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Crossrail Bill (Carry Over)

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 31 October 2006

[Relevant document: First Special Report from the Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill, Session 2005-06, on the Crossrail Bill: Woolwich Station, HC 1597.]

Motions 3 and 4 on the Crossrail Bill will be debated together. I should also inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford).

I beg to move,

That further proceedings on the Crossrail Bill shall be suspended from the day on which this Session of Parliament ends until the next Session of Parliament;

That if a Bill is presented in the next Session in the same terms as those in which the Crossrail Bill stood when proceedings on it were suspended in this Session—

(a) the Bill shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time;

(b) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee of the same Members as the members of the Committee when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in this Session;

(c) the Instruction of the House to the Committee [19 July 2005] shall be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session;

(d) all Petitions presented in this Session which stand referred to the Committee and which have not been withdrawn shall stand referred to the Committee in the next Session;

(e) any Minutes of Evidence taken and any papers laid before the Committee in this Session shall stand referred to the Committee in the next Session;

(f) only those Petitions mentioned in paragraph (d) above, and any Petition which may be presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any proposed additional provision or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Committee in the next Session, shall stand referred to the Committee;

(g) any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in the next Session shall, subject to the rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition;

(h) the Committee shall have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from day to day Minutes of Evidence taken before it;

(i) three shall be the Quorum of the Committee;

(j) any person registered in this Session as a parliamentary agent entitled to practice as such in opposing Bills only who, at the time when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in this Session, was employed in opposing the Bill shall be deemed to have been registered as such a parliamentary agent in the next Session;

(k) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in this Session or in the Session 2004-05, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in the next Session;

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

Of the two motions before the House, one allows the Select Committee to consider petitions against the additional provisions to the Crossrail Bill that the Government intend to bring forward, and the other allows the Crossrail Bill to be carried over into the new Parliament. Explanatory memorandums on both motions are available in the Vote Office.

I am conscious of the fact that, in addition to the motions, several issues have arisen as a result of the Select Committee’s deliberations that have given rise to questions of procedure, specifically on the affordability of Woolwich station. The House will be aware that the Crossrail Bill Committee produced a special report on Woolwich last night. I propose to address all those issues in this debate and I shall begin by setting out briefly the purpose of the Bill. I shall then discuss the procedures that have been followed on Crossrail to date and address the issue of the affordability of Woolwich station, before turning finally to the detail of the two motions.

It may assist the House if I rehearse the purpose of the Bill and the procedures that have been followed so far. The Second Reading, on 19 July 2005, 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 and Heathrow 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. The Bill enables Crossrail to be constructed and puts in place the necessary powers to allow the Crossrail services to run.

I remind the House that this is a hybrid Bill—a form used for projects of national importance—in which the Government take the lead in strategic development, but crucially, because the Bill affects specific private interests, it is dealt with differently in both Houses of Parliament. Hybrid Bills are rare; the last one concerned the channel tunnel rail link a decade ago. The Bill has aspects of both a public and a private Bill. It is brought forward by Government and, like any other public Bill, contains provisions that affect everyone or 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 incorporate an extra Select Committee stage in each House.

Within the process of the hybrid Bill, it is open to the Select Committee, after listening to petitions and representations, to make recommendations. However, it is equally clear that only the Government, as promoter, can reach decisions about affordability, as my predecessor as Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, made clear in the previous instructions debate on 12 January. When we get the Select Committee’s report, the Government will have to take a view about how much we can accommodate. Only the House can grant an instruction.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the new Minister with responsibility for Crossrail is right when he says that the case for it has to be financially robust? The Minister also said that the choice is Crossrail without Woolwich or no Crossrail. Is the financial case so delicate that Woolwich would push it over the edge? If so, why not examine other stations?

I will come on to the specific issue of the affordability of Woolwich. I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken a close interest in the passage of the Bill, both on Second Reading and in the instructions debate. I will certainly address the point that he raises in the course of my remarks.

As I say, the hybrid Bill process allows the Select Committee, after listening to petitions and representations, to make its own representations. However, the Government believe that it is equally clear that only the Government, as the scheme’s promoter, can reach decisions about affordability.

Only the House can grant an instruction to enable a Select Committee to consider an additional provision. Therefore, with this and every previous hybrid Bill, the Select Committee involved has requested the Government to table an instruction for the House to consider. The Government, as promoter, must consider the expenditure implications of any proposal, including its impact on the scheme’s overall affordability.

The next round of the comprehensive spending review will take place next summer, and that will have implications for the public finances. Does the Secretary of State anticipate that the Government will have decided by then about committing money to the scheme? Whatever happens tonight, will the financial green light be given by next July, all other things being equal?

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) has alluded already to the size of the sums involved, and it is appropriate for the Government to consider how the project can be funded. We have made it clear that the decisions about the next stages of the funding process should await the outcome of the Lyons review, which is due by the end of the year. The hon. Gentleman is right to acknowledge that the Crossrail project’s scale and significance means that those decisions should be made in the context of the broader discussions of the spending review.

The question goes beyond affordability and how much the project will cost. Who is doing the paying? London is already taking an extra hit to pay for the 2012 Olympics, so does the Secretary of State agree that this very necessary project should be funded by the national taxpayer rather than the London taxpayer?

That is an intriguing idea. The Government have always made it clear that the principal users of Crossrail, and the communities to which it will contribute, should make a contribution. That is why consideration is being given to an alternative funding mechanism, which will be considered in light of the Lyons review. As I said, that is due to report towards the end of the year.

The Secretary of State mentioned the communities that will benefit. Will there be additional track capacity between Shenfield and London? If not, how will the project affect the fast train service from East Anglia, which goes through north and mid-Essex and into London? Will the people who use that service lose out?

This question has been raised before, in connection with the great western line out of Paddington rather than the great eastern line through Shenfield. There have been extensive discussions with industry, initially through a timetable working group and then in an industry forum that we have established. Inevitably, the construction of such a large project will affect services, but we are working towards finding an access option to enable us to ensure that normal services, to both east and west, will be accommodated comfortably. A great deal of work is being done to that end.

The Secretary of State has said that he wants this hybrid Bill to go through Parliament before a funding mechanism is decided. If that happens, and no money is forthcoming, tens of thousands of people in Mayfair, the Barbican, Bayswater and elsewhere will suffer housing blight, possibly for decades to come, with no sense that the work is making progress. Is he not concerned about that?

I do not want properties in Mayfair or anywhere else to be blighted unnecessarily. We want this hybrid Bill to make expeditious progress through both Houses, and we also want to continue to make progress on the question of financing. However, given the scale of the project, it is appropriate that we adopt an approach that recognises the broader local government financing issues addressed in the Lyons review. After that, we intend to discuss an alternative funding mechanism, and it has been suggested that the London business community might be prepared to make a contribution. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will consider all factors.

The Committee announced a set of interim conclusions on 25 July that covered a range of issues, including the idea of a station at Woolwich. The Committee took the view that the Government, as the promoter of the scheme, should bring forward an additional provision to add to the project a station at Woolwich. The House needs to be clear about the nature of that particular conclusion. It does not involve protecting private rights, or trying to remove or mitigate adverse effects that the project might cause. Instead, the conclusion is designed to increase the already substantial public benefits that the project will deliver. I am not aware of the Select Committee on any previous hybrid Bill ever seeking an additional station, or something comparable. Therefore, in forming a view on the Select Committee’s report on Woolwich station, the promoter is inevitably drawn into new territory.

I sought advice from the Library on this matter and was told that the hybrid Bill on the channel tunnel rail link proposed the addition of the station at Ebbsfleet. Does not that mean that his argument against the Select Committee’s recommendation in respect of Woolwich should be looked at again?

I shall certainly consider the point that my right hon. Friend raises. I do not want to disappoint him, but in the rest of my remarks I shall seek to deploy various other arguments in defence of the Government’s position in respect of Woolwich station.

In light of the terms of the special report from the Select Committee, the Government believe that it is entirely reasonable for the Committee to express a view on the merits of Woolwich station and to invite the Government to consider whether to add that to the Bill. That consideration took place over the summer. However, private rights are not at stake in this case, so there is no obligation on the promoter to attach a special weight to the Select Committee’s conclusion when considering whether to accept it in the Bill. The Committee’s conclusion that the Crossrail project needs a station at Woolwich must be considered on its merits. The cost of such an addition would be high, so the Government must give particular consideration to whether it is affordable.

The Government’s view of the matter has always been clear. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport at the time—my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), who is now Under-Secretary of State for Defence—wrote to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) on 5 May this year, explaining that the high cost of a station at Woolwich was not affordable. To ensure that there was no doubt about our views, the letter was made formally available to the Select Committee before it took evidence about Woolwich. A copy is in the Library of the House.

The key principle—that the Government, as scheme promoter, must retain the right to judge what is affordable—is not one on which any Government could yield. Following the Select Committee’s interim report, with its advocacy of Woolwich station, the company Cross London Rail Links was asked to determine whether there could be a cheaper alternative. Potential savings have been identified, but the estimated cost remains very high. The work done by CLRL suggests that the cost could be reduced to around £186 million—still a huge sum of money.

I have had to reach a view on whether the likely cost reduction would allow us to change the position that my hon. Friend the Member for Halton put to the Select Committee in May. After much consideration, my judgment is that we simply cannot add such a large cost to the project, which already represents a huge funding challenge. However, in a letter to the Select Committee Chairman, I indicated that, in light of the strength of feeling in the Committee on the matter, I was prepared to let CLRL undertake further work to see whether there was a way to reduce significantly the cost of the Woolwich station from the present £186 million.

That work will involve more detailed analysis of the station’s design and construction to establish that the proposal is feasible. It will then have to assess the scope for further cost-reduction options. The construction of such a station under ground would, under all circumstances, require a radical change well beyond the limits of deviation from the existing alignment of associated tunnels. That work will take some time to complete, but I hope to give some of my views to the Select Committee as soon as is practicable. I shall also ensure that the further work is completed before the Select Committee concludes its own work.

I am not here to make an argument in favour of or against Woolwich station, but we are talking about £186 million out of a total budget of £13 billion to £16 billion. That is barely 1 per cent. of the whole cost. For the entire issue to hinge on such a relatively small amount of money seems absolutely perverse. I would be interested to know on what basis the Secretary of State thinks that that £186 million somehow tips the whole costing entirely over the edge.

With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, only the Member representing Mayfair could suggest that £186 million is not a very considerable sum. To give a sense of proportion, that is approximately the same sum as that identified as savings during the progress of the hybrid Bill. It is a considerable sum by any measure, notwithstanding the fact that we already have a major work stream under way to drive down the costs of the Crossrail scheme to ensure that it is affordable. My decision was reached on the basis that we have an obligation to ensure not only that the hybrid Bill concludes its passage through this House and another place, but that we are able to get the financing and funding of the scheme in place. In his earlier intervention, the hon. Gentleman made the case for making real progress on financing. I struggle to see how the addition of £186 million now would assist the endeavour of making sure that we have an affordable scheme.

I thank the Secretary of State for giving way for the second time. Will he answer the question that I asked? Is the Minister with responsibility for Crossrail right that the choice that might be open to the Government is Crossrail without Woolwich or no Crossrail at all? Is money really that tight?

I stand by all the comments that I have made. The scheme needs to be affordable. We made a considered judgment that the addition of not simply a station, but £186 million, was not affordable. That is why I wrote to the Committee in the terms that I did.

No: for precisely the reasons that I have given, we want to ensure that Crossrail is on. We want to make sure that this scheme is affordable. We as the Government have an obligation not simply to take forward the promotion of the project through the hybrid Bill process, but to ensure, through the value-engineering that CLRL is taking forward, that we are able to find the funding for the scheme. I would have hoped that there would be cross-House consensus on that.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the position that he has taken on Woolwich station; it has given us more time to examine the costs. I ask him when he is looking at those costs not to look at them only in the context of Woolwich station. Woolwich was taken out of the scheme largely because of the original value that was put on the cost of building the station. What we need to do is go back and examine the merits of the whole scheme, and look not only at Woolwich in isolation, but at reducing the costs across the whole of Crossrail which might allow Woolwich back into the scheme.

I fear that I might disappoint my hon. Friend. A station at Woolwich has never been part of the Crossrail Bill scheme. It is correct that it was an option considered by CLRL before it submitted its interim business case to the Department for Transport in February 2003, but by then the station had been removed from the scheme. I have an overriding obligation to ensure not only that we continue to make progress with the parliamentary passage of the Bill, but that the financing of the scheme can be secured.

I have listened to the arguments that the Secretary of State has just deployed about Woolwich. Will he make the same arguments about Reading as a potential western terminus?

The position in relation to Reading is fundamentally different, given that it is beyond the bounds of the Bill that was introduced. Of course, this was a matter of considerable discussion in previous debates before the House, and the Government gave an undertaking on the scope of the examination by the Select Committee, and I do not resile from the undertakings given by my predecessor in those debates. However, the position on Reading has not changed. We are awaiting the conclusion of the Select Committee’s work on the question of safeguarding of land. It would be under a transport works legislation undertaking, rather than through the hybrid Bill process, that any further progress would be made in light of the deliberations of the Committee.

The second motion allows the Committee to consider petitions against the additional provisions to the Crossrail Bill that the Government intend to introduce. The first motion allows the Bill to be carried over into the new Parliament. Additional provisions are changes to the Bill that affect some private interests differently from others. Just like the Bill itself, additional provisions must be published, advertised and assessed environmentally, and trigger their own petitioning period. People affected by additional provisions will, therefore, have the opportunity to petition against them and be heard by the Select Committee.

Members will have seen the explanatory memorandum that sets out the rationale behind each of the changes. Amendments will be introduced by the Government to give effect to them, and the Select Committee will give decisions about which proposals should be adopted in light of the evidence put before it. The additional provisions that are being introduced reflect the Committee’s interim conclusions, changes to the project in light of petitioners’ concerns and development of the project in light of discussions with stakeholders, or are a result of efforts to reduce the project cost or minor technical changes. We intend to bring forward those additional provisions next Tuesday, at which point a newspaper notice will be published to alert affected parties. That will trigger a five-week petitioning period on each additional provision, following which the petitions lodged will be considered by the Committee in the usual way.

Let me turn to the carry-over motion. Hybrid Bills are routinely carried over from one parliamentary Session to another and from one Parliament to another, given that the additional Select Committee stages add substantially to the time taken on them, compared with an ordinary public Bill. This is therefore a straightforward procedural step. It was used for the channel tunnel Bill in the 1980s, the channel tunnel rail link Bill in the 1990s, and previously for the Crossrail Bill.

Crossrail is important not only for the economic development of London but, because of London’s role, for the economic development of the wider UK economy. This is a huge project, and it deserves the support of the whole House. I commend the motions to the House.

As the Secretary of State said, these are fundamentally procedural motions. To a significant extent, they continue the debates that we had in the House six months ago, and those which took place between his predecessors and my predecessors in 2005. Simply continuing the Select Committee process and the debate about the detail of the Crossrail project from this Parliament to the next one is not contentious. We will certainly not do anything other than provide our support for the motions.

I wait with interest to hear the remarks of the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) about Woolwich station. He has raised some legitimate concerns. I understand the Secretary of State’s perspective on costs; anyone in his position clearly has to focus on cost. But there are other issues in relation to Woolwich, and I hope that the work that he has described will be able to contribute to taking forward thinking on that part of the project.

I also commend Committee members of all parties for the work that they are doing on the project. Membership of the Crossrail Committee is certainly one of the most arduous parliamentary tasks of this year, and they ought to be commended for the diligence and patience with which they have done their work, the care with which they have brought forward proposals to amend the Bill, and the time that they have committed to the substantial number of petitioners who have rightly wanted to have the opportunity to have their say about the detail of the Crossrail project.

Although we are not in dispute over the motion, which is a procedural matter passing debate on from one parliamentary session to the next, that means, of course, yet more time passing for a project that, the Secretary of State will know from looking back at the work of his predecessors, was supposed to be happening already. If he looks back to the famous 10-year plan for transport published five years ago by his predecessor with responsibility for such matters, the Deputy Prime Minister, he will see that this project was due to be finished by 2010.

As was said at the time:

“The Plan includes £8 billion of public investment and £10 billion of private investment for transport in London. Together with public resource expenditure of £7 billion this gives a total of £25 billion over ten years…assuming the broad approach set out above, the following could be delivered with this level of investment”

by 2010. There is then a list of what could be delivered, including

“a new east-west rail link, such as CrossRail, delivering up to a 15 per cent. increase in total national rail and Underground seats into central London during the morning peak”.

The big unanswered question that lies behind this debate is: what is going to happen? We are taking through a debate about the detail of the project. We are securing the rights in law to make that project come to fruition. There is no doubt that the underlying issue as it affects London transport is very substantial. Capacity on all rail links into central London is a major problem. There is increased congestion on the rail network in and around London—including the underground, but not only that. I came in from St. John’s Wood this morning at about 10.30 and the train was absolutely packed. Anyone who is a regular commuter into one of London’s main termini knows just how full the trains are and how often they exceed the “passengers in excess of capacity” limits. Somewhat bizarrely, in the past few weeks one major rail company operating in London has said that it is going to increase capacity by ripping out seats in order to create more room for people to stand. This is the reality of transport in London today.

Given that Crossrail is going to provide 40 per cent. of the additional new capacity for London’s transport system in the next decade, does the hon. Gentleman agree, and will he state categorically now, that there should be no delay on this project, and that his party does support it?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The fortunes of the City of London, of Canary Wharf and of the west end as a business centre—

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Given the assurance that he has just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), will he take this opportunity to deny the Evening Standard story of 2 June in which his aide, Campbell Storey, was quoted as saying the following in an e-mail to the office of the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne):

“Funding, publicly our position is: we don’t think the Government is serious about this. Privately: it is the wrong project (bad route, too expensive) and we wouldn’t want to be associated with it.”

So which is it? Does the hon. Gentleman support his aide, or does he support Crossrail?

First, I am very disappointed to hear the Secretary of State quoting from an e-mail that was stolen from my office. May I ask him not to make use of such material in future, because in doing so we offer a route for people to take advantage of illegal methods of obtaining information? Let me be clear about this issue, which I will address later. There are problems with the route and with the costings. Is the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) saying to me that by the time that my party can take office—2009 or 2010—we will not be inheriting a project that is under way? Is he saying that I will find it in my in-tray, as the new Secretary of State, after the next general election, and that I will take a decision on that project myself?

As Chairman of the all-party group on Crossrail, I am urging all parties in this House—I hope that the hon. Gentleman can speak for his party on this matter—to support Crossrail, now and in future.

There is an interesting question, which I will throw back at the Secretary of State. It may be that the hon. Gentleman is right and that this decision will be waiting for me in 2009 or 2010, but if so, some significant damage will have been done to the project, and I shall explain why to the Secretary of State in a moment.

I am afraid that I am not very bright—is the hon. Gentleman saying that he is committing to this amount of expenditure, irrespective of what it does to the rest of the transport budget, or not?

I was about to come to the question of cost. The hon. Lady is absolutely right, in that we do not actually know how much the project is going to cost—

I do not know what the cost of the project is, and I am waiting with interest to find out. The Secretary of State cannot tell us today what the cost is, and he cannot commit the budget to it—I would be grateful if he would correct me if I am wrong. Do the Government know exactly what the cost of the project is, and can they commit to funding it? No. So how can I, in opposition, without the teams of civil servants that the Secretary of State has access to, judge what cost I would be committing to?

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. I will not hold him to figures, because that is embarrassing. Can he just give us a simple undertaking that it is his intention, irrespective of cost, to support the project? That is a very simple question, and a yes or no will do.

Much as I would like to, I cannot become Secretary of State for another three years. If the Secretary of State wants to leave office tomorrow, I will take the decision, but the person to whom the hon. Lady should be addressing her question is the Secretary of State.

If the Bill goes through in 2007, are the Government going to start construction of Crossrail in 2008? If not, the project team will have to be disbanded and the project’s future will be uncertain. Are we going to hear in next summer’s spending review a commitment from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—if he is still Chancellor at that point—to finding the money to build Crossrail? As of today, I have heard no evidence whatever to suggest that the Government are poised to announce funding, so I am looking forward to 2009-10 uncertain as to what I am going to inherit. I could inherit a Bill that has been passed into law but for which there is no funding, or a project that is under way. But right now, I turn the question back to the Secretary of State. In the next 12 months, when this Bill is passed, is he going to fund it or not? Is he prepared to stand up and give a commitment today that he will fund it?

Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that, as I said earlier, project costs were discussed when the Bill was deposited, and value- engineering work has been taken forward? Following the conclusion of the Lyons review at the turn of this year, there will be further discussions on the alternative funding mechanism, which is the appropriate and sensible way to take forward the project’s funding.

I take it that that is a “maybe”, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We do not know what the Government’s funding intentions really are. As of today, there is no money set aside in the Department for Transport’s budget to pay for Crossrail, so we are debating a Bill to set up powers for which, at the moment, no resources are available to bring to fruition.

There is talk in the City—

I am puzzled, as I am sure that my hon. Friend is, by all this talk of Sir Michael Lyons. At a meeting that I attended with Sir Michael a few months ago, he expressed genuine bemusement at these references to the Lyons report. He does not intend to make any substantive recommendations about Crossrail. So this is just a delaying mechanism: nothing is going to happen after December.

My hon. Friend is right. I have said all along that I fear that the Crossrail Bill is a confidence trick on the part of this Government. They are seeing this process through and putting the Bill into law, for whatever political reasons; but unless and until I see from them a funding commitment—a clear statement of intent—or an indication as to where from within the budget the money is going to come, I will not take this project seriously.

The Secretary of State asked me about routes. There are some significant drawbacks to the chosen route, and the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) made the point clearly. It is not logical to terminate Crossrail at Maidenhead. Equally, it is not logical to have separate projects to build a new terminus at Maidenhead and a new station at Reading, which is desperately needed to create a better through-way for east-west and north-south rail routes. Is the Secretary of State saying to the House tonight that his Department is giving no consideration whatever to bringing those two projects together? Again, I will happily give way if he wants to tell the House that some joined-up thinking has taken place. [Interruption.] No.

Does my hon. Friend think that there might be some connection here with the fact that the Secretary of State represents not one of his own Paisley and Renfrewshire, South constituents on a single transport matter, as is the case with every other Scottish MP? I should also point out that the overwhelming majority of complaints that I have received from my Mayfair residents, of whom the Secretary of State was so dismissive earlier, are in fact from people living in social housing. I will ensure that in the run-up to the next general election, they will not be allowed to forget that a Labour Cabinet Minister was so dismissive of their rights, particularly given that, unlike him, I do represent my constituents on transport issues.

My hon. Friend makes a very fair point. However, I hold nothing against the Secretary of State. He is doing his best and has been in the job only a few months, and he has inherited projects that have been passed to him.

However, the Secretary of State will have to do better than simply talk about things that might happen with this project in future and possible sources of funding. He referred earlier to mixed messages, but his own Department is giving them out. He quoted the Evening Standard earlier, so let me point out that during the summer, that newspaper ran a public statement from his Department. One of his press officers told it that the Department was not expecting services on Crossrail to start until 2019. By definition, that means that construction will not start in 2008, which is when, according to the project team, construction has to start to avoid the disbanding of existing expertise—expertise that is needed to keep the project going for the future. So again, there is uncertainty. We are not sure about the funding or the Department’s planned construction timetable, and there are some questions about the route.

Is my hon. Friend not concerned that by 2008 a major infrastructure project for the Olympics will also be under way? Has any consideration been given to where the resources will come from to start Crossrail in 2008?

I should be disappointed if we were not capable of undertaking a number of major projects at once. Clearly, there is an issue in respect of the Stratford area, and it might be necessary, because of the Olympics, to build Crossrail in stages. However, there is a problem that the project team will put to those who listen if construction does not begin in 2008: if we assume that the Bill goes through, with support on both sides of the House, to create valuable powers for London next year, and if we assume that the Government do not come forward with funding immediately so that construction can begin, the project team will have to be disbanded, expertise will be lost and some of the initial work that the Government have paid for will have to be abandoned.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) asked me what my party would do. The answer is that if my party comes to government in 2009 or 2010 the team will already have been disbanded if the Government have not funded the project. The Secretary of State cannot spin things out for much longer. In the next few months, the Government will have to give clear statements of intent, not simply to pass a Bill to agree powers, but to decide whether they will actually deliver and pay for the project.

We will support the Bill, as we have done all along, in its progress to the statute book. We recognise and accept the need to increase transport capacity in London, where there is a clear benefit in enhancing rail capacity. I do not know what will happen over the next 12 to 18 months; whether the Government will fulfil their promises to the people and businesses of London, only time will tell. We will be ready, if they do not fulfil those promises, to make our own proposals in good time for the election so that people know what we will do when we are in government. They will know what to expect from us.

It is touching of the hon. Gentleman to make it clear that in government he would be prepared to find the resources to fund such an incredibly expensive project. Will he remind the House how many hundreds of millions of pounds he and his party were committed to stripping out of the transport budget as a result of the James review, published at the last election? There would not have been a penny piece left for Crossrail—or for anything else—if he had had his way.

Chris Grayling: Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that it was his party that announced and then scrapped the modernisation of the east coast main line, announced and then scrapped most of 25 light rail schemes, announced and has not gone ahead with either Crossrail or Thameslink and produced in its 10-year plan a list of promises that encouraged people to believe it would make a difference to transport, yet has done nothing about them. On the other hand, it was my party that brought trams to Croydon, Sheffield and Manchester, built a new tube line in London and introduced new transport schemes throughout the country. I have nothing to be ashamed of in my party’s record on transport. The hon. Gentleman has everything to be ashamed of in his party’s record on transport.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that during the 1990s it was his party in government that introduced a Crossrail Bill but failed dramatically to bring it through the House to fruition?

But may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was my party in government that introduced Britain’s first light rail scheme in half a century, which has now been extended to his constituency—

Order. I suggest to the House that we have had enough reminders for the time being.

You are absolutely right, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We support the Bill, and as the months go by, I look forward to hearing from the Secretary of State whether he intends to fund Crossrail, and what he intends to do about funding it. We wish the Bill well; it will have our support in the House tonight and when it returns at the end of the Committee’s work. I wish its members well in the task ahead.

I draw attention to my registered interest as chairman of the Construction Industry Council.

Crossrail is a scheme of huge importance to the future of our capital city and, indeed, to the UK economy as a whole. We are all familiar with the traffic and transport problems that already exist in London. As the capital’s economy continues to prosper and its population continues to grow, those problems are set to get worse. If radical action is not taken to provide improved connections, particularly through central London, linking key destinations and development areas, not least in the Thames Gateway, the risk of gridlock and consequent economic decline as businesses choose to re-locate—probably abroad—is very real. That will have an impact on the national economy, which is why the scheme is of importance nationally and not just for London. It is essential that the Bill should proceed through its parliamentary stages without prolonged delay. As we know, the scheme has already taken a depressingly long time even to reach this stage and further delay would be unforgivable.

Turning to Woolwich, it is important to put the station proposal in context. When the current scheme was proposed, and two schemes were put out to consultation, a station at Woolwich was an integral part of both. There was an obvious logic for that. Woolwich is an area with a proud history but with considerable economic difficulties, which have worsened over the past 50 years. It is a garrison town, which at one stage, in the 19th and early 20th century, housed the largest armaments factory in the world—the Royal Arsenal—where no fewer than 80,000 people worked at its high point. By the second half of the 20th century, however, major changes in the economy, like those suffered in many towns and cities in the rest of the country, particularly in the industrial heartlands, meant that Woolwich suffered a prolonged and serious economic decline. The Royal Arsenal closed—no one works for it now. The heavy industry on the waterfront closed and an area that had once been at the centre of the UK’s manufacturing industry faced serious problems of unemployment and deprivation. Indices of deprivation show that the wards making up the central area of Woolwich are among the poorest and most deprived in the country.

After decades of decline, however, there is now at last the prospect of recovery. Woolwich lies towards the western end of the Thames Gateway—one of the Government’s key growth areas—and there is real scope for new developments on formerly derelict industrial land. New houses are being created in the Royal Arsenal, and the town centre is beginning to attract significant new retail investment. There is still a long way to go, but there are real opportunities to transform Woolwich and to create a prosperous future.

I am grateful to members of the Select Committee for their attention to Woolwich. When they visited the town, they saw the evidence and were convinced that the area was one not only of great need, but of great opportunity.

The right hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case for Woolwich, which is in his constituency, and I entirely endorse what he says. However, given that in recent years the DLR has linked up with Woolwich, does he not feel that there will be sufficient links to the main London transport networks? I am not trying to make the Government’s argument for them, but does not that make a strong case? We do not need the additional expense of linking Woolwich through the Crossrail system, too.

No; the two lines serve completely different purposes, which can be illustrated by the travel times. The journey from Woolwich to Canary Wharf on the DLR—when it actually comes to Woolwich—will be about half an hour, due to the route, while the time on the direct link via Crossrail would be in the region of seven or eight minutes. That difference in connection will have a huge impact on the economic development of Canary Wharf because it can draw on the large labour force in south-east London, who would have quick access. That is one of the reasons why people in Canary Wharf are so sympathetic to the proposals for the Woolwich station. The two lines serve different purposes and it is a mistake to confuse them, just as it would be a mistake to say that because Westminster has benefited from some improved transport schemes, there is no need for Crossrail to have any stations in Westminster. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not argue that case.

A Crossrail station in Woolwich, providing links to Canary Wharf, the City, the west end and Heathrow, would have obvious benefits, accelerating the process of regeneration and facilitating much new commercial and residential investment. Estimates by the consultants EDAW suggest that there will be scope for an additional 4,300 new homes, as well as the substantial number already planned, and for more than 2,000 new jobs—all of which would have a considerable impact on the regeneration of the area. Few locations along the Crossrail route would benefit to anywhere the same extent as Woolwich from the presence of a station.

For all of us who care about the area and have been working to secure its recovery, the decision to drop the Woolwich station was an absolute body blow. Even worse was the absence of any clear logic behind that decision. Quite apart from the exceptional potential regenerative impacts, there are many other powerful arguments for the station at Woolwich. Without a Woolwich station, there would be a gap of almost six miles between Custom House and Abbey Wood—one of the longest gaps on the entire network. There would be only one station in the whole of south London and that would be at Abbey Wood. That station is necessary for a connection with Southeastern trains on the surface, but Abbey Wood is not an area that is capable of providing a transport hub.

By contrast, Woolwich is a major transport hub. It has 180 buses an hour serving the town centre. As the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) pointed out, it will have the docklands light railway within three years. It will have the waterfront transit. It already has a river bus service, which looks like being enhanced as a result of investment. It also has a connection with the Southeastern trains surface rail operation. Woolwich can serve the wider area of south-east London. It would provide an opportunity for the people of south-east London to make optimum use of Crossrail, which otherwise would not be possible.

In addition to those benefits, there are of course the issues that were taken into account in the cost-benefit analysis, which already shows that Woolwich performs better than Crossrail as a whole, with a cost-benefit ratio of 3:1. That is likely to improve even further as a result of the savings to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already referred, where we believe that there is scope for even further improvement.

With all those potential advantages, it is not surprising that the Select Committee, after hearing all the evidence, concluded that the Woolwich station offered “exceptional value for money” and proposed its reinsertion in the Bill. In my view, the Select Committee was acting entirely properly and within its remit in doing so. If the Government had not wanted the Select Committee to consider the Woolwich station, they could have instructed it not to do so, as they did in the case of Reading, but they did not. Indeed, they provided detailed evidence on the subject for the Committee to consider.

In that situation—I speak with the authority of someone who served on the Select Committee that discussed the Channel Tunnel Bill in the 1980s, which had even more petitions to consider than the Select Committee looking at Crossrail—it is entirely proper for the Select Committee to come up with conclusions about the improvement of the Bill, and not simply to respond to individual issues of property rights. I believe that there is little justification for the argument that the Department for Transport has advanced. It is a fallacious argument. According to the evidence that I have received from the Library, the Clerks rather tend to that view, too. I am not going to get into that discussion, but I want to put on the record my belief that the Select Committee has acted entirely within its proper rights and its remit, and I wholly support it in doing so.

As I have already indicated, the station was dropped from the scheme only for financial reasons. It seems that that is the only basis on which there has been a reluctance to accept the Select Committee’s report. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made clear, it is a question of affordability and he is rightly concerned about that. I share the concern about ensuring that the Crossrail scheme is affordable. Where I differ from him is in believing that his Department has acted in a way that has treated Woolwich quite differently from other elements in the scheme. It would be proper for it to be assessed as a contributory element to the Crossrail scheme, rather than being rejected individually on affordability grounds when similar tests have not been applied to other elements in the scheme. Although I entirely accept his concern to bear down on costs to make Crossrail affordable, I believe that that exercise should be taken in the round, with Woolwich included within all the elements that are considered.

In the London borough of Greenwich, we are certainly concerned to bear down on the costs. We have made suggestions about how economies can be made by reducing the construction costs and securing additional revenue to offset those costs. The leader of our council, Councillor Chris Roberts, has written to my right hon. Friend to make it clear that Greenwich council wants to work constructively with the Government, Crossrail and other interested parties to explore how the Woolwich station can be delivered in the most cost-effective way.

There are real opportunities. The original scheme involved a deep underground station, with associated high costs. That was because, at that stage, the line was thought to be likely to carry freight and there was therefore a gradient constraint. The line had to remain underground to pass underneath not just the Thames, but Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s great southern outfall sewer works further to the east. It was kept at a relatively low level between those two obstacles. Now that no freight usage is envisaged, the permitted gradients can be steeper than previously envisaged. That in turn reduces the depth at which the station has to be built, which allows savings to be made. There is definite scope for savings through value engineering and exploring the detailed arrangements of the scheme.

Equally, the substantial development opportunities around Woolwich, to which I have already alluded, offer real scope for securing some offsetting contributions towards the costs. I am absolutely confident that the discussions that my right hon. Friend has opened the door to with his comments earlier this evening will demonstrate that it is possible to deliver a value-for-money station at Woolwich for a cost that is significantly less than the cost that has been quoted. We have certainly seen a significant reduction from the £300 million-plus figure that was originally quoted by the Government. When rejecting the Select Committee’s decision to insert Woolwich in the Bill, the figure of £200 million was quoted. Tonight we are at £186 million. I suspect that the figure will be lower than that after this exercise. I am keen that it should be. It is right that we should look for value for money, but we should not arbitrarily reject a station that would bring enormous benefits to a deprived area and that would help regeneration and the economy of south-east London.

My right hon. Friend will know that I supported his early-day motion and that there is a powerful case. What he is saying is extremely strong. However, does he accept that we need Crossrail with or without Woolwich and that the Bill cannot be held hostage to this issue? It is crucial that we make progress so that Crossrail is a reality as soon as possible.

As my hon. Friend will know, I made it absolutely clear at the outset of my speech that I wholly support making progress with Crossrail. I am a great supporter of Crossrail. I believe that the inclusion of the Woolwich station will improve the scheme and provide better value for money and I am arguing for it on that basis. I am not holding the Crossrail scheme to ransom in any way and I certainly would not want that impression to be carried by any hon. Member.

In the light of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the start of this debate confirming his willingness for work to be undertaken to explore further the implications, the costs and the benefits of the Woolwich station, I do not propose to pursue my amendment. We now have the option to examine the Woolwich station in greater detail, which is what my amendment was intended to facilitate. As the Secretary of State has agreed, that will allow the Select Committee an opportunity to revisit the issue before it completes its work. Given the strong case that has already been made and that the Select Committee has recognised, I am confident that when it comes to do so it will not wish to vary its previous view, but it will certainly benefit from the additional work to explore the economics of the Woolwich station to see whether the cost can be further reduced, as I am optimistic that it can be.

In not pursuing my amendment, I would like to put on the record my appreciation of the contributions towards securing this outcome that have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), the Chairman of the Select Committee, and all his fellow members of the Select Committee, who have listened with great care and diligence to the case that we have made on behalf of Woolwich. I would also like to thank the 49 hon. Members who signed early-day motion 2835 on this subject and who maintained their support, despite certain pressures to withdraw.

On that note, may I add my concern that some people have tried to present my campaign for Woolwich, and that of my hon. Friends, as a campaign for more money for London? I am not making a case for more money for London; it is case for social justice and for getting the maximum benefit from the Crossrail scheme in the interests of the country as a whole and some of the most deprived areas within the country.

In conclusion, if anyone wishes to suggest that tonight’s exercise is simply a delaying mechanism that means that the Woolwich station will be kicked into the long grass, I can inform them that we have built up in Woolwich a strong head of steam that is backed by all sections of the community—the business community, residents, people in the surrounding area, the local authority and local MPs. The campaign is vital and vibrant and it will not go away. I can thus disabuse anyone of the idea that this is simply an exercise of kicking Woolwich into the long grass. We will be watching the progress of the discussions in the coming months very closely indeed. We will be ready to revisit the matter when it comes back to the Select Committee, which has already shown its real commitment to the cause.

The Liberal Democrats do not oppose the motions and we certainly will not divide the House tonight. As others have done, I commend the Select Committee, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), for undertaking a highly significant task, albeit, in many ways, an arduous one. It was apparent from my oversight of the Committee’s deliberations that it has carried out its task with commendable diligence.

Much of our debate has been focused on financial implications, especially those of a station at Woolwich. It is entirely proper and understandable that that should be the case. However, in the light of yesterday’s statement in the Chamber on the Stern report, it is worth putting on the record the fact that a project such as Crossrail has other implications that should not be underestimated. Locating public transport infrastructure with such capacity in the capital city will bring about the significant benefits of reducing congestion and environmental improvement. Surely we should give rebalanced weight to such matters when we consider projects of this nature.

I would find it difficult to disagree with much of what the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) said about the case for a station at Woolwich. The Committee’s special report refers to the station as being “exceptional value for money”. It says that it is “amazed”—that is strong language for such a report—

“that, having set the case before the Committee in this quasi-judicial proceeding, the Secretary of State feels unable to accept the considered view of this Committee.”

It is apparent to me that the Committee feels somewhat aggrieved by its treatment at the Government’s hand, and it is quite entitled to do so.

Without the inclusion of Woolwich station, the whole case for Crossrail is undermined in many ways. The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich made it clear that without a station at Woolwich, there will be no stop on the six-mile stretch between Custom House and Abbey Wood. Given the importance of Greenwich as a transport hub, especially in relation to the Thames Gateway, the situation must be revisited, so I hope that the Select Committee will stick to its guns when it produces its final report to the House.

As has been pointed out, the initial Government estimates on the Woolwich station project suggested that it would cost something in the region of £300 million. The Government have accepted tonight that the cost could be as low as £186 million. When estimates shift by such a magnitude, it is difficult to know how we can have any confidence in the Government’s view on the matter at all. The Government have said repeatedly that we have Crossrail without Woolwich, or nothing at all. That is an unworthy position for the Government to take. They should tackle the arguments head-on in a more straightforward, transparent and honest way, and engage in a proper debate in a way in which I have not seen so far today.

I pay tribute to the offer that has been made by the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris). Both of them have worked extremely diligently and honestly to try to find a brokered solution that will be acceptable to all. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), who speaks for Her Majesty’s Opposition. The Committee will have heard his kind remarks, as well as those made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford).

First, I wish to deal with the offer that has been made. The Committee has already had the chance to talk about it and we accept it willingly. The offer is thoroughly genuine and gives us the opportunity to take the situation forward.

For the record, I add my thanks to the members of the Committee of all political persuasions. They have worked very hard on an extremely complex Bill and the process has been tortuous for them. The Committee has sat on scores of occasions over many months, so it has been difficult for its members to keep their attention on their duties as Members of Parliament and to stick with the endeavours that they have taken on as honourable brokers and representatives of the Committee.

Amid the welter of interventions that I took, I fear that I inadvertently failed to echo the sentiments towards the Committee and the efforts of its Chairman. May I take this opportunity to place on record my gratitude to the work of the Committee and my hon. Friend?

I am grateful to the Secretary of State.

The Committee has sat not only while the House of Commons has been sitting, but outside those times. On one occasion, we actually worked during a recess. I thus pay tribute to the Committee’s members, who have been thorough and honest brokers for the work that they have been given.

During the Committee’s evidence sessions, we have heard from a plethora of sources, including hundreds of petitioners from a wide variety of organisations. Weighty corporations, businesses, charities, community groups, and individual tenants and homeowners have taken the opportunity to make their views and concerns known to the Committee. I have no doubt that some are quite cynical about this whole operation; indeed, there have been indications of that view this evening. We on the Committee, as a united force, do not agree with that. We are all committed to the work that we have undertaken. We believe that this Bill can be genuinely good for Britain, not only for London.

We should not underestimate the contribution that has been made by Members, who have not only sat in Committee but bothered to go out and visit many of the sites concerned. Not for them the leafy suburbs of Buenos Aires or the sunny beaches of Antigua; their destinations were Tottenham Court road, Paddington station, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and, inevitably, Woolwich. One can get sunny days in those places, but it certainly was not sunny when we made our visits.

I turn now to the Committee’s powers, a matter that has been raised by the Secretary of State and will no doubt be mentioned by other Members during the debate. For the record, the Crossrail Bill Committee is, as the Secretary of State pointed out, quasi-judicial. Like a court, it has cases put to it. It acts as a judge, taking a view on the evidence and opinions put before it and then reporting to the House. When the House sets out the role of such a Committee, it can, and usually does, use its powers to say what the Committee should and should not cover. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich is quite right to say that if the Government did not want Woolwich to be discussed, they could have taken the opportunity to exclude it when the powers were laid down. The fact that they did not left us no option but to examine the case being put forward, which was a valid petition. That we did with great endeavour. As the Opposition spokesman pointed out, the Secretary of State has been handed the short bat, facing problems that began under those who preceded him in his role. The problem is that we had little option but to listen to the soundings and report our opinions. The Committee is nevertheless extremely grateful to the Secretary of State, and we accept without reservation the offers that he has made, which we believe to be genuine. However, I have to report to the House that we, as a Committee, want to reiterate our view that a Crossrail station should be built at Woolwich. That is not a whim; it is the result of careful and lengthy consideration.

The Committee heard three days of evidence on the matter from the London borough of Greenwich and, of course, from the Government’s own promoters, Crossrail. This was not simply a question of who performed well; the Committee took the time to visit the area, see the site and talk to the representatives of both the local authority and Crossrail. We have also read the Hansard reports of previous debates on this matter, and I have no doubt that other Members will refer to them. Last but not least, we listened to the arguments of the Government’s counsel. Greenwich made an excellent, compelling case.

The Committee was initially informed that a station at Woolwich would, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich said, cost about £306 million. That was later revised to less than £200 million. The original Crossrail scheme had a station at Woolwich, but it was mysteriously deleted just before the Bill reappeared in this place. The economic development opportunity has been much talked about by members of the Committee. We believe that it would offer one of the poorest areas of London an opportunity to redevelop which would greatly benefit the people who live there. That is especially true of the Woolwich arsenal site, which is badly contaminated.

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that if the total cost of Crossrail has been estimated at £16 billion, adding another station at £200 million does not seem like a deal breaker; it seems like an eminently sensible way of maximising the value of the project?

As I said, the Committee has already accepted the Secretary of State’s offer on that. The figures given to the Committee range from £10 billion to £16 billion, and we are not sure what the actual cost would be. The Committee agrees that the issue of Woolwich needs to be considered, and we are grateful to the Secretary of State for his offer to beef up the economic case and bring it back to the Committee so that we can consider it and give our opinion.

The other factor that made the case even more compelling was the probability of huge growth in the Woolwich area. The Government’s own figures show that by 2031 there will be more than 100,000 people living within a 20-minute journey of where the station would be. That is phenomenal growth. Having spoken to the London borough of Greenwich, we know that it has given planning permission for up to 15,000 properties to be built in the next five years. That growth can be met only if a Crossrail station is built there. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, 180 buses an hour already serve the centre of Woolwich. If the transport infrastructure network is to be integrated and co-ordinated, Crossrail is vital.

The Committee has met for months. We have had scores of sittings. We have debated the matter time and again. We have visited the sites in question. We have all worked hard, and we represent various political persuasions in the House. Every vote that we have had on the Bill has been unanimous. That is extremely rare. I repeat that we are grateful to the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary for the work that they have put in and the new opportunity that has been offered. We will work diligently until we can complete the task and present a full Bill to the House.

The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) has a reputation in the House as a courteous and modest man. I want to spare his blushes, but I should like to pay tribute to him. The Committee saw quite a number of petitioners from Shenfield and I had the opportunity to speak to several of them and to sit in on some meetings. The one theme that emerged was that Members seemed genuinely interested in what they said, and they were treated with enormous courtesy. On behalf of my electors, I thank the hon. Gentleman for that courtesy.

It was remiss of me not to mention that a number of Members of Parliament came forward to help their constituents in the tortuous process of appearing before a Select Committee, staying with them during the process and advising them before and afterwards. We were extremely grateful for their work in that respect.

Indeed. I shall deal briefly with one or two matters, starting with the report by Sir Michael Lyons. Since the Second Reading debate, we have been told that his report on the future of local government was awaited and would be taken into consideration in deciding the future of Crossrail.

Not long after that undertaking was given, a number of us had an opportunity to have a discussion with Sir Michael in a Committee upstairs. I asked him a gentle question, which was meant as an ice-breaker. It was not meant to elicit any particular information. I asked how he was going about forming his views on Crossrail. He replied that that was an interesting question. He said that he was bemused by the references to Crossrail, which he had read about in a newspaper, and that he had not been approached by the Government or given any terms of reference with regard to Crossrail and did not intend to deal with it.

That was an extraordinary response, given that we were speaking about the single most important infrastructure project that any of us are likely to see in our career in Parliament, and it has been left to a chap who does not intend to say much about it. Because of the way in which local government finance operates and because Sir Michael Lyons is a reasonable and obliging man, I suspect that in the end he may have something to say about major infrastructure projects, but even if he does, nothing will quite fit the enormity of Crossrail. There may well be schemes concerning roads, old persons’ homes or other infrastructure questions, but the question of how they are financed is nothing by comparison with the billions of pounds that must be raised. We need an explanation of why we are waiting. Sir Michael Lyons, eminent though he is, will not add an awful lot to what we know must come.

Ultimately, the issue concerns who pays. How big will the Treasury contribution be? Will a substantial sum of money from the public purse be put aside in the next financial round? And what contribution will come from the London taxpayer and, in particular, from the London business rate? Ministers have said that it is only reasonable that those who will benefit from Crossrail should contribute, but if the business rate is to remain capped and linked to inflation, it will not pay for Crossrail. If one third or one half of the funds are needed, there will be savage increases in local taxation in London close to the time when Londoners will be shelling out for the Olympics.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the uncertainty about Crossrail funding is particularly bad for London businesses? For example, businesses in my constituency, Putney, will undoubtedly fork out more in business rates, but they are south of the river and will not get an awful lot back in return.

My hon. Friend has made a good local point. The good people of London will be expected to pay an awful lot for a major piece of infrastructure. We know that the Mayor—I am not making a particular comment about the Mayor of London—has suggested including a combination of business rates and Government money, with the rest being funded by way of bonds financed in the City, I suppose. The Committee would like to know about that matter.

The Committee is likely to finish its deliberations and produce a report in about February. Sir Michael Lyons is due to give his report to the Government in December, but there is no commitment to publish that report immediately. That report could come out in February, March or, perhaps, after the next local elections.

I am warming to the new Minister with responsibility for Crossrail, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), who has been refreshingly honest and straightforward about what is necessary. I pointed out to him that we know that the Olympics will take place and have a rough idea of the funding mechanism, and then asked him why we cannot know about Crossrail. He made the right and proper distinction that the Olympics are going ahead, whereas we have not made a commitment on Crossrail. He went on to say—I commend him for saying this, because it is absolutely right—that there must be a robust case for Crossrail. I am not convinced that without quite heavy taxation—perhaps almost penal levels of taxation—in London, we will be able to pay for Crossrail. If other hon. Members were to assure me that more money can be raised voluntarily from the private sector through bonds or other instruments, it would go some way to relieving my concerns. I want to return to the question of what is robust. When the Government put together a scheme, one naturally assumes that it will be rigorously enforced and the best deal possible, so why add the word “robust”?

There has been an attempt to dampen expectations about Woolwich. The Minister has said:

“Crossrail without Woolwich or no Crossrail—this is the choice that might be open to the government”.

Now we have got the sum of money down to a little under £200 million, or about 1 per cent. As the late Ronald Reagan said, “A million here, a million there, and you’re soon talking about serious money.” Is the margin on Crossrail really so great that 1 per cent. could tip it from having not a robust case but a financial case of some kind or another?

I am reluctant to tread on the toes of the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), but to somebody who knows the area reasonably well, it is screamingly obvious that it makes sense to have a hub there, given what the Government want to achieve strategically with regard to the Thames corridor, and given that the light railway is going across to Woolwich. A proper integrated transport strategy must be based on setting up strategic hubs. In relation to south London, where more obvious place to do so than in Woolwich? If the Minister is really scraping around for the odd £200 million or so, I would happily put up Shenfield station to be sacrificed for Woolwich, because the good folk of Shenfield will derive practically nothing from Crossrail; indeed, it will make their journey into work more difficult. At this late moment, and in the spirit of compromise and bipartisanship, I offer the Minister that opportunity.

I am glad that you called me at this moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it enables me to respond directly to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), who is clearly trying to sabotage the line that runs from Liverpool Street through Ilford. The Crossrail project involves people being able to travel from Essex into and across London more quickly. It will not only lead to a regeneration effect on areas such as Woolwich in the centre but create great potential for London’s continuation as a global city, thereby attracting people to this city from all over the world. It will link together Heathrow, the west end, Canary Wharf and areas out to the east, including the line from Liverpool Street through my constituency and on to Shenfield.

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I am delighted that the line is going to Ilford, but I have a problem with the bit that goes to Shenfield.

I hope that when this process is finally concluded we will all be satisfied in our aspirations. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is almost total unanimity in Ilford and Redbridge, among my constituents and in the council, in strongly supporting Crossrail.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Crossrail going to his constituency will also benefit my constituency, and that without Crossrail the regeneration agenda of the London borough of Redbridge could be put in severe jeopardy?

That is absolutely right. The council has a scheme called “Progressive Ilford”, which is a 30-year plan for regeneration, jobs, transport links, shopping, and affordable and good quality housing in the centre of Ilford. That will very much depend on improved transport links, the reconfiguration of Ilford station, and bringing buses into that new station, as is already the case at Stratford station. That will be vital for the regeneration of Ilford town centre. As for financing, many of the shops and other businesses will thrive as a result.

One of the interesting projections relating to the impact of Crossrail in London is that, over 60 years, it will add an estimated £30 billion to UK gross domestic product, half of which will be in London and half elsewhere in the country. According to London First, that successful regeneration and additional business will result in £12 billion in tax revenues. That is a win-win situation—earlier, someone used the phrase “no-brainer”. That applies to the benefits of Crossrail for my constituents and for others, and to the future of London as a global city.

My constituency will also have extended platform lengths at three stations. We will have the freight loop. We will have a lot of engineering work. We will now have a cleaning facility, as a result of the decision to get rid of Romford—[Interruption.] I am just talking about the Crossrail connection; I am not saying that we should get rid of Romford.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for referring to Romford. My constituents are delighted that the proposed depot, which was going to cost £400 million, is being ditched. Even though that was the right decision, does not it highlight the amount of money wasted on preparatory work?

I think that it shows that the new Crossrail project management team, under Doug Oakervee and others, has done a good job in paring down costs and considering where savings can be made. At last, after all the years of false hopes and dreams, the Government are making positive remarks about Crossrail. The hon. Gentleman may not recall this, but when I was first elected in 1992, the then Transport Minister, Mr. Steven Norris, was talking about Crossrail. After 14 years, and so many Transport Ministers that I cannot remember all of them, let alone list them, at last we seem to be on the edge of something important. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and his Committee, who have done a fantastic job. It is vital that the House continues to make progress in the next Session.

The scheme has cross-party support in this House, and I hope that it will have cross-party support in the other place. I hope that those on the Opposition Front Benches will give it more explicit support, and that the Government will support the project through the important phase of the comprehensive spending review next year and give it the funding that we need. Whatever the formula—whether the Mayor of London’s formula or some variation—we need a decision on the funding of the project as soon as possible. We will need the support of Members from all parties to make sure that the project is delivered and that, at last, Crossrail can benefit London and the UK as a whole.

I thank the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) who spoke kindly about the Committee. His good wishes are well received, as it has been a long trial.

It has been a privilege to serve on the Committee. When I was appointed to it, I did not think that it would be a privilege. Rumours abounded that the Whips were using it to hide away those rebels whom they needed to chastise and bring to some form of order. I cannot believe that that would have been the case. We have been a happy Committee, which is in many respects due to the work of our Chairman, the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale). On behalf of the members of the Committee, I pay tribute to his chairmanship. The Committee took its responsibilities seriously, and it dealt with many petitions that sought to protect the interests of people who cannot speak for themselves and who are often not heard. We listened to those people, and I am proud to have served on a Committee that made decisions not on the basis of emotion, but to enhance the interests of such people. That is one of the ways in which the Committee carried out its duties to serve the people of London.

A number of petitions dealt with the issue of building a station at Woolwich. Indeed, we have heard contributions from several Members who are much more knowledgeable about the area than I am. I pay particular tribute to both the fervour and the content of the presentation by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford). The subject is a connecting bridge between us, as is the fact that he is a Northampton boy. It is a particular pleasure to see him operate with so much efficiency in the House, and I wish his cause well, as does the Committee.

The Committee was told that, in 2004, Woolwich was the 41st most deprived borough in the country; parts of Woolwich were among the 10 per cent. most deprived areas of the country. The area lies at the heart of the Thames Gateway, but right hon. and hon. Members may not know that, under the Bill, the route of Crossrail is set to pass by Woolwich. If our proposals are not accepted, it will be the largest town centre on the whole route not served by a station. If we add that fact to the deprivation statistics, it gives us a good reason for including Woolwich on the Crossrail route, and the case for a station at Woolwich has been made most eloquently.

Woolwich is undergoing positive regeneration, but more regeneration is desperately needed. There is no doubt that a station would boost employment. We have already heard the figures: 2,500 jobs would be directly related to Crossrail. It would attract families to the area, and we heard the figures relating to the housing development that is already planned. Some 4,500 of the 19,000 houses that are to be built will be directly linked to Crossrail. A station would encourage investment, too. I need not tell hon. Members about the self-sustaining cycle that such investment creates in an area, and a decent rail link will enhance that enormously.

Given all those points, the petitioners’ calculated costs for the station represent exceptional value for money, but Crossrail is not just about money—it is about the impact on the area that it serves, and its regeneration capacity. Woolwich is an ideal site on which to achieve that objective.

I accept everything that my hon. Friend says about the importance of the regeneration that Crossrail will bring, but does he agree that it is important to consider the impact on people’s lives of issues such as the places where the tracks, depot and other facilities are to be sited? Crossrail certainly would have had a huge impact on my constituency, and it still will, in certain parts. Is it not vital that such issues are fully considered throughout our deliberations on the Bill?

Crossrail’s impact on London—and the costs of the disruption that it will cause, too—have not been properly taken into account, but now is not the time to do so. I imagine that debate on those issues will flow later, on Report and Third Reading.

I return to the point about the cost of the station at Woolwich. We were told that the cost was prohibitive, at £350 million. Indeed, we were told that that was too much. Nevertheless, at that stage we felt that the benefits a station would bring to Woolwich far outweighed those costs, and we produced an interim report announcing some of the provisional decisions, including the addition of a new station at Woolwich. We were surprised—I think that that is a good enough word—when the promoters came back and said that they would not accept our proposal. Surprised? No, we were amazed, because we felt it was not the responsibility of the promoters to come back to us at that time.

It is interesting to note what the promoters said in their response to us. They said:

“The Promoter recognises that a strong case has been made for a station at Woolwich. In the light of the Committee’s decision, the Promoter has looked over the summer at the design of the station to explore ways of reducing its very high cost.”

Indeed, they came up with a new cost of £200 million. I must say that those sort of figures in this sort of exercise suggest, to a business man, that we have not seen the sort of thinking that we would usually expect, particularly when a project of such importance is ruled out on the basis of cost. It simply is not good enough to say £350 million one minute and then the next minute to come up with £200 million. I hear from the Minister tonight that it has now gone down to £186 million. The truth of the matter is that the costings for Woolwich station do not make any sense at all, so I am delighted that the Minister has decided to have another look at the issue.

If we accept the £200 million figure—I believe that it will come down, as it has in the past—we note that it equates to just over 1 per cent. of the total cost of the project as it stands. Many people might argue that the overall costs of the project will rise, yet the promoters argued that affordability was a key issue and that, presumably on the basis that affordability would be threatened, they could not accept the Committee’s decision. I am a business man—or I was before I came to the House—and I can say that if any project put before my board was not viable on the basis of 1 per cent. of its total overall cost, I would not even consider it. I would throw the project out, because it clearly could not wipe its own face.

Speaking as an accountant, I think my hon. Friend is making a very interesting point, but does he agree that there is a danger of not fully factoring in the indirect knock-on costs? We have already mentioned the sewerage system in London, which is straining and overloaded. Quite frankly, we have a 19th-century system in a 21st-century city. Of course we need to regenerate parts of London, but does my hon. Friend agree that extra costs—knock-on investments—also need to be factored in?

Of course I accept that point. The only thing I would object to is being called an accountant—but never mind. I will forgive my hon. Friend. Yes, I accept the point, but I am saying that we do not have a genuine cost basis that we can feel confident about if 1 per cent. undermines the affordability of the project.

In any case, the Committee rejected the promoters’ objections to our recommendation and we thought that that was the end of the matter. Much to our surprise, the Minister intervened. The Committee was therefore disappointed—I think that that is a fair word—that its opinion was not reflected in the action of the Secretary of State. Indeed, he flatly refused the proposal at the time. That left us not only disappointed but confused. I echo the comments of the Select Committee Chairman, who said that he was astonished by the Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss for a second time the Committee’s view after many days of taking evidence. The Chairman described that as “unprecedented”.

I examined our debate on Second Reading on 19 July 2005. I want to quote the words of the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, South-West (Mr. Darling). He said that

“the House knows that the Select Committees that we set up have a fair amount of latitude… I do not think that the Government or the House can tell the Committee, ‘Thou shalt not consider anything else’—for example, matters relating to any one of the stations along the route. It is open to the Committee to say that a station is in the wrong place, or that there ought to be a station somewhere else… I repeat… 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.”

He left the Committee in no doubt about its autonomy. He said of Select Committees:

“Indeed, successive Governments have got into awful trouble by being over-prescriptive”.—[Official Report, 19 July 2005; Vol. 436, c. 1125-6.]

The Select Committee went to the trouble of visiting Woolwich and investigating in depth the case put by the London borough. Does my hon. Friend agree that, before the Secretary of State comes back to the Committee with his view, he and his officials should also take the trouble to visit the Woolwich site and fully apprise themselves of the position?

That is a good suggestion and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich would be delighted to escort the Secretary of State around the constituency so that the latter understands fully the needs of the people whom the former represents. The case is unarguable.

The Chairman of the Select Committee was right to describe the Secretary of State’s rejection of the Committee’s proposals as “unprecedented”. The Committee presented a positive cost-benefit analysis of the proposal. I hope that the Secretary of State acknowledges that the Committee’s position was not reached quickly but after many days of deliberation, as the Chairman stated.

I hope that the Secretary of State also acknowledges that a parliamentary principle is at stake. The House appointed a Committee to look into the matter. The then Secretary of State made it clear that we could decide whether there should be stations elsewhere. I therefore hope that the current Secretary of State will uphold that view. His comments today suggest that he will do that.

Parliamentary democracy is a tender plant and we must all be aware of the need to protect it. Over the years, we have listened to the cries of many who feel that parliamentary democracy is being eroded and that the power of the Executive has been increased. The Secretary of State has tonight played his part in enhancing democracy by simply recognising the right of the Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill to make proposals and by allowing at least in-depth consideration of them. I hope that the proposals will come before the House so that it can make the decision. The House set up the Select Committee; surely the House must receive the report and make the final decision. That is my final plea to the Secretary of State.

I came here at the beginning of the debate with the intention of dividing the House where that was possible. Although I realise that the motions are essentially procedural, I had concerns that I felt could be addressed only by that means. However, in view of some of what has happened during the debate, I have decided not to divide the House.

First, I thought that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was robust and firm in his contention that both the scheme as a whole and the Woolwich station development must be affordable. I found that reassuring. Secondly, while I hesitate to give even more praise to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale)—I know what a modest chap he is—I agree with all that has been said about the work of his Committee and the leadership that he has given. In deference to him, I would like the Committee to continue the work that it started. Finally, I felt that my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), in the spirit of building some sort of consensus, was generous in not moving his amendment. In that context, I see no merit in forcing any Divisions.

That does not mean, however, that my concerns have gone away. We are told that the scheme will cost between £13 billion and £16 billion, and some estimates I have read speculate that it could amount to more than £20 billion. Regardless of how the funds are raised and whatever mix of finance is eventually chosen, those are huge sums, and somewhere along the line a substantial part of the money will come from the public purse. I was intrigued by the contention of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), repeated by others, that because the sum involved was only 1 per cent. or so of the total cost of the scheme, it did not constitute a large amount of money. I can think of alternative schemes—one or two of which I shall mention shortly—that could be funded substantially from that 1 per cent. I am talking about major infrastructure projects outside London.

I have another concern. When we examine the amount of public expenditure on transport by region, we realise that London is already doing very nicely, thank you very much. According to figures from the Library, in 2005-06 expenditure per head in London was £631. In the north-west, where my constituency is, it was £278. Similar cases can be made in relation to other per capita spending headings. In London, more than twice as much is being spent as is being spent in my constituency, and the difference between London and some other regions is even greater.

I am sorry to break up the cosy consensus that seems to have been established this evening, but we are already confronted with a London that is a transport subsidy junkie, and I should be very reluctant in future to go along with massive amounts of additional expenditure from the public purse. I accept that a capital city needs certain things that provincial cities do not, and I accept that the Olympics provided a case at one stage—although the development will now take place after the Olympics. However, the amounts of money being spent in London far outweigh the amounts that we would expect to be spent there purely because it is a capital city.

I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, but London is the economic engine-room of this country. If London and the east cannot get to work, the country will not work. Surely there is merit in investing in the infrastructure that generates the wealth that funds the regions.

I accept that what the hon. Gentleman says has an implication, and I accept that there is a price to be paid for that, but is he seriously arguing that spending in London should be more than twice as much as spending in any comparable region in England?

That only confirms my view that we are living in cloud cuckoo land with this Crossrail scheme. At an appropriate time, many hon. Members from other parts of the country will make a judgment on the scheme, and it may be not the one that the hon. Gentleman expects. As I have said, London is becoming a junkie for public expenditure on transport.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster said that 1 per cent. was only £186 million, so it did not matter. However, the Department for Transport turned down Mersey tramline 1, which would have benefited my constituency at a total cost of £310 million, or less than 2 per cent. of the cost of this project. On that basis, the Department should have funded our project. I do not wish to emphasise that point, because I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for the matter will consider how we can get that scheme moving again. However, the point is that equally important schemes all over the country will not be funded because Crossrail is likely to suck in massive amounts of public expenditure, with no appreciable benefit elsewhere in the country.

I will not oppose the motions tonight, but a time will come when those of us who represent other areas with transport problems that are not being adequately addressed will start to ask questions about the priorities behind the scheme. When the time comes, we may well oppose it.

Any transport scheme that will encourage greater public use should, in principle, be supported, but I have reservations and concerns; I seek clarification and—I hope—reassurance, tonight or subsequently, from the Select Committee.

The second motion refers to

“an additional ticket hall and enhancement of the existing ticket hall at Liverpool Street Station”.

Those of us who use the line into Liverpool Street from East Anglia and Essex know that it is already exceptionally busy. That wording suggests that the promoter anticipates a massive increase in passenger usage of that station.

Track time is already scarce for journeys into Liverpool Street. I am concerned that an increase in inner London rail traffic into the station may be achieved by using the fast line service that comes from Norwich through East Anglia, into Suffolk and North Essex, and then through Colchester, Chelmsford and Shenfield. The crowding on the existing track into Liverpool Street is already like putting a quart into a pint pot. If another pint is added, it may be at the expense of the fast line service from East Anglia.

Members who represent constituencies across the east of England may not yet have cottoned on to the problem. If the additional inner London rail traffic is put on the current fast line, it can only be to the detriment of the fast train services. I raise my concerns on behalf of my constituents and I hope that they will be considered carefully by other hon. Members. I hope that the Minister, when he winds up, will explain how an already exceptionally busy and congested London terminus can take the additional trains that Crossrail will produce, without detrimental effect on the fast service from the east.

I want to express my gratitude, and that of my constituents, to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. His announcement leaves the door ajar for us to strengthen our case for a station at Woolwich. In addition, I want to pay tribute to the members of the Select Committee. They listened closely to the people who represented our case, and responded accordingly.

However, my right hon. Friend told me earlier that the idea of a station at Woolwich was not included in the original Crossrail plans.

To clarify the matter for my hon. Friend, I can tell him that I was referring to the original Crossrail Bill. I hope that that explains any confusion that may have arisen.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but that Bill is still fairly recent in the entire history of the project. We took part in consultations about having a station at Woolwich for a very long time. The original cost of the station was put at more than £300 million. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) has explained that those plans included freight, which meant that the tunnel gradient had to be reduced. The station was to be underground, and the cost of digging it out was excessive.

It has also been argued that the cost-benefit ratio suffers because a station at Woolwich would be situated next to the river, which means that the investment would not realise a full 360-degree benefit. There have been many such arguments, but the plan to have a station at Woolwich was removed from the Crossrail project on grounds of excessive cost compared with other stations along the line. However, we have come a long way since then: the costs have been reduced significantly, and can be reduced still further.

I urge the Government to look again at the proposal to have a station at Woolwich. Last week the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), told us that the scheme would cost £270 million, but we are down to £186 million today. That shows that there is plenty of scope to do more.

It has been suggested that we are looking for additional resources so that a station at Woolwich can be included in the Crossrail project, but that is not so. We want no more than that Woolwich be treated fairly compared with the other stations on the line. The removal of the plan for a station has never been explained, although it has been suggested that someone, somewhere decided that it was too expensive. We want Woolwich to receive the same treatment that other areas have been given, yet the decision amounted to extraordinarily unfair treatment for one of the most deprived communities in the country.

How can the decision be justified? By any measure or index of poverty, Woolwich has some of the most deprived wards in Britain. That can sometimes be difficult to see in my constituency, where deprived communities stand cheek by jowl with some of the most expensive properties in the borough. Because we often measure such statistics on a ward-wide basis, such communities frequently do not show up. But I can tell the Secretary of State that I represent, in the south of the borough of Greenwich, some of the most deprived communities, and for them a Crossrail station at Woolwich is essential. As I have said, we have done a great deal of work to bring down the costs. The cost-benefit ratio for the station now stands at three to one. Most people now accept that it would benefit the scheme as a whole.

Let me say something to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth). I accept that people are concerned about funding for schemes in other parts of the country, and it might appear that London is sucking in more and more resources to fund schemes in the capital. But if we look at the contribution in terms of gross domestic product of investing in such schemes in London, and the payback for investing in them, we find a justification for funding such schemes.

According to a report published by the Mayor of London, London has had an increase in population of about that of a city the size of Leeds, and it predicts that in the next 16 years it will grow even more—by about the population of a city of the size of Nottingham. No other region in the country is predicted to have population growth on that scale. If in a capital city like London we fail to plan ahead for infrastructure in order to meet what we need for that level of growth, we will all suffer the consequences—not only the people in London.

But the converse is also true: if we do not invest in cities such as Liverpool—or conurbations such as Merseyside—or in Leeds or Manchester, their economic growth potential will be stunted.

I accept that point to a degree. But we should look at the overall contribution that that investment will make to GDP, and what the country gets back as a whole from that investment. That is the case that we need to make. We must all take that into consideration when we are talking about major infrastructure capital schemes in the country.

Crossrail will provide 40 per cent. of the required growth in public transport capacity in the near future. However, I have made the following point in this House on many occasions, and I am not going to miss this opportunity to do so again. In this area of south-east London we are not served by the London underground, and we have not benefited directly from any of the major infrastructure projects of recent times, other than the inclusion of the Jubilee line station at North Greenwich. I should point out the only reason that we got a station at North Greenwich: it was not because of the foresight of any Government; it was because local people, backed by local businesses and the local authority, fought tooth and nail to make the case for a station at North Greenwich. Now, no one—absolutely no one—would make a case against that station being included.

We have had a similar experience with the Docklands Light Railway station at Cutty Sark. It is one of the busiest stations on that route. Again, it was not originally included. It was only through local representation that we finally got that station included.

We are back yet again in the same situation in south-east London in respect of the Crossrail station at Woolwich. The track will pass under a major transport centre in south-east London. There will be six miles of track on which there is no station. It makes absolutely no sense to build that tunnel under a place such as Woolwich, and not drop in a station to improve the transport network in that part of London.

We surely cannot turn our back on an area such as Woolwich when we are talking about regeneration and investing in a scheme like Crossrail. The reasons for removing Woolwich from the Crossrail scheme have never been scrutinised, and in my opinion they cannot be justified. So I urge the Minister to continue to think about the need for a station at Woolwich. The moral case for the station has been made, and it is time that we accepted that it has to be included in the Bill.

I rise as another member of the Select Committee. Earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) described our task as having been arduous, and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) described us as having been diligent. Actually, on many occasions it just seemed like an absolute pain. During the period since just before last Christmas, the Committee met on more than 60 occasions. On some days, it met three times, and on some occasions for as many as seven hours a day.

The hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) referred to rumours that Members from all parts of the Chamber who were serving on that Select Committee were doing so as some form of punishment. One Committee member calculated the odds of all five Labour members—other than the Chairman, of course—having been recent rebels against the Government on the issue of 90-day detention. The calculation was that the odds were in the region of 4,000:1 against. The matter was taken up with the Whips, who assured us, as one would expect, that it was a mere coincidence that we had all voted in that way.

I hear that assurance again from the Front Bench. Of course, when a Whip tells me that something is a mere coincidence, who am I to question that judgment?

The hon. Gentleman is reinforcing the argument against 90-day detention. Those poor MPs were stuck in a Committee Room and not told what they were charged with for 60 days, by the sound of it, before they were let out.

I suspect that before we get to the end of our sentence, we will have served at least 90 days. It has also been suggested that we are enduring cruel and unusual punishment and that Red Cross parcels ought to be sent to us along the Committee corridor, but as yet they have not arrived.

Although we might question how we came to be there, we have indeed served on that Committee diligently and with good humour. We have been ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), who has contributed to this evening’s debate, and informally but quite firmly whipped by the hon. Member for Northampton, South, who has acted as an unofficial Whip and ensured that we continued to maintain a quorum throughout those long periods of incarceration.

We have looked at issues ranging from significant strategic ones such as the need, as was referred to earlier, for an additional ticket hall at Liverpool Street station, through to comparatively mundane ones that are nevertheless particularly important to those affected by them, such as whether a couple of metres ought to be sacrificed from the back of somebody’s garden in order to accommodate the additional space needed for a Crossrail line. We have looked at those issues seriously and in a measured way, and Members representing all the parties have used their judgment and understanding of the evidence put in front of them.

Some of the issues that the Committee has considered have been referred to this evening, such as whether the terminus should be at Maidenhead or Reading, matters affecting Shenfield, and Liverpool Street station, which I and the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) mentioned earlier. Of course, the majority of those issues we will return to only in our final report to the House. However, we did report specifically on the question of whether there should be a station at Woolwich—an issue that we first came to on days 29, 30 and 31 of our deliberations, which seems quite a long time ago. We considered whether the instructions given to us by the House would enable us to examine that issue, and in doing so we were aware that a case was being made for potential additional Government expenditure on such a provision.

We were aware, however, that our instructions did not specifically prohibit us from looking at that issue. Indeed, during the three days when we heard the evidence for and against a station at Woolwich, we were particularly aware that at no stage did the promoters, acting on behalf of the Government, challenge the Committee’s right to hear that evidence or the right of petitioners to petition us on the matter. It was thus with considerable surprise and regret that we found that the Government had—at least initially—put on one side our clear recommendation for a station at Woolwich.

In our deliberations on that and other issues, we were very much mindful of the Government’s position as promoters and that as there might be costs associated with anything we suggested for inclusion in the Bill, they would inevitably have to decide whether those costs were manageable. However, with regard to Woolwich the facts were clear. First, it was clear that what could be built at Woolwich was considerably cheaper than the original estimates. Secondly, the cost-benefit ratios for a station at Woolwich were incredibly better than those originally suggested. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) pointed out, the figure was 3:1 on the original costings, never mind the reduced costings, which will considerably improve that ratio. We were also aware that the cost-benefit ratio for providing a station was considerably better than some of the other elements of the original Crossrail scheme.

I think that many of us privately feel that if something has to be sacrificed it ought not to be something with such an incredibly positive cost-benefit ratio as that station. Furthermore, it was clear from the evidence, and brought home to us when we made our visit to Woolwich, that the station’s potential contribution to the regeneration of the area is enormous and will be much welcomed there. The DLR station at Woolwich will serve a very different need from a possible Crossrail station and, welcome as that is, it in no way undermines the strong case for a Crossrail station.

Of course, £180 million—if that is the cost—is a substantial sum, but as other Members have pointed out, it needs to be seen in the context of the overall costs of the scheme. It is a lot of money, but compared with the positive cost-benefit ratio for that element of Crossrail and the comparatively poor cost-benefit ratios for other elements of the scheme, it should be afforded.

All members of the Committee were pleased and relieved to hear that the Government intend to look further at the proposal and will enable further exploration of the costs of building a station at Woolwich. Notwithstanding the inevitable views of Members from other parts of the country, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth), from whom we heard this evening, about schemes in their areas, all members of the Select Committee are of the opinion that the Crossrail scheme is enormously exciting. It is clearly vital for the future well-being of London and it is overwhelmingly clear that it can achieve its full potential only if there is a station at Woolwich.

I am sure that I speak for all members of the Committee when I again pay tribute to the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield during our deliberations, when an excellent feeling developed between those of us incarcerated on the Committee Corridor. Like other members of the Committee, I look forward to returning to the House with our final report, which will, we hope, be in the not-too-distant future—with the Woolwich station included.

I intend to speak for only a few minutes. First, may I say to the right hon. Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) that I would make just as vigorous a defence of the interests of my constituents as he did of his? However, representing a constituency in the east of England, which is very much in the compass of what we are talking about today, I am concerned, like many people in the Chamber, that over the next 20 to 25 years London and the east and south-east are expected to attract an additional 5 million or 6 million people, who will come to that part of the world looking for jobs and homes. Like many people in the House, I am also aware that London and the east are the engine room of the UK economy. If we have a successful London and a successful east of England, that generates a large amount of wealth that can be distributed around the country—up to the north-west, for example.

For those reasons, it is important that we have a transport infrastructure that can effectively get people in London to their jobs so that they can earn incomes and revenue that can be taxed and then fund other parts of the nation. If we do not have a transport system in this part of the world that is fit for the 21st century, there is every chance that much of the investment that comes to this country—to London—could be lost to other capital cities. That would be to the detriment of us all, regardless of where our constituencies are.

London, as we know, is the global city. It is the Olympic-winning city of 2012. It is competing in the global world marketplace and therefore it needs the highest quality of infrastructure. Let me state at the outset my party’s position, as my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) did. It is clear that the Opposition have backed the concept of Crossrail. We will back the Bill through its parliamentary processes.

We have had an interesting debate. We started with some fascinating interventions from my hon. Friends the Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) and for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), who highlighted useful points about the funding of Crossrail and questioned the view that the Minister had stated a few minutes earlier that Crossrail’s viability might be threatened if Woolwich were included. We were then treated to a powerful case from the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) about the Woolwich station. He made the point that it was described as exceptional value for money and asked how something that cost under £190 million could affect a scheme that was going to cost £16 billion at output prices. The Opposition look forward to the Committee coming back and rehearing the case for Woolwich.

The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), the joint Chairman of the Select Committee, proved to us that his Committee has been working diligently not only inside the House but outside it, as was indicated by his recitation of the Monopoly board of where the Committee has been. Like so many other Members, I congratulate the Committee on the work that it has done. It is a truly splendid effort. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar raised some important points about whether Sir Michael Lyons believes that he has any role or purpose in relation to Crossrail. My hon. Friend reached the conclusion that Sir Michael does not think that he has any purpose with this Bill, and therefore the references to Lyons by the Government may be purely delaying tactics. That conclusion was probably inescapable for the whole House.

We had some interesting and, as usual, well-informed points from the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), who chairs the all-party parliamentary group. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) reviewed the activities of the Committee, especially with regard to Woolwich, with his customary style and elegance, and brought his business knowledge to the proceedings. I noted the comments from the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), which reiterated the case for Woolwich and highlighted the cost-benefit ratio. I understand that prior to coming to the House he may have been a cabbie in London and I imagine that many of his passengers would have listened to his dissertations with interest.

The motions before us tonight are essentially non-controversial. The first is a motion to carry-over Crossrail to the next Session of Parliament. This Bill is proving the parliamentary convention that hybrid Bills often need more consideration than can be delivered in one Session. As we have already heard, the Select Committee is carrying out the necessary scrutiny with diligence, skill and steadfastness. It would be only right for hon. Members on both sides of the House to support the carry-over motion that will allow the Committee to continue its work in the next Session.

The second motion gives further instructions to the Select Committee. It will allow the Committee to consider the merits and disadvantages of several matters identified by the Secretary of State. The instruction is effectively made up of two groups of provisions. The first is a group of engineering changes and alterations, which the explanatory memorandum helpfully describe as being introduced

“where a better engineering solution has now been found.”

The second list is made up of specific examples of project specifications that the Secretary of State intends to change to accommodate the legitimate concerns expressed by petitioners. Both motions are essentially non-controversial, so the Conservative party will support them. The motions will allow the Select Committee to continue its work and the Crossrail project to proceed.

The Government could well be accused of dithering while time passes. Even given the difficult nature of the hybrid Bill procedure, there is no reason why the Bill could not complete its parliamentary passage by the summer recess, or at least the end of the next Session. The Government must ensure that the Bill is committed to a Standing Committee—unless they intend to commit it to a Committee of the whole House—as soon as the Select Committee finishes its work. I hope that the Minister will confirm that that will happen and that he will give the House more detail about the likely time scale.

Conservative Members remain worried about the lack of detail about the impact of Crossrail on freight movement across London. With some negotiation with the Mayor, it would be possible for both Crossrail and the need to increase freight movement to be accommodated. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s plans on that.

As I said in my speech when we debated motions on Crossrail in January, I am worried that the Government remain opaque and silent on the funding of the project. The Secretary of State said earlier—it seems like quite a long time ago now—that only the Government could reach decisions about affordability. If that is true, the Secretary of State must accept that only the Government can sign off the funding. He must give a commitment that as soon as the Lyons review reports, whether or not it reaches any conclusions on Crossrail—as we have heard, Lyons might well be the Government’s last fig leaf on the delay in outlining their intentions—the Government will elucidate to the House the total cost of the scheme and its phasing. At that time they must decide once and for all their intentions on the balance of funding among business, those communities that will be direct beneficiaries of the scheme and the national benefit. We look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on that. This is a matter of pressing urgency, so I am sure that the Minister will not only wish to tell us when the Secretary of State will come to the House, but confirm that we will get the final funding plans from the Government at that stage.

The motions are essentially non-controversial. The official Opposition have backed the concept of Crossrail. We remain committed to backing the Bill through its parliamentary stages and we will support the motions tonight.

I will not detain the House longer than necessary. This has been an excellent and informed debate. It has also been a very good-humoured debate, aside from the response of the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) to some interventions by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Despite some disagreements among right hon. and hon. Members on a number of issues, we should not overlook the fact that support for the Crossrail project remains strong and spans the House. That support was reflected the last time that the matter was debated on 12 January, when the motion containing instructions to the Select Committee was carried by 390 votes to nil. It is vital for a project as significant to London and the United Kingdom as Crossrail is that we maintain that consensus.

In response to the questions of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), I can confirm that the Government intend to refer the Bill to Standing Committee as soon as the Select Committee has concluded its work. Discussions with the rail industry as regards freight continue, but I can offer no more specific details on that at the moment.

I shall now respond briefly to the points made in the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) referred to Ebbsfleet in an intervention on the Secretary of State. My understanding is that Ebbsfleet was part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill at its introduction to the House, and was not added to the Bill by the Select Committee. My right hon. Friend is a long-time supporter of Crossrail. He is a diligent constituency Member and has led an extremely effective and persuasive campaign for a Crossrail station at Woolwich. I will not add to the comments made by the Secretary of State, who has made specific commitments regarding the Woolwich station, but I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich for the campaign that he has led.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) made a very effective contribution. I take this opportunity to pay tribute, on behalf of myself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to the Committee that he chairs for the work that it has done. Its members have approached a demanding but essential task with a high level of commitment and the House is grateful to them, not least for forgoing the attractions of Antigua for the charms of Woolwich.

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) referred at length to the Lyons report and I am happy to repeat comments about Lyons that he knows I made as guest speaker at the all-party parliamentary group on Crossrail. I reiterate that we do not expect Sir Michael to make any specific proposals regarding the funding of Crossrail. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that if his icebreaker at parties is asking people to explain why Ministers constantly refer to the Lyons review of local government finance, I would love to know what his opening chat-up line to his wife was.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is necessary for the Government to consider what might be a fairly major structural change to local government finance before they can consider the shape of any future funding package for Crossrail. That is only reasonable if at least some of the funding is to be provided through business rates. Importantly, the final funding decision can be taken only in the context of the comprehensive spending review next summer. The House will agree that to have proceeded with a funding package before Lyons would have left us open to the charge that we were doing so without a clear view of the future of local government finance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), who is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Crossrail, is, I am glad to say, an enthusiastic supporter of Crossrail. I am grateful for his support tonight and for his comments, which truly informed our debate.

The hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley), the first member of the Select Committee to speak tonight, reiterated the support for Woolwich. He talked of the impact on local people’s lives. That is important because the point of the Select Committee in the hybrid Bill process is to consider the impact on private interests, including those of individuals along the route of a project such as Crossrail and to offer remedies to mitigate the effect. The Committee has made an excellent job of that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) made the first break in the cross-party consensus, expressing his concerns about the cost of Crossrail. I will not be drawn into arguments about the funding of Woolwich, for reasons that I have already given, but his points about public transport spending in his constituency are well made, and I am sure that they were listened to by the whole House.

The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) mentioned his concerns about Liverpool Street station. There are two issues. The first, which is referred to in the additional provisions before us, involves the ticketing and passenger facilities. I can reassure him that the new facilities will be completely separate from existing provisions. He was also concerned about the possibility of Crossrail services using the lines that might be reserved for intercity trains. I reiterate, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, that Crossrail services, as essentially commuter services, will not use the fast lines about which the hon. Gentleman is worried, but will use the slow lines.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) devoted most of his contribution, understandably, to making the case for Woolwich. He also made a robust case for investment in Crossrail as a whole. The second member of the Select Committee to contribute tonight, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby), gave us a valuable insight into the selection process for membership of the Select Committee. I was not involved at any stage in offering the black spot to any of my colleagues in the House. My hon. Friend and his fellow members took their duties extremely seriously. I reiterate that the Government make no criticism at all of the way in which the Committee has interpreted its remit during the progress of the Bill. The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) in a short contribution made a welcome argument for general investment in Crossrail and in the capital city as the engine house of the nation.

Crossrail will benefit London, the south-east and the United Kingdom as a whole. The Government want to see Crossrail delivered, which is why we are working to drive down the cost of the project to make sure that it is affordable. The whole House will support that. That is why we want to maintain the momentum of the Bill. Let us not lose sight of the big picture. Crossrail will add an estimated £19 billion per year to the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product. In the next 20 years, 30,000 new jobs will be created in the capital, in addition to the 80,000 jobs that will be attracted to the regeneration areas along the route of Crossrail.

The motions before the House will allow the Select Committee to conclude its business and allow the Bill to proceed to the next stage. That is surely the most important thing—that an affordable, viable Crossrail scheme should proceed towards implementation. I commend the motions to the House.

Question agreed to.


That further proceedings on the Crossrail Bill shall be suspended from the day on which this Session of Parliament ends until the next Session of Parliament;

That if a Bill is presented in the next Session in the same terms as those in which the Crossrail Bill stood when proceedings on it were suspended in this Session—

(a) the Bill shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time;

(b) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee of the same Members as the members of the Committee when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in this Session;

(c) the Instruction of the House to the Committee [19 July 2005] shall be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session;

(d) all Petitions presented in this Session which stand referred to the Committee and which have not been withdrawn shall stand referred to the Committee in the next Session;

(e) any Minutes of Evidence taken and any papers laid before the Committee in this Session shall stand referred to the Committee in the next Session;

(f) only those Petitions mentioned in paragraph (d) above, and any Petition which may be presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any proposed additional provision or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Committee in the next Session, shall stand referred to the Committee;

(g) any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in the next Session shall, subject to the rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition;

(h) the Committee shall have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from day to day Minutes of Evidence taken before it;

(i) three shall be the Quorum of the Committee;

(j) any person registered in this Session as a parliamentary agent entitled to practice as such in opposing Bills only who, at the time when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in this Session, was employed in opposing the Bill shall be deemed to have been registered as such a parliamentary agent in the next Session;

(k) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in this Session or in the Session 2004-05, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in the next Session;

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Order [26 October],

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

(1) that it have power to consider—

(a) provision in connection with the reinstatement of facilities whose operation or use is discontinued because of the exercise of power 5 conferred by the Bill;

(b) provision in connection with agreements relating to temporary possession and use of land subject to compulsory acquisition;

(c) provision in connection with prohibitions of or restrictions on the use of land imposed for purposes connected with Crossrail;

(d) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding works at West Drayton Yard, London Borough of Hillingdon;

(e) works at Old Oak Common Depot, Ilford Depot and North Pole Depot, including realignment of the railway between Old Oak Common and Ladbroke Grove;

(f) realignment of the railway between Westbourne Park and Royal Oak;

(g) the footbridge at Westbourne Park;

(h) the lowering of Eastbourne Terrace and Chilworth Street, City of Westminster;

(i) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding the acquisition of land at Hanover Square, City of Westminster;

(j) extension of the limits of deviation at Hanover Square, City of Westminster and at Charterhouse Square, Lindsey Street, Hayne Street and Long Lane, City of London;

(k) an additional ticket hall and other works at Bond Street Station;

(l) the construction of the works at Tottenham Court Road Station;

(m) alterations to the provision which is now made in the Bill regarding a shaft at Fox and Knot Street, London Borough of Islington;

(n) an additional ticket hall and enhancement of the existing ticket hall at Liverpool Street Station;

(o) the vertical alignment of the running tunnel beneath Stepney Green, London Borough of Tower Hamlets;

(p) a train reversing facility at West Ham;

(q) a barge loading facility at Instone Wharf, London Boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets, including a conveyor for construction purposes;

(r) alterations to the proposed Isle of Dogs Station;

(s) alterations to the tables in paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 8 to the Bill (disapplication and modification of heritage controls);

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 mentioned in paragraph (1) above is empowered by that paragraph 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, or prorogued, 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;

(3) that, in its application to Amendments of which the first newspaper notice is published after the date of this Instruction, paragraph 2(a) of Instruction (No. 2) [12th January 2006] shall have effect with the insertion after ‘is adjourned’ of ‘, or prorogued,’.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[Mr. Tom Harris.]