Lessons from history, part 4

(… continued from Lessons from history, part 3, posted on 10 Jul 2014).

It was the practice of the Crossrail Select Committee, that where a common theme could be found between a number of individual and organisation petitions, then those petitions would be heard in the same session. So, for example, on Tuesday 13th June 2006 the Committee heard petitioners from the Spitalfields area of London. The transcript of that day’s proceedings may be found in pages Ev 927 to Ev 972 in Volume III of the Crossrail Select Committee report.

The “house rules” were explained for the benefit of all petitioners at the start of proceedings by acting Chairman of the select Committee, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP (paragraph 9623 on page Ev 927):

“The Committee wants to hear every Petitioner’s case. However, as you know, the Committee will not listen to the same evidence being made more than once. We understand that many people here do have similar concerns. We would ask you to listen carefully to the case being made to you and other responders by the Promoters and try not to repeat, if possible, anything that has been said. If you agree with the case that is being made, you can tell us which points you support, that is absolutely acceptable, and you do not then need to repeat the argument.”

He also reminded all present that “some of the issues” had also been “already taken into account” when the petition of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had been heard the previous week.

Eleven petitions were heard that Tuesday (46, 47, 48, 54, 107, 123, 220, 231, 324, 328 and 356). The day began with a summary of the main issues raised in these eleven petitions by David Elvin QC, counsel for the promoter (paragraph 9626 on page Ev 927 to paragraph 9642 on page EV 930). Then one of the individual petitioners, Dr Pedretti (356), made her opening statement in person (paragraph 9646 on page EV 930 to paragraph 9715 on page Ev 934) – if she had wished to call witnesses, I presume that the examination of these witnesses would have followed.

The Committee then proceeded to hear the petition of the Spitalfields Society (328) in parallel, as it were, with the first petition. The Society was represented by barrister Hereward Philpott, who made his opening statement (paragraph 9716 on page Ev 934 to paragraph 9724 on page Ev 935). Mr Philpott then called two expert witnesses: a Chartered Architect, and an urban planner. His examination-in-chief of these witnesses runs from paragraph 9727 on page Ev 935 to paragraph 9784 on page Ev 945 of the transcript.

Mr Elvin passed up the opportunity to cross-examine the two witnesses, saying that there were “a large number of misconceptions” in their evidence, which would be best challenged by calling his own witnesses (paragraph 9786 on page Ev 945).

All of that had occupied the whole of the morning session and the Committee broke for lunch, after which Mr Elvin put up two witnesses, the Director of Land and Property at Crossrail and an expert witness on sound – the examination of these two witnesses, by all parties, is transcribed in pages Ev 946 to Ev 960.

The examination-in-chief of the Crossrail Director of Land and Property by David Elvin QC is covered by paragraphs 9791 to 9818. He was then cross-examined by Hereward Philpott (paragraphs 9819 to 9890), and fielded some questions from a Member of the Committee (Kelvin Hopkins MP, paragraphs 9891 to 9895) before being re-examined by Mr Philpott (paragraphs 9896 to 9903).

The second witness – the sound expert – was subject to similar questioning by the two barristers (examination-in-chief in paragraphs 9917 to 9919, cross-examination in paragraphs 9920 to 9924).

Then Dr Pedretti exercised her right to cross-examine the two witnesses for the promoter (paragraphs 9925 to 9973).

David Elvin QC elected to defer his closing statement until after all of the day’s petitions had been heard – a statement that he never actual got to make – so the final act in the hearing of the first two petitions was for Mr Philpott to make his closing remarks on behalf of the Spitalfields Society (paragraphs 9979 to 9984).

The transcript does not provide a timing, but I would think that the session was, by now, well into the late afternoon, so it must have come as a relief to all present when the Roll B agent representing the next three petitions to be called (46. 47 and 48) announced that their points were “very similar” to those already made and that they “were not intending to repeat them again” (paragraph 9988).

Two petitions (54 and 220) were then heard together, since the petitioners’ representative was the same. He made his opening statement (paragraphs 9990 to 10007) and then promoter’s barrister Tim Mould responded with a few brief comments, generally along the lines that everything had already been covered (paragraphs 10011 to 10017). This concluded the hearing of the two petitions; the petitioners’ representative was not offered the opportunity to make any closing remarks by the Chairman.

As the Committee had, in the Chairman’s words (paragraph 10020), “been sitting … for quite some time” a short adjournment was called, resuming at 6pm.

After the adjournment a further petition (231) was heard, following very much the same pattern as the two heard together immediately before the adjournment (paragraphs 10024 to 10043). It was notable that the Chairman interrupted the statement by the petitioner three times for raising matters that had already been covered and for straying outside the remit of the Select Committee.

The presenter of the next petition (107) showed determination to talk about the failings of the promoter’s consultation process, despite the Chairman’s attempt to stop her (paragraphs 10045 to 10063). David Elvin QC, responding, said that he did “not want to get into a debate about the pros and cons of the consultation” (paragraph 10065) and she scored a notable victory, the Chairman admitting that she had “brought up some useful points that [the Committee] do need to look at” (paragraph 10066).

The penultimate petition (123) was presented by the owners of a house in Spitalfields that was “built by Huguenot silk weavers in 1724”, and which the owner characterised as with “poor foundations and was not really built to last” (paragraph 10077). Her concerns were potential subsidence, noise and passing construction traffic. Mr Mould said in response that the petitioners “have raised points that [the Committee] now have heard about in some detail”, but he provided some clarifications (paragraphs 10088 to 10092).

The final petition (324) was from the community of a local estate with a high proportion of Bangladeshi origin. This led to a discussion between the Chairman and Mr Elvin about the quality of Crossrail’s engagement with black and minority ethnic communities (paragraphs 10119 to 10122). One notable event during the hearing of this petition was that the hearing was adjourned for almost a quarter of an hour to allow Members to take part in a division in the House of Commons. Short adjournments for this purpose are a regular feature of committee life in the House of Commons.

The time that proceedings were drawn to a close by the Chairman calling the Committee to order is not recorded in the transcript, but, judging by the times recorded for the adjournment for the division, must have been about 7.30pm.

Now you may wonder why I have discussed, at considerable length, a single day out of the 84 days that the Crossrail Select Committee sat. The reason is that I feel that it is representative of what we might expect from the HS2 Select Committee and that there are a number of important lessons that HS2 petitioners can learn from this example, but I will come on to that in my next posting, which will be part 5 of this series.

(To be continued …)


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on July 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Certainly pre-organisation of some petitioners along the route as well as locally may help also determine what are common elements and concerns and outcomes. The project is possibly too large for this process if the objective was an optimised approach to serve most people daily and to also encourage road to rail passenger and freight transfers..


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