The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Helen Goodman): It is always a pleasure to take part in the pre-recess Adjournment debate and to follow the hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara). When I was a child I never really understood the meaning of the phrase The show isnt over until the fat lady sings, but I think I understand it now.
The debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Jim Dowd), who talked about the rail connections from his constituency to central London. It is fortunate that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), is here to note that that matter needs to be looked into.
The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) began by raising some international issues. He may be aware that Zimbabwe will be on the agenda in Europe next Tuesday. He may also be aware that the President of Cyprus and the President of North Cyprus will be meeting on 25 July to have talks. I am sure that he is also aware that Lord Malloch-Brown has recently been in Sri Lanka.
The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of knife crime, which has been very much in peoples minds because of some horrific deaths recently, particularly, but not only, in London. Those points were echoed by the hon. Members for Bosworth (David Tredinnick) and for Brent, East (Sarah Teather). It is interesting that that was a focus for London Members, because it is clearly a problem in London and the big cities. The hon. Members for North Southwark and Bermondsey and for Brent, East asked about funding for young peoples centres
and whether or not money from dormant bank accounts will be released early. I can confirm that that will be the case.
My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall) raised a rather complex question about common land. He talked also about the unfair pricing of utilities, particularly with regard to churches. My understanding is that the Secretary of State put out guidance on this in 2000 and churches are supposed to benefit from lower charges. He talked about NHS Logistics and the position of the workers there. My understanding is that there is to be a ballot on the point raised by my hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) talked about the importance of the Home Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform dealing more toughly with internet paedophilia. He raised the question of whether the penalties under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 were adequate. I will convey the urgency of the matter to my colleagues in the relevant Departments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer) demonstrated once again what a hard-working and caring MP she is on behalf of her constituents. She talked about the need for more investment in the Airedale general hospital, in particular the need for investment in kitchens and the canteen. My understanding is that the Minister of State will have a meeting with my hon. Friend to discuss this matter, although in the first instance this is a matter for the local trust board.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean) spoke about the needs of rural communities. Since I share a boundary with him, I am deeply sympathetic to what he was saying. He talked about the performance of the Northwest Regional Development Agency. I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the new regional Select Committees that will be set up, as I do to the hon. Member for Guildford (Anne Milton) who talked about the regional spatial strategy in her area. Those Select Committees will provide hon. Members with opportunities to examine the performance of regional bodies.
Dan Rogerson: As this is the only parliamentary opportunity between the start of the consultation on post office closures in Cornwall and the closures at the end of the programme in September, will the Deputy Leader of the House take to her ministerial colleagues the utter despair of my constituents, particularly in the area around Bude, where six post offices are closing in a very rural area? I hope that she will convey my constituents dismay that the programme is being conducted in the summer, when there will not be adequate scrutiny.
The hon. Gentleman has made his point. The hon. Members for Tiverton and Honiton (Angela Browning), for North Dorset (Mr. Walter), for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Moore), for Solihull (Lorely Burt), for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Davies) and for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) also raised the problem of post office closures. Obviously, I will pass those comments
on to the Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs. My own view is strongly influenced by the fact that 12 post offices have closed in my constituency.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) discussed the General Electric site that is for sale in his constituency and the importance of brownfield land being used for housing. The proportion of brownfield land used for housing has increased from 56 to 75 per cent. in the past 10 years.
The hon. Member for Bosworth discussed tax credits. He raised the administrative problems, but he forgot to remind the House that 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty through child tax credits. Although the rate of error and fraud is too high at 7.5 per cent., it is much lower than the 13 per cent. rate that we inherited from the previous Administration on jobseekers allowance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) has long been a champion of the interests of ordinary viewers who want to see the best matches on television. He again raised that issue, on which he has been a consistent champion, and I understand from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that the matter is under consideration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and other hon. Members also discussed the alcohol strategy. The consultation document was published today, and the consultation will examine whether the voluntary code should be replaced by a mandatory one.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) discussed his desire to see more investment in the A11, but I am not sure whether he realises that 14 schemes have been completed locally in the past year.
The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton spoke about charity shops overburdening some small town centres in her constituency, and I will pass on her views to my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) discussed the proposals to extend Heathrow and his concern about the decision-making processes. His comments will be examined by Ministers in the Department for Transport. He also mentioned the insecurity faced by some BBC employees and the proposal to change the operation of the World Service. The World Service is, I think, the responsibility of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to which I will pass on his comments.
The hon. Member for Solihull spoke about the interaction of the Post Office with the Department for Work and Pensions. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) gave a speech that demonstrated once again what an effective Member she is on behalf of her constituents. She talked about the importance of fire installations and the extraordinary proposal of North East Lincolnshire council, which intends to
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I must inform the House that a message has been brought from the Lords as follows. The Lords have agreed to the Crossrail Bill with amendments, to which they desire the agreement of the Commons. Copies of the Lords amendments are available in the Vote Office. I must inform the House that privilege is involved in Lords amendments Nos. 50 to 56. If the House agrees to the amendments, I shall arrange for the necessary entries to be made in the Journal.
That the Lords amendments to the Crossrail Bill be considered forthwith. [Steve McCabe.]
Mr. Harris: Lords amendments Nos. 2, 28 and 30 give effect to the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Before I continue, it is appropriate for me to offer my gratitude to the usual channels, my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House and right hon. and hon. Opposition Members for agreeing that this Bill be returned to the Commons today so that Members can agree to the Lords amendments. I am grateful to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its consideration of the delegated powers contained in the Crossrail Bill and for its report of 31 January this year. The Committee made three recommendations in respect of the powers of the Secretary of State to make secondary legislation under the Bill.
The first recommendation related to clause 60(1), which in turn relates to the power of the Secretary of State to devolve functions to the London government. As the Committee noted, clause 60(1) confers what is, in effect, a Henry VIII power to modify references in the Act to the Secretary of State to references to the Greater London authority, Transport for London, or both, and to make consequential provision that may include modifying the Crossrail Act.
The second and third recommendations both related to secondary legislation that makes provision about arbitration. Clause 20 modifies the operation of sections 60 and 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, so that appeals relating to noise emanating from construction sites are determined by the Secretary of State orif the parties agreeby arbitration, rather than by a magistrates court.
Clause 20(4) enables the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, acting jointly, to make regulations about the procedure in relation to such arbitrations. Such regulations would be made by a statutory instrument not currently subject to a parliamentary procedure by virtue of the Bill. Clause 63 makes provision for the arbitration of disputes under the Act, unless otherwise provided for, such as in the example that I have just mentioned. Subsection (5) enables the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Transport, acting jointly, to make rules about the arbitration by procedure.
Those rules will be made by a statutory instrument that is not currently subject to a parliamentary procedure in accordance with the Bill. The Committee recommended that since one or other of the Secretaries of State might be a party to an arbitration arising from the Bill, arbitration rules made under clause 20 or clause 63 should be subject to the negative resolution parliamentary procedure. Having carefully considered the report, the Government agreed with what the Committee proposed in each case.
Mr. Harris: This is a large group of amendments concerning the railway matters in the Bill, and it will take me a few minutes to explain them. The majority complete actions that were promised during the Commons stages of the Bill. The dozen clauses 23 to 34 were included in the Bill as reserve powers to ensure, principally through overriding duties on the Office of Rail Regulation, that Crossrail can be built and Crossrail services can operate. In parallel with the Bill process, the Department for Transport has negotiated an access option with Network Rail to grant the necessary access rights for Crossrail services so as to provide essential security on which to base investment in the Crossrail project. Following industry-wide consultation, including holding a hearing, the ORR issued its decision on 14 April this year to approve the access option with modifications. Yesterday, the ORR gave its formal directions under the Railways Act 1993, which marks the completion of the legal documentation for the access option. As a result, the reserve powers in the Bill can now be deleted as proposed in amendments Nos. 5 to 16.
Two new clauses are proposed under amendments No. 3 and 4. Amendment No. 3 includes an additional objective of facilitating the construction of Crossrail in the ORRs list of objectives in section 4(1) of the Railways Act 1993. This does not direct the ORR on how it should meet that new objective. That is for its judgment as the independent rail regulator in the circumstances at the time, balancing all its section 4(1)
objectives. The provision is precedented by section 17 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006.
Amendment No. 4 requires the ORR to produce a report on what it has done, or proposes to do, to meet its new Crossrail construction-related objective and on how it has exercised, or proposes to exercise, any of its functions in relation to the operation of Crossrail services. That is to aid transparency, given that the ORR, in reaching decisions that take account of all relevant interests, is important to the successful delivery of the Crossrail project.
Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 20 relate to clause 35. The clause disapplies the prohibition in the Railways Act 1993 on a public sector operator acting as a franchisee, which provides flexibility to accommodate a potentially public sector franchisee of Crossrail passenger services if that is considered desirable. It might, for example, be in the period when Crossrail services are being phased in, during which it could be challenging to let a conventional private sector franchise. Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 20 extend that flexibility in two respects in order to ease the construction of Crossrail and the bringing into operation of services.
Amendment No. 17 enables ancillary or complementary services to be included within a Crossrail public sector franchise. That is to aid franchise mapping, so as to avoid services closely related to Crossrail services becoming orphans, as it were, because they do not logically fit into another group of services that are franchised. Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 provide for a public sector franchise for services that are likely to suffer substantial disruption because of the construction of Crossrail. Better value for money may be achieved by managing certain suburban services as part of project delivery.
Amendments Nos. 21 to 24 deal with another matter. This is not so much a change in policy, but a modification to the legal route by which this is delivered. The background is that the Railways (London Regional Transport) (Exemptions) Order 1994 exempts the London underground network from regulation under the Railways Act 1993. Unless we can amend that order, there might be unintended exemptions or applications of regulations relating to the Crossrail tunnels or their interchanges with relevant London underground stations.
We looked again at the powers that the Secretary of State already enjoys under the 1993 Act, and we concluded that we would be able to amend the order under them. Given that it is reasonably likely that we will use powers under the 1993 Act in any event, it will be simpler and clearer to rely solely on those powers rather than have specific provisions for amendment in clause 36. It is a different means to the same end.
Finally, amendment No. 26 relates to clause 40. This clause is based on a provision contained in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, and provides an obligation to co-operate between the nominated undertaker and controllers of railway assets with which Crossrail construction, maintenance or operation interact. The asset controllers in question include London Underground and the public private partnerships, BAA, and Network Rail. Either party can require the other party to enter into an agreement, and if this cannot be reached, it is referred to arbitration, for which clauses 41 and 42 establish the arrangements.