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Jon Cruddas (Dagenham) (Lab): I echo the support for the Bill offered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), who spoke about economic development in the east of London. A durable Thames Gateway requires integrated transport links that offer access to town centres and job generation sites. Crossrail is to be welcomed as it will develop a rail spine for the London Thames Gateway, providing fast-track links between London's three central grid districts of Canary wharf, the City and the west end. Crossrail is needed to help manage the huge population movements into and within the boundaries of the capital. I shall focus primarily on that important element in my contribution. However, concerns about the present route and its impact on local communities deserve to be discussed and the very nature of the hybrid Bill will allow those detailed concerns to be considered. It is to be hoped that compromises can be found to accommodate affected residents, including those whom I represent.

Let us consider Crossrail in terms of population movements into London. London's population stands at about 7.3 million, just short of the combined population of Rome, Paris, Vienna and Brussels. As far as I can ascertain, it is the only major European capital that is growing. The Mayor of London's plan estimates a further population growth of about 800,000 by 2016. That is about an extra 17,000 people net per year. London is seen increasingly as a world city, with about 50 separate national and ethnic communities scattered across it and about 300 languages spoken.

According to figures provided by the Office for National Statistics for the period 1992–2003, annual inflows of international migrants into the capital more than doubled from under 100,000 to about 200,000. At the same time we can assume that many of the recently estimated stock of illegal workers are resident in the capital. We do not know whether the latest survey estimate of about 570,000 such individuals includes independants. We can assume that London retains a disproportionate number of those currently within the asylum application process—for example, a high proportion of the 280,000 individual failed asylum seekers, as estimated by the ONS. These figures do not appear to include dependants. In short, the dynamic at work in terms of population flows into the capital is extraordinary, but it remains unquantifiable in terms of the real levels of immigration and economic activity. It can be said, however, that the figure of 7.3 million is likely to be a severe underestimate.

Against that backdrop we can consider population movements within London. The extraordinary movement of people into the city requires a suitable public policy response in respect of public services and resource distribution. Yet we must assume that the baseline for public policy making severely understates the number of people living in the city. Rapid immigration has occurred alongside dramatic inflation in property prices, which has pushed immigrant groups, both legal and illegal, into the poorest parts of the capital and those areas with the lowest-cost housing.

My constituency sits at the centre of the Thames Gateway. It covers much of the London riverside area—that is part of the gateway—and has a massive amount of brownfield land. It has the lowest-cost housing
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market in Greater London. There is a growing private housing market through the consequential effects of the right-to-buy policy. Across the London riverside area, and excluding Barking town centre, we anticipate building about 20,000 new homes over the next 10 to 15 years. Population growth estimates range up to about a 60,000 population increase in the small borough over the next 10 years.

Before that development, the population was already increasing dramatically through the dynamic internal population movement within the capital. The trend decline in the borough's population has dramatically reversed over the past few years. There are some estimates that the population has increased by anything up to 20,000 since 2001. This in turn is likely to lead to an underestimate of population movements locally in terms of both illegal migrants and those within the asylum system. Those facts are useful in terms of considering some of the macro-economic London-wide considerations in the Crossrail debate.

The only way in which we can manage population movements into the capital is to seek to rebalance the city and open up the east side. The economic centre of gravity must move to the east as we, in effect, tilt the capital. That is why the Thames Gateway debate is so important. The interest in it has been reinforced over the past couple of years by the strategy of national Government who have established the Thames Gateway as a national priority, with its own dedicated Cabinet Sub-Committee, MISC 22. That policy is obviously conditioned by the housing crisis in the south-east.

Mr. Mark Field : How does the hon. Gentleman believe that there will be a shift in the planned development in the Thames Gateway, which I think that we all support, much as it means the centre of gravity, as he rightly said, of London going eastwards? How does he feel that that will be affected by our winning the Olympic bid and the obvious focus of regeneration over the next seven years, specifically in the Lea valley?

Jon Cruddas: I was about to touch on that.

It seems that Crossrail is an illustrative example of the infrastructural investment that is needed to the east side of the city to handle dramatic population movements into and within the city. It is needed also as a lever for other transport infrastructural links into the central spine that is thereby created.

Business development and relocation, as well as the decanting of the population will result from the Olympic bid. I am part of the London riverside action group, which anticipates a great deal of business relocation as a result of the development of the Olympic site. All roads lead back to the transmission belt or the transport infrastructural network that is being developed across the east side of the city, the spine of which remains Crossrail. Because of population movements and the needs of the east side of town I was always in favour of Crossrail going through the royal docks, Barking, Dagenham and Rainham, rather than along the Shenfield line. That proposal disappeared a few years ago, but it is part of the joined-up strategy that we all seek.

Returning to the dynamic of the housing market, growth is constrained across the economy because of the lower interest rate which, however, may ignite south-
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east house price inflation. As a result, a priority for the Government's macro-economic strategy is surely house building in the south-east. That would allow for medium-term economic growth, everything else being equal, accompanied by a lower rate of interest. Similarly our prospective entry into the euro, if anyone is still interested in that, is conditioned by applying the brake on the housing market in the south-east. If we are seeking both macro-economic inhibitors on growth and the management of the population growth in the capital, all roads lead eastwards. Nationally and in the offices of the Mayor of London, Crossrail is seen as the key infrastructural project needed to support macro-economic strategy and managed population growth. It will help to rebalance growth by supporting house building and simultaneously offer London a route map to manage its population within the capital's borders.

For the Government and the Mayor the case for Crossrail rests on technical macro-economics and pan-London population issues. I look at the issue very differently, however, and regard Crossrail as offering a local case for infrastructure. The city's dynamics far exceed the ability of public policy and national Government to keep track of it, let alone get ahead. London is growing dramatically, and the official, lagged statistics do not even begin to tell the real story. The state tends to operate within static models of resource distribution on the basis of outmoded population statistics. Those formal statistics do not begin to quantify the real patterns of immigration, on which we tacitly rely to underpin the growth of public services and the private service sector in the capital. Immigration also builds the labour market flexibility so desired by the business community, as reflected in recent comments by the Governor of the Bank of England. Yet we hide away from the debate about immigration and its macro-economic consequences.

The development of the Thames Gateway often appears to be a technical abstract debate conducted by the regeneration professionals, but in reality it is occurring in communities like mine as we speak. It is not some future blueprint for 2015 but a method for understanding the day-to-day momentum of the capital. Because the state is ill-equipped to deal with that dynamic as a result of lagged decision making and an underestimate of the population, huge tensions have developed. In my own constituency, for example, the local community is experiencing rapid transformation. It is growing and changing rapidly to help accommodate movements into and within the city. That change is taking place against the backdrop of a long-term legacy    of underinvestment in public services and infrastructure together with patterns of enduring poverty. Fundamental tensions result from those legacies, contemporary changes and the sustainability of future developments under the banner of the Thames Gateway.

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