HC Deb 14 March 1994 vol 239 cc677-713

Order for Second Reading read.

7 pm

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier today, I raised a point of order about the remarkable power that the private Bill, promoted by the London Docklands development corporation, would give to the Secretary of State for the Environment to dispose of the corporation to anybody he liked at any time and at any price. That seem to me to be a rather remarkable power to be included in a private Bill because it relates to as much as £1.2 billion of public assets.

In response to my point of order, Madam Speaker quoted a precedent from a private Bill which is now the British Waterways Act 1983. Our queries earlier today related to two points: first, the giving of the power to dispose of the whole or part of the LDDC and secondly, the fact that the Bill as drafted, and as apparently accepted by the authorities of both Houses, does not require any order or decision made by the Secretary of State to come before the House.

I have now checked the British Waterways Act 1983. It contains a schedule, covering virtually two pages, which lays down the detailed and difficult procedure, with many hurdles, that the Secretary of State would have to follow in disposing of any of the property of the British Waterways Board. It seems to me that the precedent that was quoted does not fully meet our objections. In the Bill as presently drafted, there is no requirement to bring any such proposition to the House, whereas under the British Waterways Act, which was quoted as a precedent, there is a requirement to bring such propositions before the House under a special parliamentary procedure.

I should, therefore, be grateful for your ruling again, Madam Deputy Speaker, whether it is appropriate for this public measure to be smuggled through as part of a private Bill.

Madam Deputy Speaker(Dame Janet Fookes)

Madam Speaker has already given considerable thought to the matter. She gave her ruling earlier today and I have no intention of altering or querying that in any way. However, I point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is perfectly possible during this debate, if he so wishes, to deploy the arguments that he has put as a point of order as arguments during debate. I further point out to him that if the Bill receives a Second Reading and goes to the Committee on Unopposed Bills, that Committee will be able to consider whether there should be any amendments or any other alterations.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I may be able to assist the House before I move that the Bill be read a Second time. The clause to which the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has referred in this point of order and the one at the end of the statement this afternoon relates to the later transfer of functions from the LDDC. It is a perfectly proper matter of concern.

The hon. Gentleman may know—if he does not, this may be the way through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to ensure that the matter is on the record—that his point has been understood by the promoter, the LDDC. I should like to repeat publicly an assurance, given privately in writing to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) by the corporation, that it is entirely happy to amend the Bill to ensure that in relation to this power, there will be an opportunity for the House to consider and to vote on an order without which there could not be that transfer of power. I hope that that meets the concern about the processes. The matter can, of course, be pursued further in the debate on Second Reading.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for pointing out this matter. The importance of the clause had not gone entirely without notice for some months. However, I give notice further to the point of order that when the Bill goes, as it probably will and perhaps should, to the Committee on Unopposed Bills, there will be discussions relating to the amendment that the promoter is willing to accept and to other matters. I refer especially to the issue that has been raised and has come into focus only in the past week—the relationship between public and private legislation.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I think that we can now make a start.

7.5 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes

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

We come to this debate against the background of the passage of almost 14 years since the legislation was presented to and approved by the House which entitled the Government to set up the first development corporations. The flagship of those development corporations was envisaged then as—I say this at the risk of being accused of being either metropolitan or regionalist—and could still be said to be, the London Docklands development corporation. It was set up, by order, under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 for the purpose of the regeneration of docklands. I and other hon. Members have been involved since that period in the debates about that process.

The fact that, unusually, the Bill is being sponsored by an Opposition Member does not change my view or that of other Opposition Members who represent docklands' constituencies that elected or imposed quangos are not the best way in which to proceed. We could all dig up hundreds of columns of comment on the history of development corporations that make that point over and over again. At this stage, however, I do not want to dwell on what has been or on what might have been. Indeed, I regard it as my job tonight specifically to deal with what will be.

The Bill comes before us tonight because the LDDC has realised that it has inherited the responsibility for regenerating an area of docklands, but that it does not have the consequential logical powers to manage that estate in certain areas. The point of order relates to the same powers, but specifically to what happens in the post-LDDC era.

We are talking about the legacy of the Port of London Authority and the legacy of the regulations that went with managing the port, such as the byelaws and the other powers that were given to that authority, which was a non-elected authority in its day. The reality of docklands now, as anyone who lives or travels there knows and as my colleagues who represent docklands know, is that it is not a working port any more. The Port of London has moved downstream to Tilbury and the docklands is a very different community. It is a community in which there is some marine activity—all Opposition Members would, I think, say that there is too little. There is a new airport and new businesses have come in to replace the businesses on the wharves and along the docks.

There is much new residential accommodation and there are significant new regions of public provision. One of the consequences of the closing of the docks at the Port of London end of the Thames near to Tower bridge and along the shores of our boroughs in Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Newham is that much of the space that was previously private has become public open space. Many of the views that people had in the past were of wharves, cranes and commercial dock activity. That has changed. The wharves have become offices or flats and walkways through the wharves and down to the edge of the Thames have become public amenities in a way that they never were before. That makes it an entirely different area to manage. It is for that reason that the docklands corporation, for the first time, seeks to introduce a Bill that will give it power to manage.

As the explanatory memorandum says the Bill contains, among other things, powers to enable the London Docklands Development Corporation … to manage and regulate certain lands and waters within or in the vicinity of its area". I want to elaborate on the main purposes of the Bill and deal with other linked matters.

If the Bill passes through this House—it has already passed through the other place—the corporation will take powers that relate almost entirely to land and water within the boundaries of the LDDC.

Pausing there, we are still at that stage where the LDDC has not rolled back any of its frontiers. That is a matter which I shall allude to in a minute. But dedesignation, as it is called—a power that has been changed from a power originally to roll back the dockland corporation in one move to a power to roll it back in part—has not yet begun, although it is very much under discussion.

We are discussing docklands as it has become. It is a great expanse comprising 400 acres of enclosed water, about 25 miles of dock edge, all owned by the LDDC. That is a lot of water and dock edge, owned by one authority. That is why, to be honest, the big player here is the LDDC.

Technically today, the statutory controls reside with the PLA, but that has become irrelevant to the functioning of the activities in the region in question. As of tonight, the LDDC has no more powers to govern what goes on in docklands than those of a private landowner. It has regulated the region; it has been the planning development authority; it has sought to police what it has planned. Local authorities such as mine have sometimes resented those powers. The reality, however, has been without any statutory backing. It has employed former harbour masters, 20 water wardens and a degree of bluster, good will and hope to try to get its own way.

Another reality is that with every year that passes not only do more people live and work in docklands than was the case when the LDDC first came into being in 1981 but lots more people visit it on weekdays, as on a Sunday, to walk along from London bridge, for example, down to Hay's galleria, and along that and other riverside walks. They come to canoe, to sail and to take part in riverside sports or to visit places such as the docklands arena or even to appreciate the architecture, which in parts is as attractive by night as by day.

There are all sorts of new activities that act as a recreational magnet, bringing people from east London and beyond. These include a rowing club in the Royal Albert dock, and water sports centres in Millwall, the Greenland dock and the Royal Victoria docks. There is a water sports club in Shadwell basin. The London sea scouts have their headquarters in the East India docks. There are marinas, one on my side of the river in South dock and Greenland dock and one to be set up on each side of the river in the Albert basin. There are restaurants burgeoning all over the place. There are now even several floating restaurants. I have only visited one and when I went there for a public meeting it nearly sank, so it was not a good precedent for me. There will be, as there are now, historic vessels to visit and other docklands traditions will be retained by the restoration of buildings to their former glory. In addition, historic vessels will be restored to suitable sites.

There is some commercial traffic of course. Barges still take construction materials and excavated spoil in a good year to Canary wharf—in a less good year to other, lesser ventures. Some of the spoil will be from the Jubilee line extension, although some of that will go by road. We have tried to establish a decent riverbus service as part of London's integrated transport system. It has to be said, sadly, that two of those initiatives for such a service have sunk, but there are still people who want to put a third one afloat. I am sure that other hon. Members representing constituencies in the region will wish them well. We in the Liberal Democrats believe that a riverbus will really happen only when it is agreed as part of an integrated London transport structure that has a built-in and accepted subsidy that does not rely primarily on the private developer, who might be the beneficiary.

There are Sunday markets and there is even a plan for a floating market. Additional activities will attract other people.

What will the Bill do? If it is passed, it will give the corporation, instead of the PLA, general power to regulate and manage the areas designated in the Bill, subject to certain duties, some of which were inserted in the other place following negotiations with the London boroughs. These include, most importantly, a duty to secure a diversity of uses for the region and maintain public access to the waterside. One of the questions that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) asks most often in this place—certainly I have often asked it, too—is why, when the original legislation was passed, it was not made clear for whose benefit the docklands were to be regenerated.

It was a wonderful Bill for setting out objectives, but it did not have any specified clientele. It was a general regeneration. Many of us that thought it would be helpful—and would have agreed that it was necessary to stress this from the beginning—that it should be regenerated in particular for the benefit of the communities living and working there.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. As so often, one asks a question knowing the answer. The hon. Gentleman well knows that during the long Committee stage of the original Bill, I moved amendment after amendment to achieve the purposes that he has mentioned, particularly to add national advantage, local importance and local advantage. The Government declined to act and the amendments were lost.

Mr. Hughes

When the hon. Gentleman was doing that, I was a mere candidate for the Greater London council. Although that was not an election I won, we did much better than we had before. One of the things that I was told, almost immediately after having taken my seat on St. David's day in 1983, was that the first piece of legislation that I should seek to understand was that which set up the urban development corporation in 1980. I was therefore given the full works and they remain on my shelf to this day.

I was aware of that debate, because that was the debate that the community was having in Southwark, the docklands, Tower Hamlets and Newham when the legislation was passed. That was a well-fought debate. The hon. Gentleman was pre-eminent in fighting that corner—I wish, like him, that he had won.

How will the Bill work? The main controls of the Bill will be by means of byelaws and they can be made for the purposes set out in schedule 3.

If Royal Assent is given, some parts of Bill will immediately come into effect, as is frequently the way with legislation. They include important provisions, for example, the control of obstructions on the waterside, the control of pollution, and the movement of vessels.

Therefore, there will be a control of activity on water and a control of activity adjacent to the water to which the public have access. It will be an offence to break those rules, just as it is an offence to break other principal and secondary legislation and byelaws, and, therefore, there is provision for an enforcement mechanism.

The Bill requires that before making byelaws, the docklands corporation is to consult the local authority—the borough council for the area in question—and to consult the Port of London Authority, the City of London corporation, which is the port health authority and the market authority for Billingsgate market, and the London fire and civil defence authority.

The way in which byelaws operate is adopted from traditional, statutory local government experience—the process contained in the Local Government Act 1972, which local authorities use for their own byelaws. One may object to the Secretary of State about the byelaws. He or she may hold a public inquiry and must confirm them. There is nothing unusual about the system and no additional, separate procedures are being sought. If the House agrees, as it has in the past, that that is the right way in which local authorities should proceed, the corporation asks that it is allowed to use the same procedure.

There are a few odds and ends to which I shall now allude. There are a number of miscellaneous clauses in the Bill. One provides for the extinguishing of certain navigation rights; another provides for the termination of the residual jurisdiction of the PLA, which would effectively say that it is no longer interested in or appropriate for the regulation of such activity; and another varies the boundaries of designated areas. It also deals with another matter, for which I know that the hon. Member for Newham, South and the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) have argued—I was with them when they did so.

They argued that there is and should be an annual report of the activities of the docklands corporation produced, sent to the Secretary of State, and made publicly available. I know that that is done already, but not in a compulsory and regulated manner. Opposition Members have had occasion to complain about the report, or to complain that it has come to our attention only after it has been the subject of a press conference or launch, which is entirely inappropriate.

The controversial matter to which the points of order alluded is the transfer of functions when the London Docklands development corporation ceases to exist. When I was asked to do this job, one of the questions that I asked my briefing team was what would happen when the LDDC went. It is all very well providing for its functions to be transferred, but to whom? It is obvious to me as a Member of Parliament and a democrat that it should go to some authority that is accountable. None of us wants a proposal for the handover to another authority which is not accountable.

Mr. Dobson

Such as Asil Nadir.

Mr. Hughes

Or, indeed, to Asil Nadir, who is not yet a public authority and seems certainly not accountable.

I shall outline what the Bill provides, make a comment that refers to the point of order and express a view. The Bill provides that there can be a transfer by an order of the Secretary of State about which he or she will have had to consult the borough council for the area concerned. I am reading expressly what I have been given: The Bill does not stipulate to whom the functions will be transferred, although it is the LDDC's favoured policy that functions should transfer to the same body as the land and management responsibilities will be transferred to. I was asked, as it were, to say that that is a fairly Delphic statement and that it does not expressly say to which body the functions will be transferred. I am instructed that the reason that it does not expressly say that is that no decision has expressly been made.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

The hon. Gentleman is on to an extremely interesting point to which, perhaps, we shall not get an answer in the debate. There is a difficult question to answer. If there is to be a successor body, which would then find that the land of the docklands area was no longer in its jurisdiction, and that it was in control only of the management of the docks and the water system, is it conceivable that that would be a sufficient task for a single body? If not, surely the logic points to the return of not merely the land in docklands to the boroughs of which they are part, but to the management of the water and of the docks in whatever local authority boundary they fall. Although it may appear to be a kind of a duplication of task, I am sure that it is one which the local authorities would be anxious to do and be capable of fulfilling.

Mr. Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman puts forward as his proposed suggestion one with which, as he would expect, I agree. The starting point must be that management and the regulatory authority are transferred to the democratically accountable three local authorities. If someone approached Members of Parliament or the local authorities in question with another proposal that they found acceptable, but which was different, I am sure that we would not stand in their way.

If, for example the three local authorities came to an agreement that requested a common, joint committee to manage the water area, as has been done in the past, that might be a practical way forward. It may be easier to have one authority managing all the water space than three authorities in terms of benefit and scale of advantage. However, the assumption must be, as has been our assumption, that the best place to start is the boroughs, but the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that I cannot give him an answer. The reason why I cannot do so is that there is no answer yet to give. The Bill provides the route and the method, but does not provide the solution.

I must say to the right hon. Gentleman and to other colleagues that, if they find that an entirely unsatisfactory conclusion and if they want to know the answer before they allowed the Bill to leave the House, they must seek to get the answer, as I will, during the other stages of the Bill.

I link that answer to the point of order and suggest a way forward. I can assure the House that the debate about who takes over will come back to us. The hon. Member for Newham, South spotted the issue first and others have spotted it subsequently. They have spotted that, as the Bill stands at the moment, clause 22, previously clause 21, which provides for the transfer of the functions of the LDDC conferred on it by the Bill to another body by order of the Secretary of State, is exercisable by statutory instrument, but is not an order which the House has the power to prevent being passed. It does not require the approval of Parliament.

We often have debates like this. I have been on countless Committees that have debated amendments that this or that clause should come into force only if there is a negative or an affirmative resolution of the House to follow. The proposal that the docklands corporation makes through me to the House in answer to the point of order is that it will make those orders subject to negative resolution before the House.

Not only clause 20, but clause 22 will be open to that procedure. A resolution can be tabled which will annul those orders. We could debate the procedures here rather than off in a Committee somewhere and I hope that that will give us the peg on which to hang a debate. The right hon. Gentleman, his friends and I may want to try to push the LDDC to give us a more express answer before the debate and the other stages of the Bill. We may want to engage in thinking ahead rather than leaving it to later, which would be a perfectly responsible procedure to adopt. There is none the less, a promise that the transfer of functions will come before us and that it will be able to be the subject of an annulment procedure. I hope that it will allow us to stage that debate later.

I have two more substantive points to make. I am sure that other hon. Members want to speak. I shall make one point on behalf of the promoter and one more parochial point on behalf of my constituents.

The waters that we are discussing and which are managed by the LDDC are very deep. All of us who live alongside the river and know it well know the danger of the Thames. From my constituency experience, I know that it is difficult to manage safety. For example, what sort of fencing should we use to stop children falling into the water? Rigid fencing may be easier to climb and provide a child with a sense of security. A child may fall over such fencing quite easily. It might be better to have less rigid or flexible fencing about which children feel insecure. If a child were to cycle down a slope towards a dock edge, flexible fencing would act as a break and throw that child back from the edge. Such safety issues are complicated debates. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and other bodies have been involved in such debates over the years. There is potentially great danger in the docklands. The management of the docklands must be concerned principally with the safety of the user, whether on the water in terms of sport or business or those on the dock or water edge.

Swimming in the Thames and in the docks is also dangerous. One of my first duties was to present regatta cups from the end of a jetty. It was no surprise that I ended up going into Greenland dock as part of the process. I remember someone on the quayside saying, "They would never have done that to Bob Mellish." That was probably true. As I swallowed a mouthful of extremely unpleasant water, I realised why my swimming in the past had been carried out elsewhere. The Government have still not yet made the Thames clean enough to make it the obvious place for me or others to swim in.

On a more serious point, since 1981 four children and 10 adults have drowned in the waters that we are talking about. No matter how well managed the waters are, they will still be dangerous and they will still be subject to infection. For example, toxic blue algae blooms in the summer. We will not be able to get rid of that from the docks in the short term because those blooms come from the Thames which has many nutrients and is a tidal river. We will not suddenly stop the benefits of a tidal river in the docklands and nor would we want to.

On many occasions, young people have had to be prevented from diving off bridges and other structures into the docks. I have often recently seen youngsters diving off dock edges during the summer as they have done in generations past. In addition, hundreds of vehicles have been retrieved from the docks. In 1992 alone, 22 submerged vehicles were recovered from the docks in the Isle of Dogs including—and I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) is aware of this—a Rolls-Royce and a fork lift truck. Perhaps the Rolls-Royce was left there because it was worth more while regarded as insurance than after retrieval—

Mr. Dobson

Probably Asil Nadir's.

Mr. Hughes

I hear a recurrent theme. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has an obsession tonight of which he really must rid himself. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the person to whom he referred is not likely to return to take part in this debate.

The proposed byelaws would make such dumping and other forms of pollution an offence. They would also make it an offence to take part in unauthorised swimming and diving. The first point, preventing the docks' waters from being polluted, is very important. It will also help safety. The second point is also important, although we cannot guarantee that that byelaw will be 100 per cent. obeyed because stopping youngsters swimming and diving is probably one of the most difficult tasks known to human kind.

The byelaws will also keep competing users apart. In all three of our boroughs, docks have been set aside and licensed for sailing. Long stretches of water set aside for sailing can be tempting for other sorts of riverside use such as wet bikes, water skiing and other motorised vessels. There have been many incidents in respect of which people have intervened to stop the motorised and more dangerous activity from interfering, often potentially fatally, with the more passive forms of activity. Dangerous behaviour will be an offence. That is important and I hope that we will all welcome that.

Bad practices go on because people think that they can get away with it. For example, on occasions building contractors find it convenient to wash out their cement skips in the nearest stretch of water. One might think that it does not matter if one lets one's fuel from one's vessel, or from some other activity, into the dock. It is rather like the water and the wine in the well. One thinks that no one notices, but the next day one discovers that everyone has let their oil into the dock and the dock has become very unpleasant indeed. A spill in 1992 measured 1,000 ft by 200 ft. That was a pretty big slick of oil in the docks. People have also emptied other things into the docks, including portable toilets, fairly regularly. I am sure that we would not want that to happen and the regulations allow action to be taken in those circumstances, too. If there is a marina, it is important that people behave properly there for the surrounding users.

I want now to consider the process of the Bill to date so that we appreciate that the Bill has been tested and sounded out in relation to everyone who might have a particular interest. The Bill does not propose a unique power. It is not as if similar powers have not been requested in the House before. Other landowners have comparable powers. They include the National Trust and the water authorities. The British Waterways Bill included similar powers. Transport undertakers, airports and railway companies have similar powers. We are all aware of private Bill procedures in which similar powers have been included. Those bodies have powers to make byelaws and those byelaws often relate to water.

The Merseyside Development Corporation Act 1985 conferred byelaw-making powers on Merseyside which is a similar development corporation to the LDDC. That was a precedent for this Bill as well as for the idea that it would be a good thing to update the authority and make the powers and enforcement belong to the people who do the work. In addition, there has been a consultation process.

There has been considerable consultation with user groups, local and other public authorities, residents' associations and other bodies. More than 90 such bodies have been consulted on the Bill and draft byelaws. No one said that there should be no byelaws. No one has objected in general terms to the proposed byelaws either.

There have been long discussions with the PLA from which the docklands corporation seeks to inherit. It has no objection to the Bill or to the amendments already made in the other place or proposed to be made in this place. No petitions have been lodged in this House. There were two petitions in the other place, one from the borough of Tower Hamlets and the other from the Docklands Forum. 13oth were withdrawn following negotiations before the Bill reached its Committee stage in the Lords. Newham and Southwark local authorities have not lodged petitions or expressed any formal opposition to the Bill.

In essence, the Bill comes to us with one specific issue to which we have been alerted, which we must address and which will be amended. That has to do with the power to debate and decide who takes over from the LDDC. Otherwise, everyone who has an interest believes that this is the right framework.

Newham has been involved and has been quite active. However, it is happy. Southwark has been less active, but has expressed no opposition. As we have heard, Tower Hamlets petitioned on the Bill, but reached an agreement with the docklands corporation in June 1993. One of the things that were agreed in that negotiation was that Tower Hamlets would have to be consulted in respect of the successor body and, in establishing successor bodies, the LDDC agreed to use reasonable endeavours to secure local representation on them. Tower Hamlets got something out of that and I hope that that is welcomed across the political divide, because it is clearly better than the previous position.

The corporation has also undertaken to make representations to the Secretary of State prior to any form of transfer of functions recommending that adequate financial provisions be made for successor bodies.

It is in respect of that that I should like to make a parochial point. The Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction wrote to me recently, as he did to other hon. Members, saying that he was contemplating de-designation as a process.

One of the areas that he was contemplating de-designating first is that strip of the Southwark docklands from London bridge along the Thames eastward along the south bank roughly to the King's stairs adjacent to the Rotherhithe tunnel. That is the pan-handle of Southwark docklands.

There is a time and a place for everything. Perhaps before long, de-designation of that area and transfer to the local authority, should happen. I have been offered a meeting with the Minister. I shall take that up and discuss the detailed issues.

The issue that the community in Southwark is concerned about with regard to that area and the rest is that there should not be de-designation until we are sure that other public authorities have not only the power but the wherewithal to carry on and complete anything that is left incomplete. Equally importantly, they must have the finance to continue to maintain the jobs that have been started. For example, it is no good creating a lovely new park, a new water sports centre, the Surrey docks urban farm, the Lavender dock educational centre at the Pump House or any of the other things if we then say, "Thank you very much. It is yours now" and the Government do not provide, through the local authority or someone else, the wherewithal to fund them on an ongoing basis.

The precondition for me to say yes, go on and hand it back to Southwark, the precondition for the people of Southwark to say the same, and I suppose the precondition in many ways for the hon. Members for Bow and Poplar and for Newham, South, who represent the other parts of docklands, and for the Labour Front Bench, will be to say, "Fine, hand the docklands back to local authorities but do not give us the job without giving us the resources." That is a fundamentally important plea. I am all in favour of moving on, but I am not in favour of moving on without the resources to do it.

The Bill is a measure to bring the management of docklands up to date; a Bill which has no expressed objection outside this place; a Bill which addresses some of the real concerns about how to look after a large number of people in a dangerous area but one with huge potential; and a Bill which has now addressed the question of how we will proceed hereafter by saying that there will be further parliamentary debates about it. Much of the Bill is technical, much of it is precedented and some of it is new.

Tonight, in responding to the Bill, I hope that hon. Members will feel that they can contribute to setting the framework for docklands in the new legislative structure. I hope that the debate will be listened to outside and that those who represent the area, know it, work in it, love it and believe in it can, as a result of the process, get a docklands that is more people centred, more people safe and more people beneficial than in the past. I think that that is the motivation of the corporation in the Bill.

For people who are an unelected quango, they have been trying very hard. I have to say that in the Bill they are doing fairly well. But I will not be complacent. I will not let them off the hook. I want them to continue trying even harder. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading tonight.

7.42 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

I thank the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for his introduction to the Bill. As he said, the Bill is promoted by the London Docklands development corporation, which has been in existence since 1981. It proposes to give that body new powers to make byelaws relating to the former docks and the areas surrounding them. That is certainly necessary for the safety of people who live in the area and who might wish to work or take their leisure there. We do not argue with those propositions; indeed, we welcome them.

There is doubt among some of the organisations involved whether those duties should have been given to the London Docklands development corporation in the first place if it is a partly time-expired body and if it is intended that it should eventually give up its present role. Some of my hon. Friends may wish to deal with that aspect. There is another aspect to the Bill. It gives the Secretary of State powers to extend the role of the development corporation's byelaws outside the area covered by the London Docklands development corporation, which is a bit of a novelty.

Initially, I shall concentrate on what I regard as the big question about the Bill, which is clause 22. That clause empowers the Secretary of State to dispose of all or part of the London Docklands development corporation to anyone he likes. It seems that the Secretary of State will be able to transfer the entire assets of the London Docklands development corporation to any person, including, as I suggested, Mr. Asil Nadir in grateful thanks for his contribution to Tory party funds. I am not suggesting that that is the Government's intention, but they would be empowering themselves to do that under clause 22.

Disposing of assets on this scale is not a private matter and Labour Members believe that it should not have been included in a private Bill. The London Docklands development corporation has assets totalling at least £1,200 million. Any disposal of those assets, which have come to the development corporation as a result of money paid out by the taxpayer, should not be smuggled through as the subject of a private Bill. Obviously, it was something which the Government wanted done. The development corporation did not introduce the proposition. It was included because the Department of the Environment asked the corporation to include it in the Bill. That suggests a cavalier attitude on the Government Benches about the control of public funds.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry)

I assure the hon. Gentleman that nothing is in the Bill at the request of my Department. Indeed, when I speak later, I shall argue that clause 22 is unnecessary. It may be a matter for debate in Committee. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that nothing is in the Bill at the behest of my Department. I am totally neutral in relation to the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. Dobson

Is the Minister telling the House that his Department was not consulted on the contents of the Bill and was not aware of clause 22 before the Bill was printed?

Mr. Baldry

Of course, we were consulted on the Bill, as indeed we are consulted on most private measures. The promoters of Bills use their common sense and consult the Government on whether we are likely to oppose the provisions of a Bill. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we tend to be neutral on the provisions of private Bills. I repeat that there is nothing in the Bill at our behest. I will certainly be arguing that clause 22 is unnecessary, for the reasons that I shall set out when I have the opportunity, as I hope I will in due course, of catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Dobson

It opens up the possibility of a rather more neutral attitude by the Department of the Environment, as the sponsoring Department for one of these organisations, to suggest that it scarcely knew and certainly did not care that clause 22 was in the Bill. Certainly, the Department does not appear to have pointed out that it is an unprecedented clause and the propositions that have been put forward as precedents have never permitted the disposal of public assets on this scale without recourse to the House of Commons for permission for each such disposal.

If the Minister is suggesting that clause 22 be withdrawn, I am sure that that will whole-heartedly be supported by Labour. It would not have been a bad idea if the Minister's officials or one of his colleagues had suggested that in the first place. We would not have had to go to all the bother of tracking it down, making points of order and identifying clause 22 as a novelty in a way that apparently no one in the House of Lords managed to do.

Mr. Shore

We have just heard a remarkable statement on the most interesting question of consultation with different Government Departments. Does my hon. Friend think that there might have been some useful consultation with the Department of Trade and Industry? Surely it is odd that we should be debating this Bill, which seeks to regulate and control business activities in the docklands water area, when at the same time the House is considering the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, which at the stroke of a pen would enable the President of the Board of Trade to scupper the whole Bill. What guarantees do we have that that will not happen?

Mr. Dobson

My right hon. Friend makes a good point and the Minister may explain that the clause is unnecessary because the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will provide all the powers that are necessary. That would certainly be the logic of the position. This may be a minor effort at deregulation, and perhaps the London Docklands development corporation is seeking to ingratiate itself with its masters in putting forward the proposition.

It must be said that secret transfers of assets, secret subsidies and precious little role for elected representatives have always been part and parcel of the history of the LDDC. It is difficult to find out how much public money has been going into docklands because the Government and the LDDC have refused to disclose the full information. Time and again, Ministers have responded to detailed questions from Opposition Members by saying that the information was not available.

It is right that the House should look at the question of expenditure. As the Bill stands, there is a proposition that the LDDC can ask the Minister to agree to hand over all or some of the property, and also that the Secretary of State would be empowering himself to decide what to do. We must look at the priorities that the LDDC and the Government have been following in relation to docklands.

Mr. Simon Hughes

One of the benefits of doing this job is that one gets some information. I may be able to help the hon. Gentleman by giving him the figures that I have received for capital employed, which is cash expended by the LDDC from its setting up to 31 March 1993—the end of the past financial year. The total, from Government grants plus income from property disposals, rents, planning fees and miscellaneous sources, is £1,617 million.

Mr. Dobson

My own guesswork would have been wrong by just £17 million, and I hope that the rest of the figures that I quote on the basis of the inadequate public information will be equally accurate.

One of the problems with docklands and the question of large public subsidies is that the LDDC's activities are complicated by the existence of the enterprise zone on the Isle of Dogs. It is clear that billions of pounds of private and public money have been poured into London docklands and into the Isle of Dogs. The question arises, why are the people of the Isle of Dogs so dissatisfied with their circumstances that they recently voted in a Nazi to represent them on their local council?

That may be an example of the Government throwing money at a problem. The trouble is that they appear to have thrown and missed, because the money—instead of going to the people who needed it in docklands, the voters—has been snapped up by, generally speaking, a lot of foreign property speculators. In docklands, and on the Isle of Dogs in particular, thousands of people are living in bad housing and many of them are out of work. Many young people have poor job prospects and the Government have not thrown any public money at them.

The Government and the LDDC have thrown money at property developers. Of the LDDC's funds of £1.6 billion, which the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey confirmed, roughly 75 per cent., or £1.2 billion, has gone into supporting and subsidising property development. To be fair, the LDDC has put money into housing and 16,000 new dwellings have been built in the area. However, only 4,000 of those have been for council or housing association tenants at rents that local people can afford. On the Isle of Dogs, 3,055 houses have been built, but only 583 are available for rent at rents which local people can afford.

Over the past four years, about £20 million has been spent on social housing by the LDDC in docklands. There is still a desperate shortage and that shortage of housing that has been exploited by the British National party to promote racial strife and violence. The LDDC claims—this is the sort of thing on which it spends its money—that, since it came into existence, 40,000 jobs have been created in docklands. However, only 13,000 of those were new jobs. The rest were transfers of jobs from outside. It is estimated that, of the new jobs, only 3,000 went to people living, not in docklands, but in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark as a whole.

Meanwhile, 15,000 existing local jobs have disappeared as many existing employers have been forced or bought out because their continued existence was seen to fit in badly with some of the development that was going on. The jobless figures in 1981 were 3,500, and in 1993 were 5,500—an increase of 54 per cent. Those unemployment figures, and the large numbers of young people who were born, went to school and live on the Isle of Dogs and who cannot get a job, have been exploited by the British National party to promote racial attacks, particularly on Bengali people.

Despite the money that has been poured into docklands, jobs for people who have grown up there are scarce and are getting scarcer. The job prospects for young people are getting worse. Local people are living in rundown properties, and housing waiting lists have risen by one third since the LDDC came into existence. The number of homeless people has almost trebled to 4,800. That is still going on.

Just before Christmas, the Isle of Dogs neighbourhood proposed to transfer land at nil cost to the East London housing association so that it could be used to build housing for people living on the Isle of Dogs, and it urged the LDDC to do the same. Between them, that would have permitted the building of 450 new homes, most of them on the Isle of Dogs. The Housing Corporation agreed to that idea in principle. The LDDC has not just rejected that—according to my informant, it has not even replied to the suggestion.

Meanwhile, in many parts of docklands, and again particularly on the Isle of Dogs, residents have had to put up with a great deal of noise, vibration, dust, disturbance and—for a considerable period—the loss of their television signal because of office development and the transport connections that were being made for that development.

Office building has boomed, and Canary wharf on the Isle of Dogs is a supreme example. It is a symbol of the 1980s—an unfinished, half-empty office development. It is estimated that Canary wharf alone received £1,600 million in subsidies from the taxpayer. That is £1,600 million for speculative offices, and £20 million for housing for ordinary people. The land sale, the help with transport connections and the enterprise zone tax allowances added together give the figure of £1,600 million for the taxpayer subsidy for the building of Canary wharf.

All that has come from a Government who cannot find money for London's hospitals, for the Northern line, for homes for the homeless, for people trying to start a family while living with their in-laws and for fighting crime in docklands. They could, however, find £1,600 million to help a Canadian property speculator who was so incompetent that, despite getting £1,600 million of taxpayers' money, he went bust. That was the ultimate expression of the Government's inner-city policies.

When looking at the people who may wish to decide to hand over part of the LDDC's property, or at Secretaries of State who may then wish to authorise that, it must be remembered that they tend to follow fashion. I have looked recently at the announcements that were made when the Canadian company Olympia and York was announced as the rescuer of the work at Canary wharf. An article in The Times by Barbara Amiel was entitled "The man who made the canary fly." Not to be outdone, The Sunday Times described the company as The quiet man who will make the canary sing. A little later, after it all fell apart, we had The Observer headlines such as "This Canary Won't Sing", "Olympia and York's Leaning Tower of Debt" and "Nightmare in docklands."

Should anyone think that it was not an establishment set-up that gave us Canary wharf, I commend to them Ms Barbara Amiel's article, which said, referring to the Chelsea flower show: Corporate tents dotted the grounds. Robin Leigh-Pemberton, Governor of the Bank of England smiled at Lord Rippon. Lord Rothermere bowed to the Princess of Wales. Cabinet Ministers exchanged cautionary tales. An onlooker might have heard the contented voices of London's own, happy amongst themselves. In the middle of this and that, a small man with an ebullient smile dashed over to introduce himself to the president of Olympia and York, the construction company that was sponsoring the occasion. It was Mr. Brian Griffiths, head of the policy unit at No. 10. They were all in it. They all believed that the developers of Canary wharf could walk on water. It turned out that they could not.

I believe that Ministers, the British establishment and the banks involved all demonstrated themselves to be a collection of hapless clowns in the backing that they gave to Canary wharf. Once it had failed, they decided to do anything to bail it out. Banks ran round like headless chickens, not trying to recover money from Canary wharf but closing down dozens of small businesses throughout the country and all over docklands in an effort to recoup the money that they had lost. The LDDC was wringing its hands. The Government extended the period of the special enterprise zone tax allowances to help bail it out.

Then the Government agreed to build the extension to the Jubilee line and helped Canary wharf obtain a £100 million loan from the European investment bank, also in an effort to bail it out. All the while, the people who live on the Isle of Dogs, the people who live in poor housing whose lives have been made a misery by the construction work, the people who find it difficult to find jobs, and the people who are disappointed and hurt that their children and grandchildren cannot find jobs, have been ignored by the Government, the LDDC and the developers. They are desperate for new and better homes. They are desperate for jobs for themselves and their children. They are outraged that billions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been poured instead into the marbled halls of the speculators.

It is the epitome of all that is wrong with Britain that when people move into the office block that is the most spectacular failure of a property development they will look down on the only part of Britain that has voted for a fascist to represent them in Parliament in recent times—not in Parliament, on the local council.[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) laughs. He apparently thinks that it is funny that fascists represent people anywhere in Britain. In docklands we see people who are absolutely sickened by the way in which they have been treated and want to be treated better. They note the contrast between all the money that has been poured into the pockets of the property speculators and all the money that has not been provided to make their lives decent. The only people who speak up for them are those in the Labour party.

8.4 pm

Ms Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

I grew up facing a grim dock wall in The Highway in east London. Although I was lulled to sleep at night by the sound of ships' horns, I had to climb to the third floor of my father's house to see the tops of cranes. If I wanted to look at the water I had to walk to Tower Hill gardens, which was 15 or 20 minutes away, or to King Edward memorial park in Shadwell. When the docks closed and my neighbours lost their jobs with the Port of London Authority and hit hard times, it was sad and bad for people in the district.

As time went on and the dock area became derelict, it was obvious that something needed to be done. The Government decided to take the project out of the hands of democratically elected bodies and set up an appointed quango, the London Docklands development corporation. If the people of the area were blighted by the closure of the docks, they were blighted a second time by the setting up of the LDDC. It has brought them no good. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has pointed out the failure of the LDDC to provide the desperately needed housing in the area. Seventy five per cent. of the housing that it built was for sale. The housing for rent was luxury housing that local people could not afford.

The Government and the LDDC bear a direct responsibility not only for the election of the measly British National party councillor—whom we shall get rid of—but for the racial antagonism and hatred that have developed in the area. Racial violence has grown while desperate people fight for the few resources in the area and the few houses that have been built. The affordable places that the Isle of Dogs neighbourhood built to house local people have not been built with the blessing of the LDDC. It took years before we were able to build Masthouse terrace because the LDDC caused delays. Then everyone wanted the few houses that were built. Yet it should have been possible to build thousands of homes for affordable rent. That vast area of land available could have solved the chronic housing problems of the area once and for all. The opportunity was wasted and those whom local people still call yuppies moved in while their own plight was worse than ever and no one seemed to care.

No jobs resulted from the setting up of the LDDC. The LDDC policy of property speculation meant that higher land prices forced out local businesses that employed local people. The unemployment rate in Tower Hamlets in the past few months has gone not down but up again. Jobs for local people were not created, despite all the money that went into the area. It has been estimated that every job that was created cost £45,000—what chronic mismanagement, what chronic waste of public money.

From 1981 to 1992, the LDDC received £1.6 billion grant in aid in addition to other concessions in the enterprise zone such as capital allowances, rates allowances, tax allowances and so on. There was no trickle-down effect, as the LDDC and the Government had prophesied.

The whole Canary wharf project was madness. It was madness to build that huge edifice of offices isolated with no adequate public transport to reach it. When the Government sought to remedy the position, there was crazy mismanagement again. The docklands highway cost £650 million to construct. The Limehouse link is the most expensive mile of road that has ever been built. Despite assurances to the contrary, the docklands highway is used for commuter traffic to pass through Tower Hamlets. One only has to go to Tower Hamlets on any weekday evening to see that the traffic jams on the A 13 are as bad as ever. Come any evening and see how that £650 million has been wasted. The Government held up the building of the Jubilee line extension for £400 million and insisted that the money had to come from private industry. The Jubilee line extension is still not started and yet the Government have thrown the money away on roads.

The St. Vincent estate was knocked down to build the Limehouse link and 500 homes went by the board. Rehousing those people is one of the sore points that caused the trouble that led to the election of the British National party candidate.

Mr. Spearing

As Member of Parliament for a neighbouring constituency I pass through my hon. Friend's constituency frequently. I noticed that the site that was occupied by the St. Vincent estate is not above the enormous tunnel. Was the estate originally demolished to provide for that tunnel and if not, why were those flats not refurbished, as those on the other side of the road have been, instead of making the area into a blank site?

Ms Gordon

That is a good question. Most local people think that the LDDC picked the route that destroyed 500 units of public sector housing because it wanted the land for office developments or to sell off for expensive private housing. It could have built the road along the foreshore or in a tunnel instead of building a cut-and-cover road and then it would not have had to pull down the St Vincent estate. The bottom fell out of the market, no one wanted office developments or luxury housing and the land remains unused.

Although I wrote to the LDDC on behalf of local people and said that they had discussed plans and wanted affordable housing, council housing and community centres and so forth on the site, the LDDC has no intention of building anything of the kind. It never consults local people and it never does what they want. That is not its way.

Let us look at some other aspects—beyond the pantomime of the Jubilee line extension, which the Government and the LDDC have postponed over and over again—that is irritating local people. Let us consider why the people whom I represent and I do not feel that we ought to give further powers to the LDDC, which has not managed well the powers that it has.

The docklands light railway extension to Lewisham has been on the cards for a long time. It will cause a lot more disturbance of the type that my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras described. Local people have literally been made to eat dirt—dirt and dust seeps into their houses and they suffer from the noise of pile driving. Does the Minister know what pile driving sounds like night and day? It can drive people mad. Local people have put up with that for years and now they are being asked to put up with more of it for the building of the docklands light railway.

Local people wanted that extension of public transport and could see that it had benefits—or some, if not all, did. Members of the Millwall park users group—the park will be taken over for a long time and people will lose that amenity while the railway extension is built—and other petitioners against the Bill spent many months preparing evidence for the House of Commons and House of Lords Select Committee. The Committee assured them and the neighbourhood that Island Gardens station would be built underground. I asked the Minister, in the Chamber, for a community trust fund to be set up with £1 million to compensate people for the loss of amenities during the years that the extension was being built. The residents could have controlled that trust fund and provided other amenities for the community, as a substitute for the football pitch, the park and all the other things that would be out of action.

In its wisdom, the House of Lords Committee decided that the primary purpose was to compensate local people by means of capital investment, which would enhance the area, rather than by handouts—it considered that the trust that I asked for was a handout—through a community trust or exceptional compensation payments. It also decided that the new underground Island Gardens station would be proposed as compensation for people in the area. Some people were satisfied with the proposal that the station would be underground, and that it would be properly staffed and that Millwall park would be levelled off and reinstated, which would improve the area.

After all their work and all those petitions and discussions, we have suddenly heard that the money is not there and that Island Gardens station might be deleted. Hon. Members might think that the docklands light railway is a great amenity for the community, but 25 per cent. of islanders do not live within reasonable walking distance of a station. If Island Gardens and Mudchute stations are not included in the Lewisham extension, another 25 per cent. of the community will not have the benefit of living within walking distance of a station on the direct line to Lewisham. The DLR primarily serves the business area and not the residential area. Many residents have a long walk to stations and the new proposal to delete Island Gardens and to let the community down, after having what local people considered were serious discussions, will make the position much worse.

A spur line is suggested for Island Gardens and Mudchute, but the local community has totally rejected that idea as trains would be infrequent and it is not what was promised or what they want. Everyone is asking when the trains will run in the evening and at weekends. They still stop at 9 o'clock at night and there are no trains on Saturdays and Sundays. People cannot go anywhere by train then. They have to wait in the cold for the infrequent buses.

So much for LDDC management and policies. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) will agree that it has taken a long time for the Beckton extension to come into use. We are promised it next month—

Mr. Spearing

It is a year overdue.

Ms Gordon

Yes, it is a year overdue—so much for the way in which the LDDC manages things.

What about access to the water? I spoke to the Docklands sailing club today. Its members told me that if they want access to the LDDC-owned slipway they have to obtain permission each time that they want to use it and to travel to pick up the permit, which is very inconvenient. When the club holds a big event and its small car park is not big enough, it has to pay £50 a day for parking at Arnhem wharf. That would be fine if the car park was decent, but the site is littered with bollards and large potholes. What will the LDDC charge other local groups for decent parking—the sailing club is a charity—which is essential? We had enough trouble when the arena opened and there were no car parks or toilets. We must ask such questions if the LDDC is to have more powers.

Since I became a Member of Parliament in 1987, I have continually raised the question of access to the waterfront with officers of the LDDC. They once gave me a briefing downstairs with maps and so forth and showed me all the areas where there is supposed to be access to the waterfront. Many buildings were allowed to be built only if public access was provided. My secretary, who lives on the Isle of Dogs, said, "Just a minute. That long piece of waterfront looks as though you can walk along it, but there is a brick wall across it and you can't walk along but have to go round and along the road." She pointed to another place that looked as though one could walk along, but said that one can only go so far before having to scramble through mud and dog mess to get across to the other part of the path.

When the tall ships came along the river there was a great fuss when local people tried to see them. They were stopped by jets of water that shot up from the ground and by guards on land that was marked down as public open space. I have raised the matter over and over again.

In one press release, Michael Pickard was seen doing some bolt-cutting to open some space, but that was symbolic. I asked the LDDC to put up signs on every piece of public open space to say that the public had access to it. I also asked for street furniture and benches so that in hot weather, in an area with little parkland—it will be worse when Millwall park and Island Gardens are taken up by the building of the docklands light railway extension—people can sit by the water, get a breath of fresh air and cool off. Did the corporation do that? No. There are a few signs now, but, by and large, nothing has been done. A paltry sum would have been involved. The corporation has had millions—billions—but it cannot do that little thing for local people.

Local people have little for which to thank the LDDC and have had little joy out of its control over the area. This is the time at which we should be considering documents and Bills in connection with the running down and closing of the LDDC and the handing over of its tasks to the elected local authority. It is a strange time at which to be discussing extending its powers, especially given that it has mismanaged everything that it has handled so far.

8.20 pm
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I start by thanking the board members and officers of the LDDC who have answered some of my questions and met at least some of my objections—as best they can—since I started to examine the Bill. I make no secret of the fact that I doubted the need for the Bill and still have doubts about its contents. I agree, however, that there is a legal vacuum surrounding docklands, especially as regards the water itself and the areas immediately adjacent to it, and that that vacuum needs to be filled.

Originally, the docks were heavily policed, with a big wall, dock gates and high security. They fulfilled a special purpose under the dock companies and subsequently the Port of London Authority. The purpose of that area of water has now changed completely. It not now primarily an area for work but an area of public access, for leisure and recreation. We therefore need a different set of legal bases or byelaws for it.

The main question is whether a body set up temporarily, which is known to be going out of existence in the next few years, is the best body on which to confer additional powers by an Act of Parliament. That is why I have had doubts about the Bill, even though local authorities and others have understandably not opposed it. I understand, too, why recreational bodies such as rowing clubs and sailing organisations and the navigation authorities also see the need for byelaws, and I shall come to them in a minute.

Let us first look at the procedural problem, part of which we have discovered today and which has in any case become a little more acute for the reasons hinted at by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore)—that deregulation and the place of statutory instruments are now very much in the air as a result of the controversial Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill.

I shall not quote clause 22 extensively, but it deserves quoting in principle. Subsection (1) states: Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or any provision of the Act of 1980, the Secretary of State, on the application of the Corporation, may by order at any time transfer to any person ("the transferee") with the agreement of that person all or any part of the undertaking. I must confess that when, amateur-like, I first read the Bill, I thought that the undertaking referred to was the undertaking to abide by the background to the byelaws. In fact, however, the undertaking refers to what we in east London might call the whole shebang.

That is a very considerable power. In the autumn, I corresponded with the promoters of the Bill who agreed that it was a power in which Parliament ought to have some say. They graciously agreed—there was common sense in the decision—that that power and the power in clause 20 should be exercised only subject to the negative resolution procedure of the House.

Acting on my usual instincts, I asked for the minimum rather than the maximum. Perhaps I should have gone further. But at least Parliament was brought into the matter. Perhaps I have become inured to the way in which the LDDC has been operating in the past few years. Parliament has not seen very much of the activities of the LDDC; as we know, it has been a quango under the Secretary of State.

I am glad that that was agreed, but other factors have come into play since then. I am grateful for the fact that my attention has been drawn to two amendments to the original Act relating to the transfer of operations. The original Act was the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. I served on the Standing Committee that considered that legislation and fought for a long time to get some safeguards written into it. Section 165 says: Subject to this section. an urban development corporation may, by an agreement made with any local authority or any statutory undertakers and approved by the Secretary of State with the Treasury's concurrence:—

  1. (a) transfer to the local authority the whole or any part of the corporation's undertaking, or
  2. (b) transfer to the statutory undertakers the whole or any part of the corporation's undertakings which consists of a statutory undertaking".
That was common sense, because that was the sort of thing that might happen either during or at the end of the life of the LDDC. I am glad to say that subsection (8) of that same section says that Such a transfer shall be of no effect until it is approved by resolution of the House of Commons. There we have a public and general Act relating to the transfer of property.

However, that provision was amended by section 180 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, which adds after the words "local authority" the words "or other body". Thus, another public and general Act added to the powers of the Secretary of State and the LDDC to transfer—subject not just to the negative resolution procedure in this case but to an affirmative resolution that could require at least an hour and a half's debate.

I have a question for the Minister and, more particularly, the Committee to which the Bill will no doubt go following tonight's debate. Does the phrase in clause 22, or any provision of the Act of 1980 refer to the Act of 1980, as amended? I assume that it probably does, in which case, the effect of clause 22 is far greater than some of us may have thought. If it is correct—quite honestly, I do not think any hon. Member could say a definite yea or nay at this stage—it means that clause 22 takes the place, at least in some respects, of the parts of the public and general Acts that I have quoted. That is a very important question. If clause 22 takes the place of those provisions, it means something highly controversial.

One of the matters that we have been discussing in the House in the past few weeks is the extent to which a regulation can change an Act of Parliament. In this case, we have a Bill privately promoted by a body set up by an order under the Secretary of State suddenly providing the Secretary of State and itself with enormously increased powers. That gives rise to questions that the Private Bill Committee may like to look at.

The Government may have seen the problem, too. They may not be too keen on the clause because it creates a closed circuit running something like this: Secretary of State; quango produced by order; quango produces private Bill to give more powers to the Secretary of State. That is not a democratically healthy circle. I shall leave it at that because the Minister and the Committee to which the occupants of the Chair have referred may have views on the matter as well. If, as I confess is the case, these matters have come to light only in the past week—although I was unhappy last October—parliamentary scrutiny has at least been shown to be effective. I do not think that anyone inside or outside the Chamber has been responsible for trying to pull a fast one. The problem has arisen at least partly inadvertently—if, indeed, the provisions have the effect that I fear.

That is the end of what I might call the procedutal prelude. I shall now consider the LDDC and the Bill, particularly the byelaws contained in it. I will not consider the part relating to transfer, because I have already dealt with it.

I am not quite sure whether the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) sees the LDDC and its work in quite the same way as those of us on the north side of the river. I suspect that that difference is due to environmental considerations, because the Surrey docks have shown examples of what some people have said was needed. The late Lord Cross of Chelsea, who chaired the Select Committee of the Lords when the LDDC was set up, said that what was needed was lots of small houses, all with gardens, to rent at reasonable rates. He said that, unfortunately, we on the north of the river would not get them for a while, but that the LDDC might provide them. I suspect that a high proportion of those that it has provided—few enough—are probably in the constituency of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. I therefore forgive him for having what I might regard as a rosy-eyed view of the LDDC's activities.

Mr. Simon Hughes

There may be more of such housing on our side of the river, but we have never said that there is enough. On the contrary, many empty private flats are available for rent, but we could have fully occupied social housing, which is urgently needed and which would be willingly occupied.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting that on the record. It shows just how unsuccessful the LDDC has been, because the Surrey docks, by nature of their size, layout and the fact that most of the docks, apart from the green land on the south dock, has been filled in, offered the maximum opportunities for such development.

The Bill entrenches, if anything, the existence of the LDDC—that temporary statutory body which was hailed, particularly by the former Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, as something akin to a new town corporation. It was the very opposite. New town corporations took lots of parcels of empty private land and put them together for housing and industry, based on a properly planned infrastructure. They created different zones for this, that and the other. The LDDC, however, took over vast areas of publicly owned land—railway land, dock land and gas land—and split it up for private development. It did not ensure that the necessary infrastructure existed.

I accept that the area has miles of roads and tunnels. Millions have been spent on roads, but the railways—

Ms Gordon

What about the docklands light railway?

Mr. Spearing

The DLR was first suggested by the dockland joint committee—the much abused but constructive committee of the Greater London council and the boroughs. In 1978, it published a booklet entitled "Bus, Underground or Tram?" The supertram was chosen. That option was the first proposal for public transport, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) has said, the Beckton extension in Newham will be the last to be, opened. We hope that it will be opened next week and that it will work.

Even if the system works, journeys are long. A person first gets on at Beckton, but to get to the Bank—the expensive extension on which Canary Wharf was predicated—he must change at Poplar. He must then change at Canary Wharf. Two changes must be made because, in about 10 miles of railway, the electrical system is different. The DLR was the first plan, but it will be the last to be implemented.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar said, many people are employed in small workshops and small industries in docklands. The firms and their proprietors said that the development would fetch a lot of money—I do not blame them for that. They saw it as a capital gain. They either closed their existing firms or, if they wanted to keep going, they had to take sites a long way away. That meant that firms missed the local connections and local people, particularly those in the Canning Town area. Some of the firms have survived, others have not. Some of the industries that came to docklands have, however, brought their workers with them, particularly those who are left in the print industry.

The LDDC was not entitled by statute to set up a community, but it should have provided schools. In my constituency, the south of Newham, south of the A13, which covers a distance as great as from Earls Court to Blackfriars or from the south of Chelsea embankment to the middle of Hyde park, there is no secondary school. Despite the houses and gardens that have been built in New Beckton—those properties are full not of yuppies, but of hard-working local people—no secondary school exists. In the past five years, the three Members who represent Newham have visited Ministers to try to obtain that school, but the Government will not give us one.

I know that the provision of that school is not the responsibility of the LDDC, but the Government have tried to set up the area as a model. The LDDC has not done in Newham what it has done in other areas. We may not have Canary wharf in Newham, but nor do we have what we want. The LDDC has not achieved the regeneration of the community or the regeneration of families—that is what it is supposed to be about.

A suitable legal and constitutional structure does not exist. We have not had that under the LDDC and, given the way in which the transfer of responsibilities is envisaged, it does not look as though we will have a satisfactory structure in the future. The Bill is, perforce, an unwelcome necessity, because the LDDC must have some statutory duties to cover itself and those of us who are responsible for the law. If someone drowns in the dock or there is a need for policing, an authority must have some powers to offer some public order.

I was pleased to note that officials of the LDDC tabled a new clause for the Bill when it was considered in the Lords to provide it with some obligations. Clause 5(1) states: It shall be the duty of the Corporation, in formulating or considering any proposals relating to its functions under this Act, to have regard to the desirability of securing the use of the designated areas for a diversity of purposes which may include sporting, recreational, cultural, commercial, energy-related and navigational purposes. It is a duty to "have regard" not a duty to do and it "may" meet that obligation. At least the obligation is included in the Bill, which is a good thing.

The designated areas are largely water. On the map that has been provided with the Bill, the land areas are, understandably, of limited size because the great bulk of the area is made up of the docks. Clause 7 says that the corporation, as part of its functions under the Act, should have regard to the desirability of securing and maintaining public access to the waterside. The clause refers not to the river, but to the docks, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar has already mentioned.

The two big remaining docks are the West India docks, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar, and the Royal docks in my constituency. They are 2.5 miles long and probably represent the biggest area of impounded water of its type in the world. They have 15 miles of deep water quays and represent an inestimable potential for London. They are a much underestimated resource. They are, however, expensive to maintain.

One of the good things that the LDDC has done is to re-establish the George V lock. It has also built two new swing bridges and a third is probably to come. It has resuscitated the West India docks lock and built new swing bridges within that system. The wharves are partly the responsibility of the landholders and partly the responsibility of the LDDC. It has told me that, before it is wound up, the wharves will be put into a fit state.

This is a harbour, however, and it is an expensive one to operate. When 10,000 to 15,000 tonne ships were coming into the Royals, lined up on each side—we have all seen the pictures—the costs of maintaining those docks and the West India docks was pooled and was a levy on the cargoes. It was relatively easy to do. However, if the docks are used for recreational purposes, as they will be, the money for them must be collected somehow.

I understand that £1 million a year could be needed for the dock systems. If that money is to be raised solely from the holders of the land around, the choice by the LDDC of the applicants for the local plan, especially in the Royal docks area, will be constrained by the question of who is to pay for those harbour costs. If we still had the Greater London council, which used to manage things such as Crystal Palace sports centre, Kenwood or whatever, it would have been an all-London facility, but, alas, we do not have that agency, which could have taken such administration in its stride.

We have proposals for housing—alas, not a high proportion of the type of homes that my hon. Friends and I wish for. There has been much talk about an urban village, but the housing constraints, debated this very afternoon in the House, mean that it will be difficult to achieve the balance of community that everyone locally wants and the housing that the people in need of housing in east London, from Newham and elsewhere, want.

The Victoria dock is currently used, under the initiative of the Newham borough council, as a magnificent sailing reach, open to the south-west prevailing wind. I do not think that anything should be put in place that would materially affect that magnificent sailing stretch, but there are proposals for bridging and for other crossings of that water.

The rowing course in the Albert Dock is well used, but there may be an opportunity to make extensions, and to create a course to Olympic standards. The course is already used many times a year by the Poplar and Blackwall club on the Thames for youth and national rowing, and it is something of which London can be proud. The pontoon dock could make a small harbour for learning for canoeists and all types of water activity that is not suited to the larger and longer reaches.

The LDDC has created an organisation known as the Royal Docks Management Authority—RODMA for short. The borough council and I want to know how that organisation will fit in with those recreational demands, and how the money will be raised. I have had no convincing answer to those questions.

In docklands we have part of London's maritime heritage—a heritage of which we can be proud. There are possibilities for working areas of dockland as it was. HMS Warrior was built on the River Lea, only a few hundred yards from the Royal docks, at the old Thames ironworks. That water should be used for all types of purposes, as should the surrounding land. For example, there is a possibility of the university of East London setting up an area on the north side of the Albert dock.

However, the Bill will do very little in those respects. It does not give much vision. It fills in the legal vacuum of the byelaws, which is necessary, but, if we are to judge the future on the performance of the past, we shall not build on firm foundations. The Bill may be passed, with or without clause 22. I believe that there are some fundamental constitutional question marks over that clause. We need something much more radical and practical, and something that will provide the people of east London—indeed., the people of Greater London—with a better statutory and financial basis for the future of the Royal docks and the whole of the dockland area. It is the western extremity of the much-trumpeted Thameside corridor, which is, if not a jewel in the crown of the Government, at least something which they claim. Those claims will not be made manifest without more thought and a much better Bill.

8.44 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry)

It may be helpful if I make clear the Government's approach to the Bill. Our remit is straightforward. It is to ensure that the provisions of the Bill accord with public policy generally. We have considered the Bill. It has been amended in another place—I understand to take account of the concerns of the boroughs—and we are generally content with its proposals.

The Bill is of a comparatively short compass. It acknowledges that the docks can still hold dangers for the general public and that in those circumstances there is a need for an effective regime to regulate the conduct of people in and around the dock estate, to ensure public health and safety, to prevent pollution and to secure the reasonable and quiet enjoyment of the dock environment.

That is what the corporation's Bill seeks to achieve. It is a thoroughly sensible Bill and it is slightly disappointing that Opposition Members have chosen to impair the speedy progress of the Bill, especially given its primary aim of ensuring the safety of the public in and around the clock estate.

Mr. Dobson

Can the Minister tell us in what way we have impaired the speedy progress of the Bill? All that we have done is to ask questions and raise points and get the promoters of the Bill to accept an amendment that the Government should have sought when they were consulted in the first place.

Mr. Baldry

Given that the hon. Gentleman has spent most of today trying to get the Bill ruled out of order—

Mr. Dobson

No, I have not.

Mr. Baldry

Absolutely. If the hon. Member looks at his point of order and the points that he made earlier, it seems strange that he is now indicating that he wishes the Bill to have a speedy passage.

The hon. Gentleman sought to raise an issue suggesting—

Mr. Dobson

Will the Minister give way again?

Mr. Baldry

Perhaps if I answered the point that the hon. Member initiated, he could then respond to it.

Mr. Dobson

Would not it have been better if the hon. Gentleman had not missed what had gone on earlier because he was not in the Chamber at the time?

Mr. Baldry

The hon. Gentleman argued that the Bill should be treated as a hybrid Bill because—

Mr. Dobson

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like the hon. Member to identify any point at which I have said anything in the Chamber about this being a hybrid Bill. The only matter that has been challenged is whether it was appropriate to have what would be better in a public general Act in this private Bill.

Mr. Baldry

Mr. Deputy Speaker, if that is not arguing that the Bill is a hybrid Bill, I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman's definition of a hybrid Bill might be. It was clear what the hon. Gentleman's point of order was this afternoon. It was to seek to prevent debate on the Bill. That was the reason why he got to his feet and that was the sole reason why he came to the House. He sought to do two things this evening; one was to pursue that point and the other was to make an election address which doubtless will be used by his party in Millwall. Apart from that, he has not added much to the sum of human knowledge.

However, the hon. Gentleman did raise a point, to which I am seeking to respond, that clause 22 sought to create a new power. I shall deal with that point from the perspective of the Government and it is a matter that the sponsors of the Bill may wish to take on board in Committee. As far as I am concerned, clause 22 does not create a new power. Under section 165 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, as amended by section 180 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, urban development corporations' undertakings can be transferred to any local authority, statutory undertakers or any other body by agreement between the parties with the approval of the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State can, by order, transfer urban development corporations' property rights and liabilities to himself. It could therefore be argued quite strongly—indeed, I would argue it if I were on the Committee—that clause 22 may be unnecessary as transfer of the powers to make byelaws for which it seeks to provide could be dealt with under the 1980 Act. As I have said, the Bill's sponsors may wish to take up that point in Committee.

I am saddened by the general tone of the debate. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) introduced it in a measured, responsible, positive and constructive way; subsequently, however, we have heard rather negative and destructive speeches. Labour Members have queued up to denounce the work of the LDDC: none could bring himself or herself to say a single decent thing about any of its achievements since its inception.

Let me explain why I find that sad. There are 12 urban development corporations in the country, all of which I have visited—as have my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction and many other Ministers. All the corporations are now in cities and the areas involved are not under the political control of the Conservative party; they are often controlled by Labour.

I am bound to say that in every other area Labour has managed to develop a strong sense of partnership with the development corporations. As my right hon. Friend and I embark each year on the review of the corporate plans of the various corporations, the point made to us in many other areas is not, "This development corporation is imposing terrible things on our area", but, "We welcome what the corporation is doing for our city: we appreciate the opportunities that it offers. We would like its life to be extended, because we see that the whole partnership approach is bringing enormous benefits to our area." It is sad that Labour Members do not appreciate the benefits that the LDDC has brought to their areas and constituents.

Ms Gordon

The Minister seems to be unaware that a fascist was elected to the council in the enterprise zone—the very area over which the LDDC has control, into which it has put so much money and work. The area is seething with discontent. Even if the LDDC's main aim was to promote business, businesses would run a mile from an area of racial violence and constant trouble.

When Labour Members have approached the LDDC asking for help for certain projects and explaining what the community wants, their requests have been largely ignored. Tricks have been pulled like the one involving the docklands light railway: our proposal for a community trust was rejected and we were told that our compensation would be an underground station at Island Gardens. But it has become clear that, with a stroke of the pen, the projected station is to be abandoned. That is our experience—a bad one. Perhaps other areas have had better experiences of urban development corporations.

Mr. Baldry

With respect, I consider that completely fanciful. First, all the local authorities concerned are represented on the development corporation. I am not a stranger to the boroughs concerned; I visit them frequently and meet borough leaders. I am sure that if they had the concerns to which the hon. Lady refers, they would make them clear to Ministers—but they do not. This kind of rhetoric, vocabulary and syntax in references to the LDDC is confined to Labour Members. I do not know whether that is because they feel that, as the development corporations were established by a Conservative Government, they cannot bring themselves to say a decent word about them; but I suspect that that is the only possible reason.

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) expressed anxiety about the future of the area once the LDDC's life ended. It has always been accepted that the corporation's existence was finite: it was always part of the agreement with Parliament that, because of the scale of the regeneration that was needed, the corporations would need to take certain powers, but that in due course they would cease to exist and those powers—planning powers, for example—would have to be returned to the boroughs.

My right hon. Friend and I would be more than willing—certainly, I would—to meet hon. Members who represent constituencies within the LDDC area to discuss a succession strategy. The development corporation is already beginning to work on such a strategy. It knows how much money it has to invest during the remaining period of its existence, and it is engaging in constructive, positive discussions with the boroughs concerned. I am more than willing to discuss the future of the docklands area with Labour Members: I am determined to drag them into the real world and to discuss the achievements and potential of the area for their benefit and that of their constituents.

Mr. Spearing

That invitation illustrates the vacuum that exists: if the debate does nothing else, it will have done that. Let me assure the Minister that visits from successive Ministers—including the Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction—have been cordial, on a personal level; but the resources have been available to the wrong people, in the wrong places, in the wrong way.

The Minister said that no appreciation had been expressed. I think that, in my speech, I thanked board members and staff who are constrained by instructions from the Secretary of State and by existing laws; I also said that the LDDC had done a good job in regard to locks, swing bridges and docksides—thanks to a chairman whom I will not name, but who is now being appointed to yet another quango. I hope that he will do well, but I fear that he will not.

Mr. Baldry

I think that the only vacuum has been Labour Members' lack of appreciation and understanding of the LDDC's contribution to the regeneration of the docklands area.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) said that he could not find the figures showing how much public money had been invested in docklands. During the 13 years of its existence, the LDDC has invested some £1.6 billion of public money, but it has used that money to lever in substantial sums of private money—£6 billion. Every penny spent by the corporation is accounted for. Each year, it publishes its corporate plan and discusses it with local authorities.

The LDDC's deputy chairman, Lord Cocks, is a former Labour Member: indeed, I seem to recall his being a Labour Chief Whip. There is ample cross-party involvement. Everyone seeks to ensure that the money being invested is put to the best possible use for local people. Indeed, throughout its existence, the LDDC—like every other development corporation—has sought to work in partnership with the three local authorities, with private developers, with housing associations and with other statutory bodies.

Mr. Dobson

If the hon. Gentleman is committing himself to a burst of open government, will he tell us the cost of capital allowances for individual enterprise zones and for individual developments within them?

Mr. Baldry

I shall gladly answer any parliamentary question that the hon. Gentleman cares to table, provided that it has been deemed to be in order. He will not expect me to be able to answer off the top of my head specific questions such as the one he has just put to me.

The thrust of the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks was that there was something covert and unspecified about the way in which development corporations operate. That is not true. Development corporations have money voted by Parliament. This is part of the inner cities vote of my Department. It is perfectly transparent and perfectly accounted for each year in the corporations' plans. Indeed, it is in the interests of everyone that the expenditure of these bodies be revealed, as it can then be demonstrated clearly that, through the partnership approach that we advocate and promote, it has been possible to lever in substantial sums of private money for every pound of public money that is provided. The public-private partnership has been very much to the benefit of docklands and the rest of that part of London. It has enabled us to provide new roads, railways, tunnels and other facilities.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

Does my hon. Friend agree that for a very long time after the war vast parts of London constituting what is now the docklands development area were left derelict despite administration by Labour Governments and Labour councils? It was in response to that waste that, in the late 1970s, people like Lord Mellish, with Conservative support, argued passionately for this approach, which was put in train by the Conservative Government. In Salter road in Bermondsey, one can now see a transformation that is heart-warming by any standards.

Mr. Baldry

My hon. Friend is right. Everyone recognised that the rundown of the docks and the urban decay, compounded by poor housing and inadequate community facilities, presented an enormous challenge. But the challenge was matched by the potential. The opportunities that were provided were unmatched anywhere in Europe. The London Docklands development corporation has helped to meet the challenge and secure realisation of much of the potential.

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman talks about a public-private partnership. Will he tell us the cost of the capital allowances for the Isle of Dogs enterprise zone? One of his predecessors—the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Wales—simply refused to give this information. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that such information will be available?

Mr. Baldry

I thought that I had already answered that question. I have told the hon. Gentleman that I am more than willing to provide him with as much information as possible and that I shall certainly answer any parliamentary question that is considered by the Table Office to be in order. I have made it clear several times this evening that it is in the interests of everyone that the fullest possible information about what is happening in docklands be provided.

It is desirable that we demonstrate clearly to the House and to the world at large the success of the partnership approach. It is very sad that the Labour party still has difficulty grasping the concept of partnership between the public and private sectors. What has come through clearly in the speeches of Opposition Members is that the only government they consider worth while is that which they control. It appears that they still regard public-private partnership as total anathema.

Opposition Members have complained of the insufficiency of new housing in docklands. It is clear that they have been walking around with their eyes closed. In docklands, more than 16,000 new homes have been completed. A good 20 per cent. of them are for low-income families. The development corporation has worked with II housing projects—some of them for shared ownership and some of them for local authority homes. Environmental improvements have been made to 3,500 homes in 40 housing estates. The corporation has supported a whole range of initiatives right across the boroughs involved. Substantial sums of public and private money have gone into new office and other developments.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made scathing comments about jobs. The fact is that the number of jobs has increased from 27,000 in 1981 to 55,000 today. That is a very substantial increase and all the projections indicate that the number will quadruple to well over 200,000 by the year 2001. The docklands development corporation has also been investing substantially in skills of and for local people, again working in partnership with local authorities and other agencies. It has invested about £76 million to assist. docklands schools and post-16 colleges; it supports training schemes and more than 5,000 training places have been sponsored in a range of occupational skills; and schools have been helped in a variety of ways. I am glad that boroughs such as Newham and Tower Hamlets have worked closely with the development corporation on memoranda of agreement and the Accord programme and on a range of community projects such as the recently opened North Woolwich children's centre in Newham and the health centre for family care in Wapping. Currently, 84 voluntary and community groups receive funding support from the corporation.

Mr. Dobson


Mr. Baldry

No, I shall not give way.

I could go on almost all night explaining the achievements in docklands: new jobs, new housing and a substantial number of small businesses and work spaces. I could talk about the extension of the Jubilee line to docklands and of the docklands light railway to Lewisham, which is another private finance initiative levering in money from the private sector to add to money raised in the public sector. I could talk until dawn, but that would still not impress Opposition Members, who are convinced that nothing good could ever come of the development corporation. They are determined for theological reasons never willingly to acknowledge that the corporation can do anything good. People who live in the area—

Mr. Dobson


Mr. Baldry

I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman several times. People who live in the area have seen the new offices, the new housing and the new businesses and jobs that have come to docklands as a result of the Government's substantial investment in the LDDC which has been supported by the private sector. I only hope that in time Opposition Members will understand that the solid foundations laid by the LDDC will continue for many years to come, to be built on for the benefit of docklands and, more important, for the people who live there.

The Bill is a sensible measure. I am saddened that its progress through the House has not been speedier. It is intended to add to the safety of those who live and work in the docklands area, and the Government wish it a speedy passage.

9.6 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall speak for a second time.

I wish first to pick up on one or two of the Minister's comments, for which some of us are grateful. The Minister cannot complain that progress has been slow. So far, today's debate has lasted two hours and seven minutes. Since the Bill received a First Reading, there has been no delay other than that which was necessary while the Bill went to the Examiners, and it has won the first slot available for private Bills since then. We are all seeking to make good progress. As the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) said, we welcome the fundamentals of the Bill regarding the making of byelaws and the governing of water in the area, and the Minister has heard no criticism about them.

If I were to divide the debate between the two sides of the House, I should say that on the Minister's side the argument is that everything in the docklands garden is rosy and that on this side people are saying that everything is not. The objective evidence tends to support the views expressed by those on this side. Of course, there are good things in docklands and the Minister was fair enough not to criticise me for saying otherwise. However, the most telling point from this side of the House is that, despite all the money being invested, there will never be a satisfactory result unless the people themselves are allowed much more opportunity to decide about that money. People will never be happy if they are told how their money is to be spent and if an undemocratic committee makes the planning decisions. The people themselves have a view. In the east end, in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, people have very strong views and are perfectly able to express them given half the chance.

Mr. Dobson

As the Minister would not give way, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I wanted to urge the Minister to urge the LDDC to agree to produce and to publish figures that showed how many of the remaining jobs in docklands, how many of the jobs transferred to docklands and how many new jobs in docklands had gone to people living in docklands. Until the development corporation does that, it will not be trusted in terms of jobs by local people. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees.

Mr. Hughes

I agree entirely. One of the points with which we must deal is how we reconcile European legislation and local labour agreements. It is no good the LDDC making general points when all the results of its efforts do not go to the local community. Speaking for my constituency—the position is not dissimilar in Tower Hamlets—I point out that we have some of the highest unemployment in the country. When people see work being done and new jobs being created on their doorsteps, and when they cannot have those jobs, there is bound to be discontent.

I now turn to the central technical and drafting point of the debate—clause 22 and "the undertaking" referred to there. If we look at the definition clause, clause 2, we find a definition—perhaps I should say an only slightly illuminating definition—of "the undertaking". The amended definition reads as follows: '"the undertaking' means the undertaking of the Corporation in connection with the designated areas, as from time to time authorised, or any part thereof and includes any functions conferred on the Corporation by or under this Act". It is probably the case, as the Minister said, that the Local Government, Land and Planning Act 1980 gives the Government the power to hand over undertakings to whomsoever they will under various proceedings. The Bill seeks to deal specifically with the byelaw provisions and to decide where they go. That is my understanding, which seems to be consistent.

None the less, if we are giving byelaw powers to the LDDC, it is logical for us to want to know where those powers and the other substrata powers will go in future. We can have that debate in Committee. If the Committee is satisfied that there is no need to have different legislation and if we are happy with the substantive Act, we shall be happy with the Bill. None the less, that is a proper matter for debate. The crucial issue is where the powers, whether byelaws or substantive powers, will go.

Mr. Dobson

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if, in his wisdom, the Minister had decided that clause 22 is unnecessary, it might have been sensible if he or his officials had given that view to the LDDC? Most of our debate tonight would then have been quite unnecessary and the Minister might have been able go to his supper rather earlier.

Mr. Hughes

We shall never know why that did not happen. The Minister accepted that there has been consultation. Private Bills are sent to the Government so that they can give their views on it. The Government might have spotted that point earlier. Perhaps no one grasped the issue at an early stage.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out that the definition clause was amended. However, it is still ambiguous. The undertakings established by the Bill are undertakings of obligation rather than undertakings of business. The definition clause says: 'the undertaking' means the undertaking of the Corporation in connection with the designated areas, as from time to time authorised, or any part thereof and includes any functions conferred on the Corporation by or under under this Act. The word used is "includes". That does not mean that the clause excludes everything else. The clause includes the words "in connection with". Land within, say, a few hundred metres of the dock could well come within that definition. All this needs tidying up in a big way.

Mr. Hughes

Not only the hon. Gentleman, but I and others share that view. In terms of explicit, clear drafting, the definition clause does not get us much further than it would have done if it had not been included. There is a little exercise for us all to do. The moral of the story is that we must all go away with two tasks in terms of drafting. First, we could all try to make a better hash of what we are trying to do in clause 22 and try to ensure that things say what they are meant to say. Under clause 5 we have an addition, by amendment, giving a general duty as to designated areas. It may be, now that the promoters have accepted the principle of the general duty and been more specific, we could make an improvement on that, too, to make sure that we meet the needs of the people for whom the Bill is being promoted.

Let me now deal with the more factual questions that have been raised. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), both in his speech and in interventions, dealt with the provision of services for docklands—housing, job creation, infrastructure and investment. We have dealt with figures setting out how much money has been spent in docklands and there is a perfectly acceptable and agreed breakdown there. It is correct to say that the £1.6 billion includes only £155 million for social housing, so social housing has not been the core commitment. In single subject heading terms, the core commitment has been roads and transport. All dockland Members of Parliament would say that we need more housing investment and in particular more such investment to meet the needs of those who are either inadequately or badly housed or not housed at all.

An inspection of the Isle of Dogs figures or the Bermondsey figures shows that the nature of houses built is such that there is a significant mix. This was done for social mix purposes. In the Isle of Dogs, the owner-occupied figure is 30.1 per cent., private rented housing is 11.3 per cent., housing association housing is 10.9 per cent. and council housing is 47.7 per cent. The need is clearly for significantly more social housing.

It is quite possible to talk about demand for private housing until one is blue in the face, but it is true to say that there has not been that demand recently. Using the test of need, it is plain that we need more social housing at rents that people can afford. There is a need for more shared ownership and for cheap owner-occupied housing. What we do not need is a lot of luxury housing that lies empty year after year because no one can afford it.

Mr. Dobson

Does the hon. Member have any figures showing how much of the money spent on social housing encompasses new spending for entirely new housing or for rehabilitating existing dwellings and how much was spent on houses to replace those knocked down for other purposes by the development corporation?

Mr. Hughes

The short answer is no. But it is a good question. Not very much housing has been knocked down. The only significant estate that I am aware of that was knocked down was for the purposes of the Limehouse link. Otherwise, there have been some that were knocked down as part of general improvement schemes, including south of the river, that were much less controversial.

I urge all hon. Members who have an interest in this issue to appreciate that if there are any unsatisfactory or unresolved issues, now is the time to tackle them. There are two reasons for this. The first is that we have the Bill before us and, therefore, have the corporation a bit more by the short and curlies than is usually the case. Secondly, de-designation will start soon and after that it will be too late. I invite them all to compile their lists. I will make: my list, we can aggregate them and we will go to see the Minister, his right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction and the corporation officials to get what we can. I say specifically to the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) that I include in that list what seems a perfectly reasonable request to make a bid for a station on the docklands light railway at Island Gardens. I had to battle for three years to get underground stations in Bermondsey and Southwark on the Jubilee line and eventually we got them. We need to join the hon. Lady's battle.

There are also small but important matters to consider, such as the need to ensure that we do not price local community groups such as the docklands sailing club out of using facilities because unreasonable rents are charged for the use of the slipway or for the car park. All those are perfectly reasonable requests, for which we have to go into bat.

Mr. Heald


Mr. Hughes

Just one second. I want to deal with the hon. Lady's other point.

I profoundly agree with the hon. Lady on the question of access to the waterfront. I have a pair of cutters ready sto cut open a gate which is meant to be open, but is locked. I will do so. I do not mind who arrests me for it because it is meant to be open space, it was promised to be so, there is no planning permission to stipulate that it be shut off and we must ensure that the LDDC delivers that promise. In my case, this involves King and Queen wharf and the hon. Lady also has good examples. We must ensure that the advantages to the public, not only of the steps to the river which they always had, but of the new opportunities, are theirs for the taking. It is no good losing all the business and all the docks and still not being able to get to the river. Let us take advantage.

Mr. Heald


Mr. Hughes

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, who was once my opponent before he went to another seat.

Mr. Heald

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and I am quite willing to concede that he thrashed me on that occasion. When he talks of property left idle because it is luxury property, does he agree that what has happened in the Dockyard ward in his constituency is a huge transformation and is, generally speaking, for the good? Does he agree that the mix of housing and industrial and retail use in that ward is well balanced and that the LDDC has achieved a great deal?

Mr. Hughes

I agree that there are many good things. There has been support for community groups, a lot of new-build housing, refurbishment in the Old Amos estate which was falling down and new road building. Unlike the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), we have had new schools built in areas which needed them.

Mr. Spearing

Has the hon. Gentleman had new secondary schools?

Mr. Hughes

We have not had new secondary schools; we had new city technology colleges. They were much more controversial, but that is a separate point.

Mr. Heald

I campaigned for them.

Mr. Hughes

Some of us campaigned against them, but they came in all the same.

Many of these new things are wonderful, but the point that I was making earlier was that, if one pulls the plug by de-designating without the resources to ensure that the Surrey water, the footpaths and the pump houses have the resources, we shall be left with a lot of potentially brilliant estates, which will become run down and not be the sort of public wealth which we want it to be. That is a crucial issue for us in the Dockyard and Riverside ward on our side of the river and we are first in the de-designation priority list.

That links with the hon. Lady's final point about the timetable for running down. I do not know whether she has seen the published timetable for de-designation, which the Government are working towards. It begins with south of the river in the current year, mid-1994 for Bermondsey Riverside, 1995 for Beckton and Wapping, 1996 for the Surrey peninsula in Southwark and Limehouse and Tower Hamlets, 1997 for Isle of Dogs, South Poplar and West Leamouth in Tower Hamlets and 31 March 1998 for the Royals and what are described as the remainder—East Leamouth and the riverside belt in Newham.

That is the timetable, but it is still flexible and I understand that the hon. Lady, like the rest of us who share those views, have been invited to talk to the Minister about that. We need to do so and ensure that the timetable reflects the views of the local authorities, the local communities and ourselves. In my case, I shall make it absolutely clear that we are not yet ready to agree because we do not think that the package deal is yet in place.

To return to the points about employment made by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, yes, there have been a lot more jobs created, but he is right to say that every new job is not a net increase in jobs. Many jobs have been lost. There has been a net increase, but even a net increase of jobs does not necessarily mean jobs for the locals. I use that term generically because we are all aware of the issues. The issue is that, in areas of high unemployment, jobs on one's doorstep are the best. That was the merit of the docks in the past.

The hon. Member for Newham, South referred to the general duty. I have alluded to that point and we may want to beef it up in clause 5. He also referred to the importance of the maritime heritage. We must ensure that we maximise that. He also emphasised the need for appropriate infrastructure. We all echo his plea and hope that the houses will not be built without ensuring that there are schools, roads, parks and community facilities to support the people in the area.

The Minister was challenged in respect of his thesis that the docklands has been a wonderful development. Whatever we may think about how it was created, it has done many good things. I am aware that I am now entering controversial territory, but I hope that there will be agreement about my next point.

I am not making a party political point, but one of the reasons why a British National party councillor was elected in the Isle of Dogs was that if one lives in a community where one cannot get a job or a decent home or have all the facilities, and if on one's doorstep there are people with luxury jobs who earn huge salaries and live in luxury housing which they sometimes do not use for half the year and who are clearly living a totally different life, one thinks that the democratic process is letting one down.

Underlying the debate about byelaws, the important debate is that of the future of democracy in docklands. If the Minister has not heard adequately from the three councils concerned, in the case of Tower Hamlets, what the people need, he should talk also to the neighbourhood councils, including the Isle of Dogs and the Wapping neighbourhood councils, where elected representatives will tell him what the people need.

Ms Gordon

I want to tell the hon. Member and the House about a meeting in my constituency at which two sections of the community nearly came to blows—it was touch and go.

The King Edward memorial park, a little local park which is one of the few small areas of open waterfront, was, according to the plaque, given to the people.of the area in perpetuity. A development company made a bid for a large part of that park to build a luxury tennis centre. Local people with money, who had lately moved into expensive housing in the area, attended the meeting. The older residents opposed the proposal because they wanted to keep access to the whole of their park in which there were knock-about tennis courts where the kids played after school which were well used and there was no charge.

The wealthier people who had moved into the area said, "There isn't a decent tennis centre closer than Islington and it's about time we had one." The elderly residents were worried about their park. That meeting nearly came to blows. The development company had thugs seated around the auditorium. That is the kind of thing that is happening. People feel that they are being pushed out and that they have to fight for the few amenities that they have, let alone to gain more amenities from the LDDC.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Lady is right. The Bill is clearly trying to improve the conditions of people who live and work in and visit docklands. I understand that, and that is why I am promoting the Bill. However, docklands as a whole will be judged by whether it improves the amenities in all respects for those who live and work in and visit the area.

As we are probably in the last few years of the docklands corporation, unless the Government understand that a fundamental change of attitude is still required so that people do not come in, make profits and leave, and do not simply put in their money for their own leverage and results, and unless the Government understand that we still have some of the largest problems in the country—and that means ending and narrowing the social divide—the history of docklands will be only partially successful. It will leave a legacy of discomfort, dissatisfaction and disrepair.

Mr. Spearing

I endorse what the hon. Gentleman said about the planned de-designation timetable, which is controversial in terms of the agreements on planning, particularly for the Royal docks. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a factor which the Minister might bear in mind—I am sure that there will be conversations about it—in that the proposals for a single regeneration budget for London and a senior regional director in a multi-ministry team, undoubtedly in Canary wharf, will have great significance because included in the Secretary of State's non-statutory notice was the fact that the whole of the operation of the London Docklands development corporation will come within the purview of that team and a controversial senior civil servant, who has yet to be appointed?

Mr. Hughes

I agree with that comment. We need to watch this space and ensure that we do not lose out in that respect.

I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. However, hon. Members must not think that it is the end of the battle for docklands to be as the people of docklands need them. That battle goes on. I hope that increasingly the Government will respond. But they will respond well only if they listen well and hear what the people of docklands north and south of the river say.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.

9.31 pm

Sitting suspended.

It being Ten o'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to paragraph (5) of Standing Order No. 52 (Consideration of estimates), put the deferred Question on supplementary estimates, 1993–94.