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Session 2007 - 08
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General Committee Debates
Crossrail Bill

Crossrail Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Ann Winterton
Banks, Gordon (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab)
Barlow, Ms Celia (Hove) (Lab)
Binley, Mr. Brian (Northampton, South) (Con)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
Brown, Lyn (West Ham) (Lab)
Cruddas, Jon (Dagenham) (Lab)
Field, Mr. Mark (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
Hammond, Stephen (Wimbledon) (Con)
Harris, Mr. Tom (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)
Kramer, Susan (Richmond Park) (LD)
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab)
Scott, Mr. Lee (Ilford, North) (Con)
Snelgrove, Anne (South Swindon) (Lab)
Soulsby, Sir Peter (Leicester, South) (Lab)
Tami, Mark (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)
Watson, Mr. Tom (West Bromwich, East) (Lab)
Wright, Jeremy (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con)
John Benger, Mick Hillyard, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 22 November 2007


[Ann Winterton in the Chair]

Crossrail Bill

9 am
The Chairman: I wish the Committee good morning, in spite of the fact that it is not a very good one. Before we proceed, may I make it clear that it is in order for hon. Gentlemen to remove their jackets, although I see that someone in the Committee has rather taken that for granted? I will be grateful if, in future, hon. Members would realise that permission should be given.
First, I remind hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, I do not intend to call starred amendments. However, you will have noticed that because of a printing error, some amendments that were tabled in time for selection appear as starred. Secondly, hon. Members are notified that there is a money resolution and a Ways and Means resolution relating to the Bill, copies of which are available in the room.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): I beg to move,
That if proceedings on the Crossrail Bill are not completed at this day’s sitting, the Committee do meet—
(a) on Thursdays when the House is sitting at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m., and
(b) on Tuesdays when the House is sitting at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m.
I welcome you to the Chair, Lady Winterton. I am sure that it will be a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the length of this Committee. Although I have served on many Public Bill Committees, this is the first that I have led on behalf of the Government. In that respect, I am something of a Public Bill Committee virgin. I trust that you will be gentle with me in the sittings ahead.
I also welcome all hon. Members to the Committee. I particularly welcome the hon. Member for Northampton, South and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South who were members of the Crossrail Select Committee and whose agreement to serve on this Committee says a great deal about their personal courage and their devotion to this subject. If in future we see them on “Celebrity Mastermind”, I suspect that we know what their specialist subject will be.
The motion will allow the Committee to meet at 10.30 am and 4 pm on Tuesdays and 9 am and 1 pm on Thursdays. The order of consideration will allow for the consideration of schedules immediately after the consideration of the relevant clauses. For example, schedule 1 will be considered immediately after clause 1. I am sure that no hon. Member wishes to see the Bill unnecessarily delayed. Bearing in mind that it has already been the subject of 21 months of Select Committee scrutiny, to which some hon. Members present can attest, I confirm that the Government are happy to offer however much time is required for consideration by this Committee.
Copies of my recent letters relating to the Bill and in some cases to the project itself are available from the table in the centre of the room.
Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): Following the Minister, I wish to welcome you to the Chair, Lady Winterton. We look forward very much to serving under your chairmanship. I echo the welcome to all members of the Committee given by the Minister and suspect that all hon. Members present want to see the Bill passed speedily through its Committee stage. None the less, there is some scrutiny to do and Conservative Members look forward to taking part in the debates in whatever number of sittings is required. We support the sittings motion and look forward to getting on to the business of the day.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): I echo the sentiments that have been expressed by other hon. Members, but do not want to take up the Committee’s time. I also echo the thanks to the Select Committee, which has done a great deal of work on the Bill. What is left to do is relatively limited, thank goodness.
Question put and agreed to.
That proceedings on the Bill be taken in the following order, namely, Clause 1; Schedule 1; Clause 2; Schedule 2; Clause 3; Schedule 3; Clause 4; Schedule 4; Clause 5; Schedule 5; Clause 6; Schedule 6; Clauses 7 to 10; Schedule 7; Clauses 11 to 15; Schedule 8; Clause 16; Schedule 9; Clause 17; Schedule 10; Clauses 18 to 45; Schedule 11; Clause 46; Schedule 12; Clauses 47 and 48; Schedule 13; Clause 49; Schedule 14; Clauses 50 to 57; Schedule 15; Clause 58; Schedule 16; Clauses 59 to 66; new Clauses, new Schedules, remaining proceedings on the Bill.—[Mr. Harris.]

Clause 1

Construction and maintenance of scheduled works
Mr. Hammond: I beg to move amendment No. 4, in clause 1, page 2, line 9, at end insert ‘not exceeding three metres’.
The clause is the first of four dealing with the works, works permissions and works authorisations necessary to build Crossrail. The Bill vests those permissions and powers in the nominated undertaker. The amendment deals with clause 1(4), which states:
“In constructing or maintaining any of the scheduled works, the nominated undertaker may deviate vertically from the level shown for that work on the deposited sections to any extent downwards.”
Our amendment would add the words “not exceeding 3 metres”.
We are concerned that the subsection, as so worded, may not confront some of the realities of construction. Might there not be sections of the route in which to allow any deviation downwards would mean that the scheduled works would hit, touch or interfere with all sorts of other infrastructures? Why is there any need for unlimited downward deviation and to what purpose? The limits of deviation are set in other paragraphs in the Bill. Consistently during the sittings of the Committee, I will wish to test why the Government seek to take powers outside either the scheduled route or the limits of deviation.
I point out that subsection (3) gives the nominated undertaker the power to deviate laterally
“to any extent within the limits of deviation for that work”.
So why not deviate vertically downwards to the limits of deviation for that work? Might it not be sensible to so limit that downward vertical deviation as well? I look forward to the Minister’s reassurance as to why the Government wish to take those powers.
Mr. Harris: The limits of deviation are well precedented in earlier private Acts for railways. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 was the last hybrid Bill for a railway project; mention of that Bill will recur many times during our debates and in the Department’s model clauses for orders made under the Transport and Works Act 1992. They reflect the fact that the design of Crossrail is only at an outline stage; the detailed design will come later. Therefore, flexibility is essential. The nominated undertaker will, in any event, be bound by the environmental minimum requirements, which are a set of arrangements that will regulate Crossrail construction.
The general limit of deviation of 3 m upwards, or 6 m in specific instances, is there to protect people with surface interests who need the comfort that noise and movement will not affect their properties. Downward deviation, for obvious reasons, would tend to make such concerns diminish and, therefore, there is no need to put a downward limit on deviation in the way that the amendment would do. With that assurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Stephen Hammond: I am interested in what the Minister says, but would he would clarify one more point? He ended by saying that downward deviation would not incur the same noise problems that upward deviation from the scheduled route might. For example, if the scheduled route were 3 m from the surface, a downward deviation beyond the limits—which the clause particularly addresses—might well incur noise issues. Will he reassure the Committee that, without putting a limit to vertical downward deviation, there will not be potential noise problems for the public?
Mr. Harris: I am happy to clarify the matter as best I can. Clearly, in a project of this size, our priority must be to protect the interests and the environment of people who live or work at the surface of the Crossrail route. Downward deviation from the existing plans will have far less a detrimental effect on the environment than would upward deviation. As I have already said, that is well precedented; the factor was specifically written into the 1996 Act simply because of that concern. I fail to see how a downward deviation of greater than 3 m could have any greater detrimental effect or could not have a more beneficial environmental effect on people living and working on the surface at the point of Crossrail construction.
Mr. Brian Binley (Northampton, South) (Con): The concern arises from the fact, which was drummed into us on many occasions during the Select Committee’s consideration of this hybrid Bill, that noise and vibration are not necessarily dependent upon depth, but on the structure, the geology and other matters of that kind. A deeper level of boring can occasionally cause more problems for people living above it than a higher level. The issue is not that simple and I understand why there could be confusion. It took me a long time to get my head around it, and we had two years at it. With that in mind and because Crossrail travels through London, many people were concerned about vibration, noise and the impact on their daily lives. This was an important issue. Consequently, I would hate to think that we were going to open up that issue again. Will the Minister consider that point?
Mr. Harris: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. As I said in my opening remarks, he and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South have almost literally an in-depth knowledge of the Crossrail project. He is right to suggest that depth alone will not necessarily alleviate the effects on the surface of vibration or noise. However, neither will deviation downwards have a detrimental effect on the environment at the surface. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that there are other things to consider such as the geology of the area. However, I fail to see how a downward deviation of greater than 3 m would have a detrimental effect on the environment.
We are at a very early stage and the work has not yet started. It is simply a standard procedure in a Bill of this kind to allow some flexibility. That is all we are asking for. There is no intention on the part of the engineers or the Crossrail team deliberately to need that extra deviation. However, in a project of this scale, possibly a year or two before work begins, that discretion is needed in the Bill. As I have said, it has always been a part of these hybrid Bills and I expect it will be a part of all hybrid Bills in future. On that note, I ask the hon. Member for Wimbledon to withdraw his amendment.
Stephen Hammond: I accept that this an exceptional Bill and will require some exceptional conditions to be placed in it. I accept that there is a need for flexibility. What is a well established principle, as the Minister has said, is that there is a deposited route and a deposited schedule of works. There is also a deviation that allows flexibility and there is a limit to that deviation. The amendment would introduce some restriction on works outside that limit of deviation. Although I am happy to accept the Minister’s reassurance, we will test this point a number of times in Committee because there are bounds to flexibility. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
9.15 am
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
We entirely accept that this is an exceptional project, for which flexibility will certainly be required. However, those powers and such flexibility must be reasonable in both effect and extent. We are concerned that in several cases that is not so. I am happy that the Minister has been able to reassure the Committee on the clause, but I am doubtful that he will be able to do so for all the clauses as we proceed.
Mr. Harris: The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that Crossrail is an exceptional project. However, it is not an unprecedented project and I will refer many times during these debates to exactly the same provisions that were in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996. Clause 1 authorises the construction and maintenance by the nominated undertaker of the Crossrail works specified in schedule 1. It is a standard clause, similar to those found in all works Bills.
The clause also sets out the permitted limits of deviation from the siting of works as shown on the relevant plans. Those limits are well precedented in earlier private Acts for railways and reflect the fact that the design of Crossrail is of necessity at outline stage only. Detailed design will come later, and therefore some flexibility is essential. That said, the nominated undertaker will be bound by the environmental minimum requirements, a set of parameters that will control most of the construction of Crossrail.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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Prepared 23 November 2007