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It has also been argued that the cost-benefit ratio suffers because a station at Woolwich would be situated next to the river, which means that the investment
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would not realise a full 360-degree benefit. There have been many such arguments, but the plan to have a station at Woolwich was removed from the Crossrail project on grounds of excessive cost compared with other stations along the line. However, we have come a long way since then: the costs have been reduced significantly, and can be reduced still further.

I urge the Government to look again at the proposal to have a station at Woolwich. Last week the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), told us that the scheme would cost £270 million, but we are down to £186 million today. That shows that there is plenty of scope to do more.

It has been suggested that we are looking for additional resources so that a station at Woolwich can be included in the Crossrail project, but that is not so. We want no more than that Woolwich be treated fairly compared with the other stations on the line. The removal of the plan for a station has never been explained, although it has been suggested that someone, somewhere decided that it was too expensive. We want Woolwich to receive the same treatment that other areas have been given, yet the decision amounted to extraordinarily unfair treatment for one of the most deprived communities in the country.

How can the decision be justified? By any measure or index of poverty, Woolwich has some of the most deprived wards in Britain. That can sometimes be difficult to see in my constituency, where deprived communities stand cheek by jowl with some of the most expensive properties in the borough. Because we often measure such statistics on a ward-wide basis, such communities frequently do not show up. But I can tell the Secretary of State that I represent, in the south of the borough of Greenwich, some of the most deprived communities, and for them a Crossrail station at Woolwich is essential. As I have said, we have done a great deal of work to bring down the costs. The cost-benefit ratio for the station now stands at three to one. Most people now accept that it would benefit the scheme as a whole.

Let me say something to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth). I accept that people are concerned about funding for schemes in other parts of the country, and it might appear that London is sucking in more and more resources to fund schemes in the capital. But if we look at the contribution in terms of gross domestic product of investing in such schemes in London, and the payback for investing in them, we find a justification for funding such schemes.

According to a report published by the Mayor of London, London has had an increase in population of about that of a city the size of Leeds, and it predicts that in the next 16 years it will grow even more—by about the population of a city of the size of Nottingham. No other region in the country is predicted to have population growth on that scale. If in a capital city like London we fail to plan ahead for infrastructure in order to meet what we need for that level of growth, we will all suffer the consequences—not only the people in London.

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Mr. George Howarth: But the converse is also true: if we do not invest in cities such as Liverpool—or conurbations such as Merseyside—or in Leeds or Manchester, their economic growth potential will be stunted.

Clive Efford: I accept that point to a degree. But we should look at the overall contribution that that investment will make to GDP, and what the country gets back as a whole from that investment. That is the case that we need to make. We must all take that into consideration when we are talking about major infrastructure capital schemes in the country.

Crossrail will provide 40 per cent. of the required growth in public transport capacity in the near future. However, I have made the following point in this House on many occasions, and I am not going to miss this opportunity to do so again. In this area of south-east London we are not served by the London underground, and we have not benefited directly from any of the major infrastructure projects of recent times, other than the inclusion of the Jubilee line station at North Greenwich. I should point out the only reason that we got a station at North Greenwich: it was not because of the foresight of any Government; it was because local people, backed by local businesses and the local authority, fought tooth and nail to make the case for a station at North Greenwich. Now, no one—absolutely no one—would make a case against that station being included.

We have had a similar experience with the Docklands Light Railway station at Cutty Sark. It is one of the busiest stations on that route. Again, it was not originally included. It was only through local representation that we finally got that station included.

We are back yet again in the same situation in south-east London in respect of the Crossrail station at Woolwich. The track will pass under a major transport centre in south-east London. There will be six miles of track on which there is no station. It makes absolutely no sense to build that tunnel under a place such as Woolwich, and not drop in a station to improve the transport network in that part of London.

We surely cannot turn our back on an area such as Woolwich when we are talking about regeneration and investing in a scheme like Crossrail. The reasons for removing Woolwich from the Crossrail scheme have never been scrutinised, and in my opinion they cannot be justified. So I urge the Minister to continue to think about the need for a station at Woolwich. The moral case for the station has been made, and it is time that we accepted that it has to be included in the Bill.

9.40 pm

Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): I rise as another member of the Select Committee. Earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) described our task as having been arduous, and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) described us as having been diligent. Actually, on many occasions it just seemed like an absolute pain. During the period since just before last Christmas, the Committee met on more than 60 occasions. On some days, it met three times, and on some occasions for as many as seven hours a day.

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The hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) referred to rumours that Members from all parts of the Chamber who were serving on that Select Committee were doing so as some form of punishment. One Committee member calculated the odds of all five Labour members—other than the Chairman, of course—having been recent rebels against the Government on the issue of 90-day detention. The calculation was that the odds were in the region of 4,000:1 against. The matter was taken up with the Whips, who assured us, as one would expect, that it was a mere coincidence that we had all voted in that way.

Tony Cunningham (Workington) (Lab): Absolutely.

Sir Peter Soulsby: I hear that assurance again from the Front Bench. Of course, when a Whip tells me that something is a mere coincidence, who am I to question that judgment?

Justine Greening: The hon. Gentleman is reinforcing the argument against 90-day detention. Those poor MPs were stuck in a Committee Room and not told what they were charged with for 60 days, by the sound of it, before they were let out.

Sir Peter Soulsby: I suspect that before we get to the end of our sentence, we will have served at least 90 days. It has also been suggested that we are enduring cruel and unusual punishment and that Red Cross parcels ought to be sent to us along the Committee corridor, but as yet they have not arrived.

Although we might question how we came to be there, we have indeed served on that Committee diligently and with good humour. We have been ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), who has contributed to this evening’s debate, and informally but quite firmly whipped by the hon. Member for Northampton, South, who has acted as an unofficial Whip and ensured that we continued to maintain a quorum throughout those long periods of incarceration.

We have looked at issues ranging from significant strategic ones such as the need, as was referred to earlier, for an additional ticket hall at Liverpool Street station, through to comparatively mundane ones that are nevertheless particularly important to those affected by them, such as whether a couple of metres ought to be sacrificed from the back of somebody’s garden in order to accommodate the additional space needed for a Crossrail line. We have looked at those issues seriously and in a measured way, and Members representing all the parties have used their judgment and understanding of the evidence put in front of them.

Some of the issues that the Committee has considered have been referred to this evening, such as whether the terminus should be at Maidenhead or Reading, matters affecting Shenfield, and Liverpool Street station, which I and the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) mentioned earlier. Of course, the majority of those issues we will return to only in our final report to the House. However, we did report
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specifically on the question of whether there should be a station at Woolwich—an issue that we first came to on days 29, 30 and 31 of our deliberations, which seems quite a long time ago. We considered whether the instructions given to us by the House would enable us to examine that issue, and in doing so we were aware that a case was being made for potential additional Government expenditure on such a provision.

We were aware, however, that our instructions did not specifically prohibit us from looking at that issue. Indeed, during the three days when we heard the evidence for and against a station at Woolwich, we were particularly aware that at no stage did the promoters, acting on behalf of the Government, challenge the Committee’s right to hear that evidence or the right of petitioners to petition us on the matter. It was thus with considerable surprise and regret that we found that the Government had—at least initially—put on one side our clear recommendation for a station at Woolwich.

In our deliberations on that and other issues, we were very much mindful of the Government’s position as promoters and that as there might be costs associated with anything we suggested for inclusion in the Bill, they would inevitably have to decide whether those costs were manageable. However, with regard to Woolwich the facts were clear. First, it was clear that what could be built at Woolwich was considerably cheaper than the original estimates. Secondly, the cost-benefit ratios for a station at Woolwich were incredibly better than those originally suggested. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) pointed out, the figure was 3:1 on the original costings, never mind the reduced costings, which will considerably improve that ratio. We were also aware that the cost-benefit ratio for providing a station was considerably better than some of the other elements of the original Crossrail scheme.

I think that many of us privately feel that if something has to be sacrificed it ought not to be something with such an incredibly positive cost-benefit ratio as that station. Furthermore, it was clear from the evidence, and brought home to us when we made our visit to Woolwich, that the station’s potential contribution to the regeneration of the area is enormous and will be much welcomed there. The DLR station at Woolwich will serve a very different need from a possible Crossrail station and, welcome as that is, it in no way undermines the strong case for a Crossrail station.

Of course, £180 million—if that is the cost—is a substantial sum, but as other Members have pointed out, it needs to be seen in the context of the overall costs of the scheme. It is a lot of money, but compared with the positive cost-benefit ratio for that element of Crossrail and the comparatively poor cost-benefit ratios for other elements of the scheme, it should be afforded.

All members of the Committee were pleased and relieved to hear that the Government intend to look further at the proposal and will enable further exploration of the costs of building a station at Woolwich. Notwithstanding the inevitable views of Members from other parts of the country, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth), from whom we heard
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this evening, about schemes in their areas, all members of the Select Committee are of the opinion that the Crossrail scheme is enormously exciting. It is clearly vital for the future well-being of London and it is overwhelmingly clear that it can achieve its full potential only if there is a station at Woolwich.

I am sure that I speak for all members of the Committee when I again pay tribute to the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield during our deliberations, when an excellent feeling developed between those of us incarcerated on the Committee Corridor. Like other members of the Committee, I look forward to returning to the House with our final report, which will, we hope, be in the not-too-distant future—with the Woolwich station included.

9.49 pm

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I intend to speak for only a few minutes. First, may I say to the right hon. Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) that I would make just as vigorous a defence of the interests of my constituents as he did of his? However, representing a constituency in the east of England, which is very much in the compass of what we are talking about today, I am concerned, like many people in the Chamber, that over the next 20 to 25 years London and the east and south-east are expected to attract an additional 5 million or 6 million people, who will come to that part of the world looking for jobs and homes. Like many people in the House, I am also aware that London and the east are the engine room of the UK economy. If we have a successful London and a successful east of England, that generates a large amount of wealth that can be distributed around the country—up to the north-west, for example.

For those reasons, it is important that we have a transport infrastructure that can effectively get people in London to their jobs so that they can earn incomes and revenue that can be taxed and then fund other parts of the nation. If we do not have a transport system in this part of the world that is fit for the 21st century, there is every chance that much of the investment that comes to this country—to London—could be lost to other capital cities. That would be to the detriment of us all, regardless of where our constituencies are.

9.51 pm

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): London, as we know, is the global city. It is the Olympic-winning city of 2012. It is competing in the global world marketplace and therefore it needs the highest quality of infrastructure. Let me state at the outset my party’s position, as my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) did. It is clear that the Opposition have backed the concept of Crossrail. We will back the Bill through its parliamentary processes.

We have had an interesting debate. We started with some fascinating interventions from my hon. Friends the Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) and for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), who highlighted useful points about the funding of Crossrail and questioned the view that the Minister had stated a few minutes earlier that
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Crossrail’s viability might be threatened if Woolwich were included. We were then treated to a powerful case from the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) about the Woolwich station. He made the point that it was described as exceptional value for money and asked how something that cost under £190 million could affect a scheme that was going to cost £16 billion at output prices. The Opposition look forward to the Committee coming back and rehearing the case for Woolwich.

The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), the joint Chairman of the Select Committee, proved to us that his Committee has been working diligently not only inside the House but outside it, as was indicated by his recitation of the Monopoly board of where the Committee has been. Like so many other Members, I congratulate the Committee on the work that it has done. It is a truly splendid effort. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar raised some important points about whether Sir Michael Lyons believes that he has any role or purpose in relation to Crossrail. My hon. Friend reached the conclusion that Sir Michael does not think that he has any purpose with this Bill, and therefore the references to Lyons by the Government may be purely delaying tactics. That conclusion was probably inescapable for the whole House.

We had some interesting and, as usual, well-informed points from the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), who chairs the all-party parliamentary group. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) reviewed the activities of the Committee, especially with regard to Woolwich, with his customary style and elegance, and brought his business knowledge to the proceedings. I noted the comments from the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), which reiterated the case for Woolwich and highlighted the cost-benefit ratio. I understand that prior to coming to the House he may have been a cabbie in London and I imagine that many of his passengers would have listened to his dissertations with interest.

The motions before us tonight are essentially non-controversial. The first is a motion to carry-over Crossrail to the next Session of Parliament. This Bill is proving the parliamentary convention that hybrid Bills often need more consideration than can be delivered in one Session. As we have already heard, the Select Committee is carrying out the necessary scrutiny with diligence, skill and steadfastness. It would be only right for hon. Members on both sides of the House to support the carry-over motion that will allow the Committee to continue its work in the next Session.

The second motion gives further instructions to the Select Committee. It will allow the Committee to consider the merits and disadvantages of several matters identified by the Secretary of State. The instruction is effectively made up of two groups of provisions. The first is a group of engineering changes and alterations, which the explanatory memorandum helpfully describe as being introduced

The second list is made up of specific examples of project specifications that the Secretary of State intends to change to accommodate the legitimate concerns expressed by petitioners. Both motions are
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essentially non-controversial, so the Conservative party will support them. The motions will allow the Select Committee to continue its work and the Crossrail project to proceed.

The Government could well be accused of dithering while time passes. Even given the difficult nature of the hybrid Bill procedure, there is no reason why the Bill could not complete its parliamentary passage by the summer recess, or at least the end of the next Session. The Government must ensure that the Bill is committed to a Standing Committee—unless they intend to commit it to a Committee of the whole House—as soon as the Select Committee finishes its work. I hope that the Minister will confirm that that will happen and that he will give the House more detail about the likely time scale.

Conservative Members remain worried about the lack of detail about the impact of Crossrail on freight movement across London. With some negotiation with the Mayor, it would be possible for both Crossrail and the need to increase freight movement to be accommodated. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s plans on that.

As I said in my speech when we debated motions on Crossrail in January, I am worried that the Government remain opaque and silent on the funding of the project. The Secretary of State said earlier—it seems like quite a long time ago now—that only the Government could reach decisions about affordability. If that is true, the Secretary of State must accept that only the Government can sign off the funding. He must give a commitment that as soon as the Lyons review reports, whether or not it reaches any conclusions on Crossrail—as we have heard, Lyons might well be the Government’s last fig leaf on the delay in outlining their intentions—the Government will elucidate to the House the total cost of the scheme and its phasing. At that time they must decide once and for all their intentions on the balance of funding among business, those communities that will be direct beneficiaries of the scheme and the national benefit. We look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on that. This is a matter of pressing urgency, so I am sure that the Minister will not only wish to tell us when the Secretary of State will come to the House, but confirm that we will get the final funding plans from the Government at that stage.

The motions are essentially non-controversial. The official Opposition have backed the concept of Crossrail. We remain committed to backing the Bill through its parliamentary stages and we will support the motions tonight.

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