HC Deb 10 June 1982 vol 25 cc451-61

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

7.11 pm
Mr. Ronald W. Brown (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

It is my pleasure to sponsor the Bill on behalf of the London Transport Executive. The Bill relates to work that is to be carried out by British Rail in redeveloping the Liverpool Street site, which is in my constituency. The hon. Member for City of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) is not in a position to move the Bill on behalf of the LTE and I have agreed to do so for him.

It will assist the House if I go through the Bill—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. Will hon. Members who are talking behind the Bar kindly leave the Chamber?

Mr. Brown

Part I is the interpretation and the incorporation of general Acts. Part II sets out in paragraphs (a) and (b) in clause 4(1) the work to be done. The lands in respect of which compulsory acquisition powers are sought are delineated in the deposited plan which can be seen in the Library.

Clause 5 seeks authority for the acquisition of easements or subsoil instead of land. I am advised that there is nothing unusual about it.

Clause 6 adapts the Lands Clauses Acts to the acquisition of the subsoil easements. Clause 7 authorises temporary interference with so much of Liverpool Street, Old Broad Street and the Broad Street Buildings, as is within the limits of deviation, for the purposes of constructing new stations.

Clause 8 authorises the LTE temporarily to divert traffic from the same length of the streets specified in clause 7 during the carrying out of work, subject to subsection (2) which ensures that there shall be reasonable access for foot passengers.

Clause 10 incorporates earlier LTE legislation containing common form powers relating to the construction of the works. Clause 11 incorporates certain protective provisions taken from previous LTE legislation.

Clause 12 seeks to modify, in certain minor respects, the planning permission which, without this clause, would automatically be given by a combination of the Bill, if enacted, and paragraph 12 of schedule 1 of the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1977. The principal modification is to subject the planning permission to a time limit. Unless each of the works is begun within 12 years of the planning of the Act, the planning permission for that work will cease to have effect. That provision is contained in clause 12(2).

Clause 12(3), however, ensures that the time limit does not apply to carrying out works of alteration, maintenance, repair and substitution where it is necessary from time to time. That provision reflects section 16 of the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 which applies to the new stations by reason of clause 3(1)(b) of the Bill.

Clauses 13 and 14 are common clauses usually included in private Bills.

That completer; the summary of the Bill which I trust has assisted the House. I now turn to the petitioners. There were three petitioners on this part of the Bill, arising from which hon. Gentlemen blocked the Bill. These were Vinross Catering of 22–23 Liverpool Street, K Shoes of 24 Liverpool Street and the florist at 26 Liverpool Street. I understand that these petitioners fear that the erection of hoardings outside their shop fronts will make them less visible and keep customers away.

I have visited the site to examine the proposals. Numbers 17 to 33 Liverpool Street cover a short length of the road with shops on the south side and railway offices and a hotel on the north side. The road is one way only with parking on both sides of the street. As a result, the shops and their: merchandise can be examined only by people walking in front of the shops on the south side of Liverpool Street. That facility will remain during the whole period of the work, which is estimated to be about two years from the expected starting date of 1984. AI no time will the pavement in front of the shops be obstructed and customers, likely customers or window shoppers will have free access to view the shops, enter and make their purchases.

K Shoes has an advantage over the other two shops in that the shop has an entrance in Liverpool Street and also in the covered shopping arcade at the rear of the shops. The House will appreciate that shoppers and pedestrians use the arcade mach more than Liverpool Street because of the comfort of shopping. There is an infinitely greater number of shops to be seen and there is an entrance to the Underground at each end of the arcade. In inclement weather pedestrians and shoppers prefer to go through the arcade in the dry than round the outside of Liverpool Street.

The hoarding will be erected in the kerb. At the request of the petitioners, it will be solid only up to a height of 6 ft and wire mesh will be erected a further 5 ft above so that daylight can get through. The object of the hoarding is to safeguard pedestrians while work is in progress.

At any one time, a stretch of only 100 ft of Liverpool Street in front of the shops will be hoarded up. To satisfy the City corporation, the promoters have agreed to carry out the work on half the width of the road at any one time, thereby leaving Liverpool Street open to traffic. As each 100 ft length is completed., the hoarding will be taken down and moved to the next stretch of 100 ft. It is estimated that work on each stretch will take about three months. About 300 ft of the south side of Liverpool Street will be affected and three stretches of work will be carried out. Although each section will be boarded up for only three months, it will be nine months before all the work is completed.

Work on the north side in front of the railway offices will also be completed in three stages and will take three months for each stage. Therefore, work on both sides of the street will be completed in 18 months. I stress that, as the hoarding is taken down from one stretch, it will be moved to another, as a result of which the shops that were affected will be free of it.

When I visited the site, a mass of scaffolding had been erected along the frontage of the shops numbered 19 to 31 Liverpool Street. I understand that it was erected in May 1982 and resulted from the issuing of a dangerous structure notice. The licence to erect the scaffolding expires at the end of July. As I looked across from the north side, the fascia board of the K Shoes shop was totally obscured by the scaffolding and could not be read or seen. Because of the cars and vans parked on the south side of the road, it was impossible to see the shop in any detail.

In any event, the scaffolding makes it extremely difficult to walk along the pavement, and that is not made any easier by the fact that the florist uses about 3 ft of the public pavement to display merchandise. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no claim for compensation has been submitted, yet interference with shopping is very much greater than anything that will be experienced by the work envisaged in the Bill. Fortunately, the promoters have helped the florist obtain a licence of assign and change of use for an empty shop in the arcade. It is larger than the existing premises and will enable the florist to be located in the arcade, where it has always wanted to be.

The promoters have offered to agree the following principles: first, to use their best endeavours not to carry out noisy work that would interfere with the business carried on in a particular shop during usual business hours; secondly, to preserve uninterrupted a minimum width of footway outside the shops of not less than 2 metres when they are open for business, except in emergencies; thirdly, to consult with an engineer appointed by the petitioners jointly as to the measures to be taken to avoid damage to the buildings without so far as practicable the LTE having to enter upon them; fourthly, subject to the consent of the highway authority to exhibit in a conspicuous place hoardings and direction signs stating the name of the occupier behind the hoarding, the nature of his business and how to get into his premises. In the case of K shoes, the address of its entrance in the arcade will also be given. Fifthly, they will be subject also to the consent of the highway authority to erect hoardings which, if above a height of 1½ metres, consist of wire mesh. Sixthly, a resident engineer will be appointed who will be furnished with a copy of the undertaking, will be readily available to receive complaints and will have power to instruct the executive's contractors to alleviate them if he is satisfied that some of the provisions of the undertaking have been broken. Seventhly, in the event of the executive having to take possession of any of the premises of the petitioners in order to preserve their stability, they will compensate the petitioners on the basis of the estimated loss of profits—in other words, compensation for disturbance.

I believe that the executive has attempted to consult in the widest sense. It has shown itself willing to discuss any representations and to make every endeavour to find a satisfactory solution to any problems that arise. It is therefore with confidence that I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

7.26 pm

Mr. Mark Lennox—Boyd (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown), who has done his duty by presenting the Bill. However, I do not agree with many of the suggestions that he made and I should like to touch on a few of them.

I speak from a constituency interest. K Shoe Shops Ltd. is perhaps the most shining of the many jewels that adorn the Chief Whip's crown. The company comes from Kendal, has factories throughout Cumbria and one in the Lancaster area employing 120 people, some of whom must be my constituents.

I understand that the Chief Whip knows what I shall say and, indeed, wishes me to do so. I also understand that the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham) is unable to be present, but that he is equally anxious to support any action that will help maintain the interests of K Shoes because of its significant contribution to the economy of Cumbria.

Of course the Bill should get a Second Reading. No one who has reservations about it would wish to deny it a Second Reading, but I wish to draw to the attention of the House—and the Committee that will consider it in due course—to various matters that must be considered in further detail.

The problem for K Shoes in Liverpool Street is one of severe disruption. I too, visited the shop and am on a par with the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch. I disagree with his observations. We are talking of a major construction site, and the work will take place over a two-year period. Enormous trenches will be dug into the road. As the hon. Gentleman said, they will be 100 ft long, and on occasions during that construction period they will be a few feet from the front shop window of K Shoes. It is astonishing to suggest that in no way will its business be undermined by the disruption that will inevitably take place. The noise, dirt, heat and unpleasantness must surely inhibit a customer from going to that shop.

I shall not pursue that argument much further, as it must be argued in Committee. It is not for us to consider today. Irrespective of whether it is right or wrong, it leads to another argument. The shop has been there for 70 years. It wishes to carry on its business there. It does not wish to move, and it does not wish to be required to go elsewhere. It has been told and given the undertaking that the promoter—the London Transport Executive—will not try to occupy its premises unless it needs to do so for the construction works. It has been told that it will receive the compensation only if the promoter has to occupy the premises for the construction works. Therefore, it will not be entitled under the law, or under any undertaking that has been given by the promoter, to any compensation for a loss of profit that it might suffer.

Let us hope that the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch is right when he says that the shop will not suffer damage. That is extremely unlikely. However, if that is the case, and if suffering damage is merely a foolish fear that the shop entertains, it costs the London Transport Executive nothing to give the undertaking that it will protect the shop from any loss of profit and give it the compensation that it needs.

It is sometimes said—I expect that it will be said in Committee—that it would be inappropriate to give such an undertaking, as the law of the land does not require any person who constructs a major work or building to compensate someone who is injuriously affected in circumstances such as this, so why should the London Transport Executive do so? My answer—the Committee should consider the matter carefully—is that the law is wrong. There should be a provision in law to give people compensation when they are injuriously affected by building works that take place on their doorsteps.

While the Bill, being special and of limited and specialist concern, would not be the appropriate vehicle to provide redress to people who are injuriously affected generally, it is one that the London Transport Executive must see passed before it can commence work. Therefore, Parliament is, in this case, able to protect people who are likely to suffer from the consequences of the building work—and Parliament should do so.

Although I wish the Bill to receive a Second Reading, it raises deeply sceptical eyebrows. K Shoes is struggling at the moment, like so many manufacturing companies —especially those in the clothing and footwear industries. It is struggling against competition from imported shoes. It is an unusual business with both manufacturing and retailing companies. It manufactures its shoes in its factories and sells them in its shops. It is worth noting, in today's climate, that about 85 per cent. of the shoes that are sold in its shops are manufactured by the company. Moreover, about 90 per cent. of the shoes that are sold in its shops are made in Britain. The consequence of undermining the profitability or, indeed, destroying the business, if it came to that, of this one shop is not simply that the shop is put out of business. There will be repercussions in terms of the jobs of the company that makes the shoes.

I hope that my comments will be observed by the Committee. It would be outrageous if the shop—one of K Shoes' important outlets—had its business ruined, and thereby the more general business of the company was threatened and undermined.

7.34 pm
Mr. Reg Race (Wood Green)

It is somewhat unusual for the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and me to combine to oppose a Private Member's Bill, but oppose it we must for the simple reason that both of us have constituents who are affected by the proposed improvements to Liverpool Street Underground station.

The constituents whom I represent are the proprietors of the arcade florists who occupy premises in Liverpool Street and will be directly affected by the Bill. I welcome the purpose of the Bill. As a London Member of Parliament I travel frequently on the Underground. I frequently pass through Liverpool Street Underground interchange. I can vouch, as can every other London Member of Parliament, for the inadequacy and ancient facilities of that interchange. I have absolutely no quarrel with the general purpose of the Bill. I wish it a fair hearing and hope that it becomes law.

The only point of substance about which I am worried is the way in which my constituents are injuriously affected by the proposed works. The florist shop has been run for 32 years and continues to be run by two small shopkeepers—Mrs. Bayard and Mr. Parker. They have petitioned against the Bill. They obtain most of their trade from local businesses—banks, offices, insurance companies—and passing trade. They are completely dependent on the shop for their survival. They have no other source of income. They have no other shops or financial interests. They are extremely vulnerable. Any reduction of trade in their shop will undoubtedly reduce their personal incomes. We are, therefore, discussing a potential mischief for those individuals—the prospect of a substantial reduction in their personal income.

The significant point is that according to the undertakings that have been offered to my constituents and to K Shoes part III(2)(a) of the undertaking links compensation to loss of profits, but only on the basis of occupation of the premises concerned. In other words, compensation would be calculated by the London Transport Executive and no doubt, agreed with my constituents and K Shoes, if the premises were occupied but not otherwise.

That leads me to question the works themselves. If the works were fairly trivial, it would not matter that compensation was to be given only if a shop was occupied. That is not so. The hon. Members for Morecambe and Lonsdale and Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) have stated plainly that there is to be a major work across the entire width of Liverpool Street and down virtually its entire length. Et is to be a major excavation. There is to be a complete reconstruction of an Underground station, just below the level of the road. A substantial quantity of soil will have to be removed. There will be much machinery in the street simply to do the necessary work. No one disputes that. There will be hoardings of 11 ft in height—6 ft of wooden hoarding topped by 5 ft of wire mesh. That will obscure the entire road. Only the footpath between the shop and the hoarding will remain.

There can be no question but that that is indeed a major work in that street. Therefore, it is not correct, especially in the case of one shop where the proprietors depend entirely on its profits for their income, for London Transport to say that they should be compensated for injury and nuisance only if the shop is occupied. The shop may well be occupied for a brief period. London Transport may have to drill through the floor up into the shop to undertake test borings or to reinforce structures that it is establishing underground. In that case, compensation will no doubt be paid.

The real problem for my constituents, however, is that these major works will continue for nine months or a year. Let us hope that the period is indeed as short as that, as many of us believe that construction work is never completed on time. Even if the work is completed on time, however, it will take nine months to a year. That may be the major part of a trading year for my constituents.

The possibility of a real reduction in my constituents' living standards in that year must therefore be taken extremely seriously. Figures have been produced, and no doubt will be adduced in Committee, about the reduction in trade consequent on major works being carried out in the vicinity of particular shops. K Shoe Shops has stated that a certain reduction in profits took place as a result of work conducted around other shops in its chain. I have no doubt that when the case is presented to the Committee counsel will refer to any such prospective reductions. I believe that the reductions may be extremely substantial, especially as they would all be concentrated on the earnings of one shop.

We are dealing not with a substantial change in English law but with a private Bill that is opposed. We are dealing with one shopkeeper and one chain of shopkeepers who are injuriously affected. We are not asking for a substantial change in the law to make compensation payable on a different basis in every case. We ask that consideration be given to a change in compensation in this particular case because, in my view, it is clearly established that great injury will be done to the individuals concerned.

I simply say to the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch that, according to my information, my constituents are not satisfied with the offer of alternative accommodation that has been made, for the following reason. They appreciate the effort made to meet some of their objections to the Bill, but in their opinion they could use the alternative accommodation only for storage and could not sell from it.

My constituents have also drawn my attention to the fact that this is not the first occasion on which their business has been disrupted by the activities of London Transport, justified or otherwise. In the very recent past, London Transport enforced their departure from a previous shop, at 12 The Arcade, EC2. Just before London Transport asked them to leave, my constituents had refitted the shop at great personal expense, having been there for 28 years.

They were given notice to quit under the terms of the lease and I understand that there is no suggestion that anything improper was done by London Transport. Having been at their present premises for only three or four years, they are now to be disrupted again and the activities of London Transport, which are ultimately for the public good, will for the second time in a very short period disrupt my constituents' livelihoods.

In a letter sent to me some months ago before the Bill reached the Floor of the House, Mrs. Bayard said: Our present premises were obtained at great expense, and needless to say we are just managing to get some return on our money. We are now forced once again0 to lose everything. My partner and I are not so young and will not be in a position financially to start again, especially as this is the second time in three years that we have been placed in this invidious position.

I appreciate the efforts that have been made to meet some of the points made by my constituents and by K Shoe Shops. Nevertheless, further substantial progress must be made to meet the simple point that compensation should be paid to my constituents on the basis of loss of trade and not simply if London Transport occupies the premises. I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading, but I hope that this point will be considered very carefully in Committee and that substantial concessions will be made in order to avoid real hardship.

7.46 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Reginald Eyre)

It might assist the House if I intervene briefly at this stage to give an indication of the Government's views on the Bill.

The Government have no objection in principle to the powers which the London Transport Executive seeks in the Bill—so long as the powers are strictly limited to those necessary to undertake the works in question. Nevertheless, I understand the concern that has been expressed about the possible effects of the works on the businesses operating in premises in Liverpool Street—particularly the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) with regard to K Shoe Shops Ltd. and those raised by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race) with regard to his constituents, the florists.

It might assist the House if I say something about the provisions for compensation payments in respect of loss of profits. It is, of course, well-established practice for private Bills conferring land acquisition powers to apply the standard compensation code, which reflects the development of practice and judicial thinking over many years.

Clause 3 incorporates the Lands Clauses Acts. The effect of this is that the established body of statute and case law generally known as the compensation code will apply to the acquisition of land under the powers sought in the Bill. Where business premises are acquired, I understand that it is open to the owners or lessees of the property to claim compensation reflecting not only the market value of their interest in the land but also, in appropriate cases, loss of profits and other expenses arising from the disturbance of their businesses.

I am advised, however, that the compensation code does not provide for disturbance-only compensation to be paid to persons affected by public works on neighbouring land if their own land is not taken for the purpose, unless the execution of the works causes damage to trade or business, which as a result leads to depreciation in the value of an interest in land. In those circumstances, compensation can then be paid for the depreciation in value of the interest in the land even where no land is actually being taken from the owner or lessee.

It will be of further interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale and the hon. Member for Wood Green to know that there are other statutory provisions—for example, section 22 of the third schedule to the Water Act 1945, section 278 of the Public Health Act 1936 and sections 76 and 77 of the Highways Act 1980—in which there is entitlement to compensation for damage due to works carried out by statutory bodies on public highways. In these circumstances, damage has been held by the courts to include loss of profits to businesses on land other than that which may have been acquired.

In all the circumstances disclosed by the debate this evening, it would appear to be reasonable that the Bill should be given a Second Reading. That is on the understanding, and for the purpose, that the Bill, and all the points causing concern that have been raised this evening—compensation and restriction upon interference—shall be examined in detail in Committee. I hope that it will be possible to agree with the petitioners over practical ways to minimise the impact of the works on their businesses.

I fully appreciate the nature of the various concerns that have been expressed. I believe that the Committee will provide the forum necessary for the detailed examination of those matters. On that basis, I hope that the House will think it appropriate that the Bill should be allowed to proceed.

7.50 pm
Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in Furness)

In considering the Second Reading of the Bill, the House is called upon to examine a serious conflict of interests. Normally, one would always say that the broader public interest should prevail. However, we cannot simply take the view that in allowing the broader public interest to prevail one should ignore or ride roughshod over the private, commercial or personal interests of those affected by any major public works.

Public interest can be broadly described by saying that if British Rail and London Transport are allowed to proceed with the works covered by the Bill, a substantial contribution will be made to the lot of many commuters who use British Rail and London Transport by way of services that go to Liverpool Street every day. I hope that the majority of hon. Members would want to see such an improvement in that area of London Transport's and British Rail's services.

The conflict is that raised by the petitioners and voiced eloquently in the House tonight. It is the fear that, in the process of making those improvements for travellers, certain businesses will be ruined. Strangely, I declare a constituency interest. I do so only because I am regarded in the House as a transport spokesman. K Shoe Shops Ltd. has a factory at Askam in my constituency and I believe that a number of the ladies' shoes that are sold in the shop are made in Askam. I confess to being only too keenly aware of the fact that the shoe trade, and that particular factory, works short time and under pressure because of a restriction of its outlets, brought about in no small measure by the admittance into Britain of cheap imports. The situation will not be alleviated if there is a further loss due to the damage to trade at this particular shop.

As the Minister has rightly said, there is a standard type of compensation clause in the Bill. It is worth noting that there has been litigation on this type of legislation. In a leading case on the subject of compensation, which arose out of similar circumstances—Argyle Motors v Birkenhead Corporation—Lord Dilhorne said: It may well be that the execution of authorised works has inflicted a loss on the appellants which far exceeds the amount of compensation obtainable by them for injurious affection to their interest in the land on which they conduct their business. If that is so, they will suffer a hardship for which the law as it now stands does not provide a remedy. Extension of the right to compensation is a matter for Parliament and not for judicial decision. I do not always agree with Law Lords, but I agree entirely with that last sentence. This is a matter for Parliament. It is not a matter for judicial decision. It is not a matter on which we want to make general law, but a matter on which a special legal provision should be made that reflects the special circumstances of the case. Therefore, I join those who express the hope that in passing the Bill we do not do so because we think that it should go through the House unchanged, but in the belief that by passing its Second Reading we will commend it to a Committee which will examine carefully all the special circumstances that led to the promotion of the Bill and which will consider whether a special compensation provision needs to be attached to it before it has further consideration in the Chamber of the House.

7.55 pm
Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

I do not wish to detain the House for long, but I wish to mention the importance of Liverpool Street station to my constituents. My constituency was, to a large extent, borne out of the railway line that runs from Liverpool Street towards Colchester.

At the end of the last century various developers were given the opportunity to have railway stations constructed along the line. The railway company of the day required house developers to guarantee ticket office receipts of about £2,000 a year from each station for a period of five years before they would agree to construct each railway station. The builders in their turn then built most of the houses that now form part of my constituency. The train service that was provided from Ilford, Seven Kings nd Chadwell Heath gave large numbers of my constituents and their predecessors opportunity to travel quickly into the City, and this provided much of the clerical and managerial support for the City of London.

I wish to welcome the introduction of the Bill and its Second Reading. In doing so, I must make a comment in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race). My experience of British Rail in property matters leaves a lot to be desired. I had an unhappy experience as chairman of the central area board of the GLC. British Rail was extremely awkward, difficult and completely urco-operative.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the Bill does not deal with British Rail. It is the London Transport (Liverpool Street) Bill.

Mr. Thorne

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I feel that this has a bearing on the issue. It is important that the whole matter is tied together as quickly as possible for the benefit of everyone concerned. I hope that in the negotiations in Committee it will be borne in mind that a little generosity by way of compensation can be extremely helpful in advancing the matter. It can save a lot of time where large capital expenditure is being held up. I often find that large undertakings tend to hold up such matters over relatively small sums, when the matter could be progressed mere quickly if they could only see the advantage of agreeing reasonable compensation.

Therefore, I hope that that matter will be carefully looked into and that the Bill will receive its Second reading and quickly pass into law. We shall then have a new combined station .at Liverpool Street of which we can all be proud.

8 pm

Mr. Ronald W. Brown

Given the last point made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), it should be borne in mind that the Bill assumes the success of the British Rail Bill currently before the Opposed Bills Committee. This Bill is concomitant with that development. If that development does not take place, neither will this.

I hope that the Bill will receive its Second Reading, and I am grateful to hon. Members for their support. However, the British Rail side of the work must take place first. No one knows what the future holds for K Shoe Shops Ltd. However, the shop in question has two trading entrances. No doubt the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) saw what I saw. Many people were shopping in one K Shoe shop from the arcade. The number of those from Liverpool Street was much smaller and those in the street were passers-by rather than shoppers. Therefore, I do not understand why it should be suggested that the whole emporium of K Shoes will be brought to its knees because a hoarding is to be placed outside the shop for three months. I do not wish to argue the point, but I should not like it to be thought that the promoters of the Bill had deliberately forgotten the primary importance of the interests of those involved.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

If K Shoes is not to suffer any damage, it will not cost the promoters anything to indicate that compensation will be available if there is damage. What does the hon. Gentleman have to say about that?

Mr. Brown

I merely wish to establish that there is more trade from the arcade than from Liverpool Street. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the shop's presentation is oriented towards the arcade, and Liverpool Street is almost its back door.

I was delighted when the Minister said that he wished to take a close interest in the compensation factor. I hope that he will not use the Bill as the only vehicle for changing the law about compensation. The right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) said that the law should be changed. But the Bill is not the vehicle for that. I welcome the Minister's view and take it that he is serious. I take it that there will be a change in the law on compensation.

Local government will have to be brought into this. No doubt the Secretary of State for the Environment will be involved, because the whole procedure of local government for dealing with road works, sewers and pipelines will be changed. There will be enormous ramifications. That is why such action has not been taken.

I hope that the Bill will not be used to do something that should be undertaken in general law, but I am delighted that the Minister is interested in the issue.

Mr. Race

Whatever the merits of changing the law generally, surely the hon. Gentleman, as an experienced parliamentarian, must accept that that possibility is not before us. We are dealing with a specific Bill concerning one street in London in which injury will probably be caused to a few people. That involves a quite different principle from a general change in the law.

Mr. Brown

That does not alter the fact that if the law is wrong, it is unreasonable to wait for a private Bill in order to take action. The Minister has said that he is concerned about the compensation and I welcome his interest. The Government can introduce legislation to put a new measure into force that would take account of such factors, and I doubt whether the House would hold up such a provision.

I tried hard to get information from the promoters about the position of the florist. Having seen the shop, I accept what has been said. However, there is nothing to stop anyone from walking in front of the shop as it is. It is impossible to walk in the road, because lorries, cars and vans are parked there. Instead of the lorries, vans and cars parked in front of the florist there will be a temporary hoarding. I hope that the suggestion about the delay is wrong, but the hoarding will only be temporary, while the cars, vans and lorries are there every day of the week. Therefore, they form a barrier anyway. The promoters are doing nothing to hinder the walkthrough. Throughout the work there will be no change in that situation.

The best information that I have is that the shop in the arcade is still the subject of negotiations by the owners of the florist's. I understand that we are talking, not about an extension for storage, but about a new shop. The promoters have leant over backwards to do everything possible to help. However, I am grateful to the House for its support. All hon. Members have voiced the hope that outstanding matters can be considered in Committee. I stress that the work is complementary to the main work to be carried out in Liverpool Street—British Rail's development of Liverpool Street station and the hotel. Finally. I am grateful to the House for welcoming the Bill

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.