§ The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mr. David Mitchell)
I beg to move,That, when the Committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill reports the Bill to the House, further proceedings on the Bill shall be suspended until the next Session of Parliament.That if a Bill is presented in the next Session in the same terms as those in which the Channel Tunnel Bill stood when proceedings thereon were suspended in this Session—
- (a) the Bill shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time;
- (b) if the Committee has reported that it has gone through the Bill, the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from a Select Committee;
- (c) if the Committee has reported that it has not completed its consideration of the Bill—
- (i) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee of the same Members as the Members of the Committee in this Session;
- (ii) all Petitions presented in this Session which stand referred to the Committee and which have not been withdrawn shall stand referred to the Committee in the next Session;
- (iii) any minutes of evidence taken and any papers laid before the Committee in this Session which have been reported to the House shall stand referred to the Committee in the next Session;
- (iv) the Instruction [17th July] shall be an Instruction to the Committee;
- (v) only those Petitions mentioned in subparagraph (ii) above, and any Petition which may be presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Committee in the next Session, shall stand referred to the Committee;
- (vi) any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in the next Session shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition;
- (vii) the Committee shall have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom, and to report from day to day the Minutes of Evidence taken before it;
- (viii) three shall be the Quorum of the Committee;
- (ix) any person registered in this Session as a parliamentary agent entitled to practice as such in opposing Bills only who, at the time when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in this Session, was employed in opposing the Bill shall be deemed to have been registered as such a parliamentary agent in the next Session;
- (d) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or (in the case of the Standing Orders relating to Private Business) dispensed with in this Session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in the next Session; and
- (e) if the Bill is reported, or is deemed by virtue of paragraph (b) above to have been reported, from a Select Committee in the next Session, it shall thereupon stand re-committed to a Standing Committee.That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.878 We are here to consider a further motion on the Channel Tunnel Bill. The House has debated the Bill four times, once on Second Reading and on three further occasions which were essentially procedural. I crave the understanding of the House for taking up its time yet again with a procedural motion for a carry-over to permit the Channel Tunnel Bill to run from this Session to the next. Hon. Members will realise that the result of the previous procedural debates was to vest the hybrid Bill Select Committee with a series of unusual powers: to receive petitions against the Bill from individual petitioners up to 10 days after the closing date for corporate petitioners; to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House; to adjourn, as the House traditionally puts it, "from place to place"; and to consider alternative access arrangements.
The House will know that the Committee has made full use of those varied powers, and although it has not yet reported the Bill, I wish to pay tribute to the solid hard work and dedication which the members of the Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) have brought to their task. Of course, the Committee's work is not yet finished. It has now sat for 34 days, for a total of about 220 hours, and has heard evidence or submissions on 4,873 petitions.
Without precedent, the Committee sat for six days away from Westminster, at Hythe and then at Dover, where it heard evidence from many local people who considered themselves to be personally affected by the project. The Committee has visited the principal sites in Kent affected by the Bill.
It would be improper in this debate to go into the substance of the evidence heard by the Committee. It is all there, about 2,000 pages of it, not counting the many dozens of documents handed in, in the minutes of evidence that have been printed daily. It would be equally improper if I attempted to persuade the House of the merits of the Government's case on the many aspects of the project examined by the Committee. The Committee will reach its conclusions on the evidence that it has received and will amend the Bill accordingly.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
Procedurally, would it not have been a better order of events to have allowed the publication of the Committee's findings, which will take place tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock, before we had this debate? It was always understood that there would have to be a carry-over motion, but the arguments about the procedure would be far better made in the House with the knowledge of the Select Committee's findings.
§ Mr. Mitchell
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Whatever changes to the Bill the Select Committee may recommend, they will make no difference to the need to carry it over. We are not dealing with changes in the Bill, only with carrying it over. Therefore, we are discussing a procedural matter. The purpose of the motion is independent of the Committee's decision. Its object is to ensure that, as the end of the Session approaches, the enormous amount of work done by the Committee is carried over to the new Session and not wasted.
It would be nonsense if, after the Bill were reintroduced in the 1986–87 Session, a new Committee had to be formed to reconsider it from scratch. That would do a considerable disservice to the multitude of petitioners who 879 have written and submitted petitions and have attended the hearings to explain personally to the Committee their anxieties about the project. Moreover, there is nothing unusual about the central purpose of the motion. It is the normal practice of the House, with hybrid Bills as with private Bills, to continue work from one Session to the next when a Bill cannot be brought to Royal Assent in the Session in which it was introduced. Previous Channel Tunnel Bills were continued—in 1974 not merely into a new Session but into two new Parliaments.
The Government have made it clear from the start of work on the development of the Channel tunnel proposals in early 1985 that the Bill would need to run from one Session to the next. The House implicitly acknowledged that in the debate on 3 June when it agreed to dispense with Standing Orders and permit the Bill to proceed notwithstanding its introduction late in the Session and well after the 27 November deadline which the House applies to private Bills.
Passage from one Session to the next can be dealt with either by a carry-over motion in the old Session or a revival motion in the new. The House may note that in 1974, at the first dissolution, the carry-over route was adopted through a general motion applicable to all hybrid Bills extant at that time. That can be found in the Official Report at column 1468 on 8 February 1974.
At the second dissolution in that year, the revival route was followed, and a revival motion for the Channel Tunnel Bill was debated on 11 November. On this occasion, the Government have opted for the carry-over route, because that eliminates the period of apparent uncertainty when the Bill would otherwise lapse on prorogation, and because it allows work on the Bill to recommence in the new Session without delay.
The motion, despite its usual purpose, is nevertheless unusually long because the Select Committee has not yet finished its work. Those who have read the Committee's minutes of evidence will know that, on 30 October, it finished taking the main body of evidence. Hon. Members will also be aware that, on 29 October, the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central, reported a resolution of the Committee:That the Committee, having met to consider the Channel Tunnel Bill and to hear Petitioners as directed by the orders of the House on 33 days and not having completed its consideration of the Bill recommends that the House should provide for the work of the Committee to be continued, if necessary, by a Select Committee in the forthcoming session to which all Petitions referred to this Committee and not withdrawn and all Minutes of Evidence taken before and documents received by this Committee should be referred.Thus, the House does not yet know whether the Committee will report the Bill in the present Session and the motion must, therefore, cover both eventualities, which it does. If the Committee were to complete its work in the next few days before Prorogation and were to report that it had gone through the Bill and amended it, the first clause and all the paragraphs of the second clause except for paragraph (c) would apply. The Bill would be deemed to have been reported in the next Session and would proceed immediately to a Standing Committee in the new Session. I shall return to that point, which is contained in paragraph (e), in a moment.
If the Committee was not to complete its consideration of the Bill in the present Session, it would report the Bill without amendment and the first clause and the second 880 clause except for (b) would apply. The Bill would be ordered to be printed in the new Session and would proceed immediately to a Select Committee.
Under paragraph (c)(i), the membership would be the same as that of the present Select Committee. It would effectively be the same Committee. Under paragraph (c)(ii), (iii) and (v), all the outstanding petitions, minutes and papers would stand referred to the Committee and the instruction of the House for the Committee to be empowered to consider alternative access arrangements would also be carried over. Under paragraph (c)(vii), the new Committee would have the same powers to sit, notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place and to report minutes of evidence.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Lewisham, Deptford)
The last words of the motion are:That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.As the Minister knows, Standing Orders differ from sessional orders. Standing Orders remain orders of the House of Commons unless and until negatived by the House in some other way.
Having mentioned the alternatives depending on what the Select Committee might decide and remarked on the precedents, the Minister talked about going on from one Session to another and from one Parliament to another. Do those last words mean that the Government are telling us that the motion, if passed, will he valid not only for next Session but for the Session afterwards, if necessary? It that is the case, the House is entitled to know why.
§ Mr. Mitchell
No, it refers to this Session. Another motion would be in front of the House if another Session were involved.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I shall return to that point in a moment. Could I add that, on the basis of the resolution of the Select Committee that was reported to the House, there is no indication that these powers would be required, but it would not be proper, in the absence of such an indication, not to reconstitute the Committee with the same powers as before.
Paragraph (d) of the motion ensures that the position as regards the examiners and the Standing Orders Committee is preserved. The House decided on 3 June to dispense with Standing Orders so far as the Bill, as introduced in this Session, was concerned, but if the Select Committee decides to amend the Bill by adopting the alternative arrangements for access to the Folkestone terminal site, those amendments will need to be considered by the examiners.
Finally, I refer to paragraph (e) of the second clause, dealing with committal to a Standing Committee. It is usual for a hybrid Bill, when reported from a Select Committee, to be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House. However, if the Bill contains a substantial volume of public law provisions, as in the present instance — that is, jurisdiction, frontier control arrangements, policing and safety—it is appropriate to consider these just as though they were part of a normal public Bill. Accordingly, the motion makes provision for the Bill to be referred to a Standing Committee as soon as the Select Committee has reported that it has gone through the Bill.
881 The motion is but the latest in a series of pragmatic motions that the Government have brought before the House during the passage of the Bill, designed to ensure that the hybrid Bill procedure can deal flexibly with the task of carefully considering the effect of the proposed legislation on individuals and safeguarding their rights, and at the same time responding to the need to discharge the business of the House speedily and efficiently.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I begin by joining the Minister in paying tribute to the members of the Select Committee who have been looking at the Channel Tunnel Bill. They have dealt with over 3,000 petitions in 33 days. I do not know what the report will say, and I cannot guarantee in advance that I shall agree with its conclusions. However, I can guarantee that I shall not challenge the integrity of those hon. Members who served on the Select Committee. I am sure that they will have reached their conclusions in a manner that shows that they have been worthy of discharging the duties that this House has placed upon them.
The members of the Select Committee had to operate within the very severe constraints that were laid down in the Bill and, indeed, by the hybrid Bill procedure. The Chairman has ruled—and I do not challenge his ruling —that the principle cannot be discussed. I do not intend to discuss the principle, but there is no doubt that the ruling that the principle cannot be discussed has left many people feeling very dissatisfied.
It may be that frank discussion of the principle, of the viability of the project and of the capacity of the promoters to rebut challenges to its viability might have been helped had there been proper discussion of the principle. Indeed, it has been reported that there have been some financial hiccoughs and doubt about whether or not Eurotunnel would be able to raise the money by the deadline. Had there been a proper opportunity for the Eurotunnel promoters to argue their case more fully than was permitted by the procedure, it might have helped them. The freedom of opponents to cast doubt on the viability of the project has left Eurotunnel in an exposed position, with the supporters of Eurotunnel not having the same opportunity to argue back.
Of course, none of us can tell, but I repeat my feeling that discussion of the principle could have been of benefit to everyone, including the promoters. A public inquiry would still, in my view, be better for the general appreciation of the tunnel and of its potential benefits, and it would also allow the case of those who seriously doubt the value of the tunnel to have their case properly examined and answered.
The problem over acceptance of the tunnel by the general public remains the Government's decision to proceed only on the basis of the general homily that "it will be a good thing." Regrettably, the Government have not really gone beyond that stage of the argument since Second Reading. When we discussed the principle, the Government did not begin to make the case for regional development and sadly, during the period during which the Committee has been sitting, the Government have remained silent on issues such as inland customs clearance away from entry to the tunnel. Some people in the north of England and in parts of Scotland are seriously looking 882 at these issues. Again, sadly, the Government have done nothing to put the case for freight assembly points away from the mouth of the tunnel.
It is true that encouraging advertisements have been placed by British Rail in the national newspapers, declaring that its interest in the tunnel begins at X, Y or Z, but that is not good enough. The Government should be doing much more. But what is probably worse than their inaction is that the Government have abused the hybrid Bill procedure by inserting proposals for the A20 in the Bill. There has been a great deal of controversy about this. The Council for the Protection of Rural England has said that the Government's conductposes an unprecedented threat to the democratic planning system".The Countyside Commission is reported to be very seriously worried about the damage to the landscape by the A20 proposals.
It is alleged—I do not know whether or not it is true, because I have not read every single word of the minutes of evidence of the Select Committee—that the Secretary of State, through parliamentary counsel, tried three times to persuade the Committee not to admit evidence on the A20 proposals. We were told on Second Reading that the hybrid Bill procedure would permit all objections to be fully considered, but we know now that that claim was being resisted. I do not believe that the Government are entitled to change planning procedures surreptitiously. If there is a case for altering planning procedures, this should be done after due consultation and a full debate of specific proposals by the Government.
I am aware of the argument and the feeling that planning inquiries take far too long and that they attract all sorts of people who are not directly affected by a particular scheme. I understand why Governments, local authorities and private individuals can be worried by the length of time inquiries take and that they can be frustrated because of the way in which some people exploit planning procedures when making their case. However, if there is to be a change of this kind — it is a major change in planning procedures — it ought not to be brought about by sticking bits into a Bill and trying to create precedents that will be quoted in future as the way to proceed.
The Minister quite fairly and properly — I have no complaint about it— has sought to justify or explain the need for the carry-over motion by pointing out what happened to previous Channel Tunnel Bills. However, we must be wary of doing something in a hybrid Bill, and apparently assenting to it, and then saying that as it was accepted the last time there is no reason why that procedure should not be used in other cases. The manner of the Government's proposals for the A20 strengthens the case for a public inquiry.
The hybrid Bill procedure has avoided proper assessment and discussion of British Rail's decision to develop Waterloo as its London terminal for the tunnel services. I understand that the Chairman of the Select Committee has ruled that the Waterloo development is outside its remit. For those who live around Waterloo this is a very serious matter. How are their concerns to be properly taken into account? Will the Waterloo development require a private Bill from British Rail? I do not know the answer, but perhaps the Minister can say whether that is the next stage. Will there be a public inquiry into Waterloo? I think that that has already been 883 resisted in certain quarters. However, we should be told exactly how the Government propose to proceed. I hope that the Minister will not simply say that it is a matter for British Rail. The Government must know what is to happen, and they should tell us.
Whatever happens, it might help British Rail if it had to advocate its case in the public arena, so that it could be given proper public scrutiny. In that case, those in the area might well accept the arguments. I do not know whether they would do, but British Rail's case should be tested in the widest possible forum.
Today, I received a submission from the British Ports Association. Indeed, I suspect that all hon. Members who have said anything about the Channel tunnel have probably received a copy of that brief. It makes three basic points. First, it is concerned about the possibility of a subsidy to Eurotunnel. It is believed that the Government may introduce an amendment to the Bill making it clear that there will not be any subsidy. I do not know how that would be inserted into the Bill, but that is the suggestion.
The BRA is also concerned about the possibility of predatory pricing, and is unhappy with the effectiveness of existing competition law in preventing that. Interestingly, I raised that point on Second Reading, and. I share the association's concern that our competition law does not provide the sort of protection needed for our ports and ferry services. That should be properly examined. The BPA is also unhappy about the scrutiny of the safety commission.
Those are all reasonable points that need to be debated and decided. I shall not pursue them further today, but if the Bill reaches Committee, we shall pursue them by way of amendment, and we shall debate those issues fully. It remains our view that a public inquiry would have been, and still is, the best way to proceed. It need not take an inordinate time and it would provide a much better opportunity to get things right. We are concerned that we should get the Channel tunnel right, and that we should not simply leave things to private industry and hope for the best, without doing anything to take care of the public.
For those reasons, I believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends should oppose the continuation motion.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)
When my hon. Friend the Minister opened the debate, he did so in a style that was probably designed to make the whole subject sound as boring as possible. Of course, I sympathise with that technique. After all, it is no longer a case of "glad confident morning again". The trumpets are no longer sounding for the project anywhere outside Eurotunnel's offices, and they sound pretty discordant even there. I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Minister felt it appropriate to adopt the tone of an undertaker muttering a funeral dirge from the Dispatch Box.
If I judge the mood of the House correctly, this is not the occasion to give the Bill the thorough mauling that it deserves. Just a few cuffs and a love tap or two will do. Consequently, I shall content myself with that this evening.
This motion is the parliamentary equivalent of switching on a life support machine to prolong artificially the survival and lifespan of a dying Channel tunnel project. Two weeks ago it seemed that the project was clinically dead, when Eurotunnel failed yet again to meet its self-imposed deadline for raising merely the first £206 884 million of seed money out of a total of £5 billion of funds required. Yet lo and behold, after a frantic weekend of high voltage resuscitation techniques by the Bank of England and others in high places who should have known better, the patient was temporarily saved. But saved for what purpose, for how long and for whose benefit? Those are questions that need to be answered if we are to decide on what is the right and proper course of action for the House to take before voting for the Bill to be carried over to a new Session of Parliament.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)
Twice this year I have heard my hon. Friend give the tunnel its obituary: once when there was a change in the French Government, and once when he was confidently predicting that the group would not raise the money. He continues to write obituaries, but the patient refuses to die, and as far as my constituents are concerned, is very much alive and kicking.
§ Mr. Aitken
I am always surrounded by optimists. However, we have had all this life and death excitement over the first 4 per cent. of the funds to be raised. My hon. Friend should imagine himself as an investor asked to put his money into this project. After a great deal of bally-hoo and excitement with people saying, "This is one of the great projects of the century which will bring a new vision and a new Europhile excitement to the world," imagine the project then being able to raise only £4 out of every £100 needed for the investment. With that humiliating failure in mind, my hon. Friend, instead of whistling to keep up his courage, should read the comments of sober newspapers such as the Financial Times and many others that have basically said, "Whatever else is true, there is a very hard row to hoe ahead for the Eurotunnel consortium."
Simply to ask the questions that I began by asking, such as what is the purpose of prolonging the life of this project and for whose benefit is it, is embarrassingly to lift the veil from the profound dilemma that the Government face on this project. The Government have become blinded to the national interest, first, by the disease of what I call political monumentitis, and, secondly, by what might be called a schizophrenia as to whether it is a free market project or a political project. One has to ask: in whose political interest is this project? After all, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister herself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who introduced the Bill, were both dedicated opponents of the Channel tunnel. They repeatedly opposed it in Cabinet Committee meetings whenever it was mentioned by former Secretaries of State for Transport, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell).
Secondly, there was a complete change of direction. A go-ahead was given after a meeting between President Mitterrand and our Prime Minister at Avignon. This was followed by ceremonies in Avignon and Lille and in the precincts of Canterbury cathedral among a pageantry and a sort of faux bonhomie insincerity unseen in Anglo-French relations since the field of the cloth of gold. All these activities were for a French political purpose.
It has been possible clearly to see the French purpose. There was a short-term political objective and two massive long-term political gains. The short-term objective was a French election. President Mitterrand was in a hurry, desperate to save his majority. Another problem in the Channel area was a Socialist stronghold which was 885 disintegrating electorally before his eyes. How wonderful to be able to unveil an exciting new job-creating piece of social and political engineering. The French President had a deal which did not do him much good in the French elections, but nevertheless a short-term objective was achieved.
Much more serious than the French political manoeuvring is the fact that the French are enjoying two massive long-term gains in their national interest. First, by this project we are giving away, and they are gaining, a slice of the cross-Channel industry. It is an industry which happens to be a great British success, both as a service industry and as an industrial story. The cross-Channel industry is worth to this country about £800 million a year. Of that sum, 72 per cent. is in British hands. The industry, by its very nature, is largely British. The British, like the French, go south for their holidays. That holiday traffic makes up the bulk of the industry. Of every £100 spent in that industry, £72 goes to British companies—British shipowners and British ports. That money creates British jobs. Only 12 per cent. of that industry is in French hands. The remainder is mainly in Belgian hands. So there is a growing concern, a successful growth industry dominated, and rightly so, by British companies — British shipowners, British ports and so on.
On the day the Channel tunnel opens, whatever share the tunnel gets of the market, the balance will be tilted dramatically away from Britain's hands. If Britain ends up owning 40 per cent. of the tunnel—I suggest that that is optimistic — her share of the market will have fallen from a 72 per cent. to a 40 per cent. interest, and the French interest will have increased. In one move we are giving away a major, successful slice of a good British industry. That is very much in France's interest and against ours.
Secondly, there is a massive long-term gain to France's maritime and railway industries and a loss especially to our maritime industry. The gains to the French maritime industry are perhaps best illustrated by looking at the hypothetical route of cargo coming into this country from a foreign destination, say, South America, the middle east or the far east. At the moment, because Britain is an island, all cargo that comes into Britain has to come through a British port, contributing to that port in dues, cargo and freight handling charges and jobs. The day the Channel tunnel opens, there will be a complete alternative — a shipper will be able to offload his cargo in French ports, such as Toulon and Marseilles, send the goods to Britain on the high-speed French network, having paid dues to a French port and railway and having taken that business from Britain's maritime industry. This is a long-term disaster for Britain's maritime industry.
The British Ports Association has predicted that as many as 40 per cent. of the 175,000 jobs that it created in our maritime industry could be put seriously at risk by this development. The French are ready to seize it, and that is why they are modernising ports on their present scale, why they are quickly linking their railways with high-speed electrification to the ports, and why they have such enthusiasm for this project. It is a shift in the balance of power from our maritime industry to their maritime and rail industries.
§ Mr. Speed
My hon. Friend has been generous in giving way. In intervening, I am cutting out the need to make a speech. If my hon. Friend thinks positively, does he feel that it is possible that Liverpool and Avonmouth could handle the transatlantic trade and that all the freight could pass through those ports to Europe via the Channel tunnel? Why should the French be the only ones with initiative when we have the geographical advantages?
§ Mr. Aitken
The simple reason is that we have not invested in a high-speed rail network of the type in which the French have invested. It is the triumph of hope over experience to think that the French, who are ready for this challenge—
§ Mr. Aitken
If my hon. Friend can persuade the Government to invest huge sums of money in the rail network and port modernisation on the French scale, that might be a different story, but we are unprepared for the coming battle and will therefore lose it.
There is something much deeper about this project, which is to do with French intentions. The French are sometimes our enemies, always our rivals and only occasionally our friends. Of course, it is one of the cardinal principles of modern mealy-mouthed policy in Britain that we should never say anything detrimental about the French because they are our so-called partners in the EEC. However, British public opinion marches to a different drumbeat from the insipid civilities of diplomacy.
In a week in which the French Government have behaved with a perfidy and poltroonery over Syrian terrorism, which led The Wall Street Journal to label them, rightly, as the "Euro-cowards", it is as well to examine the roots of the Anglo-French entente cordiale, of which the Channel tunnel is the new and shining symbol. Last month the French completely failed to support the Government's stand against proven state-sponsored Syrian terrorism. France's contribution to our dangers and difficulties was first a statement from the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Charles Pasqua, that there was "real collaboration" between French and Syrian intelligence to fight terrorism. France has continued its negotiations to deliver a £200 million arms sale to Syria, and France has refused to play any part in our efforts to get a concerted EEC response to the Syrian outrage—
§ Mr. Aitken
No, I should like to finish my point.
I can do no better than quote from today's issue of Time magazine, which sums up the situation thus:British officials were furious at the faintheartedness on the Continent … snapped one disgusted senior Thatcher aide 'Either you're in the business of anti-terrorism or you're not.—In case you think that I am going to be irrelevent, Mr. Speaker, that is an archetypal example of the French attitude that worries me and millions of other people in this country.
Last month the French were not on Britain's side in the business of anti-terrorism, but this month they are on Britain's side in the business of Euro tunnelling. Why? The answer is that there is a gain to France to be soft on Syrian terrorism and a gain to France to be enthusiastic about the 887 Channel tunnel. Would that Britain had such a robust, if at times cynical, attitude to defending our national interest, at least with regard to the Channel tunnel.
Before we commit ourselves to devoting a massive amount of parliamentary time to the Channel Tunnel Bill in the next Session, let us not forget that we are not even halfway through the parliamentary process, although it seems to have been a marathon so far.
I should like to hear a Minister spell out, from the Dispatch Box, the political gains for Britain's national interest in this project. Please let us not have any more honeyed words about jobs. The Government's White Paper admits that there will be a net loss of jobs in the maritime industry. The White Paper reached that very low figure of 3,000 job losses only by suppressing the information about the jobs that would be lost in ports other than Dover and Folkestone. The British Ports Association, at the other end of the scale, predicts that 40 per cent. of the 175,000 jobs in the industry could be lost.
Let us not have any more "pep" talk about how the Channel tunnel will be invigorating and challenging for our exporters. The reverse is true. From long experience, I can say that our importers may well meet the challenge and the invigoration with greater success than our exporters have met the opposite challenge.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
Before my hon. Friend is entirely captivated by the suggestion from my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) that we can make good any losses by shipping goods to Lyon via Liverpool, will he draw my hon. Friend's attention to what is happening to British lamb exporters, who are trying to exercise their legal rights but who are prevented from doing that by vandalism and excessive bureaucracy from the French authorities?
§ Mr. Aitken
My hon. Friend has great experience in these matters and he knows only too well that the French very often win the game by breaking the rules. That is what we fear in the case of the Channel tunnel project.
I return to our national interests. The Government have one card to play. It is that some temporary jobs—about 10,000 — will be created by British construction companies and other British companies in the industrial sector from orders from the Channel tunnel if—and this is a big if—Britain's companies get their predicted share of the contracts.
But at what price? The garden of England, in environmental terms, is likely to be turned into Britain's grey and concrete land. The white cliffs of Dover are likely to become the green cliffs of Dover as a result of the spoil being deposited, by this misguided decision, at the bottom of Shakespeare cliff. There will be much environmental damage and many job losses in the maritime industry, all to create a benefit match for the French.
I am slightly exaggerating — one other group of people will benefit besides the French. They hope that they will be laughing all the way to the bank. They are the shareholders, bankers and directors of Eurotunnel. We may be decimating our maritime industry and ruining our environment, but perhaps this project will make a handful of people rich. But will it? Here we enter the realm of what I call "market forces schizophrenia". The Government have not really decided whether they are backing the project or whether they are at arm's length from the project and letting market forces decide. I resent the fact 888 that taxpayers' money will be used to buy some £400 million worth of new rolling stock for British Rail. I resent the fact that large sums of money will be spent on infrastructure and extra policing costs for the project. I am worried—
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with care. However, he seems to be suffering from schizophrenia. A few moments ago he was complaining that the French were investing too much in their railways. Now he is complaining bitterly about the money being made available to British Rail. I happen to think that it is not enough. The hon. Gentleman must make up his mind.
§ Mr. Aitken
There is no schizophrenia on the other side of the Channel. The French are backing this project totally and wholeheartedly with taxpayers' money. That is not what our Government are doing. They say that this project is being decided by market forces and that they have nothing much to do with it. They say that they are simply supporting it politically and that it is all being done by private money. That is not true.
The position of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) is perfectly rational. He seems to be saying that if he was at the Dispatch Box he would put the resources of the state behind this project, or at least behind the infrastructure. That is a logical position. I agree that he does not suffer from schizophrenia. However, I am afraid that the Government do. That was revealed when the Bank of England and others in high places got up to some bizarre and, quite possibly, improper activities in trying to twist arms so that Eurotunnel could totter towards the finishing line to raise the first 4 per cent. of the funds.
Is this really a free-market project? I suspect that when it comes to raising the remaining 96 per cent. of the money, in one way or another Government forces will have to come into play even more formidably than they have so far, although not necessarily on our side of the Channel. Perhaps we will decide to play the game and lose it. However, I am sure that the French—indeed, they have already done it—will put Government resources behind the tunnel. Some of the institutions which have invested in the project are backed by the French Government.
On a pure arm's-length, market-forces-assessment, this investment is a dodgy gamble. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Minister can confirm that the first advice given by Department of Transport civil servants to the Secretary of State last year was that perhaps none of the bids to build a fixed link could be financed on a purely commercial basis. I hope that we will be able to have that advice disclosed to Parliament and the press. I also hope that the Department of Transport's own traffic forecasts will be disclosed. They are well below the self-serving and optimistic forecasts put forward by Eurotunnel in its prospectus.
We will need major debates on that prospectus and the investment that will be sold to the public. I fear that the prospectus is not far removed from a South sea bubble. Many of the figures seem to be plucked out of thin air. For example, there is the forecast, which anyone who knows the Channel ports has grave doubts about, that 67 per cent. of car holidaymakers will choose to go by the tunnel and that 89 per cent. of foot passengers will choose the 889 tunnel. Where do those optimistic forecasts come from? Before any private citizen is encouraged to invest money, we need a proper parliamentary debate on the subject.
There is long-term doubt about the French role. I fear that, because the French will have so much Government support, they will not just have a share of the Channel tunnel, but will be the dominant shareholder, perhaps the controlling shareholder. That is a great worry. Instead of being the Anglo-French Channel tunnel, it may become the French Channel tunnel. As I have already said, it is massively more in France's interests than our own, and the investment is likely to be heavily loaded towards French ownership rather than towards our own.
Why should Parliament be asked to deliver by this motion what the market cannot deliver, or at least is expected not to be able to deliver? Hon. Members do not have to rely on my word; they can read the Financial Times and other newspapers. Everyone knows that there are grave difficulties ahead. So far Eurotunnel has been extremely sanguine.
Many hon. Members may remember that earlier this summer Lord Pennock made an irritated outburst on "The World at One", in which he ticked off Members of Parliament. He said that if only Members of Parliament would stop mucking about with the Bill, he had banks and investors all over the world lined up and waiting to go. Yet, at the finishing post, the money was not available and Sir Nigel Broackes, the Governor of the Bank of England and others had to be called in to help.
Hon. Members are busy people. The Select Committee should at least examine the whole question of investment. Although I pay tribute to its hard work, its members seem to have been men of iron whim, completely excluding money and safety from their deliberations. I find that difficult to understand. Will the House be given an opportunity to debate the Select Committee report before the Bill goes to Standing Committee? The Select Committee has not shown the hybrid Bill procedure to be workable or fair in deciding projects of this nature. It would have been much better to have a shortened form of public inquiry and to have a proper look at the real financial credibility of the project, which is so much in doubt, and which will be in greater doubt when attempts are made to raise the remaining 96 per cent. of the money.
We are in a make-believe, Alice-in-Wonderland world. There is a lot of talk about the project, but the results are disappointing. We have a long way to go yet and I do not want to see Parliament's time wasted next Session. We must first have a much more clear-cut, concrete accurate view of the prospects, and all the evidence suggests that those prospects are still dim.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Lewisham, Deptford)
The hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) gave us a wide and perfectly correct description, which was perhaps not to everybody's taste, of why the Channel tunnel should not be built and, rightly within the rules of order, why this particular motion should not be passed. There will be plenty of opportunity—hours and hours—next Session, assuming that the motion is passed tonight, to continue this interesting discussion of the concept and desirability of the tunnel. By then we shall have much more information with which to amuse and interest the House.
890 Tonight I propose to be narrow in my interpretation of the motion—I hope that the House will be duly grateful — and to stick to the motion, perhaps a little of the history of such motions and why the Government are in such an infernal hurry to pass it.
When the first carry-over hybrid Bill was proposed in the House, the then Prime Minister chose to address the House because it was considered of such importance that only the Prime Minister could do so. From Ramsay MacDonald to the Minister of State is not exactly a step up in protocol. It seems that today's Government are taking a more relaxed view of their duties. [Interruption.] Some may say that the Minister is better than Ramsay MacDonald—I do not know. That was in 1931 at the time of the so-called national Government. There were 47 Labour Members only at that time and rather a large number of Conservative Members.
The interesting point about that particular hybrid Bill was what it was. It was nothing like as large as the Channel Tunnel Bill. It was certainly a hybrid Bill because it included private interests and it sought to enlarge, not to diminish, the public sector. It was the London Passenger Transport Bill, and Mr. Ramsey MacDonald proposed that it should be carried over to the following Session.
The other point is that Ramsey MacDonald and his Whips had made the appropriate sounds beforehand and found that the House, in general, approved of the measure. There was a little concern and grumbling about it, but the Whips had done their job very well and the result was that, in 1931, there was no division and the order went through happily. In 1932, it took rather a long time for the Bill to be debated and considered and a similar motion was put before the House the following year. Hence my asking the Minister—I knew the answer to the question but he did not seem to—
§ Mr. Silkin
That is good. The Minister knows the answer now. I want his assurance that, if this motion is carried tonight and the suspension continues until the next Session, the Bill will not last another Session—whatever happens to the Government, and assuming that it is the same Government after the next Session has ended. As I have said, the London Passenger Transport Bill was carried forward for two Sessions. If the same occurred with this Bill, it would be an abuse of Parliament because there is opposition to it, whereas the London Passenger Transport Bill met no opposition. [Interruption,] If the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) wishes to intervene, I wish that he would do so. Perhaps then I would hear, because all that he is doing is mumbling at me.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
When the Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, suggested that the motion be carried forward a second time, he was suggesting it be carried forward to another Session, not another Parliament. I do not believe that that was the case.
§ Mr. Silkin
Ramsay MacDonald referred to a dissolution in his speech, which I was examining the other day. If the hon. Member for Canterbury were to spend a little time in the Library, he would find that it is possible —the Under-Secretary said so in his opening speech—to carry the Bill forward from one Parliament to another. The Under-Secretary said that that was done with the Channel Tunnel Bill in 1974.
891 I am merely trying to point out that the status of this motion and Bill is not regarded as so important to the Government that it should be introduced by the Secretary of State. Perhaps it would be wrong for the Prime Minister to introduce the Bill, although it is very much the Prime Minister's scheme—there is no question about that. The present Secretary of State for Transport inherited the scheme from his predecessor, so perhaps it would not have been a bad thing if the Prime Minister had introduced this motion.
I am trying to give the motion an importance that the Under-Secretary has not given to it. The hon. Gentleman craved our indulgence for bringing this tedious subject to us again at this particular moment. He told us that the House had talked a great deal about the Channel tunnel. He said that he did not wish to bring this motion before the House tonight, but he had to do so because we were at the end of the Session. The Under-Secretary said that nobody wants to talk about the Bill—but he is wrong. I find that more and more people wish to talk about it.
If I go into the wider questions concerning this matter, I promise you, Mr. Speaker, that I will relate it to the motion. It is perfectly true that many people, cornered sometimes on or about to go on holiday, said what a marvellous thing it would be if they could go by a tunnel and be in France in no time at all. On the whole, those who try to export our goods did not seem to be asked the same question. The question was directed to those who travel by car, and they thought of different things. Some thought of a bridge and others thought of a road tunnel.
The enthusiasm for spending £4.5 billion — at the present estimate — to get to France, if one can, five minutes earlier, seems to have evaporated. There is now a feeling that this is not the right thing for us to do and not the right thing on which to spend our money.
There is contention and controversy about the matter which did not exist with the London Passenger Transport Bill. That was illustrated by the bitter intervention made by my opponent, the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), on his hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South. There is controversy in the Conservative ranks, let alone in the country.
In the light of that, why the hurry? Why is it so essential not to waste a single moment? The Select Committee, in its restrained fashion — because it deliberately excluded various questions from its consideration—said that time must not be wasted and that we must at all costs try to get the motion through in one Session. Many of us believe that the project will not run its full course in any event. So why the hurry? I think that the hurry is because the Government are in a corner. They are in a fix. They thought that the project would be marvellously popular, full of razzmatazz and zing. It has turned out to be a damp and sodden squib.
The Government now say that they cannot abandon the project immediately. They cannot say that they are not so interested in it that they will not give it time or that they will postpone it until the next Session because people would then say that Parliament was not playing the game. The Government say that many investors—perhaps 96 per cent. of them—are waiting to come in, so they had better encourage the poor baboons to do what they can —to come in and to make a go of it. It becomes more and more difficult to do that.
The Government now have to go to their rivals to collect a bit of money. They have to scrape it together, at 892 the 25th hour rather than the 24th hour. There is no great enthusiasm — in fact the reverse is true among the British public. There might be a certain amount of interest among the French and Japanese, and I have no doubt that with the Under-Secretary of State's persuasive abilities the Warsaw pact might be induced to put in a rouble or two.
Generally speaking, nobody really wants the Channel tunnel any more. Perhaps the hon. Member for Canterbury is attracted to the idea. He is a great historian and there is something historic about it. The hon. Member for Ashford, because of his containers and lorries, thinks that is is not a bad idea. He has to stick with it now because he supported it when he was a Minister. What is he to do but be consistent?
§ Mr. Silkin
I am delighted that the hon. Member for Ashford should say that. I wanted him to say it, because it shows the divisions. They are important divisions.
The Government are in a hurry — an unnecessary hurry. I believe that as the years go by they will regret that hurry.
I am sorry to keep referring to the speech by the hon. Member for Thanet, South but it was a brave and audacious speech which deserves to be remembered and considered. He talked about a South sea bubble. I totally disagree with him. A number of people made a fortune out of the South sea bubble before the shares went down in value. Compared with the Channel tunnel, the shares of the South sea bubble sound like gilt-edged securities.
I do not think that we shall have a Channel tunnel. I never believed it to be likely, but I am an optimist. I believe that it would be disastrous for the country. It would be disastrous for security, for trade and for the environment. It would mean the worst possible use of resources.
I do not believe that the Channel tunnel will happen. If the motion is passed tonight— I shall do my little best to try to stop it—all that will happen is that for a week or two the Government's and Prime Minister's faces will be saved. It will be no more than that. In the end the lunacy of the project will be clear to everyone in the country.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover)
We have had two interesting contributions from both sides of the House, replete with historical analogy. I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) into a consideration of the South sea bubble. I was impressed by the recollection of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) that fortunes were made. I believe that Sir Robert Walpole made a considerable fortune. But it is not for me to speculate on who will make or lose money out of this project. I am merely concerned on this occasion with the interests of my constituents and the impact of the Channel tunnel on them.
However, since we have been invited to go back a little in time, I hope that I may recall, for those of us who have been in the House since 1970, that this is the third Bill we have had to consider on the Channel Tunnel. The first was introduced by the Administration of my right hon. Friend 893 the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). The second was introduced by the Administration of which the right hon. Member for Deptford was a Member. The third was introduced by this Administration. The right hon. Member for Deptford was the Chief Whip at the time of the second Bill and, therefore, presumably mobilised support for it.
The simple point on which we have to focus tonight is whether we want to proceed with the existing Bill or whether we want it withdrawn or killed off only to pave the way—my hon. Friend the Minister will no doubt correct me if I am not right and make the Government's intention clear—for the introduction of a new Bill in the new Session.
§ Mr. Silkin
The right hon. and learned Gentleman should always get his facts correct. I was Chief Whip before he came into the House and I was sacked before he ever came into it.
§ Mr. Silkin
I wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman would get his facts right. I was not a member of the Cabinet until six months afterwards.
§ Mr. Rees
At any rate, the doctrine of collective responsibility no doubt embraced the right hon. Gentleman closely and warmly. At least I am accurate on that. He cannot deny that.
The sole issue on which we are focusing is whether we want to kill off the Bill tonight and pave the way for, perhaps, a fresh Bill to be introduced in the next Session. I would find that a rather daunting prospect and I shall say precisely why. It is not because I have lost any zest for debate on this great subject. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there will be aeons of time in the next Session to devote ourselves to this gripping subject.
But before we play the battle through to its conclusion we must consider the interests of the people most directly affected. I must emphasise that a range of decisions, both business and personal, have been shirked because of the uncertainty created by the Bill and whether it will reach the statute book. Let me reduce the matter to a level which may even evoke a sympathetic response from the right hon. Gentleman. There are small people who are unable to sell their houses at the moment because of the uncertainty about whether the Channel tunnel and its works will cut across their gardens. We should be concerned about them and their interests before we become too enmeshed in considering the history of the South sea bubble and other such grandiose analogies.
I should like to see some certainty brought into the matter. I do not mind whether the Bill is killed off by a vote of the House or allowed to proceed by a vote of the House. I do not mind if it is killed off by those who are invited and decline to offer sufficient money to see it through. Some certainty must be brought into the matter and it would be a great pity if we caused merely a slight delay and paved the way for my long-suffering hon. Friend the Minister of 894 State to introduce a new Bill in the new Session. In that case we would get the worst of every world. If on Third Reading the Bill is killed, I have no doubt that that will generate a great deal of enthusiasm in certain parts of east Kent and not least in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) has been remarkably consistent on a number of issues and I have no doubt that he sees this Bill, not unfairly, as a dimension in the long debate about the European Community and Britain's role in it. I do not want to prevent my hon. Friend enlarging the debate, even if he were allowed to do so.
§ Mr. Rees
I can assure my hon. Friend that I have made my position absolutely clear in interventions during the course of this Session. It is a matter of regret that we do not yet know the conclusions of the Select Committee. I should like to join other hon. Members in paying my tribute to the patience of the Select Committee. It had to deal with an enormous weight of evidence and it must have been a relief for the members of that Committee that neither my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South nor I were in a position to give evidence. Our absence did not preclude our constituents and those of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) from giving a great deal of pointed and powerful evidence. No doubt that evidence has been carefully sifted and we await with keen interest the conclusions that the Select Committee may have reached and may announce tomorrow.
The Select Committee was able to rise early on the first day during which it heard evidence in my constituency and was able to see at first hand the operations of the port of Dover. I hope that that made a deep impression on the Committee. Whatever its conclusions, the debate will continue into the next Session if the House so wills. A key issue is that there should be fair competition between the Channel tunnel—if the House agrees that it should go ahead — and the ferries that operate from the constituencies of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe and my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South. It may be that some other hon. Friends have an interest in ensuring fair competition.
That is one of the central issues, so we must ensure that the same measure of safety is demanded of the operators of the Channel tunnel as is demanded of the ferry operators. There is also the matter of customs and immigration procedures. I understand that those will be matters for the Standing Committee and that the Select Committee was prevented by its terms of reference from going into them.
Other matters concern the environment and communications. If Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate are to compete fairly with the tunnel, it is crucial that communications in east Kent should be thoroughly and carefully examined. I am thinking here of the railway line which joins Folkestone-Dover to Deal, Sandwich and Thanet. Perhaps understandably, British Rail was a little equivocal, a little hesitant, in its assurances about the continuation of that line into the 21st century. That is a 895 matter of considerable importance. Roads are also important and it is a matter of pain and regret to me that in spite of the Dover bypass and the connection from Dunkirk and Boughton to Dover, there is not a dual carriageway all the way down to the port of Dover.
As Dover is the main roll-on, roll-off port and the major passenger port of the kingdom, I think that the time has come when my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Transport should consider carefully whether the dualling of the A2 down to the port of Dover should not he accorded much higher priority. Beyond that, there is the question of the A20-M20 extension. I am fully aware of the sensitivities that must be considered in incorporating into the Bill an extension into the town of Dover, and any point of entry that the Department chooses—it gave us a preview of its thinking some years ago—is bound to be highly sensitive. I hope, however, that at least it will be possible to retain in the Bill the extension that takes the road round and beyond the village of Capel le Ferne. Capel has been promised a bypass for many years and the weight of traffic that will be generated by the works on the tunnel will justify the incorporation of the bypass in the Bill.
Secondly, I believe that the retention of the relevant clauses in the Bill will be an earnest or pledge to the inhabitants of Dover, especially the operators in and from the port of Dover, that they will have a proper connection to the motorway network. If there were any doubt or hesitation about that, that would be to build in a tremendous advantage for the tunnel and would put the ferry operators and port operators at Dover in an unacceptably disadvantaged position. I hope that, even at this late stage, the members of the Select Committee and the Minister of State will give due weight to that consideration.
There will be many other matters to which, with your permission. Mr. Speaker, we shall return, if the House passes the order, during the next Session. As time is short, I do not want to explore once again all the general considerations that the House should take into account in considering the Bill. I hope very much that my hon. Friend the Minister of State and all those who have a direct hand in this important question that is crucial for the future of east Kent, and for my constituency in particular, will bear in mind the fundamental princple tht there should be fair competition and that nothing should be weighted in favour of the Channel tunnel against the operations of the ferries and ports of east Kent.
As I do not believe that the present cloud of uncertainty should hang over east Kent any longer, and as I should like to see the matter thrashed through to a conclusion one way or another in the next Session, I will not be joining right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches in voting against the order.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
Paragraph (c) (vi) of the motion reads:Any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in the next Session shall, subject to the rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to he heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition".I am not making a facetious point in suggesting that one of the limits of the motion is that it was clearly drawn up 896 by a man. Several of the petitioners from my constituency are of the other sex, and several of them found it extremely difficult to put their views to the Select Committee.
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, in endorsing the integrity of the members of the Select Committee. It may be that, as in other cases, some Members have more integrity than others. That will remain to be seen in due course. The reality is that, whereas the original Bill and the order say that individual persons of whatever sex are entitled to be heard, the Select Committee procedure has been such that considerable pressure has been put on the individual petitioner not to take time in putting his or her case.
Again, the Select Committee is up against difficulties. I am not suggesting that it is a matter of pressure from the Government to make sure that the business is done by a certain time or date. The Committee does not need such pressure to realise that it has many petitions with which to deal. But there is no way in which the Select Committee has fulfilled the commitment given by the then Secretary of State for Transport that the Committee's procedure would be not only as good as but better than a public inquiry. In a public inquiry, major issues such as whether a single London terminus should be the sole outlet for traffic would not have been dealt with by taking evidence on only one and a half days. This is of considerable importance, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North pointed out. I am glad that he supported the case for a public inquiry into the sole use of Waterloo as an outlet for Channel tunnel traffic.
Furthermore, there is no way in which a public inquiry would have allowed a major development proposal such as the sole use of Waterloo to be made without the proposers having been called to give evidence. It is scandalous—I am sure that the Government Ministers on the Front Bench are gripped by this matter, as they are paying such close attention to it — that a Select Committee should have been given terms of reference in which neither British Rail nor Customs and Excise is called upon to set its case before the Committee.
I can illustrate that by some figures. Indirectly, through the Government's agent, we have learnt in evidence to the Select Committee that the traffic impact estimates for Waterloo given or used by British Rail assume 6 million passengers a year. However, British Rail is now talking —it depends on what day one gets it—of 15 million to 20 million passengers a year passing through Waterloo. One does not need to be a mathematical genius to see that if one takes a number, say 6 million, and trebles it as British Rail has done, and then subtracts some passengers getting off at Ashford, the result is not the 6 million on which British Rail is basing its figures for estimates of traffic congestion and the viability of traffic use around the station.
The reality is that the congestion is likely to be horrendous. The Minister kindly agreed to come to Waterloo, and he may be surprised to know that there is no special barb about to follow my thanking him on behalf of the local community for doing so. He spent more time there than the Select Committee and went round the environs of Waterloo seeing the local community and the way in which the traffic access ramps could not possibly take three-lane traffic, as is anticipated in British Rail's plan. Anybody standing outside to catch a cab at 897 Waterloo, or coming out of Waterloo East, should face the fact that British Rail is proposing three-lane traffic in that area without widening the road.
Ministers of both parties and Back-Bench Members have stressed that nobody has a magic formula for reversing inner-city decline and stemming the crisis into which the inner city has fallen. After seeing the area, the local community, the housing, and the efforts made by the community to make this part of the inner city flourish, the Minister told a television programme that he had learnt a great deal. He said that he had not appreciated just how many new housing and community projects there were in the area, and that British Rail had a case to answer on the traffic impact and about dispersal of traffic, and whether there should be a single flagship terminal.
I welcome the fact that the Minister was able to say that. However, such issues are not being addressed by the Select Committee. It is not clear to me, as the hon. Member who represents the Vauxhall constituency, just when these issues will be properly addressed. Nor is it clear, I regret to say, whether the Department of Transport has any clear idea what the total traffic impact on the south bank is likely to be of another 20 million passengers a year and an estimated 4 million vehicles a year coming into or going out of Waterloo.
The proposal has now been made by London Regional Transport that the National Bus Company terminal should be moved from Victoria station, where its lease from Grosvenor Estates is running out, to either of two sites in London, one of which is at Vauxhall bridge. This is relevant to the entire matter of the commercial viability of the Channel tunnel project. British Rail has been challenged on where the traffic coming out of Waterloo will go.
Will the bus tour operators be linking up with the rail link? Will the traffic go across Westminster bridge and Waterloo bridge into central London? "Oh no," British Rail said. "It will be using the south bank and embankment routes and going either west or north across Chelsea bridge or Albert bridge." That could be tremendous if we were considering only buses coming out of Waterloo, but the problem is that the traffic may now, run into another 240 buses an hour going into or coming out of the new National Bus Company terminal at the Vauxhall Cross intersection.
I have tabled questions to Ministers on this—
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
This is the first proposal that I have heard that will have such a strategic impact on London. It is a pity that we do not have a strategic planning authority to assess it. The idea of a National Bus Company terminal at Vauxhall is surprising and almost inconceivable.
§ Mr. Holland
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. I must say that not only I, but many in the local community were staggered to find that, of the range of possible sites being considered, only in the past few weeks has London Regional Transport come to consider Vauxhall as one of its two main options; and, taking its hint from the way that the role of public inquiries has been downgraded by the Government's handling of the Channel tunnel issue, LRT gave notice only a few weeks ago that evidence from the local community supporting or protesting against the proposal had to be in by the end of 898 October. That meant that the local authority—in this case Lambeth — could not even consider the new proposal in any detail. It had no details of the new proposal that it could submit in time to its normal monthly planning committee. Lambeth therefore has not been in a position to give proper evidence.
That is directly relevant to Waterloo. British Rail wants to get away with traffic congestion figures based on 6 million passengers, when it is now talking about 20 million. Indeed, 20 million passengers could be critical to the commercial viability of the project. It is not at all apparent that the road network on the south bank can take either the additional traffic from a London bus terminal at Vauxhall Cross or the additional traffic at Waterloo. It certainly cannot take both.
In that context, I put it to the House that the case for a public inquiry into the Waterloo issue, as there may or may not be recommendations for public inquiries involving other road networks associated with the Channel tunnel project, is evidenced by this simple fact. The traffic throughput at Waterloo with a 20 million passenger flow would be equivalent to one jumbo jet entering or leaving Waterloo station every three and a half minutes. The total passenger flow at Waterloo would be equivalent to that at Gatwick airport.
Is it conceivable that a new airport or traffic flows of that kind, would be accepted by Parliament without proper and due scrutiny? Instead, the matter was considered for two and a half days, including the evidence that was put to the Select Committee both by local community groups and by Lambeth council. It is essential that these issues are considered not only by a Standing Committee, which would face similar pressures to those that were faced by the Select Committee, but by a public inquiry.
Furthermore, British Rail is not being called to give evidence to the Select Committee. I referred to this yesterday at Question Time. An article in the New Civil Engineer of 30 October said that, according to British Rail market analyst Ken Gibbs, British Rail is planning a new —it is called top secret—Channel rail link to get a fast rail service from the coast to London. In his reply to my question yesterday the Minister said that he knewof no authoritative suggestion that there should be a new rail line from the coast to Victoria". — [Official Report, 3 November 1986: Vol. 103, c. 671.]That lets the Minister off the hook on two grounds. First, the decision about what is or is not authoritative is entirely subjective. The Minister can decide that something carries authority and that something else does not. Tonight we want to know whether it has come to his attention that any proposal has been made by anybody regarding such a link. Secondly, we want to know whether it has been considered, as Ken Gibbs is alleged to have said, by British Rail. Furthermore, we need to know its implications for the Channel tunnel project, especially the case for dispersal and the case for the use of Waterloo, rather than Victoria, as a flagship terminal.
I quote from the New Civil Engineer, the magazine of the Institute of Civil Engineers. It says that Mr. Gibbs apparentlydeclined to reveal details of BR's plans to deal with the shortfall in capacity but it is understood a new line would leave the London-Dover line near Paddock Wood, pass to the east of the hillside village of Ightham and either travel along 899 the M25 corridor before rejoining the main line north of Sevenoaks or continue due north joining the Rochester main line near Swanley.I do not know what Conservative Members feel about such a new rail line proposal, which has implications for a least some of their constituents.
No evidence has been given by British Rail to the Select Committee because British Rail is not being called upon to give evidence to it. However, the implication — I quote from this article in the New Civil Engineer of only a few days ago—is:This latter option gives the possibility of routing Chunnel traffic into Victoria station, relieving the anticipated pressure of 20 million passengers per year at Waterloo by the turn of the century.Officially, British Rail and Eurotunnel are denying the existence of these plans. However, observers have commented:BR would do well to hide high speed plans until the Channel tunnel is built. If the tunnel was in place and the network seen to be patently inadequate, then the argument for the new railway would be clear. To publicly acknowledge the need for it before work on the fixed link had even begun would risk an embarrassing public row … Few forget that public outcry over a similar plan in 1974 helped scotch the previous Chunnel venture.Whether or not one supports or opposes a fixed rail link, these are matters to which hon. Members as well as the Select Committee have a right to answers now from the Government.
If we are to take the Select Committee and Standing Committee procedure seriously, and whether we are to vote for or against this order tonight, hon. Members need to know what is in the pipeline and what is being considered. It is alleged that this new rail link will be privately financed and privately operated. That might appeal to Conservative Members. They will not be surprised to hear that it does not appeal to me. In the same way a further issue arises, because British Rail has apparently admitted to that magazine, although not to the House, that at peak times, with commuter traffic coming into Waterloo, it will not be able to accommodate more than two trains an hour, whereas it needs four trains an hour for commercial viability. The Minister should answer those questions tonight.
I have another point that will no doubt enthral the House. At some time or another most of us have played with trains, and know that with a single track and a loop, or even two tracks, the problem of how a fast train is to pass a slower train arises. No wonder British Rail wants an entirely new fixed system. If the project is to be commercially viable, the trains must run on time. Someone 900 somewhere else once said that the trains had to run on time, and would do so. It is interesting that in his analysis of Fascist Italy, Dennis Mack Smith considered Mussolini's claim that the trains ran on time. He found that by and large the inter-city trains ran on time, but that as the track was inadequate, any local passenger train or goods train in the way was shunted off the main line. Indeed, freight was lost for weeks and months in Italy in the 1930s. I am glad that that brings at least half a smile to the faces of some Conservative Members.
What will happen to traffic, including commuter traffic, in the south-east of England if Channel tunnel trains are to run on time, on inadequate track? Their dictates will be fulfilled and commuter traffic will be pushed out of the way. Happily, I am not suggesting that a commuter train will be lost, never to be found again, as apparently happened to the local freight traffic in Italy, but commuters will be pushed out of the way in other ways. Their services will he slower, and will be disrupted. Commuters will obtain a second-class service because of the imperatives of the link.
Those issues should be addressed in the Bill. What rights will the private operators of such a new rail link have? Who will take the decision on the priority allocation of trains? Are the Government going to back the tunnel operators and give them a commitment that they will have priority in the use of lines? Will there be a new private line?
I am well aware that several Conservative Members wish to speak, and there will no doubt be a sigh of relief when I say that I am about to conclude my speech. But I have this to add. The Secretary of State is supposed to be a serious politician. That may come as a surprise to my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), but the Secretary of State is supposed to be on his way up within the Conservative party. I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber, but no doubt he will return shortly. Indeed, we even heard recently that he is a possible contender in due course for the leadership. Consequently, I suggest that the Minister should get a message through to the Secretary of State.
If the Secretary of State endorses such a crass muddle over the impact of local traffic, he will not make any positive reputation for himself in the House, but he will become known as the man who made the biggest planning bungle of the 20th century. That would be bad for travellers on the Channel fixed link, bad for commuters and bad finance. If the Government had any sense, they would come clean about the matter, put the issues to the House and hold a public inquiry to enable them to be properly considered.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland). I certainly hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench also listened to him carefully, because he spoke about a major problem that has been thrown up by the Channel tunnel project. I refer to the arrival and departure of passengers at the London terminal. It is important and right that the hon. Gentleman should raise that matter. His is the one voice in the House that speaks of this problem in his constituency. It is quite right that he should. I am interested in his comments.
We are considering a motion to suspend consideration of this Bill and to take it into the next Session of Parliament. The views of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) have been attacked by other hon. Members before. I have great admiration for my hon. Friend, but I do not understand why he should be against the Channel tunnel. It certainly does not serve his constituents to speak as he does. I suggest that my hon. Friend is against the French, the Common Market and the Community. I suggest that that underlies everything that he has said tonight and on many occasions in the House, in public, in the press and in articles that he has written which express his opinion so strongly, so dramatically and so passionately against this fixed link. He disclosed tonight in his speech, to which we listened with interest — we must listen because he is a highly intelligent man who serves his constituents and Parliament well—the reasons why, like my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), he is passionately against Europe. Okay, it is quite true.
§ Mr. Crouch
If I may develop this point, I shall then willingly give way.
We are discussing whether to consider the Channel Tunnel Bill — the fixed link from this country to the continent of Europe—in the next Session of Parliament. I happen to be in favour of it—not that my constituents are in favour of it—because I believe it is in favour of Great Britain and its economic, social and future development. I could be wrong, so could the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the present Secretary of State for Transport and successive Secretaries of State for Transport.
There is another view—that it is not right to have a fixed link and it is a disadvantage. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) does not believe it would be to our economic advantage. He has honourably and strongly held the view over many years that he is not in favour of our membership of the European Economic Community.
§ Mr. Aitken
I know that my hon. Friend would not wish to misrepresent my motives. I have spoken so often about the Channel tunnel that I cannot always repeat everything on every single occasion I speak. I am against the Channel tunnel on national grounds, for the reasons outlined tonight and on other occasions. On local grounds, I have a very strong constituency reason, strongly supported by my constituents. The reason is that Ramsgate is Britain's second biggest Channel port. It is 902 highly vulnerable to a loss of business of the kind that the Channel tunnel is almost certain to provide. For that reason alone, I assure my hon. Friend that my stand is highly popular in my constituency, and that is a very good local motive.
§ Mr. Crouch
It is not for me to question how my hon. Friend's constituents view the matter. He is the judge of that. He knows how his constituency views it. I am sure he is popular, but I think he is wrong. I do not think there are many in this country who agree with him. He said the idea of this fixed link — this Channel tunnel — was a question of monumentitis and that is why it is being done.
There is another voice echoing in the House tonight. It comes from my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East and it is a typical voice. My hon. Friends the Members for Southend, East and for Thanet, South are typical. They do not want to see any monument to any progress. They used a phrase which I shall use against them. They do not want to see progress or achievement. They do not want to be 19th century entrepreneurs. They want to be 20th century backward thinkers. I say that with all the passion I can command, because I believe in the future of our country. Few of us seem to have the guts to believe in the future of this country — much better to close the door, lift the drawbridge and say, "Let us be little Englanders." If ever there were a little Englander in the House, it is the right hon. Member for Deptford. Of course, he is honourable—little Englanders can be quite honourable—but he is such a person.
§ Mr. Crouch
When the right hon. Gentleman talks of the Commonwealth, I cannot help but think that perhaps in my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South there lingers, even for family reasons, a longing for what was once called empire and for what the right hon. Member for Deptford calls Commonwealth. I give no ground to anyone in my belief in the Commonwealth, but I believe also in our links with Europe.
It is right to debate the Bill in the next Session, because it needs further consideration. The hon. Member for Vauxhall has told us that further consideration of the London content and problem is needed, and I agree with him. Many environmental problems in Kent need further consideration in the House and in the other place. More time should be given to them. That is why I agree with this motion.
I do not want to be too unkind in criticising hon. Members because their views differ from mine. If one raises one's voice in passion, that is the custom of the House and it is encouraged by the House. Whether one wants that or not, it cannot be helped. One raises one's voice because one believes in one's view, and one may be wrong. As I have said before in talking about this project, many of my constituents think that I am wrong. Perhaps I am wrong, but perhaps not. I am not saying this just to support my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. That has not been my wont. I have done what I have thought to be right for the country. I think that this project is right for the country.
We all know that our export market is in Europe, with more than 60 per cent. of our exports going there. Some purists would say that those are not exports and that we are all in one market—a home market. It is a colossal home market, but the fact is that more than 60 per cent. 903 of the exports which earn us our wealth cross the Channel by an inefficient means, relying on ship transport. I do not accept that relying on shipping alone is sufficient but I accept that a direct rail link from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, London—
§ Mr. Crouch
Of course, I am talking of an electric rail link under the Channel to Paris, Brussels, Milan and Frankfurt. That is the way for this country to grow and, perhaps for the first time, to enjoy the benefits of being in the much larger market of 400 million people which is called the European Community.
This matter needs more consideration. We must not rush that. No one can accuse the Government of having rushed it, but perhaps there is something in Labour Members' statement, which they have advanced so consistently, that it would be better to have a public inquiry lasting a year or more. That is democracy at work. I believe that consultation with the public and the public's presentation of their views to Members of Parliament through a Select Committee are not bad ways in a modern system for people to have their voices heard right up to the very fount—the Minister. When parliamentarians report to the Minister, it is better than when an inspector reports.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said earlier. But surely there is a mean between a public inquiry which may take a year and giving evidence by the local community in a day and a half. That is what is wrong and why the local community cannot be heard.
§ Mr. Crouch
The hon. Gentleman has reminded me of something that he said which I thought was perhaps the most telling thing said tonight. He said— and I must accept that this is right as no hon. Member contradicted him—that only a day and a half had been given for the consideration of the important question of what effect the project would have on the traffic environment in London. That is very important. Much more time should be given to that question. Heaven knows, it is difficult enough to do anything in a crowded city like London, and that point deserves a great deal of thought and consideration. I concede that point.
I criticise my hon. Friends and others, but perhaps I am being unfair. If I am, may I be unfair to all the British people? What has happened to the British people today? How different they are from what they were 150 years ago when Stephenson invented the railway. We built the railways in this and so many other countries in the world. We did not stumble or hesitate; we did it. We built the Severn tunnel and we did not stumble or hesitate. It took 14 days of explanation in Committee to get the Severn tunnel project through the House. Engineers argued their case and were heard in departmental Select Committees. So many Select Committees had to hear those cases 140 to 150 years ago. Last century Parliament was not only busy but brave and prepared to take decisions. We were not little Englanders in the 19th century. We were guilty of many other crimes and we created colossal industrial slums and degradation for part of our country as we developed our industrial revolution—we must not do that again — but we made decisions and got on with things. We became rich and great and the most powerful 904 nation in the world because we had the courage in this House of Commons and Parliament to make decisions, and the British people were behind us.
It can be argued that the British people in those days did not enjoy the full franchise of parliamentary democracy as we enjoy it today, so decision making is slower now because we have to consult more people and take more time about it. However, whereas they were not frightened last century, we are frightened today. People are frightened and they complain.
What are we afraid of as we contemplate these great projects like the Channel tunnel—the biggest engineering project in the history of Europe? Are we afraid of competition? Are we afraid of being swamped by the French? We used not to be afraid of the French.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
My hon. Friend will recall that, while Lord Randolph Churchill condemned the project, his son supported it.
§ Mr. Crouch
Yes, it is very interesting. In fact. Lord Randolph Churchill's great grandson today tells me that his father-in-law was one of the fathers of the idea of the Channel tunnel, whereas his great grandfather, Lord Randolph Churchill, was one of those who opposed it. lit is interesting to see how thinking develops within a family, let alone within a Parliament.
One of the worst things that can happen in making a speech is to be sidetracked into the glorious avenues of history. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Deptford for not going further up that avenue.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) said some nasty and unkind things earlier in his speech. Would he at least have the humility to accept that, just because a scheme is big and imaginative and attracts a lot of headlines and little coloured pamphlets, it is not necessarily sound or a sensible use of public money? Does he not realise that the British public are getting a little upset about schemes such as De Lorean and Concorde, which were big and imaginative but which wasted a lot of money which could have been better spent in other ways?
§ Mr. Crouch
I hope that my hon. Friend will not think that I am being unkind to him. I am performing in the House as he performs when he advances his views so strongly against our membership of the European Community. He is entitled to those views, just as I am entitled to mine.
§ Mr. Crouch
I will show as much humility as I can, and I will bear in mind my hon. Friend's stricture to do so.
Are the British people afraid of change? It is a terrible indictment if they are. If they are, then it is up to the House to give them the leadership and encouragement not to be afraid of change—or of Concorde. They must not be afraid of a great advance in aerospace technology. I accept that Concorde may not have been a great economic 905 success because its research and development was paid for by the Government. However, it has broken through not just the sound barrier, but a barrier which shows that there is a future for supersonic aircraft for passenger travel. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East. Concorde did cost money, but successive Governments, supported by the French encouraged it.
Are we afraid of competition and change or are we afraid of the challenge of change and competition? It seems so to me at times. I can understand the people of Kent being opposed to the tunnel, because they tell me so. It will change a part of Kent considerably. It will change Folkestone—the Shepway constituency. It will change Cheriton, Newington and Peen dramatically. Perhaps Newington and Peen will disappear under the marshalling yards at the entrance to the tunnel. I am looking for my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Rees) because the tunnel will also change Dover. It will change the traffic pattern to that town. Ashford will grow bigger and richer and more jobs will be created there. It will change Ramsgate. I believe that that port will grow in importance alongside the fixed link at Folkestone. I could be wrong. I believe that there is a need for an ancillary service to the continent by large economic ferry ships. However, the tunnel will not change my constituency of Canterbury, although people think it will. Two million tourists and pilgrims come to Canterbury every year, and they will still be coming, perhaps even more.
The tunnel will change the pattern in Kent. Most of it will be attracted to the M20 that will feed the tunnel. That will be better for Kent's environment. It will funnel the massive amount of traffic, domestic cars and lorries going to join the tunnel on to one road. It will be an advantage to have the traffic on one road rather than as at present spread across so many different roads to so many different ports in Kent. I can understand the people in east Kent being anxious and angry — they are angry — at the prospect of this change to their environment and the way they live today. Kent is an area for living or even retiring, not so much for earning a living. It is called the garden of England. It is a beautiful area. I live there myself and I shall go on living there even when the tunnel is built.
There may not be an advantage to the people who live around the tunnel entrance, at least not as they enjoy life today. Future generations may take a different view. Our children and grandchildren who will continue to live there may like the jobs and modern, high standard of living that will develop. Folkestone may not remain a retirement town; it may become a bustling, exciting link town with the continent.
Whatever the people of east Kent or Kent as a whole think, theirs is not the only voice to be heard in Britain on this massive decision. Some in the north-east, north-west, south Wales and Scotland, all of whom have spoken in the House, do not want the fixed link because, they say, it will make Kent prosperous at their expense — part of the golden triangle in the south-east. Others believe that Britain needs a fixed link as we now have the biggest, fastest growing export market in the world. The Government must take note of all those voices and strongly held views.
The Government must listen to my hon. Friends who disagree with the project because there is something in all the arguments. They must not be ignored, and their views 906 must be taken into account. The Government and Parliament have a duty to heed them. That is why we need time. The Government must act in Britain's best interests, advance our economy, protect our environment and spread the work opportunity across the country. Those factors are all equally important. In the past 15 years the great industrial development in the North sea has been spread across our engineering bases in England and Scotland.
The Government have a duty to explain their case and to put forward the advantages in contrast with the disadvantages voiced so eloquently by others. They must be more eloquent in advising the public, particularly those who see disadvantages, of the genuine advantages of this fixed link. The Government have a duty to promise that they will protect the environment. That is what Kent needs above all and what it is so worried about. In all those matters I want the Government to have more time so that they can carry the great majority of the people with them on a great project of great advantage to the country.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
In some ways it is appropriate that I follow the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), who referred to the old pilgrimage trail. The western half of my constituency is the ancient borough of Southwark. It was from Southwark to Canterbury and vice versa that pilgrims, first for matters spiritual and later for matters more mercenary, went down what is now the A2, which starts at London bridge and goes to Dover. Halfway through my constituency there is a sign to Dover and Folkestone, 72 miles away.
I have a small part of the London end of this project in my constituency, as the western edge of my constituency includes part of Waterloo. Although it is proper that the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), who represents the northern third of Lambeth, speaks principally for that larger community, my constituents in the northern third of Southwark have as great an interest.
It was always clear that this Bill—unusual in nature, a hybrid Bill—with its Select Committee and Standing Committee, and its passage to the House of Lords, would be the subject of a motion such as this. The motion is not surprising given the debates that we had at the beginning of the current Session. The question which still remains to be answered — I remind the Minister that he has not answered the question put by my other parliamentary neighbour, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin)— is why this is not a Sessional Order as opposed to a Standing Order of the House. If the Government envisage that they will only 1'1'00 the forthcoming Session of Parliament to complete their procedural work, they only need an order covering that one Session. Something that is put into the Standing Orders, as the right hon. Member for Deptford said, remains part of the Standing Orders of the House until repealed. I should be interested to hear why the last clause is in the motion.
I welcome the fact that the motion recognises that it is not for the House collectively, or for the Government, to put pressure on the Select Committee. It is no secret that the Select Committee has been deliberating again today and, having completed its evidence only a matter of days ago, is likely to announce its conclusions tomorrow. It is right that the Committee should not be put under any further pressure. If, for any reason, the Committee is able 907 to announce only part of its conclusions and further work is needed, it is proper that it should be given that time. It is the procedures as opposed to the principles of the Bill that are my greatest concern as a Member representing the interests of my constituents as well as the interests of my party.
When legislation comes before the House, there is always a dilemma as to how the timetabling should work. It is regarded as a weapon of opposition that one can hold up Government business. The weapon of a Government with a sufficient majority is that they bring in a guillotine motion which is passed unless there is a sufficient internal rebellion. I hope that the Government, once the Select Committee has completed its task, will not try to railroad through the debates which will be necessary in the Standing Committee of this House or in the Committee of the other place.
It is right that proper debate takes place. It may be possible to agree on a timetable from the start of proceedings but that is the perennial question that arises when the first clauses are contemplated in detail but are followed by a rush of debate and a guillotine at the end. The way in which the interested parties will proceed depends upon adequate time being made available after the completion of the order and its passage.
I have two worries which I wish to express on behalf of my constituents who live just over Westminster bridge on the south bank—they are partly procedural and partly substantive. The Bill makes it clear that Waterloo will be the terminal in London. It is clear from the evidence that ten years ago Waterloo was not contemplated as the terminal in London,. When the predecessor to this Bill was before the House there were 10 suggested termini and Waterloo was not one of them.
It is not abundantly clear why Waterloo should be the terminus. Clearly there are two Southern region stations of substance — Victoria and Waterloo. One might include Blackfriars, which has a claim, or London Bridge. A terminus was suggested at King's Cross using the Snow Hill link. A terminus at docklands was also suggested.
Why has British Rail not been asked to put its case? Why was the consideration of Waterloo as the terminus to cope with such a massive influx of people specifically excluded from the Select Committee's deliberations? That Committee worked as hard as anybody could have asked any Select Committee to work. The hon. Member for Vauxhall is right. We are talking about 20 million people, not 6 million — phenomenal crowds. As the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) said, we have had difficulties enough coping with crowds on the accesses to the Channel ports for centuries. To allow a massive new influx without permitting any argument is unacceptable.
We must have something from the Minister tonight to put at rest the valid fears of communities which inevitably are always under threat in the intense metropolitan life of an inner city, particularly in the capital. He knows about development sites. He has seen the pressures and the efforts being made to hold communities together because of the incursion of office blocks and traffic. He knows the projections for vehicular traffic up to the end of the century. He knows the practical difficulties that already exist.
We are always complaining about buses and coaches parked on Westminster bridge and about colleagues being delayed access to the House for Divisions because of traffic congestion. There is regular trouble on the other 908 side of the river—not only at rush hours—outside the Department of Education and Science, along York road, around Waterloo station, along Waterloo road and Westminster bridge road, and along the Embankment to Vauxhall cross, which is a major and congested intersection.
It is imperative that fears about traffic flows and traffic management are allayed properly by proper investigation and inquiry. It is not sufficient to say that there will be no opportunity for the problems to be explored. If the problems were not attached to the Channel Tunnel Bill, they would be the subject of a public inquiry. If we cannot have a public inquiry — I accept the outcome of the debate — we must do something to ensure that the problems are examined.
The London evidence took only two and a half days in the Select Committee last month. The development of a terminus for international rail traffic in London merits much more than that. We must have some assurance that the Government will allow the arguments to be expressed.
The major anxiety is traffic — the handling of passenger traffic, the ancillary traffic and the works in the schedule. There is a knock-on—perhaps knockdown—concern about what will happen as a result of the development. I think of housing implications, social services and accommodation. Housing, and the space to go with it, is immensely important.
I do not underestimate the importance of the problems worrying people in the Kent villages and on the coast. Communities are at stake in both places. The Minister must know from the record number of petitions and petitioners that communities at both ends are unhappy.
The Government have one more year in which to remedy that unhappiness. I do not want to argue about whether the project will go ahead or whether the City will come up with the money—that is for other people and other places. But the Bill has several stages yet, here and in another place. The Minister must try to find mechanisms so that those who have been prevented from asking questions and having them answered, about transport primarily, but also about housing, open space and land and other community issues, are given the opportunity to put their case.
I am, above all, like every other hon. Member, sent here to represent my constituents. The way in which, and the ease and co-operation with which, the Government will be assisted in the remaining stages of the Bill depend on the Minister giving a sympathetic and positive response to the anxieties, strongly put by my neighbours on both sides, irrespective of political difference and shared by people who have equal community concerns in Kent. I hope that the Minister will be positive.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) made an all too typically Liberal speech, elaborately sitting on the fence and refusing to come down on either side. He reminded me of the statement, "These are my principles and if you do not like them I have some others which may suit you better."
Having said that, I am bound to say that the hon. Gentleman, like the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), raised important points regarding the London part of this business. I am rather persuaded by what both said that these matters have not received the consideration 909 that they deserve. It is no argument against the motion but I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will have taken on board the genuine anxiety felt on both sides of the House that these matters require careful consideration.
I intend to be brief. I shall be a great deal briefer than my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and I shall be a great deal less charitable than he was about the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken). I am sorry to see that he is not in the Chamber and if I waffle for a minute or two he may return. I intend to criticise severely the unworthy and distasteful speech that he made in opening the debate from the Back Benches this evening.
No doubt the speech will get the publicity that it deserves. That is to say, it will get the headlines in The Sun. But this is a responsible legislative Chamber and I ask all hon. Members, whether they are for the project or against it, what conveivable useful purpose is served by trying to whip up hatred against our allies and our French partners. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend has returned to the Chamber because I can now repeat what I have said, which was that I found his speech unworthy and distasteful.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
I am glad to have fulfilled my hon. Friend's expectations.
What conceivable useful purpose is served in trying to whip up hatred against the French? We have to work with them. They are our partners in the European Community. If we fall out, things will go badly for both of us.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
There my hon. Friend goes again, spreading stories, which turn out to be untrue, that the French are about to embark on a great arms deal with Syria.
The Eurotunnel project, which of course raises doubts and anxieties, will bring great benefits to both our countries, as well as to a great many other countries besides, unless we fall to squabbling about which of the two will derive the greater share of the benefit. There is a doctrine which seems to be alien to the thinking of my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) and others who think like him, and that is the idea that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. If both sides work together on a project, the total good that can be achieved for both of them can be greater than what each of them puts into it.
I should like to make one contribution to the argument about which side derives the greater benefit. This tunnel will extend the continental railway system by some 400 miles, but it will extend the British railway system by 1,500 miles or more. My constituency depends very much on the continued viability of the British railway system. Like a great many people in peripheral areas, my constituents readily accept the argument that the construction of this tunnel will do almost more than anything else to put British Rail on a viable course. Because my constituents depend to a large extent on British Rail for their continued prosperity, this project is undoubtedly good news for them.
There is an uncovenanted benefit from this project, although it is one upon which I do not want to dwell. It 910 is that British rolling stock will be able to travel freely all over the continental rail system, but continental rolling stock will find considerable difficulty in negotiating our tighter curves, closer lines and smaller tunnels. By cheating, we seem in that case to be making a net gain.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South made the worst of a bad case, especially when he alleged that the Eurotunnel promoters were having great difficulty in raising the money. He is evidently disappointed that they have succeeded in raising the money that they set out to raise. But it would not be surprising if there were difficulties in raising money, because people who put up money for such a project are not to know that my hon. Friend and those who think like him are an insignificant minority in the House, as will be evident in the vote. For all that prospective investors know, 600 hon. Members may think like my hon. Friend and prefer to dwell on the difficulties, the obstacles, the disadvantages and the drawbacks, and think that Britain will be the loser, that we will be taken for a ride and that we are the suckers in all this.
It is a miracle that any measure can get through the parliamentary labyrinth nowadays. If one combines the parliamentary obstacles that have always existed with the growing national worship of failure, exemplified in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South, it is amazing that anything is ever done in Britain. The order that we are debating is an ingredient in enabling such a miracle to be brought about, and I have no hesitation in supporting it.
§ Dr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
The anxieties of my constituents have been expressed in hundreds of words to the Select Committee, and I should like to pay tribute, if not to what the Committee is likely to say in its report — I cannot prejudge that — to the Committee for the way in which it has received those words of my constituents. Apart from the more esoteric concerns, the anxieties in north-east Kent boil down to a couple of simple issues. My constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) live behind the tunnel door. They see the prospect of a fixed link not as a job creator, but as the north-east Kent bypass.
My constituents are surrounded by a poor road infrastructure and they see the French Government pouring money into the infrastructure in the Pas de Calais. They have no incentive to offer like the incentive offered by the French in the Pas de Calais. Until fairly recently they had no cause to believe that their worries were not well justified. During the summer recess my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Transport and the Under-Secretary of State for Employment with responsibility for tourism and more recently my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry visited north-east Kent. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry in an interview with the Thanet Extra, one of our local papers, said thathe was convinced that better roads into the area were necessary before assistance could be given.In the Isle of Thanet Gazette he is reported as saying:Firms are unlikely to invest in Thanet unless road and rail links are improved because at the moment lorries cannot get in and out.My hon. Friend the Minister of State is right.
911 My hon. Friend kindly visited Thanet early on Sunday, and I place on record my thanks, and those of my constituents, for the courtesy and sympathy with which he viewed our problems. I would not wish to suggest that the Thanet way is the modern equivalent of the road to Damascus, but anyone who travels in the middle of the road over Roman Galley hill comes perilously close to his maker. My hon. Friend was kind enough to acknowledge upon his departure that he had learnt a great deal from his visit.
As a result of my hon. Friend's visit, Kent county council has submitted a three-phase plan for the improvement of the entire Thanet way. It has also submitted an application for Government support. I would like to hope and believe that that support might be forthcoming. I would like also to hope that Thanet's claims for intermediate status, or the establishment of an enterprise zone, might be heeded. If we are to realise the potential of north-east Kent, there must be a concerted effort by the Departments of Transport, Employment, the Environment and Trade and Industry, together with the Kent county council. That will be necessary with or without the prospect of a fixed link.
The port of Ramsgate, which employs many of my constituents, has deposited exciting plans for its development and I hope and believe that it can succeed. The operators of what is becoming known as Kent international airport at Manston have exciting plans as well, and I believe that they can succeed. We can attract industry and I believe that we can compete with the French, but if we are to do so it must be on equal terms.
Only today I attended the launch of a major computer and electronics initiative. The research and development for the project has been carried out in my constituency. The manufacturing that will follow will be located where? Will it be in Thanet, Kent or northern France? There is a major — I hesitate to say "national" —company that next month will be holding a reception at the Ritz hotel, to which 100 bankers have been invited. This has been done to attract investment in industrial development. Is this development to take place in Kent or in England? The answer is no. It is to take place in northern France. It is recognised that the attractions and facilities in northern France are better than those provided in the United Kingdom.
It may surprise my Whips and some of my colleagues when I say that I shall support the carry-over motion. That is not because I have become converted suddenly to the attractions of the Channel tunnel. I shall do so because the House demonstrated on Second Reading its wish that the debate should continue. I believe that there is a great deal more to be said and that there may be a great deal more to oppose. I would like to think that we can make progress in this matter and I shall support the motion.
§ 11.4 pm
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
I may surprise the Government Whips and some of my hon. Friends when I say that, although I am an opponent of the project, I shall support the carry-over motion. It is essentially a procedural matter, but that does not minimise its importance. If the House passes a carry-over motion, it is according a privilege to the promoters of a Bill that should only rarely be granted. I shall demonstrate that by suggesting to all my hon. Friends how horrified they 912 would be if the Government were to bring forward straightforward Government legislation and suggest that that should be carried over.
There would be horror at such a constitutional outrage, because the ability to ensure that legislation is dropped at the end of a parliamentary year is the fundamental strength not just of the Opposition but of Parliament over the Excutive. Therefore, the carry-over provision is remarkable. The House rightly recognises that we have to give the promoters of private legislation that right to carryover; otherwise there would be gross injustice to those who had expended a great deal of time and money in a quasi-judicial manner in bringing their case before the House.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
I know that it is the accepted doctrine, but does my hon. Friend really think that it is such a valuable ingredient in the preservation of democracy that uncompleted legislation should fall at the end of every Session? It is rather akin to the Treasury being unable to think for more than one year at a time.
§ Mr. Moate
That is a matter of great debate. I should have thought that the vast majority of the House would agree that to remove that power of Parliament over the Executive would deliver such power to the Executive that parliamentarians would simply become mere rubber stamps. Let us not proceed down that line. My answer is that the power to stop legislation is our greatest strength. Therefore, we are according a remarkable privilege, and one that should be given only for private legislation.
We should think carefully about hybrid Bills, which is what we have here, with major Government legislation as part of it. We are allowing highly controversial legislation to be carried over to a new Session. In this case, we must do so because the promoters have been led down that path and it would be unjust of Parliament not to allow the case to continue to be put. In no way should we fail to understand the importance of what we are doing; nor should we do it lightly.
However, I must express my dissatisfaction with the hybrid procedure for a proposition of this nature. Some: valuable points have been made, for example, about the Waterloo terminus. We must put it on record that. consideration of the London terminus or termini of the Channel tunnel project is an integral part of the proceedings. It is fundamentally wrong that consideration of that terminus is not part of the whole procedure, and being examined in depth by whatever body is deemed appropriate to consider it. Nobody, even the strong supporters of the Bill, pretended that that consideration has been made.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) drew attention to this point, and then said rather sadly that, because we did not get a public inquiry to consider this matter, he would watch carefully the Government proposals during the coming months. However, his party voted against a public inquiry, so he is trying to have his cake and eat it when he worries about the absence of an inquiry against which he and his party voted.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
There are two issues. The first is whether there should have been a public inquiry at the beginning, and the Government made it clear that they would not have one, and the matter was fought and lost some time ago. The second was whether there should be an inquiry into whether the terminus in London should be 913 Waterloo or some other station. My argument was that given that it was clear that this was just a subsection within a clause, and there was not to be a public inquiry into it, there should be far more than two and a half days on limited selective questioning as to whether that was the appropriate formula, excluding asking British Rail to justify its position.
§ Mr. Moate
The hon. Gentleman said, "The matter was fought and lost some time ago," as though it were a matter of regret, when I presume that he was glad that the battle for a public inquiry was lost because he voted against a public inquiry. We now have to find out from him and his party what they expect by way of public inquiry into this one question.
It is regrettable that the Select Committee, for all its tremendous efforts, has excluded matters that are of fundamental concern, particularly safety, finance and fair compeitition. Other hon. Members have referred to fair competition. I fully accept that my right hon. and hon. Friends will endeavour to build into the project the requirement that there will be fair competition between the ferries and the tunnel. However, legislation now is unlikely to be effective a decade from now if a tunnel is built. It will be even less effective if French or overseas interests end up with a dominant financial interest in the tunnel. The ferries against which they will be competing will be British ferries.
It will be very hard to ensure that the Channel tunnel does not adopt a policy of predatory pricing against ferry operators if at that time the British financial interest in the tunnel is a minority interest. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will say just how we shall be able to ensure that the Channel tunnel operators do not adopt a predatory pricing policy against the remaining ferries. That is not a small matter. If all ferry operations were to come to an end, with all the consequent implications for defence, our maritime tradition and seafaring interests, I suspect that the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members and the electorate would be against the Channel tunnel project. We are entitled to far greater assurances from the Government on this point.
Without launching into any of the points that were made at some length by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), there is immense concern in our county about the environmental impact and damage to commercial interests and to our ports. It has nothing whatever to do with whether or not one was for or against entry into the EEC. To my hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury and for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) it is a romantic dream. They are welcome to it. That is fine. But to others the Channel tunnel is a transport communications system which has to be judged in the light of its impact upon our environment and our commercial interests. My hon. Friends do no justice to the argument by introducing fairly ancient arguments about the EEC.
Furthermore, construction of the tunnel is not necessarily an exciting and imaginative technological challenge to everybody. We have gone beyond that. Already we have highly efficient, varied, fast and economic transport links with the Community. I resent my hon. Friend's allegation that we are "little Englanders." This island has great maritime links with the continent of Europe and with the rest of the world. Being an island has made this country more outward looking than any other 914 nation. My hon. Friend wants to substitute one rolling motorway for a whole range of transport links with Europe. If he finds that exciting, so be it, but it is not right for him to level the charge at other people that because they are against that particular engineering project they are small-minded or "little Englanders." We can be very proud of our maritime links. They are highly developed and highly sophisticated and they are of immense value to this country.
I believe that this is a bad Bill. It will be environmentally damaging to our county and it will not be good for Britain. It is right that the promoters should be allowed to put their case fully, but they should put it in accordance with the traditions and procedures of this House. It should not be done lightly and it should be done now, but in a fairly relaxed manner. This Bill should be allowed to be further examined. Judging by all the historic references to past failures, this tunnel will never be built in our lifetime. During the forthcoming Session of Parliament, I think that the Bill will stumble at one of the many further hurdles that it has yet to encounter.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
I find myself in happy agreement with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who opened the debate for the Opposition by expressing appreciation for the work of the Select Committee. The House owes a considerable debt to the Chairman and the members of the Select Committee for the tremendous amount of work that they put in. Quite uniquely in the history of Select Committees, the Committee Members went to Kent to meet the local people and see on the ground what was going on. The House will want to put that fact on record.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North referred to the assertion that it would have been better to have a public inquiry. A public inquiry would involve an inspector, appointed by the Secretary of State, hearing the evidence, not in a wholly dissimilar way from the way in which the Select Committee heard the evidence before it. The inspector would then make his report in private to the Secretary of State, who, in private, would make his decision, against which there would be no appeal, and then publish the inspector's report together with his own decision.
I should have thought that, on a matter of such unique national importance as the Channel tunnel, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North would take the view that it required something more than a Secretary of State taking the ultimate decision, behind closed doors, as to whether the planning of this tunnel should go ahead. That is why the Select Committee procedure, with the Committee sitting in public and making its report public, is a more democratic one. The highest tribunal of the land can take the decision. The hon. Gentleman can take another view, but I am putting forward mine.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
As the Minister takes such a view of the highly democratic nature of our Parliament and the need for Members of Parliament to make up their own minds, will he guarantee that when the Bill is again considered by the House — if the motion is passed —there will be no Government Whips operating?
§ Mr. Mitchell
The hon. Gentleman will be aware—he need have no hesitation or doubt about this—that in this matter the Whips will not be of signal importance. My 915 hon. Friends who are not in favour of the Channel Tunnel Bill will vote against it, Whips or no Whips. The hon. Gentleman can take that assurance.
The next point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North concerned the need for inland clearance depots linked to British Rail. I agree that at the moment there are rail-served inland clearance depots at Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Stratford, London. He is right. This is something to which we should pay close attention. I recently asked for further information about the best location for British Rail's linkage with various parts of the country. As the hon. Gentleman may know, Sheffield has been taking a special interest in the possibility of establishing a new inland clearance depot with that in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) sought to make a funeral oration over the Channel tunnel. Mark Twain's response seems particularly appropriate:The report of my death was an exaggeration.My hon. Friend went on to assert that only £206 million had been raised out of £5,000 million required, and that this was only 4 per cent. of the money. My hon. Friend has got it wrong. The promoters are not seeking that amount of equity. The vast majority of that sum will be in the form of loans for which contact has already been made. Twenty five per cent of the equity has already been raised. It is remarkable that that amount has been raised before the Bill has gone through the House, before the legislation has gone through the French Parliament, before the treaty has been ratified and before the concession agreement has come into effect and subjected to an unparalleled campaign of substantial distortion by the opponents of the proposal. On that basis, it is remarkable that the equity raising has been so successful.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South said that the project had been saved, but asked for whose benefit. He went on to say that the winners would be the few investors in Eurotunnel who stand to make a fortune. My hon. Friend is apparently suffering from schizophrenia because a little later he went on to say that the project was a south sea bubble and that no profits would be made from it. His schizophrenia showed itself again when he talked about the French investing in the tunnel and it being a French tunnel. The last time we debated this issue my hon. Friend tried to persuade us that the French would withdraw their support. He now alleges that it is a profitable operation in which they wish to invest. He should he careful not to contradict himself too often.
My hon. Friend spoke of the garden of England going grey under concrete. In any case, whatever happens, the traffic going through the east Kent area—whether it is Channel tunnel or port—will double by the end of the century and we will have to provide massive additional road infrastructure for that purpose. That is where the largest part of the concrete to which my hon. Friend referred will be.
Because this is a rail link tunnel, British Rail expects that it will take no fewer than 1,000 38-tonne lorries a day off the Kent roads. The environmentalists and my hon. Friend, if he wishes to be unbiased in these matters, can take some satisfaction from that.
My hon. Friend referred to taxpayers' money for British Rail. I assure him that the money for BR in this project is wholly commercial. There will be no extension of the public service obligation and the taxpayers' 916 contribution to BR in respect of financing its work for the Channel tunnel. About £390 million of expenditure is to be incurred at 1985 prices, which will provide a useful number of jobs, but it will be commercial money. It will not come from the taxpayer. The project will be fully viable in its own right.
My hon. Friend asked what gains there would he and said that there would not be gains in jobs. It is certain that not only will there be gains in jobs—about 10.000 a year on average over the next seven years during construction of the tunnel — but that once it is completed, as my hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) said, exporters and industrialists in the far north will be able to get their goods delivered to the markets of Europe. Sixty per cent. of our exports go to Europe. We shall be able to get delivery of those goods to the markets within 24 hours with a reliability, speed and low cost which cannot apply today. In doing so, we will ensure that jobs will be more secure in the north of the country than they are now, with the present disadvantages.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) drew attention to the opportunities for BR to exploit our geographical position. He was right. With his long experience of sea matters, he will be familiar with the development of the vast international container ships going one way around the world which seek one, and only one, stop in Europe. The map shows that one stop in the United Kingdom with a Channel tunnel will provide them with the best, most economic way of getting their containers into the European market.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) asked me to confirm the correctness of my earlier assertion that, if the Bill is required to go through a further Session, there must be a further carry-forward motion. I can assure him on that score. What I said at the beginning was correct.
§ Mr. Silkin
That was not the assurance for which I asked. The assurance I requested was that, if the Bill becomes stuck in the next Session, it will not be carried forward into the Session after that. The hon. Gentleman did not deal with the point that I made about the Standing Order. On the contrary, he has now confirmed that, in the Government's view, it will run from Session to Session.
§ Mr. Mitchell
Let us be absolutely clear. Tonight we are ensuring that the Bill goes forward, later this month, to the new Session of Parliament. We are not ensuring that it would automatically be carried on the basis of the motion tonight into any future Session of Parliament, either because of a general election intervening, or because of the end of that Session of Parliament.
§ Mr. Silkin
Will the Minister make this absolutely clear? Can the Government give the assurance that if the Bill fails in the next Session that will be the end and it will have to start the process all over again? I want that assurance, because that was what the hon. Gentleman was trying to tell me—that there would be no carry forward from next Session to the Session after that.
§ Mr. Mitchell
Of course I am not going to give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance; nor would he expect me to do that. He knows perfectly well that the Bill has Government support. If, for any reason that I cannot imagine, it was still around at the end of the next Session, 917 or if a general election were to intervene, of course I would expect to see the Bill brought up again and carried forward into the ensuing Session.
The right hon. Member for Deptford gave us a very interesting dissertation on Ramsay MacDonald and the 1931 precedent. He suggested that tonight was a major parliamentary event.
§ Mr. Mitchell
The right hon. Gentleman did suggest that this was a major parliamentary event. He drew attention to the fact that Ramsay MacDonald had moved a similar motion in respect of London Transport in 1931. It has now become common practice for hybrid Bills to be treated in this way, and that is acknowledged in "Erskine May".
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that this was not the right thing to spend "our money on." I wrote those words down as he used them. It is not spending "our money." I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would recall that the project is completely privately financed. "Our money" is not being put into it, and that is one of the big advantages. The risks are being taken by the investors and not by the taxpayers.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Rees) raised a number of important points. He expressed anxiety over the uncertainty that his constituents face, especially in the way of blight. That is a very good reason why the House should see the project through and come to a decision in the ensuing Session of Parliament as quickly as possible. I can give my right hon. and learned Friend the assurances that he sought about competition, and I can add that the Government have agreed to bring forward a clause in Standing Committee that will prohibit the Government from providing funds or guarantees to Eurotunnel. I hope that that will remove some of my right hon. and learned Friend's anxieties.
My right hon. and learned Friend also raised the question of the A20 and stated how important the road is to his constituents. I know that it is important for relieving congestion, for reducing accidents and for providing relief for Capel le Ferne. However, my right hon. and learned Friend will know, and the House will want to know, that we must seek the views of the Select Committee. Like my right hon. and learned Friend, I shall be watching with great interest to see what the Select Committee has to say on that subject.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) spoke about the sole use of Waterloo as an outlet for the Channel tunnel. I draw his attention to the fact that it is British Rail's intention to run services to Waterloo and through Olympia to the northern parts of the country. One would be able to get a train from Glasgow, Manchester or Birmingham and pass through Olympia. Waterloo will not have the sole concentration of traffic. Having said that, in answer to the worries that the hon. Gentleman expressed, I must tell him that the number of trains that enter Waterloo daily is legion. In the project we are talking about four trains an hour. We should have some sense of proportion about this, rather than assume that 500,000 people a day will pour through the place so that one would not be able to move for the resulting congestion.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland
The Minister is well aware that it is not just four trains an hour, but four trains of exceptional length, each equivalent to two trains. In addition, it is four trains in and out. Will he answer the traffic flow figures that have been given which suggest that they are equivalent to Gatwick? In reality, Lambeth—for example—has no elevation, no study of the plans for a terminal to absorb that sort of traffic.
Will the Minister also address the question of the social criteria and the impact on land use values? Unfortunately, the Minister's committee would not accept those criteria, and no one else seems to be considering them. That is one reason why the community groups withdrew from the committee.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I shall come to the hon. Gentleman's last point in a moment. He expressed some outrage that there was no evidence from British Rail before the committee. The committee had the power to require British Rail to give it whatever evidence it required. If it decided that it did not require further evidence, so he it.
In respect of the number of passengers, British Rail must plan its terminal not on annual figures but on peak flows, based on the number of trains arriving and leaving in any hour, and with the expectation that at certain points in the year those trains will be nearly full. That is what British Rail's consultants, Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, have done. They have assumed four full trains inwards and four full trains outwards an hour, which is the most that the railway network between the tunnel and London can accommodate. That would provide 6,000 additional passengers in the hour moving through Waterloo. The consultants examined how they could be handled by the road system and the Underground, and concluded that there was adequate capacity on both. Indeed, with an altered road layout within the station, the road conditions on surrounding roads during peak periods in 2003 will be no worse than at present.
The hon. Gentleman raised a point about the joint consultation committee. That was an opportunity to expose, with the representatives of British Rail standing in front of the committee, all the figures, facts and information. I deeply regret that, for very narrow reasons, the representatives of the Lambeth area walked out of that meeting. Other councils were able to extract a great deal of useful information from British Rail.
It reflects ill on the hon. Gentleman that, having encouraged me to set up the committee, his local representatives should walk out and then complain later that they did not obtain the information that they wanted.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland
The Minister is well aware that they are not my local representatives — [Interruption.] No, no, no—the House should get this clear. We are not talking about Lambeth council and its representation; we are talking about local community groups. The local community group decided that as the question of the social impact of the Channel tunnel traffic would not be taken into account by the committee, and that it would be solely a matter of the traffic implications, they could not cooperate with the committee. These questions will not be answered at all. Gibbs has not answered them. There will be the equivalent of 16 trains an hour, with Gatwick-like traffic, going through a terminal building about the size of this Chamber. It is quite absurd.
§ Mr. Mitchell
The hon. Gentleman should know—and I am sorry that he does not— that the reason why Lambeth representatives walked out had nothing to do with the explanation that he has just given. It was because they wanted the meetings held in public so that they could turn it into a public meeting rather than one in which elected representatives could discuss issues—rather as the elected representatives in Kent discussed them and as a result secured a number of changes.
The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of a report in the New Civil Engineer and asked whether it was true that British Rail was planning secretly to build a new line to the east of Sevenoaks. He asked me to deny that. The hon. Gentleman might be interested in the anatomy of a rumour. Some months ago British Rail asked some younger members of staff to work out every single, conceivable option —there were 50 of them, and this was one. Forty-nine were rejected, and this is one that was rejected as not being a potential runner. How the magazine got hold of that one and picked it up rather than the other 49 I would not know, but it was on that basis that the article rested. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that there is no truth in the rumour and that there is no reason to place any reliance on it.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland
Is the Minister saying that the proposal will never be put to the Government and will never be accepted by them for such traffic, despite its major implications for the scheme?
§ Mr. Mitchell
I have just explained the antecedents of the rumour. As BR rejected it, and as I can handle only propositions that come to me from BR, no such proposition is on the table.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I asked two questions about Waterloo. Is the fact that the Select Committee decided not to hear BR the end of the matter? Will there be a private Bill for the terminal at Waterloo, or will there be a public inquiry?
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am sorry if I omitted to answer those questions. No, there will not be a further Bill. That matter is contained in this measure, and as the relevant schedules will come before the Standing Committee there will be further opportunity for debate then.
My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury courageously put a view which not all his constituents share. I have been in Canterbury three times in the last month and almost every one of the younger people I met in the city was wholly in favour of the scheme. History will judge my hon. Friend well for the stand that he is taking.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) raised a number of points. He said that the Select Committee should not be hurried. That is the purpose of this motion, which provides two options. One deals with the possibility of the Select Committee completing its work in time, while the other does not. The whole of the worry that the hon. Gentleman expressed has been fully catered for.
The hon. Gentleman asked why Waterloo and not Victoria? The platforms at Victoria are not long enough and the amount of property that would have to be demolished would be considerable. He then asked why not Blackfriars. The platforms there are not long enough and could not he made long enough. Why not London Bridge, he asked. The curve of the line there would not allow trains 920 of this length to be handled properly. I have already answered his question about whether there will be more opportunity for debate. As I explained, the schedules will provide that opportunity.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West was also uneasy about the Waterloo situation. I have explained the opportunity that was given to the representatives of the people of Waterloo and Lambeth and how they walked out on that opportunity, so they can hardly grumble about a lack of such opportunity.
Hon. Members also drew attention to one of the most important factors arising out of the Channel tunnel, and that is its effect on BR and the opportunity for BR to be linked into the whole of the European rail network. I profoundly believe that the opportunities that that will provide for our exporters in north Wales, Glasgow and the north of the country—to be able to compete on equal terms with others who have land frontiers with the major countries of Europe will prove in the long run to be one of the most lasting beneficial effects to flow from the Channel tunnel.
Whether hon. Members support or oppose the Channel tunnel, I believe that none of us would want to put all the petitioners to the trouble and expense of re-representing their views to a new Select Committee, so I hope that the whole House will approve the carry forward proposal. An expert on procedure told me that the subject of a carryover motion of this sort on a private or hybrid Bill could be said to be twofold—to make petitioners less poor than they otherwise would be, and lawyers less rich than they otherwise would be. I commend it to the House.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 73.922
|Division No. 307]||[11.40 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Chope, Christopher|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Clarke, Rt Hon K (Rushcliffe)|
|Amess, David||Cockeram, Eric|
|Ancram, Michael||Conway, Derek|
|Arnold, Tom||Coombs, Simon|
|Ashby, David||Cope, John|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Couchman, James|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Crouch, David|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Baldry, Tony||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J|
|Batiste, Spencer||Dover, Den|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Durant, Tony|
|Bellingham, Henry||Dykes, Hugh|
|Benyon, William||Evennett, David|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fallon, Michael|
|Blackburn, John||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Forth, Eric|
|Bottomley, Peter||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Gale, Roger|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bright, Graham||Gregory, Conal|
|Brinton, Tim||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Harris, David|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hickmet, Richard|
|Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam||Hind, Kenneth|
|Butterfill, John||Hirst, Michael|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Cash, William||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Lang, Ian|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lightbown, David||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lilley, Peter||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Livsey, Richard||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lord, Michael||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Silvester, Fred|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Sims, Roger|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Maclean, David John||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Speed, Keith|
|Major, John||Spencer, Derek|
|Malins, Humfrey||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Malone, Gerald||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Marland, Paul||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Marlow, Antony||Stern, Michael|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Mellor, David||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Merchant, Piers||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Moate, Roger||Thurnham, Peter|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Murphy, Christopher||Tracey, Richard|
|Neale, Gerrard||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Nicholls, Patrick||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Norris, Steven||Waddington, David|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Walden, George|
|Osborn, Sir John||Wallace, James|
|Ottaway, Richard||Waller, Gary|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Ward, John|
|Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Watts, John|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Wheeler, John|
|Porter, Barry||Whitfield, John|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Price, Sir David||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Wolfson, Mark|
|Raffan, Keith||Wood, Timothy|
|Rathbone, Tim||Yeo, Tim|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Rowe, Andrew||Mr. Michael Neubert and|
|Ryder, Richard||Mr. Michael Portillo.|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Forrester, John|
|Barnett, Guy||Foster, Derek|
|Barron, Kevin||Foulkes, George|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Garrett, W. E.|
|Bermingham, Gerald||George, Bruce|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Caborn, Richard||Hardy, Peter|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Clay, Robert||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Clelland, David Gordon||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||Home Robertson, John|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Deakins, Eric||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Dewar, Donald||Lamond, James|
|Dormand, Jack||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Douglas, Dick||Leighton, Ronald|
|Dubs, Alfred||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Eadie, Alex||Loyden, Edward|
|Eastham, Ken||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||McWilliam, John|
|Fisher, Mark||Madden, Max|
|Flannery, Martin||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Maxton, John||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|Michie, William||Soley, Clive|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Spearing, Nigel|
|O'Brien, William||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Patchett, Terry||Wareing, Robert|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Welsh, Michael|
|Redmond, Martin||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Mr. Don Dixon and|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J.||Mr. Allen Adams.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That if a Bill is presented in the next Session in the same terms as those in which the Channel Tunnel Bill stood when proceedings thereon were suspended in this Session—
That this Order he a Standing Order of the House.