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Mr. Andrew Mitchell : I hope that the hon. Gentleman noted that my comments did not run counter to British Rail's investment criteria. I sought to make it clear that, as there is a long-term case for electrification, we must be told about it locally so that those who make investment decisions about investing in Nottinghamshire are aware that British Rail intends to ensure that the midland line remains at the forefront of railway technology.
Mr. Snape : I was not for one moment suggesting what the hon. Gentleman has just implied. I have to tell him, as gently as possible, that he falls into the same trap as some of his hon. Friends. They are all in favour of capitalism, red in tooth and claw, except when it applies in their constituencies or to a railway line in which they have an interest. The fact that the midland main line will not meet the Government's criteria in the short term means that it will not be electrified in the short term. If the hon. Member for Gedling wishes that to change, he should get on to the Government to change it.
Mr. Brandon-Bravo : I do not dissent from the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell) about the desirability of electrification, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is dangerous to talk about the electrification as the be-all and end-all of good, clean, fast rail travel? Provided that the trains are properly timetabled and kept clean, there can be no more comfortable service than the 125 service.
Column 65opened, the high-speed trains will run no further than St. Pancras--or whatever the new King's Cross interchange is to be called. Electrification is essential, both for freight and for passenger traffic, if the east midlands is to realise the potential that will be created by the Channel tunnel and the high-speed link. I think that that is the reason behind the view of the hon. Member for Gedling that electrification is desirable.
Mr. Livsey : The same criteria applied to the south Wales line, which will not meet British Rail's investment criteria. If cost benefit analysis was applied in that case, the railway line would be electrified very much sooner.
Mr. Snape : No doubt everyone will rush in with pleas from various parts of the country and the Minister, who never likes to say no to anybody --at least not from the Dispatch Box--will have the unenviable task of turning people down. Before that happens, there is a case for re-examining the work of the Leitch committee, which recommended in 1977 that there should be a fairer way of considering proposals for railway electrification, and railway projects in general, in relation to the road network. It suggested that the criteria should be examined to ensure that the same criteria are applied to both modes of transport. Those recommendations have never been properly implemented. If we are to solve the vexed question of which main lines should be electrified, perhaps the Leitch report should be dug out of the vaults and studied by the Minister and others. The debate has ranged far and wide. As my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) remarked, the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) made a comprehensive speech about air travel--the speech that he would have made on his motion had this debate not looked like occupying all the available time. He will forgive me if I cannot say much about his speech because of the lack of time. I think that the House will be united in joining the hon. Gentleman in pleading with the Government to be a little more sympathetic to the aims and objectives of regional airports. Air traffic control procedures and the modernisation of the necessary equipment may well form the subject of a debate in the future. If our aviation industry and our airports are to meet the challenges of the 1990s, and if a greater degree of liberalisation is achieved regarding air fares, it is vital that air traffic control is improved.
The hon. Member for Gedling, among others, praised the impact of deregulation on our bus services. I always believe that hon. Members, particularly Conservative Members, can afford to be sanguine about the impact of deregulation on the bus network. Politicians are not normally found thronging the bus stops in the rain. Those who praise deregulation because of its impact on the bus services in the rural areas have obviously not talked to many of their rural constituents, nor have they waited for too long for those rural buses--their numbers have been sadly decimated since deregulation. The report that I drew to the attention of the hon. Member for Gedling pointed out the reduction in bus-passenger mileage since deregulation. I recognise that there have been some valuable spin-offs from the legislation, but we must remember that bus managers displayed a conservatism with a small "c"--probably with a large "C" too--in previous years that led them to pooh-pooh the idea of minibuses, particularly on some of the busier routes.
Column 66During my short and particularly undistinguished term of office on what was then known as the south-east Lancashire and north-east Cheshire passenger transport authority-- fortunately defunct, if only to get rid of that particular mouthful--any suggestion from councillors, those much maligned creatures so disliked by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South, that minibuses should be operated in the south Manchester suburbs was greeted with scorn by the so-called professionals in the industry. They assured us that minibuses were generally unreliable and would be unable to cope with the battering that they would receive in everyday service. They were wrong then and, since deregulation, they have been proved wrong again. Perhaps we should acknowledge that since deregulation more minibuses have been introduced in some parts of the country, which have benefited the passengers.
Roads have not been mentioned that much, although I heard one Conservative Member advocate the addition of yet another lane to the M1. My hon. Friends the Members for Burnley and for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) were right to say, "So far, so good, but what happens to the extra cars and lorries generated by the extra lane when they reach the end of the motorway?" Certainly in recent years the collective realisation has been that urban motorways are not the answer to our transport problems.
May I tentatively suggest to the Minister that one way in which to ease the congestion on our motorways would be a campaign, undertaken by the Department, to persuade a substantial number of British motorists that the left-hand lane on our motorways is not there purely for decorative purposes. The number of motorists who persist in hogging the centre lane of the M1 and our other motorways is legion. Rather than an extra lane being added to the M1, a somewhat cheaper solution would be to persuade motorists that the left lane is there not simply for milk floats or farm tractors but for all road users. After all, we drive on the left, at least until 1992-- and who knows what might happen after that.
I am sure that the House is grateful to the hon. Member for Gedling for this opportunity to debate public transport. However, listening to the hon. Gentleman and most of his hon. Friends, with the honourable exception of the hon. Member for Battersea, one would never have thought that we were debating public transport at a time when there is very little of it in London. I am not, however, suggesting that that is the fault of the hon. Member for Gedling. The "Business Focus" section of The Sunday Times yesterday was full of the City's plans for British Rail. The headline ran : "City wants a ticket to ride."
A number of graphs illustrated what the Conservative party would consider were the eminently praiseworthy achievements of British Rail. They showed that the labour force had gone down, productivity had gone up, costs had gone down and passenger income had risen. Two graphs were missing, however : one to show quality of service standards, which have taken a swift nose dive--the hon. Member for Battersea suggested that--and one to show the wages of the employees within the railway industry compared with those employed in other industries.
I do not want my concluding remarks to be too partisan as I always like to maintain all-party amity as far as possible. If the Government do not tackle the problem of customer and staff satisfaction, the problems faced by
Column 67London today will be repeated in the rest of the country in the months to come. I get no personal pleasure from saying that, but unless those problems are dealt with, privatisation in the short term will be immaterial.
I hope that we will have the opportunity to debate these matters again in more detail, particularly aviation, which represents an important sector of our transport network. No one has mentioned shipping, which is another important aspect of our transport policy. In recent years the British merchant fleet has declined dramatically, and some of that decline is due to Budget changes, many inadvertent, which have militated against the British merchant fleet. I know that the Minister will not make a speech about shipping today, but it is a vital part of Britain's transport system and we should debate it. I am aware of the time and I know that I must conclude. I am running according to Network SouthEast times, so I shall be a couple of minutes late. Nevertheless, this debate has been about important matters and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Gedling for giving us the opportunity to debate them.
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo) : I begin where the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) ended, by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell) on the quality of his speech. He is particularly well informed and I think that may be for good family reasons. During his speech he was heckled by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East and that is the traditional tribute paid to a good speech.
The debate was also an opportunity for my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) to discuss bus deregulation. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the role that he played during the passage of the Bill, which became the Transport Act 1985. My hon. Friend was as perceptive in those matters as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). Not many hon. Members are prophets proved right in their own time and I am pleased that my hon. Friend has been. I have no current powers to oblige the privatisation of bus companies and to bring about employee ownership. However, it is certainly not something that I would rule out for the future and I am aware of my hon. Friend's great interest in that matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling comprehensively dealt with roads. He is aware of the enormous increase in road usage that we have experienced. From 1982 to 1987 the number of cars grew by 16 per cent. and the number of goods vehicles by 11 per cent. Although the Government's investment record has been impressive--an increase in capital investment in trunk roads of about 60 per cent. since 1979, and 880 miles of new and improved motorway and other trunk roads completed--we recognise that congestion is a serious and expensive problem for British motorists and British business. We are in no doubt about that. Reducing congestion has always been one element of our road policy and, given the recent increases in congestion, we have recently undertaken a thorough review of the trunk road programme. We have concentrated particularly on schemes that will reduce congestion on the roads between cities and that can be
Column 68completed quickly. We shall announce the result of that review shortly. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South -West (Mrs. Shephard) will not, therefore, have to wait long to see what is proposed in the White Paper and whether it helps her constituency. I understand the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) that one of the most important steps is to make better use of existing infrastructure. I am grateful to him and several of my other hon. Friends for their interesting proposal to have a red route scheme through London to speed traffic on its way. My hon. Friends the Members for Gedling and for Nottingham, South were worried about the A453. We are considering making improvements to that road, which links the M1 to Nottingham, and I have noted their views carefully. My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling was also concerned about the Gedling bypass. He is aware that the scheme is the responsibility of Nottinghamshire county council as the highway authority. We encourage counties to improve their local road networks through transport supplementary grant, for which the Gedling bypass is a suitable candidate. Therefore, it is for the county to give it a higher priority so that it can be considered by the Government. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling and other hon. Members who urged us to get on with private finance that I am determined to increase the private sector's role in the provision of road infrastructure. The private sector has much to offer in terms of innovation, enterprise and management efficiency, and can make a real contribution to the provision of roads in this country. I am convinced that privately financed roads will soon begin to complement our public sector road network.
Such a policy has already started with developers being able to invest in improved access to their developments by contributing to local trunk road schemes. Since 1986, 50 agreements have been concluded, and 50 more are at an advanced stage of preparation. We want to go further. We are encouraged by the example of the Dartford-Thurrock bridge, which is being built in the private sector. We are encouraged to think that the second Severn bridge may be suitable for private sector development.
There could be much more. There are many ideas in the private sector about how private finance could be applied. My colleagues and I have held valuable discussions with the private sector and some firms have already come forward with interesting ideas. We have tried to answer their questions about the way in which we shall proceed. Only a few days ago, we were able to remove one obstacle, which many believed stood in the way of private finance, by announcing the retirement of the Ryrie rules. That means that there will not be a scheme-by-scheme reduction in the public road programme in respect of privately financed projects. That is a useful step forward which means that we are progressively cutting away the obstacles that stand in the way of, or have been perceived to stand in the way of, the private sector.
Some issues still need to be clarified, and the consultative document that we shall shortly publish will, I hope, help to do that. It will cover subjects such as shadow tolls, which the Government regard as a financial device, which is no more than disguised borrowing, and is unacceptable. It will also cover the issues raised by my
Column 69hon. Friend the Member for Gedling, such as exclusive rights to ideas for road schemes--what he called intellectual property. Roads are unlike other commodities. Anyone can suggest a route, which may have been worked out in great detail or may be merely a line drawn on a map, but they cannot have exclusive rights to it. Where the Government support a scheme--for example, through hybrid legislation or procedures that require compulsory purchase--we must ensure that we can justify our choice of project by having a proper competition. Competition is an essential feature of a true market, and a factor which the Government have taken great steps to introduce into many areas. It brings with it higher quality and efficiency. The key issue that we want to address in the Green Paper is the suitability of existing procedures to authorise privately financed roads. We are clear that our current procedures are unsuited to privately financed roads, whether financed by development gain or tolling. We are considering how they can be improved. All highways legislation is designed for conventional, untolled roads that are financed by the public sector. Tolling has to be authorised by statute on a case-by- case basis. Shortly, we intend to bring forward proposals for better procedures.
In a Betjemanesque attack on the horrors of Bethnal Green, which he believes should share the same fate as Slough, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) raised the subject of the difficulties of travelling on railways. He said that he was fed up with being told that we would receive jam tomorrow. However, I have some large lumps of "jam tomorrow" for him. In real terms, investment last year was the greatest since 1966. This year, investment is planned to be 25 per cent. higher again, the largest in real terms since 1962. Therefore, it is the largest in the history of the British Railways Board, and yet more is planned for the early 1990s. The pace of approvals of investment is also increasing. Since January, I have approved investment in a total of 423 new passenger coaches to add to the 2,372 that have been approved since 1983. My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea referred to 50-year-old trains, giving a new meaning to the phrase, "The Age of the Train". He can be assured that the Government will look carefully and sympathetically at any investment case that is brought forward by British Rail. My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling takes a realistic attitude to the possible electrification of the midland main line. During the 1990s, British Rail will begin to assess the results of the east coast main line electrification, and consider whether there should be further major route electrification. Those results should be available for analysis before the rolling stock on the midland main line comes to the end of its useful life and decisions will have to be taken on major replacement. That will provide the ideal opportunity for British Rail to examine whether electrification would offer the best option for the future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) raised many interesting questions about aviation, and in doing so he was echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans). I fully agree with the main thrust of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside that we must open up the market to provide better services at lower fares.
When he talked about airport policy, my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside drew attention to the document CAP 548. He will understand that, as that is
Column 70a consultation document issued by the Civil Aviation Authority to help it to fulfil its commission from the Secretary of State to provide advice to him on United Kingdom airport capacity and traffic distribution, it would be wrong for me to become involved in arguments that might pre-empt the decisions that must be taken. However, I understand the urgency and importance of the questions that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre raised about air traffic control. He will know of the important practical measures that have already been taken. Indeed, he referred to a number of them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside referred to the major development for the early 1990s--the phased introduction of the central control function at the London air traffic control centre, which will be completed by 1995. That new traffic management system will provide adequate capacity to handle Stansted at full, single runway capacity of 40 movements per hour, Luton at 16 movements per hour, and Heathrow and Gatwick at their runway capacities. Further system enhancements will also be introduced at the London ATC centre, the Manchester sub-centre and the Scottish and oceanic control centres.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside was worried about why such matters needed to take so long. He knows that they are complex systems and the senior management of the CAA has called in consultants for the specific purpose of conducting an independent review of the central control function. The consultants advised that the time scale was aggressive, but realistic. That was an independent point of view. My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre suggested that the national air traffic services should be hived off from the CAA. That suggestion was put forward by the Select Committee and, along with all its other suggestions, we shall consider it.
The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) was concerned about the development of Manchester airport, which I well understand. He will be aware of the need to make fair agreements between different countries and of the tremendous advances that Manchester airport has made, with the £300 million of capital investment that has been made in local authority airports since the Government came to office. We are keen to allow additional opportunities for new United States airlines to operate into Manchester, but it is important to secure balancing opportunities for United Kingdom airlines into the United States.
The debate has offered us a good opportunity to discuss transport policy. The motion that we have been discussing was superbly drafted, and it calls attention to a decade of achievement in transport by the Government. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling not only for that but for the opportunity he has given the House--especially to my hon. Friends--to offer a series of interesting ideas on transport topics.
The future will require a continuation of Government investment in road, rail and air traffic control, and our economic success makes that possible. But our future will also require further liberalisation and privatisation, and I am grateful to all my hon. Friends for the vigorous support that they have given those policies today.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House congratulates the Government on the increase in spending on roads by 57 per cent. in real terms since 1979 and on rail by over 75 per cent. over the last five
Column 71years ; notes the substantial and continuing pressure by the public for further measures to be taken up to and after 1992 to relieve road congestion ; further notes that additional significant increases in public spending of 25 per cent. on roads and nearly 50 per cent. on rail are planned up to 1992 ; applauds the encouragement being given to the private sector to develop a role in our roads programme ; believes that the privatization of British Rail would improve the service for the customer in the years beyond 1992 ; notes the improvement in the quality and quantity of bus services following de-regulation, and the privatisation of the National Bus Company ; believes that there is a need to take further in the years up to 1992 and beyond the steps already taken by the Secretary of State for Transport in liberalising air fares and routes in the interests of the travelling public ; congratulates the Secretary of State for Transport on the steps he personally has taken to promote public discussion of radical as well as conventional solutions to these problems ; and urges the Government to continue its efforts to identify ways of mitigating and resolving these challenges in the years up to 1992 and beyond, the cost of which can now be supported because of the success of this Government's economic policies.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : My right hon. Friend the Paymaster General is not able to move the Second Reading of this Bill, but I am delighted to do so on his behalf and on behalf of the Corporation of the City of London. I speak wearing three hats on this matter--as one who went to the City of London school, as a freeman, and as a member of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London. I greatly admire what the corporation does for the inhabitants of London. It spends vast sums on London and it deserves to be praised. I am delighted that it is now looking after Hampstead heath and I am sure that it will do so extremely efficiently.
Nothing in the Bill could be called controversial in a party-political sense, although it may well prove controversial across party lines. I shall try first to explain the three parts into which it falls and then, with permission, respond at the end to points on which clarification may be needed. If I have to be away from my place from time to time I hope that my hon. Friends will understand, should any points require further elucidation. I am sure that hon. Members have read the Bill in great detail and seen that it falls into three sections. Clauses 4 to 8 deal with the need to build the Hackney to the M11 link road. As clause 7 makes clear, the Department of Transport will pay the costs of this part of the Bill, and it must explain the reasoning behind these clauses, which the City has had to include in the Bill. I can take no responsibility for the views of the Department of Transport. The corporation has been merely a vehicle for this part of the Bill. The background is as follows. This link was first announced in 1979 and was the subject of two public inquiries, in 1983 and 1987, as a result of which the route was fixed. Some Epping forest land has been taken around the Green Man roundabout, and some land near by at George Green will also be affected. The City argued at the 1983 inquiry--by City, I mean the conservators of the forest--that the road at these spots should be in tunnel to protect the environment of the forest, and that happy solution was agreed.
I propose to use measurements with which we are familiar. Six and a quarter acres of forest land will be permanently acquired by the Department of Transport ; approximately another half an acre will be subject to the right of access, with seven acres being used during the construction time. These latter 7.5 or 8 acres will be restored and returned to forest use after the completion of the road, and the tunnel tops will be grassed over. The cost of all that will fall on the Department of Transport.
The Department has agreed to add 20 acres of land to the forest adjacent to Wanstead park, representing a net gain of permanent forest land of more than 13 acres. This land will be properly prepared for forest use by the
Column 73Department. In passing, I may add that those who talk about the speed of road building should note that more than a decade has passed since this idea was first suggested, and not a piece of tarmacadam is yet in place.
During and after construction special access will be provided at the new roundabout for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Horse riders play an important part in the background to this Bill. Access will be provided even during the construction period, and when it is over there will be proper, permanent access for these three groups. The second part of the Bill, clauses 9 and 10, is about horse riding in the forest and has aroused much local interest. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and my hon. Friends the Members for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) and for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) have been much interested and involved, as was my late friend and colleague Sir John Biggs-Davison. This part has given rise to much detailed discussion. Those who have visited the forest in recent years as I have know that it is used a great deal by horse riders and riding schools. The impact of horse riding was last reviewed about 20 years ago, and the City has been concerned about the implications for the ecology of the forest and for other users, as the area is used much more by riders now. The City has had a duty since 1878 to maintain the forest for the enjoyment of the public, and to protect it. Most of the forest is due to be designated as a site of special scientific interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Because of that, and because of the increased riding use, a working party was set up and there was a review in 1988. The group that undertook the review visited all parts of the forest and consulted widely.
Three major problems were identified. First, a minority of inconsiderate riders were causing damage to others and to the forest and generally showed a lack of concern for the local ecology and environment. Secondly, the intensification of riding has caused adverse ground conditions. That has caused ecological damage and is affecting the pleasure derived by others who use the forest. The increase in riding is churning up parts of the forest and making it less pleasant for walkers. Thirdly, there is the increased cost of trying to keep the rides in acceptable condition.
During the past 15 or 20 years the City has spent about £1 million on the provision and maintenance of rides. The intensification of riding means that substantially more has to be spent on maintenance, additional provision and long-term control. Unless the Bill is enacted the riders will make no contribution to the upkeep, preservation and restoration of the forest. I shall return to those matters.
About two months ago I received a letter from an organisation called the "Friends of Epping Forest". That organisation makes clear that there is a large volume of support for the City in its desire to regulate horse riding in the forest and to make reasonable charges to riders. The honorary secretary, Mrs. Bitten, says in the letter that the organisation sent out petition forms on 8 February to be returned by 28 February. At the date of her letter there were already 3,500 signatures.
Mr. Steve Norris (Epping Forest) : I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will be interested to know that there are now more than 5,000 signatures on that petition, which I have taken charge of this very evening.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that update. It shows that those who use the forest accept that the City has been doing its best to look after the interests of all the people who use it.
The review that I mentioned has resulted in two main proposals. The first is that powers must be made available to control the irresponsible and thoughtless activities of a minority. I stress "minority" because the overwhelming bulk of riders are not irresponsible and accept the logic of what the City is suggesting. Secondly, the riders will have to make some contribution, and the money will be specifically ploughed back into facilities, thus enabling the rides to be maintained, added to and improved. The City has made clear that the contributions will not be spent on the general upkeep of the forest, but will be specifically applied to the riding areas.
The concept of contribution and registration is not new. It is already operated elsewhere and was recommended as long ago as 1969 by the Eastern sports council to the then Minister responsible for sport, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). Power to restrict rides is in the 1971 Act. At that time the proposal to register and to charge was deferred until about 20 miles of surfaced rides were nearing completion. Now those 20 miles are virtually ready for use.
I stress that all the amenity and conservation groups that were consulted support the proposals. There were two objections and both were from riding associations. The objections were mainly that riders should make no contribution. That is a narrow way of looking at things because riders are specialised users of the forest and other specialised users, such as people who fish or people who play football or golf, make a contribution. Therefore, the objection by the riders is impossible to sustain on any logical basis. The third part of the Bill is much more domestic. It deals with pedestrian safety, emergency access, litter and school staff appointments. I should like to deal with those matters and it might be useful for the House to know some of the background and the reasoning for this part of the Bill. Clause 17 will prohibit pedestrians from using the Blackfriars underpass and the part of Upper Thames street which is in the tunnel. I do not know how many Members have tried to walk through that underpass, but I hope that any who have had heavy life insurance because the underpass is narrow and dangerous and no pedestrian should try to go through it. Quite rightly, the City is saying that because there is no suitable footway provision in the tunnels and the presence of pedestrians is likely to give rise to hazards affecting them and other road users. However, there are perfectly easy and acceptable alternative ways for pedestrians.
Clause 12 allows the corporation temporarily to close walkways for repair or maintenance and to set opening times generally. At the moment the right to use walkways, which is conferred by existing legislation, is confined, strangely enough, to pedestrians. Understandably, the City thinks that it would be helpful if provision for access by emergency services vehicles could be permitted. Present legislation does not permit that but clause 12 of the Bill would make it possible.
Earlier I spoke about the Green Man roundabout and George Green. That shows how green we all are. In a green world we must prevent the dropping of litter and clause 13 tries to tidy up that aspect of legislation. I am sure that hon. Members will know that the practice of giving away
Column 75magazines and other publicity material is widespread throughout London and certainly in the City. The material is frequently given out near Underground stations, especially during the morning rush hour. As most of us have observed from time to time, the unused material is left unattended in piles on the pavements or elsewhere for passers by to pick up. If it is windy or if someone kicks the pile of material the pieces of paper are scattered. If they are scattered so as to conceal a step tread the result could be highly dangerous. The City wants permission to remove this material when it is deposited in public places adjacent to the highway, such as at street entrances to railway stations and the Underground. Again, that would be accepted as practical and sensible.
Clause 15 makes amendments to the traffic legislation that governs roads in the new Billingsgate market, and clause 16 does the same to permit byelaw- making powers to deal with house boats.
As an old citizen, perhaps I should comment in great detail on clause 17, which makes provision for the staff appointments at the City of London school. In the time that I was there, most of us would have welcomed the chance of having a say in the appointment or removal of certain masters, but times have changed and the City wants to modernise the process. What is suggested in the Bill is practical and, I think, acceptable to any modern thinking organisation. I hope that that explanation will satisfy those who wish to be satisfied, and will not fuel the fires of those who do not. Legislation affecting the City of London is always a great gamble. Some will use it as a vehicle for the most vehement attack on the City. Others will use it as an opportunity to say, "Bring back the GLC." Others, like the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), will use it as a genuine reason for making a particular point that is worrying them in their constituency and to advance arguments to which I am sure the House will wish to listen. I believe that the Bill is a good thing, as Sellar and Yeatman would say.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : I thank the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) for his comments about me. However, the Bill steals Leyton's forest land, and gives it no proper replacement. That is the nub of the matter and that is why I object to the Bill and so have tabled a blocking motion. My constituency is the only one to be adversely affected by the Bill. Nobody would expect a Member of Parliament worth his or her salt to put up with that state of affairs, and I will not. I shall speak in detail about the iniquity of the Bill and of the Minister for Roads and Traffic, who is forcing the Bill through and robbing Leyton of its land.
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Peter Bottomley) : Whose constituents will gain most by the new road? From where in his constituency does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the replacement land should come?
Mr. Cohen : I shall deal with that second aspect in great detail. I have already put that information to the agents, Sherwood and Company, who said when they looked at it, "Oh, crikey! What you want is peanuts, Mr. Cohen, but
Column 76we'll just have to check with the Department of Transport." They phoned the Department of Transport, which said, "No deal." It ill behoves the Minister to talk about replacements and negotiated land for the forest land taken from my constituency when his Department blocked the suggestion for replacement land.
As to the first point about who benefits from the road, I shall also come to that. My constituents are beginning to wonder, because of the Government's immense meanness in refusing to put nearly all of the road into cut and cover. They are prepared to put tunnels all over the place for their Tory friends but not in an urban area like Leyton which needs them. I will read to the Minister what I said in the public inquiry, which welcomed the road but argued that it needed environmental benefits, which the Department of Transport has sabotaged. My constituents, and even the local council now, are wondering whether the road is worthwhile without those benefits, because it will carve across Leyton and Leytonstone and be a disbenefit overall, especially as it will be there for 100 years or more.
I have tabled a motion suggesting that the Bill should be read a Second time not today but in six months. My real wish is that it will never be given a Second Reading, or at least not until Leyton gets reasonable compensation and a reasonable deal. I asked for what the agents described as peanuts, but the Minister was too mean to provide it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is ill, and I am sure that the House will wish him a speedy recovery. He sends his apologies for not being here to speak about his instruction, which reads :
"That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill that they satisfy themselves that none of the provisions contained in the Bill are in conflict with the draft Strategic Guidance for London issued by the Secretary of State for the Environment."
My hon. Friend also wants to draw attention to the important environmental aspects over which the Department of Transport is riding roughshod, particularly in my constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West takes it as an important principle that urban areas should have a good environment. In his constituency and my neighbouring constituency he wants to see put into effect the proper environmental guidelines and improvements that the Government claim to be supporting. However, the Minister for Roads and Traffic is ignoring them by forcing through this proposal, which is a scandal.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) also sends his apologies. Although he knew that his blocking motion would not be selected, he would have been here, but he has had to go to an important meeting at the Foreign Office to talk about Kurdish refugees, many of whom are coming into his constituency. Therefore, he sends his apologies. His instruction reads :
"That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill so to amend Clause 11 as to provide for equivalent space elsewhere in Upper Thames Street to compensate for the additional area which will be closed to the movement of pedestrians in order to facilitate access to buildings on the route."
Again, he is looking for compensation for his constituency and other parts of London. Perhaps I should not say this as he is not here, but his constituency is not as badly affected as mine. Leyton is being robbed of forest land by the Minister. He is stealing forest land in a built-up urban area without replacing it. I note the point made by my hon.
Column 77Friend, and I hope that the Committee will pick up his point. However, I shall concentrate on what is happening in Leyton. A cartoon appeared in the weekend press--in The Guardian --that amused me. Perhaps I should not say that because Steve Bell amuses me quite often with some of his sharp cartoons. In this instance he summed up the Government's environment policy in his usual caustic manner. He showed the Secretary of State for the Environment lazing in a deckchair. He was talking about fast golf--yes--and Socialism--no. Then he outlined his environment policy. In effect, he said, "We stop the working class from voting, breathing, eating and farting. Next, we nuke ourselves up to the eyeballs. Next, we invest in more global weaponry." That is about right for the Government's environment policy. After that, the Secretary of State, through Steve Bell, said, "Then we retire to Gloucestershire to build major extensions to the family seat."
That is the Government's environment policy in a nutshell when it comes to working people. That is why the Minister for Public Transport does not give a fart for forest land in Leyton. That is the truth of the matter. Steve Bell's cartoon summed up the Government's attitude extremely well. A good environment is all right for Ministers, but they do not care about the environment for urban areas such as Leyton.
In his opening remarks the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate described the City of London as the vehicle for the Department of Transport, and that is exactly what it is. This is an appalling abuse of the private Bill procedure. A private Bill is supposed to be exactly that--private. That means that the Bill is something that is wanted, for example, by the City of London, or by the people of Leyton. I can tell the Minister that the people of Leyton did not want him to steal their forest land without proper replacement. We are witnessing an abuse of the private Bill procedure. In reality, we are dealing with a Government measure.
The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate said, "This is a vehicle for the Department of Transport." Those were his words. That being so, the Department should have come to the House with its own Bill. It should have introduced a Bill entitled, "The Stealing of Land from Leyton Without Proper Replacement Bill". The City of London should not have been used as a pawn.
I tried to negotiate with the City of London. The compensation that I wanted was described by the agents, Sherwood, as peanuts. That being so, I thought that the City of London would settle quickly. I received a telephone call and I was told that the Department had in turn been telephoned. What interest does the Department have in the matter when this measure, apparently, is a private Bill? I was told, "We have phoned the Department and it says, No deal.' " This is an abuse of the private Bill procedure.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : I wish to make it clear that I said that this part of the Bill was a vehicle because the City has legislative responsibility for the forest. Therefore, if there is to be any change, the matter has to come through Parliament in this way. I have been assured--I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take this from me--that at no stage did Sherwood use the word "peanuts". I am told that
Column 78that is the word of the hon. Gentleman, and it is one that I understand. Sherwood's representatives are emphatic that they did not use the word.
Mr. Cohen : That is a lie. I am not calling the hon. Gentleman a liar, but what he has said is an untruth. I was present at the meeting on the Terrace. The agent is sitting outside the Chamber. Obviously, someone who is not a Member of this place cannot sit in the Chamber. When she considered the compensation for which I was asking, she said, "This is peanuts."
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate for intervening in my speech. It was interesting because I was not sure whether the City of London was neglecting the people of Leyton, whether it had been called upon by the Department of Transport to do the dirty work, or whether it was a bit of both. I was leaning to the view that it was doing the dirty work for the Department in stealing forest land from the people of Leyton without paying compensation. However, it may be that it is acting off its own bat. If that is so, the people of Leyton face an appalling sell-out.
As I have said, the Bill is a Government measure. At least, that can be said of the provisions within it to which I am referring. I accept that other parts of the Bill are the City of London's responsibilities. When it comes to forest land, the motivation lies with the Department of Transport. It is prepared to take forest land from Leyton without providing proper compensation.
We are being presented with a fait accompli. The conservators were put over a barrel by the Department of Transport. If the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate is saying that the City of London gladly colluded in the process of robbing Leyton of forest land without providing proper compensation, that will be remembered by the people of Leyton. If that is so, it is a scathing indictment of the City of London.
The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate has told us that City of London Bills are always a gamble. Who is he kidding? They are never a gamble. There are always 100 or more Conservative Members who are prepared to crawl out of the woodwork for the City of London. Ministers crawl out of the woodwork when these Bills come before the House. A City of London Bill has never been defeated in this place since way back in the 1800s. That is because Conservative Members are in the pocket of the City. Perhaps they will get a few good dinners at the Guildhall. They do not mind robbing the people of Leyton of their forest land without providing proper compensation. They do not give a toss about that. There is no gamble. We know that 100 Conservative Members, or more, will roll up to vote at the end of the debate. That will not be the end of the matter, however, because the argument will continue.
The statement that was issued on behalf of the promoters in support of the Bill's Second Reading was shameful. If statements and advertisements had to be honest and truthful, the statement would fail those criteria. It is a statement of deception and lies. It seems that the lies will be compounded if the agent says now that she did not say that the compensation that I was seeking was peanuts. I shall run through parts of the statement. Initially, it states : "The Bill is promoted by the Corporation of London for the principal purpose of authorising the Corporation as Conservators of Epping Forest to grant to the Secretary of
Column 79State for Transport the land, and the rights in land, that he requires for the construction of a part of the Hackney to M11 link road authorised under the Highways Act 1980."
That is how the statement starts. It is a sell-out by the City of London and the conservators in that respect. The Bill does not provide compensation for the people of Leyton for the forest land that the Minister is stealing. It is no excuse to quote the Secretary of State's powers to acquire land for the Hackney Wick to M11 link in not providing replacement land to the benefit of people living in Leyton and in Leytonstone. The conservators have sold out in respect of their role to conserve an urban area such as Leyton, which is scandalous.
The statement continues :
"The Bill would authorise the Conservators of Epping Forest to grant to the Secretary of State out of the open wasteland of the forest the freehold interest in some 27,500 square
metres--approximately 6.8 acres--rights to construct and maintain foundations in some 2,500 square metres--approximately 0.62 acres--and rights of temporary occupation for the construction of the roadworks in some 28,500 square metres--approximately 7 acres. The authorisation is subject to the acquisitions of the Secretary of State using the usual statutory powers for compulsory purchase."
The Secretary of State will not use those same powers to acquire compensation land. He will not use them to rehouse the homeless in my constituency, who are suffering as a result of the proposal. The figures of the amount of land that is being taken are interesting. It can be seen that a large area of land will be used, but the statement does not reveal anything like the full picture as to the amount of land that is being nicked--being stolen--for the roundabout. We do not mind the roundabout, provided that land is given in its place as a recompense for the land that is stolen. Item 4 on page 2 of the statement says :
"By the Epping Forest Act 1878 the Corporation as conservators of Epping Forest were charged with the duty of preserving as far as possible the natural aspect of the forest."
The same should apply to Leyton. The statement continues : "By Section 7 of that Act they are required to keep the forest unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public and to resist all encroachments on the forest."
The same should apply to Leyton, but the conservators have failed to meet their responsibilities to the people of Leyton as to the forest's natural aspect. The conservators say, "They are only Leyton people. They do not matter that much." That is the conservators' attitude, which echoes that of the Minister for Roads and Traffic. The conservators' attitude is, "The Leyton people can lose their forest land and not receive any compensation."
The conservators have failed over a long period to upgrade the forest for the people of Leyton and Leytonstone, particularly in the Whipps Cross and Hellow Pond area. One of the conditions that I put to Sherwoods, which were described as being "peanuts" until the Department put the boot in, was about upgrading the forest land. It was the conservators' job to do that in any case. They should have upgraded the land over the past 100 years, but they neglected that responsibility, which makes me very angry. That is another reason why the statement is nonsense and represents an abrogation by the conservators of their responsibilities.
Column 80Item 6 concerns itself with the chosen route doing the least damage to the forest's natural aspect. The conservators have not done that part of their job particularly well either. Nevertheless, item 6 states :
"It was for this reason that the Conservators argued for the new road to be put in covered cuttings, as previously described, at the Green Man roundabout and George Green."
At the last inquiry into the roundabout, Wanstead was given more covered cuttings, but Leyton got none because of the Government's meanness and vindictiveness, saying, "The people of Leyton don't matter. They don't need forest land." The conservators have not tried very hard to secure covered land in Leyton. Their efforts were tokenism in the extreme and reveal another aspect of their neglect. Item 7 states :
"The area of land to be given in exchange for the forest land required for construction purposes is to be equally advantageous to the public and to the commoners as the forest land for which it is substituted."
That is a straight lie. The forest will be substituted by scrubby old sewage land in Wanstead, two and a half miles away. That land cannot in any way be described as "equally advantageous", not in Leyton it ain't. It will not do. Item 7 has the cheek to continue : "This addition will provide a substantial amenity for local people."
What a nerve. It will not do so, and that is yet another straight lie, unless one expects the people of Leyton to walk two and a half miles from the Green Man roundabout and risk getting run over on the way. That is one of the biggest stretches of road there is. That will not represent any kind of amenity for the people of Leyton.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to depart from the truth. The "scrubby old sewage land" to which he refers will be brought up to the standard of the forest by the Department of Transport. There is no question of there being "scrubby old sewage land."