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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Garel-Jones.]
Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) : I was pleased to hear the roars of approval as I rose to my feet. I shall begin by thanking the Minister's civil servants for providing me with the documents for which I asked at the beginning of the week. There is no need for the Minister to look frightened as that is probably the last time we shall agree during the debate.
The debate arises from the crisis in London's transport system. The system is in crisis because the roads are jammed, tubes and trains are overcrowded and unsafe and there is a shortage of buses which as often as not are stuck in the capital rather than moving. The Government's response has been irrational to the point of being perverse. For several years I worked in urban planning for the Government and was secretary to the joint urban planning group. I was astonished to see this ill-conceived plethora of unconnected piecemeal studies relating to different aspects in different areas of the transport system. Among those unconnected studies are the so- called London assessment studies. It is the east London assessment study that I wish to consider.
The 12 "stage 2A" options cover the area from Highgate to Tottenham, down to King's Cross and east to Hackney, and on to the Isle of Dogs. In the studies, that area is criss-crossed with road schemes--so much so that the map looks like a half-eaten plate of spaghetti. In Hackney, South, there is hardly a square yard of the constituency not covered by one or other of the road proposals. They extend from Graham road to Victoria park and from Shoreditch to Dalston. It is amazing to find that there are tens of thousands of homes within 200 metres of one or other of the road proposals in the 12 options set out by the consultants.
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury) : What my hon. Friend is beginning to outline is absolutely right. The Department of Transport is obviously keen to encourage cars to come into inner London when it should be reducing the volume of traffic. Even more worrying, the Department has now enlarged the area of the east London assessment study to include the area immediately around King's Cross in relation to development proposals now coming forward for King's Cross. Does that not increase the danger that my hon. Friend outlines?
Mr. Sedgemore : My hon. Friend is right to raise that matter. By coincidence, I have here a newspaper cutting referring to "M-way mayhem for King's Cross" and quoting the wise comments of my hon. Friend on that issue.
We do not want debate to be narrow and parochial. I have mentioned Hackney, but in the neighbouring borough of Haringey, which is not in the east London assessment study, 13,500 homes are within 200 metres of one or more of the proposals. In the whole area of ELAS more than 100,000 homes are within 200 metres of one or other of the proposals. Those homes are occupied by real people who see their houses threatened or foresee the environment ruined by noise, congestion and pollution. I am not alone in the House in being deluged with letters, many from pensioners desperately worried about being
Column 1336caught in the blight trap. It is astonishing that the Minister should have allowed the studies to take place in such a way that more than 100,000 families are concerned about the blight on their homes. Even Hitler never blighted that number of homes during the war.
The concept of this study has been wrong from the start. It looks at an artificial corridor but not at its place in the whole of London. Its terms of reference and the way in which it has been conducted are biased towards road building as a solution. The Government should put together a comprehensive long-term transport strategy for London.
That strategy should recognise that building new roads in London is environmentally disastrous, counterproductive and cannot conceivably meet the levels of suppressed demand for car use, as West Way has shown us all too clearly. It should also recognise that new road building is the most expensive option in both environmental and financial terms. If we look outside ELAS at the four major studies, we see the likelihood of ending up with no fewer than £3,500 million worth of tangled lunacy in terms of roads to be built in London. Hon. Members will appreciate that London is the first great city of modern times. It developed as villages coalesced, with the whole served first by canals, then railways, then buses, then trams. We must therefore accept that London cannot be transformed into a car-accessible city without knocking down most of what makes it attractive to live in.
There is a further conundrum. If London is to be a successful world city of the 21st century, as some of us in the Labour party wish, it must have an efficient transport system. The only way to make London a successful city of that kind is through a high level of investment in public transport, and traffic restraint. That investment must take place, not over one or five years, but over 10 years and more. We must spend not millions of pounds, tens of millions of pounds or hundreds of millions of pounds, but billions of pounds on public transport. That is what was done in Paris and that is what we should be doing.
Even New York has spent £1.4 billion a year to rehabilitate its underground sytem, not to mention sending us guardian angels to teach us about safety. We do not want the nonsense of 22 separate studies, and no doubt more to come, with all sorts of questionable criteria designed to produce arguments in favour of road building. With great respect to the Minister's boss, we do not want silly statements from the Secretary of State that improvement in public transport in London should be paid for by passengers in London and not taxpayers in Newcastle. That is a fatuous argument which shows no understanding of the taxation system, or of who pays or who benefits. It is clear that London is financing Newcastle's public transport system, not vice versa.
Column 1337London needs more than a plan for public transport. People and goods do not move about for the sake of it. London needs a transport plan which is integrated with a land use plan. My first major question to the Minister is this. Where is he getting the strategic advice for a sensible land use transportation survey? It looks to me as though Ove Arup had never seen a transportation survey and has no idea of the proper way to plan a road system.
It is also worth remembering that in order to streamline the city the Government abolished the Greater London Council--a major body which could have produced that transportation and land use plan. In spite of the difficulties, all the London boroughs and the City of London corporation have come up with unanimously agreed strategic planning advice for London. The agreement was made on 19 October 1988. I do not claim that that is a perfect solution, but it seems to go in the right direction. Certainly, it seems more intelligent and better than anything that the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment have offered.
It is clear that all Members in the area affected by the east London assessment study are united in opposition to road building solutions for London's transport problems
Sir Hugh Rossi : I am restricted by parliamentary convention as to the term that I can use to respond to the hon. Gentleman's statement. What he has said is as far from the truth as anything can be. That will be proved by the file on ELAS that my hon. Friend the Minister has. My reference to the ombudsman proves it. A petition that I have drafted for my constituents requiring a decision on the abandonment of Parkland walk, the matter which most affects my constituency, is with my constituents and I intend to present it to the House.
Mr. Sedgemore : I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has got that off his chest as it allows me to respond in kind. I know exactly which arguments the hon. Gentleman has because I have some of his correspondence to his constituents. It becomes clear from those letters that the hon. Gentleman is prepared to oppose the building of roads in areas where there are Conservative voters and where Conservative homes will be knocked down and he is prepared-- Sir Hugh Rossi rose--
Sir Hugh Rossi : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member who does not know my constituency to make a statement about its political composition? Two thirds of Parkland walk runs
Column 1338through an area which has a Labour majority, whereas the Archway road is in a marginal area. If I wanted to gain anything politically, I would support the Archway road and not Parkland walk.
Mr. Sedgemore : The hon. Gentleman has got that wrong. He is inventing a voting pattern for his constituency. It is extraordinary that the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment cannot come out against major road building solutions for London which will cause massive damage to the homes of his constituents.
[Interruption.] I have the letters. The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green may laugh, but I have his letters to Miss Sharon Litton and to Oliver Burton, and they are different from what the hon. Gentleman now says. It is no good writing one thing on paper and then denying it in the House. It is an astonishing way for the hon. Gentleman to treat his constituents. I attended a public meeting in his constituency at which hundreds of people were present. I am told that the hon. Gentleman was invited but, no doubt, he was too busy to go along. The consensus among his constituents at that meeting was that the hon. Gentleman was not doing the job that they expected of him.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is an Adjournment debate and it is the convention that the Minister and the hon. Member whose debate it is should agree to other hon. Members taking part. I was told that another hon. Member would formally take part. Is it possible to have some guidance or to develop a formal understanding on the division of time? At the moment we seem to be bogged down in a debate about a different constituency from the one represented by the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore).
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The usual convention is for the time to be divided equally. It is also a convention that Adjournment debates are not used by one hon. Member to make an attack upon another hon. Member because, clearly, the hon. Member who is the subject of the attack will not have an adequate opportunity to respond and defend himself. I very much hope that the conventions of Adjournment debates will be respected.
Mr. Sedgemore : I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would always go along with anything that you say. The Minister's intervention was crass because this debate is about the east London assessment study, which covers Hackney, Haringey, Islington and part of Camden.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point--I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman understood it--was about the convention of making time available for another hon. Member to take part in the debate. I am not absolutely certain that insulting me before I have had a chance to open my mouth is quite the way to answer a point of order. The point is whether the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) will have a chance to speak.
Column 1339whose Adjournment debate it is and for the Minister. I hope that the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) will bear that in mind.
Mr. Sedgemore : I am bearing in mind that this is the first Adjournment debate--I used to work in the Civil Service--that I have ever attended in which a Minister has tried to filibuster by making points of order. The hon. Gentleman might reflect on the properties of the constitution when he goes back to his Department. In my day, Ministers' integrity would not have allowed that kind of thing, and as a civil servant I should certainly have advised my Minister against it.
The people of Haringey need not worry too much. They are getting splendid back-up from councillor Nicky Gavron on their planning committee, who has done excellent work in putting forward Haringey's blueprint for transport. I hope that the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green will support councillor Gavron. Her concern to preserve all that is good in the local environment and to save the residents of Haringey from the death and destruction of urban motorways has been luminous, and her enthusiasm in explaining the problems to the people of Haringey unquenchable. The time and effort that she has put in has been a good lesson to us all. In the words of the poet Shelley, she is prepared
"To defy Power, which seems omnipotent"
and to fight to the last breath in her being for the residents and people of Haringey. I ask the Minister to watch her lips, for they say, "No more roads." What a pity it is that the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green cannot say, "No more roads."
While I am congratulating people--we are now getting into the harmony of the debate--I congratulate George Stern for his heroic efforts in opposing the Archway motorway proposals for the past 22 years. George has asked me to ask the Minister for a categorical assurance that the Archway proposals are dead today, and I do so. I also congratulate the campaigning zeal of the Haringey Gazette and the work of the Hackney public transport action committee, the Graham road neighbourhood association and the Hackney transport campaign. I specifically ask the Minister, if he is in better humour, to answer some questions. When the final ELAS reports come out later this year, will he give a categorical assurance that there will be full public consultation? Will he give an assurance that he and the Secretary of State will be prepared to meet the people of Islington, Haringey and Hackney to debate these issues? I have a letter from the Secretary of State which says that if he cannot get to them all, perhaps he should go to no meetings. That seems to suggest that Ministers will not come forward and engage in the kind of public debate that we want.
Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be a full public inquiry and that the inquiry will not be rigged in the sense that the inspector will be expected to come to a road-building solution before the inquiry starts? Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be a full debate in the House of Commons after the public inquiry? I should like to watch the Minister's lips and hear him say, "No through roads."
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Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) rose--
Ms. Abbott : I am grateful to my hon. Friend and to the Minister. There is much concern about this matter in my constituency, not just on the part of Labour voters, Conservative voters, council house tenants or house owners, but across the board. The Minister would do well to take seriously the feelings of the people of London. Reading the east London assessment study, one is bound to come to the conclusion that it is designed with the Chingford commuter in mind. It is designed not for the people who live in Richmond, Hornsey or Hackney but for those who want to commute to and from the suburbs as easily as possible. That is all very well, but there is a community in London. I shall deal with the people who live in the path of this road.
The local community is concerned about the proposed road scheme. The M25 experience shows that increasing road capacity without a global plan for transport results in roads becoming more clogged. If the Government are considering only speeding commuters from the suburbs to the city centre, mere road capacity will not meet the need. If the Government are considering the lives and environment of those who live in London, the ELAS study is extremely problematical. The Minister will be aware of the threat to homes and shops. He will be aware that communities living in the path of the proposed scheme feel threatened by planning blight and want to be sure of their future. Above all, the Minister should be aware that the people who live in London--be it Haringey, Hackney, Islington, Richmond or Hornsey --want the House to produce a multi-dimensional plan that takes into account all transport needs. People, especially women and those on low incomes, want more investment in public transport. It is not sufficient to produce large roads on which surburban commuters can whizz into the city. We want a comprehensive plan and investment in public transport. If I may strike a partisan note, we would like a tube station in Hackney. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) in hoping that when the plans are brought forward there will be genuine public consultation. 3.1 pm
Column 1341debate and suggested that it would be convenient for the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) to speak, I am left with little time to deal in depth with the east London assessment study.
I say to the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch that never in my 14 years in the House have I heard an hon. Member so misuse an Adjournment debate. He could have talked about the general issues affecting east London or just his constituency, but he sided with those who will sink to any form of abuse or worse when dealing with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). Yesterday, we had a debate on the west London assessment study. If I had to choose which of the four hon. Members by whom I should wish to be represented, the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch would not be my choice. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) spoke eloquently and forcefully for his constituents last night. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington showed that it is possible to advance the concerns of the borough properly. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch was talking--
The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch wrongly suggested that he has made more representations on the east London assessment study than my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green. If he is trying to give the impression that he is being more difficult than my hon. Friend, he is failing. The amount of effort made by the hon. Gentleman appears to be a couple of letters and some questions in the past week. His approach to the east London assessment study, his duties to his constituents and his remarks about my hon. Friend were out of place.
The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch has asked a number of questions over the past week, but has not mentioned the answer to one of them. The answer appears partly in the Hackney transport policies and programme. What was the cost of personal injury accidents in the east London assessment study area last year. The answer is £50 million.
The assessment studies have been going for four years and the results of stage one were generally welcomed. There were a number of issues in south London, north London and east London that helped to shape a number of people's prejudices. One issue that came out of stage one was the effect of traffic on residents. I agree with the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington that we should not be building roads in London especially for car commuters from outside London.
When I go back to the day of the launch of Auto Express, when I opened my mouth and put my foot in it, I said that I had no intention of using taxpayer's money to build extra roads so that commuters could come pouring in from the home counties or from outer London to inner
Column 1342London by car. [Interruption.] People criticised me, although I did not mention the word salmonella, because it was the next best thing. Did the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch say anything in my defence? No. He is a person who merely carps and criticises. I want the House to know that the cost of the assessment studies in stage one and stage two of the east London study, designed to find long-term solutions to severe transport problems in the area, is estimated at under £2 million. So the cost over four years is £2 million for long-term solutions compared with the road casualty cost of £50 million a year and if the hon. Gentleman has any criticism about that comparison, he is more hard-hearted than I thought he was.
I came to the House in 1975 and people used to point the hon. Gentleman out to me and say, "Here is the intellectual of the Labour party." I looked him up and found that he had worked for Bob Mellish. I understood then why he was called that. Given the choice, I should prefer to take the approach of Bob Mellish to defending the interests of people in London to the hon. Gentleman's. If I wanted to have an awkward Member of Parliament making representations to the Minister, I would choose my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green. He has been more difficult than I have sometimes found pleasant. We still need to work on through the studies to get to the end of stage two. The subject of the debate is the studies, and their objectives are, first, to promote access and mobility, which the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington would agree is worth considering. Secondly, it is to see how it is possible to bring more employment back into London and to support employment, economic growth and regeneration. Much of the east London assessment study shows the need and opportunities for regeneration. The same need is felt in the constituency of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). The third objective is to develop an efficient transport system. There have been calls for increased attention to public transport. We published transport statistics for London very recently and if any hon. Member would like a copy I shall arrange to send him or her one. The figures show that the increase in the use of public transport has been faster in London in the past six years than in any capital city in the past 40 or 50 years, except for Hong Kong when the mass transit railway was opened. Clearly, many of London's transport needs will have to be met by more rail development. But to those who say that public transport alone is the answer, I echo a remark that I made last night to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes about Richmond. With a possible rail route to come through my constituency, I do not see the public transport enthusiasts, of whom I am one, saying, "Don't worry about the impact locally." Building a railway line can be just as threatening as building a road.
Fourthly, we want to improve the environment. If we look at the main spine road through the assessment study area, it goes through the most run-down part of the area.
Column 1343to improve safety. We had a bit of distortion, if not exaggeration, from The Guardian on 11 July, two weeks after I gave my answer in the House. We went into some detail on this last night. The Guardian produced an editorial in January 1989 saying that the Government should spend billions of pounds on more roads. There is no prospect of the Government spending extra billions of pounds on roads in London that do not have substantial benefits in excess of their costs--and that includes having an appreciation of the environmental impact as well as the economic cost benefit. We want London to go into the next century with the prospect of having necessary through traffic on through roads and traffic calming in other areas. I have been out to dinner on several occasions with Socialist councillors in north London, where one almost needs a guide because councils have made it such a maze. One cannot get to the councillor's period house without having a guide.
Mr. Bottomley : Gibson square is a good example but I shall not name the councillors. If one considers such areas, there is rat-running galore as stage one says. We hope to get through to the end of stage two as fast as possible because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green keeps telling me, the uncertainty, as well as the threat, is difficult. My hon. Friend's campaign has hit
Column 1344television on occasions, which is more than one can say for the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch. The particular problem which my hon. Friend has referred to the ombudsman is one on which I do not believe that we have legislative authority to do as my hon. Friend wants. I have sympathy for his point of view, but I shall not argue the case and I am grateful that he has not.
We hope to emerge from stage two of the assessment studies with the uncertainty greatly reduced. At the moment, there may be three options in a given area, any one of which may be feasible. If it is decided that only one option is feasible, we can reduce the blight--or the feeling of blight- -by two thirds. The blight itself does not come from the Department.
The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch kindly did not mention it but it should be pointed out that the Labour local authorities in the Association of London Authorities, which say that the Department has asked them to hide the fact that options have been suggested are wrong.
With a degree more openness and truthfulness, and perhaps better-humoured Adjournment debates, we might be able to throw more light on this issue. I do not think that the House will be particularly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he spoke in his Adjournment debate.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes past Three o'clock.
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