HL Deb 02 December 1986 vol 482 cc713-7

3.23 p.m.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

As your Lordships may recall from Second Reading the promoter of the Bill—London Regional Transport—is within the provisions of the Bill, petitioning Parliament to have all necessary authority to extend the London Docklands Railway by about 1.1 of a mile, from just east of the Tower of London right into the Bank and Monument Underground stations; and by so doing link the Docklands Light Railway into the entire London Underground network. Most of this journey of 1.1 miles will be underground. The railway will descend into a tunnel just east of the Tower of London and will remain in that tunnel for the rest of its journey to the Bank and Monument Underground stations.

As some of your Lordships may also recall from Second Reading, by the London Docklands Railways Act of 1984 and 1985, authority has already been given to build the London Docklands Light Railway from Stratford, to the north of the Isle of Dogs, and from Island Gardens, opposite Greenwich Royal Naval College, to Tower Gate. Therefore, your Lordships are concerned, as on Second Reading, with just the extension of the Docklands Light Railway from near the Tower of London into the Bank.

The history of the Bill is as follows. It was deposited in the House of Commons in November last year. It received its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 6th March of this year. It was then before the House of Commons Select Committee in May and June: it had its Third Reading in another place on 10th July, and then it came to your Lordships' House, when I introduced the Bill for Second Reading on 30th July this year.

Since then, with the instructions moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton—that instruction to the Select Committee being to have regard to the consequences of the proposals contained in the Bill on the rest of the South-East region and, in particular, on the City of London—the Bill has now been considered by our Select Commitee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Alport. At this stage in our proceedings I should certainly like to express gratitude to the noble Lord and the members of his committee for the very careful and thorough consideration they gave to this matter.

The committee of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, reported on 16th October. Thus, of the 15 petitions against the Bill, all relating to bodies that alleged interests had been adversely affected by it, eight were withdrawn before the committee met; six more were withdrawn on the first day of the committee, and the one remaining petition was withdrawn during the course of the committee's proceedings. Therefore, I have further to report to your Lordships that the Bill left the Select Committee unopposed and without amendments.

The Bill then went before the Unopposed Bill Committee and, by consent, various amendments were incorporated into it. For example, British Rail wanted some protection on its operational property; the Department of Transport was concerned about the workings in the tunnels; and there were also some drafting amendments. Finally, there was an amendment concerning new measures against fare dodgers. These new penalties against fare dodgers were incorporated in the two earlier Acts to which I have referred, but it was thought that there was some defect in the structure of these penalties, carrying the risk of double jeopardy. For that reason they were removed from this Bill.

They are also being removed from the earlier two Acts; but in an omnibus provision London Regional Transport intends to come back again to deal with the matter for the whole of its network. I understand measures will be incorporated in a Private Bill to be promoted by London Regional Transport during the next parliamentary Session. Therefore, the Bill now returns to this House unopposed. It remains unopposed and amended to the degree I have just described.

I think it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of some of the essential features of the Docklands Light Railway. First, I refer your Lordships to the routes. I have already indicated that these run from Tower Gate to Stratford, going towards the north of the Isle of Dogs and round to the south, to Island Gardens, which will be the station at the bottom of the Isle of Dogs opposite Greenwich Royal Naval College. At present, the total distance of the Docklands Light Railway is 7.3 miles and with this extension into the City of London it will have a total length of 8.4 miles. Therefore, the journey from the Bank to Stratford will be six miles, taking some 18 or 19 minutes; from the Bank to Island Gardens, four-and-a-half miles, taking 16 minutes; and from the Bank to Canary Quay—where the proposed Canary Wharf Consortium will be erecting its building—will be two-and-a-half miles and taking about nine-and-a-half minutes.

Briefly, to go through the other major features of this railway, it is proposed that there will be frequent services from the Bank. During the rush hours they will be every four minutes and every seven-and-a-half minutes during ordinary hours. It is proposed that it should be constructed by the modern light railway design, in which one major British manufacturer—GEC—is taking a major part; and the choice of the light railway is for speed and economy. When travelling it will consist of two articulated carriages each carrying 260 persons, making a total per train of just over 500 persons. It is expected that in the London Docklands as presently sited the initial traffic will be in the region of 11.4 million passengers per annum. But if your Lordships give your approval and this extension is built, it is estimated that it will then be in the region of about 30 million passengers per annum, and of those about 80 per cent. are expected to be commuters.

It is also intended that this railway should be run at a profit. The estimated operating cost will be £6 million, with a fares revenue of £10 million when under full operation. The cost will be just under £100 million. That includes not only the building of the tunnel but modernising and altering the existing track in order to take bigger trains. Just under half of that amount has been offered by the Canary Wharf Consortium. The proposal for building the Docklands Light Railway, and that regeneration of the Docklands connected with it which constitutes the Canary Wharf development, owes its origins to two major occurrences which are quite separate from one another but each of which is as momentous in its own way as the other.

I refer first to the severe decline of the London Docklands industry and secondly to the vital need for the City of London to expand its financial services industry if it is to keep its position as a major international financial centre and in so doing be a world leader. As regards the decline of the London Docklands, I can do no better than refer to the evidence given before the Select Committee by the Deputy Chairman of the London Docklands Development Corporation, Mr. Mills, who said: This is an area of East London which has had two devastating economic blows rained on it in the last 20 or 30 years, one being the collapse of the docking industry and all its associated trades and the other being a very substantial decline in manufacturing in the immediate hinterland and the result of this has been not only the very high levels of unemployment"— to which your Lordships have had reference earlier— but also a devastating effect on the communities there who have seen one opportunity after another in social and economic terms slip away. It was a community where many of the most able had upped sticks and gone to live somewhere else. It was a community of people who were suffering considerably lower standards of living than other people in this country and one where disillusionment and despair was pretty rampant and where the economic base needed almost total renewal if the area was ever to be brought back into the mainstream of London and bright life again". The second major matter concerns the City of London. Your Lordships may recall from Second Reading that it was estimated that the City of London will need to increase its work force to 500,000 from its present level of 300,000—which is an increase of 200,000 persons—during the next 10 years. This is exactly how the Canary Wharf Consortium came to the Docklands. It was not to help solve unemployment per se, although clearly it will do so, but for the healthy reason that there was a commercial need for the construction of that vast building.

It is proposed that it will indeed be a large building: altogether of 10 million square feet of usable office and hotel space. It will consist of three tower blocks, one extending upwards to about 850 feet. The employment levels that it offers will be high—somewhere between 45,000 and 49,000 jobs—and there is a total estimate, including jobs created off site, of about 57,000. The figure for local employment estimated by the Henley Centre is 21,000, although certain different figures have been given by Peat Marwick. If we get into a tussle over statistics I shall deal with that point later in the debate. Thus the Canary Wharf Consortium is offering to provide about one third of the expansion needed for the City of London.

If this proposal goes ahead, benefits will come not only to local and national employment, to which I have drawn your Lordships' attention, but also to British industry. Let me cite three examples which I did not give at Second Reading. There will be five United Kingdom construction firms directly involved in building for the Canary Wharf Consortium. About one third of UK production of structural steel will be needed for the construction of this vast building and there will be benefits to a multitude of other industries whether they be carpet manufacturers, tile makers or whatsoever.

According to the promoters and the London Docklands Development Corporation, in some ways the proposed extension of the Docklands light railway is essential on several counts. It is essential as a direct link for the Docklands community into the London Underground system. It is essential, too, for the future extension of the London Docklands Railway to the west—and I am referring to further plans to extend this railway through the Royal Docks to Beckton. It is also essential to have the presence of the large building proposed by the Canary Wharf Consortium because the consortium has made it quite plain that, if this railway link is not built, there will be no economic base on which it can proceed with that massive assistance to accommodation for the financial services in the City of London.

At this stage in the passage of a Private Bill it might be reasonable for the promoters to invite the House to be satisfied with the Bill—satisfied on the need for the railway extension for the reasons that I have put before your Lordships and satisfied that the interests of all persons adversely affected have been properly considered. As I told your Lordships earlier, all the 15 petitioners have been satisfied by the promoters and therefore the petitioners have withdrawn their petitions and left this Bill as an unopposed Bill.

However, there are other matters which have been put before the House. There was the instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, at Second Reading which the Select Committee took up and upon which it gave its judgment. There was the right reverend Prelate's amendment, which has now been withdrawn, but as I understand it he will still be addressing the House on the matters which lie behind it. I see that the right reverend Prelate nods his head. Also, there is now another amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, which must be considered by this House.

As a promoter of this Bill I have no wish to curb the debate but I must advise the House that all the matters which the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, propose to raise fall outside the provisions of this Bill and outside the control of its promoters, London Regional Transport. Therefore I suggest that the most helpful way for your Lordships' House to proceed—a Government Statement permitting—is to hear directly from the noble Lord, Lord Alport, and other members of his committee who put down their names to speak about how they came to deal with the instruction.

With reference to the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, I should just like to observe that as a result of your Lordships giving leave for the committee to follow such a course—although it is not usual for evidence to be heard in these circumstances—evidence was heard from two Members of another place; namely, Mr. Mikardo and Mr. Spearing, who are Members of Parliament for constituencies which are affected by the Docklands area development. Their Lordships also heard from Councillor Fred Jones who as well as being a leading local politician is also chairman of the Docklands Consultative Committee.

Those of your Lordships who have read both the report of the committee and the evidence given to it will agree with me that the committee probed the matters very thoroughly. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, did not leave unexamined any of the witnesses called by the promoters and indeed she examined them with thoroughness.

I should like to remind the House also of the conclusions of the Select Committee and to highlight the appropriate passage in which the committee advises your Lordships' House, which is to be found in paragraph 18: In their [the Committee's] opinion the consequences of the proposals contained in the Bill are likely to be beneficial to the City of London. The City must expand and the development of the London Docklands provides it with an opportunity to do this". That encapsulates the committee's response, having heard all the evidence which was introduced as a result of the instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton.

However, I think I should give a word of warning about the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton. If the amendment is carried, it could adversely affect the execution of the Bill and the building of the railway. I ask whether the noble Lord is repeating the same exercise that he took your Lordships through on Second Reading. I have received a note from him, and I hope that he will not find it necessary to press his amendment although I accept that he wishes to address the House upon it. Therefore, however long this debate may go forward, I ask your Lordships not to allow any of the amendments to imperil the passage of this Bill, which, for reasons that I have tried to put to your Lordships, carries so much benefit for London and for England as a whole. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Hacking.)

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, am I correct in having heard him twice tell the House that the developers have indicated that, unless they get the Bill, they will not find a commercial base from which it is viable to proceed? Is that not some form of blackmail?

Lord Hacking

My Lords, absolutely the contrary, if I may say so. The Canary Wharf Consortium is comprised of consistent men of commercial judgment. They are entitled to make their own commercial judgments. They say simply: "We need this railway if our project is to be commercially successful". It is a matter of commercial judgment, not of blackmail.