Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Walker : Does my hon. Friend think that Crossrail has given sufficient attention to the environmental impact of the work? His concerns have been expressed by many hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber, so they seem to run though most people's arguments.

Mr. Field: My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. There is worry that insufficient emphasis has been given to a range of environmental issues throughout the consultation. Obviously, the green belt would not be affected in my constituency as it would be in those of many other hon. Members, but we still must consider environmental factors in my area.

I would have some sympathy with any Government on this matter because some persistent complainants will not be complaining about a lack of consultation, but the outcome. If we go ahead with Crossrail—such a scheme will have net benefits—some lives will inevitably be disrupted. The scheme will clearly cost an inordinate amount, which will have an effect on business and the council tax payers of London. I suspect that some of the cost will also be met by the general coffers. We can consult until the cows come home, but we must ultimately take a decision. That is the difficult side of being in government, so perhaps it is easier to be in
19 Jul 2005 : Column 1195
opposition when considering such matters. I respect the fact that the Government must make decisions. However, we hear time and again the complaint from residents of not only central London, but the suburbs and places outside London, about a lack of consultation. I do not think that that represents average griping, but reflects a concern that I hope will be addressed in great detail in Committee.

Several interest groups, such as the Grosvenor Estate and the US embassy, which is based in Grosvenor square, have great concerns about security, which I fear have been highlighted by the terrible events of only 12 days ago, not least because some of them took place in two great pinch-points—one just by Edgware road and another by Aldgate East station. Both those places are not only right on the edge of my constituency, but very close to where much of the building work will take place at the Barbican and Paddington.

Hon. Members who have visited the Grosvenor square part of central London in the past four years will know how the change to traffic arrangements around the square has been highly disruptive to many residents in surrounding roads. The current route proposed for Crossrail, which would go south of Oxford street, is of great concern to the US embassy because it is not clear how we would be able to tackle the serious security implications of large numbers of workmen operating in the vicinity of the embassy at all hours of the day and night over several years. The Crossrail northern interchange route would link the Barbican, King's Cross and St. Pancras, and Baker Street here in central London, and connect with all airports and tube lines. It would adjoin business areas along the Marylebone road and wide areas of regeneration that would otherwise not be touched by Crossrail. Unlike the proposed Crossrail scheme, the CNIR requires only one new interchange station.

Normally, underground tunnels run under roads, parks and railways in order to reduce damage and the number of compensation claims. The authorised District and Metropolitan lines used cut and cover under roads as against narrow tube tunnels. The Jubilee line extension runs under railways for 2 km but even in that case there has been some evidence of ground subsidence. The twin Crossrail tunnels will be about 2.5 times the size, and it is clear that there will be substantial additional risk of subsidence.

In addition, construction savings are supposed to be made under the scheme by tunnelling under shallower foundations of listed buildings and conservation areas, but the Crossrail safeguarding zone has two outer areas of possible subsidence up to 400 m wide under Bayswater, Mayfair, Soho, the City, of which I shall say more in a minute or two, and Georgian Spitalfields. I could not speak with the eloquence of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway), who defended the rights of his Spitalfields constituents but who is not present at the moment. I suspect that he was looking at the Crossrail cause célèbre in terms not just of next year's local elections but of future general elections. No doubt the issue will run and run, conveniently for him, over that period.

We are concerned that this hybrid Bill uses the Land Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 to calculate compensation for disruptive work, which is not only a denial of modern human rights law but reimburses
19 Jul 2005 : Column 1196
property owners only for specific building repairs. Under EU legislation, other interested parties will inevitably qualify for full compensation, which goes directly to concerns about funding and the overall cost of the project.

I appreciate that one or two colleagues wish to speak and I am sorry to have detained the House for so long, but I want to end with some heartfelt comments from the dozens of letters that I have received from constituents in the Barbican about the likely impact to their estate. They are concerned about the effect on the structural integrity of the Barbican estate from the proposed tunnelling works and particularly from the proposed construction of the cross-over cavern under the estate. In the short term, their concerns include the environmental impact of the noise, dust, vibration and traffic congestion over the next three or four years, which are inevitable in any Crossrail development work. They are keen that the Bill should contain rules that will constrain construction activities to offer no less protection than those that apply to other contractors working in the City of London. I have continually heard concern expressed about the long-term consequences of the operation of Crossrail for the immediate environment, including the effects of noise and vibration from the operation of the railway, and that Crossrail should be designed, constructed and maintained in order to minimise the risk of such effects.

It has been a pleasure to have had an opportunity to put some of our concerns on the record. I appreciate that inevitably such debates become parochial—we are all describing the concerns that affect our constituents—but we should raise our sights a little, and in particular to the long-term benefits of Crossrail.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): I thank the hon. Gentleman for the eloquent case that he has made for his constituents—not least for the huddled masses of the vast, echoing council estates of north Mayfair, whose denizens eke out a miserable existence. Does he accept that exactly the same was said at the time of the Jubilee line extension and the Victoria line works? Who remembers the inconvenience of that work and who nowadays ignores the great benefits and advantages that that has brought us? Does he not agree that, to use an infelicitous phrase, it is a price worth paying?

Mr. Field: That is entirely fair. I was coming to precisely that. We must raise our sights beyond some of the inevitable concerns expressed by our constituents. We should not ignore them and we want to do our best to mitigate them, but we must look at the long-term benefits—and we stand to experience some tremendous benefits from Crossrail. Much of my concern centres on the funding, because it is not clear where that will come from, but there is little doubt that the project will be of real benefit not only to all Londoners but to many from all parts of the country. If we are to maintain our strength and force as a global commercial city, without which this country would face grave problems, we desperately need to ensure that the project goes ahead.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman has made an excellent speech and he has put the case for his constituents—for example, in the Barbican—and the need for the quality of the work, and
19 Jul 2005 : Column 1197
the sensitivity with which it is done, to be of a high standard. Does he agree that the best way to achieve that is for the construction labour force to be fully trade unionised? That would improve health and safety, as well as the quality of the work.

Mr. Field: We have had such a harmonious debate and I thought that it would end on a wonderful note. I will allow the hon. Gentleman to look after his own manor. He will, no doubt, wish to speak on Thursday when we discuss the Olympic bid, if he is not doing more sensible things such as going to the test match. He must be very proud that we won the 2012 Olympic bid and I am sure that he will ensure that all the workmen who will build our new Olympic stadium are highly unionised. I hope that he will allow a more free-market approach to what happens in my constituency when it comes to Crossrail.

I have now said more than enough. I thank the House for its indulgence and I hope that the Bill gets a Second Reading. However, the debate has raised some serious concerns and I hope that the Minister will take them on board not only when he winds up tonight, but—more importantly—in the months and years ahead.

8.56 pm

Next Section IndexHome Page