bills. It is absurd to hand the railway over to the LDDC, which is supposed to be wound up in a few years' time and which has no knowledge or experience of transport. We have no idea what will happen or what the final result will be. We have no control over what is happening and, as I said before, Parliament is being asked to sign a blank cheque.
Before my hon. Friend proceeds with her speech, in which she is providing invaluable information to the House, will she elaborate on the question of consultation? I had not realised that there was an element of privatisation involved in the issue. Are my hon. Friend's constituents and other people aware of that?
There have been meetings, but the question of privatisation has not been raised. People were more worried about the loss of amenities, the noise, dirt and what would happen to the park. They were concerned more about the noise of the existing railway and whether that would be worse. They were also worried about the LDDC controlling the line.
Hon. Members may not be aware that a further 1,000 of my constituents, as with RANAP—Residents Against Noise and Pollution—have organised themselves into SPLASH—the South Poplar and Limehouse Association for Safe Housing. They are suing LDDC because their lives have been blighted. They are surrounded by dirt, dust, noise and pile driving. They cannot cross the roads and local businesses are failing. I entered a local pub the other night and it was empty. The owners can no longer prepare food because the dust in the kitchen is uncontrollable. There are dust storms in summer and mud in the winter.
I have been told by people at the local medical centre that it treats more than two and a half times the number of asthma cases that it would expect. In addition, the nurse at the centre now devotes all her time to treating asthma patients and, in particular, children. Those cases are extremely difficult to manage. They cannot be managed with the usual inhalers. The nurse has told me that some asthmatic children wear masks in the local school. That is shocking.
Our community is expected to put up with all that. The developments have been carried out, but the needs of the community have not been considered. Canary wharf was planned when it was clear that the required infrastructure was not in place. Everything has been piled on at once and people are screaming for help.
A simple amendment to the Bill could impose a stringent requirement, but London Regional Transport has refused to concede it. The Bill allows the railway to deviate upwards to whatever extent is found necessary or convenient except where it is constructed in a tunnel. "Constructed in tunnel" is defined in clause 2 as excluding any cut-and-cover tunnel. Where the railway line passes through Millwall park there is a cut-and-cover tunnel. The Bill as drafted will allow the eventual contractor of the works to build the railway line at ground level despite the numerous and voluble statements by London Regional Transport that it intends that the railway should be in a cut-and-cover tunnel. If that is the intention, and if LRT is not going to allow the eventual contractor to construct that part of the line in some other fashion if it is cheaper, why cannot LRT hind the construction company to build it in a cut-and-cover tunnel through a clause in the Bill?
We are not convinced that the promoters' statements will be adhered to. We do not know the identity of the concession company that will eventually build the railway line.
My hon. Friend is making the serious point on behalf of her constituents that the line should be in a cut-and-cover tunnel rather than on the surface which would cause a lot of problems. Is not the arrangement whereby LRT presents a Bill which is then taken over the LDDC appalling? London Regional Transport will have no responsibility other than to present the first half of the Bill. It will set out the cheapest proposals that it can get away with. It will not accept clauses that care for the environment for which my hon. Friend and her constituents are arguing. At the end of the day, LRT will have no responsibility. Halfway through, the LDDC will take over. Is that not one reason why the environment is so neglected and why the procedure whereby control will pass from one organisation to another should not he allowed?
I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. He is absolutely correct.
The company that will build the railway will do so for profit—for private gain—not for public good. That will be the driving motive, and that is what we have been suffering from all along since the setting up of the LDDC and the unleashing of market forces.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the safeguards that she is seeking were in the Bill as a legal requirement, and that if her constituents did not have to depend on a generalised statement from administrators from time to time, she would be in a much better position to assure her constituents that the problems that they face would be diminished and removed once the Bill was passed? What my hon. Friend is seeking is a better Bill with adequate safeguards written on the face of it. General support for railways is shared by my hon. Friend and myself, but we cannot pass Bills that do not provide proper safeguards.
Together with local residents, representatives of community groups and local councils, I have met London Transport representatives, the promoters and the Minister of Transport twice. He kindly viewed the area. I have said that the bottom line is that, if we have a guarantee in the Bill that it would be a cut-and-cover tunnel and that some money will be put up for a community trust to compensate the community for the serious loss of facilities and for the noise, dust and tensions and so on that will continue in the area which has had just about enough already, we would then reconsider our attitude to the Bill, but nothing of the sort has been forthcoming. We have not been told to get lost—everybody has been very polite—but the final effect is, "Get lost."
We do not know what concession company will eventually build the railway. However, we know that the only limitation on what it can do will be imposed by the LDDC. We have absolutely no faith in the LDDC imposing satisfactory constraints. Its track record on planning decisions such as Canary wharf, the television issue that I mentioned and many other matters which I do not have time to mention gives little cause for confidence that the interests of local people will be taken into account or regarded in any way. It has been said that the LDDC has concentrated on regenerating the land, but the community has suffered and has not been regenerated—rather the opposite; its quality of life has deteriorated. The former chairman of SPLASH said that he never would have believed that his quality of life could deteriorate so far so fast. That says it all.
If it is cheaper to build the tunnel at ground level, one can fairly anticipate that that is what the company will do. If it is cheaper to build an ugly railway at a lower price, why not? The concession company is doing it only to make money. The LDDC is only encouraging it to build the railway because it wants to get people on and off the island and to Bank, not because it has the interest of islanders at heart.
We are told that all safety issues will be dealt with in the concession agreement. That procedure is wrong. We have not been told what the concession agreement will say about safety—it has not yet been drafted. We are told that the contents of the proposed concession agreement are commercially sensitive—that is the answer we always receive when we try to get at the real facts—and cannot be released, anyway.
Is my hon. Friend saying that the safety aspect of the railway is not yet clarified and that, when approaches are made about such safety issues being negotiated in the concession agreement, people are fobbed off by the claim that the matter is commercial-in-confidence? I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that that is unacceptable because, by and large, railway safety standards are extremeley high. One would expect the highest possible safety standards to be put down on paper and made plain for all to see—perhaps as a schedule to the Bill—so that people know perfectly well what standards will be required from the concessionaires on this important subject.
We know that the railways inspector places some constraints on the operation of railways, following the King's Cross disaster, but those conditions are more rigorous in the case of underground stations. In particular, underground stations must be manned at all times. The station plan for Island Gardens shows that it will be placed in a deep cutting, with a railway line emerging from the cut-and-cover tunnel on one side and disappearing into a tunnel on the other side. Only the station itself will not be underground.
There was a plan to make the new Island Gardens station the deepest cutting on the line, but there was a refusal to roof it over. The reason is that an underground station must be staffed. If the station is not roofed over, staffing costs will be saved. We know that that decision, for instance, is generated not by safety considerations but purely by cost. Safety, particularly in Island Gardens, is a major issue. The station will be in the middle of a park. The railway does not run after 9 o'clock at night, but I presume that it eventually will. In winter it gets dark much earlier. That is a potential risk for women, and in the present climate, unfortunately, for Asians, particularly late at night.
Although we have asked the promoters to make the station an underground station with staff present, we get nowhere; they absolutely refuse. The present Island Gardens station is used—it is by the road—but the new Island Gardens station, which will be located in the middle of the park, will not be much used after dark. People, especially women and members of ethnic minorities, will be afraid to use it. That is another factor that we are not pleased with.
Does my hon. Friend recall that the very arguments that she is now advancing were raised during the passage of the British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill and the London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill? Both bodies seek, and in the case of British Railways, I regret to say, have obtained, authority to substitute ticket machines for people. People can give help and guidance, assist mothers with young children, and assist disabled people rather more effectively than a ticket machine can. When people are in peril late at night, either because of racist attacks or because of attacks on women, the most vulnerable among our community, they will find no help because there are no staff at such stations. My hon. Friend is right to pursue the matter. I am astounded that any organisation should resist such claims today.
I agree with my hon. Friend. The fact that they are replacing a usable station with what will be an unusable station in the middle of a park after dark is cause for concern, and it need not be if the promoters put a roof over it and spend money to have some railway staff present, but they will not do that because it is all on the cheap. The interests of the community come last. It is really a business railway to carry people in business hours; it is not to serve the community. That is the whole point.
Construction practice requirements will also be in the concession agreement. The local authority has limited powers to deal with noise and pollution infringements, but the precise standards which are acceptable will be contained in the concession agreement. Again, we have London Transport's views on what those levels should be, but they will still be subject to negotiation with the company that eventually constructs the railway. London Transport says that it will impose the same requirements on noise pollution that were imposed when the railway was first built. That has led to numerous complaints, with thousands of people demonstrating that the standards were not acceptable and that they are deteriorating very rapidly, even with the present figures relating to use of the railway, let alone the 10-fold increase in usage. The Bill could require acceptable standards out in the open now, but the promoters will not write in the standards. Once again, that makes us cynical and we feel that we cannot be certain about what is likely to happen.
Does my hon. Friend think that the line will be for business men and civil servants or a cattle truck for the typists and everyone else? Obviously the Government are into two-tier railway and tube systems. Which will this line turn out to be?
I suspect that the business men will still roll up in their Rolls-Royces, if they can get round the traffic. The railway may well be a cattle truck line. That remains to be seen and depends on the amount of use of the railway and the frequency of the trains.
The noise levels generated by the railway in operation will also be the subject of negotiation on the concession agreement. The existing railway is noisy and disturbs the residents who live close to the line, so my constituents and I believe that the Bill should specify acceptable noise levels. The fact that the Bill does not deal with all the points that I have raised, which are essential to the community, makes it impossible for us to support it.
My constituents who have complained about the noise have found out that it has been possible to adapt the track so that the trains glide through Canary wharf silently. Full remedial action has been taken using Koln eggs and perhaps other equipment about which I do not know too much. One of the petitioners against the Bill, whose house faces a section of the railway which is extremely noisy, has been told that it is technically impossible to install the same equipment at the extension section near his house. Yet where it is necessary for business in Canary wharf, the trains glide through. When they go through the residential areas they clatter, bang and screech and people have to live with it.
Enforcement of the construction requirements and noise limits will be up to the promoters—the LDDC. Only they will have the power to enforce the contract which the operator of the railway enters into.
My hon. Friend said that the promoters of the Bill were the LDDC. In fact the promoters are London Regional Transport. So who will enforce the contract? Will it be the LDDC? Or will the LDDC say that it is the responsibility of LRT? Or will LRT say, 'No, it is the responsibility of the LDDC"? The procedure is a mess. We need to be clear about who will have responsibility for the contractors. The sponsor should tell us that.
The promoters are the LDDC because we are told that the railway will be transferred to the LDDC. The Government were unhappy about the way in which London Transport ran the railway—or failed to run it properly. Their solution is to hand it over to the LDDC. That will be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire.
We have no faith that the LDDC will enforce the contract that the operator of the railway enters into.
We must clarify this point. Who will issue the contract in the first place? As the Bill is an LRT Bill, will LRT give out the contract in the first place? If so, and if LDDC takes over subsequently, surely LRT will not have powers to enforce the safety arrangements. Is there not a possibility of a muddle in this respect?
There is a great possibility of a muddle. It will depend on how quickly the railway is handed over to the LDDC and whether it is handed over. As the Minister has told me that it will be handed over, I assume that that is right. So we have to assume, perhaps wrongly, that the LDDC with the local authority will have whatever limited powers are made available for controlling noise pollution.
The position is unclear and obviously unsatisfactory. The stations have not yet been designed. Again, that will be left to the concession company. We are in the dark about so much. Millwall park, where the works site will be, is valuable to local people. They do not want an ugly station built in the middle of it. I must describe the area to the House. There is little green space for the whole dense area. Some of it is near the Thames. Millwall park is much beloved and much used. A large part of it—about a third —will be used as a works site. There will be a great wall around the site and noise, dirt and dust will probably fly over the walls. So a good bit of the park that is left will not be usable either.
A small part of the park will be taken away permanently. The piece of land that has been offered to replace it is not satisfactory to my constituents. They do not feel that it is sufficient compensation. My constituents will lose the use of the park, the football pitches and various other facilities at the park for three whole years. In my opinion, they will also lose the use of Island Gardens. Apart from a little pocket handkerchief further up the Isle of Dogs, Island Gardens is the only nice bit of riverfront that ordinary people can look at. Perhaps people in luxury flats and those with an office in Canary wharf can see the river, but Island Gardens is the only place that ordinary residents can enjoy.
Barges to take away the spoil from the tunnel will start at Island Gardens. An eight-foot fence will have to be put up. The beauty of Island Gardens is that one can see Greenwich from there. One can see the Wren complex and all the other beautiful buildings of Greenwich. It is a lovely view. Residents will not be able to enjoy that for three years.
The conveyor belt to take away the spoil will be very long. It will be high in the air—high enough for a double decker bus to go under it. It will go right across into the park at Island Gardens to the river bank where the spoil will be taken away. Even if the conveyor belt is covered as promised, it will be noisy, dusty and dirty and it may operate 24 hours a day. It will pass by George Green school and the community sports grounds, with tennis courts and football pitches used by the school and the local community. I consider that they will all be unusable.
Some beautiful plane trees will be lost. The area is a conservation area, so the trees are protected, but they will probably have to come down. I am not even sure what will happen to the entrance to the lifts to the foot tunnel to Greenwich if it is in the way of the works.
My constituents will lose the use of Millwall park. They will lose some land permanently. They will lose the use of Island Gardens. The football club that plays on the sports ground will have to go miles away to the north of the borough. That will involve travelling time and fares and the club will probably dwindle. It was not unreasonable that we asked for money to be put into a community trust handled by representatives of the community to replace lost facilities and as compensation. At present only landowners directly affected by the Bill will receive compensation. Everyone else can whistle. I believe that the community is an entity and that it deserves some compensation. My request for a community trust was not unreasonable.
The Mudchute will also be affected. It is unique. London Transport seems to regard it as merely a bit of waste ground, but it is not. It was made by mud dredged from the docks. It is perhaps the largest farm in any city. It has flocks of sheep and one can see horses grazing there. The effect on the Mudchute will be severe, as its western bank, an important part of the area, will be taken up by the development.
Horse riding has always been a popular activity on the Mudchute and the income which it generates has become ever more important in the overall budget. In September 1991, new stables were opened. They were built at a cost of £617,000, with funding largely from the LDDC. It was obtained because it would generate more income from the area. It was realised that if the Mudchute could offer hacking it could significantly increase its income and fund other activities. The farm circulated businesses in the area to tell them that it would be able to offer hacking. The plan was to develop a ride around the Mudchute and Millwall park, but that will now be blighted.
The Mudchute contains some buildings—classrooms which local teachers use for science lectures as part of study for the science curriculum. The children use trees for bark rubbings and they count the age rings. The elder trees along the southern and western edges are important because they provide examples of trees which have established themselves naturally, without deliberate planting. They will go.
The trees provide shelter and nesting sites for birds such as starlings, whitethroats, swifts and linnets. Further planting at the western edge was expected to attract a greater variety of birds, which are essential to wild animal and bird activities for the children who examine birds through binoculars, learn to identify and observe the different breeds, and make tally sheets and field sketches. I cannot tell hon. Members how important that is to children who grow up in a densely populated urban area. It is their little piece of the country, and it will be encroached upon.
The thicket area provides a rich source of food for birds, such as loganberries, blackberries, thistles and dog roses. It is a hiding place for wild animals such as voles, fieldmice, foxes and hedgehogs. Children follow animals footprints, track them and make plaster casts of their prints. All sorts of educational activities take place.
The Mudchute contains about 21 different species of butterfly—perhaps the greatest number for miles around. Much of the information that I have been given by Mudchute farm is very technical. The banks of the Mudchute provide an island for rare insects and rare species to live and to develop. The flowers and small beasts which enjoy that south facing bank are important to the children's scientific and nature studies.
The Mudchute has a livestock husbandry system. The stock is allowed occasional access to the area which will be taken away, so that it can benefit from the flora found there. Some highly palatable grasses such as timothy and coltsfoot are to be seen in abundance. That makes a rich pasture for sheep and goats. The well-established trees in the area provide cover for livestock in bad weather. It is a source of great concern that that area will no longer be available to the livestock. In addition, it is felt that a considerable area bordering the site will also be lost to grazing and not merely the part where work is carried out. The animals will keep far away from the work, shying away from areas of excessive noise and unfamiliar sights. The security of the livestock will be placed in jeopardy while work is taking place. Although existing fencing is adequate to contain stock, new fences and gates will have to be installed immediately work commences to keep animals on the park and the farm. The farm feels that it would be a tragedy if it were to lose that valuable piece of grazing land.
The Minister saw the allotments, which are mostly used by old people for growing vegetables to supplement their diet. They will be affected.
I could go on for hours, but I do not want to take advantage of the House by going into a nature study tour of the area. However, it provides a good habitat for all sorts of butterflies—the wall, the common blue, the small copper and various other species which are becoming rare in this country. Twenty-one varieties of butterfly are to be found on the Mudchute. It is not merely a piece of wasteland, as London Transport seems to think.
There will be a great loss of amenities. A large part of Millwall park will be out of action for three years; part of it will go for ever, and it will not be properly compensated for. Island Gardens, where one can sit in the summer and look over the river, will be a big mess. The Mudchute will be affected, as will sports facilities attached to the George Green school.
I listened to my hon's informative passage about the Mudchute. All hon. Members considering the Bill should bear in mind what she has said. She mentioned that the promoters of the Bill will chop down all the trees.
No—some of them.
They will chop down some of the trees—a great number of them—in the area. Has there been any offer to replace the trees within the vicinity? We now have much higher standards for the environment, or we should have. If trees are chopped down, they should be replaced. Have the sponsors approached her with any suggestions to replace the trees and the wildlife to which she has so eloquently referred?
Many mature trees were planted at Canary wharf and the sponsors have promised to reinstate the park. However, since debris from the first phase of building the railway is still there and has not been taken away, and since the changing facilities have not been repaired and put back into operation we feel cynical about what will happen. We would like written guarantees, but we have not received any.
The planning authority, which will have to give planning permission for construction of the stations at Mudchute and Island Gardens, will be the LDDC. That is an unacceptable conflict of interests. The Bill gives outline planning permission for construction of stations, site unseen. The LDDC will be asking itself for planning permission, without any interference, or any responsibility to the local community. Whatever it wants to do, it will be passed automatically, without any investigation or inquiry. That is not right, especially in the light of the planning decisions which the LDDC has made in the past, with its bureaucratic powers, and in view of its insensitivity to the concerns of the local community.
Local people do not have any faith in the docklands light railway system. It was built as a tourist railway on a bus stop principle—frequent trains, at short intervals, operating more like a bus service than a railway. Some people called it a Mickey Mouse railway and, in fact, the original carriages have been sold to Euro Disneyland. The railway has not been working properly and is unreliable.
If the Government are serious about improving north-south connections over the river, we need a proper railway or an underground line. The Jubilee line will be going through eventually and at least people have faith in that. Only a crazy person would rely on the DLR as things stand. Extending the railway merely increases the opportunity for things to go wrong.
We suggest that the DLR experiment has been tried for several years and has been found wanting. Further problems will arise during the construction period. As I have said, they propose to use a conveyor to take the spoil out of the tunnel. The spoil will not go to Greenwich; it will all come to our end and our people feel that they always get the rubbish and the worst of the bargain. The conveyor runs next to a school playing field. We do not know how it will be designed, but we have fears that the design and noise will make the area unusable.
The construction period is anticipated to last three years, so when we talk about the loss of view and of the effect on our environment and so on it is not a short-term one. We also understand that, when the spoil comes out of the tunnel, it will be wet and will have to be dewatered. A local resident who has worked on the Blackwall tunnel says that the spoil will be stinking as well. That is something we have not come across yet. We have had dust, noise and dirt—dust storms in the summer, mud in the winter and pile driving. The possibility of stinking spoil fills us with horror.
What about rats?
Yes; they will also be a problem.
The Thames at this point is salty and saltwater will have to be removed somehow. All that we have been told is that it will be pumped into the sewers. Thames Water says that the sewers are operating at capacity already, so we want to know where the water will go. If it goes on to the park, the salinity will destroy the vegetation.
The environmental impact statement prepared in December said that that point had been taken up with Thames Water, but all we know is that the matter is being discussed. The volume and the capacity of the sewer system are unknown.
No one on the Isle of Dogs needs the railway extension. There is a groundswell of opinion that local people do not want to travel to Lewisham or Greenwich. If they want to go to Greenwich, they can use the foot tunnel anyway. It is clear that the railway is being built to enable the population of south-east London to travel on to the Isle of Dogs and many people from Kent will travel through it to the Bank. We have no wish to impede the people of south-east London travelling easily and quickly where they want to go. However, if the object of the exercise is to provide employees needed for businesses that it is anticipated will start up on the Isle of Dogs, the idea is misconceived.
Unemployment on the Isle of Dogs is already higher than it is in south-east London. The people of Lewisham and Greenwich should know that the companies that move into the developments on the Isle of Dogs usually bring their own staff. The London research centre gives Tower Hamlets as a whole an unemployment rate of 16·4 per cent. In Milwall, it is 15·8 per cent. and in Blackwall it is 14 per cent. Other organisations put the figure at up to 24 per cent. In Lewisham, unemployment is 16·3 per cent., Greenwich 14·4 per cent., Bromley 6·4 per cent., Bexley 7·6 per cent., and Croydon 8·6 per cent.
The LDDC has not created jobs for local people, either in construction or on a permanent basis, as it was meant to do. Local businesses have gone and are going out of business because of the planning blight—I have to call it that. Now the LDDC is making alternative arrangements to assist residents from outside the borough to bypass local people when it comes to obtaining jobs, and my constituents feel that they have had very few jobs out of the developments. Therefore, they resent that proposal, too.
My hon. Friend referred to commuters coming from Kent, passing through her constituency and not stopping there on their way to Bank. Is she aware that a number of those living in Kent will benefit, although they will not benefit very much, from the Government's policy on the channel tunnel link? The Government changed their policy to assist those people so that their environment was not blighted by the railways which will pass through their area. They have, at least, received some help to defend their environment.
However, when it comes to constituencies such as that of my hon. Friend and mine, where the Department of Transport proposes a road scheme, the Government do not care about the environment. Is that not a double standard? Would my hon. Friend care to speculate on why the Government care for areas such as Kent but not for constituencies such as mine? Is not that political bias by the Government because they are trying to bribe some voters by protecting their environment to some extent? However, when the population does not support the Conservatives, the Government do not care for their environment and give them the worst of things. Is that not double standards and political bias and no way to run a railway?
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is a matter of political bias. It also depends on how much clout one has. In middle class areas people have money, they can employ barristers to fight their case, and they stand a better chance of avoiding planning blight.
The people of the east end feel that others can get away with anything. The whole point is that the Government have trodden roughshod over my constituents. I am talking not just about the railway extension, but about everything that has happened since they came to office. Land has been regenerated, but the people have been persecuted by noise, dust and dirt. No one takes any notice of their interests and no one cares that the Government are breaking up communities.
My constituents feel that they have no voice, but they are learning. One thousand members of SPLASH have got legal aid to sue the LDDC for what has happened to their lives. We shall watch the outcome of that case with great interest because thousands will be affected by and interested in the outcome.
I am always in favour of improving public transport rather than building more roads that generate more cars. The docklands highway will generate more traffic on to the A13, which will become worse than ever. If the railway functioned well, if it was reasonably quiet so that people could live with it, if it could take the extra load and if we had proper guarantees, which should be in the Bill, and proper information rather than being asked to sign a blank cheque, we might have a different attitude towards it. If the community were given proper compensation, they would be prepared to put up with a lot. They are socially conscious people, good people, and if they saw the need for something and felt that their interests had been taken into account and not totally ignored they would have a different attitude. But now they are up in arms.
As well as causing the loss of amenities, the railway will cause an increase in noise, dust and dirt with deleterious effects on health, for example, on asthma sufferers, and the nerves of local people. Apart from that, however, construction of the railway would also require the diversion of the East Ferry road. That busy road is one of the most important residential roads in the area and it would be stopped up during the construction works. Anyone who wants to get around the island will face long detours. I should also mention that people can now walk across the park to the only supermarket on the island, Asda, but they will be unable to do so once the work starts.
The local population will receive no compensation for the losses that they will suffer unless the Department of the Environment has a change of heart. I assume that the DOE is the responsible Department, because I am assuming that the railway will be handed over to the LDDC. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) has said, we do not know. Whoever's court the ball is in, be it the DOE or the Department of Transport, if there was a change of heart on their part and if they gave some compensation to the community, that would be welcome. So far, London Transport has said that it will compensate only on the basis of land ownership.
The users of the park will get nothing and the local authority, as the operator of the park, is still fighting London Transport for compensation from the building of the last railway. That case will go to the Lands Tribunal. We have no faith that the compensation available will be anything other than derisory. The promoters should compensate all local residents, not just those with property immediately abutting the line, but they offer nothing. The local population has everything to lose and nothing to gain from the railway. I am therefore opposed to the Bill.
I wish to place on record the Government's support for the Bill and recommend to the House that it be given a Third Reading. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) on the way that he presented the Bill and for his hard work in all its stages in the House.
The Government support the Bill because the construction of an extension to the existing docklands light railway to run on into Lewisham and Greenwich will provide a welcome access for the people of south London to an important employment centre in docklands. It will provide great benefits to communities that are, in many ways, economically disadvantaged and it will give them much better access. Instead of having to pass through London Bridge or Bank stations they will be able to cross dirctly to docklands.
In addition to employment benefits, as the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) fairly pointed out, the railway will be an additional crossing of the Thames. Crossings are relatively limited, even with the recent opening of the Dartford-Thurrock bridge. The railway will benefit people travelling from much further afield, including Kent.
The Government have supported the principle of the private sector designing, building and operating the extension for the simple reason that its involvement will mean that the project will be completed earlier than would otherwise have been the case. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South clearly spelt that out in his opening speech. Without private sector involvement in the project, we might have to wait many more years simply because there are many pressing and valuable projects within Greater London, not only for London transport and British Rail but for the LDDC, which is responsible for much of the roadworks within docklands.
We have heard all that before in relation to the Channel tunnel and the Channel rail link. The Government and the Minister's predecessors said that private finance and involvement would get those built much sooner than if the state were involved. The truth has been the opposite—the Channel tunnel will not be completed in time and the Channel rail link is well behind schedule. We have no date for its completion. Are not the Minister's words just so much hot air?
The hon. Gentleman has heard those words before and he will hear them many more times from me. The Channel tunnel project has been a remarkable success—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman would like to visit the Channel tunnel, I shall arrange it. I have walked through it and it is a miracle to behold. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would benefit from seeing what a tremendous civil engineering project it is. Moreover, it will be completed on time. The railway services through the tunnel, operated by Eurotunnel, British Rail and SNCF, may not be in operation by the summer of 1993 but they will be very shortly thereafter. The Government believe that the private sector's provision of the Channel tunnel is a tremendous achievement. I dare say that, had the public sector been responsible for financing it, it may have taken considerably longer.
Will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) that the last great infrastructure project in the public sector in this country was the Humber bridge, which ran months and months over its time and increased its cost enormously?
Order. I hope that we shall not go around the entire United Kingdom in this debate.
No, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall come straight back to the Bill.
We propose to transfer the docklands light railway from London Regional Transport to the LDDC. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering the representations made following the consultation procedure with the local authorities and others, and we shall reach a conclusion shortly. If it is decided to proceed with the transfer, it will be clearly appropriate to amend the Bill later in its proceedings, probably in another place, to substitute the DLR—not the LDDC—for London Regional Transport as the sponsor.
The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), in one of his several interventions, erroneously said that passengers would pay for the work that London Regional Transport will do on the preparation of the Bill and in carrying forward the project—consultation with the private sector, design work, etc. May I make it plain that the fare-paying passenger has not been financing London Regional Transport for that work. Rather, the taxpayer has been financing it through the grant mechanism. It would not be equitable to ask underground or bus passengers to pay for the work.
The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar in a very detailed speech, cited the environmental impact on her constituents. The whole House recognises that she has discharged that obligation this evening with great thoroughness. It is an important issue. I have visited her constituency with her and I agree that the construction of a new line running south through the Mudchute and Island Gardens, under the Thames to Lewisham and Greenwich, will bring inconvenience and disruption. I saw for myself the impact on the Mudchute which, incidentally, is where the contractors put the mud when they excavated the Royal docks and the docks on the Isle of Dogs. I saw for myself the allotments there and I know that there will be an impact, albeit marginal, on the Mudchute. However, Millwall park will be temporarily affected during construction and permanently by the loss of part of the park. Clearly, Island Gardens, with its most attractive view of Greenwich, the naval college and the observatory, will be affected during construction.
The conveyor belt to which the hon. Lady referred will be a visual intrusion to the residents of Island Gardens, who will suffer from the noise of construction and of the partial demolition of the old line. I do not know whether the sponsors of the Bill plan to demolish Island Gardens station but the construction of the new line will bring inconvenience. I have written to the hon. Lady and said that I understand the points that she raises and I have given her an undertaking that I will bring the matter to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities, who is responsible for the LDDC and London Regional Transport.
If the transfer goes ahead, it will be a matter for the LDDC and the Department of the Environment, which is the sponsoring Ministry. The hon. Lady asked for an amenity fund and she made a powerful argument. I cannot assure her on that and she has sought none from me tonight but, having visited the site, I understand the strength of her argument and I shall discuss the matter with my hon. Friend.
Finally, you have ruled, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is in order to comment on the second Bill. I understand that the block on this Bill has been removed. The Government also support what my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South said—it is appropriate because it rectifies a technical defect in the Bill. I commend both Bills to the House.
I begin by declaring a strong constituency interest in these Bills. As the Member for Deptford, I have supported the proposals of my local authority and London Transport and the promoters of the Bill since its early stages, and I want to put on record my admiration for the officers of my local authority who have struggled for six years to get this package together, in support of the proposals by London Transport, and who have done a good job in assembling an impressive argument in favour of the extension of the docklands light railway across the river.
My constituency is very like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) in that it has high unemployment—19 per cent. at the latest count and an increase of more than 40 per cent. in the past year. It also suffers from poor transport infrastructure which greatly hinders my constituents when seeking employment anywhere other than the local area. It suffers, too, from all the inner-city problems that arise specifically from road congestion. We have air pollution, noise, environmental degradation and poor local amenities. My constituency, therefore, is in desperate need of economic regeneration. Thus it has been my view and that of the Lewisham local authority that the extension of the docklands light railway to Deptford and Lewisham will provide a vital stimulus for economic growth in the area.
The extension would also add to Lewisham's development as a major commercial and shopping centre in south London, and, with five new stations south of the river and interchanges with British Rail lines, it offers a considerable increase in the choice of public transport routes for local people.
It is not, however, as a constituency Member but as a Front-Bench spokesperson on transport in London that I ought to speak tonight. In that context, I begin with the record of the docklands light railway. It is not impressive. It was a badly designed railway, designed with a capacity far too limited for the potential demand. It was in fact another example of the Government trying to get new infrastructure on the cheap. It has not been an unmitigated success, and that needs to be acknowledged.
Many of the aspects mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar tonight give us great cause for concern. Too much noise is associated with the running of the railway; that must be put right. The railway has not been reliable; that must be put right, too. We certainly do not want an extended DLR that operates in the same way as the railway has been operating in the past 12 months.
It is our belief that the railway can be made more reliable and that it has the potential to offer a valuable form of public transport. Within the framework of a Labour transport policy for London, with a strong consumers charter, we believe that we can have an effective railway. For these reasons, Labour is prepared to welcome the extension of the DLR south of the Thames. It is welcome for strategic reasons and for providing an alternative to take the pressure off overloaded BR commuter services running into Cannon Street, Charing Cross and London Bridge. This extension will have the potential to carry at least 12,000 passengers an hour—rather more than the modest 20,000 a day envisaged for the original DLR.
The extension will create a much needed cross-river link between east and south-east London and will greatly improve links with the docklands. It is likely that many commuters using an extended DLR will transfer from their cars. That is enormously important to cutting pollution and easing road congestion. We strongly support measures that will enable people to use their cars less, and light rail is potentially non-polluting and environmentally friendly.
It is also undeniable that the DLR and its extension are fully accessible to people, including wheelchair users, with mobility handicaps. That is important to us and a considerable improvement on existing public transport services in south London. For these reasons, we support the Bill.
Before I move on to the aspect of the Bill that gives us particular concern—the transfer of the DLR to the London Docklands development corporation—I should like to refer further to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar. I understand and appreciate the anxieties that she has expressed about the amount of disruption and the loss of amenities which her constituents will suffer as a result of these proposals. She will understand that, for the strategic reasons that I have mentioned, Labour supports the DLR extension, but I assure her that I have been impressed by the force of her arguments in support of her constituents and by the case that she has made for changes in the Bill, for compensation, for action on noise and environmental damage, and for an amenity trust.
I was disappointed by the Minister's reply. Given that most of us are so anxious for the passage of these Bills, surely he could have given a more positive response so that we could have made united progress on an important public transport measure. I undertand that reference has been made to the Department of the Environment; as the LDDC is outside the remit of London Transport, I urge the DoE and the LDDC to consider these matters sympathetically. I hope that ways will be found to compensate my hon. Friend's constituents; only in that way will we all be satisfied that there is justice in the passing of these Bills.
I come now to the proposal to transfer the DLR to the London Docklands development corporation. The Labour party has long argued that there should be a strategic plan for transport in London. We have often stated that transport in London cannot be left to the operation of market forces. Private companies cannot and do not wish to pick up the responsibility for a coherent transport network in this capital city. It is up to the Government to provide that framework, and our proposals for a Greater London authority will devolve responsibility for strategic planning in transport to a Londonwide authority which is elected and democratically accountable.
Welcome though the Lewisham extension measure is, we do not feel that the Government encouraged it because of its intrinsic merits or strategic valuethey did so simply because it would cost the Government nothing to let it go ahead.
I am sure that, on reflection, the hon. Lady will agree that she did not mean that. I have often said that the docklands light railway extension to Lewisham and Greenwich has been, is and will be recognised for its strategic necessity—and for its social and economic regenerative benefits. I am sure that she will concede that the private sector has been involved in building it to advance its construction.
It is still our view that this should be the responsibility of the Government. If they believe that the case has been made, they ought to give it real support—and they could have. The amounts involved in this extension are very small in Government terms and, had they been given, they would have speeded this measure's passage and thus avoided forcing those who want the railway extended to devote enormous efforts to getting together the package of private money needed to make the proposal feasible.
This is rather like the extension of the Jubilee line. Private money drove that proposal forward and created priorities for the Government. That was wrong, and it is wrong of the Government to have made it a condition that this extension should proceed only if private sector money is found. The Government have demonstrated their willingness to subjugate the needs of Londoners and London's transport to private interests. When in government, Labour will take a very different view.
We oppose the creeping privatisation of transport in London which is endemic in this proposal. The transfer to the LDDC is an outrage, and we strongly oppose it. It is merely a prelude to complete privatisation when the LDDC ceases to exist in a few years' time. When the Government first suggested making this transfer, I tabled a long series of parliamentary questions. The answers showed that the Government had no idea of the implications of the transfer. No answers were forthcoming on the fate of travelcards, on through-ticketing or on the responsibility of the LDDC for a network outside its own area. There were no answers about the role of the London Regional Passengers Committee and no replies to a list of other important questions. However, it slipped out, although it was officially denied, that 1 April might be the transfer date. There are surely serious doubts about whether such a transfer is workable by 1 April. In any event, I promise the House that a Labour Government will return the DLR to London Transport when we take office on 10 April.
There are so many concerns about the second Bill that I shall not have time to go into all of them. I remind the Minister that no answer has been forthcoming on the availability of travelcards or concessionary fares. There has been no clarification of the responsibility of the LDDC to the DLR outside its own territory, and no information on new operational arrangements for emergencies or on the quality-of-service standard. May we expect an LDDC customers charter or will we just get more roses and boxes of chocolates?
There has been no explanation of how a railway system run under the aegis of the Department of the Environment will be co-ordinated with the rest of the rail and bus networks in London. Everybody in London, with the exception of the Government it seems, thinks that there must be integration and co-ordination of different modes of transport. However, the transfer will work directly against that strategy.
We want answers to our questions, but none has been given. As the Minister has declined to give them, I hope that the promoter—
I should like to be clear about transport commitments to the elderly. Following deregulation in South Yorkshire some old-age pensioners who had bus passes were unfortunately unable to use them because of the lack of transport. It was uneconomical for the private firms to pick up elderly people in housing estates and they were left without transport for some weeks. I suggest, and I am sure my hon. Friend agrees, that if the private sector finds a route uneconomic it will certainly not wish to provide transport or service on that route.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Outside London, deregulation, fragmentation and privatisation of services have resulted in the loss of many arrangements similar to the travelcard. There is no doubt in the minds of Londoners that travelcards and concessionary fares are two of the city's most important transport measures and that they are undermined by fragmentation and privatisation. That would happen with the transfer of the DLR to the LDDC. We are not impressed by the Minister's assurances, because they are not specific enough to satisfy us and are not in the Bills.
Has my hon. Friend considered the fact that if the railway is run by a private company and proves not to be sufficiently profitable it could be closed? A fleet of minibuses on the Isle of Dogs stopped wherever passengers wanted them to, but London Transport took it over and it went out of business.
My hon. Friend astutely expresses my concern. We are all afraid of such measures, because experience shows that they jeopardise the provision of public services in London and put transport services at grave risk.
The LDDC is nominally due to close its doors in a few years. Some of us suspect that it might carry on if the present Government, horror upon horror, were to win the election. In that case it might sell off this line to another private company and, presumably, the Minister's assurances will be quite worthless. Would not it be better for assurances on concessionary fares and travelcards to be on the face of the Bill?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I have consistently made that point to the Minister. There can be no doubt, and the Government have not denied, that the LDDC is expected to cease to exist and that the DLR, having been passed to the LDC, would then be passed to some private company or other. In connection with the DLR, the Government's intention is privatisation. We have no doubt about that, but we are opposed to it and will end it when we come to office in the foreseeable future.
I have expressed the concerns as forcefully as possible, but I am in a difficulty. We see the need for extending public transport provision, especially south of the river. We do not think that it is right to penalise the residents of south London by holding up the Bills while we debate the ownership of the DLR. With great reservations, we are prepared to allow the Bills to proceed. We look forward to the day, in the not-too-distant future, I think, when a Labour Government will control the transport strategy for London. I assure the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar that environmental considerations and safety will be given much greater priority in transport planning than at present. They will also be given much greater priority in the day-to-day operation of our railways.
In view of the fact that on 9 April we are supposed to have a general election, which the Prime Minister will announce two days after the Budget, having had an important Cabinet meeting, surely since Labour will win the election we need not talk about having a Labour Government in the foreseeable future because we shall have one in only a few weeks? Why can we not say that Labour will not assist to pass this Bill? We are going to win anyway, and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) will have a meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon). We can then draw up an agenda for the necessary negotiations and consultations. Be confident. They will get kicked out of office and we should not give them any support now. Nobody will come to any harm, but the residents of Bow and Poplar will be better off because we shall take control and those residents will be able to get their pound of flesh as they see it.
I was trying hard to assure my hon. Friend that that was the way things would go. We want to see the Bill proceed, even though the election is only a matter of weeks away. We want to be in the business of making the adjustments and amendments and being in control of the situation. We expect to be in control on 10 April.
I have outlined the way in which, when we are in power, much more consideration will be given to environmental and safety concerns in both the construction and the design of railways. The same will apply to the day-to-day running of the railways.
Public transport must operate in the wider public interest, and must have as little impact as possible on residential areas and community facilities. That is why Government must take responsibility for transport and must be willing to use public money where necessary to achieve their objectives.
Undoubtedly, two of the reasons why there have been so many problems with the DLR are its underfunding and the Government's lack of commitment to ensuring that it runs effectively. We know that there is no bottomless pit of public money; the difference between us and the Government is that we are prepared to adopt new and imaginative ways of making limited public funds go further.
The House will know of the persistence with which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has pressed Ministers to allow British Rail to lease rolling stock for the north Kent line. Such arrangements would be relevant to the funding of the Lewisham DLR extension and could possibly provide the means whereby an increase in total funds could help to meet the concerns raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar.
How does the hon. Lady expect British Rail and the Treasury to treat the finance lease that would be involved in paying for the 188 class 465 Networkers? Is she confirming that that lease would, according to standard accounting practices, be capitalised on British Rail's balance sheet and counted as public expenditure?
The Minister will know—because of the frequency with which my hon. Friend has made the point to him—that we believe that we can make such arrangements in the same way as continental railways. We consider that this is a way of using a capital sum to pay out a much smaller amount, on an annual basis, in a lease arrangement, rather than funding the whole amount in any one instance. The arrangement is entirely acceptable to our shadow Chancellor and—as the Minister knows perfectly well—to the chairman of British Rail. It is dependent on our changing the Treasury rules. We have said that we will do that and we are satisfied that this is a way in which we can fund the railway properly.
Let me ask the Minister a more relevant question. Why is he not prepared to allow British Rail to make such a lease arrangement? Is he as ideologically opposed to the arrangement as he has said that he is for the past 12 months?
I hope that the Minister will excuse me if I do not.
We are perfectly satisfied that this is a way of making a limited sum of public money go further, in the interests of the taxpayer and of the travelling public.
Let me end by promising that a Labour Government will get the DLR running effectively. Labour will ensure that there is an extension to Lewisham and south of the river, in the ways proposed in the Bill, but with more priority given to both safety considerations and the environmental impact of the railway. We believe that the railway can be made to work effectively, in the interests of Londoners, in the interests of those who seek to travel and, I hope, in the interests of those who live and work in its vicinity.
I have been involved in discussions about the railway extension since 1988. Those discussions have taken place on an all-borough, all-party basis. We have made forceful representations to the Minister, urging him to give the scheme favourable consideration. Although there may be some t's that we would have liked to cross differently, the broad principle of the extension is much needed by the people of south-east London.
Over the years, we have had a very raw deal south of the river in terms of public transport. We have almost been cut off: we have had no underground system and only a limited British Rail system. That has had some advantages for the people of Greenwich—it has retained a certain village-like quality, for instance—but, although that may have added to the charm of the place, it has certainly not added to local people's job prospects and it is inhibiting commuters.
Over recent decades, Greenwich has experienced a vast decline in industry. In the 1950s and 1960s, many residents could find employment very close to their homes—almost within walking distance. Unfortunately, that has changed. Now, people must travel to seek employment.
Greenwich is also experiencing a major housing crisis. As house prices in north London have steadily risen, more and more people have moved to south London, where— for a while, at least—prices were more moderate. That has led to more people trying to reach other parts of London for work opportunities.
By railway development standards, the cost of this railway is relatively modest. The period of time involved is relatively short. We are not talking about a decade or more. The scheme could be up and running by the mid-1990s. There will be immediate benefits, therefore, if the scheme goes ahead. We have heard that about 12,000 commuters an hour will use the railway. I am not so pessimistic as the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) about the residents of south-east London being unable to obtain jobs in docklands. The current recession means that the hoped-for jobs in docklands are not there, but I have always taken the view that the people of Greenwich and Deptford —I have a little bit of Deptford in my constituency—must be given the opportunity to take advantage of the future work opportunities that docklands presents. I have never accepted the argument that docklands jobs are for a different category of people, with different educational attainments. If that presents a problem, it has to be tackled. We must make sure that our people have access to those jobs.
Congestion in the area, particularly when it comes to crossing the river in the morning, is appalling. Those who have to use the Blackwall tunnel or the Rotherhithe tunnel know of the delays that can be experienced. The Network South East service in Greenwich is becoming almost a joke. We have experienced particular problems. I hope that the introduction of the Networker trains and the construction of the new tunnels will lead to a vast improvement. The present service, however, is infrequent and unreliable. Trains are frequently cancelled, or travellers experience considerable delays. The frustration of commuters is rising by the day.
A great step forward will be made by the combination of the docklands light railway extension and the Jubilee line which, for the first time, will link Greenwich with the underground system in London. Even those who travel to work by Rolls-Royce will be tempted to travel by means of a railway that allows them to cross the river to Canary wharf in 10 minutes and links them with other lines to take them into the City.
The railway's route through Greenwich is surprisingly uncomplicated. It will travel through pockets of residential areas. However, an almost ready-made route is available that would cause relatively little disruption to local residents. The railway will stimulate development and investment in Greenwich town centre. A great waterfront development is planned for the forthcoming decade. It will be no more than a pipedream, however, if a proper transport infrastructure is not provided.
I am concerned that the Bill's progress has already been somewhat delayed. That is due, in part, to the Prime Minister's announcement that the scheme is to be transferred to the London Docklands development corporation which, I understand, will be the shareholder, banker and strategic planner, while the docklands light railway will continue to run the day-by-day business of the railway. I understand the Government's motive—that they need to reinspire confidence and initiative, since the railway has been regarded as a very poor substitute for what was originally promised. The number of breakdowns, the number of people stranded for hours on end and the inoperative nature of the scheme has caused great concern to those who had looked forward to its extension across the river. However, I have been reassured that some of the fundamental problems are already being tackled. Therefore, when the extension has been completed I expect it to run well.
I accept the LDDC's undertaking that it will honour all the commitments made to local groups and residents by London Regional Transport, but I share the concern of the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar that we need strategic planning for public transport in London so that we can achieve the long-overdue cohesion and co-ordination.
In my constituency, there has been some debate and controversy about whether we should have two stations relatively close together—one at the Cutty Sark and one at the British Rail station in Greenwich town centre. They are about five minutes walk apart and several bodies have argued forcefully that one would have been sufficient. I accept the principle that the railway will be a tram-like system which people will use for relatively short journeys to get very close to where they want to go. I also accept that commuters in Greenwich will find it easy to link with the British Rail station in Greenwich whereas tourists will want to use the Cutty Sark station.
I heard with concern what the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar said about the noise and deterioration experienced by her constituents over the years and I shall seek continual reassurance that that problem can and will be eradicated before there is any further development. The majority of constituents on the Meridian estate which will be affected by the Cutty Sark station will not, of course, have the immediate problem of noise, because at that point the extension will be underground, but, naturally, there are concerns. They fear dust, dirt and noise during the construction period and vibration once it is in operation.
One block of flats in particular has had a difficult few months. It was initially threatened with demolition and, although it now seems to have been spared that, it will bear the brunt of the dirt, noise and pollution during construction. I hope that the residents of Walrond house will be treated with the generosity and sensitivity that they need.
I should also like to draw the Minister's attention to the problem of residents in Straightsmouth who already have to contend with a great deal of noise from the British Rail tracks which run near their homes and which will have to be moved slightly nearer as a result of the development. I understand that the continuous track which they have requested is technically possible and it would, I believe, alleviate many of their problems. As so few residents will be adversely affected by the development, which will be to the great advantage of the vast majority, I hope that generosity can be the order of the day. However, the uncertainty of the past few years has been the worst of all worlds for many residents who have not known whether the development would go ahead.
I strongly recommend that there is no delay in proceeding with the Bill, as it will be to the enormous advantage of the people of south-east London. It will substantially improve the quality of their lives and provide access to job opportunities currently denied them. We are talking about journeys of 10 minutes as opposed to a miserable journey of, perhaps, an hour and a half stuck in a car trying to get through the Blackwall tunnel in the rush hour. Such journeys are proving to be an enormous barrier. It is extremely frustrating for people who can stand in Greenwich park and see the development in docklands. Let us hope that, when the area eventually becomes economically more vibrant, people in Greenwich will be able to do more than see it—let us hope that they can participate in it.
I am a strong supporter of public transport in London and I frequently try to get to work on the docklands light railway. It follows, therefore, that I support the extension of the DLR. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his close and genuine interest in the operation of the DLR. I remember one occasion on which he offered to come to my house and to come into central London with me on the DLR. Fortunately for him, he could not do so that morning. If he had tried to make that journey, he would have been half an hour late.
I have one serious concern. How can the management of the DLR be expected to run an extended system to Lewisham and Greenwich when they cannot run the present system? Docklands Light Railway Limited must be the most badly managed and incompetently run part of the whole London transport system. I have wasted more time hanging around for trains and buses than I care to remember. The Government were right to transfer the management of the DLR from London Regional Transport to the London Docklands development corporation if for no other reason than that the LDDC cannot do any worse than LRT has.
The basis of my concern is widespread. About two years ago, I went to see the management of the DLR to discuss my concern about the unreliability of the system. I was then introduced to the proposals for the extension under the river to the south and I was given a map. I was concerned by what I saw on the map, so a few days later I went to LRT to discuss the proposals with it. I was told that the map I had been given was already nine months out of date and that all the proposals had been changed. I was not impressed by the management of DLR giving me a map that was more than nine months out of date.
Mudchute and Island Gardens are the two stations affected by the extension. I understand the need and desire of the DLR management to double the length of the trains which means that they have to double the length of the platforms. However, they did not double the length of Mudchute station and Island Gardens station. The people using those stations face a reduced service because trains terminate at Crossharbour. The galling point was that the DLR management put notices through the doors of local residents saying that that represented an improvement of the service of the DLR, although the opposite was the case. People are not fooled by such stupid statements.
No notice is given of changes in the bus routes which operate in the evenings and at weekends. There are no public announcements on platforms about what is going on during the daily disruption. The indicator boards on the stations rarely work. The escalator at Tower Gateway is frequently out of operation. In other words, the service is infrequent, irregular and unreliable.
There is no co-ordination between routes to Stratford and the connecting trains at Crossharbour to Tower Gateway and Bank. The disruption is bad because it is daily. The only thing that is regular, reliable and predictable is the extent of the disruption.
The DLR's reputation is now appalling, but I fear that it is justifiable. What concerns me most is that it is bad for the long-term success of docklands, to which I am strongly committed, and it undermines all the good work of the developers, of the Government and of the others involved in the massive enterprise. I say yes to the extension, but only if the management are paid by results directly related to the DLR's reliability and punctuality, which is the only incentive to bring about radical improvements in the operation of any newly extended system. The DLR is superb in concept, but disgraceful in its management.
I urge the promoters to take note of those serious points. I have described what we have had to put up with over the past four years. If the system is extended, as I believe that it should be, it is vital that the quality of the service is dramatically improved. The people of that part of London deserve better from the management of the DLR.
The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) is right that, in many ways, the docklands light railway has been a disaster—one might even say an unmitigated disaster. The blame for that rests with the Government because it was the Government who built it on the cheap. It is an example of market forces at work and of what happens when there is a lack of proper planning in building such a system and in seeking to provide a good transport infrastructure for the area. For 13 wasted years, this Government have let market forces run the show.
Matters will not be made better if we allow the LDDC to take over. The LDDC eulogised the system when it first appeared but the LDDC is not—and nor has it ever been—a transport operator. It will control the railway only as a first step towards privatisation. I think that the disaster will continue as a result of the Government's chosen course.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) on a superb constituency speech. When the general election comes—perhaps on 9 April—she will be returned with a handsome and increased majority. The people of Bow and Poplar should be told how she defended their interests in the House when the Government, LRT and the LDDC wanted to walk all over them. No doubt my hon. Friend will see off the challenge from the Liberals quite comfortably. It is interesting that they have not been here at all. I suspect that, if the Bill and the interests of the people of Bow and Poplar were up before the House for discussion again in future, they would not be here to defend the areas interests.
I have been here for a while and I have been looking for the Liberal Democrats, as they call themselves nowadays. It is just conceivable that they are having a caucus meeting to change their name again. It is just possible, with an election coming up. They have had their name for a year and a half—it is the longest lasting name that they have had since the last general election. Mr. Speaker should be told about this matter because, when they change their name, the question arises whether they should receive what is called the Short money which they get on the basis of their name at the previous general election.
It is also possible that the Liberal Democrats are not interested in railways and that what they are interested in is getting round Paddy Backdown—I nearly said something else—otherwise known as Captain Mainwaring so that this little Dad's Army can have a caucus meeting to discuss what to do at the general election. They have all these high-flown ideas; we shall probably see them on telly tomorrow. I can see that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are beginning to think, "What has this got to do with the docklands light railway?" I can understand that, but I think that you will agree that railways are an environmental issue. They are an issue that is supposed to be for the anoraked people—the ones with green wellies who eat brown rice—but they are nowhere to be found. What can they expect when they are being led by him?
The hon. Gentleman had a good run but, as he admitted, what he said had nothing to do with the Bill.
I can well imagine the Liberal Democrats having a caucus meeting about their name because they certainly have no policies worth talking about. They have shown us that they are not interested in the environment and in public transport.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said, the Labour party welcomes investment in new public transport infrastructure. Such investment has been grossly lacking in 13 years of this Government. We have had £109 billion from North sea oil but very little of it has gone into public transport infrastructure. The Minister said again tonight that he wants to rely only on private money. Where is private money during a recession?
No, it is not there either. The Government are washing their hands of what they should do in terms of building up our public transport infrastructure. I welcome the element in the Bill concerning the extension to south London.
We used to have an excellent transport service in south Yorkshire until the Government intervened. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) will agree that London desperately needs a co-ordinated transport system which takes people off the road and puts them on to rail. However, the Government have no sensible suggestions in that regard because they believe in market forces. Regrettably, market forces do nothing to improve services. Instead, they cause the cost of fares for the people in London to escalate. As a northern person, I implore people in London to demand co-ordinated cheap and efficient services so that the emergency services can move freely on the roads in London, something that they cannot do now.
I can do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the Bill will mean less co-ordination of services because the control of London's transport is being fragmented. By passing control to the LDDC halfway through the procedure, there will be less co-ordination. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) speaks from experience. He knows that we get better services if there is overall co-ordination.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar was right to say that the docklands light railway does not run properly. However, will the new line run properly? My hon. Friend said that the residents in her area suffer from noise and pollution. Will residents by the extended line suffer noise and pollution problems? She said that inherent noise problems were built in at the initial stage. Will that be the case with the extension? She also referred to inherent breakdowns. Will they occur on the new system?
The Minister made a very short speech, but he should have found time to respond to those basic issues about the docklands light railway. He should at least have said that the new system will not have the faults of the existing system. It was worrying that the Minister could not give any assurance about that. It looks like the same problems will be experienced, but that they will be extended.
In those circumstances, it might have been a better option to extend and improve the east London line to south and south-east London. The east London line has better links with east London and it might have been an option worth considering. Even if there are problems with the docklands light railway and the Minister still wants to go ahead—
I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that the argument has been about the lack of response by the Government to compensate those who will be affected by the development. If the residents are convinced that compensation is the order of the day, they should press and press again. Only by doing that can they hope for a Government U-turn, which the Government have done in respect of many other matters not connected with this. I urge the residents to ensure that they give maximum support to my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon), who has done such an excellent job. The only way to obtain compensation is to press and press again. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees with me.
I agree with my hon. Friend.
The transfer of the Bill to the LDDC halfway through its proceedings is disgraceful. The Bill was brought forward by the LRT and it was later switched over to the LDDC. Nobody knows who is responsible for what. Who is responsible for controlling the contractor, who is responsible for safety, and who is responsible for the compensation that the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar have requested? Again, no light was shed on that matter by the Minister. That is a disgrace.
The transfer to the LDDC is wrong in principle, because we cannot ensure the strategic planning for London transport as a whole, and it breaks up management of the transport network. It also is a step in the direction of privatisation. The travelcard and concessionary fares systems could be put at risk in that part of the network. The transfer to the LDDC is wrong, particularly halfway through the proceedings on this private Bill.
Under the private Bill procedure, there was an objection by my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar. Attempts should have been made to meet her objection to try to resolve the matter. That is the normal process. If there is no objection, a Bill quickly passes through the House. If there is an objection, a Bill can sometimes flounder. I do not think that the objection that my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar eloquently put was insurmountable. If LRT, the LDDC or the Government wanted to, they could have met her objection. In part, they did not want to because they were shifting responsibility. They could have set up the community trust fund to supply some of the compensation to which my hon. Friend referred.
One of the few points that the Minister made about the amenity fund was that it has nothing to do with the Department of Transport, but it is a matter for the Department of the Environment. He said, "Go to it and try to persuade it to give you a few bob for the residents who are suffering." If a Department of the Environment Minister had been present, he would have said, "It has nothing to do with us, it concerns the Department of Transport." That mirrors the shift of responsibility between London Regional Transport and the LDDC. The LDDC says, "It has nothing to do with us, it is a matter for the docklands corporation." The docklands corporation would say, "It has nothing to do with us; London Transport is bringing forward the Bill." That demonstrates the Government's shiftiness in avoiding resolving my hon. Friend's simple objection. It took an hour to raise it because it could not be resolved simply.
There was no ambiguity in what I said. The Government's proposal is to transfer the DLR from London Regional Transport to the LDDC. If a decision is taken to ratify that and give instructions to London Regional Transport to that effect, responsibility for the amenity fund will rest with the LDDC. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), who spoke for the Opposition, gave no commitment or promise to provide an amenity fund. I have not ruled it out and I hope that I have given a positive, clear and constructive response to the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon). I have visited the site. I recognise the problems and I have told her where the responsibility lies.
My hon. Friend is right. The Minister may have come down to the site and may have sympathy with the community and understand its problems but my impression is that the decision about a fund will be taken by the Department of the Environment and the LDDC, which is not sympathetic. We could not get more than £50,000 for thousands of television aerials, so how can we expect to obtain a decent amenity fund as compensation for the loss of facilities with the docklands light railway extension?
The people of Greenwich and Lewisham should also ask what type of metal the extension will be made of. Will it be heavy-gauge metal or the light metal with metal wheels against metal tracks that will deteriorate, need regrinding and make a terrible noise? Many matters have been left out which should have been specified in the Bill, so we cannot be certain how the line will be built. Therefore, we have to oppose it.
I hear what my hon. Friend says. We have reached the Third Reading of the Bill. My hon. Friend has made her objections clear from the initiation of the Bill in the House. The Government, the promoters or the LDDC, which will take over the railway, should have got their act together, met my hon. Friend and come up with an offer of compensation for her constituents who will suffer. It is all right for the Minister to say that he is still open minded. He should have come up with the cash. He has had plenty of time to do that.
Can my hon. Friend clarify what the Minister said? Lots of names are being bandied about by the Minister and he has made lots of promises about the project. But I am at a loss to understand—perhaps my hon. Friend can explain—why positive steps have not been taken to allay the fears of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) and to meet the objections of her constituents. I listened most carefully to what the Minister said. Does my hon. Friend agree that there may be a danger that any money found for compensation will be taken elsewhere? Given the great giveaway that is taking place, I am at a loss to understand why the Minister has not come to the Dispatch Box and said that several million pounds will be provided to satisfy the points raised.
That is a fair point. The Government think that my hon. Friend's constituents are not important and that they can walk all over them. Until now, the Government thought that they could walk all over my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar, even though she has made an objection on behalf of her constituents. She has shown the Government that they have another think coming. She will not let the Government walk all over her constituents and treat them in such an appalling way. The Minister must come up with the cash and an amenity fund to compensate her constituents.
The environmental aspects of the extension must also be dealt with. As my hon. Friend said, it is being built on the cheap. Some sections should be built by cut and cover. Improvement of the environment, compensation and the amenity fund should be written into the Bill.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend has referred to the environment. We are talking about an environmentally sensitive aea. A Tory Minister came here the other day and talked about providing money for environmentally sensitive areas. I thought, "Hello. Summat for Bolsover, because of the dioxin." But I am not going to talk about that tonight. What was it for? It was money for environmentally sensitive areas in Tory marginal seats. It was an electorally sensitive area grant.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) is representing her constituents and demanding some form of compensation for them from this tinpot Minister, who reckons to run the railways, because they will be blighted by the railway development and what she referred to as its Hornby-like tracks. I had better not say any more because it is already a matter for the courts.
The Secretary of State for Transport is here—the Minister who went upstairs to see the railway exhibition on the first floor of the House of Commons last week. What did he do? The £60,000 a year Tory Cabinet Minister smashed the clockwork trains. The whole clockwork arrangement on the floor came to a shuddering halt when that man ran it into the ground. He is supposed to have had 13 years in Government and he cannot even run a clockwork train. He is educated beyond his intelligence. Let us hear from him.
I hope that we can now get back on the rails.
I shall try to get back on track, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I agree that the area should be treated as environmentally sensitive. That is why I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar. The railway should be in cuts or covered in certain places and the amenity fund to compensate her constituents should be on the face of the Bill. We need more commitment than the Minister has shown tonight. The opinion of the House is clear—he should come up with the cash. He should compensate my hon. Friend's constituents.
I am concerned whether the Bill will provide what it says that it intends to provide—an efficient cheap service which will be integrated with the London transport system. I am not confident that that is the case. I have listened to some of the arguments, although not all. Will my hon. Friend give me some assurance which will stop a Division? Having taken a train to travel here on Sunday night and sampled some of the delays on the way from Scotland to the City, I wonder whether one can accept what is being said by the Government side and by the promoter of the Bill. Can my hon. Friend give me that assurance as I have grave reservations?
I suspect that my hon. Friend will not get a reservation on that particular train. I cannot give my hon. Friend the assurance he requires because I suspect that the train will not be cheap in terms of fares. However, it certainly will be cheap in terms of its building costs—just like the existing system. The service will not be integrated because it will be managed in a different way from London Transport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) has asked serveral times to be assured that the railway will be a cheap and integrated service. It is my understanding that the private company that will run that railway will charge a premium fare. We do not know how much that will be and whether it will be in line with normal fares. Perhaps the Minister can comment on that.
We are on Third Reading, with 16 minutes of debate to go and we now learn that premium fares are likely to be charged. That was not referred to by the sponsor or the Minister in his exceptionally short speech. It is extremely worrying to contemplate the introduction of premium fares. Fares across the capital have already gone up, so how much will the premium fare be? What effect will it have on concessionary fares?
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) demanded from the Minister what would happen in the subsequent takeover in respect of concessionary fares for pensioners and the disabled. The concessionary fare system in London is pretty good in comparison with the rest of the country. In response the Minister said something like, "It is not our intention". We know that that is parliamentary gobbledegook, because that means that in the event of the Tories winning the next election—if they are lucky—the whole concessionary fare system could go down the drain. That is what "intention" means.
The Government are now talking about a public sector borrowing requirement of up to £30 billion and it is a scandal that they cannot find enough money to compensate the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar. What is worse, someone from the royal family will open the railway. Di will turn up in her Mercedes or the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), who got a Mercedes from Maxwell for a quid, might come along. I have a straight John Bull question for my hon. Friend. Does he believe that the compensation for the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar should come from taxing the Queen's income?
That is a fair question. I signed the early-day motion, along with a number of hon. Members, to that effect.
I doubt whether the Queen will come along to open this particular line, because the story goes that she came along to open the original docklands light railway and got stuck in one of the carriages. She got stuck because the railway was of a poor standard, even then. She will probably send Fergie along instead in the hope that she will get stuck in a carriage for ever.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was right about borrowing, which will be a key issue in the Budget. They should borrow the money to compensate the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar. If borrowing is a good option when it comes to the economy—
It is flavour of the month.
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. Therefore, it is appropriate to borrow money to compensate my hon. Friend's constituents and to improve their environment.
We are now on Third Reading and, unfortunately, amendments are not easily applicable at this stage. My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) is the principal opponent of the Bill. However, she has made it clear that she supports the construction of railways, as we all do in the Labour party. However, because of the absence of clear safeguards in the Bill, she felt that she had to oppose it. Could my hon. Friend elaborate on some of those safeguards so that the House can be quite clear about the argument? People are keen to have railways that provide public transport on the basis of decent safeguards, but those safeguards have been rejected by the promoters in what appears to be a disgraceful fashion.
My hon. Friend is right. I support improving and investing in the railways and our whole public transport infrastructure. In his repeated interventions, my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) has answered my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). We need a co-ordinated system of public transport. Indeed, in London we need an integrated public transport system. Instead, we have chaos in many respects.
Two points need to be clarified. First, reference has been made to whether the construction will be of a standard to ensure that the line will be able to run without the breakdowns associated with the modern system. The service that British Rail operates leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. If the Bill allows substandard development, it will lead to all sorts of chaos, such as we hear on news bulletins on transport in London.
Secondly, will my hon. Friend clarify the Minister's point about concessionary fares that will apply to residents of the area? Who will pay for them? They will be financed not by the company seeking to own and operate the railway but by the various boroughs that fall within the area covered by the line.
Will the construction of the railway be of a substantial nature and who will pay for the concessionary fares that the Minister said will be available once a private company is operating the line?
That is exactly what the Minister was asked. Will there be the same problems with the extended line as there are with the existing docklands light railway? The Minister failed to respond or say whether it would be an improvement on the existing structure. I suspect that it will not.
I am reminded of an appalling evening that I spent in the docklands. Actually, I enjoyed the concert al the London Arena with my step-lad and his girlfriend. We travelled on the docklands light railway but halfway through the concert it was announced that the light railway would not be running at the end of the concert. So we were trapped in the arena and had to walk back in the pouring rain. I am told that that is not the first time that that has happened—[Interruption.] I have said who was at the concert on previous occasions because I have recounted the story in the past. Many people are caught because the operators arbitrarily stop running the trains. I wonder whether they will do the same with the extension.
Let me answer the first point about concessionary fares. The Minister said that they would continue, but how much is his assurance worth? Who will pay for those concessionary fares? I doubt whether the LDDC will pay for them if the Bill does not force it to do so. If no legal commitment enforces it to do so, it will not pay for concessionary fares. The next step, as the LDDC goes out of business, will be to sell the railway off and the next company that takes it over and strips its assets will not run a concessionary fare system either. It will certainly not do so out of charity.
We support an improved transport infrastructure for the people of Lewisham and south-east London. I want those people to get the jobs, and the seats on the trains —but I wonder whether they will get either. The Government bribed the people of Kent in the channel tunnel episode; now they are bribing them with the promise of jobs in docklands. When the trains arrive in Lewisham they will be packed with commuters from Kent whom the Tories are still keen to bribe. So the people of Lewisham, who may think that the extension is a life-saver, will not get their burns on the seats, let alone any jobs.
I should have thought that the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes) would demand that some trains set off from Lewisham and Greenwich to cater for local people; otherwise, the commuters arriving at British Rail stations will enter the trains first—
My hon. Friend might like to know that once the railway is extended to Greenwich and later further into Kent my constituents will probably not be able to get seats at Island Gardens ever again. I asked London Transport to arrange that one train every half hour should start at Island Gardens so that people could get a seat on it. London Transport refused; in fact, it did not give way on anything.
My hon. Friend's demand was most reasonable. [Interruption.] I see that one of the Conservative Members who represents Lewisham has walked into the Chamber. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) has an important role in the Treasury: he can borrow the money. I am pleased that he has walked in—[Interruption.] I see that both Conservative Members representing Lewisham are here now. The other one, the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan), has had to take time off to decide which one of his brothers should get a knighthood. These gentlemen could borrow the money so that my hon. Friend's constituents were given the environment that they deserve and the compensation that they deserve.
I have no intention of talking out the Bill, and I have tried to be brief. [Interruption.] I have taken a lot of interventions—worthy interventions that deserved a response. I am happy to sit down now and allow the sponsor of the Bill the last few words.
With the leave of the House, I shall reply to this interesting debate. I will certainly not talk the Bill out.
The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) made a detailed speech. I should like to correct one point in it—the original railway was designed for 25,000, not 1,500 people a day. It is now designed to cater for 100,000 a day. I am afraid that there is no time to discuss the hon. Lady's other points. I know that LRT is anxious to discuss various aspects of the Bill with her and that it has been waiting since last October to do so. I hope that she will take the opportunity to discuss her various concerns with LRT in the near future—it is anxious to hear from her.
The Minister asked about the future of Island Gardens station. It is to be demolished; the new viaduct is to be demolished, but the old viaduct will be left, because, although it has not been preserved, it is of architectural interest. I am afraid that I have no more time in which to respond.
I am grateful for an opportunity to say a few words about this matter—
|Division No. 92]||[10.00 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Irvine, Michael|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Jack, Michael|
|Baldry, Tony||Jackson, Robert|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Jessel, Toby|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Beith, A. J.||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Boswell, Tim||Lightbown, David|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Lord, Michael|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Brazier, Julian||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Bright, Graham||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Mans, Keith|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Maples, John|
|Carrington, Matthew||Marek, Dr John|
|Cartwright, John||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Cash, William||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Chapman, Sydney||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Chope, Christopher||Mellor, Rt Hon David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Moate, Roger|
|Couchman, James||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Neale, Sir Gerrard|
|Dover, Den||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fallon, Michael||Norris, Steve|
|Farr, Sir John||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Paice, James|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Riddick, Graham|
|Franks, Cecil||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Freeman, Roger||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Fry, Peter||Ruddock, Joan|
|Gale, Roger||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Steen, Anthony|
|Ground, Patrick||Stern, Michael|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Stevens, Lewis|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Summerson, Hugo|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Harris, David||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Thompson, Sir D. (Calder Vly)|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Thorne, Neil|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wilkinson, John|
|Trippier, David||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Walker, Bill (T'side North)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Wallace, James||Wood, Timothy|
|Waller, Gary||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Watts, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wells, Bowen||Mr. Peter Bottomley and|
|Wheeler, Sir John||Mr. Christopher Gill.|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||McCrea, Rev William|
|Boyes, Roland||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Cohen, Harry||Meale, Alan|
|Dalyell, Tam||Nellist, Dave|
|Dixon, Don||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Duffy, Sir A. E. P.||Redmond, Martin|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Flynn, Paul||Soley, Clive|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Grocott, Bruce||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Illsley, Eric||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Lamond, James||Mr. Dennis Skinner.|
|Division No. 93]||[10.10 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Baldry, Tony||Ground, Patrick|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Beith, A. J.||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Harris, David|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Boswell, Tim||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Bright, Graham||Irvine, Michael|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Jack, Michael|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Jackson, Robert|
|Carrington, Matthew||Jessel, Toby|
|Cartwright, John||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Cash, William||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Chope, Christopher||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Couchman, James||Lightbown, David|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Lord, Michael|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Dover, Den||McCrea, Rev William|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Fallon, Michael||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Farr, Sir John||Mans, Keith|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Maples, John|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Marek, Dr John|
|Flynn, Paul||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Franks, Cecil||Moate, Roger|
|Freeman, Roger||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Fry, Peter||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Gale, Roger||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Norris, Steve|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Thompson, Sir D. (Calder vly)|
|Paice, James||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Thorne, Neil|
|Patnick, Irvine||Thurnham, Peter|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Trippier, David|
|Price, Sir David||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Riddick, Graham||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Wallace, James|
|Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn||Waller, Gary|
|Ross, William (Londonderry E,||Warren, Kenneth|
|Ruddock, Joan||Watts, John|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Wells, Bowen|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Wilkinson, John|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Steen, Anthony||Wood, Timothy|
|Stern, Michael||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Summerson, Hugo||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Mr. Peter Bottomley and|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Mr. Christopher Gill.|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Boyes, Roland||Meale, Alan|
|Callaghan, Jim||Nellist, Dave|
|Cryer, Bob||Parry, Robert|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Dixon, Don||Skinner, Dennis|
|Duffy, Sir A. E. P.||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Gordon, Mildred||Mr. Martin Redmond and|
|Lamond, James||Mr. Harry Barnes.|