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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Bill has had quite a long life. Like many private Bills, it has crossed over more than one Session of Parliament. It began its passage at the beginning of 1993, so it has taken about a year and a half to consider. Since it came to this place at the end of last year, it has been changed a little. It was changed a little on Report, thanks to the efforts of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), but it was also changed in Committee. I want to say one or two things about the changes so that the House is clear about them, because we have not had a chance to report them and I especially want to deal with a matter which may be of concern to the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon).
The purpose of the Bill is to allow the corporation to catch up, as it were, with the real world and to give the byelaw-making power for the docklands area to the people who are running it at the moment and their successors, rather than to people who ran it in the past. The purpose of the Bill is for the benefit of the community, especially those who visit the area, as well as those who live there. The changes made since the Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons are as follows.
First, there have been revisions to the Bill to make it clear that the Secretary of State's power to transfer functions of the corporation relate only to functions created by or under the Bill and not to the transfer of, for example, land or assets. Secondly, charges which can be imposed by virtue of the Bill, especially under clause 8, will be reasonable. Thirdly, the transfer of functions, pursuant to clause 33, which is the matter that has most exercised the mind of the hon. Member for Newham, South as well as my own and that of other hon. Members representing the docklands, including I am sure the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford), who speaks for the Labour party, are subject to affirmative resolution procedure. That was not the case when we began discussing the Bill, but it is now the case. The Bill has been made tougher in that respect.
Fourthly, the Bill has been changed to ensure that concerns raised by people during its passage should be met. Those concerns were met by amendments to protect landowners or occupiers of land lying in the designated areas, or to protect those who have private rights of navigation.
Finally, protection has been provided for a variety of affected statutory bodies, such as the National Rivers Authority, the Port of London Authority, Billingsgate market, the fire authority and the Port of London health authority.
Since the Bill last appeared, there is also one obvious, significant and substantial change. If the House considers the way in which the Bill is laid out, it will see there is a new part III. Under the new part III, there is a list of protected provisions. I shall spend a minute explaining why they are in the Bill, because they were not listed when the Bill originally came to the House. I was alarmed to discover an issue that the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar rightly raised with me yesterday. Suddenly, I discovered that parts of the Bill exclude Canary wharf. It struck me that if a byelaw-making Bill about the docklands excluded Canary wharf, it was very odd, since the biggest building in the whole of the docklands is on that site. The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar may well want to make points about that matter, but I shall first deal with what has happened as the Bill has proceeded through the House.
The new part III gives protective provision for people who have private landownership interests in the designated areas. Everybody who is not a docklands corporation landowner—all the other owners in the area—have the same protection. So if the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar owned her house and I owned a house there, we would be assured that we would receive the same protection.
I see that the hon. Member for Greenwich is nodding. He is welcome to intervene, but, perhaps, he will want to deal with that point in his speech. The important matter is how we reached that position.
Part III lists the other big landowners, which are Canary Wharf Investment Ltd., The Daily Telegraph, Clippers Quay (Millwall) Management Company Ltd., Billingsgate market, the London City airport, the port health authority, the fire authority, the Crown and telecommunications operators, which, I am told, means, in effect, Mercury Communications plc. Part III means that either the provisions of the Bill or byelaws made under the Bill will not apply in the areas in which those companies have landownership interests, without their consent in writing.
In some cases, as part of the negotiations over the clauses, the docklands corporation did, I am told, enter into private agreements relating to how the consent of the bodies would be given and the circumstances in which consent might be withheld. When the Bill was drafted, it was thought—it was a negotiating tactic as much as anything else—that it was a good idea to include the privately owned land, such as Canary wharf, as well as land owned by the LDDC. I have not checked, but it sounds right that, in the area of the three boroughs concerned, and in the LDDC area, about 95 per cent. of the territory, which is mainly water, is LDDC owned, and about 5 per cent. only is owned by other people. Canary wharf may seem big, but it is mainly upwards and not along the ground.
I am told that the LDDC had hoped that it would receive the agreement of those other landowners so that the byelaw-making powers could apply to their lands, too. However, the Bill has now reached Third Reading, those other landowners have not given their consent and, therefore, they have to be taken out of the Bill because they will not be governed by the byelaw. Therefore, the Bill does not seek to interfere with or take away the pre-existing rights in law of the owners of the land in the LDDC who are not the LDDC itself.
The vast majority of the land is owned by the LDDC or by one of its subsidiaries. All land and waters owned by the LDDC adjacent to LDDC waters, even in private ownership, were originally included in the designated areas shown on the map, as the hon. Member for Newham, South said. That land has now been taken out of the Bill and we are left with the LDDC-owned territory alone. Had that not been done, I understand that there would have been a large fight and the private owners would have not allowed the Bill to get to this stage. That is the history of the addition of part III.
I shall deal with one or two other matters concerning what has happened between Second Reading and Third Reading.
Of course I shall be brief.
The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar specifically raised matters which were not do with the technicality of the drafting, but real matters of substance and concern. I hope that it is not betraying any confidence—I am sure that it is not, because she has said it many times outside the House as well as inside it—to tell the House that the matter that she had at the top of her list was that she believed that her constituents were effectively promised that the extension to the docklands light railway would include a station at Island Gardens. She made it clear that they were effectively told that that was guaranteed. When the Bill was last before the House, that had not been delivered.
The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar raised a few other issues of equal importance, such as the lack of affordable housing on the Isle of Dogs, the lack of jobs for locals in the activities of the LDDC—a matter which I raise regularly on behalf of my constituents and which I am sure that my two colleagues do on behalf of theirs—delays in starting the Jubilee line extension and the specific local matter of the lack of access by the Docklands sailing club to a slipway.
I do not seek to persuade the hon. Lady of the unmitigated merits of the LDDC. She knows that that is not my view of it. I shall tell her the facts and leave her to decide whether what could have been achieved has been achieved. As she knows, on the key issue of Island Gardens station, outside forces have intervened—we hope, to help us all.
I am told that the corporation has contributed to the provision of 315 social housing units—homes, better called—in the hon. Lady's constituency at Timber wharves and 187 at Masthouse terrace. The corporation has also facilitated—I do not know quite what that means—65 self-build units at Maconachies wharf.
It is only fair to point out that the 300-odd houses that were provided at Timber wharf were built to replace 500 houses that were destroyed to make way for the Limehouse link. So that is not a fair way of putting it.
The hon. Lady is right. I was not seeking to pretend otherwise. I remember that debate. It was extremely controversial.
Schemes have apparently been set up that would produce another 68 homes on another three sites on the Isle of Dogs. I should add from a personal point of view that there is a huge remaining need for affordable homes in Tower Hamlets, as there certainly is in Southwark and Newham. Affordable homes are needed to rent, for shared ownership and to own. We need many more of them. If we were led by need rather than demand, we would do better.
I will tell the House what the brief says about jobs. It says:
It is not possible to quantify among the jobs created on the Isle of Dogs those which have gone to pre 1981 residents.
To be fair, I do not think that the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar was asking about pre-1981 residents. She was asking about residents whether pre-or post-1981. All that the corporation is clear about is that before 1981 there were 9,000 jobs on the island and now there are 20,000. Unemployment in Tower Hamlets is almost as bad, if not as bad, as unemployment in Southwark and Bermondsey. I know that many of the jobs that have been created in Southwark have not gone to people who live in Southwark, let alone to people who live in Newham or Tower Hamlets. Many people have been brought in and continue to be brought in. The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar and other colleagues must keep pressing within the law for much more commitment to delivering local employment possibilities for the remaining life of the LDDC.
Mercifully, the Jubilee line extension has now begun and work is well advanced. I welcome that, as I am sure the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar does. I am told that the Docklands sailing and watersports centre has permanent rights to the slipway. It is not a matter for the corporation. The sailing club is entitled to make arrangements with the watersports centre. I understand that Lord Cocks has written to the hon. Lady on that matter. I hope that she will be able now to facilitate the conclusion of that for the purpose that she wanted. That is perfectly reasonable.
The Chairman of Committees in the other place determined only last week in private business that the docklands light railway had given an undertaking to Parliament to build a new underground station at Island Gardens when the docklands light railway extension to Lewisham was built to replace the existing terminus station there. Docklands light railway and the corporation had proposed that Island Gardens station and Cutty Sark station on the other side of the Thames in the constituency of the hon. Member for Greenwich should be omitted from the scheme to reduce the capital costs of the project and ensure its financial viability.
The new station must now be built as part of the project. If it is not, docklands light railway will be in breach of an undertaking given to Parliament in 1992 when the enabling legislation was before the House. That means that £3.5 million of capital costs cannot be cut from the project as originally proposed. The conclusion is that if the docklands light railway extension goes ahead—we await an announcement—it will do so only with Island Gardens station as part of it. I know that the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar welcomes that confirmation of the undertaking and what the law says. All that we must do now is press the Government to make the DLR extension go ahead.
It would be wrong of me to take up further time to put my views about what is needed in docklands. I put them fairly succinctly on Second Reading. As long as there is a London Docklands development corporation—I did not support its creation—it is important that it responds to the needs of its community. The Bill seeks to give it the power to regulate safety within its area.
I hope that, on that basis, the House will support the Bill on Third Reading and allow it to go on its way towards the statute book soon. I have no doubt that we shall continue having debates about the merits of development of the docklands in London and about the best way forward, long after tonight. That is justifiable. I hope that that will not prevent our saying tonight that the Bill is a good thing which the House can support.
On the face of it, the Bill, which empowers the London Docklands development corporation to make byelaws to regulate the former docks area, should not be a complicated or controversial measure. There is wide agreement that new byelaws should be made that reflect the dramatic change in the character and use of the docks in the past 25 years.
In his speech on the Second Reading on 14 March, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) described the transformation of the docks from a heavily policed working area surrounded by high walls, dock gates and high security to an area predominantly given over to leisure, public access and recreation. Other hon. Members who represent the docklands area, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who has sponsored the Bill, echoed that view.
The new role of the docks calls for a different system of regulation or byelaws. On that point there is unanimity, but that is about as far as the unanimity reaches. The progress of the Bill through the House and the other place has been marked by controversy. It has raised many more questions than answers. It has unlocked an extraordinary number of skeletons, which have taxed the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey when he tried to give us answers not only tonight but on Second Reading and in the intervening period.
The first question is whether it is appropriate to give the powers to regulate the docks to the LDDC. It has specific and special powers for the whole docklands area, but it is an unelected and unaccountable quango. Perhaps even more to the point, it is due to go out of existence within the next four years. Why we should go to such lengths—the Bill has taken an extraordinary time grinding its way through the parliamentary process—to give byelaw-making powers to a body which is about to be wound up is a cause for some astonishment.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Indeed, I was about to say that the whole question leads immediately to the issue which has rightly exercised many hon. Members. It is the curiously worded—indeed, some might say injudiciously worded—clause 33 as it now is, previously clause 32, relating to the transfer of functions from the LDDC to its successors.
As previously drafted, the clause gave sweeping powers to the Minister to assign the functions of the LDDC with regard to the management of the former dock areas, and possibly much wider powers—not only management powers—to anyone chosen by the Minister, without any reference to Parliament.
On Second Reading, the Minister put forward an interesting and fascinating defence. He said that we should not get worked up about these draconian powers, because he already had them under existing legislation, and the clause was unnecessary. If that is the case, the question arises why the Government allowed their creature, the LDDC, to waste parliamentary time promoting an unnecessary clause. We never had an explanation for that one.
Clause 33, as it now is, is indicative of the whole sad, sleazy approach which the Government take to issues of public interest and accountability. It is born of the Government's enmity to democratically elected and accountable local authorities, which would naturally be the appropriate bodies to make byelaws and manage these areas for public recreational use. That would ensure not only consistency with the byelaws applicable in other local parks and recreation areas but continuity of management because, unlike the LDDC, the local authorities—the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Newham—will continue to be there after 1998.
If the Minister contributes to this debate, he will undoubtedly argue that local authorities have not opposed the provisions giving those powers to the LDDC. The truth of the matter is that the local authorities would undoubtedly have been more than happy to assume responsibility for the management of the former dock areas if they had been given the resources to meet the potentially high costs of maintaining the docks, the dock walls and the dock gates.
The Government have given them no option. They squeezed their budgets year on year while lavishing £1.6 billion on the LDDC. If the three dockland boroughs had received a fraction of the sums paid to the LDDC, they would gladly and willingly have taken on responsibility for managing the docks—and I am sure that that is the case today.
What will happen when the LDDC is wound up? On Second Reading, the point was expressed most forcibly both by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey—I quote my right hon. Friend:
the logic points to the return of not merely the land in docklands to the boroughs of which they are part, but to the management of the water and of the docks in whatever local authority boundary they fall."—[Official Report, 14 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 678.]
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey made clear his preference—he has echoed it tonight—for the democratically elected local authorities to be the successor bodies. At the same time, he confirmed his inability to assure us that that would happen. He reported to the House that the Bill does not stipulate who should be the successor, because no decision has yet been taken. He expressed the hope that that might be clarified during the later stages of the Bill's passage. Those stages are now being completed, and we are no wiser.
Clause 33 makes it clear that the Secretary of State may, on an application from the LDDC, transfer these powers to any person. I am sure that the Minister will find the freedom to hand over these powers to whoever he wishes very convenient and agreeable. Indeed, who knows who he will propose? Those of us who have watched the lamentable way in which the Government sold out the public interest to Tory placemen and a few Tory placewomen, as well as rewarding contributors to Tory party funds, will rightly feel concerned that this could be yet another example of the confusion of public and private interest which has become such a hallmark of the Government.
The nub of the matter is that the management of the former docks area should be undertaken not by bodies which are not publicly accountable and do not have a responsible position, unlike democratically elected local authorities. The management of these areas and the byelaw-making powers should be given to bodies which can recognise the distinction between public and private interest, and which will be acting in the public interest.
The Minister, from a sedentary position, frequently quoted Lord Cocks, who is a member of the London Docklands development corporation. He will recall that I was not talking about the LDDC; I was talking about the successor bodies. If the Minister will give us an indication who the successor bodies will be, and whether they will be publicly accountable—whether they will be democratically elected—I will willingly give way to give him an opportunity of doing so.
I do not intend to engage in this debate, for the simple reason that this is the second time that we have debated the issue. As the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, this is a Bill within a narrow compass. It has taken up a considerable amount of time not because of any of the complexities in the Bill but simply because Opposition Members have dreamed up a number of fantasies with which they have wished to detain the House.
The Bill is more about Labour Members wishing to vent their spleen on the London Docklands development corporation. If the hon. Gentleman reads Hansard tomorrow, he will see that his points seem to suggest that LDDC could not distinguish between public and private interest. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to give any instance when the LDDC has not acted in the public interest.
The first instance that I shall give is the extraordinary way in which it has lavished large sums of public money on bankers, property developers and people who have contributed considerably to the personal profits of individual shareholders, many of whom are contributors to the Conservative party, but who have failed to meet their responsibility to meet the needs of the people of the Isle of Dogs.
If the Minister had gone to the Isle of Dogs in the local elections earlier this year, he would be only too well aware of the dangerous consequences of the neglect by the LDDC and his Government of the legitimate concerns and grievances of local people who have seen little benefit for all the sums of money which have been lavished on the LDDC.
I note that the Minister, in his response, sought immediately to change the subject of the debate. He did not want to answer my specific question whether there would be an undertaking that the successor body, which is what we are talking about, which would assume these byelaw-making powers, would be a democratically elected and accountable body. I note, and the House will note, the Minister's silence on that point.
The Minister claims that the delay in the Bill going through the House is because of Opposition Members. That is an absurd suggestion. The delay has been entirely to do with trying to sort out some of the technicalities which even now—even tonight on Third Reading—still have not been sorted out. How the Government can allow their creature, the LDDC, to bring forward legislation which includes a map identifying the Cody road balancing lagoon as one of the areas but cannot get a mention of it in the Bill is simply one more indication of the problems.
The issues of jurisdiction and areas of responsibility under the Bill are technicalities which rightly and properly should be identified by the House as part of parliamentary scrutiny. It is far from satisfactory, as we have recognised tonight, to have to allow a Bill to go through which is in some ways defective—some of the language is dubious, and there are discrepancies between the maps and the schedules—purely because there is no further opportunity to do anything about it if the LDDC is to have its powers in time for the summer.
As I have said, the nub of the matter is that management of the former dock areas should have been undertaken by democratically elected public authorities. At the very least, the three local authorities concerned—the London boroughs of Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Newham—should be given the first option of taking over these responsibilities from the LDDC.
I understand that the London borough of Tower Hamlets recently made representations to that effect, and I hope that the Minister will give a commitment to the House that the three local authorities will have the right of first refusal when the LDDC comes to transfer those powers. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to that point.
While that issue has remained unclarified during the Bill's passage, other changes have been made which suggest that the Government's thinking points in a very different direction. I am referring to clauses 18 to 27, all of which have been inserted at the promoter's instigation in the last stage of the process under the heading "protective provisions". The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey was somewhat coy about those provisions and said that he had sought a briefing at the last minute on the reason for their insertion. In his usual elegant and carefully argued fashion, he gave us some sort of defence of those provisions. It was entirely unconvincing. Other than clarifying the position of certain other public authorities—the Port of London Authority, the City corporation and the Crown—the provisions merely grant extremely wide-ranging exemptions to certain commercial interests, in particular, Canary Wharf Investments Ltd. and its associated companies.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey said that there was no distinction between the benefits offered to the various companies identified in the clauses. Clause 19, which is for the protection of Canary Wharf Investments Ltd., Canary Wharf Ltd., or Heron Quays Developments Ltd., has three subsections. Subsection (2) states:
The provisions of this Act and of any byelaw under this Act shall not apply to any land in which the company has…interest, or an entitlement to such an interest, without the consent in writing of the company.
Subsection (3) states:
Subject to any consent given under subsection (2) above, nothing in this Act or any order or byelaw made under this Act shall affect any rights, powers or privileges which are vested in, or enjoyed by, the company",
and so forth.
Clauses 20 and 21, which deal with the protection of the Telegraph plc, West Ferry Printers Ltd., Mercury Communications Ltd., and Clippers Quay (Milwall) Management Company Ltd., contain much more restricted provisions. They apply only to byelaws, not to the provisions of the Bill, and there is no third subsection, as there is in the case of Canary Wharf Investments Ltd. Those people responsible for briefing the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey were economical, at the very least, in their briefing if they implied that the clauses contained similar treatment for similar organisations.
I hope that I have not misrepresented the views of those who briefed me. The negotiated position is certainly different for each of the landlords, and each clause deals with them differently. None the less, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that the general rule still applies. It was hoped that all those organisations will sign up to the byelaws. They clearly did not, and the clauses in the Bill contain what they did not sign up to. It is certainly true that that is different for the different organisations.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming that. It shows that whatever Canary wharf wants the LDDC will bend over backwards to offer.
As we know only too well, the Canary wharf venture has been the great totem of the LDDC's activity. It proved only too clearly that throwing large sums of public money at private developers is not a guarantee of success. The Government frequently say that throwing public money at a problem is no solution. Heaven knows, they have thrown enough money at Canary wharf, and the building is still half-empty. It also proves that, because of the status and prestige associated with Canary Wharf Ltd., the LDDC will accept just about anything it requests to try to keep it happy. The Bill contains a clear sign of that.
Clause 19 provides that any byelaws made under the Bill shall not affect any land in which Canary Wharf Ltd. and its associated companies have a freehold or leasehold interest or an option without their agreement. The company has an absolute veto over any byelaws proposed by the LDDC, or its successors, which affect any of the land that the company controls.
As we know, that represents a substantial area, as it includes not merely the base of the huge 50-storey tower, but also the surrounding area and the Heron Quays site. The democratically elected local authority is not given any such power of veto. We already know the measures that Canary Wharf Ltd. has taken to restrict public access to the areas it controls. Roads are closed, and private security patrols abound. What hope is there for any rights of public access to those parts of the docks and the adjoining land surrounding Canary wharf owned by Canary Wharf Ltd. and its associated companies?
How can that position be reconciled with clause 7, which sets out a principle with which almost all hon. Members would agree? It specifies:
Subject to the provisions of this Act, it shall be the duty of the Corporation, in formulating or considering any proposals relating to its functions under this Act, to have regard to the desirability of securing and maintaining public access to the waterside.
That is a fine principle, but will it extend to Heron Quays and Canary wharf?
What guarantee can the Minister give that the private businesses that have received huge public subsidies to construct the half-empty offices that stand on their sites will not be allowed to put up the barriers and the "No entry" signs, thus entirely flouting the principle of
securing…public access to the waterside"?
The Canary wharf opt-out—that is what clause 19 allows—sets a very bad precedent indeed. As the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey said, there are similar, but not identical, opt-outs for other commercial interests—the Telegraph plc, West Ferry Printers Ltd., Mercury Communications Ltd. and Clippers Quay (Milwall) Management Company. If that is a blueprint for the future of docklands, it is a blueprint with which we are becoming all too familiar—a blueprint in which the public interest is always subordinated to the interests of the property developers, bankers and other private financial interests.
That is why, despite the £1.6 billion in public money that has been pumped in by the Government, docklands remains a tragically divided community, which is badly hit by poverty, unemployment and bad housing. It is an area in which the conspicuous consumption and glittering office blocks of those who have done well out of the LDDC stand in marked contrast to the unmodernised, bleak housing in which too many of the Isle of Dogs residents still have to live.
Sadly, that is why the evil of racism has been able to raise its ugly head in recent years, feeding off the justified resentment of long-standing local residents, who have received little or nothing from the huge cornucopia of riches lavished on the LDDC.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey referred to the limited number of social homes provided by the LDDC in recent years. Those homes are obviously welcome, but in an area with such an enormous need for housing, where housing has become an important catalyst for social and racial conflict, any responsible organisation, exercising the sort of powers that the LDDC exercises, should study all the sites it controls to find out how many could be made available for local people in need of rented housing.
I shall return immediately to the provisions in the Bill. I was simply putting it in context and describing the LDDC and its failure to meet local needs, which gives rise to the suspicion that measures such as the Bill essentially provide yet further advantage for certain private interests, rather than serving the public interest or providing proper protection for the needs of local people. That is why, despite the fact that the monuments of the work of the LDDC have so markedly changed the landscape in east London, the body responsible remains profoundly unloved by local people and will be, when it is wound up, unlamented.
The Minister ought to ponder those points. After all the public money and the dramatic transformation of the physical appearance of the area, why is the responsible body treated with such suspicion and hostility by local people?
The tragedy is that opportunities have been wasted to secure the regeneration of the docklands, which was urgently required in the interests of the whole community, not just of one section. The Bill is in every respect typical of the whole process. There was an opportunity to create a new framework for the management and use of the former dock areas in the interests of the whole community, but sadly the opportunity has been squandered through the failure of the Government and the LDDC properly to distinguish between public and private interest, and by their unforgivable bias in favour of the latter.
We will not vote against Third Reading of the Bill, because we want to see the byelaw-making powers in place. We see, as everyone does, the advantage in having byelaws which will provide protection for public safety and will hopefully ensure better use of the water areas. It is not our intention in any way to delay that process. I am somewhat sceptical of the claim that the byelaws will be in place by this summer, and we will all look to see whether that pledge is honoured.
We will not oppose the Bill tonight, but we will look on it with sadness. Yet another opportunity has been missed by a body which has received so much public money and so much opportunity to change the landscape of east London for the good, but which, in practice, will disappear in two, three or four years' time, unloved and unlamented by the local residents.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) referred to many of the points which I made on Second Reading. I do not want to reiterate those points or to answer many of the questions which the hon. Gentleman raised regarding my Second Reading speech, except on the question of Island Gardens. My constituents were very glad that the hearing which took place before the Lord Chairman of Committees decided in their favour. We hope that the docklands light railway and the London Docklands development corporation will not try to find a way of wriggling out of their commitment again, and that the DLR extension will go ahead with an underground station at Island Gardens.
I wish to emphasise some of the points which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford). The Bill has too many vague clauses. It concerns the management of a very large area—400 acres of water and 25 miles of paths. The Bill gives the LDDC powers to make byelaws, and to control dockside paths, the movement of vessels, pollution, parking and the landing and taking off of helicopters. In other words, it will have the same powers to make byelaws as local authorities.
The important difference, which has already been pointed out, is that local authorities are democratically elected and are subject to public pressure. The LDDC—as we know from our bitter experience—is not. It ignores public pressure and ignores the needs of the community. Clause 33 originally empowered the Secretary of State to transfer the "assets" of the LDDC, but the wording has now been altered to "functions". That is still too vague.
It is clear to me that the best body to ensure public enjoyment of the docks area and the best use of that great area of water which is now available for the benefit of the community is the local authority. The local authority has changed hands. The Liberal Democrat-controlled authority which existed before last May did object to the Bill but, after certain assurances, withdrew the objection.
The new administration feels that it has the best people to ensure the public enjoyment and the development of the area for the community, but it is wary of the cost of maintaining the docks. It does not want to take on the liabilities without any of the assets. It has been told that the dock walls, which are deep under the water and 100 years old, will cost a great deal of money to repair if they start to crumble. A study should have been done well before the presentation of the Bill to find out how much money would be needed to put the docks in good repair and what funding would be needed to maintain the walls.
I feel very much that, in two years' time when the LDDC ceases to exist, the local authority should have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich said, the first chance to take over the control of the designated area and of the byelaws. But it must be assured that the designated area will be endowed, so that it will have the money for maintenance. The question of funding is the only thing that would stop the local authority from wanting to take democratic control, as the area should be controlled. It must have the money to do the maintenance and development.
The Bill says that reasonable endeavours to secure local representation on a successor body must be undertaken, but that is not clear enough. Tonight we have not been told who the successor body should be. My constituents and those of other docklands areas will certainly want the powers to be handed over to the local authority, together with the money to carry out the development needed to maintain the docks and create a good environment for the enjoyment of local people and also to develop tourism, which would create jobs and benefit the area.
I am particularly worried about how the LDDC will manage the area. The answer on Shadwell park was not good enough. Nothing will stop the successor authority
from swallowing Shadwell park for commercial development. The position is quite different for rich and powerful companies like Canary Wharf Investments Ltd. As I entered the Chamber tonight I saw that decisions were being made on the hoof under pressure from those rich and powerful companies. I was handed a document explaining why there should be protective provisions for those with private land ownership interests. It says:
there would have been a substantial risk of compensation being forced to be paid against those whose private rights were adversely affected by the provisions of the Bill.
I have not read the document, although I believe that it is publicly available. If those people thought that their private rights were affected by the terms of the Bill, it was open to them, if they thought fit, to petition. While I do not blame them for not doing so, that would have been the right procedure. Were not they informed of what was involved?
I do not know what went on behind the scenes. I was simply handed a document, which I assume comes hot off the press from the promoters. Those who are rich and powerful can request last minute changes to the Bill without going through the relevant procedures, but members of ordinary working communities can get no such guarantee about a park that is precious to them.
May I deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing)? Had the Bill not been amended, those in the protected provisions place, being fully aware of what was going on, would have had to petition. Had they petitioned, there would have been the mother and father of all battles because their private rights would have been affected and massive amounts of money would have had to be paid out. So the LDDC, thinking discretion the better part of valour, pulled back from making provisions in the Bill and decided that its original intention would be better avoided and thus a quieter life would be achieved for all.
I shall return later to the exemption of private companies, particularly relating to pollution. In the meantime, I am concerned about what charges will be made under the byelaws. After my speech on Second Reading, I received a letter from National Car Parks Ltd informing me that the LDDC wanted to charge it £1,175 per annum simply for putting up a sign directing motorists to its multi-storey car park at City harbour. After some discussion, the charge was reduced to £940 but NCP decided that it was not worth while. Consequently, many motorists do not know where the car park is.
If National Car Parks has been asked to pay such a large licence fee—in no other area has a local authority ever asked the company to pay a fee to put up a sign to direct motorists to its car park—what other charges will be made? What assurances have we that charges for water sports, for fishing rights, possibly for bringing one's chair—as the LDDC has refused to put down benches around the dock so that people can sit and enjoy the water, although I have asked many times—for use of a vessel, for use of the steps and for use of the jetties for landing, will not be made prohibitively great by the market-minded LDDC? If such large charges are made, only those people with a lot of money in their pocket will be able to use those facilities, whereas poorer people, pensioners, and youth —to whom the enjoyment and the development of water sports is especially important—will be forced out of the picture because they cannot afford them.
We have no assurance that access to the water and access to facilities will be affordable, and that the LDDC will develop facilities on the water and along the dockside. It has, in the past, given money for capital programmes—for building the docklands sailing centre, for instance—but the revenue to run them is never forthcoming. We want assurances that market forces will not lead whatever happens on the dockside.
The LDDC also has control of the landing and taking off of helicopters. If that will be profitable, will there be some type of floating landing pad on the docks, which will create more noise and more pollution for people in the area? I should like assurances that that will not happen.
To return to the subject of the private companies, one of the private companies is Westferry Printers, and I remind the House that it is stated that the powers of the LDDC over that area will include pollution. My constituents are so worried about pollution of water and air from printing works that they have formed an organisation called Londoners Against Media Pollution. The council, in the Wapping area, is conducting a very large study, carried out by the South East Thames health authority, on volatile organic pollution. I have met Westferry Printers staff. They assure me that they are doing their best to ensure that pollutants do not go into the water and that everything possible will be done, but I do not know how much is possible and how much is being done, and I do not think that a printing works, or any other company, should be exempted from any byelaws that seek to prevent pollution.
All in all, there are far too many question marks about the Bill. Far too many questions have not been answered. After years and years of the docks being industrial centres, we have a chance to make that area a wonderful place, where people can enjoy the water and water sports, which tourists can visit, and where developments that will benefit the whole community can take place.
We are putting those powers in the hands of an organisation that has already shown that it will not do that. It has shown that it does not develop things in the interests of ordinary people. The succession of those powers when the LDDC winds up is very much in the air. We have been given no assurance, and we do not know whether there is any chance of the local authorities obtaining the endowment and the powers to control the docks and paths, as I believe should be the case.
On its foundation, the LDDC embarked on its regeneration remit with an approach that, in its early days at least, largely ignored the local communities where it was based. There were several instances of brick walls being built to keep apart the existing community and the new development and its incoming occupiers, who were the intended beneficiaries of it. That created enormous resentment, and two of the three local authorities withdrew their limited representation on the board of the LDDC in response.
In those early days it was a model of regeneration that excluded and ignored the local community and was not effective. In the middle of the 1980s, in Newham and elsewhere, there was a sea change in the approach. My predecessor as hon. Member for Newham, North-Fast was chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, which produced a report pinpointing the need for regeneration to provide demonstrable benefits for existing local communities. Others also made that point at the time, which led to changes in Newham.
In 1987 the council, with the corporation, drew up a memorandum of agreement about the benefits that would accrue to the existing communities as a result of what were at that time expected to be major developments. They included a commitment to secure 1,500 homes for rent as part of the development in the Royal docks, a target of 25 per cent. of all jobs created to be taken by local residents, towards which the local authority with the corporation and others would work.
The recession intervened and the developments have not yet materialised, but I believe that they will ultimately. It is essential that the commitments entered into and the targets set then are honoured. Occasionally we receive signs from the corporation that it may wish to renege on some of them; but I hope that that will not happen. The commitments were given and accepted on the basis that existing residents must benefit from the regeneration process. The position remains unchanged and it is important that those obligations are met.
From 1987 until a couple of months ago I chaired the negotiating team that worked with the corporation on behalf of the borough. There has been a change in the way that the corporation has approached its task—a change for the better. There is a good and constructive working relationship between the borough and the corporation. The borough has not objected to the Bill, despite some of its regrettable features, which have been drawn to our attention this evening. I shall not object to it, but I want to make a couple of observations.
Earlier this week I was dellighted to read in the Evening Standard some comments by the chairman of the London Docklands development corporation which I endorse. He drew attention to two key Government decisions that are awaited and that will determine how quickly the corporation is able to get on with its task of completing the work in docklands. He said that the two decisions were
whether Stratford is chosen as the intermediate station for the Channel Tunnel rail link and which of the two proposed sites for a river crossing, Blackwall or the East London river crossing at Beckton"—
which he favoured—
I agree with him on both those points, but I particularly want to draw attention to the importance of the decision on the location of the channel tunnel station. The verdict is not yet in—
I shall gladly do that, but I was glad to put on record my agreement with the chairman of the LDDC.
I was surprised to read in the Bill the long list of organisations and private owners who have opted out of the byelaws. The local authorities have accepted the pressing need for the byelaws to be drawn up in order to safeguard the public interest around the dock areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) mentioned that one of the major polluters has been able to avoid the byelaws. That is alarming, and a great worry and disappointment.
I did not say that it was one of the greatest polluters. I said that constituents were concerned that the print works in Wapping were sending out pollutants and effluence, and that a study was being done to find out whether that was true. There are also print works in the designated area that are exempt from the byelaws.
I am grateful for that clarification. Certainly, exemptions undermine the Bill.
My point is that I believe that there is growing anxiety among Conservative Members about the damage being done to our social fabric by the fact that the market has been allowed to rip in a number of areas, including the development of docklands. The hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) concluded, in an interesting pamphlet on civic conservatism which he wrote recently:
The crucial Tory insight is that a community has to be embodied in real institutions which are essential to sustain traditions, values and patterns of behaviour. A concern with the strength of Britain's institutions, both national and local, is at the heart of the Tory tradition. Addressing that concern is essential to representing the values of the quiet majority of the British people.
The London Docklands development corporation started out from a strain of thinking in the Conservative party that was firmly opposed to this outlook, but it is now gaining favour—
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the special measure, in the form of the LDDC, had to be taken because the councils surrounding the area, which had run it since the war, had neglected it and huge areas of docklands were lying waste? Going down Salter road in Bermondsey is a revelation these days compared with what it was like in 1978. Surely the hon. Gentleman will allow some credit for that.
I do not for a moment suggest that little has been achieved: a great deal has been achieved, although we might debate the mechanisms that may have led to those achievements. I repeat my point—increasingly recognised by Conservative Members—that it is extremely important that democratic institutions, locally acknowledged, play their proper role.
This Bill will give byelaw powers to the LDDC, but the crucial question that has been asked concerns what will happen once the LDDC goes—what will happen to the powers? Will local authorities continue to be sidelined, or will, as I hope, the powers be passed on to local authorities so that the vital role that local institutions play in our community of east London can be sustained?
I congratulate the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) on his promotion of this private Bill and on the manner in which he has dealt with the points raised this evening. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Timms) on what I think the whole House would consider to be a balanced and reasonable speech—standing in stark contrast to some other Opposition contributions on other occasions. One of the difficulties has been the seeming impossibility of Opposition Members ever giving credit for the many achievements that the LDDC has brought about in its part of London.
The Bill turns on a very narrow compass. It is generally agreed that it is a worthy Bill, worthy of a speedy passage. It has taken quite a long time to pass through its stages in the House, for a number of reasons. It should be delayed no longer, and I hope that the House will give it a speedy Third Reading.
The Minister has referred several times to how long this Bill has taken to proceed. In an exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford), he even suggested that the motivation behind the speeches made by Opposition Members on these technicalities and amendments was "political". I remind the Minister of the technicalities that we dealt with tonight and the procedural matters dealt with largely on Second Reading. Of course there was an element of politics. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich dealt with those, correctly, froth the Front Bench whereas some of us—notably my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon), and myself on procedural matters—eschewed those aspects and dealt with procedural and legal matters that would be dealt with by the Minister if they were being applied to Banbury or Oxfordshire. Why not? That is what Parliament is about.
Although the LDDC has been successful in certain respects, we had difficulties dealing with the right sort of byelaw, procedure and schedule because the measure cuts across the grain of our historic, civic control of public amenity. What could be a greater public amenity than the docks of London?
I remind the House that the docklands light railway was initially agreed in principle by everyone—from Ken Livingstone to Sir Horace Cutler, and by every borough councillor of every party. It still does not run on Sunday.
It does not run on Sunday even when it does not break down—and if one travels from Beckton to the Bank, one must change twice.
A Bill that is ostensibly for the future should not raise more questions than it answers. Of course there must be byelaw powers to fill the vacuum left by the Port of London Authority, for a totally different function for the docks—but speaker after speaker has shown, not on a party basis but purely on a legal basis, what will happen in two years. Who will make the byelaws then, and what will be the areas? The Bill does not say. It allows flexibility in delineation of the designated area and flexibility of the determining authority. I will not say that it is non-legislation, but it is almost delegislation.
If the LDDC were a permanent body, we would know the answers to the questions that I suggested—but it ain't and we don't. I could hear in that phrase the voice of my former hon. Friend, Ian Mikardo. What a wonderful speech he would have made on such an issue.
The Bill does not take us far—two years ahead at most, and then it will be left to the Secretary of State. It is not a very satisfactory Bill.
The Bill had a rocky passage in both Houses. Some hon Members—I do not see many of them in their places tonight—talk about Parliament's arcane procedures. We have spent five hours today debating in the Chamber—never mind in Committee—a Bill which should not need debate of that sort.
We are told that parliamentary procedure is able to deal with an elephant and to pick up a pin. It is much better than people think. Even this little Third Reading debate, which revealed the procedural and political vacuums that exist, would have been impossible had not one hon. Member entered the Chamber at 2.30 pm a few weeks ago and said "Object." Of course that power can be abused, but it shows that there is goodness in procedure. It has allowed Members of Parliament representing east London to express the genuine concerns of their constituents and try to bring vision to the civic administration that is temporarily—I hope very temporarily—taken away from properly elected representatives, whether for Greater London or the boroughs concerned.
We hope that the vacuum will be filled after two years and that the questions will be answered largely by civic accountability, civic enterprise and the return of democratic government in east London.
With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall reply.
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) made a valid point about public access throughout docklands, and planning permission. I think I am correct in saying that, in granting planning permission, the corporation has required public access wherever possible: that has been its policy.
I checked to find out whether special treatment was given to the companies listed in part III of the Bill, and the answer is no. Anyone with a private interest who is in business has a right over the land along Waterside.
There is no public access there, but it has been granted in every other area owned by the corporation where such access is possible. So far, if the owners of land have not wanted public access to be granted, they have always been able to insist that it should not be granted. I agree that in some cases it should have been granted, but at least the arrangements have been consistent.
Local authorities have not been included in the list of protected organisations, because they do not now own any land in the designated areas: whether they liked it or not, it was all vested in the development corporation. Clause 9(4), however, states:
Byelaws shall not be made under this section which relate to—
which is the local authority—
(a) land forming part of a highway maintainable at the public expense, without the consent of the highway authority"—
within the meaning of the current legislation,
(b) land which is a walkway
without the consent of the borough council".
In no circumstances can byelaws override the local authority's rights as highway authority or council.
I have dealt with the specifics of the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) about private companies, and also checked the point about private homes, as opposed to big developers. Apparently, no private, individually owned homes were given rights where a walkway existed. The hon. Lady rightly mentioned areas that management companies own where there is a walkway; the protected list in part III includes some management companies which go on to let individually owned homes with a freehold. Clippers Quay (Millwall) Management Company Ltd. is an example. However, I understand that no individually owned home has been given a walkway to which it has been able to withhold public access.
I also entirely share the hon. Lady's view about charges. The Bill goes as far as Bills normally do—we can only hope that it goes far enough—in saying:
The Corporation may make, demand and recover
only such charges as are reasonable. We must ensure that it never imposes charges that are unreasonable for our constituents and other users—and that includes even nine-year-old kids. We would have the right to challenge any such charges.
I agree with the hon. Lady that we do not want a floating helipad, and I understand that the corporation does not want one either. The proposal does not seem to be floating very well itself! I am sure that we all hope that it will not come to anything. If it does, it will not be because the corporation wanted the helipad; to be fair, it has opposed them in the past, and my constituency, at least, has never had one.
I know that pollution is an important issue in the hon. Lady's constituency. In general terms, it is not intended that the byelaws should deal with pollution, and the exemptions for Canary wharf and, more importantly, the printing companies listed in the protective provisions will in no way be to the detriment to the hon. Lady's constituents. Those companies are not exempted from the general provisions governing pollution.
It has been brought to my attention—and I hope that the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar will be encouraged by this—that clause 14 states:
Section 161 of the Water Resources Act 1991 (anti-pollution works and operations) shall have effect in relation to the designated areas as though references to the Authority included references to the Corporation.
The statute law, therefore, will still govern the area. The hon. Lady's constituents and mine, and those of our colleagues, have the right to turn to the law and instigate proceedings under different environment legislation; they do not have to get someone else to do it for them. There is no reduction in the right to control pollution. Whether that legislation is good enough is a different question and the corporation does not intend to introduce byelaws.
If I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, he said that the byelaws were not intended to be made for the control of pollution. May I refer him to schedule 3, which lists the purposes for which byelaws may be made and which includes at least three paragraphs that seem to be directly related to pollution? Paragraph 5 deals with the prevention of nuisances, which have always been interpreted as pollution. Paragraph 13 deals with the control of noise, which again is a pollutant. Paragraph 24 relates to the removal of rubbish and sewage, which is certainly a pollutant. I had understood that the byelaws would at least be concerned with such pollutants. I was somewhat surprised that he indicated that they were not a matter for the byelaws.
The hon. Gentleman is right. I hope that the record will show that I said that, in general terms, the byelaws are not intended to deal with pollution. He is right—noise, nuisance and specific forms of rubbish are in the schedule and so, for example, leaving rubbish bags out and industrial dumping of rubbish will be governed. It is not intended, however, that general anti-pollution legislation should be made under byelaws. Air pollution and water pollution are governed by the general law of the land.
I was trying earlier to assure the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar that the people have the right to challenge air and water pollution by a local firm. They do not need the National Rivers Authority or anyone else to take a local discharger of polluting materials to court. The hon. Lady, the hon. Member for Greenwich or I and anyone else could do that. The hon. Member for Greenwich is right—some express purposes are included in the Bill and, in a wide sense, noise and nuisance are a form of pollution.
The hon. Lady dealt with the endowment when power is handed over from the docklands corporation to successor authorities. I am told that surveys have been conducted into the condition of various parts of the dock estate in Tower Hamlets, as well as in Newham and Southwark. The local authority in Tower Hamlets has received all such surveys—I trust that the information that I have been given on that is correct—and negotiations are taking place in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark on the succession. Those in Southwark are the most advanced.
It would be impossible to hand over control to an authority that was unwilling to receive such powers unless a deal were struck and another quango were set up, which the Government could tell to take over the body. This is an important matter and may deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Greenwich. I am instructed that there is no intention that another quango will be set up to replace the docklands corporation. The hon. Member for Greenwich says, "Thank God for that".
Although we are on Third Reading, questions remain. Obviously, a residual authority is required to tie up the ends—one was required with the Greater London council. Some coherent, public authority will be needed to manage dock areas, whether they be the west or the south, the Greenland dock or the Royal docks. The Royal docks management authority has been mooted. Surely that will be an offshoot of the borough council and not a quango.
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue. I am not seeking to read the mind of Government or that of the corporation, but the prospective successor authorities include in some places the local authority—that is certainly the intention in Southwark and I know that the matter is being negotiated this year. It could be a private owner, something that I understand is being debated in some areas north of the river; or it could be a community trust; and there may well be other agencies such as that to which the hon. Gentleman alluded.
My point is that, unless the successor authorities are the creatures of Government and the Government can tell them what to do, they will not—unless they are mad—take on the responsibility of enforcing the quality-of-life requirements in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark unless someone gives them the money to do so. Therefore, the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and the hon. Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and for Bow and Poplar need to ensure that the necessary deal is done. I am sure that the hon. Lady's local authority and Newham and Southwark local councils will also be active in ensuring that it is.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Timms) asked what would happen to the byelaw-making powers after the corporation has gone. The answer is that they will remain—their life will be much longer than that of the corporation. If the Bill is passed, the corporation's successor authorities will be able to change byelaws, but those byelaws will last longer than the corporation.
In response to the Minister's points, I must point out that the Bill has not been before both Houses for an excessively long time. It was in another place from January to December 1993 and has been before this House since December, which is a relatively short time for a private Bill.
The hon. Member for Newham, South spent a few minutes talking about the nature of the Bill. I suppose that, after all these debates and all these words, it is only an enabling Bill after all. However, I hope that even so the House will give it a Third Reading.