Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill First Special Report


CHAPTER 2: THE SELECT COMMITTEE IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS

14.  This Committee has sat in public for 29 days of hearings and has considered cases presented on 45 of the 113 petitions deposited against the Crossrail Bill as amended by the House of Commons.

15.  We have been on several site visits, including to the Spitalfields area, the Isle of Dogs and Paddington station (see Appendix 2) and have attended teach-ins with various expert witnesses on subjects including noise, settlement and compensation.

What the Committee could and could not do

16.  Select Committees on hybrid bills do not operate under the same parliamentary rules as other Select Committees. They are quasi-judicial and operate more like a court. Committees such as ours do not have an extensive remit and serve only to consider the issues raised by petitioners, where the Petitioner has locus standi[6].

17.  Unlike the House of Commons Select Committee, the House of Lords Select Committee was not given any instructions by the House itself.

BASIC RULES OBSERVED IN COMMITTEE

18.  Both Promoter and Petitioner have the right to appear before the Committee to make their cases. The practice of the House allows Petitioners to be heard either in person, or by their agent or Counsel. The Promoter of the Bill, the Secretary of State for Transport, was represented by her parliamentary agents, the firm of solicitors Winckworth Sherwood, and by legal Counsel. All petitions not withdrawn were referred to the Committee. There were no challenges to the locus standi of Petitioners in this House; they were thus all entitled to be heard. A programme of hearings was arranged.

19.  Petitioners could only be heard on matters included in their petitions, and were not able to make additional arguments before the Committee.

20.  Petitioners could only seek to represent themselves and those who had authorised them to petition on their behalf by signing the petition or a letter of authority. Any attempt to raise the concerns of neighbours or others who had not petitioned the Committee was not permitted. This was because the Committee could not reasonably determine why others had not chosen to petition.

SIGNIFICANCE OF SECOND READING

21.  A hybrid bill has a Second Reading[7] in the House of Lords before it is committed to a Select Committee. Once the House agrees that the Bill should be read a second time it is deemed to have approved it in principle. This means that a Select Committee on a hybrid bill cannot reject the bill. Furthermore, petitioners are subsequently limited in the arguments they promote in committee; they may seek to amend the Bill but may not argue that the Committee should reject it.

22.  This Committee agreed that, at Second Reading, the House approved the principle of the Bill, and that the principle of the Bill should be understood to mean the works proposed (outlined in the Bill—its clauses and schedules) within the limits of deviation. In the Bill there is an intimate connection between the powers conferred and the places where those powers may be exercised. For this reason, and because of complications over Additional Provisions in the Second House[8], we declined to hear, in any detail, any Petitioner arguing for amendments to the Bill to provide for alternative route alignments that would go outside the limits of deviation. The Chairman set out the Committee's position on this matter on 13 March 2008 (paras 4443-4446).

ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS

23.  The House of Commons Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill made two types of amendment to the Bill in response to petitions and to other events. They made amendments to—

24.  The latter type of amendment is known as an Additional Provision. Since such an amendment could potentially have an impact on people not previously affected by the Bill, Additional Provisions need to be advertised and authorised by the House in the same way as the original provisions of the Bill, and may be subject to petitions.

25.  Four sets of Additional Provisions were introduced in the House of Commons.

26.  The position in the House of Lords is different, as the Chairman explained on the Committee's behalf on 13 March. On a Private Bill, it is not possible to introduce a Petition for Additional Provision in respect of a Bill in the Second House, as this is expressly forbidden by Private Bill Standing Order 73[9]. Procedure in a Select Committee on a hybrid bill "broadly follows the procedure on an opposed private bill"[10]. We therefore concluded that we had no power to make an amendment which would have amounted to an Additional Provision, unless we were specifically instructed to do so by the House. We received no such instruction.

ORDER OF PROCEEDINGS

27.  In a Select Committee on a hybrid bill the onus is on the Petitioner, or their agent, to prove that they are unreasonably affected by the Bill. It is usual in these circumstances to allow the Petitioner both the first and last words on their case. However, like the House of Commons Select Committee, we recognised that this practice often disadvantaged Petitioners, many of whom had had no previous experience of a parliamentary committee, by requiring them to explain complicated technical matters.

28.  We therefore agreed that the Counsel for the Promoter would briefly open each case. The Petitioner would then have the opportunity to set out their concerns and objections, calling witnesses where desired. The witnesses could be cross-examined by Counsel for the Promoter, and re-examined by the Petitioner.

29.  Once the Petitioner's case had been made, the Counsel for the Promoter would open his case. Again, witnesses could be called, examined, cross examined and re-examined. Closings then followed from the Promoter's Counsel and the Petitioner respectively.

Who petitioned?

30.  The Committee set a petitioning period for the Bill from 8 January to 30 January 2008. Any individual, group of individuals, or organisation "directly and specially" affected by the Crossrail Bill was able to petition against it. 113 petitions against the Bill were deposited and a full list of these can be found at Appendix 3.

31.  The Committee heard from many, but not all, of the Petitioners during its hearings. As in the House of Commons, all hearings took place in public and were transcribed and webcast.

32.  Some Petitioners chose not to appear and some withdrew their petitions after satisfactory negotiations with the Promoter of the Bill. We were pleased that a sizeable number of Petitioners were able to settle with the Promoter in this way and we are grateful to the specialist experts employed by Crossrail on noise, settlement and compensation issues particularly, Mr Rupert Thornely-Taylor, Professor Robert Mair and Mr Colin Smith respectively, for their work with Petitioners and for their explanation of issues to the Committee and to those Petitioners who did appear.

Register of Undertakings and Assurances

33.  Some Petitioners against the Crossrail Bill were offered assurances or undertakings by the Promoter either in the Committee hearings or during discussions outside Committee. These undertakings set out what a Petitioner could expect from the Promoter. The Department for Transport has published drafts of the Crossrail Register of Undertakings and Assurances. This register is intended to capture all the individual undertakings and assurances given to Petitioners in a single document thus ensuring that the nominated undertaker, as well as the Secretary of State for Transport or any other organisation exercising the Bill powers, complies with them. The Committee understands that the register will form part of the Crossrail Environmental Minimum Requirements (EMRs) and that an undertaking has been given that any nominated undertaker will be contractually bound to comply with the controls set out in the EMRs[11].

34.  Chapter Three onwards details the Committee's recommendations relating to some of petitions deposited in this House. As was the case in the House of Commons' Special Report, we have made no comment on some petitions, having taken the view that the existing law, and the Environmental Minimum Requirements (including the registered list of undertakings and assurances) ought to meet the points raised by Petitioners.

Crossrail Information Papers

35.  Crossrail Information Papers are documents prepared and published by the Promoter setting out the Promoter's position on a wide range of topics relevant to the Crossrail project. They can be found on the internet at: http://billdocuments.crossrail.co.uk/80256FA10055060F/pages/informationpapers.

36.  They are intended to be a useful guide to petitioners and to all of those who are interested in or affected by Crossrail. They were originally published when the Bill was in the House of Commons and have been updated and revised from time to time since then, in some cases following discussions and agreement with local authorities. Where Information Papers include commitments made by the Promoter these have been recorded as entries in the Register of Undertakings and Assurances maintained by the Promoter.

37.  Whilst not otherwise binding (unlike the EMRs), they could be of use to any local resident or business person who wishes to complain as the project proceeds, through the methods to be provided (see paras 169-170).


6   The Promoter of the Bill may argue that, in their view, a Petitioner does not have a right, or locus standi, to petition against a Bill. Usually such a view is taken because the Petitioner does not seem to be locally or specifically affected by the Bill, although other reasons may exist. If the locus standi of a petitioner is objected to, it is decided upon by the Committee on whom the decisions of the Court of Referees are binding. (See Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice, Twenty-third edition, Chapter 39, LexisNexis Butterworths) Back

7   A debate on the principle and merits of the Bill Back

8   See paragraphs 25-28 of this Report  Back

9   House of Lords Standing Orders can be viewed online at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldpubns.htm Back

10   Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice, p.566 Back

11   For more information on undertakings and assurances see paras 3448-3455 in the transcript Back


 
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