Clause 51

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:00 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Disposal of Crown land

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 61, in clause 51, page 31, line 36, at end insert

‘after consultation with the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Association and any other relevant interested parties’.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 63, in clause 51, page 31, line 41, leave out ‘appears to the Secretary of State’ and insert

‘the Secretary of State has determined’.

No. 62, in clause 51, page 32, line 2, leave out ‘appears to’, and insert ‘has been proven by’.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

There was some confusion about the amendments. There was initially some transposition of their wording, but that problem has been corrected on the amendment paper. The Minister was quick to spot the transposition, and I congratulate him on doing so. I have also made an error in amendment No. 61, which I am sure will cause him to make some other point. The amendment should state “Royal Parks Agency”, not “Royal Parks Association”.

Clause 51 looks at the disposal of land managed by the Royal Parks Agency or the Crown Estate Commissioners on behalf of the Crown. Under the clause, the Secretary of State may grant a lease, easement or other right over such land. The purpose of my amendment is to avoid any perceived conflict of interest resulting from the fact that, as the explanatory notes point out, the Secretary of State is also

“the legal personality of the Royal Parks Agency”.

It would require the Secretary of State to consult with the operational head of the Royal Parks Agency before exercising his powers in respect of the Crown land, and it would introduce a consultation process with other interested parties. It would also ensure that the basis of  any decision to dispose of Crown land is as robust as possible, and is informed by consultation with the most appropriate parties.

Amendments Nos. 63 and 62 are designed to achieve the same effect. They would make a minor change to the wording of the clause, and would require the Secretary of State to demonstrate that the land in question was needed for Crossrail. A consistent theme of mine during our sittings has been to ensure that we provide accountability and responsibility while giving the Secretary of State the flexibility and the exceptional powers that he wants. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on the amendments.

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

Clause 51 deals with technical constraints arising under the Crown Lands Act 1851 and the Crown Estate Act 1961. Because land forming part of the royal parks or the Crown estate belongs to the Crown, it does not need to be compulsorily acquired, but it may none the less need to be used if we are to successfully build and operate Crossrail. Clause 51 applies only to land within the limits of deviation for the scheduled works, and thus within the limits of land to be acquired or used. Its provisions have effect only where the body responsible for managing the land—the Secretary of State in the case of royal parks and the Crown Estate Commissioners in the case of Crown estate land—considers that it is required for Crossrail. It might be helpful if I gave an example to explain why we need clause 51.

To comply with safety requirements we intend to build a shaft in Hyde park. The likely significant impacts of the shaft were assessed in the environmental statement that was deposited with the Bill and those affected had the opportunity to petition against our proposals. Naturally, we discussed our plans with the Royal Parks Agency. In addition, some land required to provide the subsoil land for the Crossrail tunnels is owned by the Crown Estate Commissioners. Amendment No. 61 would require the Secretary of State to consult the chief executive of the royal parks association and any other relevant interested parties before granting a lease, easement or other right over a royal park. However, as I have explained, our proposals for Hyde park have already been the subject of extensive consultation during proceedings on the Bill.

On the question of the royal parks association, as the hon. Gentleman has already pointed out he meant the Royal Parks Agency, which is an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The status of the agency may change from time to time, so it would be inappropriate to write the Department’s internal management structures into the Bill. That has some relevance, given our earlier discussion about whether to name Network Rail in the Bill. Furthermore, a requirement to consult

“any other relevant interested parties” would give rise to uncertainty as to who they were. After listening to the hon. Gentleman I am not clear what other interested parties he has in mind.

Amendment No. 62 would require the Secretary of State to prove that land within a royal park is needed for, or in connection with, the construction of Crossrail before he or she could grant any lease, easement or other right in relation to that land. The Secretary of State granting a lease, easement or other right will, at  the relevant time, have to make a judgment as to whether it appears to them that the land is required. To include a requirement to prove that it is required does not make an awful lot of sense, because it suggests that a third party exists to whom it should be proved. No such party exists and no such party is proposed in the amendment.

Amendment No. 63 would limit the effect of clause 51(3) to cases in which the Secretary of State has determined that land within the Crown estate is needed for, or in connection with, the construction of Crossrail. Under the Bill, it would be for the Crown Estate Commissioners to be satisfied that part of the Crown estate was needed for, or in connection with, Crossrail. For the purposes of the provision, we think that it is right that that approach should be maintained and that it is the Crown Estate Commissioners who should take a view. I hope that that has clarified things for the hon. Gentleman and that he will consider withdrawing his amendment.

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

As the constituency Member for Hyde park, among other royal parks and landmarks of this great city, I should like to confirm what the Minister said. There was extensive consultation on the building of the new site at the edge of Hyde park, close to the border with Bayswater road. A number of concerns were raised by my constituents, many of whom voiced ongoing concern about the increasing commercialisation of Hyde park. The issue was used as yet another cause cÃ(c)lèbre, but it is important none the less.

I support the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon. It does not strike me that “other relevant...parties” in the context of this issue are an extensive group of bodies. There is a well regarded list of amenity societies and residents associations in central London—I am sure the same applies to any other part of the UK covered by the measure—and the provision would apply to Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, and perhaps to the Marylebone Association and the South East Bayswater Residents Association. It would therefore apply to a very small and defined group. Westminster city council gives status to certain residents groups for the very purpose of their being consulted before planning changes are made, and they have locus standi in such matters. I do not expect that to be a particular problem.

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

I urge the hon. Gentleman to use his legal background. believe he trained as a solicitor—I am sorry about that—so does he accept that the catch-all phrase,

“any other relevant interested parties”,

suggests a level of ambiguity that is not helpful? He is right that there is a very specific list of organisations that I am sure would be appropriate, but the proposal does not necessarily point the way to those people.

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

I am happy to assist the Minister by suggesting that there must be something in the channel tunnel rail legislation along those lines. The world did not become a much worse place when I ceased to be a lawyer. Some of my constituents might argue that the  same will be said if I cease to be a parliamentarian before too long, but I sincerely have no such intention in mind.

I accept what the Minister said. We need clarity, and I am not suggesting that the proposal is 100 per cent. ideal. However, it does make an important point about Crown estate land. The royal parks are very close to the hearts of countless millions of people—many of them are constituents of mine, but many of them are not—who value the wonderful amenity they provide. I would point out to the Committee that there are many royal parks outside central London, and it is with that in mind that we tried to target a particular concern.

I do not think that there is any likelihood of the royal parks soon leaving the hands of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It is important to remember that in relation to compulsory purchase, particularly in central London, large tracts of Crown estate land are outside the scope of the Bill unless we protect them individually. I hope that the Minister has taken account of what we have said, because it is an important point. It would be a crying shame if, given the importance of much Crown estate land throughout the country, we bypassed the interests of residents and amenity groups in the vicinity by not giving credence to their concerns. It would be perverse in many ways if the Secretary of State had cartÃ(c) blanchÃ(c) to develop those areas, which are regarded by many people almost as common land, given that we rightly have all the safeguards in place for the compulsory purchase of privately owned land.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:15, 27 Tachwedd 2007

I thank my hon. Friend for that valuable contribution—not least the clarification with regard to his own constituency and the shaft at Hyde park, for which there might be relevant interested parties—as it offered a clear indication of what “relevant interested parties” might be. I am disappointed that the Minister will not accept that the term “relevant and interested parties”, while it may cause minor ambiguity, would not give cartÃ(c) blanchÃ(c) for interest groups with no particular local or relevant interest—they would be ruled out. The amendment makes it quite clear which groups would be relevant.

As the Minister rightly pointed out, the thrust of a number of our amendments has been concern to ensure appropriate consultation. We are worried that there has not been enough consultation with outside parties throughout.

The other issue is the limiting of discretionary powers. I hear the Minister’s points, but I hope that he will think carefully about whether there is some suitable wording that he could accept and that we could consider. However, I do not wish to press the Committee and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 51 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.