HC Deb 10 December 1987 vol 124 cc634-72

Order for Second Reading read.

7 pm

Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

I should tell the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the instruction to the Committee on the Bill, and it will be in order to debate it as part of the general debate on the Bill.

Mr. Thorne

The docklands light railway is one of the outstanding success stories of recent years. Even before its opening it had a remarkable effect upon the volume of interest expressed in the docklands enterprise zone. A large number of businesses were attracted to the area in the expectation that exceptionally good public transport facilities would be provided to give quick and easy commuter access. That process was reinforced by the passing last year of the London Docklands Railway (City Extension) Act, which will give ready access to the City institutions, via the Bank, in addition to commuter access via the Stratford British Rail interchange provided for in earlier legislation.

Since the opening of the railway by Her Majesty the Queen on 30 July this year and after the computer teething troubles that delayed its public use for a further month, the volume of passengers has exceeded all expectations. Furthermore, London Regional Transport is being besieged from all directions to extend the network across the river to Greenwich and north-east to Barking. I even received a strongly worded personal plea from the Bishop of Barking and Father Barnes, the vicar of St. Mary's, Ilford, who are by no means happy to hear that Beckton is the furthest point in the present proposals. They believe that it is essential to provide an interchange with the Southend-Fenchurch street line as quickly as possible.

Because of this unprecedented success, the promoters would be happy to accept the proposed instruction in the names of the hon. Members for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing): That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill, That it Report to the House on the evidence to it concerning the adequacy, or otherwise, of the characteristics and capacity of the proposed railway in relation to the likely demands placed on the railway by existing and planned development in and around the area of the Royal Docks. London Regional Transport is promoting the Beckton extension of the docklands light railway on behalf of the London Docklands development corporation. Under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, the LDDC is charged with promoting the redevelopment of the docklands area. The redevelopment process is well under way. To date more than £2,400 million has been committed, including £2,200 million from the private sector. To the middle of this year about 660 new companies had set up businesses and more than 10,000 new jobs had been created. A further 3,000 jobs would be created or preserved in existing firms as a result of grants approved under the Inner Urban Areas Act scheme. NI ore than 6,000 private homes have been built, 45 per cent. of which have been bought by residents of docklands boroughs.

Improving public transport accessibility is an essential requirement of the redevelopment process. To this end LRT is constructing the docklands light railway through the area. The first stage of the railway, which opened on 31 August, consists of two routes, totalling 12 km, linking Stratford to the north and the City to the west with the Isle of Dogs development area. This is known as the initial railway. Work has now started on extending the initial railway at the western end by some 1.8 km to Bank station to provide a better interchange with the Underground and a link to the heart of the City business area. The extension is being jointly funded by the Government and the developers of Canary wharf on the Isle of Dogs, and will be open for passenger service in late 1990.

Under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 the London Docklands development corporation was established — by the London Docklands Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1980 — as the urban development corporation for London docklands for the purpose of securing the regeneration of its area. The corporation believes that the works proposed and the powers intended to be conferred by the Bill will help to achieve that.

Under the London Docklands Railway Acts 1984 and 1985, the promoters constructed railway works which led to the public opening of the first stage of the docklands light railway from the new Tower Gateway station at Minories to the Isle of Dogs and Stratford in the summer of this year. The promoters have obtained powers, in the London Docklands Railway (City Extension) Act 1986, which will enable them to extend the DLR from Tower Gateway to Bank. The Bill is therefore seen as authorising stage 4 of the docklands light railway to provide an eastern extension from Poplar through the areas of Leamouth, the royal docks and Cyprus to the housing development sites at Beckton.

The principal clause—clause 4—gives the power to construct a number of works: works Nos. 1 and 2 are railways providing connections with the DLR at Poplar. Work No. 3 is a railway which would constitute the eastern extension of the DLR to Beckton. Works Nos. 4 and 5 are short lengths of railway from the eastern extension into the site of the former Beckton holder station gas works.

Clauses 5 to 14 of the Bill would confer the necessary powers for the construction of works Nos. I to 5, including special provision for crossing that part of the River Lea known as Bow creek.

Part III of the Bill provides powers to acquire lands compulsorily for the purposes of the works to be authorised by the Bill, and clause 16 gives the promoters the option to acquire such new rights over any of the lands as my be required instead of acquiring any greater interest in those lands. The period for the compulsory purchase of lands and new rights under the Bill is limited by clause 17 and expires on 31 December 1992.

Other provisions in the Bill contain powers uniform with those already conferred by the London Docklands Railway Acts 1984 and 1985 and the London Docklands Railway (City Extension) Act 1986 so as to achieve an integrated system for operating the docklands light railway.

At the expiry of the petitioning time laid down by the House, 10 petitions had been deposited against the Bill, but one of those has been withdrawn. There appear to be no objections to the concept of the Bill. One fundamental objection is to the intended route of the railway. The Bill provides for a southern alignment across Bow creek, while the majority of petitioners seek a northern route providing for a DLR station at Canning Town.

Following detailed discussion and the refinement of the design and layout of the works at Poplar, in the Connaught road area and at Beckton, adjustments to the proposals are sought in an additional provision, for which leave has now been given to promote. The adjustments would enable the new railway to be integrated more effectively with the highway proposals and other developments in the locality.

The DLR is only one of the numerous projects designed to regenerate London docklands and the route selected is that which is felt to provide the greatest benefit in the long term, having regard to the development potential of the area, the road schemes being implemented or planned, the other forms of transport available or to be provided and the expenditure allocated to the DLR. Consequently, the alternative route through Canning Town is not favoured and the promoters adhere to their choice as proposed in the Bill; but this will, of course, be considered in detail in any subsequent Committee.

The promoters, therefore, ask that the Bill be given a Second Reading so that they may be allowed to proceed and put to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred their case for the provisions of the Bill and of the additional provision.

7.9 pm

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I begin by saying that I shall not oppose the Bill. On the last occasion when the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) and I crossed swords on the issue of the docklands light railway, I opposed the proposal that he put forward. Tonight it is a pleasure to say that I do not oppose the Bill whose provisions he has just outlined.

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for selecting the instruction in my name and that of my hon. Friends from the London borough of Newham, and the hon. Gentleman and the promoters for accepting it. That will assist the Committee in its important deliberations.

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Ilford, South too far down the road of the London Docklands development corporation, on which I fear we would have differences of view, particularly about his reference to the 45 per cent. of local east end residents who had bought houses. That may have been the initial figure, but, as everyone will know, things have changed since then and, whatever happens to the Bill or to the docklands light railway, I suspect that the figures will change in the future. But I do not want to pursue that because, of all things in dockland, until now the principle—and I emphasise that—of the docklands light railway has been agreed on both sides.

The Minister will be glad to know that when it was first promoted it had the agreement of the Greater London council, the London borough of Newham, the Docklands Forum, the Joint Action Group in the Docklands and every conceivable residents' and community association, as well as of the LDDC and the Government, so that is at least one feature on which we can agree on principle. I can go back even further, because many years ago the much maligned but, I think, quite good Docklands Joint Committee published a pamphlet entitled "Bus, Tram or Train?". The group put together a discussion document in 1974 and it plumped not for the tram — which is, in effect, what the DLR is—but for the train.

In the dockland strategic plan which the group then published there was an extension of the Fleet line through dockland, albeit taking a slightly different route from the one that we are discussing tonight, extending to Thamesmead. Unfortunately, public money did not stretch to a full tube railway at that stage.

The group also published a good many other plans, including the "Technical Appendix to London Docklands" and "The Years of Growth". So what happened at that stage was better than some people now believe, particularly those who parrot some of the things that have been said by the LDDC. To some extent, therefore, the Bill is a substitute for the proposal at that time, which was passed by the House, for the extension of the Fleet line right to Thamesmead. So, in a sense, we have gone back 10 or 15 years to where we were before, with a scheme that is a substitute for it.

I mentioned earlier the considerable degree of agreement. The disagreement arises, first, over the route. The Canning Town loop proposal has been referred to by the hon. Member for Ilford, South. There is also disagreement on the funding and on some of the purposes to which the railway will be put; in other words, over our interpretation of "regeneration". Regeneration in east London, particularly in the London borough of Newham, has not, as interpreted by the LDDC, been in favour of the existing communities. It has been in favour of other people.

We are concerned with the railway tonight, so it is appropriate for me to quote from the annual report of the Docklands Forum, a body set up and commended by the House of Lords Committee which set up the LDDC. It had this to say about the docklands light railway in the annual report for 1986: The Forum has continued to press for the eastern extension of the DLR to Beckton. Members objected strongly when the necessary Bill was not allowed to be laid before Parliament in November 1985 because 100 per cent. private funding could not be guaranteed. The Forum considers that public funding for the Beckton extension cannot now be refused because the City extension is to receive at least £60 million of public money despite a Government statement that the DLR would receive no further public money. When the extension goes ahead, Forum members are concerned that the service to the local community should be maximised, and that means a should run to Beckton District Centre via South Canning Town". It is on that note that I turn to the fundamental issue with which we are very concerned— the Canning Town loop. When petitions come to be heard in Committee, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Ilford, South, the borough of Newham will be foremost in putting a petition in favour of the Canning Town loop, followed by residents' associations in the Canning Town area, who understand the position and who would want that very much because, in the view of the local people, it is not, and should not be, a developers' railway alone. The Government may want that, the LDDC may want that, but the people of east London are due and deserve a railway that they can use, as well as a railway that will be used for the other purposes that the Government have in mind.

We cannot understand why the Government and the LDDC — perhaps the Government are neutral on this, but certainly the LDDC is not—will not concede the idea of the train calling at Canning Town, which is the centre of Newham dockland and one of the major community centres in east London. It is both a shopping centre and a market centre. In particular, it lies at the end of many bus routes and is therefore a natural centre for transport interchange.

It might be thought that the loop entails an enormous detour. It does not. It is about half a mile, or even less, longer than the direct route chosen by the LDDC. It might be thought that it would cost a lot more. When I originally wrote to Christopher Benson, chairman of the LDDC, he wrote back claiming that it would be very much more expensive. I believe that the promoters have subsequently claimed that too, but there have been reports, the gap is narrower, and the London borough of Newham tells me that, according to its calculations, it might even be cheaper to take the route that the people of Newham prefer.

Be that as it may — and it will be discussed in Committee—it might also be thought that the journey time will be longer. One of the objections, we were told, is that people hurrying to the City would have to go via Canning Town and it would take longer. If they go by the direct route, there is one station. If they go by the loop, there is one station. If it is half a mile longer, if acceleration and stopping times are the same, and if the train travels at an average of only 20 mph—a very modest speed—I make the additional time about a minute and a half. So that argument falls flat as well.

There is yet another reason that might make the loop superior. The bridge across the River Lea would allow easier navigation of sea-going and river-going ships, up part of the River Lea which otherwise might be disadvantaged by a bridge lower down. All in all, we cannot see why that loop should not be built. The residents and the London borough will put their case to the Committee, so I will leave it at that, but I do not want to underestimate the symbolic importance of putting a station at Canning Town, historic centre of east London, because putting the line directly across the Lea will cock a snook at the people of east London, who have taken a great deal recently.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

Is the Government's case primarily one of cost? Has my hon. Friend noticed that they built an inadequate railway, for cost reasons, and then keep adding bits? There have been changes since the Bill was laid last year, and we hear that other bits will be added on. Is it not likely that, in the future, the Canning Town loop will be added on? It would be much cheaper to build it now rather than in two or three years' time.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend is right, and, as I have said — this will be discussed in Committee— the cost would probably be less if it were built now. The Government are standing off a little, at least procedurally, on this matter. The cost may not be borne by public funds, as some of us think it should, but may be borne by the developers themselves. If the cost is equal, they will not have to pay any more to provide a service for local people which they originally wanted to deny. These are important considerations which no doubt will be addressed in Committee.

My hon. Friend has pointed to another matter. If the original route goes via Canning Town in a loop, no one would object to an alternative route being built at a later date. That is another possibility that has not yet been canvassed.

The petitions will also deal with other matters. I shall not spend much time on these, but it is important to list them. Some people differ in their views about the sites of stations. This is true in Newham and in part of Tower Hamlets, where part of the new railway will be built. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) may wish to raise that matter. There was a proposal to narrow Victoria Dock road in my constituency. This may appear to be an extraordinary proposal when one considers the heavy use of roads in the area as a result of the development in the royal docks. Later proposals might have made this unnecessary, but it is a matter of local concern.

The elevation of the railway has caused problems. There has been trouble with noise in Tower Hamlets, where the original undertakings in respect of noise have not been carried out. Residents in Strait road, the Cyprus area and Winsor terrace will seek an undertaking from the promoters about routes. We hope that discussions will resolve those problems before the Bill goes into Committee.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South mentioned the branch line to the Beckton gas works now being demolished. That is planned as a depot—

Mr. Thorne

indicated assent.

Mr. Spearing

I see that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me. This is important, because, although depots may be silent, this one would be near Winsor terrace and the residents would like undertakings about the design layout and any noise that may come from the depot. Those are matters for the Committee.

I wish to deal now with the important matter of funding. I quoted from the Forum report, which stated that the City extension was originally to be funded entirely by private money. It is now to be funded by a proportion of private and public money, but we understand—the Minister may confirm this— that the railway extension will be wholly funded by the developers, or through the increased value of the land when the railway has been built. This is contrary to most approaches to such matters in this country until now. Usually, the public fund a road or railway and, through subsequent planning controls, the community—I emphasise that—benefits from it.

The Government have driven a coach and horses through that principle in favour of another which does not find favour on the Opposition Benches. It means that the railway and the development that it serves go hand in hand, which is one of the less attractive features of the development. As the developments will not be founded on local needs, but are being devoted to other purposes, the money for it is coming from those developments. We must be sure, and I am sure that the promoters will demonstrate in Committee, that the money that is likely to be available from those developments will meet the estimated cost of the railway, which in current prices is about £140 million.

How exactly will that work? This is an important point, not just for the railway, but for my constituency, through which it runs. We have been told—it was re-emphasised a moment ago—that the cost of the railway will be defrayed from the rising cost of the land, which itself will be made more attractive by virtue of the railway. As I understand it, the LDDC will be valuing the land after planning permission has been given and— I emphasise this—it has come to an agreement with the developer on what that value shall be. It is necessary to go through the stages, because it is a controversial area both in content and in method.

First, planning permission must be obtained, and planning permission for the area of the royal docks that is served by the railway is now going through the due process. There has been one formal referral back to the LDDC, and at some stage it will no doubt agree it and then, at a later date, put a price on the land relative to the planning permission that has been given.

It is at that point that I lose track of the process. Either the land will be allowed to the developer at a lower cost than it would otherwise merit by virtue of the planning permission and the developer will then pay to the DLR or London Transport, or whoever is building the railway, the relevant amount, or it will get the land on its books at less than the price, and the LDDC, having forgone that amount of money, will pass it over to the contractor or the DLR.

I take it that it is the former process that will operate. This is of some importance, because this is a novel method of funding public transport. I believe that this is the first time that that method has been used, at least to any great extent. It is the Minister's responsibility to tell us this evening how that will be done. If he cannot do so this evening, he should do so before we go much further.

There could be some slip twixt cup and lip. I suppose that the developers are all right, but we have read about some difficulties in the City, and a difficulty may arise from a judgment that will come from Luxembourg in the not too distant future relating to VAT on building. We know that the provisional judgment does not relate to VAT on private housing, but it may well end up relating to commercial developments and to buildings for retail consortia, and so on. At some stage, the financial mechanism must be looked at carefully. We want to make sure that the resources are available.

In addition, we must look at the development itself. The royal docks are now undergoing enormous change.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Before my hon. Friend moves on to consider other matters, will he reflect on the fact that the Beckton extension is being funded by receipts from the LDDC from land sales, with no direct Government money, despite the fact that the Government are prepared to put over £60 million into the DLR City extension to allow the Canary Wharf development? At the moment the Government seem prepared to use public money to subsidise private transport, yet public transport is to be financed totally from the private sector. There will be £300 million of public money in the docklands highway. Is that not typical of the Government's approach, which is to subsidise the private sector and ask the public sector to go private in order to get the financing that we want in Newham?

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for underlining the new territory, in terms of both funding and planning public transport, that we are now entering by virtue of the Bill. The Bill may be something of a precedent.

Let me take up what my hon. Friend said about the City extension. I am sure that the Minister will remember, about two years ago in the House, the rather dramatic evening when he announced that the money for the City extension could not be raised by private funds. We may hear the same about the eastern extension, for all we know. If it could not be done for the Canary Wharf, and it still has not been done, what about the royal docks and the Beckton extension? That is an important point of principle.

I remind the House that at that stage it was said that all the money could not be found, but what has happened subsequently to Canary Wharf? It has had to pay only £8 million in cash and it has been let off £12 million in lieu of its contribution to the City extension and other bits and pieces. Therefore, Canary Wharf, with its enormous development, is getting a great deal from public land that was once owned by the Port of London Authority. Indeed, all the land in the royal docks that is being developed is either ex-Port of London Authority land or ex-gas board land and is owned by the British people. That should be well understood.

Mr. Leighton

My hon. Friend has great knowledge of transport matters, in which he has been interested over the years. Has he ever known another example of funding in this way from enhanced land value? After all, it is clear that if one builds a railway on a piece of land, the value of that land will be increased. Is the same not true if one builds a road? For example, the land adjacent to the M25 must have increased in value. The Government are happy to finance the roads out of public money, and are doing so in the docklands area and the east end of London, which is for the private sector, but when it comes to the public sector, we have this curious arrangement of which I have never heard before. Has my hon. Friend ever known that principle to be adopted? The other bit of the railway into the City brings people from the City, Sussex and Surrey into the docklands— the so-called yuppies. That bit of the railway is being financed by the Government, but for our constituents to get out of the east end into the City, the Government adopt this method.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should be brief.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for underlining my point. The Minister may be able to tell us whether there is any precedent. I rather think not.

I go one step further than my hon. Friend. The fact that roads have been publicly funded in that way has been balanced by the fact that any development that may come — or not, as we hope, in the case of the M25 — is constrained by proper planning procedures. There have been some planning procedures in the LDDC area, but not, I emphasise, planning procedures that were generally agreed after the war on both sides of the House for the public good. Those planning procedures are organised by the LDDC, a wholly appointed, undemocratic body and a creature of the Secretary of State. The planning procedures in the royal docks are different from those that would have protected public money invested in roads and railways.

Not only do we have a different sort of statutory procedure, but the Secretary of State has recently announced that instead of having a public inquiry into one of the major developments in the royal docks, the LDDC will be allowed to determine the matter without any public inquiry. The area that the railway is to serve is the subject of about 15 different planning elements, all of which have been made public, although no formal planning application has been determined for any of them. There are about 15 different plans for major developments, any one of which, on planning criteria, could have led to a major national public inquiry in its own right. The area of the royal docks along which the railway runs, if it were described in terms of central London, would run from the Palace of Westminster to Kensington Palace. The area it involves is larger than Kensington gardens and Hyde park put together. That is the area that will be served by the extension of the railway.

What will be put there? Messrs Rosehaugh Stanhope has five different elements in its plan, which is before the LDDC. It proposes 1,000 homes in the western area of the site, plus schools, shops, a business park of 2.5 million sq ft, and a retail centre, and a community leisure centre of another 1 million sq ft. That is a planning proposal currently before the LDDC on which the Minister has said that there will be no public inquiry. The retail centre and the rest of the plan—apart from the houses—probably would not be there but for the Bill.

The second scheme, north of the Victoria docks, put forward by Lang-Fox-Vom — the London dome —proposes 2,000 homes, with facilities attached, a hotel, ultimately with 700 rooms, a sports dome to seat 23,000 people and another business centre. That is the second major area.

The third proposal, from Heron-Mowlem-Conran Roche south of the Victoria docks in the area surrounding the mills, would provide 4,000 dwellings, only a few of which would be let at fair rent, 500,000 sq ft of business premises and light industrial areas. That is rivalled by another scheme for the same area of the Victoria dock village, run by the East London Housing Association and Messrs. Barratt. There is a race to see which will get it. If my arithmetic is correct, that would amount to 7,000 dwellings, in addition to the business and retail premises.

That is an enormous development. One could say that it will not get through, but it will, because on 31 March the Secretary of State said: I have today approved a strategy for the royal docks proposed to me by the LDDC which will turn 270 hectares of derelict land into a new employment, retailing, leisure and residential centre for London. The LDDC strategy, completed in consultation with me, will provide 7,000 housing units"— my estimate was right— and some 48,000 jobs."—[Official Report, 31 March 1987; Vol. 113, c. 440.] That was the intention of the Secretary of State, who is working the planning procedure that I described, broadly to approve the investments that I have outlined, and to estimate—his estimate may be slightly over the top—that there will be 48,000 jobs.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Secretary of State regularly goes right over the top and has to be brought into line by the courts, as we have known, in his various ministerial guises. Indeed, he is a recidivist in many respects. Does my hon. Friend agree that Opposition Members who represent east London welcome jobs, but would like to think that many of those jobs will go to the people who live in the east end who presently suffer unemployment? Will he comment on the scandalous situation in which a Secretary of State can give planning permission for monumental developments without any reference whatsoever to the needs and wishes of the people in the east end of London, as expressed by their democratically elected councillors?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be persuaded to go too far down that line. We are getting a long way away from the Beckton railway.

Mr. Spearing

With due respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that is not so. The railway goes right through those developments and would not be funded if it were not for them. I understand your reminder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and will not pursue too far what my hon. Friend has said. However, that is so. It illustrates the points that I made earlier. If people from Newham took those jobs, they would not need to travel on the DLR. They would walk or take the bus, and that would probably be better for everybody. It is true that an industrial zone is being retained, but we would like jobs for local people, and we wonder how many there will be.

The railway is at the centre of the debate. The planners and the LDDC have told us that in spite of the railway they expect 60 per cent. of those moving in and out of the enormous development to travel by road. That is an important estimate. I do not know whether it is true, but at least there is that assumption. We have to do some sums to see how many are expected to travel on the railway. In other words, we need to do some mathematics on what is technically called the modal split.

I do not know what the demand for the railway will be. I should have thought that it would be better to have an even higher proportion than 60 per cent. travelling by public transport because a great deal of money has been provided for the roads. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) mentioned a figure of £300 million for the east London highway, which is in Tower Hamlets and goes under Limehouse basin. That is an enormous cost. The roads in Newham will cost between £140 million and £200 million, about the same as the cost of the railway. However, the roads will be provided by the Department of Transport.

Mr. Leighton

By the taxpayer.

Mr. Spearing

Yes, by the taxpayer. Those roads will benefit people who will perhaps not be using public transport so much. However, the railway will be funded by the developers. That is an anomaly and shows the way in which the Government's introduction of urban development corporations has upset the apple cart in all sorts of ways. I have to ask whether the railway will be able to cope with all those enormous developments.

Mr. Leighton

It will not.

Mr. Spearing

I do not think that we can argue that tonight. That is a matter for the Committee and that is why I tabled the instruction. I am grateful to the Minister and the promoters for accepting it. These matters should be debated and looked at closely in Committee.

I tabled the instruction before I received in the post a very helpful document — I want to pay tribute to the promoters for producing it—which tells us a little more about the proposed characteristics of the railway. It shows that the capacity of the railway is perhaps not as great as we might have thought. In a table in the document we are told that in 1991 which is when the service to Beckton will be introduced, it will have a capacity of about 3,900 passengers per hour. That is based on the present one-unit train operating now. The ultimate capacity will be 11,700 passengers per hour. That is with an interval of only four minutes between trains.

Perhaps those figures can be modified. We know that the railway is suffering from some electronic bugs and it may not be able to run at less than four-minute intervals. Although a capacity of 11,700 passengers per hour may sound a lot, it is not when there are 23,000 seats around the London dome and all the housing that I have listed. I am beginning to wonder whether the Dockland Joint Committee—a much maligned body—was right and that perhaps a rather more substantial railway would have been wiser, particularly as there is a demand for extensions to Thamesmead and there may be demands for other extensions. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) is present, and there is a logical extension to Barking.

I suggested that two or tree years ago, but the Department of Transport pooh-poohed it and threw the suggestion out of the window when I asked for the roadworks to be modified on the road to Barking —which will be opened shortly — which would have allowed a good route for the railway.

In short, people in the area like the principle of the railway. It will be advantageous to people living in Newham. It will enable them to travel to central London and to move around in Newham, which is a good thing. However, we think that the railway is rather cheap and that it could have been more substantial. We would like to see some of the electronic bugs ironed out. Above all, we regret that the railway, through financing and through its engineering, is not part of the coherent pattern of transport that we would like. Nevertheless, we do not oppose the Bill, for the reasons I have outlined.

7.46 pm
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) who presented the Bill will certainly have eased its Second Reading by the competent manner in which he has described the contents and purport of the Bill and, most notably, by his wise acceptance of the petition in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).

It is minimal common sense that there should be a study to see whether the new proposed Beckton extension is adequate to meet the scale of use that can be expected, taking account of the major planning developments listed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South.

I feel that the fact that we have not had a comprehensive study of rail and road transport needs in the entire docklands area is a serious omission. I fully understand the difficulties of planning too far in advance, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South reminded the House, a considerable exercise in forward planning was done 10 years ago by the docklands joint committee when it published the docklands strategy. I am glad to say that, as Secretary of State for the Environment at that time, I was broadly able to accept it when it was published in 1976. In that document the committee was able to make reasonable forecasts about the scale of transport needs and to present a strategy to that effect. We are certainly suffering from the loss of such a strategy for road and rail transport now.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South mentioned the fact that this is the fourth Bill on the docklands light railway that we have had in the past few years. The first two authorised the construction of the DLR from Tower Gateway — the station in the Minories in my constituency—to the Isle of Dogs and Stratford. That large stretch of the DLR has now been completed and it has been operational since the autumn. The third Bill, which was before us last year, will take the DLR from Tower Gateway to the Bank. The main purpose is to link the City to the vast Canary Wharf development on the Isle of Dogs.

Although improved communications in the docklands are welcome, problems have arisen. Those problems should be discussed and faced now. My colleague and parliamentary neighbour, the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon), who is indisposed tonight, would have wanted to raise two broad points about the Bill which directly affect her constituents. First, at Poplar the Bill allows for a flyover to be built to take the track for the Beckton extension. I am assured that that takes the track very close to residential areas.

The second point relates to Blackwall station, which is located on a flyover across a six-exit roundabout. That is a serious point. Unless something is done, pedestrian access is bound to be unsafe and inadequate. I hope that London Regional Transport will do its utmost to overcome or minimise such problems. I hope that that matter will be thoroughly discussed in Committee.

Unlike its predecessors, the Bill does not directly affect my constituents in Stepney and Bethnal Green, but some important lessons are to be drawn from our experience with the DLR so far, which I hope will be applied to the proposed extension of the railway to Beckton.

First, there is the problem of excessive noise. The DLR has not proved to be a quiet railway. In particular, I refer to that stretch of the DLR which runs along Cable street, Stepney, which is in my constituency. Noise limits were specified at the time of the construction of the railway. I regret to say that they have been exceeded at many locations, as independent noise reports, carried out by the South Bank polytechnic, have confirmed. It did a most important study that showed that actual noise levels are above the specified noise levels at only one location during the day. That is not too bad. However, in the evening and at night, recorded noise levels are under specified noise levels at only one point. That is a serious criticism. The reason for high noise levels is the poor noise insulation quality of the concrete and steel elevated structures. Noise is echoed by the steel structures. That demonstrates poor design work and the results of cost cutting.

Further, it is our belief that existing noise specifications should be reduced because the noise of the DLR is characterised by a low rumble, which is not included in conventional noise measurements. My council, the London borough of Tower Hamlets, is now calling for a level of 35 dB(A) to be specified. The noise problem will be enormously enlarged when the City extension line is completed because the number of passengers and coaches will be at least quadrupled.

The second point, of which we already have experience, is the loss of privacy. That flows from the elevated nature of the railway in most parts of my constituency through which it runs. Residents' homes are overlooked. Station design should include visual as well as noise screens. Lights should be shaded so that they do not shine into people's homes.

The third point relates to safety in the broadest sense. The stations that have been built so far are unmanned and open all night. It is extraordinary that the docklands light railway system is guarded only by a partial video screening that is taken from a central point. We in the east end of London are terribly well-behaved, but stations that are unmanned and only lightly and indirectly supervised by video cameras may give rise to serious vandalism problems — and, indeed, even worse problems. I am being extremely British and understating the problem. However, it is serious. Although the line has only recently been completed—it is almost a brand-new line—I have the greatest anxieties and worries about what may happen in future. The defects should be not only avoided in the new Beckton extension but remedied throughout the existing DLR route.

Many problems are due to the inadequate funding of the DLR. The different financial packages for the line have been put together in an extraordinary way. One package relies upon Government finance. A second package — the extension of the DLR to Bank station in the City—is a mixture of private money and public investment. Apparently the latest package — the extension to Beckton—is to be funded by wholly private sources. We wait with interest to hear what the Minister has to say about that. The system is not fully and adequately financed.

The Government and London Regional Transport have a real responsibility to ensure that the system works in accordance with the full standards of safety and amenity that the public expect. If a further Government input into the docklands light railway is required to overcome the problems that I have described in relation not only to the extension to Beckton but throughout the existing system, then so be it. We should expect the Government to make that financial contribution.

Mr. Tony Banks

I emphasise what my right hon. Friend said in the context of other London Regional Transport developments. Quite recently we saw that the effect of underfunding provided by the Government for London Regional Transport and its own cost-cutting exercises was to reduce the margin of safety on the Underground and bus systems. We do not want to prejudice the outcome of the inquiry into the King's Cross fire, but clearly there seems to be a link between cost-cutting exercises and the margin of safety. My right hon. Friend attended the meeting between London Labour Members and Dr. Bright, the chairman of London Regional Transport. Would my right hon. Friend care to say more about the safety aspects of the DLR?

Mr. Shore

My hon. Friend's point was at the back of my mind. It is at the back of all our minds when we discuss rail transport in London and the appalling disaster at King's Cross station. Special dangers are associated with underground systems as opposed to overground systems, but safety problems must be at the absolute forefront of all our minds.

I merely repeat that the safety of passengers must be considered. They often go to dark stations late at night. Such stations may be peopled by only a handful of passengers, and, as we know, totally unmanned by railway staff.

7.58 pm
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking)

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has already said, Opposition Members will not oppose the Bill. Much of it will be considered in more detail in Committee. Obviously, I am not opposed to the basic principle of extending a railway to give better facilities to people who live beyond the points to which it extends at present. Beckton is not in my constituency, but it is next door. Many of my constituents shop in Beckton. They know its name almost as well as they know the name of their own constituency. What happens in east London generally greatly affects the people of Barking. As the entire development of London docklands is creeping towards us, such things impinge on the lives of my constituents.

Although we do not oppose the basic principle of improving transport facilities in this part of London, I wonder whether this is not another lost opportunity. If London Regional Transport and the Government had properly thought out extending the transport facilities to and beyond east London, we should have had a better proposition, about which we might not have had so many queries. We frequently have lost opportunities in this House. They have occurred in, for example, the Education Reform Bill and the Housing Bill, and doubtless we shall find the same with the poll tax Bill. However, this seems a classic case of a lost opportunity.

In an intervention a few moments ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) said — I am paraphrasing — that he could foresee the possibility that a little later on, the docklands light railway might go in another direction, or a little further. Why not think out the whole thing to start with, so that at least everybody knows where they are?

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend asked why this issue could not have been thought out. As a former member of the Greater London council transport and planning committee, I can answer that the trouble is that there is no longer a strategic planning authority for London. Therefore, public money or, come to that, private money cannot be deployed in the most effective or best way for the people of London, whatever income they have or whatever job they do.

Ms. Richardson

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I had intended to make a point about the GLC later, but my hon. Friend has made it for me.

All the thinking behind the Bill has been derived: it has not resulted from genuine planning. I hope that my hon. Friend, who has a much greater knowledge of this part of London than I have—although I regularly travel up and down the highway, bumping down that inadequate road —agrees that this should be an opportunity for people in the area to have an input into the type of transport system that they want. When the GLC existed, the people who lived in houses and flats in the area — not necessarily commuters—could go along to the GLC to make their views heard through that council. They no longer have that, and it is a significant lack.

Although the Bill is, as it were, privately promoted by London Regional Transport, I detect the Government's hand hovering over it. Obviously, the aim of the Bill is to open up docklands in line with the Government's thinking on docklands. The sponsors have failed to listen to the very people who would be likely to use—or would like to use—the facility of the railway. I believe that I am right in saying that one could call it a commuters' railway rather than a residents' railway.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and because she has put her finger precisely on the point—that the primary purpose of the railway is not to serve the people of the east end, any more than is the opening up of docklands. That is why there is so much objection from the communities in the east end to the developments in docklands and to the railway. My hon. Friend was absolutely right to point out the difference between now, when there is no public accountability in community terms, and the time when the Greater London council was responsible for the strategic planning of London and was the transport authority as well.

Ms. Richardson

My hon. Friend is quite right. One can envisage situations in which a railway might have been planned, as might have happened under the GLC had we still had that authority—with the people of, in this case, Newham and Barking in mind. Although I am glad that in Barking we do not have such high unemployment as Newham where, I believe, it is 20 per cent; nevertheless it is a depressing and problematic issue. When one plans a railway, one should think also about ways of bringing industry and people together. One should not think only about providing a railway to take people out of the area and into the City of London to earn vast amounts of money, who then return to their £500,000 houses—

Mr. Tony Banks

And drink champagne.

Ms. Richardson

I doubt whether they do that, but it is not a matter for me.

The London Docklands Railway (Beckton) Bill will provide an eastern extension, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South has said, from Poplar through the areas of Leamouth, the royal docks and Cyprus. I must confess that I should visit Cyprus because I have not seen it and think of the other Cyprus every time that I read about it. It will be interesting to know about it, but my hon. Friends should not tell me now.

Mr. Banks

I must advise my hon. Friend that the weather is not so nice.

Ms. Richardson

Indeed, but I should like to know the origins of the word and whether it has any connections with the country of that name.

Of course we applaud the principle of extending public transport. Opposition Members have a good record of opposing restrictions on transport throughout the whole period since the war. We have fought the closure of railways and stations and have tried to argue that people need transport, whether by rail, underground or bus, not only in London but throughout the country. However, we must consider closely piecemeal suggestions such as those before us.

I am sorry to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South so often, but I am glad that he made such great play in an important part of his speech of the looping through Canning Town, because that is a crucial part that has been missed out. As I understand it, LRT objected to that on the grounds that the cost would be prohibitive. However, one must consider cost and costs. The people of Canning Town will lose out because of the loop. I believe that it is perfectly possible that in the future LRT will have a loop through Canning Town. It would have been much better if it had done so now, so serving far more people and enhancing the transport provision to the City of London and the Isle of Dogs.

Mr. Spearing

An important point about Parliament is involved. Even if the Government deny public inquiries into such matters, is my hon. Friend aware that the private Bill procedure in Committee makes it possible—I am not saying that I believe that this should happen—that if the Committee were so persuaded by my constituents and the petitions presented that the railway should only be built provided that it goes by Canning Town, under the customary procedures that would probably persuade the House that that should be so. Therefore, all is not yet lost.

Ms. Richardson

I am not suggesting it is, or, at least I hope I am not. However, one does have doubts, because LRT has been antagonistic to the Canning Town loop and has been willing to ignore all the pressures put on it and one wonders whether, in spite of all the petitioning, LRT will listen. I think that if we had still had the GLC, it would have listened, if it had been so stupid as to make the mistakes in the first place.

We must not forget the people on the Isle of Dogs who may well not have the transport provision to which they are entitled because it has not been properly thought out. Whenever I sit down at home to watch "EastEnders"—it is not often, but otherwise I video it—at 2 o'clock on Sundays when the omnibus edition is shown, I think of the docklands light railway and wish that it would run there and bring more transport to the area.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Is she aware that Albert square, on which "EastEnders" is based, is located in my constituency of Newham, North-West? I hope that when my hon. Friend watches that programme she thinks fondly not only of Newham, North-West, but of the hon. Member who has the job of representing that constituency in this House.

Ms. Richardson

I thought that it was based on Albert square —it is a natural thing for anyone to think. When the picture comes up of the Isle of Dogs at 2 o'clock on a Sunday, I shall remember what my hon. Friend has said. Indeed, in future I shall remember my hon. Friend as the hon. Member for Walford.

The Bill seeks only to help better-off people moving into the development area rather than existing residents — many of whom are very poor. The Bill will do nothing to enhance their prospects. I have severe apprehensions and reservations about how the Bill will help the borough of Newham and the future safety, happiness and welfare of the residents.

I should like to spend some time underlining what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said about safety. I am extremely concerned for everyone who travels on the docklands light railway and I am especially concerned for the safety of women travellers. I have not used the railway myself. I will try it although I am rather apprehensive after what I have heard. Many women have come to me to say how apprehensive they feel going into a totally uncrewed station, how lonely and frightened they feel, despite the fact that some of them are tough characters and able to look after themselves. When I am driving to Barking, I pass Tower Hill station as I drive on to the highway. That station has an escalator that always reminds me of some kind of futuristic Hyatt hotel, such as the one in San Francisco.

Mr. Leighton

It is the only escalator on the docklands light railway.

Ms. Richardson

That is true, and one wonders what will happen if disabled people wish to use the docklands light railway.

As stations become vandalised and alarm buttons are destroyed—that happens, like it or not—I am extremely worried that problems will arise for women, men and elderly people. My right hon. Friend referred to the fact that there is only one video screen and that it is operated on a cyclical basis to cover all the stations. The station person must oversee the workings of all the other stations and the trains, and also look after the safety of the passengers.

Let us suppose that that person has eyes in the back of his or her head: what happens if he or she sees somebody being attacked? We do not know what the provision is for calling the police. Are there railway police? I hope that my neighbour, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) can tell me that the railway police will be quickly on the scene if they are called.

One cannot describe the docklands light railway as a "one-person train"; it is a "no-person train". It is amazing that we have reached the point when we are willing to dispense with people who are willing to look after other people.

Mr. Tony Banks

If the train is operated by no one, the logical conclusion is that it should have no one on it. That would answer my hon. Friend's concern about the safety factor. Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that, because of the pressures of costs, it is the safety margin that is always cut? Despite what the Minister says from time to time, the travelling public do not like one-man-operated buses. They certainly do not like the idea of having no one crewing a train.

When the docklands light railway was opened, there were many difficulties. Indeed, the official opening had to be delayed because of safety problems. I would like my hon. Friend to dwell a little longer on the peculiar problems faced by women travelling at night on public transport in London when there is an insufficient number of people to guarantee their safety.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member may comment on the Beckton light railway, but not on the general conditions in London.

Ms. Richardson

The docklands light railway is the worst example in London—and the rest are pretty poor —in terms of safety and having staff around. If you will allow me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should just like to recall one occasion when I happened to be at the station at Birmingham international airport to catch a train that was leaving at 12.30 am. I got on to that station and could not believe that I could not find a single person. There were three or four platforms and no trains, although a train was due to arrive. There was no one about. I stood there for 25 minutes and I was terrified. I do not know what I would have done if anyone had come up, but to stand in that ghostly atmosphere was horrible. It must be equally horrible on the docklands light railway.

Women face safety problems because they must travel to and from work. Since the Government deregulated women's working hours, they are subject to the whim of their employees. Now many more women must take buses or trains late at night. Those women who travel on the docklands light railway may be forced to travel at such hours.

Another safety factor about which we should be worried is the fact that the railway is open all night. Goodness only knows what could happen if someone was dragged in or left at one of those stations. I hope that, when the time comes, the hon. Member for Ilford, South will discuss the policing of that railway.

Mr. Spearing

Is my hon. Friend aware that, before the docklands light railway officially opened, my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) and I were invited to ride on it? Unfortunately, the design of the doors is such that my hon. Friend was assaulted by them. Those doors swing inwards and that causes some difficulty. On the Underground, the doors slide open horizentally. Even if improved stock is delivered for the Beckton extension, that will cause some difficulty because, unless the whole system works in one way, people travelling in the older type of car—where the doors swing across and can hit someone—may not be aware of the problem and may be hurt. The improved stock might only be used on some parts of the railway. It appears that, because of too little finance, we are now left with that hazard.

Ms. Richardson

When corners are cut, safety is always the first thing to go. When corners are cut in the name, not of cost-cutting, but of an improved railway, the only thing one gets is a feeling that people will not be safe.

A year or so ago, I was invited to look around Mansion House station and consider safety conditions there. I commented on the lack of alarm buttons in that station. I was shown the videos in a control room. There were four of them and one man was supposed to look at them all the time. I do not know how—he did not have four eyes. The videos showed different parts of the station. We must seriously consider whether it is right to replace people by videos and television screens. It is much easier for people to complain to, scream to or be seen by someone standing on the station than it is to wonder, while being attacked, whether the television screen is picking up the incident. Probably it is not.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney also mentioned the people who live in the vicinity. In the places in which the light railway is elevated, people in the trains and stations can look down on people's houses, which is amazing. When I go across the M40 at Hammersmith on the elevated section I can almost see into people's flats, because the road is so high. I always think that that is an intrusion into people's lives, even when the flats and houses are some distance away. In the case of the railway, I understand that children have already thrown down things that have hit windows in neighbouring flats and houses. That is an unwarranted intrusion. The promoter of the Bill — London Regional Transport —should examine more carefully the problem of the privacy of people who have nothing to do with the railway but happen to live by the station.

In addition to LRT's responsibility for station safety, we are also thinking about the responsibility of the borough of Newham for the surrounding approach areas to the station. The roads outside, the corners and the approachways will not be the responsibility of the railway. I assume they will be the responsibility of the borough of Newham. When building a new station, one must consider how best to design and landscape it. Its approaches must be safe, and there should not be nasty corners when one leaves or approaches the station in which someone could be attacked. Why should Newham have to pick up the tab? It is already hard pressed and should not have to pick up the tab for what should not be its financial responsibility. The whole matter has been badly thought out, and I echo what has been said about the demise of the GLC and of a London strategic authority that would have been able to take into account all these wider implications, instead of doing the whole thing in a piecemeal fashion.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend has put her finger on an important point. Although I believe the London borough of Newham is well represented in the House by its Members of Parliament, all three of us would agree that it is not the most beautiful spot on earth. One reason for that is that it is a way through for large numbers of commuters. The A13, running right through the borough, brings many problems to the people and council of Newham, who have to try to keep the place tidy and presentable. The docklands light railway, as my hon. Friend rightly said, will bring similar problems. Does she not feel that more consideration should be given to the sort of problems that boroughs such as Newham and Barking experience because they straddle major routes into and out of London?

Ms. Richardson

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West will agree that, in the past year, the A 13 has been a pain—

Mr. Banks

Because of the work being done on it?

Ms. Richardson

I am sure the improvements to the road will be welcome when they are finished, but a journey from Westminster to Barking, which used to take half an hour, now takes an hour. The delays on the A13 are unprecedented. I cannot prophesy that all these problems would be cured, but they would be improved if they were thought out by a strategic authority in cooperation with London Regional Transport.

Mr. Banks

My hon. Friend makes the point. The great traffic problems around Bow church have been caused by the need to strengthen the road and bridge over the railway. Unless we show ourselves capable of integrating the necessary planning into our transport system, what is seen as an improvement in one mode of transport only leads to a great deterioration in another. That is a crazy way of running a transport system.

Ms. Richardson

My hon. Friend has wound up my speech for me very well by pointing that out.

As I have said before endlessly, the whole way in which these proposals and the extensions to them started —including the done that we are debating tonight, has been piecemeal — hopping from stage to stage. How much better it would have been if a bit of forward planning had been done, taking into account the problems and benefits that might come to various members of the communities that will use the railway, both passing through and inside the constituency through which it runs. I hope these points will be closely explored in Committee and that, when the Bill emerges from Committee, it will be a fitter one than it is now.

8.26 pm
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

In some sense I feel a little out of place in the debate, being the only northerner to be invited to it. However, I was drawn to it by the news that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is the Member of Parliament for "EastEnders". I feel disappointed about that, because every Sunday I have been in the habit of sitting my children in front of "EastEnders" to make sure that they learn about life as it would be lived by a typical Cabinet Minister or Minister of State and so that they can experience what the south of England is all about. I have a little more familiarity with the docklands railway, because ever since I came down south to the Houses of Parliament it has been only with the greatest difficulty that I have been able to persuade anyone from the south of England that I am not the hon. Member for Stratford. To that extent, I feel I am well into the system.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) on introducing the Bill, and I join my hon. Friends in thanking him for accepting their amendment. That will greatly ease the passage of the Bill, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will recognise the benefits of that judicious move.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) who, as active and assiduous constituency Members, have given up their evening to be here to put forward their case and, in the process, to educate those of us who do not have their detailed local knowledge.

As the official Opposition, we welcome light rapid transport—light rail—systems in all our urban areas. As a general principle, we think that the more of them there are, the better, especially in London. In so far as the light rail system takes people off the roads and eases the transport problems of the conurbations, it is welcome and will receive the approbation of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

It is necessary to be critical, or at least less than complimentary, about the way in which this proposal and proposals for the whole network have been carried out. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) has already drawn to the attention of the House the lack of an adequate strategic planning function for transport and for other services in Greater London since the demise of the Greater London council. That means that in docklands and the adjacent areas there is no proper mechanism for resolving the relationship between the road and rail systems. That is a curious matter, and it has been touched on by other hon. Members.

The Government are not prepared adequately to fund the public transport system for the ordinary people of Docklands and slightly beyond, but they are prepared to fund the road system so that private motorists and transport systems can operate with funds provided by the Exchequer and ultimately by the taxpayer. That is a matter for regret, and it is not just due to some basic ideological divide, but has consequences for the type of service that is provided by light rapid transit systems. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and my hon. Friend the Member for Barking have spoken about some of the consequences that will begin to show after a time.

I draw to the attention of the House the matter of unstaffed stations which is not dissimilar to the situation on the Metro system in Newcastle. One of the problems is that some stations are not staffed, except by somebody at the other end of a video link. In the event of an energency or, even more trivially, vandalism, there cannot be a quick response. The system is suffering to the tune of about £1 million a year in trying to overcome the results of vandalism. That is a high cost to have to pay for lack of staff.

The King's Cross disaster shows the potential dangers of such a system. When the Minister is winding up, he should comment on that because he has a responsibility for the safety of the travelling public and for seeing whether the system is as safe as it should be.

If we fund the system on the cheap, if we do not put in the required level of investment, and if we do not design first-class public transport, we will face the consequences that have been seen in other areas. I understand that at a triangle junction the train has to slow down to about five miles per hour in order to get round an over-tight curve. That is rather curious in the light of the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South who talked about the extension at Canning Town and whether the Canning Town link should come in. The promoters of the Bill said that it could not be justified because of the loss of time and speed on the system. It is ironic to use that as an argument when parts of the system have been designed in that way because sufficient investment was not put in. A great deal of time is lost on those parts of the system where there are already over-tight curves.

Mr. Spearing

Those curves could literally be looked at during the examination of the Bill to see what constraints they impose on the frequency of service. I expressed surprise that there was not a forecast of less than four-minute intervals on the stretch that we are talking about. It is envisaged that there will be three units in a train, whereas at the moment there is one. The restriction on that curve and on the various junctions may well make it impossible to run more frequently. I do not know whether that is the case. My hon. Friend has pinpointed one of the "money-saving" areas that may put a restriction on the service on the route that we are talking about.

Mr. Lloyd

I am sure that the important point raised by my hon. Friend will be addressed in Committee. It also raises an important point about the way in which the transport system throughout London will be run if the LRT system is to be a model for docklands and for its extension to the immediate areas.

I was intrigued by the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney about the problem of noise. That seems to be a consequence of the system and the way in which it has been designed. It raises the very real question whether such a system would have been acceptable if a different mechanism from the development corporation had been involved in its design. One wonders how things would have turned out if local authorities had been involved in consultation and negotiation. I do not know about the negotiations between the London Docklands development corporation and the local authorities, whether potential noise pollution was one of the issues raised, or whether attempts were made to resolve that problem.

Mr. Tony Banks

It appears that the then deputy chairman of the London Docklands development corporation said that an extension would be built without steel structures. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) could comment on that. Obviously one would want to rely on the word of the then deputy chairman of the LDDC, but, of course, one realises that not all that glistens is necessarily gold.

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend invites the hon. Member for Ilford, South to comment on that. Perhaps it is better for me to throw that ball into his court than to engage in what is clearly a London debate in which my intervention would not be totally welcome.

Mr. Spearing

One matter that is germane to the light railway and also of national importance is that my hon. Friend says that this might be a precedent for the future. Does he realise that if we wish to extend across the river to Thamesmead or Greenwich, or even perhaps to Lewisham, from the Isle of Dogs, as some people advocate, the method of financing that is being made available for this line might not be possible for those extensions? Perhaps the Minister will address that point in his winding-up speech.

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend raises a point of fundamental importance and it is one on which I was about to speak. His intervention serves as a suitable introduction. The manner in which this system is financed is of interest not only to London, but to the whole of the country. In connection with my own city of Manchester, a light rail Bill is to come before the House in this Session. Similar Bills for the west midlands and west Yorkshire are also to be considered. One is to be considered for Bristol, although in that case it will be a privately funded system.

The means of funding and the way in which die Department of Transport intends to treat the relationship between the public and private sectors are matters of considerable importance. What happens in this scheme may well set a precedent for all schemes. The proposals for Greater Manchester are relevant to the Bill, because there is considerable concern about the consequences of the Department of Transport's position. The Department seems to be insisting on the introduction of large amounts of private capital for the Greater Manchester scheme. I do not ask the Minister to go down the Greater Manchester track, but I ask him to tell us about the ground rules for this development. What are the funding consequences for this development? Will this scheme establish some kind of precedent for LRT systems within London and, more generally, for systems throughout the rest of the country? The Minister owes the House a clear explanation about departmental policy on that issue.

Opposition Members believe that adequate funding of the public transport system serves the public interest, not only on safety but as to a consideration of the type of transport system needed and who will benefit from it. A public transport system should serve the needs of those who live in a constituency such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South, rather than to get people in and out of Newham and to wherever else they want to go for the rest of the journey. We want transport systems designed not only for yuppies and those outside the area, but to provide genuine access for people in the community.

The debate on the difference between the public and private sectors is of fundamental importance. On the Canning Town loop, where there was a cost incentive not to put the loop in, the private sector solution was not to put in the loop, but the public sector considered that the people of the community would be better served by having that loop.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend is right to point out the need for transport systems that serve people in the east end, in particular, Newham, rather than the yuppies, for whom we know the whole system is designed. Is my hon. Friend aware that painted on a bridge over the Burdett road is a slogan that says "Toffs out", which aptly sums up the attitude of the people in the east end to the characters who are moving into the area?

Mr. Lloyd

The developers of the rail system and docklands ought to consider seriously the disenchantment among ordinary people in the community. If they believe that the systems are designed not for them but for outsiders, it will make for the worst possible future for social development and fundamentally undermine all the Government's promises about the benefits of the development for London.

Mr. Spearing

Does my hon. Friend realise that the behaviour of the promoters and possibly of the Government—they may take a different view from the promoters; the Minister may say that he is neutral on the Canning Town loop—is highly symbolic? Not only did they cut out Canning Town, which is the hub of east London, but they did it on the basis of figures which may turn out to be specious. It is not just a question of not wanting to serve the people. When we want to serve them, the Government produce figures which may not stand up. We shall see what happens in Committee.

Mr. Lloyd

If the figures do not stand up, the position will be totally different, and I hope that the promoters will reconsider it. I hope that the Minister will tell the House that he is not neutral on the Canning Town loop and that he believes that public transport should serve the needs of the community.

Mr. Tony Banks

Do not hold your breath.

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend injects a note of scepticism into the debate. Having listened to the Minister on many occasions, I believe that on the law of averages he will come down in the interests of the travelling public rather than commercial exploitation. Perhaps tonight will be the lucky night.

Mr. Banks

I bet my hon. Friend believes in Santa Claus, too.

Mr. Lloyd

I look forward to a visit from Santa Claus, were he to bring an adequate transport system to Greater Manchester. Fortunately, Santa Claus can rely on his own transport system. He does not have to rely on a road transport system that has suffered from under-investment.

Mr. Banks

He comes but once a year, rather like the No. 25 bus.

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend tempts me too far into Christmas analogies. Those issues, which bring to the fore the choice between an adequate publicly funded transport system and a private transport system, are central to the success of the Bill and of the light rail system in docklands. I hope that the Minister will give us full details of what the Government and the Department propose to do. I hope he will say that funding will come from the public sector and that, when the choice is made between public and private funding, the private sector will have to meet the most stringent conditions to ensure not only the safety of the travelling public but that the resources are adequate for the transport system and the public do not have to wait some miles away from the line wondering why they have been cut off. The Minister has a responsibility to give an answer to the important issues rightly raised by my hon. Friends.

8.45 pm
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. David Mitchell)

I am pleased tonight to be able to speak on behalf of the Government in support of the Bill to allow the construction of an eastern extension to the docklands light railway. The Second Reading was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), for which I am sure the House is grateful.

The docklands light railway is a bold and imaginative project, as has been said in the debate. It makes use of both new technology and new operating attitudes. It not only provides a new link to areas which have been poorly served by the existing public transport network in the past, but must also be seen as a crucial factor in the regeneration of the docklands.

The initial railway opened to the public at the end of August and, despite some technical problems, it is rapidly becoming an important and accepted part of the London transport scene. The Government's commitment to the initial railway was the catalyst for an upsurge in business confidence in the area, bringing major new development to the Isle of Dogs. We now have development on an unprecedented scale taking place at Canary Wharf and the developers have agreed to contribute £68 million of the £150 million costs of upgrading the initial railway and extending it to Bank in the heart of the City. Work is well in hand on this project which will link the DLR into the existing Underground network and offer a much improved service to passengers.

The links provided by the initial railway and the City extension between Bank, Tower Hill, Stratford and the Isle of Dogs means that the one remaining area suitable for major development in the docklands, the royal docks, lies beyond the present reach of the railway. The royal docks, as the House knows, is an area equivalent in size to the west end and the City of London, and has tremendous development potential. It represents the largest single area of docklands in line for regeneration under the LDDC's programme. The Government have given their approval to the future strategy for the royal docks proposed by the LDDC, which will turn nearly 700 acres of derelict land into a new employment, retailing, leisure and residential centre for London.

An extension of the docklands light railway from Poplar to Beckton is seen as crucial to the success of this exciting development by providing a fast and frequent link to the rest of London. Just as the initial railway has sparked development in the Isle of Dogs, so the eastern extension will help to revitalise the royal docks area. It is, moreover, not only business which will benefit from such an extension. The development in the royal docks will provide 7,000 new homes and some 48,000 jobs, and the railway will also serve the developing communities in the Beckton area.

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mitchell

I was about to refer to the points made by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), so perhaps he will allow me to make that reference. I was surprised that the hon. Gentleman attacked the way in which the LDDC is handling the planning and development. The Government's decision to establish the LDDC has led to a rapid transformation in the docklands. The success speaks for itself. As the pace of the regeneration increases, it will provide enormous benefits for existing residents, as well as others.

The scale of present and projected achievements would have been unimaginable without the LDDC. I recall very well visits that I have made to that area in the past, where it was assumed that dereliction was inevitable and would continue in the future. We now see a massive revival brought about as a result of the Government's initiative in that area.

Mr. Spearing

I am sorry that the Minister has not realised the case that Opposition Members have against the LDDC, if not against the Bill. He has shown that by his reference to "regeneration". Of course there is regeneration of the area, but not of the communities. Otherwise, the 48,000 jobs would be designed for east London as it is and not, as Canary wharf might be, the beginning of the end of the east London community. Apparently the Minister does not understand that.

How can people believe the development is for them when an elementary point like the Canning Town loop —which is for them—is denied by the LDDC and the promoters of the Bill? That is the proof of the pudding. It appears that that would not be more expensive and would not add more than a minute and a half to travelling time.

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman referred to the need for 48,000 jobs designed for east London "as it is". As so often, the hon. Gentleman is looking backwards rather than forwards to the opportunities. The reality is that growth of employment is a fragile plant. It is difficult to plant and it is difficult to make it grow and succeed. It has not been successful in many parts of this country and elsewhere in the world even though immense resources have been poured in. In this case, very substantial progress is being made. In many cases, it is not a matter of jobs designed for the skills of yesterday. It is not a matter of the regeneration of dock work in the area or the regeneration of other established skills. However, jobs can be and will be created and they will have a tremendous effect on the prosperity of the whole area and not just benefit those who take the new jobs and are new residents.

Mr. Tony Banks

I do not know whether the growth of employment is "a fragile plant". I think it is rather like a triffid. It is a non-existent plant in this country despite all the cosmetic working of the unemployment statistics. The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has made is that we are not trying to look back. Many of the people in the east end, living in what my hon. Friend described as the derelict docks area, are unskilled or semi-skilled. The new jobs coming to the area do not match those skills or lack of skills. Is the Minister prepared to say that there will be massive retraining for the people of Newham so that they can take advantage of the so-called 48,000 jobs—which we will believe when we see?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We had better stick to the railway.

Mr. Mitchell

I will resist the temptation to spell out all the schemes that the Manpower Services Commission and the Department of Employment will deploy for the purposes referred to by the hon. Member.

The Government set several conditions last year when we gave approval to London Regional Transport to lay the Bill before Parliament. We said that we would support the Bill on Second Reading only if we were satisfied that the cost of construction could be met without any additional public expenditure in any year and that there would be no significant risk that any of the costs would fall as a burden on LRT.

We are now supporting the Bill on the basis that the railway will be paid for from the higher land values accruing to the LDDC which the provision of the railway will generate. The LDDC's evaluation of that method of financing shows that the money raised in that way should comfortably cover the costs of constructing the railway.

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) raised a wider issue. I concur with his view about the potential of light rail. The docklands light railway will lead a considerable field. As the hon. Gentleman said, there are already plans afoot in Greater Manchester for a similar development. He trespassed gently, and tiptoed on the edge of being out of order—I am sure that you would not have allowed him to cross that line, Mr. Deputy Speaker—when he asked about private investment in the Greater Manchester area.

We do not believe that it is right to call on taxpayers and ratepayers to pay the full cost when private investment may be available to avoid the unnecessary expenditure of a large amount of public money. My philosophical difference with the hon. Member for Stretford is that, for some reason that I have not yet been able to comprehend, he regards spending public money as a virility symbol. I do not. I seek to protect the public purse—the taxpayer and ratepayer—wherever possible if I can get that money and the necessary resources from the private sector. We have achieved that with the docklands light railway. Massive increases in land values will enable the cost of the docklands light railway to be met without a call on taxpayers or ratepayers.

The hon. Member for Stretford also raised—

Mr. Spearing

In a calmer atmosphere, will the Minister tell us how that will be achieved? I referred to it earlier, in case he has forgotten. I hope that he will tell us now—or guarantee to tell us later—how that mechanism will work. That could be very important for local conditions.

Mr. Mitchell

I think that I would rather not seek to spell out the detail tonight.

Mr. Spearing

Why not?

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman suggested that I might give him fuller information at a later stage. I would like to do it that way, because I can then be sure of being accurate in describing the details of what is happening. It is sufficient to say that the provision of the docklands light railway is enhancing land values. That will enable the LDDC to sell land at a highly enhanced value and that enhancement will be the basis on which the project can be funded. I will spell out the process in detail later with refinements that I would not be competent to describe to the hon. Gentleman's satisfaction tonight. I do not want to mislead the hon. Gentleman by guessing at the detail. However, the broad principle is as I have described. The enhancement of land values will enable the railway to be paid for without a call on public funds.

Mr. Spearing

I want to state that this is bang in order. I want to refer to the precedent of the funding of the railway and this is the right use of the Second Reading in a kind of semi-Committee stage of the procedure. I thank the Minister for his courtesy and await the details with interest.

I infer from what the hon. Gentleman says—I do not want him to answer the question, because I understand his position—that it would be possible for the funding of the railway now to be made not directly from the developers who may be given planning permission for various projects, but from the resources of the LDDC which may accrue from the increased land values. I see that the Minister is nodding. I am grateful to him for using the words that he has used, because I feel that the matter is of some significance, with implications not only for the docklands light railway but for a national funding of transport of the type that the Government may have in mind for other parts of London and elsewhere.

Mr. Mitchell

I was about to say something about that. I have already referred to the reference by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) to Greater Manchester. There are also proposals in the Bristol area for a scheme which may well be financed entirely privately, and that again will be an interesting development. We are seeing the gradual re-emergence of a feature of the 19th century, when the private sector financed massive amounts of transport infrastructure without having to turn to taxpayers and ratepayers for the necessary resources.

This is an uncertain area. However, we are considering what is the right way forward for Manchester, and are watching the Avon proposal with interest.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Will the Minister answer a point of philosophy? What is the difference between investing in a public transport system such as London Regional Transport and investing in the roads? Why should one be supported exclusively by the private sector, and the other by the public sector?

Let me ask a more important question, which has implications both for docklands and more widely. Is the Minister saying specifically that the only public transport systems that will develop are those that can be funded by private-sector capital?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The House would be well advised to defer any debate about general methods of financing transport systems, and stick to one Bill at a time. Can we get back to Beckton?

Mr. Mitchell

Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Let me say en passant that philosophically there is no issue between roads and rail. There is, however, the practical problem that we have not found a way for those enjoying enhanced land values as a result of a road being built to contribute towards its cost. Equally, those who suffer a drop in value do not receive a contribution.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether I believed that public transport should in future be developed only where it would be paid for by the private sector. That is certainly not the Government's position. The Government feel that, where there is a need for public transport, that need must be defined; subsequently, the question arises of how to pay for it. It is, of course, right and proper that taxpayers and ratepayers should be sheltered from having to fork out if it is possible to secure private resources to achieve the same end.

Mr. Banks

I am intrigued by the philosophy that the Minister is spelling out this evening. Will he tell me why—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are running into precisely the difficulty that I foresaw: we are having a more general debate about financing methods of transport. That is not the matter before the House this evening. We are discussing the London Docklands Railway (Beckton) Bill, and I think that we should stick to it.

Mr. Mitchell

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing myself to trespass on your generosity and follow the hon. Member for Stretford down the byways of Manchester and into other areas, such as the philosophical differences between us, which I shall not continue to pursue.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of resources and safety. He did so in a responsible and reasonable manner, and I can give him the assurances that he seeks. There will be no cutting of corners on safety. However, while the hon. Gentleman's remarks were reasonable and responsible, that is not an attribute that anyone would apply to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who made an intervention that I greatly resent, implying that the Government were in some undefined way responsible for starving LRT of resources to the extent that safety was imperilled. That is entirely without foundation. Now is not the time to debate the matter; I would be out of order to do so. However, I have to say that the hon. Gentleman's remarks were misleading, wrong and inaccurate, and that his charges are completely unfounded.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) helpfully pointed out a number of detailed matters about the route and access to stations, not only on his own behalf but for others. These are matters for the later stages of the Bill, and I am sure that the opportunity will be taken to consider those points carefully. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) made another point, hut I think that in answering him I would be straying too far into a philosophical debate. I hope to answer him on another occasion.

There are a number of petitioners against the Bill, and they will have an opportunity to present their objections to the Select Committee. The Government do not object to the terms of the instruction to the Committee that has been tabled by the hon. Members for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), for Newham, North-West and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). The Committee will be in a better position than we are tonight to examine in detail the issues involved and the other matters that have been raised by petitioners, and it will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence.

I recommend that the Bill be given a Second Reading and allowed to proceed, in the usual way, to Committee for detailed consideration.

9.5 pm

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

I shall not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, for two reasons. First, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) has accepted the instruction in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and myself. Secondly, we are not opposed to extending the railway to Beckton. We are in favour of it because we want a better railway.

Our main criticism is that the railway is most inadequate. Many people have called the DLR a toy railway. I have even heard it called a Mickey Mouse railway. It was graciously opened by the Queen, but when Her Majesty sat in the train it would not move. She was not amused. The ceremony was a debacle. I cannot think of a more fitting opening for this railway. It is the sort of railway that one might see in Disneyland. In fact, it is not a railway at all—it is an elevated tram. I do not want the House to think that I have anything against trams; they were a very good form of transport. When I have travelled abroad I have been to some cities that have excellent tram services. Their trams look more like a railway than this one.

Mr. Tony Banks

I share my hon. Friend's affection for trams. The transport planners made a major error when they removed them from London's streets. Did my hon. Friend ever do what I used to do—put a penny on the tramline so that the tram went over it, or did he worry about getting his bike caught in the tramrails? It used to frighten me to death when I was a child.

Mr. Leighton

I did not put my pennies on the line because I had a rather deprived childhood and did not have very many pennies. I found safer things to do with my pennies than to attempt to derail trams. However, I did have a great affection for the trams.

Our criticism of the railway is that it was inadequate to start with and is proving so now. I am certain that it will be shown to be inadequate in the future and that we shall have to rebuild and strengthen it, which will cost so much that it would have been better to build it properly in the first place. It is a false economy for the public purse, which the Minister claims to safeguard.

I have never heard a speech from a Minister quite like the one that we just heard. It was an astonishing speech. I know that the Minister is not responsible for the Bill, but we expect Ministers to do their homework and to know something about the provisions under discussion —particularly their financing. When the Minister was asked questions about the financing of the railway — this peculiar, unprecedented and unique method of financing —we were given no adequate answers. I took down two words. The Minister said, "I guess". I have never heard a Minister come to the Dispatch Box and deal in guesses.

Mr. David Mitchell


Mr. Leighton

I have one more rude thing to say about the Minister, and he might care to hear that before he responds. He guessed at the answer to the question about financing. When he was pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) he said, "Well, I am not competent to answer." That will be seen in Hansard. I have heard many incompetent Ministers, but I have never heard a Minister admit that he is incompetent to deal with the matter under debate. Is that not astonishing? It seems to set the tone for the whole subject.

Mr. David Mitchell

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman misunderstood my point. I am not quite sure how much detail the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) wanted about the method of financing. I said that I did not want to guess at the details. It would be wrong for me to make guesses about details with which I am not familiar and which do not affect my Department. They relate to the activities of the Department of the Environment, which will ensure the raising of the money through the London Docklands development corporation.

I described to the hon. Gentleman the basic principle governing the financing of the proposal. Because of the arrival of the docklands light railway—this started even before its arrival—the value of land in the possession of the LDDC is increasing very rapidly. That land will be sold, leased or otherwise disposed of at hugely enhanced values, and those enhanced sums will be used to pay for the building of the railway. That spells out to the hon. Gentleman the basic principle, without any guessing or uncertainty. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman wants more details than that. I should be guessing if I gave him more details. No doubt he will wish to be fair and recognise that that is not an unreasonable position for me to adopt.

Mr. Leighton

I am grateful for that explanation. In a sense, the plot thickens, because the Minister has told us that his Department is not responsible. Normally the Minister dealing with a Bill comes from the Department that is responsible.

Mr. Mitchell

Either the hon. Gentleman is going out of his way to be unreasonable, or he has misunderstood the position. The LDDC will pay the bill. It will hand the money over to LRT. LRT is part of my responsibility and I will answer any questions concerned with that aspect of the matter. However, the precise details of the way in which the LDDC will carry through the principle that I have described—I think reasonably fully—to the House, is a matter for the Department of the Environment, to which the LDDC is answerable. I am content to deal with any aspects arising from LRT's promotion of the Bill—unless it is more appropriate that they be addressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) —from LRT's side of the financing of the provisions or from its plans for development. Those are proper matters for the Department of Transport. The necessary funds will be provided to LRT from the LDDC. That money will come from the enhanced land values in the way that I have described. It is not reasonable for the hon. Gentleman to expect me to go further than that.

If the hon. Gentleman or his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South want more detailed information about how the LDDC will realise that enhanced value, that is a matter to address to Ministers in the Department of the Environment. I shall be happy to secure additional information if it is relevant to the Bill and if the hon. Gentleman wants it, but it would be a little unfair, and that is not what he intends, to expect me to go further than that.

Mr. Leighton

I would not like the Minister to think that I was unreasonable. I am well known for being one of the most reasonable Members in the House. In fact, I suffer from reasonableness to a fault. I shall move temporarily from the finances, because I can see that I have touched something of a sore point.

Mr. Tony Lloyd


Mr. Spearing


Mr. Leighton

I shall give way to my hon. Friends in a moment. I will just finish this point.

It is a point that interests me, and I will accept the Minister's offer to write to me or get his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to write to me. I am very interested in this novel, unique and, as I understand it, unprecedented method of financing a railway. I would certainly like to know the details and the mechanics of how this is done. I shall return later in my remarks to the, to use the Minister's phrase, philosophy of the financing of this scheme.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for further pursuing a point which, perhaps unwisely, I did not press enough earlier in the debate. The Minister is one of the more reasonable Ministers that I know, and I compliment him on that, but is it not clear that he is in a complete difficulty? Because of the urban development corporation set-up, which goes across all the hitherto habitual and agreed internal workings of this country, the Minister cannot provide the money. It is provided by this animal, the LDDC, and the Minister has confirmed the point that I made earlier. So it is an evolving Government policy on transport and inner cities that we have now stumbled on in the course of dealing with a practical Bill. That is the difficulty in which the Government find themselves. No wonder the Minister carefully said that he would reply to me by letter—they have not properly worked it out.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Perhaps my hon. Friend would cast his mind back to the time when the Greater London council ran London Transport. If London Transport at that time had proposed a major investment, it would have known in the minutest detail what it and the GLC wanted to do. With every other transport authority throughout the length and breadth of the country the Department of Transport wants to know in minute detail how the money is to be raised and used, but when we have the private sector involved we are now told that as long as it comes up with the ready cash it can do what it wants. Are we not going down a dangerous road?

Mr. Leighton

We are indeed, and the more we apply our minds to the matter the more disconcerting and worrying it becomes. It is this curious beast, the LDDC, over which there appears to be no democratic control and which is not accountable. Even the Minister says that he is not responsible for "it", that "it" does these things, and that he will have to ask other people in other Departments to supply the information. I see that he is nodding. I understand his position, but it is not the usual constitutional position that we are in.

Mr. Spearing


Mr. Leighton

There is another point here. All sorts of promises and assurances were given by the deputy chairman of this strange beast, the LDDC. The deputy chairman had an extremely good reputation in the east end of London. He had a lot of credibility with the community groups and the local authorities because of the courteous and punctilious way in which he responded to letters and queries. He was like an evangelist, selling the LDDC with enthusiasm and gusto which some of us thought might have been worthy of a better cause. He built up his credibility and people accepted his promises. He has gone now. He was sacked within 24 hours of a rather curious television programme. I did not think that we believed in trial by television in this country, but remarks were made on television and the man was given 10 minutes to resign. There was no chance of a right to reply and no chance to put his side of the story. After all his work, he was sacked.

The Government and the LDDC have acted scandalously and disgracefully. Do those promises now stand up? Who will take the deputy chairman's place? Whoever it is will not be considered very credible by those of us who represent the people of east London. It will not be possible to replace John Mills and fill his boots. Do the promises given by this unaccountable, unelected, authoritarian body count any more?

Mr. Spearing

Is my hon. Friend aware that at a recent meeting of the Docklands Forum—a body of which we should take note, as was emphasised in another place—Mr. John Mills, acting as deputy chairman, discussed at length the problem of noise on the existing docklands railway and its relevance to the new railway? The Secretary of State for the Environment should ensure that the undertakings given by the deputy chairman of the LDDC are maintained.

Mr. Leighton

My hon. Friend is right. I read the minutes of that meeting, in which the deputy chairman admitted that the noise exceeded the levels previously agreed. He said that that was because of the steel construction and he gave an assurance that that type of steel construction would not be used in the Beckton extension.

John Mills, whom many people trusted, has gone. Can we believe his assurances? That is an important question. He said that in Cable street the docklands light railway is noisier than British Rail. That is not how it was supposed to be.

The railway is inadequate. It was built, as the Minister said, to save the public purse. If one builds something second class and inadequate, one must add bits to it. One must rebuild it, which is always much more expensive.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) is here. I do not know whether she knows— she probably does because she keeps her ear to the ground very effectively—that discussions are taking place about adding bits on to the docklands light railway. One of the suggestions being strongly canvassed —it is alleged that decisions have almost been taken, so we shall have another Bill in the near future which will be the fourth on this subject—is to extend the railway to Barking. There is another suggestion to extend the railway under the river to Greenwich and Lewisham.

Mr. Spearing

Who is to pay?

Mr. Leighton

We do not know how we shall pay for this bit, let alone who will pay for extending the railway under the river. Who would benefit from putting a tunnel under the river? It would tax the Minister to say how we could enhance the value of the river.

Cheese-paring has led to all sorts of problems—noisy structures and unstaffed stations. At a time of mass unemployment we should employ people to do something sensible. When we travel on the Underground, there are no staff. The stations are desolate and empty.

Ms. Richardson

And filthy dirty.

Mr. Leighton

My hon. Friend is so right.

I was brought up in a London transport family. When my father left the Grenadier Guards, his first job was as a porter on the London Underground. I do not know whether hon. Members can remember porters. They were the people on every station who used to sweep the platforms, keep them clean and wash them with buckets of water. On some British Rail stations there were even gardens and flowers. Can you remember, Mr. Speaker, when there were waiting rooms with a cheery fire in winter? Can you remember, Mr. Speaker, when there were things called toilets on stations? If people had a long journey, they could relieve themselves on the stations.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am afraid that they still do.

Mr. Leighton

As my hon. Friend points out, the smell and the stink, especially on the Underground, prove that they still do. That is the result of not having any stall.

At the moment the DLR is like a bright new button. It is very attractive. But how long will that be the case if its stations are unstaffed? How long will it be before we get the graffiti and the vandalism? We have the new technology in the form of videos. A video might or might not be able to record what happens. It is cyclical, which I think means that it moves round—now we see it, now we do not. The video can only record a given station at a certain time before it moves round. But even if the video records vandalism, what can he done if there are no staff there? Therefore, cheese-paring is worrying, and the inadequate provision is the result of under-financing, which is a false economy.

Let me return to the question of money. I am seeking to be non-controversial. I do not want to upset the Minister. However, let me address that matter in a gentle way, looking at the philosophy behind it. There is no Government money for the Beckton extension. There is Government money for the roads in exactly the same area —£300 million. Obviously, there is a deep philosophical point behind all this. We have heard the Minister say that it is a philosophical matter. The only philosophy that I can see is that if something is for the private sector, the public purse is open and the Minister is generous — large dollops of public money for roads. When it comes to the public transport system, it is not open. But hang on a minute. The money is there if it goes west. The Minister gave us the figures—£150 million with £68 million being provided by somebody else. That means that he has opened the public purse and taken out £82 million to extend the DLR from Tower Hill to the Bank. I should like explained to me the philosophy behind opening the public purse if a development goes west, but shutting it if it goes east.

Mr. David Mitchell

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman cannot comprehend the simple fact that the public purse is making up a shortfall of what is not attainable from the private sector. In the case of the western extension, a certain sum was obtained from the developers of Canary Wharf, and the public sector made up the difference. In the case of the eastern extension, there is no need for the public purse to make up the difference, because the entire cost will be met by the enhanced land values, through the LDDC. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman found something philosophically difficult about that, but I find it simple and straightforward. Where we can get the private sector to pay, we do so, and where we cannot, we turn to the public purse. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that is wrong but wants to turn it the other way round, he is supporting his hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd), who believes that public spending is relatively simple.

Mr. Leighton

I wonder whether the Government have been conned. I wonder whether the Government have stood the three-card trick. There are people in London who know how to work the three-card trick, and perhaps the gullible and naive Ministers have fallen for it. Who can say whether the people who have been willing to put up the £68 million were not willing to put up more? May I make an analogy? I heard Lord King say that he was willing to pay only £140 million to take over British Caledonian and make a monopoly. Then, when there was some competition from SAS, which is one of those half-public, half-private BP-type operations, he suddenly upped his offer to £200 million. Who is to say that the people who make huge fortunes out of Canary Wharf, which was the equivalent to building a second City of London, would not have put up that money?

The Government seem to look more sympathetically and generously, and their hand does not falter so much when it reaches for the public purse, when the money is going to the City of London, where people get salaries in telephone numbers, and where most of them vote Conservative and go home to areas such as Surrey and Sussex, the stockbroker belt. However, when the money is going east, to Beckton or down to Canning Town—

Mr. Spearing

It does not go to Canning Town.

Mr. Leighton

When it was proposed that it would go to Canning Town, when the original railway was suggested —the DLR — various options were put in consultation paper. One of those options was that it should go to Canning Town. When the consultation was held, most responses said that it should go to Canning Town. The people of Canning Town and the people of east London want it, but they are not to have it. I believe that that is a philosophical point which the Minister should take on board. He has been down to the area on several occasions and looked at it. I do not know whether he has spoken to many people there.

There is a lot of tension there, because people see those wonderful new apartments going up. If one has £500,000 to spare one can have one tomorrow. I hope that the Minister is not smiling. That is quite cheap for many of them. An enclave of very rich people are cheek by jowl with the people who live in the most deprived and squalid circumstances. I hope the Minister understands that that is the case. Those people want some benefit from these developments, and if the railway extension leaves them out they will see all the wonderful developments that we keep hearing about. A sum of £2.2 billion of private money has already been attracted into the LDDC area. The royal docks development will attract another £2 billion. Those are huge sums.

All that the people want is a little loop in the railway going to Canning Town. If they do not get it, what will they think about the development? They will have been left outside it. There used to be a saying that they will have missed the bus, but they will have missed the train, because the train will not go to them. They see the yuppies—that is an inelegant term—coming in, but how do they come in? The railway does not take only east-enders to the City. It carries people from Surrey and Sussex who are earning telephone number salaries in the City. They can either walk from the City to Wapping and the lovely apartments, or they can get the DLR. That happens on the extension to the west and is being financed from the public purse. However, in our area—the derelict area, as the Minister so delightfully called it — there is no public money, so we have an inadequate and second-rate service.

I must not trespass too long on this, but I must speak about Canning Town. Some of us feel strongly about areas such as Canning Town. I hope that Conservative Members do not think that Canning Town is some sort of joke. It is the heart and guts of the east end of London. It withstood the Luftwaffe, was praised during the second world war and had numerous visits from royalty. The people from that area are the salt of the earth.

We were originally told that the station at Canning Town would cost millions. That figure has now been reduced to under £1 million. The local authority has looked at the matter and said that it made a mistake and that the figure would be less than half that. We are told by those who know—London Regional Transport and the LDDC—that the station would serve 2,000 people. Those 2,000 people are represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South. I should like to pay a tribute to my hon. Friend for the vigilance that he has displayed on this matter. He pores over every detail all the time. I know of no one else in the House with a greater knowledge of transport matters. He was a member of the London county council transport committee for many years.

We miss the GLC now. When we consider the whole of the transport system in the east end of London we can see that the roads are overcrowded, and the east London river crossing will disgorge another lot of traffic into the transport system. There is no co-ordinated planning, and that is where we miss the GLC.

What have the Government and LRT got against the 2,000 people in Canning Town? Why can they not have their station? Are they not as good as the people at Bank and Tower Hill? My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South has done more than anyone on this matter. He is right to speak up for those people. I know that he will do so in future, and he will have our support.

9.38 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I am greatly privileged to follow the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton). In many ways he has given us an accurate picture of the situation in the east end of London, specifically in the London borough of Newham, which I have the honour to represent with my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-East and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).

The Minister was offended by something that I said. To get a spark out of this Minister is a tribute indeed. However, if he was offended by what I said he must understand that I was equally offended by his description of the docks as an area of dereliction. As one of the derelict Members from a derelict area, I can tell him that we strongly object to that. It is not an area of dereliction at all. There are still many jobs in the royal docks. It is not the fault of the people who live there that, because of economic circumstances, jobs deserted them as the port of London moved its activities away from the royal docks.

One of the most depressing and offensive aspects of the work of the London Docklands development corporation is that, in its great capacity to purchase land and thereby rob the people of the east end of their land, it is forcing out or closing down many firms that still operate within docklands. Rather than increasing employment in the docklands area, it is bringing about a net decrease. That is why hon. Members from Newham use such strong words when we hear the Minister give us the old advertiser's hype about what the wonderful LDDC is doing and how many jobs will be created. The Secretary of State plucked a figure out of the air. There do not seem to be any independent surveys or reports that substantiate the exaggerated claims about jobs. By way of intervention, I said to the Minister that the sort of jobs that are being talked about will not be suitable for the presently unemployed people of Newham, Barking and Tower Hamlets.

As you have probably gathered from the debate so far, Mr. Speaker, we are concerned because the DLR does not exist to suit the convenience of the people of the east end. If it were not for the explosions that have occurred within the City and the need to expand out of the City of London, I do not suppose that there would have been much talk about the development of the light railway system. Notwithstanding that, we in the east end are much deprived of amenities, although we are well served by a Labour-controlled council in Newham. Therefore, it will not be the policy of the London borough of Newham, its Members of Parliament or community groups there to oppose the Bill. We are anxious to see that there is the best possible provision in the Bill to ensure that the impact of the railway on existing residents is minimised.

Although many points have been covered in the debate, some have not been covered. I know that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) wishes to make a few points in about four minutes' time, so I shall not delay the House beyond two more minutes—and a very fast minute has just passed.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South, who has listened most attentively to the points that have been made, will no doubt have registered Opposition Members' great concern about safety aspects with regard to the DLR. We are particularly concerned about the safety aspects of unstaffed stations.

Already at Shadwell, stones have been thrown into nearby residents' houses. A report from the Wapping neighbourhood committee, by the London borough of Tower Hamlest police adviser, serverely criticised many safety aspects at stations. The report stated that alarm buttons are either broken or deactivated because of misuse. Station entrances are not covered by videos. Ticket machines are not located in visible areas. Stations are open all night, thus allowing vandalism, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East mentioned. The report referred also to the aberrant scatalogical behaviour of some passengers who use the stations and the fact that videos are scanned by the same person who is responsible for overseeing the whole operation of the railway from the control room at Poplar. As my hon. Friend said, cameras are operated only on a cyclical basis; there is no constant cover.

We want to make sure that, when the Bill is considered, the lessons that have been learnt up to now are taken into consideration. There is a great deal of concern. The cost pressures that are being exerted not only on this railway but on London Regional Transport generally are leading to a diminution of safety standards within the whole transport system.

It is unnerving to sit on a train that does not have any staff that one can see. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) has said, it is especially unnerving for women. Anyone who uses the existing railway system, as I have done on several occasions, will notice the absence of women. I am sure that one of the major reasons is that women feel unhappy and unsafe on such a system.

It is remarkable that we talk about cutting staffing levels on public transport, such as buses and railways, but, when it comes to the better class of travel, air travel, a major selling point is the service that the passengers receive. I do not see why a person travelling on a No. 25 bus should not equally be welcomed aboard by a steward who says that he will be travelling from Stratford to Victoria at approximately ground level, who will give the estimated time of arrival, traffic conditions allowing, and then serve refreshments. Indeed, duty-free goods could be offered. In a light-hearted fashion I am trying to say that I do not see why public transport such as buses and railways should continually cut comfort and safety when other forms of transport emphasise those things. I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South will at least acknowledge our concerns, especially those about transport safety.

9.45 pm
Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

By leave of the House, I should like to try to answer one or two of the points that have been made in this helpful debate. I am sure that many of those points can be considered in much greater detail in Committee, but I should like to deal with one or two now.

The question of the Silvertown loop obviously causes considerable disagreement about its actual cost. the information that I have is that the construction costs would amount to £5.9 million; the additional time factor would involve an extra £2.3 million and the running costs another £4.7 million. Therefore, the total additional cost of fitting in that loop could be—I emphasise "could be" —£12.9 million. I am sure that hon. Members will have the opportunity to explore and compare those figures more in Committee.

There is no suggestion that this is a developers' railway. Other facilities are available to people who live in the Canning Town area. The interchange at Western Gateway with British Rail will be a great help to those people, as will the train and bus facilities that will help those passengers who wish to join the route to move west. Such matters will be dealt with in Committee. Indeed, they have already been considered and there is no question of ignoring the needs of the people in that part of London.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because I know that he does not have a lot of time. Although the issues of cost and timing can be argued in Committee, does the hon. Gentleman accept that his interpretation of its not being a developers' railway is riot accepted in east London? If we do not get the Canning Town route, that will be looked on as cocking a snook at the people of east London, and the railway will be interpreted as entirely for developers.

Mr. Thorne

I hope that that will not be the outcome. I am sure that those hon. Members who serve on the Committee will have an opportunity to express themselves then.

I should have liked to go into the question of costs in much greater detail, but time does not permit, other than to say that I understand that the total cost is likely to be about £136 million. It is expected that that sum will be paid by the London Docklands development corporation during the course of the work, so that there will not be any further cost to the taxpayer. The extra value that will accrue to the land owned by the LDDC will enable it to pay that sum of money. That is an important factor, and whether one agrees with that philosophy or not, it is a point that my hon. Friends will appreciate.

I listened with care and interest to the reasoned speech of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). I share his concern regarding noise; indeed, that matter has been raised on a number of occasions. He mentioned light shining into homes and certainly I have had experience of that problem in my constituency as a result of car headlamps and inconsiderate supermarket operators. The right hon. Gentleman also expressed his concern about unmanned stations.

I compliment the people who live in the area where the docklands light railway is based, on the absence of graffiti so far at the stations. The people in the area have behaved extremely responsibly and I commend the people living in the east end for the way in which they have not abused those stations. I hope that that will continue to be the case.

Policing the railway has been mentioned and that will be dealt with on a central basis and from a central control centre. Either the transport police or the Metropolitan police—whoever is in the right location—will be called upon immediately. I believe that their response will be extremely encouraging and that they will be able to deal with whatever arises.

Some hon. Members have mentioned the need for videos. Certainly the train captains on the docklands light railway have been extremely successful and I believe that they are appreciated by the passengers. Indeed, I am sure that the hon. Members representing Newham and Tower Hamlets have received a favourable response from their constituents who have used this service.

The Government have given a £60 million contribution towards the cost of funding the extension of the railway into the City. That connection into the City is a key factor for the whole network — indeed, the prosperity of the region relies on that connection. The extension will be expensive, despite the fact that it is a short extension, because it will run through a tunnel. It would be wrong to say that the Government lay out money for the roads rather than the railway. Road fund taxpayers consistently complain that they do not see a return on their money and that they pay out a lot more money than is laid out on the roads. Indeed, the road users have made a contribution towards this railway.

Mention has been made of what the ex-deputy chairman of the LDDC said about steel. I am not quite sure to what he was referring, because certainly steel will be required in the structures. Perhaps he said that not so much steel will be required in the structures in the extension out to Beckton when compared to the first phase of the development. Undoubtedly, however, steel will be required to reinforce structures, especially those above ground. It is important to remember that the corners and angles of the proposed construction should be reduced. Another worrying feature about the Silvertown loop is the degree of noise generated by such loops. The loop that passes around the Beckton gasworks is more gentle than the loops elsewhere on the network; the reason for that is to try to reduce the amount of noise generated.

I believe that I have covered most of the points that have been raised. I cannot help the hon. Lady the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) about the origins of the name of the area known as Cyprus. I can only assume that that was the area where products from the island of Cyprus were landed. Indeed, I think that some settlers from that island also settled in the area. That is the best information that I have been able to get for the hon. Lady.

I am glad that hon. Members on both sides of the House welcome the Bill. I believe that it is a step in the right direction. I am delighted that, in the future, we hope that it can be extended elsewhere. I hope that we can now give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed.

Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill, That it report to the House on the evidence presented to it concerning the adequacy, or otherwise, of the characteristics and capacity of the proposed railway in relation to the likely demands placed on the railway by existing and planned development in and around the area of the Royal Docks.—[Mr. Spearing.]