Crossrail Bill

Charles Walker puts the case for disproportionate investment in London's transport infrastructure as London is the 'engine room of the UK economy' and London the east and south-east are expected to attract an additional 5 or 6 million people in the next 2

9.49 pm

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I intend to speak for only a few minutes. First, may I say to the right hon. Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) that I would make just as vigorous a defence of the interests of my constituents as he did of his? However, representing a constituency in the east of England, which is very much in the compass of what we are talking about today, I am concerned, like many people in the Chamber, that over the next 20 to 25 years London and the east and south-east are expected to attract an additional 5 million or 6 million people, who will come to that part of the world looking for jobs and homes. Like many people in the House, I am also aware that London and the east are the engine room of the UK economy. If we have a successful London and a successful east of England, that generates a large amount of wealth that can be distributed around the country—up to the north-west, for example.

For those reasons, it is important that we have a transport infrastructure that can effectively get people in London to their jobs so that they can earn incomes and revenue that can be taxed and then fund other parts of the nation. If we do not have a transport system in this part of the world that is fit for the 21st century, there is every chance that much of the investment that comes to this country—to London—could be lost to other capital cities. That would be to the detriment of us all, regardless of where our constituencies are.

9.51 pm

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OTHER INTERVENTIONS IN THE DEBATE

Charles Walker raises concerns that delays due to lack of funding could result in resource issues if Crossrail and the Olympics infrastructure projects are being built at the same time

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Is my hon. Friend not concerned that by 2008 a major infrastructure project for the Olympics will also be under way? Has any consideration been given to where the resources will come from to start Crossrail in 2008?

Chris Grayling: I should be disappointed if we were not capable of undertaking a number of major projects at once. Clearly, there is an issue in respect of the Stratford area, and it might be necessary, because of the Olympics, to build Crossrail in stages. However, there is a problem that the project team will put to those who listen if construction does not begin in 2008: if we assume that the Bill goes through, with support on both sides of the House, to create valuable powers for London next year, and if we assume that the Government do not come forward with funding immediately so that construction can begin, the project team will have to be disbanded, expertise will be lost and some of the initial work that the Government have paid for will have to be abandoned.

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Charles Walker supports calls for a station at Woolwich.

Mr. Walker: Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that if the total cost of Crossrail has been estimated at £16 billion, adding another station at £200 million does not seem like a deal breaker; it seems like an eminently sensible way of maximising the value of the project?

Mr. Meale: As I said, the Committee has already accepted the Secretary of State’s offer on that. The figures given to the Committee range from £10 billion to £16 billion, and we are not sure what the actual cost would be. The Committee agrees that the issue of Woolwich needs to be considered, and we are grateful to the Secretary of State for his offer to beef up the economic case and bring it back to the Committee so that we can consider it and give our opinion.

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Charles Walker argues that as the 'economic engine-room of this country' it is vital that extra funds in invested in London's infrastructure.

Mr. Walker: I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, but London is the economic engine-room of this country. If London and the east cannot get to work, the country will not work. Surely there is merit in investing in the infrastructure that generates the wealth that funds the regions.


Mr. Howarth
: I accept that what the hon. Gentleman says has an implication, and I accept that there is a price to be paid for that, but is he seriously arguing that spending in London should be more than twice as much as spending in any comparable region in England?

Mr. Walker: Absolutely.

Mr. Howarth: That only confirms my view that we are living in cloud cuckoo land with this Crossrail scheme. At an appropriate time, many hon. Members from other parts of the country will make a judgment on the scheme, and it may be not the one that the hon. Gentleman expects. As I have said, London is becoming a junkie for public expenditure on transport.

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