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Railways: Crossrail

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 18 March 2010

Question

Tabled By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect to complete the compulsory purchase of the empty car park site at 10 Hayne Street, adjacent to Charterhouse Square, to allow completion of soil sampling to facilitate work on the Crossrail line.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question set against my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as a former member of the Crossrail committee

This Question was described by a noble Lord yesterday as quirky, but I hope that the Secretary of State will confirm that it is anything but quirky. It is very serious, as 10 Hayne Street may be the site of the missing anthrax burial ground that has been lost for 488 years, since Christ Church, Spitalfields and the church at Charterhouse Square refused to accept the bodies of the 282 victims of the anthrax outbreak that wiped out the whole population of Hayne Street at that time. That was of course under the Church of Rome, before Protestant common sense arrived.

I am still waiting for the question, my Lords. However, if the question was whether I accept that there is an issue that needs further study in respect of 10 Hayne Street, the answer is yes. Crossrail understands that there is a very small possibility of buried human remains being encountered during the works at 10 Hayne Street. The advice that it has taken from experts at the Museum of Archaeology and Porton Down is that it is highly unlikely that the works would release any anthrax spores or bacteria causing plague. However, further sampling work will be carried out by experts in July. The results of any tests will be made available to the noble Lord and I will be happy to discuss them with him when they are available.

My Lords, I declare an interest also as a former member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill. I am pleased to hear the Minister’s response that the compulsory purchase is going ahead, but given that there appear to be divisions between the Mayor of London and the leader of the Opposition about the future funding of Crossrail, may not much of the compulsory work that has to be undertaken to facilitate the development of Crossrail be in jeopardy? Is the Minister concerned about this and will he take steps to try to get some kind of cross-party agreement that Crossrail will proceed, so that the difficulties faced by London travellers will be eased?

My Lords, there is no division whatever on this side of the House as to the importance of Crossrail. Therefore, provided that the electorate have the good sense to return us to government, Crossrail will proceed.

Will the Minister confirm that the Question that he has just been asked by the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, was ventilated at the time of the inquiry into Crossrail and that there is no reason to suspect that it has not been taken seriously?

My Lords, perhaps I might ask the Minister, in relation not only to this site but to others where there may be archaeological remains or contamination, whether that is likely to put back the timetable for Crossrail.