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Column 279Sillars, Jim
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Steel, Rt Hon David
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Wise, Mrs Audrey
Young, David (Bolton SE)
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Allen McKay and
Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Mr. Speaker-- forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government for its coherent and energetic programme to tackle teacher shortages, notably licensed teachers and articled teachers ; welcomes the increase in the number of initial teacher training places ; notes the substantial improvement in teachers' pay in the lifetime of this Government which contrasts with the modest increase under the last Labour Government ; and urges local education authorities to use the flexibility available to them to recruit and retain a sufficient and well-qualified number of teachers.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Promoters of the King's Cross Railways Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid ;
That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House ;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session ;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time and committed (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read and committed) ;
That all Petitions relating to the Bill presented in the present Session which stand referred to the Committee on the Bill, together with any minutes of evidence taken before the Committee on the Bill, shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session ;
That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the present Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126 relating to Private Business ;
That in relation to the Bill, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against Bill)' were omitted ;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session ;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.-- [The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Sir George Young (Ealing, Acton) : The House will recall that the purpose of the Bill is to give powers to British Rail and London Underground to carry out works at King's Cross. The House debated its provisions for five hours on Second Reading.
The works include the expansion of the stations at King's Cross and St. Pancras to handle more and longer trains, connecting lines to allow spare capacity at St. Pancras to be used, and expansion of the underground station to deal with the increased number of passengers who use that station each day.
Key elements of the proposals are the provision of secondary exits from underground platforms and the relief of congestion in the ticket hall which will improve safety by making emergency evacuation of the station considerably easier.
A major element of the scheme is the new low-level station proposed for international trains via the Channel tunnel and for cross-London Thameslink trains. Increased capacity on the Thameslink route is an important part of the initiatives included in the Central London rail study and are designed to relieve overcrowding on London's underground system and to encourage the use of public transport to relieve road congestion.
The international terminal is designed to allow trains to run beyond London, to the midlands, the north of England and Scotland. It will also provide good
Column 281connections between international trains and regular InterCity services to the north and to local British Rail and underground services.
The House gave a substantial endorsement to the principles of the Bill on Second Reading, the majority being 211 to 41. Detailed scrutiny of the Bill is already well under way in Committee, under the distinguished chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton). The Committee has sat for about 40 hours and today completed its ninth day. Two witnesses today finished giving their evidence, for the British Rail Board and for London Underground, on policy. In addition to the nine sitting days, the Committee spent a full day on a site visit.
It must be right to allow the Bill to proceed, and in particular that the Committee's considerations of the matter should be concluded. Much effort has been put in by petitioners and by the promoters in preparing evidence for the Committee, and with the progress that has been made, it must be right that the matter should proceed.
Any alternative which involved deferring consideration of this important project would be unjust on the petitioners and would cause delay, uncertainty and anxiety for many who live and work in the area. It would also delay a project which, if the House approves, will bring substantial benefits to thousands of daily travellers.
Sir George Young : It would be unfair on the petitioners, who have already incurred considerable expense, if the motion were not carried. It would not serve their interests to leave the matter in abeyance, yet that is the case that the hon. Gentleman will make. He must know that every Bill promoted by British Rail since 1979, except one general powers Bill, has had to be carried over at least once. If private Bills are blocked, as the hon. Gentleman has blocked this one, and they have to go into Committee, it is practically impossible to complete all their stages in a single Session. There is nothing unusual about the motion.
Mr. Dobson rose --
Sir George Young : For many Sessions both Houses have accepted that to deny carry-over motions on private Bills causes needless expense to the promoters and the petitioners, and increases uncertainty for those whose land may be subject to compulsory acquisition. Against that background, it is right to allow the Bill to proceed, bearing in mind that the House will have the opportunity to consider it again on Third Reading before it goes to another place.
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury) : I vigorously opposed the Bill on Second Reading and I oppose it now. It should not be carried over. The sooner it falls, the better for all concerned. I confess that I am astonished at the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), which are usually of better quality. He seemed to imply that it would be unfair to petitioners if the Bill were not carried over. Each and every one of the petitioners
Column 282against the Bill would be only too delighted if it were not carried over tonight, but sent into the state of limbo that it richly deserves.
Mr. Smith : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my arguments. The crux of the debate is precisely the necessity for British Rail to get its proposals right before reintroducing a Bill on a second Channel tunnel terminus in London. I am sure that all petitioners who are my constituents would endorse that sentiment. I wish to remind the House of what the Bill does to my constituency and to my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). It involves the destruction of 31,000 sq m of property in two conservation areas, the demolition of four listed buildings, the destruction of a valuable Victorian townscape, the enforced relocation of 88 families living in 88 residential units, the possible closure of 116 businesses involving 1,950 jobs and the destruction of the Camley street natural park, which brings joy and education to thousands of school children in a part of London which has fewer open spaces than anywhere else in the country.
We are talking about the destruction of homes, jobs, livelihoods and an entire neighbourhood. That should be permitted only in the most exceptional circumstances, with the most pressing need and in the absence of a viable alternative. In this instance, that simply is not the case. There are several specific reasons why British Rail should go back to the drawing board and think again about its proposals for a second London terminus. By rejecting the motion, that is what we shall ask British Rail to do. I suspect that no one is against maximising the benefits of the Channel tunnel and the traffic that will flow from it, but the Bill is not the right way to go about doing that. British Rail must go back to the drawing board. Clause 19 establishes a frightening precedent. The issues that it raises must be resolved before we give the Bill a fair passage. Clause 19 proposes to remove all the usual planning requirements and controls for listed buildings, conservation areas and scheduled ancient monuments. There are seven listed buildings in the development area covered by the Bill. Four of them face demolition as a consequence of British Rail's proposals. The grade 1 listed buildings of St. Pancras and King's Cross stations are likely to be substantially affected by the proposals. In addition, there are Saxon and Roman archeological remains to be protected.
The problem with clause 19 is that it establishes an awesome precedent by removing entirely the legal controls which protect listed buildings and valuable archeological sites. A private Bill will override public legislation. English Heritage, in particular, has expressed the gravest anxiety about that precedent and even the Secretary of State for the environment--for once siding with the angels on conservation--has expressed concern about it. It is simply not acceptable to enshrine a proposal to overturn all the present protections for our heritage in a specified area in a private Bill which is being rushed through the House. This issue is too important to remain unresolved if the Bill is to proceed at its present leisurely pace through
Column 283Committee. Before we allow it to carry over, we must resolve the issues surrounding the preservation of our heritage thrown up by clause 19.
Clause 28 raises similar issues. I am tempted to observe that clause 28 always seems to end up being controversial. This clause 28 relates specifically to the case being mounted by the trustees of St. Bartholomew's hospital and the Church Commissioners against British Rail about their rights over some of the land contained within the purview of the Bill. That is the subject of litigation. A revealing exchange took place during the Committee proceedings. The Chairman expressly asked counsel for the promoters of the Bill :
"Can you tell us whether it is expected that they will determine the questions"--
that is, the questions relating to clause 28--
"before this Committee winds up its own proceedings?"
The answer from counsel for the promoters was :
"I think that is probably unlikely, sir."
Counsel for the promoters was of the opinion that the legal issues relating to clause 28 and the ancient rights of the trustees of St. Bartholomew's hospital and the Church Commissioners--not insubstantial bodies--over the land would not, in all probability, be resolved before the Committee concluded its proceedings. It would be much better for those issues to be resolved before we continue with our consideration of any proposals from British Rail relating to the land in question.
Thirdly, there is the issue of the Camley street natural park. As hon. Members will remember from Second Reading, the park was created several years ago, with help from the Greater London Council, to provide an area of natural wilderness with trees, shrubs, water, insects, birds and the fullness of wild natural landscape in the middle of an area of considerable dereliction. The Bill will destroy that park. It is remarkable that British Rail has, in its list of prospective witnesses on its behalf, failed to include any ecological experts. It is even more remarkable that in Committee counsel for British Rail specifically said that the London Wildlife Trust, which is petitioning against the Bill and which is currently charged with the running of the park, was absolutely right in its assessment of the value of the park. British Rail's case was not that nothing of value would be destroyed by the Bill, but that, although something of value would be destroyed, something even better--in BR's view- -would be put in its place.
Unless and until there is proper ecological evidence putting British Rail's case and outlining what would be done to reinstate that park, we cannot seriously consider the Bill's proposals. British Rail must have the support of ecologists of note and weight. Whatever British Rail proposes, even if it is the most superb proposal--which I doubt--for the reinstatement of a better and larger version of the park, it is undeniably true that for at least five years there will be no park for the enjoyment of the school children in my constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras. Virtually an entire generation of schoolchildren will be deprived of the opportunity to enjoy that park.
Fourthly, there is the absolutely crucial question of the traffic that will be generated above ground by the development in the King's Cross area and beyond. The promoters' environmental statement is a weighty document, but has only a relatively short section--section 12--on the vital question of traffic impact. It reaches the somewhat unbelievable conclusion that traffic flows will
Column 284increase in the locality of King's Cross, but only to a very limited extent. The detail about traffic flows provided in that statement is worthy of close examination. Surely there must be better and more credible traffic impact information on the siting of the second station at King's Cross before we can begin properly to assess the effect of British Rail's proposals.
The statement deals with roads in the immediate vicinity of King's Cross. York way runs immediately beside the existing King's Cross station and divides the constituencies of myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras. It is one of the principal routes from the north to King's Cross area. The environmental statement says that traffic flows on York way
"will not be significantly different to forecast flows" for the general proposals for development in the King's Cross area. The statement admits that on Pancras road there will be some increase in traffic flows. It says that between Euston road and the new east-west road forecast flows in the northbound direction will be 80 to 90 vehicles per hour higher than they would otherwise be. On Euston road, in both eastward and westward directions, the statement says that there will be about 40 vehicles per hour more than there would otherwise be.
A picture emerges of York way having no significant increase, an increase of 80 to 90 vehicles per hour on Pancras road and an increase of 40 vehicles per hour in each direction on Euston road--none of which is of enormous significance to the present traffic congestion.
Most unbelievable of all is the statement's forecast for Copenhagen street- -and east-west road running directly through much of my constituency which comes to a right-angled junction with York way immediately opposte the site of the proposed major office development just to the north of the new international station. Copenhagen street will undoubtedly carry an enormous amount of extra traffic as a result of the Bill's proposals. Yet the statement said :
"In common with the results of the LRC development only, it is predicted that traffic flows on Copenhagen Street with the addition of the International Rail Terminal will be no greater than at present."
I challenge the authors of this environmental statement, especially the authors of the traffic implication assessments in the statement, to come with me to meet the people who live on Copenhagen street and tell them that, because they do not believe it for one moment. So long as we have traffic assessments of such a dubious quality and traffic consultants suggesting that the greatest impact of the construction of a new international terminus at King's Cross, with upwards of 10 million or 15 million extra passengers a year travelling through it, will be an additional 150 cars per hour, those assessments will be entirely unbelievable. Until we see some better traffic assessments and more reliable witnesses, we cannot possibly continue to consider the Bill properly.
Mr. Dobson : The hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) may raise the same question, but my understanding is that, in addition to the international platforms, there will be two carrying Kent commuter trains into the international station. Having looked through the evidence, I am not at all clear whether the traffic assessments allow for the likelihood of 12,000 commuters arriving from Kent at the new King's Cross-St. Pancras Station. According to the authority's figures at least 6,000 of them are expected
Column 285to continue by tube, which leaves another 12,000 who will have to get their place of work by some other means. Undoubtedly, some will go by road.
Mr. Smith : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We know that British Rail's proposals involve the construction of an eight-platform station underground, rather than the original proposal of a six-platform station underground. We also know that British Rail is assuming that the vast majority of travellers on to the international trains--presumably this is the same for the suburban trains--will come to and leave from King's Cross by public transport. I do not believe that British Rail is making anything other than a hopeful guess when it says that. The likely increase in congestion in the King's Cross area should be taken into account if we are to consider the Bill further.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : I wonder if the hon. Gentleman is being wholly fair to British Rail. Its record on forecasting has been impeccable to date. For example, he will remember that it forecast, on the basis of a 13-year decline in traffic, that a high-speed railway link would not be needed at all. Would the hon. Gentleman care to extrapolate from some of British Rail's figures to see what sort of figure he comes up with if its margin of error is as great for road traffic generated by King's Cross as it was for rail traffic?
Mr. Smith : The hon. Gentleman is right to be entirely sceptical of British Rail's record as a forecasting agency. It appears to be rivalled only by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's forecasts for the British economy.
Three years ago, British Rail said, in its evidence to the Select Committee considering the Channel Tunnel Bill, that King's Cross would not be needed as a second Channel tunnel terminus and that Waterloo would be sufficient well into the 21st century. It went on to say that King's Cross was not a feasible option precisely because of traffic congestion in the King's Cross area. That position has not changed--the only change has been that the traffic congestion there has become even worse. For British Rail to come to us now with the totally unbelieveable tale that the traffic impact of a new international station at King's Cross will be an extra 150 cars per hour at most is something that we cannot possibly accept. We must demand a better quality assessment before we can proceed properly with the Bill.
Mr. Dobson : I am sorry to interrupt the free flow of the speech of my hon. Friend and neighbour, but my understanding--I am afraid that I have the information at second hand--is that today, in evidence to the Committee, Mr. Richard Meades of London Underground said that the information about the decision to have two platforms devoted to Kent commuter trains had not been communicated to London Underground in time for it to assess the extra impact of those commuters on the Underground system. It would be unfair to expect my hon. Friend to know the answer to my question, but perhaps the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) could intervene on my hon. Friend's speech and give us the facts.
The question is : was the information about the intention to use two platforms for Kent commuters available to those making the traffic assessments or were
Column 286those assessments made in total ignorance of British Rail's intention? If, as I suspect, the latter is correct, that is all the more reason why the Bill should be deferred, taken away, re-drafted and returned in the next Session or not at all.
Mr. Smith : My hon. Friend makes an extremely telling point. I suspect, although I do not know, that the answer is that the assessors did not take account of the added impact of traffic on King's Cross and the surrounding area. It would not surprise me in the least if in this, as in so many other matters, British Rail was moving the goalposts in the middle of the game.
An important issue, on which much of the Second Reading debate focused and which was subsequently highlighted by discussions in Committee, was that of through trains travelling to other parts of the country. Some extremely interesting points arose in Committee. In the second volume of Committee proceedings, on page 23, the issue of through trains from places such as Newcastle was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) in his questions to counsel for British Rail. When he pressed her on this subject, she said :
"we would not expect to run a very high frequency service from Newcastle to Paris."
On the same page, British Rail estimates the through services that it expects to provide.
We should bear in mind the fact that British Rail has been selling King's Cross to hon. Members as the ideal location for through traffic from the Channel tunnel to all the northern parts of the country. That is the line that British Rail has been peddling to get support from hon. Members on both sides of the House for its proposals for King's Cross. However, in the report of the Committee proceedings, we see the reality of what British Rail actually proposes, which is as follows :
"a number of overnight services from north of London, perhaps something like a train from Edinburgh, a train from Glasgow, and a train from the South-West and South Wales, to go to the Continent, and in the daytime to run something like four trains a day each way, and those four trains a day each way would basically be two from the West Coast Mainline, probably from Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Manchester, joining up at Rugby, and two from the East Coast Mainline, probably from Edinburgh and Newcastle and a portion from Leeds, also joining up probably at Peterborough."
In other words, from the Committee proceedings we know that British Rail's intentions on services through King's Cross running direct from Paris or Brussels to the north of the country are three night trains and four day trains. Seven through trains in 24 hours will be the sum of this marvellous opportunity for people in the north, in Scotland and in the north-west to enjoy the benefits of the location of the international station at King's Cross.