HC Deb 20 May 1991 vol 191 cc697-721

Order for Second Reading read.

7 pm

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

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

The Bill is promoted by London Underground Ltd. It was deposited in Parliament in November 1989. It was given a Second Reading in another place on 8 March 1990 and committed to an Opposed Private Bill Committee which first sat on 5 June 1990. Some 36 petitions were deposited against the Bill in the other place. The Committee adjourned its proceedings on 11 June to enable the promoters to make certain changes to the Bill as a result of a petition from the trustees of the Borough market. The Committee reconvened on 3 December and concluded on 18 December 1990. I pay tribute to my former colleague on the Greater London council, Baroness Gardner of Parkes, who piloted the Bill through the other place.

The Bill stemmed from the recommendations contained in the Fennell report into the fire at King's Cross. The report contained 157 recommendations. Recommendation No. 62 said: London Underground shall undertake an investigation of the problems of passenger flow and congestion in stations and take remedial action". The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to that recommendation at three busy stations: London Bridge, Holborn and Tottenham Court Road. The measures are concerned with safety and the relief of passenger congestion, and aim to provide additional capacity for future growth at each station. Both elements are of great importance to Londoners.

Anyone who travels on the underground will have seen, as I have, the problems of congestion. The use of the underground increased rapidly during the 1980s. In 1981, there were 541 million journeys. In 1989 there were about 850 million—an increase of 57 per cent. Central London stations, already heavily used, became even busier. Usage increased by 38 per cent. during peak periods and by 53 per cent. over the day as a whole.

The three stations were constructed at a time of far lighter passenger flow and their features incorporate thinking on station design which is no longer acceptable, such as entrances to the ends of long, dead-end platforms —that is long platforms with the entrance and exit at one end—and limited space to deal with congestion and bottlenecks at the head and foot of escalators and stairways. The three stations have only one route to the street, although two independent means of escape other than by train are now required for new stations. The design of the stations coupled with the increased number of passengers mean that congestion is a regular occurrence.

For London Underground, congestion and safety problems go together. Congestion could, for example, lead to someone falling off the platform or could result in panic in an emergency. That is why the long title of the Bill is An Act … for safety purposes and the relief of passenger congestion". In line with the Fennell recommendations, London Underground is carrying out a review of 30 stations and is studying the problems of safety and congestion. The three stations were given high priority for attention. At London Bridge, the platforms and access points to them were built in 1900. Over the past 20 years, use of the station has increased by 92 per cent. Under the Bill, the main work will be the construction of a new tunnel and line of railway which will enable the present southbound platform to be turned into a circulating area. As well as the existing station entrance, there will be a new ticket hall in Borough High street with escalator connections.

At Holborn, the present ticket hall was built in 1906 to serve the Piccadilly line. It was altered in 1933 when the Central line platforms were added. The station was used by about 35 million people in 1990, the figure having risen by about 50 per cent. since 1981. The ticket hall is small and is frequently closed for short periods on weekdays to avoid overcrowding. London Underground proposes to build an additional ticket hall beneath the junction of Southampton row and Theobalds road, and to build associated shafts and subways to the platforms below, which will provide an additional means of getting into and out of the station.

Tottenham Court Road has what everyone would agree is a remarkably small ticket hall, especially with the new ticketing machinery and with the safety measure of taking the machines back from the end of the escalator. The present ticket hall dates from 1929, and serves the Central and Northern lines. The hall is small, but it has to serve 35 million passengers annually. It is the sixth busiest station on the system and its use has grown by 51 per cent. between 1981 and 1989, leading to periods of closure as at Holborn. The main work at Tottenham Court Road station will be a new ticket hall at the corner of Oxford street and Tottenham Court road, with escalators to serve the Northern and Central lines and associated passageways to the platforms. That will improve passenger distribution and will give better access to Oxford street.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

My hon. Friend refers to escalators. Although I appreciate that he may need to get some information, can he tell us whether the escalators will be built to a standard pattern so that if there is a problem about repair a new escalator can be put in straight away? Or, as with so many London escalators, will they be purpose-built for each station? There is great difficulty in getting replacements made because each escalator is a one-off job.

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has a background knowledge of these matters. When I was a member of the London Transport committee of the Greater London council, we specifically discussed escalators for the reasons that my hon. Friend has described. From my knowledge of that time, I realise that it is a difficult problem because of the unique way in which escalators have to be constructed. They often have to be carried in piece by piece through the ticket hall and then assembled. I note my hon. Friend's point and I will seek guidance. I may seek leave of the House to try to answer his question in due course.

The Bill is extremely important to London. Other hon. Members may want to raise important constituency matters. For my constituents and for those of other London Members, it is vital that the Bill is given a Second Reading without delay. I recommend the Bill to the House.

7.8 pm

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

I emphasise at the outset that I have no quarrel with the basic purpose of the Bill. The proposed works are entirely in line with the approach that was recommended for London Underground by the Fennell report following the tragedy of the fire at King's Cross. The improvements and the works leading to them which are set out in the Bill are worthwhile objectives.

I shall be brief in expressing my concern, which rests solely with clause 31, which effectively overrides the normal provisions of listed building protection for such buildings contained within the purview of any works relating to the Bill.

You will doubtless recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, that when the King's Cross Railways Bill, which was jointly promoted by British Rail and London Underground, first came before us, it contained a similar provision. It was a rather sweeping provision, removing any listed building consent requirements for any of the buildings within the purview of the Bill. The Department of the Environment, even at that first stage of the Bill, expressed its reservations about that clause. English Heritage attempted to petition against the Bill but was refused locus standi to do so. However, the Committee that considered the King's Cross Railways Bill quite rightly drew attention to that clause and demanded that British Rail and London Underground remove it.

That was an entirely appropriate response to an attempt, by means of a private Bill, to overturn the impact of primary legislation. Such an attempt should not be made through the private Bill procedure. The Department of the Environment, English Heritage and the Committee were entirely right to reach that judgment.

Sadly, neither British Rail nor London Underground seem to have learnt the lesson from that experience. We already have tabled, although not yet debated, the London Underground (King's Cross) Bill which contains a similar provision. The London Underground (Safety Measures) Bill contains entirely worthy measures, but it also contains a clause that would override listed building provisions.

I do not want to hold up the works in the Bill, but I insist that London Underground goes through the proper procedures in relation to gaining listed building consent and seeking to do works in conservation areas, rather than attempt to overturn them by means of a clause in a private Bill. I hope that we may be able to get a commitment from the promoters of the Bill on the point about listed building consent. Failing that, I hope that the Committee that may be established to consider the Bill will treat the clause in exactly the same way as another Committee treated clause 19 of the King's Cross Railways Bill.

It is an important constitutional point that private Bills should not override the provisions of primary legislation. We have set in place listed building protection to protect our heritage. It is not the place of the private Bill procedure lightly to overturn that protection. I fear that clause 31 of this Bill is doing precisely that.

7.12 pm
Sir John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

I am particularly glad to follow the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), because I, too, wish to refer to the great concern about clause 31 in the city of Westminster. I completely agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the proposal and the principles that the Bill would set aside. I, too, have considered the plea from English Heritage that there should be greater consideration of those matters, and I sympathise with its point of view.

I particularly wish to address the House on behalf of Westminster city council and the residents of the city who, while strongly welcoming the proposal to develop the new underground facilities which my constituents and the people who live and work in the city will commonly enjoy, are concerned about setting aside the provisions of primary legislation to further the speedy passage of a private Bill.

As a general principle, Westminster city council opposes the powers that are sought by London Transport in the Bill to demolish listed buildings and unlisted buildings in conservation areas without recourse to normal planning procedures. The city council believes that consent to demolish a listed building or unlisted building in a conservation area should be granted only when a satisfactory design for the replacement building is approved and when proper guarantees about the construction of the replacement building are provided. That, of course, is normally a condition of consent in the first instance. As a planning authority, the city council, which has responsibility for granting such consents, requires both those conditions to be met to ensure not only that a replacement building is of a satisfactory design but that no unsightly vacant sites are left following demolition. Westminster city council opposes the provisions of clause 31 because no guarantees on those important issues have been provided.

I wish that those who promote this legislation would recognise that wider concerns within the community, and especially in the centre of London, must be addressed. Such concerns force the House to make a difficult decision. Are we to divide and oppose the Bill or can we expect a reasonable approach from the sponsor of the Bill so that the concerns of English Heritage, my council and the city of Westminster can be met? I hope that I shall receive some encouraging comments.

Westminster city council has noted the findings of the Opposed Private Bill Committee which recently reported on a similar issue on the Jubilee line Bill with respect to the demolition of Nos. 1 and 2 Bridge street. The Opposed Private Bill Committee amended the Jubilee line Bill to require a resolution of the House to be passed, approving the design of the replacement of Nos. 1 and 2 Bridge street before the existing building can be demolished. The city council welcomes the committee's recommendation that the design of replacement buildings is important, but is concerned that it still provides no certainty that the replacement building will be built.

My council continues to oppose the Bill on that basis. Residents of the city and the 500,000 or so people who work in the city would want these important underground facilities to be developed, but I wish that there was greater co-operation between those who promote private legislation and the statutory authorities that are responsible for planning matters. It is recognised that there is widespread public concern about our architectural heritage and the environment, and those matters must also be taken into account.

I very much hope that the House will listen and that those with responsibility for this matter will respond helpfully.

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

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and the hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) in expressing opposition to clause 31. I was just trying to do some quick checking to see whether the notice of motion relating to the attachment of environmental assessments to the private Bill proposals would cover the aspects of clause 31. I think that it probably would.

Clause 31 does not specify any of the buildings that might be affected, although I assume that plans have now been lodged. Perhaps the sponsor will indicate which historic buildings and listed buildings might be imperilled. Clearly, if the promoters of a private Bill were required to attach an environmental assessment, everyone would know precise details and promoters would be forced to look at that matter before they brought Bills to the House. That was one of the proposals made by the Joint Committee on I'rivate Bill Procedure, of which I was a member. Several other proposals to change the Standing Orders have yet to be brought before the House.

It is important that the private Bill procedure should not be used to circumvent normal planning requirements. It is being used by several large corporations, local authorities, other statutory undertakers and transport undertakings deliberately to get round public inquiries and local authority planning procedures. That is wrong. We should not allow ourselves to be complices in creating a fast track round planning requirements for organisations such as London Regional Transport and London Underground.

Even if we accept the motion on environmental assessments, it will be too late for this Bill, because in: has already started its passage through the House. The changes will apply only to Bills lodged from November.

The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) reminded me and the House that he was a member of the transport committee of the Greater London council. Undoubtedly he will be able to say, "Rejoice, rejoice" because tomorrow the Labour party launches its new proposals to establish a strategic body in London to be called the Greater London authority. I am glad to be GLA, but I do not know about the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Tonight we should have unity among colleagues on the two sides of the House. As Walworth road leaks like a sieve, I have read the document. However, I do not share the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm.

Mr. Banks

Perhaps it depends on which version of the document the hon. Gentleman has read. I understand that several versions have been produced and that in the process the letters GLC have been removed. I am one of those who feel that we should stand proudly by the reputation, standing and works of the Greater London council. The hon. Member for Harrow, West reminded me that he was on the council. If he is nice to me, I might invite him to the first reception at county hall when the new Greater London authority is set up. He will have a place at the reception as an ex-member of the GLC.

The hon. Member for Harrow, West will be aware that when the GLC existed transport was under democratic control. Regrettably, that is no longer the case. One of the Labour party's undertakings in the document is that when we have a Labour Government after the next general election, transport well return to democratic control and be controlled by the Greater London authority based in county hall.

I do not intend to oppose the Bill tonight. However, I have expressed my reservations about clause 31. The works proposed for London Bridge, Tottenham Court Road and Holborn are desperately needed. The works at Tottenham Court Road are particularly necessary. The area is turning into one of the nastiest parts of London. The area around Centre Point, Oxford street, New Oxford street and Tottenham Court road looks filthy, tacky, nasty and run down. There are cowboys selling all sorts of things out of suitcases. As many tourists go to the area, we should feel ashamed that it reveals the picture of London that we want to remove. Again, the Labour party will address that matter in government and clean up the image of London.

It is clear that while the works continue there will be a great deal of disturbance to road surfaces in areas where the roads are already in an appalling condition. With the mess of deregulation, any number of bodies are allowed to dig up the roads. They include British Telecom, Mercury, Thames Water, British Gas and London Electricity. That is in addition to the development and building that is taking place in the area. The result is that London's roads are becoming ever more potholed. People find it dangerous to drive and walk around London's roads and pavements because of the appalling state of the surfaces. Damage to the surfaces is often caused by work carried out by the organisations that I mentioned.

I hope that, when the hon. Member for Harrow, West replies, he will give us some assurances that London Underground intends to take steps to avoid making our already appalling roads and pavements in London, especially in the Tottenham Court road and London bridge areas, even worse than they are now.

The hon. Member was right to say that the works were necessary to tackle overcrowding on the London underground. One of the reasons for the overcrowding is that the system has the least public support from central Government funding of all the urban networks in Europe. It is also the most expensive transport network in Europe. We have one of the most inefficient, perhaps the most overcrowded and dirty and the most expensive system in Europe. It is a wonderful combination of failings to come under all those headings.

I hope that when the hon. Member for Harrow, West replies about the state of the streets, he will also tell us—as he sits on the Government Benches—whether the Government intend to put more resources into London transport to give us the transportation system that a capital city such as London deserves. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to get it until we have a Labour Government in office and the Greater London authority sitting over in county hall.

7.25 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

There will be a fair degree of unanimity tonight on one point and less unanimity but some support on a second, and short lists of constituency issues will be raised on a third.

I agree with the hon. Members for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) that it would be invidious to oppose a measure which will create better safety on London underground. We all start from the premise that we want a safer underground system. We all remember the horrendous tragedy of the King's Cross fire and we are all aware of the clear recommendations of the Fennell report. We all want to ensure that the most congested underground stations become much more pleasant and safe environments, and that points of access and egress become safer.

There is no dispute about the principle of the Bill. We wish it good speed. One of the odd things about being a London Member at present is that on several occasions in the year we can be called to do our duty here, when various private Bills which affect our constituencies are introduced. This year, London Underground has promoted three Bills in the House which affect the London borough of Southwark, and especially Southwark and Bermondsey. First, the London Underground Bill was introduced to extend the Jubilee line. Then, London Underground realised that the Bill did not do all that it wanted, so we had the London Underground (No. 2) Bill, which again affected Southwark, and especially London Bridge station. Now we have the London Underground (Safety Measures) Bill, which also affects London Bridge.

If ever there was an illustration of the lack or inadequacy of strategic planning of transport and legislation for transport provision in the capital, it is the Bills introduced this year. I am fully aware that, behind the scenes, British Rail is preparing a proposal to carry out other works at London Bridge, which are likely to be the subject of a private Bill next year.

First, we had to contend with proposals for underground line works which will affect London Bridge station. Now we are debating proposals for works on the Northern line, which already exists at London Bridge station, and next year we shall debate proposals on the railway line. By any definition, that is not a logical way to proceed. The sooner we return to strategic planning of public transport in the capital city the better. That means that underground, bus, railway, river bus, road and eventually tram provision must be co-ordinated.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman is bursting to make an obvious point.

Mr. Banks

It may be obvious, but I should like it to be put on the record that that is precisely what the new Greater London authority will do. We shall expect strong support from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman was almost bound to anticipate my next point. The Liberal party, newly named the Liberal Democrats—

Mr. Snape

Among other things.

Mr. Hughes

No, we have only ever had two names, thank God, in spite of many attempts to give us other names in between. The Liberal party, now called the Liberal Democrats, supports a Greater London authority. We have always said so. One of the jobs for such an authority would be to plan transport strategically. There has never been any secret about that.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) knows that if some of the predictions for the general election are right and there is no overall control in the country, as there is now no overall political control in London, his party and my party, which have similar views on many issues of co-ordinated planning, hope to implement similar policies. There is no secret about that. Together, we should have the votes in the House to bring it about. We would rescue county hall from being taken over by the private sector, or even buy it back if it had already been taken over.

Mr. Tony Banks

The hon. Gentleman goes even further than we do.

Mr. Hughes

That is right, We are willing to put up taxes, too, which I heard the shadow Chief Secretary say yesterday in "On the Record" that the Labour party was not willing to do. Even if the Labour party goes less far than we do on the other matters, we bring it with us in relation to a co-ordinated London planning authority.

I want to ask a couple of questions which I hope that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) will be able to answer if he is allowed to speak at the end of the debate. I want to ask him about the conjunction of four measures—three actual and one anticipated—that will affect London Bridge station. It seems to some of my constituents that the planning for the London Bridge part of this Bill, which is concerned with the Northern line, is now effectively under the control of the Jubilee line team —planning for London Bridge has been transferred. I do not object to that so long as we can find out who is really in charge.

Soon we shall debate again the Jubilee line and its effect on London bridge, so it is logical that the same people should plan the improvements under the Bill and those for the Jubilee line. It would also help my constituents—private residents and businesses—to know with whom they are dealing, and it would help to co-ordinate London underground developments if one body only were involved. Are the same people, the Jubilee line team, dealing with the developments at London Bridge station?

Secondly, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I share the strong reservations of the hon. Members for Newham, North-West, for Islington, South and Finsbury and for Westminster, North about clause 31. There is no justification for getting rid of planning controls over the civic heritage of London. This objection was also made by the Committee that looked into the King's Cross development. Planning controls are built into the system to protect our buildings and they ought to do so, especially when a major development such as the building of an underground station is to take place around them.

Will the hon. Member for Harrow, West tell the promoters that, if they persist with clause 31, they will run into substantial difficulty? I hope that they will not persist.

When the Committee on the London Underground Bill reported, it produced what the hon. Member for Westminster, North described as a compromise on Bridge street and the Jubilee line. It did not insist that the local authority should control planning permission, but it did insist that certain aspects were under the control of Parliament, because parliamentary buildings were affected. That argument does not apply anywhere else, so the promoters cannot expect to reach a similar compromise anywhere else. I hope that the Bill will be changed.

My two last questions relate to specific sites. The sponsor and the Minister may be aware that one of my constituents petitioned the House of Lords, making the sensible and logical suggestion that the entrance to the underground station on the east side of Borough high street, rather than being one property south, down from St. Thomas's street, which would destroy the new Guy's restaurant, should be one property further up.

Mr. Snape

That sounds like a free meal.

Mr. Hughes

Even if there may be a free meal in the future, I have not had one there so far. Perhaps, as in the American legal system, one has to win the case before one gets the free meal. I shall have to try harder. Certainly I should be happy to have a free meal—[Interruption.] We have to make sure that the Official Report records our words accurately, so I must explain that once the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) had implied that there was no such thing as a free meal, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West said that, coming from him, that was a surprising comment. That was an unfair allegation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

But typical.

Mr. Hughes

Indeed, it was typical.

The idea of moving the station entrance is logical, quite apart from the benefit to myself and other Members who might get together and vote to preserve the restaurant. The building on the corner is owned by Barclays bank, which could afford relocation more easily than could Mr. Conti for his restaurant. If the station entrance were on the street corner because of accessibility and visibility to the public, that would be a more logical site. It is more logical to put underground station entrances on the corner of two main roads rather than just round the corner, so that they cannot be seen from both directions.

The site has become controversial because it is the local underground entrance for Guy's hospital. Perhaps it is a question of opting in or out.[Interruption.] I do not bank at Barclays, so my account is not at risk.

My other argument is about the site, at Nos. 31 to 37, on the other side of Borough high street. Hon. Members will be aware that there is sometimes a suspicion that promoters of Bills get carried away with the idea that, if they have the powers, they can take over a much bigger site than they need. That allows them to hold on to the property and thus derive a financial benefit. Compensation is often inadequate for existing owners. There is no dispute about that in the House. Compensation has, for instance, been hotly contested in the case of the Channel tunnel.

British Rail or London Underground, for example, acquires a site, digs its holes and makes an underground station entrance. Thereafter it has possession of the site and can build office blocks or retail sites, or sell. I do not say that the entire site is not needed in this case, but two questions arise in relation to it.

First, there is some residential property on the site now, and I understand that an undertaking was originally given to include some in the rebuild. But now, during the negotiations, no such undertaking is forthcoming. We need to retain every residential unit we have in an area such as London Bridge. Every development there risks our losing residential property in favour of commercial property.

It is difficult for residents to find other accommodation, and if they did so they would have to pay more, as they have either a mortgage on a property acquired at a low cost before values rose, or a protected rent such as they would not find if they had to move somewhere else. In the case that I have in mind, a young couple bought the property some years ago. It is their home; they happen to live above commercial property. There is a strong general case for trying to preserve the mix. We should not remove residential property from our inner cities and replace it with office blocks. If nobody lives there, there is nobody around in the evening, and the environment is far less humane.

Why is there no clear commitment to keeping this residential property? We want a much more positive approach to the negotiations, so that, if the site has to be lost to the development, we secure a decent property at the end of the exercise.

I have asked several general and some specific questions. We are precluded from asking such questions in Committee, because we may not be on it. I hope that the message is getting through loud and clear. This may be the last time that London Underground or British Rail can, without environmental impact assessment, pursue legislation in this way. They should not assume that, because this is their last chance, there will not be a hard fight if they ignore what hon. Members seek.

7.40 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

It may be helpful to restate the Government's view of the Bill. The Government have considered its contents and have no objection in principle to the powers being sought by London Underground Ltd. The Bill will enable major works to be undertaken at London Bridge, Holborn and Tottenham Court Road underground stations, to relieve congestion and improve conditions for passengers. The works at London Bridge are essentially for the Jubilee line extension, so that more passengers can be carried to that station. The works at Tottenham Court Road station will have to be carried out before the planned east-west crossrail station can be opened.

I hope that the House will support the proposals for better safety access at these stations. There are some petitions against the Bill, and the petitioners, if they pursue the matter, will have the opportunity to present their objections to a Select Committee. I am sure that the members of the Select Committee will have a much better opportunity than we have had in this debate to examine the issues in detail. They will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) and the hon. Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) expressed concern about clause 31. I appreciate the firm views on this matter. As the House knows, the clause was substantially amended in the other place and now specifies only those buildings that will be affected by the works, showing whether they will be demolished or altered. The Government accept the amended clause and recognise that this is a sensitive issue.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment agree that there must be a compelling reason for making an exception to the normal statutory arrangements for protecting listed buildings. They are agreed on that in view of the condemnation of similar provisions by a Select Committee which examined the Bill dealing with King's Cross.

Restricted and strategically important projects are being promoted in pursuance of the Government's policy objectives. Those could be at risk if the promoters were not able to secure in one procedure all the necessary consents for their schemes. That has some force as part of the argument that, if Parliament saw fit to authorise such schemes, it would be unreasonable for the promoters to be required additionally to apply for listed building consent to demolish or alter the necessary buildings.

In accepting that compromise solution, the Government are concerned to safeguard the position of English Heritage as an expert adviser on conservancy issues. It is able to contribute to the consideration of the works by the Select Committee, and that will assist the Select Committee to make informed decisions about the listed building aspects of particular projects. That means that English Heritage should be allowed to appear before the Select Committee on matters within its competence.

The Bill's clauses should contain details of the buildings that will be affected and in what way. Blanket clauses disapplying the listed building controls would not be acceptable. The environmental impact assessment for a project, which we intend to make compulsory for such Bills, would contain an account of the effect on the built heritage.

Mr. Chris Smith

The Minister should bear two matters in mind. First, there is a precedent in the House for English Heritage being denied locus standi in presenting a petition about precisely such matters in relation to a private Bill. There is no absolute guarantee that that fate would not befall English Heritage again. Secondly, although the Minister says that the removal of listed building protection would apply only in a very specific way, it still removes the protection of primary legislation. What is the Government's position on the rightness or wrongness of an inadequate private Bill procedure overturning protection that is written into basic legislation and reiterated in several Acts of Parliament?

Mr. McCloughlin

I hope that I have given the hon. Gentleman some reassurance. My understanding is that English Heritage should be allowed to appear before the Select Committee. I am aware of the case that the hon. Gentleman mentions, in which English Heritage was refused a locus. I hope that what has been agreed will go some way to putting that right.

The promoters would be obliged to consult English Heritage throughout the passage of the Bill. That would also be helpful to the promoters. It is not helpful for people to be in conflict, and a general attempt to reach agreement makes the passage of a Bill much easier.

Mr. Tony Banks

Have the Bill's promoters given a clear undertaking that they will accept evidence from English Heritage? If they object to such evidence, it will become a matter for the Standing Orders Committee. Under Standing Orders, if there is no direct locus—and there is not under the current private Bill procedure—the Standing Orders Committee would be bound to uphold the promoters' decision. Have the promoters given the Minister a clear undertaking that they will accept a petition or evidence from English Heritage?

Mr. McLoughlin

I understand that that is the case. As I said earlier, there should not be a problem about that.

The Government are against Bills whose promoters seek a blanket disapplication of listed building control, or who do not consult English Heritage on these matters. We accept that the number of cases would be few and far between but, given the arrangements that I have outlined, the Secretaries of State would be prepared to support clauses which disapplied the controls in respect of specific buildings for particular works.

We accept the amended clause. The works at London Bridge and Tottenham Court Road stations are essential for the construction of the proposed underground line for London—notably the Jubilee line extension and the east-west crossrail route. I note that the Select Committee will examine the Bill relating to the Jubilee line. In allowing the Bill to proceed, agreement has been reached on a compromise clause, albeit with certain conditions in respect of the proposed parliamentary buildings. In these cases, the compromise clause maintains a proper regard for legislative controls designed to protect the national heritage while avoiding any duplication of effort and the potential risk of Parliament's wishes being overridden by a planning authority.

I hope that the House will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading. Those hon. Members who spoke in the debate have welcomed the Bill. Congestion on our transport system is an important matter of public interest. If we delay the Bill's progress, we shall hold up, perhaps for some time, measures that are urgently needed to relieve the congestion on London underground.

7.48 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

The House has given an unqualified welcome to most of the Bill's clauses, especially those which relate to the work that is necessary to relieve congestion and improve safety at London Bridge, Tottenham Court Road and Holborn stations. All those who have used any or all of those stations know how essential these works are, and the Bill shows the importance of that work to the future operation of London Underground Ltd.

The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes), who is in charge of the Bill on behalf of the promoters, spoke about escalators at those three stations and in other parts of the underground system. Those of us who have used the London underground for a number of years are aware of the recent severe deterioration in that organisation. We are all apt to look back on our younger days as a halcyon period in which the trains ran on time and the sun shone every day, but having used the London underground system regularly for about 30 years, I know that I have never seen it in the state that it is in today. Regular and continuous work on escalators is, in my view and I suspect that of the vast majority of passengers, long overdue.

Like other hon. Members, I regularly use the underground between the terminal station at which I arrive in London and the House. For months, I have wandered around the bowels of Euston undergound station trying to get to the Victoria line to make my way to the House. The only work that I have seen on the escalators at Euston has been the replacement, every six months or so, of the notices telling passengers that the escalators are temporarily out of order. There appears to be no sense of urgency about doing the work. As with other public sector industries since the Government's axe fell upon them, the work that needs to be done on the London underground can be done only if a budget exists. All too often, the budget does not exist, so the work does not get done.

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Harrow, West, as a member of the Greater London council between 1980 and 1986, did not refer to these matters. Like other hon. Members, I served on the Committee considering the Bill abolishing the GLC, thereby removing from it responsibility for running the London underground. The hon. Gentleman was a member of the GLC at that time, even if I cannot honour him with the description of "distinguished member". I am sure that he was, but. I do not know.

Mr. Tony Banks

No, he was not.

Mr. Snape

I accept my hon. Friend's view, as he knows the hon. Gentleman better than I do.

While the Bill was going through the House, the then Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), continually assured us that the London underground would be far more efficient when it was freed of the ideological constraints of the GLC. In Committee, one got the distinct impression that the right hon Gentleman hated members of the Greater London council even more than he hated the Germans. I am afraid that that hatred appeared to embrace all parties represented on that authority, although I am not sure how well the right hon. Gentleman knew the hon. Member for Harrow, West.

Over and over again, we were told that freedom from the political control of the elected strategic body would benefit the passengers. It is apparent from this Bill and from the words of Conservative Members that that has not been the case. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) gave us his objections to clause 31. He has made a similar point during the passage of other Bills through the House and it is no less relevant for that. He was joined in his strictures against clause 31 by the hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) who, as far as I am aware, was not a member of the GLC. However, according to "Dod's Parliamentary Companion", he is chairman of a body called the Conservative Greater London area Members committee. That sounds a n influential body, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would use his chairmanship to point out to the newly freed managers of London Underground Ltd. how objectionable clause 31 is not only to him but to his democratically elected and Conservative-controlled authority.

Given the well-known antipathy of the hon. Member for Westminster, North to the GLC and all its works., I am surprised that he is criticising a body to which he had given his whole-hearted support in the past. I should tell him and the hon. Member for Harrow, West that, if one creates a body like London Underground Ltd. and tells it that its only remit is to work within the financial constraints laid down by the Department of Transport, it will not be too keen on provisions such as those in the Bill, outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury and Conservative Members, to preserve listed buildings and other important sites. If it has no remit to concern itself with such matters—unlike an elected strategic body—it is not surprising that it has drafted clause 31 in that way. However, it is surprising that Conservative Members have said that they are disturbed by the inclusion of that clause.

Conservative Members have, at least implicitly, criticised the management of London Underground Ltd. because of the necessity both for the Bill and the works included therein. I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) is not with us tonight. I noticed in the London Evening Standard—surely one of the most appalling evening newspapers in the western world—some sage advice from the hon. Gentleman, a man known for understatement and delicacy of thought and mind, who represents the intellectual wing of the Conservative party. He had some harsh words to say about the management of London Underground Ltd. "Sack the lot" was the headline that proceeded his customary thoughtful words. If he feels like that about the management, it is understandable that there should be some criticism from others in the House. It is understandable, too, that two mild-mannered men like the hon. Members for Harrow, West and for Westminster, North should express those views.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), like the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), expressed support, to a greater and lesser degree—I am not saying which is greater and which is lesser—for an elected Greater London authority, the GLA. My hon. Friend reminded us of the need for such an authority to co-ordinate not only the matters dealt with in the Bill but transport, street works and road planning within Greater London. Labour Members endorse that, and I suspect that if they were allowed to do so, one or two Conservative Members would like to do the same.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, in between plugs for a restaurant and Barclays bank, was forward in telling us how advanced are his party's views on the need for the election of a strategic body and how it would put up taxes—in the unlikely event that it were ever in a position to do so—to pay for this and other desirable objectives. I am not sure whether it would be right and proper for me to draw those remarks to the attention of the leader of the Liberal Democrats, but no doubt whatever the demand, whether for lower or higher taxes, for a strategic authority or not, for greater or lesser planning in transport, both public and private, in Greater London, a member of the Liberal Democrats can be found either to support or reject it.

Mr. McLoughlin

While the hon. Gentleman is drawing the attention of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to spending plans, will he tell us whether his commitment to various transport policies in London is an overriding commitment, a first commitment, an immediate commitment, a top priority or a commitment for a Labour Government many years away?

Mr. Snape

I am always fascinated by the interest of the Conservative party in pouring scorn and abuse on any Opposition Member who dares to suggest that our public services—our transport system, our national health service and all other services where the rest of Europe has long since left us behind—

Mr. McLoughlin

Answer the question.

Mr. Snape

If the Minister will contain himself for a moment or two, I shall do just that.

Why should scorn be poured on any proposal to improve the services provided by London Underground Ltd., for example, so that they match similar services that are provided elsewhere in Europe? If he reads the document that is entitled "Moving Britain into the 90s" —if he wishes, I shall send him a copy free of charge—he will learn how the Labour party proposes to make improvements and how a Labour Government would pay for them. I shall be pleased if the Minister shows the document to the hon. Member for Westminster, North after he has read it. The hon. Member for Westminster, North can take it to a meeting of the Conservative Greater London area Members committee. It appears that it does not have a great deal to do in terms of clause 31 and other provisions. When the Minister has read my party's document and digested it, I know that he will agree with me and other Opposition Members that the works outlined in the Bill and the document are essential and agree with us on how sensible are the Labour party's proposals to pay for them.

8 pm

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

I shall start by talking about clause 31. I appreciate what my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) said, but I do not trust promoters of Bills. I want to see an undertaking written into the Bill that will guarantee a locus for English Heritage. I think that that is the view of everyone who has spoken this evening and that it will be endorsed. I congratulate my hon. Friend on welcoming a compromise, but I do not believe that the compromise goes as far as it should in the interests of English Heritage.

I shall now make the one political remark that I intend to introduce into the debate. For seven years, I had the pleasure of being chairman of the Greater London Council Conservative Members Committee. For seven years, I had the privilege also of being vice-chairman of the Conservative party for London. During that time, we won more borough council elections and more parliamentary seats than hitherto, and we also won the Greater London council. We did so because we understood what the people of London wanted. We told them that a vote for the Liberals was a vote for a Lib-Lab pact. I am glad that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) has repeated this evening the support that he and his party will give to the Labour party. There is a new Lib-Lab pact afoot, but, as the Liberal Democrats will not have the chance of supporting the Labour party except in opposition, I do not mind.

Mr. Simon Hughes

As we do not know what will happen after the next general election I invite the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg)—

Mr. Snape

Will the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) be here?

Mr. Hughes

I shall be here. The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate has said that he will not be.

The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate knows that, at present, London is a capital city without the overall control of one council. All the authorities post-GLC are participants in some form of shared decision making. He knows also that, in those circumstances, there is no Lib-Lab or Lib-Con pact. Decisions are taken differently according to the authority and the subject on which a decision is to be taken.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I believe that London was better run when there was a Conservative-controlled London Boroughs Association and a Conservative GLC, but I make that the end of the politics.

I want to talk about the Bill, and especially about provisions that have been omitted. I hope that, by the time I have finished, which I hope will not be too short a time, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West, who speaks for the promoter, will be able to give me an understanding. If he is able to do so, I shall not try to talk out the Bill this evening. If I am not given an undertaking, I ask my hon. Friend to understand that there are at least two more stages in the Bill's consideration and that there are four more London Transport Bills, all of which I shall block at every stage. I wish to make my intentions clear.

From the time that I first entered the House, I have put my constituency interests ahead of everything else. I believe that my constituents are being given a raw deal by an insensitive and incompetent management of London Transport. In that context I refer to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (Extension to London, &c.) Act 1893.

Sir John Wheeler

I know it well.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

My hon. Friend will appreciate that it contains only 139 pages. I do not propose on this occasion—I do not commit myself for future occasions —to read the 139 pages. I want, however, to make some references to the Act.

First, I shall explain to the House why I am blocking the Bill. In west Hampstead, by Broadhurst gardens, there is a series of railway lines. There is the British Rail line to Marylebone, the Jubilee line and the Metropolitan line, which are spanned by a footbridge. The bridge was built well over 100 years ago, and it has an interesting history. When I was a small child, I was taken by my uncle to the bridge to watch railway engines. I was a steam railway buff, and I still am. I am a non-executive director of the Bluebell line and I still like steam trains.

The footbridge was known as Granny Dripping's steps, a name that intrigues everybody. It seems that it received the name because an elderly lady was alleged to have sat on the steps eating bread and dripping. I never saw her, but the bridge retained its name.

Towards the end of last year, the bridge, which London Transport prosaically calls bridge No. 26, was closed. The chairman of London Transport replied to the letter in which I inquired when the footbridge would be brought back into operation. He wrote: The footbridge is jointly owned by London Underground and British Rail, with the maintenance responsibility vested in London Underground. Perhaps I should put British Rail on notice. As the bridge spans its lines, I shall be blocking its legislation so that it puts pressure upon London Transport to carry out its responsibilities for the reason that the "maintenance responsibility" for the bridge is "vested in London Underground." The letter continues: The footbridge is 110 years old and has been the subject of heavy repairs over the years. Recently, several of the stair treads on the BR side of the bridge collapsed and consequently the bridge was closed for safety reasons. My civil engineers have again inspected the bridge. It is seriously corroded and even if the steps were repaired, it would not be safe for public use. We now appear to have two options; rebuilding a little used facility"— how the chairman knows that I do not know, because no count has been taken. Those of my constituents who use the bridge are not too few and the chairman of London Transport has not been briefed about a major development that is in progress in the area. I shall come back to that matter in half an hour or so.

As I said, the chairman wrote: We now appear to have two options: rebuilding a little used facility at a cost of perhaps £400,000 … or to seek parliamentary powers to close the footpaths and demolish the bridge. I remind the House that the bridge has already been closed by London Transport in breach of parliamentary powers. The letter continues: You will recall"— that is a reference to myself— that we pursued the latter course about eight years ago. I blocked legislation on that occasion and, lo and behold, the bridge was reopened.

The chairman adds: I am advised"—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. The hon. Member is an experienced parliamentarian, and I have never known him abuse the procedures of the House. He has always adhered strictly to the terms of the business before the House, but I fear that tonight he is straying far. I understand that he wants to block the Bill. I am sure that he knows, however, that he must find reasons for doing so that come within the proposed legislation. I ask him to read the Bill carefully and to relate his comments more closely to the business that is before us this evening.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I appreciate, Madam Deputy Speaker, that this is a Second Reading debate. I am speaking of things that should be in the Bill—I would not be able to do so on Third Reading—and I am contending that, within the Bill, there should be a reference to the footbridge where there are powers to make works. I shall not stray beyond that.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

It may be helpful if I seek to reassure my hon. Friend. As he will know, it is not possible for anyone other than the chairman of London Transport to give the assurance that my hon. Friend seeks. I consulted London Transport officials both before this debate and while my hon. Friend has been making his speech. The chairman's letter from which my hon. Friend quoted dated 24 April states: My statement that we would consider the position"— that is, in respect of the bridge— was not just a platitude. I am asked to tell my hon. Friend that repairs to the bridge have certainly not been ruled out, but must be properly considered. I know that a meeting has been arranged between my hon. Friend and the chairman of London Transport, at which I hope progress will be made. As my hon. Friend said, there will be other opportunities for him to pursue the matter—and to block the Bill, if he wants. I am not sure that I can go further this evening.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

My problem is that the chairman stated in a subsequent letter that he had been advised that it is not a practical option to repeat the sort of repair work eventually done at that time. Therefore, I am not at all certain as to the true position.

I want to be clear that I am in order in referring to the issue that I have, and in seeking a specific provision in the Bill to cover it, because I do not want to abuse the procedures of the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Currently, the hon. Member is in order.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The Bill makes reference to "connected purposes"—and they include possession of land, incorporation of land provisions, and so on. Clause 46 of the 1893 Act to which I referred earlier refers to the protection of the vestry of St. John, Hampstead. It states: Whenever the Company"— that is, the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire railway— shall break up or disturb any part of the soil or surface of any road or footway in the said parish for any of the purposes of this Act, the Company shall within four months after any such road or footway shall have been broken up as aforesaid complete and finish the works of the Company, and shall make good and restore every such road or footway to the satisfaction of the surveyor to the vestry". I could continue to quote from that legislation and remain in order, but instead I will make the point that the Act does not say anywhere that a right of way is to be extinguished —but that is clearly the intention which has been clearly expressed in the letter to me from London Underground. That is not the way that it ought to proceed.

In continuing, I shall seek to remain strictly within the rules of the House in respect of private legislation and Second Reading debates. A letter from the Combined Residents Association of West Hampstead states: I am writing to offer you my congratulations for the stand you have taken over the closure by London Underground of the West Hampstead footbridge and your tactics in blocking their Bills until they agree to make the necessary repairs or proffer some reasonable proposal. I welcomed the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West, and I look forward to my meeting with the chairman of London Transport. However, I am confused by the contents of his second letter, which appears to mark a change of position since his original communication.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

It is difficult to make a judgment without seeing the letter from which my hon. Friend quoted, but when the chairman of London Transport commented that it would be impracticable to repeat the previous repairs exercise, perhaps he was referring to work to bring the bridge back into service for five to eight years —and that, were London Transport to undertake any work, it would be more permanent. Perhaps my hon. Friend will find that interpretation encouraging.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, but I cannot yet say whether I am encouraged by it. Had London Underground carried out normal annual maintenance, the situation would not have arisen.

I refer again to the letter from the combined residents association: First, the cost figure of £400,000 sounds excessive. It brings to mind the inflated cost estimate for the repair of the Ribble Valley viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle railway line by British Rail when they were proposing its closure. If my memory is correct, once the line was reprieved the figure became much lower! Surely there must be a reputable private sector contractor in need of work … who could do the work for less. On 27 April, Mr. E. Dixon, chairman of the Jubilee and Bakerloo users group committee, wrote to the chairman of London Underground as follows: Some of our users in west and south Hampstead are very concerned about the closure of this bridge. I know myself that its condition has been suspect for a considerable number of years—having on occasion to use it to travel between Canfield Gardens and Crediton Hill, or on going from Broadhurst Gardens across to the relevant part of Finchley Road. Usage of the bridge may be low, but it will be appreciated that the Charterhall scheme at Finchley Road will probably have a significant effect in this regard. Now the bridge is a right of way. As such it is part of the trade-off under which we are unable to travel on the Jubilee line (or alternatively the Metropolitan or BR Marylebone lines). Surface railway lines in urban communities are often highly antisocial in their severance effects (as I and my neighbours know to our own heavy cost in time in Camden's nearby Kilburn ward, when the railway was 'there first'. However, its privileged position is accepted, notwithstanding the local detriment, and (though this does not apply at all to the Marylebone line and only most marginally to the Metropolitan line), there is at least some trade-off in usage of the line by the local community, and in the associated spin off benefits. However, in local terms the balance is seriously adverse; yet the operator is not compelled to address this by providing bridges where none existed and there are no rights of way. By precisely the same token, the privilege of the right of way falls to be accepted by you as the operator and by us as the benefiting users of the railway line. This is not a matter in which the luxury of 'priorities' can be indulged. It is basic to the operators' right to operate over the land in question and to ours as service users to travel there…and we call upon London Underground and British Rail to meet the relevant obligations. I acknowledge of course the importance of a Bill that includes the words "safety measures" in its title. However, that does not mean that we should give the Bill a fair wind without protecting the interests of our constituents or—as hon. Members on both sides of the House have said—those of English Heritage. Otherwise, the inclusion of the words "safety measures" in any Bill could allow it to pass happily through the House.

What opportunities does the Bill provide for improved safety measures and for satisfying the demands of my Hampstead constituents? The closure of the bridge in question adds at least 10 to 12 minutes to the journeys of pedestrians, who are compelled to walk the entire length of Broadhurst gardens, into Finchley road and on to Finchley road or Frogmore stations, or to reach the public library in Arkwright road.

London Transport ought not to be allowed this Bill without a clause which would guarantee the perpetuation of the right of way which stems back more than 100 years, providing a footbridge over the railway lines that I mentioned.

It is incumbent upon a public authority that promotes legislation not to ride roughshod over a particular interest affecting local people in an area. I am wondering whether London Transport hoped that once the bridge was closed the problem would quietly go away and no one would notice. However, that is unlikely to happen in constituencies like Hampstead, where constituents are prone to letter writing and are active in bringing matters to the notice of their Member of Parliament. On this occasion I had already written to the chairman of London Transport because I realised the problem early on.

If someone gives an undertaking in an Act of Parliament and later seeks—it does not matter whether it is 50, 80 or 100 years later—to abolish it, it leads one to wonder whether any undertakings given in this Bill, or in any other promoted by a public authority, such as a local council or the railway authority, are worth the paper they are printed on. That is my worry. It is easy to shrug off a responsibility, but that is not what Acts of Parliament are for, and I do not believe that the House welcomes that concept. However, if we pass this Bill that is the risk that we are running.

Footbridge No. 26, Granny Dripping's steps, had been closed and was due to be extinguished. Why is there no reference to its demolition in the section of the Bill on various works to be carried out, because that must be a safety measure? Why is there no reference to abolition of the right of way? At least that would give the House the chance to say whether that should happen. Or, as an alternative, why is it not stated that powers will be taken in this Bill to repair or renew the bridge?

I know the chairman of London Transport, who is a highly honourable and reputable man, but I have to face the facts as they are presented to me at this stage. I emphasise the word "facts". They do not give me confidence that I can return to my constituents and tell them that Granny Dripping's steps are saved and will be replaced, and that they will be able to walk across them on their lawful business, either to go to West Hampstead north London link station, or to the library or the development which is under way to provide a vast new supermarket for the benefit of local people.

I hope that I am an eminently reasonable man, and I am tempted not to continue for too long tonight, in view of what my hon. Friend for Harrow, West has said. I appreciate that those who are guiding him tonight—pleasant though they may be—do not have the authority. Because I am seeing the chairman and the deputy chairman of London Regional Transport later this week, I am inclined to adopt a reasonable attitude.

I have many other matters to talk about. As you will appreciate, Madam Deputy Speaker, there are several schedules and 33 clauses in the Bill, and as you rightly said, keeping strictly in order, if I spoke for five minutes on each— because my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West did not explain much of what was in the Bill—I could take 33 times five minutes. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend would be able to find the 100 Members necessary to bring the debate to a close this evening. However, I shall talk about one or two items, not all 33.

Clause 25 makes certain provisions for the protection of the British Railways board. I remind the House that, in the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway (Extension to London, &c.) Act, 1893, clause 46 was for the protection of the vestry of St. John, Hampstead. As I said earlier, that protection is about to disappear by a back door method. How safe is the protection outlined in clause 25? The clause talks about "designated property" and "plans" which include drawings and particulars and 'approved plans'". All that sort of information appears in the 1893 Act, which talks about maintaining to the satisfaction of the surveyor of the vestry all … footways, bridges works and conveniences as shall be necessary for the safe and commodious ingress and egress to and from the houses on the line of the works of the Company in the said parish and for the preservation and continuance of an uninterrupted supply of gas and water to the said houses". I wonder whether the chairman of British Rail is as happy today with the protection that has been given to his board as he was when the Bill was drafted. Further on, the Bill talks about the railways board giving to the engineer not less than 28 days' notice of their intention to commence the construction of any of the specified works". It also states: The specified works shall when commenced be carried out … with all reasonable dispatch … and … as little interference as may be with the conduct of traffic on any railway of the railway board and the use by passengers of designated property". I believe that the 1893 Act could give powers to the vestry of St. John, Hampstead, which became the metropolitan borough of Hampstead in 1899, and the London borough of Camden in 1965. Therefore, the surveyor of the London borough of Camden, who is by default the surveyor for the vestry, could demand that certain works be carried out, and the Company shall also defray the expense incurred by the vestry". It would be interesting to know whether, if the London borough of Camden decided to carry out work to repair the bridge, London Underground would decide that it could do it better and that it would rather do so than let the descendant of the surveyor of the vestry of St. John, Hampstead carry out the work. That is one reason why I am a little uneasy.

Clause 24 deals with the incorporation of protective provisions. It protects gas, water and electricity undertakers. I draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West to its reference to section 42 of the London Transport Act 1963, which applies to the protection of the gas, water and electricity undertakers, and section 13 of the London Transport Act 1976, which applies to the protection of the sewers of Thames water authority. Does that refer only to sewers and foul-weather sewers or to the pipes that provide fresh drinking water? There is a difference between the water mentioned in the 1963 Act and the sewers in the 1976 Act, but the Bill is not clear.

Clause 24 becomes less clear further on, because subsection (2) refers not to Thames water authority but to Thames Water Utilities Ltd. Is that a reference to foul sewers and fresh water?

It would be wiser and kinder if I began—only began —to draw my remarks to a conclusion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West tells me that I might have read more into the words of the chairman of London Transport than I have so far. That would allow other hon. Members to take part in the debate, but I cannot promise that I shall be as generous on later stages of the Bill.

As I should not wish to fall foul of a future ruling from the Chair—I have carefully kept my comments in order tonight—I shall table probably a dozen amendments, which might provide me with the time to make London Transport realise, if it does not realise now, that I am serious about acting in the interests of my constituents.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West will be able to answer the point that I made about water, but I give notice that, if necessary, I shall return to the subject, much invigorated, with a variety of amendments that I shall draft carefully with those who understand how they should be drafted so that I cannot be told by the Minister or the promoter that they are out of order. I await the next instalment.

8.33 pm
Mr. Robert G. Hughes

With the leave of the House, I shall try to answer some of the points that have been made by hon. Members and work myself up to a crescendo to answer some of the points that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg).

In fact, I shall start with my hon. Friend, who asked whether the escalators would be standard or special escalators. Special escalators will be installed, because most escalators cannot take the load of several tonnes of passengers at a time for 24 hours a day in a dusty environment while remaining in place as a fixed staircase to facilitate maintenance and emergency procedures. Although they will be ordered from several suppliers, they will all be built to a standard London Regional Transport heavy-duty specification. The implication is that spares will be interchangeable.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

That is helpful, but I cannot understand—perhaps my hon. Friend will arrange for someone to write to me about this—why escalators cannot be a standard length. Escalators should be a standard length, except for the last part, which might have to be a different length. One of the reasons for the appalling delays in repairing escalators is that the length of each one is different. I know that they will be the same specification, but they are all different sizes. Can that be avoided in future?

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. I remember such debates from my experience on Greater London council. His remarks have been noted and I shall ensure that the promoters write to him.

The hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), who explained that he would not be able to remain for all the debate, asked about clause 31, which was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). The clause has been substantially modified since the Bill was deposited in the light of the comments of the Opposed Private Bill Committee that considered the King's Cross Bill. It has been limited to specified buildings and to only the purposes needed for the Bill's objectives. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment supported that modification, which was made on Third Reading in the other place, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport instructed the chairman of London Regional Transport to give an undertaking to consult local authorities and English Heritage. The chairman of LRT has agreed to do so.

The Bill proposes to delist only one listed building—it is important to put that in perspective—that previously had consent for partial demolition. All other demolitions and alterations are minor—new entrances and protection against settlement—and in each case consent will be sought from the planning authority for all changes and alterations.

Mr. Simon Hughes

What is the listed building that is proposed for demolition?

Mr. Hughes

I shall ask the promoters to write to the hon. Gentleman about it; I should quite like to know as well.

Clause 31 seeks to secure all necessary consents through Parliament so that Parliament's will cannot be thwarted by subsequent decisions and to avoid delay. I can give an assurance that the three local authorities concerned have been consulted and, so far, have not opposed the proposed works.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

My hon. Friend will recall that I specifically requested that a locus for English Heritage should be included in the Bill. Is he prepared to say that that will happen?

Mr. Hughes

I hope that the assurances I have given are sufficient for my hon. Friend. I do not know enough parliamentary draftsmanship to know whether such an inclusion is possible, but I shall ask the promoters to write to my hon. Friend to ensure that that point is explored. However, the assurances that I have given on what will happen are firm ones. London Regional Transport wants to maintain a constructive attitude towards English Heritage and it will seek to consult it at all relevant stages.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) spoke about the planning powers in the Bill and the concerns of the city of Westminister, which have principally arisen because clause 31 supplants that city's responsibilities. I have been instructed that the city of Westminister does not object to the works proposed at Tottenham Court Road. The clause simply avoids any risk of overriding Parliament. I repeat my earlier assurance that it is LRT's intention to consult on every stage of the process.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who is unable to be present because of another appointment, spoke about the environmental impact of the work and road surfaces. Environmental impact studies have been carried out for all the proposed works and were exhibited to the Committee in the other place. The work requested by the hon. Gentleman has already been done. The hon. Gentleman also spoke about the problems caused by digging up the roads, the disruption caused and the state of the road surfaces. An undertaking has been given to each of the highway authorities concerned that the work on the highways and footpaths will be carried out in such a way as to leave them in an acceptable condition.

All the work will be carried out subject to a code of construction practice agreed with the local authorities. That code will cover working practices, noise, dust emissions and lorry movements. The work on London Bridge will take three years, at Holborn, three years and at Tottenham Court Road, four years. I appreciate that those works will cause disruption, but as much as possible has been done to seek co-operation with the local authorities under the code of construction.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey spoke about the co-ordination of work at London Bridge. I listened with great interest to what he said about what has happened and what might happen. I share his sympathy for his constituents who live near London Bridge—an area which is being disrupted constantly.

The scheme at London Bridge will be constructed in conjunction with the Jubilee line works, using the same working site. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey is right to assume that the project will be under the control of the Jubilee line project team. The hon. Gentleman made two specific points about the location of two of the entrances to the station. It seems that, when it comes to the ticket hall at Borough high street, the hon. Gentleman wants a meal in the restaurant rather than a bank account at Barclays.

Mr. Simon Hughes

That might be unwise.

Mr. Hughes

Perhaps a cashcard would be better.

I am advised that the Barclays bank building cannot be used as a station entrance because, given the location of the escalators, that would put it on the "paid" side of the fare gates—apparently those escalators cannot be moved. The entrance must be further south than the Barclays site would allow.

Planning consent will be sought from the London borough of Southwark for 31 to 37 Borough high street. A planning brief is being prepared to outline the acceptable uses and developments. I am advised that no undertakings to build residential property were given, but I appreciate the emphasis that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey put on the importance of such property. Reading between the lines of the instruction that I have been given, I believe that this matter should be taken up, with vigour, with Southwark borough council. I accept that it is an important one.

Mr. Simon Hughes

At present those properties are used for residential and commercial purposes. I understand that the implication was that that mix of use would continue and, obviously, this matter should be resolved. I am sure that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) appreciates that I am keen that London Underground—it will acquire the site if the Bill goes through—should support such a mixed development. It will be responsible for the redevelopment and it should not seek to replace the small amount of residential accommodation with a non-residential development.

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. It is important that there should be a mixed development. The promoters will have noted the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The planning brief will be prepared shortly and it is important that those who want the mixed development to be retained should put their argument strongly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate made me think about a film that is known by a different title in the industry. "A Bridge Too Far" is often known as "A reel too long". If we have a bridge too far for LRT, will it be known as "Granny Dripping's steps"? I am sure that we are all impressed by my hon. Friend's enormous concern for his constituency. Those of us who have worked with my hon. Friend in the House and outside know that to be his customary concern, which is of prime importance to him.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making a speech of reasonable length and he made his points forcefully. My hon. Friend will know that I am not trying to soft-soap him. If I wanted to do that I should have intervened and sought to curtail his speech. My hon. Friend has expressed the concerns of any hon. Member seeking to protect the rights of his constituents.

My hon. Friend raised specific questions about undertakings that were given in the past, some way back. He asked what they meant in terms of LRT and British Rail and what liabilities they may or may not have. Those issues must be explored in great detail at the meeting that my hon. Friend is to have with the chairman and other officials of LRT.

The cost of building the bridge must also be examined. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate has had great experience of local government in London and he will be aware that the cost of anything fluctuates depending on the hoped-for result at that time. I am sure that he will pursue the matter with vigour.

I am unable to answer my hon. Friend's question about clause 24, which relates to the London Transport Act 1963, and section 2 of the London Transport Act 1976. He asked whether section 2 refers to foul sewers and/or fresh water. I have asked the promoters to prepare an answer for my hon. Friend as it is important that the matter should be got right.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) for their support for the Bill. It is important for London, for every single London constituent, for every Member who represents London and for every hon. Member whose constituents travel to London. I urge the House to give the Bill the Second Reading that it deserves.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed.