§ 3. Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)
What recent representations he has received on the expansion of rail freight. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr. David Jamieson)
Both my Department and the Strategic Rail Authority regularly receive representations from interested parties promoting the expansion of rail freight. The scope of these contacts is wide ranging. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is as encouraged as I am that, after years of decline, there has been a 20 per cent. increase in the amount of freight on the railway lines since 1997.
§ Mr. Duncan
The Minister will be aware that the Government's target for the increase in rail freight is 80 per cent., and some 43 per cent. of that needs to be delivered through the completion of the west coast main line. What is the projected mix of passengers and freight on that line, given its crucial importance to the Scottish economy? Exactly when is it going to be rescued from its current state of chaos?
§ Mr. Jamieson
The SRA is looking closely at the west coast main line with a view to increasing the amount of passenger and freight traffic. It may have been a temporary lapse of memory that caused the hon. Gentleman not to mention the substantial amount of funding that Scotland has derived from the rail freight grant, not least for the Nith valley project near his constituency, which received £1 million for the Thornhill loop in June 2000.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
Is my hon. Friend aware that, before we can encourage more freight on to the railways, we have to maintain our existing services? Will he please give an undertaking that the French Government will be told in no uncertain terms that firms in my constituency are about to go bankrupt because of the attitude of the French authorities to the constant pressure of people trying to get on to freight trains on the other side of the channel tunnel, and that that will not be allowed to continue because it is putting drivers and would-be immigrants at risk?
§ Mr. Jamieson
I thank my hon. Friend for her justifiable concern in this important matter. The restrictions and their impact are of considerable concern 138 to the Government. We are exerting pressure at the highest levels to get the French Government to restore the freight service without further disruption. The French Government have taken the extremely helpful step of changing French law to give United Kingdom immigration officials authority on the Eurostar while they are on French soil. Since February, we have even had the power to check the papers of those who are making internal journeys in France, which is an unprecedented extension of our powers. My hon. Friend raises important matters with regard to freight and they are being dealt with at the highest level by the Government.
§ Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar)
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the question. The question was not about checking papers but about freight and people smuggling themselves on to freight trains. In a written answer to me dated 30 January 2002 the Minister promised that work to strengthen the fencing was under way and due to be completed by mid-February. He also said that he had received assurances that security measures and a police presence would be put in place. That increased fencing turns out to be little more than 3 m high, flimsy and little better than chicken wire. Not surprisingly, last week 200 m of that was pulled down and there is no sign of the French CRS police. It is little wonder that business is losing confidence. The Scottish whisky industry no longer uses the tunnel, large paper manufacturers no longer use the tunnel and major freight companies are going into bankruptcy. When will the Government do something about that? It is time that they ended the pointless civil war inside the Department, stopped attacking civil servants, and stood up for Britain rather than a departed spin doctor.
§ Mr. Jamieson
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman rather lost the plot at the end of his question. While the Government concentrate on the problems of the channel tunnel, he concentrates on the problems of personalties. Many of the matters that he just mentioned have been dealt with already. Unfortunately, he looked rather pleased when he said that some of the measures that had been taken were not working. The Government are concerned—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman would stop wagging his finger for a moment and listen to what I am saying, it might be beneficial to the House. The hon. Gentleman is clearly rattled by the answer that he is getting and does not like it. I can assure him that the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) raised in a serious manner in the context of current discussions are being addressed at the very highest level, and that many of the measures that we have put in place, or have asked the French to put in place, are working.