Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 5000 - 5019)

  5000. CHAIRMAN: I am sorry if you find it very difficult. We do not intend it to be difficult.

  5001. MRS BRAWNE: Thank you for your helpful way of dealing with this. It is extremely helpful.

  5002. CHAIRMAN: Have you finished?

  5003. MRS BRAWNE: I shall remember how kindly I was treated here!

  5004. CHAIRMAN: We have been trying to get the members of the community in Spitalfields to tell us what their problems are and to give them an opportunity of asking questions of the witnesses, especially the experts. I am bound to say, we have found it very disappointing that so little opportunity has been taken of what we have offered. Now, if communications are faulty, I believe that we have done our best to make it clear when things are going to happen, in fact I know we have, and all I regret is that, if at the end of the passage of this Committee which deals with Spitalfields there are points that have not been addressed, I am afraid it is not going to be our fault because we have given you the opportunity and very largely it has not been taken.

  5005. MRS BRAWNE: Can I just put a question to you? As I understand it, the only people who have come are people who have put in Petitions. Now, the issue about putting in a formal Petition is almost beyond the ability of most of the people who live in Spitalfields. We have offered the help that we have to other people. Now, if it was now and the people could turn up here without having submitted a Petition and the meetings were held in such a way that questions could be asked, you would have a full house, let me assure you. Now, am I to understand that anyone can turn up from Spitalfields and ask questions at any time?

  5006. CHAIRMAN: What is the question?

  5007. MRS BRAWNE: I do not know what the question is. That is my point.

  5008. CHAIRMAN: What is your question to me?

  5009. MRS BRAWNE: My question is: is it possible for people who have not put in a Petition to come and ask questions?

  5010. CHAIRMAN: No, it is not.

  5011. MRS BRAWNE: So you are saying that you must be educationally advanced enough to write a very formal Petition and, if English is not your first language, if you have difficulty in writing a Petition, if you have difficulty in paying for 16 copies of everything you do and if you cannot cope with the formal procedure, then you have no right to say how this is going to affect your life in Spitalfields?

  5012. CHAIRMAN: Will you have the civility to listen to me for a minute please?

  5013. MRS BRAWNE: Yes, if you listen to me.

  5014. CHAIRMAN: I am listening. Only the people who have put in Petitions can actually appear formally, but those who have put in Petitions, particularly if they come from large groups, can call as witnesses members of those groups or indeed other people who live in the locality. There is no difficulty about it. They can easily do it. That surely would solve that problem.

  5015. MRS BRAWNE: You say if we call in experts. I am not talking about experts. I am talking about Mr and Mrs Meer whose children go to those schools. They are not experts. They are ordinary mums and dads with children. I am talking about ordinary people who live there with no particular expertise, just the people who are going to be affected by that. Now, I am not saying that the only people affected by what is being proposed are experts. It is the ordinary man and woman in the street who are being affected and it is not possible for those people to turn up unless, in your terms, they have some expertise. Do I understand you correctly?

  5016. LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN: Let me give you an example. Mr Haque, whom I know because we met him on the streets, representing a group of people whose first language is likely to be Bangladeshi, is going to be, or was going to be, one of their representatives. He knows when the hearings are taking place. We are still at this point in the proceedings trying to establish when Mr Haque is going to, or if he is going to, come. When and if he comes, he can bring along with him the very kind of people to whom you have referred, to be, if you like, ordinary representatives, just as Ms Cove could have brought people along with her if she had felt that that would have made the case, so you have had opportunities. You are not denied by the formality and you do not have to write a Petition. As long as your representatives on your community or residents' associations who are acting as the spokespersons, and, if I were doing that job, and I chair my residents' association and I have attended a formal hearing querying a planning application and I made sure that the ordinary residents who had an interest, a direct interest, rather than myself who was a bit removed from it, were there at the meeting with me and had an opportunity to speak, so I just really feel that you are wrong in your assessment that there is no opportunity for ordinary people to make their case. There is, but it does rely on your community representatives taking the opportunity. They need to be there. If they cannot make it, they need to ensure they have somebody else who is there speaking on their behalf. On any point, however minor, that has been raised, and I want to return to one of the points that Ms Jordan made, there is not anybody on here who does not want to see justice for Spitalfields' residents, but the point the Chairman is trying to make is sometimes it is quite hard to do this if none of your representatives are here and none of your representatives and your expert have taken the trouble to involve their own local community or lay residents. That is the point I wanted to get across and I think the Chairman was trying to reassure you. It is a formal procedure, but nobody, and you are a good example, in the final analysis is being stopped from making a contribution.

  5017. MRS BRAWNE: Can I apologise if I have hurt anyone's feelings, I certainly did not mean to, but it comes from many years of trying to communicate with these committees, both in the other place and here, and I am sorry if we had not responded as we should have but I think you understand our difficulties now and we understand your difficulty, so let us see this as a verging operation between us, yes?

  5018. LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN: Yes.

  5019. CHAIRMAN: I think that would be very helpful but there is a shortage of time. We have to get on with this.



 
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