As amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.
New Clause 1
Financial provisions (disclosure of information)
‘(1) The Secretary of State shall publish all relevant details as to the monies used to fund the construction and maintenance of Crossrail, beyond those monies as already provided by Parliament and set out in section 65(1).
(2) The Mayor of London shall, not less than 12 months after the granting of Royal Assent to this Act, publish and make available to all who are eligible and registered to vote in the London Mayoral or Greater London Authority elections, a statement indicating—
(a) the agreement he has undertaken and agreed with the Secretary of State for the proposals of building Crossrail, and
(b) the potential financial consequences of this agreement for London.
(3) The Secretary of State, after consultation with the Mayor of London and the Transport Commissioner for London, shall publish an annual statement setting out which bodies shall bear responsibility and liability for any costs associated with the building of Crossrail separately indicating the —
(a) costs to date, and
(b) projected costs to date.
(4) The Secretary of State shall publish an annual statement setting out all relevant details relating to—
(a) the proceeds of any land and property disposed of to date, and
(b) the use to which the disposal proceeds of any land and property have been applied to date.’.—[Stephen Hammond.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The Bill was given considerable scrutiny in Committee and there were some consistent themes to it. The Government consistently referred to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill as the template, exemplar and the precedent for the Crossrail Bill and for many of its powers. The Minister told us frequently that the exceptional powers granted to the Government and the Secretary of State in this Bill were in many cases identical to those contained in that Bill.
We accept that many of the exceptional powers are necessary, but we also believe that many of them require and will continue to require scrutiny. We tabled a number of amendments designed to define those powers, to ensure accountability in respect of them and to ensure proper consultation on their use. They were heard many times in Committee already, but I suspect that we will hear the words “relevant and appropriate bodies” many times again this afternoon. We also sought to ensure that compensation was available and payable to those prejudiced by the extraordinary powers being granted in the Bill, particularly with regard to compulsory purchase orders, to which I will return later.
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way at such an early stage in his speech. He has mentioned the exceptional powers granted in the Bill. Will he confirm my understanding that an extension of Crossrail further west to Reading—so that it did not stop at Maidenhead— would be possible without having to go through the same processes provided for in the Bill, because it could be done under the Transport and Works Act 1992 provisions? Does my hon. Friend share that understanding, and is he confident that the Government are right to say that that would be possible?
The short answer is that that is my understanding of the Government’s position, but I am not at all confident that it would not be subject to legal tests. Indeed, the possibility of providing legal advice has already been mentioned, which suggests that that may not be the case. It could be that any extension to the route would require that portion of it to go back into hybrid Bill mode so that petitioners in that area would be afforded exactly the same rights as those who were heard by a Select Committee in respect of the original route. I have to tell my right hon. Friend that it is far from clear that it will be possible to extend the route simply under the Transport and Works Act 1992, as it is likely to be subject to a great deal of legal scrutiny. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising that issue; the Minister may wish to respond to it later.
In Committee, we tabled some 75 amendments in order to ensure proper scrutiny. The Minister asked me to withdraw five on the basis that he wanted to reconsider the Government’s position. He is bringing back one of them this afternoon in the form of Government amendment No. 1, which we will certainly support. If he had been slightly more far-sighted and tabled other Government amendments in the same way, we could have supported them, too.
Let me deal with new clause 1, which has been tabled very much in the spirit of what we said in Committee—that at this stage we would revisit only matters that were particularly important to us. Clause 66 provides that
“any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State in consequence of this Act”
“any increase attributable to this Act”
to sums already provided for by previous enactments should be provided for by Parliament. That is all very straightforward and correct. As the Minister has said previously, the Government are subject to commercial confidentiality, but are keen to be transparent in providing details of the Crossrail funding package where they can. In that spirit, I want to thank the Minister for the package and some of the briefings he gave to the Committee. That generosity was appreciated.
However—there is always a “however”—although the Bill explains the moneys provided by Parliament, there are also other moneys provided by other bodies. Also, the Bill does not provide for an ongoing update to be delivered to Parliament on the subject of funding and costing. That is exactly what my new clause proposes to add to the Bill. Although I appreciate and accept the Minister’s generosity of spirit in his disclosures so far, we as the Opposition—and who knows who may be in opposition when the Bill comes into force—need to ensure adequate and appropriate protection and scrutiny of the fundings and costings on which the Bill is built.
My new clause thus makes four provisions. First, it provides that the Secretary of State must make details of the funding arrangements available to Parliament. Secondly, the Mayor of London, whoever that may be, will commit Londoners to high extra expenditure and potential liability, so the new clause makes the Mayor provide Londoners with a statement of the financial consequences of his funding decisions. Thirdly, it provides that the Secretary of State shall, after consultation, provide an annual statement of costs and liability. Finally, it provides that the Secretary of State shall provide an annual statement of the destination of funds raised as a result of the sale of surplus land and property.
There is clearly a justification for all that, and it is very simple. It follows a line of reasoning that has been consistent in all our amendments. It will allow the various elements of the funding package to be scrutinised continually throughout the Bill’s stages; it will allow the scrutiny to begin before the start and at the conclusion of that process; it will allow Members to give appropriate consideration to the risk to the package; it will allow scrutiny of the financial probity of the providers; and it will allow the House to assess the likelihood of financial projections being met.
Throughout the Bill’s stages we have said that we support the principle, subject to our ability to scrutinise the funding. We continue to support Crossrail in principle. There is a funding package in place, but we need to see its design, its extent and its underwriters.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Mayor of London making information
“available to all who are eligible and registered to vote in the London Mayoral or Greater London Authority elections”.
Why should the information not also be made available to all residents of the United Kingdom and to the House of Commons? I do not understand why the new clause is so narrow, given that it concerns a project of national importance. I speak as a London Member of Parliament, but surely, in view of the importance of Crossrail to the whole country, all the information that the hon. Gentleman is requesting should be made available to all members of the public.
Let me refer the hon. Gentleman to the new clause as a whole. If it is enacted, the House will be able to scrutinise the entire funding package.
Subsection 2 relates to the fact that all councils currently provide statements of what they spend, and the Mayor of London tells people what the precept is. As London taxpayers and ratepayers, we are likely—and the constituents of London Members of Parliament such as me are likely—to bear the brunt of any cost overrun. I therefore think it only appropriate for the Mayor to be as transparent as possible with Londoners.
The other issues raised by the hon. Gentleman are already tackled by the new clause. If he wishes to persuade his hon. Friend the Minister that he should write a letter to every resident of the United Kingdom every year about the cost of Crossrail, that is his prerogative. What concerns me is that the House should be able to scrutinise the costings and funding, and that is what the new clause enables it to do.
A few years ago the Mayor—the current incumbent, Ken Livingstone—said that the excess would be paid by the London business rate payer. Does the new clause not cover that as well, by providing for businesses to see what is expected of them?
That is a good point. It is apparent from the details of the funding package generously provided by the Minister that there is a supplementary business rate to be charged. What is not clear as yet is whether, in the event of a cost overrun—which we hope will not happen—there will be an additional cost for the London business rate payer.
Subsection (2) requires councils to do exactly what they already have to do, which is to provide an annual statement of how they spend and deliver services and how those services are paid for. It makes no greater requirement of the Mayor than that, now and in the future. Because he has committed Londoners to liability as co-sponsors, it requires him to exercise transparency for London taxpayers in regard to how he is spending their money. Frankly, it would be difficult for Members to argue against this, given that the Mayor has already written to the Secretary of State, so clearly the Mayor will have set out in that correspondence how he proposes to meet his current liabilities. If he is prepared to write to the Secretary of State to set out how he proposes to meet his funding liabilities, presumably he is equally happy to tell all Londoners how he intends to meet them.
Subsection (3) of the new clause provides for an annual update. As we embark on the building and maintenance of Crossrail, we do not need just a snapshot; we need dynamics. We need to be able to see that if there are any problems in terms of cost overspend—or, indeed, underspend—or of delay, Parliament should be advised. The new clause provides for exactly what the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) wanted.
Subsection (4) deals with the disposal proceeds of excess land and property. It is clear that the Secretary of State will, through the build process of Crossrail, compulsorily purchase a large amount of land that is not then needed for the operation of Crossrail, and it is necessary for the Secretary of State to be under an obligation in that respect. I am confident that, as a result of some clauses in the Bill, the Secretary of State will be forced to dispose of that land as soon as it becomes surplus to the needs of Crossrail. I am not, however, comforted about where those proceeds will go, and the subsection addresses that. If a cost is incurred in buying land that is necessary for the construction but not for the operation of Crossrail, when that land is sold those proceeds should be used to offset the total costs of the Crossrail project, or to pay compensation to people who are prejudiced by the Crossrail project during the enactment of compulsory purchase orders.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. In Committee—most of the members of the Committee are present—there were occasions when allotment holders, many in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) and others, were going to be prejudiced because of Crossrail, and we could not write in enough provision. Does my hon. Friend feel he has gone far enough in ensuring the redistribution of that money, as there will be a lot left over? We came across locations at North Pole and other places where a lot of money was going to be made available. Does my hon. Friend think he has gone far enough in making sure that the money is redistributed?
I am keen to ensure that monies raised on the disposal of the surplus should be put back against the cost of the Crossrail project and provided to those who require compensation as a result of compulsory purchase orders, and I was content for that to be put in the Bill. The new clause does that, but if my hon. Friend thinks that we should have gone further, I am happy to accept that we should have done so. I hope he is reassured, however, that what I am trying to do with new clause 1 will at least satisfy what he would like to see done.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his generosity in giving way. I take it from what he has just said that he would also expect this new clause to cover, for example, any repayment to the local council in Windsor and Maidenhead for any infrastructure works that might be necessary as a result of Crossrail stopping at Maidenhead, if it does stop there—as he might know, I actually believe that it should go on to Reading. However, if it does stop at Maidenhead, as it would under the Bill, works would be required at Maidenhead station, and it might be necessary for the council to take some action on access roads, for example, which would, of course, be a cost for the council tax payer.
My right hon. Friend yet again makes the point—which I am sure many Members are now assured of—that she would prefer the Crossrail project to go to Reading. If the local council were to incur such costs, and they were clearly seen to be costs of providing the Crossrail project, the intention of the new clause is that her local council or authority would be able to seek redress.
This new clause is a sensible housekeeping measure, but it is more than that: it is a measure that provides the transparency and accountability that this House needs for a project of this immense national importance. I commend it to the House.
First, I reiterate my support for the Crossrail project, and I echo our appreciation of the Minister’s generosity in sharing significant information on its funding. He will be aware that the Department for Transport’s history on the procurement of major infrastructure is somewhat chequered, to put it generously. Consequently, there is a particular responsibility on this House to scrutinise the funding and the uses of those funds.
My colleagues in Committee and I took the opportunity to table an amendment that would have had a stronger effect than the new clause. At the end of the negotiation process for the undertaker of this project, it would have required a detailed sources of funds statement and details of the uses of those funds to be provided. It would have then given this House the opportunity to examine the numbers, to make the decision as to whether they were consistent with the history of the project and with the will of the House and, if necessary, to have acted as a brake on the project at that point in time.
The new clause does not go that far, but at least it adds to the general transparency and provides the opportunity at least to complain, even if it does not give the opportunity to act. For that reason, although I would have drafted some parts of the provision differently, I think that this would be a useful set of opportunities to include in the Bill.
I stand to make an appeal to the Minister. I am hopeful that my appeal will receive some response—I am sure that it will because he is a kindly old chap. There is an obvious need for transparency in the costings of any Government project. A Government project that will take so much focus and resource, and a sizeable amount of taxpayers’ money, needs to be as transparent at every level as we can possibly make it.
Crossrail is often seen as a London matter, but of course it is not only so—as has been suggested, it impacts on every taxpayer in the land. As London will get a lot of attention with regard to sizeable infrastructure projects over the coming years, some of those taxpayers feel that perhaps they will suffer as a result of the amount of infrastructure work that will be carried out in London.
I am grateful for that intervention because it gives me the opportunity to make the point that if one examines the costings in any depth, one has no faith in any economic return projected so far. I want to return to that matter on Third Reading, because it is still open to individual judgment and the facts are not at all clear.
Like the hon. Gentleman, who served with me on the Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill, I am concerned about costs. Does he agree that if the project were financed entirely in the public sector, from public borrowing, it would be much cheaper?
Is it not the case that road construction projects on contract had typical cost overruns in the region of 60 per cent. whereas when private finance initiative schemes were involved the underruns were in the region of 15 per cent.? That is surely a good argument for involving the private sector, rather than having the whole thing done on the public purse.
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds, I urge him to stick to his original vow and keep on the straight and narrow of the new clause before us.
I was about to say that PFI for other matters was outside the remit of this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
This is seen to be a London matter, but there is concern outside London about the amount of money that London will receive for infrastructure over the next 15 or 20 years. Therefore it is even more important that taxpayers throughout the country who will contribute to the scheme can be assured that it will be run properly, costs will be kept under control and the whole scheme will be well controlled by the Government, who will have an overseeing eye. The Government’s record on large infrastructure projects is not good, so we need to be sure that this case is different. I appeal to the Minister. He represents a constituency outside London, so I am sure that he will understand that point fully and, I hope, respond to it positively.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley), who need have no fear because he is always appealing.
I support the new clause for one specific reason. As other hon. Members have said, much has been made of the fact that funds for the project will be raised from Londoners through council tax and business rates—as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Scott) said earlier. My constituency will be the western terminus of Crossrail and Maidenhead chamber of commerce has raised the concern that at some stage Maidenhead businesses might be asked to contribute to costs in the area. However, in London, businesses will contribute on the basis that they will receive a benefit from Crossrail. It is possible, depending on other services, that Crossrail could produce a worse train service for Maidenhead and would therefore be a disbenefit.
The Minister will be well aware of the concerns that I have raised about services, and I hope to say more about those later. However, it is important that we recognise concerns about the implications of funding for Crossrail and whether the House will be informed and have the opportunity to scrutinise and debate those issues. It is for that reason that I wholeheartedly support new clause 1.
One of the concerns during the passage of the Bill was the changes to do with stations, mainly in Woolwich. We never quite got to the bottom of the costings, although we tried to write into the Bill a provision that the costings had to be shown to Parliament, the London Assembly, the outer boroughs and the royal boroughs. One reason that we did not get to the bottom of the costings was that we got the okay for Woolwich at a time when we were trying to get things sorted out as quickly as possible so as to get the Bill to this stage, and there are still some grey areas.
New clause 1 would mean that some of the bits that we could not fulfil will now have the money put in. I would like to think that the Minister will push Crossrail to fill bits in, especially at Woolwich, and with the external stations at both ends and the Heathrow link. We had problems with what that would cost. If I remember rightly, that is not the responsibility of the London Mayor, although I stand to be corrected. If that is the case, I hope the new clause will help us to incorporate, as strongly as possible, the external parts.
We also found it hard to understand the situation with EWS or East West South cross freight—
English, Welsh and Scottish.
The Minister puts me in my place. That was a slip—I should have known that after spending weeks talking about it.
I would describe EWS as barrow boys, in the nicest possible way, and it became quite obvious when many Committee members visited its operations—I could not go—that attempts were being made to pull the wool over our eyes. That is a glaring example of a case where the funding was not understood. We could not get to the bottom of what it was trying to do, or of what it wanted. The new clause, if it is accepted, will push such organisations into a position where they have to say precisely what their contribution to the costs will be. We never got to the bottom of the compulsory purchase, either.
Three quarters of the new clause were debated in the Public Bill Committee. Subsection (4) is new but addresses an issue that was also considered in Committee. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) may be disappointed to hear that I will largely repeat the arguments that I made then.
I should stress that there is a great deal of common ground between us. I agree with the general direction of the points made by the Opposition. The new clause addresses the importance of transparency and the need to provide information to the public about Crossrail. During the Public Bill Committee, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State published a very slightly redacted version of the heads of terms that have been agreed with Transport for London, our co-sponsors. Copies were placed in the House Library. That document covers all the key points of the deal that will see Crossrail delivered, and I believe that colleagues found it helpful.
We are now working with TFL to turn those heads of terms into binding arrangements. Our presumption is that the documents will be made public. As with the heads of terms, we may have to withhold some information to protect commercial interests. The Government understand the appetite for information about Crossrail and intend to make public whatever we can, subject only to the requirements of commercial confidentiality in relation either to third parties or the public sector’s negotiating position. The published heads of terms explicitly state that Cross London Rail Links Ltd, the company that will deliver the project, will be required to publish information in order to ensure a high level of transparency on the progress and cost of Crossrail.
Let me turn briefly to the specifics of the new clause. By publishing the heads of terms, the Government have, in practice, already published the information that proposed new subsection (1) would require. I have made it clear that we intend to make public the relevant detailed agreements that will implement the heads of terms, and I believe that that would deal with a large part of what proposed new subsection (2) would achieve. The financial consequences of Crossrail for London mentioned in proposed new subsection (2)(b) are a matter for the Mayor. I know that he will want to be clear with Londoners about the matter, and he is in any case subject to the scrutiny of the London assembly.
Proposed new subsection (3) refers to the desire for ongoing information about progress during construction. I have already referred to explicit statements in the heads of terms about the provision of exactly that sort of information. Proposed new subsection (4) would require an annual statement about property disposed of and the use to which the proceeds are put. Clearly, that will not happen until the project is well advanced and, for example, construction sites are no longer required. In case there is any suggestion that, when land acquired for Crossrail is disposed of, it will somehow provide windfall gains for the Government or the Mayor, the financial schedule in the heads of terms makes it clear that the proceeds of property disposal are already included as a core part of the funding package for Crossrail. That is the exact point made by the hon. Member for Wimbledon. In other words, the proceeds from such disposals will go towards the net costs of Crossrail. The policy of transparency that I have described to the House should mean that a statutory requirement for information on how that happens is unnecessary.
I hope that I have made it clear that the Government and the Mayor both recognise the importance of keeping the public well informed about the way Crossrail is taken forward. We have already taken steps to do that and will continue to do so.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon referred to my constant referrals in the Public Bill Committee to the precedent that was set by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill. That Bill set no precedent for a clause that demands the publication of such details. Our political environment today, with its need for transparency and all sorts of financial and other arrangements, is many times better than that under what I believe historians now refer to as a Conservative Government.
Yes, historians may make that reference, but it is probable that much of the Bill will be implemented under a future Conservative Government.
The Minister mentioned the Government’s intentions several times. If he is so keen on transparency, he should have no problem with accepting the new clause, as it would allow those intentions to be made real and enable this House to scrutinise them.
I listened to the Minister carefully, but I am not convinced by his response. Therefore, I should like to test the will of the House on the new clause.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would be grateful if you could let me know whether there is any way in which the House can register its collective shame that a Government elected on a clear promise to grant the people a referendum on the European treaty are currently signing that treaty, albeit in a skulking, hole- in-the-corner fashion, in Brussels. Is there any way in which the House can register the fact that we disapprove totally of what is happening?
That is not a matter for the Chair at this juncture, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will have ample time to make his view known as time goes by.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you been notified of the Government’s wish today to hold a vote in the House on whether we should sign the treaty? We were told that we are not getting a referendum because the House will decide. The House will not be able to decide after the nation’s word has been given; it should decide now.
These are not matters that the Chair can deal with this afternoon. As I have already said, I am sure that they will be matters for debate in the days ahead.
Acquisition of land not subject to the power under section 6(1)
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 5, line 6, at end insert—
‘( ) An easement or other right over land acquired under subsection (5) shall expire no later than the day on which the railway mentioned in section 1(1)(a) is first used by Crossrail passenger services’.
With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 3, in page 7, line 7, clause 10, at end insert
(c) the development falls within the limits of deviation for the scheduled works.’.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sure that many of my hon. Friends felt that you had a way of being able to see that their points of order were taken up, rather than our having to discuss the clauses and amendments before us. Nevertheless, the two amendments are important. The first part of the Bill deals with the scheduled works required to bring Crossrail into being. The second part concerns the land on which the works will be built, and the powers that the Secretary of State requires to take temporary, or even permanent, ownership of such land, or to modify the rights of way over it. The third part deals with the planning issues that might arise as a result of those scheduled works.
All of those measures are vital to the successful construction of Crossrail, and we discussed them at length in Committee, where I tabled a number of amendments which I believe would have enriched the Bill. I was disappointed that the Minister did not agree with me. I should like to revisit two issues using a slightly different approach to that which we took in Committee. First, amendment No. 2 relates to easements over land. We tabled a probing amendment in Committee, but the questions that we posed remain unanswered. Will the Minister give the House a reassurance about the power to acquire easements or other rights, as set out in clause 7? Does the Secretary of State or nominated undertaker require the power to access sites? The easement that is required will concern merely a small strip of land; would not the acquisition of an easement or a right be less costly, and easier to arrange? Does the Minister envisage that many such easements will be required, and does he expect that they will be required temporarily or permanently? Those questions have not been answered, and they are important.
I accept that easements over land will be required in certain circumstances, and I certainly accept that in some circumstances an easement might be more desirable than an outright compulsory purchase. However, the issue that my amendment addresses is the length of time for which such an easement will be required. There are two ways in which a Secretary of State can gain access to land that is needed to build Crossrail: they can take possession of it by means of compulsory purchase, or they can acquire an easement over the land, which will give them a limited right to make use of the land as a right of way.
On the first option—compulsory purchase—the Minister has given clear reassurances about the time limits involved. The land will be used for the construction and operation of Crossrail; if it is required only for the building of Crossrail, the surplus land would be disposed of, as we have discussed. The land disposal policy measures say that any land acquired for the purposes of Crossrail that is no longer required should be sold. That is all very clear. What remains unclear is the situation as regards the second option available to the Secretary of State, namely the acquisition of an easement. As I say, an easement is likely to concern a small strip of land, on the basis that it will be needed for access to land that is required to build the project. The land disposal policy does not appear to give any indication of the Government’s intent on terminating easements once they are no longer required.
I have looked closely at the amendment. The hon. Gentleman talks about the easements expiring no later than the day on which the first passenger train runs. Does he not accept that it is highly unlikely that every aspect of work on every stretch of the Crossrail scheme will be completed on that day? It is likely that the easements will need to continue after that first train runs, just to allow the initial construction to be completed.
That is a possibility, but as the hon. Gentleman knows from his membership of both the Select Committee and the Public Bill Committee, we have discussed several times the subject of an appropriate ending day for various purposes. Sometimes the Minister tells us that for certain purposes it is the operation of the first passenger service. At other times it is the end of the interim period. It is difficult to draw up a definitive time, but my amendment seeks to give some definition to the length of time for which the easements will be available.
The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that one of the great potential benefits of Crossrail coming through my constituency is the redesign potential for Ilford station, including a complete new terminus for buses—I have had discussions with local bus companies and others—and the regeneration of part of Ilford town centre. I am certain that many of those developments will be going on while and possibly after the first trains are running on the Crossrail line. What he is suggesting could cause serious difficulties for communities that will get a substantial regeneration benefit from the proposals.
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman misses the point. The amendment is nothing to do with compulsory purchase of land. It deals with easements and rights of way. The point that he makes is therefore not relevant.
I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby) and I accept that a date definition is difficult. He would have to accept that dates referred to in the Bill are not ideal.
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman once. I know that he will make the same point again and that I will disagree with him, so let us move on.
The powers being sought by the Secretary of State in respect of easements should need to be used only during the construction phase of Crossrail. No doubt the Minister will tell me that I am being too prescriptive, but I am trying to prevent access to land that might be required after the construction of Crossrail. I am trying to ensure that it is clear that access will be granted after the date that it is required. The amendment is sensible and reasonable. It is one that we did not discuss in Committee. It limits the length of time that an easement can be used.
The second amendment in the group, amendment No. 3, is identical to one that I tabled in Committee, which resulted in an informative debate spanning two sessions. At the end of that debate, we gave fair notice that we intended to revisit the matter on Report. For Crossrail, we have an agreed route, scheduled works along the route, and defined limits of deviation within which the nominated undertaker may deviate when carrying out the scheduled works. All that is reasonable and fair, and it seems natural that the provisions of the Bill should therefore apply only to the limits of deviation. Or are we saying that they should apply everywhere else?
Clause 10 provides that planning permission shall be deemed to be granted under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 on land needed for the carrying out of the scheduled works. The amendment is designed to restrict the application of deemed planning permission to land that falls within the limits of deviation, as defined in clause 1. We heard previously from the Minister that the problem with such a measure is that separate planning permission would be required for land outside the limits of deviation. My question to him, therefore, is what will be required outside the limits of deviation? Are we to say that the limits in the Bill apply everywhere? That will be an extraordinarily wide provision for the Government.
The Minister rightly said that one of the fundamental purposes of the Bill is to ensure that deemed planning permission can be obtained for the works reasonably required to enable Crossrail to be built. Where that is appropriate, there has been an environmental assessment. The works have been set out in the Bill, and they have been granted limits of deviation, should they need to deviate from their original location.The Bill already gives the Secretary of State huge leeway in respect of carrying out the scheduled works for Crossrail. In our opinion, the Government should not need the additional powers set out in clause 10 in so far as they relate to land outside the exceptional leeway that they have already been granted. The Government cannot have it both ways: they cannot say that they will build within the scheduled works and the limits of deviation and then add that, just in case that does not work, they should have powers to build outside and beyond those limits of deviation.
The Conservative party supports Crossrail, and the project requires exceptional powers. However, those powers must be used responsibly. The two amendments would ensure that.
I shall start by speaking to amendment No. 2. It might help if I explain the purpose of clause 7, which the amendment seeks to change. The clause allows the Secretary of State to acquire land outside the Bill limits through compulsory purchase if it is needed in connection with Crossrail. The clause also allows the Secretary of State to acquire additional land within the Bill limits if it is needed in connection with Crossrail but cannot be acquired under clause 6(1), as it is needed for an unforeseen purpose. Those powers, although vested in the Secretary of State, may be devolved to the Greater London authority or Transport for London by virtue of clause 60.
Unlike the principal land acquisition power in clause 6, which deals solely with land acquisition within the Bill limits, the power to acquire land under clause 7 can be exercised only through the making of a compulsory purchase order under existing compulsory purchase legislation. Accordingly, there are well established procedures to be followed and protections for those affected by any such proposed order. The Secretary of State would be required to prepare and publicise a draft compulsory purchase order, so that those affected had an opportunity to object and to require a hearing or public local inquiry. The acquisition of any land under the compulsory purchase order, if made, would attract compensation under the national compensation code.
The extent to which land outside the Bill limits can be acquired compulsorily is well precedented. The provisions of clause 7 are modelled on section 5 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, the last hybrid Bill for a railway project; I suspect that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) already knew that.
Clause 7(5) allows the Secretary of State to acquire an easement or other new right over the land in question, as opposed to acquiring the land itself—if, for example, a right of access for the purposes of occasional repair is needed. Amendment No. 2 would restrict any easement or right taken over land acquired under that power to the period during which Crossrail was being constructed. However, there are circumstances in which a permanent easement or right is required. They include situations in which access is needed for the maintenance of structures associated with Crossrail—for example, permanent sound barriers—or for new retaining walls and embankments works.
Does the Minister think that the planning legislation before the House at the moment will affect those issues in any way? I know that that involves a bit of crystal-ball gazing. Furthermore, is he aware of any elements of the Bill to which what he is saying might apply as of today, or are we just banking for the future should something go wrong?
The clause in question is not for when something goes wrong; it is there to be flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. At this moment it is not possible to make a list of all temporary and permanent easements and the uses to which they would be put. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand why I do not want to speculate about any hypothetical effect of the Planning Bill.
Given the examples that I have just cited and my explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Wimbledon, being a sensible and reasonable chap, will agree to withdraw amendment No. 2.
I turn to amendment No. 3. Clause 10 deems planning permission to be granted for two different categories of works. First, the scheduled works listed in schedule 1 have to be built within their respective limits of deviation. Secondly, as long as other non-scheduled works fall within the scope of the various environmental assessments accompanying the Bill, they can be built anywhere within the limit of deviation or the limit of land to be acquired or used. In addition, safeguarding work to buildings necessary or expedient in connection with the works can be carried out outside these limits, but within a specified distance of the works in relation to which the protection is provided—50 m where the work relates to an underground railway and 35 m in other circumstances.
The geographical extent of the works and the planning permission granted by the Bill is therefore well known and transparent. For example, the main railway and running tunnels are scheduled works, as are all the new stations to be built in the central section. Planning permission for those works is therefore granted within their limits of deviation. However, some works are not scheduled works and so get planning permission only if they have been environmentally assessed. These include ancillary works such as station alterations and electrification works on the existing national rail networks within the limits of land to be acquired or used, and protective works to buildings outside those limits. I am therefore satisfied that the scope of the deemed planning permission is limited to the works that are reasonably required to enable Crossrail to be built.
Furthermore, all works are subject to the detailed consent regime set out in schedule 7, and stakeholders will have had the opportunity to consider detailed information about the likely environmental impacts of all the works for which deemed planning permission is proposed to be granted, and if necessary to petition. The hon. Gentleman’s amendment would require separate planning permission to be sought for any works authorised by the Bill that are not scheduled works and fall outside the limits of deviation of the works. That would, as I have indicated, affect a wide category of works, including unscheduled works that lie within the limits of the Bill. The effect of requiring separate planning permission to be sought for such works would be to undermine the very purpose of the Bill—that is, to obtain deemed planning permission for the works reasonably required to enable Crossrail to be built, where they have had appropriate environmental assessment. It would expose the project to the risk of severe delays as local authorities considered applications for these works under the 1990 Act regime, including possibly the holding of public inquiries.
On the basis of that explanation, I invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment if for no other reason than that I hope that he accepts that undue delay to the schedule for the construction of Crossrail would result in added costs. If he is so concerned about added costs of the scheme and transparency in funding it, I hope that he will accept that his amendment would add nothing to the demands to keep the costs of Crossrail down.
I am grateful to the Minister for calling me a sensible chap. He will know that if I say that I am interested in ensuring that costs are kept to what they were at the outset, then that is what we intend to do. I listened to him carefully, and I have looked at his previous comments to the effect that were the amendment to be pressed, that might cause some concern with the route. We have expressed on several occasions our concerns about the scheduled works and the limits of deviation. Notwithstanding that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Overriding duty of Office of Rail Regulation before Crossrail operational
I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 15, line 2, after ‘(6)’, insert
‘, but no later than 9 months after the day on which the railway mentioned in section 1(1)(a) is first used by Crossrail passenger services,’.
The clause and the amendment will be of particular concern to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby), who said in the previous debate that he was worried about periods of time, because they focus on the infamous “interim period”, which, for the purposes of the Bill, is the time between the granting of Royal Assent and the date on which passenger services commence on Crossrail. During that period, the Office of Rail Regulation has an overriding duty to exercise its access contract functions in such a way as to facilitate the operation of Crossrail. I accept that principle, which, as the Minister pointed out in another context, has, like so much of the Bill, a precedent in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996.
That was a fine Bill enacted by a fine Conservative Government, but the Minister will recognise that even legislation such as that can sometimes be improved upon. We do not necessarily have to take the example of that Act and look no further—and the amendment would look further. It would give some clarity and definition to the phrase “the interim period”.
Clause 23(7) gives the Secretary of State the power to extend the so-called interim period. In Committee, I expressed more than once the idea that during the interim period, which takes place between the granting of Royal Assent and the day on which passenger services commence, the ORR has the overriding duty to ensure that the construction phase of Crossrail is prioritised. That is right, but should not that power be restricted? Should not the ORR have the overriding duty only during the construction phase? Is it really right that it has that overriding duty once services are up and running? I have tabled an amendment that would restrict the extension of that overriding requirement to nine months and restrict any duty beyond the interim period.
When we discussed the matter previously, the Minister was concerned that a restriction of six months would be too short. He rejected an amendment to that effect on the grounds that passenger services will be phased in on Crossrail over a period of time. He suggested that even six months after the first service, a full service might not be operational. He repeated that view to Committee members in his letter of 6 December. On reflection, it is just about possible to suggest that. We may well see an example of that with the channel tunnel rail link and the services run on it out of the excellent new St. Pancras station. However, if we consider the possibility of phasing in services, can we really say that a Crossrail service will not have a full timetable in place nine months after operation? In the Minister’s response to the Committee, he clearly implied that he does not believe that the interim period should extend for time immemorial. He hopes that it will not extend wildly beyond the time when passenger services are fully operational. As so often in this Bill, he wants the flexibility to determine when that may be. We see that that flexibility is reasonable.
I understand what the hon. Gentleman seeks to achieve, which is the construction of the whole scheme, and to have it open and carrying passengers. Does he not accept, however, that setting such an artificial limit could have a perverse effect? Because the clock would start ticking, as it were, on the day that the first passengers were carried, the artificial time frame he seeks could have the perverse effect of delaying completion of the scheme.
My hon. Friend is yet again being helpful and putting a point that I would wish to make; I am grateful to him for that.
We accept that there has to be some flexibility, but as so often with the powers that the Minister and the Government seek under the Bill, it seems to me that such powers should not be open-ended, and that they should be restricted in certain cases. I am concerned that we are told time and again that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act is a fitting precedent for Crossrail legislation. I might have been tempted to accept that precedent if I had not had the good fortune to serve on the Committee that considered the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill. It includes several clauses, which, taken together, have the effect of undermining the argument both for the interim period and for restricting that interim period. That is extraordinarily inconsistent. Sometimes we are told that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act is an extraordinary and helpful precedent, and at other times we disregard it. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill is clever and has the potential to turn the interim period into an indefinite period—but it is inappropriate to allow the interim period that we are considering to become indefinite.
If we are to take the 1996 Act as a precedent for the Bill, we must assume that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill will, when enacted, form some sort of precedent for any future Crossrail (Supplementary Provisions) Bill. We must therefore ensure that we will not be faced one day with the prospect of an indefinite extension to the interim period through the precedent of some future Act.
I do not want an indefinite period during which the Office of Rail Regulation must prioritise Crossrail—or, indeed, High Speed 1. It is neither necessary nor desirable. The ORR is an excellent regulatory body, which should oversee all parts of the rail network. It should not have a legal obligation to favour one part of the network over another, because that might compromise its independence once the operational phase begins.
I reiterate that we wholly support Crossrail. We understand that extraordinary powers will be required to build it. We appreciate that the Secretary of State needs flexibility but, once Crossrail has been constructed and the passenger services are operational, many of the extraordinary powers should become superfluous. Crossrail should fit in with the rest of the network.
The amendment would grant the flexibility that the Secretary of State seeks, but restrict the extension of the interim period to nine months. I hope that that would allow for full phasing in of Crossrail passenger services and be sufficient to reach a stage whereby the construction period is complete and Crossrail no longer needs the regulator’s special help. That is an important point, which the Minister acknowledged in Committee. I hope that he will acknowledge it now, especially given our discussions about the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill.
I hope that the Minister can grant Conservative Members some joy in the festive season and accept our reasonable amendment.
I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene briefly in the discussion about the overriding duty placed on the ORR. When the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby) intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) and hinted that it might take longer than nine months for the Crossrail timetable to be fully up and running, I thought that he must be a customer of First Great Western. Several years after it took over the timetable, we are still trying to ensure that the service runs on time and reliably. Notwithstanding that, I expect that the Crossrail timetable can be implemented rather better than that on which we are working with First Great Western.
I support the amendment because I am worried about giving the power to the ORR even for a limited period, let alone for the unlimited time for which the Bill provides. The duty enables the ORR to say that Crossrail comes first and that the need to get Crossrail up and running and do the works for it must override every other consideration on the railways.
I have already referred to the problems with First Great Western. My constituents are willing to see Crossrail put in place, but they would have concerns if they were consistently told that works that were necessary to improve services on the main lines and the relief lines for regular commuter services were being put on the back burner purely because Crossrail came first. As I understand it, that is the implication of clause 23 as drafted. I have reservations about that, because although I can talk only for my constituents, at the western terminus of the line, I fear that the same would apply to those on the First Great Western main line down to Reading. I would have thought that similar concerns would also apply in other parts of the route that the Crossrail line will take.
We should certainly not give the Office of Rail Regulation an unlimited ability to act through the Secretary of State’s powers. It must be limited. Nine months is a reasonable time within which to expect Crossrail to have the timetable up and running after its construction and the start of the first passenger services. I therefore fully support my hon. Friend’s amendment, and trust that the Minister will give us reassurance about the impact that the construction of Crossrail will have on services on the First Great Western line.
I am quite prepared to offer the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) a merry Christmas, but not before the successful Third Reading of the Bill. I hope that I can persuade him that his amendment is unnecessary, and perhaps even get him to admit that the wording is intentionally mischievous. It is during the interim period that the Office of Rail Regulation would have an overriding duty in the exercise of its access contract functions to facilitate the operation of the prospective principal Crossrail services.
To deal briefly with the comments of the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), it is sometimes frustrating that hon. Members in all parts of the House constantly demand that new rail lines be built, but only provided that there be no unforeseen consequences for adjacent rail lines. In the case of Crossrail, there will clearly be unwanted consequences for other rail services, because we are building a new railway. Given the level of investment that we expect the public and private sectors jointly to make to the project, it is unreasonable to tell prospective investors that we will not give overriding precedence to the requirement to build and operate Crossrail services. That is not a particularly easy message to get out, but it underpins the entire Bill. If we are going to have a Bill, with the necessary investment, we must guarantee 100 per cent. that the construction and services will operate completely unimpeded. That is the view of the Government; I hope that it will ultimately be the view of the Opposition, too.
On a point of clarification, throughout the Select Committee considering the Crossrail Bill we kept hearing Crossrail say that there would be minimal disruption throughout the system. I agree with the Minister that the project is vital and must go through, but we on the Committee were assured that there would be minimal disruption, even in the stations where there are to be major structural works, which is what I suspect the Minister is alluding to. Does he not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon at least somewhere along the line and say that although there will of course be disruption, there must be a parameter determining how it affects First Great Western—the railway company in my area, too—as it could have an adverse affect on what we are trying to do? Otherwise, the Minister will confuse the issue.
I can confirm that it is certainly the intention of both the Bill and the Government that where disruption occurs, it will be the minimum necessary required to build and operate Crossrail. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would assume that anyway.
The Secretary of State may need to extend the period, as specified under subsection 7. For instance, Crossrail services are expected to be phased in over a year. I referred earlier to the wording of the hon. Member for Wimbledon’s amendment and his proposal for a nine-month requirement. On the day that the funding package for Crossrail was announced, it was publicised in a number of newspapers and on the Department for Transport website that the Government intended to phase in Crossrail services over a period of 12 months. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that, so it is surprising that he has chosen a period of nine months—three months less than we have already announced—for the phasing in of those services. However, I am sure that he has had some fun with his proposal. I shall, none the less, ask him to withdraw it.
For a new railway of the magnitude of Crossrail, it would be unwise to attempt to introduce the full service to all destinations overnight. In this context, it makes sense for the Office of Rail Regulation not to grant access rights to other railway operators that would frustrate the phasing in and stabilisation of Crossrail services. Once the full Crossrail service is in operation, it will have—and will exercise—all the appropriate access rights, and Network Rail and the ORR would not then grant conflicting access rights. Timetabling and capacity allocation would happen by means of existing industry mechanisms and duties. There would consequently be no need for the protection afforded by clause 23, so the interim period naturally has a finite useful life. There would be no point in the Secretary of State extending the interim period beyond its useful life, because the path would already have been granted and could not be taken away.
As I indicated during our previous debate on this matter, and as I further explained in my letter following the Committee, an artificial time-limited cap on any extension of the interim period would be undesirable at this stage of the project development. We cannot predict with certainty what practical considerations in respect of the phasing in of Crossrail services might arise 10 years from now.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I should also like to place on record the fact that I am grateful to him for the time that he has given to me, and to other Members of Parliament, in connection with the operation of First Great Western services, which interacts with the issue of Crossrail. As I understand it, he is saying that when the time comes for Crossrail services to begin, Crossrail will take precedence on the slow lines that currently carry slow and semi-fast First Great Western services through my constituency. I am concerned that my constituents in Maidenhead and Twyford could find themselves with a greatly reduced service and amenity when Crossrail is introduced, because they might lose First Great Western services and end up at the end of a metro line, which would be a slow stopping service that would take twice as long to get to Paddington as it does at the moment.
I have spoken to the right hon. Lady about her concerns regarding the effect of Crossrail on Maidenhead. I understand her concerns, but I hope that she will understand that I am loth to speculate on the timetable for Maidenhead in 2017. She has already had a commitment from me that whenever the Great Western franchise is renewed, we will ensure that due attention is paid to the points that she has raised about the level of Crossrail services at Maidenhead. I hope that she will forgive me if I do not dwell on the specific question that she has asked, given that we are still about 10 years away from the first Crossrail services coming into operation.
As I have said, we cannot predict with certainty what practical considerations in relation to the phasing in of Crossrail services might arise 10 years from now. Nine to 12 months is probably as good a guess as any other at this stage for the time for which the interim period might need to be extended to facilitate the orderly phasing in of Crossrail services. However, I hope that the hon. Member for Wimbledon will accept that we cannot legislate on the basis of a good guess. I hope that hon. Members will, for those reasons, appreciate that the length of any extension to the interim period would most sensibly be determined nearer the time, not 10 years in advance. I am not persuaded that an artificial, and completely random, cap set this far ahead is the answer. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I have listened carefully to the Minister’s explanation. As usual, I have some difficulty with the idea that we can use a Bill for a precedent at one stage, but disregard it when it does not suit us. I find that particularly troubling. I have no problem with the principle that the Office of Rail Regulation should have the overriding duty during the construction phase or during the phasing in. Our concern is the length of that phasing-in period. Notwithstanding what the Minister has said about one year, it seems to me that nine months to get a relatively simple service—it is not as if it is the most complex of services—
If one is to believe the Minister and his wonderful HLOS—high level output specification —statement, that should not be any problem for the Government. Let us not go down that line, however. Let us look at the provisions for the interim period. The amendment proposes that there should be some limit to the time allotted for the phasing in of operations. Why should it be open-ended?
I recognise the groans heard around the Chamber, but the Minister made a comment from a sedentary position that impacts on Maidenhead and its services. I believe he said that the Crossrail service would be running 24 trains an hour. I am at a loss to understand that, given that we have been told that only four trains an hour would be coming out to Maidenhead.
That is a very interesting intervention from my right hon. Friend. I do not know the answer to it, but I am sure that the Minister will want to jump up and intervene any moment now to explain what he said. No, it looks as if the Minister does not wish to intervene, which probably means that the service to which I was alluding is even more simple than I suggested, making the restriction that I am looking for even more appropriate.
I am grateful, as ever, for the Minister’s help. However, I am not convinced by his arguments on this amendment in any way, shape or form. The whole purpose of our scrutiny of the Bill has been to ensure that although we accept that exceptional powers are required, those powers should have some restrictions on them; they should be scrutinised and those exercising them should be accountable. That is what the amendment does. It is a sensible amendment and I am not tempted to withdraw it.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 117, Noes 248.Division No. 32][4.7 pmAYESAfriyie, AdamAmess, Mr. DavidArbuthnot, rh Mr. JamesAtkinson, Mr. PeterBaron, Mr. JohnBellingham, Mr. HenryBenyon, Mr. RichardBercow, JohnBeresford, Sir PaulBinley, Mr. BrianBone, Mr. PeterBoswell, Mr. TimBottomley, PeterBrady, Mr. GrahamBrazier, Mr. JulianBrokenshire, JamesBrowning, AngelaBurt, AlistairButterfill, Sir JohnCarswell, Mr. DouglasCash, Mr. WilliamClappison, Mr. JamesClark, GregClifton-Brown, Mr. GeoffreyCormack, Sir PatrickCrabb, Mr. StephenDavies, David T.C. (Monmouth)Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)Duncan, AlanDuncan Smith, rh Mr. IainDunne, Mr. PhilipEllwood, Mr. TobiasEvans, Mr. NigelFox, Dr. LiamFrancois, Mr. MarkFraser, Mr. ChristopherGale, Mr. RogerGauke, Mr. DavidGibb, Mr. NickGoodman, Mr. PaulGoodwill, Mr. RobertGray, Mr. JamesGrayling, ChrisGreen, DamianGreening, JustineGrieve, Mr. DominicGummer, rh Mr. JohnHammond, Mr. PhilipHammond, StephenHarper, Mr. MarkHarvey, NickHayes, Mr. JohnHendry, CharlesHerbert, NickHoban, Mr. MarkHogg, rh Mr. DouglasHollobone, Mr. PhilipHolloway, Mr. AdamHoram, Mr. JohnHowarth, Mr. GeraldHurd, Mr. NickJack, rh Mr. MichaelJackson, Mr. StewartJenkin, Mr. BernardJohnson, Mr. BorisJones, Mr. DavidKawczynski, DanielKirkbride, Miss JulieLetwin, rh Mr. OliverLewis, Dr. JulianLiddell-Grainger, Mr. IanLidington, Mr. DavidLoughton, TimLuff, PeterMaples, Mr. JohnMay, rh Mrs. TheresaMcIntosh, Miss AnneMcLoughlin, rh Mr. PatrickMercer, PatrickMoss, Mr. MalcolmMurrison, Dr. AndrewNeill, RobertO'Brien, Mr. StephenPaice, Mr. JamesPaisley, rh Rev. IanPritchard, MarkRandall, Mr. JohnRedwood, rh Mr. JohnRobathan, Mr. AndrewRosindell, AndrewRuffley, Mr. DavidScott, Mr. LeeShapps, GrantShepherd, Mr. RichardSimpson, Mr. KeithSpelman, Mrs. CarolineSpicer, Sir MichaelSpring, Mr. RichardStanley, rh Sir JohnStreeter, Mr. GaryTaylor, Mr. IanTredinnick, DavidVaizey, Mr. EdwardVara, Mr. ShaileshViggers, PeterVilliers, Mrs. TheresaWalker, Mr. CharlesWallace, Mr. BenWalter, Mr. RobertWaterson, Mr. NigelWhittingdale, Mr. JohnWiggin, BillWilletts, Mr. DavidWinterton, Sir NicholasWright, JeremyYeo, Mr. TimYoung, rh Sir GeorgeTellers for the Ayes:Mr. Brooks Newmark andMichael Fabricant NOESAbbott, Ms DianeAinger, NickAinsworth, rh Mr. BobAllen, Mr. GrahamAnderson, Mr. DavidAtkins, CharlotteAustin, JohnBailey, Mr. AdrianBaird, VeraBanks, GordonBarlow, Ms CeliaBarron, rh Mr. KevinBattle, rh JohnBayley, HughBeckett, rh MargaretBegg, Miss AnneBell, Sir StuartBerry, RogerBetts, Mr. CliveBlackman, LizBlears, rh HazelBlizzard, Mr. BobBorrow, Mr. David S.Breed, Mr. ColinBrown, LynBrown, rh Mr. NicholasBrown, Mr. RussellBruce, rh MalcolmBryant, ChrisBuck, Ms KarenBurden, RichardBurnham, rh AndyBurstow, Mr. PaulButler, Ms DawnByers, rh Mr. StephenByrne, Mr. LiamCable, Dr. VincentCairns, DavidCampbell, Mr. AlanCawsey, Mr. IanClapham, Mr. MichaelClark, Ms KatyClark, PaulClarke, rh Mr. CharlesClarke, rh Mr. TomClwyd, rh AnnCoaker, Mr. VernonCoffey, AnnConnarty, MichaelCooper, rh YvetteCorbyn, JeremyCousins, JimCrausby, Mr. DavidCruddas, JonCryer, Mrs. AnnCunningham, Mr. JimCunningham, TonyCurtis-Thomas, Mrs. ClaireDavies, Mr. QuentinDhanda, Mr. ParmjitDismore, Mr. AndrewDonohoe, Mr. Brian H.Doran, Mr. FrankDrew, Mr. DavidEagle, AngelaEagle, MariaEfford, CliveEllman, Mrs. LouiseEnnis, JeffFarrelly, PaulField, rh Mr. FrankFitzpatrick, JimFlello, Mr. RobertFlint, CarolineFollett, BarbaraFoster, Mr. DonFoster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)Francis, Dr. HywelGapes, MikeGardiner, BarryGeorge, AndrewGeorge, rh Mr. BruceGerrard, Mr. NeilGidley, SandraGilroy, LindaGoggins, PaulGoldsworthy, JuliaGoodman, HelenGriffith, NiaGriffiths, NigelGrogan, Mr. JohnGwynne, AndrewHall, Mr. MikeHall, PatrickHanson, rh Mr. DavidHarman, rh Ms HarrietHarris, Dr. EvanHarris, Mr. TomHealey, JohnHendrick, Mr. MarkHepburn, Mr. StephenHeppell, Mr. JohnHesford, StephenHewitt, rh Ms PatriciaHeyes, DavidHill, rh KeithHillier, MegHodge, rh MargaretHodgson, Mrs. SharonHolmes, PaulHoon, rh Mr. GeoffreyHope, PhilHopkins, KelvinHowells, Dr. KimHumble, Mrs. JoanIllsley, Mr. EricIrranca-Davies, HuwJames, Mrs. Siân C.Jenkins, Mr. BrianJohnson, Ms Diana R.Jones, Mr. KevanJones, LynneJones, Mr. MartynJoyce, Mr. EricKeeley, BarbaraKeen, AlanKeen, AnnKelly, rh RuthKemp, Mr. FraserKennedy, rh JaneKhan, Mr. SadiqKilfoyle, Mr. PeterKnight, JimKramer, SusanKumar, Dr. AshokLadyman, Dr. StephenLammy, Mr. DavidLaxton, Mr. BobLazarowicz, Mark Levitt, TomLinton, MartinLove, Mr. AndrewLucas, IanMactaggart, FionaMahmood, Mr. KhalidMann, JohnMarris, RobMcAvoy, rh Mr. ThomasMcCarthy, KerryMcCarthy-Fry, SarahMcCartney, rh Mr. IanMcDonagh, SiobhainMcDonnell, JohnMcFadden, Mr. PatMcGovern, Mr. JimMcGuire, Mrs. AnneMcIsaac, ShonaMcKechin, AnnMcKenna, RosemaryMcNulty, rh Mr. TonyMeacher, rh Mr. MichaelMeale, Mr. AlanMichael, rh AlunMilburn, rh Mr. AlanMiliband, rh EdwardMiller, AndrewMoffat, AnneMoffatt, LauraMole, ChrisMoon, Mrs. MadeleineMoran, MargaretMorden, JessicaMullin, Mr. ChrisMurphy, Mr. JimNaysmith, Dr. DougO'Brien, Mr. MikeO'Hara, Mr. EdwardOsborne, SandraOwen, AlbertPalmer, Dr. NickPearson, IanPlaskitt, Mr. JamesPound, StephenPrentice, BridgetPrentice, Mr. GordonProsser, GwynPugh, Dr. JohnPurnell, rh JamesRaynsford, rh Mr. NickReed, Mr. AndyReed, Mr. JamieReid, rh JohnRiordan, Mrs. LindaRobertson, JohnRobinson, Mr. GeoffreyRowen, PaulRoy, Mr. FrankRuane, ChrisRuddock, JoanRussell, BobRussell, ChristineRyan, rh JoanSalter, MartinSarwar, Mr. MohammadSeabeck, AlisonSharma, Mr. VirendraSheerman, Mr. BarrySheridan, JimSimon, Mr. SiônSimpson, AlanSingh, Mr. MarshaSkinner, Mr. DennisSlaughter, Mr. AndySmith, rh Mr. AndrewSmith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)Snelgrove, AnneSoulsby, Sir PeterSpellar, rh Mr. JohnStoate, Dr. HowardStrang, rh Dr. GavinStuart, Ms GiselaSutcliffe, Mr. GerryTaylor, DavidTimms, rh Mr. StephenTipping, PaddyTodd, Mr. MarkTouhig, rh Mr. DonTrickett, JonVis, Dr. RudiWalley, JoanWaltho, LyndaWard, ClaireWatts, Mr. DaveWhitehead, Dr. AlanWicks, MalcolmWilliams, rh Mr. AlanWilliams, Mrs. BettyWilliams, MarkWilliams, Mr. RogerWillott, JennyWinnick, Mr. DavidWright, Mr. AnthonyWright, DavidWright, Mr. IainWright, Dr. TonyWyatt, DerekTellers for the Noes:Steve McCabe andMr. Tom WatsonQuestion accordingly negatived.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Quite by chance I was looking through the raft of ministerial statements that have been placed in the Library today, when I discovered that it has been announced in a statement that the only military base left in my constituency is to be closed. The 42 Engineer Regiment and the Royal School of Military Survey are to be affected. The closure will result in a number of redundancies in my constituency, and very long-term links with the town of Newbury will be severed for ever. Do you not think it a matter of basic courtesy to the local community and to myself, as the local MP, that I should have been informed at some point in this process, and that such catastrophic news for the local community could have been broken to it in a slightly less arbitrary fashion?
The timing and content of written statements are entirely a matter for the Government. They are not something that the Chair can deal with. The comments that the hon. Gentleman has made are now on the record, and, no doubt, everybody will take note of them.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I say that I find the situation bewildering? I am sure that you are correct in this, but I think that the hon. Gentleman is making a valid point. On such important matters as that, Members of Parliament should be advised in advance of any serious decisions taken about a constituency matter.
Again, I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman has made, and the fact that he has made it simply reinforces the point of order. I trust that the Government Front-Bench team will take note of it.
Is it the same point of order?
Order. I really think that we must move on. I think that I have dealt with that point of order.
Amending pre-commencement access contracts: construction of Crossrail
With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 1.
Those hon. Members who had the joy of serving on the Public Bill Committee with me will know that we raised a number of concerns about consultation in that often informative and good humoured Committee, and had useful discussions about the subject. The Minister often dismissed my amendments outright, but at other times he appeared to be tempted by them. With that in mind, may I thank him for his letter to Committee members dated 6 December, in which he expanded on some of the points that he raised in Committee about consultation? He made it clear that he was not opposed to the principle of enlarged consultation, but he suggested that there were a number of cases where that process would not be either desirable or practical. He also accepted in that letter that one of the many amendments that I tabled on consultation had some merit.
In Committee, the Minister said that he more or less accepted the principle of an amendment that I tabled, and it is now in the form of Government amendment No. 1. It is marginally different from my original amendment and I assume that the wording needed to be tightened up or made legally acceptable. In any case, I hope that we now have a practical and workable consultation procedure. We therefore welcome Government amendment No. 1 and we are disappointed only that the Minister did not accept more of our suggestions.
Amendment No. 5 is in the same vein. It relates to consultation, and I tabled a version in Committee. The Minister was tempted by it, and pledged to look at it with his officials. I hoped that we might see it tabled as Government amendment No. 2, but unfortunately that has not materialised. I have therefore tabled my amendment, and it uses the same wording as the Government use in Government amendment No. 1. It has the same format and I hope that the Government will accept it on that basis. As it replicates the Government’s language, it should be consistent with the Government amendment, which should ensure that the phrasing is legally binding, unambiguous and workable.
I shall explain why consultation is so important. Crossrail is a massive project that will affect a lot of people. We believe and hope that more people will be positively affected, at least in the long term, than will be adversely affected. None the less, those who will be affected in any way should have the right of consultation. The consultation procedures already employed have been very successful. I congratulate the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and his Select Committee team on such sterling work in hearing from those people who wished to present their case. It is undoubtedly right that the Bill is better for having gone through the hybrid procedure and allowing that consultation. The decisions and hearings of the Committee have enhanced Crossrail and improved its legitimacy in the public eye.
Consultation on railway matters is important. The Bill will give the Secretary of State new powers and will modify existing powers, and that will have the effect of interfering with current procedures and the norms of the railway industry. I accept that some of that is necessary and we do not object to the principle. However, we want to be certain that it is done in a way that is transparent and accountable, and that the affected parties are consulted. It is in that context that I return to clause 26, which deals with the amendment of the pre-commencement access contracts by the Office of Rail Regulation.
Clause 26(4) gives the Office of Rail Regulation the power to require concerned parties to submit proposals for how it should amend the contracts, and that is welcome. Clause 26(5) provides that the ORR must also consult the Secretary of State as part of the process, but that is where the consultation process ends. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that the ORR is open to the concerns of other appropriate and relevant parties, and consults them in an appropriate and relevant fashion. The Minister said in Committee that nothing in the clause prohibits the regulator consulting in such a manner. That is true, but it is not enough. If the Minister accepts that we can amend the Bill elsewhere using words that are similar to
“such other persons (if any) as it considers appropriate”,
surely the ORR should have the duty to consult with persons other than the Secretary of State as it considers appropriate. That would be consistent with the duty of consultation. We all agree on the value of consultation and we agree that the ORR could consult in such a way. Why should we not make it an obligation and put it in the Bill?
In Committee, the Minister accepted that the amendment had some merit. I believe that it still has. In fact, it has more than that. It is right that if the Government are prepared to accept wording elsewhere that makes a minor change but increases consultation, making it more binding, they should do the same in this clause. I hope that the Minister will reflect on my remarks. The Government have accepted the principle in Government amendment No. 1, and so it would be only right and proper to accept it for clause 26, too.
I do not intend to accept the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, although I am grateful for the support that he has given the Government amendment. I think that he has misunderstood the reasons behind my reluctance to accept the amendment in Committee and today. I assure him that I fully support the intention behind his amendment. I agree with his points on consultation. I do not want him to take away from this debate the assumption that I oppose the amendment because he has used the wrong wording. That is not why I am resisting the amendment. As I shall explain, his reservations about consultation are taken care of by industry procedures.
Consultation on railway matters was raised a number of times in Committee. There is no disagreement on the principle of consultation. The point at issue is the extent to which it is desirable or sensible to be prescriptive in the Bill. As I explained in Committee, there are many places in the Bill where it is unnecessary to include an authority or obligation to consult more widely, because it does not preclude that. It is not always desirable in cases where there is a specific consultation obligation to predict who appropriate consultees should be. For example, when the Secretary of State or the ORR is placed under a duty to carry out a consultation, they would address who should be consulted as part of a good administrative process.
As I agreed in the debates, there are parts of the Bill related to railway matters where an amendment to clarify the natural extent of the consultation would not be without merit, although it could arguably be unnecessary. However, the Government intend that the railway powers in the Bill that deal with access to Crossrail services on the national rail network will be cut back substantially in the House of Lords. That is in the light of progress made using normal industry processes, not least the consideration of the Crossrail access option for access to Network Rail’s network. It is appropriate to consider consultation requirements when hon. Members have argued that amendments could be valuable and when the railway powers are reviewed following the outcome of consideration of the Crossrail access option.
In that context, I turn to the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), which is familiar from Committee. The amendment would require the ORR to invite representations from any other parties that it considers appropriate, in addition to the Secretary of State, when it considers that an access contract needs amending because use of the railway facility to which it relates will be affected by the construction of Crossrail.
As I have explained, an amendment of this nature is not necessary. The ORR does not need the authority to consult as widely as it considers appropriate—indeed, nothing in clause 26 prevents it from doing just that. The ORR has established policies on consultation and it has a track record of engaging in very open consultation on access matters. In practice, the ORR would need to consult at least the parties to the affected access contracts before it could decide whether and how those contracts needed to be amended. Additionally, clause 26(4) enables the ORR to require those parties to propose what directions should be given and, logically, that would engage them in the consultation process.
Ultimately, it can be left to the ORR to decide what is appropriate in this case. As I have stated, amendments to the relevant clauses will be sought, with the aim of enabling their lordships to consider general matters of Crossrail-related railway policy in the light of the wider review and of the potential reduction in those clauses’ scope.
Government amendment No. 1 is modelled closely on an amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon in Committee, and on the consultation theme that he has regularly discussed. Clause 30 would provide for access to infrastructure associated with the new central tunnel—access that would not be provided for in the Crossrail access option in any event. Hence, the power may be held in reserve until a further access option is secured in relation to that new infrastructure. As a result, now is as good a time as any to amend this part of the Bill.
In effect, clause 30 requires the Secretary of State to consult the ORR on the terms of an access contract for services using the Crossrail central tunnel or associated facilities. Government amendment No. 1 requires the Secretary of State also to consult any such other parties as she deems appropriate on the terms of the access contract to which an exemption under clause 30 would relate. There is a conscious parallel with the consultation obligation in clause 24(4)(c).
I have to say that I do not believe that the Government amendment is strictly necessary either, as there is no doubt that the Secretary of State would wish to act in the way that I have described. However, given the context of what I have said about the railway powers in general, on this occasion I accept the value of a visible requirement, and I therefore hope that the House will support Government amendment No. 1.
As I said in my letter to hon. Members following the Public Bill Committee, I hope that Government amendment No. 1 can be taken as an indication of our genuine intention to keep matters relating to consultation in mind when we come to review the rest of the Bill’s railway powers more widely in the House of Lords. Therefore, I hope that what I have said reassures the hon. Member for Wimbledon and that he will feel able to withdraw amendment No. 5.
I listened carefully to what the Minister said, and I am discovering that life in opposition is all about small victories. He considers that my amendment has some merit, and I am grateful for that—and for the fact that he and the ladies and gentlemen who at times provide him with divine inspiration have tabled Government amendment No. 1. That is a small victory for the Opposition.
Anyone who attended the Public Bill Committee will have heard what the Minister said about amendment No. 5 before—almost verbatim, in fact—but I still have the same problem with this part of the Bill. The Minister said that the ORR has a history of open consultation, and that it can decide whom to consult. If so, why should it not be obliged to consult those whom it considers appropriate? That would be fair and sensible, and it should be included in the Bill.
I remain unconvinced by the Minister’s argument that there is no need to include in the Bill the obligation on the ORR that amendment No. 5 would impose, just as he is not convinced that Government amendment No. 1 is necessary. Even so, I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 5.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Crossrail access contracts: disapplying requirements for approval
Amendment made: No. 1, in page 20, line 37, after ‘Office of Rail Regulation’, insert
‘and such other persons (if any) as he considers appropriate’.—[Mr. Tom Harris.]
Application of act to extensions
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:
No. 8, page 34, in line 34, leave out
‘may also provide for any provision’
‘shall also provide for the provisions’.
No. 9, page 34, in line 36, leave out subsection (4).
The amendments are very much of a probing nature. When we reconsidered the Committee proceedings, it seemed to me that we had not finally sorted out a number of things. We said that we would need to return to them on Report because the Government’s intentions were not clear. That point was at the heart of the intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May).
Clause 57 relates to the statutory framework that would govern a future extension of Crossrail. We have some concerns about that, so we want to understand exactly what the Government intend. Our first concern relates to why only some of the Bill’s provisions would apply to an extension, and the second relates to the possible need for legal re-hybridisation if there were an extension. The core question is whether a substantial extension would require the same treatment as the original Crossrail route.
Our first concern is addressed directly in the amendments, which would have the effect of ensuring that there was no selectivity in applying the Bill’s provisions to any extension of Crossrail. Subsection (4) states that certain provisions of the Transport and Works Act 1992 will be specifically excluded from applying to an extension. They relate to the compulsory acquisition of land, heritage protection controls and rights of entry in relation to English Heritage. We need reassurance from the Minister. What is it about those provisions that makes them applicable to the current route, but not to an extension? Those provisions will be specifically excepted from an extension to Crossrail.
As for the remainder of the Act, the Government want the power to pick and choose which provisions would or would not apply to an extension. That seems inconsistent and irresponsible. We have subjected the current route and the current legislation to an extensive and intensive period of parliamentary scrutiny, so if there were an extension to the route there would be an injustice if petitioners in that case were not able to do the same.
When I raised the issue in Committee, the Minister said my proposal would not be workable. Are we saying that just because the Minister considers something unworkable we will not put justice into effect? Does it mean that we should not introduce legally binding provisions? Apparently, the Minister’s rationale was that whereas the powers required to build the current Crossrail route are defined by an Act of Parliament that has authority to disapply and modify the application of existing legislation, an extension to the route only needs legislation under the Transport and Works Act, which does not have such authority?
Is the Minister satisfied that the point is merely technical? Is he happy that the clause allows only certain elements of the Bill to apply to an extension? Is he satisfied that a substantial extension of the route—perhaps from Maidenhead to Reading—would be dealt with only under the provisions of the Transport and Works Act, or does he think that if he took legal advice he would find that re-hybridisation of that part of the route was required and primary legislation was needed?
It seems unusual that there should be one legislative scrutiny regime for the current Crossrail route but a different one for any future extension. It is possible to understand why relatively minor changes to the Crossrail network—a new facility here, a station renovation there—would be dealt with under the Transport and Works Act and would not warrant any exhaustive procedures. However, where Crossrail is being extended—in the exact circumstances that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead outlined—should the people affected have the right to take part in exactly the same sort of consultation procedure afforded to those affected by the original route?
Legal advice from counsel, which is already circulating among Ministers and the Opposition, suggests that this is an interesting part of the law. The Government’s reassurance that an extension to the route would be covered purely by a Transport and Works Act order is at least contestable. The Minister needs to give the House some reassurance. I see in the Chamber a number of hon. Members who served on the Select Committee for a long time. They will know better than most that the plans for constructing Crossrail provoked a large number of organisations and people, who felt that their lives and businesses would be affected by the project, to come forward and present petitions to the Committee. The Select Committee procedures gave them the opportunity to have their say and to be heard.
If the route of Crossrail is to be extended, are the Government satisfied, in legal terms, with a situation in which people whose homes or businesses are affected by the extension to the route will not have the same protection and rights afforded to those affected by the original route? The Government are going to leave themselves in a very difficult position—one that will be open to legal challenge. Is that desirable? The Minister needs to give the House a clear indication that he has consulted his officials and is absolutely convinced that there is no possibility of a legal challenge to the Bill on the basis that any extension to Crossrail would be dealt with purely by a Transport and Works Act order.
These are probing amendments. We remain extremely concerned that if the clause stands as it is, there is the potential for a legal challenge to the whole Bill.
Clause 57 allows any Transport and Works Act order that relates to a proposed extension of Crossrail or to the provision of a facility connected with Crossrail to apply any provision of the Bill, with any modifications necessary to the order, or provide for any provision of the Bill to have effect as if the extension were part of Crossrail.
Perhaps I can take a moment to explain the purpose of clause 57. As the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) will know from our earlier debates, the Bill establishes a bespoke regime for Crossrail, modifying or disapplying various bits of legislation and replacing it with a tailor-made regime, based heavily on the regime created in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996. He will recall that, for example, the Bill creates a bespoke planning and railway regulatory regime for Crossrail. Were a TWA order subsequently sought for an extension to Crossrail—say to Reading or Ebbsfleet—or for a new Crossrail facility such as a new station, that order could not necessarily apply the same regime established by the Bill to those works, because TWA orders, as a form of delegated legislation, are limited in what can be done by way of modifying the application of legislation.
That is not to suggest that a TWA order could not extend Crossrail if this provision did not exist. If a decision were taken to extend Crossrail to Ebbsfleet or Reading, for example, it would be possible to do so under the existing powers to make TWA orders. It is simply that any extension would then have to be built under a different regime. The clause would simply allow any such TWA order to make the provision needed to ensure that any extension or new facility is subject to the same regime as the Crossrail scheme covered by the Bill.
I suspect that I should declare an interest in that I live alongside the railway line between Maidenhead and Reading. It has long been my contention, and that of other Members of the House, the business community and local councils, that Crossrail should extend to Reading. Given the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), I would be grateful if the Minister could make it clear that it is the Government’s absolute position that an extension to Reading would be possible simply by the exercise of a Transport and Works Act order, and that there would be no legal challenge based on the fact that that order did not involve the sort of consultation that has been necessary in relation to this Bill. A lot of comfort has been taken locally from the fact that an extension to Reading would be relatively easy because it could be done under a TWA order. I am concerned about the legal questions that have now been raised.
The right hon. Lady is correct in her assumption. As I think I said in the Public Bill Committee, the Government are committed to making a decision on the safeguarding of the route from Maidenhead to Reading for future possible extension of Crossrail to Reading. I want to make it absolutely clear that when we make that announcement on the safeguarding, it will not represent any change at all to the Government’s position on the construction of Crossrail under the Bill. It will terminate at Maidenhead, and regardless of whether we safeguard the route to Reading, there are absolutely no plans to extend construction to Reading. However, she is correct in her assumption that that can be done through an order under the Transport and Works Act. She asked whether I could be certain that the decision would face no legal challenge. I am confident that such an order would result in no successful legal challenge; whether an unsuccessful legal challenge is made is another matter.
We believe that the structure that I have described makes perfect sense. It would be confusing and unhelpful if one regime applied to parts of Crossrail and another applied to other parts. There are safeguards: certain provisions of the Bill should not be applied, such as those dealing with the extension of compulsory purchase powers to listed buildings, buildings in conservation areas and ancient monuments. Those issues are more appropriately dealt with under the TWA order process, in which the circumstances of the proposals for the extensions, and the objections to them, will be considered. Of course, any TWA order that would apply to the Crossrail Bill regime would follow the normal procedure for such orders. Those affected would have the opportunity to object to any aspects of the Crossrail Bill regime proposed to be applied by an order, and to have their concerns heard by an independent inspector as part of the TWA order process.
I do not see how I could justify asking Parliament to set up another Select Committee to hear petitions, when objections can be dealt with perfectly satisfactorily in a public inquiry. There is nothing remarkable about the works needed for extensions to Crossrail. Similar works in England and Wales have for many years been successfully dealt with by means of the TWA order process, and there has been full public involvement. Clause 57 merely ensures that if extension is merited and approved under the TWA order process, the regime will be consistent with the Bill.
Another point that the hon. Member for Wimbledon may want to consider when deciding whether to withdraw the amendment is that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 did not contain a provision for a station at Stratford International, but when the proposal was added to the scheme, it was done under a TWA order.
I have said already that I think the 1996 Act was a fine piece of legislation from a fine Government, but it is not true that all pieces of fine legislation cannot be improved later by the scrutiny of the House.
I listened carefully to what the Minister said. I have no wish to incur the cost of setting up another hybrid Bill Committee to consider any extension to the route; that was not the purpose of my amendments. My purpose was to ensure that we were as certain as we could be that if different procedures applied to different parts of the Crossrail route, and that route was extended, there was no real possibility of a successful legal challenge. The Minister rightly said that he could not be certain that he would not be subject to a legal challenge, although it might fail. I was reassured that he has clearly taken good advice. He is happy to tell the House that he is convinced that although differing regimes would apply to different parts of the route, an extension can be built under the Transport and Works Act, and there is no reasonable prospect of a successful challenge. That was the reassurance I sought, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister signed the treaty this afternoon in breach of the European scrutiny resolution of the House of Commons of 17 November 1998, which was passed by this Government. The resolution clearly states:
“No Minister of the Crown should give agreement in the Council or in the European Council to any proposal for European Community legislation . . . which is still subject to scrutiny”,
“any reference to agreement to a proposal includes . . . political agreement.”
It is possible for a Minister to give agreement in circumstances in which
“he decides that for special reasons agreement should be given”,
but he has to explain those reasons
“in every such case, to the European Scrutiny Committee at the first opportunity after reaching his decision”.
In accordance with the resolution of 17 November 1998, therefore, and because the European Scrutiny Committee has a duty to the House to ensure that the Standing Orders of the House are complied with, I ask you to consider my point of order and to ensure that the Prime Minister comes to the European Scrutiny Committee and explains himself.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I do not need to remind the House that this substantial Bill enables the construction of the Crossrail scheme—a scheme that will have an enormous effect on hundreds of thousands of people. As right hon. and hon. Members present know, the Bill was first introduced on 22 February 2005 and has been carried over and reintroduced a further three times since then.
The Bill received its Second Reading in this place on 19 July 2005 and the Select Committee, so ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), commenced its work on 17 January 2006. Having sat for 21 months and heard some 200 petitions, the Select Committee published its special report on 23 October 2007. Once again, I place on record my sincere thanks to all the members of the Committee for their perseverance. I am sure right hon. and hon. Members will agree that the Bill is a better piece of legislation following the Committee’s scrutiny.
Rather more routinely, the Bill was then scrutinised by a Public Bill Committee which, after four good humoured and entertaining sittings, reported on Tuesday 27 November. On Third Reading, hon. Members will be asked to approve the Bill and, in so doing, approve the building of Crossrail. Before that question is put to them, I recognise that it is important that they are given a full understanding of the special considerations that apply in a case such as this, where the House is being asked to approve a project that will have significant environmental impacts. I fear that this involves a rather technical explanation, for which I apologise in advance.
In this connection, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) raised with me specific concerns about the parliamentary procedures for the Bill, in the light of correspondence from a group calling themselves the coalition and their legal representatives. I can confirm that I and my officials have read the correspondence and taken advice. I am content that the procedure is compatible with the relevant EC obligations.
The environmental impact assessment directive requires that decision-making bodies should give consent to development projects likely to have a significant effect on the environment only after assessment of those environmental effects has been carried out. To that end, the directive sets out a procedure to be followed that requires a proper assessment of the likely significant environmental impacts of a project, which is published in the environmental statement; proper consultation of interested parties, including the public, on the environmental statement; that the views of the consultees should be taken into account, and that the decision whether or not to consent to the development should be given publicly, with the reasons for the decision. The environmental statement for Crossrail was published in February 2005. It has since been supplemented by a number of additional volumes, reflecting changes to the project made during the parliamentary process or additional information that became available later. Responses to the consultation exercise on the environmental statement were published in Command Papers issued in July 2005 and last month. We also published a third Command Paper last month; it summarised the work done to assess, control and mitigate the environmental impacts of Crossrail and the reasons why the Government continue to take the view that the project is worthy of their support.
I deposited a written statement before the House on 20 November to draw hon. Members’ attention to those documents and to the obligations placed on this House, as the decision-making body for Crossrail, by the environmental impact assessment directive. I especially draw attention to appendix A of Cm. 7250. It summarises the Government’s reasons for urging this House to endorse its proposals for Crossrail, notwithstanding the unavoidable environmental impacts of such a project, on which subject I shall say more in a moment.
It is now for right hon. and hon. Members to decide, in the light of the information provided by the Government and the views expressed by interested parties, whether the project should be allowed to proceed, taking into account its environmental effects. When considering that question, right hon. and hon. Members will no doubt bear in mind the excellent work done by the Select Committee, which considered many environmental issues as part of the process. Indeed, the Select Committee process resulted in a number of changes to the project, many of which helped to reduce Crossrail’s likely environmental impacts.
However, the remit of the Committee did not permit it to consider all the environmental issues raised by petitioners. This House instructed the Committee to report separately on those further issues so that hon. Members could consider all views raised on the Crossrail project. The Committee issued its special report in October, and it included a chapter on environmental issues. Hon. Members will wish to consider whether any matters raised there, in the environmental statement, in the consultation responses or in any direct representations from their constituents lead them to conclude that the project should not be granted consent.
For my part, I am satisfied that the Crossrail project is in the wider public interest. It is not possible to build a large public transport infrastructure project in a densely populated area without some adverse impacts on those living and working on or near the intended route. Those impacts will include noise and various adverse effects on the townscape, landscape, visual amenity, heritage, archaeology, traffic and transport, as well as on certain businesses and local communities. In the Government’s view, those effects are outweighed by the benefits that Crossrail will bring—not just to the United Kingdom as a whole, but to the local communities that will benefit from improved transport connections.
The Government do not take lightly the environmental impacts of the project and I draw hon. Members’ attention to the complex package of controls, mitigation and compensation measures put in place to reduce and mitigate the potential adverse impacts. They include changes to the project, made during the Select Committee process, that reduce environmental impacts; Bill provisions requiring detailed consents and approvals from relevant bodies such as local planning authorities; and the obligations to be placed on the Crossrail-nominated undertaker in the environmental minimum requirements, including a range of undertakings and assurances addressing environmental concerns.
On the plus side of the balance sheet, Crossrail has the potential to improve the lives of commuters as nothing has before. It will provide London and the south-east with a world-class railway, delivering high-capacity mainline rail services to and through the heart of the City and west end. It will provide a new fleet of trains, operating a 24 trains-an-hour peak service in both directions through central London, carrying some 200 million passengers a year. Crossrail has a strong economic case; the benefit-to-cost ratio is 1.8:1. We estimate that, in addition, Crossrail will generate cash benefits to the UK gross domestic product of at least £20 billion. Others have suggested that those benefits to the national economy could be substantially higher.
It goes without saying that Crossrail will significantly increase the capacity of the rail network into and across London. It is expected to add 21 per cent. and 54 per cent. to rail capacity to the City and the Isle of Dogs respectively, thereby relieving congestion and overcrowding on the existing national rail and underground networks. It will support the development of London as a world city and in its role as the financial centre of Europe and the United Kingdom.
The improved east-west rail access into and across London from the east and south-east regions will also support local and national Government policy for economic development and regeneration, particularly in the Lea valley and Thames Gateway, attracting some additional 80,000 jobs to regeneration areas.
If my right hon. Friend will forgive me, I should like to continue.
Those are the key benefits. I could, of course, say far more about the benefits of Crossrail and the potential adverse environmental impacts, but I think—I hope that the House will agree—that I have already spoken for quite long enough. I now urge right hon. and hon. Members to express their views on this matter. I hope that they will agree that the overall balance of benefits to disbenefits is such that this project deserves their wholehearted support. I commend the Bill to the House.
I thank the Minister at the outset for his confirmation that he has had the opportunity to look at the legal advice sent to us by a group calling itself the coalition and its legal advisers and that after being able to make his speech without intervention he satisfies all legal requirements in that regard. I hope that that is helpful to the whole House.
Today the Bill finishes one part of its lengthy procession through the House. It was first introduced in 2005 and received its Second Reading in July of that year. It was subject to the hybrid Bill procedures, with two Committee stages in both Houses, the Select Committee to hear petitions and then, more routinely, the Public Bill Committee. The Select Committee first sat in January 2006 and had more than 100 sittings—[Interruption.] I am underestimating that, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley), or perhaps it just felt like that.
The Chairman of the Select Committee uses the right word.
Closing submissions to the Select Committee were made in July 2007, and to enable it to continue its work we had two carry-over motions on the Floor of the House. The Bill then wound its way through to the Public Bill Committee, where, as the Minister said, we had four good-humoured sittings. None the less, proper scrutiny was carried out. To ensure that, Her Majesty’s Opposition tabled some 70 amendments and two new clauses. It is a source of considerable pride to Her Majesty’s Opposition that the Minister found that he could support, if in a slightly differently worded way, at least one of our amendments, which found its way on to today’s amendment paper. The Bill will now proceed to the other place and go through the same stages, although I am sure that Members there will be pleased to hear that it will not, as I understand it, be subject to a Select Committee procedure as lengthy as it was in this House. Nevertheless, today represents a significant step forward in Crossrail’s development.
Even given its lengthy proceedings, the Committee always treated my constituents with freshness and great attentiveness. That contrasts strongly with Crossrail itself, which, even in dealing with a relatively small and trivial matter such as minimising the effects of parking during the construction, seemed very reluctant, according to my local council, to come to any definitive decisions. That is worrying. If it was prepared to do something as relatively trivial as that, it would ease people’s minds as to whether it is an organisation that is as willing to listen as the Select Committee was.
Of course, I am not here to answer for the undertakers of the Bill, or for the Secretary of State, but my hon. Friend’s point is well made. I am sure that it will have been heard by the nominated undertakers. He makes the point, as has everyone in the House today, that the Select Committee has done an amazing job. We are all thankful for that, principally because we were not on the Committee.
The Conservative party’s position has been clear throughout the Bill’s parliamentary stages. It was stated initially by my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), and it has also been stated by the shadow Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers), and myself, on numerous occasions in this House and other places. We have always supported Crossrail in principle, but we needed to be certain of the funding, and we needed to be certain that the funding package was robust.
On 5 October, the Government announced the funding package in what seemed some undue haste, before the Prime Minister changed his mind about a general election. It is most regrettable that during all of our scrutiny, we have not had the chance to discuss the funding package in any real depth, notwithstanding the Minister’s generosity in putting at our disposal the heads of agreement between the Mayor and the Secretary of State. The Minister was also kind enough to brief myself and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer).
However, we need to understand exactly the consequences of this package and its robustness. The Mayor of London intends to levy a supplementary rate of 2 per cent. on businesses throughout London, and there will be relief for small businesses. He will raise £3.5 billion, or more precisely he is going to raise £3.5 billion in debt. However, the supplementary level can take place only, and I quote from the heads of agreement, when
“such consultation as may be required is undertaken”.
That touches on my point about our inability to scrutinise matters, for what is
“such consultation as may be required”?
Who is going to be consulted? Where will the results be accessible?
There are large grants from the Department for Transport and Transport for London, which come to close to £8 billion. If any rational decision is to be taken, one needs to be able to scrutinise those grants. There are also very large contributions in the funding package from developers and sums raised from the sale of land. Again, it would be helpful if we were able to scrutinise the robustness of the whole package.
I say to the Minister that Crossrail has our support, and it will continue to have it. However, we questioned the financing previously. We questioned it at the time of the referral to the Lyons inquiry and that whole debacle; during consideration of the carry-over motion; and, where we could do so in some minor, ingenious way, in Committee. I have questioned it again this afternoon by attempting to introduce a new clause. We will continue to question the package to ensure its robustness.
The Minister will also know—we alluded to this earlier—that we raised the question of the right to consultation several times in Committee. Notwithstanding the legal questions raised by the coalition, and the Minister’s reassuring answer, I have been approached latterly by representatives of Smithfield market tenants. That process reflects something that we discussed in Committee, which is the right to compensation. That right has been confirmed, but people are concerned that there has been no further discussion about the sums that may be granted. Those making representations to the Committee were assured that they would be compensated for the costs of going before the Committee and of making submissions. Again, there has been no further discussion with the people who made those petitions about the substance of that compensation. It would be helpful if the Minister—either in his closing remarks or by some other method—made clear the Government’s intent on those two points. None the less, Crossrail is important to London and what benefits London will benefit the United Kingdom.
I have already mentioned the commitment and hard work of the Select Committee and of other hon. Members. I note that the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) is in his place. During the Bill’s passage, we have had the chance to consider what would be included on the Crossrail route and, at times, to make sensible decisions for the greater value and benefit of the scheme. That was highlighted in our debates about Woolwich station. They led to the Government changing their position and allowing a Select Committee to consider the matter, and to an innovative funding solution. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will confirm my comments in his speech, but I believe that Woolwich station will make a valid contribution to the regenerative effect of Crossrail on the Thames Gateway. It is to the credit of our parliamentary procedures that we were able to achieve what we did.
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the Select Committee’s success in persuading the Government to change their mind on Woolwich. However, another early victory occurred when the Committee put its foot down about the ticket hall arrangements at Liverpool Street station. The Government have agreed that the largest proposals for a ticket hall should be incorporated in the scheme. The Select Committee has prevented chaos at that station by advancing its cause.
My hon. Friend is right. I know that he was a valued member of the Select Committee.
Crossrail is essential for London and the United Kingdom. It will enable London to remain a truly international, world city and the global leader in financial services. One can take economic estimates how one likes, but it is estimated that GDP could benefit by some £30 billion, of which £12 billion will go directly to the Treasury in tax receipts. I am sure that that is another reason for the Government’s support for the Bill. I have no doubt that Crossrail will significantly benefit the United Kingdom. Conservative Members wish the Bill a swift passage through the other place and beyond, so that the first sod can be cut.
I shall be brief, but I do not want the moment to pass without congratulating my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport on his success in bringing this important, long and complex Bill to the point at which it should receive a Third Reading today and then pass on to the other place and complete its parliamentary passage.
The Bill is important and should bring substantial benefits to London. Without it, London’s economic growth—and, indeed, its transport policy—would face serious questions. Without Crossrail, the outlook for London’s transport in 20 years would be much more challenging, with serious transport and environmental consequences. When we consider environmental issues, we should be aware that without Crossrail, London’s future could be bleak, with serious traffic congestion and the consequent environmental degradation. We should be conscious of that wider environmental context when considering the short-term adverse impacts during the construction phase.
I am conscious of that in my constituency, especially in Woolwich, which has probably suffered more than most London boroughs in the past 20 to 30 years from economic decline and deindustrialisation. The result has been relatively high poverty and deprivation and a need for new investment. It is noticeable that the works currently taking place to bring the docklands light railway into Woolwich have provoked few complaints or criticisms. I have received only a small number, despite the huge disruption that that major engineering work is causing the area. The reason is simple: the work is bringing enormous benefits to a deprived area, which will benefit from communication across the Thames through the docklands light railway to London City airport and beyond. That will be a helpful economic driver.
By contrast, Crossrail will be an enormous benefit because the fast connection to Canary Wharf, central London and through to Heathrow will make possible investment that was previously thought impossible in Woolwich. That is why there was such enormous feeling in Woolwich across all sections of the community—the business community, the local population and all others, including our neighbours in surrounding areas—about the importance of the Crossrail station, which was one of the great achievements of the Select Committee. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and his colleagues on the Committee for recognising the importance of the Crossrail station at Woolwich and insisting that it be incorporated in the Bill.
I pay tribute, too, to my hon. Friend the Minister on the Government’s acceptance of the case and on their recognition that, through an innovative funding regime involving a private sector contribution to the station at Woolwich, it was possible to amend the Bill in a way compatible with the economic objective of delivering the entire Crossrail project cost-effectively. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) has referred to the innovative financing of the scheme and to the contribution that it will make to the Thames Gateway. We should all be pleased about what has been achieved on the financing, which will help to ensure the greater success of the Crossrail project and its contribution to the Thames Gateway in general, and to Woolwich in particular.
I am conscious of the time, and will endeavour to make my comments brief. Like others who served on the Public Bill Committee, I am in awe of hon. Members who spent nearly two years on the Select Committee. I pay direct tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh), who sat on that Committee for the Liberal Democrats and, I believe, even volunteered for it. That must surely buy him a lot of freedom from purgatory. The Bill now heads on to the other place, where there is significant expertise. I understand that a number of Members in the other place will relish the hybrid stage, so perhaps there is much more to happen to the Bill.
We as a party have long supported Crossrail. We would have loved it to go to Reading in the west and to Stansted in the east, but the project has at least made its beginnings, and will be crucial to ensuring that London continues its economic vibrancy.
I should like to make some brief comments under three headings. Funding remains a significant concern to us. Transparency is important, not just to allow general discussion, but because it brings a discipline to a project. One only has to consider the experiences of the public-private partnership and Metronet to see how much that kind of discipline is needed. As the Bill—and, I hope, the project—proceed, we would like some clarity about the sources of funds and how they will be used and applied.
The innovative financing, in the form of a levy on business, fits the direction of travel that we have often considered for infrastructure projects. We would have preferred something targeted much more on the direct beneficiaries, as it were, of the economic bounce that will come from the project. The levy being used in this case is a rather blunt instrument, but the general direction of travel is crucial, and should provide an example of how large infrastructure projects could be structured in future.
However, one issue that remains important to us has not been discussed today. We would consider including a sizeable contingency in the £16 billion project being presented. On behalf of London fare payers and London businesses, we must press the Government to ensure that if there is an underspend, the clawback and savings will be returned, first to London fare payers and then to the London business community.
I have two quick comments to make on the impact of the project. We understand that the issue of freight will return at the hybrid stage, but I want to underscore its significance now. London needs a number of projects. Because of long delays in decision making, they are now beginning to move together, and that process must be managed.
Finally, I want to raise the issue of blight, which goes beyond this project but is also inherently part of it. The opportunity has been missed to present a new mechanism for dealing with the blight of major infrastructure projects. I would recommend to the Minister that, as he talks to his colleagues in the Department for Transport, he take a look at BAA’s property market bond scheme. I really recommend BAA as an exemplar in this regard. The scheme provides a mechanism for widely reducing blight impact, rather than simply in the narrow sense in which compensation is provided under Government legislation.
I have been conscious throughout the passage of the Bill that we have to get it right. It seems that every project that comes up steps up to the plate and becomes a template for the next project, and we see constant references back. The work that has been done to try to improve this legislation should have long-term consequences not only for this project but for the many rail projects that I hope we shall see in future, as Crossrail usurps the channel tunnel rail link as the touchstone project for the next phase of construction.
It has been noted that £16 billion is a very large sum of money, but the value and benefit of Crossrail to the London economy—and, therefore, to the UK economy—is crucial. I am delighted to have been part of a process that I hope will move the project into something close to its final stage.
As one of those who did two years of penal servitude on the Select Committee on the Bill, I could speak at considerable length now that I am free. Some of us had become so institutionalised by the end of that process that we actually volunteered to go back inside and serve on the Public Bill Committee. None the less, I shall try to keep my remarks brief and simply make some fairly sharp points.
The Minister has talked about the enormous benefits to the economy that Crossrail is likely to bring. He mentioned a figure of about £20 billion; the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) spoke of about £30 billion. Who knows what it will be? We do know that it will be very substantial indeed. Crossrail is a major infrastructure project, of vital importance not only to the capital but to the national economy. It is very much to be welcomed. Obviously, a lot of regeneration could result from it, and many jobs will be created during its construction. It will provide a vital east-west link across the capital, without which the existing transport infrastructure would run the real risk of clogging up to the point of coming to a standstill.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) referred to one of the remaining issues as the Bill leaves this House and goes on to the other place. That was freight, and she was quite right to draw attention to it. Freight was one of the issues to which the Select Committee drew specific attention in its report. We said that we expected there to be continuing discussions about the impact of Crossrail on freight, both east and west of the capital, and we hoped that it would be given further consideration. I know that the Department has given it further consideration and is working on possible solutions, as is the industry more widely, so that when the Bill is debated in the other place, sufficient reassurance can be given that the vital interests of freight will be protected as Crossrail comes into operation.
Other hon. Members have mentioned some of the continuing concerns expressed by those who have petitioned against the Bill. The Smithfield market traders were specifically mentioned; I know that other members of the Select Committee will have received letters from them and from others about their lingering concerns about the impact of the scheme on their interests. It is worth reassuring those people again that they will have the opportunity to petition against the Bill in the other place, should they wish to do so. They will have the opportunity to be heard in the other place, if they feel that their interests have not been adequately protected by this House. Similar procedures will be followed as the hybrid Bill goes through its various stages.
It is worth saying, by way of a brief digression, that the Select Committee did not consider the overall merits of the scheme. The Bill comes to the hybrid Bill Committee as something that, having been given its Second Reading, has already been approved in principle by the House. We were aware of that in Committee, but not all the petitioners were aware of it. There is no doubt that some who wanted to petition against aspects of the principle of the Bill or alternative routes or the potential to go further out to East Anglia, to Reading or beyond found it somewhat frustrating that that was not within our remit.
It is worth putting on record the fact that one aspect of the hybrid Bill procedure—there are many great strengths to it—is not in place now and might be worth considering before the House deals with the next hybrid Bill. The procedure might be strengthened if hybrid Bill Committees had the same facility as Public Bill Committees now have—to hear initial evidence in order to set the context for later consideration. That, or perhaps further consideration of evidence in advance by the departmental Select Committee, might have enabled any frustrations to be dealt with at an earlier stage. That might also have enabled the hybrid Bill Committee to have looked at the outset at some of the more general issues that we had to return to on a number of occasions during our hearings—for example, ground-borne noise or the compensation code, which we had to learn about rapidly. Those matters could have been dealt with initially by hearings with expert advice, which might have allowed us to deal even more expeditiously with the petitions in front of us.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the limitations of the hybrid Bill procedure. Members of the Committee felt a lot of frustration because they could not look into alternative scenarios at either end of the route. Being able to do that would not have been disruptive to the hybrid Bill procedure. I would like to support the hon. Gentleman in his view that if another hybrid Bill comes along, revisions to the procedure could be made to enable the Committee to add further value to its deliberations.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that contribution. It is clear that the frustration was shared by other members of the Committee. I wonder whether the Modernisation Committee might like to look further into the hybrid Bill procedure—quite an unusual procedure for Parliament, but one that can be of very considerable significance when it crops up.
Let me pick out two of the most significant changes that the hybrid Bill Committee was able to make. The hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) has already referred to one of them—the significant improvements to the Liverpool Street station plans. We rapidly concluded that what was being proposed was not workable. I believe that what was ultimately put forward—I recall that we learned a lot about Pedroute and various other ways of looking at such schemes—meets the needs of the City of London Corporation, which petitioned, British Land and others. The arrival of Crossrail will enable that station to improve even beyond its current situation.
The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) referred to the second substantial change—the inclusion of a station at Woolwich. We were absolutely convinced that the costs were enormously outweighed by the benefits, particularly the regeneration of the area. I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend—ably supported by his parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) who made an equally strong case—for pressing so strongly for this station. I also pay tribute, as have others, to the Minister and his Department for the responsive way in which they dealt with this issue and the constructive way in which they set about finding a funding package to enable this enormously worthwhile station to be built at Woolwich.
To conclude, when many of us were appointed to the Select Committee almost exactly two years ago, we felt that we might have been appointed to the parliamentary equivalent of breaking rocks. In fact, I am delighted that we were proved wrong about that, as it turned out to be very worthwhile. I am delighted that we have produced a scheme that will be of enormous benefit to London. It is not, of course, just for London; it will be a vital piece of national infrastructure, which will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to the economy.
As I said earlier, I think that the Bill has been very well scrutinised by the House, and very constructively amended by the Government. I hope that it will now be approved by the House, and will permit the construction of what will unquestionably be an exciting and vital public transport link. I trust that it will proceed to the other place, perhaps to be still further improved but certainly to produce, at the end of the day, a very worthwhile project.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby), who has proved to be a wise and experienced counsellor on matters of this kind. I am sure that his local government experience created that ability. I also pay tribute to the Chairman of the hybrid Bill Committee, the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), who led us with humour, gentleness and kindness, and managed to keep our interest going when most of us were flagging. His work ought to be recognised, and tribute should be paid to it.
Sadly, I cannot share the confidence and enthusiasm expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), for I have sizeable doubts. In my defence, I will add only that I had those doubts before the scheme began, and the work that I did in Committee did not change that; indeed, it rather strengthened my doubts, which relate to three specific issues. I am concerned about what I consider to be the poor costing regime used for the project to date, and referred to numerous times both in Committee and in the Bill; I fear that Crossrail will remove the focus from vital projects in other parts of the United Kingdom; and I am shocked at the lack of any attempt to put a cost on the blight and disruption that has been caused to London so far. Yet here we are, making a final decision.
All those matters have a direct impact on the end cost of the Bill and the economic return of the scheme. It strikes me as disturbing that we should make decisions in that financial environment, and I think that the next hybrid Bill should make it possible for us to consider those matters as well. That we have not been able to do so on this occasion seems to me to be a major oversight. I realise that it could have been slightly embarrassing for the Government, but preventing embarrassment for the Government is not the purpose of a hybrid Bill or indeed of this place. I should like my opinion to be recorded, and to be considered for the future.
The poor cost accounting for the project became obvious to me as the hybrid Committee’s deliberations continued, in two contexts. The first was floating track. More and more of it was demanded by petitioners and promised during our consideration, but the figures given for the amount of floating track and the increased cost that it would entail were extremely vague. I think it unacceptable that the House should make a final decision without an understanding of the true impact of those factors.
My real concern, however, relates to Woolwich station. If the project goes ahead, that station is vital. As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), the need for regeneration in the area is equally vital. The first estimate of the cost of a station was £350 million. I gained the impression that the cost had been pitched very high because the promoters did not want the station. As we whittled away at the problem, however, the estimated cost fell to £200 million. By 31 October it was £186 million, and the final cost turned out to be about £172 million. If that is an example of the costing used for this project, I despair. It does not give me much confidence.
As for my fear that the focus will be removed from other projects, the Financial Times has already made the point that Crossrail covers roughly the distance between Leeds and Manchester but a northern Crossrail has not been considered, although it could have a tremendous impact on the whole economy of the north, an area on which the Government say they wish to make an impact. Many people would say that such a project could be implemented at a considerably lower cost than Crossrail. There are many other examples. The truth is that London has attracted many major infrastructure projects, and the rest of the country is deeply concerned about how much resource and finance will be left for their own particular projects and concerns.
Let me turn to the important matter of the final costings. Many Government schemes lead taxpayers to despair: the initial price is very acceptable, and we make the decision on the basis of that acceptable price, and we then find to our horror that the final cost has doubled or trebled—and sometimes it is four times as great as the initial estimate. I do not wish to embarrass the Government too much.
I accept that, but I note that the economic return of almost every British Rail project was non-existent, and I am particularly concerned about that in terms of Crossrail. I will address that shortly.
We in Northampton are immensely concerned because we are seeking infrastructure to support what we consider to be a sizeable dumping of houses on our county, and we are not getting it.
I understand that, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am trying to make the point that the rest of the country is concerned about this project, and rightly so.
My final point is on the costing of Crossrail. I have made the point about the rise in the cost of the Olympics from £1.8 billion to about £9.3 billion. In 2002, it was estimated that Crossrail would cost about £10 billion. That rose last year to some £16 billion. It is estimated that the cost of Crossrail will increase by £1.5 billion a year for the next—[Interruption.] I will not refrain from saying this, if Madam Deputy Speaker allows me to say it. It is estimated that the cost of Crossrail will increase by £1.5 billion a year, to about £22 billion by the time the thing starts. I will bet any Member in the Chamber that that figure will end up at between £30 billion and £35 billion. If that is the case, I wonder whether the economic return will be as the Minister and the Government say it will be.
I have serious concerns about the project—as, I believe, do many people in the rest of the country. Would I as a businessman invest, on the basis of the evidence we have been given? Certainly not, because I believe there would be a real risk of my business going bust. Yet that is exactly what the taxpayer is being forced to do. As an MP, should I vote for such a project on such a basis? I personally believe not. I know that it is too late for the Government to change their mind, but I want to put it on record that I believe that this will turn out to be an immensely costly exercise for both London and the rest of the country, and that the economic return will be nowhere near that which the Government project.
I will be very brief. The hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) referred to blight and destruction to London in the construction of Crossrail. There will be even more blight and destruction to London—particularly in respect of the jobs of Londoners and the congestion and pollution caused by inadequate rail services—if Crossrail is not built. It will bring an increase in capacity of more than 40 per cent. of the additional rail capacity that London needs.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the costs. His figures are based on different financial years, and the reality is that under Doug Oakervee and Cross London Rail Links Ltd there has been a significant reduction in some of the costs, in particular by getting rid of the Romford depot at one end and by redesigning the project in many ways, such as to reduce the amount of spillage from Hanbury street in Tower Hamlets. It is not true that the costs have been escalating. In fact, they have been tightly controlled, which is why we have managed to get this package agreed, with contributions from London business—which will benefit enormously from Crossrail—from the Government and also, inevitably, from the fares.
I do not have time to give way. The hon. Gentleman spoke for a long time, and some of my colleagues also wish to speak.
As the chairman of the all-party group on Crossrail, I am delighted that at last, after 15 years in this House, I see a Government who are bringing about a situation where we can vote for the Third Reading of this Bill and send it on its way to the other place. We will be able to start the construction of Crossrail at the end of this decade, and by 2017, my constituents in Goodmayes, Ilford, Seven Kings and Chadwell Heath will be able to get on Crossrail trains from extended platforms in redesigned stations and go across to Heathrow. They will be able to cut their journey times across central London by a third. The whole of east London will benefit from regeneration as a result of these proposals, and therefore I am delighted to give my support to the Bill.
First, may I pay tribute and give thanks to all hon. Members who served on the Committees for this Bill, particularly those who undertook what the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby) described as the “penal servitude” of the hybrid Bill Committee. Their careful attention to the issues raised by petitioners from my constituency, of whom I was one, led to improvements to the Bill for my constituency, particularly for residents living close to Guards Club park. They have also brought about improvements in relation to works around Maidenhead station and they have reduced the impact—sadly, there will still be an impact—on Brunel’s famous Maidenhead railway bridge, which was so wonderfully captured by J. M. W. Turner.
I want to raise three points about the Bill, the first of which is about the hybrid Bill Committee. As the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) made clear, the hybrid Bill Committee was not allowed to consider the extension of the route. I believe that that directly contravened undertakings given in this Chamber by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was the then Transport Secretary. I am concerned that the Committee was not able to consider the extension of the route, because the overall route is an important aspect of Crossrail.
That brings me to my second point. Many hon. Members have referred to the economic benefit of Crossrail. Crossrail will have a great economic benefit, but we will miss out on even more economic benefit if it is not extended to Reading in the west. If one looks at this in a strategic transport sense, it makes sense to extend the line to a transport hub, which Reading clearly is. I know that that view is shared by the two Members of Parliament who represent Reading, and it is certainly shared by Wokingham borough council, Reading borough council and the Thames Valley economic partnership, which represents large-scale businesses in the Thames Valley area. The Government are missing out on something, because the scheme could be even better if it were extended to Reading.
My third point is about the potential impact of Crossrail on services on the First Great Western line, to which I referred on Report. The Minister knows my concern that if Crossrail comes and the First Great Western service is not continued as it is today, my constituents in Maidenhead could find themselves not as the recipients of a fast service and semi-fast services into Paddington, as they are today, but simply on the end of a metro service. The time taken to get to Paddington from Maidenhead would thus double from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Crossrail could benefit my constituents in Maidenhead enormously if they could board a fast service to Paddington and stay on across London to Canary Wharf and elsewhere.
Sadly, that benefit will not be provided as the services are envisaged. My concern is that unless the Government are willing to accept, when the time comes, that the service specification for the franchise for First Great Western should not be reduced, given that Crossrail will serve Maidenhead, my constituents will find this of disbenefit, rather than of benefit. That would be even more the case for my constituents in Twyford, which is between Maidenhead and Reading, because if the Crossrail line does not extend from Maidenhead to Reading, they would find themselves with a significantly reduced service and really lose out as a result of Crossrail. Crossrail could be so much more of a benefit to the UK, to the south-east and to my constituents if the Government examined carefully the service provision on First Great Western when Crossrail comes and looked at the issue of extending it to Reading.
The arguments on Crossrail have been well rehearsed in several previous debates, so I shall be brief. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and all the members of the Committee on the way in which they went about their business. There was a strong argument from people in south-east London, ably led by my neighbour and right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), in favour of the station at Woolwich, making that town centre a major hub for the wider south-east London area around Greenwich and Bexley.
The Select Committee demonstrated the House at its best by listening to the arguments not only from hon. Members but from others who made representations on behalf of that station. They forced the Government to think again and were successful in achieving the inclusion of a Crossrail station at Woolwich in the scheme. That is very welcome.
I also thank my hon. Friend the Minister for the way in which he has conducted himself throughout the discussions, because he has shown a willingness to listen and an ability to articulate the difficult position that the Government were in on occasion. We have a satisfactory conclusion at the end of the day.
Crossrail is essential for the status of London as a world city. It will contribute 40 per cent. of the necessary increase in transport capacity that London needs if it is to continue to grow and contribute to the British economy. For those who are concerned by so much investment going into London, it is important to remember that London is a net exporter of money to the greater economy of the UK. In the Mayor’s submission to the spending review in 2004—“The Case for London”—he highlighted the fact that London exports more than £9 billion to other areas of the UK when public expenditure is calculated against taxes paid. The Corporation of London commissioned Oxford Economic Forecasting to put the case for London, and it highlighted the fact that the capital city imports £110 billion-worth of goods and services from other parts of the country, making London a net importer of resources, a world-class city and the driving force in the UK economy. London also has a catalytic effect on tourism, and financial and business services that benefit the wider country.
The case has been well made for Crossrail. It is essential not only for London, but for the UK’s wider economy, and the Government and the Select Committee have done an excellent job on behalf of us all. I hope that the Bill gets a fair wind in the other place and we see Crossrail constructed on time and to budget. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich said, I hope that my constituents will be able to catch a train at Woolwich and go all the way to Heathrow, non-stop. That will be very welcome for people from south-east London and we all look forward to that day.
In the few minutes that remain, it would be remiss of me, as Chairman of the Select Committee, if I did not pay due tribute to the staff of the House who worked alongside us. The Clerks worked diligently on the Bill. I also pay particular thanks to the Chairman of the Catering Committee—a very important and powerful person—because he helped the Committee by making staff available to provide refreshments to members of the Committee, and also the promoters and petitioners on the Bill. The staff provided refreshments through the months and years that the Committee sat. We are grateful to the cleaners, the Clerks, the police and the security staff, who all allowed us to do our job.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.
That the Housing Act 2004 (Commencement No. 10) (England and Wales) Order 2007 (S.I., 2007, No. 3308), dated 23 November 2007, be referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee.—[Alison Seabeck.]