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It seems unusual that there should be one legislative scrutiny regime for the current Crossrail route but a different one for any future extension. It is possible to
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understand why relatively minor changes to the Crossrail network—a new facility here, a station renovation there—would be dealt with under the Transport and Works Act and would not warrant any exhaustive procedures. However, where Crossrail is being extended—in the exact circumstances that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead outlined—should the people affected have the right to take part in exactly the same sort of consultation procedure afforded to those affected by the original route?

4.45 pm

Legal advice from counsel, which is already circulating among Ministers and the Opposition, suggests that this is an interesting part of the law. The Government’s reassurance that an extension to the route would be covered purely by a Transport and Works Act order is at least contestable. The Minister needs to give the House some reassurance. I see in the Chamber a number of hon. Members who served on the Select Committee for a long time. They will know better than most that the plans for constructing Crossrail provoked a large number of organisations and people, who felt that their lives and businesses would be affected by the project, to come forward and present petitions to the Committee. The Select Committee procedures gave them the opportunity to have their say and to be heard.

If the route of Crossrail is to be extended, are the Government satisfied, in legal terms, with a situation in which people whose homes or businesses are affected by the extension to the route will not have the same protection and rights afforded to those affected by the original route? The Government are going to leave themselves in a very difficult position—one that will be open to legal challenge. Is that desirable? The Minister needs to give the House a clear indication that he has consulted his officials and is absolutely convinced that there is no possibility of a legal challenge to the Bill on the basis that any extension to Crossrail would be dealt with purely by a Transport and Works Act order.

These are probing amendments. We remain extremely concerned that if the clause stands as it is, there is the potential for a legal challenge to the whole Bill.

Mr. Tom Harris: Clause 57 allows any Transport and Works Act order that relates to a proposed extension of Crossrail or to the provision of a facility connected with Crossrail to apply any provision of the Bill, with any modifications necessary to the order, or provide for any provision of the Bill to have effect as if the extension were part of Crossrail.

Perhaps I can take a moment to explain the purpose of clause 57. As the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) will know from our earlier debates, the Bill establishes a bespoke regime for Crossrail, modifying or disapplying various bits of legislation and replacing it with a tailor-made regime, based heavily on the regime created in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996. He will recall that, for example, the Bill creates a bespoke planning and railway regulatory regime for Crossrail. Were a TWA order subsequently sought for an extension to Crossrail—say to Reading or Ebbsfleet—or for a new Crossrail facility such as a new station, that order could
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not necessarily apply the same regime established by the Bill to those works, because TWA orders, as a form of delegated legislation, are limited in what can be done by way of modifying the application of legislation.

That is not to suggest that a TWA order could not extend Crossrail if this provision did not exist. If a decision were taken to extend Crossrail to Ebbsfleet or Reading, for example, it would be possible to do so under the existing powers to make TWA orders. It is simply that any extension would then have to be built under a different regime. The clause would simply allow any such TWA order to make the provision needed to ensure that any extension or new facility is subject to the same regime as the Crossrail scheme covered by the Bill.

Mrs. May: I suspect that I should declare an interest in that I live alongside the railway line between Maidenhead and Reading. It has long been my contention, and that of other Members of the House, the business community and local councils, that Crossrail should extend to Reading. Given the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), I would be grateful if the Minister could make it clear that it is the Government’s absolute position that an extension to Reading would be possible simply by the exercise of a Transport and Works Act order, and that there would be no legal challenge based on the fact that that order did not involve the sort of consultation that has been necessary in relation to this Bill. A lot of comfort has been taken locally from the fact that an extension to Reading would be relatively easy because it could be done under a TWA order. I am concerned about the legal questions that have now been raised.

Mr. Harris: The right hon. Lady is correct in her assumption. As I think I said in the Public Bill Committee, the Government are committed to making a decision on the safeguarding of the route from Maidenhead to Reading for future possible extension of Crossrail to Reading. I want to make it absolutely clear that when we make that announcement on the safeguarding, it will not represent any change at all to the Government’s position on the construction of Crossrail under the Bill. It will terminate at Maidenhead, and regardless of whether we safeguard the route to Reading, there are absolutely no plans to extend construction to Reading. However, she is correct in her assumption that that can be done through an order under the Transport and Works Act. She asked whether I could be certain that the decision would face no legal challenge. I am confident that such an order would result in no successful legal challenge; whether an unsuccessful legal challenge is made is another matter.

We believe that the structure that I have described makes perfect sense. It would be confusing and unhelpful if one regime applied to parts of Crossrail and another applied to other parts. There are safeguards: certain provisions of the Bill should not be applied, such as those dealing with the extension of compulsory purchase powers to listed buildings, buildings in conservation areas and ancient monuments. Those issues are more appropriately dealt with under the TWA order process,
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in which the circumstances of the proposals for the extensions, and the objections to them, will be considered. Of course, any TWA order that would apply to the Crossrail Bill regime would follow the normal procedure for such orders. Those affected would have the opportunity to object to any aspects of the Crossrail Bill regime proposed to be applied by an order, and to have their concerns heard by an independent inspector as part of the TWA order process.

I do not see how I could justify asking Parliament to set up another Select Committee to hear petitions, when objections can be dealt with perfectly satisfactorily in a public inquiry. There is nothing remarkable about the works needed for extensions to Crossrail. Similar works in England and Wales have for many years been successfully dealt with by means of the TWA order process, and there has been full public involvement. Clause 57 merely ensures that if extension is merited and approved under the TWA order process, the regime will be consistent with the Bill.

Another point that the hon. Member for Wimbledon may want to consider when deciding whether to withdraw the amendment is that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 did not contain a provision for a station at Stratford International, but when the proposal was added to the scheme, it was done under a TWA order.

Stephen Hammond: I have said already that I think the 1996 Act was a fine piece of legislation from a fine Government, but it is not true that all pieces of fine legislation cannot be improved later by the scrutiny of the House.

I listened carefully to what the Minister said. I have no wish to incur the cost of setting up another hybrid Bill Committee to consider any extension to the route; that was not the purpose of my amendments. My purpose was to ensure that we were as certain as we could be that if different procedures applied to different parts of the Crossrail route, and that route was extended, there was no real possibility of a successful legal challenge. The Minister rightly said that he could not be certain that he would not be subject to a legal challenge, although it might fail. I was reassured that he has clearly taken good advice. He is happy to tell the House that he is convinced that although differing regimes would apply to different parts of the route, an extension can be built under the Transport and Works Act, and there is no reasonable prospect of a successful challenge. That was the reassurance I sought, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister signed the treaty this afternoon in breach of the European scrutiny resolution of the House of Commons of 17 November 1998, which was passed by this Government. The resolution clearly states:

and that

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It is possible for a Minister to give agreement in circumstances in which

but he has to explain those reasons

In accordance with the resolution of 17 November 1998, therefore, and because the European Scrutiny Committee has a duty to the House to ensure that the Standing Orders of the House are complied with, I ask you to consider my point of order and to ensure that the Prime Minister comes to the European Scrutiny Committee and explains himself.

Madam Deputy Speaker: The remarks made by the hon. Gentleman are not a point of order for the Chair, but Members on the Treasury Bench will no doubt have heard those remarks.

Order for Third Reading read.—[ Queen’s Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

4.56 pm

Mr. Tom Harris: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I do not need to remind the House that this substantial Bill enables the construction of the Crossrail scheme—a scheme that will have an enormous effect on hundreds of thousands of people. As right hon. and hon. Members present know, the Bill was first introduced on 22 February 2005 and has been carried over and reintroduced a further three times since then.

The Bill received its Second Reading in this place on 19 July 2005 and the Select Committee, so ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), commenced its work on 17 January 2006. Having sat for 21 months and heard some 200 petitions, the Select Committee published its special report on 23 October 2007. Once again, I place on record my sincere thanks to all the members of the Committee for their perseverance. I am sure right hon. and hon. Members will agree that the Bill is a better piece of legislation following the Committee’s scrutiny.

Rather more routinely, the Bill was then scrutinised by a Public Bill Committee which, after four good humoured and entertaining sittings, reported on Tuesday 27 November. On Third Reading, hon. Members will be asked to approve the Bill and, in so doing, approve the building of Crossrail. Before that question is put to them, I recognise that it is important that they are given a full understanding of the special considerations that apply in a case such as this, where the House is being asked to approve a project that will have significant environmental impacts. I fear that this involves a rather technical explanation, for which I apologise in advance.

In this connection, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) raised with me specific concerns about the parliamentary procedures for the Bill, in the light of correspondence from a group calling
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themselves the coalition and their legal representatives. I can confirm that I and my officials have read the correspondence and taken advice. I am content that the procedure is compatible with the relevant EC obligations.

The environmental impact assessment directive requires that decision-making bodies should give consent to development projects likely to have a significant effect on the environment only after assessment of those environmental effects has been carried out. To that end, the directive sets out a procedure to be followed that requires a proper assessment of the likely significant environmental impacts of a project, which is published in the environmental statement; proper consultation of interested parties, including the public, on the environmental statement; that the views of the consultees should be taken into account, and that the decision whether or not to consent to the development should be given publicly, with the reasons for the decision. The environmental statement for Crossrail was published in February 2005. It has since been supplemented by a number of additional volumes, reflecting changes to the project made during the parliamentary process or additional information that became available later. Responses to the consultation exercise on the environmental statement were published in Command Papers issued in July 2005 and last month. We also published a third Command Paper last month; it summarised the work done to assess, control and mitigate the environmental impacts of Crossrail and the reasons why the Government continue to take the view that the project is worthy of their support.

I deposited a written statement before the House on 20 November to draw hon. Members’ attention to those documents and to the obligations placed on this House, as the decision-making body for Crossrail, by the environmental impact assessment directive. I especially draw attention to appendix A of Cm. 7250. It summarises the Government’s reasons for urging this House to endorse its proposals for Crossrail, notwithstanding the unavoidable environmental impacts of such a project, on which subject I shall say more in a moment.

It is now for right hon. and hon. Members to decide, in the light of the information provided by the Government and the views expressed by interested parties, whether the project should be allowed to proceed, taking into account its environmental effects. When considering that question, right hon. and hon. Members will no doubt bear in mind the excellent work done by the Select Committee, which considered many environmental issues as part of the process. Indeed, the Select Committee process resulted in a number of changes to the project, many of which helped to reduce Crossrail’s likely environmental impacts.

However, the remit of the Committee did not permit it to consider all the environmental issues raised by petitioners. This House instructed the Committee to report separately on those further issues so that hon. Members could consider all views raised on the Crossrail project. The Committee issued its special report in October, and it included a chapter on environmental issues. Hon. Members will wish to consider whether any matters raised there, in the environmental statement, in the consultation responses
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or in any direct representations from their constituents lead them to conclude that the project should not be granted consent.

For my part, I am satisfied that the Crossrail project is in the wider public interest. It is not possible to build a large public transport infrastructure project in a densely populated area without some adverse impacts on those living and working on or near the intended route. Those impacts will include noise and various adverse effects on the townscape, landscape, visual amenity, heritage, archaeology, traffic and transport, as well as on certain businesses and local communities. In the Government’s view, those effects are outweighed by the benefits that Crossrail will bring—not just to the United Kingdom as a whole, but to the local communities that will benefit from improved transport connections.

The Government do not take lightly the environmental impacts of the project and I draw hon. Members’ attention to the complex package of controls, mitigation and compensation measures put in place to reduce and mitigate the potential adverse impacts. They include changes to the project, made during the Select Committee process, that reduce environmental impacts; Bill provisions requiring detailed consents and approvals from relevant bodies such as local planning authorities; and the obligations to be placed on the Crossrail-nominated undertaker in the environmental minimum requirements, including a range of undertakings and assurances addressing environmental concerns.

On the plus side of the balance sheet, Crossrail has the potential to improve the lives of commuters as nothing has before. It will provide London and the south-east with a world-class railway, delivering high-capacity mainline rail services to and through the heart of the City and west end. It will provide a new fleet of trains, operating a 24 trains-an-hour peak service in both directions through central London, carrying some 200 million passengers a year. Crossrail has a strong economic case; the benefit-to-cost ratio is 1.8:1. We estimate that, in addition, Crossrail will generate cash benefits to the UK gross domestic product of at least £20 billion. Others have suggested that those benefits to the national economy could be substantially higher.

It goes without saying that Crossrail will significantly increase the capacity of the rail network into and across London. It is expected to add 21 per cent. and 54 per cent. to rail capacity to the City and the Isle of Dogs respectively, thereby relieving congestion and overcrowding on the existing national rail and underground networks. It will support the development of London as a world city and in its role as the financial centre of Europe and the United Kingdom.

The improved east-west rail access into and across London from the east and south-east regions will also support local and national Government policy for economic development and regeneration, particularly in the Lea valley and Thames Gateway, attracting some additional 80,000 jobs to regeneration areas.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Harris: If my right hon. Friend will forgive me, I should like to continue.

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Those are the key benefits. I could, of course, say far more about the benefits of Crossrail and the potential adverse environmental impacts, but I think—I hope that the House will agree—that I have already spoken for quite long enough. I now urge right hon. and hon. Members to express their views on this matter. I hope that they will agree that the overall balance of benefits to disbenefits is such that this project deserves their wholehearted support. I commend the Bill to the House.

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