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London Underground Bill (By Order)

Volume 205: debated on Monday 9 March 1992

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Lords amendments considered.

Lords amendment: In the preamble, page 2, line 21, leave out ("in addition to") and insert

("will contribute both to the").

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.— [Mr. Thorne.]

I understand that it may be for the convenience of the House to discuss all the Lords amendments together.

7 pm

I shall try hard to stick to the narrow amendments before us, Madam Deputy Speaker. I want specifically to refer to the amendments to clause 33, but, before doing so, I would draw to the attention of the House the continuing concern that exists in the Waterloo area not just about the Bill and its repercussions but about the way in which some of the proposals have been handled by London Underground.

After the House of Commons Committee had finished considering the Jubilee line extension Bill last year, London Underground made several significant changes to the proposals for the part of the Jubilee line extension that passes through the Waterloo area. Admittedly, the changes were located within the limits of deviation, but they were significant, and people in the area are extremely angry about them. We feel that we were grossly deceived by London Underground. Three main changes were proposed. First, the tunnels were to be moved underneath many of the houses in Roupell street, with the area of settlement including much of Whittlesey street and Theed street. Secondly, a completely new large ticket hall was proposed for Waterloo road, involving the permanent loss of many shops. The bus station proposed for Tenison way was the third major change, again involving the permanent loss of shops.

We believe that, in making those changes, London Underground has been guilty of unreasonable and unacceptable behaviour. The House was deceived, and information concerning the changes was withheld from 42 petitioners until it was too late for them to petition the House. A large number of Waterloo residents thus did not have the opportunity to petition to protect their interests. There was no environmental impact assessment study of the effects of the changes before the decision was made to promote them in the other place. Finally, promises that had been made and repeated many times at public and private meetings—that the tunnels would not be located under houses in Roupell street, which are of simple construction and, therefore, vulnerable—were broken. The community could not even petition the House on the matter.

A number of other consequences arose. The London Underground (No. 2) Bill was suddenly included within the London Underground Bill when it reached the House of Lords. That happened not after we had completed our proceedings on the first Bill but in the middle of our deliberations. Insufficient warning or explanations were given and, again, there was not time to inform the petitioners. The London Underground (No. 2) Bill dealt with the new underground station in The Cut, and had serious implications—although I think that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) will agree that some of the problems have been dealt with satisfactorily.

I wish to make a formal complaint about the way in which people in Waterloo have been treated. That brings me to clause 33, which I consider to be of concern not only to Waterloo but to London generally. The original Bill makes it clear that there is a protection clause which does not allow work to be done or the spill site to be situated beside county hall. I remind hon. Members that that was the site that London Underground originally wished to use. It would not in any way have affected the green space of Jubilee gardens, and would have worked out a great deal less expensive, thus saving London Underground money. The London residuary body, which still controls county hall, refused to negotiate over the use of that site. Last week—more than a year after our original discussions —the Evening Standard carried the headline
"County Hall—Crisis Looms for Cabinet".
The future of county hall is again very much in doubt. Only when there is a change of Government will county hall be secured for public use—perhaps joint use for educational purposes by the London School of Economics and others. At the moment, however, no planning permission exists for any development at county hall. The matter is being considered by the Court of Appeal this week and, if a decision is made, it is likely to go further. Because of the seriousness of the matter, the local authority is likely to seek leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

The building has been left empty for all this time. No developer wants to buy it. Yet the Departments of the Environment and of Transport have not found a way of getting together to make arrangements that would allow the beautiful and unique open space of Jubilee gardens to be left uncluttered during the building of the tunnel. The House should be concerned about that, because we shall lose the use of Jubilee gardens for five to seven years.

Clause 33(3) prevents London Underground from using the car park even though that would be cheaper and less disruptive. Clause 33(4) gives the LRB power to extend the period during which Jubilee gardens is used as a works site beyond the four and a half years specified in the Bill. Clause 33(6) gives the LRB power to decide the extent and specification of the reinstatement of Jubilee gardens. The amendments would provide for any person to whom the LRB transfers part of Jubilee gardens—including the car park—to assume powers given to the LRB. Anyone buying land to develop the Hungerford car park on one side—which is likely to be the South Bank Board—or county hall on the other, would be in a position to extend the use of Jubilee gardens as a work site without reference to the Government or to a local planning authority.

We see what is likely to happen in four and half or five years' time. We do not know what will have happened to county hall by then, but I hope that the works resulting from the London Underground Bill will be nearly finished. However, the policing of the arrangements to put the gardens back to their original state will be left between whoever has taken over responsibility for county hall and the South Bank Board. The board has plans to develop part of its area.

If we do not stop county hall falling into the hands of a private developer I do not know what plans will be drawn up. However, it may be in the interests of the owner of the new buildings not to return Jubilee gardens to their original state. There is nothing in the Bill that would require the gardens to be returned to the state that the local authority and local people want. It may be in the interests of those who eventually control the LRB's functions to keep Jubilee gardens as a private extension to this development, if it is carried through. They could then say, "We are sorry, we do not want to put it back into public use: we want to extend the private gardens of county hall."

The amendment to clause 32 on how the gardens will be reinstated gives us no idea of who will finally take that decision. That leaves a great deal of a power in a body or in bodies which may not have the interests of local people at heart. It is ironic that, at a time when we are discussing the celebrations of the anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne, the House is taking a decision to ruin a unique stretch of open space. Such a decision could have been avoided.

I attacked London Underground for the way in which it handled the problem of Tenison way and the shops. It has admitted that those problems were handled badly and that its intervention was late. On Jubilee gardens, I must say that London Underground has bent over backwards to help. It is not London Underground's fault that the LRB has been reactionary and had its head in the sand on this and other issues, because it is an unelected and undemocratic body. On Jubilee gardens in particular, the LRB has not tried to find a solution.

London Underground has said that, even at this stage, it does not need to sign the contract for the work site where the spoil will be placed until early June. Therefore, I hope that there will be a commitment from the next Labour Government to question whether we should ruin a unique site for the sake of a little give and take. I hope that we will have such a commitment if county hall is still in public hands by the time that a Labour Government are elected and if the contract has not been signed. I hope that the Labour Government will find a solution despite the protection clause that the House of Lords was unable to remove because of the precedent which means that the House of Lords cannot remove such protection clauses agreed by the House.

I know that the Minister will say that the London boroughs will benefit from the sale of county hall. I believe that even if the price were less, because the car park site could not be used for six years, the London boroughs would accept that price. They understand the uniqueness of Jubilee gardens. I saw the fuss and furore in the House about the fact that Westminster might be threatened in some way by the passage of the Bill. Every stop was pulled out to ensure that the green at Westminster was not affected. However, the House will allow a Bill to slip through that will lead to the complete disruption of people's lives in Waterloo.

Some people in Waterloo might accept a new underground, even if it were not the one that we would have preferred, because it might bring long-term benefit. It is possible to prevent disruption and the spoiling of Jubilee gardens. The next London marathon could be the last to finish in Jubilee gardens for probably six or seven years. I fear that, because of the way that the amendment is worded, there will be little chance of Jubilee gardens returning to its present state and being used as it is now.

7.15 pm

If the LRB gets away with selling county hall to a private developer, I do not believe that that developer will ever want to negotiate to ensure that Jubilee gardens remains as an open space, available for the people of London. It is unbelievable that we have been unable to sort out this matter. We have let down not just the people of London, but those who have worked so hard over the years to preserve Jubilee gardens as metropolitan open land and who see it as a unique riverside site. We are allowing that unique site to be ruined for at least seven years, if not for ever, just when London needs to make more use of such sites and river walkways.

London Underground has told me—it is important to put it on the record—that it will not sign the contract for the spoil site until June. It has said that it would be happy to move that site nearer to county hall if it were told that that was possible, which would thus save Jubilee gardens. It is extremely unfortunate that we, as legislators, cannot find a way to allow that to happen. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) will give a commitment that the next Labour Government will do everything that they can to resolve this problem.

My hon. Friend has made a strong case for reconsidering this matter and I am sure that she will have been heard sympathetically. Given the proposed time scale, it is our expectation that we will form the next Government soon. I am delighted to assure my hon. Friend that we will consider the issue as she suggests to see whether a way can be found to ensure that Jubilee gardens is not spoilt as my hon. Friend anticipates that it will be as a result of the amendment.

My hon. Friend speaks for many Londoners.

I am not trying to waste time because I feel that it is necessary to consider this important issue. The amendment has not helped in any way. I appreciate that the underground line may be needed, but I am sorry that it could not have been built without causing so much disruption and havoc to the lives of the people of Waterloo and without denying Londoners their use of a unique open space at Jubilee gardens.

In common with the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey), I shall address my remarks to the amendments. The hon. Lady and I have a joint interest because, although she represents a large part of Waterloo, I, too, represent part of it.

Clause 33 relates primarily to Waterloo and Jubilee gardens. In an earlier round of this protracted debate, I said that I am a trustee of the London Charitable Trust, which was set up to ensure that county hall stays in public ownership. That is still the trust's view and wish. The current proposals for the land around county hall, within which London Underground is obliged to work because of the land arrangements of the London residuary body, are not the most acceptable for the people of London. They are not what the people of Lambeth and Southwark, let alone those who look across the river from this side and those who use Jubilee gardens—the largest riverside open space in central London—would wish.

I, too, look forward to the day—not many weeks from now—when a majority in the House will favour London regional government based in county hall, a continuation of public ownership of county hall and protection for Jubilee gardens. If people want to read runes or tealeaves or otherwise interpret matters, they can take it from me —I suppose the phrase is, "they can take it from us"—that if we get past phase 1 of the Liberal Democrat pre-conditions for negotiation, which is an agreement on proportional representation and a fair Parliament, the negotiations that will follow about the programme for government will include county hall for London government. As the hon. Member for Vauxhall rightly said, that will be with or without the London School of Economics, which is subject to current discussions.

Three further matters in clauses 4 and 25 relate entirely to Southwark. The proposal contained in the Lords amendments to clause 4 would delete the corporation's power to carry out works and connected "conveniences", as they are so delicately called, to make and maintain a bus station in the London borough of Southwark on any part of the land shown as number 283 in the deposited plans. Provision for a bus station is part of a package deal and is the largest controversial area of the line's route, which goes around and underneath the Canada estate, close to the entrance of the Rotherhithe tunnel.

I shall not rehearse the strong arguments put before the Committee in this place and the House of Lords. Suffice it to say that the Committee here saw fit to order that a survey of Canada estate be undertaken. A betting person would bet that the House of Lords Committee would have organised work to the advantage of the tenants, but I am afraid that bets, even on odds-on favourites, do not always succeed and their lordships did not make an order along the lines requested by the tenants and residents of the Canada estate, which I supported on that Committee.

It was none the less clear that the Canada estate's foundations needed to be examined before people would feel secure with an underground line being built under the estate. I have been given an assurance that the work to examine the foundations has commenced and will be paid for by London Underground, and that the result will be publicly available. I take it as read that, if the survey of the foundations produce evidence to suggest that the foundations could not withstand the work directly under the estate, the alternative route proposed by residents, and originally by the council and me, will be adopted even if work on that part of the line has to be delayed accordingly.

A bizarre element of the debate was that it was discovered that the plans for the Canada estate, which was built in Greater London council days and transferred to the London borough of Southwark, had gone missing. So nobody knew whether the estate had raft or piled foundations. It is still a mystery. For those who live on the 22nd floor of a tower block, it is not inconsequential to know what foundations the block has and nobody would blame the tenants for wanting to know the answer. I am prepared to accept what I have been told—that it is better to carry out a survey than look for plans that may be inaccurate. That needs to be sorted out and the people on the Canada estate will not be happy until they know that their homes will be safe and secure, irrespective of the works done under the estate. We have fought and lost many battles and we may yet fight battles about the location of bus stations and cycle routes. The crucial matter is that the estate must be safe.

Money needs to be spent on the Canada estate. If the Government wish to be generous in the run-up to the general election and if Southwark cannot afford to pay for the renovation of the estate, I should be grateful if the Minister of State would send a message to the Minister for Housing and Planning, who knows about the issue, to produce the money to prepare the Canada estate. People would be extremely pleased. There may even be some Conservative votes in it, but I doubt whether they would make enough difference to change the result in Southwark in the coming election.

Two further issues relate to other buildings and sites. The amendments are minimal and I can do little other than try to prevent those amendments from going ahead. Clauses 21, 22 and 25 relate to powers in respect of buildings and roads, and clause 22 contains a list of land in schedule 7. The works consequential on the Jubilee line —the first which is an odd consequence, because it started off as a consequence of the works done at London bridge as a result of the London Underground (Safety Measures) Act 1991—include the building of the new entrance to London Bridge tube station and the work in Tooley street. They are listed in the schedule to the Bill.

In relation to the Borough high street entrance to London Bridge tube station, which is where the new ticket hall will be located, London Underground knows the position. The local community groups, the Cathedral area residents association, the North Southwark development group, the local councillors and I have been unhappy that an undertaking to consult fully about the station in a terrace of listed and significant buildings in the old Borough high street has not been in the spirit that we wished. I said that I wanted to confirm, by making the point on record today, that the design and building of the new station entrance should be the result of consultation. I am grateful to Mr. Weavin, from whom I received a letter today after a meeting on Friday. He says that he wants to call a meeting to include representatives from London Transport Property, the design management engineers and the community to discuss the matter. I agree that that is the right way forward and that the community must be involved.

The list in the schedule includes a specific site and relates back to clause 22 and the amendments. One remaining property is the subject of negotiation—Nos. 26 to 28A, Tooley street. During the whole saga, there have been a number of properties for which I have appeared to be a broker in the negotiations. It was once asserted that I might receive a meal from the new Guy's restaurant, but it was boarded up before I had a chance to receive more than a cup of coffee.

There is a restaurant in Tooley street near London bridge station called Archie's restaurant. The proprietor is a gentleman called Mr. Malik. As the negotiations were left on Friday, the implication was that London Underground would accept what is called total extinguishment—the business would close, so compensation would be paid on that basis, not on the earlier idea, which was based on the assumption that the premises would be partly affected. That is the only acceptable basis, and as long as discussions proceed on it I am satisfied that London Underground is being reasonable to this remaining contested property.

In the past hour I have had further discussions with London Underground. Those discussions have confirmed what I said about how matters stood on Friday. Nothing less than that will be acceptable and, provided that future undertakings confirm that basis, I do not want to delay the House any more. Like the Minister and others, I want the Bill to become law by the end of this Session—it now looks as if it will—so that work on the Jubilee line can start and—

7.30 pm

Order. The hon. Gentleman has had a good run; he must not start to turn this into a Second Reading debate.

I was on my last sentence, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What has long been a neglected area of inner London in terms of public transport will soon be linked into the tube system. I look forward to that day and to work starting soon.

I will not answer the detailed points raised in this brief debate, because my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), representing London Underground, will do that if he catches your eye, M r. Deputy Speaker, but I should like to make one or two remarks on hon. Members' speeches.

Once again, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South for the great determination and patience with which he has conducted himself throughout this and all other stages of the Bill's progress through the House. During this long saga he has exhibited patience and courtesy, and the House owes him a debt of gratitude.

Both sides of the House look forward to the conclusion of this issue towards which we are moving, and I am pleased about that. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey) said that she believed that London Underground had sought to be helpful about Jubilee gardens. I note the commitment made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) to making this issue one of her policy priorities if she joins a Labour Government. I was interested to hear her commitment to reconsidering what may or may not be possible on the Jubilee gardens site in the light of what may or may not be done about county hall.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall referred to the decision to move the work site for tunnel spoil to the north end of Jubilee gardens. I appreciate the impact that that decision will have on public access to that pleasant and open space by the riverside. It is always unfortunate when enjoyment of public amenities has to be curtailed for limited periods. It is incumbent on us to ensure that there are good reasons for doing so and that there are no feasible alternatives. I am afraid that this is the position in this case. It was only to protect the vital interests of local chargepayers of London that the London residuary body successfully petitioned to have the original form of the Bill changed to move the site from the south to the north end of Jubilee gardens.

As the House will appreciate, ownership of county hall is vested in the residuary body. Under the Local Government Act 1985, that body has a clear statutory duty to dispose of county hall in such a way as to achieve the best possible return for the chargepayers of London. Its decision to petition to have the site moved was certainly not taken lightly. On the contrary, the residuary body rightly felt that it would be failing in its duty to the citizens of London had it not taken that course.

Given that the protection provision was included, does the Minister think that it was fair or reasonable that no discussion or detailed consideration of it was permitted in the House of Lords Select Committee? It would have been easy to assess whether the LRB was right about the amount of money that it said it would lose if it allowed the site to be developed, but no one was allowed to challenge the figures in the House of Lords because of the protection provision, so we never heard the intricate details of the continually mentioned costs to the ratepayers of London. No one came up with any figures.

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South will comment on that. Procedures in the House of Lords are a matter for their lordships. I understand that the hon. Lady felt disadvantaged by them, but I regret that the other place is not accountable to this House, and I cannot answer satisfactorily why such discussion was not possible. I have one or two things to say, however, about Jubilee gardens which may be of relevance.

If the site had remained at the south end of the gardens immediately next to county hall, the residuary body's plans for the development of county hall—the plans on the basis of which it had been negotiating with potential purchasers—would have been largely undermined. That is because the south end of the gardens is needed for an underground car park, which would form a key and essential element of the LRB's plans for the development of the county hall complex. The LRB has put a price on the loss which a decision to move the site back to the south end would entail, in the claim put forward for compensation. In the event of that decision being adopted, the cost is put at between £50 million and £100 million. That would be a very high price for Londoners to have to pay for avoiding the use of the north end of Jubilee gardens while tunnelling work is in progress. Indeed, it is too high a price to ask them to pay for that purpose.

The hon. Lady asked what action my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment may take. That is certainly a matter for the Government, not for London Underground. The Select Committee in another place recommended that the Secretary of State for the Environment should use the powers conferred on him by the Local Government Act 1985 to direct the residuary body to agree that the work site should be moved back to the south end of the gardens. It will be clear from what I have already said that my right hon. Friend would believe that it was quite wrong to take such action. We have very clear legal advice to the effect that he would not have the power to give such a direction even if he believed it right to do so, because the powers of my right hon. Friend to give directions to the residuary body under the 1985 Act are clearly limited to directions intended to fulfil the purposes of that Act.

We are clearly advised that there is no way in which the transfer of the works site to the south end of the gardens could be regarded as fulfilling the purposes of the Act. It is, therefore, not possible for my right hon. Friend to give a direction to the residuary body on this matter without exposing himself to challenge, by way of judicial review, on the grounds that he was interfering outside his powers in action taken by the residuary body in furtherance of its statutory duty to obtain the best possible return for the chargepayers of London.

I still understand the comments by the hon. Member for Deptford about what the Opposition may consider right as to the future use of the building. She is perfectly within her rights to make such a speculative claim. I note what she said about reconsidering the south end of Jubilee gardens as a work site.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) will agree that the Government have consistently honoured their commitment to ensure that London Underground was properly funded to construct the underground stations at Southwark and Bermondsey. I am also sure that he joins me in hoping that when those plans come to fruition the two stations will benefit the people of the inner suburbs of south-east London. I know that the hon. Gentleman would be the first to advance that point.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey spoke about the Canada estate. I will leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South to deal with that point on behalf of London Underground. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that in fulfilling its commitment London Underground ensured that a survey of the building's foundations was carried out.

I understand that it has been agreed that a survey shall be carried out. However, the works in connection with that have not been completed, although it is hoped that they will be completed in a few weeks.

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South can deal with that.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey asked me to refer to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment the state of public housing at Southwark. I am sure that my right hon. Friend and the Minister for Housing and Planning are aware of the issue.

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who is not in his place, spoke in an earlier debate on the Bill about the issue of Canning Town. That issue has been resolved and is not therefore the subject of an amendment. The Canning Town interchange now provides for all three lines to have a single station interchange at north London. I am pleased that London Underground, British Rail and the docklands light railway came to such an agreement for the benefit of all Londoners and especially those who live in Newham.

This may be the last opportunity to pay tribute to Russell Black, the project director of the Jubilee line. He and his team have dealt with representations from the hon. Members for Vauxhall and for Southwark and Bermondsey and other hon. Members with courtesy, efficiency and dispatch. He and his colleagues will be pleased that Royal Assent is not too far away. The Government share the view that the Lords amendments should be accepted.

I am sure that I speak for the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey) when I echo the Minister's thanks for the courtesy and co-operation that we have had from all the officials. We look forward to that continuing over what may be a long time.

I should also like to thank Russell Black, especially for his commitment, which I reiterate, that, should county hall not be owned by a developer before June, he will still be able to change the work site in order to protect Jubilee gardens.

Accord is breaking out on all sides of the House. It overwhelms me. This may not be the last time that I am asked to speak in this Parliament on the Bill because I have agreed to appear before the Select Committee which seeks certain undertakings from London Underground and the Government about the proposed new parliamentary building in Bridge street.

Russell Black must be blushing because of the compliments paid to him, but they are well deserved.

The Lords amendments consist of adjustments agreed with petitioners, and improvements to the drafting and presentation of the Bill, including protective clauses for affected parties. No alterations of substance were included and no amendments were made which were not acceptable to the promoters.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey) is rightly concerned about the effect that the Bill would have on her constituency. Her claim that there was gross deception and that the promoters were unreasonable was unfair, because it was not possible for them to deal with the matter as a whole until the results of the design investigation had been made available. Moreover, what was proposed was within the Bill's limits. Contrary to what the hon. Lady implied, they were carried out in ample time for petition to the House of Lords Committee. Petitioners did have time and, as far as I am aware, they certainly used it.

7.45 pm

The point I was making was that there was no opportunity for the House to consider fundamental changes that affected many extra people.

I thank the hon. Lady for clarifying the matter. People had an opportunity to petition the House of Lords. It should be made clear that in such operations where design work is proceeding, it is important for matters to be dealt with in the normal fashion. It is not possible to close the shop immediately proposals reach this House. Work has to continue and there was adequate opportunity for petitioners to be heard.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall spoke about the line passing under some houses. That was not mentioned when the Bill was last before the House. The matter was put to the Lords Committee, which accepted that it would have little effect. The petitioners have the right to come back should the interference be such as to give rise to compensation. On the information given so far, I understand that that is unlikely to happen.

The hon. Lady spoke about the future use of county hall. The promoters must deal with the case as it exists, taking things as they are and not as they could or might be. Planning consent was obtained for the redevelopment of county hall from the Secretary of State on 5 September 1991. The proposals include the conversion of the river side buildings into a hotel, apartments and business centre, the demolition of remaining buildings in the county hall complex and their replacement with two new office buildings totalling 1 million sq ft. The proposals for the underground car park beneath Jubilee gardens is an integral part of the scheme. The borough of Lambeth appealed against the Secretary of State's decision to the High Court in January and the appeal is expected to reach the Court of Appeal later this year.

As I have said, the promoters have to deal with the matter as it exists, and that is why they would not want to expose themselves to the possibility of a substantial extra payment. It was right for LRT to take the course that it did.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey spoke about the Canada estate. I think that he said that there were no plans for that estate, which was built by the GLC. There is some uncertainty about whether the buildings have raft or pile foundations. The GLC and the borough of Southwark should have plans, because they both have a responsibility in that context. Some of the GLC schemes about which I was aware left much to be desired. On one occasion more than 2,000 doors were ordered in excess of requirements and they were promptly burnt. That was in about 1960, and I am sure that there have been other similar happenings. Those brand new doors were destroyed because of mismanagement. With that in mind, I am not surprised that the authority lost a few plans.

The issue is being properly investigated and I am told that LRT is funding the investigation into the foundations. It has had the best advice on the matter, and I believe that that advice was obtained at a high level, so there should not be any risk. Professor Burland, for London Underground, has said that the blocks are structurally sound, and that there is no risk from the railway works. He is an expert in these matters and can be relied on for good advice. Nevertheless, further investigations are continuing, but if remedial works are to be carried out, they would be the responsibility of the owner of the property, the London borough of Southwark.

I do not think that the GLC lost the plans, because it handed them over before its demise. On the hon. Gentleman's last point, I said that if there were structural defects in the foundations, there will be an issue over the liability of London Underground and the advisability of having that part of the route in exactly that alignment. That cannot only be a matter for Southwark because it relates directly to the plans. I am not asking the hon. Gentleman to accept responsibility on behalf of London Underground. I ask him only to confirm that there is a potential London Underground responsibility if that is what the foundation survey reveals. I hope that it does not, but until we see the survey, we cannot know the answer.

The point that I was trying to make is that the construction took place in the London borough of Southwark. Therefore, as far as I am aware, that authority would also have responsibility for supervision of the work and must have had copies of the plans. It would appear that two authorities have lost their copies of the plans.

Perhaps I should clarify the matter. The estate was built by the GLC, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recalls. When the GLC was wound up, the plans would have gone into the archives and we would have thought that a copy would have gone to Southwark. The borough cannot find its copy and nobody knows whether the copy is alive or dead.

I should have thought that the London building inspectors would also have had plans, because they would have had responsibilities as well. There must also have been foundation plans to show drainage works. It is surprising that all the plans that these bodies would have had have disappeared. That is unfortunate, and shows how careless some people can be. Clearly, LRT is doing the right thing in carrying out the investigation. The question of who is responsible will be a legal matter and I am sure that that will be pursued by the appropriate legal authorities of both the London borough of Southwark and the LRB. On the basis of what they find, they will decide whose the responsibility is, and that must be the right and proper way to do it.

The hon. Gentleman said that if a certain property were acquired, it should be subject to total extinguishment compensation. I am afraid that I have no knowledge of that. I have been trying to find out the details, but have not managed to do so. If the hon. Gentleman can find addresses, I will make sure that that is investigated and that a letter is written to him on that issue. It is clear that that should be properly looked after. We cannot have people suffering unduly because they are held in limbo.

The promoters respectfully request that the Lords amendments to the Bill be agreed to.

I understand that the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey) wishes to divide the House on the amendment to clause 33.

There is probably no point, at this stage. I have made my views clear and, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) said, London Underground is dealing with the matter. I hope that, in about four weeks' time, the situation will be different, so I will not push the amendment to a vote.

Question put and agreed to.

Remaining Lords amendments agreed to.