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5.28 pm

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I am another veteran of the saga—and, indeed, of the Jubilee line extension process, the saga before it, which involved a private Bill and carry-over, and lasted a long time. We all owe colleagues who volunteer or are volunteered to serve on such Bills our thanks, and we do that without exception in this case. They have no direct interest, as the issues do not bring constituency benefits.

I support the motion. With this sort of measure, it is imperative that the job is done properly, which requires use of the system for carrying Bills from one Session to the next. That is what has been proposed and it has the unqualified support of all the voices that I have heard so far from around the House.

I should like to add three things about what remains to be done in the continuing debate and about why we need to complete that debate. First, we need to follow up the questions about funding posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) and the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field). The Bill is about plans and powers to build, but it does not automatically deliver the money to build—that has to come from elsewhere. The worst possible outcome would be that we carried the Bill over to the next Session, it completed its stages in Parliament and received Royal Assent, and there then remained some uncertainty about funding. There has always been Government resistance to this being a publicly funded enterprise, for reasons that I understand. It is welcome that the City of London recently announced that it is going to contribute and that the Canary Wharf company has put something into the kitty, as it did for the Jubilee line extension. Given that this is a private Bill, which is not quite the same as a Government Bill albeit that it has Government backing, I hope that the Minister will say that as well as Government support for the process he will offer his Department’s support to ensure that the funding continues to come together so that by the time the Bill receives Royal Assent we will know the funding is in place.

Stephen Hammond: I assume that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends agree that it is essential that when we get the Bill into Committee we are allowed to examine the funding package. I hope that the Minister will give that reassurance.

Simon Hughes: I entirely agree, and my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington and I deduce that the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who is my parliamentary neighbour, believes that too.

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Tom Brake: Does my hon. Friend agree that there is not only the potential scenario whereby the funding package is not agreed but one whereby part of the funding package is provided to enable the main construction to happen, perhaps the tunnel from Liverpool Street to Paddington, but not to complete the extremities?

Simon Hughes: That element is absolutely imperative. I see the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) in his place. This proposal is not just for Paddington to Liverpool Street—it is to link the lines west of Paddington and the places east of Liverpool Street, and it has to be a complete package.

Secondly, the timing of this carry-over motion is intriguing. We might have had it as one of the last bits of business this Session with a general election coming the day after. We had an announcement by the Prime Minister and others on the Friday before the famous Saturday when Mr. Andrew Marr told the nation that we were not going to have a general election: a slightly odd ambassador for the Prime Minister, but there we are; cometh the hour, cometh the man. On that day, the Prime Minister was very clear that the funding was in place. A week later, the Mayor of London appeared to be rewriting the funding script in a press conference at City hall. Will the Minister not only give the undertaking that funding can be examined in Committee but ensure that by the time we start that process he has had all the key players round the table to ensure that the Government are satisfied that our London regional government, the private sector contributors and the UK Government have all their ducks in a row?

Thirdly, this is potentially a momentous year for London Transport because we are about to see the opening of the cross-channel rail link in its new terminus. I have to say that that particularly disadvantages my constituents and those of my neighbours, because getting to Waterloo is fantastically easy and convenient, as indeed it is from here, whereas getting to St. Pancras is less easy and convenient. However, we fought that battle and the die has been cast. If that opens on schedule, as I hope it will—I think that it is all teed up to happen—it is important that we have not only the international connections but the national connections east, west, north and south. Some of us have always said—I deduce it in the words of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster—that this cannot be done without giving thought to the communities who live along the line covered by the Bill. The Minister will know, although it is not his particular responsibility, that we have had the mother and father of battles south of the river to ensure that the Thameslink proposal—a north-south access route to improve travel through London, which was originally called Thameslink 2000, and is a good proposal in principle—did not have a major destructive impact on the area around Borough market in my constituency, which is a conservation area and an historic part of central London. I am still not convinced that what is proposed will satisfy the double requirement of the national interest and the local one.

If the Crossrail Bill is to be carried over and receive Royal Assent, it is a prerequisite that the interests of the communities that bear the burden of construction,
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and the disruption that it will cause, are properly heeded. It is no good having a fantastic line under London, with great east-west links from one side to the other, while the centre of London is disrupted unrealistically and excessively in the interim. By definition, there will be huge disruption during the next few years because of the Olympics, which I support. There will be the works for the north-south Thameslink route, and there has been work on the St. Pancras line. Crossrail is a good project, but the money needs to be in place, and the communities affected should experience minimal disruption and receive some of the benefit.

Crossrail is a line of benefit to London and the United Kingdom as a whole. I wish it well, but there are significant remaining questions to be answered.

5.36 pm

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): I rise, as other hon. Members have, to support the carry-over motion. None of my comments should be construed in any other sense than that I am really pleased for my colleagues in south-east London, and I congratulate them on their successful campaign for the Woolwich station. It will enhance the Crossrail scheme, and I am pleased that the Committee has gone down that route.

I am delighted for London as a whole, but as a Reading Member, hon. Members would expect me to express some disappointment that the Committee report makes scant reference to the evidence given by the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) and myself, petitioners from the Reading area, and the Thames Valley chamber of commerce. In fact, I was somewhat surprised to find that the Select Committee report is incorrect, and one of my reasons for speaking today is that I wish to put that fact on the record. The report refers to:

and goes on to refer to the Olympic games and the funding package. Actually, my evidence on 5 July did not touch on any of those subjects. My evidence resulted from a petition that I presented on behalf of the Reading Evening Post, and major businesses in the Reading area, including employers such as Microsoft, Foster Wheeler Energy, Yell, MCI, Reading borough council, Reading chamber of commerce, Transport 2000 and around 250 local businesses, residents and commuters. The petition was quite clear. It says:

On the summary page of the Committee’s report it says, quite clearly:

No member of the Select Committee who was present on 5 July can have been in any doubt that there was a
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serious question mark over the assurances and undertakings given by the promoter, because there is no case for locating a western terminus for Crossrail at Maidenhead. The motto of Crossrail was, from memory, “Crossing the capital, connecting the UK”. I have no beef with Maidenhead, but one cannot connect anywhere with it. Reading is the second busiest station outside London, and is second only to Birmingham New Street in that regard. It is a major rail hub.

If there is to be a terminus significantly west of London, it has to be in Reading. The hon. Member for Reading, East, other petitioners and I made the point that Crossrail is a stopping service. We currently enjoy a good, fast, high-speed train service into London from the west. My hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Anne Snelgrove) is nodding, and I know that hon. Members from Bristol and Wales share our concern. If a stopping service from Maidenhead interrupts the successful high-speed service into London from the west, Crossrail will impede a major transport artery.

If Crossrail comes west of Paddington or Ealing Broadway, it should go to Reading. However, it can come to Reading only if we upgrade the infrastructure. That case was made on 5 July and should have been included in the Select Committee report, but has not been. That is regrettable.

I want briefly to consider the potential rail link to London Heathrow. It is nonsense that Reading, which is at the heart of silicon valley—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is rehearsing arguments that have probably been heard previously. He knows that he must relate his remarks to why the Bill should or should not be carried over. Perhaps he would like to do that.

Martin Salter: Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am speaking about paragraph (b) of the motion, which states that

but the Select Committee report fails to mention the packs that were given in evidence.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has already been able to put that on record. He has dealt with the matter. He should now talk about whether the Bill should be carried over.

Martin Salter: Notwithstanding the fact that the arguments for a western rail link into Heathrow airport have not been made in the Select Committee report although they were made in the evidence session on 5 July, the Bill should be carried over, because Crossrail is a vital infrastructure project for Reading. All that Reading Members and the community of Reading want to achieve is to ensure that if the scheme comes to Reading, it should happen in a proper, co-ordinated way. If it does not come to Reading, that will be an opportunity lost. However, for goodness’ sake, let us not destroy our effective high-speed train service into London Paddington from the west.

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5.42 pm

Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): I support the carry-over motion. I thank hon. Members who served on the Select Committee; it must have been a thankless, albeit important task. However, I slightly admonish that Committee’s members because they did not do justice to the petitions from interested parties from Reading that were presented to the Committee.

Reading station is at the heart of my constituency. Although the Bill cannot now consider Reading as the western terminus, we should take the opportunity, whenever Ministers with responsibility for the subject are in the Chamber, to remind them of the importance of Reading being the terminus. It is also important to remind them that there is a method of getting the terminus to Reading: it can be done through an order under section 1 of the Transport and Works Act 1992. I hope that in due course the Under-Secretary will appreciate the force of the arguments that the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) and I, and others from the Reading area, presented. Indeed, many Members of Parliament with constituencies west of London made representations, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), who does not want the western terminus to be at Maidenhead, and sees the sense of it being at Reading. Maidenhead is a ludicrous end point; Reading is a far more appropriate place for the western terminus.

Another important point, which has already been made, is that siting the western terminus at Reading could be combined with a link into Heathrow from the west. Indeed, the upgrading of Reading station, which will happen in future, will be Crossrail-proof, and prepared for a link into Heathrow.

I support the carry-over motion.

5.44 pm

Mr. Tom Harris: With the leave of the House, I would like to respond to as many as possible of the points that have been made in this short debate. First, I thank the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) for the support that he and his party have given the Crossrail Bill. Being able to make cross-party comments and secure cross-party support for such an important Bill has certainly made my job an awful lot easier. However, I take issue with him on a couple of points. It is rather unfair to blame the late Earl Attlee for any failure in previous Crossrail Bills. If we are looking for historical precedents, I suggest that the Crossrail Bill that fell in 1994 is perhaps a more accurate one.

Stephen Hammond: In the interests of ensuring that history is correct, the Minister will therefore want to say that when that Bill fell, it fell in Committee, and that it was Labour Members who voted against it.

Mr. Harris: That was before either of us was a Member of the House, so I will move swiftly on.

The hon. Gentleman made one critical remark about previous comments that ministerial colleagues and I have made about the importance of the Lyons review of local government finance, which was raised when I first spoke about Crossrail on 31 October last year. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and
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Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) correctly said, it was always important that the Lyons review was put behind us and that we had its conclusions before us, so that we could see exactly what the structure of local government finance was before we set about constructing a financing package. An important part of the Lyons review was the possible introduction of the supplementary business rate. I will say something about that later, but obviously I do not want to dwell too much on the detail, rather than on why we wish to carry over the Bill.

My right hon. Friend again paid tribute to the Crossrail Bill Committee, and I echo that tribute. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) talked about the importance of Crossrail to the competitiveness of our capital city. He also talked about his concern about public information, which is a valid point. The Government must learn from the experience of the past two to three years the importance of getting accurate information to the public timeously, so that they can be reassured about whatever effect the construction phase of Crossrail in particular will have on local communities.

Tom Brake: I thank the Minister for picking up on that point. Do the Government already have any proposals in mind about how they would make information more readily available?

Mr. Harris: I cannot offer any specific details today, but I will be more than happy to follow that point up in Committee.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the main construction. I can confirm that the main construction of Crossrail referred to previously involves everything down to the light bulbs. “Main construction” means exactly what it says—the full construction of the Crossrail scheme. He asked about the Department for Transport’s contribution to financing. The figure of £16 billion is now well established. I have absolutely no reason not to believe that the figure is robust, as figures for previous capital projects arguably have not been. I would be extremely disappointed if the huge amount of work already carried out has led us to anything other than a reliable end figure for the total cost of the construction of Crossrail, of about £16 billion in outturn figures.

The hon. Gentleman referred to Crossrail as London’s heart bypass. That is a phrase that I like a great deal, and which I will now pilfer from him and use as if it were my own. To return to the finance package—the hon. Member for Wimbledon asked about this as well—the financing of the Crossrail scheme is not part of the Bill that will come before the Public Bill Committee, which will sit next month. I therefore cannot guarantee that detailed discussions can take place in Committee. That would not be a matter for me, but for the Chairman of the Public Bill Committee.

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