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I was using the illustration, as have other Members, in the context of this particular Bill, which has sensiblyI give credit to my right hon. Friend its promoteranticipated one of the main problems that a
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Government would face, which is what would happen when it is necessary to deploy troops rapidly in response to an emergency or crisis that develops. It is equally the case, however, that troops are deployed well in advance of any decision for them to engage in fighting. One of the problems with the definition of armed conflict in the Geneva convention is that other countries may already be engaged in armed conflict. What does that mean in terms of the deployment of our troops? In what circumstances would the 10-day time limit start to run? Those are among the practical difficulties.
Several Members have said, "We can sort all this out in Committee." However, my right hon. Friend has put a great deal of effort into drafting the Bill. I assume from its language that she has, quite rightly, had some professional assistance. Various lobby groups have supported her, but despite all their efforts we have a Bill that is flawed from start to finish because it will not satisfy any kind of practical test.
Jeremy Corbyn: Is there any possibility that the Minister will be able to conclude his remarks before 2.30 pm so that the Question can be put and the House can make a decision on what is, as I am sure he would agree, a very important of piece of legislation?
Mr. Hoon: That is an interesting observation. However, I have listened to a great number of speeches in the course of the debate and it is only right that I should go through the very considerable material that I still have available in order to answer all the various points that have been raised.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD):
As a new Member of this place, I find some of its procedures confusing, but I have found today's bemusing and disgraceful. I cannot believe that the Leader of the
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House, as a democrat, would refuse us the opportunity to debate in Committee the technicalities that he is discussing by not allowing the Bill to proceed.
Mr. Hoon: The question of accountability has run through the debate. I accept that it is important that the Government should be accountable to Parliament and it is vital that Parliament regularly has the opportunity of scrutinising decisions about the deployment of British forces in armed conflicts overseas
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): I want to make a series of proposals about the future of Waterloo international station. The subject is of major importance to my constituents and the residents of south-west London. To most hon. Members, today may be Trafalgar day, but for our local people, the issue has been described as the second battle of Waterloo. Although I shall argue for a plan that will bring the greatest direct benefits to commuters in the south-west London area, I believe that our proposals make the best sense from a strategic transport perspective. They provide for the best use of platform and track at Waterloo when Eurostar leaves in 2007. The plan is a good transport solution, not parochial special pleading.
Let me first explain what a loss it will be to my constituents when Eurostar moves to St. Pancras. If the Under-Secretary speaks to Eurostar, she will find that many if not most of the regular, core users of the servicethe people who go once or twice every week to Paris and Brusselslive in south-west London. If they continue to use Eurostar, their journeys will be half an hour or perhaps an hour longer. For many, the move to St. Pancras marks the end of convenient rail travel to the continent and they will return to the airlines. At a time when we are looking for more rail opportunities, we in south-west London are about to get fewer.
The Under-Secretary will also know that the track that enabled Eurostar to run into Waterloo was used before that for south-west London services. We gave up that track because Eurostar was such an important project and in the expectation that Eurostar would serve Waterloo for the long term. As one constituent said to me, "Now they don't need it, we would like it back, please."
Let us deal with the Arup report, which the Strategic Rail Authority commissioned and which was published last week, on "Alternative Uses for Waterloo International Station". We welcome that report. It lays to rest the suggestion that Waterloo international should be given over to shops rather than trains. It also emphasises that decisions need to be made quickly so that an exceptional opportunity is not missed and assets of great value and quality are not left idle.
As I interpret Arup, several proposed options for use of the station offer few realistic benefits. For example, diverting the diesel service from Paddington to Waterloo makes little sense, as Waterloo cannot accommodate diesel trains and, in any case, that would add some 20 minutes to the journey time. Diverting trains that currently have a Victoria destination to Waterloo would reproduce the same overcrowding that is cited as a problem at Victoria. That will get us nowhere.
Diverting trains from Charing Cross to Waterloo would cut those services off from London Bridge. Passengers with destinations in all the new offices developing to the east, including Canary Wharf, would find themselves arriving at Waterloo, piling into trains
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at Waterloo East or swamping the Jubilee line, which is already very crowded despite the addition of the seventh car. We would misuse the Jubilee line with that approach.
I recognise that commuters from the south-east require additional rail services. However, they will soon have the benefits from channel tunnel rail link 2, which will free up domestic capacity from Kent. Thameslink 2000 is in the pipeline. It is in the last stages of inquiry. That line meets not only the current but the future needs of the south-east as well as bringing regeneration and new opportunity to London Bridge. Let us not forget also, for the people of east London, the East London line and the docklands light railway extension, which are being progressed by Transport for London.
I accept that there is some scope in the argument that a temporary diversion from Charing Cross to Waterloo could speed up the building of Thameslink 2000, but some assumptions behind those numbers, particularly after having talked to the industry, suggest that the number of trains that would have to be diverted to achieve any serious benefit is quite heroic, considering the available track capacity. As I said before, that would leave us with commuters coming to Waterloo and attempting to reach their destinations with great difficultya recipe for chaos. I ask the Government to look at that option very closely before being persuaded by it.
We therefore come to services for south-west London as the obvious and best use of the former Eurostar platforms and access tracks. Using the Eurostar platforms for the Windsor line would be a pretty modest change involving some work on platforms, signalling and the platform entrances and exits. Commuters would at once see a performance benefit, so that South West Trains would no longer regularly have services stopping and waiting outside Waterloo. Nothing makes commuters more furious than being stopped in sight of their destination, hoping that a platform will be freed up.
Clearly, if, in addition to the Windsor line being shifted over, the Nine Elms viaduct was removedit would no longer be needed by Eurostarwe could achieve a far greater improvement in reliability and have wider platforms, which I would argue is a needed safety measure at rush hour. All Members have to do is go to look at people piling off the trains. There would be real potential for more services.
The Nine Elms viaduct, as the Minister will remember, was put in place to allow Eurostar to cross over into its platforms, but at the cost of taking out a line that previously served South West Trains. The cost of removing the viaduct is estimated to be between £30 million and £80 million. It is a tidy sum, but it is minor in transport investment terms. There would be greater reliability, less overcrowding and potentially more servicesvery important gains. There would be benefits not only for my constituents, but for virtually every community along that south-west train line.
Beyond all that, there is the potential for a far more ambitious plan to build a flyover completely to upgrade the capacity to bring additional trains from Clapham junction into Waterloo, changing the role of those stations. That would finally accommodate the rapidly
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growing demand for rail services from Woking and beyond, but also meet the needs of south-west London commuters.
Transport for London has been very clear about its interest in considering an orbital rail scheme linking key stations in outer London to take pressure off radial routes and to provide a real alternative to the car, but that would require turning Clapham junction into a proper hub for stopping trains. The flyoverbringing additional trains into Waterloo, which I just mentionedcould be the linchpin to allowing that to happen and to creating the potential for proper orbital travel.
We are talking serious money, as the estimated amount is £300 million, but no one is saying that this should be done instantly. All the steps that I have spoken of could be staged, producing an immediate win, but leaving the option for more investment and more gains in the medium and long terms.
As a final option, I must mention Airtrack. This scheme, which would bring passengers by rail from Heathrow's terminal 5 via Staines and Richmond to Waterloo, is an option that the Government and BAA are seriously considering. It offers a way to cut Heathrow traffic congestion and improve air quality. My constituents would greatly value this service and the use of a former Eurostar platform would be ideal. My plans can accommodate that proposal.
We in south-west London have a growing need for more rail services to meet increasing demand with less crowding and less unreliability. In response to a written parliamentary question on 14 October 2005, the Department for Transport provided numbers that again showed South West Trains as the most overcrowded in London in 2003, and as the second most overcrowded in 2004. Industry players tell me that the projected growth in commuting is especially heavy in the south-west and that it will not be less than the predictions in the route utilisation strategy study of a 20 per cent. increase in demand from 2007 to 2017. The same report also warns that capacity for such growth might not be available.
Unusually, in considering the south-west commuter, the demand is exceptionally high in off-peak as well as peak periods. That is very different from the south-east, and again it demands additional service. We know from our own communities that the system is under pressure. In our areas of London, we are also aware that road congestion is worse year on year. Parts of my constituency, in both Richmond and Kingston, are frequently close to gridlock. Without a step change in rail services, we will never be able to unlock the car traffic problem and make the shift from road use to public transport.
A few minutes ago, I listed all the new rail projects completed in or planned for east London. When I ask about similar investment in the core infrastructure in south-west London services, however, I usually get a blank look. After much thought, and having asked questions of a number of people, a member of the rail industry finally volunteered that there had been an upgrade in the power supply and some money for signalling, but no one could come up with anything else since privatisation. That is a long period to go without major investment in core infrastructure. In fact, the biggest thing that has happened to us since privatisation is losing a track to Eurostar, and then losing Eurostar.
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The current South West Trains franchise expires in February 2007, and the replacement process is already under way. The Strategic Rail Authority-Department for Transport southern regional planning assessment will be published in spring 2006, when the Network Rail utilisation study for the south-west main line routes will also go to consultation. Time is of the essence. I urge the Minister to recognise the needs of south-west train users. The availability of a facility such as the Eurostar terminal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope that she will acknowledge the strength of our case, give us the decision timetable and move rapidly to formal consultation. My constituents are not being parochial when they come to the Minister and ask for this opportunity to improve rail service and transport in our area; it is desperately needed.
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