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Andrew Mackinlay: I hope that the Minister does not think that I am nitpicking: I want to emphasise that the confusion around names such as the Thames Gateway Partnership, the Thames Gateway development corporation and the Thamesgate consortium, which is a private affair, is a problem for not only me and my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Angela E. Smith), but all
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of us in the public sector in and around Thurrock. The situation must be clarified, and I hope, perhaps with the Minister's prompting, that the development corporation will do all that it can, which might involve spending some money, to distinguish between its function and that of some private developers. The situation will be acutely embarrassing for the development corporation, and ultimately for the Government, if it is not clarified.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I acknowledge my hon. Friend's point, which is fair, and I am sure that those responsible will examine the matter, because we must have clarity, particularly for those members of the public with whom we are trying to engage. If we find the situation difficult to understand, it will be much more difficult for our constituents, who do not have our experience in addressing such questions.

My hon. Friend spoke of the scant attention that the Thames Gateway receives from the media, especially the BBC, and, along with the majority of hon. Members in the Chamber, I share his disappointment. Half of what was known as Fleet street is now located in Canary Wharf. At one point, I thought that there must be a wall down the middle of Canary Wharf that prevents editorial staff from looking eastwards and forces them to look back towards the City and Westminster. The development in the royal docks and beyond has not received the attention that it deserves, and I hope to hear my hon. Friend on "Today in Parliament" repeating his point about the BBC.

My hon. Friend mentioned Thurrock urban development council and expressed his concern that progress has been too slow. Although I acknowledge that setting up new organisations can take longer than we might want, the urban development council is fully operational in its new offices, and I have been advised that it is open for business. I apologise because I cannot tell my hon. Friend its telephone number, which I am sure he will obtain in due course.

My hon. Friend has asked why the Government are not considering another Thames crossing to the east of the Dartford crossing, but I am sure that he knows that two studies have already taken place. One of them was conducted by the Strategic Rail Authority, which examined demand for a rail passenger and freight crossing, and the other was conducted by the Highways Agency, which examined capacity management at the Dartford crossing. Those reports are with Ministers at the Department for Transport for further consideration, and I am sure that my hon. Friend is monitoring that very closely.

In an eloquent speech, the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) expressed fears about the Olympics being a potential distraction from the overall project of regenerating the Thames Gateway. I anticipate that the reverse will be the case, as the Olympics will accelerate the process. Regeneration was always going to happen in Stratford and the east, and I am confident that what may have taken 15 years will be accomplished in seven. As we build further to the east, it will be a natural, organic step to move on to the rest of the Thames Gateway.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that urban development corporations are not accountable. As non-departmental public bodies, they are governed by
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legislation that is passed by this House and are run by a board with local authority representation and officers at a political level. They are meant to, and should, work in partnership with local authorities and local strategic partnerships to ensure that policy and decision making is an open process that achieves what local communities want.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the housing mix and the possible lack of three and four-bedroom properties. I acknowledge his concerns, but the matter is being dealt with. It is not clear how widespread the situation is. We will issue new guidance on housing, including the housing mix, through planning policy statement 3. However, local authorities need to have a clear idea of the housing mix that they need as a benchmark for assessing the applications that they receive and approve.

The hon. Gentleman asked us to ensure that east London transits are prioritised. As he may be aware, the east London transit, which is bus-based, is prioritised in the Mayor of London's five-year business plan. Construction is due to start in 2006, with phase 1—Ilford to Dagenham—to be completed in 2007. Further phases are planned and will be part of Transport for London's business planning process. The intention is to join the transit with the Thames Gateway bridge to create, with the Greenwich waterfront transit, a Thames Gateway transit.

The hon. Gentleman's language, which included the phrase, "sub-regional economic development", may not have been to the taste of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford. His encouragement for the Government to make brave decisions smacked of "Yes, Minister", but perhaps that is my personal reading.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas), who is chair of the all-party group on the Thames Gateway, began his remarks by agreeing with the speech by the hon. Member for Hornchurch. I was not too worried about that, as there is a lot of consensus on this development. I remember getting into difficulty with members of my local party when in my maiden speech I commended, in a qualified way, the previous Conservative Government's vision of regenerating the docks, inspired by Michael Heseltine.

My hon. Friend clearly outlined the risks from the far right if we get the development in east London wrong, and the pressures that currently exist. I know that he campaigns very strongly on these issues. His description of the problems that need to be acknowledged and addressed was thoughtful yet forceful. He accepted that much imagination is needed, and that much is being used, to deal with those problems.

The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) and I may be on opposite sides of the Chamber but, as he said, we share a joint interest in the future of West Ham United football club, which is one of the Thames Gateway's great football clubs—I would say the only football club, but other Members may disagree.

The hon. Gentleman asked about casino development. At the beginning of the month, the casino advisory panel began examining locations for the new types of casino for which the Gambling Act 2005 provides. The panel is not due to report until December 2006 and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to go further.
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The hon. Gentleman also spoke about sport and culture in Southend and Southend council's support for local stakeholders to develop their vision for Southend as a cultural and educational hub. Sport is obviously an important part of that. We look forward to continuing the relationship with Southend and to its presentation of well supported projects in future.

The hon. Gentleman paid tribute to his local fire and rescue service. Having visited Essex fire brigade recently as Minister for fire safety, I am happy to add my endorsement for their sterling work in trying to protect the pier, which they were clearly able to do to some extent. However, I regret that I cannot accede to his begging-bowl request for £50 million—that is a pretty big bowl—and I am sure that he did not expect me to do so. However, there is much sympathy and support for Southend.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) made some positive comments about developments in his constituency part of the Thames Gateway. He sought assurances that serious consideration would be given to several other projects. He can be assured that the Government will do that. He praised Sure Start as one of the Government's successful flagship initiatives. There is almost universal agreement about that.

My hon. Friend's final wish involved the application for funding the A249 relief road. It is currently with the community infrastructure fund. All the applications are being considered and I am therefore not in a position to respond to that request today. However, I am sure that he will hear something in the near future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham and other hon. Members asked why Crossrail was not programmed to stop at Woolwich. I am advised that the tunnel for Crossrail is very deep at that point. That makes the development of the station at Woolwich expensive—a possible cost of more than £100 million. However, land has been safeguarded at Woolwich and it would allow expansion of Crossrail when the overall business case is strong enough or when the argument is won. Discussions are continuing with the London borough of Greenwich about the evolution of any future proposals. Given that my hon. Friend and his neighbours are already lobbying strongly, something may happen sooner than expected. Clearly, it will be a difficult argument to win.

My hon. Friend also mentioned the dome and it would be an omission not to reinforce his points about the impressive and ambitious plans to regenerate the whole Greenwich peninsula, including Anschutz's designs for the new entertainment complex called "The O 2 ". He outlined the training partnerships between the local college and Charlton Athletic as an example of key initiatives to show how local people can benefit from regeneration schemes that could and should be copied elsewhere.

My hon. Friend asked how transport would deal with accessibility in support of the Paralympics. It is clear that Transport for London is already investing heavily in major station refurbishments. Part of the investment includes ensuring that transport is fully accessible to all through the transport hub of Stratford and throughout London. As arrangements for the Olympics evolve, so will accessibility.
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My hon. Friend made a powerful case for affordable social housing to rent. I hope that he knows that that is a key priority for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. We committed £3 billion to it last year alone. I appreciate that some people do not regard that as enough, but as my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning said earlier, we are determined to reverse decades of decline in house building. We believe that we have made a good start.

We have accepted Kate Barker's central recommendation that there should be a step change in housing supply. Our proposals are designed to tackle acute problems in the shorter term in a way that underpins our longer-term objective of creating a stable housing market where supply and demand are balanced. We have to confront the reality of the housing market in London and the south-east, where people have long waits for social housing and our young people are denied the chance to set a foot on the property ladder because of costs.

We have the agreement of the regional planning authorities to provide 120,000 new homes in the Gateway by 2016. We are working to set the numbers into plans. Growth brings benefits and opportunities. The Government have invested £6 billion in the three years up to 2006 to deliver the robust infrastructure and public services necessary to support housing expansion. In addition, the spending reviews of 2002 and 2004 delivered a ring-fenced £850 million Thames Gateway budget, administered by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to support local projects that unlock growth.

That investment will bring positive change to existing residents of the Thames Gateway and those who will make a home there in the years ahead. This is not just about new residents; it is as much about the people who live in the Gateway now. Community cohesion is vital both for the existing community and for those who will move into the area—the key argument used by my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham. Neither is this a programme for isolated dormitory towns; it is a plan for thriving and sustainable communities. We want people to feel proud of the communities in which they live, and our £26 investment in green space to improve the look and feel of a sub-region that had experienced decline and deprivation will help to do just that.

The Thames Gateway is not a new idea. Indeed, London owes its very existence to the Thames, acting as a gateway to England. As in the past, London is still a gateway to the wider south-east and to the United Kingdom. As a celebrated and historic capital and a world financial centre, it is the rallying point for our nation. The Thames Gateway must see its vocation within and adjacent to the economic heart of London as an asset: an economic heart whose centre of gravity is moving eastwards, to the benefit of the Essex and Kent dimensions of the Gateway.

London's potential was wonderfully exemplified when it was chosen as host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. The impact of that honour through increased investor confidence and momentum will be felt not only across the capital but in the Essex and Kent Thames gateway. We all know that the Thames Gateway lies in an area of great opportunity. Let us maximise that potential, and deliver results right across the Gateway sub-region.
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The Government are committed to the growth and regeneration of the Thames Gateway, backed up by investment and a swathe of delivery projects on the ground. We are determined to take the opportunity that the Thames Gateway presents, and make a difference to the quality of life of thousands of people in both this generation and the next.

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