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John Cryer (Hornchurch) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that an important transport infrastructure link would be the extension of the docklands light railway out as far as Rainham? That would help my constituents, those in other parts of Greater London and his in Thurrock.
Andrew Mackinlay: There is a lot to be said for my hon. Friend's suggestion. I draw attention to the fact that he implicitly referred to the fact that the Greater London authority and the Mayor are the driving force for such a proposal. However, this issue is extraterritorial to my constituency; we are not in Greater London and I am not advocating that we necessarily should be in the GLA area. However, I am saying that the boundary of Greater London makes no sense. We should be included in the considerations for the extension of the docklands light railway.
As well as capitalising on the new channel tunnel rail route that comes through my constituency and that of my hon. Friend, we need to upgrade the c2c line and address the problems of the level crossings in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Angela Smith), who shares my frustration at the number of crossings in our area. They cut off communities and create problems for emergency vehicles. That issue needs to be addressed urgently because if the decision goes in favour of the development of the port at Shell Haven, even greater burdens will be imposed on the limited resources of the c2c rail line.
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That will impose greater frustration on the residents who have to wait many minutes to get across the level crossings when they travel to East Tilbury and other areas along the line.
My area also lacks an office market even though it has great potential. We have some of the lowest ratios of public sector jobs to employment in the entire country. If the Lyons review is to take civil servants out of Londonmy constituency is not in Londonit is sensible and reasonable for me to invite Her Majesty's Government to consider moving some civil service jobs from the centre of London and into south Essex, which, at the Government's choice, is part of the eastern region. That would help to encourage the growth of skills training and would be useful in dealing with the shortages of skills, which is one of the great problems faced in our project for the Thames gateway.
It is intended that Thurrock's contribution towards meeting the housing needs of our part of England during the lifetime of the urban development corporation will be roughly 18,500 new houses. I remind my constituents who express concern about that that they must understand that we are talking about not only houses, but schools, hospital and general practitioner provision and transport links, as I have tried to describe in my speech. I also tell them that my right hon. Friend Minister for Housing and Planning has reassured me informally, as he did in the House today, that the whole strategy is especially geared towards bringing contaminated derelict land and brownfield land back into use, and that the Government stand by their commitment to the green belt.
A private enterprise company that goes under the name of Thamesgate has produced an ambitious and innovative proposal, which will presumably become a planning application in several months. It proposes to develop some 18,000 houses in the vicinity of East Tilbury in my constituency. It has tried to sound out local politicians, members of the local authority and other people in public life, such as clergymen. We have made it clear that the green belt is precious and that we do not think that there is a case to build on it unless and until brownfield sites have been exhausted and contaminated land has been restored. That must be our message to the company.
When the Minister makes his winding-up speech I hope that he will reaffirm the Government's commitment to safeguarding the green belt jealously, because that would give a great deal of reassurance to my constituents, especially those in East Tilbury. The proposal has caused them anxiety and they assume that it is a done deal to which politicians and the Government have agreed. There is in fact not even a planning application existing. A private enterprise company merely has a legitimate desire to find out whether it could float such a proposition.
I share the hon. Gentleman's passionately articulated desire to protect green space, especially his area's green belt. I reassure him that there is no likelihood that brownfield land will be exhausted. Brownfield land is a stream, not a reservoir, and as land use changes more brownfield development opportunities emerge. I am confident that when a
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Conservative Government are soon elected, we will be able to support the bold case that he makes on behalf of local people.
Andrew Mackinlay: My constituents certainly need new homes before there is next a Conservative Government. I am worried about the nice people who visit my surgery to express concern rightly about the housing needs of their sons and daughters. I sometimes ask them whether they bought their council houses, and many didgood luck to them, because if I had been a council tenant, I am sure that I would have bought my house too. Such people, however, must realise that we need a way of supplying additional housing units, especially those that may be rented or bought at low cost. Such houses do not fall like manna from heaven each night to appear on the grass each morning. We need to use our energies to find out how we can build houses at low cost to meet such demand, yet still protect and enhance our environment. Politicians and the public must address that challenge and be reminded of it.
The impact on Thurrock of the reduction of housing stock due to council house sales is such that it is becoming more difficult to meet the housing needs of people on modest pay. Such housing provision must be available if we are to have the skills to achieve the wonderful project of regenerating the Thames gateway. I hope that the Minister will find a moment to reassure people throughout the region, and especially my constituents in East Tilbury who would be affected by the private company's proposal, that the Government stand by their commitment to protect and enhance the green belt.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). I agree with him passionately on two points and disagree with him passionately on one. He said that he wanted to move Thurrock into one regional area. Coming from Gloucestershire, which is on the edge of four regional areas, I have a huge amount of sympathy with him in that quest. Bearing in mind the Government's horrendous defeat in the north-east referendum, I hope that Ministers will reconsider their decision not to have new boundaries for regional areas, so that we can address some of the anomalies. The hon. Gentleman is the Member for Thurrock and I am not, but it seems to me that Thurrock fits better in the London region than it does in the eastern region, which I know quite a lot about.
Thames gateway, which is the largest and most ambitious single regeneration project in this country, was launched with great fanfare by the Deputy Prime Minister on 5 February 2003. It is therefore appropriate to evaluate what progress has been made in the year and three quarters since then. The project is a huge opportunity, but it poses a huge danger as well if the Government do not think it through properly, because our great capital city could end up functioning less well
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than it does now. I want London to prosper as one of the world's great capitals. The Thames gateway project gives us an opportunity to achieve that, but it also poses considerable dangers.
The point was made that London will grow by more than 700,000 people in the next 10 years. The gateway project will last for 13 years. One can assume that in the time in which it is to take place, London will have grown by almost 1 million people. The project envisages the building of 120,000 houses. That presages the possibility of at least 250,000 newly housed people. However, Transport for London has estimated that only 35,000 to 55,000 jobs will be created. This is the most important thing that Ministers should listen to[Interruption.] I wish the Minister would listen instead of talking to his colleague, because this is an important point.
If 250,000 people live in the new houses in the Thames gateway and there are jobs for only 55,000 of them, and as every piece of literature and study that I have seen on the project is predicated on the basis that the Thames gateway will have transport links within 45 minutes of central London, it is inevitable that a large number of those newly housed people will have to commute back into jobs in central London. Commuting into and from central London every morning and evening is pretty much hell for thousands, if not millions, of people. If we are not going to put in the transport infrastructure at least at the same time as, but preferably ahead of, some of the new houses, we will be in great trouble.
I also think that the Government are not taking a proper strategic approach, which is surprising given that the Prime Minister is taking a lead on the matter in his Cabinet committee Misc 22. We also know from the Minister that the Deputy Prime Minister is setting up a new quango. I regret that I was not in the Chamber to hear about that and apologise for being late, but I was at another meeting. If we are not careful, the project will have too many chiefs and not enough doers.
We need to take a strategic approach to see where new jobs will be created in the next 13 to 20 years. Which industries will be successful in that time? The Government have not done that strategic thinking properly, and they need to do it. We need to see what new industries we could create in the east of London and what new jobs would follow from that. It will be a quagmire if we create all those new houses and there are no jobs in that area. It is environmentally unsustainablethe great buzz words of our timeand we need people to have jobs near their houses. That is the biggest single thing that the Government need to think about.
The transport infrastructure to make the project work is enormous. The Minister of State, Department for Transport is on the Treasury Bench. I hope that he can give us some answers. What is the future of Crossrail? Who will pay for it? What is the time scale? What about the three estimated new Thames crossings, one of which is a bridge? What about the docklands light railway extension, which has already been mentioned? What about rail upgrades to areas such as Stansted and Tilbury? We need to know something about those developments to the transport infrastructure, as vast
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sums of money will be required to upgrade systems and fund new projects. Where is all the money coming from, and what is the time scale for construction?
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