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Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con):
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would be grateful if you could let me know whether there is any way in which the House can register its collective shame that a Government elected on a clear promise to grant the people a referendum on the European treaty are currently signing that treaty, albeit in a skulking, hole-
in-the-corner fashion, in Brussels. Is there any way in which the House can register the fact that we disapprove totally of what is happening?
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you been notified of the Governments wish today to hold a vote in the House on whether we should sign the treaty? We were told that we are not getting a referendum because the House will decide. The House will not be able to decide after the nations word has been given; it should decide now.
( ) An easement or other right over land acquired under subsection (5) shall expire no later than the day on which the railway mentioned in section 1(1)(a) is first used by Crossrail passenger services.
Stephen Hammond: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sure that many of my hon. Friends felt that you had a way of being able to see that their points of order were taken up, rather than our having to discuss the clauses and amendments before us. Nevertheless, the two amendments are important. The first part of the Bill deals with the scheduled works required to bring Crossrail into being. The second part concerns the land on which the works will be built, and the powers that the Secretary of State requires to take temporary, or even permanent, ownership of such land, or to modify the rights of way over it. The third part deals with the planning issues that might arise as a result of those scheduled works.
All of those measures are vital to the successful construction of Crossrail, and we discussed them at length in Committee, where I tabled a number of amendments which I believe would have enriched the Bill. I was disappointed that the Minister did not agree with me. I should like to revisit two issues using a slightly different approach to that which we took in Committee. First, amendment No. 2 relates to easements
over land. We tabled a probing amendment in Committee, but the questions that we posed remain unanswered. Will the Minister give the House a reassurance about the power to acquire easements or other rights, as set out in clause 7? Does the Secretary of State or nominated undertaker require the power to access sites? The easement that is required will concern merely a small strip of land; would not the acquisition of an easement or a right be less costly, and easier to arrange? Does the Minister envisage that many such easements will be required, and does he expect that they will be required temporarily or permanently? Those questions have not been answered, and they are important.
I accept that easements over land will be required in certain circumstances, and I certainly accept that in some circumstances an easement might be more desirable than an outright compulsory purchase. However, the issue that my amendment addresses is the length of time for which such an easement will be required. There are two ways in which a Secretary of State can gain access to land that is needed to build Crossrail: they can take possession of it by means of compulsory purchase, or they can acquire an easement over the land, which will give them a limited right to make use of the land as a right of way.
On the first optioncompulsory purchasethe Minister has given clear reassurances about the time limits involved. The land will be used for the construction and operation of Crossrail; if it is required only for the building of Crossrail, the surplus land would be disposed of, as we have discussed. The land disposal policy measures say that any land acquired for the purposes of Crossrail that is no longer required should be sold. That is all very clear. What remains unclear is the situation as regards the second option available to the Secretary of State, namely the acquisition of an easement. As I say, an easement is likely to concern a small strip of land, on the basis that it will be needed for access to land that is required to build the project. The land disposal policy does not appear to give any indication of the Governments intent on terminating easements once they are no longer required.
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): I have looked closely at the amendment. The hon. Gentleman talks about the easements expiring no later than the day on which the first passenger train runs. Does he not accept that it is highly unlikely that every aspect of work on every stretch of the Crossrail scheme will be completed on that day? It is likely that the easements will need to continue after that first train runs, just to allow the initial construction to be completed.
Stephen Hammond: That is a possibility, but as the hon. Gentleman knows from his membership of both the Select Committee and the Public Bill Committee, we have discussed several times the subject of an appropriate ending day for various purposes. Sometimes the Minister tells us that for certain purposes it is the operation of the first passenger service. At other times it is the end of the interim period. It is difficult to draw up a definitive time, but my amendment seeks to give some definition to the length of time for which the easements will be available.
Sir Peter Soulsby: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his explanation of what he is trying to achieve, but does he accept that ending the easements at that particular stage of construction is totally unreasonable?
Stephen Hammond: I accept that the amendment may be imperfect in some respects, but we need to write into the Bill some definition to replace the open-ended nature of the provision. That is what I am seeking to do.
Mike Gapes: The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that one of the great potential benefits of Crossrail coming through my constituency is the redesign potential for Ilford station, including a complete new terminus for busesI have had discussions with local bus companies and othersand the regeneration of part of Ilford town centre. I am certain that many of those developments will be going on while and possibly after the first trains are running on the Crossrail line. What he is suggesting could cause serious difficulties for communities that will get a substantial regeneration benefit from the proposals.
Stephen Hammond: I am afraid the hon. Gentleman misses the point. The amendment is nothing to do with compulsory purchase of land. It deals with easements and rights of way. The point that he makes is therefore not relevant.
I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby) and I accept that a date definition is difficult. He would have to accept that dates referred to in the Bill are not ideal.
The powers being sought by the Secretary of State in respect of easements should need to be used only during the construction phase of Crossrail. No doubt the Minister will tell me that I am being too prescriptive, but I am trying to prevent access to land that might be required after the construction of Crossrail. I am trying to ensure that it is clear that access will be granted after the date that it is required. The amendment is sensible and reasonable. It is one that we did not discuss in Committee. It limits the length of time that an easement can be used.
The second amendment in the group, amendment No. 3, is identical to one that I tabled in Committee, which resulted in an informative debate spanning two sessions. At the end of that debate, we gave fair notice that we intended to revisit the matter on Report. For Crossrail, we have an agreed route, scheduled works along the route, and defined limits of deviation within which the nominated undertaker may deviate when carrying out the scheduled works. All that is reasonable and fair, and it seems natural that the provisions of the Bill should therefore apply only to the limits of deviation. Or are we saying that they should apply everywhere else?
Clause 10 provides that planning permission shall be deemed to be granted under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 on land needed for the carrying out of the scheduled works. The amendment is designed to restrict the application of deemed planning permission to land that falls within the limits of deviation, as defined in clause 1. We heard previously from the Minister that the problem with such a measure is that separate planning permission would be required for land outside the limits of deviation. My question to him, therefore, is what will be required outside the limits of deviation? Are we to say that the limits in the Bill apply everywhere? That will be an extraordinarily wide provision for the Government.
The Minister rightly said that one of the fundamental purposes of the Bill is to ensure that deemed planning permission can be obtained for the works reasonably required to enable Crossrail to be built. Where that is appropriate, there has been an environmental assessment. The works have been set out in the Bill, and they have been granted limits of deviation, should they need to deviate from their original location.The Bill already gives the Secretary of State huge leeway in respect of carrying out the scheduled works for Crossrail. In our opinion, the Government should not need the additional powers set out in clause 10 in so far as they relate to land outside the exceptional leeway that they have already been granted. The Government cannot have it both ways: they cannot say that they will build within the scheduled works and the limits of deviation and then add that, just in case that does not work, they should have powers to build outside and beyond those limits of deviation.
Mr. Tom Harris: I shall start by speaking to amendment No. 2. It might help if I explain the purpose of clause 7, which the amendment seeks to change. The clause allows the Secretary of State to acquire land outside the Bill limits through compulsory purchase if it is needed in connection with Crossrail. The clause also allows the Secretary of State to acquire additional land within the Bill limits if it is needed in connection with Crossrail but cannot be acquired under clause 6(1), as it is needed for an unforeseen purpose. Those powers, although vested in the Secretary of State, may be devolved to the Greater London authority or Transport for London by virtue of clause 60.
Unlike the principal land acquisition power in clause 6, which deals solely with land acquisition within the Bill limits, the power to acquire land under clause 7 can be exercised only through the making of a compulsory purchase order under existing compulsory purchase legislation. Accordingly, there are well established procedures to be followed and protections for those affected by any such proposed order. The Secretary of State would be required to prepare and publicise a draft compulsory purchase order, so that those affected had an opportunity to object and to require a hearing or public local inquiry. The acquisition of any land
under the compulsory purchase order, if made, would attract compensation under the national compensation code.
The extent to which land outside the Bill limits can be acquired compulsorily is well precedented. The provisions of clause 7 are modelled on section 5 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, the last hybrid Bill for a railway project; I suspect that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) already knew that.
Clause 7(5) allows the Secretary of State to acquire an easement or other new right over the land in question, as opposed to acquiring the land itselfif, for example, a right of access for the purposes of occasional repair is needed. Amendment No. 2 would restrict any easement or right taken over land acquired under that power to the period during which Crossrail was being constructed. However, there are circumstances in which a permanent easement or right is required. They include situations in which access is needed for the maintenance of structures associated with Crossrailfor example, permanent sound barriersor for new retaining walls and embankments works.
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: Does the Minister think that the planning legislation before the House at the moment will affect those issues in any way? I know that that involves a bit of crystal-ball gazing. Furthermore, is he aware of any elements of the Bill to which what he is saying might apply as of today, or are we just banking for the future should something go wrong?
Mr. Harris: The clause in question is not for when something goes wrong; it is there to be flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. At this moment it is not possible to make a list of all temporary and permanent easements and the uses to which they would be put. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand why I do not want to speculate about any hypothetical effect of the Planning Bill.
I turn to amendment No. 3. Clause 10 deems planning permission to be granted for two different categories of works. First, the scheduled works listed in schedule 1 have to be built within their respective limits of deviation. Secondly, as long as other non-scheduled works fall within the scope of the various environmental assessments accompanying the Bill, they can be built anywhere within the limit of deviation or the limit of land to be acquired or used. In addition, safeguarding work to buildings necessary or expedient in connection with the works can be carried out outside these limits, but within a specified distance of the works in relation to which the protection is provided50 m where the work relates to an underground railway and 35 m in other circumstances.
The geographical extent of the works and the planning permission granted by the Bill is therefore well known and transparent. For example, the main railway and running tunnels are scheduled works, as are all the new stations to be built in the central section. Planning permission for those works is therefore
granted within their limits of deviation. However, some works are not scheduled works and so get planning permission only if they have been environmentally assessed. These include ancillary works such as station alterations and electrification works on the existing national rail networks within the limits of land to be acquired or used, and protective works to buildings outside those limits. I am therefore satisfied that the scope of the deemed planning permission is limited to the works that are reasonably required to enable Crossrail to be built.
Furthermore, all works are subject to the detailed consent regime set out in schedule 7, and stakeholders will have had the opportunity to consider detailed information about the likely environmental impacts of all the works for which deemed planning permission is proposed to be granted, and if necessary to petition. The hon. Gentlemans amendment would require separate planning permission to be sought for any works authorised by the Bill that are not scheduled works and fall outside the limits of deviation of the works. That would, as I have indicated, affect a wide category of works, including unscheduled works that lie within the limits of the Bill. The effect of requiring separate planning permission to be sought for such works would be to undermine the very purpose of the Billthat is, to obtain deemed planning permission for the works reasonably required to enable Crossrail to be built, where they have had appropriate environmental assessment. It would expose the project to the risk of severe delays as local authorities considered applications for these works under the 1990 Act regime, including possibly the holding of public inquiries.
On the basis of that explanation, I invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment if for no other reason than that I hope that he accepts that undue delay to the schedule for the construction of Crossrail would result in added costs. If he is so concerned about added costs of the scheme and transparency in funding it, I hope that he will accept that his amendment would add nothing to the demands to keep the costs of Crossrail down.
Stephen Hammond: I am grateful to the Minister for calling me a sensible chap. He will know that if I say that I am interested in ensuring that costs are kept to what they were at the outset, then that is what we intend to do. I listened to him carefully, and I have looked at his previous comments to the effect that were the amendment to be pressed, that might cause some concern with the route. We have expressed on several occasions our concerns about the scheduled works and the limits of deviation. Notwithstanding that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
The clause and the amendment will be of particular concern to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby), who said in the previous debate that he was worried about periods of time, because they focus on the infamous interim period, which, for the purposes of the Bill, is the time between the granting of Royal Assent and the date on which passenger services commence on Crossrail. During that period, the Office of Rail Regulation has an overriding duty to exercise its access contract functions in such a way as to facilitate the operation of Crossrail. I accept that principle, which, as the Minister pointed out in another context, has, like so much of the Bill, a precedent in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996.
That was a fine Bill enacted by a fine Conservative Government, but the Minister will recognise that even legislation such as that can sometimes be improved upon. We do not necessarily have to take the example of that Act and look no furtherand the amendment would look further. It would give some clarity and definition to the phrase the interim period.
Clause 23(7) gives the Secretary of State the power to extend the so-called interim period. In Committee, I expressed more than once the idea that during the interim period, which takes place between the granting of Royal Assent and the day on which passenger services commence, the ORR has the overriding duty to ensure that the construction phase of Crossrail is prioritised. That is right, but should not that power be restricted? Should not the ORR have the overriding duty only during the construction phase? Is it really right that it has that overriding duty once services are up and running? I have tabled an amendment that would restrict the extension of that overriding requirement to nine months and restrict any duty beyond the interim period.
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