Orders of the Day — Channel Tunnel Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30 April 1974.

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Order for Second Reading read.

4.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I have it in Command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her prerogative interest, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

As the House knows, this is an identical Bill to that which was before the last Parliament and received a Second Reading on 5th December 1973. It is not unusual, following a General Election, that this should happen, but perhaps it is somewhat unusual that today the new Government should be asking the House to give a Second Reading to a Bill against which, in Opposition, we voted on the previous occasion. Obviously, we had to consider our position on taking office regarding the Channel Tunnel project, and I am glad to say that my right hon. Friends took the view that I ventured to put when I was pressed by the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) on 5th December. I said then: In any event, when the next General Election comes, the treaty will have been signed, which was not the case when we debated the White Paper. As a new Government, we should have to pick up the situation as it was then and consider it then.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December 1973; Vol. 865, c. 1378.] The Government's position was made clear about the Channel Tunnel project by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in his statement of 3rd April.

The Labour Party has never been opposed to the principle of the tunnel. Indeed the basic agreements to explore the possibility of a tunnel are still those of 1966, made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, who was then Minister of Transport. Nevertheless, we have been unhappy about certain elements in the scheme as it developed under the last Government, as we explained in the debates in the last Parliament. There is therefore in our view need for a full and searching reassessment of the project as a whole.

In particular the economic and financial assessments must be reviewed, particularly in the light of developments in the energy situation. Much of the work on reassessing the project in the light of developments is already in hand on behalf of all the partners in the project.

As we maintained in opposition, however, we feel it essential that there should be an independent element in the current review. The precise arrangements are still under discussion, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends to appoint a small high-powered group of independent advisers not previously associated with the project. They will be asked to consider both the adequacy of the financial and economic assessments of the project and certain specific aspects of the scheme as it developed under the last Government. Their advice will be available while the studies are in progress, and while they will not, of course, be duplicating work already carried out or in hand on a satisfactory basis, additional work could be commissioned if that seemed desirable in the light of their comments. We shall make their views on the results of the economic and financial reassessment of the project generally available before Parliament is asked to consider whether the scheme should go beyond phase 2.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

As the anti-Channel Tunnel group always held that there has not been an independent inquiry, would it be possible for it to give evidence before the inquiry so that it may feel satisfied that it is independent?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

It is not intended that we take up time with a formal inquiry. We have asked independent people to assess information and to seek additional information so that they can give an independent assessment. We do not have a great public inquiry in mind.

Photo of Mr Peter Rees Mr Peter Rees , Dover and Deal

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long the inquiry is likely to take, because this is a matter of great concern in East Kent and many important decisions may have to be deferred until the result of the inquiry is known?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

With respect, this is not so because it is intended that the independent assessment should go along with the studies, which is what phase 2 is about. We shall not in any even have the information on which the House could take a decision until at the earliest the early months of next year. This has always been in the timetable which has been expounded since phase 1, and no change is envisaged as a result of the arrangements in the timetable set out and agreed with the French Government by the last administration.

Another major point for re-examiation is the balance between road and rail. There are, in particular, two elements. The first is what can be done to increase the through rail traffic and, secondly, will the growth of road ferry traffic, whether using the Tunnel or the sea ferries, be as great as indicated in the earlier forecasts which were made before the recent fuel crisis? I am already in touch with the chairman of the British Railways Board on the prospects for rail traffic and I look forward to a meeting as soon as possible to discuss these matters with the French Minister concerned.

There is also need to consider the impact the Channel Tunnel could have, especially after very high speed trains come into service during the 1980s, on the traffic for which we need to provide at the London airports. All this can be done during phase 2 without adding to the eventual cost of the works, if it is decided to complete the project in phase 3.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley , Tonbridge and Malling

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point about encouraging further through rail traffic, can he confirm that he is including in the encompass of the review the provisions of the Anglo-French Treaty, in particular Article 8, which stipulates that the operating policy should be based on non-discrimination between road and rail?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I am well aware of that provision. Had the hon. Gentleman been in the last Parliament he would have known that I referred to it myself on a number of occasions. This is one of the points I shall wish to discuss with my French colleague. I am always willing to give way to hon. Members, but I hope that if I do so there will not be complaints if my speech is longer than usual. If I give way to hon. Members I shall not be able to accept responsibility for going on for 10 or 15 minutes longer than I would otherwise have to take.

If we are to keep the option open to complete the project we need to ratify the treaty by the end of 1974 and to have available all the powers needed before we could enter on Agreement No. 3 and the main works—phase 3—due in mid-1975. The Bill provides the necessary powers. If we are not able to ratify the treaty covering phase 2, signed on 15th November last, by 1st January next —or such later date as mutually agreed by the two Governments—the project is automatically treated as being abandoned. That is why the passing of the present Bill is an essential part of the process of keeping open the option to proceed while the further studies continue.

But this in no way prejudges the decision to be taken at the end of phase 2, as my right hon. Friend made clear in his statement of 3rd April. No such decision will be taken without putting the matter again before the House. It does not involve any additional commitment to the principle of the tunnel, nor as I shall try to explain does it involve any limiting commitment to features of the project which we are concerned to review.

The Channel Tunnel Bill is largely a technical measure which would enable the British Government to carry out their obligations under the treaty and agreements, if it is agreed that construction should be authorised. As I have explained, it needs to be passed now before a final decision can be taken, to avoid delay and to fulfil our treaty obligations. I must also add that it will be necessary for British Rail to continue urgently with the planning of the rail link to London on which it initiated detailed consultations three months ago and for which it will seek the necessary powers in a Private Bill which it hopes to present next November A new link is an essential element in the scheme as a whole. A tunnel able only to carry road traffic and such rail services as could be got through the overcrowded Southern Region would not be acceptable to us. But no final decision on the route to be included in that railway Bill has yet been taken.

The present Government would wish to see some changes in the project. Some of these, for instance possible measures to increase through rail traffic, will not call for any change in the treaty, the Agreements or the Bill, but be purely internal matters while others, for instance over the details of financial arrangements, we may need to negotiate with our partners.

Any such changes could, however, be made within the general framework of the Bill and the treaty in the negotiations which must in any event be held prior to reaching Agreement No. 3. It is for that reason that it has been possible to take the course of reintroducing the Bill and thus, under the motion passed at the end of the last Parliament, to save both the complexities of complying with the Private Bill Standing Orders again and, more important, to save the costs of the existing petitioners. It would have been quite wrong if petitioners against a Bill had been put to additional expense because of the accident of the timing of the General Election, and I am advised that it would not have been possible to save their costs unless we reintroduced the Bill in exactly the same form as it had been when put before the last Parliament.

I should indicate certain amendments which we shall wish to make to the Bill, with the consent of the House, in Committee. Some of these are to increase the control of the local authorities over certain aspects of the design and method of execution of the works, while others are more technical.

There are, however, two gaps in the Bill as it stands. First, we propose to put an obligation on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider with the British Railways Board and the National Freight Corporation how best full advantage can be taken of the opportunities of the tunnel to divert traffic from road to rail. Secondly, while the Bill contains provisions about annual reports during the operation of the tunnel, there is no provision for regular reports to Parliament during the crucial construction phase of the project. I would wish this further provision to be made, too.

I hope that the House will agree, in view of the lack of time, that I should not go in great detail through the various clauses. I see present some hon. Members who will recall our previous debates. Part I and the bulk of the schedules provide for the necessary "land and works" powers. Clause 5 will require some amendment to increase local authority control over the works. Part II provides the framework of financial powers. The financial terms as between the public and private sectors, which we shall certainly wish to review in great detail before the renegotiations which are due to take place in 1975, are set out in Agreement No. 2. Under the Treaty and until it is ratified by an exchange of notes between the two Government, all liabilities falling on the Governments, for example in the event of abandonment, and all profits if the scheme is successfully completed, are shared on a 50–50 basis.

The maximum limits of the guarantee are the same as in the original Bill. There has been no change in the forecast cost of the tunnel in real terms, although this will be reviewed during phase 2. The out-turn cost will depend on rates of inflation and interest over the next six years. I should be reluctant to accept that the recent rates will continue throughout that period. Part III of the Bill establishes the British board as the British component of the Channel Tunnel Authority.

The provisions of this and Schedule 4 are based largely on existing nationalised industry statutes with such changes as are needed to allow for the binational nature of the project and the minority participation of the Channel Tunnel companies. Part IV contains a number of miscellaneous provisions. My hon. Friends will appreciate even more than Opposition Members the possible advantages of Clauses 33 and 34 which would enable construction of the tunnel to be continued should the present arrangements ever be abandoned. "Abandonment" is a technical phrase which can cover nationalisation. But while one Government can "abandon", it takes two to complete the tunnel.

If the Bill is passed this will keep our options open. The House is not now being asked to decide whether the tunnel should be built. That question will arise only after the reassessment has been completed. Only the signature of Agreement No. 3 after Parliament has considered the outcome of our reassessment can initiate phase III and the main works. We hope that the revised traffic forecasts will be available at about the end of this year and our complete reassessment of the project in the early months of 1975. At that time, too, the financial terms will have to be renegotiated.

The results of the studies and the terms negotiated will be published. I give a categoric assurance to hon. Members that there will be an opportunity for the House to debate and vote on the project at that time before any commitment is undertaken to carry it forward into phase 3 and the main construction works. I ask the House to allow the Bill to go forward for detailed examination in Select and Standing Committees.

4.45 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

I will follow the Minister in trying to be brief because I know that a large number of my Friends wish to speak. Many of their constituents are affected by this Bill.

There is another reason why I need not speak for too long. As the Minister pointed out, the Bill is the same as that introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), to whom I must pay tribute. He handled this subject magnificently while he was in power, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman will understand when I say I am sorry he could not see it through. The then Under-Secretary, Keith Speed, made a very clear introduction of the Bill on 5th December. We have only to read that to see what it is all about.

As an old parliamentarian—

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

As one who has been in this House for some considerable time, may I make a preliminary point. We all understand that the right hon. Gentleman may find himself in a little difficulty today. We have changed sides in this House and unfortunately there have been times when changing sides has appeared to change opinions. That is one of the things which has led to a certain amount of cynicism on the part of the public towards politicians. I noted that last time we debated the matter the right hon. Gentleman said, If I were now in a position to take this kind of decision I should not be recommending to the Government and the House that we proceed with the present tunnel plan as composed, or at this moment of time with any tunnel plan at all".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December 1973; Vol. 865, c. 1321.] I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's partial conversion and hope that in the end it will be a complete conversion. I am sure that he will begin to understand that this is one of the exciting big projects on the political agenda. We are going through a period in politics when it seems that all the exciting big projects are stopped and politics appears to have become about bread and cheese. There are more things in life than that. [Interruption.] Bread and cheese are also important but so are some of the more visionary ideas to the abilities and resourcefulness of our people.

The first issue I want to raise is that of compensation for those affected by works associated with the tunnel. One of the most encouraging things about the whole project has been the way in which Members whose constituencies are most affected have refused to be limited in their vision by a specifically parochial view but have been prepared to look at the wider national outlook. Part of this is due to the action taken by successive Governments, particularly the last one, to see that those whose properties and lives were affected should have generous compensation.

It is also due to the strenous efforts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil to see the people concerned, to meet points put to him and to meet hon. Members who care on behalf of their constituents. It is due, too, to the willingness of the companies concerned to help in these matters. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will continue this and will be anxious to see that those affected receive full and generous compensation.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

May I echo the right hon. Lady's tribute to her right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) for the way in which he met local authorities and Members concerned. I will try to follow that lead.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

We are most grateful.

The White Paper said that the provisions of the Land Compensation Act 1973 would apply to those whose property was to be affected by the proposals. Although that paragraph comes shortly after the paragraphs headed "The Railway Link and Installations", I understand there is some doubt as to whether the Act applies to railway works, since it was drafted with roadworks and airports in mind. May I ask the Minister specifically whether it does apply to the rail link, because that is obviously one of the most important questions for a number of my hon. Friends. Further, will the noise insulation regulations of 1973 apply? If not, will steps be taken to ensure that they do? This is particularly important for Members representing Kent and Surrey, where much land and property will be affected. My hon. Friends who represent Surrey and Kent constituencies, particularly my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), are very anxious about this.

I was a little confused by what the Minister said about the timetable. I do not see the timetable stretching ahead as clearly as he seems to see it. I understand that phase 2 ends in July next year, 15 months from now. The teams who are working on the project will want a decision whether the project will continue three or four months before that. We do not want the design and working teams on a big project like this wondering three or four months in advance whether the scheme has a future, so that we must have a decision at least a clear three or four months before the end of phase 2. That will bring the timetable back to about March.

In a statement made a few weeks ago the Secretary of State for the Environment said that the reassessment would be complete by the end of next summer. I challenged him on it at the time and asked whether that was time enough to make the reassessment, and the more I look at it the more it seems an insufficient time for making the sort of reassessment he had in mind.

I understood that the Secretary of State was to consider whether the existing traffic could be provided for by alternative means. There is not time for that to be done and for a judgment to be made by the early months of next year. The treaty has to be ratified by 1st January. In the meantime we have to go ahead drafting Agreement No. 3, and that draft must be deposited by 1st April. Between those times we must have received the report from the independent consultants, considered it, debated it and made a decision upon it. Are we going to ratify the treaty before a final decision is made? When do we expect to make a final decision? Before doing so we must have time to consider the report.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

We need to ratify the treaty that was signed in November by 1st January so as to allow phase 2 to continue. If we do not do that the project is abandoned. That is why the Bill is so important. We do not—and under the treaty we cannot—have in mind any change in the timetable set by the previous Government. My hon. Friend in winding up the debate will deal with the complexities at greater length.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

My recollection is that the Conservative Government intended that the final decision should be made by about the time of the Third Reading of the Bill—although I may not be quite right about that. But there is this totally new factor of the reassessment. I hope that the Minister who winds up the debate will give more details about what that reassessment includes. The Secretary of State was vague. His few words were more a cloak to what he meant than a revelation.

We should also like to know a little more about the road-to-rail orientation. The whole costing of the tunnel is based upon the rolling motorway as well as the rail concept. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman had rejected the rail-only link. If that part of the timetable can be sorted out I shall be grateful.

There are two matters about the British railways timetable which concern me. The first is the short-term timetable which particularly affects my hon. Friends who represent constituencies on the shores of the rail link. The right hon. Gentleman said, rightly, that no decision about the precise route had yet been taken. Of course it has not. The plans have been available to the people affected only for a few weeks, and many have not yet seen them. We are worried about the shortness of the timetable. If the plans for the Private Bill are to be deposited by 1st November, the full details of every property affected will have to be worked out by about June. Remembering the summer holidays, that does not leave much time for the appropriate consultations, particularly as Surrey has produced a plan of four different routes. People will be alarmed if they feel that their interests are not being properly protected and that they are not to have full consultations before the decision is made. Some of my hon. Friends will need a great deal of reassurance on that.

On the longer-term British Railways timetable, is the right hon. Gentleman confident that the money made available by his Government to British Railways will be adequate and that British Railways will be able to construct the rail links in time? The treaty contains a penalty clause in Article 5.6.2 to the effect that, if neither road nor rail links are properly constructed by the date of the operation of the tunnel, the Government in default must pay to the authority a sum equal to the net loss of income to the authority resulting from the absence of the road or rail link. To settle the route, to have the capital sums made available and to get all the construction work completed within a six-year period is a large undertaking, and I should like to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is confident that it can be done.

In considering alternatives to the tunnel, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account that Kent—with which I have had connections for many years—already has problems caused by the volume of traffic and heavy freight passing through it. It already urgently needs the requisite roads to be constructed. A great deal of expenditure will be needed whatever view is taken about the Channel Tunnel.

There are several reasons why the costs of any project may rise. First, they may rise because the design is substantially altered during the project. That happens with an unknown project in which new technologies are involved. One would not expect much of the design of the tunnel to be changed. There may be one or two minor variations arising from the technical work that is now being done on the tunnel, but no substantial design alterations. There may also be one or two decisions which we cannot yet cost on the design of the rolling stock, but I do not believe that many increases will come from the alteration of the design of the project.

Secondly, there may be increases in cost because of insufficient allowance for contingencies. Sufficient allowance for these has probably been made in this project.

The third reason is the difficult one. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman referred to the real cost, which is the usual convention by which we cost projects in which the Government have a hand. There could be differences in the out-term cost because of the level of inflation used in the calculations. That level is just as much a decision for the Government to take as those connected with the project, and the Government must be prepared to take it, if we are to get a realistic cost assessment. I say that, knowing how difficult it is to take an economic view in these matters for any length of time ahead as the economic climate changes so quickly. If we are in difficulties about the precise out-turn cost, this is one of the reasons for it.

I understand that there is a new assessment of the cost of the project amounting to £970 million, based on the following three factors—a higher construction cost escalation averaging 8·5 per cent. per annum, compared with the former figure of 7 per cent.; a higher interest rate during the construction and the remuneration period averaging 10 per cent. per annum, compared with the previous figure of 9 per cent.; and a delay of three months in the completion of the construction. Any delay is very expensive in terms of cost. On that basis the total estimate is £970 million. Therefore, I hope that before a final costing is reached, the Government will make it clear that they understand and agree with the levels of inflation put into the actual projections. This does not mean that they are committed to this level of inflation; indeed we hope that it will come down.

When all those assumptions have been made and the sets of figures calculated, the Government will have at last to come to a final, positive decision. I believe that will have to be well before Easter next year. I hope that there will be no question of putting off the decision by the classic method of having further inquiries. In the end that process turns out to be a way of saying "No" by a slow strangulation process. I believe that between January and Easter next year we shall have to take the decision and that the facts from the new assessment will have to be available by that time.

It is possible that the Bill may be obtained this side of a General Election. It is also possible that it will be a question of "third time lucky" for the introduction of this Bill. If that is the case, then I should like the Minister to know that I shall not adopt his tactics in any way. I shall be as happy to support the Bill in opposition as we were to support it when we were in government—and the same will apply when our places are reversed.

5.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

The last time I spoke on this Bill I was standing where the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was standing just now when making her contribution to the House. I do not intend to make precisely the same speech as she made, but I hope the House will forgive me if I make roughly the same speech as I made on that previous occasion.

In the last Parliament I was among those who were extremely sceptical about this Bill. I still remain extremely sceptical about the whole project. I say that, not just because I happen to be a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union which is opposed to Britain going ahead with this project, but because I believe that the Bill, even in its present form, leaves a variety of important questions unanswered. Some of the most important questions which have not yet been answered were neatly subsumed in a recent article by Bernard Levin in The Times. He thought it incredible that after all the arguments on cost advanced in 1962 and 1963 about the Concorde project, we should now, more than 10 years later, be using almost all the same arguments about the Channel Tunnel.

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

The interesting argument that is now being advanced against Concorde is that the Channel Tunnel is in some way supposed to be known technology, but I am sure the Minister realises that even if we go ahead with phase 2 that will reveal about 8 per cent. of the geology of the tunnel. It will not reveal any more than that. I would not have thought that a revelation of less than 8 per cent. of the geological difficulties of the tunnel would be enough to enable one to say that the technology is known.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will take into account the fact that similar arguments were advanced before the boring of the Mont Blanc tunnel. The Mont Blanc project turned out to involve a cost escalation amounting to 250 per cent. In other words, I think that the Channel Tunnel project, despite all the advocacy by its friends who say that it involves known technology, involves some very dubious technology, since we shall be embarking on a tunnel of 32 miles in length, a tunnel of a size that has not before been attempted.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend after he has spoken for only one and a half minutes, although he has managed to be controversial even in that short time. At least he and I are consistent in our views. Will my hon. Friend accept that he has changed the wording? The technology of a tunnel is not to be compared with the technology of Concorde. What he is complaining about is not unknown technology, but unknown geology.

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

I hope that we shall be using some technology to overcome that geology. Therefore, I think that technology is involved. We were in precisely the same difficulties when I last addressed the House on this topic.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport has not yet said what his railway policy is to be. We do not know the results of his consideration of British Rail's investment submission, nor do we know whether the Railways Board is to get the money for which it has asked. Furthermore, we do not know what my right hon. Friend or one of his other ministerial colleagues will do about the report of the Monopolies Commission on ferry prices.

We have heard a few hints in the Sunday Times that the ferries could afford to reduce their prices and that that monopoly is against the public interest, but we do not know the precise extent of that reduction, nor do we know when the Minister will carry it out. It is important to bear in mind, as the Channel Tunnel Opposition Association has shown, that in the present level of ferry prices in terms of the Channel there has been a 74 per cent. excess capacity factor over the year as a whole. If a transport system has been in operation with that sort of excess capacity figure over a year, that is an argument, not for building a tunnel, but for changing the pricing policy of the ferries.

We have still not learned from all the forecasting lessons of Maplin. In terms of the Maplin projections we have now learned that each forecast was more accurate than the last. It was the Channel Tunnel forecasts, retrodictive as they were, which shed more accurate light on Maplin than did the Maplin statistics and forecasts themselves. Perhaps in their review of the Maplin project the Government will forecast more accurately the situation on the Channel Tunnel project.

There has been an increase in oil prices since this legislation was last debated. Furthermore, there has since that time been an aviation fuel surcharge and there are more changes to come. I am surprised that we are talking about an out-turn cost of only £970 million. If we examined the old figures, we might have then made an assumption that if the rate of exchange of the pound were stable, if there were no unforeseen design problems or changes in specification, no increase in world interest rates, which is a somewhat unlikely supposition, and if we could somehow bring down the rate of inflation to 5 per cent.—a considerable achievement for any Government, particularly in the Western world—then in making those assumptions on the last proposed figure I think that we could have forecast that the total outturn would have been at least £1,020 million. I have not revised upwards all those assumptions for the new estimate of £970 million, but I venture to suggest that, even making all those assumptions, based on the new figure of £970 million, we are already talking about a total of £1,200 million. That excludes the cost of the railway link.

I do not know whether the Minister is still saying that the cost of the railway link is only £120 million, but if the right hon. Member for Finchley is seeking to press her claims, as I hope she will, in respect of soundproofing, and so on, regarding the Land Compensation Act, I suggest that the cost of the railway link will be more than £120 million, particularly as there are now a stream of objections, and rightly so, from those areas which will be affected.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend is talking about some independence of analysis of the figures. I do not wish to cast any aspersions on Messrs. Cooper Brothers but it has to be remembered that they are the business advisers of Rio Tinto-Zinc, which has a 20 per cent. interest in the British Channel Tunnel Company, that they are also business advisers of the British Channel Tunnel Company, and that they are also the joint auditors, with Messrs. Spicer and Pegler, of Rio Tinto-Zinc. What is more, Rio Tinto-Zinc is getting half the old management fee of £37 million, and we may have increased that for all I know. If my right hon. Friend suggests that all those people in Messrs. Cooper Brothers do not occasionally talk to one another, I find that difficult to accept. I am not impugning the integrity of Cooper Brothers, but it is rather more than coincidence that we have the same firms not only involved in the construction of the project but doing most of the surveys as well. I am glad that my right hon. Friend intends to introduce some independence of analysis into these calculations.

Then I echo the criticism that I made when I last spoke on the subject. It seems to me that whatever happens—whether the project does not go ahead or whether the Government suddenly chicken out—the private companies will be all right. They cannot lose. I wonder what will happen if the combined out-turn rises to something like £2,000 million. Based on the old estimate of £846 million, shall we see the taxpayer having to be prepared to stand by as guarantor to a fixed loan debt of £1,915 million? That is what would happen if, based on the old figure of £846 million, the out-turn rose to £2,000 million. Although the taxpayer may not have to pay out that money—although in certain circumstances he may—it is still a very substantial risk to ask him to bear, especially as the Government in the fixed interest market at the moment are already borrowing more than £4,000 million, despite the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce that amount of Government borrowing.

Then there will be the effect of that gigantic fixed interest borrowing on the bond market. I do not know what effect it will have on the rate of interest or on bond prices, but the effect that it has on the rate of interest and on bond prices again will upset some of the stable calculations which I fancy my right hon. Friend's Department has made in the past.

The hon. Member said that as the treaty with France stands there can be no discrimination between transport modes. I feel rather sorry for British Railways. They will have only a 4·7 per cent. stake in the British Channel Tunnel Company, whereas Rio Tinto-Zinc will have a 20 per cent. stake and most of the bankers a 6 per cent. or a 10 per cent. stake. In other words, the British Railways stake is a pretty measly one.

Then again, the operating authority will make its maximum profit not from straight-through trains but from roll-on, roll-off vehicle ferries. In other words, the operating authority is relying on a 75 per cent. transfer of cars with passengers to get the kind of profit projections forecast. If the company is relying for its success upon more and more rolling motorway traffic, how will the railways come off in these calculations? If my right hon. Friend is now saying that he will look at the project to see whether it can be made more railway-oriented does that mean that he will try to interfere with the terms of the treaty which says that there can be no discrimination? If my right hon. Friend is saying that we shall discriminate in favour of the railways he may then be affecting the profitability of the project. If he does not intend to interfere with discrimination between transport modes he may then be effectively discriminating in the end against the railways.

The Government will be the implementing body for the recommendation of the Monopolies Commission. The Government are responsible for international air fares, because the Civil Aviation Authority is responsible only for domestic air fares. In those circumstances I cannot see how they can be one of the operators, one of the referees and one of the arbiters. They seem to be prosecution, judge, jury and everything else rolled into one.

If the Channel Tunnel is to be a freely operating authority without discrimination between transport modes it will be anti-rail. If the Government tell the authority to discriminate in favour of railways they will not only go against the treaty but also be perhaps forcing a lower profitability on the operating authority. I hope that we shall hear a little about that before the end of the debate.

I am bound to say that, although the Government themselves may not be having to raise the money in the bond market because they are in the main a guarantor, we do not seem to have heard about the resource cost or the opportunity cost of the project. The White Paper says that even if we added Maplin to the Channel Tunnel and then took account of dockland development—the resurrection of life in the East End of London—together they would amount only to 11 per cent. of new construction and 5¼ per cent. of labour resources in the South-East. I believe that even one of those projects has at least a resource cost or an opportunity cost of that magnitude and that if we are still to go ahead with parts of Maplin or with the revivication of London's dockland, and if we are to add the Channel Tunnel, I fear for housing in the South-East, for hospital construction and for school building, because the labour resources and the capital will not be there. What I ask, in other words, is whether the Government's opportunity cost calculation is correct or whether it ought to be revised once again.

When the project was last discussed in this House the precise environmental advantages of it were very much put under the microscope. Hon. Members on both sides of the House feared that the whole of Kent might become a gigantic lorry park. Unless my right hon. Friend can see some way of getting lorries and cars on the trains in London the roll-on roll-off ferries and the cars will go to Cheriton and get on the ferries there. I know that my right hon. Friend is talking about augmenting rail links and about extending the M20, but traffic will naturally gravitate towards Cheriton because the tendency will be to join the rolling motorway at Cheriton and not in London.

My right hon. Friend may have to consider very seriously ways even of discriminating with the use of variable rail fares to try to get cars and lorries to join trains at the White City, Nine Elms or wherever. If he does not, I fear for the people of Kent and the areas through which the links will pass, not just because of the railway line but because of the increase in road traffic.

I am sceptical about the so-called environmentally beneficial nature of the project, and I cannot help returning to the point that I have always made about it. Surely it is better to wait till the total transport strategy of this Government has evolved before counting on the way in which the tunnel will be beneficial. Are we to bring in quantity licensing? Are we to incorporate more statutory duties to transfer traffic to the railways with the National Freight Corporation? Are we to subsidise private rail sidings? Shall we have any success with the 100 firms which my right hon. Friend is asking to transfer traffic back to rail?

It will be the results of the Government's overall transport policy which will determine whether the Channel Tunnel is to be road or rail oriented. A fixed link will tie us far too inextricably to a certain very small part of Europe, whereas many of us would like to see trading links open up with Eastern Europe and the much wider horizon there.

I cannot help thinking that we are still rather enamoured with projects of national prestige that will not contribute very much to our economic growth. Even if the project has a multiplier effect, that multiplier effect will be in the South-East, not in the South-West or in Scotland where the growth is needed.

Mr. Huekfield:

I am glad that I have the hon. Lady with me for a change.

Ought we not to be thinking more urgently and seriously in priority terms about pensions and concentrating all our efforts on bringing back the school building programme that was cancelled by the previous Government? Ought we not to be thinking about renewing district general hospitals throughout the country? These projects should be far nearer and dearer to our hearts than going ahead with a Channel Tunnel which could become a monumental fire hazard—a 32-mile coffin, as it has been described— whose profitability is subject to a great deal of doubt, whose escalation in cost could make Concorde's escalation look very small indeed, and whose environmental benefits are doubtful.

5.21 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark , Plymouth, Sutton

I should like to declare a personal interest in this topic. The Saltwood Estate, which is owned by my family's trustees, borders the area designated for the exit of the tunnel. That means that the land on the Saltwood Estate offers substantial possibilities for "reclamation", which is the fashionable term now used. However, I do not propose to speak on either the commercial or the environmental aspects of the topic. In principle I assure the House that I am opposed to the tunnel—but not from apprehension on my part that I shall break my leg reclaiming the land affected.

I ask the House to bear with me on the first occasion I have had the privilege of addressing it as I must pay a number of tributes to my predecessors. The musical chairs played by the Boundary Commission within the City of Plymouth places this obligation on me, and I shoulder it gladly.

First, I should remind the House of the virtues of my immediate predecessor, now the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dr. Owen). I had not long been a candidate in the City of Plymouth before realising the sincere respect in which he was held by constituents of all parties within the division.

I think that the House will also wish me to mention another of my predecessors in the City of Plymouth, Dame Joan Vickers, who represented Devonport before the former Member for Plymouth, Sutton—representing which constituency is a privilege that I now enjoy—moved across and contested the seat at Devon-port. Dame Joan was truly a representa- tive who brought real meaning to the now somewhat degraded term "community politics". She was an ideal constituency member and the affection in which she is held by the people of Plymouth spread through the whole city, by no means being confined to the division that she represented here. The House will recall that she was also a strong feminist.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark , Plymouth, Sutton

I am not quite certain what this entails. I take it to be a somewhat gentler form of Women's Lib.

Speaking of feminism compels me to mention perhaps my most distinguished predecessor in the Sutton Division, Lady Astor. Out of curiosity I consulted HANSARD to see what Lady Astor said in her maiden speech. She referred at great length to the subject of drink and expressed the view and the conviction that within 25 years none of the hon. Members sitting here would be drinking. I see no evidence that her conviction is gathering any weight. Indeed, I assure the House that I do not share Lady Astor's views on drink or, indeed, on women if it comes to that.

The City of Plymouth has many claims and attributes to which I should like to draw the attention of the House, but in the interests of celerity I will confine myself to a few. Plymouth is the largest industrial city in this country with a clean air policy. Whether this bears any relation to the fact that rather more than 60,000 of its population voted Conservative and fewer than 50,000 voted Labour at the election I do not care to suggest. However, it is the largest and most successful example of a clean air city in the British Isles.

Plymouth has certain historical connections with which the House is familiar. Drake played bowls there and the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from the city. I suppose it was a good thing that the Pilgrim Fathers arrived and it was clearly a good thing that they set sail.

There is one historical attribute of which I am not so proud—it was the only Roundhead city in the South West at the time of the Great Rebellion.

The House will recall the fervent and eloquent speech made by the Secretary of State for Employment on the occasion of the Loyal Address and his stated affection for Roundheads. Indeed, I recall that he mentioned the possibility of a Roundhead Commission to look into the Industrial Relations Act. I leave the House to judge whether the reference to the notorious regicides in the context of what is a traditional and well-accepted constitutional practice is courteous.

The right hon. Gentleman, who, we are often told, has a keen sense of history and reads many books, should know that the Roundheads were the party of the small businessman and the small property owner. I have no doubt that small businessmen and small property owners will be glad that they have so distinguished an advocate of their interests as the Secretary of State for Employment. I am sure that they can look to him for protection against those same elements which threatened the small businessman and the small property owner at the time of the Great Rebellion—namely, the encroaching monopoly power of bureaucracy and taxation—and can look to him to protect them against the monopoly power of the trade unions.

I do not wish to make any critical sounds about hon. Gentlemen opposite on this occasion, so I will conclude my tributes by referring to the Secretary of State for Employment who began his parliamentary career, as have so many distinguished parliamentarians, as the representative for Plymouth, Devonport. Perhaps the strongest claim that the right hon. Gentleman has, which everybody accepts, is his great affection and respect for the institution of Parliament. I submit that the subject we are scrutinising particularly calls for the vigilance of Parliament.

I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) and I share his scepticism about the whole project. I suggest that the House should always be on its guard against any project which comes before it with the universal approbation of the multinational corporations, the international banking fraternity and the whole of the Civil Service. If those elements are united in approving a subject, there are few barriers left to prevent it from being imposed on the British people, except for the House of Commons.

There are many people outside and, I suspect, many in the House, who share a certain apprehension at the mention of that corporation to which the hon. Member for Nuneaton drew the attention of the House, namely, Rio Tinto-Zinc. I suggest that it has a certain notoriety as a polluter of the environment for gain, and I have heard it referred to as the godfather of British industry. I use the term "godfather" in the Mafia rather than in the Christian sense.

The particular aspect of the subject to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is that of defence. This is, or should be, the first consideration which the House should apply to any project which may affect defence, yet sadly, we hear little of the subject in the House these days. It seems to me that a fundamental breach is threatened to one of our primary natural attributes. The English Channel has always protected us from invasion, and it is untrue that technological advances have altered the basic principles which should govern our defence strategy.

The nuclear deterrent has become so incredible that the possibility of conventional warfare becomes increasingly acute, and if it comes at all it will be of the blitzkreig lightning strike kind. It would be feasible for a parachute attack to seize the tunnel head and defend it for a long enough period for an invader to pass through the tunnel and thus completely bypass the natural protection that has defended this country for 1,000 years.

I ask hon. Members not to treat this matter lightly, because history provides a number of examples of lightning strikes on tactical objectives, with great success. One recalls Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Remagen and Corinth, all in the last war. The attacks took place at great speed, before the defenders were prepared, and the hostile parachute forces were established before it was possible to evict them.

I was concerned, upon making inquiries prior to the debate, to find that no provision had been made to guard against that kind of attack and that the subject does not even seem to have been considered. I urge the House to ensure that a proper fail-safe system is installed, not locally controlled but controlled from whatever headquarters is provided, so that if the tunnel is built it can be demolished instantly if the need arises.

When I talk in terms of security I am referring not to sabotage, blackmail, hijacking or individual acts of lunacy or terrorism, but to a special and fundamental aspect of the traditional defence of the British Isles, and I earnestly ask the House to bear that in mind if the Bill ever comes to a more solid foundation than it has now.

5.34 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ronald Atkins Mr Ronald Atkins , Preston North

I congratulate the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) on his clear, interesting and amusing speech. The hon. Gentleman represents a beautiful city which I frequently use as a base for touring Cornwall, which I do not by motor car but by train. I take one of the £2 runabout tickets, which enables me to visit many parts of Cornwall from Plymouth.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned drink. I am surprised that he did not refer to the local drink, which I think is called scrumpy. I had only a pint, and it was fortunate that I was a railway traveller because I struggled into the nearest compartment and slept all the way to Truro. One thing I learned is that scrumpy is not to be drunk carelessly.

I agree with the right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) when she says that this is a national project and it should not be dropped. The right hon. Lady's reasons for saying that were national, and she rightly said that financial accountancy should not be the only thing to be considered.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), however—inadvertently I think—made one of the strongest cases that can be made for the tunnel. He spoke about the unknown geology of the area. My hon. Friend must realise that Britons were pioneers in geological science, which started in the 1830s. The country to follow much later was France, and between the two countries the geological strata underlying the Channel is probably better known than that under any other channel in the world.

The strata under the Channel are chalk and are almost ideal for the boring of a tunnel. It may be that there are one or two faults about which the geologists do not know, but I do not think that my hon. Friend could find a geologist who was not fairly confident about the structure of the Channel bed, and it is strange that he should speak about the geology of the area being unknown.

Constructing a tunnel under the Channel would not be similar to building a tunnel from Hokkaido to Honshu in Japan. That would be much more difficult, would require a much longer construction, and would be in much deeper water. Building a tunnel under the Channel would give rise to no technological difficulties. After all, we have been building tunnels for a long time, and the problems here are not in the same class as the unknown technology of Concorde.

I congratulate the right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley on supporting the tunnel project now that she is in opposition. The only debate is on whether the project will pay its way. Up until this year the conclusions of the experts were favourable, but now the conclusions are in question. It is arguable whether the tunnel will pay its way, but the fact that it is arguable makes it much more promising than so many other national projects which we know will fail to pay their way. This project is immensely important for the prosperity and social welfare of the whole country.

What we must remember about the tunnel is that it is a project which concerns transport infrastructure. There must be hundreds of cases throughout the country which have been accepted without anyone questioning the accountancy involved. Many bridges, and, indeed, tunnels have been built though it has been known that they will not pay their way in terms of revenue. To come a little nearer home, it was well known that the underground Victoria Line, which was completed a few years ago, would never pay its way. In fact, the Government provided 75 per cent. of the capital cost involved.

It is also well known—and this is especially true of the more remote areas —that many of the roads that are constructed cannot hope to pay their way in terms of strict accountancy. Why, therefore, is there a different attitude to the Channel Tunnel?

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

I am sure my hon. Friend knows that the Victoria Line was the subject of one of the most exhaustive social cost benefit studies undertaken of any transport project in this country. One of the social benefits was supposed to be the alleviation of congestion on certain roads on the surface. Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the same kind of alleviation would be obtained in the case of a tunnel competing against a ferry system only 25 per cent. of whose capacity is used?

Photo of Mr Ronald Atkins Mr Ronald Atkins , Preston North

I will come to that point in a moment. My hon. Friend is talking about social benefits—something which he did not apply to the tunnel. He was more concerned with the narrow accountancy. We are concerned with social benefits and, indeed, economic benefits—benefits to the trade of this country.

I should like to mention in particular the question of trade. Many countries are trying to find a means of legitimately increasing exports, and I feel that the tunnel will do this. Before the commencement of the Common Market one of the great disadvantages which countries on the mainland of Europe had was that trade between them had to cross tariff barriers. In one way we had certain advantages when we were trading with European countries which had seaboards, because we could export directly to those seaboards.

When the EEC was started, Continental member countries stood to gain much more than we did from the abolition of tariff barriers, but the position today is very different. Those tariff barriers have been abolished and Britain is at a disadvantage in trading with Europe. Britain has that disadvantage because a double transhipment of goods which is involved when we send traffic by sea is expensive and it takes a long time. The advantage of the tunnel is that we shall get the physical benefits which the Continental countries already have. In my view, the tunnel will do more for European trade with Britain than the Common Market itself. One of the advantages of this through traffic is that we can send sealed containers from the north of Scotland to eastern Europe.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Moray and Nairn

I am hoping to get into this debate myself, but, in case I do not succeed, may I say that in Scotland we have an alternative to this whole project, namely, the Ocean Span, a plan which would containerise across the narrow waistline of Scotland, with much greater advantages.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

May I say that that sort of intervention might be counterproductive.

Photo of Mr Ronald Atkins Mr Ronald Atkins , Preston North

I thought the hon. Lady was about to suggest a tunnel from Aberdeen to the Hague, under the North Sea—again for the social benefit of Scotland. I believe the important point is the community benefit which would come from the tunnel. It would be very considerable indeed. Whether we are inside or outside the Common Market, the tunnel with its long freight hauls will do much more for British trade than even the Common Market.

There is no doubt that this tunnel will be of enormous benefit to British Rail. I was very surprised to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton doubts about whether traffic should be diverted from road to rail, because I can remember him supporting this principle of the Transport Act 1968. This tunnel is consistent with everything that we have said about that Act. I feel—British Rail knows this, and that is one reason why it strongly supports the tunnel—that it will enable British Rail to handle long freight hauls.

One of the great disadvantages from which British Rail suffers is the fact that the area of this country is so limited that of necessity so many of the freight hauls are short—less than 50 miles—and everybody knows that freight hauls of less than 50 miles are uneconomic. The great continental railways, in America, Russia and Europe, have a great advantage in long continental hauls. This will be possible with the Channel Tunnel. It will be possible to send freight trains from Britain right through to Naples by means of the tunnel. I agree that at the moment there is some through traffic, but it is at a great disadvantage compared with freight trains which are entirely land hauled. British Rail is a strong supporter of the scheme because it appreciates the benefits it will receive. It will also mean that British Rail will be greatly helped by the tunnel in its struggle to get more freight.

In the matter of congestion I acknowledge that if we have a single loading unit, or only two or three loading units, in the South of England, it will increase congestion when all the road traffic, certainly the motorised traffic, has to come down to the South of England to go through the tunnel. There is a lot to be said, especially in the regions—Scotland, Wales and so on—for having a number of loading units throughout the country so that all regions can share in the prosperity which the tunnel will bring. I agree that to have just one loading point as recommended, I believe at Cheriton, would be a serious mistake. There is a lot to be said for a rail-oriented tunnel. I would not bother too much about what France says because the French are very inconsistent anyway.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton asked whether we would have subsidised or State-run sidings. They have such sidings in France. The subsidy which the French Government pay to the French railways amounts to £500 million a year. The same sort of thing happens in Germany where I think the figure is £600 million a year. The French could hardly complain that we were showing favour to rail as against road when their policy is what it is. Therefore, I hope that we shall have the tunnel.

I congratulate the right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley on being consistent, but I hope that it will be possible for the benefits of the tunnel to be spread throughout the country by having a number of loading units in different regions.

5.49 p.m.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

Having had an opportunity to speak on this matter on earlier occasions, I intend to delay the House for only a very short time, which I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you will be glad to hear.

First, I must congratulate my constituent, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark), on his maiden speech. It is always a thrill for any Member of Parliament to hear a constituent make his maiden speech. It was not a surprise that he should have referred to the question of defence. After all, he lives in one of the castles of England which defended us against the French for generations. His illustrious father could tell the House much more of the history of the castle than I could. I welcome him to the House. He was good enough to declare an interest, in that his family own a good deal of property in Saltwood, and he was quite independent in the way in which he approached the problem.

During the last General Election campaign, about eight weeks ago, my Labour opponent came out strongly on the tunnel. He said that the only thing to do with the plans and the information on the tunnel was to pulp the lot and to sell it as waste paper. At the time that that was said, I knew that his party would not follow that example, but he would not believe it. The Minister has gone one better. He has taken the Bill from the waste paper basket and produced it to the House.

I congratulate the Minister on the amendments that he is proposing to make to the Bill. The first gives local authorities greater power to have a say in the planning. That is precisely the matter on which my local authority brought forward petitions. It will be delighted to know that its petitions have already been accepted. The Minister also put forward the idea originally, when in Opposition, of a rail-only tunnel. But once he got hold of the facts and realised that a rail-only tunnel would probably be the worst of all worlds, as soon as he has come to power he has offered a different opinion.

I have always said that my job is to defend, as far as is practicable, the amenities of my area and the interests of my constituents. Six years ago I told the House that my constituents at that time had had over eight years of indecision about the tunnel and could not get any sort of planning consents. I am now faced with a situation in which people who have houses near Cheriton, and particularly Newington, cannot sell their property. One particular case of hardship worries me immensely because the health of the whole family is being affected.

Will the Minister give the assurance which his predecessor gave, that when the Bill receives the approval of the House he will undertake to look most sympathetically, using the maximum powers that the Bill gives him, at matters affecting the payment of compensation? It is quite intolerable that this situation should have continued for so long.

We now have the benefit of the petitions which have been submitted by the local authorities, by my local authority of Shepway and by Kent County Council, and by the amenities societies. In Select Committee and in Standing Committee we shall have an opportunity of debating this matter further, so I shall not delay the House.

I welcome the support which I am receiving from other hon. Members in defending Cheriton from excess traffic. But when talking about the concentration of traffic at Cheriton and saying that that must be avoided, will the Government bear in mind the problems that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) and I have —the problems of traffic which is concentrated in the towns? Only last week I spent an afternoon at Folkestone Harbour and visited all the installations there. A year ago we were worried about the fact that there would be over 200 juggernaut lorries going to the harbour every week, but I was told last week that the figure has already reached 1,000.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) said that the ferry service was used to only 25 per cent. of its capacity. That is a most misleading figure. He was referring to an overall pattern, for the whole year. The hon. Gentleman mentioned ship capacities. He said that the ships were not full during all months of the year and that there is spare capacity. But the facts are that the bottleneck is not in the ships. The ships can be built and harbours can be expanded. The bottleneck is in the roads of the twin towns of Dover and Folkestone. We cannot expect them to continue to take a load for which they were never designed. Folkestone Harbour was designed primarily for rail-only passenger traffic. It takes a certain amount of goods traffic, even traffic to India, but Folkestone was never designed to take juggernaut lorries travelling through the narrow streets.

That is the problem. When considering capacities we must consider not only the capacity of the vessels but the capacity of the streets. I promised that I would speak for only a few minutes. I hope that the Minister will give me the assurance for which I ask.

5.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

When the Secretary of State made his announcement on 3rd April, I said that I, as a very new Liberal Party spokesman, was glad that he was proceeding with the reintroduction of the Bill. I now rather regret those words—but I find that I am in good company from looking back through HANSARD. While it is true that the Liberal Party supports in principle the idea of a Channel Tunnel, and is still strongly in favour of a rail-only tunnel and opposed to the idea of a rolling motorway, principally on the grounds of cost and environmental damage, what concerns us most is the apparent rejection by the Secretary of State of his former line of thinking and the absence of any firm commitment to the appointment of a British Rail representative to the British board. There is also the greatly increased public concern at the cost and effect of the whole project.

I have taken the time to read the debates—not all of them, but certainly those which took place in the House on 25th October and 5th December. I accept that the matter has been very fully debated. I do not intend to go over any of the familiar ground again. But one can only express surprise that the Minister has decided to proceed on exactly the same lines as his predecessor.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) has left the Chamber, but I should like to quote his words in winding up for the Opposition on 5th December. Before doing that, I should like to thank him for his interesting contribution to-day. He stuck to his line, and that is very much to be commended. When advising his hon. Friends to oppose the Bill, he said that he did not think it to be a matter which could be undertaken along the lines of the Channel Tunnel Bill and called for a very serious and impartial re-examination of the whole project. The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), now the Minister for Transport, spelled out the fears of the objectors when he made the point that a substantial body of people concerned with the viability of the scheme, the nature of the tunnel and, most important of all, the share in the project for British Rail, would not be able to test its viability by the process of cross-examination and production of witnesses in a manner which would have been open to them had we been having a public inquiry.

We on the Liberal Bench—I am on my own at present, although there are not many hon. Members on the Government Benches—accept the point made by the Secretary of State, that by reintroducing the Bill he is preventing the costs that have been incurred already by petitioners from proving abortive. But he appears to have forgotten the wording of his motion of 25th October last, when, incidentally, he was dismissing the rolling motorway scheme. He then demanded an independent inquiry into alternative transport strategies, including a rail-only tunnel. It is this objective study, held under entirely independent auspices, that we consider should have preceded any reintroduction of this Bill.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

What the hon. Gentleman must understand is that if the Bill does not go through, the scheme is abandoned. The difficulty is rather like that of the country yokel who was asked by someone to tell him the best way to X. He said, "If I were going to X, I would not start from here." It is true that we should have preferred not to start from the point from which, as a Government, we had to start. But since the October debate and the motion, the treaty has been signed, and that is obviously an obligation. The time-scale to which the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) referred was agreed with our French partners before we became a Government.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

I took that point from the Minister's introductory speech. However, I still believe that there is time for such an inquiry to be held. We say that that should have happened, however inconvenient and costly it turned out to be. As it is, all that is being offered is a further period during which the petitions against the Bill will be allowed, coupled with a promise that British Railways will be holding a series of public meetings along the line of the proposed rail link. This is not good enough, particularly in the light of all that has happened, some of which was referred to by the hon. Member for Nuneaton, since the White Paper was published last year.

For instance, only this week there has been the article in the Accountants Weekly by Mr. Desmond Crowley, under the headline— Coopers find themselves at centre of Chunnel wrangle"— and commenting on the limited rôle played by Messrs. Cooper Brothers and referring to the plethora of estimates coming from several sources in this country and in France. Mr. Crowley concludes that no harm could he done by a short efficient public enquiry where estimates can be subjected to public cross-examination.

We have also had the recent findings of the Monopolies Commission on cross-Channel car ferry services. That has been accepted only this month by the Minister of State. The commission refers specifically to the substantial change in the situation which will arise if and when the tunnel comes into use.

We have fairly recent evidence of the success of the Berne gauge system operated by the German railways. I gather that there are some new and rather encouraging figures coming from British Railways. We have also had the comment on the excess capacity of the present services.

It is for these and other reasons of genuine public concern that we believe that we must oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, in the hope that the demand for a quick public inquiry will then be met. It should be held as soon as possible and not later.

6.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

I hope to cheer your heart, Mr. Speaker, and perhaps the hearts of some Opposition Members by making the shortest speech in this debate, even shorter than some of the speeches I made in the three debates on the Channel Tunnel last year.

The spokesman for the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), made a more reasonable assessment of his party's position than did his predecessor as party spokesman on this matter, the former hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight said several times that there is growing public interest and concern. There may well be, but the interest and concern that is expressed to me in the North-West takes the form of the question "When will Parliament decide whether or not to build the tunnel? If the tunnel is to be built, why not get on with it? If the tunnel is not to be built, stop what is being done at this moment. Let there be a decision."

There can be arguments about the details, as there were arguments in the last debate. I do not believe that there is a public demand for another public inquiry by experts or non-experts, whether or not they are a high-powered group as the Minister described them. I have the greatest possible suspicion of people who are put together and called a high-powered group.

Then there is the time scale which must he fitted together with the review. Incidentally, it is time that I fitted in my own interests. In the last four debates I had to declare that I am, and have been for 10 years, an honorary secretary of the all-party Parliamentary Group on the Channel Tunnel. Fortunately or unfortunately, I also declare that I have no financial interest in any body concerned with the project. It is a sad thing that a Member has to declare that he has no financial interest. It would be better if we maintained the old principle that if a Member has an interest he declares it and if he has not he says nothing.

In the last debate, on 15th June last year, my right hon. Friend who is now Secretary of State was "on the road to Damascus", to use his words. He said on 25th October that he was still on the road to Damascus but he had not seen the blinding light. I suggested that he had parked in a layby. Now he has got his batteries going again. The General Election has given him another lease of life and he is moving along the road again.

My right hon. Friend is not now being necessarily inconsistent with what was said in opposition, and I believe that the present Opposition are being somewhat churlish about this. If someone eventually decides to agree with what one wants, one should not always be too critical of the reasons for the conversion

I suggest that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Labour Government of 1974 are being absolutely consistent with the points of view expressed by the Labour Government of 1964. So we are at least consistent on that point. I am glad to be in a majority on my side and in the House as a whole today, unlike the position I was in a few months ago.

I do not want the debate to become a matter of "Whose parking lot shall fit there? Which road shall go there?" It was very nice of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) to say "I have some family interests in the area round about the Cheriton terminal." The House will listen very carefully to anybody who has interests in an area near the entrance to the tunnel. The hon. Gentleman was right to declare his interest

What matters is not only the effect of the tunnel on the immediate area of the terminal, or even on Kent or on the South-East Region. The predominant interest is the national one. The tunnel will be a link from Europe to our country, but from our country—or countries, if some hon. and right hon. Members want to insist on that—to the whole of Europe. It will be a link from Great Britain through to the whole of Europe.

My right hon. Friend said that he wanted—to use his delightful phrase—to keep his options open. If the last Prime Minister had had a speech writer capable of producing such expressions over the last three and a half years, he might still be Prime Minister now.

There is the argument of how more rail-oriented a railway tunnel can be made. That is another argument to be considered again in the future. If there has to be a public inquiry, let it go through properly and quickly. I do not know what part Parliament will play in that. Our debates on the issue of the tunnel raise doubts whether the Chamber of the House of Commons is the right place to decide technical matters of this sort when the principle has been established. Is Parliament the best place for arguing the details of the technology and conducting arguments about road and rail links?

In the interests not only of the local people in Kent but of people throughout the region and over the country as a whole, I have argued openly and consistently for 10 years that Britain needs the tunnel and that we should go ahead with building it. An on-off policy is not the way of producing the best from people concerned with technology.

I believe that there will be a tunnel. The forecast I made in the last Parliament that the then shadow spokesman would present the necessary Bill and that the then Minister for Transport Industries would, in his rôle in opposition, support him has been realised. The sooner we can go ahead and secure certainty for this project the better it will be for the country, for industry and for people, and the greater will be the opportunity. I believe that the British are big enough to gain every possible advantage from the undoubted opportunities made available by the Channel Tunnel.

6.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

I offer my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) on an amusing, original and charming maiden speech. I am sure that the points he made about the effect of a possible Channel Tunnel on our defence will not be wasted on the House.

Before the House decides to give a Second Reading to the Bill, I want to take the opportunity of raising three problems which greatly affect the whole of Kent and in particular my constituency. They arise from Clause 1 and Schedule 1 of the Bill.

The second paragraph of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum contains the sentence: These works include the tunnel itself, the connections to the British rail and road systems and the terminal area at Cheriton. That is the part of the Bill to which I wish to refer. I regret to say that the Minister was a little vague in his speech. He must be more specific if he is to satisfy me about the various concessions and examinations that his Department will undertake.

When the Secretary of State for the Environment said that he would give permission for phase 2 to go ahead but that there would be a reappraisal of the whole scheme before moving on to phase 3, my constituents breathed a sigh of relief. There is much in the present scheme to which they object. Whether they have any right to feel relieved is a matter for doubt. Perhaps the speech of the Secretary of State was more an emollient than a promise.

I am not opposed to a Channel Tunnel. I am opposed to certain aspects of the scheme before us. I am particularly opposed to the arrangements for Cheriton and the express rail link from London to Cheriton. All the maps and plans that have been put before my constituents are out of date. They were drawn up 30 years ago. Since then there have been enormous road and housing developments in Kent, but these are not shown on the maps that my constituents have been given.

Most important of all is that the documents which British Rail has so far put out do not deal with the effect that the high-speed rail link will have on the lives and property of the people who live anywhere near it. My constituents have had no access to up-to-date maps, and the maps they have received take no account of the fairly high density of house building in my constituency at Eden-bridge and at charming little villages like Chiddingstone, Leigh, Hever and the rest.

The maps showing the alternative routes—if those alternatives exist and if they are not simply a pipe dream—are without contours or sections and give no indication of whether there will be cuttings or embankments. No indication is given of the line or of the noise level that will be entailed. My constituents feel that there should be tremendous alterations to the line through the constituency from Edenbridge to Tonbridge. There seems to be a tacit assumption that the small back line which hitherto has been used by trains every few hours must be expanded into the high-level, highspeed, four-line rail connection which is to be constructed for the tunnel.

There are frequent references to the environment, but there is no evidence in any document I have seen from British Rail that there has been any study or analysis of the environmental effect of the railway and there is no indication of what will happen through Tonbridge when the line is built. I have considerable doubt about the environmental damage that will follow the construction of the high-speed railway. Japan has experience of these high-level railway lines. One, known as the Shiukansen, has been in use there for 10 years. Experience of it gives rise to serious doubts whether the anticipated effects on the environment are justified by the small gains in journey times. It appears that the Japanese line is similar to the one which British Rail proposes to drive through the heart of the Garden of England, most of which is in my constituency. The experience of residents living alongside the line in Japan suggests that there will be very serious effects from noise and vibration.

I have with me cuttings from the Japan Times as recently as 31st March this year. They show that inhabitants of a town called Nagoya, which is situated between Tokyo and Osaka, have suffered so grievously from the effects of the line that they are now bringing a legal action against the Japanese railways which, unlike British Rail, do not deny that there is great noise pollution and vibration disturbance from it.

Photo of Mr Ronald Atkins Mr Ronald Atkins , Preston North

Does the hon. Member also know that in Tokyo people are dying from pollution by motor cars?

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

That is a totally different problem and is irrelevant to the point I am discussing.

As a result of the complaints, the Japanese railway authorities propose to cut a line through the central mountain area to avoid the high population districts and thus reduce the noise pollution. British Rail should study the problem and do something about it before it is too late. It is proposing to put this link where there are hundreds of houses and in a position which would make life intolerable for the people who live in them.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

Is the hon. Member aware that the railway in Japan runs through the shanty-town district of Nagoya where the houses are made of wood and corrugated iron and where the foundations are not like those of the houses in his constituency? They are different houses in different areas and of a different construction, and they are certainly not half as sound as those in Kent.

Photo of Mr Frank Tomney Mr Frank Tomney , Hammersmith North

Before any more is said about Nagoya, I wish to get in on this and make clear that the Shepherds Bush terminal will be in my constituency.

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

I was appalled and alarmed to receive a letter the other day from British Rail's Channel Tunnel Director, to whom I had written and asked about compensation. He said: we have as yet practically no experience of how the Land Compensation Act 1973 may work and I would certainly not like to give an opinion on an individual case … we shall endeavour to be reasonable and fair in our dealings with individuals within the limit of our powers". He went on to say: Anyone who purchases a house adjacent to a railway line which has been there for many years—or for that matter a house on a main road—implicitly accepts the possibility that the character of traffic on either the railway or the road may change over the years. Indeed, one may well buy a house in a quiet residential street and find that traffic planning has diverted the main road traffic through it under a one-way scheme.I myself live in a particularly quiet corner of Surrey; but a couple of years ago the planners of air traffic re-routed two airways, one from Heathrow and one from Gatwick, to cross almost immediately above my house. I have no claim for compensation; this is simply one of the things one has to accept as the price for staying in the most overcrowded section of this island, the South-East, where there is bound to be some conflict between public and private interest. The previous Government tried to make arrangements for generous compensation when land had to be taken, where there was pollution by noise and where, although buildings were not physically affected, the quality of life was impaired. I stress the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) that we should like to be sure that the compensation scheme will apply as much to noise and vibration from railways as it does to noise from roads and air traffic.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

My hon. Friend in replying intends to deal with that matter, but I should like to say, on the hon. Gentleman's point about traffic schemes not coming within the Land Compensation Act passed by his own Government, that I raised the matter in Committee during the passage of that measure and the then Government were not prepared to accept the point.

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

If that means that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to amend the Act himself—

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Much as we should like to do so, we cannot undo all the mistakes of the previous Government.

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

There will be another day for that debate, I think.

I and my constituents do not accept that the line of the old railway should be the basis of the four-line, high-speed link. I shall do all I can to try to persuade British Rail to alter it.

I understand that there will be a meeting shortly at Edenbridge at which there will be represented the right hon. Gentleman's Department, Kent County Council, the district council and British Rail. I want to make it clear that any of my constituents who wish to raise a point or listen, criticise or ask questions can attend, because some of them are worried that they may be excluded and that only the elected representatives will be present.

I should like to say something about Cheriton. I object to the roll-on, roll-off point being so near the coast. There is bound to be an increase of traffic from the Continent through Kent, a great deal of it by road. It will be two-way traffic, because there will be a great increase in traffic coming through Kent to Cheriton to use the tunnel.

Even if it is not possible to make it obligatory for all the traffic to go to the central point at the White City, or where-ever it finally is in London, surely it is possible to have a tariff so designed that it will be financially advantageous for people to put their freight on in London or let it go straight through to London rather than decant it at Cheriton. I know that that is not necessarily good business, but the social cost must be weighed. I hope that there is nothing in the present arrangement between the two countries that would prevent our being able to give advantageous terms to people leaving the traffic from the Continent to go straight through, or putting their own freight on in London and letting it go through by rail rather than road.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) has made a most extraordinary speech in which he pledged renewed support for a planning inquiry commission and pressed for the rail link to be put underground between South Croydon and Crockham Hill, emerging just within the boundaries of my constituency, next door to Westerham. From there it would go across the open countryside, a much more beautiful part of the countryside than my hon. Friend repre- sents. I hope that there is no truth in the suggestion that that proposition is becoming increasingly popular.

My constituents would also like a categorical denial from the Minister that it is the long-term intention to release land in North Edenbridge to serve as a British Rail depot station for the Channel Tunnel link. That idea is causing great alarm and despondency. Such a move would blight Edenbridge and transform the gateway to the Kentish Weald into an ugly stepping-stone between London and the Continent.

My constituents do not oppose the tunnel but they are not enamoured of it so far. If the Government wish to have their active co-operation and good will, the points I have mentioned must not be overlooked. I ask the Secretary of State and the Minister to consider them sympathetically in their re-examination and reappraisal.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

That speech took 16 minutes. Eight more hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. Time is very limited, and therefore I ask hon. Members to be brief.

6.25 p.m.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Moray and Nairn

I make no apology for relating my remarks to Scotland. I do not suppose that it will surprise any hon. Member that I do so.

What is the fundamental reason for the whole concept of the Channel Tunnel? Is it primarily for those seeking leisure, to provide better trade links, or for the furtherance of an EEC commitment? I suppose that it is a combination of those reasons. What is the Government's thinking as to which reason, if any, has priority?

In relation to Scotland, the route is not a sensible added attraction to those seeking leisure. To those wanting to further the trade or our businessmen, I will speak about a much better alternative later in my remarks. At every poll on the question of an EEC commitment 85 per cent. of the people of Scotland were found to be opposed to that commitment. If we are risking the expenditure of the money involved for those reasons, under none of those headings does it seem to have any particular advantage to offer the citizens of Scotland.

I shall reduce what I have to say to three simple headings. The first is the effects. We hear in the House a great deal about decentralisation. I have never heard anyone do other than extol its virtues, but, having been a Member twice, with a gap between my times here, I seem to be back where I was before. Very little decentralisation ever actually takes place.

When I was previously a Member we had secured for Scotland half the Meat and Livestock Commission and the Philatelic Bureau of the Post Office. Then, after a last ditch fight, Scotland secured the Post Office Savings Bank office, and now the Government have given us the offshore oil services and the training school in Midlothian. We are glad about that. We take some of the credit for those decisions, which were brought about partly by the presence of myself and my six hon. Friends in the House. It is difficult to persuade the House to carry out decentralisation, to whose virtues it pays so much lip service.

It does not seem to me to be in keeping with good planning further to congest the most congested part of Britain. However the tunnel is regarded, it certainly adds to congestion. Apart from spreading jobs around, which everyone agrees to be a good thing, decentralisation helps to reduce congestion. Shall we wait till we have a Tokyo situation in Britain before we learn to avoid further unnecessary congestion? Has the Secretary of State conducted, or will he conduct, a thorough study of the economic effects of the scheme on Scotland? So far as we in Scotland are aware, no such study has been undertaken.

My second heading is priorities. The A9 road in Scotland is meant to be our motorway link to what the whole House keeps talking about as the oil development area, part of which I represent. The road is a scandal. I am not saying any thing original in stating that. Many of the proposals to improve it are ludicrous, and in some respects they will add to the dangers of that dreadful road.

It is ridiculous that there is no motorway from the Border to Glasgow. Roadworks always seem to be going on. There are many more motorways in England. Is it unreasonable to ask that improvement of our roads should be a priority as long as we have a dreadful road system? It is ridiculous that there is not a continuous motorway from the Border to Glasgow and beyond.

Many people want quick oil development. I want slow development, but if the House wants quick development it is time hon. Members considered the priorities of our communications. Direct flights from Scotland to the continent are almost non-existent. The provision of such flights should be a priority. Our sea links for passengers are also almost non-existent. We used to have many more than we have today. Many people in Scotland, many of them in my constituency, are totally cut off from all public transport. Promises were made when the trains were taken away and those promises have been broken many times. I have mentioned that matter in a previous speech, and I shall not repeat it now.

Is it unreasonable to put the point, bearing in mind the congestion aspect and the fact that Scottish businessmen's top priority is that they want to travel direct to Europe, that the proposed route is unsuitable? If we are after business, let us keep that in mind.

My third and last point is that there is an alternative in the Scottish context, namely the Oceanspan plan of the Scottish Council. That was put on the shelf and never seriously considered in the House. I have a copy of a motion, relating to the Oceanspan, that was tabled by me on 3rd February 1970. Perhaps right hon. and hon. Members will not be so puzzled when people like me become impatient when they remember that in 1970 the Scottish Council was considering a report on Oceanspan.

The Oceanspan plan, for anyone who is not familiar with it and intimately concerned, is the simple concept of the narrow waistline of Scotland across the Central Belt with the deep water on the West being used as a link. The largest ships could negotiate the waters of the Clyde directly, and the deep water inshore, with only minimal dredging, necessary would ensure that this deep-water port could be the gateway or the bridgeway to Europe. It was planned as the natural route for linking containerisation to Europe. The business world of Scotland and the trade unions welcomed the Oceanspan report. At the time there were few if any discordant voices. That is the radical alternative.

Perhaps the tunnel scheme can be put into effect as well some day, but that can only be done if there is enough money to go round for all our priorities. That is the way in which we see the situation in Scotland. We do not see how the Channel Tunnel will help us, but we see how the Oceanspan plan would help Scotland and the whole of Britain. This appears to Scotland to be a much more sensible approach if we are to engage in mammoth and radical improvements to our existing links.

Are not such schemes like this tunnel scheme a bit like the bankrupt who goes in for some wild spending when he should be doing the opposite? We in Scotland are tired of watching our share of the taxes being spent on prestige projects that never seem to succeed. They cost vast amounts at a time when the country is having to face housing problems, school building problems and communication problems. We get tired of Concordes and Maplins and we are tired of the Channel Tunnel before it is off the ground.

I hope that it does not get off the ground till some of the country's problems are solved. When I go back to my constituents what can I tell them? What advantages to Scotland will accrue from the Channel Tunnel?

6.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Tomney Mr Frank Tomney , Hammersmith North

I apologise to the House for not being present during the whole of the debate. I had an urgent meeting with the gas industry, which at present has extraordinary difficulties. It is usually my custom to sit in during debates. Having said that, I promise to be short and incisive.

The remarks of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) ring a distinct bell in my memory. Bearing in mind our economic difficulties, many people are wondering whether we are justified in dangling such schemes as Maplin, Concorde and the Channel Tunnel before the British people. We are doing so at a time when we are trying by various means to borrow as much finance as we can from overseas to match our economic difficulties. It is not simply a matter of bookkeeping for a future project or to establish planning when the public learn that we are entering into guarantees of over £1,000 million and that there is an initial budget of £30 million. That is committed finance whether or not the Channel Tunnel is completed. That will become a main point in economics, both practical and theoretical, in the next two or three years.

We have trodden this path before. Some of us trod it when we witnessed escalating costs in the Concorde project. The first estimate was that the cost would be no more than £400 million. Actual costs have risen to over £1,000 million and they are still soaring. What guarantees have the Government against the costs of the tunnel escalating from the present level to, for example, £800 million?

An escalating figure could lead us into a situation in which we would be wise to think again before committing ourselves to the course of action which is proposed regarding the Channel Tunnel even before the report following the consultative inquiry on the possibilities of such a programme is made available. It would have been better if the people who had thought about a Channel Tunnel in 1870 had built it then. We are now considering it in the light of all the attendant penalties.

The penalties which affect my constituents most closely and severely concern the siting of the terminus of the Channel Tunnel at Shepherds Bush. That is one of the most congested parts of London. It is an area in which the open space per thousand of the population for recreational purposes is less than in any other part of London. In all conscience, the present space is small enough for London citizens. The A4 is already congested to a point where it is clear that in five years' time traffic will be stymied for long distances stretching out of London. The surrounding roads are inadequate to take the increased demand which will accrue if the tunnel terminus is situated in my constituency.

The demand for housing is so great and the available land so scarce that the agitation to preserve land for housing is a feature of the local council's opposition to the tunnel. The local council has come out 100 per cent. against the siting of the terminus at White City. It is known that British Rail owns the ground. There is no capital cost involved, but we must consider the disturbance that will accrue and the great environmental problems that will result in the Shepherds Bush area. That area probably contains more individual occupiers of flat dwellings than any other part of London. These matters must be taken into account. There is little industry in the Shepherds Bush area and there is a dormitory situation.

The buses to and from London are already the subject of severe restriction. The sites for secondary roads are not apparent. This is the situation that confronts the siting of the terminus at Shepherds Bush. It is an area in which land is scarce and the population is dense. In the present conflict it may be that the Greater London Council and the Government differ. Wandsworth does not want the terminus and Hammersmith cannot take it. The environmental problems will be so immense that it should not be within the compass of any planners to recommend such a siting.

Let us consider the alternatives and proceed on that basis. It is clear that the terminus cannot be contemplated at White City. That is not a possibility owing to the density of population and road configuration. To inflict such a scheme upon people who are already centred under the Heathrow flight path would be an environmental disaster. We are asking the Minister, through the consultative committee, to say that the terminus should not be sited at Shepherds Bush.

6.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Moore Mr John Moore , Croydon Central

I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) on his amusing and historical speech. I say, with all cordiality, that perhaps some good has resulted from Roundheads, Rio Tinto and international banks. I must indicate a strong constituency interest. The House will remember the strong advocacy of my predecessor, Sir Richard Thompson, in previous debates on behalf of the area of Croydon that I have the honour to represent.

The remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) at the beginning of the debate were most important to me when I first considered the subject. I considered it in detail first from the national interest. From a tech- nical point of view it seemed quite sensible and feasible. From an economic view it seemed entirely viable. From the national point of view I am entirely committed and convinced that it is an operation that we must undertake. However, I have a great duty to my constituents to uphold the environmental aspect. I am afraid I cannot say that that aspect has been thoroughly examined from my constituents' point of view. It is about this that I have some slightly parochial points to discuss. I know the House will understand that in the limited time available I shall not be able to comment on previous speeches.

One thing which came to me very strongly when studying the exhaustive files and correspondence of Sir Richard Thompson was the almost inexorable pattern which develops behind a national project of this kind when individuals have few opportunities to show their definite and strong interests. We ought to consider at some stage, at the initiation point of a national project, the possibility of a new mechanism which will allow us to take account of specific cases of hardship instead of leaving such consideration until after lengthy delays.

I want to be specific and to deal with two areas where my constituents will suffer. The tunnel is expected to emerge at the ton of Birdhurst Avenue in the centre of my constituency. It will destroy in fact, as it has done from the point of view of planning blight already, great numbers of homes, and naturally the people involved are greatly concerned.

As far as one can tell, about 140 houses are definitely likely to be destroyed. We all know in this House what the housing situation is. Let us consider those 140 houses in terms of replacement. If we were to try to replace the 140 houses the sum involved would be at least in excess of £2 million, taking the figure of £15,000 a house.

The other and more important cost in the long term is the cost of noise pollution. It is difficult to compare a person who has purchased a house near a railway line on which there might be one or two trains an hour with a person living alongside a line with express trains rushing through. This is a difficult problem and we must recognise the cost involved. These two costs are both specifically related to my constituents.

Happily a solution has been posed for my constituents and those of the neighbouring constituency to the south. The London borough of Croydon has been studying the situation, as has British Rail. Unfortunately we do not have the British Rail figures. Croydon has been studying the possibility, as British Rail has done, of extending the tunnel for a further distance of 5·2 kilometres.

Recent studies—I cannot yet attribute them—suggest that if the line were to go as planned along the tentative line proposed by British Rail above ground, the cost would be about £18 million. The cost for the additional 52 kilometres, for complete tunnelling, on full social costing, would be about £20 million at the most. In summary, the cost would be £18 million, at least, on the surface and £20 million, at most, underneath. We are talking about a project which in national terms will cost about £1,120 million. Surely we can concern ourselves specifically with Croydon's proposals in relation to such a minute amount of money in the context of such a huge sum. It would amount to £2 million extra, at worst, if my costings have any validity, as I am sure they do.

Basically I want three assurances. The first is that Ministers will press British Rail to be very sympathetic to the case of my constituents in relation to the London borough of Croydon's proposals. Secondly I would like agreement now—not later on, because of the inordinate delays we have already had—on the study by British Rail of hardship cases which have already occurred in my constituency. Thirdly—although I hope that this situation will not occur—were British Rail foolish enough to ignore the intelligent recommendations we are making, I would wish to see sympathetic attention given not only to constituents whose houses are removed but to the whole problem of noise pollution.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Would my hon. Friend acknowledge that if the Minister and British Rail are giving sympathetic consideration to the proposal for tunnelling under Croydon they could well combine with it consideration of pushing the tunnel still further south so that the line would avoid the valley through Purley, Kenley, Whyteleafe, War- lingham and Woldingham, emerging south of the North Downs hillside without, if possible, inflicting any damage on the Sevenoaks constituency? Would not the argument of Croydon be consistent with that kind of suggestion?

Photo of Mr John Moore Mr John Moore , Croydon Central

I am delighted to hear how far apparently people are willing to accept at face value the validity of Croydon's case. These studies show how little more would be the cost of tunnelling underneath compared with the cost, including all the environmental problems that would be created, of building the line above ground. The assurances I have asked for would not be too difficult to give. And given that, one is happy enough in the national context to support this project.

6.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Rees Mr Peter Rees , Dover and Deal

The road to Damascus has been so often travelled by politicians that the change of front by the Government does not need any particular comment. I hope that they do not become so blinded with missionary zeal that they overlook one or two aspects of the tunnel problem which are of concern to my constituents.

I welcome the re-examination which the Government have put in hand as clearly the project must be reconsidered, including the projections on which it was based, in the light of the added fuel costs. I hope, however, that the Government will not use the re-examination as a smokescreen behind which to procrastinate and defer decisions on various problems directly or indirectly thrown up by the tunnel and its building. I remind the Minister that between 1973 and 1980 the roll-on, roll-off freight passing through the port of Dover is likely to increase between 250 and 350 per cent.

If the Minister has any doubt about the impact of all this on the port of Dover and the town, I invite him to come and see for himself the lorries parked along the front. I invite him to come some weekend in July and August when the traffic stretches back through the town to Lydden. In a previous incarnation in 1959 he visited the town, and I hope he will honour us with another visit so that he can see what my constituents have to endure.

The right hon. Gentleman could well consider and take an immediate decision on a marshalling yard for lorries set near the eastern bypass to Dover port. We shall need it whether there is a Channel Tunnel or not. If that decision is to be deferred until after the re-examination is completed, the problems will get out of hand. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was so commendably brief that a number of points on which we require assurance were overlooked. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to deal with them.

First, one of the main bases for the prosperity of Dover is the port and the ferries operating from it. They are utterly convinced that they can compete with the tunnel if it is built, provided there is fair competition. On the other hand —it may not arise immediately on this Bill, but I would like to know the right hon. Gentleman's thinking now—will he view with favour any plan to expand the port? We could do with a couple more berths. Will he allow the port to amortise the capital cost over a longer period than the Department at present requires?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman consider tying the tunnel operators to published rates, so that at least the port can see exactly on what basis it has to compete?

Thirdly, will the Minister give an assurance—because the Government are, after all, morally if not financially directly committed to or involved in the Channel Tunnel project—that there will be no hidden or overt subsidies granted to the project should it get into difficulties?

If the tunnel is built, Dover will be in a particularly difficult position. It will have a port and will be able to compete, but business men will wonder whether to site their operations in Dover. Will the Minister therefore give an assurance that the M20 motorway will be extended into Dover or that there will be at least a comparable road connection with Cheriton so that business men can look either to the port or the tunnel and switch their goods accordingly? I do not want Dover to become a cul-de-sac beyond Cheriton.

If the tunnel is opened in 1980 there is the possibility of a slight dislocation of the employment position. Therefore, will the Minister permit Dover Council special borrowing facilities so that it can start creating new employment projects?

I am glad to see that the tunnel system, up to the boundary mark in the Channel, will be part of the new Dover Council area. Will the Minister ensure that for rating purposes this is rated on the most realistic basis so that Kent gets its fair share of the financial return on the tunnel? This is important for East Kent and the county as a whole and I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends from Kent will support me on this point.

No matter how well intentioned the Government may be and no matter how smoothly the project proceeds, there are bound to be many small but aggravating problems affecting my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). Although many of my constituents may not have agreed with the decisions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) they will recognise, as I do, that he was sensitive to their problems and in response to a suggestion of mine he set up a committee on which local interests were represented and through which problems could be anticipated and ironed out. The first meeting of the committee was in Maidstone just before the General Election. Will the Minister now give an assurance that the committee will be perpetuated and that further meetings will be held and, if possible, can he arrange that occasionally meetings of the committee are held in Dover so that my constituents may feel that there is direct and continuing concern by the Government about their problems?

I hope that there will be advantages nationally and internationally, and even for Kent itself, from the project, but I am concerned about the immediate disadvantages which will be felt by my constituents. I hope that the Minister will show himself to be as sensitive to the needs and concern of my constituents as my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil was.

6.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stanley Thorne Mr Stanley Thorne , Preston South

I had not intended to participate in the debate but on looking at the Bill I saw references to the expenditure of various sums of money, in one instance about £800 million. One thus becomes aware that we in the House, and politics in general, are concerned with the allocation of resources within society. The Bill seeks to allocate certain sections of resources in providing a Channel Tunnel. Some hon. Members who have spoken in the debate seem to have argued about whether road or rail or various other methods of transport may or may not be used in connection with the tunnel. I am concerned, following my experiences during the recent election campaign, about the whole problem of resources in society and how we allocate those resources.

I was invited during the recess by the headmaster of a local primary school to visit his school and see what working in the school entailed in the absence of a building extension which was to have been commenced this year. That headmaster is faced with the need for the Department of Education and Science to find a relatively small sum of money so that he can meet certain requirements in the school which will enable him to provide a reasonable education for the children. That represents an urgent priority and raises the question of where our priorities lie in the allocation of resources.

It has been suggested to me that the business we are now involved in is mythical, if that is the right word, that the Government will not proceed with the Channel Tunnel and that we are merely going through an exercise because some millions have already been spent. I do not know whether that is true or false, but I want to make clear, because many of my constituents will be interested in raising this matter with me in the future that if there is a Division tonight on the question of the Channel Tunnel I shall find it necessary to go into the "No" Lobby.

While I would not reject completely and out of hand the prospect of establishing a Channel Tunnel at some future date, I am certain that within the next 10 or 15 years the social and economic problems faced by many towns and large cities in this country will require a massive injection of resources if deprivations are to be overcome. It is only when that has been done that we can talk about what I consider to be the luxury of a Channel Tunnel. I urge the Minister to think again. Let us see £800 million allocated to housing, education, social services and some of the items which people in my constituency regard as having considerable priority over the Channel Tunnel.

6.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

We have today heard many expressions of opinion about the Channel Tunnel, which has exercised the imagination of politicians since 1802. One of the more praiseworthy suggestions today was that an atom bomb be placed at the end of the tunnel and so that a button could be pressed in Whitehall. That would make me go by steamer from Southampton to Le Havre.

The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) said that he would rather have resources allocated to various town halls, but he must recognise that there are at the moment no resources of the sort he mentioned and that this project is being funded by private enterprise with a Government guarantee. If he could get guarantees for town hall expenditure his suggestion would be viable, but otherwise it is not.

It has been suggested that we must watch the cost of this project. This perhaps means that the matter remains once more in the hands of the politicians. The design might be altered because of a particular whim. We have heard of an underpass which is to come out somewhere in the middle of Croydon. Obviously that would add millions of pounds to the project. One of my right hon. Friends agreed that it could be stretched even farther so that we spent another £100 million. As politicians we have to watch carefully to make sure that we do not alter the design substantially.

We have to ensure that there are sufficient highly guarded allowances to meet contingencies. One of the most important things to guard against is the rate of inflation knocking all our estimates out of the window. I am pleased to think that we can have some control over this aspect.

We heard the Minister say that he will give to local authorities more control over the works in their vicinity. Perhaps this will put up the cost of the project. However, it is praiseworthy, and many hon. Members with constituency problems will be able to take this back to their local authorities as a sign of good intent from the right hon. Gentleman.

Anyone who has been attacked by the environmentalist lobby over road transport will realise that there is an obligation to switch as much freight as possible from road to rail. It is right to ask how much more oriented to rail we can get than to have a rail tunnel. British Railways will gain an enormous benefit from this.

One of the disadvantages is that geographically the Channel Tunnel is in the wrong position. The point of entry is far removed from the industrial Midlands and the North, from the under-developed regions of the country. It is in a choice residential area, perhaps not stockbroker belt, but an area where a vast number of people lead an orderly and environmentally healthy life. Consequently there w ill be strong resistance from the environmental lobby during phases 2 and 3. Of course, there is the commercial lobby representing shipping interests.

The French Government, on the other hand, will have a comparatively easy time, since the point of entry on the French coast is in a relatively undeveloped region. The tunnel will be welcomed as a means of improving and developing the region within a balanced regional programme. The French Government and the chambers of commerce in south-west France have already seized upon the opportunity provided by the tunnel and the ferries. They have designed and are building, in some cases to four-lane standards, a new motorway from Calais to the Spanish border at Bayonne, a distance of 1,000 kilometres. This is basically to link up with the Channel Tunnel. It will be the first major French motorway to be entirely toll free. It will completely bypass Paris, going through Rouen and Bordeaux into Spain. It will be a valuable asset to the United Kingdom which can expect ever-increasing trade with Spain and Portugal.

Any project creating new links across sea straits must be studied on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis and in the framework of the European traffic infrastructure network. This project must be examined against the background of existing sea and air links and whether these are likely to continue to be economic. If they are not, there will be unemployment and bankruptcy. The tunnel will enable us to expand our trade with all parts of the European Community. We have had the example given of a container load of Scotch beef—perhaps an emotive phrase at the moment—being loaded at Glasgow or Edinburgh and going down to the heel of Italy without any further handling. It is the handling factor which increases the costs of container traffic.

There will need to be technical scrutiny of the details of the project. The idea of only two tunnels with a central maintenance tunnel may have to be reviewed before the project has got further than the authorisation of phase 3.

We have also to think of the effect of the tunnel on passengers. Being able to get on a train in London and travel to Paris in three hours 40 minutes at a speed of about 160 mph must excite the imagination. The cost per passenger mile must be substantially below that of air travel. The whole basis of this investment is that there will be a massive increase in the number of people using the new facility.

We have heard about the difficulty of lorries parked in Dover. When the tunnel is in operation I suggest that there will not be a lorry in that part of the country. They will all be loaded at the London container terminal. From then on they will not be seen on the A or B roads of the country.

The tunnel will have a profound effect on the operations of the ferries. There is a basic fear in the minds of ship-owners. It is to be expected that the hovercraft service between Dover and Folkestone and Calais and Boulogne will cease entirely and that by 1980 the number of accompanied vehicles for the French Straits, with the tunnel will be about 300,000, whereas without the tunnel it would amount to about 1½million. The figure for 1971 was 700,000. There must be a dramatic reduction. Other crossings such as Harwich to the Hook will be affected to a lesser degree. I am pleased to say that the crosisngs that will suffer least will be the Southampton-Le Havre-Cherbourg crossing. We can expect to maintain an absolute increase in passenger traffic in my constituency.

We have heard little from the airway lobby. It must expect a percentage loss of about 14 per cent. in the 1980s.

These are just the fears. How can we as politicians think beyond two or three years? There will be a small percentage of unemployment in the Dover-Calais area but not so much that it cannot be redeployed or retrained.

A traffic barrier of the magnitude of the Channel to a trading nation which relies on its industrial exports is a severe handicap. In Sicily, where there are a great number of problems, the people are praying that the Community will help in building either a bridge or tunnel in the Messina Straits. We have a golden opportunity. Private enterprise will do the job and then hand it over to the Government so that in 50 years' time it is completely owned by the State. It is too golden an opportunity to turn down. I feel sure that those with vision will agree with me tonight in the Lobby.

7.10 p.m.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

Whether or not the Channel Tunnel is built is a decision that must be taken on the overall balance of the national interest. There may well be strong overall arguments at the end of the day for building the tunnel, and I am inclined to think that that will be the result of the argument, but I propose to wait for further information before making up my mind.

I greatly welcome the announcement today that independent advisers are to be appointed to advise the Government. Whether or not the overall argument comes out in favour of building in the national interest, there can be no doubt that the immediate physical consequences of that decision, if it be taken, will have to be borne by those who live in the county of Kent.

The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) found yet another injustice to Scotland in the proposal even to consider building the Channel Tunnel, so far as I followed her, on the ground of the substantial distance between Scotland and the English Channel. I dread to think what she would have found had the proposal been for the tunnel to emerge in Moray and for a high-speed rail link to carry goods to England by way of Nairn.

The high-speed rail link is the nature of the problem that will most concern many people who live in Kent. It is not surprising that the people who live in villages through which the high-speed rail link proposed by British Rail will pass are worried about it. The loss of one's home or the deterioration in the enjoyment of one's home cannot ultimately decide the national question of whether the Channel Tunnel with its rail link shall go forward, but there can be no surprise that those who have to suffer the immediate consequences put that at the top of their list of the factors to be taken into account. There are many for whom it is the predominating and decisive factor. If a person who has bought a house in the county hoping to live relatively quietly albeit near an ordinary railway, finds that this proposal comes about, this is a natural, human and understandable reaction.

If the Channel Tunnel is built and if the high-speed rail link which at the moment is considered necessary is constructed, justice will demand that a full disclosure is made by British Rail of the factors that they have taken into account in coming to their decision where the line shall run. At present that is far from the case. People are not satisfied that full disclosure has taken place, and they cannot be satisfied that the Government will rationally and objectively, and not subjectively and selectively, view all the evidence that is available.

I will indicate the questions which, among others, concern my constituents who will be immediately affected. Is it commercially necessary that there should be a high-speed new rail link? If there is one, how much time will be saved immediately on the London-to-Paris route, and how much time will be saved ultimately on that route? How will passengers and freight traffic be affected by a new high-speed link in comparison with a link of ordinary speed? What will be the effect upon houses which are 30 ft. or 40 ft. away from the new high-speed link? What will be the effect of vibration and air shock waves? How does the noise curve rise with increases in speed, and what research has been done into this? What will be the effect on those who live there by reason of the noise? What research has been done on this and upon what are the forecasts based? Those are some of the problems to which no answer has yet been made available to people living in Kent. Also of importance are the reasons that were relied upon for the decision to choose Route 5.

Photo of Mr Leslie Spriggs Mr Leslie Spriggs , St Helens

The hon. Gentleman asked what was known about the noise created by high-speed trains. Why does he ask such a question when Britain has some of the finest and fastest high-speed trains in the world—and the quietest? High-speed trains are the quietest form of transport, and the safest.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

I am not asking the question. I am reciting the questions which my constituents are asking and to which they have as yet had no reply. It may be that a train travelling at 60 mph in England is quieter than one travelling at the same speed elsewhere, but the White Paper envisages a train travelling at 160 mph. People who live 30 ft. away from the proposed route in Paddock Wood and Five Oak Green want to know whether consideration can be given to a line running 200 yards to the north, through orchard land, instead of 30 ft. away from their houses.

It has been hard to get much information out of British Railways. The Minister said that detailed consultation had been taking place for three months, but for Paddock Wood and Five Oak Green it has so far consisted only of an exhibition of which there was little advance publicity or notice and at which little information was given, some of it misleading. The question was there asked, what research had been done into the effect of high-speed accidents? The answer given was that it was unlikely that accidents would happen at Paddock Wood or Five Oak Green, and that was not particularly reassuring.

It is widely believed—I do not say with justification—that consultation on the line to be taken by the high-speed link is not much more than a charade, because the decision has already been firmly taken. I hope that the Minister who is to reply will give us a specific assurance that that is not so. I hope that the Government will insist on the utmost pains being taken by British Railways to disclose the answers to all questions that are asked of them, even though they may seem to be administratively irrelevant, untidy or a nuisance.

It is bad enough to lose one's house or to have one's home made uninhabitable by a development such as this, but if one believes that the decision to bring it about has been prematurely arrived at as an executive decision, cloaked only by a charade of consultative procedure, then that which is already a great hardship becomes an intolerable injustice.

7.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

We have had four debates on this subject in the last 12 months and I suspect that we shall have a few more. We are likely to bore this subject to death before we start boring a tunnel under the English Channel. Mercifully, the speeches are getting shorter but few new arguments emerge.

Variety has been introduced by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) who has two speeches, one when he is in opposition and the other —a complete reversal—when he gets into government. While I sympathise with his predicament, for him to say tonight that the Second Reading of the Bill is a technical matter to enable the Government to keep their options open is really going too far. In the Second Reading debate on the same Bill three months ago he said: Today we are asked to take decisions, and in a sense, we are taking the decision to go on to the final and definitive stage of the construction of the tunnel, because that is the subject matter of the Bill which we are now considering. As the Under-Secretary very fairly said, if this Bill is passed the treaty will be ratified, and, while on the one hand, theoretically, we are committed only to the end of phase 2 in the middle of 1975, I should have thought that if the whole apparatus in volved in this Bill were set into operation it would be extremely difficult, no matter what may be the out-turn of the considerations in phase 2, to go back on the completion of the whole enterprise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December 1973; Vol. 865, c. 1311.] I suspect that is exactly the same situation as we shall face tonight. Although I am grateful for small mercies and welcome the Government's reassessment of the project, nevertheless I consider that we shall be voting tonight on the intention to go ahead with the project to completion.

The Minister said that he wished to assess the project with a view to a greater orientation towards rail traffic. That is splendid, but we must always remember that the profitability of the project as proposed by the Channel Tunnel Company is based on maximising motor vehicle traffic. We have heard no squeals as to how a reassessment will undermine profitability. I suspect that at the end of the day there will be a further survey based on evidence already produced by the existing consultants, and that we shall then be asked to go ahead with phase 3.

Although I welcome the review, it falls far short of what Labour in Opposition were promising only a few months ago. It also falls short of what Labour said in the election campaign about prestige projects. In terms of Concorde, Maplin and the Channel Tunnel, what have we got? There have been no cancellations—and I am not saying that all those projects should have been Cancelled, but that was the implication of Labour's attack—but instead we have been promised only reviews. We have certainly not been given the cancellation of the Maplin project, in weeks not months, as we were given to understand by the Labour Party. In other words, we are to have the same white elephants parading around, even though the ringmaster has changed.

Although many of us welcome the slight change of thinking by the Labour Government, I hope that those hon. Members who voted against the Bill last December will now do the same again for the sake of consistency. That is the course I shall follow. In the debate on this topic on 5th December 1973 the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park said that no doubt the Government would ask the House to approve the Bill and that their supporters would dutifully oblige. I wonder whether tonight all Labour Members will dutifully oblige their own Government in making what is a significant U-turn from the situation which they took up only a few months ago. I would ask those Labour Members to remember the amendment which Labour moved in the previous debate on this topic. That set out a philosophy with which I personally agree and to which I think they could still adhere.

I accept that this matter virtually has already received a Second Reading and that the treaty has been signed though not ratified. This might alter the situation, but this does not prevent the Labour Government going ahead with those other procedures for which they have indicated support on previous occasions. The first was that there should be an independent inquiry; secondly, greater public participation in the project—a most important aspect; thirdly, greater House of Commons scrutiny of the costs involved—and those costs are already escalating out of control and, in the end, will strangle the project; and, fourthly, a study of a rail-only tunnel.

The Minister treated the House in a cavalier fashion when he said that a few months ago he was a supporter of a rail-only tunnel but had decided that that was no longer feasible. Therefore, he had decided not to ask the independent consultants to look at that aspect. That was the deduction I drew from his remarks. He may be right, but I am not convinced. Surely the consultants and the Select Committee which is to be set up under the hybrid legislation procedure should be allowed to examine the matter. It is not for the Minister to discard this suggestion off-hand without giving the House of Commons an opportunity to consider the great merits of the rail-only tunnel.

We also have something to complain about in respect of the Select Committee procedure. The Minister believes that the review should consider alternative transport strategies and greater orientation towards more rail carriage. That is all very well, but surely the Select Committee should be able to consider that aspect. Furthermore, the petitioners should be able to question the expediency of the Bill on those principles. If the Bill goes through in its present form, it will not be open to the petitioners to challenge the expediency of the Bill and the whole principle of rail only or alternative transport strategies. We are denying to the petitioners an important opportunity to examine the Bill in depth.

I voted against this legislation when it last came before the House for Second Reading. It is the same Bill and carries us forward in the same way. On the previous occasion I said that I would vote against the legislation with regret, because I am attracted to the idea of a rail-only tunnel. I would gladly vote for the legislation if we were promised a Select Committee to examine costs, if proper public participation could be ensured, and if there could be a study of the rail-only strategy. In the absence of such assurances, I shall vote against the Bill tonight—and I hope that the majority of hon. Members who voted against the legislation last December will also do so.

7.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

I was not in the House on the last occasion when the Bill was being debated, but I have some grave doubts about it. I have on previous occasions in the House raised the question of education expenditure, and I regard it as a wrong order of priorities for the Government now to come forward with proposed expenditure in the first instance of £800 million, with the possibility of an extension to £1,000 million. There is also the possibility that British Rail in the first instance may borrow up to £50 million and subsequently £100 million. If the Government cannot fulfil their obligations to my constituents and to the constituents of many other hon. Members in providing adequate schools, they surely cannot now agree to spend these sums on nothing more than prestige projects.

Of the three projects pursued by the Conservative Government—Concorde, Maplin and the Channel Tunnel—I believe that the Channel Tunnel stands the most serious examination. I believe that the idea of a rail-oriented tunnel is a good one. I hope that the Minister who is to reply to the debate will emphasise the environmental advantages of the tunnel. I also hope that in any subsequent discussions the Government will take account of the great advantages of rail travel as opposed to motorway projects, which at present are spewing forth in large numbers in various areas. This is an area of expenditure which I should like to see put back so that other and more urgent priorities may be adopted by the Government.

I am not entirely satisfied that the Bill sets out in sufficient clarity the project's association with private enterprise. It appears that private enterprise will have a gilt-edged investment and that the Government, as usual, will come off second best. I welcome the announcement of a further independent study of the project, but I believe that a Select Committee would be the best way to examine the situation. One of the best ways to go about the matter is surely for a Select Committee to examine the question beforehand, for its report to come before the House and for the Government then to ask for the expenditure involved. The attraction of a fast journey between London and Paris has a superficial appeal to most of us, but to my constituents, facing the prospect of having to send their children to overcrowded schools situated cheek by jowl with factories, a three-and-a-half-hour journey between London and Paris comes low on the order of priorities. This certainly applies to my order of priorities.

The fourth matter which needs consideration is the misuse of resources which will be involved. We have limited resources. We are very short of houses, for example. I shall be interested to hear from the Government an assurance about the number of people and the amount of materials that will be diverted to the project authorised by this Bill—a project which needs no further authorisation from this House after the due legislative procedures have been followed. Will it affect our much-needed housing drive? Will there be shortages of bricks, of steel and of builders over the next two, three or four years if the project goes ahead? These are matters which need serious answers, and I hope that they will be forthcoming.

We need new schools and houses. These matters must be given their proper priority. I hope that this Labour Government will see to it that the number of housing starts is changed dramatically from the very low level of the previous administration and that the school building programme is restored from the cuts of the previous administration which, because of the economic situation, we are told cannot be restored at present. When all those matters are attended to, I shall give serious consideration to supporting a Channel Tunnel. Until we reach that state of affairs, it is not a project to which I can give my support.

7.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

I have spoken on this subject on at least three previous occasions. What I find strange is that as I go round my constituency I still have to sell the idea of a Channel Tunnel to people in Kent. I find it strange because, despite all the debates in this House last year, it does not seem as if the argument has been sufficiently clearly stated. People do not understand the principle of the tunnel and the why and wherefore of it. Everywhere I go, people remain unconvinced about the need for the tunnel and about its viability. They do not know the arguments in favour of it. They do not see before them the costs and the possible success or otherwise of the tunnel. It is extraordinary that there are so many people who do not know the case for the tunnel.

I endorse what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) said when he repeated what his constituents were saying. He told us that they were expressing to him all the time their concern about what the tunnel would mean, what the fast rail link would mean and how their environment and amenities would be affected. I cannot stress too strongly what it means to live in Kent today with the prospect of this new link connecting to motorways right across France and into Spain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) described so vividly. He sees this as the great golden opportunity for trade between Britain and the European nations. I see it like that as well.

As the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) said, we must take a national view of it. We must not be parochial. Those of us who represent Kent constituencies must not be small-minded. We must not be county-minded. We must think of the national economic interest. At the same time the Government must go all out to tell those immediately affected by the fast rail link, by the noise of fast trains, by the Cheriton terminal and the loading which will take place there rather than in London, and by the possible fall-out effect of industrial and commercial development which may take place around the Cheriton terminal, just what it will all mean.

I find that I am doing all the explaining when it should be explained by the Government. When he was Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was very good about going to meet people in Kent and putting himself before them. As the Government approach the decision in 1975, however, they must do even more to explain. We must hear from British Railways. We must know what this nationalised industry, its chairman and its board feel about linking up with the continental rail system.

Today we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test that there will be this great opportunity for container freight traffic by rail connecting across Europe. As I understand it, British Railways as yet have no plans for a link of liner trains from Britain through the tunnel into France. The tunnel may be there, but will the liner trains continue? These are matters which British Railways must explain. We do not want just an independent inquiry. We must hear from British Railways that they believe in the project and that they see opportunity and profit coming from it.

I must stress one matter affecting the terminal loading point at Cheriton. A great deal has been said about the possibility of the loading of heavy goods vehicles being done in London. This would be the greatest safeguard to the people of Kent. I am advised by British Railways, however, that it is out of the question on cost grounds alone. It would mean a third railway link to the terminal to carry the special type of flat railway vehicles which would take heavy goods vehicles. What is more, it would be completely out of court on economic grounds to the road haulier who would find it extremely unattractive to have to send heavy goods vehicles 50 or 70 miles down to Cheriton on a rail flat.

A great many people want answers to a considerable number of questions before they will be prepared to support this historic project. I am prepared to vote for it, but I must warn the Government that I am no longer prepared to be their unpaid public relations adviser to the people of Kent, and in saying that I have to declare an interest even though I have been doing so in an unpaid capacity.

7.37 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate

This has been an extremely interesting debate. We have lost a number of hon. Members who took part in debates on the Channel Tunnel in the last Parliament, but their absence has been more than offset by the presence of some new Members who have intervened today.

I want first to refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) and to congratulate him on a most interesting and unusual maiden speech. We have been friends since we were at Oxford some years ago. In view of that, I am sure he will forgive me for using the word "unusual". I was not surprised by his speech. He is a worthy descendant of those other unusual characters who have represented the city of Plymouth over many years, back to and including Lady Astor.

My hon. Friend raised a completely new argument in our Channel Tunnel discussions when he questioned whether the tunnel could be properly defended in the event of hostilities. However, since he is a member of the Institute for Strategic Studies and since the Minister for Transport is a former member of the council of that institute, I feel sure that they can get together to iron out that problem to their mutual satisfaction. We look forward to hearing my hon. Friend many times in the future.

Inevitably the debate has been both of a general character and to some extent of a purely local character. It has been none the worse for that. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore) almost apologised for discussing what he considered to be a number of parochial problems. He had no need to do that. He made a forceful speech on behalf of his constituents. Richard Thompson has a distinguished successor in him and I know that he will fight their battles on many future occasions.

Unlike the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) at the close of the previous Second Reading debate, I do not propose to invite the Opposition to divide the House against the Bill. It was a good Bill, and this is a good Bill, even though the names of the Ministers responsible have changed, to my regret.

Understandably, the Secretary of State, has been a little coy in telling the House about his policy for the Channel Tunnel. When he told the House on 3rd April that he proposed to reintroduce the previous administration's Bill in exactly the same form, for reasons which we fully appreciate, he said that he had divided the House against the White Paper last October, but he did not remind us that he had also divided the House against the Second Reading of the same Bill in December. Unfortunately, he was ill at that time. Although we are sorry when he is ill, I suspect that, looking back, he may be glad that he did not have to take part in that debate because we might have had more quotations to use against him than we have at this time. Quite a few of my hon. Friends have rightly taken full opportunity of using those quotations.

In December the Minister opposed the Bill. Although he forecast that certain things would happen—unhappily, he has been proved right—he did not forecast that he would be asking the House to support the Second Reading of an identical Bill a few weeks later. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) referred to the right hon. Gentleman's speech on Second Reading in December. I echo his words in wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman's views at that time are the same today. Does he believe that approving and passing this Bill is virtually agreeing to having the Channel Tunnel? If so, then these further reassessments which he insists upon—I do not believe they are necessary the assessments already envisaged in the Bill are enough—must mean that his mind is still open, and this does not quite agree with what he said on the previous occasion.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

As I explained at some length in response to points made by the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees), I was considering the situation then with the last Government being in power. I am of the opinion that if the election had gone wrong and the Conservative Party had won it probably would have been the case that, willy-nilly, whatever had come out of the further studies, we would have gone ahead with the tunnel. The difference was the result of the General Election, on which I expanded. The hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal said that he inferred from my remarks that, if I were in a position to recommend anything to my hon. Friends, I should be recommending that we honour our obligations under the treaty. That is the position today.

Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that explanation. I look forward to reminding him of those words when the positions are again reversed in a few months. [Interruption.] I am prepared to be reminded of mine, too.

The Secretary of State has shifted his position. Earlier when discussing the tunnel he told us that he believed in a rail-only link. Now he believes in what is known as the rolling motorway as well. I suspect that this is part of his intention to end the Maplin project, but not to appear to be stopping all the major innovations that were being undertaken by the last Government. I believe that the right lion. Gentleman's views on Maplin and the tunnel are very much linked. In his speech on the White Paper in October, although we were talking about a Channel Tunnel, he referred to Maplin no fewer than 14 times.

As we look ahead to the building of the tunnel it is important for the right hon. Gentleman to keep in mind the points made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Many important details have been raised, some of which I hope the Minister will answer today and others in Committee in due course.

There are four or five areas of vital importance. Whether we consider the building of the tunnel itself or the building of the depot at Cheriton, whether it he the roads linking the tunnel, the rail link, or the development of the White City, one great advantage is that all these matters are fully or partly within the Department of the Environment, and so much can be done within that one Department. I spent two years silently connected with the Department and learned to appreciate the work done there. The all-important thing to consider now is that whether it be the shopkeeper in Hammersmith, the farmer in East Surrey or in Kent, or the housewife in Folkestone or Dover, many people's lives will be affected by the tunnel. Therefore, we must ensure that the environmental harm or effect upon them is kept to an absolute minimum.

Mention has been made of the railway. Of course, the actual line will have to be settled soon. I do not want to get involved in the argument between my right hon. and learned Friend the Mem- ber for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) and my hon. Friend the Member for Seven-oaks (Sir J. Rodgers). I believe that they are both working on the same line, if I may use that phrase, and that they will be able to satisfy themselves and the Government on what needs to be done. It is right that as far as possible the railway line should be kept underground.

The question of compensation has been mentioned by many of my hon. Friends. This is a vital point. I do not know how far the Land Compensation Act is applicable. If it does not apply, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will find some way of ensuring that those affected, whether by a temporary disruption while the line is being built, or by a permanent problem after completion, will be compensated.

We must recognise that someone who has a house near a local line in Surrey or Kent with just a few trains a day is hardly in the same position as somebody who will be living near this line with high-speed trains going up and down during all hours of the day and night. I ask the Minister to bear in mind what happened in Japan. The Daily Telegraph of 9th April reported that the Japanese National Railway has been forced to offer free medical attention to residents suffering from physical and mental disturbances. We do not want free medical attention: we want to prevent those disturbances from taking place. I am sure that the Minister will agree with that.

Some of my hon. Friends have referred to the essential need for the M20 being finished in time for the opening of the tunnel. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) said that it should be continued to Dover. I am sure that the Minister will bear this point in mind as well.

It seems that the depot must be at Cheriton. Landscaping is therefore a vital factor. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) will agree about that.

Another important point relates to the White City. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), now the Secretary of State for the Environment, in his speech on the White Paper last October, said that there might have to be another terminal in south London. I do not know whether he still thinks that. If it is essential it will mean further disruption in another part of London. I hope that will not be necessary. Of course, I understand the feelings expressed by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney).

I believe that there are good reasons for going ahead with the Bill and the tunnel. Our link with the Continent is enormously important. The rail link between the North and the South, mentioned by the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) in his interesting speech, is also of importance. I think that we shall be able to keep the lorries off the side roads where they are not wanted. I am sure there will be mass public use of the tunnel with holiday and business traffic of all kinds. Many people will benefit from the tunnel. However, we must remember that thousands of people will suffer from the effects of the tunnel, the roads, and the railways, who will not benefit from it. We must balance the two factors.

Having considered everything, I believe that the Government are right to bring in the Bill early in their life. Certainly we on this side of the House—I speak for most of my right hon. and hon. Friends —will do all that we can to ensure its quick passage. We wish it well.

7.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

We have had a most interesting debate. It has perhaps gone on for rather longer than many of us had expected, but we started rather later than we thought we would, and the ground has been covered extremely fully.

The right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and one or two hon. Members said that the reintroduction of the Bill was due to the election. There were hints that there may be another election fairly soon, and various dates were even mentioned. I think that most hon. Members who have sat through as many Channel Tunnel debates as I have will agree that if there is another election and another Bill is introduced on these lines, we can send our speeches through the post.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) on his maiden speech. It was an extremely interesting speech and, as the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) said, in making what one might almost regard as his maiden speech from the Front Bench, it was an unusual contribution to the debate. It was a witty speech, in which the hon. Gentleman referred to his predecessor, and of course we all remember Dame Joan Vickers with affection. She was a woman involved in community politics, who had great courage, as she showed in many of the issues that she supported in the House.

I have visited Plymouth only once. I noticed the clean air, but I thought that it came from the sea rather than from the city.

This is not the time to discuss the Roundheads. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and the hon. Member for Sutton will discuss them later. The hon. Gentleman got rather mixed up on the question where the Roundheads stood, where the Cavaliers stood and where my right hon. Friend stood. He was thinking of them as Poujadistes, which I do not think is how my right hon. Friend would regard them in an historical context.

A number of points have been raised, and if I do not answer them in detail now I shall be able to discuss them later privately with those concerned in the hope of getting the various matters settled. I shall deal with as many points as possible, but those hon. Members who have raised various issues will realise the difficulties involved and accept that I cannot answer all the questions that have been asked.

The right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley raised the Question of the timetable for this project. The Government's timetable is no different from that proposed by the Conservative administration. The renegotiation of the terms will start only after the submission of a draft by the companies by April 1975. Decisions cannot be taken until after the terms available have been established, and they will be necessary before the conclusion of the negotiations and signature of Agreement No. 3. I hope that that, to some extent at any rate, answers the point raised by the right hon. Lady.

Reference was made to the need for land compensation and the Act of 1973. The provisions of the Land Compensation Act 1973 will apply to disturbances resulting from the tunnel works. It is the intention to make regulations under Part II about the provision of insulation for properties affected by noise due to railway construction and operation within the Channel Tunnel terminal area. The provisions that will apply to the rail link will be included in the British Railways Bill, and we suppose that these will be on the normal lines of railway legislation.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley , Tonbridge and Malling

The hon. Gentleman says that provisions of the Land Compensation Act will be included in the British Railways Bill. Is he referring to both Parts I and II of the Act? In other words, is the Minister referring both to compensation and to sound insulation?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

The hon. Gentleman must realise that, basically, it will be a British Railways Bill, but we shall try to guide British Railways and put them on the same lines as the Land Compensation Act 1973.

A number of hon. Members referred to the cost of the tunnel, and perhaps I should clear up this matter in view of recent ill-informed Press speculation about it. There has been no change in the estimate of the real cost of the tunnel of £468 million at 1973 prices—I am speaking in real terms—but this figure will be reviewed during the reassessment of the project as a whole. The outturn cost, like the cash revenue, will, however, depend upon rates of inflation and interest between now and 1980. On the assumptions used in the White Paper, the out-turn cost will be £846 million. If, however, inflation and interest rates continue at their recent high levels for the next six years—an assumption which I should be reluctant to make—the outturn cost in depreciated pounds will be about £1,000 million, even if the real costs remain unchanged.

The limit of guarantee under Clause 6 the Bill is unchanged, for the reasons that I have given, but it is normal for Bills to provide a basic limit covering rather more than the maximum obligation expected to be incurred. In this case that figure is £800 million and there is provision for that limit to be raised, sub- ject to the approval of Parliament, should the developments require it.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Birmingham Handsworth

Am I to understand that my hon. Friend does not envisage an absolute limit, and that the figures quoted in the Bill, enormous though they are, might not necessarily be the limit which the Government would be prepared to underwrite?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

Making all allowances, we estimate that the cost will be about £800 million, and, as in all cases when such allowances are made, we have provided for an upper limit of £1,000 million, but this will require the approval of Parliament before we can go ahead with the expenditure.

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive my not giving way, but I have a great deal of ground to cover and a number of questions to answer.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) spoke about British Railways' share in the tunnel. Perhaps he has forgotten that British Railways have a share in Channel Tunnel Investment Ltd., and therefore their total interest in the project approaches that of the French Railways, SNCF, which is about a 13 per cent. share altogether.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton also referred to the geology of the area. I agree with those who have said that there is no real comparison between the geology of the Channel Tunnel area, where there is a chalk base, and the unknown geology of mountain areas such as the Alps.

We shall be reviewing the financial arrangements as a whole during the course of our reassessment, and this will include the prospects of cost overrun. I should not like to go into these matters before we have had a chance to review them, but the £37 million to which my hon. Friend referred is the cost of engineering and management of the project. The fee to Rio Tinto-Zinc is about £6 million, of which more than half will be forfeit if the costs overrun the estimates in real terms. I assume that when my hon. Friend referred to £37 million as management cost he was thinking in terms of commission, which is very much less.

My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) spoke about the railways. The belief is that present plans provide for both freight liner container services and normal motorail services to points throughout the country on both sides of the Channel. We shall be examining the possibility of increasing these services. The form which they take, and the fact that they may account for a larger volume than our domestic services take will have to be considered, but I doubt whether more than a limited proportion of car traffic will ever be attracted all the way from the north of Scotland to the south of Italy or the centre of Germany.

There has been much talk about a rail-based tunnel. It is fundamental to our view of the project that it should be oriented much more strongly towards through-rail services, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear on 3rd April 1974. The tunnel as now proposed would provide for all foreseeable growth in through-rail traffic, as well as the ferry services, so a more rail-based strategy need not imply any physical change in the project itself. Similarly the provision in the present agreement—

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? To what extent does that consideration make highspeed rail essential to the future plan?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

Very high-speed rail would not be essential. One hon. Member referred to three hours-40-minutes journeys. A very high-speed limit, I think, would give two hours-40 minutes journeys. But that would be going into the next generation of high-speed trains and I do not think it would be necessary in order to provide the sort of service which I was discussing.

The tunnel as proposed would provide a foreseeable growth of through-rail traffic, as well as the ferry services, so that a more rail-based strategy need not imply any physical change in the project. The provisions in the present agreements which, in accordance with the agreement of 1966, bar discrimination by the Tunnel Authority, do not affect our ability to take steps generally to encourage the use of railways which would affect traffic through the tunnel. The changed oil situation may affect the balance between rail and road traffic through the tunnel, and of course rail and air passenger traffic across the Channel. This will be reassessed during phase 2.

The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) raised a point that he has mentioned before, and we shall certainly use our powers under Section 26 of the Land Compensation Act, as applied by Clause 4 of the Bill, to buy property likely to be seriously affected by the construction or use of the works. We shall have to consider each request carefully on its merits, because I could not justify the use of public funds to purchase property which is not in practice likely to be seriously affected.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) confused the timetable of this Bill with that of the rail link. The latter is not covered by the Bill and the consultations on the rail link are not really relevant at this point. The vital point is that there will be a full re-assessment of the project. In addition, the work will be monitored by the Government and there will be independent advice available on re-assessment to my right hon. Friend. This Bill does not deal with the rail link itself. That will be dealt with by a special Bill which will have a special procedure and will provide for close scrutiny by the committee which is to be set up.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South referred to some figures. I have no idea from where he got his figures of £18 million and £20 million. Neither the Croydon study nor the committee commissioned by British Rail has yet made available any figures to the Department of the Environment. This proposal will certainly be considered, but it is, strictly speaking, a matter for the British Rail Bill. We shall be glad to consider any detailed evidence of hardship cases raised by the hon. Gentleman, but he must appreciate that it is not possible to deal with problems of purchase before the line has been settled.

Coming to the many points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees), I think he will realise that to reply to his remarks would be almost like replying to a whole debate, but I shall be pleased to speak to him and try to put his mind at rest.

Photo of Mr Peter Rees Mr Peter Rees , Dover and Deal

Would the hon. Gentleman reply to me by letter, so that at least my constituents can see tangible evidence of his thinking, rather than by a garbled conversation between himself and myself?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I think that is a very reasonable suggestion and I look forward to receiving a letter from the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Peter Rees Mr Peter Rees , Dover and Deal

I have already made my points to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman. I shall certainly make a point of writing a letter. I thought the hon. and learned Gentleman was going to put his points in writing, but I was forgetting that we have note takers here.

May I now refer to the hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) and apologise for not being here when she spoke. I shall read the report of her speech with great care. Some notes of her speech were made by some of my hon. Friends. I am extremely conscious of the Scottish situation. 1 do not think I could be considered a European in the normal party political sense in the Palace of Westminster. I have always felt that in Scottish terms—and I look at most things very carefully in Scottish terms—the tunnel would be of value to Scotland.

When I was previously in the old Ministry of Transport—I was concerned about the tunnel even before then—the idea of putting goods on rail and sending them to Düsseldorf or Bremen or such places attracted me. I do not think that in my mind there was any direct European connotation. I am sorry that we in Scotland are not nearer to Europe and that we ourselves could not have a tunnel. I am conscious of the proposals for the land bridge across the central belt, the waistline, of Scotland. I do not think the tunnel by any means precludes the possibility of this, because the tunnel will be concerned with a relatively narrow section of an already busy waterway. Anything which improves communication between Scotland, the South, Wales and so on, and the wider markets of Europe has my agreement.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Moray and Nairn

Would the hon. Gentleman comment on my specific question, whether the Secretary of State has conducted a study on the effects on the Scottish economy of the proposed Channel Tunnel?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I have personally looked at it very closely as a Scotsman —indeed, as a Glaswegian—and I should emphasise that it is intended to make an additional study, taking into account such points as the hon. Lady has raised. The Government have always been extremely conscious of those parts of the country which need more help than others, and I am particularly concerned with that.

I should like at another time, perhaps in a seminar, to discuss the question of Scottish roads because I feel very strongly about them. I do not have the same views as the hon. Lady has, but that is another matter.

Interest has been expressed in the debate about the form of outside advice which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has in mind. Phase 2 provides elaborate machinery for a review of the financial and economic aspects of the project, but my right hon. Friend wishes to have independent outside advice on whether other studies should be put in hand. He also wishes to have a group to which he can put specific points as these studies proceed, and to form a view on the studies when they are complete. My right hon. Friend does not envisage a public inquiry because the existing machinery for a review is fairly adequate. Nor does he think it necessary to put studies in train by other consultants which would duplicate at considerable expense work already in hand. What is essential is to ensure that necessary studies are undertaken on a sound basis and that the material before the House at the end of the day contains the fullest spectrum of informed advice.

Photo of Mr Arthur Latham Mr Arthur Latham , Cities of London and Westminster Paddington

I am fascinated to know what is the scope of the searching re-assessment. As I listen to my hon. Friend I am coming more and more to believe that the Government are committed to completing the project. I put to him seriously: what is the scope of The inquiry and can there seriously be any prospect of withdrawing from the commitment once the provisions of this Bill are enacted?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I am sorry that I gave way to my hon. Friend. Had he heard my right hon. Friend's opening speech he would have appreciated that we are very far from making a final decision. The whole point of this Bill is so that more information can be obtained. What my right hon. Friend has said quite clearly—as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment—is that he wants a monitoring group, which has not yet been involved in the gathering of material and the general reviews, to look at new evidence and to advise him on certain points from the new evidence.

The purpose of reintroducing the Bill is to keep open the option of going ahead with the project should a thorough reassessment of it show that that would be

right. The Bill itself is largely a technical measure. It does not of itself involve any additional commitments. But if it is not passed—this is very important —we shall have killed the project by default. I do not think that we want to do that. We shall have killed the project by default because we shall be unable to ratify the treaty, to sign Agreement No. 3 or to start the main phase 3 works in mid-1975. The decision on whether to go ahead beyond the end of phase 2 will not be prejudged by the passage of the Bill. The House will be asked to consider that quite separately next year in the light of the results of a full examination of this project.

I believe in a reassessment of the project. I sincerely invite the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 287, Noes 63.

Division No. 15.]AYES[8. 15 p.m.
Abse, LeoConlan, BernardFraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)
Adley, RobertCook, Robert F. (Edinburgh, C.)Freeson, Reginald
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Cope, JohnFry, Peter
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)Cordle, JohnGalpern, Sir Myer
Archer, Peter (Warley, West)Costain, A. P.Gardiner, George (Reigate&Banstead)
Ashley, JackCox, ThomasGarrett, John (Norwich, S.)
Ashton, JoeCrosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyGarrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Cunningham, G.(Islington,S&F'[...]y)Gilbert, Dr. John
Awdry, DanielCunningham, Dr. John A. (Whiteh'v'n)Ginsburg, David
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Golding, John
Banks, RobertDavies, Ifor (Gower)Gourley, Harry
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Davis, Clinton, (Hackney, C.)Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood & Royton)Deakins, EricGraham, Ted
Bates, AlfDean, Joseph (Leeds, W.)Grant, John (Islington, C.)
Baxter, WilliamDelargy, HughGray, Hamish
Bennett, Andrew F. (Stockport, N.)Dell, Rt. Hn. EdmundGriffiths, Eddie (Sheffield, Brightside)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Fareham)Dempsey, JamesHall-Davis, A. G. F.
Benyon, W.Dodsworth, GeoffreyHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Berry, Hon. AnthonyDoig, PeterHamling, William
Bishop, E. S.Dormand, J. D.Hampson, Dr. Keith
Blenkinsop, ArthurDuffy, A. E. P.Hardy, Peter
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Cunn, James A.Harper, Joseph
Booth, AlbertDunnett, JackHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurDunwoody, Mrs. GwynethHavers, Sir Michael
Bradley, TomDurant, TonyHawkins, Paul
Braine, Sir BernardEadie, AlexHeffer, Eric S.
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherEdwards, Robert (W'hampton, S.E.)Higgins, Terence
Broughton, Sir AlfredElliott, Sir RobertHill, James A.
Brown,Bob(Newcastle upon Tyne,W.)Ellis, John (Brigg & Scunthorpe)Holland, Philip
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Proven)Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Hooley, Frank
Buchan, NormanEnglish, MichaelHowell, Ralph (Norfolk, North)
Budgen, NickEnnals, DavidHughes, Mark (Durham)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North)
Campbell, IanEwing, Harry (St'ling,F'kirk&G'm'th)Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Cant, R. B.Evans, loan (Aberdare)Hunt, John
Carlisle, MarkEyre, ReginaldHunter, Adam
Carmichael, NeilFairgrieve, RussellHurd, Douglas
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaFaulds, AndrewIrving, Rt. Hn. Sydney (Dartford)
Channon, PaulFernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.Jackson, Colin
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Finsberg, GeoffreyJames, David
Clegg, WalterFitch, Alan (Wigan)Jenkins, Hugh (W'tvorth, Putney)
Clemitson, IvorFletcher, Ted (Darlington)John, Brynmor
Cockcroft, JohnFookes, Miss JanetJohnson, James (K'ston uponHull,W.)
Cocks, MichaelForm, Michael, Rt. Hn.Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Cohen, StanleyFord, BenJones, Arthur (Daventry)
Cuncannon, J. D.Fowler, Norman (Sutton Coldfield)Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Mills, PeterSims, Roger
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Sinclair, Sir George
Jones, Alec (Rhondda)Molloy, WilliamSkeet, T. H. H.
Judd, FrankMoonman, EricSmall, William
Kaufman, GeraldMoore, J. E. M. (Croydon, C.)Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. ElaineMorgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.Snape, Peter
Kelley, RichardMorris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Spence, John
Knox, DavidMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Spriggs, Leslie
Lambie, DavidMorris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)Steen, Anthony (L'pool, Wavertree)
Lamborn, HarryMorris, Michael (Northampton. S.)Stewart, Rt. Hn. M. (H'sth,Fulh'm)
Lamond, JamesMoyle, RolandStoddart, David (Swindon)
Lawrence, IvanMulley, Rt. Hn. FrederickStott, Roger
Lawson,George(Motherwell&Wishaw)Murray, Ronald KingSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Newton, Tony (Braintree)Swain, Thomas
Lever, Rt Hn. HaroldOakes, GordonThatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Ogden, EricThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lipton, MarcusO'Malley, BrianTinn, James
Lomas, KennethOppenheim, Mrs. SallyTomlinson, John
Loughlin, CharlesOrbach, MauriceTomney, Frank
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Owen, Dr. DavidTorney, Tom
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, W.)Padley, WalterTownsend, C. D.
Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonPage, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)Tuck, Raphael
McCartney, HughPalmer, ArthurTugendhat, Christopher
McElhone, FrankPark, George (Coventry, N.E.)Urwin, T. W.
MacFarguhar, RoderickParker, John (Dagenham)Varley, Rt. Hn. Eric G.
MacGregor, JohnPattie, GeoffreyViggers, Peter
McGuire, MichaelPendry, TomWaddington, David
Mackenzie, GregorPerry, Ernest G.Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
MacLennan, RobertPhipps, Dr. ColinWakeham, John
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. M. (Farnham)Price, Christopher (Lewisham, W.)Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, Ladywood)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Price, William (Rugby)Welder, David (Clitheroe)
McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Rees, Rt. Hn. Merlyn (Leeds, S.)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Rhodes, GeoffreyWarren, Kenneth
Magee, BryanRichardson, Miss JoWellbeloved, James
Mahon, SimonRifkind, MalcolmWhite, James
Mallalieu, J. P. W.Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Whitehead, Phillip
Marks, KennethRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.-W.)Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Marquand, DavidRodgers, William (Teesside,St'ckton)Whitlock, William
Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole)Roper, JohnWilley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Rose, Paul B.Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Mason, Rt. Hn. RoyRoss, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)Williams, Alan Lee (Hvrng, Hchurch)
Mather, CarolRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Rowlands, EdwardWilson, William (Coventry, S.E.)
Mayhew, Christopher(G'wh,W'wch,E)Sainsbury, TimWoodall, Alec
Mayhew, Patrick (RoyaIT'bridgeWells)Sandelson, NevilleWoodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Meacher, MichaelShaw, Giles (Pudsey)Woof, Robert
Mellish, Rt. Hn. RobertSheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Meyer, Sir AnthonyShersby, Michael
Mikardo, IanSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Millan, BruceSilkin, Rt. Hn. S. C. (S'hwark,Dulwich)Mr. Laurie Pavitt and
Miller, Dr. M. S. (E. Kilbride)Sillars, JamesMr. Donald Coleman.
Ancram, M.Kinnock, NeilSandelson, Neville
Beith, A. J.Latham, Michael (Melton)Sedgemore, Bryan
Bell, RonaldLee, JohnSelby, Harry
Body, RichardLewis, Arthur (Newham, N.)Silverman, Julius
Clark, A. K. M. (Plymouth, Sutton)Loyden, EddieSkinner, Dennis
Colquhoun, Mrs. M. N.MacCormack, IainStallard, A. W.
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, Maryhill)Macfarlane, NeilStanley, John
Cryer, G. R.Madden, M. O. F.Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Edge, GeoffMarten, NeilTaverne, Dick
Evans, John (Newton)Mawby, RayThomas, D. E. (Merioneth)
Flannery, MartinMoate, RogerThorn, Stan (Preston, S.)
Freud, ClementMorgan, GeraintTyler, Paul
George, BruceNewens, Stanley (Harlow)Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Hamilton, William (Fife, C.)O'Halloran, MichaelWatt, Hamish
Hatton, FrankPardoe, JohnWigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)
Henderson, Douglas (Ab'rd'nsh're,E)Parry, RobertWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)Prescott, JohnWinstanley, Dr. Michael
Huckfield, LeslieRedmond, RobertWise, Mrs. Audrey
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Reid, George
Kerr, RussellRodgers, George (Chorley)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kilroy-Silk, RobertRooker, J. W.Mr. David Steel and
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Mrs. Winifred Ewing.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.


That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection


That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

  1. (a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than 7th May 1974 (together with any Petition standing referred to the Select Committee under any Order of this House in the last Session) and
  2. (b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the said Committee,
being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents.


That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.


That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee 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.


That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them.


That Three be the Quorum of the Committee.—[Mr.Mulley.