Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 1979.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport) 12:00 am, 26th June 1979

I did not say that there was anything wrong with it. Nevertheless, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has made his mark on the debate, too. I was about to say that my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest knows that the Government are, together with British Rail, at present carrying out a study of electrification. We expect the first results of that study to come this summer, and in the light of that study we shall move on to make decisions about British Rail's desire to extend the electrification of the system.

As regards the Channel tunnel, the Government have received—as the public have, since they have been published—British Rail's proposals for a modified version of the Channel tunnel project. Those proposals are at present being considered. We expect further proposals to come forward because the European Commission is carrying out some work on the Channel tunnel. When the various proposals are put forward by the Commission we shall consider the options and see what progress can be made on the tunnel.

The Bill is not a Government measure and I shall not answer the debate. The Government do not have a committed view, certainly not on the constituency points that have been put forward. Nevertheless, I have listened with great attention to the debate on the general problems of transport in central Manchester. That is a serious matter and one which, I can assure those who have spoken, will be considered properly inside the Department.

It appears that a decision has been taken to exclude the Castlefield curve from the Bill. Again I emphasise that the Government are neutral on that point between British Rail on the one hand and the objectors on the other. As a spectator, it is perhaps unfortunate that Manchester city council and the Labour Members representing Manchester constituencies are somewhat at loggerheads with British Rail, the passenger transport executive, the National Union of Railwaymen and the Greater Manchester council. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest that some attempt should be made to find an agreement from with- in Manchester about people's precise requirements. This would be in everyone's interests in that city.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) is an expert on railway matters. He should be heeded when he gives a warning that we should not conduct the discussion in such a way that nothing is achieved in central Manchester. I am not sure whether the Bill would necessarily promote the Piccadilly-Victoria line, or bring it forward in any way, desirable though that project is considered by many hon. Members.

I cannot enter into other constituency points. As far as the Bill as a whole is concerned the Government do have a view on that. We support the Bill. We invite the House to give it a Second Reading. The points raised that are still outstanding can be considered in Committee. It would be desirable if the Bill could make progress and was allowed a Second Reading.