Clause 7

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Acquisition of land not subject to the power under section 6(1)

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in clause 7, page 4, line 17, at end insert

‘providing it is in within 50 metres of the outer limits of deviation for the scheduled works’.

The Secretary of State has the power compulsorily to purchase land for Crossrail and its construction on the designated route and on land outside the designated route, but within the limits of deviation. However, the clause goes well beyond that. It gives the Secretary of State powers compulsorily to purchase land

“outside the limits of deviation for the scheduled works and the limits of land to be acquired or used which is required for or in connection with the works authorised”.

That seems to be an extraordinary power.

There is a dedicated route and, understandably, there may need to be deviations from that route for the work to progress, and as the work progresses there will be a need for flexibility, hence the need for the power to  acquire land within the limits of deviation. There may be a need to acquire land alongside the route, so as to facilitate the building of the railway or to support the railway when it is operational. All that is understood. To cover both those eventualities, a deviation from the route has been proposed.

That deviation is certainly necessary and it has been specified. However, the clause goes well beyond that, as it allows the compulsory purchase of land

“outside the limits of deviation for the scheduled works”,

which means that the Secretary of State may compulsorily acquire any land that she deems necessary for building Crossrail, wherever it may be.

There are questions that the Minister must answer to the Committee’s satisfaction. For example, why will land necessary only for construction, which is surely the land approximate to the route, fall outside the limits of deviation? Surely, along the designated route, the limits of deviation have been set so as to anticipate all necessary diversions from it. The limits of deviation as specified should be, and are, adequate. The worrying aspect of the clause is that it brings to mind the Martini principle: the Secretary of State can acquire land anywhere and at any time that she deems necessary for the construction of Crossrail. What is the purpose of that?

The Secretary of State is potentially being granted extraordinary powers, and there is a potential cost to the public purse that is wholly disproportionate to that need. My amendment—I hope the Minister will be even more tempted by this one—would allow the extra flexibility that he craves, but also define it. The Secretary of State would have power to acquire land outside the deviation, but limited to 50 m, which is an adequate restriction that would cover all eventualities for construction or land running alongside the route. The amendment would also allow for any circumstances along the confines of the route that anyone could envisage in respect of land acquisition being necessary.

This equally tempting amendment would grant the Secretary of State the exceptional powers that the Minister desires while placing a limit on the flexibility that he requires.

Photo of Brian Binley Brian Binley Ceidwadwyr, Northampton South

May I speak in support of the amendment moved so ably by my hon. Friend? The process that we went through in the interminable hybrid Bill Committee aimed at ensuring that people’s rights were fully protected and that petitioners who might have been affected by the route as then outlined had every right to bring their concerns to the Committee in a proper way. Many of those people were not the wealthiest in the land—they did not have a great deal of money to get lawyers to fight their case—but they were able to come before our Committee, make their plea and state their case. That was a fine example of parliamentary democracy.

My concern is that the clause opens the whole thing up again. Although I understand the point about the House of Lords, those people are denied the opportunity to appear before the hybrid Bill Committee, which they had with regard to the defined route. I found that Committee process very impressive. If I may pay tribute to a Committee that I was a member of, it considered these matters seriously and, most importantly, compassionately. That is what this process is all about.

There are serious concerns about green land and open areas in London. That became apparent throughout the process. We were careful not to impact too greatly on the available green land because of its scarcity, which made sense to me, and the hybrid Bill Committee clearly supported that view. My concern is that the clause opens up the opportunity yet again—after the end of proceedings in the hybrid Bill Committee—for the project’s undertakers to suggest to the Secretary of State that other routes need to be considered or included, meaning that we will not be able to consider such matters in the depth that we did in the hybrid Bill Committee.

I express the same concerns as my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon, and I hope that the Minister, who is a fair man, will recognise that common rights—the rights of the common people—are important, and that some limiting is important to protect those rights.

Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Ceidwadwyr, Ilford North 10:00, 22 Tachwedd 2007

Although Crossrail will not run through my constituency, it will run through neighbouring constituencies, and concerns have been raised with me that if the current project is allowed, there will be the blight to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon referred, and uncertainty in a much wider area than is absolutely necessary for the deviation of Crossrail. I support my hon. Friend and ask the Minister to reconsider and accept our amendment.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Ceidwadwyr, Cities of London and Westminster

I fear that the reference to Martini powers dates my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon and me. I am sure that our youthful Whip, our hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, will not remember such things from the 1970s, although they were perhaps a precursor to today’s binge-drinking problem.

I support all that my hon. Friends the Members for Wimbledon, for Northampton, South and for Ilford, North have said. As I said earlier, the potential for blight within the whole project is sufficient to make unacceptable a compulsory purchase power as untrammelled as the Minister would like. Even our amendment limiting the land to 50 m beyond the outer limits of deviation would have a major effect in London, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South rightly pointed out. One of the difficulties of maintaining green spaces in London—some of which may be run by local authorities, some of which may be common land—is to prevent the residential population rising up in arms if such land is used even for the purposes of the 50 m limit, let alone for the untrammelled limit that the Minister would have us put in place.

I worry that in central London even 50 m is an incredibly large distance. It potentially brings tens of thousands more people within the scope of Crossrail’s inevitable blight. An untrammelled power would certainly send the wrong signals, not least given the sense from the business and residential communities that this is an important infrastructure project. Even those people who it will directly affect recognise its  general national importance, but that good will could be undermined by the Minister’s untrammelled power of potential compulsory purchase. I accept that it is unlikely to be exercised in a great many cases, but the amendment is a sensible suggestion which would pare back the worst aspects of the power.

Photo of Susan Kramer Susan Kramer Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport, Shadow Secretary of State, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

Blight concerns me and my colleagues greatly, and we hope to address it later in the Bill’s consideration. The Minister may feel that he cannot quite commit to a specific limitation of the power now, but by the time the Bill makes its way through the other place, there should be far greater clarity about the potential deviation required, the final route and the outer issues. However, it is crucial that the scope of the affected project area is identified and clarified as early as possible. Although blight is bad, perceived blight is almost worse and the present system offers no potential for compensation.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The concerns that hon. Members have expressed are understandable. I understand why on the face of it the provisions look like powers for the Secretary of State to implement a Soviet land grab. At the risk of disappointing some of my hon. Friends, that is not the intention of the clause; neither is it a proposal to allow deviation of Crossrail to Stoke-on-Trent or areas far beyond what has been laid down in the Bill.

As the hon. Member for Wimbledon is aware, clause 7 provides additional powers to acquire land outside the Bill limits. However, unlike the principal land acquisition powers in clause 6, which deals with land acquisition within the Bill limits, the power to acquire land under clause 7 can be exercised only through a compulsory purchase order under existing compulsory purchase legislation. Accordingly, the Secretary of State would be required to prepare and publicise a draft compulsory purchase order, so that those affected could object, which might necessitate a hearing or public local inquiry. Furthermore, the acquisition of any land under a compulsory purchase order would attract compensation under the national compensation code. I hope that that goes some way to meeting the concerns of the hon. Member for Northampton, South.

The amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon would, in effect, restrict the Secretary of State’s powers to acquire compulsorily land outside the Bill limits, in connection with Crossrail, to within 50 m of the outer limits of deviation for the scheduled works. The extent to which land outside the Bill limits can be acquired compulsorily is well precedented. For example, section 5 of the 1996 Act made similar provision, and of course the powers that the clause will give to the Secretary of State have, in the past, been given to Secretaries of State in previous Governments.

As I have said previously, the design of Crossrail is currently at an outline stage—detailed design work will come later—so flexibility is essential. However, even at this very early stage in the design and construction, it is possible that, without prejudice to the generality, land further than 50 m from the outer limits of deviation for the scheduled works will be required.

Clause 7 gives three specific instances where the power might be used to acquire land in order to help those affected by the project: to mitigate the effect of the Crossrail works on the environment using, for  example, the erection of sound barriers; and for the relocation of utility apparatus that merits diversion or replacement as a result of the Crossrail works, and crucially in order to provide land in exchange for common land, certain allotment land or open space acquired for the Crossrail works.

I emphasise again that any such proposal would demonstrably have to be for, or in connection with, Crossrail. It could not be used to acquire land for other purposes. Full protection is provided under the normal compulsory purchase scheme. I assure hon. Members that we do not intend to make general use of the clause; it is a failsafe mechanism, and will be used only with restraint. In that context, I hope that the hon. Gentleman feels that he can withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I have listened very carefully to the Minister, and I note his comments about precedent, limits and the need for flexibility, as well as the fact that a proposal to go outside the limits could still be subject to compulsory purchase powers and a public inquiry. None the less, the power proposed is extraordinarily wide. I referred to the Martini principle—any time, any place, anywhere. The trouble with the Crossrail Martini is that it will shake and stir people if used outside the limits. Despite what the Minister said, I am not tempted to withdraw the amendment. I would like to press it and test the will of the Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8.

Rhif adran 1 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 7

Ie: 6 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

So as not to incur your displeasure, Lady Winterton, I do not wish to rehearse what we have just discussed in the previous amendment. However, subsections (2) and (3) allow some further widening of the power to purchase land outside the conditions set by clause 6(1), so I would like the Minister to clarify under what circumstances he envisages the Secretary of State or the nominated undertaker using those provisions. Will he give the Committee reassurance about the power to acquire easements or other rights, as enacted by the clause? Do the Secretary of State or nominated undertaker require those powers in order to access sites, which, in reality, will be a small strip of land, and that, therefore, the acquisition of an easement or a right will be both easier and less costly to arrange? Does the Minister envisage many such easements to be required and does he expect the length of the easements that are acquired  to be temporary or permanent? I look forward to his replies to those points, as that will aid the Committee’s understanding of the clause.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Although I am not able to give an extensive explanation in response to the hon. Gentleman’s questions, I reassure him that the powers to which he refers are, as I said in our earlier debate, intended entirely as a failsafe mechanism. The Government and its agents in Crossrail would not intend to make general use of that power. I hope that he will be satisfied with that answer. If there are any other details with which I can provide him and other members of the Committee with regard specifically to the clause, I will be more than happy to write to them.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I thank the Minister for his response. It would be extremely helpful if he were able to look at the points that I raised about easements, put his response in a letter and make it available to the Committee at a later date.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.