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Mr. Hughes : The right hon. Gentleman puts forward as his proposed suggestion one with which, as he would expect, I agree. The starting point must be that management and the regulatory authority are transferred to the democratically accountable three local authorities. If someone approached Members of Parliament or the local
Column 683authorities in question with another proposal that they found acceptable, but which was different, I am sure that we would not stand in their way.
If, for example the three local authorities came to an agreement that requested a common, joint committee to manage the water area, as has been done in the past, that might be a practical way forward. It may be easier to have one authority managing all the water space than three authorities in terms of benefit and scale of advantage. However, the assumption must be, as has been our assumption, that the best place to start is the boroughs, but the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that I cannot give him an answer. The reason why I cannot do so is that there is no answer yet to give. The Bill provides the route and the method, but does not provide the solution.
I must say to the right hon. Gentleman and to other colleagues that, if they find that an entirely unsatisfactory conclusion and if they want to know the answer before they allowed the Bill to leave the House, they must seek to get the answer, as I will, during the other stages of the Bill.
I link that answer to the point of order and suggest a way forward. I can assure the House that the debate about who takes over will come back to us. The hon. Member for Newham, South spotted the issue first and others have spotted it subsequently. They have spotted that, as the Bill stands at the moment, clause 22, previously clause 21, which provides for the transfer of the functions of the LDDC conferred on it by the Bill to another body by order of the Secretary of State, is exercisable by statutory instrument, but is not an order which the House has the power to prevent being passed. It does not require the approval of Parliament.
We often have debates like this. I have been on countless Committees that have debated amendments that this or that clause should come into force only if there is a negative or an affirmative resolution of the House to follow. The proposal that the docklands corporation makes through me to the House in answer to the point of order is that it will make those orders subject to negative resolution before the House.
Not only clause 20, but clause 22 will be open to that procedure. A resolution can be tabled which will annul those orders. We could debate the procedures here rather than off in a Committee somewhere and I hope that that will give us the peg on which to hang a debate. The right hon. Gentleman, his friends and I may want to try to push the LDDC to give us a more express answer before the debate and the other stages of the Bill. We may want to engage in thinking ahead rather than leaving it to later, which would be a perfectly responsible procedure to adopt. There is none the less, a promise that the transfer of functions will come before us and that it will be able to be the subject of an annulment procedure. I hope that it will allow us to stage that debate later.
I have two more substantive points to make. I am sure that other hon. Members want to speak. I shall make one point on behalf of the promoter and one more parochial point on behalf of my constituents. The waters that we are discussing and which are managed by the LDDC are very deep. All of us who live alongside the river and know it well know the danger of the Thames. From my constituency experience, I know that it is difficult to manage safety. For example, what sort of
Column 684fencing should we use to stop children falling into the water ? Rigid fencing may be easier to climb and provide a child with a sense of security. A child may fall over such fencing quite easily. It might be better to have less rigid or flexible fencing about which children feel insecure. If a child were to cycle down a slope towards a dock edge, flexible fencing would act as a break and throw that child back from the edge. Such safety issues are complicated debates. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and other bodies have been involved in such debates over the years. There is potentially great danger in the docklands. The management of the docklands must be concerned principally with the safety of the user, whether on the water in terms of sport or business or those on the dock or water edge.
Swimming in the Thames and in the docks is also dangerous. One of my first duties was to present regatta cups from the end of a jetty. It was no surprise that I ended up going into Greenland dock as part of the process. I remember someone on the quayside saying, "They would never have done that to Bob Mellish." That was probably true. As I swallowed a mouthful of extremely unpleasant water, I realised why my swimming in the past had been carried out elsewhere. The Government have still not yet made the Thames clean enough to make it the obvious place for me or others to swim in.
On a more serious point, since 1981 four children and 10 adults have drowned in the waters that we are talking about. No matter how well managed the waters are, they will still be dangerous and they will still be subject to infection. For example, toxic blue algae blooms in the summer. We will not be able to get rid of that from the docks in the short term because those blooms come from the Thames which has many nutrients and is a tidal river. We will not suddenly stop the benefits of a tidal river in the docklands and nor would we want to.
On many occasions, young people have had to be prevented from diving off bridges and other structures into the docks. I have often recently seen youngsters diving off dock edges during the summer as they have done in generations past. In addition, hundreds of vehicles have been retrieved from the docks. In 1992 alone, 22 submerged vehicles were recovered from the docks in the Isle of Dogs including--and I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) is aware of this--a Rolls-Royce and a fork lift truck. Perhaps the Rolls-Royce was left there because it was worth more while regarded as insurance than after retrieval
Mr. Hughes : I hear a recurrent theme. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has an obsession tonight of which he really must rid himself. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the person to whom he referred is not likely to return to take part in this debate.
The proposed byelaws would make such dumping and other forms of pollution an offence. They would also make it an offence to take part in unauthorised swimming and diving. The first point, preventing the docks' waters from being polluted, is very important. It will also help safety. The second point is also important, although we cannot guarantee that that byelaw will be 100 per cent. obeyed because stopping youngsters swimming and diving is probably one of the most difficult tasks known to human kind.
Column 685The byelaws will also keep competing users apart. In all three of our boroughs, docks have been set aside and licensed for sailing. Long stretches of water set aside for sailing can be tempting for other sorts of riverside use such as wet bikes, water skiing and other motorised vessels. There have been many incidents in respect of which people have intervened to stop the motorised and more dangerous activity from interfering, often potentially fatally, with the more passive forms of activity. Dangerous behaviour will be an offence. That is important and I hope that we will all welcome that. Bad practices go on because people think that they can get away with it. For example, on occasions building contractors find it convenient to wash out their cement skips in the nearest stretch of water. One might think that it does not matter if one lets one's fuel from one's vessel, or from some other activity, into the dock. It is rather like the water and the wine in the well. One thinks that no one notices, but the next day one discovers that everyone has let their oil into the dock and the dock has become very unpleasant indeed. A spill in 1992 measured 1,000 ft by 200 ft. That was a pretty big slick of oil in the docks. People have also emptied other things into the docks, including portable toilets, fairly regularly. I am sure that we would not want that to happen and the regulations allow action to be taken in those circumstances, too. If there is a marina, it is important that people behave properly there for the surrounding users.
I want now to consider the process of the Bill to date so that we appreciate that the Bill has been tested and sounded out in relation to everyone who might have a particular interest. The Bill does not propose a unique power. It is not as if similar powers have not been requested in the House before. Other landowners have comparable powers. They include the National Trust and the water authorities. The British Waterways Bill included similar powers. Transport undertakers, airports and railway companies have similar powers. We are all aware of private Bill procedures in which similar powers have been included. Those bodies have powers to make byelaws and those byelaws often relate to water.
The Merseyside Development Corporation Act 1985 conferred byelaw-making powers on Merseyside which is a similar development corporation to the LDDC. That was a precedent for this Bill as well as for the idea that it would be a good thing to update the authority and make the powers and enforcement belong to the people who do the work. In addition, there has been a consultation process. There has been considerable consultation with user groups, local and other public authorities, residents' associations and other bodies. More than 90 such bodies have been consulted on the Bill and draft byelaws. No one said that there should be no byelaws. No one has objected in general terms to the proposed byelaws either. There have been long discussions with the PLA from which the docklands corporation seeks to inherit. It has no objection to the Bill or to the amendments already made in the other place or proposed to be made in this place. No petitions have been lodged in this House. There were two petitions in the other place, one from the borough of Tower Hamlets and the other from the Docklands Forum. Both were withdrawn following negotiations before the Bill reached its Committee stage in the Lords. Newham and Southwark local authorities have not lodged petitions or expressed any formal opposition to the Bill.
Column 686In essence, the Bill comes to us with one specific issue to which we have been alerted, which we must address and which will be amended. That has to do with the power to debate and decide who takes over from the LDDC. Otherwise, everyone who has an interest believes that this is the right framework.
Newham has been involved and has been quite active. However, it is happy. Southwark has been less active, but has expressed no opposition. As we have heard, Tower Hamlets petitioned on the Bill, but reached an agreement with the docklands corporation in June 1993. One of the things that were agreed in that negotiation was that Tower Hamlets would have to be consulted in respect of the successor body and, in establishing successor bodies, the LDDC agreed to use reasonable endeavours to secure local representation on them. Tower Hamlets got something out of that and I hope that that is welcomed across the political divide, because it is clearly better than the previous position.
The corporation has also undertaken to make representations to the Secretary of State prior to any form of transfer of functions recommending that adequate financial provisions be made for successor bodies.
It is in respect of that that I should like to make a parochial point. The Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction wrote to me recently, as he did to other hon. Members, saying that he was contemplating de- designation as a process.
One of the areas that he was contemplating de-designating first is that strip of the Southwark docklands from London bridge along the Thames eastward along the south bank roughly to the King's stairs adjacent to the Rotherhithe tunnel. That is the pan-handle of Southwark docklands.
There is a time and a place for everything. Perhaps before long, de- designation of that area and transfer to the local authority, should happen. I have been offered a meeting with the Minister. I shall take that up and discuss the detailed issues.
The issue that the community in Southwark is concerned about with regard to that area and the rest is that there should not be de-designation until we are sure that other public authorities have not only the power but the wherewithal to carry on and complete anything that is left incomplete. Equally importantly, they must have the finance to continue to maintain the jobs that have been started. For example, it is no good creating a lovely new park, a new water sports centre, the Surrey docks urban farm, the Lavender dock educational centre at the Pump House or any of the other things if we then say, "Thank you very much. It is yours now" and the Government do not provide, through the local authority or someone else, the wherewithal to fund them on an ongoing basis.
The precondition for me to say yes, go on and hand it back to Southwark, the precondition for the people of Southwark to say the same, and I suppose the precondition in many ways for the hon. Members for Bow and Poplar and for Newham, South, who represent the other parts of docklands, and for the Labour Front Bench, will be to say, "Fine, hand the docklands back to local authorities but do not give us the job without giving us the resources." That is a fundamentally important plea. I am all in favour of moving on, but I am not in favour of moving on without the resources to do it. The Bill is a measure to bring the management of docklands up to date ; a Bill which has no expressed
Column 687objection outside this place ; a Bill which addresses some of the real concerns about how to look after a large number of people in a dangerous area but one with huge potential ; and a Bill which has now addressed the question of how we will proceed hereafter by saying that there will be further parliamentary debates about it. Much of the Bill is technical, much of it is precedented and some of it is new.
Tonight, in responding to the Bill, I hope that hon. Members will feel that they can contribute to setting the framework for docklands in the new legislative structure. I hope that the debate will be listened to outside and that those who represent the area, know it, work in it, love it and believe in it can, as a result of the process, get a docklands that is more people centred, more people safe and more people beneficial than in the past. I think that that is the motivation of the corporation in the Bill.
For people who are an unelected quango, they have been trying very hard. I have to say that in the Bill they are doing fairly well. But I will not be complacent. I will not let them off the hook. I want them to continue trying even harder. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading tonight.
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) : I thank the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for his introduction to the Bill. As he said, the Bill is promoted by the London Docklands development corporation, which has been in existence since 1981. It proposes to give that body new powers to make byelaws relating to the former docks and the areas surrounding them. That is certainly necessary for the safety of people who live in the area and who might wish to work or take their leisure there. We do not argue with those propositions ; indeed, we welcome them.
There is doubt among some of the organisations involved whether those duties should have been given to the London Docklands development corporation in the first place if it is a partly time-expired body and if it is intended that it should eventually give up its present role. Some of my hon. Friends may wish to deal with that aspect. There is another aspect to the Bill. It gives the Secretary of State powers to extend the role of the development corporation's byelaws outside the area covered by the London Docklands development corporation, which is a bit of a novelty. Initially, I shall concentrate on what I regard as the big question about the Bill, which is clause 22. That clause empowers the Secretary of State to dispose of all or part of the London Docklands development corporation to anyone he likes. It seems that the Secretary of State will be able to transfer the entire assets of the London Docklands development corporation to any person, including, as I suggested, Mr. Asil Nadir in grateful thanks for his contribution to Tory party funds. I am not suggesting that that is the Government's intention, but they would be empowering themselves to do that under clause 22.
Disposing of assets on this scale is not a private matter and Labour Members believe that it should not have been included in a private Bill. The London Docklands development corporation has assets totalling at least £1,200 million. Any disposal of those assets, which have come to the development corporation as a result of money paid out by the taxpayer, should not be smuggled through
Column 688as the subject of a private Bill. Obviously, it was something which the Government wanted done. The development corporation did not introduce the proposition. It was included because the Department of the Environment asked the corporation to include it in the Bill. That suggests a cavalier attitude on the Government Benches about the control of public funds.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry) : I assure the hon. Gentleman that nothing is in the Bill at the request of my Department. Indeed, when I speak later, I shall argue that clause 22 is unnecessary. It may be a matter for debate in Committee. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that nothing is in the Bill at the behest of my Department. I am totally neutral in relation to the provisions of the Bill.
Mr. Baldry : Of course, we were consulted on the Bill, as indeed we are consulted on most private measures. The promoters of Bills use their common sense and consult the Government on whether we are likely to oppose the provisions of a Bill. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we tend to be neutral on the provisions of private Bills. I repeat that there is nothing in the Bill at our behest. I will certainly be arguing that clause 22 is unnecessary, for the reasons that I shall set out when I have the opportunity, as I hope I will in due course, of catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Dobson : It opens up the possibility of a rather more neutral attitude by the Department of the Environment, as the sponsoring Department for one of these organisations, to suggest that it scarcely knew and certainly did not care that clause 22 was in the Bill. Certainly, the Department does not appear to have pointed out that it is an unprecedented clause and the propositions that have been put forward as precedents have never permitted the disposal of public assets on this scale without recourse to the House of Commons for permission for each such disposal.
If the Minister is suggesting that clause 22 be withdrawn, I am sure that that will whole-heartedly be supported by Labour. It would not have been a bad idea if the Minister's officials or one of his colleagues had suggested that in the first place. We would not have had to go to all the bother of tracking it down, making points of order and identifying clause 22 as a novelty in a way that apparently no one in the House of Lords managed to do.
Mr. Shore : We have just heard a remarkable statement on the most interesting question of consultation with different Government Departments. Does my hon. Friend think that there might have been some useful consultation with the Department of Trade and Industry ? Surely it is odd that we should be debating this Bill, which seeks to regulate and control business activities in the docklands water area, when at the same time the House is considering the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, which at the stroke of a pen would enable the President of the Board of Trade to scupper the whole Bill. What guarantees do we have that that will not happen ?
Column 689because the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will provide all the powers that are necessary. That would certainly be the logic of the position. This may be a minor effort at deregulation, and perhaps the London Docklands development corporation is seeking to ingratiate itself with its masters in putting forward the proposition. It must be said that secret transfers of assets, secret subsidies and precious little role for elected representatives have always been part and parcel of the history of the LDDC. It is difficult to find out how much public money has been going into docklands because the Government and the LDDC have refused to disclose the full information. Time and again, Ministers have responded to detailed questions from Opposition Members by saying that the information was not available.
It is right that the House should look at the question of expenditure. As the Bill stands, there is a proposition that the LDDC can ask the Minister to agree to hand over all or some of the property, and also that the Secretary of State would be empowering himself to decide what to do. We must look at the priorities that the LDDC and the Government have been following in relation to docklands.
Mr. Simon Hughes : One of the benefits of doing this job is that one gets some information. I may be able to help the hon. Gentleman by giving him the figures that I have received for capital employed, which is cash expended by the LDDC from its setting up to 31 March 1993--the end of the past financial year. The total, from Government grants plus income from property disposals, rents, planning fees and miscellaneous sources, is £1,617 million.
Mr. Dobson : My own guesswork would have been wrong by just £17 million, and I hope that the rest of the figures that I quote on the basis of the inadequate public information will be equally accurate. One of the problems with docklands and the question of large public subsidies is that the LDDC's activities are complicated by the existence of the enterprise zone on the Isle of Dogs. It is clear that billions of pounds of private and public money have been poured into London docklands and into the Isle of Dogs. The question arises, why are the people of the Isle of Dogs so dissatisfied with their circumstances that they recently voted in a Nazi to represent them on their local council ?
That may be an example of the Government throwing money at a problem. The trouble is that they appear to have thrown and missed, because the money-- instead of going to the people who needed it in docklands, the voters--has been snapped up by, generally speaking, a lot of foreign property speculators. In docklands, and on the Isle of Dogs in particular, thousands of people are living in bad housing and many of them are out of work. Many young people have poor job prospects and the Government have not thrown any public money at them.
The Government and the LDDC have thrown money at property developers. Of the LDDC's funds of £1.6 billion, which the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey confirmed, roughly 75 per cent., or £1.2 billion, has gone into supporting and subsidising property development. To be fair, the LDDC has put money into housing and 16, 000 new dwellings have been built in the area. However, only 4,000 of those have been for council or housing association tenants at rents that local people can afford. On the Isle of Dogs, 3,055 houses have been built, but only 583 are available for rent at rents which local people can afford.
Column 690Over the past four years, about £20 million has been spent on social housing by the LDDC in docklands. There is still a desperate shortage and that shortage of housing that has been exploited by the British National party to promote racial strife and violence. The LDDC claims--this is the sort of thing on which it spends its money--that, since it came into existence, 40,000 jobs have been created in docklands. However, only 13,000 of those were new jobs. The rest were transfers of jobs from outside. It is estimated that, of the new jobs, only 3,000 went to people living, not in docklands, but in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark as a whole.
Meanwhile, 15,000 existing local jobs have disappeared as many existing employers have been forced or bought out because their continued existence was seen to fit in badly with some of the development that was going on. The jobless figures in 1981 were 3,500, and in 1993 were 5,500--an increase of 54 per cent. Those unemployment figures, and the large numbers of young people who were born, went to school and live on the Isle of Dogs and who cannot get a job, have been exploited by the British National party to promote racial attacks, particularly on Bengali people.
Despite the money that has been poured into docklands, jobs for people who have grown up there are scarce and are getting scarcer. The job prospects for young people are getting worse. Local people are living in rundown properties, and housing waiting lists have risen by one third since the LDDC came into existence. The number of homeless people has almost trebled to 4,800. That is still going on. Just before Christmas, the Isle of Dogs neighbourhood proposed to transfer land at nil cost to the East London housing association so that it could be used to build housing for people living on the Isle of Dogs, and it urged the LDDC to do the same. Between them, that would have permitted the building of 450 new homes, most of them on the Isle of Dogs. The Housing Corporation agreed to that idea in principle. The LDDC has not just rejected that--according to my informant, it has not even replied to the suggestion.
Meanwhile, in many parts of docklands, and again particularly on the Isle of Dogs, residents have had to put up with a great deal of noise, vibration, dust, disturbance and--for a considerable period--the loss of their television signal because of office development and the transport connections that were being made for that development. Office building has boomed, and Canary wharf on the Isle of Dogs is a supreme example. It is a symbol of the 1980s--an unfinished, half-empty office development. It is estimated that Canary wharf alone received £1,600 million in subsidies from the taxpayer. That is £1,600 million for speculative offices, and £20 million for housing for ordinary people. The land sale, the help with transport connections and the enterprise zone tax allowances added together give the figure of £1,600 million for the taxpayer subsidy for the building of Canary wharf.
All that has come from a Government who cannot find money for London's hospitals, for the Northern line, for homes for the homeless, for people trying to start a family while living with their in-laws and for fighting crime in docklands. They could, however, find £1,600 million to help a Canadian property speculator who was so incompetent that, despite getting £1,600 million of taxpayers' money, he went bust. That was the ultimate expression of the Government's inner-city policies.
Column 691When looking at the people who may wish to decide to hand over part of the LDDC's property, or at Secretaries of State who may then wish to authorise that, it must be remembered that they tend to follow fashion. I have looked recently at the announcements that were made when the Canadian company Olympia and York was announced as the rescuer of the work at Canary wharf. An article in The Times by Barbara Amiel was entitled "The man who made the canary fly." Not to be outdone, The Sunday Times described the company as
"The quiet man who will make the canary sing."
A little later, after it all fell apart, we had The Observer headlines such as "This Canary Won't Sing", "Olympia and York's Leaning Tower of Debt" and "Nightmare in docklands."
Should anyone think that it was not an establishment set-up that gave us Canary wharf, I commend to them Ms Barbara Amiel's article, which said, referring to the Chelsea flower show :
"Corporate tents dotted the grounds. Robin Leigh-Pemberton, Governor of the Bank of England smiled at Lord Rippon. Lord Rothermere bowed to the Princess of Wales. Cabinet Ministers exchanged cautionary tales. An onlooker might have heard the contented voices of London's own, happy amongst themselves. In the middle of this and that, a small man with an ebullient smile dashed over to introduce himself to the president of Olympia and York, the construction company that was sponsoring the occasion. It was Mr. Brian Griffiths, head of the policy unit at No. 10."
They were all in it. They all believed that the developers of Canary wharf could walk on water. It turned out that they could not. I believe that Ministers, the British establishment and the banks involved all demonstrated themselves to be a collection of hapless clowns in the backing that they gave to Canary wharf. Once it had failed, they decided to do anything to bail it out. Banks ran round like headless chickens, not trying to recover money from Canary wharf but closing down dozens of small businesses throughout the country and all over docklands in an effort to recoup the money that they had lost. The LDDC was wringing its hands. The Government extended the period of the special enterprise zone tax allowances to help bail it out.
Then the Government agreed to build the extension to the Jubilee line and helped Canary wharf obtain a £100 million loan from the European investment bank, also in an effort to bail it out. All the while, the people who live on the Isle of Dogs, the people who live in poor housing whose lives have been made a misery by the construction work, the people who find it difficult to find jobs, and the people who are disappointed and hurt that their children and grandchildren cannot find jobs, have been ignored by the Government, the LDDC and the developers. They are desperate for new and better homes. They are desperate for jobs for themselves and their children. They are outraged that billions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been poured instead into the marbled halls of the speculators. It is the epitome of all that is wrong with Britain that when people move into the office block that is the most spectacular failure of a property development they will look down on the only part of Britain that has voted for a fascist to represent them in Parliament in recent times--not in Parliament, on the local council. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) laughs. He apparently thinks that it is funny that fascists represent
Column 692people anywhere in Britain. In docklands we see people who are absolutely sickened by the way in which they have been treated and want to be treated better. They note the contrast between all the money that has been poured into the pockets of the property speculators and all the money that has not been provided to make their lives decent. The only people who speak up for them are those in the Labour party.
Ms Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar) : I grew up facing a grim dock wall in The Highway in east London. Although I was lulled to sleep at night by the sound of ships' horns, I had to climb to the third floor of my father's house to see the tops of cranes. If I wanted to look at the water I had to walk to Tower Hill gardens, which was 15 or 20 minutes away, or to King Edward memorial park in Shadwell. When the docks closed and my neighbours lost their jobs with the Port of London Authority and hit hard times, it was sad and bad for people in the district.
As time went on and the dock area became derelict, it was obvious that something needed to be done. The Government decided to take the project out of the hands of democratically elected bodies and set up an appointed quango, the London Docklands development corporation. If the people of the area were blighted by the closure of the docks, they were blighted a second time by the setting up of the LDDC. It has brought them no good. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has pointed out the failure of the LDDC to provide the desperately needed housing in the area. Seventy five per cent. of the housing that it built was for sale. The housing for rent was luxury housing that local people could not afford.
The Government and the LDDC bear a direct responsibility not only for the election of the measly British National party councillor--whom we shall get rid of--but for the racial antagonism and hatred that have developed in the area. Racial violence has grown while desperate people fight for the few resources in the area and the few houses that have been built. The affordable places that the Isle of Dogs neighbourhood built to house local people have not been built with the blessing of the LDDC. It took years before we were able to build Masthouse terrace because the LDDC caused delays. Then everyone wanted the few houses that were built. Yet it should have been possible to build thousands of homes for affordable rent. That vast area of land available could have solved the chronic housing problems of the area once and for all. The opportunity was wasted and those whom local people still call yuppies moved in while their own plight was worse than ever and no one seemed to care.
No jobs resulted from the setting up of the LDDC. The LDDC policy of property speculation meant that higher land prices forced out local businesses that employed local people. The unemployment rate in Tower Hamlets in the past few months has gone not down but up again. Jobs for local people were not created, despite all the money that went into the area. It has been estimated that every job that was created cost £45,000--what chronic mismanagement, what chronic waste of public money.
From 1981 to 1992, the LDDC received £1.6 billion grant in aid in addition to other concessions in the enterprise zone such as capital allowances, rates
Column 693allowances, tax allowances and so on. There was no trickle-down effect, as the LDDC and the Government had prophesied.
The whole Canary wharf project was madness. It was madness to build that huge edifice of offices isolated with no adequate public transport to reach it. When the Government sought to remedy the position, there was crazy mismanagement again. The docklands highway cost £650 million to construct. The Limehouse link is the most expensive mile of road that has ever been built. Despite assurances to the contrary, the docklands highway is used for commuter traffic to pass through Tower Hamlets. One only has to go to Tower Hamlets on any weekday evening to see that the traffic jams on the A13 are as bad as ever. Come any evening and see how that £650 million has been wasted. The Government held up the building of the Jubilee line extension for £400 million and insisted that the money had to come from private industry. The Jubilee line extension is still not started and yet the Government have thrown the money away on roads. The St. Vincent estate was knocked down to build the Limehouse link and 500 homes went by the board. Rehousing those people is one of the sore points that caused the trouble that led to the election of the British National party candidate.
Mr. Spearing : As Member of Parliament for a neighbouring constituency I pass through my hon. Friend's constituency frequently. I noticed that the site that was occupied by the St. Vincent estate is not above the enormous tunnel. Was the estate originally demolished to provide for that tunnel and if not, why were those flats not refurbished, as those on the other side of the road have been, instead of making the area into a blank site ?
Ms Gordon : That is a good question. Most local people think that the LDDC picked the route that destroyed 500 units of public sector housing because it wanted the land for office developments or to sell off for expensive private housing. It could have built the road along the foreshore or in a tunnel instead of building a cut-and-cover road and then it would not have had to pull down the St Vincent estate. The bottom fell out of the market, no one wanted office developments or luxury housing and the land remains unused.
Although I wrote to the LDDC on behalf of local people and said that they had discussed plans and wanted affordable housing, council housing and community centres and so forth on the site, the LDDC has no intention of building anything of the kind. It never consults local people and it never does what they want. That is not its way. Let us look at some other aspects --beyond the pantomime of the Jubilee line extension, which the Government and the LDDC have postponed over and over again--that is irritating local people. Let us consider why the people whom I represent and I do not feel that we ought to give further powers to the LDDC, which has not managed well the powers that it has.
The docklands light railway extension to Lewisham has been on the cards for a long time. It will cause a lot more disturbance of the type that my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras described. Local people have literally been made to eat dirt--dirt and dust seeps into their houses and they suffer from the noise of pile driving. Does the Minister know what pile driving sounds like night
Column 694and day ? It can drive people mad. Local people have put up with that for years and now they are being asked to put up with more of it for the building of the docklands light railway.
Local people wanted that extension of public transport and could see that it had benefits--or some, if not all, did. Members of the Millwall park users group--the park will be taken over for a long time and people will lose that amenity while the railway extension is built--and other petitioners against the Bill spent many months preparing evidence for the House of Commons and House of Lords Select Committee. The Committee assured them and the neighbourhood that Island Gardens station would be built underground. I asked the Minister, in the Chamber, for a community trust fund to be set up with £1 million to compensate people for the loss of amenities during the years that the extension was being built. The residents could have controlled that trust fund and provided other amenities for the community, as a substitute for the football pitch, the park and all the other things that would be out of action.
In its wisdom, the House of Lords Committee decided that the primary purpose was to compensate local people by means of capital investment, which would enhance the area, rather than by handouts--it considered that the trust that I asked for was a handout--through a community trust or exceptional compensation payments. It also decided that the new underground Island Gardens station would be proposed as compensation for people in the area. Some people were satisfied with the proposal that the station would be underground, and that it would be properly staffed and that Millwall park would be levelled off and reinstated, which would improve the area.
After all their work and all those petitions and discussions, we have suddenly heard that the money is not there and that Island Gardens station might be deleted. Hon. Members might think that the docklands light railway is a great amenity for the community, but 25 per cent. of islanders do not live within reasonable walking distance of a station. If Island Gardens and Mudchute stations are not included in the Lewisham extension, another 25 per cent. of the community will not have the benefit of living within walking distance of a station on the direct line to Lewisham. The DLR primarily serves the business area and not the residential area. Many residents have a long walk to stations and the new proposal to delete Island Gardens and to let the community down, after having what local people considered were serious discussions, will make the position much worse.
A spur line is suggested for Island Gardens and Mudchute, but the local community has totally rejected that idea as trains would be infrequent and it is not what was promised or what they want. Everyone is asking when the trains will run in the evening and at weekends. They still stop at 9 o'clock at night and there are no trains on Saturdays and Sundays. People cannot go anywhere by train then. They have to wait in the cold for the infrequent buses. So much for LDDC management and policies. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) will agree that it has taken a long time for the Beckton extension to come into use. We are promised it next month
What about access to the water ? I spoke to the Docklands sailing club today. Its members told me that if they want access to the LDDC-owned slipway they have to obtain permission each time that they want to use it and to travel to pick up the permit, which is very inconvenient. When the club holds a big event and its small car park is not big enough, it has to pay £50 a day for parking at Arnhem wharf. That would be fine if the car park was decent, but the site is littered with bollards and large potholes. What will the LDDC charge other local groups for decent parking-- the sailing club is a charity--which is essential ? We had enough trouble when the arena opened and there were no car parks or toilets. We must ask such questions if the LDDC is to have more powers.
Since I became a Member of Parliament in 1987, I have continually raised the question of access to the waterfront with officers of the LDDC. They once gave me a briefing downstairs with maps and so forth and showed me all the areas where there is supposed to be access to the waterfront. Many buildings were allowed to be built only if public access was provided. My secretary, who lives on the Isle of Dogs, said, "Just a minute. That long piece of waterfront looks as though you can walk along it, but there is a brick wall across it and you can't walk along but have to go round and along the road." She pointed to another place that looked as though one could walk along, but said that one can only go so far before having to scramble through mud and dog mess to get across to the other part of the path.
When the tall ships came along the river there was a great fuss when local people tried to see them. They were stopped by jets of water that shot up from the ground and by guards on land that was marked down as public open space. I have raised the matter over and over again.
In one press release, Michael Pickard was seen doing some bolt-cutting to open some space, but that was symbolic. I asked the LDDC to put up signs on every piece of public open space to say that the public had access to it. I also asked for street furniture and benches so that in hot weather, in an area with little parkland--it will be worse when Millwall park and Island Gardens are taken up by the building of the docklands light railway extension--people can sit by the water, get a breath of fresh air and cool off. Did the corporation do that ? No. There are a few signs now, but, by and large, nothing has been done. A paltry sum would have been involved. The corporation has had millions--billions--but it cannot do that little thing for local people.
Local people have little for which to thank the LDDC and have had little joy out of its control over the area. This is the time at which we should be considering documents and Bills in connection with the running down and closing of the LDDC and the handing over of its tasks to the elected local authority. It is a strange time at which to be discussing extending its powers, especially given that it has mismanaged everything that it has handled so far.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I start by thanking the board members and officers of the LDDC who have answered some of my questions and met at least some of my objections--as best they can--since I started to examine the Bill. I make no secret of the fact that I doubted
Column 696the need for the Bill and still have doubts about its contents. I agree, however, that there is a legal vacuum surrounding docklands, especially as regards the water itself and the areas immediately adjacent to it, and that that vacuum needs to be filled.
Originally, the docks were heavily policed, with a big wall, dock gates and high security. They fulfilled a special purpose under the dock companies and subsequently the Port of London Authority. The purpose of that area of water has now changed completely. It not now primarily an area for work but an area of public access, for leisure and recreation. We therefore need a different set of legal bases or byelaws for it.
The main question is whether a body set up temporarily, which is known to be going out of existence in the next few years, is the best body on which to confer additional powers by an Act of Parliament. That is why I have had doubts about the Bill, even though local authorities and others have understandably not opposed it. I understand, too, why recreational bodies such as rowing clubs and sailing organisations and the navigation authorities also see the need for byelaws, and I shall come to them in a minute.
Let us first look at the procedural problem, part of which we have discovered today and which has in any case become a little more acute for the reasons hinted at by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore)--that deregulation and the place of statutory instruments are now very much in the air as a result of the controversial Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill.
I shall not quote clause 22 extensively, but it deserves quoting in principle. Subsection (1) states :
"Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or any provision of the Act of 1980, the Secretary of State, on the application of the Corporation, may by order at any time transfer to any person ("the transferee") with the agreement of that person all or any part of the undertaking."
I must confess that when, amateur-like, I first read the Bill, I thought that the undertaking referred to was the undertaking to abide by the background to the byelaws. In fact, however, the undertaking refers to what we in east London might call the whole shebang. That is a very considerable power. In the autumn, I corresponded with the promoters of the Bill who agreed that it was a power in which Parliament ought to have some say. They graciously agreed--there was common sense in the decision--that that power and the power in clause 20 should be exercised only subject to the negative resolution procedure of the House.
Acting on my usual instincts, I asked for the minimum rather than the maximum. Perhaps I should have gone further. But at least Parliament was brought into the matter. Perhaps I have become inured to the way in which the LDDC has been operating in the past few years. Parliament has not seen very much of the activities of the LDDC ; as we know, it has been a quango under the Secretary of State.
I am glad that that was agreed, but other factors have come into play since then. I am grateful for the fact that my attention has been drawn to two amendments to the original Act relating to the transfer of operations. The original Act was the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. I served on the Standing Committee that considered that legislation and fought for a long time to get some safeguards written into it. Section 165 says :
Column 697"Subject to this section, an urban development corporation may, by an agreement made with any local authority or any statutory undertakers and approved by the Secretary of State with the Treasury's concurrence :
(a) transfer to the local authority the whole or any part of the corporation's undertaking, or
(b) transfer to the statutory undertakers the whole or any part of the corporation's undertakings which consists of a statutory undertaking".
That was common sense, because that was the sort of thing that might happen either during or at the end of the life of the LDDC. I am glad to say that subsection (8) of that same section says that "Such a transfer shall be of no effect until it is approved by resolution of the House of Commons."
There we have a public and general Act relating to the transfer of property.
However, that provision was amended by section 180 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, which adds after the words "local authority" the words "or other body". Thus, another public and general Act added to the powers of the Secretary of State and the LDDC to transfer-- subject not just to the negative resolution procedure in this case but to an affirmative resolution that could require at least an hour and a half's debate.
I have a question for the Minister and, more particularly, the Committee to which the Bill will no doubt go following tonight's debate. Does the phrase in clause 22,
"or any provision of the Act of 1980"
refer to the Act of 1980, as amended ? I assume that it probably does, in which case, the effect of clause 22 is far greater than some of us may have thought. If it is correct--quite honestly, I do not think any hon. Member could say a definite yea or nay at this stage--it means that clause 22 takes the place, at least in some respects, of the parts of the public and general Acts that I have quoted. That is a very important question. If clause 22 takes the place of those provisions, it means something highly controversial. One of the matters that we have been discussing in the House in the past few weeks is the extent to which a regulation can change an Act of Parliament. In this case, we have a Bill privately promoted by a body set up by an order under the Secretary of State suddenly providing the Secretary of State and itself with enormously increased powers. That gives rise to questions that the Private Bill Committee may like to look at.
The Government may have seen the problem, too. They may not be too keen on the clause because it creates a closed circuit running something like this : Secretary of State ; quango produced by order ; quango produces private Bill to give more powers to the Secretary of State. That is not a democratically healthy circle. I shall leave it at that because the Minister and the Committee to which the occupants of the Chair have referred may have views on the matter as well. If, as I confess is the case, these matters have come to light only in the past week--although I was unhappy last October--parliamentary scrutiny has at least been shown to be effective. I do not think that anyone inside or outside the Chamber has been responsible for trying to pull a fast one. The problem has arisen at least partly inadvertently--if, indeed, the provisions have the effect that I fear.
That is the end of what I might call the procedural prelude. I shall now consider the LDDC and the Bill,