HC Deb 16 July 1992 vol 211 cc1223-34 10.15 am
Sir Michael Neubert (Romford)

In recent days, at the approaches to Westminster, vivid yellow signs have gone up, warning that there will be no access to Parliament square from Westminster bridge as from 17 July. The significance of that date is clear. The House of Commons rises today for the summer recess and closure before then would be in breach of the Sessional Order requiring Members of Parliament to have free access without let or hindrance to this place.

The purpose of the closure is a £2 million operation to safeguard gas mains and telephone lines in the vicinity, in advance of work on the Jubilee line extension. The closure emphasises the significance and imminence of the issue and the urgency of the problem which I seek to raise this morning. The Jubilee line extension, one of the most exciting infrastructure projects for decades, now hangs in the balance.

London Underground's scheme to extend the Jubilee line from the west end to Stratford in east London via south London, docklands and Greenwich has received all-party support, has passed all the parliamentary hurdles of the lengthy private Bill procedure and is ready to start. However, there must now be real concern that the scheme could be delayed indefinitely.

It is a truism that the strength of a chain lies in its weakest link. It is ironic that, in the case of the Jubilee line extension, the weakest link has proved to be Olympia and York, perhaps the largest developer of property in the world. Under the pressure of the recession, which is especially acute in inner-city areas, both across the Atlantic in the United States and Canada and here at home in London, Olympia and York has been brought to the point of collapse. It is in administration.

Olympia and York was to have made a contribution to the construction costs of the Jubilee line extension. That was right, because the benefits of the underground railway link would greatly enhance the value of the property developed by Olympia and York at Canary wharf.

The contribution was to be £40 million last March, £60 million to follow next year, and £300 million—the balance of the £400 million obligation—over about 20 years. The lengthy period of payment means that with inflation the calculated net present value of the contribution is about £160 million. That is a large sum, but when it is compared to the £1.5 billion value of the whole project, it can be seen as a relatively small amount. If the project foundered for want of this one private sector contribution, it would be like choking to death on a crumb.

Yet the Jubilee line extension is not being built simply to assist the fortunes of property developers. It must be stressed that it is a strategic necessity for south and east London and for our capital city as a whole. Some way must be found to build the line without further delay.

What are the benefits of the Jubilee line extension? First, it would serve inner-city areas in Southwark, Bermondsey, Surrey docks, the north Greenwich peninsula, Canning Town, West Ham and Stratford. The extension would be the first west-east line south of the river, in an area with a traditional paucity of underground lines. Of 272 stations in London, only 28 are south of the river. I speak as one born at Blackheath, who has lived for most of his life south of the river as a south Londoner, apart from a few years spent in north London during the war. I have suffered, with many south Londoners, the disadvantage of not having the ease, convenience and comfort of an underground line. It is long overdue in our part of London.

The line would revitalise and regenerate areas of inner London that have so much need of that process. I note that the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the winners of the city challenge competition this morning—£750 million of public money will go to places such as Hackney and Newham. The latter would benefit from the Jubilee line extension, as would all east London.

The extension is important for local reasons and for the regeneration of London, but it is not simply a little local difficulty. The line would improve access to London's first channel tunnel terminal at Waterloo, thence to Stratford on the proposed fast rail link, and to London City airport. Another irony, which I have already mentioned in the House, is that that part of London which is closest to our new home market of continental Europe should be the least developed. That also points to the fact that the strategic development of east London, which is so close to Europe, is long overdue.

Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)

While he is focusing on the European importance of London, does my hon. Friend agree that Paris—a competing capital for European business—is already much better served by modern public transport systems than London, and that we need the line to keep London competitive?

Sir Michael Neubert

I concur with my hon. Friend's judgment. I am about to mention the importance of international competitiveness between capital cities.

The line will provide 11 new tube stations, nine of which will have a major rail interchange and three a major bus interchange. Four new crossings of the Thames will be created.

At Westminster, a station will be created which is appropriate in stature to the legislative and executive heart of the United Kingdom, a station which will reflect the importance of Westminster in the capital city. As Members of Parliament, we must be conscious of the throngs of tourists—especially at this time of year—who come to see the finest of our parliamentary and executive buildings and who find that the station at which they arrive is grossly inadequate for their numbers and for the prestige and importance of buildings in the vicinity.

My hon. Friends may not altogether understand that the development of Westminster station is a crucial part of the proposed phase 2 development of the parliamentary buildings. Our new parliamentary building depends on the reconstruction of Westminster station, as it will be built on top afterwards. As parliamentarians, we have a direct interest in the outcome of this matter.

By promoting the location of part of London's additional commercial activity away from the traditional and crowded central area, the Jubilee line extension will indirectly help to relieve congestion on the central London rail system. By shifting the focus of activity a little to the east, it will ease the problems of London, which has tended to develop in the centre and, since the second world war, has developed intensively in the west because of Heathrow. As a result, there has been a great imbalance in the development of our capital city.

London, along with New York and Tokyo, is recognised as one of the major world cities but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) said, its position is under the most intense pressure from two European rivals—Paris and Frankfurt, representing the axis between France and Germany.

The start of work on the Jubilee line extension would be a signal that the first step, to redress the common conception of London as a congested city lacking modern transport infrastructure, is being addressed seriously.

The Jubilee line extension has received Royal Assent, and contracts are ready to be let. Construction could be under way within weeks, which would enable the line to be opened by mid-1996. In connection with construction, I must mention my interest as parliamentary adviser to the Federation of Master Builders.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

I entirely agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said so far. His mention of contracts reminded me that valuable contracts for train manufacture, as well as construction contracts, will depend on the extension of the Jubilee line. I do not know whether he will agree that that means that the extension is important not merely to London but to the national economy, and not least to my area, where many jobs depend on train manufacture. If the line does not go ahead, we will be lucky to maintain the train manufacturing industry in this country.

Sir Michael Neubert

I am glad to have heard the hon. Lady's intervention because I also want to stress the national importance of the project, even though I speak as a London Member and am obviously concerned about the implications for London.

If the Jubilee line extension does not go ahead, London will have no significant underground developments until the turn of the century. No other scheme could be built sooner, and funds have not been allocated for any other scheme. There would be serious implications for transport and development prospects. Even with no further development in the Isle of Dogs area, transport to and from docklands would be seen as fragile. The whole area would depend on a single mass transit system—the docklands light railway—funnelling all access to the area through Bank and Stratford stations. That line has experienced considerable teething problems and is not out of them yet. Both those stations are overloaded and in need of upgrading.

Connections to important British Rail railheads at Waterloo, Victoria, and London Bridge, among others, are inadequate and would be seen as such by decision makers and prospective tenants. Firms which have moved in to the Isle of Dogs might well move out again. There has already been some sign of that since the collapse of Olympia and York. Existing buildings there would remain partly let, and the momentum for achieving full occupation would be lost. More importantly, the potential for remaining sites in the Isle of Dogs, Leamouth, the royal docks and Greenwich would be undermined. Those sites would certainly be restricted to users with low intensity transport requirements, severely limiting opportunities for east London where much-needed jobs would fail to materialise.

There is also the question of the amount of money already spent on the Jubilee line extension. It has cost London Transport more than £100 million to bring it to its present stage, and the contracting industry has spent nearly £20 million preparing tenders. The London Docklands development corporation has spent nearly £0.5 million on legal and other fees to secure an agreement with London Transport to protect the corporation's land interests and to ensure a good quality scheme through docklands. If the project were abandoned now, it is estimated that further abortive costs would range from £35 million to £85 million.

The issue of the Olympia and York contribution must be seen in the context of those established costs to the taxpayer. Any delays in starting the project would increase costs for rebuilding teams and mean higher bid prices. Each increase of 1 per cent. adds £15 million to the final cost.

Having stated all those factors in the equation, I would not wish my hon. Friend the Minister to conclude that I am suggesting that the Government should waive the private sector's obligation to contribute the sum agreed with Olympia and York. Of course that obligation must be met, for the reasons that I have already given, but the Government have the key role and responsibility for organising the collective act of will which is necessary on the part of all parties. The failure of Olympia and York to come up with the cash must be seen as a temporary impediment, something to be overcome with ingenuity, a degree of free thinking and negotiating skill. It is self-evidently in everybody's interest for the project to proceed without delay. The administrators of O and Y would be failing in their duty if they did not secure the potential value of their stake in the extension of the Jubilee line.

It is not simply a matter of the Jubilee line extension in isolation; docklands as a whole depends for its future on the rapid development of adequate infrastructure. New roads and rail links are imperative if the project is to reach its full potential. The pace of a private property development has outstripped the much slower provision of public infrastructure. As a result, spectacular state-of-the-art office developments stand surrounded by continuous road and construction works—an unattractive prospect for prospective tenants. At a time of high real interest rates, under-occupation of property constitutes a burden on the resources of the entrepreneurs who have opened up these new opportunities, as we have seen with the biggest of them, O and Y.

Canary wharf accounts for only 150 acres, as opposed to the 5,500 acres of docklands. The development of docklands is an immensely exciting project. From the start, the concept has been bold and imaginative. Our response to this setback over funding must be equally bold, equally imaginative. Docklands is our gateway to the 2Ist century. We must ensure that it succeeds.

10.30 am
Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert) on his success in initiating this debate and on drawing attention to the crucial importance of the Jubilee line extension for the whole of east London. The case is incontrovertible. The development of large parts of east London depends on this line above all extending proper communication networks and links into an area which is seriously lacking in them now.

I should like to say a few words about the specific implications for the London borough of Greenwich, which is badly served by public transport. Because of that, it suffers from acute problems of traffic congestion. The Minister is well aware of that problem, and I am grateful to him for taking time a few weeks ago to come to Greenwich to see at first hand the appalling problems of traffic congestion and pollution resulting from the inadequate public transport network. I know that he recognises the importance of improving the facilities for the Greenwich area and other parts of east London.

The hon. Member for Romford talked about the paucity of underground stations in south London—a mere 28. Greenwich has none, so even by south London's disadvantaged standards, it is particularly disadvantaged. The improvement in the network of underground trains and other links to the Greenwich area, such as the docklands light railway extension, are vital for the future well-being of the area.

The Jubilee line is particularly important because it is a link to the Greenwich peninsula—the largest single site available for development in the whole of inner London, comprising 296 acres of land, largely derelict, heavily contaminated and in urgent need of action. It is a real blot on that approach to London. The line is the key to the successful development of the area.

During the past two or three years, intensive discussions and negotiations have been proceeding, involving British Gas, which owns much of the land on the peninsula, the London borough of Greenwich—the planning authority, local authority and landowner of some sites in the area—and many other parties, including a consortium of housing associations that would play a crucial role in developing a substantial number of affordable homes for people in the area who face chronic problems of homelessness and bad housing.

The development must go ahead in the interests of the area as a whole and London as a whole, but it will not go ahead without a proper rail link into the area. As I said, there is no connection between Greenwich and the underground network. Although the Greenwich peninsula is central—it is across the river from docklands—it is isolated, with poor links and communications. Its development potential will not be realised without that extension. Only one station is proposed for Greenwich, but it is critical and holds the key to the successful development of the peninsula. Bearing in mind the considerable transport needs of the area and the development potential of the peninsula, I have no doubt that it is crucial that the Jubilee line extension, including the station at north Greenwich, goes ahead.

Labour Members have serious reservations about the Government's approach to infrastructure investment in London and their view that the development of underground links must depend on contributions from the private sector. The folly of that approach is demonstrated by the problem affecting the Jubilee line: the whole project has been cast into uncertainty because of the failure of Olympia and York to make its contributions. Having said that, I should stress that British Gas has made it clear to the Government that it is prepared to make a contribution to the north Greenwich station. There is no obstacle in the way of the Government proceeding with the line to Greenwich.

We look with real trepidation across the river at the disaster in docklands and the acute problems in the wake of the Olympia and York bankruptcy. We know that the vitally needed infrastructure development and transport connection that our area so urgently requires are in the balance simply because of an agreement reached some years ago by the Government, which required a contribution from Olympia and York as a condition for building the Jubilee line extension. In its absence, the whole project is uncertain.

I would not suggest that the Government should let Olympia and York or its successors off the hook. As the agreement has been reached, it is absolutely right that the Government should seek to hold the developers to account. I must stress, however, that the wider economic interests of east London and the communities so badly served now make an overwhelming case for proceeding with the development. It is essential that the development proceeds.

The Minister has been kind enough to meet a delegation of representatives from Greenwich and other local authority areas affected by the line. He has shown his support and sympathy for their view. That interest, support and sympathy is welcome, but the ultimate test for those of us in south-east London who are concerned about the future of the whole area and, in particular, the interests of the people of Greenwich is whether the Jubilee line extension proceeds, as it must. There must be no doubt that it must proceed as quickly as possible. The development of the area and its future depend entirely on that line.

10.37 am
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I shall be brief, as I know that two colleagues wish to contribute to the debate. I shall try to facilitate that, and the Minister's reply. I hope that he has some significant comments to make.

I, too, welcome the persistence of the hon. Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert) in getting this subject on the agenda before the summer recess. The debate is timely because, in the judgment of many of us, a decision on this matter needs to be made before the House returns from the recess. There are all sorts of reasons why we cannot afford to wait until October or later. I think that the Minister will leave the Chamber today convinced of the completely generic view held across the House, and in political parties, constituencies and geographical areas, that this issue is important.

Having come nine tenths of the way towards going ahead with the first new and substantial underground extension for many years, we have shuddered to one of those temporary halts such as passengers experience when coming into a mainline railway station, when they are close to the platform but cannot get out and there is nothing to be done about it. What we need now is to restart, get to base, and continue the journey.

As the Minister is aware, this is a matter not just of economic regeneration, but of the social regeneration of isolated communities. The project would have an enormous impact in terms of increased mobility and accessibility to work, shopping and recreation. Those communities would then be part of the network of the capital.

The Jubilee line extension would also make an enormous difference to the quality of life of Londoners, because it would greatly reduce congestion in those parts of London where it is at its worst, and would speed up journey times in those areas where completing a journey is most difficult. It is also important to connect London Bridge and Waterloo. Those two mainline termini are on the same side of the river and not far apart, and it is absurd that one cannot get from one to the other with facility. That journey often takes a ridiculously long time. In fact, getting to London Bridge from other parts of central London, including this place, is extremely difficult. That terminus is used by millions of people, and it must be properly included in the transport system. The Jubilee line link would achieve that.

It has been reported that some Department of the Environment Ministers believe that the development corporations should be rolled back as soon as their development programme is complete. It would be inconceivable to roll back the London Docklands development corporation without confirming the Jubilee line extension. One of the preconditions of the regeneration programme was that the necessary infrastructure should be included.

The Minister and I were at Greenland dock pier recently, and I know that he will be pleased at the good news about the river bus. It has been given a lifeline for a further three months as it continues to improve its economic viability. It has now started to take passengers again from the Greenland dock on the Surrey quays peninsula. That is exactly the type of encouragement that we need for the community. It is a signal of the possibility of London leading the way out of the recession.

Nothing could be more encouraging for the capital city this summer than hearing the news that the Jubilee line extension has the green light. That would persuade people that the corner could be turned. If that happened, people in the boroughs along its route and in the City would believe that there is not only a vision for London, but the imminent prospect of realising it. There is a great opportunity to be grasped, and I am sure that the Minister will use all his ingenuity to ensure that that is achieved soon.

10.42 am
Mr. David Amess (Basildon)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert), who is a fellow Essex Member—inaccurately described in Collins dictionary—on securing this opportunity to discuss the docklands. Our constituents have been involved in building the Canary wharf development, of which we can be rightly proud. It is an exciting combination of building and water. If we can overcome the present difficulties, it will be a great attraction for visitors, who will seek to copy that development in their own countries.

The worldwide economic slump that we have suffered in the past three years has impacted in a serious way on docklands. However, the Government's economic strategy is entirely right. We must do all we can to reduce inflation and to continue to reduce interest rates. Above all, we must keep a firm control on public expenditure.

The docklands development is important for jobs. It has already provided 26,000 jobs; if the buildings at Canary wharf are occupied, that will provide 62,000 jobs. In total, the development offers a potential 150,000 jobs. Therefore, it is extremely important that the docklands development is a success.

I have a real interest in docklands because I was born in the eastern part of it at Stratford and Plaistow. I can recall the way in which trading patterns altered as I grew up. It was sad to see the docks, which were once so busy, eventually decline and wasteland appear. I pay tribute to the developers for having the vision to undertake the development of docklands.

I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is committed to the docklands development, as is evident from his LDDC tie. I know that he wants the docklands development to be a success—and it must be a success. We owe it to the people who had that vision to go ahead with the Jubilee line extension. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Romford, my hon. Friend the Minister and I will celebrate the year 2000 with a party on the top of Canary wharf, having enjoyed a speedy and efficient journey to the docklands.

10.45 am
Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

I shall be brief, as I am keen to hear the Minister's reply. I shared the vigil of the hon. Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert) last week when he tried to debate this matter on the Consolidated Fund, but unfortunately his debate was not reached. I congratulate him on his persistence in achieving this debate today.

I wish to ensure that the project is not seen simply as a London issue. Often, London and the rest of the country, especially the north-west, are portrayed as locked in conflict. I must emphasise that many people in Preston are desperately keen on the Jubilee line extension. Obviously, what happens to the transport system in London is important to the capital, but it is also important in the day-to-day lives of Preston people, because we have a large factory which is desperate to bid for the substantial orders for trains which will immediately follow the go-ahead for the extension. With the privatisation of British Rail, railway orders will be subject to confusion and probably delay. I am worried that that privatisation, and the possible delay, if not abandonment, of the Jubilee line extension, could mean that, by the time orders for trains for the underground and the rail system are made, we shall not have a train manufacturing capacity left. That would be a disaster.

The problems are only too vivid for me, because on one side of the street I have a British Aerospace factory, which is in the process of closing, and on the other there is GEC, which is desperate to bid to build the trains for the Jubilee line. I hope that the Minister will bear that factor in mind. The Jubilee line extension is important for the national economy as well as for London.

10.47 am
The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert) on securing this debate. In all sincerity, his speech was a masterly introduction to the subject. It rendered nine tenths of my prepared speech entirely redundant because he outlined exactly the implications of the Jubilee line in an extremely competent way.

I should also apologise to my hon. Friend for the fact that he did not reach his debate on Thursday. I know that, such is his assiduity in such matters, he was up all night, as was the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), waiting for his debate to come round. I replied to the debate preceding the one on the Jubilee line, so I bear some responsibility for the fact that we did not reach my hon. Friend's debate. I am delighted that he secured the debate today.

I acknowledge the contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) and for Basildon (Mr. Amess). I shall ensure that my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon gets a docklands tie from the chairman of the development corporation, Michael Pickard, who will appreciate my hon. Friend's support. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) spoke about the particular importance of Port Greenwich and the area that he represents.

In the Adjournment debate on 18 May initiated by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), we made a thorough review of the technical background of the Jubilee line and to some extent debated the benefits that the line conveys to individual parts of its route, so I hope that the House will forgive me for not going over much of that ground in the short time that we have for today's debate.

We should not lose sight of the fact that there is no doubt of the Government's firm commitment to the regeneration of docklands. About £9 billion of private investment commitments exist in Docklands. Over 28 million sq ft of new floor space has been built or is currently under construction there. To correct a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon, employment there was 27,000 in 1981 and is now 60,000. That shows the tremendous development that has taken place there.

I say that because we should not lose sight of the appalling condition of the vast majority of the area before this whole exciting and imaginative concept of regenerating docklands became a reality under Conservative Administration. In terms of the involvement of the Department of Transport, I remind the House that nearly 60 miles of roads in the area have been upgraded or built so far. We have completed schemes on the Royal Albert dock spine road, the Connaught crossing and the lower Lea crossing. We have under construction the Limehouse link—that scheme will be opened in 45 weeks' time, as we read on the sign that we pass on our way to God's own county at the end of a busy week in Parliament—the Poplar link and the East India dock link. There are to come substantial improvements to the A13, and the east London river crossing scheme will open up docklands in a tremendous way.

The first phase of the docklands light railway opened in the summer of 1987. That is a £77 million project involving seven and a half miles of light rail system. It has been a tremendous success in stimulating development in the Isle of Dogs. The Bank extension, which opened in November 1991, did much to expand the attractiveness of the DLR, and the Beckton extension, to be opened next year, will go a long way towards enhancing the attractiveness of the area.

Let us not lose sight of the social regeneration of docklands, and I underline the point that hon. Members have made about employment. Unemployment in the area has fallen since 1986 against the background of the regrettable rise that has taken place elsewhere. The number of residents has increased, from 39,500 in 1981 to 62,000 today, and 17,000 homes have been built or are under construction. Home ownership has risen from 5 per cent. in 1981—my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon knows from experience the type of environmental improvements that come from home ownership—to over 40 per cent. today.

About £122 million has been spent on social and community projects up to March 1991. A further £105 million has been spent on the Limehouse link housing programme. There is the new post-16 college and a 1,000-place city technology college in Rotherhithe. My hon. Friends in particular will warmly welcome that development. Over £13 million has been spent on listed buildings and conservation areas, and more than 100,000 trees have been planted in Docklands during the period of its regeneration. Our record in docklands, apart from the considerations of the Jubilee line extension, has been exceptional. It is a clear demonstration of the extremely substantial commitment by the Government to that area of London.

My hon. Friend the Member for Romford set out the broad parameters of the Jubilee line extension. It is a 10-mile railway, about seven and a half miles of it underground, and that is the key to the extraordinarily large amount of money that the line will cost. It is very expensive to undertake that amount of tunnelling in a major city such as London. I was interested to learn from officials that the crossings under the river are no more expensive than tunnelling under some of London's most expensive property, which the line must also do.

Three new stations on the route from Green Park to Stratford will be constructed at Southwark, Bermondsey and north Greenwich. There will be eight other stations, with many interchanges to London Underground and British Rail lines and, as we have heard from hon. Members who represent constituencies south of the river, there will be improved connections between the west end and docklands, improved access to those inner-city areas south of the river which are not at present served by public transport as well as they could be, reduced congestion on existing railways, and four new river crossings.

I acknowledge what the hon. Member for Preston said about the way in which, in addition to those immediate transport benefits, there are beneits to the economy as a whole—particularly for the construction industry, as my hon. Friend the Member for Romford pointed out—and for the railway industry. It was a fair point for the hon. Member for Preston to make, but, bearing in mind the substantial cost to the public purse that the scheme entails, the House will know that the traditional and classic cost-benefit case for the Jubilee line was not as strong as, for example, other major projects in London, such as crossrail or the Chelsea-Hackney line, which will also bring tremendous advantages.

Despite the fact that on a mechanistic, cost-benefit basis, the line was not particularly top of the list, the Government were prepared to proceed, recognising that there were substantial, if not quantifiable, regenerative benefits. On that basis, the Government's commitment was essentially of partnership—a concept recognised not newly in this debate, but three years ago, when the then Secretary of State made it clear that it was a partnership commitment. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford outlined the details of that partnership.

I come to the heart of today's debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford said that we should regard the failure of Olympia and York as a temporary impediment, and I hope that that is exactly how it will be regarded. It is not inconsistent for us to seek contributions from the private sector when the public purse is being asked to disburse billions of pounds for projects that identifiably and specifically—as in this case, for the owners of Canary Wharf—convey substantial material advantages, in this case running into many hundreds of millions of pounds.

In those circumstances, I hope that I will be forgiven for injecting unfamiliar controversy into our deliberations, which have been commendably all-party so far. "You cannot have it both ways" is a phrase to be remembered. Either we recognise that there is a huge benefit here which is to be conveyed to whoever owns the Canary Wharf development, or, because of the temporary impediment to which my hon. Friend referred, we simply transfer that impediment, regardless of the impact, on to the public purse. Should not the Government, on behalf of the taxpayer, recognise that we have a responsibility and say that we shall, on behalf of the taxpayer, negotiate a contribution from those who will benefit so much, recognising a small proportion of the amount of gain to them?

Bearing that in mind, we must recognise that, as I said, one cannot have it both ways. In my view, we must continue to make it absolutely clear—as the Secretary of State has done repeatedly, and as I have reminded the House in other debates—that it is our clear obligation on behalf of the taxpayer to insist on that partnership agreement, which will secure a huge advantage to the developer and a contribution to the hard-pressed taxpayer. No one is more committed to the regeneration of docklands than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and myself. To underline the strength of that point, all the Government's and London Underground's planning has proceeded on the clear basis that the private sector contribution to which I alluded will be forthcoming. We see no prospect of authorising the start of construction unless and until that contribution is assured.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey referred to a train that halted just a few yards from a station. Let us all hope that, in the ensuing weeks, the train will reach its destination and work on the line will proceed.

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