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Crossrail

June 3, 2010

Crossrail

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): As the right hon. Gentleman is coming to funding, does he agree that, although we all appreciate that these are difficult and constrained economic times, in many ways we are beyond the point of no return? I very much agree with what he and other Opposition Members have said about the benefits that would extend beyond south-east London through to the country, and as he has rightly pointed out, the business rate supplement is already in place. Huge amounts of money have been raised, both from Canary Wharf Group and the City of London. We always talk about the £16 billion package, but in fact the central Government sum is considerably smaller, at around £5.5 billion, of which £2.5 billion has already been spent-I think of the areas in my constituency around Tottenham Court road, Hanover square and Bond street in Mayfair. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in essence, we are beyond the point of return? Money has already been spent, but the central Government sum to be spent from this point on is very small in the general scheme of things.

Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich, Labour) I agree very much with the hon. Gentleman on both points. First, the funding package involves a range of contributions. Although the contribution from the Government, and Transport for London and the Mayor is important, the business contribution is also critical in supporting the scheme. It would be absolutely wrong if the scheme were put in jeopardy by the withdrawal of any element from any of the parties. Secondly, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that so much work has gone into the scheme already that it would be a total tragedy if its continuation were to be questioned at this stage.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative) I entirely endorse what the Minister has said about the need to secure maximum value for money-we would all agree with that-but has not one of Crossrail’s difficulties been caused by the publication of headlines referring to £15.9 or £16 billion, when in reality the central Government element of the expenditure has been considerably less than that? Earlier in her speech the Minister talked about spades in the ground, but as she will recognise, it is rather more than that. Over £2.5 billion has been spent on compulsory purchase and on works already undertaken. Does she agree that, although this does not detract from her central argument about the need to ensure that there is good value for money in the future, we are, in a sense, beyond the point of no return?

Theresa Villiers (Minister of State (Rail and Aviation), Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative) My hon. Friend has made a strong point. We need to concentrate on the work that is going on, rather than on the speculation and scare stories that have appeared in parts of the London media. The work under way at Canary Wharf station already provides a clear example of innovative engineering techniques that have offered significant savings without compromising delivery. We need to learn from that example when delivering other key elements of Crossrail. I know that Crossrail Ltd is committed to the highest standards of procurement practice to bear down on costs and ensure that the project remains affordable, and that must continue to be a key goal for the Crossrail team as progress is made towards letting contracts later in the year.