Previous Section Index Home Page

Other hon. Members have mentioned some of the continuing concerns expressed by those who have petitioned against the Bill. The Smithfield market traders were specifically mentioned; I know that other members of the Select Committee will have received letters from them and from others about their lingering concerns about the impact of the scheme on their interests. It is worth reassuring those people again that they will have the opportunity to petition against the Bill in the other place, should they wish to do so. They will have the opportunity to be heard in the other place,
13 Dec 2007 : Column 560
if they feel that their interests have not been adequately protected by this House. Similar procedures will be followed as the hybrid Bill goes through its various stages.

It is worth saying, by way of a brief digression, that the Select Committee did not consider the overall merits of the scheme. The Bill comes to the hybrid Bill Committee as something that, having been given its Second Reading, has already been approved in principle by the House. We were aware of that in Committee, but not all the petitioners were aware of it. There is no doubt that some who wanted to petition against aspects of the principle of the Bill or alternative routes or the potential to go further out to East Anglia, to Reading or beyond found it somewhat frustrating that that was not within our remit.

It is worth putting on record the fact that one aspect of the hybrid Bill procedure—there are many great strengths to it—is not in place now and might be worth considering before the House deals with the next hybrid Bill. The procedure might be strengthened if hybrid Bill Committees had the same facility as Public Bill Committees now have—to hear initial evidence in order to set the context for later consideration. That, or perhaps further consideration of evidence in advance by the departmental Select Committee, might have enabled any frustrations to be dealt with at an earlier stage. That might also have enabled the hybrid Bill Committee to have looked at the outset at some of the more general issues that we had to return to on a number of occasions during our hearings—for example, ground-borne noise or the compensation code, which we had to learn about rapidly. Those matters could have been dealt with initially by hearings with expert advice, which might have allowed us to deal even more expeditiously with the petitions in front of us.

Mr. Hollobone rose—

Sir Peter Soulsby: I will give way briefly, but only once, because other hon. Members are waiting to speak.

Mr. Hollobone: I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the limitations of the hybrid Bill procedure. Members of the Committee felt a lot of frustration because they could not look into alternative scenarios at either end of the route. Being able to do that would not have been disruptive to the hybrid Bill procedure. I would like to support the hon. Gentleman in his view that if another hybrid Bill comes along, revisions to the procedure could be made to enable the Committee to add further value to its deliberations.

Sir Peter Soulsby: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that contribution. It is clear that the frustration was shared by other members of the Committee. I wonder whether the Modernisation Committee might like to look further into the hybrid Bill procedure—quite an unusual procedure for Parliament, but one that can be of very considerable significance when it crops up.

Let me pick out two of the most significant changes that the hybrid Bill Committee was able to make. The hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) has already referred to one of them—the significant improvements to the Liverpool Street station plans. We rapidly concluded that what was being proposed was
13 Dec 2007 : Column 561
not workable. I believe that what was ultimately put forward—I recall that we learned a lot about Pedroute and various other ways of looking at such schemes—meets the needs of the City of London Corporation, which petitioned, British Land and others. The arrival of Crossrail will enable that station to improve even beyond its current situation.

The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) referred to the second substantial change—the inclusion of a station at Woolwich. We were absolutely convinced that the costs were enormously outweighed by the benefits, particularly the regeneration of the area. I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend—ably supported by his parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) who made an equally strong case—for pressing so strongly for this station. I also pay tribute, as have others, to the Minister and his Department for the responsive way in which they dealt with this issue and the constructive way in which they set about finding a funding package to enable this enormously worthwhile station to be built at Woolwich.

To conclude, when many of us were appointed to the Select Committee almost exactly two years ago, we felt that we might have been appointed to the parliamentary equivalent of breaking rocks. In fact, I am delighted that we were proved wrong about that, as it turned out to be very worthwhile. I am delighted that we have produced a scheme that will be of enormous benefit to London. It is not, of course, just for London; it will be a vital piece of national infrastructure, which will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to the economy.

As I said earlier, I think that the Bill has been very well scrutinised by the House, and very constructively amended by the Government. I hope that it will now be approved by the House, and will permit the construction of what will unquestionably be an exciting and vital public transport link. I trust that it will proceed to the other place, perhaps to be still further improved but certainly to produce, at the end of the day, a very worthwhile project.

5.35 pm

Mr. Binley: I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby), who has proved to be a wise and experienced counsellor on matters of this kind. I am sure that his local government experience created that ability. I also pay tribute to the Chairman of the hybrid Bill Committee, the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), who led us with humour, gentleness and kindness, and managed to keep our interest going when most of us were flagging. His work ought to be recognised, and tribute should be paid to it.

Sadly, I cannot share the confidence and enthusiasm expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), for I have sizeable doubts. In my defence, I will add only that I had those doubts before the scheme began, and the work that I did in Committee did not change that; indeed, it rather strengthened my doubts, which relate to three specific issues. I am concerned about what I consider to be the poor costing regime used for the project to date, and referred to numerous times both in Committee and in the Bill; I fear that Crossrail will remove the focus from
13 Dec 2007 : Column 562
vital projects in other parts of the United Kingdom; and I am shocked at the lack of any attempt to put a cost on the blight and disruption that has been caused to London so far. Yet here we are, making a final decision.

All those matters have a direct impact on the end cost of the Bill and the economic return of the scheme. It strikes me as disturbing that we should make decisions in that financial environment, and I think that the next hybrid Bill should make it possible for us to consider those matters as well. That we have not been able to do so on this occasion seems to me to be a major oversight. I realise that it could have been slightly embarrassing for the Government, but preventing embarrassment for the Government is not the purpose of a hybrid Bill or indeed of this place. I should like my opinion to be recorded, and to be considered for the future.

The poor cost accounting for the project became obvious to me as the hybrid Committee’s deliberations continued, in two contexts. The first was floating track. More and more of it was demanded by petitioners and promised during our consideration, but the figures given for the amount of floating track and the increased cost that it would entail were extremely vague. I think it unacceptable that the House should make a final decision without an understanding of the true impact of those factors.

My real concern, however, relates to Woolwich station. If the project goes ahead, that station is vital. As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), the need for regeneration in the area is equally vital. The first estimate of the cost of a station was £350 million. I gained the impression that the cost had been pitched very high because the promoters did not want the station. As we whittled away at the problem, however, the estimated cost fell to £200 million. By 31 October it was £186 million, and the final cost turned out to be about £172 million. If that is an example of the costing used for this project, I despair. It does not give me much confidence.

As for my fear that the focus will be removed from other projects, the Financial Times has already made the point that Crossrail covers roughly the distance between Leeds and Manchester but a northern Crossrail has not been considered, although it could have a tremendous impact on the whole economy of the north, an area on which the Government say they wish to make an impact. Many people would say that such a project could be implemented at a considerably lower cost than Crossrail. There are many other examples. The truth is that London has attracted many major infrastructure projects, and the rest of the country is deeply concerned about how much resource and finance will be left for their own particular projects and concerns.

Let me turn to the important matter of the final costings. Many Government schemes lead taxpayers to despair: the initial price is very acceptable, and we make the decision on the basis of that acceptable price, and we then find to our horror that the final cost has doubled or trebled—and sometimes it is four times as great as the initial estimate. I do not wish to embarrass the Government too much.

13 Dec 2007 : Column 563

Kelvin Hopkins: Does the hon. Gentleman not accept the following about the days of British Rail: it worked under tight cash limits and did the best job possible within a fixed sum, and that was on the basis of public borrowing, which was very cheap?

Mr. Binley: I accept that, but I note that the economic return of almost every British Rail project was non-existent, and I am particularly concerned about that in terms of Crossrail. I will address that shortly.

We in Northampton are immensely concerned because we are seeking infrastructure to support what we consider to be a sizeable dumping of houses on our county, and we are not getting it.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that we are on Third Reading of the Crossrail Bill.

Mr. Binley: I understand that, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am trying to make the point that the rest of the country is concerned about this project, and rightly so.

My final point is on the costing of Crossrail. I have made the point about the rise in the cost of the Olympics from £1.8 billion to about £9.3 billion. In 2002, it was estimated that Crossrail would cost about £10 billion. That rose last year to some £16 billion. It is estimated that the cost of Crossrail will increase by £1.5 billion a year for the next— [Interruption.] I will not refrain from saying this, if Madam Deputy Speaker allows me to say it. It is estimated that the cost of Crossrail will increase by £1.5 billion a year, to about £22 billion by the time the thing starts. I will bet any Member in the Chamber that that figure will end up at between £30 billion and £35 billion. If that is the case, I wonder whether the economic return will be as the Minister and the Government say it will be.

I have serious concerns about the project—as, I believe, do many people in the rest of the country. Would I as a businessman invest, on the basis of the evidence we have been given? Certainly not, because I believe there would be a real risk of my business going bust. Yet that is exactly what the taxpayer is being forced to do. As an MP, should I vote for such a project on such a basis? I personally believe not. I know that it is too late for the Government to change their mind, but I want to put it on record that I believe that this will turn out to be an immensely costly exercise for both London and the rest of the country, and that the economic return will be nowhere near that which the Government project.

5.43 pm

Mike Gapes: I will be very brief. The hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) referred to blight and destruction to London in the construction of Crossrail. There will be even more blight and destruction to London—particularly in respect of the jobs of Londoners and the congestion and pollution caused by inadequate rail services—if Crossrail is not built. It will bring an increase in capacity of more than 40 per cent. of the additional rail capacity that London needs.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the costs. His figures are based on different financial years, and the reality is that under Doug Oakervee and Cross London Rail Links Ltd there has been a significant reduction in
13 Dec 2007 : Column 564
some of the costs, in particular by getting rid of the Romford depot at one end and by redesigning the project in many ways, such as to reduce the amount of spillage from Hanbury street in Tower Hamlets. It is not true that the costs have been escalating. In fact, they have been tightly controlled, which is why we have managed to get this package agreed, with contributions from London business—which will benefit enormously from Crossrail—from the Government and also, inevitably, from the fares.

Mr. Binley rose—

Mike Gapes: I do not have time to give way. The hon. Gentleman spoke for a long time, and some of my colleagues also wish to speak.

As the chairman of the all-party group on Crossrail, I am delighted that at last, after 15 years in this House, I see a Government who are bringing about a situation where we can vote for the Third Reading of this Bill and send it on its way to the other place. We will be able to start the construction of Crossrail at the end of this decade, and by 2017, my constituents in Goodmayes, Ilford, Seven Kings and Chadwell Heath will be able to get on Crossrail trains from extended platforms in redesigned stations and go across to Heathrow. They will be able to cut their journey times across central London by a third. The whole of east London will benefit from regeneration as a result of these proposals, and therefore I am delighted to give my support to the Bill.

5.45 pm

Mrs. May: First, may I pay tribute and give thanks to all hon. Members who served on the Committees for this Bill, particularly those who undertook what the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby) described as the “penal servitude” of the hybrid Bill Committee. Their careful attention to the issues raised by petitioners from my constituency, of whom I was one, led to improvements to the Bill for my constituency, particularly for residents living close to Guards Club park. They have also brought about improvements in relation to works around Maidenhead station and they have reduced the impact—sadly, there will still be an impact—on Brunel’s famous Maidenhead railway bridge, which was so wonderfully captured by J. M. W. Turner.

I want to raise three points about the Bill, the first of which is about the hybrid Bill Committee. As the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) made clear, the hybrid Bill Committee was not allowed to consider the extension of the route. I believe that that directly contravened undertakings given in this Chamber by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was the then Transport Secretary. I am concerned that the Committee was not able to consider the extension of the route, because the overall route is an important aspect of Crossrail.

That brings me to my second point. Many hon. Members have referred to the economic benefit of Crossrail. Crossrail will have a great economic benefit, but we will miss out on even more economic benefit if it is not extended to Reading in the west. If one looks at this in a strategic transport sense, it makes sense to extend the line to a transport hub, which Reading
13 Dec 2007 : Column 565
clearly is. I know that that view is shared by the two Members of Parliament who represent Reading, and it is certainly shared by Wokingham borough council, Reading borough council and the Thames Valley economic partnership, which represents large-scale businesses in the Thames Valley area. The Government are missing out on something, because the scheme could be even better if it were extended to Reading.

My third point is about the potential impact of Crossrail on services on the First Great Western line, to which I referred on Report. The Minister knows my concern that if Crossrail comes and the First Great Western service is not continued as it is today, my constituents in Maidenhead could find themselves not as the recipients of a fast service and semi-fast services into Paddington, as they are today, but simply on the end of a metro service. The time taken to get to Paddington from Maidenhead would thus double from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Crossrail could benefit my constituents in Maidenhead enormously if they could board a fast service to Paddington and stay on across London to Canary Wharf and elsewhere.

Sadly, that benefit will not be provided as the services are envisaged. My concern is that unless the Government are willing to accept, when the time comes, that the service specification for the franchise for First Great Western should not be reduced, given that Crossrail will serve Maidenhead, my constituents will find this of disbenefit, rather than of benefit. That would be even more the case for my constituents in Twyford, which is between Maidenhead and Reading, because if the Crossrail line does not extend from Maidenhead to Reading, they would find themselves with a significantly reduced service and really lose out as a result of Crossrail. Crossrail could be so much more of a benefit to the UK, to the south-east and to my constituents if the Government examined carefully the service provision on First Great Western when Crossrail comes and looked at the issue of extending it to Reading.

5.49 pm

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): The arguments on Crossrail have been well rehearsed in several previous debates, so I shall be brief. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and all the members of the Committee on the way in which they went about their business. There was a strong argument from people in south-east London, ably led by my neighbour and right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), in favour of the station at Woolwich, making that town centre a major hub for the wider south-east London area around Greenwich and Bexley.

The Select Committee demonstrated the House at its best by listening to the arguments not only from hon. Members but from others who made representations on behalf of that station. They forced the Government to think again and were successful in achieving the inclusion of a Crossrail station at Woolwich in the scheme. That is very welcome.

I also thank my hon. Friend the Minister for the way in which he has conducted himself throughout the discussions, because he has shown a willingness to listen and an ability to articulate the difficult position that the Government were in on occasion. We have a satisfactory conclusion at the end of the day.

13 Dec 2007 : Column 566

Crossrail is essential for the status of London as a world city. It will contribute 40 per cent. of the necessary increase in transport capacity that London needs if it is to continue to grow and contribute to the British economy. For those who are concerned by so much investment going into London, it is important to remember that London is a net exporter of money to the greater economy of the UK. In the Mayor’s submission to the spending review in 2004—“The Case for London”—he highlighted the fact that London exports more than £9 billion to other areas of the UK when public expenditure is calculated against taxes paid. The Corporation of London commissioned Oxford Economic Forecasting to put the case for London, and it highlighted the fact that the capital city imports £110 billion-worth of goods and services from other parts of the country, making London a net importer of resources, a world-class city and the driving force in the UK economy. London also has a catalytic effect on tourism, and financial and business services that benefit the wider country.

The case has been well made for Crossrail. It is essential not only for London, but for the UK’s wider economy, and the Government and the Select Committee have done an excellent job on behalf of us all. I hope that the Bill gets a fair wind in the other place and we see Crossrail constructed on time and to budget. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich said, I hope that my constituents will be able to catch a train at Woolwich and go all the way to Heathrow, non-stop. That will be very welcome for people from south-east London and we all look forward to that day.

Next Section Index Home Page