HC Deb 20 June 1994 vol 245 cc3-5
3. Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement regarding the future of crossrail.

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

We continue to support the crossrail project. We were disappointed by the Private Bill Committee's decision not to find the preamble to the Crossrail Bill proved. We are considering, with the Bill's promoters—London Underground Ltd. and British Rail—how best to proceed.

Mr. Cunningham

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that he will expedite this matter as soon as possible, bearing in mind the considerable anxieties outside the House regarding the matter and the economic potential of the scheme in terms of creating jobs?

Mr. Norris

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the scheme and, as I said, it is for the promoters to find a way forward. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport have made clear their support for the scheme and we are studying how best to take it forward.

Mr. Lidington

Has my hon. Friend had time to study the representations from organisations representing business and commerce in London and the south-east, and the united view of local authorities across party-political lines, which remains firmly that crossrail is needed in the national interest and particularly in the interests of our capital city and the south-east?

Mr. Norris

I have indeed, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the tremendous work that he has done in sponsoring the Bill in the House. We were disappointed that the Private Bill Committee did not find the preamble of the Bill proved and I know that that sense of disappointment was widely shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

It is a shame that, in examining how this condition might have been brought about, the role of the Liberal Democratic council in Tower Hamlets should have been so extraordinary. The Liberal Democrats' public national policy is to favour public transport and to be dreadfully anti-car, but it wants to make sure that those public transport schemes never come near a Liberal-controlled council.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Minister make a distinction between a link between crossrail and suburban, domestic services on Union Railways to Kent, and a link with a possible Stratford international station? Would not the latter provide useful links to international rail services from central and west London and add to the already 150-odd stations which would be directly linked to Stratford by fast rail services?

Mr. Norris

I know of the hon. Gentleman's great interest in the further development of Stratford. He rightly puts his finger on the considerable complexity which surrounds the linkage between crossrail, for example, and other rail systems such as a second rail link. In drawing attention to the difference between a straight link and the exchanges which might be possible in Stratford, the hon. Gentleman does the House a service. I cannot comment specifically on the proposals for intermediate stations or on the outline powers in relation to crossrail, because they are matters yet to be determined.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Crossrail Bill was scuppered by the votes of two Labour Members? Does he accept that he would have the gratitude of all the people of London if he undid the consequences of that unholy alliance between the Liberal Democratic party in Tower Hamlets and Labour Members?

Mr. Norris

The whole House is aware that the Private Bill Committee procedure has served the House for many years. Many hon. Members, including myself, who have considered private Bills have considered how to address the principles behind those Bills entirely objectively. I would not dream of suggesting that that was not the case on this occasion. That does not detract, however, from the general disappointment felt on both sides of the House at the decision on crossrail.

Mr. Raynsford

The Minister will be well aware, even though he did not tell the House about it, of the extent of support from Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen and the Labour party for the principle of crossrail. We believe that the Bill should be recommitted. Having said that, serious concerns remain about the funding of crossrail, particularly if substantial works are deemed necessary to establish links at both ends of the route and to meet environmental concerns. Will the Minister therefore give an undertaking, on behalf of his Treasury colleagues, that any such works deemed necessary should not be prejudiced or sacrificed for lack of public finance?

Mr. Norris

We have always insisted, quite rightly, that the scheme should be taken forward in conjunction with the private sector and we anticipated substantial private sector investment. I believe that that is the proper way to proceed. There are great merits in that process, riot least in terms of the value engineering that the private sector can bring to such large projects. The Government have made clear their commitment through the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Question Time a couple of weeks ago and the many statements made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and me. Any alteration to the scheme would obviously be a matter for the promoters, because they would have to determine how it should be funded and taken forward.

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