HL Deb 27 February 1992 vol 536 cc458-84

7.54 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 4 [Power to make works]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 1: Page 5, line 12, at end insert ("subject to section 4(5) below").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may also speak to Amendment No. 2. The second amendment is the substantive one. It proposes that work will not proceed as set out in the amendment unless London Underground is satisfied, that a survey of the foundations of all works has been carried out".

The amendment may sound a little bland and general but perhaps I may explain the reason behind it. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give me some assurance that the anxieties of the people who are affected by the works will be taken on board. That would be extremely helpful.

The specific anxiety is in respect of the Canada Estate in Rotherhithe. It is a small council estate of about 250 homes. Its residents consist of a large number of pensioners and unemployed people. The estate was built in the early 1960s and shows some of the problems that we have encountered only too frequently on estates built in some haste during that period. It is in poor repair. It has been a victim of considerable social transformation as the dockland developments have taken place with tenants having to contend with years of dirt, noise and traffic.

The community is anxious about the estate. The new Jubilee Line will run under it and rise towards the Canada Water station. Residents fear that the rising of the line will cause increased noise and vibration. Their fears for the condition of the estate were confirmed last summer when cladding began to fall off the high rise blocks. The estate consists of two high rise blocks with low rise blocks in between. The matter was serious enough for a survey of the structure of the tower blocks to be recommended by the Select Committee. Since last summer cladding and bricks have been falling off and the tenants have, through pressure, achieved netting around the blocks which reduces danger of injury.

Their concern is that the study was only of the two high rise blocks and not of the low rise blocks which they fear are in an even worse state of repair. The foundations have not been investigated. To say that they believe this may be putting the matter too strongly, but they are extremely anxious that the poor condition of the estate will lead it almost literally to fall apart when the line is built.

The Select Committee was anxious about the matter. It took the view that it should be left to the local authority which owns the estate to use its judgment and to deal with the matter. The Select Committee report states: We acknowledge the perfectly reasonable worries of the Canada Estate residents. The condition of their blocks is wretched. We record our astonishment that no detailed evidence could be produced to the Committee as to the nature of the foundations of these tower blocks".

I appreciate that it is a late stage at which to raise the issue, but it has been raised throughout. Given the very considerable and real anxieties of the residents who believe that they have had to keep on shouting their cause in order to achieve movement, it is right that the matter should be raised now. I hope that the noble Baroness will give the residents some comfort in her response. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I make it clear at the outset that anything that I say on the Bill is in a purely personal capacity, even though I speak from the Opposition Dispatch Box. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has made a sound case for her amendment. In that respect I wish to support it.

The noble Baroness quoted from paragraph 22 of the Select Committee's report. The last sentence states: Recognising, however, that the residents need to be reassured the promoters have offered to analyse core samples from the blocks' foundations". I do not profess to be an expert in English. However, that sentence does not appear to satisfy the points made by the noble Baroness. I rise to support her amendment.

Lord Elibank

My Lords, I rise on behalf of a majority of the members of the committee to say a few words about the amendment. The noble Baroness correctly described the plight of the inhabitants of the housing estate. The exterior cladding has become a source of danger to passing inhabitants, accidents being prevented only by a sub-structure of scaffolding erected to catch the bricks or tiles as they fall.

The committee had considerable sympathy with the inhabitants in their plight. However, several other factors were brought to its attention which were important in forming an objective judgment. First, the blocks—in particular the tower blocks—are structurally sound. The girders and main uprights are in a vertical position and during the 30 years of their construction have not suffered any damage that the experts can detect. There was some anxiety about the foundations. Although the building is only about 30 years old the plans for the foundations could not be found. Despite vigorous requests from the committee, when it wrote its report the plans had still not been found.

However, throughout the length of its inquiry the committee had the expert evidence of an exceptional witness. The evidence of Professor Burland was sensible, intelligent, objective and well-informed. In large measure it went unchallenged. I believe that on the whole the committee accepted virtually without reservation his forecast of what would happen if the tunnels were driven underneath the housing estate. Professor Burland foresaw no problems of subsidence. He said that it did not matter whether the foundations proved to be of a rough type—which is slightly less stable than the conventional type—or pile driven. He said that it did not matter which of those two foundations were used; they would adequately resist the tunnelling operations and the subsequent operating of the tube line under the housing estate. I believe that the committee was convinced by his evidence.

Nonetheless, as is reflected in the report, we could well understand the anxiety of the citizens living in the blocks. Viewing their estate in the condition that it now stands, and knowing that tunnels are going to be driven underneath it, their apprehension is perfectly understandable. I hope that they were reassured, as was the committee, by the evidence that the tunnels would cause no further deterioration to the buildings in the Canada Estate.

I have one question to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Her amendment reads: a survey of the foundations of all works has been carried out". Perhaps I missed part of her opening remarks but I am not sure whether the amendment is directed solely to the Canada Estate or whether it is intended to cover a broader sphere of operation including all the works in Newham and Southwark. If the latter is the case, I respectfully suggest that that is impracticable.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Government a question on this issue. No one has mentioned the fact that the promoters offered to loan money to the local authority in order to carry out the repairs. They did so partly to increase the morale of the people living on the estate. The local authority was told by the Department of the Environment that if it accepted the loan it would have to take the equivalent amount of money out of its ordinary programme. In view of the exceptional nature of the project perhaps the Government can make an exception and allow the local authority to borrow money from the promoters in order to carry out the repairs without putting a charge on the rest of their priorities.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, perhaps it would be appropriate if I answered the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, at this point. The housing revenue account subsidy determination requires authorities to reduce their HRA subsidy credit ceiling by any grant, contribution or compensation received in respect of works. It also requires authorities to treat any grant, contribution or compensation payments received in the form of annual loan charges in respect of works to be treated as reckonable income and that reduces their entitlement to subsidy on a pound-to-pound basis. That matter is currently under review.

Notwithstanding that, the London borough of Southwark should be aware—and I hope that it is aware—that it is always open to authorities to present a case seeking a special determination from the Secretary of State to disapply the requirement for grant towards works to be used to reduce subsidy. I hope that I have clarified the issue.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, perhaps I may first thank the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, and his committee, which listened to a great deal of evidence. My point of view is purely personal. In putting it forward I wish to reassure those people living in the blocks concerned. As some noble Lords will know, I live within 18 or 20 feet of the Bakerloo Line. I do not live in a block, I live in a basement. I can assure the residents that one becomes used to the fact that the Underground rattles up and down beside one. In fact, one becomes so used to it that one does not notice it. I can also assure them that, although during the many years that I have lived in my building, which is fairly substantial but not a tower block, we have had a few problems, we have never had one relating to the fact that the Underground is close to us.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for moving her amendment so clearly. I was not entirely clear about its intention. I have technical problems with the amendment in that it appears to be defective. The proposed clause and its numbering system does not make sense when it is incorporated into the Bill. The proposed clause requests a survey of the foundations of all works. However, as the works and their foundations do not yet exist, London Transport cannot survey them. That is the technical problem.

I appreciate, however, that the substance of her second amendment is of much greater importance and I shall concentrate on that in my reply. It is important for the noble Baroness to know that London Transport is aware of the anxieties of the people affected. Indeed, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, it was willing to make an interest-free loan in order to help but that was not appropriate. It is natural for everyone to be anxious, in particular for elderly people. My home subsided and had to be demolished and rebuilt and therefore I know how unnerving the situation is. I have seen the blocks and found them disturbing to look at. However, experts from London Underground have inspected them and found them to be structurally stable. In order to reassure the residents, they are now in the process of arranging foundation investigations of both the high-rise and low-rise blocks, which the noble Baroness queried. Monitoring is already under way. An analysis of the type of concrete is being commissioned. All that has been agreed in writing with the borough of Southwark as the owner of the blocks.

I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to reassure residents that every necessary step is being taken. In those circumstances, I hope that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that and for the comments of other noble Lords. As regards the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, and the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, when I saw the amendment I realised that there was a problem with the drafting. I apologise to your Lordships for that. That matter was raised with me about 10 minutes before the amendment had to be tabled and I agreed it over the telephone. I thought that it was more important to raise the substance of the matter rather than ensuring that the wording was perfect. For that reason, if for no other, I could not pursue the matter this evening.

I am glad to hear the reassurances about the investigation of the low-rise as well as the high-rise blocks. The noble Baroness appreciated that that is indeed the point. The continued encouragement given by both this House and another place to London Underground to conduct the necessary surveys will reassure the tenants. It is obviously important that London Underground should make available information. The residents will listen to the generalities and reassurances, but they will also wish to see the detail of the investigations and that will be extremely welcome. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 36 [For protection of London Residuary Body]:

Lord Sefton of Garston moved Amendment No. 3: Page 30, line 20, leave out ("not") and insert ("only").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this was my first experience as a member of a major committee. I should like to place on record my thanks to the chairman and other members of the committee for making it an original and extremely pleasant exercise.

I have no doubt that most noble Lords in the House know about Jubilee Gardens. However, it is my duty to sketch in the background of Jubilee Gardens and then to go on to the purpose of the amendment.

Jubilee Gardens were laid down in 1977 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reign of the Queen, hence the name Jubilee Gardens. Of course, there was also a Jubilee Walk. When the Bill was first proposed by the promoter—London Underground—it no doubt looked at Jubilee Gardens and looked at the best place for a site to which to remove the spoils from the main tunnel so that they could be disposed of by barge. Nobody would quarrel with that.

A site was chosen next to County Hall. That left Jubilee Gardens untouched and they are now enjoyed by many people. Those noble Lords who visit the South Bank will know that those gardens represent the open air aspect of perhaps the best cultural area in the United Kingdom. They are certainly the only riverside gardens on the Thames in that area. They are certainly well used by all the office staff in that vicinity. I am quite certain that the residents there are so keen on their use that we should give them some encouragement. We should in no way reduce the morale of the people in that area. If your Lordships walk—as I and other members of the committee have done—in that locality, your Lordships will realise the uniqueness of the gardens. It almost seems as though somebody has taken a community and deposited it in the centre of commercial and transport activity. I believe that an extremely good job has been done in trying to defend those gardens.

The gardens are used for many functions; for example, the marathon, the circus, open air concerts and, of course, as the lawn for that cultural centre. The South Bank development has always been criticised because there is too much concrete around. The gardens provide a foil for that heavy, dense concrete. When people come to London and visit the South Bank, I believe that they take real pleasure in walking in those gardens. So far, nobody will disagree with me. We all agree that it is a very useful place which contributes to the cultural life of our capital.

When London Underground decided to build a line, it chose a site which did not disturb those gardens so that they would be left for public use. A site was chosen alongside County Hall. There are few noble Lords in this Chamber who are unaware of the history of County Hall and what is happening about it. It seems certain that the London Residuary Body is having the devil's own job to get rid of County Hall. I shall not go into the reasons for that. Noble Lords will have their own ideas.

There was a big developer who was going to construct all kinds of things there but he suddenly backed out. Whether that was because of the advent of Canary Wharf and its consequential effects on the rents of other properties within the City of London, I do not know—anybody can guess. However, the developer backed out and at present there is no evidence of any firm intention to develop that site.

The residuary body said to the committee in another place that if an attempt was made to take this land it would take away its ability to construct an underground car park housing 87 cars. If that happened, it would reduce the value of the site and it would not be able to let it. If that were attempted it may well sue London Underground and it could well cost London Underground £50 million or £100 million. For a start, I do not believe that. The delay in constructing that car park could not, by any conceivable stretch of the imagination, give rise to such costs. The residuary body would have to say to a developer that there would be a delay in providing the space for the car park but that it would be available within—I think a figure is mentioned in the Bill—54 months. It would take that long to carry out a development. It would still be possible to sell the properties on the basis of that promise. I am certain that in the interim period there would be no problem in providing temporary parking spaces. Therefore, on close examination, the case of the London Residuary Body falls to the ground.

However, the committee in the other place agreed with the London Residuary Body. An amendment was moved and carried in Committee. The legislation was then discussed in the Chamber and the matter was queried in the way that I have just queried it. The MP for the area tabled an amendment that would have meant removing that protective clause of the LRB —and I use the words "protective clause" advisedly. Your Lordships will later understand the reason for that.

Nothing happened. Speeches were made. Everybody agreed that the gardens were a valuable amenity which should be kept. There was no disagreement about that. London Underground wanted the work site there for 54 months. Nobody disagreed about that. But the MP concerned, supported by an MP of another party and by many MPs from all over London, was quite wrongly advised that it would be better to leave it to the House of Lords. That should give your Lordships cause for pleasure, to think that the Commons had said, "Leave it to the House of Lords. It will sort it out".

The matter came before your Lordships' committee. What happened there? Having some knowledge of the kerfuffle over the gardens, the matter was raised; petitioners were ready to present a petition against it and to speak against it. But lo and behold we were told, "You cannot do that. According to practice you cannot even discuss the question of removing a protective clause that was inserted in the Bill in another place". I greeted that with some amazement.

My mind went first to the question of democracy in our Parliament. I wondered whether it worked the other way. Does it mean that if the House of Lords considered a Bill first and included a protective clause, that the House of Commons could not remove it because of something called comity? I was told that that was right, to which I replied, "I am sure that Members of the House of Commons will be somewhat concerned to know that we are the dog; we are wagging its tail". I therefore queried it again and again. The committee proceeded on the basis that we could not consider the matter, and we did not consider it.

I must prove that what I have said is right. It sounds somewhat strange. I therefore took up the matter. Ultimately I received a letter from the Clerk of the Parliaments, Mr. Wheeler-Booth. I dare not lose it because I am inexperienced at this kind of thing and need documents. The letter stated: So far as Jubilee Gardens is concerned, everything Lord Sefton says is correct".

When I read that I thought to myself, "Oh, I am coming on". The letter continued, It appears that Miss Hoey [the Member concerned] was badly advised in the Commons and that the practice about protective provisions was overlooked or insufficiently emphasised or misunderstood".

But one thing is quite certain. The matter was withdrawn in the Commons because the MP concerned was advised that she should leave it to the Lords. I strengthen that point because at Second Reading the noble Baroness, briefed, I presume, by the promoters, also said that the issue of Jubilee Gardens should be left to the committee of the House of Lords. I can give the column number but I am sure that noble Lords will not want me to do that.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will permit me to intervene. I understand that it is not the custom to quote letters from the Clerk of the Parliaments. Perhaps it will be possible for the noble Lord to paraphrase the letter. I am sure that the noble Lord did not mean to quote.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I am sorry about that. I said that I was inexperienced but we live and learn. I shall paraphrase it. The letter that I received from the Clerk of the Parliaments indicates that everything I said is correct.

I turn to another point. The committee sat and made its decision which was published. When the decision was made public I received information—this may give rise to debate; I do not know how we will settle this unless I can quote letters but I shall try not to—that there was already a precedent established whereby a protective clause inserted in one House was removed by another. That precedent had occurred only recently.

I was told by the experts, and will no doubt be told again tonight—if I cannot quote the letter I am in a spot—that the matter was on all fours. I do not believe that. I believe that "all fours" was a legal expression used to try to demonstrate that the two cases were practically the same from a legal point of view. It was not that the subject was different. That has nothing to do with it from a legal point of view. I therefore do not accept that there is a difference. The fact is that a protective clause inserted in one House was removed in another.

But that is not the fundamental point. One of the main reasons I tabled the amendment has nothing to do with the Jubilee Line; it concerns the parliamentary processes of which we are so proud. If the amendment is not accepted, then the House of Commons will be unable to discuss the matter again. That will not delay the Bill. It should delay the Underground line. But it will mean that the Commons cannot discuss this item. It has already been barred once: the House of Lords Committee was barred from discussing it.

In effect, we are facing a situation which means that the matter will never be debated. I have tabled a Motion, which we shall come to later, which suggests that the Bill does not come into effect for six months, which in fact kicks it into touch. I shall have something to say about that later because I also believe that problems arise as to whether the Bill should have been a Private Bill at all. However, we will leave that for now.

I shall summarise the position. I have explained the main point. A Member of Parliament for the constituency concerned was barred from discussing this important issue regarding the cultural aspect of this site.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. I realise that I shall have a chance to speak in a moment on the subject. I was a Member of the committee. However, it will help the House if the noble Lord can tell us the nature and status of the advice given to the Member of Parliament in another place. The impression that I received was that it was very much a matter of informal advice; that is, someone perhaps asking a clerk casually in the corridor rather than written advice from the Table of the House in another place. That may have a bearing on how we decide Miss Hoey deprived herself of the opportunity, maybe mistakenly. That is what she did. If that was the incident, then we should know how it came about.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I have just been told that I should not quote letters. How can I answer? All I can say, without quoting anything that I was told by the Clerk of the Parliaments, is that Miss Hoey was badly advised in the House of Commons. I do not see how I can say anything else unless I start quoting the letter, and it is a long letter. I hope that that satisfies the noble Viscount that Miss Hoey did receive the wrong advice, and followed it.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may clarify the matter. The question the noble Lord was asked did not require him to quote the letter addressed to him. He was asked whether Miss Hoey received a letter of advice, or whether hers was informal advice received in another place.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I can tell you that. Miss Hoey informed us that the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons told her that it would be quite all right and the matter could be debated in the House of Lords in Committee. Perhaps that answer will be satisfactory. I cannot give the House chapter and verse because of the question of quoting letters, at which we will look later. But it is a peculiar circumstance.

I shall continue where I left off. For the reasons I have mentioned, the fact is that Parliament has been deprived of the right to debate this issue except in this House and that has only been allowed after a long fight. It is quite evident that we cannot go into such detail in this Chamber as in committee because the House would not tolerate such a long debate at this hour of the night. It is ironic that in the 40th year of the Queen's reign we should be talking about removing a garden which celebrates the 25th anniversary of her reign when people are getting hot under the collar as to whether or not there should be a fountain in London to celebrate this later occasion.

Perhaps I may point out that when London Underground thought about using Parliament Square, which in effect is nothing but a roundabout, it soon changed its mind because some MPs said they were not going to have their piece of lawn disturbed, so the procedure was changed. The line was quickly moved and everything was put in the station.

The petitioners were inhibited in putting their case in committee. To me that is perhaps more important than the question of MPs being denied the right to debate the matter. The Jubilee Walk Society did a tremendous job and it has been spurned. Its representation has been cast aside with practically no consideration. That would destroy the morale of a great many volunteers who have done much good work for London.

The plea is that common sense should prevail. I was told that the responsibility of the London Residuary Body was to get rid of the land at the best possible price. I was told that by counsel appearing for the promoters. That is also what the committee was told. I asked questions. I asked: can counsel tell us whether or not the Minister, in setting up the residuary body, did or did not retain powers to direct that body? He had to admit that the Minister did. Therefore, it is not a absolute statutory duty on the LRB to obtain the best money for the land. It can apply to the Minister to be relieved from that obligation. The Minister can dictate to it and tell the body to give this site to London Underground or to the local authority as an open space. That is why there is reference to common sense being applied to the intervening period between Miss Hoey's representation in the House of Commons and the Bill coming here.

I believe that, if we can hear from the Government that they are prepared to use a little common sense and do what everyone concerned wants to do—namely, keep Jubilee Gardens—we could rest the matter there. I should need a fairly certain assurance, because I have no intention of withdrawing this amendment unless I have an assurance from the Minister that he will do that. I am not satisfied that we should deny to a Member of Parliament, a Member of this House or the petitioners, the right to have the issue debated in the right and proper place, which was in that committee.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it might be helpful if I gave the Government's view on the noble Lord's amendment at this stage of the proceedings. I do of course appreciate the concern that has been expressed about the impact which the decision to move the worksite for tunnelling spoil to the north end of Jubilee Gardens will have on public access to that very pleasant open space by the riverside. It is always unfortunate when the enjoyment of public amenities such as this has to be curtailed. It is clearly incumbent on us to ensure that there are good reasons for doing so, and that there are no feasible alternatives.

However, I am afraid that that is indeed the position in this case. It was only to protect their vital interests—and the vital interests of the local charge payers of London —that the London Residuary Body successfully petitioned to have the original form of the Bill changed to move this site from the south to the north end of Jubilee Gardens. As noble Lords will know, the ownership of County Hall is vested in the residuary body. Under the Local Government Act 1985 the residuary body has a clear statutory duty to dispose of this major building in such a way as to achieve the best possible return for the local charge payers of London as a whole.

Its decision to petition as it did to have the site moved was certainly not taken lightly. On the contrary, it felt —and the Government believe felt rightly—that it would have been failing in its duty to the citizens of London if it had not taken this course. For the fact is that, if this site had remained at the south end of the gardens, immediately next to County Hall, which is where the noble Lord's amendment would place it, then the plans for the development of County Hall—the plans on the basis of which it has been negotiating with potential purchasers—would be very largely undermined. That is because the south end of the gardens is needed for the underground car park which would form a key—an essential element —of its plans for the whole development of the County Hall complex.

The LRB has put a price on the loss which a decision to move the site back to the south end would entail. This appears in the claim that the LRB has put forward for compensation in the event of that decision being adopted. It is put, as the noble Lord said, at between £50 and £100 million. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, questioned that figure, but he gave no evidence for questioning it.

That would be a very high price for Londoners to have to pay for avoiding the use of the north end of Jubilee Gardens during the 54 weeks maximum period when tunnelling work was in progress. We believe that it is too high a price to ask them to pay for this purpose.

The residuary body has in the meantime made it clear that it is prepared to do all it can to co-operate with London Underground Ltd by grassing over the south end until such time as it is actually needed for construction of the County Hall car park, and by doing all it can to assist in resiting the playground which is now situated in the northern end of the gardens.

Noble Lords will understand from this why my right honourable friend would be unwilling, should this amendment be rejected—as I hope it will be—to use any power which he had to direct the residuary body to drop its objections to the use of the south end as suggested by your Lordships' Committee and the noble Lord, Lord Sefton. But we are advised that he would in any case have no such power. It is true that under Section 65 of the Local Government Act 1985 the residuary body is required, in discharging its functions under that Act, to comply with any directions given to it by the Secretary of State. We are advised, however, that my right honourable friend would only have the power under this section to give directions required for achieving the purposes of the 1985 Act itself, and we can see no way in which the return of the site to the south end could be regarded as falling within those purposes. My right honourable friend would therefore be exposing himself to a grave risk of challenge by way of judicial review if he were to give directions to the residuary body on the lines envisaged by the noble Lord.

The London Residuary Body put forward in another place the arguments for moving the site to the north end of the gardens and it was successful in convincing our colleagues there that those arguments were justified. I do not believe that sufficient contrary arguments have been put forward to justify us in reversing that decision, especially since such a reversal would have such serious consequences for the plans being developed for the disposal of County Hall and for the local taxpayers of London, who would have to foot the very considerable bill for frustrating those plans. Therefore I hope that the House will reject this amendment.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask two questions. Are the powers of the London Residuary Body the same as those of the other residuary bodies in the country? Is it not a fact that the Minister has power to direct the London Residuary Body to get rid of land as open space to the local authority?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I believe that I gave the answer to the second of the noble Lord's questions in my speech. We do not feel that the Secretary of State would be justified in using his powers in this case. As to the first question about whether the powers of the London Residuary Body are the same as the powers of any other residuary bodies in the country, I do not know the answer to that. On the other hand neither do I see that it is relevant to this particular question.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I must repeat the statement that I made at the outset of this debate. Although I am speaking from the Front Bench I am doing so in a completely personal capacity and I do not expect my colleagues to follow any lead that I might give them. That is a convention which the Opposition has followed for many years.

I support the amendment of my noble friend. He has made his points calmly and he has built up a good case for consideration of his amendment. I must make it clear that I read the Report proceedings and Third Reading proceedings of the other place very carefully, including the speech of Miss Kate Hoey, the Member for Vauxhall, who endeavoured to move a very comprehensive new clause. Despite what I have said, the Opposition in the other place welcome the extension of the Jubilee Line—as do we all—and also the purpose behind the Bill.

I should like to ask the Minister a question. I presume he is entitled to speak again. I see the Minister indicates that he cannot. It is unfortunate, therefore, that he spoke when he did.

I was given to understand that in October 1990 Jubilee Gardens was declared metropolitan open land —that means Green Belt. Why does that decision stand if it is correct? Does the Department of the Environment have something to say about that decision? I understand it was taken by pressure on local authorities; that they should make a decision on the question of metropolitan open land. Therefore that matter is very much in the hands of the Department of the Environment.

It has been made perfectly clear in the Bill as originally deposited in the other place that the site required for the removal of spoil by barge is a small area ajacent to County Hall; a minor car park. There is no criticism anywhere of the desire of London Regional Transport, the London Underground, to carry out the intention of moving spoil by barge.

Reference has been made to the London Residuary Body's decision to develop the site. The Minister made some reference to that. However, is my noble friend correct in saying that there are no plans now—the other plans fell through—for any development by any known developer of the County Hall site? That is an important matter. Did the special committee of this House know that position when it discussed the matter?

The question has been raised about the advice given to Miss Hoey. I am paraphrasing when I say that my understanding is that she said that she would listen very carefully to what the Minister had to say but she stressed that the purpose of the Bill had wide support from a substantial number of bodies. She urged that Jubilee Gardens should be saved and allow the Bill to proceed.

Miss Hoey added that she had great faith in what would happen in the other place. I am not suggesting that she was advised about that, but she said that she had faith in the other place, which is your Lordships' House, in the discussion of this matter. We shall have to look to see exactly what the other place did. We know it was referred to the Select Committee and I hope that everyone present has read the special report of that Select Committee.

The important decision concerned the protective provision given to the LRB. The Select Committee report states that there was great sympathy for the suggested reversion to the original site. Reference is made to Erskine May. The last thing I want to do is to open up a constitutional argument, but of course we generally look for advice to Erskine May. However, I have been looking at the Companion to the Standing Orders of our own House, where I find on page 147: Neither House reinserts a provision struck out by the other House unless by agreement in advance between the two Houses". In my elementary knowledge of this constitutional practice, it appears that it would be possible for the two Houses to agree on striking out a provision.

There are two important statements in the special report to which I should like to refer. Paragraphs 12 to 16 deal with the whole question of Jubilee Gardens. The last sentence of paragraph 14 states: The promoters suggested that if it turned out that the redevelopment of County Hall proved compatible with allowing the promoters to use the original site, the Secretary of State could direct appropriate disposal of the land". The Minister outlined a subsequent provision which prevented him from taking certain action on those lines. That is a statement by the Select Committee which considered the whole of this matter. Next, I find that the last sentence in paragraph 16 of the Select Committee's report states: However, we note that the Secretary of State has powers in relation to the LRB and we recommend"— I emphasise that word— that he intervene to make it possible for the original site to be used after all". Undoubtedly the noble Lord has told us what he understands to be the Minister's responsibility in these matters. But those are two statements contained in the report of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House. Did the committee know what the Minister was going to say tonight? If it did, then those two recommendations in the report are wrong. If it did not know, then someone was at fault in not advising the committee. Alternatively, the Minister does have power to deal with this matter. That seems to be the essential factor in the amendment of my noble friend, to which I hope the Minister will be able to reply. Certainly, with the leave of the House, we should like to hear from the Minister on those points.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, as a member of the committee, perhaps I may briefly address what the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, has said. Then perhaps our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, who did an excellent job on the committee, may wish to give a more measured and rounded view, based on what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has just said.

Perhaps I may make a correction. The Minister used the words "54 weeks" instead of "54 months". The whole House will realise that the timescale is four-and-a-half years. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, did give that impression. Therefore the whole House will be quite clear that we are talking about boarding up this central part of Jubilee Gardens for four-and-a-half years, as a maximum.

I shall try to deal with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, and also to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has just said, that the committee in its report said that it would prefer the site next to County Hall. As I said, the chairman of our committee may elaborate on that. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, also said that the committee had been deprived of a debate on the full scope of this point because we were prohibited in some way from debating it. Our report states, and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has just pointed out, that our committee—it did not need any further debate—was convinced, on the facts before it, that ideally it would like the site next to County Hall. However, the committee was not prepared to go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Sefton. If noble Lords read the report, they will see that there was a vote and the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, was in a minority of one. That is on the record. I am not giving anything away.

The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, also said that Parliament had not had a debate on this subject. He may have been speaking in shorthand, but in fact the other place had a lengthy debate which took up many pages of Hansard. The point that the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, was making was that at the last minute and for various reasons there was no vote. That is a very important point. It is my impression that the kind of advice which Miss Hoey received—she moved the new clause in another place—is the kind of advice that we all take from the Clerks in the course of business. I am not saying that she stopped someone in the corridor. It is my impression—I must confirm that this is my impression—that it was very much in the nature of informal advice which caused her not to put this matter to a vote in another place.

I would want to distinguish that kind of advice from formal advice. Had Miss Hoey had an official letter from the Table in another place giving her that advice, that would be a serious matter which we should have to consider. However, given the informal nature of the advice, and as we take that kind of advice ourselves from the Clerks—it turned out, as it happened, to be wrong advice—the hands of the House of Lords were tied. I would put it in that context.

Perhaps I may deal with the matter of precedent and how this House should behave in dealing with provisions offered to it by another place. In paragraph 15 of our report we state: It is the practice that a protective provision granted by one House is not reversed by the other House". We call it a practice rather than a precedent because an exception to that way of behaving occurred in 1980. Prior to 1980 the precedent, as I would like to call it, was violated in 1903. We are talking about the precedent being broken on one occasion between 1903 and 1992.

I have spoken at some length but perhaps I should briefly explain that I happen to have knowledge of that precedent. What happened in 1980 related to a Bill which involved a subject with which I was involved through another Bill. I was therefore particularly interested in the matter. It was to do with acupuncture. I shall not go into details but at that time acupuncturists were petitioning Parliament in order to try to have themselves accorded a higher status than people like tattooists. They persuaded the committee in another place that they should have that exemption. However, for various reasons, this was never discussed on the Floor of the House. When the Bill was presented to this House we decided to give the other House an opportunity to discuss it on the Floor of the House once and for all. The person who moved it said quite clearly—this was the spirit of the House—that we would simply send it back to the other place and if it insisted on the position as it was and sent it back to us we would automatically give way. That was the spirit in which it was dealt with. In breaking this precedent we were simply giving the other House a chance to discuss the issue. We then intended to give way if it insisted on its position. I would say that this case is different because the other House has had a chance to discuss the issue. The fact that it did not vote on it is unfortunate, but that is the situation.

I have indicated that I would ideally like the site directly next to County Hall, but having listened to the Minister's arguments on the matter and realising the way in which his hands are tied, I am not prepared to jeopardise the Bill in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, is prepared to jeopardise it. I stand by the recommendations which we made.

Lord Elibank

My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words on behalf of the Select Committee. Although I cannot personally agree with the reasoning of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, on one or two points, I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment which he proposes. I cannot support it for two reasons. The first reason has been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Craigavon. I am convinced that we ought not to overturn the procedure about overruling a protective provision from the other place. That is sound parliamentary sense and I think that we should follow it. The other reason why I would not be inclined to accept the amendment is that, however bad is the proposed system of evacuating the spoil from the centre of the gardens, it is in my view at least preferable to the alternatives, which are to move that spoil through the Southwark and Waterloo area by lorry or by train wagons. Both of those methods would be even worse for the citizens resident in the area. I cannot support the amendment, but in my view it has much to commend it.

The London Residuary Body has been entrusted for several years now with the disposal of County Hall. Through no fault of its own, because of a depressed property market, it has, so far as I understand it, failed to find any suitable developer who will put down money to carry out the development. Other possible plans for County Hall are at least discussed. One of them concerns the London School of Economics, which your Lordships might think would be the most elegant solution for that building. There is also the possibility, not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, that, if by any misfortune we were to have a Labour Government in the next few weeks, it is part of Labour policy to create some kind of successor to the GLC. If that were done a logical place to put it would be County Hall, an unhappy eventuality but one which we cannot totally ignore.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the disposal of County Hall, it seems frankly ludicrous that the London Residuary Body should come forward with the statement that, unless it can construct an underground car park for 100 vehicles, the disposal of the whole of that vast complex will be prejudiced. I cannot help but think that 100 cars can be stored in a number of underground or overground sites in that area without prejudicing the development; or even if that is not true, I cannot conceive that the development of that rather small car park could not be postponed until after the work on Jubilee Gardens had been completed.

We have quite a simple equation. It is: should the citizens of London, and particularly the residents of Southwark and Waterloo, be deprived for 54 months of a very attractive piece of green space in order that this small underground car park should be constructed? Our only hope of redressing this matter is, if noble Lords will excuse the colloquialism, to lean on the Minister. We are probably debarred from any other route. The Minister has said today that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State would not be inclined to look with sympathy on any intervention in this matter. But if the Minister will think quietly about the equation as I have laid it before him, I cannot help but feel that he will realise that the true interests of our citizens and residents in Southwark would be better served by moving the evacuation spoil site close to County Hall. I am sure that that could be achieved by an unofficial word from the Secretary of State, even if that does not lie clearly within his competence and powers under the law.

9 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

My Lords, as usual, the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, made a most appealing speech in favour of his amendment. However, I think that the House should think very hard indeed before agreeing to it. In saying that, I am not expressing any views on the merits of any particular part of Jubilee Gardens as a spoil site. In my position as Chairman of Committees it would be quite improper of me to express any view on that question.

My concern is for the well-established private business practice with regard to protective provisions, which was mentioned by many noble Lords this evening. It is set out in Erskine May at page 910 where it states that, restrictive amendments imposed by one House on the promoters are not reversed by the other". Clause 36 of the Bill commences: For the protection of the London Residuary Body", and is such a restrictive amendment. That is recognised by the Select Committee in paragraph 15 of its report and was supported just now by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank. The effect of agreeing to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, would be to set aside the long-established practice with regard to restrictive amendments. I do not say that Parliament may not do so. But I do say that the House should not do so without very careful consideration of the implications.

The practice has advantages. It means that persons and bodies who are are adversely affected by a Bill and who win a protection from the House which first considers the Bill know where they stand. They know that their position has been safeguarded and that there is no need for them to take any further action to protect their interests. It would clearly be unfair if a petitioner in the first House, who had secured from that House what he sought by way of protection and who therefore had nothing to petition against when the Bill arrived in the second House, could find himself deprived in the second House of the protection given to him in the first.

In other words, to put it in the context of the present case, if the Select Committee had ignored the usual practice and had agreed to the case on Jubilee Gardens put to it by the petitioners in this House, it would have deprived the London Residuary Body of the protection given to it in the Commons without having heard the case. That would also be the effect of the noble Lord's amendment. The noble Lord raised the question as to which House started the business. I should like to emphasise the fact that the Commons was the first House to consider the Bill and this House was the second. However, what I said applies regardless of which House is the first to consider the Bill.

I ask the House to consider whether the advantages of the practice are such that it ought to be adhered to. The House may think that in the particular case of Jubilee Gardens the practice has led to unhappy consequences and hardship for the residents of Waterloo and for other users of the gardens. As I said earlier, it is open to the House to set aside the practice, but I ask the House to think hard about the implications for Private Bill practice before doing so.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords who have taken part on the technical aspect of the matter. I shall briefly speak on the substantive part about Jubilee Gardens. As the House knows, I was a member of the Greater London Council for 12 years; and, indeed, I was there during Jubilee year. I believe that we are overlooking the point that the gardens will only be temporarily out of use—that is, four-and-a-half years maximum—and that they will be fully reinstated at the end of the work. The South Bank walkway will remain open for use, with a conveyor over the top to remove the spoil.

I shall not go into detail other than to refer to the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that just a small area is involved. In actual fact the hatched area on the map is, if anything, slightly larger than the other area now being taken. One speaker said that this was a case of someone's right in the other place or that of the local residents. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, made that point. I believe that the essence of the matter is to consider whether or not we want the people of London to have the Jubilee Line.

As the matter stands tonight, I believe that the amendment should be defeated so as to enable the Bill to proceed smoothly. On the other hand, I must make it clear that to London Transport one site is as good as another; there is no issue in that respect. The issue is that any delay in the progress of the Bill would be very damaging to the people of London, especially those living in that part of London which has never had an Underground. They will benefit from the line.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I am sure that every Member of the House will agree with the noble Lord, the Chairman of Committees, that the matter should be given careful consideration. I think that I should apologise to the House for bringing the matter forward at this time of night. However, I sought to bring before this Chamber everything that I thought was relevant. Of course, I expected to hear the kind of statement from the noble Lord, the Chairman of Committees, that he made. But, nevertheless, a precedent was established.

I should like to deal with some of the points raised which I believe to be relevant. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I seem to take longer than perhaps they would to do so. But, having sat in the Select Committee for such a long time, my mind is completely full of the facts. I have read and reread the transcripts over and again. There is first the question of the four-and-a-half year period. That is not my advice. Officially, but with no documents to prove it, I am told that it could well be seven years before Jubilee Gardens is back in use. Of course, that advice could be right or it could be wrong. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. It may be the case that it will be seven years before the gardens are back in use, but from when? On the evidence, my understanding is that it will be four-and-a-half years from when the work starts.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, the important issue is: how long will Jubilee Gardens be out of use for the public? The rest are technicalities. They do not count. I am told that the gardens could be out of use for seven years. I know that I shall be told that the promoters of the Bill are discussing the question of for how long they will require the work site. If we are to quibble like that we shall never get through the business. I know that that is what is in the Bill and I know the period that is specified by the Bill, but I am told that it will be seven years before the gardens are reinstated for public use.

That, however, is not the important issue. The important issue is that at the end of that period the gardens will still be owned by the London Residuary Body. If we agree to what we have been told to agree to tonight who is to say that the LRB will not sell the gardens? I must tell your Lordships that there has been some question about whether the LRB has the power to pass the gardens over to the public. I am not quoting my own words or giving the House my opinion on this. An inquiry has been held into the LRB's proposal to develop the site. Surely the inspector conducting that public inquiry knows his business. I hope that I shall be allowed to quote what he said—I have to be careful. He said: In this matter, the LRB have been regarded as acting in an unsatisfactory fashion". He further said: It is not for me to comment on the course pursued by the London Residuary Body … It is regrettable that the London Residuary Body have chosen not to secure the existing use made by the public and the right of access by dedicating the walkway wholly to the public and ensuring that Jubilee Gardens becomes a public park in the ownership of the Borough". The vast majority of the people who walk on that side of the Thames have always believed that Jubilee Gardens is a public park. They were amazed when the London Residuary Body put up notices saying, "This is owned by us. You are here only on sufferance". But that is what happened. That should clearly establish the fact that there is a question mark over whether the area will remain a public park.

It is not a question of whether we should have the Jubilee Line or not. Nobody is opposing the Jubilee Line. It is a question of whether we can find a more common sense approach and retain this valuable asset for the people of London. It is ironic that somebody has to come down from Liverpool to talk in this House about benefits for London people, but that is the situation in which I find myself. That should be a lesson to your Lordships: do not put me on the Committee.

The Chairman of Committees has emphasised that the provisions apply not only if they come from the other place to this House but also the other way round. I have dealt with that. As I have said before, I believe that those in another place would take a dim view of the House of Lords wagging the tail of the House of Commons. Of course they would. It is not a question of a procedure that has developed but of what is right and what is wrong. I believe that it is wrong that this clause should not return to another place for proper consideration. If the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, understood me to say that the provisions have not been considered in another place, I am sorry because I must have misled him. I detailed the discussions that took place there and said that we were barred from voting in the committee. Advice was given to another place. Its mistake was to say that we could have voted when it turns out that we could not. Why was that advice given in another place? Why was the advice not given to us in the six months before the Bill came to this House?

Why was the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, allowed to say on Second Reading that this matter could be considered by the Select Committee? Why was she not advised that it could not be considered by the Select Committee? The passage of this Bill is riddled with unanswered questions.

The Chairman of Committees said that it was ludicrous to suggest that the question of the car park would affect the ultimate destiny and future of County Hall—I am paraphrasing because one must be careful. Of course it is ludicrous.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I never said anything of the sort. I kept right out of the controversy.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, it was the Chairman of Committees.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I am the Chairman of Committees.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I am referring to the noble Lord, Lord Elibank. Does that clear up the point? He said that, and I agree with him. It is ludicrous. Unfortunately, it is not sympathy that we want. It is a vote that we want. We want to restore to the other place the right to vote on this issue.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, let us vote.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I shall not go through all the points that have been made because it is evident that people are getting tired of being here. I am sorry about that. It is not my fault. Four-and-a-half years was mentioned. The Minister said—I repeated it—that it would not be advisable for the Minister to do it; but he has the power to do it. That is what matters.

I do not believe that the car park, as the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, said, will have a deleterious effect upon the disposal of County Hall. I do not believe that the disposal of County Hall is as imminent as some people would have us believe. There is plenty of time to construct the line. It can be built next to County Hall and preserve County Hall for posterity by ensuring that the Minister tells the LRB to take notice of the inspector's report and make the garden a public one.

9.15 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 59.

Division No. 3
Blease, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Carter, L. Hamwee, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. [Teller.]
Judd, L. Sefton of Garston, L. [Teller.]
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Shackleton, L.
McNair, L. Underhill, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Acton, L. Hooper, B.
Ampthill, L. Howe, E.
Arran, E. Lauderdale, E.
Ashbourne, L. Limerick, E.
Astor, V. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Belstead, L. Long, V.
Blatch, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Borthwick, L. Lyell, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. [Teller.] Mancroft, L.
Milverton, L.
Butterworth, L. Mountevans, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Newall, L.
Carnock, L. Norrie, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Cochrane of Cults, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Craigavon, V. Portsmouth, E.
De L'Isle, V. Reay, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Elibank, L. Rochdale, V.
Elles, B. St. Davids, V.
Elton, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Faithfull, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Strathclyde, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. [Teller.] Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Haddington, E. Swinton, E.
Harmsworth, L. Teviot, L.
Henley, L. Trumpington, B.
Hesketh, L. Ullswater, V.
HolmPatrick, L. Waddington, L.

Resolved in the negative and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.22 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Gardner of Parkes.)

Lord Sefton of Garston had given notice of his intention to move as an amendment to the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, to leave out ("now") and at end to insert ("this day six months").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that I shall not keep the House long but there are some matters on which I wish to comment and to which I should like this House and another place to give consideration.

First, I said in the previous debate that I doubted whether this should have been a Private Bill. We are now well into the maelstrom of parliamentary procedure. Having been advised to consult Erskine May, I took the opportunity to go to the Library to look at the book. I did not know what was waiting for me. I thought perhaps it was 10 volumes but it was one. I looked at what constitutes a Public Bill and what does not. I know that noble Lords will say straightaway that I am wrong, but let me quote Erskine May. I assume that I can do that without being corrected. It states: Preliminary views of private bills: In general there are four principles which have been followed in determining that a private bill should not be allowed to proceed as such, but should be introduced as a public bill". It continues: These are as follows: (1) That public policy is affected; (2) That the bill proposes to amend or repeal public Acts. In these cases, the nature and degree of the proposed repeal or amendment have to be considered; (see pp 802–803.) (3) The magnitude of the area and the multiplicity of the interests involved; (4) The fact that the bill though partly of a private nature has as its main object a public matter".

There is a section concerning Bills relating to London. On that point Erskine May states: Owing to the large area, and the vast population, and the variety of interests concerned, bills which affect the entire metropolis used, as a rule, to be regarded as measures of public policy rather than of local interest. Such Bills were usually, though not invariably, introduced and proceeded with throughout as public bills or were dealt with as hybrid bills. Bills relating to the Metropolitan Police and to Metropolitan Magistrates Courts have always been public bills and where any of the principles outlined on p 794"— I have already referred to that page— are involved the rule that bills affecting the metropolis should he introduced as public bills still applies".

I have read from page 794 and 795. The provision is reinforced on page 797 where it is stated that a Bill relating to a city other than London is a private Bill. That establishes the case that the Bill should never have been a Private Bill. It should have been a public Bill backed by the Government and it should have been open to full discussion. I shall explain why I think that that is the case.

When the Committee stage had finished I was asked whether we had discussed the matter of a listed building near Green Park. I replied that the matter had not been discussed. I checked that with the Clerk of the Parliaments, who confirmed that the matter had not been discussed. He said that it had not come before the committee. However, it was mentioned in the Bill. I wondered why it had not been mentioned in committee. It had not been mentioned in committee because it was not the subject of a Petition and it had not been deliberately brought to our attention by the promoters. That is absolutely wrong. This is a Bill that the Government are backing. Everybody knows that. It should have been a public Bill.

I shall not test the opinion of the House on this matter tonight as I realise there is not the faintest chance of gaining support. I have just had my lesson on that score. However, I wish to put it on record that I believe this should have been a public Bill. I fondly hope this Government will be out of office within a few weeks. In that case the succeeding government should look at this matter and consider how we regulate the matter of public and private Bills.

Before the Committee stage the Government had already announced that one of the factors influencing the way this Bill was proposed would be a contribution from the developers at Canary Wharf. I asked to see the agreement stating that that was the case. I was told that it was confidential and that it was a private matter between the promoters and the Canary Wharf developers, Olympia and York. I believe that that agreement should have been scheduled to the Bill to enable it to be examined.

I have a question for the Minister. Does the agreement contain any guarantees that Olympia and York will pay the amount that it has said it will pay? I have heard rumours that that will not be the case. Have the successors to Olympia and York guaranteed to pay that amount? If that is not the case, we have a serious issue on our hands. In the House of Commons the Government stated that one of the reasons for initiating the Bill was that Olympia and York had promised a payment. According to the press Olympia and York is running into difficulties. There is talk of selling the second largest building in the development at Canary Wharf.

So what happens? Is the guarantee going to be made? As far as I am concerned, the Bill can be passed. Whether you like it or not, it is going back to the Commons. I established that with the Clerk of Parliaments today. But your Lordships will not be able to discuss the question of the agreement, nor that of Canary Wharf. That is disgraceful. It will be disgraceful if we do not have an opportunity to see the agreement and measure it for its worth or otherwise. I do not believe that Olympia and York will keep to the agreement. If it had been scheduled in the Bill it would have had the power of law.

Those are two points, and there are several others along the same lines in regard to whether this should have been treated as a Bill. I am not pressing the point, but I am asking the Minister to have a look at these issues because I believe that they are very important, not in the matter of the Bill, not in the matter of the Jubilee Line—although I have my own views on that —but in regard to the relationship between the private sector and this Parliament.

I would not describe a payment to induce the passage of a Bill in this respect as a bribe, but the Standing Orders of this House say that to offer an inducement to pass a Bill through Parliament is a bribe. It did not say that about individuals or about companies, but we are moving in a very dangerous field.

Perhaps I may conclude with an example. In Merseyside they are doing their best to comply with the Government's advice to get developments going. One of the important backers is the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company which has said to the local authority concerned "Unless you withdraw your opposition to the Bill that we are putting through Parliament we shall not back your proposals for developing the community in your area". That statement was published in the Liverpool Daily Post. If that is true, it is absolutely disgraceful. I believe that it is true, as do some members of the local authority who are insisting on seeing the results of the meeting in which that statement was made.

That makes three points. I have the fond hope that the Government will undertake to look into those issues, in which case I shall not press the amendment.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, before the formal decision is taken I should like to make a few comments in support of what my colleague has said, because there is an issue of principle at stake. Members of your Lordships' House who have taken part in this procedure tonight, this little charade, might like to hear some history of about three years ago.

There were strenuous objections in another place to people coming forward with Private Member's Bills to bypass normal planning procedures instead of matters being put through the local authority and all objections heard in detail, minuted and debated. All-party discussions took place in the House of Commons and agreement was reached that this procedure, because it bypassed local authority objections, would be terminated. At the eleventh hour the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, was persuaded by interested parties not to accept the recommendations of the all-party committee which was dealing with the matter, which was chaired by the then Leader of the House in another place, Mr. Wakeham. Had that procedure been abolished and had people had to go through normal planning procedures there would have been fuller protection than there is at present. If there is a change of government in this country at the next general election, that procedure will be disposed of very quickly.

Finally, one of the oddities and quirks of this procedure is the fact that the main perpetrator of what is taking place tonight—it is sad that the payroll vote has to be used to force through this Private Bill—is the London Residuary Body. They are the main people behind this situation. So far as I am aware, when the residuary bodies were set up it was intended that they should be of a temporary nature. All the other residuary bodies went out of existence two years ago. But the Government have thought fit to retain the London Residuary Body in order to bypass the local boroughs and the wishes of local people. I find it very strange. However, I am told that the London Residuary Body, even though the present Government continue to hold office, will be phased out in the autumn of this year.

My noble friend Lord Sefton has done your Lordships a service. This is the most unsatisfactory way of pushing through the Bill for the purposes of vested interests, against the wishes of the local authority and local people. My noble friend and colleague referred to Canary Wharf which was intended to be an outstanding success. Is it such a success? I understand that Mr. Michael Heseltine, the Secretary of State for the Environment, who was the first initiator of the redevelopment of London docks, has decided to take the Department of the Environment there. Is that because Canary Wharf is not so attractive as the Government first thought? Has he had to bail out the residuary body by taking the Department of the Environment from Marsham Street to Canary Wharf? The whole position looks to me to be somewhat removed from the normal proceedings in your Lordships' House. I hope that this is the last time that we shall see the kind of things that have taken place here tonight, when the payroll vote has been used to push through a Private Member's Bill. I have never known such a thing happen before and it sets a dangerous precedent for the future, as another place found to its cost.

I am glad to support my colleague and noble friend. Noble Lords on the other side must not think that my noble friend stands in isolation. He does not. He has expressed the concern of many people.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I must put him right on one point. This is not a Private Member's Bill: it is a Private Bill. All railway Bills, whether for British Rail or London Underground, at the present time have to go through this procedure and through a Select Committee. The noble Lord suggested that the Bill had been rushed through. This Bill has taken months to go through both Houses. It is not a question of what has happened tonight. This Bill had a Second Reading and then spent some weeks before a committee of your Lordships' House. The Transport and Works Bill, which seeks to reform the procedure for taking through such railway Bills, will shortly come before your Lordships. I hope that the noble Lord will support it.

The local authorities had ample opportunity to petition both Houses on this Bill. To say that they did not have such opportunity is to insult the committee of your Lordships' House and another place.

The noble Lord made some assertions about Olympia and York's contribution and whether it was in a good financial state. He produced no evidence whatever for that assertion, other than hearsay, which he had read in the newspaper. I feel that the noble Lord should withdraw those assertions or back them up.

Lord Teviot

My Lords, I am sorry to say that this situation is becoming ridiculous. I should like to add my voice to the wide measure of support that this Bill already enjoys. The Jubilee Line confers many advantages on many parts of London: Docklands, which is mainly in the parish of Poplar; East and South East London; and the West End. They would benefit from being linked to the mainline stations and London Bridge, Waterloo and Westminster, which is a rather dreary station that ought to be improved.

There are other places. Bermondsey has long been denied a proper station. This project gives effect to two longstanding objectives of rail planning in London. London Regional Transport will complete the Jubilee Line so that it no longer simply terminates in the city centre but runs on to the east and uses its capacity more efficiently. It provides a high capacity rail access through the heart of Docklands which has been the policy aim for many years. Noble Lords may recall that previous incarnations of this idea were the Fleet Line and the River Line. With interchanges to the extension, the project will also add greatly to the general convenience and ease of use of London railway systems. Nine out of 10 of its stations—

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will give way. I remind him that we are now debating the Motion that the Bill do now pass. We had Second Reading some months ago.

Lord Teviot

My Lords, through pressure from Members on this side of the Chamber I must sit down. However, it is a useful measure. Therefore I shall give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, the noble Lord was quite in order. Having been on the committee, and someone having mentioned Erskine May to me, I learnt a lot about order. The only reason that I mentioned withdrawing the amendment when I did was that Members on the other side were indicating that they wished to go home. But the standing orders of this House state that I should move the amendment, allow others to speak to it and then, having wound up, withdraw it. Therefore the noble Lord is quite in order. I was questioning the Bill. The noble Lord's speech may have appeared like a Second Reading speech but it was not.

Let me clear up that point. The point raised by my noble friend Lord Dean was also perfectly in order. One cannot withdraw an amendment if the decision is not unanimous. My noble friend indicated that he did not agree to my withdrawing the amendment. Therefore the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, was in order.

No one ever suggested that there was opposition to the Bill. Some Members will know my views about over-development in the South East and in London. However, I sat on the Select Committee and carried out my duties. Never at any time did I oppose the Bill. I accepted completely that the Second Reading of the Bill had been agreed to and that the Bill had some blessing. The reason that I tabled the amendment was to draw attention to the very real issues of parliamentary procedure.

The Minister seemed to be upset by what my noble friend said. Let him show how upset he is by considering the serious issues that I have raised. There were four or five matters. Perhaps we could discuss them at some time with a view to the Government setting up a committee to consider some of the important issues that have arisen.

I shall not press the matter now because it is still quite evident that Members wish to go home. I am sorry to have spoilt your Lordships' early night. Go home, my Lords.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.