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Mr. Speaker: Does the hon. Gentleman wish to take part in the debate?

Mr. Galloway: Yes, Mr. Speaker, with trepidation, because I want to catch your eye more substantively later.

What the Minister has just said flatly contradicts what he said a few minutes ago. The Government will have to get some inspiration as to what the real facts are. It cannot be true both that it is up to the Select Committee to decide what it wants to consider, and that the instruction, if passed, circumscribes what it can consider. Both those statements cannot be true. I sympathise with the Minister. The issue is detailed, complex and controversial and I do not want to fall out with him at this stage, because I shall ask him for many things in the course of the debate. We must have clarity on the subject, for clarity there is none in the House at this point.
 
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3.54 pm

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): It is touching that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) and the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff) have cited the case for the procedure to include the extension of Crossrail to Reading. On mature reflection, the Minister may wish that his answer had addressed these points. The Department for Transport is consulting on safeguarding the route from Maidenhead to Reading in response to very strong lobbying from the business community and Reading Members of Parliament—we have established a cross-party consensus. Those of us who have an interest in seeing the Crossrail project proceed, but who are also concerned about its impact on existing high-speed services and freight lines and the roll-out to Reading, wonder why the instruction to the Select Committee is so prescriptive. I invite the Minister to open the door to wider discussions on the consequences of Crossrail, which all hon. Members want to approve in principle, because important details have not yet been examined.

The hybrid Bill process is, by its nature, complex. The Select Committee will have about 12 months of detailed consideration to take on board all the points and concerns. Hon. Members are concerned that the Committee may be fettered by the tightly drawn terms of its instruction, on which we will vote today. I hope that the Minister will reflect on the concerns expressed by hon. Members who support the principle of Crossrail, who want Crossrail to work for the people of London, but who also want it to work for people who seek to commute into London from various constituencies to the west and the east. I hope that that has helped the Minister.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Hon. Members on both sides of the House clearly want to consider the instruction to the Committee. If the motion is passed, there will be no opportunity for further debate, because the question will be put forthwith. The Minister is shaking his head, but is that the case, Mr. Speaker? Will you allow at least some concurrent discussion on Second Reading about the instruction motion, so that hon. Members can make their points?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has answered his own point of order. I will allow the instruction to be debated on Second Reading.

3.57 pm

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I want to say a word or two about the motion, which I want the Government to withdraw after reflection.

I support the Crossrail project, but this is not the way to win friends and influence people. If we are to achieve consensus, which the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) and others want, we must have a wide debate on Second Reading and in the early procedural stages to allow all the issues to be put on the table. It is entirely wrong for the Government to foreclose the discussion about what the Select Committee is entitled to do before we get into the substance of the debate, in
 
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which my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) will lead for the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Hayes : The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the vital importance of achieving a consensus that includes not only politicians, but various people in the railway network. Does he agree that this instruction is unlikely to achieve that purpose?

Simon Hughes: I entirely accept that. I am trying to ensure that we end up with an east-west rail link through London from the west to east that will serve people from the west country and the Thames valley, come into and through the capital, and go out to the eastern home counties and East Anglia. That has been on the agenda of this country and this Parliament for many years—certainly throughout your speakership, Mr. Speaker, and before that.

I want to make three points about why I hope that the Government will reconsider this rather surprising business motion, of which I was not aware in advance. I thought that I was coming here to debate the Second Reading of the Crossrail Bill and that, having debated its principles and substance, we could debate the remit that we give to the Select Committee when we ask it to get on with the detailed consideration of petitions against the Bill.

Martin Salter: Before the hon. Gentleman treats the House to his three substantive points, may I seek clarification from the Liberal Democrats that they join the other parties in supporting the principle of the western terminus for Crossrail being in Reading rather than in Maidenhead, as proposed?

Simon Hughes: I think that the answer is yes, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington will confirm that when he speaks on our behalf on Second Reading. I am speaking on the basis of a London constituency interest.

Peter Luff: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Simon Hughes: Just once more, as I want to make my three points and move on.

Peter Luff: Is it the hon. Gentleman's understanding, as it is mine, that the purpose of this business motion is to ensure that the subsequent debate and votes occur today? I wish that the Minister had confirmed that, but he would not do so. I would welcome that outcome. I support Crossrail in principle, but this instruction turns me against the whole thing because of its restrictive nature. I would like separate debates and votes on the separate issues.

Simon Hughes: That prompts me to make my first point. We have waited a long time for this Bill. It was due in the last Parliament and never came. It was in the Queen's Speech and we hoped that it would come early in this Parliament, but it was put back; it was trailed but did not happen. We understand the reasons for that—I am not being over-critical—but we now have to get moving. The trouble is that we are up against the buffer of the last three days of the parliamentary term before
 
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the summer recess. I can understand the dilemma: how does one have a Second Reading debate without any filibustering or delay that would prevent us from forming the Select Committee?

I cannot speak for colleagues in other parties, but certainly my colleagues and I would facilitate having the procedural debate later tonight or tomorrow, which would be entirely possible. There would be no difficulty if we were allowed to send the Committee a brief saying that it could look at the whole range of issues. That would not divide the House—it would produce a consensus and we could vote on it. This is a serious request to the Secretary of State, who knows these issues very well. Let us have Second Reading of the Bill, which will, I believe, receive the approval of this House in due course, but please do not fetter the hands of the Committee at this stage because there will be complaints that it is not addressing the issues properly.

My second point is that there is a large degree of consensus. The first parts of the Secretary of State's instructions and those in the name of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington and others are the same. They both call for a process dealing with the environmental impact and for the principle of the Bill to allow debate on where the termini should be. It is fairly obvious that if we are to have a great railway line through the country, the decisions on the locations of the termini are central and should be discussed by the Select Committee.

The instructions agree that intermediate stations should be provided in eight places: Paddington, which is obvious; Bond Street; Tottenham Court Road; Farringdon, with an interchange with the north-south Thameslink line; Liverpool Street, with an interchange with the mainline station; Whitechapel; the Isle of Dogs; and Custom House. So far, there is consensus. The difference is that my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington and the other signatories to the third instruction ask the Committee to consider three important questions.

The first question deals with Crossrail's effect on freight and other passenger services. That is an obvious consideration. When a great new railway line is established, the knock-on effect on other users—passenger and freight—should be considered. That is not unreasonable but sensible. The Government, who, to their credit, keep saying that they want an integrated rail network, should accept that.

The second question requests that the Committee be allowed to consider whether the line could be part of the integrated rail network. We all want that. If one travels from, for example, Hull to Plymouth and happens to go through Oxford or Reading, one wants to know that there will be some interconnection. If one makes a journey down the east coast to Cambridge, one wants to ensure that there is a connection.

The third question is obvious. Now that we have won the Olympic bid and have the great opportunity of the games, which I have always supported and now welcome—it is fantastic for London—we need to ensure, given the Government's claim at the outset that we did not need Crossrail for the bid, that we do not commit ourselves to building something that disrupts the necessary work for delivering the transport for the
 
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Olympics, for example, the east London railway line extension and other projects to which we are committed. It is no good doing a Boston and digging up the whole of London because of Crossrail when we are trying to fulfil commitments in the east end and in south-east London, where I live.

The second substantive point is, therefore, a request to the Government to give the Committee the job of examining the logical questions on the Order Paper.

The third point—[Hon. Members: "It is the fourth."] No, it is the third substantive point, which is about procedure. If the Government are uncertain about willingness to co-operate, will they accept assurances from colleagues of all parties that we are all willing to co-operate with getting the Bill from the Floor of the House into Committee before the summer so that we can get on with the job as soon as possible? Nobody wishes to delay progress. If the Government would be reasonable about the process, hon. Members would be reasonable about how we handle the Bill. I therefore beg the Government to withdraw the motion and allow us to do orderly business so that the Committee can get on with its job.


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