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5.5 pm

Stephen Hammond: I thank the Minister at the outset for his confirmation that he has had the opportunity to look at the legal advice sent to us by a group calling itself the coalition and its legal advisers and that after being able to make his speech without intervention he satisfies all legal requirements in that regard. I hope that that is helpful to the whole House.

Today the Bill finishes one part of its lengthy procession through the House. It was first introduced in 2005 and received its Second Reading in July of that year. It was subject to the hybrid Bill procedures, with two Committee stages in both Houses, the Select Committee to hear petitions and then, more routinely, the Public Bill Committee. The Select Committee first sat in January 2006 and had more than 100 sittings— [ Interruption. ] I am underestimating that, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley), or perhaps it just felt like that.

Mr. Meale: Considerably.

Stephen Hammond: The Chairman of the Select Committee uses the right word.

Closing submissions to the Select Committee were made in July 2007, and to enable it to continue its work we had two carry-over motions on the Floor of the House. The Bill then wound its way through to the Public Bill Committee, where, as the Minister said, we had four good-humoured sittings. None the less, proper scrutiny was carried out. To ensure that, Her Majesty’s Opposition tabled some 70 amendments and two new clauses. It is a source of considerable pride to Her Majesty’s Opposition that the Minister found that he could support, if in a slightly differently worded way, at least one of our amendments, which found its way on to today’s amendment paper. The Bill will now proceed to the other place and go through the same stages, although I am sure that Members there will be pleased to hear that it will not, as I understand it, be subject to a Select Committee procedure as lengthy as it was in this House. Nevertheless, today represents a significant step forward in Crossrail’s development.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con): Even given its lengthy proceedings, the Committee always treated my constituents with freshness and great attentiveness. That contrasts strongly with Crossrail itself, which, even in dealing with a relatively small and trivial matter such as minimising the effects of parking during the construction, seemed very reluctant, according to my local council, to come to any definitive decisions. That is worrying. If it was prepared to do something as relatively trivial as that, it would ease people’s minds as to whether it is an organisation that is as willing to listen as the Select Committee was.

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Stephen Hammond: Of course, I am not here to answer for the undertakers of the Bill, or for the Secretary of State, but my hon. Friend’s point is well made. I am sure that it will have been heard by the nominated undertakers. He makes the point, as has everyone in the House today, that the Select Committee has done an amazing job. We are all thankful for that, principally because we were not on the Committee.

The Conservative party’s position has been clear throughout the Bill’s parliamentary stages. It was stated initially by my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), and it has also been stated by the shadow Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers), and myself, on numerous occasions in this House and other places. We have always supported Crossrail in principle, but we needed to be certain of the funding, and we needed to be certain that the funding package was robust.

On 5 October, the Government announced the funding package in what seemed some undue haste, before the Prime Minister changed his mind about a general election. It is most regrettable that during all of our scrutiny, we have not had the chance to discuss the funding package in any real depth, notwithstanding the Minister’s generosity in putting at our disposal the heads of agreement between the Mayor and the Secretary of State. The Minister was also kind enough to brief myself and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer).

However, we need to understand exactly the consequences of this package and its robustness. The Mayor of London intends to levy a supplementary rate of 2 per cent. on businesses throughout London, and there will be relief for small businesses. He will raise £3.5 billion, or more precisely he is going to raise £3.5 billion in debt. However, the supplementary level can take place only, and I quote from the heads of agreement, when

“such consultation as may be required is undertaken”.

That touches on my point about our inability to scrutinise matters, for what is

“such consultation as may be required”?

Who is going to be consulted? Where will the results be accessible?

There are large grants from the Department for Transport and Transport for London, which come to close to £8 billion. If any rational decision is to be taken, one needs to be able to scrutinise those grants. There are also very large contributions in the funding package from developers and sums raised from the sale of land. Again, it would be helpful if we were able to scrutinise the robustness of the whole package.

I say to the Minister that Crossrail has our support, and it will continue to have it. However, we questioned the financing previously. We questioned it at the time of the referral to the Lyons inquiry and that whole debacle; during consideration of the carry-over motion; and, where we could do so in some minor, ingenious way, in Committee. I have questioned it again this afternoon by attempting to introduce a new clause. We will continue to question the package to ensure its robustness.

The Minister will also know—we alluded to this earlier—that we raised the question of the right to consultation several times in Committee. Notwithstanding
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the legal questions raised by the coalition, and the Minister’s reassuring answer, I have been approached latterly by representatives of Smithfield market tenants. That process reflects something that we discussed in Committee, which is the right to compensation. That right has been confirmed, but people are concerned that there has been no further discussion about the sums that may be granted. Those making representations to the Committee were assured that they would be compensated for the costs of going before the Committee and of making submissions. Again, there has been no further discussion with the people who made those petitions about the substance of that compensation. It would be helpful if the Minister—either in his closing remarks or by some other method—made clear the Government’s intent on those two points. None the less, Crossrail is important to London and what benefits London will benefit the United Kingdom.

I have already mentioned the commitment and hard work of the Select Committee and of other hon. Members. I note that the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) is in his place. During the Bill’s passage, we have had the chance to consider what would be included on the Crossrail route and, at times, to make sensible decisions for the greater value and benefit of the scheme. That was highlighted in our debates about Woolwich station. They led to the Government changing their position and allowing a Select Committee to consider the matter, and to an innovative funding solution. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will confirm my comments in his speech, but I believe that Woolwich station will make a valid contribution to the regenerative effect of Crossrail on the Thames Gateway. It is to the credit of our parliamentary procedures that we were able to achieve what we did.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): My hon. Friend is right to highlight the Select Committee’s success in persuading the Government to change their mind on Woolwich. However, another early victory occurred when the Committee put its foot down about the ticket hall arrangements at Liverpool Street station. The Government have agreed that the largest proposals for a ticket hall should be incorporated in the scheme. The Select Committee has prevented chaos at that station by advancing its cause.

Stephen Hammond: My hon. Friend is right. I know that he was a valued member of the Select Committee.

Crossrail is essential for London and the United Kingdom. It will enable London to remain a truly international, world city and the global leader in financial services. One can take economic estimates how one likes, but it is estimated that GDP could benefit by some £30 billion, of which £12 billion will go directly to the Treasury in tax receipts. I am sure that that is another reason for the Government’s support for the Bill. I have no doubt that Crossrail will significantly benefit the United Kingdom. Conservative Members wish the Bill a swift passage through the other place and beyond, so that the first sod can be cut.

5.17 pm

Mr. Raynsford: I shall be brief, but I do not want the moment to pass without congratulating my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport on his success in bringing this important, long and complex Bill to the
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point at which it should receive a Third Reading today and then pass on to the other place and complete its parliamentary passage.

The Bill is important and should bring substantial benefits to London. Without it, London’s economic growth—and, indeed, its transport policy—would face serious questions. Without Crossrail, the outlook for London’s transport in 20 years would be much more challenging, with serious transport and environmental consequences. When we consider environmental issues, we should be aware that without Crossrail, London’s future could be bleak, with serious traffic congestion and the consequent environmental degradation. We should be conscious of that wider environmental context when considering the short-term adverse impacts during the construction phase.

I am conscious of that in my constituency, especially in Woolwich, which has probably suffered more than most London boroughs in the past 20 to 30 years from economic decline and deindustrialisation. The result has been relatively high poverty and deprivation and a need for new investment. It is noticeable that the works currently taking place to bring the docklands light railway into Woolwich have provoked few complaints or criticisms. I have received only a small number, despite the huge disruption that that major engineering work is causing the area. The reason is simple: the work is bringing enormous benefits to a deprived area, which will benefit from communication across the Thames through the docklands light railway to London City airport and beyond. That will be a helpful economic driver.

By contrast, Crossrail will be an enormous benefit because the fast connection to Canary Wharf, central London and through to Heathrow will make possible investment that was previously thought impossible in Woolwich. That is why there was such enormous feeling in Woolwich across all sections of the community—the business community, the local population and all others, including our neighbours in surrounding areas—about the importance of the Crossrail station, which was one of the great achievements of the Select Committee. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and his colleagues on the Committee for recognising the importance of the Crossrail station at Woolwich and insisting that it be incorporated in the Bill.

I pay tribute, too, to my hon. Friend the Minister on the Government’s acceptance of the case and on their recognition that, through an innovative funding regime involving a private sector contribution to the station at Woolwich, it was possible to amend the Bill in a way compatible with the economic objective of delivering the entire Crossrail project cost-effectively. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) has referred to the innovative financing of the scheme and to the contribution that it will make to the Thames Gateway. We should all be pleased about what has been achieved on the financing, which will help to ensure the greater success of the Crossrail project and its contribution to the Thames Gateway in general, and to Woolwich in particular.

5.20 pm

Susan Kramer: I am conscious of the time, and will endeavour to make my comments brief. Like others who served on the Public Bill Committee, I am in awe
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of hon. Members who spent nearly two years on the Select Committee. I pay direct tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh), who sat on that Committee for the Liberal Democrats and, I believe, even volunteered for it. That must surely buy him a lot of freedom from purgatory. The Bill now heads on to the other place, where there is significant expertise. I understand that a number of Members in the other place will relish the hybrid stage, so perhaps there is much more to happen to the Bill.

We as a party have long supported Crossrail. We would have loved it to go to Reading in the west and to Stansted in the east, but the project has at least made its beginnings, and will be crucial to ensuring that London continues its economic vibrancy.

I should like to make some brief comments under three headings. Funding remains a significant concern to us. Transparency is important, not just to allow general discussion, but because it brings a discipline to a project. One only has to consider the experiences of the public-private partnership and Metronet to see how much that kind of discipline is needed. As the Bill—and, I hope, the project—proceed, we would like some clarity about the sources of funds and how they will be used and applied.

The innovative financing, in the form of a levy on business, fits the direction of travel that we have often considered for infrastructure projects. We would have preferred something targeted much more on the direct beneficiaries, as it were, of the economic bounce that will come from the project. The levy being used in this case is a rather blunt instrument, but the general direction of travel is crucial, and should provide an example of how large infrastructure projects could be structured in future.

However, one issue that remains important to us has not been discussed today. We would consider including a sizeable contingency in the £16 billion project being presented. On behalf of London fare payers and London businesses, we must press the Government to ensure that if there is an underspend, the clawback and savings will be returned, first to London fare payers and then to the London business community.

I have two quick comments to make on the impact of the project. We understand that the issue of freight will return at the hybrid stage, but I want to underscore its significance now. London needs a number of projects. Because of long delays in decision making, they are now beginning to move together, and that process must be managed.

Finally, I want to raise the issue of blight, which goes beyond this project but is also inherently part of it. The opportunity has been missed to present a new mechanism for dealing with the blight of major infrastructure projects. I would recommend to the Minister that, as he talks to his colleagues in the Department for Transport, he take a look at BAA’s property market bond scheme. I really recommend BAA as an exemplar in this regard. The scheme provides a mechanism for widely reducing blight impact, rather than simply in the narrow sense in which compensation is provided under Government legislation.

I have been conscious throughout the passage of the Bill that we have to get it right. It seems that every project that comes up steps up to the plate and becomes a template for the next project, and we see
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constant references back. The work that has been done to try to improve this legislation should have long-term consequences not only for this project but for the many rail projects that I hope we shall see in future, as Crossrail usurps the channel tunnel rail link as the touchstone project for the next phase of construction.

It has been noted that £16 billion is a very large sum of money, but the value and benefit of Crossrail to the London economy—and, therefore, to the UK economy—is crucial. I am delighted to have been part of a process that I hope will move the project into something close to its final stage.

5.26 pm

Sir Peter Soulsby: As one of those who did two years of penal servitude on the Select Committee on the Bill, I could speak at considerable length now that I am free. Some of us had become so institutionalised by the end of that process that we actually volunteered to go back inside and serve on the Public Bill Committee. None the less, I shall try to keep my remarks brief and simply make some fairly sharp points.

The Minister has talked about the enormous benefits to the economy that Crossrail is likely to bring. He mentioned a figure of about £20 billion; the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) spoke of about £30 billion. Who knows what it will be? We do know that it will be very substantial indeed. Crossrail is a major infrastructure project, of vital importance not only to the capital but to the national economy. It is very much to be welcomed. Obviously, a lot of regeneration could result from it, and many jobs will be created during its construction. It will provide a vital east-west link across the capital, without which the existing transport infrastructure would run the real risk of clogging up to the point of coming to a standstill.

The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) referred to one of the remaining issues as the Bill leaves this House and goes on to the other place. That was freight, and she was quite right to draw attention to it. Freight was one of the issues to which the Select Committee drew specific attention in its report. We said that we expected there to be continuing discussions about the impact of Crossrail on freight, both east and west of the capital, and we hoped that it would be given further consideration. I know that the Department has given it further consideration and is working on possible solutions, as is the industry more widely, so that when the Bill is debated in the other place, sufficient reassurance can be given that the vital interests of freight will be protected as Crossrail comes into operation.

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