Hot on the heels of news that he’s to take on the Met through that little-known tactic of agreeing with their pre-existing policies comes word that Sadiq Khan last night claimed to have “pushed through Crossrail 1 as Transport Minister”.
Now it’s true to say that I wasn’t at the hustings where the comment was made and have only read it on Twitter, but as it was posted during the event by a senior member of Khan’s mayoral campaign team it’s reasonable to assume it’s accurate.
Unfortunately for Team Khan, if the quote is accurate, the claim within it isn’t.
The Crossrail Bill, first introduced in the House of Commons on 18th May 2005, completed its passage through Parliament in July 2008 and construction work on the project got underway in May 2009 at Canary Wharf.
In addition to the MayorWatch reports for each of these milestones, here’s the Parliamentary website’s page for the Bill, here’s the Transport for London press release for the start of works and, just to hammer home the point, the history of Crossrail on the project’s official website.
You’ll notice that Sadiq’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the press release. Not even once. And there’s a good reason for this. Sadiq wasn’t a Transport Minister until JUNE 2009. Here’s the Wandsworth Guardian’s report of his appointment.
When the bill was going through Parliament, and when the work got underway at Canary Wharf, Sadiq was Minister of State for Communities and he wasn’t based in the Department for Transport.
“In the last Labour government he held a number of Ministerial roles, the most recent of which was Minister of State for Transport from June 2009-May 2010.
“Sadiq’s areas of responsibility included city and regional networks, buses and cycling, Crossrail, environment and climate change and integration with European transport networks.
“From October 2008 to June 2009 Sadiq was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government. He had special responsibility for community cohesion, religion and belief, the fire and rescue service, race, preventing violent extremism, the valuation and tribunal service and planning and local government.”
and have since been confirmed – with no request from me – by former Labour MP Tony McNulty who tweeted:
“Crossrail Act started in Feb 2005 by me, finished by July 2008 by Jim Fitzpatrick. Sadiq not in transport until June 2009.”
The last time a former colleague questioned Sadiq’s recollection of key events he eventually issued – though not to me despite several requests and in spite of repeated denials from his campaign of a blacklist – a statement insisting his memory was entirely accurate.
But unlike the brave showdown Khan had with Tony Blair just weeks after first entering the Commons, the passage of the Crossrail Bill took place in public and the key dates and developments are all on the record.
So it’ll be interesting, should he or his team get back to me, to hear their explanation of how he “pushed through Crossrail 1 as Transport Minister” a whole year after the Bill received Royal Assent and a month after construction had already begun.
Or perhaps his aide, and anyone else in the room who thought they heard Sadiq lay claim to a role in the Crossrail story, simply got it wrong? In which case there’d be no harm in saying that and we could all be certain we’d never mishear Sadiq repeat a claim that simply cannot be true.
Update: The Barnet Bugle was at last night’s hustings which they captured on video. At 23 minutes and 38 seconds Khan tells a questioner that he was “Minister of State for Transport and responsible for getting Crossrail funding through” and goes on to cite how the scheme is being funded by central Government, Londoners and London’s business community.
But that claim, though slightly different to the one made by his campaign aide, is also somewhat iffy because the project’s funding framework “was put in place in October 2007 when the Prime Minister announced that Crossrail’s cost will be met by Government, the Mayor of London and London businesses.”
What about the powers for City Hall to collect money for the project from businesses?
Sadiq knows, or at least used to, that money had already been allocated and spent on the project before he became Minister of State for Transport in June 2009 because just a few weeks later he stood in the Commons and updated MPs on expenditure incurred “in the period 22 July 2008 to 30 May 2009.”
He also told the House that the heads of terms had been superseded by a new document signed “on 3 December last year” – so that’s another part of the project which pre-dated his appointment.
I know there a number of Crossrail experts who, like me, are intrigued to discover exactly what Sadiq believes his contribution to the project was.
Update December 7th:
Rare to update an article so long after first publication but in light of Kahn’s renewed Crossrail claims and comments given to the Wandsworth Guardian I thought it worth clarifying how vital the Business Rate Supplements Act was to Crossrail.
Ken Livingstone had expressed concern that the bill might not pass or provide the necessary funding so the Govt agreed to guarantee the sums likely to be raised through business rates:
It’s clear that had the Act failed to pass while Sadiq was still connected to it, Crossrail would have happened anyway.
At best Khan has a walk-on part in the Crossrail success story, far from the claimed leadership role with which he’d like to woo London voters.