Crossrail Bill [Instruction No. 2]

– in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 12th January 2006.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport 12:46 pm, 12th January 2006

I beg to move,

That it be a further Instruction to the Select Committee to which the Crossrail Bill is committed—

(1) that it have power to consider—

(a) the extension of permitted development under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 in relation to development which is the subject of environmental assessment in connection with the Bill;

(b) additional power to carry out works for the purpose of reinstating facilities whose operation or use is discontinued because of the exercise of powers conferred by the Bill;

(c) provision relating to the abstraction of water;

(d) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding planning permission for development authorised by the Bill which consists of a work other than a scheduled work;

(e) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding the application of provisions of the Bill to things authorised by an order under section 1 of the Transport and Works Act 1992;

(f) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding any of the following—

(i) a crossover at Farringdon;

(ii) sidings at Westbourne Park;

(iii) diversion of the Moorgate Station Sewer;

(iv) a jetty and conveyor at West India Docks South;

(v) use of the River Lea for barge loading and holding areas;

(vi) realignment of the Docklands Light Railway at Custom House;

(vii) facilities for handling excavated materials at Manor Wharf;

(viii) a shaft at Eleanor Street;

(ix) diversion of the Hackney to Abbey Mills Sewer and the Wick Lane Sewer;

(x) a bridge over Hollow Hill Lane, Langley;

(g) realignment of the proposed running tunnel beneath Shorts Gardens, Camden;

(h) alterations to a ticket hall at the proposed Whitechapel Station;

(i) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding approval in relation to highway accesses;

(j) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding the acquisition of land at Basin Approach, Lowell Street and land at Billingsgate Market;

(k) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding the creation and acquisition of easements or other rights over land;

(l) alterations to the table in paragraph 1 of Schedule 8 to the Bill (disapplication and modification of heritage controls), so far as relating to the City of Westminster, the City of London and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets;

(m) the inclusion of additional land within the limits of land to be acquired or used; and, if it thinks fit, to make amendments to the Bill with respect to any of the matters mentioned above, and for connected purposes;

(2) that any Petition against Amendments to the Bill which the Select Committee to which the Crossrail Bill is committed is empowered to make shall be referred to that Select Committee if—

(a) it is presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which the first newspaper notice of the Amendments was published or, if that period includes any time during which the House is adjourned for more than four days, not later than five weeks beginning with that day, and

(b) it is one in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

Before I deal with the merits of the motions, let me put them in context, which may help hon. Members who were not present on 19 July last year or who have put the whole business behind them. The House will recall that on that day last year, it agreed, after a vote, to give the Crossrail Bill a Second Reading. The Bill will enable Crossrail to be constructed and puts in place the necessary powers to acquire land and also allow the Crossrail services to run.

The Second Reading agreed the principle of the Bill, which is to construct Crossrail—a railway that will run between the termini at Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east and Maidenhead in the west. The main new intermediate stations will be at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, the Isle of Dogs and Custom House.

I remind the House that this is a hybrid Bill. These are Bills used for projects usually of national importance, where the Government take the lead in terms of strategic development. But crucially, because it affects specific private interests, it is dealt with differently in both Houses of Parliament. Such Bills are rare. The last one, I believe, was about 10 years ago. The procedures in relation to them are complex. Although I shall endeavour to give the House my best understanding of what the Select Committee can and cannot do, clearly the Select Committee will be advised by the Clerks of the House, and much lies in their hands.

It might be helpful if I set out what I understand the procedure will be. We are talking about building a new railway line through London, through a densely populated area. Many private interests are affected and many people may be in favour of the Bill in principle but may have understandable concerns about their own interests, which need to be dealt with.

The Bill has aspects of both a public and a private Bill. It is brought forward by the Government and, like any other public Bill, it contains provisions that affect everyone or affect particular classes of people. However, the Bill also contains provisions that have an impact on particular individuals, notably in relation to the powers to acquire particular land. That is why the House requires such a Bill to comply with elements of the procedures for private Bills, as well as complying with the usual procedures for public Bills. The main difference is an extra Select Committee stage in each House. Hon. Members know that the Select Committee has been set up under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend Mr. Meale, and it will consider the petitions from those whose individual rights will be affected.

In addition to agreeing to give the Bill a Second Reading, the House also agreed to give instructions to the Select Committee, which we are discussing today. Hon. Members who were here in July know that the instructions, rather than the merits of Crossrail, took up most of the debate. The House agreed two sets of instructions in the vote in July: the first set allows the Select Committee to report to the House on the environmental impact of the railway; the second instructs the Select Committee to treat the principle of the Bill as including the termini of the railway transport system for which the Bill provides and the provision of intermediate stations at the locations that I have set out.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I know about the hon. Gentleman's specific concern, and he can rest assured that I will give way to him later and deal with his points—although this debate is limited to two hours, I shall endeavour to let in all concerned hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman and I have had a discussion behind the Speaker's Chair, so I know what he is going to say and will address his specific concern.

As I said on 19 July, Hansard, column 1125, the principle of the Bill is established on Second Reading, but the Select Committee must be given instructions to enable it to deal with the matter in a manageable way. As I have said, we have accepted instructions on environmental matters and that the principle of the Bill establishes the termini and principal stations.

We are considering three motions today. The first permits the Committee to consider a number of late petitions that were outside the deadline, and I can deal with that matter quickly. One petitioner was apparently involved in an accident and taken to casualty, which prevented him from lodging his petition, and five others sent their petitions to the Department for Transport rather than to the House of Commons. I think that most hon. Members would agree that it is fair to let those petitions go forward.

The second motion allows the Committee to consider petitions in relation to Reading and Ebbsfleet, which took up a lot of time in July, and I shall return to that matter in a moment.

The third motion allows the Committee to consider petitions on the additional provisions that the Government intend to introduce—the additional provisions change the detail of the project and have been identified in discussions with interested parties since the Bill's introduction early last year. I have placed in the Vote Office copies of the instructions on the extensions to Reading and Ebbsfleet, the instructions on additional provisions and the motion on petitions lodged after the deadline, as well as an explanatory memorandum on each motion.

I shall now deal with the two main instructions before the House today, which concern the extensions to Reading and Ebbsfleet and the additional provisions. On the extensions to Reading and Ebbsfleet, the Government want to see Crossrail built and therefore came to the House of Commons with a specific proposition, which involves an economic case that stacks up, which will be operationally effective and which can be delivered. As I said to the House in July, if we were not to nail down the proposition, this Crossrail Bill would meet exactly the same fate as the previous Crossrail Bill, which collapsed under its own weight in the early 1990s.

First, on the western terminus, we decided that Crossrail will end at Maidenhead. On Second Reading, Mrs. May argued with some force that Crossrail should not stop in Maidenhead, and, possibly for different reasons, my hon. Friend Martin Salter argued that it should continue to Reading. Much was made of the question whether the Select Committee would be competent to examine the matter, and my best advice at the time was that it would. On my instruction, however, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Derek Twigg, said at the close of the debate that if that is not the case, we would introduce an amendment after further discussion with the Clerks to make sure that it is possible to discuss such things.

If the House agrees the motion today, the Committee will be able to hear petitions in relation to an extension to Reading and make recommendations to this House. If the Government were to accept such representations, the matter would be taken forward by a Transport and Works Act 1992 order, which, as those who are familiar with such matters know, is a well-established way of building projects such as railway lines.

Because the matter concerns the end of the line—the same point applies to Ebbsfleet—we are not discussing a lot of property acquisition and interference with individuals' rights. The key issues are signalling and the capacity of Reading station.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

Perhaps my hon. Friend wants to say how pleased he is that the Government have made that decision—I expect that he is composing an intervention to say just that. If we pass the motion, it will allow the Select Committee to hear petitions in relation to the extension. The procedure will be different from the Crossrail Bill. I repeat that the Government are not persuaded that we should extend Crossrail at this stage for reasons that I do not think it necessary to set out again, although I will happily do so. The motion allows the debate that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West are anxious to hold.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Assuming that the House passes the motion, I welcome the fact that the Select Committee will be given an instruction to examine the extension from Maidenhead to Reading. One issue is the cost of the necessary works, some of which relate to existing capacity problems at Reading station. Changes to that capacity have been on Network Rail's list of works to do for some time, but sadly there is little prospect of their being undertaken immediately. I want to clarify that the Select Committee will not get hung up on that aspect of the extension and will be able to examine the benefits to Crossrail of an extension from Maidenhead to Reading, rather than rejecting the extension simply because Network Rail is not doing the work that it should to increase capacity at Reading station.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

That is the precise area in which I cannot be hard and fast. I cannot tell members of the Select Committee exactly what they should or should not consider, subject to the general parameters that we are setting out. I hope that the Select Committee will address itself to the merits or otherwise of extending Crossrail to Reading at some stage. I would like to think that some of the capacity problems at Reading station will have been resolved when Crossrail is constructed. What the right hon. Lady said is right, and it is a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West will undoubtedly make in his intervention. There are problems at Reading, and I have had many discussions with Network Rail about trying to sort them out. If Crossrail were extended, new considerations would arise, but it would be wrong to say that the Select Committee could not consider them. The Select Committee might say, "Until those things have been sorted out, it would be daft to extend the line." All and sundry have advised me that today's motion will allow the discussion that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West want, which is as good an assurance as I can give.

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

The Secretary of State will be relieved to know that I support the motion and welcome its tabling, but some key points need to be teased out. If the 1992 Act were used to authorise the extension of Crossrail to Reading, who would be the applicant? Does the Secretary of State envisage that Crossrail would be the applicant if the 1992 Act were triggered, or would it be the petitioners themselves?

J

petitioners who don't include Reading Borough Council - why not?

Submitted by Jane Griffiths

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

That matter would have to be decided. Under the 1992 Act, the applicant would be the operators of the railway, which could be Cross London Rail Links or Network Rail. Whatever Government are around at that time would have to be involved, because I do not suppose that the operation would be cost-free. All I am promising the House is that if the motion is passed, the Select Committee will have an opportunity to hear the petitions. We are nowhere near saying, "This is the next project, and this is what we might do." Crossrail would be by far the biggest single engineering project anywhere in Europe, and I am anxious to get something manageable. I have told the House many times, and especially in July, that we must ensure that the project is manageable. I hope, in that context, that I will satisfy hon. Members that we can discuss the possibility of an extension to Reading and apply the same consideration to Ebbsfleet.

We decided not to go to Ebbsfleet largely for operational reasons because of the complexity of the lines in north Kent. However, representations are being made about that.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

The people of Hackney are glad that the Government are making progress on the Crossrail project. There is no objection in principle to the Select Committee taking petitions about the extension from Maidenhead to Reading. However, the people of Hackney and the east end would be concerned if the project became so unmanageable that it ran into the sand. Will the Secretary of State assure the people of Hackney that the Government will give it good speed, that we will guard against its becoming unmanageable, that the finance will be available for the railway, for which my constituents have waited so long, and that, when we have built Crossrail, we can move on to Crossrail 2—the Chelsea to Hackney line?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

If my hon. Friend and I live to see Crossrail 1, we shall be happy. We can then turn our attention to Crossrail 2. Of course the Government are committed to the project. That is why we introduced an extensive Bill to make it possible. However, my hon. Friend's main point is important. Unless the project is kept to a manageable size—even then, it is very large—the same fate awaits it as befell the previous Crossrail project.

I cannot tell our colleagues on the Select Committee what to do—and would not try to do so— but I state no more than the obvious when I say that the more complex the project becomes and the more that is added to it, the greater the risk that it will not get going. There is almost unanimity in the House that the project should go ahead, although hon. Members have their individual concerns. The Government are committed to doing everything that we can to make it happen. However, we must try to keep it to a manageable size so that we can finance and deliver it.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Does the Secretary of State accept that it is also the Government's role, in trying to push the project forward, to take some control of its manageability? I accept that we have a hybrid Bill and it is ultimately for a Select Committee to determine the matter, but as Ms Abbott rightly pointed out, in London we want some progress on the basics of Crossrail. It must now be up to the Government to make their voice heard to ensure that the funding comes together, even if it is for a limited part of the Crossrail plan. We should not allow the Ebbsfleet to Reading aspect to delay progress. That must be the Government's role; it cannot be only the Select Committee's role. All hon. Members look to the Secretary of State for some guidance to ensure genuine progress.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

Absolutely. That is why we introduced a Bill that established the principle of what the railway would comprise. It will run from Maidenhead through Shenfield to Abbey Wood. As the hon. Gentleman knows, in the preceding two or three years, prospective other parts of the line were removed from the proposals simply to get something that would stack up and could be delivered. We are inviting the House to give instructions to the Committee to ensure, as far as possible, that that happens.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, hon. Members are entitled to put their views and make suggestions. A hybrid Bill means that the Select Committee will have the difficult task of hearing petitions from many people, some of whom may be against the whole Bill and others who have specific concerns about, for example, stations or waste disposal when the work is being done. When we get the Select Committee's report, the Government will have to take a view about how much we can accommodate. For example, if the Select Committee suggested that there should be a station every 100 yd, the Government would say no because the project would collapse.

We made a specific proposition, which the House endorsed, albeit after a vote, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that I want it to get through as expeditiously as possible while taking account of people's legitimate concerns. However, we are bound to cause some difficulty in establishing the principle.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I know that Mr. Pickles is champing at the bit. He will have his moment shortly but I had better deal with my hon. Friend Dr. Naysmith first.

Photo of Doug Naysmith Doug Naysmith Labour, Bristol North West

My right hon. Friend will recall that, when the matter was discussed in July, the effects of Crossrail on the west country, Bristol and the line from Wales were raised. Clearly, the problems remain major short-term and long-term worries for the future development of the line. What effect does he believe that today's proposals will have on those worries and fears? Will they help to assuage them or make them worse? Mrs. May mentioned the huge congestion at Reading and if the proposals make it worse, that will not be helpful.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

As I said to my hon. Friend in July, when Crossrail is completed, it will help west country services. From memory, approximately £1 billion of expenditure is designed to improve the approaches to Paddington station. One of the problems with them is the presence of various goods yards. Although there are not many goods trains every day, they are long and heavy and each manoeuvre can take six or seven minutes' capacity out of the line. It does not take many such instances, especially in the rush hour, to start holding up traffic. My hon. Friend, as a regular user of the line to Bristol and the south-west, knows that several pinch points need to be sorted out.

Since we had the debate in July, the new franchise for the Great Western line has been launched and I believe that that will lead to some improvements. Some disruption is inevitable when building a railway, but once Crossrail is completed, it will help because it means additional capacity and taking out some of the blockages that cause some of the current delays.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch

I echo the comments of my hon. Friend Ms Abbott and Mr. Field about the need for London, especially east London, to benefit from the project. If we get Crossrail, Hackney will experience an improvement in the lines from Enfield and Chingford and in the frequency of services. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington and I represent the only inner London borough with no tubes and we are therefore grateful for any prospect of train improvement. However, will my right hon. Friend assure us that the complexity of Crossrail, which he has clearly outlined, will not have a detrimental impact on the Olympic developments, which are also a welcome contribution to Hackney?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I do not believe that they will. For the avoidance of doubt, I have long said that Crossrail would not be ready in time for the Olympics. It is independent of them but steps will be taken to ensure that it will not interfere with the first priority of delivering the Olympics and the transport infrastructure to support them, on which much work is already under way. The work can be phased in such a way as to ensure that. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her welcome because there is no doubt that, when Crossrail is built, it will substantially benefit the east end of London, especially constituencies such as hers and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington, where the need to improve employment and transport links is obvious. Both my hon. Friends have made representations about that.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I should really like to consider Brentwood and Ongar now rather than giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I am always nervous of those, but I shall let the hon. Gentleman make it.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Trade & Industry Committee

I am most grateful to the Secretary of State for his courtesy. What additional capacity will be created on services to Paddington as a result of Crossrail?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

The point that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West was that part of the works will improve the access in and out of the various goods yards to the west of Paddington. That means that the line is less likely to be blocked by trains coming in and out of them. If the hon. Gentleman would like chapter and verse on the matter, I am more than happy to let him have it. However, in the context of the instructions to the Committee, it would not be such a good idea.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Chair, Armed Forces Bill Committee

The people I represent will be alarmed by the generosity with which the project is being treated, in contrast to Merseytram 1, which my right hon. Friend refused. In those circumstances, he cannot rely on my vote for the motions.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

It is kind of my right hon. Friend to tell me that, but it does not come as a surprise to me. I am not going to go into the merits of the Merseytram proposal now, for obvious reasons, not least that the company is now litigating against me and the Government. However, I note what he says.

To make a general point, I think that all of us, especially those who represent constituencies outside London, would do well to remember that the UK economy depends to a large extent on the well being of the London economy. That is a fact of life, and all our policies have to reflect that. That is not to say, however, that we should not make investments in different parts of the country, and we are doing so, but they have to be the right ones.

I am now going, whether the House likes it or not, to Brentwood and Ongar. The instruction does not allow for consideration by the Committee of the truncation of the route. When the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar raised this issue with me in July, he had tabled his own amendment—although it was not selected by the Speaker—which would have allowed the eastern terminal to be sited at Liverpool Street. I made the point that to have a railway line that ran only from Paddington to Liverpool Street simply would not stack up, and that it had to be longer than that. That proposal was just not acceptable.

I can help the hon. Gentleman to some extent, but probably not to the extent that he would like. My best advice is that the motion will allow the Select Committee to hear petitions, but not to decide that the route should be truncated further to the east of Shenfield. It could, however, hear petitions in relation to where exactly the terminus should be. For example, as I understand it, if there were a proposition that the station should not be where it is now but a short distance away from there, it would be within the competence of the Committee to decide on that.

It will be up to the Select Committee, acting on its own views and on the advice of the Officers of the House, to decide exactly what it does. However, it could not, for example, say, "Actually, the line should not end at Shenfield. It should terminate further to the east." I understand that issues have been raised relating to the siting of the Shenfield terminus, and petitions on that could be heard. Having said that, if the Select Committee chooses to hear petitions on that general principle—on advice, it believes that it can do so—I cannot prevent that. But I cannot assure the hon. Gentleman that the instruction that I am inviting the House to endorse today would have the effect of allowing people to argue that the terminus should be located not at Shenfield but further in.

The hon. Gentleman raised this matter with me in July, and I have had the chance to look and see what I said to him at the time, although my recollection is that it was in the context of his amendment, to which I referred.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, particularly for trailing this intervention. He will know that my concern has always been that, because Shenfield is mentioned in the long title of the Bill, it will not be possible to petition the Committee or to allow it to make a recommendation to truncate the route. On Second Reading in July, the right hon. Gentleman differentiated between the principle of the Bill and the proposed route, and suggested that it would be possible for the Committee to examine where the termini should be and to make recommendations on that. For further clarity, I shall remind the House that he said of the Select Committee that

"it should treat the principle as having been established by Second Reading. Our instruction goes further, in that it suggests the route. I repeat, however, that if someone came along and said that the stations or the termini should be different, the Select Committee may well want to consider that. It would be up to the Committee."—[Hansard, 19 July 2005; Vol. 436, c. 1126.]

That is at considerable variance from what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested today, which is that it is a matter of principle, set in stone, that the terminus not be anywhere other than at Shenfield.

What is the purpose of allowing a Committee to hear petitions if it is not allowed to consider them and to make recommendations? I have known the right hon. Gentleman for a long time, and I have always accepted his word without reservation, but I must ask him to reflect most carefully on the clear undertaking that he gave me in the Chamber in July, and to consider whether further instructions need to be given to the Select Committee.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention and for the way in which he expressed his view. I certainly remember that debate, and I hope that I went out of my way to accommodate as many hon. Members as I possibly could. I understand, as a constituency Member, precisely the point that the hon. Gentleman is making; it is his duty to ensure that, as far as he can, he enables his constituents to make their voices heard.

On Second Reading, I said:

"we have tabled an instruction to the Select Committee to regard the principle of the Bill as including a proposition, namely, the provision of a railway running from Maidenhead in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, with a prescribed number of named stations on its route."—[Hansard, 19 July 2005; Vol. 436, c. 1125.]

That was the principle that was established on Second Reading, and the instructions to the Committee are in line with that. A few moments ago, I said that the House could give instructions to the Select Committee. As I understand it, if there were petitions relating to Shenfield, the Committee would be able to hear them. However, to return to the points raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch, the reason that we have prescribed a terminus is to try to put a concrete proposition before the Committee. Otherwise, I fear that we would be all over the place.

I think that the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar takes the view that he wants Crossrail to terminate not at Shenfield but at some point nearer to the city. Or perhaps he is concerned about individual issues relating to Shenfield such as the loss of car parking or the alignment of the tracks. The Select Committee could certainly consider those latter points, but if he is asking whether it could decide that Crossrail should terminate at Liverpool Street, I have to say that it could not. On Second Reading, my exchange with the hon. Gentleman stretched into column 1127, but I am not going to read the whole thing into the record. However, it was in that context that I made the point that my proposition was that the railway ought to go to Shenfield.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that it was not in the context of Liverpool Street. His understanding of the situation was my understanding of the situation, with regard to the advice on Shenfield. However, in that debate, he told me that my worries were groundless. He clearly differentiated between the principle of the Bill and the proposed route. He said that that the instruction went further than dealing only with the principle, and that it suggested the route. He referred to the terminus as being part of the route. All I need is for my constituents to petition, as they have done, and for the Committee to hear those petitions, which it will do, so that they get a fair hearing. I then need the Committee to be able to make a recommendation to the House as to whether the terminus should be at Shenfield, Stratford or somewhere else, so that the House can decide on the matter. Having been given an assurance by the right hon. Gentleman in July, I do not now want my constituents to be prevented from having a fair hearing. Nor do I want the Select Committee to be prevented from making such a recommendation because it has been placed in a legal straitjacket by the House.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that the Select Committee will decide what it will and will not hear. Yes, it will be able to hear petitions, but it will not be able to decide to truncate the railway. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman and I were at cross purposes in July. Having read what I said at the time, I think that I made myself reasonably clear in this context. At column 1127, we were discussing these representations in the context of the hon. Gentleman's amendment, which was designed to terminate the railway at Liverpool Street. I made the point that our proposition stacked up, both operationally and in economic terms.

It will certainly be up to the Select Committee to decide whether it hears the petitions, and I am sure that it will try to be as liberal as it can in that regard. However, unless we give it some instruction on the parameters of the Bill, we will be in some difficulty. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman will not be satisfied with that, and as I said a few moments ago, that is inevitable. If we do not get something manageable, however, we will get nothing at all.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

My constituents in Ilford, South and many other residents of the London borough of Redbridge and other boroughs between Liverpool Street and Shenfield would be appalled if the line were truncated at Liverpool Street. Many people travel throughout Essex into work in London and use that line. In Ilford, we are looking forward to a new station being built to cope with Crossrail and a new entrance and redesign as part of Ilford's regeneration. My constituents are therefore supportive of my right hon. Friend's statement that the line will not be truncated.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

It would make a nonsense of the Crossrail proposition if it were to stop at Liverpool Street. The economics just would not stack up. My hon. Friend therefore makes a fair point.

The third element, which has not attracted so much attention so far, but to which I should draw the House's attention, is the additional instructions that will allow the Select Committee to consider matters subsequent to the Bill's introduction, on which we know that it will have to be amended, such as provisions in relation to the removal of waste from different sites, different alignments of crossovers and so on. Basically, if the House agrees the motion, the Government will introduce amendments in line with those instructions, which will allow the Committee to hear petitions if they are received. We intend to introduce those additional provisions in two batches, reflecting the extent of the preparatory work required. The first batch will be introduced to the Committee next Wednesday, at which point a newspaper advert will appear that will trigger a four-week petitioning period on each additional provision, following which petitions lodged will be considered by the Committee in the usual way. The second batch will be brought forward once work is complete and will also have a four-week petitioning period. Currently, we expect the second batch to be introduced in March this year.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Labour, West Ham

May I echo the comments of my hon. Friends the Members for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) and for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and welcome Crossrail on behalf of my constituents? Will my right hon. Friend confirm, however, that the Government are keen to encourage the use of waterways, particularly the River Lea, to minimise the impact of waste removal and disruption to local road networks and residents, which will clearly be caused by the creation of this railway?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

Certainly, we will use whatever way we can find to reduce the environmental impact of construction, especially that caused by the removal of a considerable amount of waste. No doubt my hon. Friend will keep an eye on the Select Committee with regard to that. I am not sure whether she is volunteering to serve on the Standing Committee that will follow, but the Whips are no doubt paying attention.

I hesitate to return to Brentwood and Ongar, but I think that I need to do so. I think that I referred to stations east of Shenfield when I should have said west. I am not sure whether this will help the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar, but were the Select Committee to come to the view that the terminus should be further east of Shenfield, that could be done, as that would extend it, not truncate it. I am not sure whether that helps him, but I thought that I should mention that for the sake of completeness.

Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Conservative, Ilford North

I also want to support the extension of Crossrail to Ilford. Previously, I was the cabinet member responsible for the regeneration of Ilford town centre. Although Crossrail does not run through my constituency, I do not believe that my hon. Friend Mr. Pickles was suggesting that it should necessarily stop at Liverpool Street or Stratford and not go to Ilford. I am sure that it will benefit my constituents, and it should go to Ilford.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

Let me remind the hon. Gentleman of what I said a few moments ago. Crossrail is a huge project and hugely expensive, it will be a massive engineering enterprise, and we must have a deliverable proposition. Future generations will look back and regard this as the one and only opportunity for both Houses of Parliament to get it right. It is of huge economic value to the east end of London in particular, to London as a whole, and to the wider country, as I said.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I will give way to the two hon. Gentlemen and then come to a conclusion, as this is a two-hour debate.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

The Secretary of State will be glad to know that I am not going to say anything about Ilford. The third instruction, however, involves the relocation and change in methodology of the crossover under the Barbican—now also a listed building—in my constituency allowing for the deployment of a different construction method. There are great concerns in my constituency, as in many other built-up constituencies, about the disruption and noise, and there are some sensible suggestions in the third instruction, although I appreciate that it is a bit of a mish-mash. In particular, the changes will remove the need for a work site in Aldersgate street, which would have been extremely disruptive to Barbican residents as well as causing a great a deal of noise and traffic disruption for many commuters coming into the City of London daily. The change in the method of construction of the cavern in which the crossover is located is also intended to reduce noise, which is greatly to be welcomed.

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your indulgence in allowing me to make a longer than normal intervention—as the Secretary of State rightly said, we have a two-hour debate, and very few Members will be able to make speeches.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I think that the hon. Gentleman is saying that he has now made his speech, and will not seek to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Secretary of State has pointed out that if Crossrail were to stop at Liverpool Street, it would not be economically viable. A consensus seems to be building in the House, and we are all agreed that it should go to Ilford, but perhaps that is where it should stop. Mike Gapes is enthusiastic for the Crossrail project to go ahead, and I hope that the Secretary of State will consider placing the huge depot not in Romford but in Ilford, South, and that he will have the privilege of that, too.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Gentleman has expressed his views on the placing of the depot at Romford, and the Select Committee will no doubt hear petitions on that, too.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

I want to inform the Secretary of State that last week the all-party Crossrail group visited the channel tunnel rail link works at St. Pancras and saw the effective protection and sound-proofing of the yard at Bedford. It was a great pity that Andrew Rosindell was not able to see that, as it might change his mind about having a depot in Romford to help all of London and Essex and Crossrail as a whole.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend has made his speech, too, so we are making progress. I am quite sure that those matters will be considered, and I am glad that the all-party group went to St. Pancras, which is an excellent example of the Government's commitment to improving Britain's railways. When it opens in just under a couple of years, it will make a big difference to people's ability to travel to the continent.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that this project is essential not just for the future development of London but, as I said, for the wider UK economy. There will be many difficult decisions to take, and I envy neither the Select Committee nor my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield—who is sitting in his place reflecting on what awaits him—their tasks. The Government will have to table amendments such as those that have just been mentioned, because we want to do everything possible to get the project going and to see that Crossrail is built. On that basis, I hope that the House will give its support to the three instructions.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 1:29 pm, 12th January 2006

I am not sure whether I need to keep my remarks short because it is a short debate, or longer because most Members have already made their speeches in interventions on the Secretary of State. As he said, however, the debate is about instructions to the Select Committee. I slightly differ from his interpretation, however, that today's debate is about the instructions that will be given to the Committee—of course, they are a revision to the instructions that will be given to the Select Committee, because there was an extensive debate last summer about those instructions. There probably remains some confusion, despite the Secretary of State's attempts to clarify the position today.

We have three motions to consider today, the first of which, as he says, represents a series of technical matters that have emerged since Second Reading. Some will undoubtedly argue that they should have been anticipated in the original drafting. I should be interested to hear from the Minister what will happen if the Bill proceeds to its later stages. If further technical issues emerge, how will they be handled? We realise, though, that in the case of such complex projects some things can slip through the net, and the motion is not controversial. As the Secretary of State explained, the third motion deals with a minor matter, and there should be no problem with it in the right circumstances.

The Secretary of State rightly said that the crux of the debate lies in the second motion. It highlights the somewhat chaotic approach that I believe the Government have taken to the project—and that is the view only of those who subscribe to the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory. We all understand, of course, that taking a hybrid Bill through the House is a more complex process than dealing with a conventional Bill. Most Secretaries of State probably deal with only one hybrid Bill during their tenure, and this represents a learning curve for this Secretary of State as well as for Members throughout the House.

I think that the kindest possible interpretation of the second motion is that the Government are all over the place. I shall give some of the reasons for the confusion in a moment, but we ought to bear in mind the original importance of the measure to the Government's plans. Their blueprint for "Transport: a ten year plan" stated:

"For our modelling of the implementation of Plan measures we assumed that by 2010 the following projects had been implemented (in addition to those in the baseline)".

It referred to the inaptly named Thameslink 2000, and to

"An eastwest rail link, such as CrossRail".

It stated:

"An eastwest rail link, such as CrossRail, will be the crucial element in providing crowding relief to eastwest Underground lines (Central, Jubilee, District, Circle, Metropolitan). Our modelling suggests that, without it, most eastwest lines on the Underground would be more crowded than today, despite other improvements."

As passengers who use those lines know full well, they are pretty crowded today.

The issues that we are debating are at the heart of one of the Government's flagship transport projects, by their own admission, and any changes of this kind should deserve close and careful examination. We are, or should be, debating an important development in a project that is central to the Government's strategy to deliver its 10-year plan for transport—but, as we know, that is not what today's debate is about.

We are debating changes that will not benefit the British travelling public by the year 2010, as we were originally promised. In a humorous aside to Ms Abbott, the Secretary of State said that he and she would be lucky to see Crossrail 1 open in their lifetimes, and given the current rate of progress he is probably not far off the mark. The 2010 promise has long since been quietly abandoned, along with many of the other promises made by the Secretary of State's Department over the past eight years.

The motion is also a complete U-turn on the Government's position a few months ago. It represents either chaos in the Department's planning or a slightly disingenuous attempt to keep people in Maidenhead and the Ebbsfleet area happy. Those locations are in the Labour party's focus, as they contain a number of key marginal seats.

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

What about Reading?

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There was a...

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be fighting hard to keep his seat in the run-up to the next election, and will want to be able to tell his constituents about the hard work he has put into trying to ensure that their rail service is improved.

Ministers will, I am sure, remember debating vigorously last summer the issue of where the route would end with my predecessor and Members representing parts of the south-east. Before Second Reading, Ministers issued an instruction to the Committee that clearly limited the scope of its work. The Secretary of State will recall the exchange between my right hon. Friend Mrs. May and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Derek Twigg. My right hon. Friend said:

"The argument that he has just evinced suggests that he considers the termination of Crossrail in the west at Maidenhead a point of principle. Am I correct in my understanding of the Government's position?"

The Under-Secretary of State replied:

"That is the case, but a Select Committee can consider other related matters. The instruction invites the Committee to inform the House of, but not to comment on or analyse, the nature of representations on the environmental impact of the project that constitute opposition to the principle of the Bill and that, for that reason, fall outside the Committee's remit."—[Hansard, 19 July 2005; Vol. 436, c. 1115.]

No one will deny that the Government's decision to change their mind since last summer will be welcomed in Maidenhead, in the Reading area and in north Kent, where it will be possible to give consideration to the Ebbsfleet extension. I know that there is much interest in those areas. I also know that my hon. Friend Mr. Pickles will have been extremely disappointed by the Secretary of State's comments today. He will have been disappointed to learn that his representations have not led to additional flexibility for the Committee to consider the matters that he has raised over the past few months. He should, however, take comfort from the fact that the motions are not quite what they seem. They open up the possibility of discussion of the alternatives, which the Government appeared to preclude last summer, but I see no evidence that those alternatives are under serious consideration. The Secretary of State himself has said that there is no guarantee that the Government will be able to do anything at the end of all the discussions.

The truth is that the public face of the project does not include detailed costings or portrayals of different options for the extra elements of the project. The projected costings outlined by the Secretary of State last year and in the official Crossrail economic benefits document do not take into account the cost of adding those extra elements. The Secretary of State said today that they were nowhere near becoming a reality; he is merely giving permission for them to be discussed in Committee. I do not think that there should be any expectation in the Reading and Maidenhead areas or in north Kent that if the Committee tells the House that it thinks they are a good idea, the matter will proceed any further.

The Secretary of State is a shrewd man, and the Treasury is always active in taking an interest in these issues. Have Ministers made initial cost estimates for the areas that the Committee is being given freedom to consider? Has the Secretary of State looked at the costs of the Ebbsfleet extension and the extension from Maidenhead to Reading? If there is no groundwork, there is a danger that he is merely raising false expectations.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I made it clear in July, and in my speech today, that the Government believe that the Crossrail terminus in the west should be at Maidenhead. The Government were not convinced that Crossrail should go beyond that. All that I undertook to do in July—which is why I am back here today—was accept that many of my hon. Friends wanted the merits of an extension to be discussed. I made it clear today that the procedure would be different.

The Government have not carried out a detailed costing, because they believe that Crossrail should be fixed at the points that I described earlier. Can I take it from what the hon. Gentleman has said that he believes that Crossrail should now go further than the termini prescribed by the Government?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

What is completely illogical is that the Government have selected some of the recommendations that have been made, and have put two possible extensions in writing, but the Committee has not been given the flexibility that would enable it to examine the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar. Either this is to be merely a process of discussion, enabling Members, petitioners and the Committee to discuss their views as much as they wish, or we are limiting our focus to two possible alterations to the scheme. The Secretary of State does not appear to have done any work on the issue, which I find slightly surprising. Why should he not allow my hon. Friend's opinions to be put to the Committee?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

Does the hon. Gentleman really think it would be wise to truncate Crossrail at Liverpool Street? I am beginning to wonder whether he does not regard Crossrail as a political plaything rather than something that London actually needs.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I shall come on to political playthings in a moment. I believe that it is the Secretary of State, rather than me, who regards Crossrail as a political plaything.

If the Committee is being allowed to consider two possible alternative routes, I share my hon. Friend's disappointment that it cannot discuss fully the views of others.

On political playthings, what we are engaged in today is simply talk: this is a process that will lead not to action, but to more talk. I say directly to the Secretary of State that this Bill, Crossrail and these motions are set to become just another chapter in the growing volume of Government broken promises on transport. I do not believe that the Government have any intention whatever of seeing this scheme through to fruition. They are leading the people of London and its businesses, and those Members who have thrown their weight behind the scheme, up the garden path.

We must remember where we started from. In the 10-year plan document, the Government not only promised that the people of London would be travelling under the capital in brand new Crossrail trains by 2010; they also said that they had the cash to pay for the scheme. The document states that,

"assuming the broad approach set out above, the following could be delivered with this level of investment".

The bullet point list in that document includes

"An eastwest rail link, such as CrossRail".

Of course, that statement is now history and has clearly long since been abandoned. That is why I am so doubtful about the Government's motivation in respect of today's motions and this scheme.

We now know that the Government's estimate of the scheme's cost is heading rapidly past £15 billion, and that their finances are looking increasingly shaky and under pressure. A comprehensive spending review is just a couple of years away, and all independent expectations are that the Chancellor's spending options are much more limited than in the past few years. Do we honestly believe that from 2008 onward—the year in which the promoters say that they hope construction of the scheme can begin—the Chancellor will start issuing financial guarantees or writing cheques to get Crossrail off the ground? Will the Secretary of State give a clear, categorical public assurance today that the current Government intend to fund the lion's share of the construction of Crossrail, as they once said they would? Can he still make the same commitment that he made in the original 10-year plan document—that the Government would provide the funding to make Crossrail happen? [Interruption.] There is silence from the Government.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

My hon. Friend will recall that at column 1136 in the Hansard account of our 19 July debate, the Secretary of State said that he would postpone consultation on how Crossrail is to be funded until after publication of Sir Michael Lyons' report. Labour Members and I spoke to Sir Michael just before Christmas, and he said that he was rather bemused by what the newspapers had to say about Crossrail. It was pointed out that the funding of such projects has not been referred to Lyons. Does my hon. Friend not think it rather strange that we are waiting for a report that will not in fact deal with Crossrail funding?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

It is not only strange; even if that report did consider Crossrail funding, it would be somewhat illogical for a report on the future financing of local government suddenly to be extended to include an analysis of the cost of what will be one of Britain's biggest transport projects. My hon. Friend will remember episodes of "Yes, Minister" in which inconvenient decisions were delayed by a useful review. Far be it from me to suggest that that was the Secretary of State's motivation, but I am sure that there are those who will have a similar suspicion.

I do not believe for a moment that the Government will make a commitment to fund Crossrail any time soon. I do not believe that they will make such a commitment at any stage during this Parliament. The people of Reading and of north Kent will be allowed to make all the representations to the Committee that they want to make about Crossrail's terminus. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar and his constituents may not be allowed to make the same representations, but in fact, this is all talk. Such discussions will not lead to substantial decisions, so in that sense, I can allay his concerns.

I have no doubt that the Government will encourage members of the Select Committee to consider very carefully new ideas to develop the project. I have no doubt that Ministers will make warm noises in response to those deliberations; they may even put dotted lines on the project team maps to illustrate future options. But I do not believe for one moment that Ministers intend that all this should lead to real action and real new capacity for the travelling public. When Mr. Howarth discusses Merseytram in this House, it becomes clear to me that the Government cannot be trusted to keep their promises on transport. If they cannot afford small projects, it is hard to believe that they can afford big ones.

We Conservatives, along with constituents and business communities throughout London, will continue to support this Bill and these motions, and we will continue to encourage the project team in the hope that the Government will surprise us and actually deliver this time. But I suspect that the termini in Reading and Ebbsfleet—and, indeed, the whole Crossrail project—are destined under this Government to become just another set of bullet points in the long list of the Government's broken promises on transport.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. We have little over an hour left for this debate, so I make a plea to all right hon. and hon. Members please to discipline themselves in respect of their speeches.

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich 1:45 pm, 12th January 2006

I start by welcoming the progress that has been made, and the fact that the Bill will now go to the Select Committee next week. Hopefully, that will be an important further stage in its realisation. I do not share the cynicism of Chris Grayling, and I sincerely hope that the Government will confirm that this project is going to go ahead, because it has a hugely important role to play in London's transport and, indeed, in the UK economy. It is essential to securing effective cross-London public transport links, to responding to 21st-century needs, and to avoiding the risk of gridlock and the consequent economic disadvantages, which impact adversely not just on London but on the wider UK economy and affect the quality of life of people in the south-east. As Members know, it is a very complex project: a major tunnelling operation through some of the most sensitive sites in the whole of London. It has a number of very complex linkages and relationships with other parts of the transport network, and with other major infrastructure investment projects such the 2012 Olympics, which has already been mentioned.

Members of the Select Committee have some months of hard work ahead of them in dealing with the many petitions presented and the issues raised. I wish them well, particularly my hon. Friend Mr. Meale, and I do so on the basis of my memory of serving on the channel tunnel Committee some 20 years ago. We had not just 350 petitions to deal with, but some 2,000. We dealt with them in approximately six months; I hope that my hon. Friend manages to make quicker progress than that. In that time we also made project recommendations on the channel tunnel, which of course is now in place.

The petitions that my hon. Friend's Committee will consider include one from the London borough of Greenwich, which has not only my support but that of my hon. Friends the Members for Eltham (Clive Efford) and for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin), who are both in their place today. The main thrust of it is the case for including a station at Woolwich. The case for such a station is very strong; indeed, it was an integral part of the original Crossrail plan. Its exclusion from the latest proposal is the product not of a transport analysis, but of short-term economies that seek to reduce the project's overall cost without proper regard to the long-term transport and regeneration benefits that would flow from such a station.

Unfortunately, there are some parallels with which I am rather familiar. Both the Jubilee line project and the docklands light railway extension to Lewisham impacted on the London borough of Greenwich, and specifically on my constituency. The proposed stations at North Greenwich and Cutty Sark were at some stage in those schemes excluded for cost reasons. No one would now suggest not having a station at North Greenwich—that would be preposterous, given its huge impact on the regeneration of a formerly abandoned and derelict industrial site, which will now provide homes for some 13,000 people and approximately 3 million sq ft of office accommodation. That will be a hugely important development in the regeneration of south-east London. Nor would anyone now suggest not having a station at Cutty Sark, which is probably the most significant tourist attraction in the whole of south-east London. Yet, believe it or not, the original project proposals suggested deleting North Greenwich and Cutty Sark stations for economic purposes. That illustrates the folly of making short-term economies, rather than looking at the long-term, potentially huge economic and regeneration benefits that can flow from such important infrastructure and transport schemes.

The logic applies in just the same way to Woolwich as it does to those two stations, which, I am pleased to say, are now successfully in place and are dealing with large numbers of passengers. In neither case did the inclusion of those stations make the project "unmanageable"—to pick up the word used by the Secretary of State. I hope that my right hon. Friend will recognise that the case for a station at Woolwich is strong in terms of the economic, transport and regeneration benefits, and that it would not make the project in any way unmanageable.

If such a station were not included, there would be some very perverse consequences. First, Woolwich would be the only town centre on the entire Crossrail network not to have a station. That would be very odd indeed, given the importance of Woolwich to the regeneration of the Thames Gateway area and the large number of jobs and new homes that can be created there, which would be supported by a Crossrail station at Woolwich. Evidence for that has been developed by the consultants EDAW, working for the London borough of Greenwich, and more recently by the Buchanan study, which considered only the economic side and the jobs, not the housing aspect, but which recognised the substantial job creation potential of a station at Woolwich.

Even more perversely, if the station were not included there would be a huge six-mile gap on the network between Custom House and Abbey Wood, which is the only other station serving south-east London. There would be a new service with considerable benefits for London as a whole, and for east London as well as west London, but with very limited benefits for south-east London—an area of great economic and regeneration potential. I hope that the evidence that we will present to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield and the members of the Select Committee will convince them of the strong case for including Woolwich station in the project.

As for the motions on the Order Paper, I am happy to support the widening of the Select Committee's remit to consider the arguments for extending the Bill to cover Reading and Ebbsfleet. I shall not comment on the case for Reading; it is not an area with which my constituency has close links. There is, however, an obvious logic in extending the project to Ebbsfleet, to allow direct linkage with the channel tunnel rail link, and it is right that that should be considered. My only comment on that idea is that if an extension to Ebbsfleet finds favour, it would in no way be an alternative to a station at Woolwich, which would serve the western end of the Thames Gateway area.

I hope that the House will give a fair wind to the three motions under consideration, but above all that it will give a fair wind to the Crossrail project, which is so important both to the long-term economic health of London and to the whole UK economy.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 1:52 pm, 12th January 2006

I welcome this short debate on instructions Nos. 2 and 3 to the Select Committee and the motion on late petitions. I also welcome the Secretary of State's clarification of the petitions; it is perfectly acceptable for him to act as he has done.

Most Members present for the 19 July Second Reading debate, which also covered the committal and the instructions, would agree that it was not a model of clarity. The responsibility of the Select Committee and the Standing Committees are now much clearer, and I thank the Secretary of State for that. The Select Committee can consider the detail but not the principle. My understanding is that although instruction No. 3 extends the scope of the matters that the Select Committee can consider, it does not, as the Secretary of State made clear, extend that scope enough to cover the principle.

The Secretary of State's view on the extension to Reading has not changed. He said on Second Reading much the same as he has said now. On 19 July he said:

"As I said right at the start, the project had to be made manageable and the sums had to stack up, and that is why we chose not to include Reading."—[Hansard, 19 July 2005; Vol. 436, c. 1135.]

Presumably at that time the right hon. Gentleman held the same view about Ebbsfleet.

The Secretary of State has said that he does not want Crossrail to suffer the same fate as its predecessors. I do not have time to run through a full timeline of the action that has been taken on Crossrail since 1989, but the list runs to just over three pages. We are somewhat closer to Crossrail being completed now than we were in 1989, but, as Chris Grayling, the Conservative spokesman, said, in practice we have yet to see a spade go into the ground. There has been a lot of preliminary work, it is true, but there is no real action and no real digging.

I am still somewhat perplexed that although the Secretary of State has said that the Select Committee can consider petitions about Reading and Ebbsfleet, he has, as the Conservative spokesman also said, made it very clear that in his view the sums do not stack up. Yes, the Select Committee can consider the petitions, but in practice, whatever the petitioners say, the Government are unlikely to take any action on Reading or Ebbsfleet. One wonders what the purpose of hearing the petitions is. It will be satisfying for the petitioners to know that their petitions will be heard, but it will not be so satisfying when they read the Hansard report of today's debate and see that the Secretary of State says that he still does not think that these sums stack up for Reading—or, presumably, for Ebbsfleet.

The debate is simply about the instructions, so we cannot have a detailed debate about the funding aspects. However, I hoped that the Secretary of State would have dropped something in about those, even if it was just a single sentence saying that the £16 billion was in the bank so that the project could proceed. He did not do that, and he will be aware that in the business community there is a lot of disquiet on that subject.

No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have seen the article in the Financial Times on 21 July, immediately after the Second Reading, in which, for instance, Michael Snyder, the policy chairman of the Corporation of London, was quoted as saying:

"There is a moment in time when the business community is up for it and we meet the resistance that everyone fears. We need action, not just rhetoric."

That was the view of the business community in July. I am not aware of any change in those views, or of that disquiet having disappeared. Perhaps when the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Derek Twigg, replies to the debate he will be able to confirm that discussions with the business community have taken place, it is now confident that the project will progress, and there is no risk that it will withdraw the £2 billion funding that it has offered as part of the process.

The Secretary of State has said that Sir Michael Lyons' review will consider this—or at least that the decision about the funding has been put back until the review reports. According to the Lyons website, that review will be complete by December 2006. I assume that there is the possibility of slippage, so we may not see a report before the end of this year. I hope that when the Minister responds, he will be able to say that the idea of there being no decision until the end of this year, at the earliest, is a time scale acceptable to the business community, and there is no risk that it will withdraw its offer of a temporary one-off 3 per cent. increase in the business rate between now and then.

As the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell said, the business community will take into account the decisions that the Secretary of State is now taking on other large transport projects, such as those involving trams. The Mersey tram has been mentioned in the debate, and one could also mention other tram projects, such as those in Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester. All the signals that the business community is receiving are negative rather than positive, and that must be having an impact on the business community in London.

Instruction No. 2 lists many new scoping requirements that have emerged, presumably in discussions over the summer and more recently. After Parliament went into recess, a document was published explaining in some detail what that instruction covered. I hope that the Minister will comment on whether, in relation to paragraph (1)(a), relating to amendments avoiding the duplication of planning authorities when it comes to assessing diversions, there have been representations from local authorities on that proposal and whether they are content with it. Will he also comment on the fact that there will be an extension of rights of way over land, which will allow third parties to acquire any form of rights of way? I should be particularly interested to hear what legislation on compensation might be applicable. Finally, the instruction says that a number of additional buildings would previously have required consent for alteration or demolition, and will he say whether there is a readily available list of the buildings that will be affected?

The debate on 19 July and the clarification provided by the Secretary of State on the roles of the Select and Standing Committees notwithstanding, many Members may still question why he has not used the opportunity provided today to confirm that freight services will not be affected by Crossrail and to strengthen the role of the rail regulator to leave nobody in any doubt that Crossrail services will not have priority over others. On 19 July, he said that those were matters of public, not private, interest, and therefore matters to be picked up by the Standing Committee, rather than the Select Committee. Surely, however, in relation to freight, if those services could be squeezed off rail and on to the roads in west London, that would be a matter of the greatest private interest. Our concerns have not gone away in spite of the Secretary of State's reassurances before the summer recess. Perhaps the Minister will use this opportunity to say whether, following discussions with the rail industry, he is now comfortable on freight services and the office of the rail regulator.

The instructions before us at least confirm that some limited progress is being made on Crossrail, and for that reason we will support them. However, they do not answer the £16 billion question, which will be answered, at the very earliest, at the end of this year when the Lyons report is published. Until that question is answered, we shall continue, in the words of Michael Snyder, to have rhetoric and not action.

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West 2:03 pm, 12th January 2006

I welcome the revised instructions to the Select Committee, but the process is a bit like pulling teeth. We managed, as a result of a delegation I led from Reading borough council last February, to persuade the then Minister of State for Transport to start safeguarding the route to Reading from Maidenhead. I was grateful for that, and it has the support of all local authorities in the area.

The case for Reading versus Maidenhead has to be examined. But, as I have said before, Crossrail's publicity guide talks about an opportunity to connect the United Kingdom. I am a fan of Maidenhead, to a point. But we do not connect the UK from Maidenhead. Reading is the second busiest rail terminal in the country outside London. A huge number of businesses in the Thames valley, from Swindon through to Reading and Bracknell, rely on our public transport infrastructure. Indeed, it is one of the reasons they locate in the area, and one of the reasons why we have negative unemployment.

We need, as part of any eventual—I stress "eventual"—extension to Reading not to miss the opportunity to have a western link to London Heathrow airport. That is one of the things people have petitioned for; indeed, I am one of those petitioners, having organised the largest petition to Parliament on the issue from the western side of London. We need an absolute guarantee that we will end the farce of making business people, commuters, tourists and whoever, if they want to catch a train, as we want to encourage them to do, to London Heathrow—some 25 miles from Reading and just a 25-minute drive, in fact, outside rush hour—go 40 miles to Paddington, passing London Heathrow airport, then changing to the Heathrow Express and coming 20 miles back again. How good for the environment is that? How could we design such a transport system? If Crossrail comes to Reading, the opportunity must not be missed for a western link.

We have put together a comprehensive petition for Reading to be the western terminus. That has involved the Evening Post, Reading borough council, me and the business community. I am delighted that it has cross-party support, and Mr. Wilson is also a petitioner and fully supportive of that approach.

The people representing Maidenhead themselves reject the argument that Maidenhead is the logical western terminus. We have had petitions from Mrs. May and the Maidenhead civic society. Many of the steps necessary to make a Reading extension viable also apply to Maidenhead.

Any western extension must meet certain criteria. There must be scope for a western link to Heathrow, and that is not in the plans at the moment. Most importantly, there must be no detrimental effect, as my hon. Friend Dr. Naysmith and others from further west have said, to existing high-speed services into London Paddington. That is crucial to the economies of Swindon, Bristol and elsewhere. From Reading, the second busiest rail interchange outside London, there is a high-speed service into London—if one can get a seat—every eight to 10 minutes at peak time. It is a 29-minute service. Who would want that disrupted by a metro stopping service running ahead of it, possibly using some of the same track? The argument is very complicated.

J

surely a councillor should lead a delegation from Reading Borough Council? And why has Reading Borough Council not petitioned the Select Committee?

Submitted by Jane Griffiths

Photo of Rob Wilson Rob Wilson Conservative, Reading East

As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, there is cross-party agreement across Reading about the concept of Crossrail, but will he join me in opposing a metro stopping service that reduces space for commuter trains and reduces freight?

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

The last time I joined the hon. Member for Reading, East was when I was suing him, so I am happy to repeat the conversation that he and I had on the train last night. We regularly commute back to Reading and regularly witness the nonsense of the case that Crossrail would not, on the existing four-track system, impede the high-speed service. How many times does that service from the west country have to run on the slow line, the same line that Crossrail would use? In a rather unkind way, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that if Crossrail is to come not just to Reading but to Maidenhead, there will have to be six-tracking, which is why the Secretary of State is absolutely right to be concerned about additional costs. Yes, there must be no negative impact on the existing freight network, and Crossrail could have an impact on that unless there is six-tracking to Reading, and possibly beyond. We also need the re-signalling already in Network Rail's programme, although we do not know when it will occur. And we need—this applies only to Reading, not Maidenhead—the multi-million pound, long-overdue redevelopment of Reading station. Reading's case must be considered, but it is not a simple one and it will have an impact on almost every other terminus in the western corridor.

Photo of Doug Naysmith Doug Naysmith Labour, Bristol North West

I thank my hon. Friend for making so clearly the case that I have pressed on the Secretary of State on a number of occasions. It is almost impossible, and experts have analysed it, to envisage the current rail service to Reading and on to Bristol, the south-west and south Wales carrying on as it does. At the moment, at peak times, there is a 15-minute service from the two Bristol stations into London—unfortunately, it has one of the highest fares in the country, which is a different argument—and it is almost impossible to envisage that carrying on with only four tracks between Bristol and London.

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

I very much concur with my hon. Friend. Whatever the question is, the answer is not Maidenhead, for all the reasons that I have outlined. Even Reading will require significant additional investment, and that is why the motion must be approved. The case for Reading must be examined properly and in detail by the Select Committee, and I am sure that my hon. Friend Mr. Meale will ensure that that happens.

This motion is good news, as it represents a significant departure from the Government's position outlined in the debate on 19 July. I was not happy with some of the assurances that I received then, which is why I abstained in the vote. I am pleased that there will be proper consideration, but a line must be drawn, and I hope that the Minister will do that when he replies to the debate.

As I said in an intervention, in the past the use of the Transport and Works Act 1992 has resulted in the petitioners being regarded as the applicant. If there is to be an extension beyond Paddington or Ealing Broadway to Reading and Maidenhead, it is vital that the applicant is either Crossrail or Network Rail, as it would be monstrously unfair to lay the burden on the petitioners, the local authorities or local businesses.

I remind the Secretary of State of his reply to me on 19 July, when he said that the project must be kept manageable. That is true, as we must avoid the disaster that took place under the previous Government. I regret that Chris Grayling, the Opposition spokesman, tried to make party political points, but I shall make one in return: letting the Crossrail project run into the sand in 1989 was a disaster. Constituencies to the west of London need Crossrail even more than Reading does, and I do not want the case for an extension to Reading or anywhere else to limit the chances of my colleagues representing those areas.

I want to offer three conclusions to the House. First, the case for Reading rather than Maidenhead must be heard, and I am pleased that that is going to happen. Secondly, any application under the Transport and Works Act 1992 must be made by the Government, Network Rail or Crossrail, and not by the petitioners themselves.

My third point is the most important, and has to do with the proper assessment of the likely costs. I have no doubt that, following examination of the relevant factors— such as the western terminus and all the others that I outlined earlier—the Select Committee will conclude that the scheme will have to be phased. A workable and achievable Crossrail phase 1 could deliver for communities around London a properly costed scheme to provide rail access to Reading and other places to the west at a later stage. That would be preferable to a fudge or an imperfect scheme that would be neither fish nor fowl.

By all means let us vote for the motion, and ensure that the case is examined properly, but let us also ensure that Crossrail can deliver the maximum benefit in the shortest possible time. The people who rely on the scheme and on Crossrail have waited long enough.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:13 pm, 12th January 2006

The Secretary of State will know that I have spoken on this matter several times, and that the project will have a devastating effect on part of my constituency. There is much concern that answers have not been given about the effect on people's lives and properties, and that the long term is not clear. The Government have a duty to clarify matters and to give firm commitments, so that people know exactly where things are going.

Today's debate has given prominence to discussions about Reading and Maidenhead. My hon. Friend Mr. Pickles raised concerns about Shenfield, but I hope that the Secretary of State will also look at issues that I have raised in the past in connection with Romford. Given the lack of time, however, I shall be brief, and confine myself to a couple of specific points.

First, the Secretary of State will know that many of the powers proposed in the motion are deeply worrying to me and my constituents. Paragraph (m) provides for

"the inclusion of additional land within the limits of land to be acquired or used".

That poses more questions than answers. That is a great pity, as we are far enough along with the Bill to have more answers than questions. I hope that the Minister winding up the debate will say more about the provision, which clearly implies that new land will be needed for the revised plans.

When will my constituents in Romford know the Government's final plans for the Crossrail depot in the centre of the town? Many people there fear that they will undergo more suffering as a result of the Government's decision to build what they are sure will be a monstrosity in a densely residential and highly populated area. I am especially worried by the further plans for the Romford depot and surrounding areas that are contained in the supplementary environmental statement.

Secondly, the Secretary of State made a written statement on 13 December. I hope that the Minister will say whether the £100 million that the right hon. Gentleman has made available for Crossrail's further development is less than what Cross London Rail Links asked for. Alternatively, does Crossrail have a blank cheque for as much development as it wants?

Those and other concerns must be addressed. The Secretary of State must realise that the lives of many people, in my constituency and across the east end of London, are being torn apart by the proposals. No one doubts that Crossrail will bring some benefits, but he must accept that the mechanisms have to be right. Moreover, he has to understand the impact that the proposals are having on people in my area, even as we sit in the House and debate them.

Photo of John Austin John Austin Labour, Erith and Thamesmead 2:17 pm, 12th January 2006

I think that all hon. Members agree about Crossrail's social, economic and environmental importance. I support two of the petitioners, and wish to make it clear that I do not want anything to delay the scheme's progress.

There has been cross-party consensus about the importance of the Thames Gateway. It is not merely the passion of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister: when Lord Heseltine and Mr. Curry were the responsible Ministers, they too recognised the importance of the area's regeneration to the country's economy. The progress being made with the Crossrail scheme gives us an opportunity to ensure that that regeneration comes about. I hope that the minor differences about the scheme that exist do not detract from that vision.

The Thames Gateway is crucial to this country's economy, and will make a vital contribution to providing the 200,000 additional homes that the south-east needs. London alone needs 45,000 new homes a year and lack of supply is driving up prices. The impact on affordability results in chronic problems of recruitment and retention for businesses and the public sector, and Crossrail is crucial to addressing those issues. Of the four growth areas designated in the sustainable communities plan, the Thames Gateway, with 3,000 hectares of brownfield sites, is well placed to provide the 120,000 homes and 300,000 new jobs envisaged in the plan.

The bulk of the development will take place on the original Crossrail route between central London and Ebbsfleet, including the Isle of Dogs zone, the east London area—including the Royals and Stratford—the Woolwich, Belvedere and Erith zone and the Kent Thamesside zone. Those four zones are to provide 70,000 new homes and 252,000 new jobs. Up to half that total could be attracted or generated by the Crossrail link.

In the present plans, the line stops at Abbey Wood. The debate has seemed at times to be like a London black cab—"Not south of the river, guv." I am pleased that my right hon. Friend Mr. Raynsford has pointed out that the current plan contains only one station south of the river—Abbey Wood in my constituency. A terminal and an interchange with the north Kent line at Abbey Wood will be of crucial importance and benefit to my constituents in Abbey Wood and Thamesmead. There will be some short-term problems, including congestion, especially if the Thames Gateway bridge is built. But without the extension to Ebbsfleet, the Belvedere, Erith and Kent Thamesside zones will not benefit from the scheme.

Similarly, Woolwich will not get the full benefits unless a station is provided at Woolwich. My right hon. Friend today, and my hon. Friend Clive Efford in a debate on 20 October 2005, made the case for a station at Woolwich, which is a transport hub, especially for the south of Greenwich, an area that my hon. Friend represents. Not to have a station there, with Crossrail going through, or under, the town, makes no sense. Nor does it make any sense in terms of the vision for the development of the Royal Arsenal site.

My right hon. Friend Mr. Howarth made some comments about money coming to London, but I remind him that a lot of money has been spent on the west coast main line, which he is probably on at this very moment, winging his way back to Knowsley. Despite the affluence of the south-east, parts of London, including the south-east and east, have some of the most chronically deprived areas in the country. The Woolwich Arsenal site, which used to be in my constituency but is now in that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, once employed 80,000 people and, over a 50-year period, lost the equivalent of a coal mine and a coal-mining village a year—the largest job loss anywhere in the country. That is why Crossrail is crucial to the regeneration of the area.

Of the 416 hectares of prime employment land in Bexley, 92 per cent. lies in the north of the borough. In Belvedere alone, there are 229 hectares, with 30 per cent. available for development, and there are a further 50 hectares in Erith—along the line of the original proposed Crossrail route to Ebbsfleet. In the past 10 years or so, half of the new homes in Bexley have been in the five northerly wards on the original route. The largest housing site in Bexley is the old Erith quarry, a couple of minutes' walk from Erith station. Land is available in Erith for the potential development of 3,000 new homes, more than 90 per cent. of which are within walking distance of Erith or Slade Green stations.

That part of south-east London and north-west Kent has a real problem with reliance on car-borne traffic. A Crossrail link from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet, serving Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green and Dartford, would be a crucial element in achieving the goals of the Thames Gateway. It has been said that there would be a rapid interchange at Abbey Wood, with only a five-minute delay, but any delay at any change—as any transport analysis shows—is a significant disadvantage when competing with strong car use.

It has also been suggested that Ebbsfleet, a major job creation centre, will have a direct link to central London through the Channel tunnel rail link, but that will fail to connect the key residential and employment sites in the southern section of the Thames Gateway and will fail to give my constituents access to the employment opportunities there. I am aware that, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the decision to terminate at Abbey Wood was taken on technical grounds—I understand them to involve track sharing—but no explanation or justification has been given of why that cannot be overcome in the first phase of development as opposed to the later phases. I hope that my hon. Friend Mr. Meale will take those issues into consideration in the Committee.

Nothing that any of the petitioners have put forward should delay the Bill's progress. I am convinced that the Government are determined to see it through and to realise the vision that we have for the south-east.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party 2:24 pm, 12th January 2006

I want to be absolutely clear that when the Bill was published and I took legal advice from the Clerks and others concerned with parliamentary procedure, the explanation that the Secretary of State gave today about the importance of the principle was something that I understood to be an established fact. I understand the difficulty of amending the long title of a Bill. There appear in the long title the words

"through central London to Shenfield".

I was concerned that my constituents would not get an opportunity to petition, but I was told that that was wrong.

I was completely amazed by what the Secretary of State said on Second Reading: that, no, the Select Committee would have the opportunity to consider whether Shenfield should be a terminus. The Secretary of State went further by differentiating between the principle and the route. In column 1125 in the Official Report of 19 July he said:

"Our instruction goes further, in that it suggests the route. I repeat, however, that if someone came along and said that the stations or the termini should be different, the Select Committee may well want to consider that."—[Hansard, 19 July 2005; Vol. 436, c. 1125.]

We have to remember that, with the exception of the late petitioners, the only reason the instruction is here today is that the Secretary of State was wrong in his understanding of the law. This new instruction is there to make good his promises, except for one regarding Shenfield.

The Secretary of State said, "I thought you were referring to Liverpool Street station. I said what I did because I thought you wanted a terminus there." Well, so what? Would it matter whether I had suggested Liverpool Street, Stratford or Timbuktu? What I asked the Secretary of State was whether my constituents could petition the Select Committee about having the terminus at Shenfield, and whether the Select Committee could make a recommendation. The answer to both those questions was yes. Frankly, it is reneging on both those promises now to say that those matters should not be considered.

Let me be absolutely clear. All I want is the opportunity for my constituents to make a case for the terminus not to come to Shenfield. All I ask is that that is considered—not just politely listened to, but considered by the Select Committee. All I want is for the Select Committee to make a recommendation to the Government. It may be that the Committee decides not to make a recommendation about Shenfield. I am a democrat; I can accept that. What I cannot accept is that when a promise has been made at the Dispatch Box by a Secretary of State for Transport, a few months later he can renege on it and say that we were at cross-purposes.

Members have an opportunity to read Hansard. They can see the ordinary interpretation of the words used and the context in which the question was asked. I firmly believe that this is a matter of principle. I have always taken the Secretary of State at his word. I have never questioned his word or his honour in the many times I have been opposite him at the Dispatch Box. My constituents have been very badly let down. They have been asked to take part in a strange parliamentary pantomime, in which they can petition, and be politely listened to, but no matter how strong their case, no recommendation can be made. That bring politics into disrepute; it brings this place into disrepute; and it falls very badly on the shoulders of the Secretary of State.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 2:28 pm, 12th January 2006

I am grateful for this opportunity to make a contribution to the debate. My right hon. Friend Mr. Raynsford and my hon. Friend John Austin have already outlined the issues relating to south London, and I am particularly pleased to see that under the motions on the Order Paper we are going to consider the Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet extension.

My constituency sits at the confluence of the south circular, the A102 approach road to the Blackwall tunnel, the A2 and the A20. Without those important improvements in our public transport network along the south-east of the Thames, as my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead said, the development of that area of the Thames Gateway and the new housing and jobs that it will generate will be affected and many more people will end up in traffic jams somewhere in my constituency as they travel to and from London. Our road network is already congested, especially at peak times, so improvements in the public transport network are essential and I am pleased that they are being considered.

Crossrail will give us 40 per cent. of the additional transport capacity that we need in central London and, like others, I do not want that part of the development to fall as a result of the additional schemes that people are requesting. I draw the attention of Select Committee members to the fact that, historically, south-east London has suffered enormously from lack of investment in its public transport infrastructure. When people talk about the London underground, they often think that it covers the whole of London. Indeed, the criticism can be levelled at the Mayor of London that he sometimes talks as though the whole of London is served by the underground, but south-east London is not. An arc around the Thames all the way to Lambeth—almost a quarter of the whole of London—is not served by the London underground. That is why it is essential that we make the most of schemes such as Crossrail. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich pointed out that a six-mile stretch from Custom House to Abbey Wood, the cost of which will be in the hundreds of millions, will have no station, bypassing one of the most strategic transport hubs in south-east London. That makes no sense. On a cost-benefit basis alone, it must make sense to consider that development.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead pointed out some of the historical facts about Woolwich; for example, the loss of jobs that we have suffered over the last 50 years. On figures for 2000, 25 of the top 20 per cent. most deprived wards in the country were in the London borough of Greenwich and, according to the 2004 figures, it is the 23rd most deprived local authority area. The development of Woolwich is essential not only for regeneration but as a strategic hub for our part of south-east London. It makes no sense to build a six-mile railway with no station, especially when it bypasses such a major town centre as Woolwich. I urge the Select Committee to take that on board.

Photo of Rob Wilson Rob Wilson Conservative, Reading East 2:32 pm, 12th January 2006

My brief comments will be about Crossrail and Reading station, which is in my constituency. As I have said many times before, nobody doubts that the construction of an east-west rail link in London will have powerful economic advantages and benefits for London, so in that regard I strongly support Crossrail and certainly do not want to stand in the way of its progress.

However, Crossrail's significance for us to the west of London much depends on what we get from it. If Crossrail were to contribute to unplugging the bottlenecks on the national rail network through much-needed funding for Reading station, I should support it. If it were to bring more fast and semi-fast commuter services to London, I should support and welcome it. If it were to provide a link to Heathrow, as Martin Salter said, I should welcome it. That is the type of Crossrail that I should like to see terminating in Reading, East.

However, that does not seem to be the proposal that we shall actually get. It looks as though it will be a metro service that stops at every little station between Reading and London, which means that there will be fewer fast and semi-fast commuter services than at present. Such a metro service will force freight on to the roads. It will not have a link to Europe's most important airport. The scheme will be expensive but will add nothing positive to the transport infrastructure in the west of London; it will reduce capacity in the infrastructure rather than positively benefit it.

Crossrail could be fantastic for Reading, but we do not want it at any cost. I hope that the Secretary of State hears that loud and clear.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:34 pm, 12th January 2006

The motions attempt to clear up the confusion surrounding the instruction as initially set out by the Government and, indeed, the confusion of the debate on Second Reading, for it is clear that the instruction to the Select Committee that was set out during that debate had a twofold effect. First, the Select Committee had to interpret the principle of the Bill, so it could not accept petitions that did not deal with that principle. Secondly, the Select Committee could consider only those matters prescribed by the instruction. It could not consider any matter of its choice, despite the confusion of the debate on Second Reading and the Government's belief that the Select Committee could do so.

The motions will have two practical results. First, they will clear up the confusion, clarify the Select Committee's remit and extend the instruction. In practical terms, as we have heard during much of the debate this afternoon, the Select Committee will now be able to examine the proposals to extend Crossrail to both the east and the west, which the instruction as set out on Second Reading would not have allowed it to do. Secondly, as a result of another of the motions, the Select Committee will be able to consider a number of possibly essential engineering changes—frankly, all of which might have been anticipated and incorporated into the original Bill.

The motions have a number of important and as yet unresolved implications, however, and I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify them in his remarks in a few minutes. First, what is the cost of the works as designated by the motions? Even though, as the Secretary of State said earlier, the Government do not necessarily wish those works to be undertaken, I am sure that they have a view on the costs. I should be surprised if they did not have a view on them before introducing the motions today.

Secondly, if the items in the motions are to become part of the Crossrail project after the Select Committee has considered them, is it right that they cannot be initially added to the Bill? Will they require separate orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992? The Government have been considering Crossrail for long enough now, and this is an untidy and cumbersome method of adding to the Bill some very important considerations for Crossrail.

We are dealing with motions that relate to items that either the Government need to clear up or have been identified post the debate of 19 July. What happens if other engineering works and other items emerge? Will the Minister clarify exactly how the Government propose to deal with them? Will another stream of motions be put before the House?

Importantly, the motions do not clarify a number of other unresolved issues: Crossrail's impact on other services, such as freight; the interaction with other networks; the governance of the network; the regulatory regime associated with Crossrail; and the power of the Office of Rail Regulation. Most importantly, the motions give no flavour to Crossrail's funding. The House will give effect to motions to pursue the biggest civil engineering project in Europe without any regard to its financing. Exactly by whom and how will that be financed? When do the Government propose to tell us the details of how it will be financed?

The Secretary of State said earlier—I am sure that the Minister will say so, as well—that the Government have asked Sir Michael Lyons to look at the funding of the project. That has attracted comment. However, that may well be their position, but it is far from clear whether a review that looks at the funding of large-scale national infrastructure projects should be conducted without considering local government funding. So we are left with the suspicion that the referral to Lyons is nothing more than putting the project out into the long grass, as my hon. Friend Chris Grayling said earlier.

In conclusion, I shall ask my colleagues to support the motions—I want to reaffirm the Conservative party's commitment to the principle of Crossrail—but there should be no more delays and procrastination from the Government. When will we hear the full details of Crossrail's funding? I trust that we will do so in time for the debate on Third Reading.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 2:39 pm, 12th January 2006

I welcome Chris Grayling to his new post and Stephen Hammond to his first Front-Bench position.

I am grateful to hon. Members for a valuable debate on the instructions to the Select Committee dealing with the Crossrail Bill. I am pleased that there is such widespread support for the Bill. The Committee process will be an important part of ensuring that we deliver Crossrail, to which our commitment is clear and firm. A great deal of work has been done to ensure that it is delivered as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, I do not have time to respond to all the points that have been made in the debate, but I shall do my best to respond briefly to some of them. Of course, the issues raised by hon. Members will be the subject of further and detailed consideration by the Select Committee, and matters to do with the details of the project will be the subject of thorough interrogation. The additional measures that the Government propose to introduce will also be subject to that rigorous process. If the House passes the instructions, the Committee will be able to consider other matters that are causing great concern but that would otherwise have been outside its remit.

Many hon. Members spoke in this excellent debate. My right hon. Friend Mr. Raynsford stated his strong support for the Bill, highlighting the economic benefits of Crossrail to London and to the country as a whole. He strongly favours a station at Woolwich—he has made that case before—and the Select Committee will hear petitions on the subject.

Tom Brake raised a variety of issues. I can only respond briefly to a couple of them today. All the material relating to the additional provisions will be published next week and local authorities will be able to petition the Select Committee, which will then consider the details. He raised the important subject of Crossrail's effect on rail freight. I chair the Crossrail high-level forum, which brings together interested parties such as local government and rail industry representatives. We have set up a sub-group on rail, and all the rail interests attend its meetings. We have also set up a working group on the timetable and on access options, which involves rail freight interests, and we are working together to get the best possible solution. It is not the case that there will be a reduction in freight.

My hon. Friend Martin Salter made a strong argument on behalf of his constituency, emphasising Reading's importance as a rail terminal. He made a strong case for Reading and I note that he welcomed the Government's instruction in that respect.

Andrew Rosindell spoke about the impact of Crossrail as strongly he did on Second Reading. Discussions are ongoing with the local authority and other bodies about some of the issues that he raised here today.

My hon. Friend John Austin said that we have an opportunity to ensure that the dream of Crossrail is realised. He spoke about its importance to the Thames Gateway, referring to its economic benefits and the need for jobs and development and for the removal of any constraints on that. He also spoke about the project's wider significance to London and the country as a whole.

My hon. Friend Clive Efford made important points on the need to improve public transport. He also highlighted Crossrail's importance to his constituency and London in terms of regeneration and job creation. He spoke about the job losses that have occurred in his part of London over the past couple of decades and recognised the opportunity that now exists. He, too, made the case for Woolwich.

Mr. Pickles raised a number of issues. I can only refer him to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told him during his opening remarks. The Select Committee will sit for the first time next week under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend Mr. Meale. It will discuss matters of detail, and it will have an opportunity to examine many of the issues raised by hon. Members, petitioners and others. Instructions before the House provide important clarification for the Committee, and will further facilitate its proceedings. The Committee will be a crucial next step in the Bill's progress towards the realisation of Crossrail, and I commend the motions to the House.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 390, Noes 0.

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Reading Station is in Reading East. If Crossrail did come to Reading it would not run in...

Submitted by Jane Griffiths Continue reading

Division number 123 Crossrail Bill [Instruction No. 2]

Aye: 390 MPs

No: 0 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered,

That it be a further Instruction to the Select Committee to which the Crossrail Bill is committed—

(1) that it have power to consider—

(a) the extension of permitted development under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 in relation to development which is the subject of environmental assessment in connection with the Bill;

(b) additional power to carry out works for the purpose of reinstating facilities whose operation or use is discontinued because of the exercise of powers conferred by the Bill;

(c) provision relating to the abstraction of water;

(d) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding planning permission for development authorised by the Bill which consists of a work other than a scheduled work;

(e) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding the application of provisions of the Bill to things authorised by an order under section 1 of the Transport and Works Act 1992;

(f) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding any of the following—

(i) a crossover at Farringdon;

(ii) sidings at Westbourne Park;

(iii) diversion of the Moorgate Station Sewer;

(iv) a jetty and conveyor at West India Docks South;

(v) use of the River Lea for barge loading and holding areas;

(vi) realignment of the Docklands Light Railway at Custom House;

(vii) facilities for handling excavated materials at Manor Wharf;

(viii) a shaft at Eleanor Street;

(ix) diversion of the Hackney to Abbey Mills Sewer and the Wick Lane Sewer;

(x) a bridge over Hollow Hill Lane, Langley;

(g) realignment of the proposed running tunnel beneath Shorts Gardens, Camden;

(h) alterations to a ticket hall at the proposed Whitechapel Station;

(i) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding approval in relation to highway accesses;

(j) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding the acquisition of land at Basin Approach, Lowell Street and land at Billingsgate Market;

(k) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding the creation and acquisition of easements or other rights over land;

(l) alterations to the table in paragraph 1 of Schedule 8 to the Bill (disapplication and modification of heritage controls), so far as relating to the City of Westminster, the City of London and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets;

(m) the inclusion of additional land within the limits of land to be acquired or used;

and, if it thinks fit, to make amendments to the Bill with respect to any of the matters mentioned above, and for connected purposes;

(2) that any Petition against Amendments to the Bill which the Select Committee to which the Crossrail Bill is committed is empowered to make shall be referred to that Select Committee if—

(a) it is presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which the first newspaper notice of the Amendments was published or, if that period includes any time during which the House is adjourned for more than four days, not later than five weeks beginning with that day, and

(b) it is one in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.