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Mr. Hayes: I understand that the Superlink project is privately funded and I have met representatives. I do not necessarily share my hon. Friend's unbridled enthusiasm for the project, but it is important for the Select Committee to consider all the issues in our instruction, with its broader remitas opposed to the narrow, blinkered approach recommended to the Committee by the Secretary of State and his colleagues.
Crossrail has been spending £1 million a week for the last three years, and now it wants even more money so that it can do the same for the next three years. Yet we do not know whether digging will ever begin on either of the two tunnels, or whether a single piece of track will ever be laid. There is still no clarity, there is still no business plan, there is still no well-defined vehicle for investment, and there is still no certainty about the budget. Perhaps it is the Treasury's doubts about the scheme that threaten to undermine it. Those doubts will surely grow in the light of the successful Olympic bid.
We will vote with the Government tonight becauselike the hon. Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas), the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire and most other Members who have spokenwe believe that an east-west link for London is vital to Londoners' quality of life and the economy of London. Londoners, however, deserve better than the mixture of muddle and delay that has characterised the Government's approach to this projectand throughout that time, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been spent. I suspect that under the present Government Crossrail will remain a ghost train on a phantom line.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): I am grateful to hon. Members for this valuable debate. There have been a number of contributions and I shall attempt briefly to deal with them. Our debate is not the end, but the beginning of the process. We have had a good debate and seen wide support throughout the House for the Bill. Members brought up issues that concerned them either in their own constituencies or in a wider context.
When the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) opened for the Opposition, he seemed very supportive of the Bill, but the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) seemed
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unable in his wind-up speech to enumerate any reasons why the Conservatives were supporting the Bill. He advanced reasons for being against the Bill and then said that the Opposition were going to vote in favour of it in principle. It was strange that he spent so much time doing that. I do not know whether he wants to provide any reasons for supporting the Bill now.
The concerns expressed by hon. Members and their constituents will be given a fair hearing before the Select Committee, which will consider all the material put to it in its quasi-judicial role. Those directly affected by the Bill will be able to petition against it and, if successful, their case will heard by a Select Committee both in the House and in the other place.
I want to respond to points made in the debate about the petitions and the instructions. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, it is for the Select Committee to consider the petitions that come before it. The Government have tabled an instruction that sets out the specific proposition of running a railway between Maidenhead in the west and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, with intermediate stations. The purpose of the instruction is to give the Committee a clear sense of the shape and form of Crossrail. The Secretary of State made it clear on several occasions that he expects the Select Committee to be able to consider representations about and objections to the route. If the Select Committee believes that the objections have merit, it can report them to the House. The Secretary of State spelled out that the Government have chosen to take a light-touch approach to the instructions, so I expect the Committee to consider any representations that it receives. I want to make it clear that, if the Committee thinks that it cannot consider any matters that it judges have merit, the Government will be prepared to consider the terms of the instruction so that the House has every opportunity properly to discuss the Bill.
Mr. Duncan: That is very confusing. What the House says does not depend on what Ministers then say can happen but on what this House says Ministers and Committees can do. Has the Minister confirmed with the Clerks of the House that what the Secretary of State says is rightthat those who petition to say that the route should be extended to Reading can be entertained? Can that happen or not?
Derek Twigg: Let me repeat what I said so that the hon. Gentleman understands it. I am making it clear that, if the Select Committee thinks that it cannot consider any matters that it judges to have merit, the Government are prepared to consider the terms of the instruction so that the House will have every opportunity properly to discuss the Bill. The Select Committee can do that.
That is a wholly inadequate assurance. What the Government are saying is that they might find parliamentary time if the Select Committee objects to the nature of the instruction before it, but what the House needs tonight is an assurance that the Committee can look at the Reading option. That is what the Secretary of State said in his opening speech, but the Minister is falling woefully short of that now.
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I would like to deal with the contributions of hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) made a point about the constituency benefits. He acknowledged difficulties around construction, but felt that the benefits outweighed them. He was glad to support the Bill, although he was aware that some petitions might come from his constituency. Despite the instruction, he felt that there were clear benefits from the Bill. He specifically mentioned the overcrowding of the Central line and stressed the importance of it being part of an integrated network.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) made a powerful speech about several issues in his constituency, particularly about the need for a Woolwich station. As he knows, there has been considerable discussion about that. Concerns have been expressed in his constituencymy hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) also made the point in his speechabout the affordability of the development and the number of passengers who would want to use the station. It would be deep underground and the depth would obviously add to the cost. I have said, and have written to my right hon. Friend, that we shall reconsider whether the proposal is possible but, at this stage, the case has not been made.
Mr. Duncan: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. To avoid the potential for judicial review on an enormous infrastructure project, may I confirm that the advice of the Clerks given to you and Mr. Speaker matches the interpretation offered to the House tonight by the Secretary of State and the Minister?
Clive Efford: It is far more expensive to introduce a station after a line has been opened than while it is being constructed. We must take on board the fact that it will be too late to make a decision about the station after the line is completed. On what basis has my hon. Friend made the decision that the case has not been made for a station at Woolwich?
As I said when I was referring to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, we do not think that passenger numbers would justify a new station, as there are alternatives; nor would the cost, owing to the depth at which the tunnel would have to be built. However, I
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reassure my hon. Friend that, although we do not think that a case has been made, we shall look at the situation again, but I can give no guarantees at this stage.
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